A Few Links for a Bank Holiday Weekend

And a very wet Bank Holiday at that!  Though it’s been a fairly productive weekend for me – I finally finished adding all my 2013 reads to Goodreads (yes, only eight months late – I think I just had a blogging slump during the middle of the year).

Some links I’ve been meaning to post for a while:

My Day Out at LonCon3

LONCON3_logo_small_webSo you may have heard that the WorldCon (or the 72nd World Science Fiction Conference) was in London this year.  Probably because I didn’t have to commit to any major travel plans, I dithered a bit (okay, a lot) on whether to attend or not until the week before, when I finally decided that this would probably be the only time in my life where the WorldCon would be in my home city and I should really go.  So after studying the programme in detail, I handed over the money for a Sunday day admission – and was glad I did, because I probably would have died from envy while reading status updates otherwise…

I did swing past the Excel Centre (where the convention was being held) on the Saturday as Andrea K Höst organised a fan meet-up in one of the nearby cafes.  I was running late (thanks to me forgetting the DLR weekend schedule was slightly different to the weekday one) so I arrived midway through Andrea’s explanation of the world-building in her upcoming book, THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON, I think!  But it was fun to talk books (and I also got to meet Estara in person, which was great).

On Sunday, I arrived at the Excel Centre more or less when planned this time around.  I thought the con was very well-organised – maybe because it was the fourth day, but I picked up my badge at the registration desk in about two minutes flat.  There were queues outside the more popular panels, but certainly the ones I attended were very prompt about ending 5-10 minutes early so that the next panel could start on time.

I had a few panels on my list to attend, and the first panel was “Authors Accept, Encourage, and Create Fan Works Too” – partly because of the authors on the panel (Seanan McGuire, Adam Christopher, Karen Miller, and Patrick Rothfuss, moderated by Karen Hellekson), but also because I was curious about their take on fanfiction (I’m not a massive fanfic reader myself, but have read and loved some).  This was held in one of the larger suites, so didn’t feel massively crowded – possibly 2/3s full at best?

Caveat: I wasn’t doing any proper note-taking, so I may have misquoted or misinterpreted panellists. 

My notes are rather scanty, as I’m really not at my best before noon on a Sunday.  The hour flew past – 60 minutes for a panel doesn’t feel long enough as by the time intros are completed and the panel has answered a couple of questions thrown out by the moderator, you only have time for a few questions from the audience.  For this panel specifically, I also had the impression that the panel wasn’t necessarily in agreement on certain topics, so it was a shame that there wasn’t enough time to explore what they agreed/disagreed on…

Not all the questions from the audience here felt particularly relevant to me, especially when one of the people chosen (I think he was an author too, but didn’t catch his name/recognise him) ended up stating his views on the topic as opposed to asking a question.  From memory, questions included the risk of losing copyright/trademarks (which led to the level of control that creators have over their universe – Karen Miller talked a bit about the restrictions of writing in the Star Wars universe) and whether actors should be allowed to add their own interpretation to characters as written by authors (there was a firm “no” from Karen Miller (I think!), though Pat Rothfuss hinted he disagreed).  Towards the end, Seanan McGuire (err.. I think again – good thing I’m not a journalist) made an eloquent argument about why “intent does not mean anything”, which I thought was fantastic – paraphrasing horribly, but it was along the lines of “it doesn’t matter what you meant when you wrote something, it’s about what the reader took away from it”.

I then went to the “Diversity Within Young Adult Science Fiction” panel, which was 90 minutes long and felt so much better-paced as a result.  Panellists were Mary Anne Mohanraj, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Mahvesh Murad, Kate Elliott, John Hornor Jacobs, and it was moderated by Marieke Nijkamp.  You’ll be glad to hear I had a few more proper notes from this one – so much so that the detail is behind the cut below, as this recap has turned out to be a bit of an essay…  Midway through this panel, the skies opened – possibly coincidentally, my note-taking application crashed (if I’d thought about this a bit more, I’d brought pen and paper really).  Which means my notes on book recommendations are rather sketchy – Kate Elliott talked up Malinda Lo’s books a lot though!

I took a break from the programming to wander through the dealers’ hall – there were so many secondhand mass-market paperbacks I wanted, but couldn’t really justify as I’ve the e-copies and no shelf space.  But still… I loved seeing all those retro covers, and would have probably caved had I been at the con for more than a day.  And I also bumped into Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers while browsing through the books – they were just as fantastic IRL as you’d expect them to be.

I wanted to attend the “So Grim. Much Serious. Wow” panel, primarily because Tanya Huff was on the panel, but when I turned up about 10 minutes early, the queue for the room was massively long.  So I figured I wouldn’t get in and decided to go to Bryan Talbot‘s “How I Make a Graphic Novel” instead.  Bryan Talbot was one of LonCon3’s Guests of Honour and it was a fascinating hour or so.  I don’t really read graphic novels (but I’ve been trying to understand how to read one, if that makes sense!), so I suspect I didn’t get as much out of it as others would have, but I enjoyed listening to him talk through the actual process of writing one – usage of different grid-styles, pacing, page design etc – and left impressed with the amount of work and thought that goes into creating a graphic novel.

Final panel of the day for me was “My Opinions, Let Me Show You Them“, which was a bloggers’ panel (Foz Meadows (m), Thea James, Aidan Moher, Adam Whitehead, Justin Landon) – it was nice to see the faces behind the blogs.  I’ve to say the room was very very warm – it was one of the smaller suites, and it was packed – and I swear the man next to me was snoozing away.  He perked up as the panel was asked to talk about some of their controversial posts, and started googling the posts in question as the bloggers were speaking, which amused me!  One of the questions asked was whether the panel ever pulled their punches, which led to Foz Meadows (usual caveat of I think it was, anyway…) talking about punching up/down/across, which was also referred to in the Diversity in YA panel I attended earlier.

And that was it for me – I had to run unfortunately, so couldn’t go to the Hugos ceremony in the evening, but it sounded like it was good fun for those who went (winners and breakdown of votes).  Although I only spent a day (or eight hours or so, to be precise) at LonCon3, it was really refreshing to be in the same place as other people who love reading and SF/F as much as I do, and I can definitely see the attraction of con-attending (and I really want to attend a romance and/or blogging convention now).  I suspect my experience would also have been a lot different had I done the full weekend/staying on-site thing – maybe next time…

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Sarina Bowen’s THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR: Cover Reveal (& Giveaway)

It’s fair to say I rarely do cover reveals.  So rare that today’s post may actually be my first one.

Two, no, three reasons actually:

  • Firstly, I love Sarina Bowen‘s covers for her Ivy Years series (shallow, but sadly true) – I love the striking simplicity of the cover designs and the cohesive series feel
  • More seriously, I’ve read and enjoyed the first two full-length novels in her series – they’re inter-connected stories (with different protagonists) in a college setting.  I think I’ve talked before about how NA books were all starting to blend into one for me, and her books feel different – she doesn’t shy away from tackling tough issues, and they’re not the standard run-of-the-mill issues you find in NA books.  The first book, THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN, has Corey dealing with the life-changing results of a sports injury, while Scarlett has serious reasons for creating a new life for herself in THE YEAR WE HID AWAY.  I also have major love for the Harkness (a thinly-disguised Yale) college setting and the sports elements in these books (ice hockey, if you’re curious).
  • Finally, it’s an M/M new adult book – how rare is that?  (Possibly less rare than my cover reveals.)

So without further ado, here’s the cover for THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR, out Oct 1:

The Understatement of the Year coverThe Understatement of the Year (Ivy Years #3)
by Sarina Bowen

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: October 1, 2014

Blurb:
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual preference from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

 

Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

A few Q&As about the series/book:

Q: Is Harkness College from the Ivy Years series based on Yale?

A: Heck yes! But it’s based on a Yale which has gone soft and fuzzy in my mind, in all the best ways. So I’ve fictionalized it to avoid the errors and inaccuracies that I’d be likely to make if I tried to get everything just right.

Q: Why did you decide to write a book about two guys?

A: In the first place, I didn’t really decide, so much as the idea for Graham’s struggle surgically implanted itself in my brain and would not let go. And when I pictured the two of them meeting up again in a locker room after five years of silence, I just got the chills. This became the book that I cheated on all my other books to write. (If my editors of other projects are reading this… sorry! I’ll get back to work now. Probably.)

Q: Why college hockey?

A. Because… duh! Hockey players are hot. And hockey is a fast-paced game where whining is categorically disallowed. Interestingly, fighting is not legal in college hockey, either. It’s all about the game. I love that!

Q: How many Ivy Years books do you have planned?

A: Five, if you’re counting the novella. After Rikker and Graham’s book, Bella is going to need her own book. What, you haven’t met Bella yet? You will on October 1st, when Understatement of the Year is published. She is a kick-ass chick in much the same way as Corey, Scarlet and Katie. You’ll love her. You can read a bit more about all the titles on The Ivy Years page on my website.

You can find and contact Sarina here: WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads

Pre-order links: Amazon, Kobo (should be up shortly)

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And if you’ve made it this far, there’s a tour-wide giveaway for the cover reveal of THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. You can win a signed set of paperback books which includes: The Year We Fell Down (Ivy Years #1), The Year We Hid Away (Ivy Years #2) and Blonde Date (Ivy Years 2.5). The giveaway is open internationally.

Finally – I’ve read an ARC of THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR and will post a review closer to the release date, but it’s a good one.

This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Books for August

A belated new releases post (and WordPress has changed their posts interface – help!).  Not that many new releases this month that I want, for a change…

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9627755Stephanie Perkin‘s ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (YA romance): I fell in love with ANNA when it was released way back when, so am thrilled that we are finally getting the final companion novel in this loosely-related trilogy of books.

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Out Aug 14

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18398797Kelley Armstrong‘s VISIONS (UF): Her Otherworld books were auto-buys for me; I’ve been more on the fence about her recent releases, but I did like the first book in this series, OMENS, when I read it last year.  

As #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s new Cainsville series continues, Olivia’s power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her new hometown.

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.

Out Aug 19

19186417Lee Child‘s PERSONAL (suspense): The latest Jack Reacher is always on my to-read list, so no surprises here.  But I admit to liking the city-based Reacher stories more (yes, total city girl at heart!) and it looks like both Paris AND London make an appearance in this book.

Jack Reacher walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he’s a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president.

Only one man could have done it. And Reacher is the one man who can find him.

This new heartstopping, nailbiting book in Lee Child’s number-one bestselling series takes Reacher across the Atlantic to Paris – and then to London. The stakes have never been higher – because this time, it’s personal.

Out Aug 28

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20945757Ann Aguirre‘s I WANT IT THAT WAY (NA romance): It’s been a while since I’ve read an Aguirre, and the last one I read was her Sirantha Jax SFR series (which, come to think of it, I never ended up finishing).  But I like her writing, and this first book in her new series caught my eye. 

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she’s determined to make them come true—for her parents’ sake as well as her own. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, she barely has time to think, let alone date. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B….

Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can’t risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, a social life is out of the question. The last thing he wants is for four noisy students to move into the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia’s and Ty’s paths cross, and soon they can’t stay away from each other.

The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can’t know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

Out Aug 26

Some Really Good Books*

I… have been reading some really good books.  I don’t even feel guilty (okay, I do, vaguely) about not putting up my August new releases post because I’ve just Been Reading.  And now I’ve to gush talk about them, possibly slightly incoherently, but, well.

9221793First was a bit of a glom for new-to-me author Cinda Williams Chima.  I’ve heard good things about her writing, and have had the first book of her Seven Realms YA fantasy series on my Kindle for ages.  But I was never quite in the right mood for it – and still wasn’t really.  It was just that I had a three hour train journey and wanted some fantasy.  So I chose a book at random, and I’ll be honest – THE DEMON KING didn’t grab me from the start.  I thought the first chapters were inclined towards over-exposition and was concerned that this would be fantasy dumbed-down for the teen market.  The alternating POVs struck me as a rather tired narrative device, the characters felt a bit generic-fantasy archetype (the streetwise ex-thief turned good, the rebellious princess, etc etc…), and the dreaded love triangle threatened.

I know.  Thank goodness for that three-hour journey because I continued reading.

And somehow I got sucked in.  The characters grew up and became three-dimensional – I liked them, I rooted for them, and I wanted them to win through even though it felt impossible at times.  The stakes for Raisa, Han, Dancer, Amon, Cat, and well, so many others, became higher over the course of the series and I was totally invested in the outcome.  The romance (of course there was romance) was of the sort that came ever so slowly to the boil and was oh-so-satisfying.  I surfaced from the world of the Seven Realms a while later, having gulped down the entire quartet in around three days.  It’s the sort of series where midway through the final book, I almost didn’t want to finish it because that would have meant the story was over.

So if you’re in the mood for fantasy with a healthy mix of court intrigue, magic, and romance, you could do worse than to check out this series.  And I need to have a look at Cinda Williams Chima’s other series, obviously.

And that’s not all.

16068905I finally caved and bought Rainbow Rowell‘s FANGIRL after the numerous fangirl (sorry) squeeing reviews about her books (and also because of the current bargain-ish price of  £1.59 for the Kindle edition on Amazon UK).  Plus I needed to switch genres as I suspected any other fantasy would pale compared to the Seven Realms books at the moment.

All I’m going to say is that I only put down FANGIRL last night because it was 2am and I had a 9am meeting this morning.  So excuse me as I’ve to find out how Cath is doing…

*You may have noticed I’ve run out of inspiration when it comes to blog post titles.