So, for a third month in a row I have a “What I’m Reading” post. That’s a record, and I credit it with my recent use of public transportation. I won’t bother with all the cost and environmental benefits of taking the city bus, but I will say that my rides to the studio provide a great transition between rushing to the get the kids off to school and me sitting my butt down at my desk to work. My mind and body get the needed time to wake while I can indulge in one of my favorite hobbies: reading.
Last months reads:
- The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey (enjoyed this one so much that I ordered books 2 & 3 in the series)
- A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck
Another month of riding public transportation: most days I ride the city bus with the boy to his school and then hop on the light rail to my studio. And another month during which I was able to tackle a number of books that have been collecting dust on my to-read pile.
- Randoms by David Liss (Oct. Guy’s Read Book Club book)
- Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff (a local St Paul author)
- The Marvels by Brian Selsznick (since I read Wonder Struck last month)
- The Night Gardener by Johnathan Auxier (this one was actually a Christmas gift two years ago)
Last weekend, I headed home for a nephew’s high school graduation. And while I could have crashed on somebody’s couch or stayed in a hotel, my first instinct is always to look for a place to camp. Camping and fishing were some of my favorite summer activities as a kid. Heck, I used take my grandfather’s old canvas tent, which he got it in the military, and set it up in the backyard. I’d sleep out there often as my parents would let me.
So this trip was no different, and I pitched my tent at Collins Park, a park I spent a lot of time at as a kid. I stayed at a car camping site since I was only there for one night and didn’t want to go through the work of hiking into a remote spot.
Whenever I go camping, along with some of the basic supplies needed to survive, like bug spray—the mosquitoes were thick—I bring books. Usually I load up my Nook as I don’t want to carry around too much. There’s just something incredibly peaceful about sitting in the middle of the woods and loosing myself in a book. This trip, I choose to dig into the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan. I enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Olympians so figured I made a good choice. I read through book 1 on day one, and then the next morning, as my coffee was brewing, I started book 2.
They are nice light reads—great for that down time between hikes or while sitting around the campfire waiting to make S’mores. And I’m sure I’ll finish book 2 before my next camping trip.
It’s been a while since I’ve post anything about what I’ve been reading. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been cracking open a book here and there. Aside from actual writing, reading is probably the most important thing I do to hone my craft. It allows me to see how other authors use words and phrases. How they describe scenes and construct stories. How they create characters and breath life into them. Not to mention, reading provides a necessary break from writing so that my creative juices replenish.
So here’s what I’ve been reading.
The One and Only Ivan—a 2013 Newberry winner and based on a true story; Ivan is an artistic gorilla that is one of the main attractions at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. But when Ruby, a young elephant joins the other attractions, Ivan uses his art to change their lives for the better.
One Crazy Summer—this was one of the books my son had to read for his school book club, so I thought I’d check it out too.
Tesla’s Attic—book one in the Accelerati Trilogy, with each book focusing on one of the world’s most amazing scientists.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures—I read this one to my daughter, and it had her screaming, “the squirrel got vacuumed up!”
And lastly, I just watched the movie the Maze Runner. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the whole series, and that’s what I’ll be reading next.
This year has not been the best for my to-read list—mostly because I’ve been busy with house projects like remodeling my kitchen. So that to-read list has turned into a to-read pile. Soon, I may even need a bookshelf dedicated to the books I want to read, but here are the ones I’m working on.
—Mudville and The Robots of Winter by Kurtis Scalletta. I recently saw him read at one of my favorite book stores, The Red Balloon in St. Paul.
—The One and Only Ivan, a Newberry winner by Kathrine Applegate,
—The Breadwinner trilogy, which I received as a birthday present, by Deborah Ellis.
My goal is to knock this off my list by the end of the year.
Some of you may know the story behind the book (JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit) that nudged me toward wanting to be a writer. While Tolkein may have planted the seed, it was Terry Brooks, and his Shannara trilogies, who nourished my aspirations. Yeah, I was big into fantasy when younger, and the genre still holds a special place in my writing aspirations—I will one day write a book about dragons!
Next week, Terry Brooks will be reading at the Hennepin County Library from his newest book in the Shannara saga. I am beyond stoked! I even managed to find my original copy of The Elfstones of Shannara to possibly get signed. Too bad my copy of The Sword of Shannara, the first book in the series, had fallen apart years ago—it was a well read and treasured book.
Back in 2005, I had my first Comic Con adventure in San Diego. It was filled with tons of comics, fish tacos, gorgeous weather, people dressed in costume, a jaunt down to Mexico, more comics, a visit with an old high school friend of mine on artist row (Scott Kolins—we used to draw superheroes in art class), a photo op with Orson Scott Card, lots of swag . . . a literal nerd fest.
Amidst the numbing masses of people and hundreds of booths, I stumbled across Alexis Fajardo, author and illustrator of Kid Beowulf. Of the armloads of comics I brought home with me (I actually had to leave clothes behind to make room for them all in my suitcase), Alexis’s graphic novel was one of the few that stuck with me.
If like me you’re a fan of Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker trilogy, you’re probably a fan of alternative history, stories using the events and people from the past as a framework but adding some creative twists. In Kid Beowulf, Alexis tells the tale of a young Beowulf and his twin brother Grendel (his twist on characters from the classic tale of Beowulf) as they travel throughout Europe and meet some of the epic heroes from the middle ages. If all history lessons were told using Alexis’s sense of humor while presented in his fun, comic illustrative style, more people would pay attention to their history lessons.
Now to get things up to date, a few months back Alexis told me of his KickStarter project to help pay for the re-issue of volume one of Kid Beowulf while also printing volume two and three. I just had to get in on the action and throw my support to someone who was creating stories that I thoroughly enjoyed. Well, just days ago, I received my rewards for that support: three personally signed copies of the first three Kid Beowulf graphic novels along with some swag.
I’ve already plowed through volume on, The Blood Bound Oath, and am currently digging into The Song of Roland. Truly appreciate the lucky happenstance that led me to meeting Alexis all those years ago as it’s provided me with some fantastic reads. Best of luck to him and Kid Beowulf!