Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Where Have I Been?

Where Have I Been? 
Where is This Blog Going?

Hello Everyone... 

I am back today to explain where I have been over the last week and why posting has become a difficulty and what you can expect from this blog going forward. I have recently moved out into the "real world" for the first time this summer at my university doing research, I have hit some bumps along the road with planning  and time management as you can see. I am researching the population dynamics of Golden-winged Warblers in the area near my university. While I love these cute little endangered songbirds, they require me to wake up each morning at 4:00AM EST to be in our research location by 5:30AM EST. Needless to say my body has not adjusted or taken this abrupt change well. Each day I take a nap during the three hours I have to myself to keep myself awake for my evening job. After my evening job is done at 9:00PM I go to the apartment and sleep until the next day. This schedule has left little time to blog or read, for that I regret it. 

Golden-winged Warbler Breeding Habitat
However, I also have come to recognize that I am a workaholic. Thus meaning if I have a topic I am learning about or working for I will devote my whole life, and all of my free time to it. This is not good, nor is it healthy. I am working on a routine right now where I will build in time to read and blog each day of the week for about two hours by curbing the length of my naps, fingers crossed it will start to work soon. I have a joural where I keep my plans and necessary activities for the day to which I have now added a section for relaxation and fun. I know, I know how lame can you get, needing to schedule fun time? Well pretty lame if you see me, I am finding my research and other wrk to be dangerously consumptive of my life and I need to make a change; planning my free time for fun is how I intend to do it. 

Local Humane Society has also taken my time, and heart.
That being said, I am going to leap head first back into blogging and reading this week. If I try to take baby steps I will just fail and fade out again which was never the goal initially. I will have a post up on Friday as well to let you know my weekend goals for reading and reviewing as well. I have not moved on from those books which I listed last week as I have not been reading as much as I would like. The Great British Bake Off and research life have stepped into my reading time which I do not like and will be cutting back on or rearranging to fit reading. I have many books for review at the moment which I may put aside to make myself excited about reading again and just to start fresh with all new books. Let me know how you all get through reading funks or how you think I can shake this weird funk?

Regardless of my absence on the blog, I assure you I am always active on Twitter (@Komondor70) and on my GoodReads page (Wil H.) That being said I will be back in a big way this week with some chatty posts and even some critical thoughts on books that I have started recently. Keep your eyes on the blog to see upcoming blog giveaways, articles, and reviews... I promise they are coming as imminently as the Winter in A Song of Ice and Fire!

Do not forget, I still have not selected a winner on my blog for the Jennifer McMahon Giveaway of Burntown. This I will leave open until Saturday, May 27th at 12:00AM EST. Please follow this link o see how to enter:

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Weekly Reading Goals

Weekly Reading Plans
May 15th-21st

Hello Everyone, 

I am here today with a quick post about what I intend to read this week. I know many of these books you will have seen me speak about before, however I still have not read them yet. That being said I may throw in some other books to keep it interesting for you and I. This week marks the start of my summer research with my university, and my advisor has not returned yet to help me begin so I have until the 19th to read and enjoy almost open daily schedules! That being said I am still reading articles and reports for my research during the day so it is not all allocated to reading, sadly. 

This week I intend to make some headway in a few books, hopefully. This books begin with:  by: Rachael Kasper and Robert Wills, this book was written by two local authors in my hometown and I was lucky enough to get a review copy from them. This book follows the Thorpe family and a women called Ellen as they cross paths and learn to love and help one another, it is truly amazing so far. I am currently on page 133 of 551, needless to say I do not foresee this book getting read completely this week. 

The second book that I am hoping to make some headway into is The Hearts of Men by: Nickolas Butler. This book follows many characters whom all have ties to a Boy Scout summer camp and their lives as their worlds get increasingly more chaotic. Being an Eagle Scout I requested this novel from the publisher, Ecco, and was kindly awarded a copy
and I would love to finish it in May. I am currently on page 65 of 400 pages. This novel is a slow paced exploration of what it means to be human and an adolescent and how society forces us to grow up, it is therefore slow moving and rather dense.

The final book that I intend to start and finish this week is The Heart of Stone by: Ben Galley. This is Ben's newest novel and he was kind enough to send it to me for review and I am very eager to dive in and share with you all my thoughts on the book. The plot follows a golem and his war torn land where his masters are always fighting a war using him as a weapon; but now a new war has broken out and it is time to
decide whether to fight or abandon the only thing he has ever seen, war. This book sounds like a great epic romp through a fantastical world, and I cannot wait to dive in!

These are the books that I hope to make progress in this week, we will see how I am able to get on with this challenge at the end of the week. I always seem to bite off more than I can chew in terms of reading for a given week, though I am hoping that this summer will allow me ample time to read and write reviews for you all. 

What are you all reading this week? 
Don't forget to enter the McMahon giveaway, it closes this Friday May 19th.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jennifer McMahon Interview: May 10th 2017

Vermont Horror Writer Interview: 
Jennifer McMahon

Hello Everyone, 

Sorry for the hiatus from blogging this week, the real world just caught up to me and I realized that I needed to focus more on the aspects in my personal life than Blogging. I have completed my second year at university and just came home for a few days on Tuesday-Sunday to see family before my research begins on Monday. That being said, the lovely Jennifer McMahon's newest novel Burntown just released and I had the pleasure of speaking her about the writing process and Burtown on Wednesday afternoon. For those of you who do not know who Ms. McMahon is, I will link her website below so you can read about her novels and where she is hosting events. 

Who is Jennifer?
This biography was taken directly from McMahon's website: 
"I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we’re living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure."

The following are some interesting portions of our conversation on Wednesday, I hope you all enjoy this and if you have not yet given her works a try I implore you to do so very soon!


Jennifer McMahon and I at The North Branch Cafe, Vermont
- Me/Wil (same person): Where do you get your inspiration for your stories, and why do you think that Vermont lends itself to your style of writing? 

-McMahon: "I get my inspiration from everywhere, I have inspiration from everything around me. I get a lot of inspiration from dreams, I keep a notebook on the side of my bed and I write down all my dreams every morning; quite a few of my books have atleast scenes if not whole story arcs that were inspired by dreams. My brain is an idea factory I feel like... Vermont is just, I love it here so I came here to go to college in the late eighties and never really left; I mean I left for short periods but I always came back. I feel because I am not a native Vermonter, I am a flatlander that gives me this outsider status so I can pick up on things that I might not necessarily pick up on if I had grown up here. I love playing with the idea that we live in this beautiful idyllic place, but what if things aren't like they seem... I try to set my books in other places sometimes, but they always seem to come back to Vermont (chuckling)... Each book is based in a fictional town that I create, and each time I have to make a map for the town... Because I want to get the details right."

-Wil: Creating towns for these novels, do you just pull inspiration from all the towns you have been in all over the state?

-McMahon: "I do, and I also spend a lot of time looking at maps. Especially when I am creating maps for my books, I also visit physical towns for inspiration. Burntown is different than every other novel I have written, in that it is set in a small rundown mill town instead of the rural woods of Vermont... I spent a lot of time in New Hampshire, Manchester New Hampshire looking at the ways the mills shaped the "city" and also what happened once they went away... In my next book part of it is set in a bog, so this summer my plan is to go bog hopping in Vermont to gather information on the setting."

-Wil: I noticed when you are writing you often have multi-layered timelines going on, especially with Winter People, how do you keep everything straight in your mind?

-McMahon: "I tend to write chunks of each timeline sort of all together, you know if I am stuck in the early 1900's timeline I will write a whole bunch of that out and then I will divide it up into chunks and go back and forth later. I have to be careful, for example in that book I have two timelines going on which I need to keep separate story arcs and make sure it is not too jarring to go back and forth between the two, because I do not want to lose the reader. I keep lots of notes, I have timelines going on, I have lots of charts, even then when I write my first draft it is always a terrible mess... Every single time I write a book I print out my copy and I lay it all out chapter by chapter all over the floor of my house and then I move things around, like doing a giant collage almost. Only when the story is laying all about the house do I really start to understand what the book is going to look like. Once it is finally in a collage on the floor I then will make outlines and timelines to find the missing pieces and put everything together again." 

-Wil: When you were starting to write, was there a specific turning point in which you knew you wanted to write for a living, or was it something you always did and it morphed into something larger?

-McMahon: "I started writing in third grade. I wrote my first short story then about a haunted meatball, and I was hooked from that moment on. It was this magical thing where I got to create this universe and make anything happen, including having a meatball be glowing green and haunted and haunting the little boy who was trying to eat him. It was magic! My teacher gave me good feedback and recommended that I take a writing class that summer and I loved it. I predominantly wrote poetry previously, I studied poetry at Goddard college. My poems grew into something that was more complex where I was trying to tell stories and they were getting longer and turning into prose poems, one day I was working on one and it just kept growing. That turned into a novel."

-Wil: I know a lot of authors actually project themselves into their works along with those around them, is this something that you do?

-McMahon: " I never do it intentionally, there are definitely little pieces of me in all of my characters and probably little pieces of people I know whether it be a person I see at the grocery store, or a dear friend. But I never base a character on anyone I know in real life."

-Wil: With Burntown, now that you are going around and doing a lot of tour stops and readings, how do you stay excited about a book while you are on tour?

-McMahon: " It is pretty easy for me to get excited, and be excited about my work. But honestly I finish a book and it goes into the world of editing and production and in the mean time I am writing a whole new book that I am working on. When a book comes out I am going on tour but my head has this new story in it, I have to stop working on the new book and reread the touring book. When rereading I get excited again about my books and am able to talk about them and remember the details... I love going out on tour and meeting people, though it is a little stressful."

-Wil: With Burntown, if you could pitch it to someone in one sentence, how would you describe it?
Jennifer McMahon's Newest Novel

-McMahon: "It's about a young woman who is homeless and has been on the streets for four years, she has been accused of murder and finds herself on the run from the police and the real killer; she must look into the secrets of her own past to save herself."

-Wil: With the character Necco in Burntown, is there any reason why she has this as a nickname?

-McMahon: " Eva (Necco) goes through and event called The Great Flood, her mother tells her the story of the flood, Her mother also tells her that when she woke up from the flood she had a head injury and her mother was so happy to see that she was okay and asked her if there was anything that she could get Eva, and Eva responded Necco Wafer Candy because they are her favorite candy. From this point on they reinvent themselves with new names and go on the run."

-Wil: Thank you for coming out here and chatting with me this afternoon, your books bring the strangeness of Vermont to life.

Ms.McMahon was kind enough to bring a signed copy of her new novel Burntown for me to giveaway in this post. If this book is anything like her previous books it will blow you away with her quality of writing and the amount of subtle unease that she is able to weave into the story will keep you up late into the evening. To enter this giveaway you must: 
  • Leave a comment saying that you want to enter, and your favorite book or a book you would recommend to people. 
  • Be atleast 16 with parental permission to give your address as I will need to ship this item to you. 
  • Tweet me/follow me @Komondor70 that you want to be entered in the giveaway. 
The winner will be drawn/announced on Twitter and contacted on Saturday May the 20th, and your prize will be shipped on Monday May 22nd. 


Happy Reading!

Friday, May 5, 2017

My War and Peace Summer

My War and Peace Summer

Hello Everyone, 

By this point in my blog, I am sure you are all tired of hearing me yap on about my summer in New York where I will be studying birds with my university, though today I have some rather daunting and exciting news about those summer plans. First I am moving into my first apartment for the summer tomorrow which is devilishly exciting to think that I will be able to decorate and cook in my own style, not only that, it also means that since we will not have cable or TV in anyway there that I will be able to indulge in the silence and read. Having only Netflix and books this summer and the wilderness as my entertainment is wildly exciting and I cannot wait! 

You all will know by the title of this post that this summer I intend to read War and Peace by: Leo Tolstoy. Why would I want to take on such a challenge you might be asking yourselves right now, well let me explain my motives. War and Peace, much like Ulysses is looked at to be the highest achievement a reader can attain through reading the tome, that being said I am not getting any younger at this point and I should take advantage of the reading that I can do now. That being said I have fallen in love with the new Broadway Musical, Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 written by Dave Malloy. This play is based on the romance in War and Peace, being that I would love to attend the show at the end of the summer I MUST read the source material first. I would also like to read this book since it is many people's favorite book of all time, and it aligns with my fascination about Russia. 

My Copy of War and Peace
I will be joining in and reading from the Vintage Classic Red Spine version of War and Peace which is translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky. This book has a total page count of 1,217 pages, with rather small font so we will see if I can complete it. Sadly my copy which I bought second hand is slightly waterlogged, and I was unaware of that at the time of the purchase, however if I love it I will purchase a pristine copy. 

This book will take me the entirety of the summer to read and enjoy, though I aim to take it slow so that I am able to have these characters keep me company throughout my time away from home. I am going to be reading this with a Buddy Reading Group that is hosted by Ange and Yamini who are from BeyondthePages and TheSkepticalReader on YouTube. This readalong will start on June 1st and run through the 31st of July 2017, each day we will be reading approximately six chapters to slowly work our way through this tome. They have a Twitter account that you can check out if you would like to join in on the fun, WP Read-a-Long. I am so excited to start and I cannot wait to dive into this richly rewarding read. The reading schedule can be found on this Spreadsheet


Needless to say, I am crazy about Russia and their literature, I cant wait to dive into the greatest classic to come from Russia very very soon! What are you reading this summer, will you be diving into a tome as well?

Happy Reading!

Purging the Shelves

Purging the Shelves & Why I Must...

Hello Everyone, 

Today' post is more of a rambling post in which I want to chat to you all about the reasons that we get rid of books from our collections and why I need to do this very soon. For myself I get rid of books if I do not want to read them any longer, or if I have read them and do not care enough to own them anymore. Though at the moment the reason why I am forced to think of getting rid of books is the sheer volume that I own and the very limited amount of space that  have to house them in. 

I own a lot of books, I think on the order of more than 250. Those books are not all read, not even close. I am enjoying the experience of cultivating my own library, however I am worried that I have finally run out of space to house the thing that brings me most joy right now, books. It is for that reason that when I go home for a few days next week that I must purge the collection to maintain some sense of normalcy and balance. All of my current shelves are stacked to the brim with books, many of which I have not had the urge to read in many months, those are the ones that will be leaving the stacks of my shelves. 
This is an old photo of my books,
I now have another full case that
would not be in this picture

Getting rid of books is not always the easiest thing when you are a book lover and you think about the amount of money that you have spent on them. Though it has come to a point where I must start to thin my collection in order to stay sane. This is not something that I will have an issue with when I own my own home or apartment, however right now I just have my bedroom in my parents home when I am not at University which does not allow for me to keep many books. 

When I get rid of my books I tend to bring them to the local bookshop near me for credit, however this time I may bring them to a few bookshops to distribute the wealth from my collection. There is a used and new shop that I love, Bear Pond Books, where I bring most of my books to; and the Book Garden where I go when I need to find some lesser well known books and classics. For that reason I will be splitting up the areas where I donate them to this time, as I hope to diversify what I pick up in the future. 

Wish me luck when I go home to select wisely for those books that I care greatly about and would like to keep, and getting rid of those that have stood on my shelf for a long time. 

Happy Reading, and Book Purging!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Weekly Reading Plans

Weekly Reading Plans: 

Hello Everyone, 

I am back today after a slight bread this weekend to bring you some reading and other bookish goals for this week. This week marks the beginning of the end. University final exams are occurring during this week so I am not anticipating that I will finish a book this week. That being said I do have some book related plans that are going to happen this week as well. 

With final exams going on it means that it is almost time to move out of my university housing and on my own for the summer. This will be my first time living on my own. Part of my main book goals this week is to go through my books which I have here at university to select the books that will remain with me for the summer in my apartment.  This is going to be a very hard thing to do though I cannot keep all of my books that are here with me at university right now. Keeping all of my books that are currently with me would just take up space that I do not have in the small apartment. Some of my major goals for this summer (2 month) experience is to read large books interspersed with review copies and research material. That being said a large goal of mine is to read through the entirety of War and Peace by: Leo Tolstoy this summer. Aside from a mammoth Russian classic, I will be delving further into my escapism, science fiction and fantasy. I will bring out a post on May 15th with the books that I kept with me to read through my summer of research. 

When I am not studying and calculating the grade I need on the final exam to get an A in my courses people can expect to see me reading a few books slowly. Those books include: 
  1. New York 2140
    1. by: KIm Stanley Robinson 
    2. This is a science fiction book speaking about the possible impending flood of our planet when the ice caps melt, and how a large city such as New York would handle that. I am finding the large character base to be very comprehensive and enjoyable. Though this novel is over 600 pages, regardless of the fact that I wish to curl up with a cup of tea for hours to read it, I cannot. 
  2. The Collapsing Empire
    1. by: John Scalzi 
    2. This is Mr. Scalzi's newest novel that I have checked out from the library to read and explore. I am glad that this was a library copy since I am still hesitant if I would want to own a physical copy,  I do not think that it will get reread, and it has a plethora of cursing in the dialog. 
Reading a big catastrophe book filled with excellent characters and an expansive world viewpoint, to reading about an excessive cursing new emperor. And selecting the novels which will be staying with me this summer while I remain at school. Those are just a few of the many bookish things I have planned for this week. Many more bookish events will happen this week, though they will be university books that I will be focussing on. 

Posts This Week:
  • Meeting authors: The Perks, and the Joys
  • War and Peace Reading Plans
  • Weeding the Bookshelves: Why I need to do it and Why I hesitate
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review 4-26-17

By: Brian Kimberling

Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in the United States Midwest, with all of its oddities and cozy small towns? Snapper allows you to do just that. This novel follows the main character, Nathan, who is from Evansville Indiana on his journey through life. Each period of his life is covered through this short novel, his younger years, mid twenties, and thirties and onward. Nathan Lochmueller is a birder who studies the migration and general interactions of songbirds in Indiana for the Audubon Society, this attribute drew me fully into this story. Through Nathan's issues with finding love, birding, and coming from a small town in a rural state I was able to identify with him greatly.  The character development that this novel exhibits is sporadic and slow to build, though I assure you by the end of the novel you will be rooting for Nathan to figure out his life and to help all of those who were trapped in that Midwest town. 

This novel has what I would deem a meandering plot with no true purpose but to show the reader how the Midwest differs culturally from other parts of the world. Just because this novel does not have an explicit plot set that it is going to follow, does not mean it is without merit. This book spoke to me on a few levels about the hardships that are ahead of myself in life, heartbreak which I knew, standing up for what you believe in, and taking a leap of faith for love and career goals. Heartbreak is shown through Nathan's relationship with a fly by night girl, Lola. Lola is spunky and a drifter who is never able to commit, to give you an idea of her personality, she painted Nathan's truck with mermaids and butterflies and named it the Gypsy Moth. Standing for what you believe in is a constant theme through this novel, be it when Nathan takes the state lumber company to court to slow legislation that will harm the songbirds in the area, or cherishing a human thigh bone. The court case is rather self explanatory, however you have to read the book to learn the mystery behind the human thigh bone. Having a leap of faith is illustrated perhaps in the most poignant way at the end of the book when Nathan takes a job out of his state, in my home state of Vermont. This is something that I have been struggling with for a long time, as I would love to work in Vermont after graduating with my degree. However, I realize that may not happen and I may need to move where the jobs are, this is something I am still mulling over the benefits of. 

This novel paints a rich scene of southern Indiana, full of racial prejudice and quirky happenings that define the strange place in America. This book is not always an easy and enjoyable read as it covers topics involving the KKK and the shortcomings of our justice system, however I would say that is is worth the read. If you have any interest at all in the natural world or conservation ecology this novel will give you the extra mile, Nathan's relationships with the group of songbirds he observes is both harrowingly melancholy and comforting. While I do not think this book is going to be for everyone, it made an impact on my life as I am able to for better or worse relate to Nathan and his struggles and love of songbirds. All in all this book follows a quirky man, a small town, racial issues, heartbreak, and songbirds to give a complete and fully realized story of the Midwest.  

Quote: "I got my job by accident. A sycamore tree landed on the roof of my predecessor's 4x3 during a thunderstorm. he spent six months in a neck brace."

Rating: 4 stars

Happy Reading!