British Books Challenge 2015

One of my five reading-related resolutions for this year is to participate in the British Books Challenge.

The rules of this challenge are pretty simple: Read at least one British book a month (that’s a book written by a British writer, or a writer who lives in the UK!); Blog or vlog about it.

I have a huge TBR to get through that includes a LOT of British authors so I’m looking forward to use the Challenge to motivate me through the list!

So, here are a few of the things I want to get to this year:

  • Sleepless, by Lou Morgan (ARC)
  • Kraken, by China Mieville (TBR Pile)
  • London Falling, by Paul Cornell (TBR Pile)
  • The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon (TBR Pile)
  • The Burning Dark, by Adam Christopher (TBR Pile)
  • Arsenic for Tea, by Robin Stevens (Out soon!)
  • The Vagrant, by Pete Newman (Out soon!)

Huge thanks to Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies, who is organising the challenge this year. It’s not too late to sign up, so if you’re interested in participating, check out this Sign-Up Post on her blog.


Guest Blog: Fight or Flight by Chele Cooke

For this guest blog, I’m thrilled to present one of my writing group buddies: Chele Cooke, a kickass genre author and all-round awesome person. Chele’s latest novel, Fight or Flight, Book Two of the Out Of Orbit series, is out now. You can get a taste of the world by downloading a free e-book of Dead & Buryd, the first novel in the series, or you can read an extract below. Chele is also raffling off 25 copies of Fight or Flight, so scroll down to get to the giveaway!

About Chele

Chele Cooke is an English-born writer based in London. Starting out writing fan fiction, she soon moved onto her own fiction, releasing her first novel, ‘Dead and Buryd’, in 2013, the sequel ‘Fight or Flight’ following less than a year later.

She is currently working on The Out of Orbit series, a number of short stories, a circus based sci-fi, and a paranormal serial currently released weekly on Wattpad.

Chele’s website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Wattpad

Find Fight or Flight on: Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords | Goodreads


From Chapter 8: Catching Smoke

She’d been waiting to see him. Every day in the compound, especially since his note had arrived, she had thought of seeing him again. Keiran reached out first, his fingers on her jaw, gently brushing the bruise on her cheekbone. He drew her forwards and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, her temple, her cheek and then the corner of her lips. She turned towards him then, settling her lips against his tender flesh. His fingers disappeared into her hair, holding the nape of her neck as he urged her up to him, sharing breath, sharing longing.

FoFsmallHis lips tasted of wheat beer and yapoque smoke. He’d been worried. She could imagine him standing outside the Trade Inn, smoking while he waited before coming inside to get a drink. The taste of him was sweet against her tongue.

His skin was smooth and warm, just the way she remembered it. His fingertips pressed into the small of her back, pulling her closer. She gripped his arms and clung on, hoping she hadn’t been imagining it all, scared he might evaporate into the smoke of his cigarettes.

Next to them, Halden cleared his throat.

Georgianna pulled back. Maybe Keiran had done enough to earn Halden’s approval, but she doubted anything was enough for an extended display of affection. The problem was she wasn’t ready to put any space between them. Weeks of thinking of him, wondering whether he was safe, if he really was going to help her, had built up into a pit of longing that had not yet been filled.

The tip of her nose bumped against his and he placed another soft kiss at the corner of her lips. She slid her hands up to his shoulders and pulled herself against him, her cheek against his as she hugged him tightly. Keiran’s arms wound around her waist, kissing her temple again.

When he moved back, the anxious expression was gone, replaced by critical examination. His gaze swept across her face, down her neck and back to the injury on her cheek.

“He hurt you.”

She shook her head. His thumb brushed against her cheek again and behind his frown, she could see his jaw tightening. Georgianna grasped his wrist.

“No,” she assured him. “It wasn’t him.”

“Who then? He’s had you for days,” Halden insisted. “I’m no medic, but I know that mark is new.”

She avoided looking at either of them.

“It doesn’t matter, it was nothing.”

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Fight or Flight!

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The Hugos: It’s About Time

The Hugo Nominations came out last week and I am pretty darn excited about most of them. But there were also some deeply problematic things on the ballot, and there has consequently been a lot of discussion about how to handle those.

Here’s my take on things:

Vox Day does not deserve my time

I’m not going to read that story. It might be all right, it might be offensive, I don’t really care. I know some people advocate judging the fiction separately from its author, but I just can’t do that. I already know that I won’t vote for Vox Day.

Look, I’ve paid money to be able to participate in a proud tradition of SFF fandom. I’m so giddy that I’ll be able to attend the Hugo ceremony this year. I’ll be damned if I’m going to facilitate a man who has voiced such loathsome opinions to get up on stage at the Hugos and open his mouth.

So if I know I won’t vote for him, no matter what, why should I bother reading his story? Life is too short to give a man like that the courtesy of my time.

Not sure Larry Correia does either?

I’ve heard Correia speak on various podcasts before and while he never came across as a particularly nasty piece of work, I did not appreciate the tone or content of his voting slate blog post. The fact that he recommended Vox Day’s story really does not ingratiate him to me. I also have absolutely nothing in common with his target audience of, as he puts it, ‘gun nuts’.

But with the Hugos, we’re voting for the stories, not the authors. Surely if I don’t object to him as strongly as to Vox Day, I should read his book and judge it fairly. Well maybe.

His nominated work is the third novel in a series – now, I’m the first to admit I have a chip on my shoulder about works that do not stand alone being nominated for Best Novel. I dislike those because they pose an ultimatum: read all the books that came before, or judge something out of context. Last year I attempted to read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance without having read any other in the series and it was such an unpleasant experience reading it out of context that it’s pretty much thrown me off of ever reading the Vorkosigan novels.

So I’m not sure I’ll read Correia’s novel. The odds are so small that I would like it at all, it hardly seems worth it. Particularly in a year where I am so enthused by the rest of the ballot: I want to read all the zines, the non-fiction writing, the non-Vox Day short fiction. I’m excited about finishing Parasite, reading Ancillary Justice and Neptune’s Brood. And if I decide to start on The Wheel of Time, goodness knows I won’t have a spare minute to give Warbound.

In short, Larry Correia’s attitude has pushed him to the bottom of the To Read pile, and we all know how often I get to the books stashed down there.

Time? What time? I have no time, I have to read these 14 door-stoppers

And so we come to the thorny question of The Wheel Of Time, which was nominated in its entirety in the Novel category. A lot of the complaints I’ve heard were that it’s a joke for a 14 book series to be nominated as one very, very long serialised story. But the rules are very clear that it is eligible; if it weren’t, the Hugo Committee would not have let it be on the ballot. They will strike things out if they are found to be ineligible.

Apparently there were also complaints about the quality of the work, but these seem simply unjustified to me. I personally think ‘The Name of The Doctor’ was pretty bad, but I’m not arguing that it shouldn’t be on the ballot. I just won’t vote for it. If we all agreed on what’s good, we wouldn’t need the awards at all.

My own complaint is more that it feels unfair to people who are not already fans of The Wheel Of Time. I have every sympathy for fans wanting to posthumously honour Robert Jordan by nominating the whole series rather than the latest instalment alone (written by Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen to complete the series after Jordan’s passing).

However, this means that where I could read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance as a stand-alone and judge it as such, I can’t do that with The Wheel Of Time. The whole story is nominated, so I’m being asked to have an opinion on 4, 410, 036 words. More than FOUR MILLION WORDS.


How do I do that in four months? Do I not read the other nominated works? Do I use a time turner? I make an effort to read a lot and I know I like at least Sanderson’s writing but even so, 14 books in 4 months is a tall order. Even if I bought all 14 audio books (which I won’t because that would be a ridiculous amount of money), it would still be 461 hours of narration.

What if I can’t do it? I can’t compare something I’ve read to something I’ve not read. I can’t have the same voting experience as someone who has already read all or most of the books. That is taking a choice away from me in this contest, it is disenfranchising me from this vote. It’s like saying ‘You haven’t already read The Wheel Of Time, therefore your opinion isn’t valid here.’

I work for an election provider, so from a professional standpoint I can say that disenfranchising voters from ballots they are eligible to vote in is officially really, really bad. From a personal standpoint, it feels like the old guard of fandom is telling me I’m not a part of their club because I’ve not read this one specific thing. Either way, it’s hurtful, unfair and plain annoying.

If you have any suggestions as to what I could or should do about The Wheel Of Time, I would love to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on twitter, because I think I might like it, if I didn’t feel so annoyed at it!


When The World Was Flat (and we were in love) – Review

17568923Author: Ingrid Jonach
Genre: YA sci-fi
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Date: January 2013
Source: Net Galley
Buy the BookGoodreads

Lillie is your average small-town-Alaskan high-school student. Crackpot hippie mother not-withstanding, Lillie’s life is pretty normal until she starts dreaming of her own death, every single night.

Then new guy Tom strolls into school; he’s handsome, rich & British, a swoon-worthy combination if there ever was one.

But he is also strangely familiar, Lillie instinctively knows things about him she couldn’t possibly know. Do they really have some kind of weird connection, or is a simple teenage crush making her read way too much into Tom’s every word or gesture?

The beautiful cover and intriguing title should give you an idea of the lyrical, atmospheric flavour of the book. It doesn’t lack in sass either, with Lillie’s opinions and descriptions rendering the small town and its inhabitants in vivid detail. I was particularly impressed with the expert portrayal of teenagers, which hit just the right notes of frailty, bravado and cruelty in turn. The parade of couchsurfers moving in and out of Lillie’s living room never failed to provide comic relief.

The revelation of a supernatural aspect to the plot came fairly late, allowing the high-school drama to take front and centre stage for the first half of the book. That’s a relatively large portion of the story which is solely dedicated to Lillie’s everyday life, as well as that of her family, friends, frenemies, and even the town.

This early focus allowed the reader to immerse in Green Grove sufficiently to understand exactly how devastating an impact the later reveals could have.

One initially very sympathetic character turns suddenly sinister shortly after the central crux of the story is finally revealed, and the reader feels this twist all the more cruelly for this attention paid the character in question early on.

The lack of a supernatural plot-twist before the mid-point also provided its own little pinch of suspense. There is a certain amount of meta at play; when you pick up a book from a genre publisher, you expect some kind of science-fiction or fantasy element.

Yes, the weird dreams could just be dreams, except the reader knows they’re not. I spent the first half of the book wondering, at the turn of every page, is this next one the page I’ll find out?

By the time Lille finally gets told what is going on, the seasoned genre reader will have probably guessed the most likely answer (I did), but Jonach builds on the beloved sci-fi concept and creates a beautiful, multi-layered hidden fantasy world. There is almost a bit of cognitive dissonance between the high-school drama and high-concept sci-fi portions of the story, but if you enjoy both genres, like I do, you will love both halves equally.

I read this book on holiday and I must say it was close to the perfect summer read for my taste – a fun, witty story, with enough emotional resonance to make me root for a happy ending, none of the unnecessary sap I always dread from romances, and a decent grounding in sci-fi without any arduous info-dump. It feels great sometimes to step back and read a story not about the end of the world, but the tearing apart of someone’s little world, which is just as dramatic when it’s done well.


Unread Books Guilt

Turns out I have to move in a few months’ time.

This coming on the heels of my New Year’s Resolutions to read more and discover new authors made me reconsider all the tsundoku I’ve been doing for years.

What is ‘tsundoku’ you ask?

Award-winning author Lauren Beukes tweeted about this fantastic Japanese word. Surely we need a word for that in English, right?

Tweet Lauren Beukes

I’m very, very guilty of buying books that sound great and adding them to my ever-growing collection of books that sound great. Of course I read some and I start even more, but many remain unread. Inevitably, I forget that they’re there and just buy some more.

Now that the terrifying prospect of piling all of my beloved books into boxes once again looms on the horizon, I know I’ve got to do something drastic. I hate the idea of downsizing my bookshelves, but how dumb is it that some of my books came with me from France four years ago, were subsequently moved twice, are about to move a third time and I have not read them yet?

On my To-Read List for the next few months:

booksFor The Win and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
I ordered a couple of Doctorow’s books after reading his novel Little Brother, which I absolutely adored.

Druide by Oliver Peru, Gagner La Guerre by Jean-Philippe Jaworski
When I visit my parents, we always end up visiting the nifty, giant independent bookshop in the next town over from them. This never ends in small purchases.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, Partials by Dan Wells
I’m a regular listener of Writing Excuses, the weekly writing advice podcast Sanderson and Wells are hosts on, so I was curious to read more of their work and keen to support them.

The Demon’s Watch by Conrad Mason
A YA debut with cross-dressing and pirates, with a sequel out in a few months! Must get to reading this one.

Also on the list: China Mieville’s Kraken, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Anansi Boys, Joseph D’Lacey’s Meat, Lazette Gifford’s Writing Science-Fiction & When It Changed, and anthology of essays on Sci-Fi.

I can’t be the only one with a book-buying problem. Let me know, what’s in your stack of unread books and how do you plan to tackle it?