Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.

Book of the Week

We talk about books a lot. Here are a few of them, with links to purchase them from Amazon. You probably already know the drill—if you buy the books from one of these links, Amazon gives us a small cut of the purchase price.

Feel free to shop however you’re most comfortable, whether from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or local book sellers. We’re just happy that you’re reading.

Week of September 23rd
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Recommended by: Brandon Sanderson

We all know grammar naturally. What we stress about as writers is knowing the right punctuation and wording rules to make what we want to say come across on the page. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty explains those rules in simple and wonderful ways. This book teaches you to use punctuation and grammar as tools to convey the proper emotions to the reader. A great reference book for anyone.

Week of September 16th
One Long Hot Summer

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

Shanna Germaine was our guest this episode and her novella Safe Haven appears in One Long Hot Summer.

Kallie Peters has finally made her dream come true—she’s turned the family farm into Safe Haven, an animal sanctuary. But financial woes are pressing in on her, and she’s worried that the only way to keep the farm is to allow her rich ex-boyfriend back into her life. When a sexy stranger shows up in her driveway with a wiggling puppy in his arms, she knows it’s her chance for a hot rendezvous before she gives up her freedom. It seems like the perfect interim before returning to the pressures of real life—but something else is happening between them. Can they find a way to save their dreams, their passions and their hearts, or will they have to say goodbye to all they’ve come to love?

Week of September&nb sp;9th

Recommended by: Howard Tayler

Existence by David Brin is a first contact story that brilliantly discusses Fermi’s paradox. What’s so neat about this book is not necessarily the first contact, but that Brin explores big idea after big idea after big idea. He throws more ideas into this book then most authors throw into a whole career’s worth of novels. It’s a slow read, not because it’s paced wrong, but because you want to savor every one of these ideas as they come by. It’s a luxurious read.

Week of September 2nd
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Recommended by: Dan Wells

One of the best books Dan has read this year is Redshirts by John Scalzi.

It begins as a mockery of Star Trek: an ensign shows up on a ship that is not the Enterprise (because that’s a licensed property, but it’s obviously the Enterprise) and can’t figure out why everyone on the ship is terrified of being asked to go on an away mission. Eventually, he realizes that on every away mission one of these poor little newbies dies in a horrible way. Scalzi then takes the story down the next step, why does this happen?

Three or four different times, Scalzi will take you in a direction that you didn’t think he was audacious enough to explore.

Week of August 26th
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel

Recommended by: Mary Robinette Kowal

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, critically acclaimed and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is recommended because of Chabon’s approach to the narrative and his nesting of the stories, creating a compelling, interesting world.

Week of August 19th

Recommended by: Howard Tayler

“I don’t want to give spoilers, but the things that Mira Grant did in order to write three very, very different books using the same set of characters in the same universe was brilliant. Well worth reading or listening to.”

Week of August 12th
All Men of Genius

Recommended by: Mary Robinette Kowal

Lev AC Rosen’s All Men of Genius is about a young woman who has to cross-dress in order to attend a renowned school in an alternate Victorian England. This book is recommended in part because Rosen has written it in omniscient, allowing him to explore the emotions of many different characters. He does this by drilling into what they’re noticing, their physical responses and the tiny details around them.

Week of August 5th
Helliconia Spring

Recommended by: Howard Tayler

Helliconia Spring, the first book in the Helliconia trilogy, is recommended this week because of the well-planned astronomy/world building. Author Brian Aldiss shows how really long winters and really long summers affect the natural life (flora and fauna) and culture in a fascinating way.

Week of July 29th
Sucks to Be Me

Recommended by: Dan Wells

Dan doesn’t read a lot of paranormal YA, but he loves this one. Sucks to Be Me is about a teenage girl who is a vampire and trying to deal with it.

“The reason it works for me where so many others don’t is because it is funny. It is just hilarious. I love it.”

Week of July 22nd
Howl's Moving Castle

Recommended by: Brandon Sanderson

One of Brandon’s favorite fantasy novels, Howl’s Moving Castle is a great example of the recent trend in children’s and YA publishing of fairytale retelling or the fractured fairytale. Diana Wynne Jones was doing some of these things before they acheived their current popularity. She took the fairytale tropes and created her own fairytales from them. You won’t recognize any traditional fairytales in this story, but the feel of the story is the same. Even if you’ve seen the film, you still need to read the book.

Week of July 15th

Recommended by: Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary recommends Imager, the first book in the Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt, Jr., on this episode in particular because of the well-written villian-hero conflict in the series.

In the Imager world, a very limited number of people can visulaize something and make it real. The main character, Rhennthyl, who has been training to be a painter, realizes that he is in fact an imager and will have to leave his family and cope with the fear and danger his abilities attract.

Week of July 8th
The Hollow City

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

The Hollow City is Dan’s new stand-alone, supernatural, psychological thriller. The novel follows Michael Shipman, a paranoid schizophrenic who comes to realize that some of the monsters he sees are real. No one will trust him, and he’s not even sure he can trust himself. A quick, fun, creepy thriller.

Week of July 1st
Sharpe's Rifles

Recommended by: Dan Wells

Sharpe’s Rifles is about a rifleman in the Napoleonic wars, who is raised up to become an officer at a time when officer ranks were usually reserved for the nobility. It is the first of the Sharpe books that Cornwell wrote, though not the first chronologically. There are 30–40 Sharpe books, easily, and the book is recommended because it illustrates the main idea of this episode, “The Problem of Originality.”

“If you read two or three of them in a row, they start to feel derivative and old. Whereas if I read one of these every couple of months, I love them. They’re some of my favorite books. Cornwell is one of my favorite authors.”

Week of June 24th

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

Partial’s is Dan’s new series of fast-paced, post-apocalyptic YA goodness. The story follows Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic, detirmined to find a cure for the RM virus that is preventing the survival of all human babies, while avoiding the threat of the bioengineered Partials. Kira soon realizes that the key to defeating the RM virus lies in understanding the connection between humans and their greatest enemy.

Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the ruins of our civilization before all traces of our way of life have crumbled into dust? Partials will take you there.

Week of June 17th
The Great Train Robbery

Recommended by: Brandon Sanderson

Michael Criton writes quite a few caper-type plot archetypes. Brandon chose this one because it is actually a caper. The Great Train Robbery, one of Crichton’s earliest novels is one of Brandon’s favorites and contains no supernatural elements. It is just a well-done caper.

Set in Victorian London, the story follows the Edward Pierce who plans to steal a fortune in gold from a steam locomotive.

Week of June 3rd
The Time Traveler's Wife

Recommended by: Mary Robinette Kowal

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is about a man who has a genetic disorder that causes him to randomly jump to different points in time. It is a love story between him and a woman he has known her entirely life, but because of his disorder their paths intersect at different points. Told in first person, the novel has a very interesting narrative structure. Mary loved it.

Week of May 27th
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Recommended by: Mary Robinette Kowal

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a mystery. There are no supernatural elements in this at all, but what I love about these books is that the main character is Flavia de Luce. She is an 11-year-old genius with chemistry, and her specialty are poisons. It’s set in the early 1950s in England, right after the war. She solves mysteries.

“I love these books so much I can’t even … I eat them like candy.”

Week of May 20th
Going Postal

Recommended by: Brandon Sanderson

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett is a hilarious standalone novel and one of the best Brandon has ever read. The story follows Moist von Lipwig, a con-man who is put in charge of the ailing postal system of a large city and threatened with execution unless he gets the service running again.

Week of May 13th
The Slab

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

Michael R. Collings was one of our guests for this episode. His book The Slab is a horror novel about one house, in an otherwise typical subdivision, that quietly consumes family after family that dares to live in it. Dan described the book as grueling and horrible and wonderful, and loved every minute of it.

Week of May 6th

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

James Artimus Owen was our guest for this episode and he highly recommends a book by debut author Brodi Ashton. Everneath is a captivating story of love, loss, and immortality.

Week of April 29th
Here There Be Dragons

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

James Artimus Owen was our guest for this episode and the guest of honor at the Life, the Universe and Everything symposium. Here There Be Dragons is the first in Owen’s chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of maps containing every land you’ve ever read about in myth, legend, fable or fairytale. The story begins when three young men, who meet in London in 1917, are given the atlas and told they’re now the caretakers of that book and all the lands mapped within it.

Week of April 22nd

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

Larry Correia was our guest for this episode, and his new book Spellbound is the second installment of the Grimnoir Chronicles, a noir, pulp, magical, epic fantasy, alternate history with gansters zepplins and ninjas. It’s diesel punk with enough gun accuracy to please amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

Week of April 15th
Under Heaven

Recommended by: Brandon Sanderson

Nominated for both the Locus and World Fantasy awards for Best Fantasy Novel in 2011, Under Heaven is an epic secondary-world fantasy with earth cultural influence by Guy Gavriel Kay, one of Brandon’s favorite authors. It’s beautiful, poetic in a way that few people in fantasy can write and very engaging with great characters.

Week of April 8th
Glamour in Glass

Recommended by: Writing Excuses

Written by our own Mary Robinette Kowal, Glamour in Glass is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey, precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen … if she had lived in a world where magic worked. Glamour in Glass is basically what happens if you take a happily ever after that ends book one and then send them on honeymoon to the middle of Waterloo.