Books Read in 2017

I read 66 books in 2017.

That is not a large number for me, but not terrible as things go. I admit that I vacillated between not being able to focus on anything except the huge dumpster fire happening in politics and wanting to escape everything through reading. My yo-yoing numbers reflect this. I have months where I read two books a week and others where I barely managed one every other week.

On a side note, writing has been the same way for me. It has been hard to get out of the reality of the dumpster fire and write something hopeful. I am trying, but this last book in the Turning Creek series is coming so slow. I hope to have it out this year, along with a bridge novella.

Here is a breakdown of the books:

Least in a Month – July with 2. I was packing and moving that month. Instead of reading, I binged Longmire on Netflix while I packed.

Most in a Month – October with 10. It’s my birthday month so I probably felt like indulging a bit more than normal.

My list this year contains more graphic novels than in past years. This is due to both necessity and access. I started a new job this year and part of that job is managing the graphic novel collection at my new library. I have finally been able to read some series I have had on my list for years: Saga, The Walking Dead, The Dark Tower (DNFed), and I finally am finishing up Chew. Other than these great series, there is the usual mix of YA, Romance, and fun stuff in space.

Favorite Book of the Year – As always, I read a lot of great books and I am going to resist the urge to break down my favorite books by genre. If I could only pick one to make you read, there is no contest. The Hate U Give by Angela Thomas is my favorite book of 2017. I think this should be required reading for everyone in America. The main plot is reason enough: a teenage girl watches her childhood friend get gunned down at a routine traffic stop by a cop. However, it is the other themes that Thomas has woven into the narrative that give this book a kick. The book also examines how communities are created, defined, and maintained and what the individual responsibility is to that community. The one that hit me hardest was the way the characters talk about the performance of race. This is a not to be missed book, which is being made into a movie, and I am in raptures to see what Thomas gives us next.

Least FavoriteRebecca by Daphne De Maurier
This book is a classic example of the main character being TSTL (too stupid to live). Not only is the main character completely vapid, she allows herself to be pulled in whatever direction other people want for her, even if it is dangerous and she knows she should say no. This is made worse by the fact that the main character is surrounded by horrible people. I read this with my bookclub and we all detested it. This is one of those rare cases where the movie is definitely better than the book.

Favorite Reread – I finally got my copy of World War Z back from by brother and devoured it. I was pleased to find that the political discussions and scenarios are no less true eleven years later that they were when Max Brooks first penned this novel. This book is in my top five of all time and with good reason. It is heart-wrenching, suspenseful, hilarious, and reflective. There are scenes from this book that still haunt me. I loved it no less the third reading through.

Here is the month by month list. Starred items are rereads.

January – 5
Saving Grace by Julie Garwood*
Must Love Kilts by Anna Quarles
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R Carey
Ready to Fall by Olivia Dade

February – 3
Driven to Distraction by Olivia Dade
Diablo Lake: Protected by Lauren Dane
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

March – 5
A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood*
The Monster That Stole My Underwear by Kate Cleary
Wolves’ Triad by Lauren Dane
What It Takes: a Kolwalski Reunion Novel by Shannon Stacey
Beyond Control by Kit Rocha

April – 3
World War Z by Max Brooks*
Return of the Earl by Sandra Schwab
Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

May – 3
The Demon Prince by Anne Aguirre
Wolf Summer by Sionna Fox
Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier

June – 7
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Pack by Jeanine Frost
For the Bear’s Eyes Only by Kathy Lyons
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lixano, Greg Dalsedo
Feathers by Jorge Corona and Jen Hickman

July – 2
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Radiance by Grace Draven

August – 8
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Hard to Handle by Christine Warren
How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks
Ms. Marvel: Crushed by Wilson, Miwazawa, Bondoc
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger v. 1

September – 9
The Walking Dead Book One by Robert Kirkman
Chew vol. 1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
The Walking Dead: Book Two by Robert Kirkman
Maximum Ride by James Patterson and Narae Lee
Chew vol. 2 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Chew vol. 3 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
A Seditious Affair by K. J. Charles
Yuletide Truce by Sandra Schwab

October – 10
Saga vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane by Kelly Maher
An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Daring Fate by Megan Erickson
Phoenix Warrior by Ella Drake
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
The Elite by Kierra Cass
The One by Kierra Cass

November – 3
Emma by Kaoru Mori
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Hamilton’s Battalion: a trio of romances by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

December – 8
True to the Highlander by Barbara Longly
Beary Christmas, Baby by Sasha Devlin
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab
A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Celia Grant
Emma vol. 2 by Kaoru Mori
Superman Wonder Woman Power Couple vol. 1 by Charles Soule and Tony S. Daniel
The Silent Duke by Jess Michaels
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Economies of Scale

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Photo by Cindi

It has been quite a long time since I wrote a post about libraries, but in case you missed it, I am working in one again. It is good to come home to the profession that always had a large piece of my heart. There will probably be more library posts, in addition to writing posts, in this space. You’ve been warned.

Last time I served at a library, I was at a large top tier research institution. I did a lot of things, but the things I did were specialized.

Now, I work at a small community college in a rural area and I do a little bit of everything. I am the Acquisitions, Technical Services, ILL, and Circulation Departments. In addition to this, I do reference, teach information literacy classes, and sit on campus committees. In a small place, it is safe to say you do all the things because that is what keeps the doors open and things running smoothly.

The scale of things here is different. Sometimes that is frustrating and sometimes is it awesome. After three months at my new job and in my new town, I have some observations.

When you get down to the marrow, everything here, good and bad, comes down to scale.

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Photo by Jerome Vaillant

Wyoming is a big state of mostly rural areas. Even libraries in larger towns*, serve a significant population of people who live in remote areas. I live in a decent size city, for Wyoming, and it only claims a little less than 18,000 residents. Much of our community is rural. Even if you live in the city, you still have to drive two hours to find major retail stores. The distance between service hubs is a problem of scale.

Because most libraries are serving small rural communities, they are themselves small and rural. The wealth of information out there in the world means that the libraries can only collect so much because access costs $. This is a scale problem that is not unique to small libraries. The libraries here have worked to solve that by having an efficient ILL and electronic resources sharing system within the state called WYLD. Wyoming’s libraries are adequately funded, from what I can tell, but they still struggle. Even though they are getting funded, it is never enough. Well funded on a smaller scale is still a small amount of money.

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Photo by clement127

The other issue is technology and, boy howdy, is this an issue. Remember when I said Wyoming libraries tend to serve a rural population? In technology terms, this means we serve a population that often does not have high speed internet, but might have a smartphone if they are lucky enough to live in an area with coverage.I have heard a saying often that Wyoming is ten years behind in most things. I think that is an accurate assessment.

Technology is an issue for most of the businesses I have come in contact with. If they have a website, and that is a HUGE if, they have a terrible UX and are often not mobile compatible. Very few corporations are on any kind of social media outside of facebook, if they have that.

This lack of technology use comes into sharp relief at the reference desk. Multiple times this semester, I helped students who were barely able to use a mouse and navigate Windows, much less the web and Blackboard. These students were expected to take classes which had major online components. To say they were lost would be a gross understatement. What shocked me the most is that these were not older adults coming back to school. They were my age (I am 39) or younger. I have lived in an urban area and worked in service jobs all my life and I have never been exposed to this level of technology illiteracy in my life. It was and is shocking to me.

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Photo by clement127

On the positive side, I live in a small town with all the quirks associated with a typical western small town. Everyone knows everyone else. Our lives are all connected in one way or another and I have found this to be a welcoming, friendly place.

All of these observations have raised the following issues and questions that I want to explore:

  • How can I use readily available technology (free/cheap) to serve students who may have limited connectivity?
  • Are there tools that can make their lives a little easier that require a low learning curve?
  • How do I need to shift my own instruction and interactions with my new population in mind?
  • What does advocacy for information look like in a place where information is not always accessible or affordable?
  • How can I help students see beyond the small worldview of their experience to the greater world beyond in the way I teach and the choices I make for the library?
  • What can I learn from my new community that will make me a better librarian?

*The largest city in Wyoming is Cheyenne which currently holds a population of 64,019. To me, no matter how you slice it, that is a small town.

#notRWA17 – Super Series Plotting Thread

At the end of July, I participated in a thread on Twitter called Super Series Plotting: how to plan a series and when to let the plan go. It was an interesting way to use Twitter and there were some lively conversations all day around the threads being posted.

I created a Twitter moment to the series plotting thread which you can read and enjoy. You can read a ton of great threads and comments under #notRWA17 on Twitter. Olivia Dade, who writes steaming hot librarian romances that I ADORE, gathered all of the website and links of the authors who participated.

There are a few major points about my thread I also wanted to list here:

Make a series bible from the beginning. Your bible can take any form, digital or physical, but do not wait to do this. Start it the moment you start dreaming up your series, the world it inhabits, and the people who live there. You do not want to be halfway through the first book and realize you can’t remember what you named the shopkeeper’s wife who has popped up again or what color her hair was. I also find this useful for my main characters. I sometimes write notes about them, that come in handy later, but have forgotten since I jotted them down.

Make a plan, but be flexible. Have a plot and character arc planned for each book and for the series, but don’t be upset if you have to condense or expand. Most of an author’s time is spent rewriting which means changing things.

Find what works for you. You may be able to write every day for five years on the same series. Some of you just don’t have the steam for that and need to do something in between. Figure out what makes you a better writer and try to make those conditions happen.

Dispatch From Sheridan

This is the beginning of my third week here and I can tell you without a doubt that Sheridan, WY is a lovely and extremely friendly mountain town. I was expecting the small town cuteness. I was not expecting the level of friendliness that greeted us.

As a Texan, I am accustomed to Southern hospitality, but I am coming to learn that the South may have nothing on the small, midwestern town. Everyone I have met, from Mr. R’s coworkers to the checkout people in the stores, have been kind and talkative. They are all eager to share tidbits about this town that I now call home. It has been amusing, though I did have a Target lady-like encounter on one of my trips to Walmart that amused me greatly.

The view from our front windows.

I have set up a small table and comfy chair in the front mudroom, so I can drink my tea or coffee and look at the mountains in the morning. It will mostly likely be my new writing area once I start my normal morning routine of waking early before the family to write.

Blacktooth Brewing Company‘s production area.

Mr. R gets to work every day doing something he loves. In the picture above, you can see the brewhouse and some of the barrels they are aging. The staff at the brewery is fantastic and we feel blessed to be part of their family. I accepted a position as a Library Specialist at Sheridan College Kooi Library last week. I start at the beginning of the semester. The views from the college are ridiculous so expect an equally ridiculous amount of pictures soon.

This statue is called Flower Dancing in the Wind.

There are plenty of interesting and quirky things around Sheridan. On almost every corner in the downtown area, there are metal statues. Some of them are beautiful, like the one above, and some are silly, like the one of a buffalo licking its butt.

A view of the Big Horn Mountains from the Big Horn Polo Fields.

Even though this is a small town, there are plenty of things to do. One of the best polo fields west of the Mississippi is on a small town twenty minutes south of us. We went last week to watch a match. The vibrant green of the grass stretched wide under a blue sky, broken only by the ridge of mountains on one side and hills on the other. It was breathtaking. The polo game was also fascinating. Did you know that polo balls start out round, but are softer than most sports balls? I did not. After being in play, the balls show dents where they were hit.

A group of kids participating in the pig wrestling contest.

This is a small town, so there are some predictable small town activities. This past Friday, the boys and I attended the annual 4H pig wrestling contest. There was an arena full of mud and muck, a plastic barrel, squealing pigs, and packs of 4 fool hardy souls willing to wrestle a pig, butt first into the barrel. All for charity. The younger kids wrestled smaller pigs with the pig sizes increased as the size of the participants increased. It was messy and hilarious. I am happy to report that all the teams earning top scores included girls or were made up entirely of girls. The group that won the youngest division was a team of young ladies dressed in full ballerina attire.

 

There are parks everywhere in this town. The biggest, Kendrick Park, boasts a pool, an ice cream stand, horseshoe pits, a river, an amphitheater, and a playground. This delightful place is a five minute walk from my house. There are miles of pathways along the two major rivers in town for biking and walking. This town was made for being outdoors.

We have daily reminders that we live right next to a very wild place. Not a day goes by that we do not see some sort of wildlife. Mule deer, pheasants, and wild turkeys have already been frequent visitors to our front and back yards.

I am happy to report that we are settling in. I do not miss the heat or the traffic, but I do miss my friends and family. I hope you are all well in your piece of the ‘verse.

The Plagues Are Here

Today is the day that Plagues of the Heart goes live. You can order it from a wide variety of places:

ebookAmazoniBooks,  Google PlayKobo, Nook
print: Amazon, IngramSpark, B&N

I will be updating the links as they become live.

This is Dora’s story. She was the hardest to write so far because she is so tender-hearted and closed-off at the same time. Like her sister harpies, she has found peace in Turning Creek, but she has yet to find true redemption. In this book, we find out some secrets she has kept hidden that have left deep wounds in her psyche.

A couple years have passed in the story since the last book, Letters in the Snow, and you will see all your old favorites and what shenanigans they have been up to. Some of you may be sad that I skipped ahead, but some time needed to pass, both for this story to happen and for history to be correct. Plagues takes place near the end of the Civil War and some of the catastrophes in the book mirror things that were happening in the region at the time. In a couple weeks, I will post some historical notes for the nerds out there.

If you have yet to start the series, or know someone who would like it, the first book, Lightning in the Dark, is now permafree everywhere except Amazon. I am still working on making that change.

Have fun. Go read. Write a review. Thanks for reading, y’all.

Farewell, Faithful Friend: Titus Pullo Smith 2005-2017

Dear Pullo,

It breaks my heart that our family will be starting over in Wyoming without you. Even though you probably would have hated it, you never did like the outdoors, you would have loved being with us. We had you for eleven and a half years before old age and arthritis finally took too heavy a toll.

You were an adorable puppy and I adored you. Even from the beginning, your tongue was rarely in your mouth.

We took you camping, which you hated, and walking, which you also disliked. We even bought you saddlebags, which you wore like a champ even though you detested hiking.

There were a lot of things you loved.

You loved your family. You were an awesome snuggler, even if you hogged the bed or couch. Your favorite place was with your people.

Christmas was a favorite time of year for you. You especially loved scratching your face with the tree branches and snoozing amidst the presents.

You took three new additions to the family, two boys and another puppy, in stride. You were unsure about Wicket for almost a year before you decided you loved her and she could share the couch.

Thanks for bieng my first “kid and for always loving me. Today was the hardest good-bye I’ve ever had to say.

I love you, puppy dog.

Love, Momma.

 

Cover Reveal: Plagues of the Heart

I can finally share with you the beautiful cover of Plagues of the Heart, the fourth book in the Turning Creek series.

 

Colorado 1863

Dora Aello, descendant of brutal harpies, has built a life in Turning Creek where she can use her hands to bring healing instead of pain to others. Her new life helps her control the mistakes of her violent past but Dora is afraid she will not be able to keep them at bay forever.

With the blood of healers in his veins, Lee Williams could use his power over life and death as a way to gain wealth and social standing, but that was his father’s way, not his. He has come to Turning Creek to start over and prove that he is worthy to bear the burden of the power of Asclepius.

An ancient evil is unleashed on Turning Creek and it ravages the residents with a cascade of misfortunes. To save the town they call home, Dora and Lee must race to find the source of destruction and stop it before all is lost. Dora will have to relinquish the control of her nature and come to terms with her own desires or risk losing the lives of everyone she loves.

Pre-order it now!

Releases July 27, 2017

ebook: Amazon, iBooks Google PlayKobo

There is more great Turning Creek news coming soon.

 

Web of Blessings

Preparing to move has been overwhelming at times, exciting in others, and frequently filled with dust. My major accomplishments this week include packing all the books in the house, with the exceptions of childrens, cook books, and antiques, putting an offer on a house, and choosing a moving company. As I go about my days, living my normal routine and doing moving prep, I encounter people I have become friends with over the years, people who have been a friendly face in my day, and people who have touched my life in countless ways.

This constant reminder of people has led me to believe that we all live in a web of blessings. My life touches one person’s life, they reach out and love someone else, and that person befriends another. Each touch of a life reverberates like the strings of a web, alerting all that there are connections both deep and shallow and all make an impact. We can make no movements without effecting others. This is one of the things that makes us human.

Humans are social beings. We were made for relationship. In preparing to leave many of mine geographically behind, I have become reminded how large my web has become and I am grateful. I have been richly blessed with people that I love. I want to hug as many as possible, share a drink and a laugh, and remember my blessings. Thank you for being my friend.

Geography and Other Challenges

We have gotten a variety of interesting comments about moving to Wyoming from people that have reinforced my beliefs that Texans are bad at geography.

This will probably come as a shock to no one who has ever spent any time with a Texan. If it is not in Texas, most Texans do not know where it is and there is a good reason for this. Have you looked at a map? Texas is huge. You can drive for 8 hours in multiple directions and still be in Texas. Most people who are born here, do not leave often because it is a pain in the butt to get anywhere else.

For my fellow Texans, here is a primer on Wyoming based on the comments I have gotten.

Wyoming is not South Dakota. Many of you think we are moving to the Black Hills. While Wyoming is just to the west of South Dakota, the topography in Wyoming is very different. Wyoming has more plateaus, canyons, and mountains than South Dakota. In fact, we will be living within sight of the Big Horn Mountains.

Wyoming is not next to Canada. It is closer to Canada than Texas, but most other states are. Montana, the state directly to the north of Wyoming, is, however, next to Canada.

Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming. It is not, to the surprise of some, in California.

Yes, we are moving out of the Bible Belt, but we see this as a good thing. We are called to be salt and light in the world. It is hard to be salt to others if you stay in the shaker. There are churches in Sheridan, Wyoming and we do plan on finding one to join because that is important to our family.

Speaking of religion, while there is a greater percentage of the population in Wyoming that are Mormon (11.53%), Texas has a greater number of LDS congregants by volume and more temples than Wyoming.

Wyoming does trend towards being a red state, but so does Texas. Yes, I do know they are conservative there, but I have always been a liberal surrounded by conservatives. I think I will continue to survive and make friends.

Wyoming is full of cowboys, ranches, and farms, much like Texas. I do not expect to go into much culture shock in that regard. I think the biggest adjustment for us will be moving to a smaller, much much smaller city. The Houston metroplex contains over 650 million people. The suburb of Houston I currently live in contains over 100,ooo people. Sheridan, Wyoming has a population just north of 17,000.

It is cold in Wyoming in the winter, but it is absolutely beautiful in the summer. My family is going to get to enjoy a slate of outdoor activities that the heat here renders miserable. For the record, I think the winter is pretty as well, even if it is more work to get around.

Thank you to everyone who has wished us well, even if you were not sure entirely where we were going.

It’s Off to Wyo We Go

Going to the mountains is going home. -John Muir

I have lived in the Houston area for 32 of my 38 years. Those that are missing, I was still in Texas, just up the road in College Station and then Dallas. This is the place with my roots and my large extended family. As an adult, it has also become the place where I have started raising my own family and found a church that is like family. There are many wonderful things to recommend Texas, but this is never the place I wanted to be forever.

 

Mr. R, as many of you know, is an engineer and his job has kept us here, but it is no longer his passion or what he feels called to do. This shift for him and my strong desire to be in the mountains has led us to look elsewhere. This past weekend, my wonderful husband accepted a position at Blacktooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming.

We are moving our family to the edge of the Big Horn mountains! I will finally be in a place I always wanted to be and Mr. R will have a job he finds fulfilling. We have deep roots in Texas, so we will be back to visit. We hope some people come visit us and see the beauty of our new home state.

I plan on chronicling some of our move and transition in this space because there is a lot of things I need to learn about living in a cold climate and you will need to laugh at me as I learn. In the midst of all this, Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) will be released so there are a lot of exciting things ahead.

Off to a new adventure!