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Reading list, 2017 so far

May 1, 2017

I was just looking back at some old journal/blog posts of mine, and my 2011 reading list blew my mind. I read, like, a million books. Largely because we spent 3 months travelling (oh so much reading time!) – I felt very jealous of my 2011 Self. I have only read FIVE books this year so far. So. I am making a May Resolution (it’s a thing, I swear) to Read Moar. And also to jot down a little thought about each book because it’s surprisingly helpful & interesting for my Later Self to read what my Current Self thought of them.

Life or Death by Michael Robotham

A bit Shawshank Redemption-y by this Aussie author (except not set in Australia) about a convict who escapes from prison the day before he’s scheduled to be released, and the unfolding story of how he ended up behind bars and what his mission is on the outside. Gripping, good cast of characters, solid pacing.

Into Everywhere by Paul McAuley

Sequel to Something Coming Through, which was one of my favourite reads last year. Although whhyyy do these books have such awful covers! otherwise I’d buy them both in the dead tree version for my shelf. Sci-fi. First-contact-ish crossed with a bit of space opera, touch of planetary colonisation. Two POVs, one of which I preferred over the other, telling stories that start off separate and then intersect. I love stories about humans on new worlds and love the way he’s imagined how humanity would colonise new planets – a modern wild west frontier. I also liked how he clearly wrote a world with a particular cultural background but as it was written from the POV of a person within that background, it wasn’t actually remarked upon.

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

I really wanted to love this because it has all the components I want in a book right now – space opera, awesome female protag, fight scenes, politics, romantic suspense – but it just didn’t click with me. I still enjoyed it a lot but perhaps not as much as I expected to.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

I wasn’t a fan of the first few pages of this BUT I’m glad I kept on because then it got hotdamn awesome and I was all, okaaaay no wonder this won the Hugo. Then after I finished it I re-read the start bit & enjoyed it that time. Loved loved LOVED. So different. So clever. Especially liked that it’s written in both third-person present and second-person present. Cannot wait to read the next one, which is sitting pretty on my to-read pile.

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Hurrah for Star Wars stories and stories by Chuck Wendig! And hurrah for more third-person present tense. This guy really knows how to ratchet up and maintain pace and tension. I find that although there isn’t a great deal of description, he still manages to create a very visual scene of action. This definitely does not deserve its rating on Amazon. Some sad fanboys must be throwing their toys a bit?

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Some early books of 2016

February 5, 2016

With much vigour, I threw myself into the task of reading last month. Funtertainment! quantity! being my goal. MOAR BOOKS THAN 2015. I drank down 6 entire books… which is a lot for me. Hopefully going towards a nestegg that’ll allow me to slack off in future months. Because I probably will when there is another sproglet in the housedom and my brain has LITERALLY SHRUNK and I am existing on 5 seconds of sleep + mugs of Nespresso by the dozen + pure hormonal bliss/despair and the most I will be able to concentrate on is Daily Mail headlines.

Kicking things off, I discovered Marian Keyes published a book in 2014 that I hadn’t read yet. 2014! How had I not known about it? Perhaps I was wrestling with The Luminaries at the time? Anyhoo for some reason, two years later, I stumbled across The Woman Who Stole My Life. Solid Marian Keyes story. Solid.

Twas followed by Brooklyn Girls: Coco by Gemma Burgess (if the Babysitters Club were all growed up & living in NYC & not babysitting anymore, sort of?) then Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. Erm, cripes, only 2 of Liane Moriarty’s books left for me to read! Better save em for later.

Next I fell into Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear, which closes out The Eternal Sky trilogy. I read books 1 and 2 exactly two years ago so I had a wee bit of trouble to start off with remembering who was who & what was going on but oh gosh. It almost didn’t matter. This is lush, wonderful fantasy. I wish it went on forever. I wish there were more books like these ones.

Then I read Techbitch by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (Devil Wears Prada goes digital) and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (80’s gamer geek wish fulfilment fiction!)

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A handy book for story planning

August 9, 2015
Kindle cover for Take Off Your Pants - outline your books for faster better writing, by Libbie Hawker

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

One of the biggest takeaways from writing Rukan is that I need to plan this shit better. I finished my first draft in December and I am STILL editing! I had (have) so much rewriting to do. My ‘cut words’ document (because I keep every single precious ickle one, just in case) has EIGHTEEN THOUSAND WORDS in it. Based on my average daily progress to finish the first draft, that means I have deleted 68 days worth of writing. 68 days of struggling at the keyboard, for nothing. Crushing. And I haven’t even finished yet.

I did not pants this book, but nor did I plan it completely. I mostly knew the ending when I started, but I had to figure out how to get there. I mostly knew my characters, but not all of them, and not what truly drove them. And that is where all this rewriting came from: having to go back & edit everything that changed as I wrote the book, as I discovered things unfurl. Entire chapters worth.

I can’t do this again. I don’t have enough lifetime to spend this amount of time writing each book. And I am, by nature, more of a plotter. I just need to do it harder.

So enter stage left: this book by Libbie Hawker (with a very awesome title, btw) and her really useful approach to structuring a story. Her method focuses on character arc, theme & pacing. It isn’t a dense book, and I won’t be following her method to a T, but it has been a really great help to clarify what my next story is about, especially my main character – I’ve really thought about who she is, what drives her, what her flaws are. I feel like I’ve taken some promising steps forward in the plan for my next WIP with it, so I’d happily recommend this e-book to any writer looking for ways to tighten their crafting process.

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A couple of lovely SF debuts

June 10, 2015

Lex Talionis by RSA Garcia

I was so thrilled to read Lex Talionis in print, as I first came across early draft chapters of this story on the Online Writing Workshop many years ago, when both the author & I were members. I knew it would only be a matter of time until it was published as a Real Book. Even in an early state, the story was intriguing, the settings imaginative, the characters compelling. And here it is! When I got to the end I got all the warm fuzzies from being thanked in the credits. I totally believed in this book from the start, yo!

The story starts with a young woman waking up in a spaceport hospital with no memory of who she is, or how she came by her terrible injuries. All she remembers is ‘lex talionis’ – the law of revenge. We follow her journey as she slowly pieces together what happened to her, and finds out who she really is.

I loved the characters with multiple POVs threading the story together, the moments of pure suspense, the space opera-esque scale, the mystery that slowly unfolds in front of you. The aliens, the tech, the settings – this is a world that feels fully realised and is beautifully pictured on the page. I just love books where I can vividly picture the scene and this is one. A highly recommended read, please check it out!

Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly starred review, and here’s Rhonda’s website.


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I found out about The Long Way… from a post on io9. The author finished this book thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and self-published, and it was subsequently picked up by Hodder & Stoughton. One of the reviews I read called this a ‘cosy space opera’ and it so is! There’s a wonderful cast of characters including the newbie who gets to explore the world for us, there’s interesting aliens, there’s a patchwork hyperspace-tunneling ship hurtling through space. It’s kind of Firefly-esque with less western & more aliens.

I absolutely love character-driven science fiction and this is precisely that. The science and the setting is the background to a story that is about people, but without it being too hand-wavey on the science front either. It’s a fun enjoyable read. Highly recommended as well!