What’s Zombie Joe Reading?

Of the pair of you reading this blog – maybe even three or four if I count friends and family – I’m sure at least one of you is interested in what I am reading these days. Not the least of which relating to new winnings of a Kindle Fire stocked with books (about 14 or 15 of them I believe) and a gift card for Amazon (fortuitously on the heels of winning the Kindle). So allow me to share what I am reading. I will additionally venture to update my 52 Weeks page with the books that I have completed over the year. If for no other reason to keep a count and see if I can hit 100 by the end.

KoKo-readingAlso this year I have taken on a role as a reader for Barbara Vey, which means many of my choices will be controlled by the books I am asked to blurb for her. Ironically that hasn’t really changed my reading list much, but has given me access to books similar to those I am already reading that I might not have considered before. For instance, the book I am on currently reading (after finishing Kim Harrison’s Ever After) is Demon Hunting in a Dive Bar by Lexi George. While not against reading paranormal romance, this is not an author I am familiar with. Barring my running into her at a panel or the like during a convention, I likely would have never picked up this book.

I have two more that I am finishing. One for a book club, and one because it is a zombie book from a local author. Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils is the book club read. Though, realistically it is a Wizards of the Coast book club that I don’t have much time to frequent on the forums. If you do have the time, it is a definite benefit as Erin Evans (the author) is involved in the discussion. My local zombie author read is Deck Z: The Titanic by Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon. I have had two friends tell me to read this book (more to do with their friendship to the authors than knowledge of my penchant for zombie media). So I had to pick it up. Plus it fits in nicely with my Local Author Rule.

Reviews of both the above mentioned books will follow once I am able to put my thoughts down.

As for what I’ve read in the last month (other than Tarnished which is the last review I’ve posted), you can find the running list under my 52 Weeks page. If you get there through the tab above you will need to scroll down to the month to month listings.

Audiobooks will be a challenge. I have a number that I purchased for my wife that I have yet to get to, but I also have more I need to blurb. Likely I will catch up on the blurb books before I dive into anything new. The drive to Kansas City for Romantic Times this year should help with that. At least 16 hours worth of it anyhow.The last audiobook I listened to before the year started was Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. I had read the print book, but I picked up the audiobook for my son to take to work with him. An excellent military urban fantasy listen.

For what I have purchased this month, the last two I picked up (using the aforementioned gift card) were Gilded by Karina Cooper (since I won said card during a Tarnished blog event) and Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart.

What about you? What are you reading?

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Book Clubs and Reviews

Hello? My name is Zombie Joe… and I… I’m a book addict.

Tell me that doesn’t bring to mind a group meeting in the chilled basement of a church with stale donuts and burnt coffee sitting on a folding table in the back of the room. People all around you shifting uncomfortably in equally chilly metal folding chairs and staring damn near indifferently up at me.

Okay. Maybe it’s just me.

The truth of the matter is that I have a number of collections (as many geeks do) but none rivals my collection of books. I attribute this mostly to influences from a time I don’t really remember. Back in high school I had teachers expanding my reading list to put me outside of my comfort zone. How else do you explain a 16 year old boy reading The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? Also we had this history teacher that had two memorable traits to him – a nervous tick of sorts he did during lectures when he really wanted you to remember something, and his saying that the sign of a successful person is the ability to own books. Yeah, that’s when it started.

To give you an idea, right around my graduation Being a Green Mother by Piers Anthony had just released. At that point the Incarnations of Immortality was my favorite series. Not wanting to wait for it to become available in the library I purchased the hard cover to give myself as a graduation present. I think we have a picture of it sitting on a table with my Oxford Unabridged Dictionary (my graduation present from my parents). But that was then…

Last year was the first year I took a challenge to read a set number of novels. This is assuming you don’t count that semester of college where I had 32 books to read (one of which was Heart of Darkness). I aimed to read 52 books (1 a week) but in Goodreads I signed on for 100. I didn’t meet the 100 (and didn’t even put in all the ones I did finish in Goodreads) but I did make it past 75. Some of those were audiobooks due to a form of permission to listen to audiobooks in Stephen King’s On Writing.

With how hectic my life has become between work, a writing schedule, reading, running a D&D game twice a week and the cupcake “hobby” it seems rather daunting to catch up with my reading schedule. To this end I am not going to read all the way through any book that doesn’t have me hooked in the first act. I’m also giving a pass to the front of the line for any favorite authors or ones I know I will get signed within two years time. Ironically those are also the books that I will pick up in print as opposed to on the Nook.

In the past couple weeks I’ve taken on two different book clubs. The Team Awesome Book Club (reading a non-fiction book) and just this week the G+ meetup/discussion of “vaginal fantasy” books hosted by Felicia Day. If you haven’t, check out her bookshelves on Goodreads. I have no idea how she has the time to read so damn much, but it is impressive. Of course, being who I am I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about the “vaginal fantasy” title. In looking through her shelves, I have read a few of the vaginal fantasy books. In reality, most of the urban fantasy, science fiction and paranormal romance I’m reading it written by women. Even more of the main characters in the books I’m reading are female as well.

Honestly I think this is a statement less about the quality of male authors and more about the increased percentages of female authors on the shelves of my section in the book store. Also, it doesn’t hurt that my online resources for reviews and the like are recommending the female authors and characters more often. Kara Gillian from Diana Rowland’s first series and Chess Putnam from the Downside novels by Stacia Kane are at the top of my list of favorite characters. Both of their series I think would fall in the description given for a “vaginal fantasy.”

Now consider that I am a member of the Madison Romance Writer’s group and was one of the few men at Romantic Times in 2010. John Scalzi and I were discussing at lunch (with a few of my favorite female authors) about the awesomeness of being at a con and not having to wait in line at the restrooms. Everywhere I went I was incredibly outnumbered by women. And it was by far the best time I’ve had at a convention in a long time.

This of course all leads me to my current goal for the weekend – to finish Silver Tongued Devil and Grave Witch. Silver Tongued Devil is another of my favorite series and has Giguhl – another of my favorite characters, but a decidedly male one. Grave Witch is the vaginal fantasy offering to be discussed Monday. In addition I have D&D Encounters to run Wednesday night, Writers Group Thursday night, dinner with friends Friday and my Sunday D&D group. Now work in some writing time.

Seem crazy? … Hi, have we met?

Personally I am dealing with the fact that I work full time and want to become a published author. I need to learn to increase my time management skills to handle all of this. Don’t worry, I have a pecking order on things left to die first. I may be insane, but I’m not an idiot!

The last three weeks have been nailing down the diet into a pattern that works. Now I’m looking to ramp up the reading and writing time back to what it was last year with the addition of the diet plan. If you see me blogging less or running down the streets of Madison like Daffy Duck (woo hoo woo hoo woo hoo) then you know what has happened.

What are you doing this month that’s insane? Because really… sanity is totally overrated.

Change Write Now (January 24, 2012)

  • Food – made it, even with going out to lunch today…
  • Water – really need to learn to swim (over 64oz)
  • Exercise – over due to an overzealous dog
  • Writing – made goal, still need to clean it up for group
  • Habits – both met, especially since there was no time to weigh myself
  • Sleep – over 6 hours, but not by much

Project Stats

  • Writing – naughty piece should be ready to go, starting dragon poem
  • Reading (print) – Silver Tongued Demon (into the good parts, but this is longer than the last one)
  • Reading (Nook) – Grave Witch (haven’t started yet, want to finish STD first)
  • Listening (iPod) – Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Notes: Hexed is a “re-read” as I read it in print. The narration is awesome! The reader really gives life to Oberon. He is quickly becoming another of my favorite characters.

Preorder vs Opening Day Visit

As promised, Barnes and Noble had my copy of Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland to my condo on release day. As per my nature, I didn’t grab it from the mailbox until this morning on my way out of the garage. Honestly I probably could have left it until tonight or tomorrow morning as I’ll have no time to read it until Thursday and I still have a few chapters to go in Shadow City which pushes it to Friday. I could have… assuming I didn’t want to caress it and chant “my precious” like a demented hobbit. Besides, we have one package locker for our 9 unit building. Keeping it filled for multiple days would just be rude.

Now I preordered Sins of the Demon – months ago. With Silver Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells, I picked it up in the store. Partially this was due to my budget and which one I was reminded of a month where I had the extra income to spend on it. Equally so was the growing concern I have with space on the shelf. Particularly with midlist authors (read as most of my favorites) once the local Barnes and Noble is out of them, there’s a better than even chance there will be no restocking of it. To this end, I have been trying to pick mine up in preorder, or placing the order online to have it shipped to me. I can afford this as I get free shipping as a B&N card holder. This helps to ensure that if I suggest the book to a local friend they’ll be able to find it.

This isn’t a fool-proof plan as it does hinder some of the eccentricities that I have when it comes to books. Okay, it really only trips up on one of them. It’s a holdout from my days (years) as a comic book collector. I check the copies of the book to ensure that I get a nice, unblemished copy. Even though once I have them home my attitude changes, while picking it up I make sure to get a clean copy.

Of course when one of my wife’s employees at work was going to borrow my copy of Mark of the Demon, she was horrified to find out it was signed. She insisted there was no way that I wanted to loan that book out. Granted I loaned a few out to her before I let her have a signed book to make sure it would come home, but once that is established the real issue here is that this was a book I wanted to share. She freaked out less when I loaned her the second in the series. (At least I think I have books 1 and 2 both signed.)

Sins of the Demon is another story though. It made its way to me with a cover looking similar to the cover of my copy of Red Headed Stepchild (the first in the series by Jaye Wells mentioned above). For those unfamiliar with the story, I’ll sum up. I was walking to work with the book in hand when a small bird dive bombed for my chest. I batted it aside with the hand that had the book. When I looked at the book I could make out the distinct beak marks in the cover. I called it my bird shield after that.

Really it doesn’t look as cool as that. It just looks like there are a pair of gouges in the cover. The only part of this that irritates me is that I really love the cover art and would prefer the spine be messed up than the cover. Well, that and there’s no cool Hitchcockian story related to the damage.

Will this prevent me from ordering online again? Not likely. The books I have, even if signed, will be read and re-read (or loaned) meaning there will be wear on them. If they start out that way it doesn’t really affect the end result. Also, there is a certain sense of pride in asking to have a book signed that has been obviously read as opposed to brand new and never been cracked open. Of course Diana Rowland knows that I will definitely be reading her books and buying them. She’s a much better shot with a sidearm than I am and Wisconsin just passed a concealed carry law.

The change in my buying habits also represents a direct shift in the way I purchase my books. I used to subscribe to the words of a history teacher I had back in high school who would say, “The sign of a successful man is his ability to afford a library.” This is a direct quote… from the 80’s… so please try not to kick me in the shins over the “man” part of that. What it really stated was that books are a luxury, whereas for me they were a downright necessity. But times change. Our lives change. The amount of space in our condo changes. Aside from my Nook taking up infinitely less space, I find myself reading more and faster on my Nook. I find myself saving my shelf space for the books of those I know, are signed or simply have incredible covers that can only really be appreciated in print.

Again, no shin kicking. I do still love the look, feel and smell of a printed book. But I am also already running out of shelf space and don’t really have the room for more shelves. Well not realistically anyhow. There’s space there, but that would simply clutter up my living room even more.

Change Write Now Update

  • Water: half way there made it… and had to buy it from the vending machine
  • Food: Noodles & Company for dinner got me within a yogurt of goal
  • Sleep: 6 hours and only 1 or 2 episodes of waking mid-sleep
  • Writing: nothing yet #writerfail
  • Reading: want to finish Shadow City tonight (but I have to write something)

Budgetary Book Constraints

So we are 10 days into the strict budgets and we are doing pretty well. We had a small section known as Mother’s Day we hadn’t budgeted for, but otherwise we are ahead of the game. Of course while nobody commented on which would be their one book a month for the upcoming months, through the magic of Twitter I was directed to fictfact.com.

Looking through there, I was seeing the enormity of the situation with my book budget. If a trade paperback was coming out, I could skip coffee a couple days and make up the difference. But what am I doing in July when Ghost Story comes out? That is a hard cover bad boy. Moreover that is a hard cover bad boy that will likely not come to Audible right away (as I was hoping).

Furthermore, I entered in the titles I found there in my Google calendar to get a feel for the decisions I had to make. I also noticed that not all the books I knew where coming out in the next couple of months were there. My Life as a White Trash Zombie for instance, wasn’t listed. All of this started as I was deciding that since Dead on the Delta and Neon Graveyard both come out on the 31st this month that one could be my May book, and the other could be my June book. Here is what I found when I looked deeper…

May Books

  • Hounded – Kevin Hearne (out already)
  • Dead on the Delta – Stacey Jay (31st)
  • Neon Graveyard – Vicki Pettersson (31st)

June Books

  • Deadline – Mira Grant (1st)
  • Blackout – Mira Grant (2nd)
  • Hexes and Hemlines – Juliet Blackwell (7th)
  • Hexed – Kevin Hearne (7th)
  • Hammered – Kevin Hearne (28th)
  • Eat Slay Love – Jesse Petersen (28th)

July Books

  • Heartless – Gail Carriger (1st)
  • My Life as a White Trash Zombie – Diana Rowland (5th)
  • Snow Queen’s Shadow – Jim C. Hines (5th)
  • Bloodlust – Michelle Rowen (5th)
  • Dance of Dragons (HC) – George R. R. Martin (12th)
  • Rebirth – Sophie Littlefield (19th)
  • Ghost Story (HC) – Jim Butcher (26th)

August Books

  • Downpour – Kat Richardson (2nd)
  • Bloodhunt – Shannon K. Butcher (2nd)
  • Bloodlines – Richelle Mead (23rd)
  • Succubus Revealed – Richelle Mead (30th)
  • Crossroads – Jeanne Stein (30th)
  • Dust and Decay (HC) – Jonathan Maberry (30th)

Look at that. All of those are books that I am reading the series of, or are new books I was considering picking up from my favorite authors. Only one of the above in the list is an author I have not read before, and he is a member of the League of Reluctant Adults. Seriously though, check it out. July is hell month for me. How do I choose there?

One of the saving graces is contests that get run for books. Ironically Jim C. Hines started one this afternoon (while this blog sat on my laptop half finished). That is by no means a realistic answer, but it always gives one hope. Also, with his book coming out in July I have to look at it honestly. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is my top pick for that month. Were I to pick Ghost Story, I would not only have to take the budget for books that month, but even more from coffee and the like.

The other answer could be selling off the gaming books and such that I have determined that I do not need. Liquidating a few of those should make up enough for an extra book or two. And from the anti-4E comments that even plagued the Roll a D6 discussion on YouTube, it shouldn’t be hard to find people looking for some 3.5 books, right?

Now there is still the possibility of using the library. Ghost Story and Dance of Dragons should be there, right? Here’s the obstacle there… even if I can get it release day (assuming they have enough copies), for popular books like that there is a fee to check them out. So I would have to go without coffee for a day or two just to check one of those books out from the library. How is that even fair? A late fee before you even step out of the door?

Just browsing over the lists, here is what I am seeing:

  • No offense to the other July authors but I have to go with My Life as a White Trash Zombie first. It fits into the budget, it is a book I know I can get personalized (maybe not with debauched stick figures, but still) and if it hits the NYT Bestseller list Diana has said she will get the tattoo on the cover done permanently on her arm.
  • Dead on the Delta is my May book.
  • As we are on a cruise, there is a couple weeks I am not buying dinner at writer’s group. This will more than cover Neon Graveyard (which I will be preordering this week). That makes this a second May book.
  • June will be a tough month to make a decision. No one author/title really stands out there. If I go with signature potential I will have to go League title. If I stick with content, zombies may win out. Which zombie title remains to be seen.
  • July is still going to be hell. After White Trash Zombie it gets rough. Rebirth might take it and I will likely have to wait for Audible to offer Ghost Story (oh and I will be banking a credit until they do). Snow Queen’s Shadow may be my son’s responsibility since I originally bought the goblin series and stepsister series for him.
  • August, I may have to start with Bloodhunt. After that there may be a cage match between Kat and Richelle for the second potential slot. Of course GenCon is that month, so I will be starting from over budget.

If you are wondering what all of this internal blathering that is making it out onto the blog means, the general thought is this… Strict budgets are hard. And having gone 10 days without a coffee that I didn’t brew at home I am finding what things in my original budget are really important to me. Sorry local coffee shops, the authors win.

As nobody had a comment as to the single book you would purchase in each of the coming months, how about a different question to fish for comments? What would you give up to be able to pick up one more book this month?

First Budget Dilemma

As of this month, Mrs. Zombie and I have started on a money management plan that a friend suggested to me a few years back. Between the likelihood that the state may be taking back a significant chunk of my paycheck and other family related bills coming up, it seemed like the perfect motivator to get on it. This meant devising very strict budgets.

First casualty was coffee. I write in coffee shops. This situation leads to me drinking coffee. Specifically in my reintroduction to coffee (from about a year and a half off of it) I began drinking vanilla lattes. Vanilla lattes are more expensive than drip coffee and by this point the drive-through place knows my truck and has fixed the drink before I get up to the window. This doesn’t really match the $2 per day I have slotted for coffee (which as is comes to over double what my wife has budgeted).

But this really wasn’t much of a dilemma. I can train myself back into brew coffee and we have a spiffy K-Cup machine at home. Shopping at Costco those bad boys are less than 50 cents per cup. I think just over 40 is the magic number. The real problem came with movies.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t go to a lot of movies, but during the summer we go more. I forgot this when we were budgeting. Originally I said enough for one movie a month and if there is nothing playing that month we can bank it or use it for a dinner out. Sounded good at the time… then I checked the schedule for the next couple weeks.

This Friday Thor releases. Next two weekends bring us Priest and the next Pirates movie. Next month is X-Men First Class and Green Lantern. After that is Harry Potter, Captain America ending with Cowboys and Aliens all in a row. August is my saving month with just Conan, but that is also the month of GenCon.

As it is there is a release of Highlander and GenCon that I am committed to outside of the budget, so adding this $30 to each of those months is not really an option. That means shifting the money from another portion of the budget and going without somewhere else. For Thor that can be solved by both my wife and I not eating out on Tuesday like we normally do (and have budgeted for).

Seriously, this is like Weight Watchers for your finances. Of course if we can stick to it, the plan works. My buddy in Texas only has a mortgage to pay and is saving a crazy amount every month – I assume to put towards paying off the mortgage early and being totally debt free.

For other people who know me and might be wondering… Yes, I have budgeted an amount each month to put towards going to Romantic Times and the like. I figure there is enough in that cell of the spreadsheet to cover OddCon and WisCon as well, since they are local. (Which means that RT2012 in Chicago is still on for me and Mrs. Zombie.) Books, well… that’s a different story. I have $10 a month slotted towards books. Enough for a single book and one or two epub short stories.

I’ll wait for the authors and book bloggers in the crowd to come around from the inevitable fainting spell they just had. It shouldn’t take long, most of them have coffee nearby – some may be gently rocking the cup and mumbling as I speak.

What this means for me in the library category is… well… the library. Which kind of pains me as ours is notoriously low in the contemporary genre fiction sections. Hopefully I can change that. The bright side to that one is having a crazy huge TBR pile at home. I will not want for genre fiction brothers and sisters. For my favorite authors it means I will have to make choices on which books I wish to own. Part of this will be my investment in the series, how well I know the author and my chances of getting the book personalized. Seriously if there is a chance of dirty stick figures being drawn in it at some point at a Rock Band party, why wouldn’t I get it?

For this month the book I know I want to own (and will likely be downloading on my Nook somewhere in Alaska while in dock on our Anniversary cruise) is Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay. Seriously, I have been waiting for this book for a while and a zombie has to support the undead enthusiast, right?

If, like me, you are a Nook enthusiast (or simply going to be in the middle of a trip requiring a passport and don’t want to wait) the Nook version will likely go up for preorder a week before release. The link above is to preorder the print copy and have it shipped to you.

Which brings me to a question for anyone who wishes to speak up. If you had only one book you could purchase during the next few months, which ones would it be?

Banned Book Week Recap

So Banned Book Week came and went. Did you notice? Did you do anything to celebrate? Did you read?

For my part, I had planned to pick up a book on this year’s banned book list and read/re-read it. Although my plan didn’t totally work out, I did have one. An epic one. A damned near historical one.

This past year – after picking up Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead – I had planned on reading the Vampire Academy. So much so was I planning this I picked up the first in the series. Partially this was due to an interest in YA both as research for my grandchildren and as a potential writing style. Partially it was due to the fact that I was going to Romantic Times which afforded me the opportunity to get the book signed. Ironically I didn’t manage to get either of those books signed – even while at the Rock Band Party.

What does this have to do with Banned Book Week? Well Richelle Mead has managed to do something awesome. I am sure you can guess that she was banned somewhere – but there’s a twist. Not only did Stephenville Texas ban the Vampire Academy, but they have also banned future books in the series! You heard me right, she has had books banned that she hasn’t even written yet!

Seriously, I could not comprehend how they could justify banning something they obviously have never seen. I had strange images of the T-1000 coming from the future in a little wormhole to take her out so that she could never write the series. In my mind that seemed easily as plausible as the truth.

So my way of commemorating Banned Book Week is to remember some of the great novels that have made it onto this list, and to bump the Vampire Academy up on my list of To Be Read books. So in addition to making the same list as such great works as To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, I am going to salute this historic occasion and read the series.

As a small addendum though, I feel obligated to state there are two books that are going into rotation first. They are the anthology Hungry For Your Love (just released by Ravenous Romance) and Four Thousand Miles by Jesi Lea Ryan (releasing in ebook on November 7th). While I stand by supporting banned books, I have to put my locals up first. Both Jesi Lea Ryan and Mercy Loomis are in my local writing group, so I will not only read these (even though only one is in my normal genre) but I will also go so far as to suggest everyone give them a read.

Buy a Book Day: Day Five

Another day, another stop at a place in Wild Rose that has free wifi. In this instance, it is Culver’s. Of course free is a relative term when you are buying something and not simply squatting. Of course this has nothing to do with National Buy a Book Day, my suggestions for it or the theme for today’s suggestions.

Today I am going for Youth Adult books. I am also going to bend my personal restrictions I am setting for my own purchases and suggest some best selling authors. And finally, the last of these suggestions will give a hint to our suggestion theme for tomorrow.

Chronicles of Vladamir Tod by Heather Brewer

I have these books sitting on my shelf, ready to read. They are there due to a stint at Romantic Times, several panels Heather Brewer was on and several friends extolling the awesomeness of her series. Considering the attention it garnered at San Diego Comic Con, it is hard to argue that.

For these reasons alone, I am recommending a series I have not yet read. Again, I do own it (and even got one of the books signed), so I am not suggesting anything I have not done myself.

The first book in the series is 8th Grade Bites. Start there and work your way forward to 12th Grade Kills.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series by Carrie Ryan

The story takes place seven generations after the zombie apocalypse. Remaining villages of people live in the Forest of Hands and Teeth behind chain link fences that keep the zombies (known as unconsecrated) at bay. At the heart of it, the story is about a girl growing up, learning about the world, being an adult and love. And then the zombies attack.

If you are a fan of YA fiction and zombies, this series is a match made in heaven. The characters are strong role models, human beings yet have enough flaws to seem human without being spineless and disinteresting. It has all the elements for a great story.

In order you are looking for the Forest of Hands and Teeth before Dead Tossed Waves. Dark and Hallow Places comes out in March of next year.

Megan Berry Series by Stacey Jay

I originally bought this book for my oldest granddaughter and read it to make sure she was old enough to read it. I

also read it because the author was quite humorous on Twitter when I noticed her and the title of her book. It was a fun read and gave a less apocalyptic use of zombies in a YA series.

Start off with You Are So Undead to Me and continue on from there.

Kiss Me Deadly edited by Trisha Telep

This is the only single title in my post today. Well, single title as in it is one ISBN to purchase. It is an anthology from several authors including the above-mentioned Carrie Ryan and the short story for a YA novel currently being represented from Daniel Marks. Anthologies are a great way to get a taste for several authors as well as get some background information on series characters or supporting characters that you might be more interested about.

Which brings us to the end of today. Monday will bring me back to Madison and more definite Internet connectivity. Hopefully, it will also bring me to the movie theater to see Machete.