Books Read in 2011

I’ve read a lot less than I have in the past this year…which is a shame, but it’s because much of my reading time has been swapped for writing time! However, I’m hoping to read much more than this next year.

According to Goodreads, I’ve read just shy of 20,000 pages, but it’s not quite accurate, I’m sure. 57 books in total. I read a fairly varied spread of books this year–I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself into reading just one genre. I do need to read more international fiction, though.

Adult Fiction:

Austen, Jane – Emma
Banks, Iain – The Crow Road
Carriger, Gail – Soulless
Christopher, Adam – Empire State
Conrad, Joseph – Heart of Darkness
Cronin, Justin – The Passage
Davis, Aric – Nickel Plated
Gentle, Mary – Ilario: The Lion’s Eye
Grossman, Lev – The Magicians
Harvey, Colin – Winter Song
Hayder, Mo – The Devil of Nanking
Hayder, Mo – Skin
Haydon, Elizabeth – Rhapsody: Child of Blood (re-read)
Haydon, Elizabeth – Prophecy: Child of Earth (re-read)
Haydon, Elizabeth – Destiny: Child of the Sky (re-read)
Hobb, Robin – Assassin’s Apprentice (re-read)
Hosseini, Khaled – A Thousand Splendid Suns
Kafka, Franz – The Metamorphosis
King, Stephen – The Gunslinger
Martin, George R.R. – A Dance With Dragons
Mogenstern, Erin – The Night Circus
Priest, Christopher – The Prestige
Scalzi, John – The Ghost Brigade
Tidhar, Lavie – The Bookman

YA:

Anderson, M.T. – Thirsty
Asher, Jay – Thirteen Reasons Why
Barrie, J.M. – Peter Pan
Castellucci, Cecil – Boy Proof
Hardy, Janice – The Pain Merchants
Hill, Will – Department 19
Jacques, Brian – Loamhedge
Katcher, Brian – Almost Perfect
Kay, Guy Gavriel – Ysabel
Kieve, Paul – Hocus Pocus
Smith, Dodie – I Capture the Castle
Smith, L.J. – The Awakening
Stiefvater, Maggie – Forever
Taylor, Laini – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Short Story Collections:

Atwood, Margaret – The Tent
Bradbury, Ray – The Illustrated Man

Graphic Novels:

Satrapi, Marjane – Chicken with Plums
Satrapi, Marjane – Embroideries
Willingham, Bill – Fables 1: Legends in Exile (re-read)

Nonfiction/Memoir:

Attwood, Shaun – Hard Time: A Brit in America’s Toughest Jail
Boycott, Rosie – A Nice Girl Like Me
Branch, Rhena – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies (I’m quite the worrier, so I wanted some tips to help me calm down. It helped, somewhat)
Eastoe, Jane – Victorian Pharmacy: Rediscovering Home Remedies and Recipes
Forbes, Ewan – Aul’ Days
Guiliano, Mireille – Women, Wore, and the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility
Henry, Dillon – Life in the UK Study Guide 2011
Jando, Dominique (Taschen) – The Circus Book
Lamont, Peter – The First Psychic: The Peculiar Mystery of a Victorian Wizard
McKay, James – Allan Pinkerton: The First Private Eye
Sedaris, David – When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Tammet, Daniel – Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind
Yeomans, Matthew – Oil: Anatomy of an Industry

Plus, I beta-read some awesome novels that I’m sure will eventually be published.

Eyes of Stone
Slich Streets (very nearly finished with)
The Emissary (about half-way through)
The Lives of Tao

2011: A Most Eventful Year

2011 was a tumultuous year for me, both in terms of writing and in life in general.

This year, I grew up a lot. I landed a full-time, permanent job, and now evidently I’m an adult with a mortgage and a pension, which is weird.

2011 was the year I finally shared my writing with strangers. Before that, only my husband and my closest of friends had actually read any parts of my novels (I was working on two concurrently). I was worried that even though I loved my character and my world that no one else would, and that my husband and best friends were just being polite at my fledgling efforts. I joined an in-person writer’s group that began in February 2011 (I think), and when I shared the first two chapters of one of my novels with them, they were the ones to urge me to submit to Angry Robot’s Open Door Month, which one of the other members had shared on our Facebook group wall. I waffled, and finally sent off the email with my first five chapters on the 30th of March, just a day before the deadline. In retrospect, it was rather cheeky of me to submit a first draft. I was even more shocked and amazed and delighted to have it make the final round, where it is still awaiting its final verdict.

Even if Angry Robot decide my novel is not for them, I’m still so grateful, for the whole process gave me such a burst of confidence (though, of course, there’s been plenty of anxious refreshing of email, as well). I joined the AbsoluteWrite forums and educated myself so I wasn’t quite so much of a n00b about the publishing industry.  I’ve connected with a lot of the other people to make it to the final round and we’ve created an online writers group, the Anxious Appliances, and they’re all such talented writers (watch out for them! Their books will be on the shelves in the future). I went to my first convention, FantasyCon, and introduced myself to Angry Robot Overlords Lee, Marc, and Amanda (hopefully I didn’t scare them), and loads of other writers and industry professionals, which I would never have been brave enough to do the previous year. I’ve also befriended a few Angry Robot authors like Anne Lyle and Adam Christopher. I made a Twitter (ahem) and this website and worked on creating a small web presence and connecting with other writers and readers. Basically, 2011 was the year I kept writing and actually joined the writing community. And I love it. I feel at home. I think I’ll stay awhile.

I started “seriously” writing at the tail end of 2009, a few months after I moved from California to Scotland. The girl who was typing away in 2009-2010 in cafes and at home, wondering if it anyone would ever like what she was writing, would be delighted to see what I accomplished in 2011. I don’t have a publishing contract or an agent and I’ve still a long way to go, but I really do feel like I am on my way. Maybe 2012 will be the year I accomplish the next of my goals.

So, 2012: let’s dance.

Random Research: Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex – Alice Domurat Dreger

This was the book that changed everything for me.

I was 19 when I first came up with the idea for my novel–the world, its history, and my main character. I decided that my protagonist could be intersex. I knew next to nothing about intersex people or the difficulties many of them faced and I realised that. So I used my university’s fantastic library resource and requested this book and another (Intersex by Catherine Harper, which I’ll make an entry about some time in the future) to learn more about the subject. Now, granted, I haven’t read this book since 2007, so the review will be rather fuzzy on exact details.

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex highlights the history of clinical management of people with DSDs. The Victorian era was when gender disorders came under medical scrutiny, and there was a fascination with “monstrous hermaphrodites.” Doctors were obsessed with discovering what someone’s “true sex” was meant to be and ensuring that the patient’s gender conformed to this perceived judgement. Before the Victorian era, those with atypical genitals were displayed, but in the 19th century, science had advanced enough that doctors felt they could “fix” them. Many people with DSDs were photographed for medical texts, their faces never visible. Dreger tells the stories of the people behind the medical photos, as much as she is able.  Herculine Barbin, for instance, who was born with male psuedohermaphroditism, suffered a tragic end.

Though rather jargon-heavy and a bit repetitive from what I remember, this was an excellent resource and opened my eyes to how people who didn’t fit the gender binary were treated in Victorian times, and it was one of the books that made me realise I had a story that I needed to tell.

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate and that you’re looking forward to the new year. Aberdeen had a strangely warm and mild Christmas–felt a lot like Christmas in California. I went to my husband’s brother’s house and ate copious amounts of delicious food and received some lovely presents.

I’m off work until the 4th of January and look forward to having the time to edit, write, plan, and finish my university assignments. Doesn’t look to be that restful!

What’d you do for Christmas?

Random Research: Smoke & Mirrors Podcast

For my day job, I work as a document controller, which is basically a corporate librarian. I issue documents to clients and ensure they adhere to our QA procedures. Excuse you–please cover your mouth when you yawn.

For quite a lot of my time per week, I’m saving emails and documents to a database. This is very boring. It is hard to concentrate on it for long periods of time. In fact, it’s impossible. Unless I’m listening to a podcast. I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ones, so if you know any that seem to be in the vein of what I like to research, please do pass them my way.

Smoke & Mirrors is a 10-part podcast produced by Resonance FM and features various members and non-members of the Circle of Magic, or the British society of magicians. The earlier episodes speak a bit about the history of magic and also focus on the modern application of magic and the different types, with a bit of magical-related news thrown in for good measure.

I was enchanted from the first episode, when the Executive Librarian of the Circle of Magic (aka the man with one of the Best. Jobs. Ever.) speaks for a bit about the history of magic. Each podcast features a guest, such as: Paul Kieve, the magic consultant in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, Marc Paul, a mentalist, Paul Daniels, who had a successful TV magic show for many years and inspired a generation of magicians, Professor Richard Wiseman, who is a psychologist as well as a magician, Jonathan Goodwin, an escapologist, John Lenahan, who was kicked out of the Circle of Magic for exposing secrets, Fay Presto, a female close-up magician who has performed for the Queen multiple times, and others.

My three favourite episodes were Epsidoe 1, which focused the most on the history of magic; Episode 3, which looked more at the theatrics of magic; and Episode 9, with Fay Presto, which examined the gender inequality in magic. Fay is the top female magician in the UK, and she is also trans. According to The Independent, she was kicked out of the Circle of Magic when she transitioned because females aren’t allowed in the group (to which I say–WTF). She makes fascinating arguments as to why there aren’t as many female magicians–using the props of magic can almost be considered a crutch, and many women perform openly without that crutch, for in dance and music the gender split is a lot more even. Fay is also a firecracker and I chuckled more than once as I saved yet another email. If you only have time to listen to one of the ten part series–listen to the one with Fay.

Date a Girl Who Reads

This has been making the rounds again. I originally found it last year and posted it to my old blog, but it’s so lovely it bears posting again. I found this time via Elizabeth Willse‘s blog.

Date A Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

In response to: You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Random Research: The Circus and Victorian Society – Brenda Assael

I do a fair amount of research for my books, most notably on: Victorian society, the circus, magicians, Victorian medicine and science, gender studies and sexuality, and various postulations on the future of architecture, technology, weapons, et cetera. I figured that once or twice a week, I’ll post a bit about some sort of research I’ve done–a short book review of a book I’ve read, podcasts I’ve found inspiring, links and photos, what have you. As I’m always researching, I’ll always have plenty to share.

This week I’m posting a review of a book I first read several years ago, and have recently been flipping through to refresh my memory.

The Circus and Victorian Society

The Circus and Victorian Society – Brenda Assael – 168 pages (5 stars) 

When I first started researching my novel, I was not sure if there would be any books about circuses and Victorian society…but thankfully Brenda Assael, a history professor in Wales, wrote about just that. It’s an amazingly well-researched book that clearly lays out how the circus integrated itself into Victorian culture and played upon its imagination and fears.

The introduction gives an overview of the beginnings of the circus from the fairgrounds into lavish, fixed affairs in amphitheatres. The line between high theatre and the circus became blurred, and those from the highest to the lowest class enjoyed them all just the same.

Each chapter afterwards focuses on a specific aspect of the circus and then links it to Victorian society. First, Assael focuses on equestrian shows and trick riding, and how the elaborate staged battles paralleled the growing patriotic spirit as England became a world power. Next, she focuses on clowns, who were often sad, destitute, and on the lowest rung of the circus performers’ hierarchy. The last section focuses on women and children performers—specifically the sexual threat of women in their costumes and earning their own way, and the fight against children performers in the Industrial Era.

Throughout its formation, the circus has been both loved and despised by the public. It was hugely successful, but that success made it dangerous and various sects have tried to shut it down due to their perceived lack of morality of the circus. While a little pricey for the casual researcher, this book was an excellent insight into the role of the circus in Victorian society and well worth the read if the subject interests you.