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.
Last week the University of Aberdeen had a festival called “Being Human.” Unfortunately, I was only able to go to one event, a lecture on time, time machines, and the Victorians by one of my professors. It was good research for a book idea I’ve had for years that hasn’t quite gelled yet. The festival also had and interview with Will Self, a talk on Viking funeralscapes, an informal “Skeptics at the Pub” event, and more. I really wanted to go to a talk on the history of disability, and another on terrors, gods, and magic in the north, but between part-time day job, existing studies, and the fact that I was away in Glasgow Thursday and Friday meant that I couldn’t go.
This week is Book Week Scotland. I’m a Patron of Reading for the Aberdeen City Library, so a letter to the library I wrote will be on display within at least one branch, I think. There are some great events on both through the public library and at the University of Aberdeen library, though again, due to the semester nearing an end and the day job needing me for extra hours this week, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend any. I’d like to go to the historical crime event on Saturday, and I’m going to at least look at the miniature books on display before my lecture tomorrow at the University library! Tonight there was a bookbinding workshop I wish I could have gone to rather than toiling on my essay. One day, I’ll have free time…! But if you’re free in Aberdeen, you should definitely pop along to some of the upcoming events if you can to celebrate books an libraries.
Thanks to grad school, I read a lot in October! Mini-reviews as usual because I have All the Words to write for NaNoWriMo.
1. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë. I read this as a teen so it was fun to revisit it a decade later. Though I seriously side-eyed Rochester’s attempts at wooing. Maybe DON’T dress up as a gypsy to try and trick your crush into revealing her feelings about you. Or maybe don’t pretend to love someone else to see if your crush gets jealous. Also, maybe don’t have a hidden wife in the attic. I wrote a 2,500 word essay on fairy tale illusions in the book as well.
2. The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also read for uni. The only other book by Hawthorne I’ve read was The Scarlet Letter. I enjoyed this well enough, but a lot of the characters were a little flat for me.
4. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James. Another university read. I enjoyed it mightily at the start, thinking Isabel was lively and good fun. Then it got rather depressing as her light went out. Still well-written, but man, so long.
5. Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer – Kelleher & Kelleher. Research for Brainfreeze Book. Fascinating and chilling. Serial killers are separated by type with case studies for each major type: poisoning, angel of death, crime or profit, sexual violence, team killers, etc.
6. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. Finally got around to reading this, just before going to see the film. Had some issues with it, but overall it was a compelling read.
7. Dirty Work – Chris Farnell. A short story anthology Chris asked me to read, which I really enjoyed.
8. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf. Also for university. My first stream of consciousness novel. I enjoyed it, and it made me want to re-watch The Hours, as I feel I’d get all the references I missed.
Here’s the link to the roundup of my last Fantasycon, and my first con in the UK. It was my third post on this blog. Re-reading that made me smile. It’s where I met Adam Christopher, who is still a good friend, and many of the people I met at that first con I know much better now.
It’s also crazy to think how much things can change. Three years ago my first novel was under consideration with Angry Robot. I went to the masterclass and wondered if I’d ever find an agent. Now I’ve two books out and more to come and I’m going part-time at my job. I have the best agent and ten of her other authors were at the con, too. The Mushens Cabal. If you’d told me that all that was to come in 2011 I’d have had to sit down.
Nostalgia out of the way, I did enjoy Fantasycon 2014. I was still worn out from the Loncon cons. Usually there’s all the excitement of seeing people you’ve not seen in months, but this time it was like “oh, hello! I saw you three weeks ago.” I took it a lot easier this con. I arrived at 3 pm on the Friday, taking the train down from Aberdeen. I checked in and hung about briefly, then Craig and I snuck off into town because it was our five year anniversary.
After dinner I headed back to the hotel and went to the karaoke. I made a very poor song choice in California Dreaming and messed it up. Juliet impressed everyone with as the killed “9 to 5″ and then “Fat Lip” and lastly did a moving debut with Andrew Reid. Around 11, I called it a night.
The next morning I had all my programming back to back, which was actually nice as it means I sort of stayed in “professional author” mode. I had a signing, where I mainly hung out with the other authors, then my two panels. The dystopia panel was great, with everyone having great points to contribute and Guy Adams moderating very well. The main point I took away from it was that teen dystopia is often an escape because it’s teens potentially taking back control of the poor decisions their parents made. Right after that I had to dash to my next panel, about the lack of parents in YA. Mainly, it’s because parents can be inconvenient to stories. They cant very well nag about homework when the world is at stake.
After my panels, I snuck away for a few hours to see more of York. It’s such a beautiful town.
Afterward I saw Tea and Jeopardy live with Emma Newman and Peter Newman. I have never laughed so hard as when I heard a room of grown men and women clucking the Doctor Who theme as chickens. And to those who weren’t there: I shall not put that in context.
Later on was the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which normally is held in London, and is co-run by Den Patrick and Jen Williams (moar Team Mushens authors. We’re in ur genre, writing ur bookz etc). Simon Spanton of Gollancz was interviewed by James Barclay, and it was an excellent look into life as an editor in SFF. Then I had to read! Luckily, the opening of False Hearts seemed to go down well.
After me, it was readings from Edward Cox, Emma Newman, and Niel Bushnell. After that it was the disco, where I chatted with people and then boogied a little.
Sunday was another somewhat relaxed day. After breakfast I went back into York for a bit to do some work in a coffeeshop. The Cafe W in the Waterstones is adorable! Then in the afternoon was the British Fantasy Awards. I was up for Best Newcomer, and unsurprisingly lost to Ann Leckie, which I was fully expecting :-) I still got to go up on stage and accept the award for Lauren Beukes and The Shining Girls for Best Horror Novel, so that was fun.
And then it was pretty much time to head back. Thanks to everyone I chatted with. I’m not going to list everyone by name because it’s late and I’ll forget someone and then feel rubbish. It was a nice, sun-filled weekend.
And so my cons for this year are finished. Thank you to Creative Scotland for the Professional Development Bursary, which will have made it much, much easier to go to these events.
1. Learning from the Voices in my Head – Eleanor Longden. A short memoir about suffering from schizophrenia and coming back from it. Yet she did not get rid of her voices; rather, she learned to get along with them.
2. Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier. Wonderful fantasy. Why haven’t I read her before?! Will continue with the series.
3. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer. I enjoyed it – light regency romance.
4. The Red Necklace – Sally Gardner. I listened to the audiobook of this, which was narrated by Tom Hiddleston. It was a book meant for me – French Revolution, a magician, some magical realism, romance, lush language. Enjoyed it a lot.
5. Natural Causes – James Oswald. A member of #TeamMushens. James is the nicest guy, which is quite a disconnect when you read his very gory crime! I enjoyed this a lot and plan to pick up the rest of the series.
6. The Girl who Would be King – Kelly Thompson. I found this book while researching successful Kickstaters and picked it up. I’m glad I did, and even gladder to discover it’s recently been optioned for film! I also love, love, love this cover.
Total books this year: 42. If I’m to make my 80 book goal, I need to hustle. I’m 4 books behind schedule.
Not that much reading again this month. Haven’t been able to concentrate on much.
1. Beauty Queens – Libba Bray. I couldn’t quite get into this one. I think satire is not my thing. It was clever but the characters were all so clearly archetypes being subverted I couldn’t connect with them. Others might feel differently.
2. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell. I started and abandoned a few books until I found this one. Fell right into it and read it over a day.
3. Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey into Story - John Yorke. It’s been ages since I read a book on writing. I picked this up as it focuses a bit more on screenwriting. I found it fascinating and would highly recommend. It was interesting to look at my latest WIP and see that it perfectly fit the 5 act structure through no conscious effort on my part. I also really like how stark and simple the cover is.
Didn’t read that much this month – I had to edit my own work quite a bit and it took up most of my reading energy.
1. Golden Boy – Abigail Tarttelin. A contemporary novel about an intersex teen named Max. Excellently written and tugs at the heart strings. Very recommended (thanks Orion for the copy!)
2. Fool’s Assassin – Robin Hobb. MUAHAHA I GOT TO READ THIS BEFORE IT’S OUT. But now I have to wait until 2015 to find out what happens next. Noooo! This is a continuation of my favourite series by my favourite author. The last new Fitz & Fool book was released in 2003 (and I read it in 2004). It was surreal going back to these characters after so long. The last time I read them for the first time, I was a teenager and I’d just met my now-husband. I lived in California instead of Scotland. Fitz is older, but I’m older, too. I loved this book so much I can’t quite articulate it. I can’t wait to read it again. (thank you to HarperVoyager for the proof).
3. The Boy with the Porcelain Blade – Den Patrick. A member of Team Mushens and an excellent debut, out from Gollancz. It’s an intricate, atmospheric book set in a castle, slightly reminiscent of Gormenghast. There are houses, and the Orfano, people who are all slightly different in some way. It follows the story of Lucien, and time-jumps between his younger and older years. Recommended!