Best Book of November: Spider’s Voice by Gloria Skurzynski

Spider's Voice by Gloria Skurzynski: Best Book of November review on Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesThis November I have enjoyed a lot of great reading, from the fantasy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to the mystery of Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Canterbury Tale, to history in a delightful discovery, Spider’s Voice by Gloria Skurzynski.

The Delightful Discovery

I first encountered Spider’s Voice in our city’s one, independent bookstore, the beloved, and now no longer in business, Jackson’s Books.

As a parent and as a children’s writer (I was writing and publishing folktales with Cricket Magazine at the time), I loved their vast children’s selection and shopped faithfully when I had money to spend on gifts, or I just wanted to see what was new. (They also had a fabulous fantasy section. That is my other favorite genre.)

I saw Spider’s Voice when it first came out–a very lean time in my life; noted that it included the  historical Abelard and Heloise in its cast and therefore was medieval historical fiction, a favorite; and denied myself the purchase because, as I said, financially things were pretty rough for me and my family at the time.

But the book haunted me. So often after it had disappeared from the shelves, I wished that I had bought it, or at least jotted down its title and author, like I usually do, so I could buy it later. And I guess, somehow, in the more than a decade that passed I did find it and buy it, because when it came time to read a novel from my children’s hardback shelves, moving forward from the letter Z, there it was.

Awake with insomnia, I pulled it from the shelf and sat down to read, not even glancing at the blurb. Then, as I got a few pages in, I began to realize, This is it! This is the book I wished I’d bought!

I have no memory of finding it, buying it, or shelving it, but I read it through, beginning to end, in one sitting, and did not go back to bed until after 3:00 A.M.

Spider’s Voice: Worth the Wait

Spider’s Voice is the story of a young shepherd boy, named Aran, born mute to a brutal father, who is sent with his older brother to Paris to sell the year’s thread. When his brother drinks up their earnings and is robbed of the rest, he sells to a peddler in grotesques so he need not return homw empty-handed. Aran is rescued by the famous scholar Abelard, because the great teacher in Paris’ famed University is in need of a servant who cannot be interrogated.

Through his adventures and travails in service to the famous lovers, Abelard and Eloise, Aran comes of age, and develops a wisdom of his own.

I was not disappointed!

Your Turn

Is there a book you waited a long time to read? Was it worth the wait?

Use the comment box below to explain. Please be sure to include the title of the book and the author’s name, in case one of our fellow readers wants to give it a try.

Thanks, I love hearing from you!

Advertisements

New Reading Rotation

A Reading Rotation

As happens periodically, usually at least once per year, I get tired of my established reading rotation, and I revise it.

(So, why bother? Because I have found in the past that without some form of genre rotation, I get stuck in a rut reading the same kind of book over and over again, despite my wider range of interests. So, when I get tired of one rotation, I find it worth my while to reinvent the “beast”.)

This time, I felt like I was not getting to spend enough time in the genres I either write or love to read. So I revised.

Here is the New Rotation

How Does it Work?

The basic rotation is the column on the left and the top chunk in the middle. I read through this from the top down through the two columns and mark with the month and year each listing read.

Nightstand Book: If a book I’ve read in the rotation is a series, the rest of the series goes on my nightstand to pick from so I do not have to wait for a full rotation to read the next book in the series.

Other Fiction: This is a list of other fiction genres/categories (ex. Goudge is author Elizabeth Goudge, a long-time favorite. I just keep rotating through rereading her books.)

Mystery Rotation: This category allows me to rotate through my favorite mystery authors so I don’t have to wait for them to get their turn in the alphabetical rotation. (I have a lot of books in my favorite genres.) You will find the list of authors to rotate through in the right column.

Non-fiction: I both enjoy and need to read nonfiction (to expand my horizons, build my writing craft, and support the world-building for my fantasy writing). So, this is the list of non-fiction works I rotate through.

Byzantine

I know it looks rather crazy and complex, but it works for me. What really matters is not that I rotate through the genres but how much I read different types of books. This newest helps me read my favorite genres, while sticking to a desire to read other types of works as well.

Your Turn

How do you organize your reading time, or–not? What do you feel are the benefits of your method or non-method for organizing your life? I’d love to know! Just use the comment space below.

Best Book of July 2017

Whoa! I visited my reading log and discovered I have only completed one book this month. Yikes! (This is by no means an excuse, just an explanation–this was my “travel” month. First I visited my mom, then I attended a writing conference–more on that another time, and then my husband and I went on a road trip. Too often, I have fallen into bed exhausted at the end of the day instead of ready to enjoy a good book.

So, the only book I read is also my favorite book I read (however, please note, I recall thinking, multiple times as I read it, that any other book would have a hard time beating it out). Soooo…

The Best Book of July 2017 is:

A Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks.

This is an exceptional novel. The reader knows, from the beginning, that plague is going to strike the 17th century English village that is the setting, and as you read the tale of one woman who survived, the expected heartbreak and tragedy relentlessly unfolds. You witness heroism and horror, and you hope and despair right along with the narrator. The only thing that kept me from giving this a five-star review on Goodreads was the ending. I had hoped for so much more for our heroine…but I won’t give anything away. And even with what felt to me like an unsatisfactory ending, I kept hoping for something better (and enjoying the novel) all the way up until the final pages. Read this fascinating book! You will not be sorry.

Best Books of June 2017

Whew! I got a lot of reading done in June. (And it’s about time!) I did so much reading, that I can’t narrow this post down to just one book. But, because I’m mentioning two does not let you off the hook for helping make the word “Books”, referred to in the title, plural. So, with no further ado, here’s my best books read in June:

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal and The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt. Both are historical fiction, as were almost all the other books I read, besides the Harry Potter. Hmm, do you sense a theme here? The difference is, among many things, Valour and Vanity is historical fantasy set in Georgian era Europe (think Regency England and the Napoleonic wars of early 19th century), while The Golden Cross is straightforward historical fiction set in the 17th Century, on the Dutch colony on Java, Indonesia

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette KowalValour and Vanity: I love this series, The Glamourist Histories. In this novel, Jane and Vincent, official glamourists of the Prince Regent, head to Venice. On the way, their ship is waylaid by pirates. Although they reach Venice safely, they arrive penniless and are taken under the wing of wealthy gentleman who had been on board ship with them. But not all is as it seems… I could hardly put this book down as the plots twists and turns swiftly carried the tale in one direction and then abruptly in another. The cast of characters is fun and intriguing, as Jane and Vincent are befriended by the nuns of a local convent, a street entertainer, and Lord Byron! I can’t hardly wait to read the next book in the series. Expect to find it on my reading log soon.

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell HuntThis second book in “The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor” series is, I think, my favorite of the series so far (although the first book, The Silver Sword was pretty awesome as well). The main character, Aidan, is a young woman gifted with great artistic ability who, through misfortune, finds herself a barmaid in a notorious harbor tavern. Feeling terrible shame at what she and her mother have become, she longs for a more respectable life. Finally she is given the chance to remake herself when a great artist takes her on as his student. However, many people want nothing more than to see her restored to the gutters from which she has escaped. This is a story of discovering ones gifts and value as a child of God. The threats to Aidan’s dreams and life get very intense, and I was glad to have had the time to gobble this book up in two days!

What about you? What book or books did you enjoy in June? Please, please, please use the comments section below to share. I’m always on the lookout for an great read.

Reading Rotation 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

As those who have been with me long know, I have developed a somewhat quirky system for choosing what book I will read next. The need for such a system is threefold:

  1. I used to like to gorge myself on whatever genre I fancied until I’d read so many, I ruined myself for reading any more books of that genre for a long, long time. (It’s sort of like working in a candy store and being told you can eat as much as you like then finding you have made yourself so sick of candy you do not even want to look at another piece.
  2. I have eclectic reading taste. Therefore gorging myself on one genre neglected all the others I loved, which my inner five-year-old felt was very unfair.
  3. I tend to buy books faster than I can read them, therefore the “to be read” titles in any given genre were stacking up so alarmingly, I needed a system to equalize the build-up on any one bookshelf. (Yes, I have bookshelves in every room and our home library is sorted like genre–as, come to think of it, is my school library.)

The Solution: A Reading Rotation

I’ve brainstorm all the genres I like to read, considered which I like best (fantasy, historical mysteries, and historical fiction) or need to read (fantasy –since I am a fantasy writer and books about writing to help me grow as an author) then compile them in a list with repetitions where needed.

For each book I choose to read, I date that genre on the list and look at what comes next so I can eagerly anticipate what my next read will be. And so I work my way from top to bottom of the list, and then start all over again. Hence, a “Reading Rotation.”

This year I determined I am not reading enough non fiction, so I have established two lists–fiction and non fiction, to be read three fiction books for every non fiction book. I am very excited about this. I love novels, but I’ve missed the types of non fiction I enjoy.

The New, 2017 Reading Rotation:

new-2017-reading-rotation

A Book Nerd

I know. If you hadn’t thought of me as a book nerd before, you will now. I love to read! And I look forward to a year of awesome reading, and hopefully to learning about what you are reading, and thereby discovering more gems as well.

Happy Reading!

August 2016: My Reading List

When I look at this list, I am embarrassed. It is barely a list, for August, when I, a teacher, am supposed to be enjoying the last weeks of summer! What was I doing?

Well…

What was I doing?

My overall goal for the summer was to revise my flagship novel, THE SWALLOW’S SPRING from tight, past tense, third person to present tense, first person. I had finally made sense of the feedback I have been getting and realized I needed to allow readers to get not just in Iseult’s head, but actually in her skin, in her life. At the beginning of August, I was only half-way through.

Also, I went to the Willamette Writers Summer Conference–three days of talking writing, information, talking writing, learning about connecting with our audiences, talking writing, taking copious notes in writing craft workshops, and, of course, talking writing. It was vastly informative, and awesome learning experience, and fun!

Therefore, I truly only read two books in August.

What I Read

6335178Lady Vernon and Her Daughters by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

This was a very “Jane Austen” type of novel based on notes Austen actually made for a novel that never got written. It had a marvelously, Austen-like cast of quirky characters, and typical Austen-like near misses where characters you love don’t recognize their own feelings until it is almost too late. It was a delightful read.

16140922Altered by Gennifer Albin

This is book two of a trilogy. Book one, Crewel, I read in my school library. I enjoyed the first novel so much, I finally bought the sequel myself. (The library didn’t have it.) Altered follows Adelice, Jost, and Erik when she rips a hole in her own world–Arras–and descends to a very messed up earth, California in particular. Determined to rescue her sister, Adelice seeks a way to sneak back home, and we get to tag along with her  to a post apocalyptic Hearst Castle and Alcatraz Island (where she meets a very famous person familiar to most of us). Again, I really enjoyed this read. Too bad the sequel to this one, Unraveled, got checked out last school year and was never returned. Hmmm. Maybe I can get it through interlibrary loan!

My Much Belated November Reading List

Byzantium by Giles MorganDue to a bad case of “The Descent into Darkness” when daylight saving’s time ended, the only reading I really did in November was finish the books I started to reading in October. They are:

    • Byzantium: Capital of an Ancient Empire by Giles Morgan–an interesting overview of the Byzantine Empire. I read this as research for a new novel idea
  • The Ends of the Earth by T. Davis Bunn–a novel of romance and adventure, and the early Byzantine Empire. This was a novel I started, but through no fault of the author, I could not read until nearly the end of the month. (Did I mention “The Descent into Darkness”? Yeah. Sometimes it blots out my desire to read. What do I do instead? Work, sleep, stare, and add to my boards on Pinterest until, eventually I get hungry for books again.
  • The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima–book 2 in The The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams ChimaHeir series, just as gripping as the first. This is the book I read at school–in the morning and in the afternoon for our sustained silent reading time at the beginning of each session. Fifteen minutes were never enough. I had to bring it home to finish over Thanksgiving break.

And for this month? I’ve moved on the third book in Chima’s series, The Dragon Heir, and am enjoying some sweet little Christmas novels at home.

How about you? What does your December reading look like?

 

Literate Lives Reading Log: July 2015

  • Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir~fascinating historical fiction told from multiple (and I mean multiple) points of view, making the execution as intriguing as the story.
  • Innocent Traitor.Alison WeirTears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander~exotic, exciting historical mystery set in Constantinople!
  • Tears of Pearl.Tasha AlexanderMountain Sanctuary by Lenora Worth~a sweet romance
  • Mountain Sanctuary.Lenora WorthAdam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray~gripping, Newbery-winning medieval tale with an endearing young minstrel-protagonist. Read this one with your kids.510Adam of the Road.E.J.Gray
  • Happy Reading!

Best Book of March–Jennifer Donnelly’s “Revolution”

rev_coverIt has recently come to my attention–ie. I discovered the book sitting under a half-eaten, one pound box of Sees candy and an 2″ by 3″ acrylic box full of multi-colored standard sized paper clips–that when I returned home from spring break, I had forgotten to update my book list with the best book I read all the month of March: Jennifer Donnelly‘s Revolution.

I first encountered this book while shelving returns in the high school library where I worked. I immediately added it to what has already becoming a voluminous “Roberts’ Books I Want to Read” list. When I returned to work in September, now full-time at a different location, the Downtown Learning Center, I was delighted to find the book was on our shelves, too! However, I was in the middle of reading something else and figured I’d check Revolution out next.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished whatever it was I was engrossed in, a student had checked out Revolution. Phooey! I started reading something else, figuring when she turned in the book I’d check it our right away.

However, the school I work in is a GED center. Thus, our students graduate whenever they complete their last test. The reader of Revolution? She graduated in October, and evidently not finished with the book, it graduated with her.

Finally, this March, I got my hands on Revolution. As soon as I  began reading, I was hooked. This is a fabulous novel whose story follows the lives of two characters–Andi, in modern times and Alexandrine, a young woman who lived during the run-up to and aftermath of the French revolution. I’m not giving away anything. This information can be found in the front blurb.

Initially, being a historical fiction lover, I was a teeny-weeny bit disappointed that the first third of the novel was set in modern times. However, it was gripping, and I almost immediately cared about the main character and what she was dealing with in her life, so I was in no way reluctant to push on.

The second third of Revolution alternates back and forth between Andi and Alexandrine, and you grow to empathise with  the 18th century French girl as well. And the last third of the novel immerses Andi in Alexandrine’s world. The structure fascinated me, because as a writer, I have been drawn to ideas for novels that spanned two worlds or two time frames and had never  considered this kind of structure for executing them.

This novel is gripping–stay up way too late reading at night and hitting snooze multiple times each morning until the absolute last-minute to get up for work–gripping. I most definitely recommend you go acquire a copy of it now.

What are Your Intentions for What Remains of Christmas Break?

Mantle 2This year was one of my best Christmases ever! My parents came up from California. My son, his “orphaned” friend, my daughter and her husband, and my three granddaughters celebrated with us. The house got cleaned and decorated. I was even able to bake gingerbread and decorate sugar cookies with my daughter and granddaughters, not to mention support my daughter in her first ever ornament party for the girls. There was time for fun, for fellowship, for worship, and even a little creativity. Just how I like my Christmases.

Now, with a week remaining of Christmas break, what are my intentions? I am committed to finishing the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, so in the new year I can commence the submission process. I have a little over 100 pages to go. Friday and Saturday I was able to carefully do a double round of revisions through thirty pages.

What are my objectives? Eliminating thought and dialogue tags to create a deeply immersed third person point of view, getting rid of any lingering “telling” and working in the appropriate degree of “showing,” and last, just generally tightening everything up.

I want to commit to daily updates here, and yet I don’t. However, I have written this and I am posting it. Therefore, count me accountable.