Interview with Leo X. Robertson

It’s the first interview for this blog, a start to a series. I finally got the guts to write interview questions and  click send. Those who don’t remember who this is, Leo X. Robertson is the author of Findesferas, Sinkhole, and Rude Vile Pigs. I am also working on a zine, which will include these author interviews and other writerly stuff. Which will be uploaded online first and maybe soon in physical. That zine will be an e-zine. 

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1. What do you think is the best in the process of writing? Just going through with it, slamming keys, getting everything down, or reading and editing? 

Writing every day until the first draft is done is definitely the way to go- that’s not to say I have the stamina to do it every time! The thing I’m writing at the moment I had to take a break from, and I ended up half-editing half-writing- it was a misstep. Write to the end, take a break, edit with a clear head. Tried, tested, hard to go wrong.

2. Who is your writer crush? 
Brain crush: David Foster Wallace. Face crush: Jonathan Safran Foer. 
Foer sure is a cutie – Li

 

3. Do you have a soundtrack when you write? if so, what albums or artists? If silence, where’s your comfy writing spot?

I have an mp3 DJ mixer thing I’ve used before to create mixes based on the mood of what I’m writing- but I’ve also listened to the Machinarium soundtrack so much that I’m conditioned into working just at the sound of it- great ambient ebb and flow. Video game soundtracks were designed for non-intrusive atmosphere, so they tend to work. I’ve found that white noise-style constant stimulus is a good thing for creativity, and also for that initial reservation of ‘I don’t wanna write’, you can be like ‘Chill, we’re just gonna stare at the screen and listen to music for a bit’, then you start writing and it’s cool, and anything that can help you get started is a big bonus because that’s toughest.

4. What is that one book you read over and over, or read portions of? That one book you will save from a fire? 

I try to let books be of a time and place because I don’t wanna sully my past naivety if I fell in love with something that’s actually crap from when I was younger, so I don’t do so much re-reading! Unless it’s for writer learnings, with the companion books for study- with big dense tomes, you always end up picking up more from the re-read, because so much of the first read has that ‘Will I get through it?’ feeling.
I can dip in and out of Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities and always find something that resonates- it is beautifully written, philosophical discussions mostly. Where did I leave that though? Maybe it’s burning right now…

5. Who’s that one writer(s) you wish everyone would shut up about?

I love the industrial concept of her novels,they take place in industrial cities and her heroes are architects, railway engineers and so on. I think that industrial settings and themes are really cool and quite rare in fiction, so as bad a writer as Ayn Rand is, that’s why I liked her novels, the  industry concept, and I enjoyed reading her novels, for what her legacy has done, has to be Ayn Rand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8m8cQI4DgM

6. What book to movie adaptation disappointed you greatly? 

I don’t think there’s been one- although I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife so much I refuse to even try the film- same with Life of Pi. I’m disappointed no one is taking on the Gormenghast novels as a film series though: so much potential!

7. What book(s) is on your current reading list? (It could be on or in your Goodreads, on your night table, book bag, purse, etc.)

I’m really excited to read some more Alice Munro and Hemingway short stories. I brought Carver’s Where I’m Calling From to London (I’ve been staying in London so I traveled with that book) – I’m in a very unpretentious realist short story mood! I think it’s important to choose the next book based on your mood so that the epic Goodreads lists don’t seem like a chore.

8. What was the worst thing you have ever written?

I’ve written a slew of terrible short stories that I probably then deleted (oh, yeah, remembering some now- cringe). But how was I supposed to know if they were terrible or not until I’d seen them? It’s not like I ever regret writing anything bad, and the possibility always exists!

9. When working on whatever writing project you’re on, do you focus on a schedule of words counts, pages, or just finishing that one chapter? For example, I’ve read that most writers would just write 1,000 words a day. 

The Stephen King 2k a day is a nice goal, or the NaNoWriMo 1667 words a day is adequate and pretty tough sometimes. Writing around this amount each day I’ve found produces maximum quality- isn’t too much or too little. Minimum 1k to feel comfy- but again I think best to go with your mood if you want to be productive. I’ll generally do one or two “sessions”, where I sit at the computer and type as much as what comes to me until I feel tired (maybe about 45 mins/ session) then I take a break- that generally gets you in the ballpark! I’ve written as much as 16k (once, though) and sometimes as little as 300 words (much more often)- as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it and if you’re keeping with the daily discipline (but then, I sure don’t), you’re not going wrong. Who’s to say that stopping after 300 words one day to prevent burnout doesn’t entail 16k the next? 

10. What’s that one book you wish you wrote? There was a guy, I don’t remember his name, but I heard somebody talking about him, who rewrote F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, every word. Just so he could feel what it is to write a hit novel.
That’s a cool idea and I watched a talk with Joan Didion who said she learned to type by typing out Hemingway and became infected with his rhythms! A creative writing teacher I once had said that some classes were based on this whole idea of typing out someone else’s work, but then, not even the original author had the experience of it coming out perfectly the first time (although Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying was minimally edited?) I remember wishing I’d written In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami, which is weird- it was just so powerful and succinct. It’s a positive feeling for sure though when you wish you’d written something, a weird form of inspiration.

11. How long have you been writing?

Since I was 22, which was four years ago- on and off though. I’ve been writing readable things for one year, maybe less. But I didn’t notice the time passing, and getting good at anything with practice is inevitable, so whatever.

12. What do you prefer in reading and writing? A character driven or plot driven story?

Great question. Every element of a story is key to its argument: that’s to say there must be a point in where it’s taking place, in who it involves and in what’s happening- in this respect character-driven and plot-driven stories are misnomers, as every part of what a story involves is important. In saying that, not every author chooses to use every element equally- a writer has certain tools, and using a handful of them well is usually enough to write something great- novelists in particular do on occasion heavily swing the balance and get away with it! I couldn’t say that I prefer character- or plot-driven stories without context- it very much depends on what the story is and how it must be told. The best character study novel I’ve read is We Need To Talk About Kevin, and the best plot-driven is Out by Natsuo Kirino. I have no idea what my own writing is! 

13. Do you write during the day or night? 

I write straight after work on weekdays and in the mornings on weekends. I feel like a nighttime person (which apparently means I’m a morning person) and I’m most productive on Saturday mornings straight out of bed when I’m still a bit sleepy.

14. Have you self-published or traditionally published a book (small press or Big Four publishers) or are you in the process of doing that? If so what’s it about? If you haven’t published anything, but was published in a literary magazine or anthology, talk about that. 

I’ve submitted to many literary magazines, literary agents and publishers, and when I have had feedback it was positive-nothing has come of it yet, but I’m still new to the market and staying open about the options available. The first thing I self-published was my first novel Findesferas, about this time last year, then two more books end of last year (Sinkhole and Rude Vile Pigs). I have almost 3 first draft manuscripts to edit and a fourth one to write very soon, so no shortage of material from me in the near future!

15. And finally, what’s your quote or motto? It could be one by a favorite writer or your own.

I’m always surprised by how many of my worries or problems can be traced back to either “charity begins at home” or “everything in moderation”, so I would always check if either of these apply.

Short Stories, Writing, and All That Jazz Part 2

I forgot to add something to that post, I made a Facebook page for this blog a minute ago. I will also add that if you are a writer or a poet, feel free to send me your work for me to post on this blog. Of course I will read it, but I want to promote other writers. I will also be posting my own stuff, so yeah. My email is in the Contact Me, send it in a word document, with a Bio of yourself. It can be a short story, Fan-fiction, Flash fiction, Poetry, even a excerpt from your novel.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Words-Notes-and-Fiction/1445247972372174

Women Float by Maureen Foley Blog Tour (Book Review and Interview with the Author)


Women Float is a novella written by Maureen Foley, published by CCLap publishing, an independent publishing center in Chicago. I discovered these guys a while ago, like maybe two months ago? So I just downloaded whatever looked interesting and then I was later recommended Women Float. From what I read so far, a lot of these talented writers in CCLap Center write some really touching, thought provoking stuff, some of it dark  like Ben Tanzer and some of it lighthearted without being too fluffy like Maureen Foley or T.A. Noonan.

Women Float is one of those few books that I have read, written by woman, that are about women that I actually really like. It doesn’t feel like a sitcom, it feels real and the main character is very likeable, for me. A quirky, shy, awkward, and loveable baker who is afraid to swim. Her mother was a careless and maybe flakey woman who leaves her behind at a young age. Due to her mother’s disappearance, Win, the main character, wanders around her life feeling lonely and left out, the feeling even sets in when she’s surrounded with her friends. She spends the whole novella thinking about her mother after she receives mysterious letters, and learning how to swim. It seems like her desire to swim is her only way to get over her fear and find a path to happiness. For some reason this novella reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees, unfortunately I have never read the novel, I only watched the movie. Both the novella and the movie kind of have a moving on/coming of age theme that leaves you with a warm feeling when the character develops and becomes a grown, confident, adult. Who doesn’t love books or movies that leave you with that warm feeling?

Now here’s the interview, which is also wonderful to read.

  1. Water seems to be a very prominent symbol in this novella, Not only is it feared but it is also loved. Most of the time, water scares the crap out of people, why is water such a big thing in this novel?
As you point out, water scares people and it also is a very evocative element. We cry water, sweat water, our blood is similar to water and we are born from water. For me, growing up by the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, the water surrounded me constantly. I wanted, in Women Float, to show this sort of omnipresent existence of water, but also to bring focus to how this common element surrounds us, contains us, and defines us, whether we realize it or not. The irony of my childhood was being surrounded by water, but also living in a coastal desert on a farm during a drought. We always needed more rain. So, I guess, for me, I grew up both enjoying water recreationally but also being very aware of how the lack of it (in the form of rain) had a serious consequence for my family’s avocado ranch. I know that’s probably not very definitive, but I’ve tried to delve into that idea.
  1. The main character is very lonely, is there are reason why her mother left other than the fact that she was generally a negligent, flaky person?
I always like to clarify that I wrote this book initially when I was a senior in college, at age 20. While surrounded by peers and friends constantly, I was also very lonely then. And my childhood, on the farm, was very solitary. So, it wasn’t hard for me to tap into that emotion. Also, at that young age, I’d never really talked to someone who had their own child, so I couldn’t fathom the hefty weight of responsibility that motherhood entailed. It terrified me. So, the mother, Janie, is a little a reflective of my fear of responsibility. Perhaps she’s a little of what I thought I’d be like if I had a child then. I didn’t understand how women could integrate independence with the commitment of raising a child. Also, while Janie is irresponsible, I hope that she’s also fascinating and intriguing. She’s a mishmash of various women I knew in my hometown. While mostly a male past time, the career surfer is a real deal. There are absolutely people in my community who will abandon nearly everything- job, family- when they hear of a great swell coming in. The surf calls and they answer. I just thing that we don’t think of that sort of loner as being a woman, but of course she exists.
  1. The mermaid also seems to be a big symbol in this novella. So what’s that about?
What do you think? I hope that the mermaid becomes an open-ended symbol for readers. My writing process is very intuitive and I wrote this nearly 20 years ago, so I never had some great thesis about what a mermaid should represent. I was just drawn to the image and found it useful for the story. I let the characters and story dictate the plot and then I allow images and themes that interest me to develop and evolve naturally, like the mermaid does. In the editing process, we definitely highlighted and emphasized certain things (like the mermaids) to make the story more cohesive. But there is no grandiose meaning implied.
  1. What inspired you to write this novel?
The kernel for Women Float was born from two things: teaching swim lessons to adults and from the desire to write a love story from a woman’s point of view that was somewhat original. While working as a lifeguard and swim instructor one summer, I began teaching adults and realized I really enjoyed it. But it also had never occurred to me that during day-to-day life I was surrounded by people who couldn’t swim. I’d always known how to swim, since I was a toddler, and couldn’t imagine life without water. So, I started developing a story based on my experiences with my swim students. At the same time, I decided to make the love story involve two women because I thought it made more sense for my character, Win. It helped explain why she was such a late bloomer and I thought a female love story gave a more interesting take on love than the usual boy-meets-girl story.
  1. Are any of the characters based on people you know or seen in real life?
All of the characters are amalgamations of different people from my hometown in Carpinteria, but none is exactly one person or another. I’ve had people claim to recognize themselves in the book, but I don’t have the heart to tell them they’re wrong! My hope is that people who know me or my hometown will recognize the types of people I write about and imagine them as authentic people who could live here, but don’t actually.
  1. Did you find writing this novella difficult? Some writers find writing shorter works harder than long works due to keeping the prose short, sweet and trying not to stretch the scenes too far.
The process for writing this book was dictated by my college environment at the time of its creation. I had the great good fortune to work with a Visiting Professor at Kenyon College named Elise Marks who met with me weekly to write the book. Together, we created deadlines and fine-tuned the book as I wrote it to complete it as an Honors English project. I feel so blessed to have had someone work with me so intimately on my first book. So, was it hard? Not really. I work well with deadlines and Elise was very generous in her support. I felt very focused at the time on just finishing it and making it as good as possible. The publishing part was much more of a struggle, on this book.
  1. What authors influence you the most?
That is an impossible question. James Claffey, my husband, is an amazing writer and my dearest friend and conspirator. Other than that, I allow authors to inspire me constantly. I love poetry, too, and even see my daughter’s children’s books as amazingly concise plot-driven stories. I also read various news sites daily, so I find inspiration in journalism, too.
  1. Do think the main character’s loneliness is caused by her distancing herself? Or she naturally just a lonely person?
I think of loneliness as a painful kind of ache and I think that Win is more alone than lonely. Yes, she longs for love, but she has a relatively fulfilling life as a baker. She strikes me as the kind of independent person who enjoys being solitary, for long stretches, but then needs to connect, too. But she also seems a little awkward, which seems to have something to do with her ignorance about her own sexuality and her unresolved feelings about her mother. I think, culturally, we see a grown woman spending time alone and we tend to pity her. But I believe there are many fulfilled women who just don’t need to be surrounded by people all the time. Win is one of those women and I wish more people like her got to be the focus of stories.
  1. Is baking a big thing in your life?
I love to bake, eat and cook. When I wrote Women Float I wanted to be a pastry chef. I think publishing the book, finally, was part of why I decided to pursue a life surrounded by food. So, now as owner of Red Hen Cannery I make and sell my own jams and marmalades. It’s not making cakes and baked goods, but it is working with food and I love that.
  1. Do you think writing is the best medium of ridding yourself of loneliness?
No. Writing is an incredibly solitary act. In fact, it’s one of the loneliest things I know, in the sense that it can only be done by one person acting on their own. I’ve never had any problem, personally, being on my own because I like to observe people and watch things unfold. As for a cure for loneliness, I think it takes actually accepting oneself completely. It’s amazing how when I finally became okay with myself for a moment (because it never lasts forever) I find I’m happy to just take a deep breath and relax, regardless of who I’m with or how many people I know. So, my practice of Zen Buddhism has helped create the moment-to-moment space for total acceptance (on rare occasions) but also having a small child is a cure for loneliness. I don’t have time, with a wee one attached to me or running away from me, to think of my own selfish need for companionship. She brings me into the moment, too, and shows me how much humans are just naturally social beings.


Maureen Foley is an artist, writer and teacher who grew up in Carpinteria, California. Foley received a Masters of Fine Art in Prose from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. 

Her stories and poems have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Skanky Possum, Santa Barbara Magazine, Santa Barbara Independent and elsewhere. Her newest novella, Women Float, will be published in Summer 2013 through the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography and in 2002, Dead Metaphor Press published her collection of poems, Epileptic, as winner of the Chapbook Award. 

She now lives on an avocado ranch in Southern California with her husband, their daughter and their dog.

CClap Center provides handmade hardback copies and e-book copies of their novellas, short story collections, and novels. The e-books are pay-what-you-want or voluntary payments. Soon, they will also be paperback editions and one of those upcoming releases will be Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky. 

                             
The next blog on the Blog tour train is Melissa’s Chick Lit Central. The previous blog on the train was Rebecca’s Love at First Book


Coming Soon

There will not be too much activity on this blog for a while. I am trying to catch up on reading but I’m also focusing on my writing and I keep getting distracted by video games and Twitter. This blog isn’t dead though, there will be a burst of activity in a week or so if I finish any of the books I’m reading. There will probably be a review coming very soon. There will also be a blog tour coming on the 15th that will feature CCLap Center author, Maureen Foley. So do look forward to a giant explosion soon, or maybe a tiny explosion depending on what happens. 


By the way, A Game of Thrones is probably the slowest book I’ve ever read. Not in a bad way, what I mean is that I take forever to read the book, I’ve had this book for almost a year and a half, maybe longer than that. The copy I have isn’t the small mass market paperback, it’s the insanely large TV show poster one. The pages are wide and the text is somewhat small, but it feels like a chore and it’s hard to concentrate on. I enjoy some it, but it’s really slow. I feel like my future review of this book might be 3 stars. I hope it isn’t because I was really hyped to read this when I first got it. Am I forcing myself to like it? I do remember liking fantasy when I was younger, what happened? 

YA Books I Want to Read and a Little Rant

So I noticed that most book blogs in the blogouniverse are YA book readers, which isn’t a bad thing. I like YA sometimes, my book taste has changed so much, that I literally just read any book that has an interesting cover, plot, or a weird sounding author name, a name that sticks in my mind. So I read almost any type of book, but of course I still have favorites such as literary fiction, historical fiction, and contemporary which sometimes falls into the literary genre. However, the literary genre tends to be a bit underrated because a lot of people consider it ‘snobbish’ and ‘elitist’ which isn’t necessarily true, but I will save that rant for another time.  

Rant:

My problem with YA is that a lot of the books are way too similar and they always seem to be written for one genre for a while, like a fashion trend, and then when it dies out, a new trend starts. Like for example one day it’s a Witch fantasy trend, then there’s Vampires, and now its Aliens, Fairies, Angels, Clones and Dystopian. I never seem to be disappointed with Contemporary YA like Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, Everybody Sees the Ants, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Before I Fall, The Book Thief, I am the Messanger,  etc. There’s probably more but I can’t remember any. From what I see the Vampire trend has died down, the Werewolf trend was almost non-existant but I don’t really remember anything. Dystopian seems to be very strong, and will be strong for a good while because a lot of the books tend to be quite thought provoking, they just have a good charm, I don’t know what it is. 

Most of the time, YA tends to have the infamous love triangle that always leaves me somewhat confused with a bitter taste in my mouth. Why does everyone have to fight over one girl? There’s 100s of other girls out there, but that logic is obviously never applied because people in real life fight over one love interest too. Especially when they’re 13 years old. There’s always the trend of  bad boys who always win the girls who are somewhat insecure, but I’m starting to see that trope wear away very slowly, we are finally having some confident girls in these books.  There’s a lot of things I don’t like about YA, but I can go on forever. Although I’m not saying it’s all bad, because there are some I enjoyed a lot, like the ones I stated above. 

Over the past few years, I have read YA books and became really disappointed with their plots and main characters. So it is very rare for me to read YA book, which is why there are so few of them being reviewed on here. It’s not that I hate the genre, it’s just that a lot of YA, especially the really hyped ones, tend to not be my cup of tea. Although I do tend to enjoy contemporary YA novels.

End of Rant, Here’s the List:

So here are the YA books that I actually want to read or finish, series or standalone. There are some series on this list that I already started which is why the first one isn’t listed.

1. Reality Boy by A.S. King
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2. The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
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3. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
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4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer 
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5. The Legend Trilogy 
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6. Starters by Lissa Price 
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7.  Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
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8. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
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9. The Marbury Lens series by Andrew Smith
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10. Winger by Andrew Smith 
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11. Every Day by David Levithan 
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12. Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout 
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13. More Than This by Patrick Ness
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14. Gone by Michael Grant
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15. Kingdom of Xia Series by Cindy Pon
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16. Matt de la Pena 
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I actually don’t know which book I want to read by him, but I read an article that contained him in it, so I got interested in his work.

17. Huntress by Malinda Lo
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18. Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe 
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I actually have this book, I just never finished reading because it’s in E-book form and it’s super long.

Book Haul #3

So here is my rare book haul, these are books that have been purchased since college started. Most of them, except maybe three of them, were bought from Bookoutlet.

1. White Noise by Don DeLillo

Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary Classics
Format: Paperback

My college bookstore sells tons of books and occassionaly have sales of their books so people can pick them up for classes or for their own curiosity. Don DeLillo is one of those authors that I’ve seen his books everywhere, but never read any of them.

2. Sunshine by Nikki Rae
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Pages: 330
Genre: YA or NA, Paranormal, Romance
Format: Kindle

This author came to the college that I attend for an author event. I bought the book and read a few chapters and enjoyed them. The characters are more unique and more lively than most paranormal romance. I never finished it though because I’m not a frequent Kindle reader and kind of forgot about it. Although I would like to get back to it at some point.

4. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
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Pages: 417
Genre: Historical Fiction, Turkish Literature
Format: Paperback (Softcover)
Here is another college book store novel. Another author that I knew his name but never read his work.

4. Your Republic Is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim

Pages: 326
Genre: Mystery, Korean Literature
Format: Paperback

Here is yet another author I know about and I never got any of his books until now. I am still reading it and lately I have been reading quite slowly, so a review of this will be coming really late. It was also on sale on Amazon.

5. ‘Make Good Art’ Speech by Neil Gaiman
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Pages: 40
Genre: Speech
Format: Hardcover

This is actually not for me, it’s for Christmas, it’s for a wonderful, artsy, cousin.

6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Pages: 283
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance
Format: Hardcover

I wanted to read another Neil Gaiman book and that’s all I’m going to say about this one.

7. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

Pages: 362
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback (Softcover)

I’m not sure how I found out about Tash Aw, but yeah, I wanted to read his stuff too.

8. Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño 

Pages: 256
Genre: Mystery, Spanish Literature
Format: Hardcover

I’m just reading all of his books now. 

9. The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
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Pages: 358
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
Format: Paperback

I’ve heard mixed reviews on this book, mostly bad ones, but I really want to read this. I read a sample on my Kindle and it’s not too bad, it’s quite suspenseful and creepy. 

10. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
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Pages: 310
Genre: Science Fiction, Paranormal, African American Literature
Format: Softcover

I have read Octavia E.Butler’s novel, Parable of the Sower. I liked it, but it wasn’t something I would consider the best, but it was original and thought provoking. You know something has impacted you when it’s completely burned in your mind. 

11. This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park

Pages: 310
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: Hardcover

I always love to read historical fiction, I feel like most of the books I read, especially when I was younger, is either historical fiction, literary, or contemporary.

12. All Men are Liars by Alberto Manguel 
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Pages: 224
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Format: Softcover

I’m interested in this more because of the title and the book cover, it has a very menacing look. 

13. Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan
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Pages: 552
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism,Chinese Literature

I really enjoyed Mo Yan’s short stories, the cover on this one is quite a beauty.