Monday, 19 March 2018

2018 Reading Challenge & Book Reviews

Before I start today's topic, thank you to everyone who dropped by my blog and offered words of encouragement and support - it was much appreciated. The Insecure Writer's Support Group certainly lives up to its name. If you're not a member, do think about joining.

I've been taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge since 2013, and usually set my challenge to 52 books. I made it two years and three not. I'm hoping for another win this year, but I won't beat myself up if I fail. Reading is for pleasure, after all.

Here's the books I read in January and February this year, with a short review for each.

As a huge fan of The Martian, I really wanted to like Weir's follow up Artemis. On the whole, I did. I enjoyed the setting, breakneck speed, and witty dialogue. However, I just couldn't warm to the protagonist Jazz. Morally questionable, but loved by all. Happy to put her fellow Artemians at great risk to further her own needs, but quickly forgiven. For me, what kept this from being a two or three star read was Artemis itself. I loved the moon-based habitat created by Weir and the science behind it. It's worth reading the book just for this reason alone.

The Long Cosmos was the book I bought in early 2017, and waited a year to read. Why? Baxter and Pratchett's The Long Earth series has to be one of the best series I've read, and The Long Cosmos was the final book. With Pratchett's passing in 2015, there were to be no more books in the series. It was worth the wait. A five star read for science fiction and fantasy fans.

Containing four short novels - Snapshot, Loaded, Aloft, and Rain - Strange Weather was my first Joe Hill read. The stories, as the title suggests, were linked by strange weather events. I enjoyed all of the them except Aloft, the story of a man who becomes a castaway on a cloud. I couldn't connect with the story or character it featured. Snapshot was the most original, a child stalked by a creepy villain with a Polaroid that steals memories. Loaded, with its politically charged theme of guns, resonated the most. I loved the Trump references in Rain, the story of freak weather that rains lethal nails. Add it to your TBR list.

Silvera's They Both Die at the End was an emotional read. The unique concept - you receive a call from Death-Cast on the day you're due to die - hooked me as soon as I read the blurb. The story focuses on Mateo and Rufus, two teens who receive the call and then find each other via an app called Last Friend. I struggled at first to connect with the writing - I'm not a teen or American - but the further I read, the more emotionally invested I became. This is a book I'm still thinking about. What greater recommendation can there be?

Words cannot express how much I adored Calling Major Tom. Barnett's novel about forty something Thomas Major - a man who has given up on the world and becomes the most unlikely astronaut - made me both laugh and cry. I loved all the characters, especially Gladys. I smiled at the Bowie references. Want my advice? Go get the book. 

After reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, I decided to check out Lauren Jame's debut novel The Next Together. The premise - Katherine and Matthew, destined to be born and fall in love over and over - was refreshing and different. I liked the way the story kept jumping to various points they'd 'met' in history, including the current time. Unlike some readers, I was able to follow the plot without confusion. However, I didn't feel the characters were fleshed out enough. They fell in love almost instantly every time they met, which is a pet peeve for me. Despite my criticisms, I will be reading the sequel. I have to know why they are destined to meet and fall in love.

That's it for book reviews. I'll be back with more in May. What books have you read so far this year? Do you have any recommendations?

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

IWSG: Best Laid Plans

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day - a monthly posting where writers can share and encourage, express doubts and concerns without feeling foolish or weak, and those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. A safe haven for writers! You can learn more about the IWSG group, it's founder Alex J. Cavanaugh, and purpose hereThe awesome co-hosts for March's post are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen GardnerPlease drop by and thank them for all their hard work. 

I'm going to skip this month's question and instead apologise for not posting in February. Remember back in January when I posted this year is now or never when it comes to my writing? Cue extra hours at work, a holiday to Center Parcs, a friend not respecting the need for time alone to write, adopting a shelter dog, and a husband home with the flu, and my writing didn't progress to where I wanted it to be this far into 2018. 

The Saturday before last, I had a mini meltdown. The lack of time to write and blog had finally gotten to me, and the tears flowed. It's not supposed to be this hard, right? I should be able to put myself first for a little time each day without feeling guilty. My husband says my default setting is guilt and I need to change it. I think he's probably right. It's difficult when most people in my life don't understand that writing is a solo activity, I need time alone to do it, and that I actually like my own company. As much as I love spending time with friends and family, I don't need to fill every moment of my day with other people.

Since the meltdown, my husband has been working hard to get me the time needed. He's encouraging me to step away from chores that he can do, and asking others not to interrupt me. He might not fully understand my writer's temperament or need for time alone, but he really is trying. I'm blessed to have him in my life.

Now enough about me. How are your writing and non-writing plans for 2018 coming along? Are you making progress, however slow? I want to hear all about your adventures.