Category Archives: Reading Recommendations
I have read many, many books this year! Some were written by authors I have promoted previously on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, and these books I considered to be outstanding! And, in a few cases, I read more than one book by the same author. So, without further ado, here’s a list of those authors’ names and the titles of their books I read in 2017 …
(The links below will take you to that author’s original promotion on Reading Recommendations.)
Thanks to all Authors for continuing to write so well!
Gail Anderson-Dargatz – The Spawning Grounds
Tim Baker – 24 Minutes (to be published in 2018)
Gail Bowen – The Winner’s Circle
Kevin Brennan – In No Particular Order
Sharon Butala – Where I Live Now
Paul Butler – The Good Doctor, The Widow’s Fire
Sally Cronin – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story
Tricia Drammeh – The Fifth Circle, Firebound (Spellbringers Book #2)
Seumas Gallacher – A Few Poetry Stops in a Life’s Journey
Felicity Harley – The Burning Years
Betty Jane Hegerat – Running Toward Home
Allan Hudson – Shorts Vol. 1
J.F. Kaufmann – Ellida, Once Upon a Night (To be published in 2018)
Ken McGoogan – 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage
J.P. McLean – The Betrayal
Antony Millen – The Chain
Mike Robbins – Such Little Accident: British Democracy and its Enemies, Three Seasons
Merilyn Simonds – Gutenberg’s Fingerprint
Mary Smith – Donkey Boy and Other Stories
During the early 80s I worked in a bookstore in Calgary – a rather eclectic shop that sold no bestsellers or books for children, but instead did a booming business in world literature, poetry, philosophy, science, armchair travel, gender, vegetarian cookbooks, and LPs of New Age music … I remember one pre-Christmas season (oh, and the store also did not get into any kind of festive mode, either) when one of our regular customers, a middle-aged professor at the university, walked into the store, clapped his hands together, and said, “Right! I’ve finished shopping for all the presents for everyone else. Now it’s time to shop for ME!” And with that, he delved in among the shelves and came back to the front desk loaded down with some weighty (both physically and in content) tomes on whatever subject it was in which he speciaized. I always think back to the glee in his eyes at the thought, no doubt, that he was going to be gifting himself exactly what he wanted for Christmas (or whichever present-giving-based holiday he and his family were celebrating).
As a reader who definitely knows what she enjoys reading, and who has had many years of experience in finding and discovering her own reading material, thank you very much!, I’m not big on taking direction from others when I choose what to read next. I enjoy the search almost as much as the actual reading, so to speak. In other words, I don’t like to receive books as gifts. Nor do I want to give books as gifts to other readers. I believe that they, like me, prefer to discover reading material themselves. (Besides, we don’t do the gift-giving thing in our house, not even for birthdays. Buying the land and building this house on Bequia was gift enough that Dennis and I gave to each other to last a lifetime.)
So, instead of posting a list of suggestions of books for your gift-giving this year, I’m offering here a list of recommended reading FOR READERS out there! It’s actually just a link to my Reading Recommendations blog and all the wonderful authors who I have promoted there over the years, but still worthwhile checking out for the day you too can say,
“There! I’m finished with everyone else … Now I can treat myself with some excellent books to read!”
Sorry I can’t help you with finding quiet time to read those books – you’ll need to carve that out for yourself!
Oh, and I want World Peace, too, while we’re at it!
If you have read Island in the Clouds or One Woman’s Island or That Last Summer (or all three!) and enjoyed reading them – but you haven’t yet posted any reviews online, I would appreciate you doing so now, on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, your library’s website, or your own blog. I’m hoping to build up awareness for my writing in general to create a solid fan base in place to do the heavy-lifting of informing and, hopefully, exciting different and new-to-me readers about any future publications. If you have already posted something to do with me or my writing on your own blog I have likely added that link to this page, this page, or this one. If your interview or review are not listed there, please let me know so I can include you.
Now, I know some readers are shy and don’t want their thoughts and opinions posted in public, and especially not online. I appreciate and understand that feeling! If you have read my books though and enjoyed them enough to want to tell me about that enjoyment, then please send me an email (susanmtoy (at) gmail.com). Your review can be as brief as you’d like to make it. And I promise never to divulge your name if you want to remain anonymous, but do let me know if I may post and quote your comments on my blog – without your name attached! – so potential readers have a chance to see what “someone” thinks of my books and my writing. Whatever you decide, please do write and tell me whatever it is that you think. The best way for any author to improve is to listen to comments made by their readers. After all, it’s you we’re writing for in the first place!
What I hope to achieve by all this, of course, is a build-up of word-of-mouth promotion. You who are already satisfied readers will become, I hope, the foot soldiers in my campaign to promote my books. If you DO want me to quote you in future publicity then let me know I may use your name. A review with a real name has so much more credibility, and I’ll be using the best of those as bullets (not real gun bullets, of course!) and endorsements.
The other way for you to become involved in this promotion campaign of mine is by personally telling your friends about my books, and encouraging them to read what I’ve already published. Then, if they like what they read, they will anticipate my future publications. A readership is something we authors build one reader at a time … and by writing books readers enjoy reading.
So thanks to everyone for reading through my post, and for any help you may be able to offer.
And remember … I am but one author out here who is writing and publishing. There are many, many others who can also use a hand in the promotion of their books. Never discount the effect your personal recommendation has on any book you read and enjoy. Please don’t keep that enjoyment to yourself – tell others about it! An author’s success may just depend on your initial recommendation! (I feel so strongly about this concept that I created the Reading Recommendations blog.) And for those of you who would like to take this a step or two further, here are 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love.
Thanks for reading – and commenting and reviewing! I could never have come this far without all of you loyal readers, and I appreciate every single one of you!
Since this is the month to celebrate poetry and poets, I thought I would provide you with a list of the poets I have previously featured on my other blog, Reading Recommendations. All links will take you to each poet’s promotion.
And definitely not from some flounder!
But this is what I can call a message I really like!
Not all readers like to write reviews and post them online, and I get that! So I will never ask anyone to review my books or post their thoughts if they don’t wish to do so.
However, I do know many readers, especially friends, like to tell me their thoughts and impressions about my books after they’ve read something I’ve written. They quite often write to me privately in an email, or they tell me in person when I meet up with them. So I then ask if I may post their comments to my blog, and will do so anonymously, if that’s what they wish.
Here are comments from two friends who had previously read Island in the Clouds and have now told me what they think of One Woman’s Island …
Friend #1 (received by email):
I loved reading One Woman’s Island. I enjoyed it so much that at one point, I wished the story wouldn’t end! I appreciated that Marianne was such a strong character. She believed in her values and did not cave in when she encountered opposing views. Keep writing, Sue. I look forward to your next book. Violet
Friend #2 (From a conversation):
I enjoyed the development of the characters, particularly Tex, who I had no sympathy with initially, but came to like him. Mariana reflects the views of a lot of people who come to the island, who are invasive and intrusive, and get it all wrong. She irritated the hell out of me and at times I wanted to slap her! I really enjoyed the change in speed between life on Bequia and the slow pace of the tranquil garden in several scenes. There should be a place like that on this island where people can sit in private and not be overheard, enjoying a coffee or tea completely out of sight. (smt: Well, there is my own verandah at The View. Although I do quite like my imagined garden in the novel.) I actually felt that what you’ve done is left enough strings untied that what I want most is to read the next book.
Friend #1 has visited us on Bequia, but I have known her since 1979, shortly after we moved to Calgary. We have been friends ever since. She is an artist and has always encouraged my writing.
Friend #2 owns a house on Bequia and has been coming to the island for many years. She’s supported my books wholeheartedly and keeps print copies in her house for rental guests to read. (And if you’re thinking of coming to Bequia, I do recommend you check out this friend’s house – send me an email for details.)
Both women are avid readers, so I am particularly flattered by their comments.
As well, I received a wonderful review of my book from author and friend, Timothy Phillips. (The link will take you to his promotion on my blog.) He did post to both Amazon and Facebook, but I just had to share with you here what he has said:
I was fortunate to read Susan Toy’s first book, Island in the Clouds. This is set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and murders will take place – guaranteed. We don’t have to wait long – a body turns up floating in the swimming pool almost on page one. It’s an exciting read all the way through.
Toy’s second book is also set in Bequia, which is where she resides for half the year. She knows the island intimately and she knows the people, both the ex-pat community and locals and has weaved this backdrop effectively into her story. We will have to wait a third of the way into her book before we have full proof of skullduggery and mischief. Yet, right from the beginning, we have ominous warning of some malevolent presence of things to come through the almost incoherent rambling conversation of three children. So, we’re prepared to wait. It reminds me of the witches’ scene in Act One, Scene One of Macbeth.
We all, especially if we live in the cold North, have images in our mind of paradise on earth – a warm sunny climate, pristine beaches, plentiful exotic fruits, smiling locals speaking in a patois that has a lilting and colourful charm – easy to be enchanted here, nice place to visit. Might even consider moving here if suddenly there was upheaval in one’s life.
That happens to the protagonist, Mariana who has come to Bequia with her two cats for an extended visit to mend from a marriage that ended. She’s naive but well-intentioned – perhaps she’s enervated by sunshine and dazzled by vibrant blue skies. She wants to contribute meaningfully and yet her perception of life on the island through seemingly rose-tinted spectacles is far different from reality.
The tension in Toy’s story builds magnificently, the main characters are intriguing colourful individuals and she develops them masterfully. There are few that will predict the outcome of the story and we are left guessing right to the end.
Toy is an interested foodie and has obviously experimented with local dishes. At the end of some chapters, she has included the recipes for these. It gives one a chance to take a breath and reminds me of the opportunity to stretch, get a snack or an ice cream at Intermission. One needs that.
And I loved your review, Tim! Thank you so much for reading and telling everyone! I especially like the reference you made to Macbeth – Nice!
If anyone else has read and enjoyed any of my books, but is kind of shy about putting their comments out there, your secret identity is safe with me! Just send me an email, susanmtoy (at) gmail.com, tell me what you think, and give me permission to post either with your name or without. As I said in a blog post I wrote earlier this year, A small request of all my readers …
Thank you, to all readers, from the bottom of my heart!
Felicity Harley has been previously promoted on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, and was also a guest on this blog, writing about book clubs. I recently assisted Felicity by beta-reading and polish-editing this latest novel of hers and was struck by the fact that she told me she was referring to it as “Science AND Fiction” rather than the better-known genre of Science Fiction, so I asked her to explain why.
I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My favorite writers are Herbert, Asimov, Bradbury and Orwell. I tend to like science fiction writers who explore what happens to human beings within the context of societies like ours which divorce us from our essential humanity. That’s why I like Farenheit 451, 1984 and The End of Eternity.
I think Herbert was quite prescient when he wrote Dune, because he imagined a planet and human beings living there who had to exist without water. In fact, he was one of the first authors to popularize the importance of preserving our planet’s ecology. In my mind as well, all these authors in one way or another, examine the relationships between religion, politics and power, and also between bureaucracy and government.
Because of my own fascination with these themes, and because I’m also a student of social science by training, I set out to write a quartet of novels placing a group of humans in a futuristic society that had failed to stop runaway climate change. I was fascinated by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, and both she and her book served as inspirations to me.
Before reading Naomi Klein however, I had written what is now the fourth book in the quartet, My Quantum Life. This book was based on Michael Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe. I have always been fascinated by the spiritual aspects of quantum physics, and Talbot’s book put the science of it all into perspective. It was very readable for a neophyte like myself, and it clicked.
The Burning Years is the first book in my four book series titled Until This Last and has just been published by Double Dragon Press. It explores a lot of hard science around space travel, bionics, and what is causing climate change. Besides Klein, my mentor for this book was Dr. Rachel Armstrong. On my site for the book you’ll find out all about her. She is a remarkable woman and a brilliant scientist. Dr. Rachel Chen, who in my novel is captain of the world ship Persephone, is based on how I imagine Armstrong to be. In my book, Persephone is a human ark; this actually exists, and is being conceived of right now by Rachel Armstrong and a team of scientists. It’s built around the idea of a renewable chemical technology called protocells. In the future, protocells could replace plastics and also animal products and will be essential in the preservation of our planet.
My ark explores Mars and Europa then sets sail for Alpha Centauri. The Australian scientist Wallace Thornhill was very helpful to me as I wrote these sections. He introduced me to an electrical universe and warm nuclear fusion technology, and I learned more from him on this subject than I ever thought I was capable. He would send me wonderful emails that took me several days to decode. His final words to me were, “Don’t worry about the science, leave that to scientists, use your writing as a springboard for your imagination.”
Besides hard science however, The Burning Years explores lots of ways we could live on a burnt out planet in the future, and it has two re-engineered transhuman beings who do just that. Introducing them as characters allowed me to explore the whole field of Artificial Intelligence and how two super humans, a male and female, might think and act. Again the social scientist at play. How would their biology, psychology and past influence them. How would their male and female genetics and gender-biases, play a part?
The arc of the plot is set against a U.S. government of plutocrats that has fled underground, who have saved themselves and a few others, the brightest and the best. Of course there are insurgents, and one of them is a female scientist who is heavily involved in geo-engineering the weather. The book takes place about sixty years in the future, just around the time when we may experience dramatic effects from climate change.
I deliberately did not want to write a dystopian book, but one that was full of hope based on our finer instincts as a species, our desire to return to smaller communities, and our current and future knowledge of technology. I am not good with violence, unlike George R.R. Martin who very skillfully explores all those dark sides of humanity and creates fabulous villains. My villains tend to be more grey and struggle internally with a lot of philosophical and moral dilemmas. My women are very strong, just like Martin’s, and my main female character, Inanna. would definitely be friends with Daeneyrs Targaryen.
Now I just have to figure out how to get people to take climate change seriously. I plan to use the book as a tool to get readers involved. The Burning Years is being published as an eBook by Double Dragon Publishing in April 2017. I chose Deron Douglas as my publisher because he loved the book on first read, and I just couldn’t take a chance waiting for other big-name SF publishers to give me an answer.
Please check out my site to buy the book and I would appreciate it if you review it on Amazon for me. And, while on my site, see how you can become involved with 350.org or any other organizations working to stop elements of man-made climate change, so as to keep our planet safe and livable in the future.
Felicity’s new novel has recently been promoted on Reading Recommendations. She is also a fellow-Bequian!
READERS will also find this interesting (and they can *see below how they may help), but …
This post is mainly for all you angst-ridden authors out there who moan and groan about how little promotion and publicity you receive for the books you publish. Yes, it’s true, there are definitely fewer outlets reviewing books or interviewing authors. So what are we supposed to do to get the word out and attract new readers to our work?
I have a cunning plan!
When I ePublished my first novel, I received “some” attention (i.e. Not a lot …) for my efforts, but I carried on regardless and continued to promote other authors, as well as my own books, through my business Alberta Books Canada. Then I moved back to the Caribbean and become much more involved in the online writing community, especially with regards to indie authors around the world who were in the same boat as me – wondering how the heck to promote our books effectively. And how to attract new readers to books in general.
Once I became part of that community – of bloggers as well as indie authors – I realized there really WAS a lot of promotion available out there, and simply for the asking. We bloggers all usually have the same problem: what to write about for the next blog post. I discovered there were many sites looking for authors to interview and books to review, and also that were interested in posting guest spots on various subjects. So I began searching for blogs that would be interested in me and my books. Once I had a few links collected of my own promotions, I created a dedicated page for the novel on my own blog. If you click on Island in the Clouds and scroll down the page you’ll see I’ve added every link I could find. (Hint … Use Google to seach not only your own name, but the title(s) of your book(s). You’ll be amazed what comes up there!) This list on my blog is for the benefit of readers who may be interested in finding out more about me and my books. Only now I’m letting all those other sites do the talking for me.
In Nov. 2013, I began publishing another blog, Reading Recommendations, and have promoted more than 300 authors there for over 3 years. Many, many, many of these authors have “paid” me back in kind by reading and reviewing my books, interviewing me, or allowing me to post a guest spot on their blogs. I promote them, they promote me back!
So that’s how I managed to amass such an impressive looking list of promotion links for my novel!
But rather than just sit on my laurels and allow that page and those promotions to go unnoticed, I have regularly gone back to ensure those links were still valid and even reposted them all, one at a time, to social media, either Facebook or Twitter for me, thereby breathing new life into what were at the time (and still are!) excellent promotions of me and my books.
So … here’s my cunning plan for all of you out there looking for FREE ways to continue promoting your work – Do as I have done and repost any links to promotion you’ve received in the past. To make it easier on yourself, I suggest you create a page, as I did, and list everything there. That way it’s easy-peasy to go to the page, click on each link, and share it again, and at any time. I also have a Facebook page for my novels now, Bequia Perspectives Novels by Susan M. Toy, and post to that first then share on my personal Facebook page. My reasoning for reposting all of this early promotion is that I’ve attracted new readers and friends and fans over the years since these links were first published, so there’s bound to be someone out there who will be interested in reading them.
But the other thing I hope will happen – and this is the kicker, is that one of those readers who sees my reposting of promotion on social media will think enough of it to want to share with their own friends. And that, folks, is the beauty of social media … you just have no idea how far these shares will travel or who might be introduced to you and your books simply because you reposted an old promotion. Remember … no matter how long ago you may have published, your book is always new to a reader who has never read it!
Now, because I also promote other authors on my Reading Recommendations blog, I decided to start the repromotion ball rolling for that group and ran this announcement to the Facebook page, Reading Recommendations – a blog for Readers:
Here’s a promotion tip for all authors who have been featured on Reading Recommendations and reading recommendations reviewed … You’re always most welcome to re-post your promotion links anywhere, on your own website, blog and social media. You might just manage to attract new readers to your own work. I’ve been working through the lists alphabetically, trying to repost all of your promotions, but if each of you were to do this for yourselves, as well as for one or two of your fellow authors I’ve featured, there’s no telling how far the reach would be – for everyone! Besides, it’s free promotion and you’ve gotta love that!
That was a couple of days ago and, so far, I’ve noticed only 1 (ONE!) author has taken my suggestion and reposted all her RR promotions to social media. But she’s an author who constantly promotes my blog as well as promotions for other authors, so I wasn’t surprised. I am disappointed, however, that no one else has taken me up on the suggestion. So that’s why I decided to write this blog post, explaining the idea once again, and I hope to reach more of you out there. I encourage you to do as I do, in this case, and promote the pants off of whatever promotion you already have! And, while you’re at it, promote one or two – or more!, of your fellow authors, as well, because it’s not all about you, ya know … and it’s the right thing to do, so let’s share that love around!
The other thing that will happen is you will draw attention to those original links again, to the bloggers and sites where you were promoted – and, believe me, that renewed interest and increased traffic for old posts will not go unnoticed by those bloggers! You’ll be doing them a favour by attracting new readers to their sites, as well.
There you go! How to ensure FREE continuing promotion that’s right under your nose … Now get out there and share!
(And, please, I absolutely, positively encourage you to reblog this blog post on your own blog!)
*READERS, I haven’t forgotten you! Please consider getting in on this idea of free promotion by helping your favourite authors reach new readers. Whenever you see a promotion link posted, share it among your own friends, tell your book club/local library/local bookstore about the author and their books. We appreciate all the help we can get, but when you recommend our books to other readers and make them fans, that’s just pure gold! And we can’t thank you enough!
These past few years (2015 and 2014), I’ve wrapped up twelve months of blogging by listing my favourite bloggers who I have subscribed to and read, and whose blogs I believe would be of interest to my readers. Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) created this nifty badge that any of the bloggers on my list are welcome to add to their own blogs!
This year’s list is going to look a bit like a roundup of the usual suspects, as so many of my favourite bloggers continue to post to their blogs and write so well. A few of those old favourites have stopped blogging, but there are a few new discoveries this year, and one is a former book publishing colleague who is absolutely new to blogging just this week! So I’ll begin my list this year with the newbies-to-me, for variety sake.
Please do click on the links and check out these great bloggers, if you have not already discovered them yourselves. Follow them! Some offer promotion and they review books or interview authors or host guest posts, many post valuable information on writing and the book biz, even about food and restaurants, and not just a few are also authors in their own right and have been featured on my blog (I’ve linked to their promotion pages), a couple are editors, and there are a couple of longtime personal friends (meaning, I’ve actually met them face-to-face!) in this list, as well.
And a new blog by retired publisher Ginny Miller and her husband that I look forward to following. Leaving Ourselves Behind will report on their travels throughout the world.
And the Usual Suspects!
Matilda Magtree – Carin Makuz
Canary Gal – Gwenith Whitford
Bill Corbett – Marathon Mouth
And a very special mention goes to two extremely inspired blogs that are still being published:
If you happen to be looking for some great books to read, check out my Best Books Read in 2016 series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Or have a look at my two other blogs: Reading Recommendations and reading recommendations reviewed.
When I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I didn’t take into consideration that the year was not yet over and I might read more books I highly recommend in those remaining weeks – and, indeed, I have! (I also discovered a few books I had overlooked when compiling my first two lists.) Links for authors featured on Reading Recommendations are included. Every book listed here is rated at 5 stars from me.
So, here we go with THE REST OF THE LIST!
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women by Mary Smith
(No More Mulberries, also by Mary Smith, is listed as a Best Book Read in Part 1 of this series.)
Baudelaire’s Revenge, a novel by Bob Van Laerhoven
Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation by Ken McGoogan
Belle of Batoche by Jacqueline Guest
And BIG congratulations to Jacqueline Guest who has just been named a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnson!
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
by Joshua Hammer
And … the very-most-recent book, a novella, by Fredrik Backman that has been translated into English!
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
See my rave about Fredrik Backman’s other books I read this year in Part 2 of this series.
And, looking ahead into 2017, I’ve had the great pleasure, and honour, of reading an advance copy of Felicity Harley‘s new novel, The Burning Years, which will be published in the spring. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you hear about this book the moment it becomes available. Not only is it well written, but I believe it’s going to be a very important book for everyone to read. (Felicity has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations and has had a lifelong association with the island of Bequia.)
It’s lovely, and somehow very fitting, to receive the first photo in the Where/Who in the World is Reading One Woman’s Island??? from none other than the great Seumas Gallacher – the author, reader, blogger, singer, supporter, pal, Billy Connolly-loving, Glaswegian-speaking, kilt-wearing Scotsman who now happens to live in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi!
Here he stands with my eBook cover visible on his eReader …
Says Seumas: From one island to another .. . from the shores of Bahrain to those of Bequia… Master Gallacher… proud owner of his Kindle copy of m’Lady, Susan’s masterpiece! Cheeeeeeeers 🙂
Thank you, Seumas!
Seumas has been a guest over at my other blog, Reading Recommendations, several times now. Head on over there to see what he’s been writing and publishing. I’ve read every book That Man has created and I tell you truthfully I’ve immensely enjoyed reading every single one!