Mid-Year Check-In

I honestly can’t remember the last time I did a mid-year check-in to report on the books I’ve read and it feels like this would be as good a time as any to start these again. After all, it’s mid-year, right?

I still love to keep track of my books in LibraryThing but I’ve also joined Goodreads. This year I signed up for a 52-book reading challenge. According to the Goodreads statistics I’ve achieved 31% of my goal and I’m 10 books behind where I should be. My reading habits have changed. I used to read almost every day and now I can only grab 10 or 15 minutes a few times a week during lunch. It’s a luxury when I can read for a few hours in the evening or on the weekend.

Below is the list of books read so far in 2015 in no particular order:

  1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  2. Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness
  3. Lock In by John Scalzi
  4. The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
  5. Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel
  6. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  7. Hellfire & Damnation III by Connie Corcoran Wilson
  8. Assertiveness for Earth Angels: How to be Loving Instead of “Too Nice” by Doreen Virtue
  9. Gwendolen: A Novel by Diana Souhami
  10. White Heat 25 by Marco Pierre White
  11. The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
  12. Balm: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  13. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  14. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
  15. Deep Fried and Pickled by Paisley Ray
  16. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Are you participating in any reading challenges or looking to beat the number of books you read last year? I read 62 books in 2011 and haven’t been able to get close since then. The 52 is a stretch for me but I’m certain I can do it. I have a longish commute to work and started listening to audio books to make the trip seem not so long.

Hellfire & Damnation III by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Title: Hellfire & Damnation III
Author: Connie Corcoran Wilson
Publisher: Quad Cities’ Press
Source: The author in exchange for an honest review

Hellfire & Damnation III

As evidenced by the title, this book is the third short story collection in the Hellfire and Damnation series by Connie Corcoran Wilson. The unifying theme for the series is Dante’s nine circles of hell. It’s been a while since I had a chance to read a short story collection and this was a nice change of pace.

The not so good: A few of the stories have abrupt endings as though the author was trying to stay within a word goal. At least one seemed to have excessive repetitiveness which kept jarring me out of the story.

The good: The stories have an element of reality or truth as the starting point. This will give the reader a slight chill of recognition. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of gore and this was perfect to read during my lunch hour. These stories aren’t overly long but aren’t too short either. The characters are varied in ages, backgrounds and circumstances. Some short story collections suffer from similar stories and each has enough differences to set them apart. I’m willing to read more by this author.

Thank you to the author and Virtual Author Book Tours for arranging this stop on the book tour. Tomorrow’s tour stop is at Lisa’s Writopia which will include her own thoughts on this short story collection.

 

About The Author

Award winning author, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Yahoo, which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year. She is a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers), where she is a writer for their online newsletter, and a member of IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association, Chicago chapter), which awarded her its Silver Feather Award in 2012 and 2014, MWA (Midwest Writers Association), AWP (American Writing Program) and MWC (Midwest Writing Center), which named her its Writer of the Year in 2010. She has won numerous E-Lit awards, a NABE Pinnacle award, an ALMA (American Literary Merit Award), Lucky Cinda competition and two IWPA Silver Feather Awards (2012, 2014). Connie’s third book in “The Color of Evil” series, ‘Khaki=Killer’ was just named a Page-turner of the Year 2014 by “Shelf Unbound” and Writer’s Digest magazine in its December/January 2014-2015 issue!

 

Excerpt from Hellfire & Damnation III

VABT Logo

Connie Corcoran Wilson and Virtual Author Book Tours kindly arranged for me to share an excerpt as part of the book tour for Hellfire & Damnation III. I hope you enjoy it!

Circle Six: Heresy

 

The Final Victim

 

Lee had been drinking since late afternoon. It didn’t so much stop the

pain of the voices in his head, as clarify what the voices were saying.

 

     I’ll do the Reverend’s bidding, to a point, thought Lee. Reverend Jones

says Dave Downing has to die. If God or the devil wants poor old Dave dead,

He must give me some sort of sign. I ain’t no cold-blooded killer!

 

Lee took another swig of Old Milwaukee. He would have preferred

Jack Daniels, but he didn’t have the money.

 

Lee looked out the window of the shabby white house that stood be-

low the hill. High up on the hill was where the rich people lived. The poor

people lived down here. Lee was staring at the wet grass of his small yard.

It had rained less than an hour ago. He thought the drops of water on the

grass resembled the tears of some gigantic creature.

 

Lee popped the top of his sixth beer and glanced outside again.

 

Suddenly, birds. Thousands and thousands of birds. Black birds.

European starlings. They were everywhere! On his lawn. On the lawn of

the neighbor to his left, Ed Grant. On Rose Till’s lawn, his neighbor to the

right. He watched Rosie Till’s golden collie, Honey, barking furiously as

she chased the birds as far as her chain would allow.

 

“Melanie! Come quick! There’s birds everywhere! They’re peckin’ away

at our yard and Ed’s and Rosie’s.”

 

Melanie Elliot rushed down the stairs. She could hear the urgency in

her husband’s drunken voice. She stared in astonishment at the spectacle

taking place outside on their lawn.

 

“The weird thing is that the birds stop right there,” she said, pointing

to the perimeter of their neighbors’ lawns. Melanie was right. The birds

were covering nearly every inch of Lee’s lawn and Ed’s lawn and Rose’s lawn.

But the ubiquitous birds, clucking and pecking and sucking eagerly at the

earth’s bosom, stopped at the sidewalks of the two neighboring houses.

Only three lawns were infested by the omnipresent birds.

 

There were no birds across the street. There were no birds on any other

lawns beyond those three, which they could see by glancing up and down

Third Street. Only here, in their lawn and those of their two closest neighbors,

were there hundreds—thousands, even—of noisy, hungry, pecking black

birds, greedily digging with their beaks. But what were they digging for?

 

Melanie asked the question, “What do you think they’re eating? What

are they looking for, Lee?” She asked, “Are they migrating? Is there some

special food in just these three lawns that they’ve targeted? It’s so weird that

they aren’t across the street or, really, anywhere but on these three lawns.”

She shook her head in confusion.

 

Lee took a deep breath. He had just realized something that gave him

a start. He was going to have to admit to the Reverend that he had been

given a sign. The Reverend Jeremiah Jones had predicted to Lee just yes-

terday that he would be given a sign—a sign that he must follow Reverend

Jeremiah Jones’ instructions.

 

Jeremiah said to Lee, “The heavens might open up. You might hear a

loud voice telling you to do what I tell you. To do what is necessary. It has to

be the way I tell you. You’ll have to follow my directions. To the letter.” The

Reverend spoke slowly, in a stern tone of voice.

 

Lee thought, This must be the sign the Reverend was talking about.

What else could it be?

 

What Lee and Melanie Elliot were seeing defied logic. There was no

reasonable explanation for the sudden appearance of hordes of angry black

birds, mimicking Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds.

 

The small black creatures were everywhere: on the gables of the houses.

On the roofs of Lee’s house and his neighbors’ homes. On their lawns. In

the trees. Greedily pecking at the still-wet grass, searching for some mys-

terious food item. Some magic worm, perhaps? The entire experience left

both Lee and Melody chattering about the occurrence with their next-door

neighbors for hours afterwards. No one knew of any logical explanation.

 

But Lee thought he might know what it all meant. And he didn’t like

what it meant for his future.

 

To be continued on March 25th at What You Talking Bout Willis?