Monthly Roundup: November 2015

Books Read:

1. Five Go Glamping – Liz Tipping

Glamping Check list

Festival tickets
Double check best Instagram filter
Avoid thinking about work/Connor/five year plan!!

A four day break from her hectic life to relax in the countryside and hang out at a local festival (for free!) is just what Fiona Delaney needs. With her best friends, great tunes and a cool looking hat her Instagram shots are going to look A-Mazing!

Until suddenly glamping starts to feel a lot more like camping and Fiona’s in desperate search of a comfy chair, wi-fi and a chilled glass of wine. But when she finally makes it to the local pub she discovers this trip could be more than just a holiday, it might just change her life forever…

2. Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

At its heart a story about humanity at the crossroads between the past, present, and future, Lagoon touches on political and philosophical issues in the rich tradition of the very best science fiction, and ultimately asks us to consider the things that bind us together – and the things that make us human.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

3. Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales – Gordon Jarvie

This is a collection of Scottish fairy tales, folk tales and legends, which have been passed on from generation to generation, and have been brought together in this one volume.

4. Ariah – B.R. Sanders

Ariah’s magical training has been interrupted. Forced to rely on a mentor, Dirva, who is not who he claims to be, and a teacher who is foreign and powerful, Ariah is drawn into a culture wholly different from the elven one that raised him.

As his friendship with Dirva’s brother blossoms into a surprising romance, and he slowly learns how to control the dangerous magic in his blood, life finally appears to be coming together for Ariah—but love and security are cut short by a tyrannical military empire bent on expanding its borders.

War, betrayal, passion, and confusion follow Ariah as his perilous journey leads him beyond the walls of the Empire, and into unfamiliar territory within himself. Along the way, he’ll discover just how much he’s willing to give up to find his place in the world, and he’ll learn what it means to sacrifice himself for freedom—and for love.

5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magiccracks open a world of wonder and joy.

6. An Anthology of Scottish Fantasy Literature – Colin Manlove

Presenting traditional fairy tales, dream allegories, travels, other worlds and ghost stories, this collection includes the supernatural works of such writers as Robert Burns, James Macpherson, R.L. Stevenson, James Hogg, J.M. Barrie, Alasdair Gray, George Mackay Brown and Iain Banks.

7. The Vagrant – Peter Newman

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

Total: 66

Plus I beta read a short novel for a friend.

Writing:

This month was sort of the anti-NaNoWriMo; I did very little drafting. I integrated two rounds of beta comments and then sent Shattered Minds to my agent, Juliet. While waiting, I did some more research and plotting for Betwixt Book, and fleshed out another thriller idea (guess it still needs a nickname. Memory Book, maybe). Shiny Project progressed from around 20% of the first draft done to 30%. Juliet’s notes came back, and I integrated those comments, plus another couple of beta notes, and sent Shattered Minds off to my editor, Bella! I did it! It was a difficult book to write, but so far people seem to enjoy it, so that’s a relief.

Travel & Life:

At the beginning of the month, I took a day trip to Glasgow to see Dianna Walla, teenage friend and illustrator of the Vestigial Tales covers! She was in town seeing her family and family friends, so we wandered around the city and caught up, and it was just one of those days you wish you could bottle and go back to, it was so nice. Dianna’s currently in Norway doing a Masters in Linguistics, so one of these days I’ll have to pop over to see her.

Near the end of the month, my mom flew out for my Masters graduation! I now have an MLitt in Creative Writing. I didn’t write much about the masters on here; I enjoyed it well enough but I’m not sure if, long-term, it’ll really help my career much. Maybe I should have done an MFA instead. But, hey, another piece of paper!

graduate

After that, my mom and I flew out to Belgium. It was a weird trip because at first we were a bit nervous to go to Brussels because of the lockdown. We even tried to see if we could cancel and just stay in Scotland instead, but we sort of had to go when the airline wouldn’t change. I’m glad we went, in the end, as it was, if anything, probably safer there than anywhere else at the moment. We spent most of our time in Ghent and Brugges, with only a day in Brussels. I’ll do a travel roundup at some point.

Goals for Next Month:

I have some admin to do; catch up on my tax spreadsheet, and it’s long overdue that I rejig my website and make it a little slicker. I’ll also play around with drafting Betwixt Book, Shiny Project, and Memory Book. I’m someone who can split my attention between drafting, and I’m not really sure which one to focus on the most, so I’ll dip my toes into all of them. As I’ve turned in my last book that’s under a deadline, I’m in that strange sort of limbo when I want to work but am aware I can’t approach my publisher for another contract until my first book is out and they have sales figures. Yet I’m also not someone to rest on my laurels–next year will have a lot of promo and a few edits to tackle, so I might as well take advantage of my weeks at home in my wee flat as winter grows stronger outside.

Books Read in June

zenintheartofwriting1. 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.

uk-uprooted4. 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.

Total books in 2015: 36.

Books Read in May

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.

burialrites5. 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.

6. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution – Walter Isaacson. Partly book research, partly general interest. A good overview.

Total books so far in 2015: 31.

Books Read in April

I’ve been slack on the blog, but here’s the books I read last month:

Jennifer_Finney_Boylan_Shes_Not_There_sm1. She’s not There: A Life in Two Genders – Jennifer Finney Boylan. My mom lent this to me, as it was the Freshman Read at my alma mater last year. It was a wonderful memoir of a MTF trans woman and her experiences. Funny and moving.

2. The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black. Holly Black is one of my authors I go to for a comfort read.They always have characters you root for, a great atmosphere, and tight plots. This one is set in a small town of Fairfold where the fae are always nearby and have a way with meddling with lives.

3. The Martian – Andy Weir. I listened to this on audiobook. It was an interesting book, and how if I’m ever trapped on Mars, I’ll know how to grow potatoes.

4. In the Woods – Tana Franch. I loved this book. Excellently written and a great mystery. Detective Andrew Ryan is in some ways frustrating and unlikeable (though understandable considering the massive amount of stress he’s under in this book), but his partner Cassie Maddox is the real star of the show. Really want to read The Likeness now, as it stars her.

5. Waverley – Walter Scott. Re-read for an essay for uni, plus about a book’s worth of articles and excerpts of analysis. I’m writing about the supernatural and Gothic allusions in the book.

6. Loose Changeling – A.G. Stewart. Andrea is in one of my writing groups and she came to my Shadowplay launch in SF. I was excited to read her first book and it was fun, fast-paced urban fantasy with fae. A perfect palette cleanser after the rather dark In the Woods and the very dense prose of Waverley.

7. Second Position – Katherine Locke. If you love ballet films with Center Stage, do yourself a favour and read this book. It’s a romance about two ballet dancers whose lives have fallen apart. After four years, they run into each other again and wonder if they can ever hope to pick up the pieces.

8. Turning Pointe – Katherine Locke. Technically this is a novella, but I’ll count it anyway. It’s a prequel novella for Second Position and was just as lovely, and very sad as it’s set around the events that drove Zed and Aly apart four years before the book.

Total books in 2015: 25

Books Read in March

I actually read more this month that I thought I had, since it’s been such an emotional roller coaster.

BOOK Book Reviews 115148190421. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins. A fast-paced thriller I read in a day, about a woman who sees something on a train and has to unpick the mystery. I do love me some unreliable narrators.

2. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State – Glenn Greenwald. Book research.

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.

7. Greenvoe – George Mackay Brown. Read for uni.

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.

Total this year: 18 books

Goal: 75 books

Books Read in February

frog-music1. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (audiobook) – Laura Vanderkam. I’m not much for self-help books, but thought it would be interesting. It was, but I’m still not getting up any earlier than 9 am. Whoops.

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.

the-paying-guests7. 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.

Total this year: 11 books.

Goal: 75 books.

Books Read in November

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.

isla3. 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.

Total for this year: 67 books in 2014.