My 8 Desert Island Books! #BAMB 2015

Books Are My Bag is a nationwide campaign to celebrate brick and mortar bookshops, because they are beautiful, magical places full of wonder. Books Are My Bag week happened a few weeks back (I know this post is a bit behind the times, but it’s been a hectic month!) and I got myself some nifty swag, including this adorable tote bag:


This year, the folks at Books Are My Bag challenged us to come up with our ‘Desert Island Reads’, ie. the eight books we would take to a desert island. In the spirit of approaching things like a grown-up, I will not go with my first answer of “Seven Harry Potter books and the script of the new play” and I will make an actual list:

1) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling
I couldn’t very well *not* include a Harry Potter book, now, could I? Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite, because it features my lovelies Sirius & Remus, WHO ARE BOTH FINE AND DANDY, don’t you dare!

 2) Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey
This is my favourite Dragonriders of Pern book, although it does have problematic things in it, because well- PERN. I re-read it about once a year.

3) His Dark Materials Omnibus, Philip Pullman
I am totally having the omnibus edition of all three books, because it isn’t cheating since it’s all in one physical book. Also I’ve not re-read these since my teens & I really want to.


4) Ship of Magic, Robin Hobb
This one was harder to choose: it’s the first in The Liveship Traders trilogy, which I dearly love, but I also haven’t re-read it in years, so I feel like I’d be dissatisfied when I was done with this one book & didn’t have the other two. There’s no omnibus – you better believe I checked.

5) Of Noble Family, Mary Robinette Kowal
The final book in the Glamourist Histories & my favourite of the lot. It has some really cool study-of-magic-as-science aspects, especially relevant to my interests because they discuss the language they use a lot, and I LOVE that. Kowal also makes each book can stand alone, so it wouldn’t matter so much if I could never re-read the first four.


And now, because I’m greatly daring & possibly very foolish, I pick three books I haven’t read yet to come with me on a desert island forever.

6) The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K LeGuin
I know from other works I’ve read of LeGuin’s that I enjoy her sparse style and that I’m engaged with the themes she chooses to focus on. So many people whose opinion I trust love this book, I’m confident I would like it too. Honestly the only reason I haven’t read it yet is that I’ve not really felt like I had the time/brain space to properly concentrate on it. I bet that’ll be a big problem on the desert island.

7) Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
I’m slowly catching up with the Discworld after making a late start into the series. I’d pick Hogfather because,as far as I know, it’s one of the more stand-alone ones. It might also be nice to have a book that’s a bit more festive (although it might just upset me if I’m all alone on a desert island…).

8) Fevre Dream, George RR Martin
I love Martin’s writing, but I can’t pick one of the Song of Ice and Fire books. I love them but we have two more books to go & I wouldn’t want to spend my desert island days being reminded that I have no idea how the series wraps up!

Fevre Dream is one of Martin’s earlier novels, it’s a standalone about vampires & it’s very well regarded, so I’d go for that one.


Let me know what you think of these picks in the comments below, would you choose any of the same books or just a completely different list?


Top Ten Books on my TBR for Summer 2015


I’m much more of mood reader than a seasonal reader, so this list of Summer Reads probably won’t be very summery (lots of space doom), but it’s always fun to take a snapshot of what I’m hoping to read in the near future!

After I saw the beautiful trailer for The Martian, I couldn’t stop thinking about the story and just had to listen to the audiobook again. I liked it just as much as the first time, despite knowing what would happen, and it still made me tear up in places. So now I’m in the mood for Sci-Fi, SCI-FI, and MORE SCI-FI.

Luckily I had three shiny Audible credits, so I treated myself to:

1. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
I saw this one featured on Audible’s main page and I picked it up because Elizabeth at Books and Pieces recently gushed about it. Good enough for me! I’ve just started listening to it today & the moon’s already exploded. :)

2. Century Rain, by Alastair Reynolds
I asked for recent SFF recommendations on Twitter and this is one of the books that was mentioned. The blurb says it’s about a space archaeologist who rediscovers Earth. Yes, please!

[one_half]Seveneves_Book_Cover[/one_half][one_half_last]century rain[/one_half_last]

3. Space Chronicles, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Audible suggested this one to me and I hesitated approximately 0.415186 of a second. I love popular science books and I loved Neil Tyson when I heard him speak on various science podcasts. Also his twitter is pretty amazing.

Next, I want to read some of the books I’ve already got on my shelves as the unread books are piling up and guilt-tripping me into not buying new ones…

4. The Burning Dark, by Adam Christopher
This one is more space-horror than straight-up science-fiction, but it was recommended by my friend Nick Bryan, and I do have a copy at home. I just read & really enjoyed The Ghost Line, the new Elementary tie-in book that Adam Christopher wrote, so I feel good about trying one of his own titles. Also, check out the cover, I LOVE it!

[one_half]neil tyson[/one_half][one_half_last]burning dark[/one_half_last]

5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Nothing says summer like a post-apocalyptic novel about an acting troupe, right? I bought this one a few weeks ago after George R.R. Martin recommended it, and I can’t wait to give it a go. I suppose at least in this one the Earth won’t be doomed, like in my first two selections! The cover design is so gorgeous that I really hope I love Mandel’s writing, just so I can get her other titles & have a matching set.

6. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, by Sam Maggs
I pre-ordered this one & got it on the day of release. I’ve already rifled through & what I’ve seen had definitely made me smile. I’m not sure I need a handbook for being a girl geek or a fangirl, but I know this is the book of my people. I’m not going to read it straight away, I have a feeling I’ll need to add a bit levity to my summer reading if it gets too doom-and-gloomy.


7. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
I picked this up as an audiobook after watching quite a bit of Parks & Recreation recently. I love the show (and Leslie Knope of course!) so I was curious to read Poehler’s book. A lot of people on booktube really liked it so I’m looking forward to listening to this.

Finally here are three books I’ve been waiting to buy for a little while, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to contain myself when I go to Waterstones on Saturday to pick up another book I ordered for novel research…

8. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry
A book about seven proper young ladies attempting to hide two murders and unmask a murderer? In a boarding school? In Victorian England? SIGN. ME. UP. Amazon & Goodreads both told me I should read this after I wish-listed & Want-to-read-ed Robin Stevens’ next Wongs & Wells book (which, incidentally, also comes out this summer) and it sounds about right. I’m very excited to dive into this, and it’s another one to cheer me up after all the space-death.


9. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
A brand new standalone based on Polish myth and folklore by the author of the Temeraire series!! I LOVE Naomi Novik’s writing and I’m not alone: Robin Hobb blurbed the book, Brandon Sanderson also said he loved it. I cannot wait. I’m dropping everything to read this the minute I get my grubby little hands on it. (So, Saturday.)

10. The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia Jr. & Linda Antonsson
I’ve been putting off getting this Game of Thrones companion book until Season Five finished so that I would have something to read in the long dark months with no book or TV episodes. On the bright, no character we love will be brutally killed in the next ten months!


Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these & if you have any recommendations for me based on this list. If you do your own list, please link back to The Broke and the Bookish, who created and hosts Top Ten Tuesday.


Strange Chemistry Book Reviews

For the past year and a bit, I’ve been going to the Big Green Bookshop’s Angry Robot Reading Group, where we read some Strange Chemistry books as well as Angry Robot releases. I’ve liked most of the books we read, but I enjoyed the Strange Chemistry ones most of all. They just filled me with glee.

I like Young Adult books in general, and I specifically adore genre YA, so the imprint was a perfect fit for my taste. Now that it’s sadly been closed, I want to look back at a few Strange Chem books I liked.

As readers and fans, all we can do is let the world know we’d like more from Strange Chemistry authors, and from Amanda Rutter, who edited the imprint so brilliantly. If any of these sound good to you, consider buying them from your local independent bookshop. If you don’t have one, give the Big Green Bookshop a shout (on twitter, by email or at 020 8881 6767), they do free UK delivery.

And yes, I will shamelessly pimp my beloved local bookshop, because they are amazing and if anything, the closure of Strange Chemistry & Exhibit A shows us that if we like something we should put some monies towards it.

When The World Was Flat (and we were in love), by Ingrid Jonach

whentheworldWhen 16-year-old Lillie meets Tom for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks like he’d be more interested in watching paint dry. As they get closer, Lillie suspects he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and impossible memories.

I got a review copy of this book on NetGalley and posted a detailed review of it here. In short, I really enjoyed the mix of high-school drama and high sci-fi concept, slow character build up and humour in this book. This is a great summer read; while the genre elements far from ground-breaking, they work really well with interesting, likeable characters and high emotional stakes.

Emilie and the Hollow World, by Martha Wells

emilieWhile running away from home for eminently defensible reasons, Emilie stows away on the wrong steamship and finds herself on a journey to the interior of the planet in search of the missing father of her protector, Lady Marlende.

This book was easily our Angry Robot Reading Group favourite read of 2013, and I can’t praised it highly enough. So far, I’ve gifted it to two good friends and I think I might give it to my Mum for Xmas.  I love steampunk and travel stories, not to mention a smart, sensible, brave protagonist to root for, so this was a perfect fit for me. It reminded me of His Dark Materials and right now I don’t know HOW I don’t own the sequel yet…


Poltergeeks, by Sean Cummings

poltergeeksJulie is the daughter of a witch, so when she witnesses an elderly lady jettisoned out of her front door, she knows there’s a supernatural connection. Poltergeist activity levels are increasing all over town, until Julie’s mother is cursed in an assault on the high school.  Now it’s a race to find out how to break the curse.

I won’t lie, I totally picked up this book on the title alone. I love stories about witches, and this book didn’t disappoint, especially when you take into account the heaps of high-school drama and the Canadian setting – strange and exotic to me! I enjoyed the characters and their relationships, particularly the relationship between Julie and her mother, but I was especially intrigued by the revelations about Julie’s magical inheritance.

Skulk, by Rosie Best

skulk Meg’s only escape from her oppressive, not-so-perfect home is her secret life as a night-time graffiti artist. That’s how she witnesses the dying moments of a fox… that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a gemstone and his power to shift. Plunged into a shadowy underworld of warring shapeshifters, she must protect the stolen gemstone.

I bought this book to support the author who is a friend of mine, and also because the cover was so damn cool. This book doesn’t pull any punches, and I found Meg’s cruel and selfish mother just as disgusting as some of the gory bloodshed and definitely scarier than the bit with all the spiders and rats. There’s also some great commentary about class in Britain and proper laugh out loud moments.

The one thing I wasn’t terribly keen on was that it reads very much like book one of a series, and I personally found the ending left me wanting a bit more. Rosie has written and done edits on the second book, Rabble, so here’s to hoping we can read it soon in some form or another. I will be reading it when it does come.


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.