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.
I bought a bag from a charity shop with those words on them when I was fifteen. I knew enough french to know what “est le fondement de la réussite” meant, but not the first word. I showed my French teacher on the Monday.
“Failure,” she said. “It means failure.”
At fifteen, I didn’t really get it. I was such a Type A personality as a teen. I mean, I still am, but back then an A- would make me cry for an hour. I’m not joking. Perfectionism had caused problems for me–overworking myself in school, acute anxiety, an eating disorder, and a constant, internal refrain that I wasn’t good enough. How was failing even an option, much less a foundation for success?
The original quote is a paradox by Lao-Tzu, and the full saying is: “Failure is the…
As many authors put up entries on award eligibility, I figured I’d do it, too, just in case anyone wishes to nominate my work:
Shadowplay, January 2014, Strange Chemistry Books
“They Swim Through Sunset Seas” in Solaris Rising 3, August 2014, Solaris Books
If self-published work is eligible for anything:
“The Snake Charm,” June 2014, Penglass Publishing (novelette)
“The Fisherman’s Net,” July 2014, Penglass Publishing (short story)
“The Tarot Reader,” August 2014, Penglass Publishing (novella)
“The Card Sharp,” September 2014, Penglass Publishing (novelette)
(Note: the Vestigial Tales are on sale for 99 cents each on Amazon and pay-what-you-want on Smashwords. Feel free to download them for free if you’re short on funds, or if you can, buy them for the price of a cup of coffee. Purchase links here.)
Quite nice to see a wee list of all I published last year. A few things to come in 2015, too! :-)
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.
In January, I went to Hong Kong with my husband, Craig. It was our first holiday outside of North America & Europe. I also had tentative plans to set a book there, so it was also a chance to see if the setting would work. Plus, eat all the food and see all the things.
The first night, we arrived quite late, so only took the coach in from the airport (and were wide-eyed at all the skyscrapers) and found somewhere near the hotel to eat. It was a chain and the servers spoke no English, so we very much felt like Ultimate Tourists as we pointed at the menu, glad of the pictures and the English subtitles. I really liked the century egg in spicy sauce.
The next day we woke up super early thanks to jetlag, and went out exploring. We were staying in Fortress Hill and journeyed on the crowded MTR to nearby Causeway Bay, which has a lot of shopping. We wandered around, had some food (the Muji stores there have cafes in them!), bought some clothes, and gawped at everything being so tall. We then went to Din Tai Fung, one of the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world, for some dim sum. It was unsurprisingly delicious. For dessert I tried ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen for the first time. So smooth! Then we went to Sheung Wan to visit PMQ, which stands for Police Married Headquarters. That’s what the buildings were, lodgings for cops, but now they’ve been converted into shops for local artists and designers. We hung out there and the surrounding area for hours, and then went for dinner at a golf club in the hills thanks to two people Craig knew from the internet. We got to drive around and see the city at night, and then had a drink in the top floor of our hotel, overlooking Victoria Harbour. An excellent first day.
The next day we went south to Aberdeen Harbour because how could we not, living in the original Aberdeen? There wasn’t as many touristy things to do there as we weren’t interested in going to the floating seafood restaurant, but it was interesting to explore the area. We went to the local Tin Hau Temple. There are over 100 Tin Hau Temples in Hong Kong, for worshipping the goddess of the sea. In the late afternoon, jet lag hit us hard so we went back to the hotel to nap and then stayed near the hotel, buying local snacks we couldn’t get back home and watching TV in the hotel room.
On the third day we ventured across the harbour to Kowloon. First we went to the Museum of Hong Kong. Craig and I have been to a few of these “history of the city museums” in our travels, but this one was the best. Very well organised and interesting, and I felt we learned a lot about the history, the different cultures, and festivals and traditions. When we left the museum, the weather was glorious and so we meandered along the Avenue of Stars, dodging the other tourists and looking for names we knew on the sidewalk. We wandered around the area before hopping in a cab and going north to Kowloon Walled City Park. Here’s some history of the walled city. Basically it was a military outpost and after WWII a lot of Japanese refugees went there. Its population swelled and it didn’t really have a justice system. The police stayed out of it and it was basically its own teeny tiny little country. Crime grew rampant as it was run by the Triads, and illegal construction made it a hive of people. In the 90s it was demolished and now it’s a pretty park.
After wandering around the park, we explored the surrounding area a bit. We found a bakery with a familiar looking cat on it, as two days before we found a brochure at the PMQ advertising Cream Bro, HK’s celebrity cat. We weren’t sure how famous he actually was, but there he was on the bakery. Cute! We had some sugary treats at a nearby cafe and then headed back to the waterfront. We stayed until night time and watched the light show that’s on every night, the skyscrapers flashing lights in time to cheesy music. While we waited, we saw a youth band play to a crowd, a small child on his father’s shoulders gleefully bouncing along to the rock music, and also saw a dance group perform by the water.
The next day, we went to another dim sum place, Tim Ho Wan, but had to wait about an hour to be seated. It was worth it though. The food was so delicious, and it was another Michelin star despite it only being about £20 for us to be totally stuffed. We then went back to Sheung Wan, to an area called the Mid-Levels with has the longest outdoor escalator in the world. We took that (which featured in a film we watched not long before we went to HK, Chungking Express). We wandered around, looking at the street art and visiting another temple. Then we went back to Causeway Bay and had some delicious waffles, and as a second dinner we had a picnic back in our hotel room.
Day 5: Went out for dim sum again with Craig’s friend from the internet, Abe. So good. Afterwards we wandered around, including through Chunking Mansions, another area that used to be pretty shady but isn’t really anymore. After some more wandering, we went to the Museum of Art. My favourite exhibit was of the wood sculptor Tong Sim-Kun. I preferred his realistic work to his more abstract and modern sculptures, but they were all beautiful. The weather was rainy, so in the evening we were soaked as we went back to our side of the city.
The next day, the weather was great, and so it was off to Ocean Park! It’s an amusement park to the south of the city. Since we went on a weekday, thankfully it wasn’t totally swamped. The views from the cable car were incredible, and they had lots of animals and shows. I was ridiculously excited by the red pandas and took about 200 photos of them. There was also a panda and some cute otters. We rode a few rides, but then it was getting rather crowded so we headed back to the city. We wanted to take the tram up to Victoria Peak to watch the sun set, but it looked like the wait would be an hour and a half so…no Peak. Back near the hotel, we had dinner at a tasty place called Campers, which served fresh, delicious Japanese food.
On day 7, our trip was winding down, so we had to prioritize what we were going to do with the time we had left. Initially, we were thinking of taking a ferry to Lantau Island, but instead we stayed in the city and went to Chi Lin Nunnery. It was a quiet, lovely haven right in the middle of the bustle of the city. It was so calming to stroll around, eat some vegetarian food, and see some greenery. Afterwards, it was back to exploring the city, and we ended up going to Mong Kok, one of the busiest areas of Hong Kong, which also has lots of markets.
And then it was our last day. We checked out of the hotel in the morning and stashed our bags before going back to Tim Ho Wan to have the delicious pork buns, getting there early enough we didn’t have to queue for an hour. Then we took the Star Ferry around the Harbour for a last look of the city. After some more wandering around and buying snack food to take back (and we’ve already eaten it all, darn it), we had a last meal at Campers. And then it was time for the airport and the 22 hour journey home, Cream Bro wished us farewell from an advert on a baggage trolley.
I’ve been back for over a week now, and finally over the jetlag. Hong Kong was definitely one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. And it wasn’t only a holiday–I think I’ll be setting my next book there, or at least partly so. It’s the perfect setting for a near-future thriller.
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.