Thursday, January 11, 2018

Author Spotlight: Brandon Sanderson

Today, I’m trying out a new feature on the blog. I decided that I want to start discussing/interviewing authors that I think deserve a little more attention. To get this feature started, I’m going to first spotlight an author that I strongly believe everyone should read: Brandon Sanderson.

If you’re unfamiliar with his work (which will shock me if you’re a frequent reader of this
blog), then you should know that Sanderson is one of the more recognized and loved
names in modern fantasy. He writes for middle grade, YA, and adults - so everyone can
read some Sanderson.
The reason I’m featuring Sanderson is because I strongly believe EVERYONE
SHOULD READ HIS BOOKS. Every book might not be for you, but among so many
of his books, I can guarantee that you’ll find something worth your time (and if you
need help figuring out where to start, tell me a few books you like in the comments
and I’ll guide you in the right direction).



ADULT FANTASY - Newcomers should know that all the worlds in Sanderson’s adult
fantasy series are connected and will eventually be brought together as each series
progresses. In the meantime, each series is unique and fascinating alone and can be
enjoyed independent of the other series.

(Currently a standalone)

(First trilogy of the Mistborn Trilogies)

(Second trilogy of the Mistborn Trilogies - far more Wild West steampunk than the first)

(will eventually be twelve books)

(short stories to help bridge some of the gaps between the worlds and
answer questions that aren’t addressed in the series)

What Sanderson books have you already read? Which ones interest you? What about Sanderson
makes him stand out from other current fantasy authors? What’s keeping you from reading these
books if you haven't read them?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Nerd Blast: The Last Thing She Ever Did by Gregg Olsen

Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (January 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1542046424
ISBN-13: 978-1542046428


“Gregg Olsen pens brilliant, creepy, page-turning, heart-pounding novels of suspense that always keep me up at night. In The Last Thing She Ever Did, he topped himself.” —Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author

“Beguiling, wicked, and taut with suspense and paranoia, The Last Thing She Ever Did delivers scenes as devastating as any I’ve ever read with a startling, pitch-perfect finale. A reminder that evil may reside in one’s actions, but tragedy often spawns from one’s inaction.” —Eric Rickstad, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Girls

“Olsen's latest examines how a terrible, split-second decision has lingering effects, and the past echoes the present. Full of unexpected twists, The Last Thing She Ever Did will keep you guessing to the last line.” —J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Lie To Me

“Master storyteller Gregg Olsen continues to take readers hostage with another spellbinding tale of relentless, pulse-pounding suspense.” —Rick Mofina, international bestselling author of Last Seen

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a psychological thriller exploring the things we dare to do when no one is looking . . .

The community along Oregon’s Deschutes River is one of successful careers and perfect families. For years, up-and-comers Liz and Owen have admired their good friends and neighbors, Carole and David. They appear to have it all—security, happiness, and a beautiful young son, Charlie.

Then Charlie vanishes without a trace, and all that seemed safe is shattered by a tragedy that is incomprehensible—except to Liz.

It took one fleeting moment for her to change the lives of everyone she loves—a heartrending accident that can’t be undone. Neither can the second-worst mistake of her life: concealing it. As two marriages crack and buckle in grief and fear, Liz retreats into her own dark place of guilt, escalating paranoia—and betrayals even she can’t imagine. Because there’s another good neighbor who has his own secrets, his own pain, and his own reasons for watching Liz’s every move.

And only he knows that the mystery of the missing boy on the Deschutes River is far from over.


Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Olsen has written nine nonfiction books, nine novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel. He has also appeared on Dateline NBC, William Shatner's Aftermath, Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Today Show, FOX News, CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, CBS 48 Hours, Oxygen's Snapped, Court TV's Crier Live, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, and A&E's Biography.

In addition to television and radio appearances, he has been featured in Redbook, USA Today, People,Salon magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and the New York Post.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honored by Washington's Secretary of State for the book's contribution to Washington state history and culture. His Young Adult novel, Envy, was the official selection of Washington for the National Book Festival.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker spaniel) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).

You can purchase The Last Thing She Ever Did on Amazon.

Learn more about Nerd Blasts and Book Tours at Jean Book Nerd.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On nostalgic books

Nostalgia is a difficult mood to pick books regarding. For me, nostalgic books are the ones that take me back to another time in my life - usually to my childhood. As a kid, I was a dedicated reader. In the summertime, that’s basically all I did. Thanks to my parents, I always had new library books and new recommendations and there were endless opportunities for me to read. I was introduced to many different types of books and here are a few that really stuck with me:

The Three Robbers

  • The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer - When I was really little, we didn’t own very many picture books, so Dad read this one to me most nights. To this day, he says he always thinks of me when he hears about it and that Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” (a robber’s weapon of choice) song remind him of me. This book features fearless robbers and a little orphan girl - it was a captivating tale for a little girl like me.

Parts (Parts, #1)

  • Parts by Tedd Arnold - This picture book was an early favorite. Before I could read, I insisted having this read to me every single night. At one point, I tried to convince my dad I could read by “reading” it to him (I must have turned the pages at the wrong times or something because he didn’t believe me for a second). This hilarious book about a boy who thinks he’s falling apart was well-loved and highly appreciated.

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)

  • Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede - This was one of the first chapter books I read and it was awesome. Plenty of fantasy, a strong-willed princess for a main character, and all sorts of interesting adventures - this book had everything that young me loved. And I devoured these books.

Once Upon a Marigold (Upon a Marigold, #1)

  • Once Upon A Marigold by Jean Ferris - In sixth grade, I had a teacher recommend this to me and I instantly fell in love, finishing it within a couple days. This book lead me to read everything else by Jean Ferris that I could get my hands on and she remains one of my favorite authors. This story about a boy raised by a troll and a clever princess captured my heart and I’ve read it more times than I can count.
What were your favorite childhood books? Which books do you want to introduce to all the children you know? What books make you nostalgic for another time?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

On reading groups for the new year

Welcome back! We’ve taken a break for the past couple weeks due to the holidays. Now
we’re back and ready to get reading - but there are a few quick changes. To begin with,
we’ll now only be posting twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Three times a
week was exhausting and once school got busy, I was struggling to keep up. In the past
couple months, I’ve also tried to focus more on book lists instead of book reviews or
lengthy posts with me rambling. I’ve really enjoyed the book list format, so I think we’ll
continue doing that for most posts for the foreseeable future.
For our first new post of the year, I’d like to focus on some book groups that will help you
to read more, discover new books, and engage with the bookish internet community!
These should help you complete any New Year’s reading goals you’ve set.

  • Tor’s ebook of the month club - This ebook club is fantastic - not only do you get a free ebook download every month, but you also get to interact with other readers online about the book. And Tor picks some interesting books - I got Kushiel’s Dart, Old Man’s War, and Truthwitch (from Tor’s brand new Teen ebook club) this past year. Tor picks unique books and has an interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy. The club took a hiatus for a few months, but should be picking up again sometime soon!
  • Dragons & Jetpacks - This Goodreads reading group is the perfect group for SFF readers. Every couple months, group members vote on new SFF books to read and the selected books are discussed on the message boards. It’s a fun book club (and a very interactive one) and they pick excellent books.
  • David Bowie Book Club - As I write this, Bowie’s club is still somewhat unofficial. Bowie’s son Duncan recently decided to start reading his father’s favorite books as a tribute to his old man - and invited the world to join him. Follow Duncan’s Twitter account for further information and new updates on upcoming books.
  • Big Library Read - This book club is facilitated by Overdrive and can be run through your local library. Participating libraries can have access to the monthly book for their readers and can choose to run book discussions in person. If your library isn’t currently running groups, don’t let that stop you - download the book and get some friends together to participate in the first global ebook club!

What book groups do you participate in to learn about new books and discuss things you’ve read? How do book groups help you achieve your bookish reading goals?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On how to include more diversity in your writing

Diversity is a hot topic right now and there are growing criticisms for authors who choose not to include diversity in their books. If you’re an aspiring writer who wants to write about diverse people in diverse situations, it’s important to do it right - and here are some of my thoughts on how best to do that:

  • Do your research - I cannot stress this enough. You need to know enough about a culture to include it in your writing in a decent way. Too little research and you might be left with some hurtful stereotypes - or with an unrealistic character. What resources can help you with learning about cultures?
    • Books - Books featuring characters from cultures you’re interested in or about places your characters would be from can be immensely helpful.
    • Travel - Many authors travel around to get ideas about the people and places they’re going to be writing about. If this isn’t something you can afford to do (and trust me - you aren’t alone in that), prepare as if you are going to travel there. Watch travel videos about going to the country or city your characters are from and read travel guides for these areas. Even if you can’t go and learn from immersion, these resources can give you a decent feeling for a culture or people.
    • Language - If you’re basing characters on a specific culture, getting an idea of that culture’s language can be immensely useful. Reading books about the language or watching videos teaching important phrases can give you an insight into how minds in specific cultures work, what’s important to people in this culture, and what is considered polite/rude in this culture.
  • Meet lots of people - Sure - you might not know a lot of people with a strong knowledge about every culture you wish to include in your book. However, knowing lots of interesting and diverse people can help you learn to write characters who are very different from each other and distinct and important. Expanding your social group to include people who are different from you can also help you to write more in-depth characters.
  • Ask for advice/guidance - If you aren’t sure you’re properly representing a particular culture or making your characters individual enough, have someone else read over your story with a specific prompt in mind - Are these characters distinct and different or do they all blend together? Is this a sensitive and effective way to include a diverse character in this story? Having friends read over a story that you’re working on with these things in mind can help you to be more conscience of these things as you continue to write and can also give the people in your life a chance to get very involved in your work. It can also prompt some interesting discussions and perhaps a new way to connect with the people who are important to you.
  • Be willing to admit that you don’t know everything - In my mind, this is a very important thing for every writer to acknowledge. While writing, it’s important to keep an open mind to new things you learn and the tips that people offer you. While writing about diverse people, this is especially important - if you’re writing about characters who are very different from you, you can’t afford to shut out the advice of people who have more experience than you. This being said, don’t be afraid to take that advice with a grain of salt - what one person thinks is very important to include may not have a place in your book.

What tips would you add to this list? How would you go about writing a character different from you?

Monday, December 18, 2017

On author of color

This post is taken from the Goodreads List “Best Fiction and Memoirs by Authors of Color."
I have to be honest that my knowledge of authors of color is limited. I have so many books on my to-read list that fall under this category, but I haven’t been as dedicated to tracking them down as I should be. When I was looking through this Goodreads list, I was a little ashamed to realize that I’ve only read 5 of the top 100 books and 3 are on my to-read list. Obviously I have a lot of catching up to do. In looking at this list, I’m realizing that I’ve heard of so many of these books - so how have I never gotten around to reading them? It’s about time I started.
Below is some information about the top book on this list and the books on it that I have read.

The Color Purple
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    • The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

      Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.

The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (#7)
    • 'On what slender threads do life and fortune hang.'

      Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dant├Ęs is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.
    • I have always loved this book. But I had no idea (until looking at this list and doing a little more research) that Alexandre Dumas is an author of color. In fact, his father was a slave in Haiti and moved to France once he was freed. It’s a fascinating bit of knowledge that makes this book a little more interesting.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
    • In this darkly comic short story collection, Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, brilliantly weaves memory, fantasy, and stark realism to paint a complex, grimly ironic portrait of life in and around the Spoke Indian Reservation. These 22 interlinked tales are narrated by characters raised on humiliation and government-issue cheese, and yet are filled with passion and affection, myth and dream. There is Victor, who as a nine-year-old crawled between his unconscious parents hoping that the alcohol seeping through their skins might help him sleep. Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who tells his stories long after people stop listening, and Jimmy Many Horses, dying of cancer, who writes letters on stationary that reads "From the Death Bed of James Many Horses III," even though he actually writes them on his kitchen table. Against a backdrop of alcohol, car accidents, laughter, and basketball, Alexie depicts the distances between Indians and whites, reservation Indians and urban Indians, men and women, and most poetically, between modern Indians and the traditions of the past.
    • This is a fun book with some really interesting stories. Honestly, I don’t remember many of them anymore, though. I’ve heard that Sherman Alexie has done more fantastic work, so this could be a good opportunity for me to delve deeper.

Life of Pi
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel (#35)
    • The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

      The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.
    • THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. This is one of those books that really stays with you and makes its mark. Perhaps I’m due for a reread.

The Kite Runner
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (#36)
    • Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

      The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

      A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.
    • I was probably too young to read this book when I did. I remember very little about it (except for a rape scene that disturbed me greatly) and didn’t fully understand anything that was going on in this book. Perhaps I would better appreciate it now.

The Joy Luck Club
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (#48)
    • In 1949 four Chinese women-drawn together by the shadow of their past-begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and "say" stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club. Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother's lifelong wish-and the tragic way in which it has come true.

      The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember…
    • This was another book that I may have been a little young to read and understand (I was in middle school). However, I enjoyed immensely what I could understand and this gave me a lot to consider in a very undiverse community and school.

What books have you read from this Goodreads list? What books aren’t on it that you would add? Which books on this Goodreads list seem the most important in your mind? What other Goodreads lists would you be interested in being blogged about?

Friday, December 15, 2017

On books with anthropomorphic animals

I’m coming to realize that I love stories with animals that act like humans - there aren’t a huge amount out there, but I’ve been impressed with all the ones I’ve read. Below are some suggestions for stories you can read with anthropomorphic animals as the main characters - two for children and one for adults.

Redwall (Redwall, #1)
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques - This is an obvious choice for children. A fantasy series set around a woodland abbey, this story is an excellent introduction to fantasy for children - complete with pure evil, heroic quests, and difficult moral dilemmas.

The Wind in the Willows
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - A classic children’s story about woodland friends Mole, Rat, and Toad, this story is delightful and adorable. And who could forget Toad’s automobile rides?

The Builders
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky - This book was a surprising favorite of mine. Part heist, part fantasy story, this tale is absolutely wonderful (and mostly suited for adults). Part of the delight of this story comes from imagining the characters being the animals they are - like the narrator’s constant quips about the mouse captain’s height and squeaky voice. It’s a wonderful balance between thrilling adventure and whimsical fantasy tale.

What books would you add to this list? Have you read any of the listed stories?