1. Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury. A collection of essays on writing from a master. Smiled a bit while reading. His love of creating worlds and stories shone through. Recommended.
2. The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing – ed. by Frank A. Dickson. I read this while preparing for writing a short story. As it was on my mom’s bookshelf, I thought I’d see if I’d learn anything. I learned a few things, but some of the advice seemed dated.
3. The Silver Metal Lover – Tanith Lee. I have been meaning to read this for years since I’m interested in artificial intelligence. I heard of Tanith Lee’s passing, unfortunately, and it reminded me to read it. It’s about a young, rich girl falling in love with a robot designed to be artistic and a fantastic lover. At first, Jane was incredibly annoying, but she’s meant to be, and I enjoyed watching her come into her own. The world-building was really interesting, too. Recommended.
4. Uprooted – Naomi Novik. A lush fantasy inspired by Polish fairytales. I really liked Agnieszka and the politics of the world and magic system. Definitely recommended, and thanks to Macmillan for the copy.
5. On Writing – Stephen King. I’m writing my dissertation for my masters, hence all the books on writing this month. I plan to use a few quotes. I read this back when I was a teenager and just starting to write. Re-reading it about 10 years later and something like 7 books’ worth of words later was interesting. My takeaway is that Stephen King and I have very different writing processes. And that’s okay.
I also beta read 1.75 books for friends, which always takes longer than just reading.
Didn’t read as much as I’d like due to editing deadlines, but I still went through a couple.
1. Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Niell. A dystopian future similar to The Handmaid’s Tale. I can see why it’s gotten so much attention, but it didn’t quite work for me. I’d try another book of hers, though.
2. The Mirrored World – Debra Dean. Historical fiction set in Russia around Catherine the Great’s time. I enjoyed it but certain aspects felt glossed over.
3. The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes. Been meaning to read this for ages after really enjoying Broken Monsters. It was a creepy, enjoyable thriller starring a time travelling serial killer.
4. Fool’s Assassin – Robin Hobb. Re-read in anticipation of Fool’s Quest being out this summer. I want to read the sequel so badly it pains me.
5. Burial Rites – Hannah Kent. A story of a woman sentenced to death for murder in Victorian Iceland. Well-researched and written, and unsurprisingly, a sad read.
I watched Boyhood on the flight home from California. Many details overlapped with mine and (especially) my brother’s childhood. I liked this short clip so I’m putting it on my blog, about work ethic + natural talent.
Mr. Turlington: Who do you wanna be, Mason? What do you wanna do? Mason: I wanna take pictures. Make art. Mr. Turlington: Any dipshit can take pictures, Mason. Art, that’s special. What can you bring to it that nobody else can?
In other news, Shadowplay made the longlist of the Tiptree Award. I love Tiptree’s work and always harboured a hope to be on that list because the Micah Grey series is all about exploring gender, so that was a nice boost to yesterday, when I was having a rough day. Congratulations to the winners and everyone on the list. 🙂
3. Inheritance (Adaption #2) – Malinda Lo. Been meaning to read the 2nd half of this dulogy for awhile and it did not disappoint. Loved learning more about the Imria and getting to the bottom of the mystery. Plus: polyamory in YA!
4. In Case of Emergency – Courtney Milano. Reading for the Bisexual Book Award. I enjoyed this one a lot.
5. Solaris Rising 3 – edited by Ian Whates. I finally got around to reading this anthology, which has my story “They Swim Through Sunset Seas” in it. A good collection–I really enjoyed Gareth Powell’s story in particular.
6. A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab. Loved this book. It was the perfect escape during a particularly difficult week.
Technically I also read Masquerade this month, but I’m never sure if I should count my own books in the totals. It does take me 2x as long to read them as I’m going over them more carefully. I also read some other articles and stories and such for uni.
2. Frog Music – Emma Donoghue. This was for the Bisexual Book Award, which I’m judging, so I won’t say too much. The setting of Victorian San Francisco was really interesting.
3. Waverley – Walter Scott. Read for university. I’m glad to have read it as it was so popular back in its day.
4. The Winner’s Crime – Marie Rutkoski. I was lucky enough to get this sequel to The Winner’s Curse via Netgalley. Just as engaging as interesting as the first, with another cruel cliffhanger.
5. Yes Please – Amy Poehler (audiobook). Listened and chuckled as I was walking along the street etc. It also caused me to start watching Parks and Rec. I do not regret this decision.
6. Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts. Read for university and I wrote a 1k response essay to it. It’s about the in between spaces between city and countryscape, so things like industrial estates, etc, which are often ignored/overlooked.
7. The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters. Another Bisexual Book Award judging book. I’m not saying much about it again, but Sarah Waters is always a joy to read.
I also read probably about a book’s worth of essays, short stories/poems, and articles for university. Some were on the Bannatyne Club in Edinburgh, of which Walter Scott was a member. He and a bunch of other rich white men re-released older, forgotten literature. A lot of people thought their plan was stupid and called them “literary scavengers.” Reading the shade they threw back and forth was pretty amusing.
I’m currently in the middle of: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald.
Not too many books this month, between my holiday, having a lot of admin work (thanks, taxes), and being in the middle of two longer books. Mainly I was looking for my comfort genre, fun YA fantasy.
1. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Read it in one sitting on the plane to Hong Kong. SO much fun and I can’t wait for the sequel!
2. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this and it was so lovely. Literary fiction set in a circus that plays with gender and sexuality, in a Waterworld type of setting. Definitely recommended.
3. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd. I really enjoyed The Madman’s Daughter when I read it a few years ago, so it was nice to come back for the sequel. Really well plotted and good fun.
4. Blythewood by Carol Goodman. This is set in a boarding school, with fae, bell magic, a mysterious shadow man, and family histories. I did enjoy it but it felt like there was a lot to put in one book, and perhaps some things could have been pared down, but I’ll probably read the sequels.
I also read about a book’s worth of essays, articles, and short stories for my Masters, as well as some judging for the Bisexual Book Award.
Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s story, both in terms of plot and character growth. The interplay between Micah and Drystan, the white clown, is charming and heart-wrenching in equal measure, as Micah struggles to reconcile his past life as Iphigenia with his present life as the runaway circus performer wanted for murder. Beneath this internal conflict lies another far larger and more deadly, and Micah is unwillingly caught up in it.
I loved the world Lam created. She discusses themes of social and sexual inequality and sets them against a backdrop of an advanced civilisation long lost. With its immaculate prose, haunting exposition and brilliant transgender protagonist, this series is doing important things for the genre and is an absolute must read.
Number 1 is Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb, which I wholeheartedly agree with, as that’s one of the greatest books ever written, full stop. There’s also a strong Team Mushens presence, with Den Patrick, Liz de Jager, and Jen Williams on there too. Go team! Also nice to see Leigh Bardugo, Laini Taylor, and more.
I made a Goodreads challenge to read 80 books, but in October or so I lowered it to 75. And I won! Just barely.
Here’s the books I read last month:
1. Lies we Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. Loved this book and read it in about a day. Set in the 1950s about doubly forbidden love between a white and a black girl. So recommended.
2. Pantomime by…me. I re-read it in preparation for editing Masquerade. It’s a very strange feeling to read your own work again after a 2 year break. Lots of little things I’d change about this book, now that my writing (and, specifically, my plotting) has improved. But I still like it.
3. Best Bi Short Stories, edited by Sheela Lambert. Read as I’m a judge for the Bisexual Book Award this year (and thus no comment).
4. Shadowplay by…me. Also read for Masquerade. This one held up, as it was my second book and more recent. But the typos that slipped through. 😥
6. The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. Francesca and I share an agent (and I got to meet her at the Christmas party and she’s ace). I got a twinned proof of this (and my twin was none other than the lovely Amy Alward–she’s the alpha and I’m the omega). I read this so quickly–such an engaging world and interesting characters. I want the sequel now!
7. Give it To Me by Ana Castillo – Another book for the Bisexual Book Award.
8. She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Raymond Biesinger – Another book for the Bisexual Book Award.
9. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Ending my year on a high note: this was one of my favourites. It’s my first Mitchell book, so 2015 will probably be all about going to read his backlist.
I’m going to aim for 75 again in 2015 but I’m hoping to smash that, as I’m hopefully having more free time this year. I think this year I had a good mix of fun books just for me, reading books by my friends, books for university, and nonfiction. Hoping for a similar mashup next year.
Any particular books you think I MUST read in 2015? Let me know in the comments and feel free to add me on Goodreads. I use it as a reader more than an author.
Favourite book read in January: either City of Dragons by Robin Hobb or In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.
February 2014: Licked my wounds, battled depression and anxiety, and kept promoting Pantomime & Shadowplay. I went down to Newcastle for the North East Teen Book Awards, which ended up being very, very timely. I’d been tempted to take a writing hiatus (because I knew I could never quit completely), and here were teens saying my books were some of their favourites of all time, wanting to take photos and have my sign things, and just in general being so sweet and so enthusiastic about books and reading. I came back and threw myself into the new project I’d been editing. I’d finished the first draft at the end of November 2013, and after some great beta reader comments, I was working on turning it into a workable draft. I called it Bonkers Book on social media. I also announced the Vestigial Tales, or my plan to self-publish some short stories/novellas set in the same world as the Micah Grey series. I also had an Aberdeen launch at Waterstones for Shadowplay, and was really touched by how many people came out for it. I seemed pretty on top of things. Behind the scenes, I was still a mess, though I was getting myself together.
Favourite book read in February: Unteachable by Leah Raeder.
March 2014: I’d been approached to write a short story for an anthology and in March I was able to announce it as Fablecroft Press did a funding drive for the Cranky Ladies of History, which blasted through its goals. I also got to participate in Robin Hobb’s worldwide scavenger hunt (post with pictures illustrating the clues), and am now friends with the girl who found my present, Louise, and we meet for coffee occasionally. I found out Pantomime had been nominated for the Bisexual Book Award—yay! I went to my friend Rhona McKinnon’s wedding and danced at my first-ever ceilidh.
Favourite book read in March: The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.
April 2014: There were some good events for #LGBTApril I participated in. I went to my first convention of the year—Eastercon, in Glasgow. As the conventions are usually in England, it was nice to only have to travel 2 hours to get to one, for once! I was on my first panel. I had fun but it was also a difficult convention, as my mental health was still patchy. There was more ceilidh dancing. I finished editing Bonkers Book and was working on the Vestigial Tales. Laya drew her first (of what proved to since be many) fan art pieces, and I also received some fan mail. I was so touched I wrote an emotional thank you to readers. I finished editing Bonkers Book & sent it to my agent and worked on the Vestigial Tales.
Favourite book read in April: This was a good reading month so I had three: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, and Cress by Marissa Meyer.
Favourite book read in June: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
July 2014 aka THE MONTH MY LIFE CHANGED: Vestigial Tales: I posted a roundup of “The Snake Charm” and its first month sales, launched “The Fisherman’s Net,” shared “The Tarot Reader’s” blurb and cover, and went on the local radio. Tor/Macmillan offered pre-emptively on Bonkers Book aka False Hearts, changing my life. It was right before a big work audit and I was trying to concentrate on spreadsheets while internally screaming with glee. The press release went live on July 25th. I told work I wanted to stop working full-time. My friend Erica came out to visit from California.
Favourite book read in July: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier and Natural Causes by James Oswald.
August 2014 aka THE MONTH OF ALL THE CONS: Vestigial Tales: I posted my month 2 roundup of being a hybrid author, launched “The Tarot Reader,” and unveiled the cover and blurb for “The Card Sharp.” Erica and I took a day trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. I went to Nine Worlds in London and had a great time—definitely my favourite con of the year. I went to some other London events such as the Broken Monsters launch for Lauren Beukes and the Fantasy in the Court event at Goldsboro Books, where I got to meet some people from my new publisher, like my editor Julie Crisp, for the first time. Then it was time for another convention, Loncon3. I went back to Aberdeen, exhausted.
Favourite book read in August: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
September 2014: Vestigial Tales: another monthly roundup and launching the last of the Tales (for now), “The Card Sharp.” The cons weren’t over! I journeyed down to York for Fantasycon. My husband and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary/10 years of being together. I did some events for #WriteCity in Aberdeen, doing both public events and school visits throughout the city. I started my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and began reducing my hours slightly at work. I was able to announce that False Hearts will be published in the US through Tor/Forge and in Italy through Fanucci Editore. Peter F. Hamilton blurbed the book (!), calling it: “A smart debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” I went down to Winchester for Amy Alward’s beautiful wedding. I became a British citizen!
Favourite book read in September: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.
October 2014, or THE MONTH OF NO FREE TIME: I did my full-time masters. I did more school visits. I worked around 30 hours a week at the day job. I tried to write, but that didn’t really happen. Pantomime was listed as Gay YA’s October Book of the Month and they did lots of great promotion. I managed to post another Vestigial Tale monthly roundup. I really missed sleep and free time, but by the end of the month, my replacement had started and been trained and I dropped down to around 12 hours a week for work. I finished the first draft of Masquerade, finally.
Favourite book read in October: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (for uni).
Favourite book read in November: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, with an honourable mention to the Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather.
December 2014: I finished up the first semester of my Masters degree. I went to London for my agent’s Christmas party. I went to the Isle of Arran on my first-ever writing retreat with Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne, editing Masquerade for beta readers. I waited to hear about *stuff* and tried to be patient (and failed). I was called back into the day job almost full-time for a little bit. Stress. Stress. Stress. Aaaaand relax. Got ready for Christmas. Ate all the food. Now: reading, watching a lot of TV and slowly editing what I wrote of Brainfreeze Book and sorting through Masquerade beta comments.
Favourite book read in December: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
1. The Comforters – Muriel Spark. For university. Very meta, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I’m afraid.
2. Shark – Will Self. Also for uni. I actively despised this book. A 500 page book of one paragraph, post-post modernist prose with no q
uotation marks. So the opposite of my cup of tea.
3. Isla and the Happily Ever After – Stephanie Perkins. After reading Shark, I needed a palette cleanser of something easy to read and fun. I loved Perkins’s previous work and this helped me recharge.
4. Complete Atopia Chronicles – Matthew Mather. Book research. Mather is an IT security expert who self-published some short novellas, which were then put into one collection. I really liked how the novellas overlapped between the various characters, and found the ideas fascinating.
5. Austerlitz – W.E. Sebold. Another book without paragraphs. Though I still found it hard to get into, I enjoyed it more than Shark. I’ll enjoy every book I read this year more than Shark.