(Alternative title: I couldn’t really think of a blog post title)
Really late (it’s back to sporadic blogging now), but I’m liking the Hugo Awards shortlist. I think it’s back to being a source of new-to-me authors, instead of being hijacked by personal vendettas. My thoughts on the Best Novel finalists FWIW:
- ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders: I admit I keep on changing my mind on this one. One review makes the book sound like something I’d really enjoy, and then the next review makes me think it wouldn’t speak to me at all. I guess there’s only one way to find out…
- A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by Becky Chambers: I’ve the first book on my Kindle, I guess I should really get around to reading it? I’ve only read good things about this series.
- DEATH’S END by Cixin Liu: Ditto re first book, Kindle.
- NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee: Oh hey, I’ve read this one. I’ve mixed feelings – I can see why it’s earned its place on the shortlist (it is brilliant), but I also found it genuinely difficult to understand (and it’s rare I say that about a fiction book!). I did get into the story eventually, and will definitely get the sequel, but it’s one of those books where you really have to pay attention at the start.
- THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin: Err, I can only repeat that I’ve been meaning to read her books for ages. This may be the spur I need.
- TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING by Ada Palmer: I was really interested in reading it, but the price of the hardback put me off. And then I’ve read not-so-great reviews of the second book. So this is probably in the same category for me as the Charlie Jane Anders. for me.
And a couple of links that caught my attention recently:
Tamora Pierce is one of my favourite YA fantasy authors – her Alanna books have a special space in my heart. I found her Margaret A Edwards Awards speech really interesting – she talks about Alanna (of course), but also how she came up with Keladry’s story, and how she wanted Kel to be different to Alanna. Also:
Kel’s story is more political than Alanna’s because I have grown more political over the years[…]
Speaking of favourite authors, Elizabeth Mansfield also wrote some of the most well-loved Regency romances on my shelves (and I’ve been grabbing the e-versions as they become available). Her daughter has posted some of unpublished anecdotes on her website – they’re wickedly funny and well worth a read.
Intisar Khanani’s SUNBOLT & MEMORIES OF ASH: A YA with a strong female lead in a wonderfully-realised fantasy world – this ticks a lot of boxes for me. Fair warning, SUNBOLT is more of a lead-in novella than a standalone story – it doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, but I was left wondering what happens next. MEMORIES OF ASH more than ably answers that question, and I stayed up (very) late following Hitomi on her adventures with my heart in my mouth.
I really need to start closing my browser tabs. Here are some (book-ish) links that caught my attention recently:
I adored this guest review of KJ Charles’s A SEDITIOUS AFFAIR @ Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Part of me wants to be able to write reviews like that, the other part is more than happy to just sit back and read them.
Awards season has started, and I always keep an eye out for new recs. Here are the nominations for the Aurealis Awards (for Australian SF/F and horror writers) and the Nebula Awards. Also, an analysis of the Nebulas by author Cora Buhlert.
A fun interview with editor Anne Sowards on working with Patricia Briggs @ Unbound Worlds. She edits some of my favourite authors.
And finally a Tumblr link – this post on “Coexisting With The Fair Folk Who Have Taken Up Residence In/Around/Beneath Your University: A How-To Guide” was amazing. I would totally read a whole book based on this premise.
Lucy Parker’s PRETTY FACE: I know, I know, it’s a brand-new release with lots of buzz. But I utterly loved it, and it’ll definitely be on my 2017 favourites list. I don’t have many contemporary romance auto-buy authors (maybe only Kelly Hunter?), but Lucy Parker is now one of them.
I try to keep this blog focused purely on book-related stuff, but… it’s been a grim start to 2017, hasn’t it?
This tweet helped though:
On to other links that have caught my attention:
A good source of book recs for me are award longlists – the RT Book Reviews Award Nominees list was released recently. Despite the title, it’s not just romance titles – their SF/F lists are always worth a read.
Tanya Huff is one of my autobuy authors (THE SILVERED was one of my favourites). She’s also very versatile, switching between SF, high fantasy and urban fantasy with ease, and this Reddit author appreciation thread is an incredibly comprehensive summary of her work.
And finally, this post by KJ Charles titled “Your Politics Are Showing” was smart and on point.
Kate Sherwood’s SACRATI: Sherwood’s books are a bit hit or miss. Some of them really work for me, while others leave me cold. SACRATI is in the former camp, as you may have guessed – it’s a M/M fantasy romance, with a lot more depth and world-building than I expected going in.
Look! It’s only taken me eleven months to log all my 2015 reads on Goodreads. Ha. *eyes 2016 notes*
I think I’ve mentioned my “process” before – I basically jot down some rough notes (and rating using GR stars) in a Google Docs document and then transfer over in a (much) more coherent form to GR when I’ve some time to spare. (This excludes those books that I feel strongly enough to blog about here, obviously!)
What I have found myself doing when transcribing my notes
a year some time later is that I occasionally adjust my original rating for a book – rarely upwards, usually downwards. Not very often – it was maybe for ten or so books when I was finishing off my 2015 updates? In a way, distance helps me to calibrate my ratings – if I can barely remember the plot a few months later, that 4* was probably a bit too generous in hindsight. Does anyone else adjust ratings retrospectively too?
Anyway, a couple of links for the weekend:
October is flying past for me. In fact, all of 2016 appears to be progressing at 2x speed – anyone else feel that way?
I’ve sat down several times to try and compose a blog post, but have given up on anything coherent. So here’s a random set of book-ish thoughts for today:
1) An Andrea K Höst new release! Seeing her post about The Towers, the Moon pop up today was a pleasant surprise – I love her writing, and let’s face it, a set of short stories sounds about my speed lately.
2) Having said that, a new book want – Angie’s post about Beth Brower‘s THE Q made me want to run out and buy it immediately.
3) Old news, but I am loving Neil Gaiman‘s retro cover re-dos. STARDUST especially! I have such a soft spot for those old-school covers.
4) And finally, anyone on Litsy? I joined after Chachic posted about the Android release (I’m meandmybooks), but I’m struggling. Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, and I figure there’s only so many “arty” shots I can do.
Here’s my first (and only) Litsy contribution… (also my reading list as of a week or so ago)
We’re currently in the middle of the second mini-heatwave of summer, which feels like it should be some sort of record for London. I’m also in a post-Olympics slump, and trying to remind myself what I did before there was cycling/diving/pentathlon on TV every evening…
The Olympics has meant I’ve done very little reading during August. I did finish Kate Elliott’s brand-new release POISONED BLADE though, which I count as a win!
It’s the sequel to her YA debut COURT OF FIVES and even better than the first, IMO. I felt COURT OF FIVES was more straightforward adventure; in POISONED BLADE, she brought the layers of complexity I expect from an Elliott book, while continuing to build on the relationships established in the first book. The slight threads of romance (or attraction?) worked better for me as well, perhaps because more ambiguity and growth (on all sides) was introduced. At times though, there was so much arguing between Jessamy and other characters that it frustrated me. But maybe that’s what I’m meant to feel – anger is tiring, and the conversations made sense in the larger context of the story. TL;DR: Good installment and I look forward to the next book!
Links of interest:
Despite the doom-and-gloom weather predictions, it’s turned out to be a good Bank Holiday! Lots of sunshine (where I live, anyway), and it feels like spring is finally here. And not a moment too soon…
A few Monday links:
Sarah Rees Brennan talks about women and worldbuilding – she makes some interesting points. Hand-wavey worldbuilding is one of my pet hates (I can overlook it if I’m really invested in the characters, but it takes a lot!). I haven’t seen a male/female divide on “good” worldbuilding but then again, my reading skews heavily towards female authors so IDK. Anyway, she mentions THE TURN OF THE STORY, which is one of the very few online serials I fell for (primarily because it wasn’t a serial until it was…) – definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.
Speaking of worldbuilding (or lack of), Marko Kloos talks about how his Frontlines military SF series started out. Which made me think a bit about what I consider to be worldbuilding. I don’t need to know the nth detail of a world, but I appreciate consistency between characterisation and the setting. How characters think and react should be shaped by the society and culture in which they live, which in turn is influenced by history, technology, the physical setting and so forth. When any of these are out of sync, it feels slightly jarring to me – does that make sense? Do you think of worldbuilding differently?
Finally, an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, who’s an author who does amazing worldbuilding IMO. It’s a great interview and covers quite a few topics. On backlist books, I found this piece interesting – not surprised, though:
So, yes, I now make much, much more from my self-pubbed backlist e-books than backlist paper books. None of them sell more than modestly, but I have 20 or 30 titles up, depending, and they do add up. A frontlist (new) lead book publication with good push from a major publisher can still top that in the first years of a book’s life-cycle. By my current calculations, after about five years e-versions go back to being more advantageous.
I will stop linking all the cover design articles at tor.com one day, promise. Just not today.
Here’s a Julie Dillon cover for this upcoming novel by Foz Meadows. AN ACCIDENT OF STARS sounds really intriguing – one for my to-read list, I think:
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.
There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.
Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.
Can one girl—an accidental worldwalker—really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?
And I’ve not read any of Bradley P Beaulieu‘s books before, but enjoyed reading this post about the making of his cover for OF SAND AND MALICE MADE. Love the title too (and have noted the Robin Hobb blurb!). I think I’ve a book of his in my very large e-TBR pile, will have to dig it out now.
And in non-cover linkage:
Happy February! Or rather, how in the world did January pass so fast? Possibly because I spent too much time clicking on links – here are a few that caught my attention recently:
This cover reveal post @ tor.com for Jay Kristoff’s new book led me to Meg’s cover redesign project. I am so impressed by her re-imagined covers for Rae Carson’s Fire & Thorns trilogy and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle quartet. They’re gorgeous (and totally rival the originals!) and I really hope she does more.
And two free short story reads:
Do you know what a “larrikin” is? I had no idea – my vocabulary obviously doesn’t stretch to Australia slang! Kelly Hunter explains what a larrikin is (and isn’t). There’s also an excerpt from her new-ish contemporary romance A BAD BOY FOR CHRISTMAS (I really enjoyed this one – she always manages to pack so much story (and chemistry) into a category-length romance).
You’ve noticed the new Vorkosigan covers, right? The cover artist Ron Miller wrote an interesting post on good cover design. I’m a bit on the fence about the new covers – they’re better than some covers Lois McMaster Bujold has had (understatement of the year, possibly) but I’m not entirely sure they’ll appeal to new readers. Here’s LMB’s post talking about the alternative cover concepts (also interesting!).
And this totally made me smile. Olivia Hunyh is such a great illustrator, and I adored her Google Doodle tribute to LM Montgomery. Check out the Anne of Green Gables scenes she captured in the second two doodles – they are so perfect!