What I’ve Been… #8

… Reading

I finally finished ‘The Star Pit’ by Samuel R. Delany. It was signed off in October 1965 though as far as I can find out it was Delany’s first published story. It was published in Feb 1967 in Worlds of Tomorrow though I read it in Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories. I’ve enjoyed his non-fiction in the form of About Writing but this is my first of his fiction. I have Babel-17 (1966) and Dhalgren (1975) on the shelves ready but I worry I’m not going to find them accessible as an introduction. I might just keep working my way through this collection before moving on to his novels.

’The Star Pit’ a longer short story and it tackles polyamorous relationships, human evolution, abandonment, loss, death, and other big themes, which it does by focusing on a mechanic in a spaceport as he confronts what’s happened in his life. As a first published story I can see why Delany is a good writer. It’s definitely a good introduction.

I’m still reading The House of Shattered Wings. It’s gothic, claustrophobic and utterly enchanting. I’m so worried that I’m going to get to the end and be disappointed. But that’s because I’m loving it so much. I’ve seen reviews already which have said good things so I’m very hopeful.

… Thinking About the Hugos

But only for a minute or so. Good sense of the voters prevailed.

Adding the TBR

I’m trying to slow down the amount of books I buy as I always go over my book budget (as I have this month) but I’m still up for a bargain. Resistance Is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan was 99p on Kindle a couple of days ago. I got as far as the prologue and the opening paragraph of chapter one before hitting buy. I’m curious about the mix of SF and humour. Anyone read it yet?

What have you been reading this week?

What I’ve Been… #7

… Doing

Last weekend I attended the 3rd Nine Worlds Convention at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre in Heathrow. It’s my second one and this time was bigger and better than the last time. I’ll let others tell you about the actual venue and concentrate on the event itself but the service from the hotel was a little disappointing to say the least.

As I live all the way west from London and over the English/Welsh border I don’t get to London to see all the people I love catching up with. Eastercon was a disappointment this year in that regard as all the cool people have now chosen Nine Worlds as their bookish con of choice. And it’s easy to see why.

It’s such a relaxed space with so many geek-friendly threads. Books are only one part of what goes on. There are threads devoted to Game of Thrones, geek culture and academia, the end of the world, comics, creative writing, games, fanfic, feminism, history, LGBTQAI+, podcasting, Supernatural…. and more. It’s really a lot of mini-cons in one space. But you can crossover easily and see discussions you might be curious about but never get chance to experience otherwise.

After 3 years it has grown a little too big for the venue. Lots of the panels had ‘full’ signs on the door. And I missed out on Knightmare Live as the queue was so long I didn’t see everyone fitting in the room it was allocated to. It’s nice from the panelists point of view to have full rooms but for attendees it’s a little frustrating.

I was even on a panel, The End of Author Mystique, where a group of critics and authors discussed the relationship between readers and authors. I learnt I need to change my use of ‘buy my book’ when talking about thinks I don’t like authors doing into ‘PLEASE buy my book’ as the later is annoying and the former is essential to make sure authors get some financial recognition for the hundreds of hours they’ve spent making their work come to life.

I had a great time and can’t wait for next year’s event. I might even cosplay next time.

…Reading

So on the car ride into Nine Worlds I listened to the last hour of Good Omens (the BBC cast recording) and forget what I said about it being slow. When it came to the ending, I must have been tired, because I cried. It somehow encapsulated the power of the message of the book with the right tone and it set me off. Really good job.

On the way back I started listening to The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. I’ve been slowly working my way through a reread of the City Watch books and thought it might be good to mix it up a bit. To be honest the voices of the cast aren’t anywhere near the voices in my head. But as Terry will have had some input into it they must be voices he approved of in some way. I mellowed after a while. They’re still a little odd but I’m not freaking out hearing them any more.

I’m another story down in Fearie Tales. This one was ‘Open Your Window, Golden Hair’ by Tanith Lee. She’s taken the Rapunzel basics and subverted them into a creepy honey trap of a tale. Well worth reading.

A couple of days ago I picked up The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard to see if it grabbed me. I do that with a lot of books.  I taste them to see if it’s something that works for me. Now I’ve been reading it off and on. Mostly when I’m supposed to be doing other stuff. I’m getting addicted. I know it’s dangerous to share book lust as it might fade before the end. But at the moment I’m happy to share.

My current TBR reading plan is:

Finish The House of Shattered Wings
Finish The Autumn Republic
Move onto Scottish literature starting with The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

…Adding to the TBR

I have enough to keep me busy but that didn’t stop me spending money while at Nine Worlds:

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I keep seeing The Wicked + The Divine mentioned on twitter. It’s one of the comics I’ve been really curious about but needed a push. I’m being really cautious about the comics I buy as I don’t want to be disappointed. I have high hopes.

I keep meaning to read Frances Hardinge. She’s loved by a lot of people I know. I have A Face Like Glass and  I was standing at the Forbidden Planet considering The Lie Tree or Cuckoo Song. I’m not sure I’d like The Lie Tree as it seems a little dark. I’ve said that but all her books seem dark so maybe I should say a little too dark. So The Cuckoo Song is was.

I bought Battle Mage as I’ve known Stephen for years and as his debut was available a couple of months early. It’s nice to support debut authors.

Speaking of support, Jared of Jurassic London was selling some of their books at the con and I finally picked up a copy of Irregularity. I also picked up The Good Shabti, a The Shirley Jackson Award 2014 nominee. 
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And now I have an almost complete collection of Jurrasic London releases:

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The other thing which happened was a I got so curious by Tom Pollack’s recommendation that I had to get hold of a copy of The Raven Boys. Twitter seemed to find a it a really good recommendation. And I need to read some more YA.

IMG_2382That’s the end of this week’s update. Hopefully more next Sunday.

What have you all been reading?

 

What I’ve Been… #6

…Doing

Over two weeks without a blogpost probably means you’re dead in this ‘instantly contactable’ world but I’m happy to confirm that I’m definitely not dead.

I’ve got my reasons for not blogging: the first Sunday, 19th July, (I try to post these updates on Sundays) I’d been working late at my new job most nights and I’d not read anything worth commenting on that week; The next Sunday, 26th July, I was in Sherwood Forest before driving down Bletchley Park. This was after driving up to Edinburgh via Manchester for an around the UK roadtrip. We ended up in Legoland before driving home to Wales.

A roundtrip of over 1000 miles and really good fun.

…Reading

I have got some reading done. I finished my re-read of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Now I’ve not read it since 2004(?), which was before YA was YA. You could call Sabriel a YA book. It’s main character is 18 who goes in search of a her father, the Aboshen, whose role in xxxx is to keep the dead dead. But he himself is stuck in death and she sets out to rescue him. Sabriel grows up fast. Nix does a skilful job of engaging us with her quest while dealing with subject of death. He does it from the opening scene and carries on. He shows us the nature of corruption and how rot and decay effect the living as well as the dead. It’s a YA book because of how it’s structured and where it focuses. The end location couldn’t have been better chosen. It does feel a little bit too swift in places but ticks all the right boxes in the right way. Still worth another re-read when I get chance. Though I think I’ll have to read through to my first read of Clariel first, which if the forth book but set way before the events in the trilogy.

I almost started Lirael straight away but I’m foolishly putting it off. Do other people delay enjoyment of books?

I’ve just started Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories by Samuel R. Delany. I’ve read his non-fiction in  About Writing but the opening story,”The Star Pit”, is my first exposure to his fiction. It’s surprising readable.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had to go back to re-read the end of The Crimson Campaign to get to grips with the start of The Autumn Republic. It’s a great series so I can’t see how I’ve forgotten where I was. Maybe it’s the first signs of getting older….

…Adding to the TBR

While I was in Edinburgh @WordsofMercury tweeted a picture of the books in promotion that Vintage books are doing to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Warner’s Morven Callar, which was spooky as I was thinking about which Scottish author I should be taking home from EdinburghWest’s Waterstones. They love SF there btw:

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I did pick up Ray Bradbury’s Summer Morning, Summer Night, which ‘is a collection of short stories and vignettes based in Green Town, Illinois, the fictionalised version of Ray Bradbury’s native Waukegan, which also served as the setting for his modern classics DANDELION WINE, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and FAREWELL SUMMER.’ 

But back to Scottish fiction. So a twitter exchange ensued and I’ve kindly been sent a pile of Scottish classics:

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The two that immediately spring out are Morvern Callar and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Obviously   these are just a small, but from what I’ve heard, spot on selection. Other authors would include: Iain Banks’s non-SF. And Jenni Fagan gave me a starting list earlier:

The thought struck me during the exchange last weekend that I’ve got wary of trying new experiences in reading recently. I’ve loved and loathed books I’ve read for Hear.. Read This! podcast. Luckily, it finally got me to read The Driver’s Seat by Spark, after I picked it up thanks to John Self’s recommendation.

That leads me on to…

…Thinking

David Hebblethwaite posted a blog called ‘Moving On’ this morning. It’s a funny when bloggers get a little zeitgeisty. My blog has changed. These posts are a different way of how I  think about what I’ve read,  I’m reading or going to read and why. It’s reassuring when it’s not just you. I haven’t digested all the linked posts yet but the nature of social media, reading and reader’s interactions keeps changing. I wonder what will happen over the next 10 years? I’m looking forward to seeing David’s evolution.

Oh and next Sunday’s post is likely to have a lot of mentions about Nine Worlds, which kicks off properly on Friday! It’s my favourite genre convention.

What you been reading?

What I’ve Been Reading #5

A return trip this weekend into mid-Wales meant I could have some audiobook time on the 5-hour drive. So I listened to three-odd hours of Good Omens – the BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation. 

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I’m a huge fan of Good Omens. I first read it as a library book as a 16-year old. I’ve listened to the Stephen Briggs narration relevantly  recently and fell in love all over again. As a huge fan I’m not sure that the dramatisation hit all the beats that the source material does. I still have an hour to go before it finishes so it might all turn round for me. It does capture some of what goes on but for me it does miss the narrative voice which makes Good Omens into Good Omens.

Saying that there is lots to love. The voices sound right for the most part. It all makes sense. This is why I’m bad at seeing movie versions of books. I’d rather read the source material.

Lots of long days mean I’ve not got too much further on Sabriel but as it’s going to be my ebook I’ve picked and started my physical read, which is The Autumn Republic. I’m very eager to see if Brian McClellan can bring his story to a satisfying conclusion.

EDIT TO ADD

Oh and I’ve read the intro to Tales from the Vatican Vaults. I’m trying to decide if I want to read it in order, which I probably will or go to my favourite author first?  Sorry to tease but it’s not out until August.vaticanvaults

What I’ve Been Reading #4

Sorry this is a little late. I did a five-hour round trip into the heart of Wales yesterday/Sunday (that was until I remembered I’d take off my Apple Watch 30-minutes into the return journey and did a u-turn to collect it).

The trip was to help clear-out some stuff and while we were going that I came across books like these…

IMG_1374 IMG_1384 IMG_1378Finding The Owl Service was quite spooky as I’d emailed Rob from Adventures with Words a list on Saturday making comment on how much I didn’t like that book after reading it for GCSE English. I had though for forgotten how many children’s books I’d read/been given. To be fair I also love Angela Carter, Yeats and Derek Walcott because I’ve studied them.

So yesterday was nostalgic and a little spooky.

I did manage 3/5 reviews this week. In my defence the ones I’ve not written as rereads of Jingo by Terry Pratchett and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and I’ve been thinking about re-reads in general and might save them for later.

This is only because I’ve just officially starting re-reading Clariel by Garth Nix. I love it but I’d forgotten how dark it was. I know it’s a book about death but it does show you how dark it can be.

Do have any books that you now love/hate after studying them?

 

Review: Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal

 Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No NormalComics are one of those things I’ve fallen out of love with.  I used to be an avid collector and have a few long boxes full of comics  to prove it but I wasn’t very good at keeping up with them. I know they come out monthly but somehow I tend to get behind.

And the other thing is I find it hard to be a causal comic reader.  It feels like you have to keep up with not just one comic but ten to know what’s going on (though this might be a spillover from my X-Men days). I tried to get back into comics when DC relaunched The New 52 but failed and still have Mieville’s Dial H to finish.

So I really thought my comic days were done. But  if you hear enough people talk about something you get curious to find out what all the fuss is about and that is how I came to buy a copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal (collecting #1-5 plus additional material) in New York in November last year (I did say I had trouble keeping up). If it makes any difference I was only one or two comics in when I bought Generation Why (the next collected edition).

G. Willow Wilson introduces us to Kamala Khan – an ordinary girl from Jersey City – who is empowered by extraordinary gifts. For Kamala Khan being 15, a Muslim girl and a a superhero definitely makes her life complicated and Wilson acknowledges that and explores life for a muslim teenage girl at the same time as exploring her new role as a community hero. I think that’s a hard thing to pull off but Wilson makes it smooth and it works well.

Wilson keeps a sense of fun both with the powers and the character even as Kamala struggles against her parents expectations and the limitations they place on her.

Adrian Alphona’s art is fun and the characters expressions encapsulate the script. They make a great team.

If I don’t pick up another series anytime soon I’m still happy that there the buzz out there has made me read this one.  Wilson has done something important without making it a ‘message’ book. It’s just a tale, and you can see and experience different lifestyles and ways of living without having to ‘learn’ about them as a life lesson.

Review: The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham (1929)

image002Imagine you are invited to a party at a country mansion only to find yourself the following day as a prisoner. Well, that’s what happens to Dr George Abbershaw and a group of London’s brightest young things when they accept an invitation to a party at Black Dudley. During a parlour game someone is murdered and things from there on in turn a little dark.

This novel is the first introduction of Albert Campion, though he only appears as a supporting character. But this appearance did lead on appearances in  another eighteen novels and twenty short stories.  It’s interesting that throughout  Dr George Abbershaw is the main focus. You can see, I think, where Allingham is trying to make him a detective but it is Campion who really does steal to the show.

His appearances have energy and charm whereas Abbershaw is a little more sedate and traditional. Speaking of sedate and traditional I thought that Allingham was going for a cosy country house murder but she goes darker. She unmasks a plot that puts that everyone in danger, and if it has been written now, it would have been bloody but Allingham managers to keep the restraint but keep the danger. I was actually surprised now dark she does go. I do wonder what the audience of the time would have made of The Crime at Black Dudley if she had crossed the line?

As introductions go Allingham makes you want to know more about the mysterious Albert Campion, as well as solve the mystery he finds himself tangled in. It’s quite a fun tale with twists and surprises that keep you reading. It is nice to see a darker classic crime tale and I’m now curious to see what Allingham does with Campion in The Mystery Mile.

Review: Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan (2015)

9780356501123-2Reading a popular author always sets expectations. Mostly the one that my unconscious sets for me is, ‘please let this book/author be good.’ Notice I said ‘good’ not ‘outstanding’. Don’t get me wrong I want to read something that’ll blow me away but I don’t mind reading a work that keeps me moving along with the characters and makes me feel at the end that I’ve spend my time in a pleasurable way.  I could have said memorable but I’ve read lots of books that I can no longer remember in detail.

Thief’s Magic is my first Trudi Canavan novel so I had no expectations above ‘please be good’.  I don’t know how she’s told her previous tales so I have no experience to compare this against. Thief’s Magic has a great start, a good ending and a middle which feels like it’s going from A to Z using an faulty sat nav.

It’s an ambitious tale to be sure. We swap between two characters and two worlds. Both have different but intersecting takes on magic.  In one world we follow Tyren, a student of archeology, who finds a sentient book called Vella, and watch as he struggles to keep her safe. In the other we meet Rielle who has been taught that the use of magic is to steal from the Angels.

Through a series of events each becomes an outsider to their respective societies, which brings me my big issue with the narratives. It often feels like Canavan is kicking the plot along the road or trying to fill time before we get to the end.

I honestly don’t know which it is but ultimately it doesn’t feel smooth. It is trying to do something different so it needs some analyse, as far as I can without spoilers, because there is a veil in the story, which gets lifted at the end, and does make it worth reading.

The real issue is that the two interweaving stories are different paces. One is focused on an adventure and one is focused on the impact of a new relationship: so one is high-paced and one is slow. Both stories contain elements of adventure and romance and I don’t have a problem with the romance. It’s nice to see that. It works and make sense.

The trouble is when you get to the end and know what was planned you may have a different view of the middle. If each story had been released on their own it wouldn’t have worked either. Canavan has set up an opposition which will make for a interesting collision if, though more likely when, they collide.

But to get them to the end they have to be in certain places and it feels that the journeys are a little forced. And going from ‘fast’ to ‘slow’ and back again shows up the limitations of both narratives and the way in which they’re told.

Overall, it’s a good experiment which doesn’t quite work. But the plusses are the application of theories around the source and use of magic does  show that Canavan has a clever imagination. It also has  characters whose stories you care about. Maybe if it wasn’t a trilogy this part would have been tighter though I don’t know what you’d cut or what you’d add that could possibly replace what you be removed. Guess I’ll know after reading Angel of Storms, which is out in November, what Canavan has planned for Tyren and Rielle

What I’ve Been Reading #3

I’m going to do my best to make this a weekly post, so I’m sorry for missing last week. I’ve got a touch of readers block. I’ve been reading Night Lamb by Jack Vance as you’ve seen but I’ve not been feeling it. The promise of the blurb vs that slow movement and focus of the tale itself. I even skipped a few chapters to see where it was going but it remains with a teenagers struggle, which I just can’t seem to get into.  All this means that it has turned into a slog to pick up.  I don’t think you can’t knock me for trying to keep moving but I think it’s time to officially put it aside at page 93.

The other thing that’s making me struggle, and this is an issue I hope other book bloggers recognise, is having a small pile of books to review. I’m going to make time to get the pile reviewed so I’m planning  five reviews coming Monday to Friday this week. This might sound odd but if I can a book waiting for review I can read another genre before I’ve written the review but not the same genre, and as I have a fantasy, crime, comic and two re-reads waiting I’ve run out of options. So hopefully getting this done will get rid of the block.

As way of slight exploration why the reviews are outstanding so long is that I’m 4 weeks into a new job that has me going a completely new role and new hours and leaving me mushy-brained during the week. So hopefully that’s going to level out.

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I’ve been doing a dash of non-fiction reading too. I’ve been reading more from What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton and The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols by Caitlin Matthews. I like Jo Walton’s style of writing about books she’s been re-reading the only thing that worries me is how much she’s read that I’ve never heard of. So, so, so much I’ve also been trying to get my head into Lenormand. I mentioned a few posts ago that I reviewed tarot cards well Lenormand is a cut-down set of playing cards with a symbol on each card, which is unlike tarot as that had an extra 26 cards on top of those used as playing cards. It’s an interesting learning curve.

I have snuck in a short story from the Fearie Tales collection. “Find My Name” by Ramsey Campbell is a gem. It’s very spooky and I think it’s my first Campbell. It’s not gonna be my last.

I’m going to be reading more short stories as I’m so excited to get a review copy of China Mieville’s new collection Three Moments of an Explosion.

 

What have you been reading?

Once More Round the Discworld & Once More to Long Earth

I probably will never write in detail about the effect that the Discworld had on me as a lonely 16 year-old but knowing that the 41st Discworld novel will be the last is oddly comforting though obvisously still sad.  But you have to be in awe of a series that has sustained 41 books without losing the joy of knowing its characters are returning, even if it is one last time.

And speaking of returning, The Long Utopia which Terry co-wrote with Stephen Baxter, is the 4th Long Earth book and it’s out this month and I guess then, after the 5th one, which the guardian reports was finished in March this year, that truly is the end.