Changes Coming to Isle of Books

I started Isle of Books back in December of 2011. I needed a hobby after a break-up and people were always asking me for book reviews so it seemed a natural fit to start a blog of book reviews. I found myself recommending the same books over and over without being really certain if those were the best books I could be recommending or the right ones for that person. Asking someone to recommend you a book on the spot is a lot like (I imagine) asking an octagenarian to name their favorite memory. That question is too big to properly answer without ample time for reflection.

I wanted Isle of Books to be a place where people could come and look for a book to read for an upcoming vacation or during a lengthy recovery from illness or surgery. I intended just to review my absolute favorite books and series. Which worked fine during college when I had so much more time to read and write about books I’d read in the past. But after I graduated and found a big-girl job, I started reading a lot less. And my posts became less and less frequent.

In order to serve my community on Isle of Books, I started reviewing every book I read, not just my favorites. Over time, I added some additional blogs to satisfy the need I felt to create more and more content. Sections like Featured Poems, Writing Project Wednesday, Reading Spaces, conference/author talk reviews, writing advice, and other miscellaneous topics. It was a lot of work, but it worked well for me a time. I thought I was building my platform and cultivating a tribe for the far-off future when I was an author with a book to sell of my own.

Recently, I attend the Superstars Writing Conference in Colorado Springs. Author Jonathan Maberry was one of the speakers. During one of the Q&A sessions, someone asked him about having a blog of book reviews. Of course, my ears perked up. I had a book of book reviews. Wasn’t that good for promoting for my brand as an author and writer? I was engaging with people and goshdarnit I had a platform!

In short, no.

It’s not my job to review books. I don’t get paid for it. I do it as a hobby. And making a hobby of criticizing others writers isn’t nice and isn’t very tribe-like. Those of you who know me in real life know I’m a nice person (or at least I think I am!) so it hurt my heart when someone brought it to my attention that what I was doing was not nice at all.

Now, this isn’t the end of Isle of Books so please don’t hear it that way! This moment just marks a shift, a pivot to nobler pursuits. There will still be book reviews! But I’m going back to my roots and only reviewing books I absolutely love. Those books I would enthusiastically champion to those who had ears to hear. If books were free, everyone would be getting it as a Christmas present. Those types of books. And there will still be Featured Poems and Reading Spaces and Writing Project Wednesdays (when I feel like writing them) and reviews of conferences and author talks and news about my publications. I hope more of my own fiction will find its way here. I also hope to do some author/literary people interviews if I can find anyone who’s willing. And in the near future (maybe this year!) I will have logged 1,000 books read on Goodreads. I’ve already planned a celebratory post that will include my personal list of the best books I read out of that 1,000 – you know you want to stick around for that! And I hope there will be more personal posts, too. In recent years I’ve been letting more of my life and personality creep into this blog and I want to do more of that. Despite being a blogger for over six years, I never talked all that much about myself.

I don’t regret the years I spent writing book reviews. I received opportunities I never would have had without it. I connected with so many readers near and far. I became a better reader because I knew I would be writing a review later. And I hope I became a better writer, at least in the non-fiction space, from all the practice. To date, there have been 730 posts on Isle of Books!

Soon, you won’t find all 730 posts on this site anymore. I’m working on going through and unpublishing any post I feel doesn’t fit my new standards for Isle of Books. You may find references to books on my social media that now have dead links. If you’re a new reader who never saw the original post, you’re free to think what you want about why that post is no longer up. But I think we’re all allowed to grow as human beings and backtrack on our earlier decisions. And I hope you’ll understand that having to manually go through 730 posts to unpublish the ones I don’t want up anymore is enough of a time investment. If you’re an author of one of those books that no longer has a published review, you can rest easy knowing the words are now locked away in my archives and will not see the light of day again.

If you’re only here for the book reviews and want to now take your eyeballs elsewhere, I appreciate you visiting my corner of the internet and hope you enjoyed your stay. To all the readers of Isle of Books, whether you’re brand-new or have been with me since the beginning, thank you. Thank you for the time you’ve been spent reading my words and considering my ideas and laughing (hopefully) at my lame jokes. Thank you for being here and letting me pursue this hobby for the past six years.

But if you’ve actually read to the end of this post, I hope you’ll stick around with me a little bit longer. I’m excited for the future and hope you’ll be along for the ride!

-Shannon

 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest For a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.”

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.

I really, really enjoyed this book! Which is not something I often say after reading a biography. Most biographies feel like work even if you’ve chosen to read the book for pleasure. They all seem to invariably contain sections that can only be described as just “a slog”. Not so with Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk.

Musk is obviously an interesting person with an interesting life. But so was Steve Jobs and others on the biography shelf – you don’t write a biography about an average person after all. What elevates Elon Musk above the rest, though, is Vance’s writing. Vance is a supremely talented writer, spinning together complex sentences that are both highly readable and devastatingly exact. Even if you don’t actually read this book, just pick it up and read a few pages to see this mastery in action. I am an official Ashlee Vance fan.

Another thing I enjoyed about this biography, besides the writing, was that Vance wasn’t afraid to deviate from the timeline. Most biographies run in a straight line from birth to death (or wherever the subject was in their life at the time of writing). Vance did go chronologically up to a point. But after he detailed Musk’s “darkest hour” in business in 2008, where he nearly lost Tesla and SpaceX, Vance devoted a hefty chapter each to Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City/the unifying principles that connect Musk’s businesses. This was a really good way to lay out the remainder of the book and actually made it really easy to then follow the development of those three businesses into what we see today.

On the subject of what this book was actually about, I emerged with a new respect for Musk. I’ve admired his work but didn’t know that much about the person behind the companies. Even when I did a little research into the Tesla Car earlier this year for one of my Writing Project Wednesdays (they’ll be back, I promise!), I only scratched the surface of who Musk was. What I admire the most about Musk is that he didn’t just build phenomenal, world-changing businesses….he managed to build phenomenal, world-changing businesses that fit into and serve his overall vision for his life’s while also being interconnected with each other. Absolutely amazing.

This biography was published in 2015. Since then, Musk’s star power hasn’t dulled any. If anything, he enjoyed a little boost from another high-profile relationship with an actress, Amber Heard. I’m looking forward to seeing what Musk does next…and hopefully, I’ll one day have a Model S of my own!

Reading Spaces: Dark and Moody

It’s finally starting to feel like winter here in San Diego. The skies have been grey, the temperatures cold, the nights foggy…it even rained a bit this week! All this wintery weather has got me leaning towards dark wood and moody home libraries. I hope you enjoy this week’s Reading Spaces, which is a departure from my usual light and bright spaces!

All images via Houzz

 

 

Featured Poem: Blueprint

By Emma Gorenberg

The first skeleton drawn from the earth, they called beautiful. And
she was, to their particular vantage—they who knew bleach from
ocher, bone from rock from gully. It is three days before I see the
limb breaching, femur or humerus I’m unsure, another before I will
feel it with an outstretched hand, another and I will push some of its
loamy casing away, but go no further. A week and I cannot leave it.
The pottery that births around it is more beautiful, but the bone is
captivating, hypnotic with the absence of life. And I will distinguish
each bone from earth if there are more, just as we scour the body not
to know the buried, but to realize how we walk above.

                      Autopsy (3500 BCE)

 

via Narrative Magazine

Tower of Dawn

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

The first quarter of the book took me awhile to get through. I had some other books to read for my bookclubs and then I was busy and didn’t want to get caught up in the obsessive page-turning that often happens when I read a Maas book. I needed all the sleep I could get to deal with my busy schedule.

I was finally able to devote time to Tower of Dawn when I left for Colorado for Christmas. I got out of the doldrums of the first quarter and by the middle of the book, the novel had hit its stride and I was hooked. I ended up staying up late and finishing it on Christmas Day.

Here’s my verdict: while not as action-packed as other entries in the Throne of Glass series, Tower of Dawn was interesting and I’m glad we have it. We did get some new details that will be crucial to the resolution of the plot. And I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building of the Southern Continent and am glad we got to travel there. I am hoping there may be spin-off series set on the Southern Continent in the future.

Of course, I’m now very eagerly awaiting Throne of Glass #7 which won’t be out until next fall. I am hoping this really is the final book because I don’t think my heart can take anymore. I just need everyone to be happy and Erilea to be saved. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Reading Spaces: Happy New Year!

Is it too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year? Yes? Well, I’m going to do it anyway. I hope 2018 brings you all the books you want, the comfiest places to read them in, the most delicious cups of tea, and the most tolerant of significant others to turn a blind eye to the piles of books slowly overtaking the house. Happy New Year!

All images via Houzz