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On Monday BookLikes will be down for maintenance for several hours. Don't worry and don't go far. We'll be back packed with new energy and ready for new book adventures.
To survive Monday stay safe and sound in bed with your books.
We’ve polished up your Reading Challenge, now you can compare your annual goals, check which book was a page turner, and keep track of your reading history week by week. More reading stats are coming soon.
You can find your Reading Challenge Page by click the headline of the reading challenge timeline visible on your Dashboard.
If you haven’t set up your goal for 2014 yet, there's still time. Go to Reading Challenge tab in Goodies, set your reading goal, and be prepared for the intensive 4 months of the reading pleasure.
Your new Reading Challenge page presents
several reading information:
1. Fast read & page count - you’ll always know how many pages have you read so far, and which book was a real page turner.
2. Your challenge books list presents your reading history with re-read dates, your rating stars, and links to the reviews.
The list is updated according to the read dates, remember to fill up the Dates to make the book count to your challenge. You can easily update the dates on the Reading Challenge page.
3. Reading chart allows you to keep track of your reading achievements per months and per weeks.
4. Reading Challenges Year by Year compares your goals and achievements in the particular years.
You can easily switch between the years - your reading challenge years are visible on the top of the page, at the bottom, and on the right.
Discover Reading Challenges of Other Bloggers
You can also check how other BookLikers are doing. There are several ways to check what others are reading in their Reading Challenges.
1. Go to Reading Challenge tab in Goodies to view the most recent challenges and their reading history. Press view challenge books to go to Reading Challenge page.
2. To view other's challenged books click the Reading Challenge widget on the blog.
Then you'll view the blogger's reading history:
Add Reading Challenge Widget to Your Blog
If you haven't added the widget to your blog yet, it's high time. It's a great way to show your reading goals, and share your reading history with your blog guests.
To add widget to your BookLikes blog follow the steps:
1. go to Widget tab (in Goodies)
2. copy code for the Reading Challenge Widget
3. go to the customization tab (the link to the tab is right under the widget code)
4. paste the code in the Widget Area
The Reading Challenge Widget will be added to your blog. If you want to add other widgets (Shelf, Profile etc...) follow the same steps. You can add as many widgets in the Widget Area as you wish.
If you wish to add the widget to your other webpage, copy/paste the HTML into your other website code.
Hey, it's back-to-school time! If you cannot stand this thought, read the books under the desk (hush, hush), and visit 7 schools from books that make yours look boring.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a school of magic for children aged eleven to eighteen. Hogwarts is divided into four houses, each bearing the last name of its founder: Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff.
2. Hecate Hall (Hex Hall)
Hecate Hall (also known as Hex Hall) is a three-story reformatory school built in 1854 for Prodigium children ages twelve to seventeen. Once a student has been sent to Hecate, they are not released until their eighteenth birthday. It is located in Graymalkin Island, just off the coast Georgia. The classes are based on some found at other boarding schools: Prentiss is a boarding school for witches, Mayfair a boarding school for faeries, and Gervaudan a boarding school for shapeshifters. A new program allowed vampires to attend Hecate. Every year Hecate would take in a young vampire to study with Prodigium in hopes they would reform. (via)
3. Battle School
Battle School is a school where young, brilliant boys and (rarely) girls are sent to be trained to become officers and commanders of the International Fleet. Battle School is in space, and only few children are chosen to go there. Children are taken to Battle School at very young age of 5 or 6 years old. They are taught academic subjects, like heavy grounding in mathematics and science, a setup for work in space but the real evaluation is in battle simulations.
4. St. Vladimir's Academy
St. Vladimir's Academy is a boarding school where Moroi and the guardian novices are educated. It is located in the deep forests of Montana and protected with charmed wards placed just outside the school grounds. St Vladimir’s Academy is named after a Moroi saint who was dedicated to spiritual practices and went to particular lengths in order to further the special bond between Moroi and their guardians. (via)
5. Welton Academy
Welton Academy is a conservative school in Vermont. Welton, like many prep schools, admitted only boys. The boys create a secret club, Dead Poet's Society. They met in a cave to discuss poetry, philosophy and other topics.
6. Wayside School
Wayside School was supposed to be composed of thirty classrooms, on one story. However, the builder constructed a thirty story building with an extra large playground. The higher one climbs, the stranger the people and the weirder the incident.
7. The Xavier's School
for Gifted Youngsters
The Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters is a special institute created by Professor Charles Xavier to train young mutants in controlling their powers and help foster a friendly human-mutant relationship.
headline picture via
A new profile widget can be your calling card, business card, and an invitation. Let your readers hear you, let them see you, let them read you. Show you blog info in a nutshell.
A new widget has been added to Widgets Page (Goodies). First decide which information would you like to reveal, just tick the boxes and the details will pop up on the preview widget on the right.
Once your widget is ready, copy the code and paste it into the Widget Area in a customization tab on BookLikes (Settings/Blog->Customize), or copy/paste the HTML into your other website code.
What's even more cooler is the fact that your readers can explore your BookLikes blog, and your activity. By clicking the details on the widget, your guests will be moved to your BookLikes places, e.g.
- by clicking the Reading Challenge Note, your guests will be moved to your Reading Challenge Page,
- by clicking the number of shelves, they will visit your BookLikes Shelf page,
- by clicking the number of your Discussion, they will see your Discussion stats.
Each data/number is a link that reveals something about you, your books, and your book blog on BookLikes.
We're added a report button to BookLikes' author pages.
If you notice that the information on the page should be added or corrected, let us know by using the form. Thank you.
Please welcome author Libby Fischer Hellmann in BookLikes' Author Talks.
Libby Fischer Hellmann is a fiction crime writer known from gripping thrillers and strong female characters. She has published 12 novels and 20 short stories. On BookLikes Libby talks about her writing path, her inspirations and the most recent release. She also explains why writing a fiction novel is the hardest thing.
You can find Libby Hellmann on BookLikes, follow her blog where she shares the publishing and bookshelf updates: Libby Fischer Hellmann
And one more thing, to win one of Libby's books, just read on.
It wasn’t always about the writing. You’re graduated with a BA in History, worked in television and in the PR, since 1985 you’re the owner of Fischer Hellmann Communications. How did it happen that you’ve become a fiction writer?
Funny about that. I was always a voracious reader. Mostly for escape. But sometimes for information. My mother was and continues to be a big mystery reader, so of course, I never wanted to read mysteries. But I did read a lot of thrillers, and eventually I started reading mysteries too. Some novels were so good I’d say to myself, “If I can write a paragraph as well as James Lee Burke, I’ll die happy.
And there were others I’d throw across the room and say, “I can do better than that.” Ultimately those two attitudes came together, and I started to write. Actually I just blogged about the “spark” that lit the fire…it’s an amusing story. If readers are interested, they can find that blog right here.
Your first novel released in 2002, And Eye for Murder, features Ellie Foreman, a video producer. You’ve also worked as a film editor, assistant director, and producer. How does you life experiences influence your work and your book characters?
They say write what you know. And I did know a bit about video production. So I figured, let’s make Ellie a producer, and at least I won’t have to do too much research about that. Of course, since I started writing Ellie, video production has changed dramatically (everything is now digital) so I ended up having to do the research anyway.
All kidding aside, though, one of the major benefits of having been a film/video producer is that I see things visually. Every chapter is a scene, and I have to see it in my mind’s eye, complete with establishing shots, close-ups, pans, and dollies, in order to write it. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t get written.
How long does it take to write a book? Can you tell our readers about the writing process and its phases?
I’m a slow writer. It takes me about a year. Mostly because I second-guess myself all the time. Writing fiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I want to make sure I’m doing it right. Plus, now that I’m pretty much retired from my day job, I’m in no hurry.
The phases a writer goes through—or at least this writer does— are circular:
-- This is going to be the best story in the world
-- Hmm. How am I going to do this?
-- Who did I think I was? I can’t write. Everyone is going to see through me.
-- Well, maybe that chapter wasn’t so bad.
-- Jeez… when is this dog going to be finished?
-- It’s done! Now I can edit! Yay!
-- I love this story.
Today is the official release day of your newest crime thriller, Nobody’s Child. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about your brand new novel and what are you working on right now?
I explore sex trafficking, baby farms, the Russian mafia, and more. It actually took me years to write this book. I started 4 years ago, but then put it aside and wrote 3 stand-alone historical thrillers instead. It was finally time to come back to Georgia. Next is going to be a new Ellie Foreman novel! As soon as I finish a novella about the Manhattan Project.
Your books are mainly thrillers, suspense mysteries and crime stories. Why have you decided to explore & describe the crime world?
They are the type of books that interest me as a reader. I love to explore the depths of evil to which humans can sink, and I also love the fact that in most cases, the “bad guy” is caught at the end, and justice is served. But there’s another compelling reason I love crime fiction.
At the beginning of a story, the world of the story is in order. Very quickly, though, that order turns into chaos as a crime is committed. It’s the job of the protagonist (whether a professional or amateur sleuth) to restore order. I love that concept, and I enjoy presenting a puzzle that needs to be completed so that the protagonist can restore order and serve justice. In that sense, mysteries aren’t that different from Westerns, which share the same dynamics. I’m not drive to write a Western, however.
Can you tell our readers where the ideas come from and how do you develop the plot? Do you consult the crimes with a police, detective, a lawbreaker?
I ALWAYS consult with the police, detectives, and other law enforcement people. For example, I’ll talk to defense lawyers and/or prosecutors if I’m writing a trial scene or need to understand procedure; I’ll also talk to a medical examiner, doctors, stockbrokers, car hobbyists, anyone I need to in order to get it right. Still, every once in a while, an error creeps in, and it’s painful. I never want anymore to throw my book across the room and say “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
As for ideas and where they come from, the best explanation I can give is a video I made several years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A12QZfoxOKA&feature=youtu.be
Do you have any writing habits, like working with your favorite coffee mug, writing the drafts with your lucky pencil, or inventing the plot under the shower?
Not really. I write anywhere and anytime I can. But I’m not as disciplined as I used to be.
Years ago I used to write for an hour or two every morning when I was fresh. Now, unfortunately, the demands of marketing and promotion tend to overshadow the writing. I wish that wasn’t the case. The problem is, as I mentioned before, that writing fiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s much easier for me to whip up a blogpost, answer interview questions, or create events than to write a paragraph of fiction. I honestly don’t know how I wrote the last three novels. I can’t remember writing them. All I remember is the promotion before during and after I wrote them. Sad, isn’t it…
Have you ever experienced or witnessed a dangerous situation, similar to the ones described in your novels?
Thankfully, no. I live a sheltered life in white picket fence land and hope I always will. The worst thing that happened to me was being mugged in downtown Chicago. I wasn’t injured, fortunately. Now I keep fraud alerts on all my credit cards and have a burglar alarm.
You grew up in Washington but most of your novels and stories are set in Chicago, and you’re even called a Chicago mystery writer. What’s between you and Chicago? ;-)
I moved to Chicago in 1978, so I’ve lived here over 35 years. It’s home now, and always will be. DC was more or less a unrealistic city where the only industries are government and international relations, plus the people who serve them. Chicago is a REAL city, with real crime, real graft and real corruption. It’s a city of light, but often a city of dark too. I love the contrast between the two. That’s one of the reasons I edited the wonderful anthology CHICAGO BLUES – to explore the light vs the dark.
In DC, it’s who you know and the old boys’ (or girls’) networks that run the city. But in Chicago I’ve always had the sense that if you have a good idea and you’re willing to work for it, you can make it. Plus, have you ever tried to live through August in Washington? It’s Dante’s hell. I wrote an essay about Chicago, called “I Moved to Chicago for the Weather,” and readers can find it here.
So far you’ve written book series (The Ellie Foreman Mysteries, The Georgia Davis Mysteries), stand alone thrillers (Set the Night on Fire, A Bitter Veil, Havana Lost) and many short stories. Which format is the most comfortable for you, and how do you choose what to write next?
The story dictates the format. Sometimes I realize that a story is better suited to being short; other times it naturally expands into a novel. The trickiest format is a novella – I’m never sure whether it should expand or contract.
You’re a successful writer. Your books were highly acclaimed by critics, and what’s the most important, the readers. What would be your advice for aspiring writers, and those struggling to get published? How to be successful, and does it mean that you’re fulfilled as a writer?
That’s a difficult question, because writers have different reasons for writing. I like to tell stories, and when people enjoy them, I’m happy. I hate the process of writing, though (I said earlier it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done).
Still, when I hold a book in my hands after it’s published, it seems like a miracle. And when I think that I’ve done this 11 times, now, I’m amazed. I never knew I had it in me.
What are you reading now?
Paper books or e-book? Why?
Both. Depends where I am, what I’m in the mood for. I love the convenience of my Kindle, and I love the feel of a book. I am listening to a lot more audiobooks too.
Can you choose one favorite book character from your books? Why?
My favorite character from my books – it’s hard to choose a favorite, so instead I’ll choose the easiest.
It’s Jake Foreman, father of Ellie Foreman (my first series protagonist). I’m not sure what it is but whenever he jumps onto the page, he practically writes himself. I never know what he’s going to say, but it’s always the right thing. He’s funny too, and can’t help stealing whatever scene he’s in. I’ve always wondered where he came from since he’s nothing like my own father. I suppose he’s the father I wished I’d had.
What titles won your heart? Recommend must-reads for our readers.
Your favorite quotes?
I think a lot of quotes are meaningful, but my all time favorite is attributed to Maya Angelou but really was coined by novelist Pamela Redmond Satran:
Every woman should have a set of screwdrivers,
a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.
What’s your favorite writing and reading spot?
Our readers would love to see some photos ;-)
You can find books by Libby Fischer Hellmann on BookLikes:
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Who doesn’t like reading lists? They are great to discover new titles, plan your reading ahead, and help complete reading challenges. So... don't wait up. Create your reading lists and schedule your reading with your friends' listings.
Each BookLikes member can create a reading list, compare books on the list with the titles on the shelf and sign up to a given list.
The new section, Reading Lists, can be found in the main menu just under the Book Catalog. Creating a list is easy as a book search: add your list's title and select books.
If you like the list, you can check how many books have you already read from the list and sign up to complete it.
The new Reading List page will show several views: lists added by you, the most recently created lists, lists added by people you follow, and your friends' picks.
The list directory will help you to explore trending lists and decide where to start your reading, and what to read to finish up your annual reading challenge.
If you decide to create a private list, the listing will be visible only to you, other members won't be able to look it through or sign up.
The following quote from T.S. Eliot is perfect for today:
I love reading another reader’s list of favorites. Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict. It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful.
It's time for the second part of the interview with author Lauren B. Davis. Are you ready for great book recommendations, quotes and advice for aspiring writers? Let's get started.
If you missed the first part of the interview, go here: Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part One
You write mainly literary fiction. Do you read books from the same literary genre?
I read just about everything. Literary, memoir, thriller, essays, history, fantasy, poetry, horror – in fact I just finished a marvelous collection of horror short stories called Lake Monsters of North America by Nathan Ballingrud, in which all the monsters are really some psychological aspect of the characters’.
I care not a fig about genre limitations; I care only about great writing.
Do you read books during your writing process? Do they influence your work?
I read masses for research. Against a Darkening Sky demanded a very long reading list, well over a hundred books. But apart from that, I don’t ever stop reading. My Best Beloved laughs at me, since I always have a book by the bathroom sink, to read while brushing my teeth, applying body lotion and drying my hair. Short stories are excellent bathroom reads.
Does my reading influence my work? I hope so, since I love reading writers I admire.
What are you working on right now?
My novel, Against A Darkening Sky, will be out with HarperCollins Canada and ChiZine Publication (US) in April 2015, and so I'm fiddling around with the last bits of that.
All the major editorial work has been done, but there are always last minute things, and the cover and publicity and so forth. It's an exciting phase, and at the same time utterly psychosis-inducing, while one waits. . . the book is set in 7th century Northumbria and is the story of Wilona, a seeress and healer whose life and way of being in the world are threatened by the coming of Christianity; and Egan, a young monk from Eire whose visions may have brought him to Christ, but whose experience of the sacred puts him at odds with the Roman church.
It's full of magic and mystery, and explores what happens when one’s experience and beliefs clash with those of the people in power. It was great fun to research, and involve a trip to England that My Best Beloved refers to as The Angle-Saxon Forced March Northwards. You can read a little bit about it here and here and here and here. Hard to believe it's really been six years since that trip. Books take a long time to write.
I'm also completing a third draft of another novel, called (for the moment) The Grimoire. This one's inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen as well as the deaths of my brothers (they both committed suicide, which I've written about here.) I can't say much more about it just yet, as I haven't handed it off to my agent. But I will say that it involves a woman who is the guardian of a bookstore no one goes into unless they are fated to do so and the name of the bookshop is The Grimoire. I suspect this mirrors my belief that readers find the stories they're meant to find.
I'm also making preliminary notes on another novel, about which I cannot speak. It's quite dangerous, I find, to talk about a novel until at least the first draft is out. If I talk about it, it diffuses the energy of the words on the page. I've watched in horror as a book or two slipped through my careless fingers this way.
On top of that, I'm working on two short stories. I can't talk about them at all, since they are still so unformed. I just got back from the 13th Annual International Short Story Conference in English (the longest name in conferences), and I have a head full of stories all pushing and shoving and trying to get out.
You run a writers workshop - this sounds like a hard work and a lot of fun. What have You learnt during your workshops?
Teaching keeps me connect to craft, and it gives me a community of writers. Having to explain to an emerging writer why their piece isn’t working forces me to consider the same things about my own work!
And I also enjoy reading books about the craft and preparing the lecture notes – all that contributes to my own development as a writer. Besides, it’s inspiring to see emerging writers improve, to watch their work take shape and mature.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you can NOT write, you should probably do that. But if you MUST write, then approach it as a concert violist approaches music, or an Olympic athlete sport; in other words, expect to study long and hard and practice long and hard.
Don’t be in a big rush to publish. I know it feels urgent, but it’s not. There’s time, and publishing too early, before the work is ready, can be so discouraging you might never publish again. Then who knows what might have been lost because you rushed. It’ll say it again: study your craft. Practice.
Focus on the writing, not on the publishing. Publishing is an entirely different beast than writing. One writes because it is a way of living, a way of processing experience, of making meaning and, at least in my case, of staying sane. Publishing is business.
And you must read. I can’t tell you how many students come to me and when I ask them what they’re reading, they tell me they don’t like reading. They are unlikely to become writers. Read. Read. Read.
To be a writer, you must be disciplined. You must get yourself to the page and you must fill the page with words and do that over and over and over again. There is no magic ritual to help you with this. It’s your desire, our self-discipline and perseverance that will make the difference.
Expect to edit, edit, revise, revise, revise, often for years. If a student tells me they only like writing the first draft and then don’t want to be bothered with a story or novel again, just like the person who doesn’t read, they are unlikely to become writers.
Lots of people publish books. Few people are writers. Being a writer is a point of view, a way of being. Writing is a practice, like meditation or prayer. You have to keep at it day after day, even when it seems like absolutely nothing good is happening. Perhaps especially then.
Are you a book collector or a book giver?
Collector and recommender. I want people to buy books. It supports authors and publishers.
What books won your heart?
Which titles would you recommend?
So many wonderful books out there – here’s a smattering of books that have impressed me in the past year or so…
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. A debut novel set in Iceland, about the final days of a woman about to be executed for murder. Yes, it’s dark, but it’s also beautifully written and psychologically complex, drawing the reader in as an active participant to the moral quandary at the novel’s heart.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra. Another debut novel that introduces a terrific writer. The setting here is Chechnya and the moral dilemmas are profound. The point of view ought not to work – digressing as it does for even the minor characters – but it does work, in part because it makes the book much larger than the narrative itself, almost turning it into a work of philosophy, or theology. Impressive.
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Although I originally read this a very long time ago, it remains one of my favorite books. Perhaps the greatest depiction of the repercussions of untreated alcoholism and the 'dry drunk' I've ever read.
The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative By Thomas King --It should certainly be required reading for anyone who cares about stories, First Nations people, history, religion or politics (and particularly the #IdleNoMore Movement).
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese -- A wonderful book. Subtle, profound, deeply moving and beautifully written. It should be on everyone's reading list. He has a new one coming out in 2014, which I can't wait for, and I've another of his books on my to-read list. What can I say? I'm a fan.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: A True Story by Elisabeth Bailey -- As astonishing as it may sound, reading about seriously ill woman finding companionship with a wild snail who lives next to her sick bed is an experience both profound and moving. It is a meditation on life with the microcosm of a gastropod's life serving as the symbol for the majesty, mystery, tenacity and downright lushness of existence itself. A slim volume which is far greater than the number of its pages, it's a book I will no doubt read again. In truth, I became surprisingly attached to the little snail.
My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman -- This is an utterly astonishing book -- complex, thoughtful, elegiac, Wiman's book of essays are a profound medication on faith and poetry and the search for meaning.
All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West -- Beautiful book. Just as inspiring and relevant today as when it was first published in 1931.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin - There's no doubt this book will offend some folks, but that's a pity. What a glorious, earthy, REAL woman Toibin has created in this Mary. She's so much more than the bloodless virgin of myth.
Any favorite quotes?
Many, but for now, I’ll stick with two:
Thank you Lauren! It was great.
You can find books by Lauren B. Davis on Booklikes:
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Great news for the readers and authors: Author Pages. They are here. BookLikes is happy to present author pages where you can look through author's books (including different language versions), reviews, meet the readers, and find & follow BookLikes Authors. Plus, more new is coming.
Let's get started. To go to author page click author’s name in the book pop up.
It's always great to get to know the author you enjoy reading. The Author Page shows a short author's bio with additional information, like other webpage, and, of course, a list of books.
There are also new discovery paths on BookLikes. Author Pages present the titles which were shelved most recently on BookLikes, and readers who recently looked up the books. The discovery boxes can be seen on the right.
You can also easily spot what book genres the author is writing in and find other books from these categories (click the category name to go to BookLikes' Book Catalog).
Author pages of BookLikes Authors also present a link to their blog on BookLikes. You can easily find and follow them to stay up to date with their reading and writing. And we're preparing more special features so don't go far.
If you wish to see more books by a given author or shelve a book in a different language click see all books on the main Author Page to view all the titles with the language filter. BookLikes' author page will present you the books in eight language versions: English, German, Dutch, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian.
The information on the author pages will be updated gradually, and we're in the middle of works on new options, like new search via author name, and new features for BookLikes Authors so it's definitely worth to stay close :)
If you notice that some data should be corrected, let us know at email@example.com.
Get ready for Monday reading! On Monday BookLikes will be down for maintenance for several hours. Don't worry and don't go far. We'll be back packed with new energy and ready for new book adventures.
Please welcome author Lauren B. Davis in BookLikes' Author Talks.
Lauren talks about her writing process and the book inspirations, she reveals when she grabs an e-reader and when she prefers a paper book. She also invites us to her reading & writing spots, and speaks about book love in French.
Lauren B. Davis is an author of The Empty Room, Our Daily Bread, The Radiant City & The Stubborn Season. You can find her on BookLikes, where she confess I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does!
Find and follow her BookLikes blog here: LAUREN B. DAVIS
Have you always dreamt of becoming a writer? How did it all start?
The only thing I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer, and it’s the only thing I’m even reasonably good at. I wrote as a child, wrote APPALLING poetry in my teens and twenties, which was wisely rejected by the best literary magazines and tried to write fiction in my early thirties. Then my writing stalled when I finished up my career as an alcoholic.
Once I got sober in my late thirties I started writing pieces that were actually publishable. I published a collection of short stories first, and have published six other books (soon to be seven in April, 2015), since then.
What books and writers inspired you to become a full-time writer?
Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is perhaps the greatest depiction of the repercussions of untreated alcoholism and the 'dry drunk' I've ever read; James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with all its moral desperation and linguistic pyrotechnics (okay, I now recognize some of that as being the product of too much booze, but the center still holds), and Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute, which explores poverty, love, war, and Montreal, with enormous emotional impact, but without sentimentality…among hundreds of others.
Now you live in the U.S. but you were born in Canada, and spend over a decade in France. How did this influence your life and your writing?
Well, new experiences always inform one’s writing, as do new cultures and perspectives.
I suspect I went to France thinking my views of the world were fairly well-formed and solid, yet I had my beliefs challenged nearly every day. Why did I believe the things I did? Why did I not know other things? The gaps in my education, in my world-view, became apparent and made me look around me more, made me explore the world with a more observant eye, which is crucial for a writer.
I also got sober the second year we moved to France, after spending the first year at the bottom of a bottle, not writing much of anything. Getting sober changed everything – for the better – including my writing. I’m quite sure not only would I not be writing today (and certainly not publishing) if I hadn’t gotten sober, I probably wouldn’t be alive.
Your most recent work is titled The Empty Room. We can read on your website: I also frequently question what might have happened to me had I not stopped drinking. Writing this novel must have been challenging. Can you tell our readers more about the writing process?
Actually, it was the least challenging book to write of all my books. It is partly autobiographical, although much of it is pure fiction, so it took no research.
The overwhelming emotion during writing was one of gratitude. I was so close to ending up where Colleen, the protagonist of the novel, ended up – in that terrible, hollow place of craving and loneliness and self-loathing.
The titles of your books sound very symbolic. How do you pick the titles for your novels?
I suppose they are. I choose titles from poems, as I did for The Stubborn Season, a novel about the tyranny of living with someone with mental illness, set in the 1930s, which comes from T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Song of Simeon; or from some other work, as with The Radiant City, the ironic title of my second novel, set in Paris, which refers to Corbusier’s unrealized vision of the ideal city.
The Empty Room references what we alcoholics in recovery call “the God-shaped hole” in the center of the alcoholic’s soul. My new novel, coming out in April 2015, is called Against a Darkening Sky. It’s set in the 7th century in Northumbria, England. The title comes directly out of the text, and is a symbol for the forces, both cultural and religious, gathering against a woman who serves the old gods of the wild wood.
How do you say “I love books” in French?
J'aime les livres et c'est vrai dans n'importe quelle langue.
What are you reading right now?
The Summer House, a trilogy by Alice Thomas Ellis; Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas, Teaching Will by Mel Rayne, and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.
Paper books or e-books? Why?
Depends on what sort of book, and where I am. Paper if it’s short stories – for some reason I can’t read short stories or essays on an e-reader. I do read a lot on an e-reader, and exclusively if I’m traveling, but I find if I really LOVE a book, I then buy a paper copy for my bookshelves.
I don’t retain the total sense of a book unless I have the actual object for some reason, so if a book is important to me, I often end of buying it twice. Sort of a bookseller’s dream reader. Snort.
What's your favorite writing and reading spot?
(our readers would love to see some photos ;-) )
With dog, fire, cup of tea and Best Beloved is best. Here’s are some photos, taken by My Best Beloved, which is why he’s not in any of them.
My library and office
Another view of the office, with Bailey (the Rescuepoo) and my most recent novel.
(He reads, of course.)
Bailey in a living room reading nook.
And at a cabin in Vermont.
The second part of the interview will be full of book recommendations from Lauren. You can't miss it!
You can find books by Lauren B. Davis on BookLikes:
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No more blind book dates with free ebooks. BookLikes’ recent release Free ebooks in the Daily Deals section has just received a list of categories. You can search the Kindle ebooks via literary genres and pick those which match your reading preference.
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Summer is still on! Where are you traveling now? If you haven't got a clue, these 13 books will show you the way. Plus, they will be a great companion of your summer reading. Let's start an adventure!
Bolivia is named after Simón Bolívar, a leader in the Spanish American wars of independence. The original name was Republic of Bolívar. Some days later, congressman Manuel Martín Cruz proposed: "If from Romulus comes Rome, then from Bolívar comes Bolivia" (Spanish: Si de Rómulo Roma, de Bolívar Bolivia). The name was approved by the Republic on 3 October 1825. In 2009, a new constitution changed the country's name to the Plurinational State of Bolivia in recognition of the multi-ethnic nature of the country. (via)
The Lost World is a delight -- exciting, witty and humorous, and, best of all, gloriously romantic, a tale from a time when its fantastic premise still seemed almost plausible. The irony, of course, is that it carries with it the particular bane of this sort of romance: science and the belief of man's inherent superiority over nature... read more
Bear Mountain State Park, USA
The park opened June 1913. Steamboats alone brought more than 22,000 passengers to the park that year. Camping at Hessian Lake (and later at Lake Stahahe) was immensely popular; the average stay was eight days and was a favorite for Boy Scouts. By 1914 it was estimated that more than a million people a year were coming to the park. (via)
The characters of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road are 20th Century equivalents of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer: boys having joyous American adventures. Sal and Dean trip (in more ways than one) back and forth from the east coast to the west, and down south even as far as Mexico, always looking to get their kicks. It's a free-flowing good time perfectly delivered in Kerouac's jazzy beat style... read more
Because of the value and importance of its many historical buildings, Verona has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Verona preserved many ancient Roman monuments, no longer in use, in the early Middle Ages, but much of this and much of its early medieval edifices were destroyed or heavily damaged by the earthquake of 3 January 1117, which led to a massive Romanesque rebuilding. (via)
"A book that makes you cry"
First thing that comes to me is Romeo & Juliet, no matter what the version, movie or original play, its one that gets me every time. The romance, (even though its technically Shakespearean insta-love) is dreamy, and the connection is epic... read more
Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi Ley is the second largest island of the archipelago, the largest one being Ko Phi Phi Don. The island consists of a ring of steep limestone hills surrounding 2 shallow bays, the Maya Bay and Loh Samah. Maya Bay is popular for diving, and has become even more popular after the 2000 movie The Beach was filmed there. According to the Lonely Planet's Thailand guidebook, the 2004 tsunami dramatically improved the look of Maya Bay. This was due to the fact that the high waves had cleaned up the beach and removed all the landscaping the Fox production team had added. (via)
A young traveller in Thailand receives a map in a backpackers' hostel from a man who kills himself later that night. Richard decides to use the map to find the mysterious beach the man told him about and takes a young French couple with him. But getting to the beach is only the beginning of a story which quickly descends into betrayal and murder... read more
Romania has a unique culture, which is the product of its geography and of its distinct historical evolution. Like Romanians themselves, it is fundamentally defined as the meeting point of three regions: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, but cannot be truly included in any of them. (via)
Sparkling lovesick tormented emo type, monster killing machines type, and everything in between - this is the book which is solely responsible for most of them. It is loosely based on the characters of Vlad the Impaler, who is now much better known as Dracula the Vampire... read more
Long Island, USA
Long Island has historically been a center for fishing and seafood. This legacy continues in the Blue Point oyster, a now ubiquitous variety that was originally harvested on the Great South Bay and was the favorite oyster of Queen Victoria. Clams are also a popular food and clam digging a popular recreational pursuit, with Manhattan clam chowder reputed to have Long Island origins. (via)
The Great Gatsby is a book you get something different out every time you read it. You get a different perspective or a different understanding, or even a different way of viewing the world, either Gatsby's world or your own. The Great Gatsby is just one of those books I will never tire of reading... read more
Istanbul to London
On June 5, 1883, the first Express d'Orient left Paris for Vienna. Vienna remained the terminus until October 4, 1883. The train was officially renamed Orient Express in 1891. The original route, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l'Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria, to pick up another train to Varna. They then completed their journey to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Niš, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul. (via)
Hey, I grew up in a small English village, so anywhere with more than two shops and a bus-stop was considered exotic, and meant that just about every book I read took me to places far beyond my village boundaries. But though it was small, my village had a library, and I must have borrowed every single one of Agatha Christie's novels... read more
According to Venetian documents, the name of the island originated in the Greek expression στην Ελούντα stin Elounda (meaning "to Elounda"). The Venetians could not understand the expression so they familiarized it using their own language, and called it spina "thorn" lunga "long", an expression that was also maintained by the locals. The Venetians were inspired for this expression by the name of an island near Venice called by the same name and which is known today as the island of Giudecca. (via)
This book reminded me a lot of "Moloka'i" by Alan Brennert and in some ways I liked it better! There were more characters and relationships, which led to more diverseness. For those of you who were astounded to read about what transpired to those who had leprosy in Hawaii, this book is just as astonishing though the setting is the Greek Isles... read more
The Congo River, Africa
The Congo River in the past also known as the Zaire River) is a river in Africa and the world's deepest river with measured depths in excess of 220 m (720 ft). It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged. (via)
The opening of the dusky scene of a worn ship at rest on the Thames, the images of the Roman soldiers stationed out at the edge of the Empire, staring into the dark night, waiting for attack, and longing for home. I'm struggling with this. The writing is so wonderful. That first set of images -- but then the story is told again, like the Romans, the story of one man going out to the edge of the empire, into the unknown, and expecting attack at any moment... read more
La Mancha, Spain
Miguel de Cervantes gave international fame to this land and its windmills when he wrote his novel Don Quixote de La Mancha. Cervantes was making fun of this region, using a pun; a "mancha" was also a stain, as on one's honor, and thus a hilariously inappropriate homeland for a dignified knight-errant. (via)
Don Quixote is undoubtedly a masterpiece, for it is full of so many wonderful literary techniques as well as one of those works of fiction which have survived for centuries. Yet, despite being centuries old, Don Quixote feels fresh and modern, despite being a work that rambles and ambles on Don Quixote feels shorter than it is in passages and longer than it is in others. It is a great book, because we have said that it is a great book, and fascinatingly it is this power in naming something, in calling it out into the open, that is the main point of discussion within Miguel De Cervantes work of fiction... read more
The Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands of Fiji are a volcanic archipelago lying to the west of Nadi and to the south of the Yasawa Islands. The group, a popular tourist destination, consists of about 20 islands, but about seven of these are covered by the Pacific Ocean at high tide. The Mamanuca Islands, just off the coast of Denarau offer crystal clear waters, palm fringed sandy beaches and live coral reefs. (via)
When Robinson Crusoe gets shipwrecked on an island, everything changes for him. Now stuck on the island of despair, Crusoe has to learn how to survive. Daniel Defoe’s classic survival novel has been the inspiration for many stories to come. Most people know the story so I won’t go into too much detail summarizing the book... read more
Saint Petersburg, Russia
There are hundreds of smaller bridges in Saint Petersburg spanning across numerous canals and distributaries of the Neva, some of the most important of which are the Moika, Fontanka, Griboyedov Canal, Obvodny Canal, Karpovkaand Smolenka. Due to the intricate web of canals, Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North. The rivers and canals in the city centre are lined with granite embankments. (via)
I can easily see someone giving this a 2star rating, as it is rambling and about a young, selfish man who murders an old woman just to prove that he can. But the reasons I gave it a 5star are the following:
1) Excellent writing. Even translated, Dostoyevsky's genius shines through. Descriptions of places, of humans, of human reaction to external and internal stimuli... read more
Haworth, Yorkshire, UK
Haworth railway station is part of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, an authentic preserved steam railway. The 43 miles (69 km) long Brontë Way leads past Lower Laithe Reservoir, Stanbury to the Brontë waterfalls, the Brontë Bridge and the Brontë Stone Chair in which (it is said) the sisters took turns to sit and write their first stories. It then leads out of the valley and up on the moors to Ponden Hall (reputedly Thrushcross Grange in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights) and Top Withens, a desolate ruin which was reputedly the setting for the farmstead Wuthering Heights. (via)
Let's face it, there are plenty of classics I want to read and this list could go on and on but I wanted to list the top 10 I most want to read! I don't read classics as often as I'd like to but I did make a goal to at least read 5 classics this year!... read more
And what are your dream holiday spots?
Source of infographics: Cheapflights
It’s time to hit the bookish road with the brand new books. We’re opening new book discover paths on BookLikes: new book releases and free ebooks.
Warning: this can lead to a TBR pile out of control syndrome :-)
The Book Catalog page received a new book folder with new book releases in 2014. You can look them up using the book category list on the left and shelve new titles published in 2014.
The second path is even more exciting. The Daily Deals page got a new tab, called Free ebooks. We present here a huge bunch of free Kindle ebooks so get ready for an intensive book hunt! The page is updated daily.
We're happy to introduce the next guest in BookLikes' Author Talks.
John Biggs author of the YA novel Mytro agreed to talk to us about his recently published novel, he reveals how a journalist becomes a writer, and how to use crowdfunding to publish a book.
You can meet and follow John Biggs on BookLikes where he shares his reading and writing passion on blog: John Biggs.
Plus: you can win Mytro on BookLikes. Read on to know more.
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Now you can discover books that people on BookLikes are talking about, reviewing and shelving. The BookLikes Book Catalog is open!
We’ve listed several discovery paths which include the most recent updates in the following areas:
You can look the books up in the particular categories listed on the left, to view more categories, click see more.
The next steps include adding new book discovery paths, like presenting all book lists in a given category, new releases, and more.
Let us know in the comments below what kind of discovery paths would you like to follow :-)
It’s time to re-read some books! Now you can add as many read dates to your books as your wish. What’s more, your BookLikes Reading Challenge will include the re-read titles, and your reading history will be presented on a book page and on your shelf.
To add more dates, click add a new date, insert the started and finished reading dates and Save.
The book on your Shelf will receive a re-read icon. Once you press it, you’ll see all your dates, you can easily update them and add new ones.
You can view your reading history in the Shelf table view and on the book page. The books with multiple read dates will be also counted to your BookLikes Reading Challenge.
P.S. The following card seems to be perfect for today's release :) Let's do it!
When it’s time for a book review start writing it from your Shelf! We’ve added a shortcut for writing the book review in your Shelf table view.
Now when you click add review in the My Review column in the table view you’ll see all writing post options.
When you choose a post type, you’ll be moved to a writing box; the book cover and your rating stars will be attached. This will help you to plan and manage your book reviews on your BookLikes webpage.
Following your request we've updated the book popup on Dashboard. Now the book window will be visible once you click on the book cover; this update will be visible both on your computers, and the mobile devices.
This will help you to add a book to your bookshelf (+Shelf, advanced options) and write a post (+Post), you can also go straight to a book page where you can view community reviews and bloggers who have already shelved the book.
photo source: via