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Susanne Winter Posts

Books I read In February

It seems that February was not quite as good a reading month as January. Might be because it was shorter. Also I had a week off at the beginning of January which means more reading time, and a weekend of houseguests and rehearsals in February which definitely makes for less reading time.

Non-Fiction:

  1. Peter Bregman: Four Seconds. All the Time You Need to Replace Counter-Productive Habits with Ones That Really Work*
  2. Chris Fox: 5,000 Words per Hour* (This book is also available for free when you join Chris Fox’ mailing list.)
  3. Chris Fox: Lifelong Writing Habit*
  4. Steven Pressfield: Turning Pro*

Fiction:

  1. Kim Harrison: The Operator*
  2. Lilith Saintcrow: The Iron Wyrm Affair*
  3. Lilith Saintcrow: The Red Plague Affair*
  4. Lilith Saintcrow: The Ripper Affair*
  5. Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy: Him*

So not a lot of books, and most of the non-fiction ones pretty slim too.

As always they were all excellent, otherwise I wouldn’t have finished them. From the non-fiction „Four Seconds“ really stood out to me. I do read a lot of self-help and productivity books. They always make me feel better and productive even if I don’t change anything about my life because of them.

This one had a plethora of helpful tips, every one started with a story. And at the end of each chapter there was a little box where the point of the chapter was helpfully explained in a few sentences. Very neat.

The four seconds refers to the time it takes to breathe in and out. That’s all it takes to get yourself to think before acting, to not do the things that comes instictively every time. I’m sure I will be rereading this at some point, and I found that it has already given me a way to handle some sorts of awkward social situations better.

And that’s what the book focuses on, how to handle yourself and other people and how to as it says in the title „replace counter-productive habits“ of which most of us have one or two.

As for the fiction you can clearly see that I was really liking the Lilith Saintcrow books. It is a series set in an alternate Victorian London, and it is steampunk. The main characters, Emma Bannon and Archibarld Clare, are a sorceress (there is institutionalized magic in this world) and a „mentath“, someone who is highly logical and analytical, even more so than a mere genius.

Clare is clearly inspired by Sherlock Holmes but manages to be completely different at the same time. The two of them are thrown together to investigate some strange happenings and murders. All three of the books are highly enjoyable. The world is marvelously built, very well done. And I espcially enjoyed the rather complex relationships between the characters. I had expected the two of the main characters to fall in love with each other, of course, but things were definitely more complex than that.

I really hope that there will be another book in the series. There is one connected to it, „The Damnation Affair“. I’m only a few pages in but so far it looks like it not only has a completely different setting, there have been completely different characters as well, even though it is set the same universe.

So much fun.

What did you read last month? Anything you think I might enjoy?

 

* all links are affiliate links

 

Books I read in January

Let’s just pretend that I actually finished writing the posts about which book I read in the motnsh between May and now as well, okay?

I was somewhat dissatisfied with the format. I’m thinking for real book reviews I should put more into it but just the title and if I liked said book. But then I thought, „How long do I want this to get?“ and „Nobody will want to read the epic 3,000 word posts.”

So I’m trying something new.

I will be making a list of all the books I read, and then I’ll talk about one or two fiction and non-fiction that I particularly liked.

And I will try to actually write these once a month.

Non-Fiction:

  1. Rachel Hoffmann: Unf*ck Your Habitat*
  2. Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck*
  3. Joanna Penn: Successful Self-Publishing*
  4. Joanna Penn: The Successful Author Mindset*
  5. Michelle McGagh: The No-Spend Year*

Fiction:

  1. S.K. Dunstall: Confluence*
  2. Ilona Andrews: Magic Steals (novella)*
  3. J.F.Penn: London Crime Thriller Trilogy*
  4. J.F.Penn: Day of the Vikings*
  5. Arthur Slade: Amber Fang. The Hunted*
  6. Seanan Mc Guire: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day*

Now first of all all of these books were excellent. There was none that I wouldn’t gladly reread. And no, I have no idea why I started the year with two books with swearing in the title.

You can see that I was on a real Joanna Penn kick, especially when you know that Joanna Penn and J.F. Penn are the same person.

I found her fabulous podcast through Rachael Herron’s equally fabulous podcast and will now be making my way through all of her books one after the other. Rachel Hofmann wrote a book on how to get a grip on your housework. Not only is it an extension of her blog with the same name, there are also most helpful tips in there. I’m not quite sure why I enjoy reading that kind of book so much but since it’s a rather harmless quirk I keep on buying and reading them.

I think „The No-Spend Year“ will be the one that will stay with me the most. In addition to my love of books about organizing, productivity and how to get a grip on housework I also adore reading about minimalism. Not that I’m planning of becoming a minimalist myself. While I am in the middle of decluttering I have too much stuff that I absolutely love and don’t want to part with.

And apart from buying too many books I’m not all that much about shopping for fun anyways.

But going so radical as McGagh who set herself a challenge for one year to only pay necessary bills, buy food and very basic toiletries (she really regretted not having made moisturizer a basic necessity after a rather short time), that was mindblowing to read. Very interesting. And like many she found the experience ultimately made her life richer for it which is contrary to what one would think.

In the past I had also read Mark Boyle’s book „The Moneyless Man“. Also very enlightening. Not that I want to live that way, again, but still. Big recommendation.

But then again I can heartily recommend any of the non-fiction books I read.

 

Now with the fiction, again, all of them were very, very good. But then if I don’t like a book I will mostly just not finish it.

As for the best I’d say that’s a tie between „Confluence“ which is the third in the Linesmen series and the stand-alone ghost story novella by McGuire „Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day“.

„Confluence“ continues the story of the two books before, of course. It is science fiction, we’re in a big universe full of planets where humans live, and they find an alien ship that uses „line technology“ to travel between the stars. Also for all kinds of technical things. The first book started with a linesman, one of the people who can control that technology, who is rather unusual. And then they find yet another ship and things get interesting. Now in the third book we’re in the middle of a conflict between different factions, alliances of planets, and the people we started to care about in the two books before end up right in the middle, of course.

The book is told from different character’s perspectives which this time threw me a bit but in the books before I had rather liked that way of telling. Anyways I’m eagerly wating for a fourth one. (I hope there will be one but I have no idea.)

Seanan McGuire now is one of the authors where it’s probably safe to read everything by her. Though I have to say that I have shied away fom the zombie novels so far, I’m not sure I want to read about zombies. But I’ve read everything October Daye I could get my hands on.

Now I don’t usually read ghost stories (though I don’t really have a reason, I just don’t) but this one was excellent. And the concept was really intriguing. The main character ist a ghost. Ghosts are people who died before their time, and they can stay on earth until their time is up. The interesting thing on top of that is that for them time doesn’t need to be linear. So they can give and take time from the living.

This particular ghost thinks she has to earn her time on earth by helping people. And then there is great big danger to all the ghosts, and she needs to jump right into the middle of that. Of course.

Very satisfying and entertaining read.

Oh, and I also wanted to add that „Amber Fang“ was extremely enjoyable and entertaining to read. I really hop Arthur Slade will write the next in the series soon.

So, what are you reading? Any tips for what I should look at?

* all links are affiliate links

State of the Thing December 2016

I’m thinking I should post more often here, and I hope that I actually will. Apart from my bad book reviews (I am almost finished writing „what I read in December“ but I will have to wait until the end of December to finish it, of course) I was thinking you might be interested in how my writing is doing. Since this is my writing blog.

Now I won’t pester you with long accounts of my struggle to work on my writing. Yes, I do tend to procrastinate, yes, my life is busy enough without trying to cram creative work in there but I don’t want to write a blog about my excuses for not writing.

Currently I am working on my contemporary fantasy series. I am a little reluctant to tell you all about the premise and story yet because I feel like I should have it reasonably close to finished before doing that. I’m afraid I might jinx it.

I can tell you that the series is called „Magically Real“ for now, the protagonist is a female jazz pianist, and the thing has witches, vampires, magic, and a lot of music in it.

So far I have three books in various stages. The first one is in revised first draft, and I’m hoping to revise that once again soon. The second is in rough draft, and I’m planning to start revising that starting in January, and the third one is what I am planning right now.

I am really bad at planning stories, I used to always just start writing but then I found that that makes the process of revision much harder, and so I have become a convert to the planning. Only I still need more practice doing that.

I would really want to have all three ready for publication some time next year, I’ll keep you posted about progress.

And then I decided to not buy books – yet again

Now I can't really get excited about this because I've tried it at least three times before. And failed.

But the thing is that a) I really need to curb my spending and b) I just sorted all the ebooks on my Kindle and it turns out I have 101 unread books on there, and then I looked at my shelf of books yet to read (and the piles around the house) and there are even more.

Now I'm thinking that every single one of these books was one that I really, really wanted to read right now at one point. There are also a few that I bought because they were really cheap but I don't do that anymore.

So. About 120 to 130 books I still haven't read around the house. (This would be the point where I think about a friend who once had to answer a survey about the books she had and had read, and they had to make up a new category for her because she had more than a hundred books at home. Yeah, me too.)

Last year I read 137 books. That is a lot for me, more than the years before. Which means that the books I have hanging around should last me for another year or so.

But then there are all those really exciting and shiny new books out there. The ones I really need to read right this instant.

I've tried it before. I told myself I could buy the books I had already on preorder like new books in series I already love and – and this is very important – nothing else!

Next thing I discovered the “Modern Witch”-series by Deborah Geary, got hooked and there went that.

But this time I'm adamant. I even wrote the rule on the “books I bought in October” page in my bullet journal. It says:

New Rule: pre-ordered books are alright, new books in series I have already started reading are alright, everything else won't be bought, there are still 120 books in the house.

Of course there are many more books in the house than 120 books in the house, these are just the ones I haven't read yet.

Underneath that rule it says,

  • “The Apocalypse Codex” 5.17€ (allowed because I'm reading “The Fuller Memorandum” right now) and then
  • “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” 9.49€

Now I heard about that one on a podcast I listen to. I'm all about self-improvement and productivity (which is a bit funny if you know me in person), and I decided that I really, really needed this book. Right now.

And I bought it even if it was against the rule I had made the day before, and I started reading it right away, and now it's all about things that aren't really relevant to me, and not looking as vitally important as it did a day ago. Also it seems I might not get rich right away after all.

But then I read the new posts on the bullet journal blog, and started thinking about handwriting, and how to improve it because that's something I've been interested in for a while, and I found this book by Rosemary Sassoon and all of a sudden I really needed that book to improve my handwriting this instant.

I am pretty proud of myself. Because despite having that urge, and feeling like I had a bad day, and needing a pick-me up,and even though it was crystal clear I needed that book – I didn't buy it. I probably will – at some point in the future. I like her writing, the book sounds marvelous, But I decided to be sensible for once and first finish reading all the other books beforehand.

Notably her other book “Handwriting of the 20th century” that's right here on my iPad. I really like it but I started reading it in 2012 and have yet to finish it. One reason for this is that with all the illustrations it's uncomfortable to read on the Kindle,and I rarely read on the iPad. But that's kind of an excuse. I still have to read 74% of that.

Yes, I was very, very sure that I would practice and improve my handwriting this afternoon but likewise I thought that buying the third “Larn how to draw”-book would make a significant difference. (Spoiler: It doesn't if your life is full to the brim, and other things are more important than learning how to draw.)

So we'll see how this goes. I am trying to not buy (many) books again.

I really need the money.

I am actually haunted by that PUB,

I am giving myself permission to not read some of the books on that pile if I happen to not like them, though.

And I will certainly buy every book in the “Laundry Files”-series for sure. Also some wicked part of me wants me to admit that downloading samples of “The Iron Wyrm Affair” and “Discount Armaggeddon” really counts as having already started reading two new series.

But it really doesn't.

And I really need to remind myself that there are so many, many awesome books on that PUB.

As I said I'll let you know how this goes.

Books I read in May 2016

In May I read only two non-fiction books and then a pile of novels because they were just so good that I didn’t want to put them down. So non-fiction first:

  1. How to Become a Straight A-Student by Cal Newport: This one I read mostly for my son. I thought it would be helpful for a seventh-grader but the book is mostly geared towards college students. Nevertheless I like it very much, and can see it being very helpful for students, and I even took some things away from it myself. My son has started reading it, was completely taken by the idea of the calendar/to-do-list that is in the book, didn’t manage to buy a notebook for three days straight, and when he finally got around to that he let the notebook sit unused. I have no idea if he will come back to it or if it made any difference but then that’s my son in a nutshell. The book is very clearly written, the tips are very helpful and practical, very easy to implement (my son is a special case), and I liked it very much.
  2. Children of the Ageing Self-Absorbed by Nina W. Brown: May was the month my son and I were visiting my parents, and I thought reading this book beforehand might be a good idea. And it was. The book is easy to read, and full of nice little exercises, it gives you strategies of how to deal with your screwed-up parents or grandparents well. Of course I did none of the exercises. And thinking about my parents and the issues I have with them made me rather sad at times, but I did find the suggestions helpful, and in a way this was the most pleasant visit we had with them in years. Highly recommended if you’re in a similar situation.

And fiction which means more books:

  1. Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep: This is the third novel in the Black Blade series. So far I have liked the series very much as I have liked everything I’ve read by Jennifer Estep. I maybe didn’t find it as gripping as the first two because it took me two weeks to finish it. On the other hand that might not have been the novel’s fault, I had quite a few non-fiction books lined up at the same time that I didn’t want to put down.
    (The reason I haven’t written about those in this month’s post is that I still have to finish them. I tend to wander between non-fiction books, reading them in bursts, and then putting them down in favor of other non-fiction. I only ever read one fiction book at a time.) I’m looking forward to the next installment because I can’t wait to see what will happen next. (Come to think of it I have no idea if there will be a next book. Huh.)
  2. Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipse, and One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire: I was very late in starting to read the October Daye-series but when I started I found I couldn’t stop. I read the books one after the other, always curious about what will happen next, and eagerto meet the characters again. These books are so well written that I actually toyed with the idea of stopping to try making my current novel work. It’s the same feeling I sometimes get when I listen to a master singer the feeling of “why bother?” to become better at what I do when there are people out there doing it extremely well.
    These thoughts are bullshit, of course, because there is room in the world for all kinds of writeres and musicians, even the mediocre ones, and especially for those who strive to become better and better. Nobody starts out as a master so not doing something because you’re not as good as you wish to be is foolish. Also I found that often people who are doing something extremely well still have the feeling that they are blundering about and not doing it as well as they wish they could. Because they strive to become better as well.

So if you are by any chance a person who hasn’t read the October Daye-series by now go and check it out, it is brilliant.

 

Why I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, and then quit it again right away

I am trying to save money at the moment, and it occurred to me that if I read 137 books last year that meant I had paid for most of them, and that is quite a bit of money.

Now I’ve always wanted to own the books I’ve read but on the other hand I read almost everything on my Kindle, and that is more like borrowing the book anyway.

I don’t mind because I like the convenience, I love the feeling of the Kindle in my hands, it stays open and flat so I can knit while reading without a problem, and this is the only way to carry around several hundred books in my purse.

Also if I want a new book I just click – and there it is.

I don’t have to go to the bookstore, see when it’s open, convince the saleswoman that yes, the book I want does indeed exist, and that she should order it for me, and then wait for two weeks until they phone me that it’s actually there. Which is a kind of improvement because it used to be that books in English took four to six weeks when ordered. If it was possible to order them from here at all.

Plus ebooks don’t need shelves.

So I thought to myself that I was reading a whole lot of non-fiction these days and those books are way expensive, and most of them I won’t be re-reading anyway. I could save a ton of money if I got Kindle Unlimited. All the books I want for ten Euros a month.

So I signed up. The first month is free. Then I pulled out my “buy later”-list of book titles.

I looked them all up in the store. All 43 of them.

You know how many of those were on Kindle Unlimited?

Two.

Yep. Two of 43. The books on Kindle Unlimited that I wanted to read were “Tommy Black and the Staff of Light” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

So I checked those two out (and a few days later “Supercharge Your Kindle Sales”) and quit.

I still get to read those books for free (even though I later decided to actually buy the “7 Habits”-book because I’m sure I will want to re-read it at some point.) but I had the feeling that paying 10 Euros a month for tat service wouldn’t actually save me any money.

Pity. I really liked the idea.

 

Books I read in April 2016

So last month I seem to have read way more fiction than non-fiction which I find surprising. But then I have been reading at least two more non-fiction books during that time, I just havn’t finished them yet. Yes, I am one of those people who have several books going on at all times. I am also trying to read through the pile of comic books I have subscribed to, and the pile of magazines. (I am actually quite proud of being just a year behind on “Green Lantern” as of this morning.)

But back to ‘real’ books, first the fiction ones:

  1. Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James: This is a cozy cat mystery. I just finished it yesterday. I have to say I’m not quite sure why I keep buying and reading these. I always wait for them to come out in paperback, though. I do like the characters somewhat, and I keep coming back to see what happens next. On the other hand I don’t particular like the author’s writing style. We seem to have completely different preference in that. The good thing is that the phrase “oaken table” didn’t appear in this one at all. Also the cat doesn’t talk which I really appreciate. I seem to have a weakness for cozy mysteries but I think I would like recommendations for a different series. One with knitting might be good but it’s not mandatory. I can totally live without pets in stories, talking or otherwise. I used to love Rita Mae Brown’s “Sneaky Pie”-series but only up to a certain point. So hit me with cozy mystery recommendations, please.
  2. Tommy Black and the Staff of Light by Jake Kerr: I found this one through Chuck Wendig’s site, I think, got myself the sample and was intrigued enough to check it out on Kindle Unlimited. I like it but not enough to pay a lot of money for it. All in all I found the world and characters intriguing but there were passages where I felt things could have moved a little faster. I probably will read the next one in the series anyway, though.
  3. The Last Dreamkeeper by Amber Benson: I pre-ordered this right after finishing the first in the series even though I had to buckle down at times to read all the way through. And this one was the same for me. I like the story, the characters, the world-building but there were places where I found my mind wandering while reading. I still want to read the next one (I guess there will be another one) but I won’t look forward to it with eager anticipation.
  4. Sideswiped, The Drafter, and Waylaid by Kim Harrison: I only just bought these. I was a bit wary of starting a new series even if it was by Kim Harrison. I had read my way through the Rachel Morgan-series as fast as I possibly could and I would certainly have bought “The Drafter” the day it came out if it hadn’t been at hardcover price. So I waited, and waited, and almost forgot about it, until I read Winterkatze’s review of “Sideswiped”. She was not convinced but I loved the beginning so much that I bought it right away, plus “The Drafter” and pre-ordered the next book that will come out in the fall. The whole thing is intriguing, fast-paced, and – among other things – deals with how memory works, and how it defines us as persons, and how the body remembers sometimes even if the mind doesn’t, and the whole thing is utterly fascinating. Yes, the main character sometimes appears too good to be true but I didn’t mind that at all. “Waylaid” is definitely the weakest of the three. (Sideswiped and Waylaid are novellas that are probably meant to lure new readers to the series.) Harrison herself said that the things reads like fanfic. And if not taken too seriously it is actually quite fun. I have to say I can’t wait for the next one to come out.
  5. Visitor by C.J, Cherryh: The, um 17th novel in the Foreigner series. I’ve waited for this to come out all year. And I was rather frustrated when I couldn’t buy it as an ebook for two more weeks after the hardcover had been published. And I was not disappointed. I find that I read these a bit slower than other books, maybe because the writing is rather dense. Remembering Holly Lisle’s class on revision I had to chuckle at the sheer amount of scenes where the only thing happening is a character sitting around thinking. Which should be a big no-no but Cherryh is making this highly entertaining and filled with suspension. I wasn’t bored for a second while reading this, and the big twist at the end is epic. I’m basically holding my breath until the next one.
  6. One Good Dragon deserves another by Rachel Aaron: I found Rachel Aaron through Gail Carriger’s blog, I think, and through her blog post of how she went from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000. And yes, I did buy and read that book right away. And subscribed to her blog for her writing tips. Anyway, I wanted to look at her fiction as well, and started with the Heartstriker series. I absolutely love it. I devoured the first two books in record time, and am now twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next one to come out. I love the world she built with its mixture of magic and technology, and the premises of the book that one can have a really nice hero is awesome. Sadly I’m on a book-buying budget right now (well, I am on a budget for everything right now) which means I will have to wait at least a month before I can buy “Fortune’s Pawn” but I am really looking forward to reading that one too. (Don’t let the cover fool you, Rachel Aaron and Rachel Bach are the same person. Just different names for her fantasy and scifi stuff.)

I know this is really long already. But there are only two non-fiction books on the list so hold on.

  1. Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson: Obviously this one is only relevant for people who want to sell ebooks via Amazon. It does what it says on the tin, the author has two nice tips. I have no idea if they work because I don’t have a book out yet. This one is rather short and not expensive, and I actually only borrowed it on my free first month of Kindle Unlimited.
  2. IronFit – Triathlon Training for Women by Melanie Fink and Don Fink: No, I’m not training for a triathlon. But I seem to be oddly fascinated with them, and keep reading books written by people who did them, or Ultra-Marathons, and other things like that. I managed to become somewhat sporty in my ripe old age of 48, and have been looking at ways to improve my ‘training’, and at ways to do different things instead of running, running, running, and a bit of strength training. This book is really nice, it is specifically geared towards women, and has nice and easy to understand training plans. Not that I will be following any of those in the foreseeable future. I think I need to stop buying these technical books about sports. I love the idea of changing the way I exercise more than I actually like changing anything. I have started to go swimming once a week lately, though. I’m teaching myself how to swim the “Total Immersion”-way (I hope) with the help of the self-coaching kit. In this instant a book alone was not enough to help me. I actually needed the video lessons as well. Even though I don’t really like watching video tutorials but if you want to learn movements it is rather helpful to see them. So in addition to running up and down the hallway five times a week, and hanging myself from my writing desk in an attempt to master pull-ups some time this century I also go to the pool on Fridays and drift around in a Superman stance thinking about VW bumpers and mail slots. I promise, this all makes sense once you’ve watched the DVD. (And if you want to know why I want to learn something like that go and look at this video. Then imagine being able to swim like that.)

Huh. I didn’t know I would have so much to write about the books I read. And I haven’t even talked about the stories much. We’ll see how this works out in the long run, I hope you enjoyed the whole thing anyway, and I hope to be back with another post before the month has passed.

Books I read

So I used to put a list out every year with all the books I had read the year before. Over time these lists grew longer and longer because at one point I had decided I wanted to read more actual books than just things on the internet.

I still aim to read the internet empty on a regular basis but I have also gone back to old book-reading habits.

I read a bit every morning, sometimes before getting up, always around and during breakfast, and always before I go to sleep at night, and at any point in between when I find myself with some time on my hands. I read when riding trains, and when knitting, and always a minute here and there.

And while that is a very good thing for me because I love reading, and reading more is a real pleasure putting out a list of 137 titles without comment doesn’t really help anyone. I guess the only person in the world who looks at this is my old friend Winterkatze who loves reading and books maybe more than me, and who is always looking for nice new books to recommend to me. Which I appreciate very much. But all in all the list is too long. And I didn’t want to start writing in-depth reviews of the books I read either, and so I had the idea – this morning – that making a list of books I read each month might be a great thing. And I would do it here on my writing-related site.

Because right now I don’t have a book out yet, and so this here blog has been sitting unused and lonely which is sad.

So there will be a monthly list of books I read here every month, and the occasional post about other stuff concerning writing and reading starting now.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.