Thursday, September 27, 2018

Book List: 10 SCARY READS FOR YOU THIS HALLOWEEN

Yes I know that this is a Fantasy and Science-Fiction book blog, but there's always been something about the month of October and Halloween that puts me in the mood to read a downright good and scary Horror book.  I love this time of year so much that my wife and I got married on Halloween and had our wedding reception in a haunted seaside hotel in fact.  Over the years I've had the pleasure of reading many books that are just perfect for this time of year.  With October quickly approaching, I was inspired to put together a list of my 10 favorite Halloween reads and after quite a bit of searching my memory banks, I believe I was able to accomplish just that.  Hope that you enjoy this list and maybe even discover a book or two that you haven't read yet that will get you into the Halloween spirit!  👻




10.  THE ELEMENTALS (1981) by Michael McDowell:  Are you by any chance a fan of the movie Beetlejuice?  How about The Nightmare Before Christmas?  Well if you enjoyed those movies, Michael McDowell wrote the screenplays for both of them.  So you already know that his writing style is going to lean toward the bizarre.  THE ELEMENTALS is one of the best examples of the Southern Gothic style of horror and just an extremely cool and creepy read.  The book deals with two families from Mobile, Alabama who retreat to their summer homes after attending the funeral of a related loved one.  The houses are in close proximity to each other sandwiching a third house that has been vacant for years and years.  The vacant house has been gradually filling with sand and also something else that is even more sinister unbeknownst to the two families.  They soon realize however that they are not alone and what they thought was an empty house on the beach isn't empty at all.  This is an awesome book that keeps the chills coming with every chapter.  





9.  THE KEEP (1981) by F. Paul Wilson: One of many vampire books on this list.  This has an interesting twist on the traditional vampire story though.  THE KEEP starts off with the ominous line "Something is murdering my men".  We soon learn that the "men" that this line refers to is a Nazi SS squad that has been stationed in an abandoned castle in the remote Transylvanian Alps during WWII.  The castle is positioned in a highly strategic area located near a pass that the troops have been assigned to monitor for any enemy soldier activity.  The problem is that every morning the commander of the squad wakes up to find another of his men mutilated and dead.  It is quite evident that someone or something is picking off his men and murdering them while they sleep.  It gets so bad that the Nazi commander even brings in some local folklore experts to get their help with what is going on.  What is revealed is both shocking and quite frightening.  This is a book that you will read with the lights on or a flashlight nearby.





8. WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (1962) by Shirley Jackson:  Those who know me very well know that I am an incredibly huge fan of Shirley Jackson's works.  In my humble opinion she's among the greatest authors of the past hundred years period.  Most people would go with her more famous novel THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE for a Halloween read but I'm actually picking this one instead.  The one word that best describes this book is unsettling.  While not a straightforward horror book, this one is a little more complex but by no means any less frightening when all is said and done.  It tells the story of two sisters who live in a secluded estate with their aging and sick uncle.  Six years earlier the majority of the their family was killed through poisoning.  One of them was even fingered for the crime but then later acquitted.  The gist of the story is that you know that one of the sisters was the murderer but it isn't clear which one.  Throw in a bit of a killer twist and what you have here is a very creepy read that I think is Shirley Jackson's best book.  





7. MIDNIGHT (1989) by Dean Koontz:  Admittedly I'm not a huge Dean Koontz fan.  I feel like he misses more than he hits unfortunately, but MIDNIGHT is one heck of a scary story that I try to reread every few years (especially around Halloween).  I first read this book when I was a teenager and it scared the crap out of me.  As I've gotten older and have read it with more adult eyes, I'm pleased to say that it still hasn't lost one bit of its chill-factor.  MIDNIGHT is the story about a town named Moonlight Cove, where the citizens are changing with every passing night into raving savages and what could only be described as werewolf-like creatures.  The story is seen through the eyes of four citizens who for some reason are not affected by the change and we get every cool detail of the events that happen in the town through their eyes.  Some of it is incredibly creepy and the pursuit to find out why the town is experiencing this is just as much fun as the actual scenes of horror that occur.  This is a really good read for those who want something thrilling and scary this Halloween.





6. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1962) by Ray Bradbury:  One of a few classics on this list, Bradbury's coming of age horror story is among my all-time favorites.  Part of the reason why this book is so scary is that the main characters are kids and we can all relate to what makes these kids terrified because we've all been there before. This one is even more chilling because the story takes place around Halloween.  A carnival comes to a Midwestern town in the middle of the night, arousing the interest of two young boys who are best friends.  The carnival brings with it an air of mystery and the promise of making every child's wish come true.  As the two boys sneak onto the carnival grounds to explore a little, what they uncover is way more than either of them ever bargained for and one of the most eerie stories that I've ever read.  This one set the standard for all of the coming of age horror tales to follow in my opinion.  Just a stupendous darkly fantastic horror read.





5. HOUSE OF LEAVES (2000) by Mark Z. Danielewski:  This book is an exercise in stamina and fortitude, but if you have the patience to work a little bit, the payoff is one of the best reading experiences you will ever have.  HOUSE OF LEAVES is a truly unique and original horror book.  Both the story contained within the pages and the actual physical pages themselves are unlike anything I've seen before or since.  As you read the book you will begin to see pages that have upside down writing, backward writing, just one word on a page, pages where you have to decipher and break codes to read, I mean yeah it would be easy to quit and say to hell with it.  I would ask you though to have patience and perform the due diligence that it takes to read this book because believe me, it's worth it and you won't regret it in the end.  The story is about a husband and wife who move into a new home.  Gradually they begin to notice that the house they've moved into is getting bigger but only on the inside!  The husband even discovers hallways that lead to nowhere and doors in the floor that lead to........well you'll have to read the book to find out.  Suffice it to say it's amazing.





4. HEX (2013) by Thomas Olde Heuvelt:  This one is fairly new compared to the rest of the books on the list but it absolutely belongs as far as I'm concerned.  I haven't been blown away by a horror book in a long time, but this one did exactly that, it blew me away.  Picture a town along the Hudson Valley in New York that is cursed by the legacy of witchcraft and the witch trial that took place in the 17th century.  Fast-forward to modern day, where this same town is now just like any other but with one creepy little catch.  It seems that a woman still walks the streets of Black Spring, one with her eyes and mouth sewn shut.  She is not an apparition but a physical being who can appear anywhere at anytime.  She often wanders the streets, popping in and out of local stores, bars, and homes.  Why don't the people move to another town you ask?  Well, you see the curse makes anyone who tries to leave have severe suicidal thoughts and if they are gone for a long enough time, they eventually kill themselves.  One of the creepiest scenes in the book is one where she is just standing in the corner of one of the family homes as they eat their dinner and she's still there in the same spot when they go to bed that night.  The town seems to have accepted her presence since she's never harmed anyone, but that may all be about to change as out of nowhere she begins whispering things through a torn stitching in her mouth that are barely audible but sound menacing and evil.  Oh this is a fantastic book that I recommend that everyone read this Halloween season.





3. DRACULA (1897) by Bram Stoker:  What would any Halloween reading list be without the horror book to end all horror books?   Seriously though, DRACULA just gets better with age.  I read it every single year around Halloween and have since I was in my late teens.  And every time I read this stunningly perfect vampire novel, it seems just as fresh as the very first time I read it.  The diary passages of the ship's captain as his men are picked off one by one is simply terrifying and never fails to make me shudder.  We all know the overall story so I won't bother but what I will say is that this is a book that should be experienced by everyone at some point in their life.  It is not only a terrific horror book, it is a literary masterpiece where every word and phrase moves you and at the same time frightens the hell out of you.  This should be required reading for Halloween just as a general rule.





2.  SALEM'S LOT (1975) by Stephen King:  I just couldn't compile a list that involves horror books without including the King of horror himself.   SALEM'S LOT is my second-favorite vampire novel ever (right behind the one that is coming in next at #1 actually).  Everything about this book makes you anxious, disturbed, and frozen with fear.   This may very well not be Stephen King's best novel, but it's damn effective at what it does, and that is scare the bejeezus out of you and give you a phenomenally told story in the process.  A sleepy Maine town has a brand new citizen, a mysterious man who opens up an antique store in the center square.  on one fog-shrouded night he pays two local men to pick up a giant crate that is being delivered from overseas down at the port.  They are given specific instructions to deliver the crate into the basement of the shop and to lock the doors very securely.  What ensues from there is a terrifying vampire novel that you will read with a mixture of trepidation and delight.  I can't recommend this one enough if you wish to read a truly scary book this October.  My wife almost threw this book at me she was so scared.





1.  I AM LEGEND (1954) by Richard Matheson:  The first thing I want to say is this -  completely forget about the travesty of a movie adaptation of this book starring Will Smith.  Just flush it right out of your brain and pretend that it never existed.  Are we good now?  Okay.  THIS BOOK IS FREAKING AMAZING!!  If I had one horror book to read for the rest of my life it would be this incredibly perfect book.  Oh how I adore this book!  The first time I read it, it took me all of three hours in one-sitting.  It was 2am when I finally read the last page and I had to work early the next day, but the fact of the matter is that I just didn't want to put it down.  It's a brilliant vampire story that even after sixty some odd years, loses none of its terror and suspense.  It tells the horrifying story of quite literally the last man on Earth who is the single survivor of a terrible plague that has turned every man, woman, and child into a vampire.  The heartbreaking part is that his wife was also one of the victims.  He barricades himself inside his home and only leaves in the daytime to collect whatever food, fortifications, and weapons he can find to survive another night.  Because it is at night when the vampires come calling and incessantly beating at his door.  On one especially terrible evening, he actually recognizes his wife's voice as one of the vampires outside calling for him to come out.  This is tops on my list for many reasons, but I think you should read it for yourself and find out all of the elements that make this one of the greatest horror stories ever written.



And that concludes the list of my 10 favorite scary reads for this coming Halloween season.  I know that there are a bunch of books that are deserving and that I left out, but these are just my own personal favorites and ones that I think you will get much enjoyment out of should you choose to pick any of them up.  

Happy reading and 🎃 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!  🎃

Monday, September 24, 2018

Book Review: ACHING GOD by Mike Shel


Title: Aching God

Author: Mike Shel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 9, 2018

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟


Auric Manteo is a retired adventurer and former member of a guild named The Syraeic League.  Auric thought that his relic-hunting days were over long ago after multiple family tragedies, including the deaths of his son and later his wife by suicide.  All Auric cares to do now is live out the rest of his life trying to pick up the pieces and hopefully mend the strained relationship that he has with his only remaining loved one, his daughter Agnes.  So it is more than a little unsettling when Auric is summoned out of retirement and called to appear at the Citadel, where he is given a task that is essentially a suicide mission.  It seems that a devastating plague has overtaken much of the land and is spreading at an incredibly rapid pace.  If that wasn't bad enough, Auric's estranged daughter Agnes is one of the many afflicted.  

The origins of the plague are believed to be the result of a disastrous mistake where a powerful cursed artifact was taken from its resting place.  This artifact was never meant to be removed and now the gods are apparently unleashing their retribution.  Auric is told he must embark on a mission with a small band of handpicked companions to journey back to the Barrowlands, where he experienced his most traumatic and devastating loss.  For through the Barrowlands lies the dungeon where the cursed artifact was taken, and there it must be returned before the plague finishes wiping out the rest of humanity and with it, his daughter.  To be successful, Auric must battle not only the inhuman creatures that stalk the Barrowlands, but also the demons that still reside within him and are constantly bringing him back to the horrible events from his past that still haunt him to this day.  What the ultimate outcome will be is very much up to how well Auric can beat back the torment and rely on his years of experience as a skilled member of the Syraeic League to attempt to replace what was taken.  His daughter's life and the lives of tens of thousands of potential plague victims depend on it.  

I've seen ACHING GOD described in many book review outlets as a LitRPG book.  I kind of quibble with that representation, quite frankly.  While it definitely has a LitRPG feel at times, this is at heart a solid Sword and Sorcery novel much in the same vein as Dave Duncan's Seventh Sword series and Michael Moorcock's Elric saga.  I thought that ACHING GOD was a fabulous example of how world-building can be incredibly effective in setting the atmosphere and mystery of the book.  As I was reading I was consistently intrigued by the Barrowlands and what terrible secrets they contained.  Shel does an excellent job of setting things up and revealing subtle hints about the relics and the history behind the relic hunters of the past.  The tension slowly builds and once Auric and his companions finally make it to the Barrowlands to begin carrying out their mission, the action is breakneck and the bad guys are just scary as hell.  This is really where the book excels I thought, the downright brilliant representation of the creatures who inhabit this blasted land.  

Shel writes incredibly vivid battle scenes and doesn't describe the carnage in a half-hearted manner, it's brutal and I loved every minute of it.  When people die in the ACHING GOD, they die in excruciating detail and not peacefully.  Auric is yet another tortured main character, but he's by no means shallow or cookie-cutter the way that many are.  He has experienced a ton of grief in his life and his battle to hang on to the last vestige of family that he has left, his daughter, is heart-breaking and absolutely motivates his actions.  Because of this, he's an easy character to cheer for.  I found myself completely invested in wanting him to succeed in mending his relationship with Agnes while at the same time also trying to stop the plague that could ultimately wipe everyone out.  The fact that this is a debut self-published novel by Mike Shel is astounding to me because it is written with a seasoned-author's vision and eloquence.  I had a very minor issue with the pacing at times but by no means did it detract from me liking this book a whole heck of a lot.  Because ultimately when the book really gets into high gear about midway through, all of that buildup pays off in a big way.  So do yourself a favor and pick up ACHING GOD by Mike Shel.  If Sword and Sorcery with a pinch of LitRPG and Horror sounds good to you, then this is the book you should be reading right now.  Also, keep an eye out for book two of the Iconoclasts series Sin Eater sometime in the near future.  Personally, I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Book List: MY 10 FAVORITE SFF BOOK COVERS

So I was perusing Twitter one day last week and an author that I follow posed an interesting question.  This author asked "what is the ONE KEY FACTOR that makes you decide to read a book?"  I thought about it for a while and for me the thing that ultimately makes me read a book is the summary or synopsis.  If it sounds like the type of story that I would enjoy, that is what makes me want to read it.  What does this have to do with book covers you may ask?  Well, while the summary is what makes me decide whether or not to read a book, the book cover is what gets my attention to pick it up in the first place.  A standout and beautiful book cover is the shiny lure that attracts me before the description either hooks me or doesn't.  Shortly after this Twitter encounter I started thinking about book covers that are some of my absolute favorites and I decided to make a quick top ten list.  Now I want everyone to know going in that these aren't book covers that I necessarily think are "the best", "the greatest", or "the tops all-time".  Listed here are book covers that captivated me and are still to this day my favorites.  Please don't get upset if you don't see The Hobbit, LoTR, Narnia or any of the other giants in here. I limited my list to the years that I have been alive just so that I wouldn't have to include the classics as they are a given when it comes to the beauty of some of their covers.  What I wanted to do with this list is share some cool covers that I hold in high regard for both their artistic style and also for how well they represent the actual story "between the covers".  Anyway, here they are in descending order, my ten favorite SFF book covers:





10. THE GARDEN OF STONES (2013) by Mark T. Barnes: This is a book that totally exemplifies reading a book because the cover art just jumped out at me.  Occasionally I will skim Netgalley in search of cool advance reader copies and I remember my eyes just going right to this cover in the midst of all the others.  The cover artist Stephan Martiniere really did an unbelievable job here of capturing the brutal opening scene of the book which drops the reader right into a civil war between the various factions of races on the continent of Shrian.  Love this cover and the book was fantastic as well.  If you get a chance to read it, you should definitely check out all three books in Barnes' Echoes of Empire trilogy.





9. THE CHOSEN (1999) by Ricardo Pinto:  I was working at Borders Books right around the time this book was released in hardcover.  The section that I was tasked with maintaining coincidentally was the Fantasy/Science-Fiction section.  I distinctly remember reaching into the box of stock and pulling this book out with my jaw agape as I stared at the cover.  I immediately used my employee discount, bought it, and took it home that night.  The cover artist for THE CHOSEN is Mark Harrison and he depicts beautifully the dark priests who are the antagonists of this great dark fantasy.  Unfortunately this series, which is called The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, is currently out of print.  Sad really because it is one of the more original fantasies that you will ever read and also involves gay main characters, which at the time was pretty bold and groundbreaking in the genre.  An awesome cover though and one that will hopefully once again grace the shelves of bookstores.





8. CHILDREN OF THE SERPENT GATE (2005) by Sarah Ash:  This is actually book three of The Tears of Artamon series by Sarah Ash but it is definitely my favorite cover of the trio.  The serpent gate in the foreground with the erupting volcano in the background is such a vivid and cool image for this series finale.  The cover artist for these books is Stephen Youll, a favorite of mine who has done so many great covers over the years.  This is another series that is among my favorites and I highly recommend it for readers who are looking for a different setting in their fantasy read.  This entire series takes place in an icy land with a definite Russian feel to it.  Love the books and love the artwork just as much.  





7.  OTHERLAND MOUNTAIN OF BLACK GLASS (2000) by Tad Williams:  Also book three of a series, this one being the third book in Tad's four volume Otherland series.  All four covers are amazing and created by the great Michael Whelan.  Michael is featured prominently on this list and for good reason, he's one of the best cover artists ever.  Whelan captures the theme of this book perfectly with the depiction of the facing Sphinxes and the mysterious "bird woman" rising in between.  The artwork is simply stunning and I just love everything about these covers.  Tad's books always seem to have very good cover art and this one is no different.  





6. BLACK SUN RISING (1992) by C.S. Friedman:  This cover is for book one in Celia Friedman's Coldfire trilogy.  Yet another stupendous cover by Michael Whelan which shows warrior priest Damien Vryce standing in front of a sinister-looking castle on the planet Erna, with the all-controlling force the fae surrounding him.  This is another that I bought just because of the cover art and it blew me away when I first read it.  A combination of SF, fantasy, and vampire fiction.  And it is all combined extremely well into a fantastic and thrilling series.  Definitely recommend reading the entire trilogy if you haven't yet as I believe it to be one of the best-written series in the genre.  And the covers rock too, especially this one!





5.  THE MISTS OF AVALON (1983) by Marion Zimmer Bradley:  Absolutely in my top 5 books of all-time and also one of my favorite book covers.  Recently there has been a new cover released but that is blah in my opinion.  This will always be the definitive front cover as created by cover artist Braldt Bralds.  The image of Morgaine riding a white steed while holding the shimmering sword in front of her is a haunting image that really sets up the atmosphere of the book.  A timeless image that should have never been replaced with the newer more-generic front cover art.  I absolutely adore this artwork and it remains a favorite.





4. THE JACKAL OF NAR (1999) by John Marco:  Book one of my favorite military fantasy series ever and one that sadly flies below the radar of many readers, The Tyrants and Kings series.  The cover art for this book is incredible and also very telling when it comes to the overarching theme.  Doug Beekman perfectly depicts the soot-covered industrial city of Nar as main character Richius Vantran looks on in the foreground with his men.  The image is at once vibrant, ominous, grim, and beautiful.  It's so hard to capture all of that in one piece of artwork but this one does it magnificently.  If you love the Malazan books, I whole-heartedly recommend picking up this series and reading it.  It doesn't get near enough the recognition that it deserves, and oh the artwork!





3.  GARDENS OF THE MOON (1999) by Steven Erikson:  This cover is for the 2005 reprint and was created by Steve Stone.  This evening image of a dark tower with a single candle-lit window shrouded in a moonlight mist is so haunting.  I'm a sucker for dark artwork like this, I think it takes me back to my boyhood Dracula's Castle days.  Everyone knows how great this series is, so I won't bother to recommend it.  It stands as one of the monumental works of fantasy alongside George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.  The updated covers are brilliant, this one being my favorite of the lot for its wonderful simplicity.





2.  THE FADED SUN TRILOGY (1978-1980) by C.J. Cherryh:  This attractive cover art by Michael Whelan is for the 2000 omnibus release of this tremendous series.  The Faded Sun series is another one that is kind of under the radar with most people.  Cherryh is definitely more known for her Foreigner series but this is an example of her best writing in my opinion.  A brilliant science-fiction series with an Asian caste-system at its core, it is one of those series that is a must read as far as I'm concerned.  This image of the Mri warriors watching a human colonist spacecraft as it lands on their planet is rendered in gorgeous detail.  



And my favorite SFF book cover is.............................................







1.  HYPERION (1990) by Dan Simmons:  Without a doubt my favorite cover art of all-time and also my favorite science fiction book of all-time as well.  The image of the menacing Shrike juxtaposed with the pilgrim boat as it makes its way across the surface of the planet Hyperion is breathtaking.  It was actually nominated for the 1990 Hugo award for best original artwork but just fell short of taking home the prize.  The cover artist for this glorious work of art is Garry Ruddell.  I love the use of color and the sun shining through the metal blades of the Shrike's body.  It's the perfect cover in every way and encapsulates the theme of the book as well as the series in its totality.  



And that's it!  I hope you enjoyed checking out my ten favorite SFF book covers.  Like I said before, by no means is this a definitive list that should be regarded as gospel.  It's just my own personal list and I'm sure you may disagree with many of them.  But I hope that you at least found it interesting and maybe even got turned on to a book or series that you may not have known about until now.  As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Tag: READING HABITS


Here's an engaging Book Tag that originated at Thrice Read and was recently shared by Lisa over at the amazing blog Way Too Fantasy.  It deals with reading habits, which is an interesting topic for bloggers as we all have different styles and techniques when it comes to how and where we read our books.  I had a great time reading her answers and thought that it would be fun to share my own thoughts as well since right now I'm in-between book reviews.  Anyway, here are the questions along with my answers:


Do you have a certain place at home for reading?


The answer to this is pretty much anywhere and everywhere.  Having two little girls running around the house makes it necessary at times to sneak away and find a quiet, uninhabited corner of the house.  Whether this is the kitchen while making dinner, in bed before I fall asleep, or in the living room as my wife watches something on television.  Heck, I steal time pretty much everywhere i can, even in my car when I'm waiting for my daughter to get done dance class or Greek school.  When you love to read you will find just about anywhere to make it happen, and that is especially true when it comes to me. 


Bookmark or random piece of paper?


My reading is broken down about 80% eBooks and 20% physical books, so I don't get a chance to read a lot of hard copies.  When I do get a hard review copy though, I really try to use a bookmark if at all possible or something that resembles a bookmark.  Random pieces of paper don't really do it for me.  I like having a bookmark with a blank side and a side that has some sort of printing or artwork on the other so that I know that the side with the artwork is facing the page where I left off. 


Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain amount of pages?


I always like to leave off at the beginning of a new chapter.  There are a number of reasons for this but the biggest one being that I don't want to stop in the middle of a particular scene of action or dialogue.  It would be like walking away from a conversation that you are having with someone right in the middle of it.  Makes no sense right?  I find that the times that I absolutely have to stop reading in the middle of a chapter for whatever reason, it is harder for me to remember what is going on in the book when I return to it and most of the time I end up rereading the chapter so that I can get my bearings again.  I'm sure that some people can do this without an issue, but for me I try to leave off at the end of a chapter and where another begins.


Do you eat or drink whilst reading?


This is almost mandatory when it comes to my reading sessions.  I always like to have some sort of beverage (most of the time an adult beverage) close at hand while I'm reading.  A nice cold beer or glass of really good red wine is definitely a welcome reading accessory.  I also find that it relaxes me and puts my mind in the proper state that I need to be able to process the material that is in front of me.  Obviously I don't drink to excess because that would be kind of counterproductive when reading and understanding what you just read is paramount to being able to write a thorough and cogent review.  But a nice beverage or two only adds to the enjoyment in my opinion.


Multitasking: Music or TV whilst reading?


So I know that this is a big no-no for most readers and especially reviewers.  I guess I'm in the minority when it comes to this because some sort of media device is always on in our household at all times.  It comes with the territory of having a busy schedule and kids that are constantly needing some sort of stimulation to keep them from getting bored.  My wife also really likes to unwind after a long day by chilling on the sofa with the TV on.  I actually don't have a problem reading while listening to music or watching television.  Am I saying that it's what I would prefer?  Absolutely not.  But I am pretty good at being able to look up every once in a while to catch something funny or cool happening on TV and then get back to focusing on my reading again.  I think that growing up in a big Italian household where the preferred volume of conversation at all times was HIGH has also helped me in a way to be accustomed to that and to be able to read with a lot of noise going on around me. 


One book at a time or several?


Before I truly began to be serious about reviewing books and maintaining a blog, I was most certainly a victim of the reading multiple books at a time syndrome.  When you love reading as much as I do, my eyes would always be drawn to another book that I wanted to read even though I was in the middle of one or two already.  But now I find that I simply cannot write an effective review if I am reading more than one book at a time.  And frankly, I wouldn't want to do that because it is unfair to the author and their work that I have agreed to review.  I do get frustrated at times that I am not reading fast enough and I need to pick up the pace because the big drawback to reading one book at a time is that your backlog gets pretty out of hand. And as that backlog grows, the pressure to constantly move on to the next book that I have to review grows as well.  But I have gradually come to terms with it and realize that I have a busy life that only allows me to do one review every two or three weeks.  So that's my pace and I have to stick within that time frame to be successful at what I do. 


Reading at home or everywhere?


As stated earlier, I will read wherever I can depending on whether or not the opportunity is available to me.  Some of the places that I've read are: the waiting room of a doctor's office, the barbershop, the DMV, in my car (not while it was moving of course), on an airplane, at my daughters' dance school, at the soccer field, etc...  I think you get the point that I can read in many different places.  Of course my preferred will always be in my home on my comfy sofa, but I simply can't go anywhere without bringing a book with me and often times, will try to steal a chapter or two of reading no matter where I may be at any given time.


Read out loud or silently in your head?


I'm not the type of reader who can read out loud and retain what I just read.  I feel like I concentrate too much on my voice and how I sound.  I read and retain much better if I am reading silently in my head and that has always been the case.  Plus, I don't think it would fly in my house if I was reading aloud all of the time.  My wife would probably throw something at me to get me to stop.


Do you read ahead or skip pages?


Wow, I can't even process this question.  Skipping pages is blasphemous in my opinion.  If I am not into a book, I will either tough it out and keep reading in the hopes that it will get better or I will simply abandon the book if it is that terrible.  But skipping pages is a shortcut and dishonest because you are not getting the full context of the story.  And writing a review when you skipped pages is absolutely unfair.  I would never write a review for a book that I didn't read in its entirety.  It's just not ethical or the correct way to handle your business as a blogger as far as I'm concerned.


Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?


As a person who has worked in a bookstore and who now works in a library, breaking the spine is a cardinal sin.  I barely open a new hardcover book because I want it to look as new as possible when I'm finished reading it.  I've seen people who actually bend the book in half in order to be able to read it one-handed and I literally cringe in horror!  I have always treated books with respect, honestly I don't even allow my children to treat their children's books poorly.  I just have always seen books as art and art should be preserved if at all possible. I also want the spines of my books to be pristine because I have them prominently displayed on my bookshelf.  I understand that there are times that you are going to find an old copy of a book that may be extremely rare and the spine is cracked, that's fine, but if it is a fairly new book please respect that cover and spine!


Do you write in your books?


Absolutely not.  What I will do if I'm reading a physical book is make notes on my phone or even take a photo of an important passage with my phone that I can refer back to when I'm ready to write my review.  Under no circumstances is it okay to write in a book in my opinion.  Maybe a college textbook that you've purchased but not something that you are going to reread over and over for pleasure.  Again, books are art.  Why would you deface them?  With eBooks it's even easier because I can highlight the passages that I think are important and then email them to myself to print out as notes.