Throne of Glass Series Read-a-Long (with giveaways!)

With the very generous help of my good friend, author A.K. Lee, was a major part of keeping my website up and running for 2019. And now, together, we are putting on a major read-a-long contest for Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas that will lead up to the release of The World of Throne of Glass!

There will be prizes at the half-way point in the series as well as at the end. These prizes may include pins and bookmarks, but will include a lucky winner receiving a copy of The World of Throne of Glass!

So let’s break down how this is going to work:

Did you say prizes?

hashtag

Using the hashtag #TWOTOGCountdown (The World Of Throne Of Glass Countdown), every month we’ll be reading one book and splitting it into two parts each month. At this half-way point A.K. and I would announce the photo challenge! The photo challenge will be a single word prompt to be interpreted in any way and the best photos will be featured in A.K.’s newletter and my Instagram story (and highlight).

Those featured will also be entered into a draw to win a copy of The World of Throne of Glass. Sharing the graphics each month will also enter participants into the draw. Details for smaller prizes are yet to come.

Don’t have Instagram? Tweet your photo to myself (@WelshLucien) and A.K. (@aklee_writes) and you’ll still be included.

So when do we start?

February 1st! Below are the graphics (in one) and they will be shared both by myself and by A.K. on our various social media platforms. Because I jumped at this a little late in the game, below is also the word prompt for the photo challenge. So get ready to read! There will be an official post as of February 1st, but who doesn’t love a head start?

full graphic


You can follow A.K. Lee at these sites:

And be sure to follow me:

 

REVIEW: Hunting Charles Manson

I’m going to make this a quick review for a few reasons. The first is that this is obviously non-fiction and about Charles Manson. The second is that I was not fond of this book at all and, if I’m being entirely honestly here, I ended up skimming most of it.

Having had something of an obsession with Manson for many, many years now, I have read countless books on the Summer of ’69 as well as books about what factors made Manson who he was. Earlier this year I reviewed an ARC for Nikki Meredith’s The Manson Women and Me, which I absolutely adored. This time, Lis Wiehl’s book Hunting Charles Manson: The Search For Justice in the Days of Helter Skelter is bland and includes many things that I question.

The first red flag for me was the author stating in the Author’s Note that she is a prosecutor and reporter who believes in a Christian brand of justice. It seems like an irrelevant thing to bring up in a book about a cult who was fairly against organized religion that didn’t centre around Charlie himself. Not only that but several times throughout the book, some of the profanity is censored out and some of it isn’t, causing me to question what facts have been twisted for the sake of the story and the author’s personal opinions.

Next up is that she doesn’t automatically use the names of the victims in the murders on Cielo Drive (aka. The Tate Murders), instead saving them for the following chapter when the “survivor” in the guest house in brought into the mix. It felt disrespectful to me and most people my age probably don’t know what the victims looked like (other than Sharon Tate) so only using descriptors felt like an odd choice. Not only that, but when Wiehl does go into the life of William Garretson, she focuses a lot on his drug habits and his friendship with the immigrant groundskeepers of the property. In other words, there’s a lot of irrelevant information here.

I’m not going to say any more because, quite frankly, I’m really disappointed. This time period that helped spark the Satanic Panic while also doing so much politically is fascinating to me, but this author does not do a good job of getting her points across, instead choosing to rehash the facts in a way that feels censored and manipulated. Not to mention that unless readers are truly familiar with the members of the Family – meaning both their names and their “Family names” – it can be confused to remember who is who.

The only decent thing about this book is that it got me working on my cross-referencing and fact-checking skills as I often found myself looking at other sources to make sure the information was accurate (which, based on my knowledge, not all of it was).

If you want a good read about the cult, I highly recommend you read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, The Manson Women and Me by Nikki Meredith, and Manson by Jeff Guinn.


36576143Author: Lis Wiehl (with Caitlin Rother)
Published: June 5, 2018
Pages: 336
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780718092085

Synopsis: In the late summer of 1969, the nation was transfixed by a series of gruesome murders in the hills of Los Angeles. Newspapers and television programs detailed the brutal slayings of a beautiful actress–twenty six years old and eight months pregnant with her first child–as well as a hair stylist, an heiress, a businessman, and other victims. The City of Angels was plunged into a nightmare of fear and dread. In the weeks and months that followed, law enforcement faced intense pressure to solve crimes that seemed to have no connection.

Finally, after months of dead-ends, false leads, and near-misses, Charles Manson and members of his “family” were arrested. The bewildering trials that followed once again captured the nation and forever secured Manson as a byword for the evil that men do.

Drawing upon deep archival research and exclusive personal interviews–including unique access to Manson Family parole hearings–former federal prosecutor and Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl has written a propulsive, page-turning historical thriller of the crimes and manhunt that mesmerized the nation. And in the process, she reveals how the social and political context that gave rise to Manson is eerily similar to our own.

MARCH WRAP-UP

I don’t have a witty title for this one, but I read a ton of stuff this month from non-fiction to graphic novels. All of these total to 13 books read! I’ve also raised my reading goal from 75 to 100 as I’ve been just devouring books lately and want to see if I can really challenge myself to get off my phone and stop watching the same four shows on Netflix.

TOP

For my top read of March, I’m making an odd decision. Although it isn’t my top rated for the month, I’m saying that Wonderblood by Julia Whicker was my favourite (you can read my review here). Available as of April 3rd, Wonderblood is a fascinating look at how the disastrous spread of a virus can completely regress an entire country (at least) in only a few hundred years. It’s a wonderful look at the animosity of humans and combines magic with science in a way I’ve never seen before.

No, it wasn’t the highest rated of the month, but it was so different that I very much hope that people pick up a copy whether from the bookstore or from the library.

BOTTOM

Sadly, the biggest disappointment this month was probably Fire Song… It looked like such a great story about the struggles First Nations people face and how much worse those struggles are when being gay/two-spirit is thrown into the mix. I was hoping for a lot more out of this novel and was sorry to see it not be as strong as I was hoping.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Honorable mention this month goes to The Wicked + The Divine. I read three volumes in as many days and am so in love with this series, it would be wrong not to mention it. It’s harsh and deep and violent and lovely and it’s such an amazing series, Kieron Gillen can do no wrong.

Not to mention art from Jamie McKelvie is stunning as always (I, personally, enjoyed his art on the reboot of the Young Avengers series) and the guest artists of volume 3 were all so gorgeous and so different yet all still suited the God they were each given. Amaterasu’s backstory was especially gorgeous with art from Stephanie Han (another artist I love from Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery).

DID NOT FINISH

  • The Devil’s Revolver – V.S. McGrath

Reason: Just couldn’t get into it even after four attempts at it.

  • Romanov – Samaire Provost

Reason: I have high standards for vampires and this did not meet them.

  • The Measurements of Decay – K.K. Edin

Reason: Wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

Complete March Read List

  • BRAVE – Rose McGowan
  • Fire Song (ARC) – Adam Garnet Jones
  • The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket
  • The Carnivorous Carnival – Lemony Snicket
  • The Ultimate Guide to Divination (ARC) – Liz Dean
  • Wonderblood (ARC) – Julia Whicker
  • Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon – Delilah S. Dawson
  • Saga Volume 1 – Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemoneum – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  • Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick – Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
  • Ace of Shades (ARC) – Amanda Foody
* ARCs – Advanced Reader Copies – were provided by NetGalley

Lost in Several Books at Once

A question I’m very often asked by friends is “How many books are you reading now?” and they always roll their eyes when I say three or four. Now I don’t do this often, but every now and again I have as many as seven books on the go. Even currently, I’m reading three different books. So here’s some explanation and follow up for those wondering how people can read so many books at the same time.

Why?

When it comes to reading more than one book at a time, it depends on where I’m at in life. I listen to audiobooks at work, and read physical or digital books while I commute or while I’m at home. Sometimes I start one book and it relates to another book so I’ll read them at the same time. Sometimes it’s to break up my headspace if I’m reading something with heavy content and I need to something light to clear out my thoughts. And sometimes I just feel like it. You ever go to the library and get out a ton of books at the same time and just want to read all of them? Well that’s exactly what I do.

I can also find that reading more than one book at a time helps with reading slumps. You can stick your toes in and see if any of them are what you’re feeling after a certain book or series puts you into a book hangover.

How?

It’s always a question of “How” in the book community. My key is just managing my time the same way I would any other task. I designate certain times or certain days to the books I’m reading. For example: at the moment I’m reading The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath, BRAVE by Rose McGowan, and Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.

BRAVE is a fascinating and heartbreaking autobiography from Rose McGowan of the #MeToo movement and the number one voice speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. As a survivor of assault, it’s an incredibly difficult book for me to read, and I have been trying to push my way through this no-hold-bared book for over a month. As something of a “palate cleanser” I’ve started reading Red Sparrow because not only do a love cold-war-esque spies, I’m curious to see if this is truly a wannabe Black Widow story or if it’s more original than that (so far the book seems more original than the movie trailers make it seem to be). Along with that I have NetGalley reviews to write so I’ve got Devil’s Revolver on my Kobo for before-bed reading (Red Sparrow being my commute reading and BRAVE being read in short moments).

By breaking down my day into the books I’m reading, I find it easier to read several books at once and it helps keep my thoughts in line when there’s a schedule. Since I also review everything I read, I keep a little notebook of major plot points as I go along, helping me remember things if my brain is still back in a different book.

So…

So how many books do you read at a time? Do you make sure they’re all different genres or formats? How do you keep things straight?

Tell me in the comments what you’re currently reading!

 

The Guilt of DNF

It’s a hard thing to do sometimes, not finishing a book. Sometimes all we want to do is a part of the hype but can’t because it turns out the book is not our taste. Book clubs, subscription box books, school assignment readings. These are all examples of books thrust upon that we may or may not want to force ourselves all the way through, but sometimes we don’t want to read a book because we don’t want to read it!

With GoodReads reading goals turning into something of a competition for some people, it’s hard to remember that it’s okay to read what you like and read for the fun of it. Life’s too short for books you don’t like and it’s okay to stop reading a book.

No one should feel the need to justify their feelings, especially when it’s interfering with something they enjoy doing. We stop reading books for all kinds of reasons; it contains trigger content, it’s poorly written, it’s offensive, or – as I mentioned above – it’s simply not in our taste.

To be completely honest, I have marked two books as “Did Not Finish” on GoodReads, and it’s only January! The one book simply wasn’t my taste in contemporary fiction, and the other had some rather explicit and triggering content within the first five or six chapters. Am I disappointed that I marked these books this way? Of course. I was rather excited to read both of them, but life is too short for books you don’t like. Sure I want to reach my 52 book reading goal, but not if I’m wasting time on things that aren’t engaging.

So don’t feel bad about giving up on a book. Don’t stress over reading goals or challenges that are meant to be a fun way to get you to do more of what you love and find books you might not have otherwise picked up. It’s not worth the pressure.

Now you have my DNF confession for the month so far, what books have you DNF-ed that you were excited about? What do you do with your books you’ve bought that you don’t finish? Let me know!

The Importance of Being Uncomfortable

It can happen quiet often, the feeling of being uncomfortable. Most times, people shy away from the feeling, never wanting to be in that state of mind. An understandable position to be in. However, there are some moments when it is a good thing to be uncomfortable, as that is the point of what we are dealing with.

I want to specifically talk about books that make us uncomfortable and how this affects us as a society.

A few months back a reviewed the book Dreamland Burning, and discussed how it made me uncomfortable not just as a reader in general, but as a white reader. And you know what? I fairly certain that was the point. Lately I have been seeing more and more authors and readers speaking out against the lack of diversity within the vast world of books, and it takes books like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin to give voices to those authors that are sadly under-represented within this industry.

Yes, Dreamland Burning is by a white author, however it still helps to raise issues about race that even in 2018 are a problem that not everyone is talking about. It is not necessarily my place to speak out about these things because I am not a part of an ethnic or racial minority. But what I can do is read these books that call out white privilege and help raise them up using whatever privilege I do have.

So back to my point of why reading books that make us uncomfortable is important. Books such as the three I have mentioned, by creating tension within ourselves, can inspire us to take action, to get involved in the organizations that help support the oppressed and fight against the oppressors. It challenges us to look at the world through eyes that aren’t our own.

Do books like this making me uncomfortable make me a bad person? No. They make me uncomfortable because it’s hard to see or hear about people suffering the abuse of close minded bigots. It’s hard to think of the horrors people have gone through in the past and still fear in the present.

And this isn’t just about race. Sexual assault, homo- and transphobia, sexism, islamophobia and anti-semetism. All topics that can make people uncomfortable to talk about because it can be a hard thing to talk about – especially if you are a victim of such things. It’s alright to stop reading a book that makes you uncomfortable in a triggering sort of way (believe me, I’ve stopped reading more than one book due to poorly handled or triggering subject matter). What I’m primarily trying to say is: it’s important to be aware of such topics and create conversations that can lead to solutions for the future.

Books that tackle heavy or tough topics can often lead to more open-minded ways of thinking; something that many people are still lacking. We live in a world of such division and exclusion, but we also live in a world that is capable of being loving, understanding, and accepting of those who differ from ourselves.

Let Own Voices authors have a platform for stand on. Let them know their voices are heard, valid, and just as important as the majorities. If we want a better world for ourselves and for others, we need to listen to those who are struggling to reach equality.

So here’s my final request: Find a book that challenges your privilege and see how you can take action against inequality. It doesn’t have to be something big. But at the very least, spread some knowledge and some positivity.

Completed this task already? Have some recommendations? Leave them in the comments!

REVIEW: By Nightfall

Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall is a story of yearning for something more. Beautifully told with the background of the the SoHo neighbourhood in Manhattan, Peter and Rebecca’s lives become a metaphor for what is needed versus what is desired and the importance of knowing the difference of that.

The Story

Peter and Rebecca Harris are an art curator and a magazine editor, respectively. They live the lives of those in New York City that have enough money to not worry about their lives while still being “average” enough that they aren’t entirely obnoxious or elitist. Slightly above average lives for slightly above average people. But then Rebecca’s young brother, an ex-drug addict who has decided he wants to be an artist or an art curator, comes to stay with them and Peter’s life goes off the rails enough to keep things interested. He becomes enamored with Ethan, thinking of him as the beautiful muse his life has been missing. The pretty young thing that will make everything make sense.  However, Ethan is more of a handful than Peter is able to handle…

The Characters

Peter is a typical middle-aged man in crisis about his life. His wife, Rebecca, is in a similar state of mediocrity but is not stressed out about it. Ethan – or Mizzy (short for “The Mistake”) – is a typical 20-something stoner type with too much time on his hands and not enough boundaries. There are several side characters as well ranging from other middle-aged art dealers or pretentious artists to Peter’s daughter who he’s sure doesn’t love him. To be entirely honest, I was bored by most of the characters. Peter’s love affair was so minor and quick it almost went unwarranted and proved him to be a rather unpleasant person. Rebecca had almost no character at all. Ethan was – as I mentioned before – just a typical druggie type that I have personally had the misfortune of dealing with myself.

Conclusion ★★★

In conclusion I honestly only finished this book for two reasons: 1) This was an audiobook and helped pass the time at my day job (which allows me to wear headphones while I work) and 2) Hugh Dancy was the one reading the audiobook.

Were it not for Dancy’s rather soothing voice, I don’t think I would have made it through. The prose is almost hypnotic and created a beautifully vivid depiction of New York, and there are few things I love more than an author who is capable of such powerful descriptions. However, the story was bland and the characters unrelatable. I am still giving this 3 out of 5 stars, however, because I highly enjoyed Hugh Dancy’s performance for the audiobook (he does voices) and as I said, the descriptions of the city and the artwork were stunningly clear.

Not my taste, but I won’t tell people not to read it.

PS. – Yes there is a male/male “romance” involved in the story, but I would personally not count it as LBGT+ representation.


by-nightfall-front

Published: September 28, 2010
Pages:
 238
Publisher:
Picador
ISBN:
9780312610432

Summary: Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in thefamily as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Against the Never Ending TBR Pile

There are hundreds of books published throughout the year. Thousands even. It’s a lot to take in when you aren’t an avid reader, and intimidating to those who are when it comes to staying on top of everything. But what’s important to remember is: You don’t have to read everything.

pile-of-books

When it comes to how to pick and chose what goes on your TBR (to be read) pile, only you can chose what you want or don’t want to read. There are many reviews that begin with “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK NOW!” but if it isn’t your taste? Just don’t. There’s no point in feeling guilty over not reading the most popular book of the month or even of the year. Sometimes there are even books on your TBR pile that may go forever unread. Whether that’s because you just don’t get around to it, or you aren’t sure how you feel about it depending on reviews.

Honestly, when it comes to books, I think of them in the same way I think about movies. My to-watch list is endless and I’ll be lucky to get to half of the films and television shows on that list, but it’s also constantly changing. Some of my favourite movies have terrible reviews, and some movies with great reviews turned out to be terrible in my opinion. Just because someone is ranting and raving about a book doesn’t mean everyone will love it. And that’s okay!

This whole thing doubles back to what I was saying about reading bad books. Not every book is for everyone and I try to keep that in mind as my edit my lists. Life is too short to be worried about getting through every single book you’ve ever come across. Just read what makes you happy. Everyone has “those books” that they only want to read because everyone else has or because it’s been deemed a classic (I myself am determined to one day read the works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy’s War & Peace) but it is so important to remember that just because you haven’t read something specific, it doesn’t mean you are a lesser reader.

So what’s my point?

Read what you can. Don’t stress about numbers or Goodreads challenge goals. Be realistic with yourself and read what makes you enjoy reading. Who cares how big or small your TBR pile is? No one. It’s not a list of things you have to do no matter what. It’s a list of things you might possibly want to do one day.

And that’s okay.

 

 

Reading “Bad” Books

Between fandom wars, online drama, and ever-expanding TBR lists, reading can sometimes feel like an obligation to stay on top of rather than for fun. So what is a reader to do when it doesn’t feel like it’s something for them?

When I get into a reading slump, I have been finding it tends to be through discourse on Twitter or Tumblr that makes me feel bad for enjoying a book or series. Now I’m not talking about problematic books, I’m talking about books that people just don’t like for various reasons such as, the book is cliche or has too much “love story” in it (just to name a few).

I recently finished reading The 100 and if I’m being honest, it was not good. It felt juvenile and the romantic “conflict” between Wells and Clarke was so weird that at times I hated him just as much as Clarke did. ((read the full review here)) But when I finished it, my first thought was “Okay, now I need to find the second book”.

The same went with the Lock & Mori series. The first book had me flip-flopping between uncomfortable and squee-ing, and the second book had me feeling mad for most of it on behalf of Mori. ((read the reviews here)) But, yet again, I here I am, invested enough in the story to want the next book in the series.

As an author who actually started out writing dirty fanfiction, one of the worst things I read regularly are Harlequin Romance novels. They’re short. They’re steamy. They’re entertaining from start to finish. That’s the point of them. To be entertaining without pressure.

So what’s my point?

We watch bad movies because they’re mindless and fun to watch with friends. It gives us something to occupy ourselves without putting in too much extraneous effort. And we, as a culture, enjoy bad movies. I believe that the same can be said for books. Sometimes I don’t want to read a book that yank at my heartstrings. Sometimes I don’t want a book that makes me think too hard about what it’s getting at. Sometimes I just want something to read on the bus to work when I’ve been up all night. Something that I can finish with a smile and not be weighed down by my emotions.

For me, I see discourse in the book world as eye-opening and educational. I’ve learned more about writing diversity properly and about the true importance of listening to readers who have issues with one’s writing than I have in any creative writing class. It is important to discuss problematic books that have serious issues. So important

But with other little things like books that are “too YA” or “cliche”, just let people like things. Let people enjoy silly little things that make them enjoy reading instead of feeling like that have to look for any possible sign problematic content. Sometimes a story is just there to be a story. And in  the end, you should always read because of you. Don’t let others dictate what you should read and like. Life’s too short to live like that.

Always remember:

33d
comic by Adam Ellis

NOTE: I want to stress that if a book is considered problematic by groups who are directly tied to a book (POC, LBGTQ+, those with health conditions, etc.) please be aware of that before promoting.