Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Reading Review

2015 Reading Review

I keep my private life largely out of this blog - it's more about reading and writing. So if you're after something more personal I apologise but if you're after a few recommended books you've come to a welcoming place. 

I read 32 books this year, which is up from my norm of late. I read a number of strong books, which I’d happily recommend. Let me know if you want specific thoughts on any of those listed below (happy to hear yours too).

Books Read in 2015

The Shadow Year Jeffrey Ford                                                          

The Prestige Christopher Priest
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie

The Year of the Ladybird Graham Joyce

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides (anthology)

Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R. McEelheny
Before They Are Hanged Joe Abercrombie 

The Last Argument of Kings Joe Abercrombie 

We Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson                                                     

Tallula Rising Glen Duncan 
Peace by Gene Wolfe 

Station 11 Emily St. John Mandel                                                                         
Behold the Man Michael Moorcock (novella)

The Man Within Graham Greene 

My Cousin Rachel Daphne Du Maurier
 The Princess Bride William Goldman
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara 

Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar (anthology)

The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013 ed. Liz Grzyb (anthology)

The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro                                                               

The Roving Party Rohan Wilson 

Love and Romanpunk Tansy Rayner Roberts (collection)                                                                                                 
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Selected Stories Fritz Leiber (collection)                       
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N.K Jemisin                                                  

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz                                        

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds John Pickrell  (expository)

The Sleeping Sorceress (Elric #4) Michael Moorcock  

Thief of Lies Lucy Sussex (collection)  

Bad Brass Bradley Denton (novella from Rogues ed. George R.R. Marin & Gardner Dozois) 

A Dark Matter Peter Straub 

Inside Creative Writing: Interviews with Contemporary Writers ed. Graeme Harper (expository and a complete dud)

Novel Highlights

I thought I’d mention my top 4 novel reads for the year  - many  came close.

 The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

A wonderfully reflective novel relating to family, childhood and the neighbourhood, more like a memoir, but peppered throughout with a dark mystery. Superb.  Deserved its World Fantasy Award. 

The Prestige by Christopher Priest.

Dueling rival magicians from different backgrounds weave webs of deceit and illusion. Though there is a contemporary first person thread the text is largely epistolary, which suits the late Victorian and Edwardian era in which the novel is chiefly set.  In a structural sense, along with its intriguing unreliable narrators, The Prestige is a masterpiece. Very clever. 

The Blade Itself  by Jo Abercrombie

Love Abercrombie's short stories and I now say that I’m now a fan of his longer work too. Not everyone’s cup of tea but Abercrombie’s characters are vivid, there’s plenty of escapist action and acerbic humour and his lively active prose has dollops of impressive imagery. Perhaps Abercrombie tries too hard to subvert genre narrative conventions at times; the red herrings and overt subversion make it fall a little short in terms of overall plot but there are plenty of exceptional scenes. Gripping, fun and you’ll enjoy the series. 

The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce

Joyce’s passing was a sad loss to the world of literature this year. The Year of the Ladybird is a gentle read and a wonderful love story. Set in an old fashioned summer entertainment camp in coastal Skegness, the novel’s nostalgic setting allows for an array of colourful characters. It explores a vanishing culture, nationalism, love and coming to terms with one’s past. A lovely summer read. 

Two anthologies really stood out for me (not including anthologies I have stories in or in recommended reading lists here as that just seems unethical): My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro ed. Jeffrey Eugenides and the old classic Points of View: An Anthology of Stories ed. James Moffett & Kenneth R McEelheny.

Like most anthologies there are a few stories I dislike,  but there are also many incredible works in these two anthologies. A few featured on last year's short story list and more will be on this year's (I'll put it up in soon) 

Wishing you all a fruitful, thoughtful and happy 2016.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Post-launch of Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar in Perth

Amanda Pillar, the editor of the anthology Bloodlines, was in Perth for a few days so publishers, Liz Grzyb and Russell B Farr (Ticonderoga Publications), organised a delightful Perth 'post-launch' of the anthology.

Three of the four Perth writers with stories in the anthology were available: Pete Kempshall, Martin Livings and myself – Stephanie Gunn had a forgivable reason for being unavailable with her husband's 40th birthday.

It was a suitably quirky launch at the new honey store 'Honey I'm Home' on Railway Parade in Maylands. I ended buying three jars of honey: two raw whipped honeys (ginger snap and lemon zest), along with a cinnamon infused honey (which I thought appropriate as cinnamon is mentioned thrice in the story). I love these independent stores – go down and check it out if you're in Perth and get the chance.

The launch itself was a real treat with a genuine and sincere atmosphere. A fantastic chance to catch up with friends and family and lovers of the short story. I believe we sold out of books on the day (either that or one lonely book was left).

Martin, Pete and I read. I'm an avid reader, but not orally, and due to being in isolated Perth it's only my third reading at a launch. After hearing Pete I look forward to polishing up that skillset.

It was also a lovely opportunity to congratulate Amanda, Russell, Liz, Pete and Martin on their work.

Unfortunately, due to reading and signing and chatting away I didn't manage to take any pics. Happy for you to post them up or send them my way if you do have them. 

I had to leave soon afterwards as Peter and Danae Gavalas had cooked up a storm at their home for a group of close friends.

Absolutely adore the cover by the gifted Kathleen Jennings – I'll be sinking my teeth into the anthology soon.

Currently Reading: just read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is definitely strong but so continuously hard hitting that Yanagihara could easily be mistaken for a sadist.  Wonderful friendships, relationships and prose ,but I also found it melodramatic, incredulous at times, and a little job-porn too. I think the notion of success is a bit odd (not exploring it here in this quickfire post but happy to answer any questions in the comments section). Regardless of my criticisms, A Little Life is a very good novel if you're thick-skinned (otherwise don a panoply of plate armour before you go into battle).

And I've also read The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce, which is a far gentler read.  The setting of an old-fashioned seaside summer-holiday entertainment camp creates a wonderful atmosphere of nostalgia. Joyce highlights a prominent part of the English culture in decline and on the edge of vanishing, as well as issues of nationalism and acceptance of the past. It's also a beautiful love story.

Like many writers, I'm saddened that Joyce passed away this year. Joyce was loved by writers and critics and certainly deserved an even greater readership.

I'd recommend The Year of the Ladybird for your summer read if you're in the Antipodes. It's an easy read with plenty of merit...and if you're weathering the chill of the Northern hemisphere at this festive time, I'm sure it'll make for a great summery escape.