An Update of Oddities and Sundries

Something new: I made a Facebook Page! Please head on over and like it if you feel so inclined. I’ve added a link to it in my sidebar as well.

Writing’s petered off the last few days after a strong start to the month. I’m blaming both the shockingly lovely weather and the fact that typing is mildly painful. A few days ago I sliced my finger. I also learned a useful fact: I really don’t like the sight of my own blood. I was fine for a few minutes, and then promptly collapsed into a chair. It was with a strange sense of detachment that I cataloged how all of my symptoms were cliches–rushing in ears? Check. Cold sweat? Check. Head swimming? Check. Shaky limbs? Check. Vision blacked out? Check. The cut is healing fine and it wasn’t that bad, but it made me grateful that I’ve been lucky enough  not to be severely hurt in my life. Also, I guess there goes my career as a surgeon or detective. Drat.

In writing news I’m just past the halfway point of the first draft in my WIP, and it feels pretty good. I wrote the first draft of Pantomime agonisingly slowly (15 months for 73k), and worried that I’d be slow with the second as well. I’m not as prolific as some people I know, but I’m steadily chipping away and mostly having fun. Here’s hoping I don’t jinx myself.

It looks like the sun has disappeared again in Scotland, so I expect I’ll get back into the pattern of my usual Vitamin D-deficient indoor life.

Recommended Read: The Housekeeper + The Professor by Yoko Ogawa

This is a beautiful little book that was an absolute joy to read. The unnamed narrator, a 28-year-old housekeeper and mother of a 10-year-old son, is sent to work for an unkempt retired math professor who lives in a cottage behind his sister-in-law’s house. The Professor is disabled—in 1975 he had a terrible accident that impacted his short-term memory, which only lasts 80 minutes. He still believes it is 1975 and not 2003. He’s taciturn and a bit difficult to work for, but the housekeeper feels sorry for him. The Professor cuts a pathetic figure—a small old man in a worn suit and moldy shoes, little slips of paper with messages to himself clipped to lapels and pockets. The most prominent note reads “my memory only lasts eighty minutes.”

Every morning, the Professor does not know who the Housekeeper is, and asks her a question relating to numbers—what is her birthday, her phone number, her shoe size? He finds meaning in all of her answers. The Housekeeper, a high school dropout, starts trying to learn more about mathematics in order to connect with him. But the equation of the housekeeper + the professor is missing a factor of the equation: the housekeeper’s son.

When the Professor learns that the Housekeeper has been leaving her son home alone, he is distraught and demands that he comes to the house after school. He writes himself a note to make himself remember. And when the boy comes, the Professor greets him warmly, even though he has no idea who he is. He nicknames the boy Root.

An unlikely family arises out of this. Even though the Professor has no idea how long he has known them, he cares for them. The language of mathematics overcomes the barrier of his memory. They learn about Euler’s forula, Fermat’s Last Theorem, prime numbers and amicable numbers. I have a rather limited grasp of mathematics, but it’s laid out more like poetry and I understood it all. It’s a gorgeously written book, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Yoko Ogawa has won many prestigious awards in Japan. The Housekeeper + The Professor has won the Hon’ya Taisho award, became a bestseller, and was adapted to film (The Professor’s Beloved Equation), which I plan to watch soon, if I can find it.

Congratulations to Wesley Chu, the Lives of Tao, and Angry Robot Books!

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome to the blog today one of my closest friends, Wesley Chu, who has just signed a deal with Angry Robot Books for his debut, The Lives of Tao. We both submitted to the Angry Robot Open Door Month in March, 2011. When we both learned we had gone to editorial, we started chatting first on the AbsoluteWrite forums and then on gchat. We now pretty much chat every day, egging each other on and setting writing goals, angsting at each other and how marvelous and strange it is to transition from aspiring to professional author. I’ll even be crashing at his pad this summer for Worldcon, so I’m reasonably certain he’s not an axe-murderer.

I’m so happy that his wonderful, funny, action-packed sci fi book (think Chuck with aliens) has found a perfect home with the loveable but cross Angry Robots, and that we’re now colleagues and stablemates as well as best buds. So here’s Wes with a little more about The Lives of Tao.

Today is an important day. Alongside other momentous events such as my birth, my first back flip, and the first time Eva the Airedale Terrier learned to shake her head on command, I became a published author. This morning, Angry Robot Books announced a two book deal for my The Lives of Tao series.

Laura Lam, my literary partner-in-crime and future New York Times bestselling author, asked me to guest blog on her site. This is a first as well (today’s full of them!) and I’m not sure where to start.

For the first time, humanity will finally learn the truth about the alien puppet masters that have been living on our planet, and how their civil war caused some of the greatest wars this planet has ever seen. For years, I told everyone within hearing distance about these aliens who were manipulating mankind’s evolution by inhabiting our greatest historical figures. Most people just smiled and asked me if I ever met Tom Cruise at a Scientology meeting.

How else do you warn a civilization with the attention span of drunken hamsters about the impending destruction of Earth by aliens no one can see? A person can’t just go to the local authorities and report the danger. We all saw how that worked with Kyle Reese. All it got was everyone at the police station killed.

So I did what any righteous freedom loving citizen of the United States would do if they wanted to be heard and respected. I tried to get on reality TV. When that didn’t pan out (Why didn’t you turn around, Ceelo!), I opted for the next best thing. I wrote a book. Labeling it as a fiction wasn’t a mistake. I do want people to read it after all. But make no mistake. This series will be the most important set of books you will ever read! Learn about how a silly Mongol conquered the known world. Discover the real cause of the Spanish Inquisition.

The first book in the Lives of Tao trilogy will be released April 2013 by Angry Robot Books. People say the Angry Robots are just mad and want to take over the world. I call them Earth patriots.

Congrats, Wes! You can find out more about Wes and the hidden war among us at his blog and on Twitter.

The Fervent Love of Books

A few days ago, I was organising my book shelf, and I came across my husband’s old, battered copy of Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.

The cover was gone and the back cover held on by the barest thread. The spine was broken in countless places. The pages were yellowed and well-thumbed. And on the page that was now the cover, he has signed his name proudly and written a brief commentary about how much he enjoyed the book.

I held this fragile book in my hands and a smile spread over my face. Right next to it was a newer copy of Assassin’s Apprentice that still had its cover, but we will never get rid of this battered volume. It has so much history. It’s a snapshot from the past, to a teenage boy that loved a book so much he had to scrawl a commentary on it in black ink. And when I was a teenage bookworm, I was the same. Inside the front covers, I used to proudly write “If found, please return to Laura Richardson” and included my phone number or email address. If it was a favourite book, I underlined “please” several times.  I’d give it a swirly, John Hancock-like signature to drive home that this was my book.

I think a lot of young kids who liked to read did and continue to do this. Books are prized possessions but not especially well-treated unless they’re library books (and sometimes not even then). They enjoy reading them in public so people could see what they are reading, and if others ask them about it, they are delighted. With the carelessness of teens, they’ll read and dog-dear pages, break spines, crush them in their backpacks as they navigate school hallways. They are constant companions.

And if teens get that love of books, if they love a book so much they’ll mark them as theirs, then that’s something that will follow them into adulthood. That’s a love that I don’t think can die. And that’s why YA is so exciting, and so important. I loved reading when I was younger than 13, but 13-15 was when I really latched onto the fact that books and reading were a part of my identity and I developed a sense of what I liked to read. A lot of my beliefs and philosophies came from the fiction and non-fiction I read during those years and shaped who I am now, as an adult. Who would we all be, if we hadn’t read these books as teens? Would we be different adults?

I put the battered book back on the shelf, gently, and continued organising all of our other books that we proudly mark as ours.

Guest Post: Leading my Double Life – Amy McCulloch

I’m delighted to welcome Amy McCulloch to my blog today. Now, she says that she is no superhero, but do not be fooled–this is a woman who edits, writes, and runs very long distances clad in spandex. Sounds like a superhero to me! 

Amy is a fellow member of Team Mushens–we both have Juliet Mushens of PFD as our agent. Just yesterday she posted a great interview with Juliet here

This past week I (and it appears most of the world) saw Marvel Avengers Assemble at the cinema. I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the superheroes because alas I too live a double life… Okay, I’m no superhero (trust me, an editor’s outfit is much more boring than a skin-tight catsuit ala Black Widow) but I do take on dual roles in the publishing world as both editor and author!

Getting to see both sides of the publishing business has been a really fascinating – and sometimes painful – experience. When I first went out ‘on submission’ to agents, I made sure to use a pseudonym as I didn’t want the association to be immediately obvious, and I wanted to make sure agents felt comfortable giving their honest opinion without worrying about it affecting a professional relationship. Juliet Mushens (my agent), however, learned I was submitting from Twitter and asked me to submit to her directly – so there was no need to obfuscate my identity there!

When The Oathbreaker’s Shadow went out to editors, we made the decision to stick with my real name. Knowing what goes on the other side of the commissioning desk, as it were, both helped and hindered me – I didn’t stress as much about timings (boy do I know how slow editors can be!) but once I heard my manuscript was going into the meetings stage at a few different publishing houses, I was desperate to know more. Was it just the editorial meeting, or was it going to acquisitions? Were they circulating the manuscript or still just reading solo? Were they talking money yet or just debating the merits? I wanted to dissect the goings on so badly, but trust me – it’s pretty much impossible to really know what’s happening at that stage until it’s happened.

Now that my book is going through the various preparation stages for publication, I find my editor hat can be helpful, but surprisingly not in the ways you might think. It doesn’t help me at all when it comes to editing the book. Once I get past a certain point, my writer brain just will not switch off enough for me to be objective about my own work, which I think is pretty natural. It does mean however that I am very receptive to editing (at least I hope so). I know what an important part of the publishing process it is, and I’m not precious about my work. I know that when an editor takes on a book, it becomes as much theirs as it is mine – and it is their championing of it in-house that can make such a huge difference to the success of its publication.

I’m also really lucky to have some great role models, in whose footsteps I would be beyond happy to tread. Jane Johnson, my boss at HarperVoyager, is a brilliant editor (she was up for editor of the year at the Bookseller awards last night) and she also writes gorgeous books for Penguin, including the recently published The Sultan’s Wife. Nick Lake, the editorial director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, is another stellar editor/author package – his latest In Darkness is one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read. So really whenever I think it might be hard to juggle both full-time jobs, I take inspiration from my coworkers who are doing it with brilliant success. Luckily, the thing that editors and authors have in common is a love of books, so I can’t complain on that front – I get to work in a field I love either way!

Amy McCulloch is a commissioning editor at HarperVoyager, where she works on books by George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb and Raymond E. Feist, and edits new upcoming stars of SF/F like Blake Charlton, James Smythe and Janet Edwards. Her debut YA fantasy novel The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is coming from Random House Children’s Publishers in Spring 2013. Follow her on Twitter @amymcculloch or visit her at her website:

Writer’s Block

Yesterday I told a friend some tricks I use to try and bash my way through writer’s block. I thought I’d post them on here. It’s common sense, but I hope it helps kickstart someone’s creativity. I’m also posting it as a way to remind myself as I enter a tricky area of my WIP over the next few days. A lot of the time these work, but I’m also very good at ignoring them sometimes and mewling pathetically in the corner instead.

1. Switch mediums. If the blank screen is frightening, I switch to pen and paper. It’s easier to trick myself that it doesn’t count–that it’s okay if the scribbles are ugly because they’re just scribbles. It has the added bonus of not having the distraction of the internet.

2. Skip the damn scene. I’m a chronological writer, but I’m learning that sometimes there are points in the first draft where you don’t know the best way for things to come together yet. Sometimes I skip a scene for a few days and it’s easier to come back to it after the distance and spending time with the characters in the future.

3. Skip fiddly details. My first drafts have a fair amount of notes in square brackets. Sometimes it’s notes of things to research, but I don’t want to break the flow to do so. Or I’ll write notes about the actual writing, such as [hot damn, purple prose much?], as a humourous reminder that that paragraph really sucks and will need rewriting later on.

4. Write around the scene. If I’m really stuck, I’ll start writing behind the scene–why is this scene important to the book? What does each character want and need? What obstacles do they face? Is there a tidbit of research or a different setting that might bring it to life?

5. Step away, come back. Sometimes you need the distance–a day or two away from the manuscript, turning things about in your mind, living life, relaxing, and coming back to it fresh.

I anticipate reading this entry a lot over the next few days. Heh.

Guest Post: A Day in the Life of my agent, Juliet Mushens!

I’ve asked my fantabulous agent extraordinaire, Juliet Mushens of Peters Fraser & Dunlop, to share a day in her life on the blog today.  I know when I was hunting for agents, I was really curious as to what it was like on the other side of the desk. Juliet draws back the curtain and shows you the madness and wonder of being a literary agent. 

I check my email before I even get out of bed. According to friends I am surgically attached to my iPhone/iPad which I think is probably true: I have a terrible habit of checking it during lunch, at the cinema… Anywhere and everywhere. I flag any submissions and have a quick check to make sure there is nothing so uber-urgent that I need to deal with it right now. Sometimes there is, which makes for an interesting morning!

Once I’m actually in the office and caffeinated I properly go through my emails to make sure I’m on top of things. These emails can be about anything: an author struggling with a plot point, an author chasing up money, a publisher asking me my thoughts on a cover/publicity campaign/marketing campaign, submissions, queries from our foreign rights team or foreign publishers about rights, contractual negotiations, editorial notes on contracted manuscripts and anything and everything in between.

I always start the day with a very efficiently drawn up to-do list with ticky boxes next to everything but sometimes item 1 can take four hours… Or suddenly an urgent call comes in, or a really hot manuscript, or an editor pre-empts a book, or I have to leave now to go to an unexpected meeting. It can be a constant juggling act which is why I tend to read most submissions in evenings or on weekends as I want to give them proper time and consideration.

I represent an equal mix of fiction and non-fiction and a key part of my job is finding new non-fiction clients. I come up with a list of ideas every week that I want to follow up so one day a week I do my best to track down contact details, arrange meetings and find out if there’s a book there. Recently I sold two inspirational memoirs that came out of these brainstorms so it can be very rewarding albeit something that sends me all over the country – Northampton, Manchester and Somerset in one week was a record for me. With fiction authors I want to sign I will always come armed with a list of comments and notes on their manuscript, to make sure we are on the same page editorially. Sometimes a manuscript will keep me up all night reading it and I know I’m desperate to sign them so I’ll need to move quickly. I read Pantomime overnight and I had butterflies in my stomach as I knew that it was very special and I had to persuade Laura that I was the uber-enthusiastic agent for her!

I am passionate about editing with my authors and I will typically have one manuscript open in the background of my computer at most times as I structurally edit their work. Some authors go through one draft and some go through four or more – there’s no right or wrong way to draft and I love teasing out a tricky strand and the satisfaction when you both have that ‘aha!’ moment. A book called Held Up by Christopher Radmann comes out from Headline in July and we worked hard on it together and when I sold it it was intensely satisfying (it’s an amazing book). My acknowledgement in the book is so nice it made me cry at my desk, and it’s such a wonderful moment when you feel like you’ve contributed to the creative process in a positive way.

I also spend a lot of time at meetings. Sometimes with prospective clients, sometimes with existing clients, with publishers, foreign publishers, literary scouts, film scouts, celebrities, production companies… The list goes on. It’s a business built on personal relationships and I think that nothing beats making a connection with someone where you can find out what really makes them tick and the book they’d love to publish. And then I can try and find it for them! It’s also always a treat to see a book launched, or to get to have a gossip with my authors. I’m conscious that writing can be quite solitary so it’s nice to sit down and discuss next steps with books, or just celebrate a big deal.

I spend a few evenings a week socialising with editors, or at launch parties, at Creative Writing MA launches, or with my authors. And when I’m not working, or reading my authors’ books, I tend to have my head stuck in another book (I’m going through a gory crime phase at the moment). I’m very lucky to do a job I’m so passionate about: I love people, and I love writing, and the two of them combine to make my job very enjoyable… Even if it is sending me grey before my time.

So if you needed proof that agents are superhuman…there you go! Juliet is open to queries. To read more about what Juliet represents and her submissions guidelines, please go here. A huge thank you to Juliet for taking the time for this post.

So Many Books, so Little Time

I’m drowning in books I want to read. But as I’m ploughing through my draft as quickly as I can manage, I’ve had less time to read. But here’s the stuff I’m currently trying to make time for. All product descriptions are ganked from Amazon.

1. My friends’ books. I’ve a bunch of talented friends. Here’s a few I need to get through sooner rather than later. I’ve got a lot more friend’s books to get through, but here’s a sample of ones I’ve bought lately.

The Alchemist of SoulsAnne Lyle

Summary:When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal Catlyn his soul.

Why I’ll read it: This book ticks so many of my literary boxes: alternate humans with an alien culture, Elizabethan setting, psychic powers, swashbuckling, spies, a girl dressed as a boy, and a theatre setting. Yes, please. I’ve beta-read the sequel MS, so it’ll be really interesting to see how the early strings fit together, as I never read series out of order.

AngelmakerNick Harkaway

Summary: From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World – a new riveting action spy thriller, blistering gangster noir, and howling absurdist comedy: a propulsively entertaining tale about a mobster’s son and a retired secret agent who are forced to team up to save the world.

All Joe Spork wants is a quiet life. He repairs clockwork and lives above his shop in a wet, unknown bit of London. The bills don’t always get paid and he’s single and has no prospects of improving his lot, but at least he’s not trying to compete with the reputation of Mathew “Tommy Gun” Spork, his infamous criminal dad.

Edie Banister lives quietly and wishes she didn’t. She’s nearly ninety and remembers when she wasn’t. She’s a former superspy and now she’s… well… old. Worse yet, the things she fought to save don’t seem to exist anymore, and she’s beginning to wonder if they ever did.

When Joe fixes one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. The client? Unknown. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. And having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie’s old arch-nemesis. With Joe’s once-quiet world now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realises that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father’s old gun…

Why I’ll read it: It has clockwork bees! Sold. Sounds almost like a contemporary steampunk spy thriller with an old lady. Awesome. And even if I hadn’t met the charming Harkaway at Eastercon this year, this amazing review by Patrick Ness would have sold me as well, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

The TestimonyJames Smythe

Summary: A global thriller presenting an apocalyptic vision of a world on the brink of despair and destruction.

What would you do if the world was brought to a standstill? If you heard deafening static followed by the words ‘MY CHILDREN, DO NOT BE AFRAID’?

Would you turn to God? Declare it an act of terrorism? Subscribe to the conspiracy theories? Or put your faith in science and a rational explanation?

The lives of all twenty-six people in this account are affected by the message. Most because they heard it. Some because they didn’t.

The Testimony – a gripping story of the world brought to its knees and of its people, confused and afraid.

Why I’ll read it: The book is told from a global perspective, flipping between peoples’ different testimonies, with some appearing more than others. I find that a really intriguing concept and want to see how it works. Plus, it sounds damn cool.

Also, I couldn’t mess with the visual symmetry of 3 books in each category or it’d drive me batty, but an honourary 4th shout-out to The Rising by Will Hill, the sequel to the best-selling Department 19, which I plan to buy.

2. Books by People I Don’t Know. 

Indigo SpringsA. M. Dellamonica

Summary: Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid’s father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid “vitagua” to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a “’chanted” watch becomes a charm that means you’re always in the right place at the right time; a “’chanted” pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .

But as events in Indigo Springs unfold and the true potential of vitagua is revealed, Astrid and her friends unwittingly embark on a journey fraught with power, change, and a future too devastating to contemplate. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends as Astrid discovers secrets from her shrouded childhood that will lead her to a destiny stranger than she could have imagined . . .

Why I’ll read it: A.M. Dellamonica has been making the blog rounds recently with her upcoming sequel, Blue Magic. I really enjoyed her discussions of gender in this article especially. I’m interested by the idea of “ecofantasy,” and Dellamonica looks like she’s experimenting with form. Very excited to read this book and its sequel.

City of DragonsRobin Hobb

Summary: Once, dragons ruled the Rain Wilds, tended by privileged human servants known as Elderlings. But a series of cataclysmic eruptions nearly drove these magnificent creatures to extinction. Born weak and deformed, the last of their kind had one hope for survival: to return to their ancient city of Kelsingra. Accompanied by a disparate crew of untested young keepers, the dragons embarked on a harsh journey into the unknown along the toxic Rain Wild River. Battling starvation, a hostile climate, and treacherous enemies, dragons and humans began to forge magical connections, bonds that have wrought astonishing transformations for them all. And though Kelsingra is finally near, their odyssey has only begun.

Because of the swollen waters of the Rain Wild River, the lost city can be reached only by flight—a test of endurance and skill beyond the stunted dragons’ strength. Venturing across the swift-running river in tiny boats, the dragon scholar Alise and a handful of keepers discover a world far different from anything they have ever known or imagined. Immense, ornate structures of black stone veined with silver and lifelike stone statues line the silent, eerily empty streets. Yet what are the whispers they hear, the shadows of voices and bursts of light that flutter and are gone? And why do they feel as if eyes are watching them?

The dragons must plumb the depths of their ancestral memories to help them take flight and unlock the secrets buried in Kelsingra. But enemies driven by greed and dark desires are approaching. Time is running out, not only for the dragons but for their human keepers as well.

Why I’ll read it: If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge Hobb fangirl. Her books are one of the biggest influences of my writing and I just love sinking into the worlds she creates. I probably won’t get to this one for awhile, as I’m currently re-reading the Tawny Man trilogy and will want to re-read The Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven as well. 2012 is my year of reading a lot of Hobb, it seems!

FleshmarketNicola Morgan

Summary: Fleshmarket is set in the 1820s in Edinburgh, a city of cruel contrasts between the lives of the rich and poor, and home to the infamous Burke and Hare, who sold their murder victims to brilliant anatomist Dr Robert Knox. This is the often harrowing story of a boy who must survive the pain of his mother’s death at the hands of Doctor Knox.

Why I’ll read it: Burke and Hare is featuring obliquely in an upcoming novel of mine, so it’s technically research. But I’ve also seen Nicola Morgan’s articles floating about the internet, and it looks like an excellent, interesting read.

3. Non-fiction Books.

Prague in Black and Gold – Peter Demetz

Summary: From the Velvet Revolution to the disturbing world of Franz Kafka, from the devastation of the Thirty Years War to the musical elegance of Mozart and Dvorak, Prague is steeped in a wealth of history and culture. “Prague In Black And Gold” is a first class history of this unique city, allowing us to unravel layer upon layer of startlingly symbolic sites and buildings to reveal the real Prague. ‘”Prague In Black And Gold” is an exceptional work – and exceptionally reliable …I am sure that this will be an important and exciting guide for all who wish to learn more about the famous people and important events in the history of the Czech lands and their capital’.

Why I’ll read it: Research for a book I’m outlining that will most likely be set in Prague. Looks like I’ll have to visit Prague at some point as well–the trials of being a writer, honestly. 😉

Delusions of Gender – Cordelia Fine

Summary: It’s the twenty-first century, and although we tried to rear unisex children—boys who play with dolls and girls who like trucks—we failed. Even though the glass ceiling is cracked, most women stay comfortably beneath it. And everywhere we hear about vitally important “hardwired” differences between male and female brains. The neuroscience that we read about in magazines, newspaper articles, books, and sometimes even scientific journals increasingly tells a tale of two brains, and the result is more often than not a validation of the status quo. Women, it seems, are just too intuitive for math; men too focused for housework.

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars. She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men’s and women’s behavior. Instead of a “male brain” and a “female brain,” Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender.

Passionately argued and unfailingly astute, Delusions of Gender provides us with a much-needed corrective to the belief that men’s and women’s brains are intrinsically different—a belief that, as Fine shows with insight and humor, all too often works to the detriment of ourselves and our society.

Why I’ll read it: I’m extremely interested in gender studies, and my friend Lorna recommended this to me.

Ghosts, Apparitions and Poltergeists: An Exploration of the Supernatural through History – Brian Righi


Skeletal remains rotting behind cellar walls, temple priests removing brains with iron hooks, phantom locomotives roaring across midnight plains—Brian Righi isn’t making this stuff up. The ghost stories he finds in history are far more chilling than any Hollywood horror scene.

Join the seasoned paranormal investigator on a tour through mankind’s millennium-old obsession with death and the afterlife. Ghosts, Apparitions and Poltergeistssurveys 4,000 years of hauntings and ghost huntings—from the embalming rituals of ancient Egypt to the Ouija boards and séances of nineteenth century Spiritualism—highlighting a few outlandish tales and colorful characters along the way.

Why I’ll Read it: A bit of research for the WIP and for another book I’m planning. I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts, even though I’m a skeptic at heart.