Category Archives: writing
I have already posted a list of some of the authors whose books I read this year and found to be outstanding. You will find that link here.
But I read so many books in 2017, and many were great reads indeed, so I’ve divided the list into two: that first list covered authors I have promoted on my blog,
Reading Recommendations; this second list is everything else.
Because I tend to be an eclectic reader, you will find on this list: old books and newly released books, fiction and non-fiction, children’s picture books, graphic novels, memoir – even a couple of political biographies, and many books about books and reading (because I’ve been researching a series on Reading for my blog). What I have not listed are the classics and cookbooks (yes, I even read cookbooks!) that I read this year. And I read all of these books in eBook and print format, sometimes bought, sometimes gifted copies, some even won through Goodreads Giveaways, or they were from my own personal library, and many more were borrowed from the public library.
All are considered to be 5-star ratings, as far as I’m concerned. The very, very best books of the lot though are marked, along with the author’s name, in bold.
(The links attached to these titles will take you to more information on that specific book. These books are listed in the order I read them. )
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
Slow Horses by Mick Herron
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michi
Touch the Earth by Julian Lennon
Judith by Aritha van Herk
(Reread after almost 40 years since it was first released! From Wikipedia: Van Herk’s writing career began with the publication of her M.A. thesis in 1978. Judith, a novel that explores a feisty female protagonist’s experiences in both rural and urban Canadian spaces, was the first winner of the Seal First Novel Award (C$50,000) from McClelland and Stewart, which granted the book international distribution throughout North America and Europe. )
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Between Them by Richard Ford
Town is by the Sea by Joanne Scwartz
The Secret Place by Tana French
Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson
The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi
This Fight is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren
Before, During, After by Richard Bausch
American War by Omar El Akkad
(If I were forced to make a selection of the very best book I read this year, this would be it!)
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
The End of Your Life Book Club, Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
(The End of Your Life Book Club is the best non-fiction I read, and it really changed the way I read books and think about my reading, and even about my life.)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley & Kate Berube
The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
Arrival: The Story of CanLit by Nick Mount
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
David A. Poulsen – Serpents Rising, Dead Air
Mike Robbins – Such Little Accident: British Democracy and its Enemies, Three Seasons
Merilyn Simonds – Gutenberg’s Fingerprint
Mary Smith – Donkey Boy and Other Stories
Check out Part 2 of this series here.
Both my Bequia Perspectives Novels are now available
worldwide from Amazon in print editions!
All links to purchase both titles in print or in eBook formats
(or to borrow from libraries) can be found here:
Bequia Perspectives Novels
Here’s the background as to how all this came about …
In Feb. 2012 I published the first eBook edition of Island in the Clouds. It had been my idea at the time that we should ePublish first, work out any bugs in the files, create a market for the writing and for a print edition, and then go to print once a demand was established. So I didn’t print Island in the Clouds until June 2012, and at that time I went with a traditional publishing company to do so. This cost me a considerable amount of money up front, leaving me in proud possession of 800 copies of the book – which I then had to store, distribute, and sell myself. Five-and-a-half-years later, I still have about 200 copies left in various locations. I have not been paid at all by several places that took copies on consignment to sell for me, and I have no reliable means of selling those remaining copies. Fortunately, I sold enough of the original 800 to cover my expenses of having the books printed, but I’m nowhere near having made enough money from this enterprise to pay myself back for everything I put into writing, promoting and selling the book by myself.
But then we do it for the love of it, right? This was never intended to be a money-making enterprise. But it was also never intended to be a money-LOSING enterprise …
When it came time to think about printing One Woman’s Island, I had to consider long and hard whether I wanted to travel down that same road. First of all, I did not have the several thousand dollars I knew a traditional printing was going to cost. Plus, I really didn’t want to have to store copies anywhere, or find a new distributor for this new book.
Fortunately for me, I received a blog post from Calgary author, Brian Brennan (who I have promoted on Reading Recommendations), in which he explained how he went about reprinting books of his that had been declared out of print by the original publisher. He worked with our mutual eBook formatter, Human Powered Design (Gina McCreary), to create the print files, and then went to a self-publishing service to have copies printed POD (print-on-demand). I reblogged Brian’s explanation of all this here: Brian Brennan – 3 reprints now available
So, I decided to look into this myself for my own print books. In the meantime, Gina had heard of a new service being offered by Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing Paperback Beta Program – that we could sign into through our existing eBook accounts (which Gina has always maintained for me) and it seemed as though it was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t need to pay anything upfront to Amazon, Gina was able to create the necessary print files and cover designs from my original eBook files and look after the listings for me, and I will receive payment from Human Powered Design for sales made, along with any sales of eBooks, every month, as I have done all along since first listing my eBooks in Feb. 2012.
Plus … I now have the benefit of WORLDWIDE distribution of my print books!! That, to me, is the biggest benefit of printing books in this way.
Here’s another article I discovered about this new service that ran on The Digital Reader site.
Since I’ve been back in Canada, spending the summer months at my trailer, now aptly named, “Another Page” …
I’ve been borrowing print books like mad from the Bruce County Public Library, specifically at the Kincardine and Lucknow Branches, which happen to be almost equidistant in driving time from the trailer park.
And … WOW!! What a summer it’s been, catching up on books that were not available as eBooks or that I otherwise might have had to wait a long time to borrow as eBooks. I’ve also caught up on watching movies too as the system has a terrific selection of DVDs in their collection. It’s been a busy summer, driving back and forth, picking up holds and taking back materials I’ve read/watched. I’ve been into both branches so often and borrowed so much that the librarians all seem to know me by name now (and one told me yesterday that they will miss me after Oct. 1st when I leave the park for the winter). I’m starting to feel like Norm in the TV series, Cheers!
Or an addict surrounded by a group of happy pushers. Hmmm.
But all of this has now made me realize that …
READING IS MY SUPERPOWER!!
(Even though I always secretly wanted to be Wonder Woman)
In fact, I wish I had been able to figure out a way to become a PROFESSIONAL READER – and be paid for all the reading I have done in my life. That would have been cool … (As it was, I was a bookseller and a publishers’ sales rep, and was paid to SELL books, not to read them. I actually didn’t have much time to read those books I was selling. I wish I’d been given time during my days of being paid and was sent off to read those books I was selling. I would have been even more effective than I was at convincing customers, booksellers and librarians to buy those books. I was always very convincing when promoting a book I had enjoyed …)
At the beginning of the summer I made a concerted effort to research, source, and track down as many books as I could that I wanted to read, both new releases and those by favourite authors, and used the library’s handy “My Lists” section on their website to create my own list of book and DVD titles I was hoping to borrow. I also went through a hefty “Want-To-Read” list I had compiled on the Goodreads site over the years I’ve been a member and discovered many of those books were available in print from Bruce County, so on to the lists they went!
The other thing that happened was I promoted a book on my Reading Recommendations blog by Margaret Mackey titled, One Child Reading: My Auto-Bibliography. This reminded me that I, long ago, had the idea to write a series of blog posts, On Reading, in which I compile information on Who reads – and How, What, When, Where and Why they read. So I decided, while I had access to a great print selection of books on the topic of reading, that I would borrow even more books and do the necessary research for this series I’ve been meaning to write.
It was like a Perfect Storm for anyone who loves books and reading as much as I do!
So, I’ve been thinking about that PROFESSIONAL READER job, and figured that … just as libraries and other organizations designate, and often pay a stipend to, a writer-in-residence, maybe it’s time to consider creating a Reader-in-Residency Programme – in which someone who reads a lot of books (as I do) and can review and recommend those books to other readers is given office space and the opportunity to set up a reading programme for anyone interested in learning about available books. (I actually had this idea when I promoted Shaun Hunter’s blog and her efforts to gather up all the reading material she could that was set in or about the city of Calgary. I think Shaun would be a terrific Reader-in-Residence for the city to hire – especially a city like Calgary where the current mayor, Naheed Nenshi, reads a lot of books himself and publicly promotes reading and the Calgary Public Library.)
So, what do you say, folks? I figure that anyone who encourages others to read, and to read well and a lot, should be designated a SUPER HERO! I am willing to continue reading and recommending books for no payment at all, but … Should anyone ever be in need of a person who possesses the Superpower of Reading, then I’m your Reader, and I’m available!
Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you?
This post is an introduction to the series, “On Reading”, which you will be able to follow on this blog page.
The series is dedicated to the memory of a great reader and blogger, roughseasinthemed.
It’s been more than a week now since I heard the very sad news that a blogger I had come to know over the past few years and whom I highly respected had died. I’m still gobsmacked by this loss … (although I’m not entirely sure that the editor in her would have approved of my use of the word “gobsmacked” here)
roughseasinthemed had been a huge support of authors and their books through her intelligent, informed and, at times, wickedly funny blog. Being a professional editor, journalist, and book reviewer, she did know a thing or three about good writing and, in meting out her criticism and praise, she was not shy to say when an author did not measure up to her exacting standards. But … if she did like your writing – and she only ever gave out 4 stars of a possible 5 – then you knew your work was top-notch! She gave my books, and a few others I recommended she read, 4 stars!
roughseas (as I always referred to her) became a great champion of my first novel early on when she mentioned on another blogger’s blog that she thought she might like to read it. (And she laughed when I mistakenly referred to her as roughseasintheMUD!) She really was attracted by, and liked, the cover design. I began reading and commenting on her blog after that and realized what a huge following of readers she had gathered there. (Her blog site is still available to be viewed, for now.) One of those followers, Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, also became a reader and reviewer of my books, and a friend as well, and for that I am truly grateful.
I’m so disappointed to not be able to share with roughseas the progress I’m making, albeit slowly, on the third novel in this series. And to have no further blog posts written by her to read and comment upon. She was interested in the series on reading I’ve been researching and preparing to post on my blog. I will be dedicating the series to roughseas, since she was such an exacting reader herself!
Kate, you are already sorely missed …
At least, not that I know. It’s a phrase I repeat to myself with each new book I begin reading. Just to put the amount of reading I do into perspective …
Last summer, someone who shall remain nameless and who does not really know me at all, told me that my problem is I read too much and need to find myself a new hobby. You can imagine how that made me feel. (In case you’re wondering, my snappy comeback was that I thought I wasn’t reading near enough as I could be reading … That was met with a blank stare.)
So, instead of heeding her suggestion, I began to read even more than I had up until then. My entire life has been about books and reading: studying them, selling them, representing them to bookstores and libraries, promoting them, and now even writing them myself.
It’s no surprise I prefer the company of books (and their authors and other readers) over someone like this “someone”. Actually, I believe this person figured I was being selfish of my time – I’ve been accused of this before – in choosing not to be sociable by joining the crowd for chit-chat, but instead sequestering myself away with my ever-growing reading list.
Or, perhaps it’s a case of me being too kind to this person, who has declared publicly that she never reads. Maybe the fact I spend so much of my time reading and am so very well-read makes her feel somewhat inadequate, because she chooses, for whatever reason, not to read books at all. So she blames me for making her look bad and I am responsible for her own failure to match up to me and what I choose to do with my own life.
This is all a long preamble to tell my blog readers I am changing tack and heading in a new direction in what I write about here.
READING will now become the focus, and I plan to write a series of posts on various aspects of the subject, both from my own perspective and that of other readers. My recent blog post, How to Help an Author received an incredible number (for me) of views, likes, shares, and reblogs – plus many comments, so I can see I’m heading in the right direction with this idea. (I’ve been trying to get this series going for a long time now … This time for sure, Rocky!)
I won’t be discussing any longer the issues of how to write, edit, get published, or promote books. I believe I’ve written myself out on those topics and there are plenty of old posts in the archives of this blog, in case anyone is still interested in reading what I’ve had to say. Besides, many other bloggers and websites continue to offer great advice. I’ll leave it up to them to tell you how it’s all done.
But I see little to no information on reading books – both from the perspective of readers and authors (who should always be readers as well, right?). I plan to cover the “Who, What, Where, When and Why”s of reading, as well as “How” we read. I hope readers of this blog will join in on the discussion and add their thoughts about their own reading habits.
I have a funny feeling that, rather than me seeming like an oddity for the number of books I “consume” as a matter of course in my life, I’m going to discover I am far from alone, and that many other readers approach reading in the same way I do …
Buy/Borrow, Read, Promote to other readers
… those books you enjoy.
Never expect the author to give you a free copy. But, if they offer to do so, you shouldn’t feel you are under any obligation to either read the book or give it a rave review. Unless you truly enjoyed reading that book. (As far as I’m concerned, I’m always thrilled to death with the thought that someone else may be reading my book!)
Buying or borrowing a copy from the library is the best show of support. (And if your local library does not have the book in their collection or the bookstore doesn’t have it in stock then this is a good time to mention the book to them. Did you know that most libraries encourage their patrons to recommend books that may be added to their collections? Both print and eBooks in most cases … )
If you can’t find the book to purchase or borrow then write to the author and ask if you may purchase direct. (I’ve supplied a number of print copies of my novel to readers worldwide, outside of Canada, who wrote to request them.)
If you didn’t enjoy the book, tell the author and list all the reasons why. This is how authors learn to write better books. (I remember seeing a sign in a fast food outlet that read: If you like us, tell your friends. If you don’t like us, tell us!) We know that not every book will appeal to all readers – we get that. But we do definitely appreciate receiving constructive criticism.
Sometimes that lack of enjoyment can result from the author not having been clear in their writing. In the case of my own writing, I would appreciate hearing whether someone has misunderstood any aspect of my stories or just not enjoyed the way I’ve written them. That way, I will be sure to make my writing crystal clear in the future. (And the beauty of eBooks is that authors can easily go back and correct any mistakes discovered after publication, and anyone who has already purchased a copy will receive the updated version as soon as it’s uploaded.)
Promoting can be as simple as telling a friend that you enjoyed a book. Reviews online are always welcome, but not necessary if you don’t feel comfortable posting your opinions online. If you are a member of Goodreads, even just listing the book as “currently reading” or “read” and assigning it a number of stars is enough to make me happy. (Please do go that one step further though and mark the book as “currently reading” or “read” when you have finished reading. At the moment, there are 1027 readers listing my novel Island in the Clouds as “to-read”. Imagine if only half of those actually followed through to read and rate that novel. I’d be a very happy author, indeed! Heck! I’d be happy if only 10 readers did this!)
It all seems very simple, doesn’t it? I wonder whether sometimes Readers don’t realize how important they are to Authors. Speaking for myself, you are the reason I write. It’s never been about stroking my ego, fulfilling a dream, or selling lots of books and making a fortune (Yeah, Ha! Ha! As if … ), but about telling a story as well as I can tell it, having it read, and enjoyed, by as many Readers as possible. As long as I know Readers are reading and enjoying what I write then I will keep writing more stories.
So I ask you to think about the authors whose books you’ve enjoyed reading … Would you be willing to do the above to keep them writing more books?
I hope that your answer is YES!
And, on behalf of all Authors, I thank you for wanting to read what we write …
We would not be Authors without READERS!
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!
I’m hoping that readers of this blog will take my request seriously and consider reading to write reviews for the more than 150 Authors I’ve promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations. I posted to that blog today and addressed all the authors there, Reading Recommendations … Spring Cleaning, telling them I’ve cleaned up the lists a bit. I immediately received messages from several of those authors, offering me reciprocal promotion for my own writing, and one also requesting titles he could review.
So I thought I would open this up to everyone, readers included – those who don’t happen to also be authors themselves. I ask that you look through the lists on that blog and consider writing a review of books you may have already read, or let me know if you have written a favourable review of any that I may then repost on the reading recommendations reviewed blog. Or, if you discover an author you’d like to interview or review, let me know and I will help you contact them.
Thanks for any help with this. All we authors need reviews, but most important of all is that we find readers who are interested in reading what we write! If you find some new-to-you authors through this blog of mine then I am very happy indeed!
But if you then tell your friends about this great author and their books, that will be pure magic!!
I recently read two blog posts that resonated with me, primarily because I have been giving the entire write/publish/sell-lots-of-copies notion a rethink and am wondering how I might change the way I approach my own writing and finding new readers for it.
Please go and read both – I’ll wait …
Now, I’m not suggesting we all completely revamp our marketing plans and incorporate something as unusual as what Shaunta has created on her blog. Nor should we declare it all to be simply “snake oil sales” and write off marketing completely.
We do … or, at least, I do, need to start replacing my misbelief in marketing my writing with a better belief in my writing (and the writing of authors in general) overall – as Seth declares – and think even further outside the box – as Shaunta outlines she is doing.
Those who know me know that I’m not short on BIG ideas! I’ve posted a number of these ideas here on my blog (links are on this dedicated page) and several of these ideas came to me after reading posts and books written by Seth Godin. (If you are not subscribed to his daily blog posts, I suggest you sign up immediately. He really gets the creative juices flowing! Most Read vs. Best Sold – my purple cow is a case in point.) And I always like to think outside the box anyway … generally about the next-town-over from that box, in fact. I learned long ago that:
So, off I go to think differently, again, and revise, revamp, rejig the way I promote and find readers for my own books and for those written by author-friends. I don’t know what those changes will entail, but watch for something new on this blog and on my others, as well as in my use of social media. A change is as good as a rest, right? And that goes not just for me but for my readers and followers and fellow authors, too. In the meantime, I’m off to think and to read and to write. I do hope I can come up with some ideas that will be of use to everyone and of benefit specifically to readers out there. Maybe not quite like one of my childhood heroes …
… but you get the idea.