Wednesday, 22 October 2014

N.K Jemisin's The Shadowed Sun

So this is the second book in the Dreamblood series, and I am enjoying it just as much as the first one. It's very Jemisin - world-building that goes above and beyond to create an intricate and varied culture, a many-layered plot and a meaty story that you have to do a bit of work to unpack.

I was reading it on the train last night, and was in a bit where one of the Sharers is in the dream world, when my ear was caught by the young men sitting opposite me. In a wonderful conjunction, one of them was telling the other about his experiences with lucid dreaming and the healing work he had done on himself through that.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Kindle Unlimited

The big question, is whether it is worth £7 a month. I mean, yes, I have been spending more than £7 a month on books, and yes there are eleventy-trillion titles available, apparently, but will it actually save me money?

I think possibly not.

I think Kindle Unlimited is fine if you are happy to take pot-luck, but less so if you have specific books you want to read. I went through my Goodreads "want to read" list, and none of the books on it were available on Kindle Unlimited. Of the authors represented in my "want to read" list, there were a few featured in short stories and anthologies. I don't know how the authors are getting paid for their work in this format, but the fee must be fairly low if they are all keeping their powder dry.

Someone in one of my Goodreads book clubs recommended a few books to me, so I shall read those - they aren't in a genre I typically read - while I'm still on the free trial and then we shall see. But honestly, I'd rather read what I want to read, even if it does mean paying for it.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Killing Moon

At the beginning of the year I decided that I needed to read more books by non-white authors. I looked at my shelves and saw a shameful lack of representation. Reading N.K Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for Vaginal Fantasy book club was a start... only trouble being I liked those books so much I have moved on to her other books and I am in danger of Nora being my token non-white author.

I am really enjoying The Killing Moon. The world-building is intricate and original and the characters are both flawed and sympathetic. Definitely one for lovers of epic fantasy.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What I'm reading now

I've been bouncing around a bit. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm now a member of three different online book clubs (Felicia Day's Vaginal Fantasy, which is genre romances, the GFY book club which arose from the comments section on and the Cook Your Books food bloggers book club). GFY & CYB have a book every other month, while VF has a main and an alt (sometimes two) every month. Which is quite a lot of books on top of other books I want to read!

So at the moment I am reading Kate Atkinson's Life After Life for GFY (review from The Observer here, which contains spoilers) and N.K Jemisin's The Killing Moon just because I want to. Next up is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I have been wanting to read for ages. That should see me through a couple of weeks!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Writers on social media

I was at an event a couple of weeks ago - a food thing, nothing to do with books - and one of the PRs blithely said "oh of course you know about SEO, 250 word posts, links back to important sites, lots of good-quality pictures". I smiled and nodded and then scurried home to find out what it is I am supposed to know about 250 word posts.

Well, turns out shorter posts are less likely to turn up in search rankings. So I need to write longer pieces about books if I want people to read these posts. Well, maybe I do, maybe I don't! And as for pictures... I mean, they do make a post prettier, but I don't take a lot of pictures of books...
So here is Urchin catching up on some bedtime reading.

There must be a lot of lists of things you must know and do, as a blogger, as an author, as a whatever. Based on the people who follow me on twitter, quite a bit of it seems to be a painting-by-numbers thing. There was an author who I followed, and whose blog I read, who insisted that the more followers on twitter the better and that it was just a numbers game. He followed vast numbers of people, and if they didn't follow him back within a certain period, he unfollowed them. His act of following me seems to have got me on some sort of list, because every day now I am followed by a bunch of people whose profiles read "author".

Now, I have a fairly flexible attitude towards following people on twitter. As long as nothing about your profile or recent tweets suggest you are a dickhead with views that will outrage me, I will follow back. But. I am a big believer in the "social" side of social media, and if you ONLY tweet praise for yourself, or ads for your book, I will unfollow you pretty damn quick. And I probably won't be buying your book.

You know what makes me buy a book? Interest and gratitude. I'm in 3 different bookclubs, which all introduce me to books I probably wouldn't have read before but which fall into line with my interests. I also buy books out of gratitude for the entertainment that writers have provided me with on social media. Chuck Wendig: great blogger, great tweeter. Jim C Hines: great blogger, great facebooker. It's not just a numbers game - there has to be some give and take.

400+ words. Take THAT SEO!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Code Name Verity 2

I ended up staying up late to finish it last night. Thoroughly enjoyed! My feeling about what Verity was doing was mostly accurate, but I didn't at all expect the denouement.

It's books like this that make me annoyed when people criticise Young Adult fiction, or say people shouldn't read it. It's a good book! Accessible to teenagers, but not infantilised or preachy or overly romanticised. Why shouldn't adults read that sort of book?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Code Name Verity

I assume everyone had an English teacher who tried to get them to engage with a book by reading a page and then making you guess what was going to happen next?

I've found myself doing that quite a lot with Code Name Verity. I've been reading it for a Goodreads book club, and finding it engrossing, but I keep thinking it is going to go a bit Sarah Waters. Of course, as it is a young adult novel, the chances of it involving explicit lesbian sex are fairly remote.  The Scheherazade aspect, of a young woman spinning a story to save her life - or at least postpone her death - is well done.

I won't say how I think it'll be resolved, but my guess is that the name, Verity, is quite important.

ETA I just got up to a bit where Queenie gets called Scheherazade, so apparently that was a deliberate motif, not just my interpretation. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Song of Ice and Fire - A Feast For Crows

I am now, for the first time, ahead of the Game of Thrones TV series in my reading. I don't mind the elision of characters and events - the different medium does require different story-telling techniques. What I am finding interesting is the way some characters are portrayed quite differently between the books and the series. It's hard to know if they are sometimes being written more sympathetically for the screen because the actors are popular, or if the showrunners have a plan for the character that isn't quite the same as the author's plan.

Another theory I have is that the difference in portrayal is the difference of perspective. Jaime Lannister appears much more chivalrous and heroic in the series than he does in the books. My feeling is that it is because he is a point of view character - his actions appear heroic from the outside, but some of his self-talk is decidedly not. Arya Stark appears quite confident and assured from the outside, but her self-talk is convincing herself not to be afraid. It reminds me, in a way, of the Bridget Jones books. The problem I had with that on screen was that I never really felt she was supposed to be quite as useless and pathetic as she told her diary she was, but of course that was what they had to show to convey some of the humour of the books.

I can't believe I just compared Game of Thrones to Bridget Jones. Good thing it rhymes. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Dresden Files

I'm on a re-read of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, ahead of the release of Skin Game at the end of the month. It's not the first time I have re-read them, I tend to take a run at the last couple of books at least before the next comes out, but it's the most concentrated burst of re-reading I have done. Over the course of the series his writing becomes much more fluid and engaging, but even in the first couple of chapters we are introduced to characters and ideas that are vital throughout the series. I don't know if he had an overarching plan when he started, but Butcher weaves the threads beautifully. It really stands out how much control he has over his plotting. I like that.

I also like the sense Butcher conveys that Dresden has a life outside the books. You feel that time is passing in between episodes, that things happen that we have no knowledge of. Dresden is not the only character who develops. Even little things like Murphy's haircut changing, or the Alphas aging and leaving college - they all make a three dimensional world.

In fantasy/sci-fi, you hear a lot about world building. World-building isn't just understanding the geography of a fictional world, it's creating a believable physical, mystical and emotional landscape in your world. I think some contemporary or urban fantasy writers skimp on that a little bit, with a "heck, it's New York, everyone knows New York" attitude, but Dresden shows how well it can be done even in a familiar real-world environment.

I've been thinking about maybe attending my first con, and Jim Butcher is going to be over here for Easter Con next year, so that may be a good first visit!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Song of Ice and Fire

I read the first book a few years ago, loved it and immediately bought the second. But somehow, it's never been the right time to start reading it. Until this week. Is it because season 4 of Game of Thrones has just started? Possibly. I didn't watch seasons 2 or 3 of the show - I found the unrelenting violence a bit much - but I did watch s4e01, and thought I would have a better idea of what was going on if I caught up with the books.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Recommending books

I find recommending books harder than recommending restaurants. If someone goes to a restaurant I love and doesn't like it, well clearly they are wrong, but c'est la vie. But if someone doesn't like a book I have recommended, well, that tears at the heartstrings.

The books I have been recommending most vocally, of late are:
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So far, these recommendations have gone well, but one person only gave The Night Circus 3 stars on Goodreads. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and ask why? But sadly, her review made it very clear. She just didn't love it as much as I did. I must learn to be as philosophical about books as I am about restaurants. Of course, a long time ago I stopped recommending my favourite restaurants to some people because I knew they wouldn't love them as I did. I should adopt that for books, rather than go through the pain.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Who am I to say this is shit?

"An author on Facebook the other day noted, quite correctly, that writing is a craft and as a craft it can be evaluated fairly easily. This isn’t about whether a story is to your liking, but rather, does the author know the basic rules of writing a story? Rules can be broken, of course, but they must be broken with some skill — breaking the rules out of ignorance creates, you know, a fucking mess. A writer not knowing the difference between a possessive and a plural is not some avant-garde hipster trick. It’s a basic lack of craft awareness. At that point you’re not a marksman doing tricks; you’re a toddler with a handgun." More brilliance from Chuck Wendig

This actually ties into a really good piece I read the other day on the death of expertise. There is this bizarre notion that everyone's opinions are equally valid and it is just mean to provide critique. Here's a little tip - an educated opinion is more valid than a uneducated opinion, and educated critique is actually a really important tool to raise the quality of a work, be it dance, cooking or writing. I think a lot of writers could benefit from more critique and harder editing, and a bit less having sunshine blown up their arses.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

www Wednesday

Meme from should be reading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds, but it isn't really grabbing me.

Just finished: Sharon Shinn's Archangel. It was a bookclub pick, otherwise I can't imagine ever choosing it. It's the first in a series which I will not pursue, although I didn't actually hate it.

Next in line: N.K Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Another bookclub pick.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Life is too short... read bad books. If it has no obviously redeeming features (and morbid fascination for bad writing can be a redeeming feature) by 25% in, I will abandon it.