Mar 04

The Story 2018 Conference: Juno Dawson

Note: this was liveblogged at the time. Minor amends and edits only

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson

This talk may not be fully on brief… it’s about the side hustle of being a story teller. She is a storyteller first, and everything else second. but there is always the side hustle.

She got into writing a weird way; she was a primary school teacher in Brighton.. she was borrowing the books from her kids. There was a book with an apple on the front that a lot of girls were reading – it was Twilight, started borrowing more, it was felt to be a golden age – eg hunger games etc… started realising these books had everything. She had been a big fan of high school movie and these books were the equivalent.

But she didn’t recognise herself, the characters were very middle class, white, straight, cisgender etc so she decided to have a go at writing her own. Her friends were dubious…she started out on her own experience, about Pendle and growing up there. Took her and her 3 best friends and put them in the plot (it became Hollow Pike). She made goals along the way – sent chapters to friend, who was asking always what was next. then it was a challenge to finish it – that would be an achievement. She also used it as a hobby to keep herself busy…to prevent her cheating on her boyfriend, who was away a lot 🙂 (lots of laughter)

She sent it to an agent. The agent said it wasn’t ready…bu there was something there, so get it finished. Eventually she got it finished an get it accepted. She caught the tail end of big boom on teen fiction (not as easy now). she had her agent, and as her side hustle (the writing) was becoming the hustle..and teaching became less important… When she had a deal she left (she felt it was not fair on her kids as she was not focused on it)

It then stopped being was the job. Her second book was not easy, the sequel to Hollow Pike. Then the 1st book was not selling well, so asked to bench the sequel (after 1 week of sales)…it felt like she had failed, she could not talk to people.

Her advance did not go as far as she thought it would do. The agent got some, it came in chunks, the taxman got it, She had quit her job, moved to London and her money was dwindling really quick. So what could she do? Go back to everyone would see she had failed.

She decided now she needed a side hustle. so that was the Carrie Bradshaw model..a freelance journalist. She had just read Caitlin Moran and recognised that non-fiction could have a character.

Had recognised that sex ed is often very badly done..down to good staff, not consistent. and LGBT is really poor. Teahcers don’t really know what they are meant to be talking about

So she proposed writing a non fiction book – and she knew she could sell the pitch rather than the manuscript. So she had a new book deal…a small advance for ‘Being a Boy’. It sold well and the publisher asked her to write ‘Being a Gay’ But she could not write this; however, inspiration struck and she decided to call it ‘This book is gay‘ (after lots of telling kids should not use this form a lot at school!)

The publisher agreed..she would also interview lots of people of different types. Through this process, she recognised that she herself was trans. The book has just been published in its 22nd language. Has lots of good feedback about it.

The reason she is still here, writing full time and speaking, the side hustle of writing non fcition has become more lucrative.

Storytelling and novel writing is now a lovely hobby again. fiction writing brings her the greatest satisfaction. The pressure has been removed and she does not have to churn out fiction, so not reliant on the advance checks. She has time to breath. Thinks her next novel is one of her best works.. it was fun to write, wrote last summer over 3 months, character just came to her. She was supposed to be writing The Gender Games…but the story was demanding to be told.

The reviews have started to come in and they have been glowing, she thinks the readers can tell how much she enjoyed writing it.

And the reason she can do that is the hustle of non-fiction…she’s just had her first commission from Cosmo.. now shes back to where she was in 2010…really enjoying the storytelling.

Maybe the take home message is get good at something and then get good at something else.

May 18

Gamecamp, The Upgrade and London Bloggers

I’ve been out and about the the few days…a Gamecamp was held at the weekend, then I went to a book reading and finally another installment London Bloggers Meeting

Gamecamp 4

Gamecamp May 2011

The fourth round of Gamecamp, it had, according to the numbers I totted up, 225 people passing through its doors, the largest ever. My involvement this time was less than in previous ones, (holidays and work getting in the way), but I spent most of the day on the door, so at least met (briefly) almost everyone who turned up.

I did squeeze in a few sessions. The first was a pretty practical session about tips for improving games. Succintly they are:

  • Think hard about the controls and what you need the player to do
  • Out time into the tutorials, not leaving them until last. Make sure they reflect the context of the game
  • Involve the audience in testing. Not your friends or fellow developers, but complete strangers
  • Recruit the right users. It’s not demographics, it psychographics
  • Think about success factors up front. Define what a successful design/game experience is before you go into testing!

Other sessions i attended included one a philisophical discussion about the mechanics, aesthetics and dynamics of game design and one on character journeys, or rather the lack of them, in video game design.

The Upgrade by Paul Carr

The Upgrade book reading with Paul Carr

Monday night was a trip to the only Uk reading by Paul Carr from his new book The Upgrade, on the surface a story about how to live your life in hotels and have mad adventures but underneath, more about how Paul changed – and saved – his life by stopping drinking. I loved the story, reading it in less than 24 hours and suggest getting it! As I bought a Kindle edition, he had nothing to sign. Instead, he annotated the front page of the electronic version, as seen in the photo 😉

London Bloggers’ Meetup

London Bloggers May 2011

I’ve been going to this meetup for years and it keep going from strength to strength, thanks to Andy Bargery. last night was sponsored by Hotwire, with the presentations and panel discussion all about travel blogging. Another successful night.

Jun 07

Books April-May 09

Nothing really surprising these past two months, just my usual supply of thrillers, crime and scifi.

  • The Inside Ring, Mike Lawson. Interesting thriller about an assassination attempt on the US President, the coverup and how the hero discovers the truth. The big ‘twist’ was a little too obvious, but good a good ‘travel’ read.
  • Lifeless, Mark Billingham. Another in the Thorn series, I like Billingham’s writing and characterisation. The structure of the first part was a little offputting, with its backwards and forwards but the story really got going once it returned to a linear fashion. Another good thriller/police story from him.
  • The Faithful Spy, Alex Berenson A story of a sleeper spy, who works undercover, takes on many of the attributes of those he is working with – the Teleban – and then ‘comes home’ where he’s not believed and he has to work against the odds. An easy read, although nothing memorable.
  • Relentless, Simon KernickWhat would you do if a phone call meant that a bunch of not very nice people were out trying to kill you to get something you hadn’t got? This is the story of Tom, who has that happen to him and how he manages to avoid getting killed.
  • Devil Bones, Kathy Riechs I watch Bones on TV and I’m never fully convinced of the connection to the books, apart from the names. However, A brilliant thriller from Riechs, as she delves into voodoo and witchcraft as the background for the murder hunt.
  • Something for the Weekend, Pauline McLynnWritten by a comedy actress, I had great fun with the PI book set in Ireland. It made me laugh enough whilst still wanting to work out the mystery.
  • Cityboy, Geraint AndersonReading this, a ‘fictional’ story of life in banking in the City, it’s no wonder the financial markets are in a mess, they seem to be all run by idiots who never really grew up. It’s a car-crash of a tale that keeps you involved just to find out what stunt would happen next.
  • The Bourne Sanction, Eric van Lustbader. This franchise won’t die for a while, with the super agent doing what he does best, hunting down people. Still prefer the films though.
  • Doors Open, Ian Rankin,. With his Rebus books, Rankin has loing been one of my hardback authors, but with this new set of characters, I waited for the paperback. I needn’t have waited, as I enjoyed this story as much as the previous ones, with its unlikely heist and double crosses.
  • Every Breath You Take, Sheila QuigleyMurder mystery with stalkers, serial killers, a female protagonist and a look into the personal lives of the characters. It’s not Jane Tennyson but it’s in the same vein if you like those stories.
  • Dead Heat, Dick Francis/Felix Francis The expected well-written thriller/whodunnit from Francis, set in the world he know best, the racing world. Good tory here, with food-poisonings and bombings and all sorts of goings-on
  • Fractured, Karin Slaughter. Murder story set in Georgia, with a the new partnership that does not get on assigned to the case. Slaughter writes strong characters and plots, so enjoyed this as much as her others.
  • The Last English King, Julian Rathbone Historical novel, set not long after the Conqueror killed Harold, this tells the story of Edward the Confessor, Harold and those last English battles.
  • Until it’s Over, Nicci French A women seems to be surrounded by murder, is it her or one of the flat mates. I love the French books and this is another great tale
  • In the Dark, Mark Billingham,This thriller kept throwing twists at me that kept me engrossed to finish it all in a day. I was never 100% sure what was going on, loved it.
  • This Charming Man, Marian Keyes. I have a soft spot for Keyes, one of the stronger writers of ‘chick-lit’. It’s a light break in amongst all the muder mysteries and they pull me in with strong stories and characters. Another classic from her.
  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben. A US thriller, good story, although it blends in with the others.
  • The Caller, Alex Barclay, Another US book this time set in NY. More serial killers, gruesome murders and a race against time to find out who did it.
  • Flint, Paul Eddy For an undercover cop, it all goes wrong. This is as much a psychological study of a driven women as much as a thriller which wants to be a spy novel. Loved the characters, even when the story as a little less believable.
  • The Perk, mark Gimenez.Small town boy who left to go to the big city, goes back home and makes a splash as he tries to solve an old case for his friend. This time it’s from a lawyer angle.
  • This is Not a Game, Walter Jon Williams A near future story, where ARGs are big business and the game mechanics are used to solve problems and murders. Loved this.
  • Gone Tomorrow, Lee ChildYet another brilliant installment of Jack Reacher and the trouble he gets into.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve read more over the last few months, but I’ve put them away before writing them down. No matter, onto June, where I’ve got a whole load of books unpacked from storage to re-read.

Apr 13

Amazon Fail

Update: this becomes even more confusing.

A cataloguing error, a lack of response from Amazon followed by confusing messages and a lot of jumping to conclusions (including me) led to a social media storm that can only damage the reputation of the brand. As BL says, you need to think about how you monitor your brand all the time, not just 9-5 Mon-Fri; although Amazon did appear to be responsive over the weekend even if the answers were not fully clear.

According to Amazon, they’ve been having a ‘glitch’ over the weekend that has stripped the sales ranking form a number of books, thereby reducing the likelihood of the books appearing in searches, so impacting sales.

The only problem with this is that the glitch appears to affect gay/lesbian/sex titles only and even then the impact is inconsistent, which is unexpected if there was a logic behind it. Playboy and Girls Gone Wild is not adult under the glitch, but literature with a gay themes is, even when there’s no sex written about. Apparently, before they called it a glitch, they had called it a policy according to the email received by Mark Probst

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

If you’re on Twitter, or have been reading feeds over the weekend, you’ll have seen this. It appears that the power of public opinion, published all over the web has forced Amazon to update a policy to a glitch and then to fix it. But is it enough to rescue their reputation or the new meaning of Amazon Rank

Mar 08

Books Jan/Feb 09

A mixed couple of months

  • Sword Song; The Pale Horseman Bernard Cornwall. I love the Sharpe books from Cornwall, Here he turns his focus onto the Dark Ages, to the time of Alfred and the wars between the Saxons and Danes. He brings his customary story telling to these early wars, although not quite with the level of historical detail you find in the Sharpe books as there’s just not the documented history. I read a couple in the series from the library this month. A new series to add to my collection.
  • The Boleyn Inheritance, Philippa Gregory. Focusing on Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, Gregory continues her tale of the wives of Henry VIII. This was OK, not as good as some of her others, I tended to just skim to many of the sections which went into the detail, I just wanted to know how she was going to get to the conclusion.
  • JPod Douglas Coupland. Weird story, it got very meta when the author turns up.Kept me interested, even if to find out what weird thing happened next.
  • The Burning Stone & Child of Flame. Kate Elliot. I’d ordered the next one in the series from the library and had the happy co-incidence that there one after that was there as well, so two installments of this fantasy series. It’s still going strong, being fairly typical of the genre but having characters I’ve invested with.
  • Mendeleyev’s Dream. Paul Strathern. A history of chemistry (and alchemy) throught he ages, built around the idea of the periodic table. Fascinating journey from the Greek philosophy of Aristotle through the 19th century focus on science and the periodic table dreamt up by the Russian Mendeleyev.
  • On Basilisk Station. David Weber. a free book from Baen, a pretty hard military scifi which at its heart is a story of overcoming the odds. I’m looking out for more by the author.
  • Disobedience, Naomi Alderman. Gorgeously written book about a woman’s return to her origins, an Orthodox Jewish community in London and the impact on her and the community she’d left. Not my normal kind of book, it was authored by someone I’ve met on occasion who ran a blog competition to win a copy. Glad I did, as I got a lot out of this book.
  • Designated Targets, John Birmingham Completely silly book about an alternate timeline, where for some reason, a whole bunch of warships and armed forces have timeshifted from about 2012 to 1942 and what would happen in WW2. Got this from the charity shop and obviously missed the first book. Silly but strangely readable.
  • 7th Heaven James Patterson. Standard Thriller by best selling author. The Women’s Murder Club (a book series I think has been made into TV) look to solve a series of murders and arson attacks. Same fun formula.
  • This is the Day Daniel Blythe A moment in life story, what happens to a couple and their children when the man loses his job and decides to have an affair at the same time as the woman decides to quit her job and do something different. They lose everything and this is the story of how they rediscover just what is important to them.
  • 1632, 1633 Eric Flint. Another couple of free books from Baen. I was definitely on a timeslip rampage this month. In these, a whole town from the US suddenly finds itself in the middle of the Thirty Year War in Europe. These books tell how they sort themselves out and get involved in all the politics, changing the face of Europe (ie managing to get Oliver Cromwell thrown into gaol before he even thinks about challenging the crown)
  • Time Travel. Edited by Barry Malzberg. Another bunch of time travel stories. Most I liked, some I skipped. A good anthology.
  • The Ghost Brigades John Scalzi. A re-read, after my read of Zoe’s Tale last year, I got this one again and enjoyed it just as much.
  • The Grave Tattoo. Val McDermid I like McDermid, never found one of her thrillers/crime books I didn’t enjoy. This one is set in the Lake Distrcit and manages to throw in a whole lot of history about Wordsworth and Christian Fletcher, leading me into a whole load of web reading about the Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • Grub Street Irregular, Jeremy Lewis. This is a series of pieces about the publishing industry, one of my semi-regular attempts to read biography. Not the best choice for me, the first story completely confused me; I stuck with it and some of the later pieces were enjoyable but I never managed to finish it.
Jan 01

Books Dec 2008

  • Kushiel’s Mercy, Jacqueline Carey. This is the last in the second trilogy from Carey, which all, really, have the same plot. A fantasy novel, set in a sort of medieval Europe, they all have the main characters setting out on a journey to save the country, the girl, the boy. You’ll know they’ll get there in the end but you have to find out at what price. For me, Carey creates characters I care about, so I keep reading.
  • Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi. I first read Scalzi in a free pdf that was given away from Tor, now I’m busy collecting his books. I’ve been waiting for this one to appear and glad it has, I loved it. Set in the future, where humanity is out colonising away whilst fighting against many of the other cultures it finds, it’s another story of heroism, this time to save the world, seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. A nice bit of writing there, given Sclazi is a middle-aged man.
  • Little Brother, Cory Doctorow. I read this earlier in the year via free download, now it was time to buy the book. I took advantage of a signing at Forbidden Planet to grab it, along with the two above. Loved it just as much this time round.
  • Moab is My Washpot, Stephen Fry. Fry’s biography was a critcal analysis of him as a child, someone I’m not sure the author liked too much. From school thief to credit card fraud it details all of his youthfall adventures. Wish he’d write the next installment.
  • This is the Day, Daniel Blythe. A kitchen sink drama, couple who have it all lose it all – how she copes with changing jobs and circumstances. Kep me interested in the characters, it did not end up where I expected which is always good. An OK read.
  • Caught in the Web of Words, K.M. Elizabeth Murray. A biography of James Murray and his work with the Oxford English Dictionary by his grand-daughter. An examination of the twists and turns in life that made Murray perfect to turn the OED into what it is, a classic study of the English language. Completely self-taught, Murray took on the establishment on his own way. The book is detailed and quite dry and times, but does offer a fascinating insight into what drove the decades of effort.
  • 7th Heaven James Patterson. Another of his Women’s Murder Club books, formulaic crime mystery that kept me turning the pages to find out who did it.
  • Dead Man’s Footsteps, Peter James. Crime novel, set in Brighton. Missing people, old cases, new challenges. Roy Grace solves his latest crime whilst still not moving on from his missing wife. These last two books I bought from the WH Smith half proce weekly deal, they’re by authors I’ve read before and I know that I’ll enjoy them as good commute books.
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Richard P Feynman. Definitely ot a commute book, you need to focus to follow the writings of Feynman. This is a collection of pieces, illustrating Feynman’s life. Loved it
  • Blood on the Strand Susanna Gregory. Murder Mystery set in the Restoration period. I love these books for their reflection on London life then.
  • In the Blink of an Eye – How Vision kick-started the Big Bang of Evolution. Andrew Parker. I have no idea, as I couldn’t finish it. Did not like the writing style at all , got far too annoyed at that to focus on the science.
  • Gallow’s Thief Bernard Cornwall I like Cornwall’s Sharpe books and this is another hero in the same vein, post Waterloo. I’ll read more of these.
  • I’m a Believer Jessica Adams. Something I grabbed off my Mom’s shelf over Christmas, ghost/love story that read OK but nothing special.

It was Shane Richmond who inspired me to write these monthly lists, so, as he’s done today, let’s summarise my book reading habits since May.(although August appears to be missing from the list, pretty sure I read something that month)

  • I’ve read at least 61 books since May, read one book twice and not managed to finish another
  • I’ve read 12 non-fiction books, 3 of which are science based.
  • I’ve read 13 Crime novels and 7 Thrillers. I’ve also read 7 Historical books, most of which were crime novels in themselves.
  • There’s 10 fantasy and 4 sci-fi stories, along with 3 ‘future fic’ stories, those set recognisably in our world but usually with scientific or cultural changes.
  • Finally there’s 5 chick lit or normal ‘literature’ that don’t fit in other categories.

One thing I did not realise, before Adrian spoke about it at a geek dinner – the Decline of Reading and has recently written up, was how unusual this behavious is. Not the type of books I like, but the fact that I read – and read a lot. Take a look at some of the stats that he pulls out:

  • In 2006, less than half the adults in America had read ANYTHING booklike.
  • Most US 15-34 spend less than 10 minutes a day reading.
  • An even scarier stat, 87% of US adult readers do not have the reading comprehension to tell apart 2 editorials with different viewpoints

So, these are all US stats but as Adrian says, where the US goes the rest of us often follow – NOT a good trend in this situation.

I can;t add more to what Adrian says, it’s not something I’ve studied. I just know I’ll keep on reading at the same rate!

Dec 06

Books Oct and Nov 2008

Here’s the summary of the last 2 months or reading

  • Crowd Surfing, Martin Thomas, David Brain. Good book on how brand should approach “surviving in the age of consumer empowerment”
  • Nation Terry Pratchett. He’s one of my favourite authors and this is one of his best. Not a Discworld novel, just a wonderful example of growing up and what it is to be civilised.
  • Shopholic Abroad, Sophie Kinsella. This is like a snack, a book that gets read in a day. I like it, I think, because I spend most of my time slightly amazed at the lead character who is completely alien to me. The plot was pretty predictable and I could see the ‘twists’ coming very early, but strangely enjoyable in a frothy way.
  • Azur Like It, Wendy Holden. Light, silly chicklit that has over the top writing and a predictable plot. But I keep reading her books for that entertainment value. They’re fun and fluffy, perfect for a bit of escapism.
  • Hostage to Murder, VL McDermid. One of her Lindsay Gordon novels, OK, but got a little frustrated at some of the angst and the jumps in plot. I prefer her character Tony Hill
  • Ghost, Robert Harris. I’ve enjoyed his previous books and this was the same. A well crafted novel with a bit of a mystery. This was a lot closer to current world than some of his previous books, I kept expecting the revelation to show how different the alternate reality was but never took that route, keeping it within current possibilities.
  • Let it Bleed; Black and Blue, Dead Souls. All by Ian Rankin. I decided to sart a re-read of the Rankin Rebus novels, well some of them, planning on reading through to the end. I’ve got all of the Rebus books, liking the Scottish detective despite his moroseness.
  • Bringing Nothing to the Party, Paul Carr. A biography by someone I know (or at least I keep bumping into at parties). It’s all about the London tech scene and Paul’s attempts to be part of it. A lot of it covers the time I was not in London, so it’s an interesting insight into what was going on. I also know many of the people mentioned and have heard different versions of some of the stories! I liked this tale.
  • The Devil You Know Mike Carey. A fantasy novel, about an exorcist. Good tale, a good read.
  • The Iron Hand of Mars. Lindsey Davis. One of the Didius Falco novels, about an investigator in Roman times. I like the books as they usually give you enough of a start to explore the history whilst being a good detective novel.
  • The Cup of Ghosts, Paul Docherty. Yet another historical fiction, this time telling the tale of Isabella and Edward II through the tales of household member Mathilde, a physician who has to hide the secret of being from a Templar family. The first in a series, so far, it’s good.
  • Scarpetta, Patricia Cornwall. I was getting really frustrated with this character, Scarpette the forensic Medical Examiner as she was getting really whiny and annoying. It feels like Cornwall has taken a fresh look at the stories with this book, with it being told through multiple character viewpoints and I felt a lot less like wanting to just shoot the main protagonist. The author therefore stays on the hardback list.
Nov 29

Little Brother

I popped along to Forbidden Planet today to a book signing by Cory Doctorow, his first in the UK according to the announcer in the shop. It was to buy a copy of Little Brother, a book I’d already read via the free pdf download he provided on the release of hte book in the US, but I enjoyed it so much it was one i had to buy. Thanks to Danie for promoting the signig so I knew about it.

Cory Doctorow and Little Brother (photo by me)

Cory Doctorow and Little Brother (photo by me)

At the same time, I also picked up a copy of Zoe’s Tale from John Scalzi. As with Cory, this is another author I started to read via free books, this time Old Man’s War which was available at Tor. I started reading his blog from there and am definitely looking forward to reading this (Hello John, if you pop by due to the law of Invocation)

Oct 06

Books September 08

More Library, more scifi.

Cosmonaut Keep Ken Macleod. another story of humans out there creating new worlds. Great story, approached from different angles until you put the whole tale together at the end about using alien tech to build new ships and bestow immortality.
Revelation Space Alastair Reynolds. Took me a couple of goes to get into this, but once there, enjoyable character story and a take on the Fermi Paradox.
The Queen’s Fool, Philippa Gregory. I like historical fiction, and Philippa writes some of the best. Form the POV of a fictional fool, you see the years 1553-1558 as the children of Henry VIII contend for the thrones.
The Sky Road, Ken MacLeod. Another story of humans in the future, with 2 stories of different times gradually coming together, so you realise how the one world make the next. This one is all set on Earth and includes ‘magic’.
War for the Oaks, Emma Bull. Another free TOR book, it got strong recommendations in the comment thread of the post announcing the download. I can see why, I devoured it in a few hours. Modern fantasy.
Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman. A re-reading, still love it. Except for the poems, I never getinto narrative poems.
The Favoured Child, Philippa Gregory. Not one of her Tudor series, but more of a straight-forward historical romance.. Finished it, but ended up skimming a lot, not as good as some of the others.
The Execution Channel Ken Macleod. One of the few books I ever remember being advertised on TV, finally managed to read it. A thriller with strong sci-fi elements, really good read.
Conspirancy of Violence Susanna Gregory. Historical Thriller, with slightly incompetent guy solving crimes in Restoration England. This is the start of a series and I’m not sure I could take the number of co-incidences required for this plot across a number of books, but I’ll look out for the next one.
Prince of Dogs Kate Elliot. Part 2 and I got through this very quickly again. Good characters and writing for fantasy.

Sep 01

August Books

I finally joined the library this month, so getting through a lot of new authors I would not have usually read.

  • Battlestar Galactica, Jeffrey Carver. Another free pdf from Tor, this was good as I’ve never seen the mini-series/pilot for the re-imaged series. That said, the book was a little too much like a transcription of a TV story, Ok written, but not a brilliant read. I did quickly get through it though, as I wanted to find out how they got to various places.
  • Friendly Fire, Patrick Gale. I got this from the 4th Estate Book tombola at the Innocent Village Fete and I finished it in less than 24 hours. I loved it, the story of a girl and 2 boys at school, growing up in the 70s. and learning about wh they are. Brilliant story and writing.
  • Soul, Tobsha Learner,. This is another book from Tor. It confused me slightly as I was expecting more fantasy, but this is a straightforward novel, telling the stories of 2 women and how they deal with disappointing men in their life. Solidly plotted and well told, I really enjoyed this.
  • Halting State Charles Stross. Love this, all about a connected world, augmented realities and a murder mystery,
  • Learning the World. Ken Macleod. Liked it, liked the world he portrayed. A good starting point about what we would do if we were contacted.
  • A Sudden Wild Magic, Diana Wynne Jones. OK, a little muddled for me and left too opened ended.
  • Sphere of Influence, Kyle Miles. A great thriller that kept me reading. Although some of the main characters choices required a little bit of belief suspension
  • Lots of John Scalzi stuff, I worked my way through his list of online short stories
  • Charles Stross, Iron Sunrise. Loved it, once I’d put all the bits together. The chopping between all the character’s story lines was a little disconcerting at first, but it eventually made sense
  • The Risen Empire, Scott Westerfeld. I got this as I’d read so much about Westerfeld’s YA books and they weren’t in the library! A long, long read, but enjoyable story, well characterised, even if slightly predictable.
  • Singularity Sky, Charles StrossIron Sunrise is a sequal to this, so I was reading it knowing what happened to some of the characters. Again a world and story I loved, this one was a far more straight forward story than the other book
  • Longitude Dava Sobel A quick romp (it’s a short book) about how John Harrison spent his life on developing a chronometer to take to sea, so that longitude could be measured, whilst battling against the ‘establishment’ who preferred a lunar method.

I read a lot more SciFi this month than I have done for a long time, I usually prefer the fantasy end of the genre. I found at one point getting confused across stories and worlds, as they were using a lot of the same principles, eg for FTL travel.

Aug 03

July Books

I got a whole load of books from a fete, so I’ve been working my way through these. They reflect my favourite easy reading – thrillers.

  • Deja Dead, Kathy Reichs. I’ve rea a few of her books and always like them. The protagonist is Dr Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. This is one of the earlier ones in the series, based on a serial killer (but aren’t all of these types of stories?)
  • Looking Good Dead, Peter James. Another one in the copper series style, this time focusing on DS Grace, who has his way of getting things done. The story was tight, about an online snuff video group and loved the small twists that were introduced. The police need to find the a kidnapped wife of a guy who had accidentally stumbled over the web site where the killing films were published before she becomes the next star.
  • The Magdalene Cipher, Jim Hougan. Confusing and annoying. OK but nothing special. Dunphy, an unofficial CIA agent has his cover blown, gets put onto a desk job and then goes on a global travel jaunt to find out why things were happening
  • The Codex, Douglas Preston. Silly. A rich man hides all of his goods and leads clues for his sons, who don’t get on, to find their inheritance.
  • Girl With a One Track Mind, Abby Lee. A re-read, still as good although more pornagraphic than i remembered.
  • On The Edge, Richard Hammond. The story of the Top Gear presenter’s crash. Enjoyable read, especially his wife’s perspective as he goes through recovery.
  • The Human Brain, Susan Greenfield. A quick overview of the different models of the brain. One of many science books I have that I’m slowly re-reading.
Jul 03

June Books

Death Watch – Mark Billingham. Reasonable thriller.
Operation Certain Death – Damien Lewis. I didn’t buy this but found it in the back of a truck I was travelling in. The tale of a hostage situation in Sierra Leone in 2000, the book describes the rescue mission by the SAS/Paras. Good story, but definitely needed stronger editing.
Spirit Gate – Kate Elliot I loved the writing and the characters, but got lost at times as there’s so much happening and you keep cutting between different groups. It’s not until the end of the book that they come together and you understand what they have to add to the story. Another free book from Tor.
The 39 Steps – John Buchan. This was a birthday present from the group playing the Penguin We Tell Stories ARG. The first story from that campaign was a retelling by Charles Cumming of this book, which was originally published in 1915. My initial reaction was how small the book was, just over 100 pages only. But the story is good, definitely the ‘shocker’ that Buchan intended to write. Really enjoyable.
The Dark Tide, Andrew Gross – another thriller, based on the story of a man who took advantage of a bomb to disappear. Enjoyed this one, good characterisation
Chasing Harry Winston,Lauren Weisberger – from the author who brought us The Devil Wears Prada, this was OK but never as good as the first book. I cared about the hero and her journey (which was far better than the film) but here, the girls who try and sort out their relationship with men are OK, but ultimately shallow and I never really saw them grow.
The Shadow Isle, Katherine Kerr – the penultimate book in the long Deverry Series, it was an inbetweener that still read well. Just need to wait how she ends it all.
The Sanctury – Raymond Khoury. A thriller that I never really got into, getting all confused. It’s one of those in the ‘historical mystery’ mold, but nothing lifts it up.

Jun 02

Books Read in May

I’ve decided to try and track the books I have read. I’m rereading a few of my collection, so a mix of old and new. So here’s May

  • Undiscovered Country, Bill Bryant. An old read, I really enjoy Bryant’s writing and seem to have most of his books.
  • Skin Privilege, Karin Slaughter. Another author I tend to pick up as an easy read. As the next few selections show, thrillers tend to be my default choice of entertainment read.
  • Strike Back Chris Ryan I’ve had mixed thoughts about Ryan’s books. This one I enjoyed; the character was generally likeable despite seeming to switch situations with an ease I would have though impossible. It leaves it open to more, so looking forward to that.
  • The Chemistry of Death Simon Beckett
  • Written in Bone, Simon Beckett . I got the 2 Beckett books in a special offer. Superb thrillers.
  • Lord of the Isle, David Drake (free pdf from Tor). An OK book, easy read and made me interested in the characters. To be added to the ‘if in an offer’ list to buy the next one.
  • Why Sex is Fun, Jared Diamond. An old book, this time round it frustrated me, the tine being too simplistic for me. Diamond is one of my favourite science writers and I recall loving the rest of them, so not sure if this was written to be too general. I’m going to have to read another one to check if I’ve not gone off him.
  • Little Brothers Cory Doctorow (free pdf from Cory). This is not yet available in UK. Absolutely wonderful. Recommend it – read it now.
  • Pirates Dilemma Matt Mason Another great book, a challenge to industry to take a good look at themselves and their competitive position. I saw him talk at the RSA, giving a short version of the book. His argument is compelling. (It also turns out that he recognised me, as we probably bumped into each other in NY. If only I could remember where!)
  • Through Wolf’s Eyes, Jane Lindskold, (free pdf from Tor). Realy interesting fantasy novel – I need to read more of her stuff.