Ah Summer…

Summer isn’t my favourite season (I dread the boiling Tubes, stifling buses, and actually, thinking about it, everything to do with making my way around a city that isn’t designed for temperatures above 20 degrees).  But summer does mean holidays, drinks in the sunshine, and of course, tennis and Wimbledon especially!  Which is a long-winded way of saying, yeah, I’ve been neglecting this blog.

37712577Let’s see – what have I been up to reading-wise?  I’ve just finished Ilona Andrews’ new release, SWEEP OF THE BLADE.  I skip their online serialised version (because I’m all about instant gratification, and can’t deal with waiting for new chapters), so any Innkeeper story is always brand new to me.

I found SotB lots of fun, it’s the kind of story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and I whizzed through the book over a couple of nights. The Innkeeper series is probably my favourite of the Ilona Andrew books – it feels less… overcrafted somehow?  I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but most of their recent releases feel just a bit too carefully put together to me.  There’s so much description, which throws me out of the story, and I end up skimming.  I stalled halfway through the final Kate book – will have to go back and pick it up again.

I’ve also somehow found my way back to buying physical books.  Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration – I think I’ve bought six over the past month, but that’s probably not far off how many I bought in total over 2018.  There is something to be said about about browsing in bookstores and impulse buys (or random discoveries).  I haven’t actually finished any of them yet (see summer distractions above), so I’ll have to report back.

On a tangentially-related note, I was really sorry to hear that Less Than Three is closing their doors.  I appreciated how they published books across the queer spectrum which probably would have struggled to get out there otherwise, but totally see how it’s tough for an indie publisher to keep afloat in these times.  Their approach to winding down their business and reverting rights appears to be exemplary though.

So that’s me – how has summer (or winter depending on where you are!) been treating you so far?

 

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Still Here…

How in the world are we in mid-November already?  It feels like only yesterday that I was sweltering in the Heatwave of 2018, and now the heating is on, Christmas adverts are appearing on telly… and it’s been almost three months since my last post.

My blog hiatus has been slightly inadvertent in that I’ve managed to lose the habit of blogging, so this post is really more about me trying to remind myself that posting something can be a matter of minutes, not a couple of hours.

So a couple of tor.com posts I enjoyed:

I read and re-read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books in my teenage years (and beyond!), and I really enjoyed this take on her books: Revisiting Tamora Pierce’s Tortall as a Mother of a Daughter

KJ Charles is one of my autobuy authors, and this post made me want to re-read Simon Feximal.  Great recs in the comments too.

Finally for UK readers – the newest Kindle Paperwhite is on sale for the next week (£30 off).  I have been debating getting an Oasis for ever, but could never quite justify the price tag.  So I caved and bought a new Paperwhite (my current one is years old, so I expect to be suitably wowed by this one – will report back).

Oh Hey

*dusts off blog*

Safe to say that I’ve had a rather hectic start to 2018, and the easiest thing for me to shelve (temporarily!) was blogging.  But the urge to blog hits me every now and again, and a couple of weeks ago, I was itching to write a post about all the good books I had read over the first couple of months of the year.  Then the Santino Hassell and Riptide Publishing mess came to light, and that kind of sapped all my blogging energies for a bit…

But it’s Easter and the start of a new quarter and technically spring (despite the freezing temperatures and pouring rain), so here’s some book-ish updates to ease back into  the blogging swing of things.

38201274I won an ARC of THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY anthology, edited by Stephanie Burgis and Tiffany Trent (out end April).  I loved the idea of a fantasy anthology centred around a real-life underwater ballroom (okay, a smoking room under a roof aquarium, but still) and it didn’t disappoint.

Standouts for me was Burgis’s own “Spellswept” (a prequel to her fantasy novella SNOWSPELLED – and just as charming), Ysabeau S. Wilce’s “The Queen of Life” (a haunting take on the world of the fae with a rock’n’roll flavour), Iona Datt Sharma’s “Penhallow Amid Passing Things” (what’s not to like about a genderbent tale about  age-old rivalry between smugglers and Revenue inspectors, with magic thrown in for good measure), and Patrick Samphire’s “A Spy in the Deep” (a whodunnit in a alt-hist Regency setting on Mars – I know and yes, it works).  There were others that I didn’t connect with as much, but overall, a strong anthology, and it introduced me to quite a few new-to-me authors that I’ll be looking up.

In other news, the 2018 Hugo nominations are also out!  I’m thrilled that Sarah Rees Brennan got a nod in the (not a Hugo) YA category for IN OTHER LANDS, which I utterly loved.

Other thoughts on the nominees:

Best Novel: I’ve enjoyed John Scalzi’s THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, but in the way I’ve enjoyed all his books – they’re entertaining and fast-paced, and then I struggle to remember the actual plots a few weeks after.  I’ve the Yoon Ha Lee on my Kindle, waiting to be read, and I’ve been meaning to pick up both the Ann Leckie and NK Jemisin at some point.  I’ve heard of the other two nominees, but neither appealed – I may take a closer look.

Best Novella: Martha Wells appears to be getting a lot of love for ALL SYSTEMS RED – deservedly so!  I’ve always thought she flies under the radar somewhat.  On my to-read list is Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy (I think?) and the Sarah Gailey one.  Also tor.com is pretty much sweeping the nominations in this category, and it shows what can be done when a publisher really focuses on a particular length IMO.

Best Semiprozine: Hurrah for the Book Smugglers!

Best Series: Interesting.  I’m still not sure if this category is going to have the depth to stand the test of time, but again, good on Martha Wells for the Raksura series nomination.  I’ve given up on Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, but seeing that it’s seven books in and going strong, I’m probably in the minority.  Needless to say, I’m a Lois McMaster Bujold fan, so yay for the Chalion series getting some love. The first book of the Marie Brennan series is on my Kindle, so that may give me the nudge I need to start.   I’ve also not really been interested in the Brandon Sanderson books (this is very definitely a minority view) and the Robert Jackson Bennett series is only faintly on my radar, so perhaps I need to check them out.

Finally and more generally, I’m thrilled with the breadth and diversity shown in the nominations list.  Not all may be to my taste, but I’m starting to feel the Hugos are truly representing the SFF reading (and writing) population.

Weekend Links

31944679A random collection of links for your weekend reading:

Lady Business interviews Kate Elliott.  It’s a nice in-depth interview.  I am slowly making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist, but that may take a few more years.

Sarah Rees Brennan talks about the changes she made when revising her TURN OF THE STORY serial to become IN OTHER LANDS.  Which, by the way, is very definitely one of my favourite books of 2017, so much so that I’m seriously considering shelling out for a hardcover version to grace my shelves.

I re-read Mary Stewart’s THE IVY TREE earlier this year (I think, the months have flown past) and re-confirmed its place as one of my favourite Stewarts.  This was a lovely review of the book.

Non book-related, but I found this fascinating: Anne Helen Peterson wrote about how she goes about writing celebrity profiles.  And here’s the resulting Charlize Theron profile, if you’re interested.

Sunday Thoughts and Links

(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:

153784Tamora 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[…]

Yes.

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.


randombookrec

Intisar Khanani’s SUNBOLTMEMORIES 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.

A Links Post

I really need to start closing my browser tabs.  Here are some (book-ish) links that caught my attention recently:

25241403I 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.


randombookrec

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.

Three Links

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:

13515074A 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.


randombookrec

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.

A Minor Accomplishment (and Links)

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:

Book Randomness

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:

akh1) 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)litsy

Summer Check-in

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…

26853604The 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: