My Goodreads Challenge 2018: Check!

I’ve passed my Goodreads Challenge 2018 goal, and the books I’ve read are worth talking about!

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At the beginning of the year, I set my Goodreads Challenge goal at 40 books for the year. I figured that was a fair goal, given that I work four days a week at a job that easily takes more than four days a week, and I have other commitments – writing my own books, for example, and rehearsing with the theatre company for a show in May/June before directing and rehearsing my school musical from June to September.

By mid-April, I had read 40 books and extended that goal to 75. There were two reasons for this.

First, being busy, I selected a lot of novellas and short story reads that I could slot in around my busy schedule. A lot of them could be read in the space of thirty minutes to an hour, so they fit into a lunch break really nicely and gave my brain some much needed down time.

Secondly, I hit a patch of writer’s block that hasn’t entirely disappeared yet. Rather than stressing about it, I decided to fuel my imagination and my soul with some great books. I’m still writing poetry, but the fiction brain is on vacation somewhere, and I’m just waiting patiently for it to come back.

So far this year, I’m at the point where I’ve read 77 of 75 books. That’s 77 great Indie authors whose books have received a review and free regular promotion not just on Goodreads and Amazon, but also on the Book Squirrel blog,  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Every single one of them is a verified purchase review on Amazon. I’m not saying that in the interests of receiving praise or adulation – instead, I’m rather chuffed at being able to do that for authors whose work I admire. I know how hard it is to get someone to review a book, even if they’ve really enjoyed it.

I also want to tell you how good these books I’ve read are.   I deliberately included some reads that I wouldn’t normally select for myself just to broaden the horizons of my book blog. Some weren’t to my preference genre or content wise, but that doesn’t stop me recognising great writing when I see it. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed them. There is definitely something for everyone on this list.

You can read my reviews of any books you’re interested in on the Book Squirrel blog, or on Goodreads or Amazon simply by searching for the book.

If you’re not following me anywhere that I post reviews, you are most welcome to follow me on Book Squirrel, Twitter, Facebook, GoodreadsGoogle+ or Pinterest.

So take a look at these fabulous books, see what interests you, and check out some great new reads. 

Clicking on the image will take you directly to my Goodreads Challenge 2018, where you can find details on each book’s author, genre, audience, and publication. 

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Six 21st Century Poets You Should Be Reading.

Six 21st Century Poets and Why You Should Be Reading Them.

I’m the first to admit that I’m fussy about the poetry I read. I want to experience something moving and powerful in a unique style. I want imagery, colour and movement. I want depth, and I want to be able to feel and hear the poet’s soul. It may be considered “old-school” by some, but I still want to find the music of rhythm and rhyme among the various techniques that a poet uses to deliver their ideas.

So, when I tell you that these are the poets you should be reading, please understand that this is not just a nod to people I like or who have pretty book covers. These people don’t just write poetry— they are poets, and they take their craft seriously. These poets can really take a reader beyond themselves, open a reader’s mind, and influence them so that they see things in a completely new way.

These Six 21st Century Poets You Should Be Reading are not listed in any order of preference. If you want to explore their work further, simply click on the cover of each book.

Lyra Shanti

Author of ‘Sediments’.

Lyra Shanti Sediments

Shanti’s poetry is rich and sensory, full of imagery that draws the reader into the emotion and wellsprings of the poet’s mind.
Drawing on mythological themes and elements of Biblical allegory, although it is by no means religious poetry, Shanti explores her place in time, relationships, and the universe through themes of belonging, human vulnerability, equality, and home. She is a master of contrast and balance, weighing sensitivity against images of those things that overwhelm, and confidence in belonging despite her humility, framed within a very real sense of awareness of the immeasurable breadth and depth of the universe.

 

Patrick Williams
Author of ‘Lethal As Love’.

Patrick Williams Lethal As Love
Patrick Williams’ poems are beautiful in the simplicity and honesty of the feelings they convey, even though the feelings they communicate are at times complex and conflicted. There is no pretence or affectation in Williams’ writing, nor is there any strict observance of rhythm, rhyme or other particular poetic techniques. Instead, he uses language and form to evoke a strong sense of love and longing that is almost tangible as he leads the reader on a journey through the highs and lows of the love he so powerfully communicates in these poems.
Some of this poetry is quite erotic, so it’s definitely only for an adult audience, but there’s nothing gratuitous or tawdry about it. One could learn quite a lot about how to love deeply and sensuously from reading ‘Lethal as Love’, but there is also a more sombre lesson to be heeded: nothing lasts forever.  It is clear from ‘Lethal as Love’, though, that the pleasure and passion were definitely worth the pain.

 

Sarah Northwood
Author of ‘The Truths We Tell’.
Sarah Northwood The Truths We Tell
Sarah Northwood gives voice to thoughts and feelings commonly experienced, but often not so thoughtfully expressed, by people in all walks of life.
Northwood explores the ways in which we respond to the situations and feelings that challenge us and those things that fill and complete us. The reality of being haunted by regret and the “what ifs” of life is contrasted with the whimsy of fleeting happiness and the irresistible, transforming power of love.
Through all of this is the reminder that life is what it is: “Feeling the breeze on her cheek she knew, the wind can never be the sun.” (Unique)

 

Joseph Ferguson
Author of ‘Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard’

Joseph Ferguson Reflections of a Scurvy Bastard
Ferguson writes with a very strong sense of realism and a degree of world-weariness in his profound poems that work like snapshots of different events and memories. He has a gift for creating vivid images that transport the reader to another time and place, and making it seem absolutely real.
When Joseph Ferguson’s poetry is recognised as ‘classic’ and he is regaled world-wide as a master poet, it shall come as no surprise to me.

 

Shelby Leigh
Author of ‘It Starts Like This’
Shelby Leigh It Starts Like This

Leigh’s poetry is thoughtful and often intense in its exploration of love, loss, anger,   loneliness and grief, and is highly relatable for anyone who has experienced the breakdown of a relationship or been let down by someone they trusted.
Her poetry and expression are accessible and easily understood, and Leigh’s imagery is often quite stark and raw, but that is where her strengths as a poet lie.

 

 

Joanne Van Leerdam 
Author of ‘Leaf’, ‘Nova’, ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘The Passing Of The Night’. 

 

Yes, that’s me, and those are my own books. Obviously, I write the type of poetry I want to read. Don’t take my word for it, though – I have compiled this description with quotations from different Amazon reviewers. 

“Joanne Van Leerdam is a master poet who combines an old-worldly feel to her poetry with a modern flavor.”
“Joanne Van Leerdam’s poems are about the emotional fragility of human existence, about the brittleness of love and about living with love lost. She expresses both the sense of frailty and the strength of resilience in her reflections, as if a lonely survivor on a faraway island.”
“Many of her poems are conventional in structure, with a regular rhyme scheme, traditional yet so sensitive and vulnerable that they emerge as special, standing out like novae in the vast night sky.
Her poems don’t crash through the door, flourishing their creative uniqueness, but in a quiet voice Van Leerdam almost whispers to us to let her poems come in as she both exposes the emotional pains of life and provides comfort for them.”

I’d love to know if you are encouraged to try any of these poets’ works, and if you do, what you think of them. You’re always welcome to leave a comment on this, or any other, post. 

What Will Make Me Refuse To Review Your Book?

You can’t promote anything worthwhile with bad behaviour.

This is a Public Service Announcement.

I find myself to be in an awkward situation: there are some individuals who have decided that it is appropriate to send messages to my inbox and to my email, asking with varying degrees of insistence that I might read and review their books.

I know everyone wants reviews and sales. I do, too. It seems they have overlooked the fact that I, too, am an author. Perhaps they think I am a professional reviewer – I’m not.

I read and review as much as I can, but I can’t and won’t take requests or demands from authors. I read and review what I want to, because it interests and entertains me, not because I am asked to, and certainly not out of any sense of obligation.

If it’s okay – and it is – for people to not want to read and review my books because they don’t read either of my genres, it has to be okay for me to make that same choice.

For that reason, there won’t be a lot of certain genres on my TBR list or book blog. I just don’t want to read them.

I don’t accept free books. It is only on a very rare occasion that I ever have. I buy books so that I can give a verified purchase review. In fact, I buy a LOT of books, and I’m more than happy to do that.

But I will not buy something I am not interested in. I work too hard for my money and my time is in too much demand for that.

So please, don’t embarrass us both by asking, or insisting, or nagging me to read and review your books. If I am interested in them, I will. If my inbox is full of your repeated demands, there is absolutely zero chance that it will happen.

I’m disappointed I had to write this post. Sometimes, though, one has to make a stand in the interests of self-preservation.

Those responsible should consider themselves warned: the next step will be a permanent block.

Starting The Year Well.

I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand. 

Indie Badge 2017

At the end of last year, two of my books were included in the ‘Top 20 Books of 2017’ on Amy Shannon’s Book Blog. This was something that readers voted for, so to have two books make it to #7 and #8 respectively was a huge shock to me.

This has led to each book being featured this month, having received a fantastic 5 star review from Amy Shannon, who states on her book blog that “ratings of 5 stars have to be earned to impress me, and I just don’t give 5 stars to anyone’s work. ” That makes it even more exciting!

Her review of ‘Nova’ calls it “masterpiece poetry”. ScreenHunter_434 Jan. 17 09.43

 

Her review of The Passing Of The Night is equally enthusiastic.

ScreenHunter_434 Jan. 17 09.33

What a great way to start the year! It’s rewarding to read reviews like this, but it’s also highly motivating.

So, I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2017: How Did I Do?

An honest response to the list of resolutions I wrote for myself a year ago.

2017-01-01 13.58.14

Lots of people are talking today about New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t always set a lot of importance upon them, but at the beginning of this year I did make some resolutions.

Today, I thought I should revisit them and evaluate my “performance”.

 

 

#1. Get 500 followers on Twitter.
Check! I started the year on about 317. Today, I have just over 3100.

#2. Write a review for every book I read.
So, there were two books for which I did not leave a review. They were… how do I say this nicely? The reviews would not have been positive, nor would they have helped to sell any further books.
I did, however, email both authors with my responses and comments. Hopefully they made some changes, hired an editor, and improved the quality of their book.
Goodreads tells me that I read and reviewed 68 books, so that’s a fair effort!
I’m checking that one off, too.

#3. Develop my book blog.Book Squirrel Reading TSF
This is something of which I am very proud. Book Squirrel has spent the year featuring books, authors, new releases, and book reviews. On December 15th, Book Squirrel announced the inaugural Golden Squirrel Awards for Indie books of excellence.
This is a definite check!

#4. Publish two more books.
Done! In fact, I added five (Five! How the heck did I manage that?) more books to my author’s shelf, two in a new genre for me, and two novellas in a wonderful collection of reinvented fairy tales. I also have two poems published in two different anthologies, one on forgiveness and one on fairy tales and folklore. Whew!

#5. Be nicer to people.
In all honesty, I’ve tried. I haven’t always succeeded. But when I wrote this on my note almost a year ago, I had no idea just how much grace or forbearance I was going to need in order to survive some of the treatment I’ve received this year, either.
I want to give this a check, but with a “work in progress” disclaimer.

 

All in all, I think I’ve done okay. Some of these will feed into my resolutions for 2018. I’ll be posting about those tomorrow!

If you have suggestions, or reflections on your own resolutions, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

2017: My GoodReads Year in Review

There are a number of things I quite like about Goodreads.

 So, I enjoyed looking over the page of stats they collated for me about what I’ve read in 2017.

As a reader, I enjoy Goodreads as book-nerdy social media.

I like being able to organise and “shelve” my books so that others interested in those sorts of books can find them easily.

I like being able to leave a review and a rating for those books so that people who find them can know more about them and hopefully choose to read them.

I like the goalsetting element of the “Reading Challenge” where you set a number of books that you plan to read in a year, and then the website keeps track of them for you.

I like it that my connections there can see what I’m reading and when I’ve left a review.

And I like being able to recommend a book I’ve read and enjoyed to friends with similar interests and tastes.

 So, I enjoyed looking over the page of stats they collated for me about what I’ve read in 2017.
ScreenHunter_428 Dec. 27 15.33

I have read a wide variety of books this year – short and long, popular and… less well known, from a wide range of genres. Historical fiction, adventure, horror, romance, mystery, thriller, contemporary, fantasy, sword and sorcery, magical realism, urban fantasy, kids’ books, Christmas stories and humour… they’re all represented. I’ve found some new all-time favourites and broadened the horizons of my knowledge and imagination.

ScreenHunter_429 Dec. 29 16.18

Reading through the highlights and looking at the great cover art of the books I’ve read gave me a lovely sense of achievement and brought back some great memories of books I really enjoyed.

ScreenHunter_428 Dec. 27 15.36ScreenHunter_429 Dec. 27 15.36

If you’re on Goodreads and would like to connect, you can find me there at

WordyNerdBird’s Top Three Podcasts of 2017

In the past, I’ve nominated my favourite podcasts in various genres.

Today, I give you my top three podcasts of 2017.

Promo Top Five English Podcasts PlainOver the course of a few weeks earlier this year, I nominated my favourite podcasts about history (to which I added two more later on),  Shakespeare,  and the English language.

Now that the year is almost over, I’m willing to narrow it down to my favourite three podcasts of 2017.

My criteria for these choices are simple: they’re enjoyable, entertaining and interesting.  I never scroll past them to see what else is on offer in the 20+ various podcasts I subscribe to. Truth be told, I probably should unsubscribe from some of them – perhaps that’s an idea for a New Year’s Eve cleansing ritual or something.

So, without further ado, here are my top three podcasts of 2017:
Rex Factor Podcast1. Rex Factor In this absolutely brilliant podcast, the kings and queens of England followed by the kings and queens of Scotland are reviewed, ranked, and rated according to the qualities an ideal ruler should have. It’s both historical and hysterical. Don’t try to listen to this in the hope that it will lull you to sleep. It won’t. https://rexfactor.podbean.com/p/about/

 

Lingthusiasm Podcast2. Lingthusiasm   This podcast explores different aspects of the English language in just over 30 minutes for each episode. It’s interesting, word-nerdy, and fun.
twitter: @lingthusiasm
http://lingthusiasm.com/

 

british-history-podcast.png3. The British History Podcast A chronological history of Britain with a focus on the people and how they lived and died. It’s well told by a knowledgeable host with a very nice voice. Hey… it all helps.
https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/

 

If you have a podcast you really enjoy, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

Movie Review: ‘Wonder’ (2017)

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Today I accompanied my school’s Middle Year students on a trip to the cinema to see ‘Wonder’, a new film based on the bestselling book by the same name about a boy who has facial differences.Jacob Tremblay plays August Pullman, alongside Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson who play his parents. The stage is set when the Pullmans decide that Auggie should start 5th Grade in a mainstream school, having been homeschooled by his mother until then. Mandy Patinkin plays a very wise and empathetic school Principal, Mr Tushman.

What a sad world we live in when a kid gets less attention walking through the city or a park wearing a space helmet than he does when wearing his own face. It’s human nature, I know, but that doesn’t make it okay. This film challenges that “default setting” in a very compelling way.

Auggie’s teacher, Mr Brown, challenges the kids to ask themselves: What sort of person am I?
This movie challenges every audience member to ask themselves the same question. How do I deal with difference? What does my face tell them? What kind of friend am I? What monuments do my deeds leave?

The audience feels sympathetic to Auggie long before they see his face. When he says, “I know I’ll never be an ordinary kid ordinary kids don’t make others run away from playgrounds” it’s like a punch in the stomach that leaves you winded.

As the movie rolls on, we also see that the “regular” kids like Auggie’s sister, Via, have their own challenges with acceptance and friendship, even without the extra challenges that some kids face. Over and over, this film reminds me again just how cruel kids— and people in general— can be, in so many ways.

The journey of discovering who is real and who is not is often painful and traumatic. Together, Auggie and Via realise that they are each other’s best friends, and lean to rely on each other for the support and love that they need to get through each day.

The development of genuine friendship reminds us that looking past the surface to really see someone is what makes a crucial difference to anyone, but especially those who are so aware of that surface. There is also a painful reminder that even the nice kids can make mistakes when they focus on appearances instead of who someone really is.

This movie delivers so many powerful lessons about accepting others and even more about accepting ourselves. In both cases, we need to learn to live according to the precept established by Mr Brown in Auggie’s first lesson in 5th Grade: “When you have.a choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

It sounds simple— perhaps too simple. But is it?

The hardest part may be in finding the willingness to step out of our comfort zones and open our own minds to each other and the possibilities that our differences bring.

Everyone old enough to understand the difference between kindness and judgement should see this film.

Top Four English Language Podcasts

If you’re someone who takes knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” seriously, if you experience a secret thrill when someone uses a semi-colon or an Oxford comma properly, or if you just want to know more, these podcasts could be for you. 

Promo Top Five English Podcasts Plain

Pleasantly surprised by how popular last week’s post on my top five history podcasts proved to be, I decided to share a little more of my podcast-loving joy with you this week.

It’s common knowledge that I’m pretty nerdy about words.

I love them. I love the way they work. I love knowing where different words and phrases came from. I love using them to write and communicate ideas in interesting ways. I love knowing which words are related to each other, even when they don’t actually sound much like each other anymore, like long-lost cousins who bump into each other when they leave home to go to university, and discover their common history that the family has been hiding in the dust and cobwebs behind the skeleton in the closet.

So, it should come as no surprise that I enjoy listening to podcasts about the English language, its roots and evolution, and how it works.

If you’re someone who takes knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” seriously, if you experience a secret thrill when someone uses a semi-colon or an Oxford comma properly, or if you just want to know more, these podcasts could be for you.

So, without further ado, here are my four favourite word-nerdy podcasts.

#1. The History of English.  This podcast gets into the down and dirty of where the English language and many of the words and phrases we use came from. If you suspect that Mr Webster didn’t just go out into a cabbage patch and find a newborn lexicon crying for its mother, give this podcast a try.
twitter: @englishhistpod
http://historyofenglishpodcast.com/

#2. Lingthusiasm. This podcast explores different aspects of the English language in just over 30 minutes for each episode. It’s interesting, word-nerdy, and fun.
twitter: @lingthusiasm
http://lingthusiasm.com/

#3. The Allusionist. This podcast focuses more on lexicon and how we use words to craft and deliver meaning in particular ways. The episodes are a bit shorter than the first two placegetters, staying under 20 minutes a shot.
twitter: @AllusionistShow
www.theallusionist.org

#4. The English We Speak. This podcast from the BBC World Service explores those words and phrases we use every day in episodes that last about three minutes each. This might be a good place “to cut your teeth” if you don’t want to “go the whole hog”.  You’re catching on. Cool.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/the-english-we-speak

 

I’d really appreciate it if you would leave a comment.
And click “like”.
And if you shared my post, that would be almost like Christmas.

Almost.

WordyNerdBird’s Top Five History Podcasts.

Who doesn’t love a good history podcast?
Today, I give you my top five, along with some honourable mentions.

Promo History Podcast Top 5


Who doesn’t love a good history podcast?
Today, I give you my top five, along with some honourable mentions.


#1 Rex Factor.
In this absolutely brilliant podcast, the kings and queens of England followed by the kings and queens of Scotland are reviewed, ranked, and rated according to the qualities an ideal ruler should have. It’s both historical and hysterical. Don’t try to listen to this in the hope that it will lull you to sleep. It won’t. https://rexfactor.podbean.com/p/about/

#2 British History Podcast. A chronological history of Britain with a focus on the people and how they lived and died. It’s well told by a knowledgeable host with a very nice voice. Hey… it all helps.
https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/

#3 History of England Podcast Another chronological history of Britain, yet quite different to the BHP – David Crowther delivers the history in a bit more of an “English” style, whatever that is.
https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/

#4 Rum, Rebels and Ratbags Presented by David Hunt, author of ‘Girt’ and ‘True Girt’, and Dom Knight, this podcast explores the early years of European settlement in Australia. It’s insightful, irreverent, and irrepressibly Australian.
https://soundcloud.com/rum-rebels-ratbags

#5 History of Byzantium Podcast by Robin Pearson. This podcast picks up where the History of Rome podcast left off and explores the story of the Byzantine empire, based in Constantinople, from 476 to 1453 AD.
www.historyofbyzantium.com 

 

Honourable mentions: 

  • History of the Crusades by Sharon Easthaugh
  • Myths and Legends by Jason Weiser.
  • In Our Time by Melvyn Bragg
  • Russian Rulers History Podcast