Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Much-Loved and Favoured

I occasionally find myself in a mood that has me turning to the steady greatness of some of my much-loved and favoured authors. For these authors I have many, many, many titles from their book lists gracing my shelves and digital libraries. Some titles I even have in multiple copies – the new release hardcovers, the well-read trades and paperbacks, and, of course, the easily transportable digital e-books. These books are housed – always – on shelves that prominently display the spines in my living room, my office space, in my kitchen and my bedroom. Despite the multitude of their books already owned, when I see a title by one of these authors which I don’t already have, I finagle some way to get it.


Well, 95% of the time.

Sometimes I have to briefly add it to my “purchase wish-list” until the next time I have the money to make the buy.

When I get in to certain moods I’ll storm through books by a specific author the way other women will dig their way through every flavour of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And no matter how many times I’ve read or re-read a story, during these binge periods of reading I am reminded with every single book why I love the author’s work.

I’m not really sure of exactly what spurred my current headfirst dive into all things Nora Roberts. I suppose it was a combination of things that had my focus narrowing and my vision tunnelling to the exclusion of nearly all else for the past month. Primarily I guess the prod came from the whole #CopyPasteCris plagiarism debacle that is currently a BIG deal in the writing, publishing, and book worlds. I’m not going to go in to the details – if you want to learn more about it all, I recommend you check out Nora’s official blog Fall Into The Story where she has posted a series of really good and informative updates over the past month regarding the situation. Until word of the whole thing broke publicly, I’d never even heard of Cristiane Serruyo. But I’d heard of, read, and loved a good number of the titles and authors that she's purported to have plagiarised. (From my personal p.o.v., I think there is more than enough evidence to prove to even the most skeptical that the accusations are fact.)

So maybe it was anger, of a certain form, that plunged me into my current backlist re-read.

I actually managed to do some of that finagling I mentioned earlier to get myself digital copies of all The Stanislaskis: Those Wild Ukrainians series books as well as the books in The Stars of Mithra trilogy, and the books Three Fates and Public Secrets. All of which were personal previously unread Nora creations and all of which I absolutely loved. In the reading mix as well have been some of the newer NR releases, The Liar and The Obsession to name a couple.

One thing that I find so interesting is seeing the way Nora’s writing has adapted to the changing cultural, societal, and technological norms of the times. It’s intriguing to read a story that was published decades ago, for example Secret Star: Stars of Mithra #3 published in 1997, complete with it’s main characters’ reliance on his pager and fax machine, and imagine the story within today’s framework of technology. Would those technological advancements change the course the story would take in it’s telling? Or how about the reverse? Take the story in The Liar back 20 or 30 years and it’s possible that the whole truth within the dastardly tale never would have been revealed. 

I just finished (re)reading Genuine Lies and I continue to be fascinated by the glitz and glamour of Eve Benedict’s life through the decades, enchanted by the understated, but budding and building romance between Julia and Paul, and I am, as always, intrigued by the mystery and the twists as-yet-unrevealed. I’ve read the story several times before and still, every time is like the first and I’m never disappointed; and each time I re-read a story I find something new, something wonderful. 

In the past month I’ve read just about 20 Nora Roberts books – a fair number of them are even ones that I’ve never read before – and I’m still not ready to veer away from this course quite yet. Yesterday I scrolled through the list of Roberts’ titles I could get my hands on through my local library’s digital access license… Happily I now have 7 more of those personal previously unread NR stories waiting on my digital shelf to entrance me, with a couple more on hold and headed my way shortly. If I love them as much as I have all her other works, I imagine my purchase wish-list is about to grow even longer!

Nora Roberts is just one of my ‘much-loved and favoured authors.’ There are others and if you’ve followed this blog in the past, or follow my Facebook Page, chances are you’ll know who some of the others are. But what of yours?

Who are the authors who’s books you are inspired you to read, re-read, and read again? Which authors do you have extensive library space devoted to?

If you had to pick an absolute favourite, who would it be? 

*book covers were curated from Nora's official website, or from Goodreads

**If you'd like to discover the full list of books published by Nora Roberts, I recommend her website as an excellent place to start!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Now I'm Here - Back, Again.

It has been a year since I posted here on the UDIO Blog. Even though I’ve been reading, through the course of the past year I have been unable to truly put words to paper, or screen as the case may be. Not to effectively communicate anything really. I have struggled and I am still struggling even now to find a way to explain. 

Over the past month or so I’ve begun to slip back into the blogging world though because I need to. The truth, as bare and plain as it is, is that I need to get back to the things that I’m passionate about: books and authors, stories that have been told, and new ones that are still waiting for their time in the light. But also, writing. I’ve needed to write - in a way I don’t know if I will ever be able to adequately explain. So my re-entry in the blogging sphere has been slow but steady. It’s been a step-by-step process. 

First I started by writing about my family (on A Corner Table in My World) and there I shared an explanation about why I disappeared from the blogosphere last year. The short of it being that after a traumatic 2017, a year that ended by rocking my and my family’s foundation, I shut down shortly after the start of 2018. I had to focus inward: on myself, on my kids, on my family. I struggled every single day. Not just to put a smile on my face and pretend that everything was okay (even though I was doing just that), but to do anything beyond the absolute necessary for my family was beyond what I was capable of at the time. Some days it still is. 

In figuring out my next step I realized that it wasn’t just blogging I wanted to get back to this year, but that I really wanted, and needed, to get back to writing my own stories. So I spent some time determining how I may be able to do that. I blogged about that on Inside My Mind just after the first of the month, where I shared with everyone my writing goals for 2019. One of the goals I list there is to blog at least once a month on each of my blogs. As a starting point anyways. 

Which brings me to the here and to now. Ups, Downs, Ins & Outs has been my baby, my stress relief, my not-so-secret love affair, and a source of pride for well over a decade. It has changed through the years, evolved as I found my footing, floundered as ‘real life’ has demanded more of my attention, and grown tremendously from its origins. I will never walk away from it entirely - despite the evidence of this past year - because it holds too much of my heart and soul. Finding a way to move forward with all the things I want and need to do for myself, without becoming overwhelmed by it all may be difficult, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year it’s that while my family is and always will be the center of my very existence, if I’m not happy with ME, their happiness will always be not-quite-enough to sustain me. It can’t be a them or me kind of thing, it has to be all of us. Otherwise, we’re all just... surviving. And I can’t tell you how deeply I want more than that for us. I don’t want us to just survive. I want us to live and to thrive. 

I'm not able to dive exclusively back in to this blog, not wholly, and not without attention my family still needs being diverted here. But I am ready to start wading in, to start getting my feet wet again and talking about books and the amazing authors who write them. The Author of the Month feature is still going to be on hold. I hope to eventually bring it back this year in some form but I have to find a way to do it that doesn’t negatively impact my family. That may not be the right way to say it but I want to be able to run the Author of the Month and give the author, and their work and books, all the attention and promotion that they deserve... but I need to figure out how to do that while also doing and being everything to my family that they need me to be. 

To start with, I have a stack of review requests that I will begin to address. I’ll do reviews and promote when and how I’m able. And I’ll figure things out, I will, it just may take some time. I have to because as dramatic as it sounds, this past year there has been a little piece of me inside that’s been dead, it’s withered. I need to bring that piece back to life. So I will figure things out. 
In the meantime I designed new logos for all the blogs and for the social media accounts connected to them. I’ve been sharing them, launching them into use over the past couple weeks and the UDIO blog is the last to be unveiled. Here it is:

I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll stick around to see how UDIO will continue it's evolution in the book blogging world. 

Now tell me: 
What was your favourite book of 2018? 
What are you reading right now?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

FAOM: Excerpts & Extras

As a bonus, this weekend I’ve got an excerpt from Life’s Defeat to share with you. It’s always difficult for me to choose what slice of the story to share as an excerpt. Especially when a book is as captivating and as fascinating as this one. How much is too much? What is too revealing? What is just revealing enough? I don’t want too give too much away after all, I just want to give you a glimpse of why I’m so entranced.

My poor brain, people... LOL!!

In the end I settled on two pieces to share. Hopefully neither is too little or too much, and hopefully together you’ll see at least a brief sliver of what I see in this book and in the rest of the series novels as well.


~~~~~~~~~~~ Excerpt 1 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

            The first time I went up against the man with the cigar personally, it was by mistake.
            I remember being young, the tender age of sixteen and newly made a soldier. We had finished a mission, my comrades and I, sabotaging an act of corruption so deep there was a good chance we had saved many people within a village from a devious fate. Drug production and prostitution were averted, women and children free to return home unharmed while the men worked, feverish, in the mines of the hills.
            For all that I lacked in experience, I was disciplined and well-trained—I knew I had proven myself well. Still, I was unprepared for the outright menacing act of the madman. As my team prepared to leave, I turned, witnessing the criminal step from a secret door out of the warehouse.
            I called out for my teammates, but the words fell on deaf ears as the blades of our helicopter created a small windstorm in the dusty alleyway. Turning back, I stepped toward the man with the cigar’s large black vehicle, seeing him pause before disappearing behind the opened door.
            He stared at me, the faintest of smiles tugging at his lips as he removed his cigar. He threw it, smoldering, to the ground, his pocked-face lightening as his eyes pierced into my soul. I didn’t look away, my youth betraying a defiance I thought I needed to express authority.
            The gods know I was a fool then.
            As he stepped into the oversized SUV, I saw the vehicle dip with the weight of the robust criminal and his accomplices. The doors closed, and still I stared. Then he was there, leaning forward from the front passenger seat, his face again looking at me as his smile became a grin. He gave an order and the vehicle lurched forward.
            To this day I am not sure why I didn’t act, why I didn’t run back to the helicopter and request help, why I didn’t at least pull my gun when I first saw the man and shoot him in the brain.
            It could have saved so much pain, so much heartache.
            Instead, it took me a moment to realize that the man had ordered my execution—the SUV was headed straight for me at a breakneck speed. Two choices flew through my head then, to dive out of the way or to try to take down the men. Stupidly, I chose the latter.
            Time seemed to slow as the engine of the black beast roared with its speed. I reached beside me, pulling my gun, and with a flick of the safety began to shoot. The bullets ricocheted off the windshield with appalling speed, their target shifting as I attempted to find a sweet spot in the glass, any vulnerability at all.
            There was none.
            By the time I figured out the vehicle was impenetrable, it was too close. Despite the speed with which I turned and raced for my own team’s mode of escape, I wasn’t fast enough.
            When the vehicle hit, there was a massive shove, sounds of crunching as the front grill imprinted into my back. I spun around as I fell to the ground. The vehicle bounced as I related a speed bump, both sets of tires driving over my arm. I lay there on the ground, my eyes closed as I reminded myself to breathe, the air coming in short gasps from a pain within my lungs.
            Bursts of immense irritation emerged then, throbbing stabs of agony from my arm and leg, wetness spreading across my head and limbs. I cried out, tears escaping my already swollen eyelids. I heard the engine slow as the vehicle did, felt a tremor within the loose ground as it skidded sideways to a stop. I shifted, my body protesting with pain as I fought to sit up, my eyes opening to focus on the helicopter. They had noticed me, my captain running in my direction now, yelling something I couldn’t catch.
            Rolling over slowly, I forced myself to my uninsured knee, hoisting myself up somehow onto a foot that was shaky at best. I had no choice—I couldn’t stay in the street, and I feared the vehicle would come back if I lay there long enough. My only choice was to get back to the helicopter, no matter how.
            I glanced at the SUV, my neck mobile enough for slight movement, and caught the eye of the man with the cigar. His face peered out the window with a look of contemplation. He nodded once as I straightened my back, my spine blossoming in a pain I barely knew possible. The window rolled up as the vehicle took off once more. This time, it drove away.
                        ~ Life’s Defeat, page 8-11, First Printing, 2015

~~~~~~~~~~~~ Excerpt 2 ~~~~~~~~~~~

            As soldier of the cause, we fought hand to hand, aimed our guns and pulled the triggers with immediate discretion, and used our youth to deceive and betray those who we knew lived to the detriment of others. They were criminals, all of them, slavers and drug dealers, killers and narcotic producers. Their work was to put mankind into a slump of despair and dependence.
            Ours was to take them down.
            And once in the school’s secretive military faction for some time, what I learned StPatrick had told me tong ago was a brotherhood, I learned a truth about myself. I was very good at what I did. Too good.
            It was both thrilling and terrifying.
                        ~ Life’s Defeat, page 23, First Printing, 2015


I hope these little pieces of the story I’ve shared, these early looks at the thoughts and actions of the main character, as well as a small glimpse of the depravity of the “man with the cigar” to come, has intrigued you. I hope it’s been enough to make you consider getting the book and reading the first part of the story of The Life’s series. Because truthfully - it is so worth it.

If you’ve missed my reviews of Life’s Defeat you can see the original 2015 review here, and my new review of it here.

And if you’ve yet to enter to win one of the three great prizes in this month’s FAOM Giveaway, do it now - a copy of Life’s Defeat is just one of the amazing things you could claim on February 28th!

I hope you’ve been enjoying your weekend and I leave you now to enjoy the rest of it!

Happy Reading... or whatever you may be up to.