calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon badge

Dewey’sread-a-thon is my favourite reading challenge and runs twice a year–in April and October. It runs for 24 hours, but participation for the full length is optional. Which is a good thing, because this round will be kicking off at 10 PM on Saturday 29 April for the east coast of Australia. As usual, I plan to be going to bed around then, but will be up early to cram as much reading as possible into my waking hours.

When I signed up last round, my Mt TBR had just hit 300 books. It hasn’t been below that since. I’m hoping that this will be the push I need to help get it down again.

Of course, a read-a-thon requires books! Here’s a few things I’m thinking about tackling:

Dewey's readathon, read-a-thon, Heart of the Mirage, Glenda Larke, The Dream-quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson, The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley, Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

With the exception of Heart of the Mirage, these books are all on the Hugo Awards shortlists. I’m hoping to get through them before they’re due back at the library.

Each time I participate in Dewey’s I try to get a little more involved with volunteering. Last year, I hosted a mini-challenge for the first time.This year I’ll be one of the co-hosts, allowing the organisers to get some well-earned sleep. I’ll be hosting Hours 18-20, which correspond to 3-5 PM AEST.

If you need to tame your own Mt TBR or are looking to connect with a great community of book bloggers, I do hope you’ll join me. It’s not too late! You can sign up, follow on Twitter, join the Goodreads group or any combination of the three. If you’ve already signed up, I’d love to hear about what you’ll be reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Aurealis Awards, Clariel, Garth Nix, tea and books

The 2016 Aurealis Awards were presented on Friday night. Congratulations to all the winners!

As most of you know, I had the great honour of being one of the judges on the panel for YA novels and YA short stories. Now that the results are out, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what it was like to be a judge.

I signed up for a few different reasons: because I love SFF reading challenges, because I wanted to learn more about Australian YA SFF, and because free books! I’d wanted to sign up for a few years, but hadn’t been confident my reading speed was up to par. However, I’d read 91 books in 2015, which was close to a personal best. I figured it would still be a bit of a struggle. After all, I still had to review one book a week here for the blog and it wouldn’t be appropriate to review the material I was judging. But I figured it was manageable. I also picked the YA categories because they were one of the smaller categories in 2015. As much as I’d dearly love to tackle the fantasy novel category, I’m not quite that masochistic (yet)

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

In the end, the YA panel received 53 novels and 55 short stories. Pretty much all of the short stories came in electronic format, whereas the novels were more of an even split. Publishers covered the full spectrum: self-published indie authors, small and big press. Reading through all of it highlighted for me the fact that YA is not a genre, but a target audience. I appreciated that because it meant I could change things up by switching genres rather than glutting myself on one.

Each of the judges came up with their own shortlists, one for each category. As soon as I handed mine in, I started second-guessing myself. But there was a consensus among the judges as to which pieces stood out, even if there was some negotiation around the exact order. The process was surprisingly quick, once we got down to it.

Amusingly enough, the first thing I did after the shortlist was finalised was buy more books. I’m told that’s pretty common among the judges and I guess it takes a certain kind of person to judge a book award.

Would I do it again? I think so. It was stressful at times. But it also taught me a lot: about reading, about the processes behind book awards, and about Australian YA SFF (as I’d hoped). I discovered new authors. So, yes, I would do it again. But first I need a year or two to recover.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Twist, Kylie Scott, Dive Bar, contemporary romance, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: April 2017 by Pan Macmillan
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 273 pages
Series: Dive Bar #2
Genres: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his brother’s account and shut it down. Until he reads about her – Alex.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they’re emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets . . . apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

Kylie Scott shows why she’s one of Australia’s most beloved romance writers with her new book Twist. It’s the second book in the Dive Bar series but, as with most romance, it’s not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one.

The start is compelling. Alex has flown into town and shows up at the Dive Bar in her little black dress and towering heels, looking to crash Joe’s birthday party. It’s an uncharacteristic move for her, but she was goaded into it by her best friend and she’s been trading emails with Joe for months via a dating site. Except Joe has been using his brother’s account. So, when Alex throws herself at Eric, thinking he’s the man she’s been emailing, chaos ensues. I have a bit of a humiliation squick, so the opening was hard going for me. It read like a nightmare that I kept expecting Alex to wake from. However, I thought she handled herself pretty well, and wanting to find out what happens to her helped me push through the discomfort.

Joe is used to women passing him by in favour of his brother. It’s not that he’s unattractive–being broad, bearded and blond–but women like their bad boys and that’s just not him. Joe’s family and friends mean a lot to him and he bends over backwards trying to please everyone. But although he loves them, his friends and family drive him nuts sometimes. His emails to Alex were a place he could safely vent. Joe treats everyone with painstaking respect, making the times he crosses boundaries all the more jarring. However, one of the things I enjoyed most about his character is that he readily admits when he’s done something wrong.

The story is told in first person solely from Alex’s perspective. Nevertheless, it manages to do an excellent job of conveying Joe’s feelings. This is partly helped by the inclusion of some of their emails at the start of each chapter, but mostly the result of Joe’s earnestness and some excellent storytelling.

A couple of the plot twists felt a little forced, but it is difficult to say more without spoilers. The ending also featured a cameo by characters from Scott’s previous series. As a new reader, I found this a bit disorientating and I briefly wondered whether I’d stumbled into a preview for another book.

However, despite these flaws, I found it to be an entertaining and down-to-earth read. Twist is my first foray into Scott’s work and I’ll definitely be seeking out more.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Angry Naruto)
20170123_060748

The Earl Grey Editing website is down at the moment and that's having an effect on the cross-posts here--notably the photos. I'm not entirely sure what the problem is or how long it's going to take to be fixed. The back end is as inaccessible as the front, so it's currently out of my hands.

I'm not taking this enforced holiday with good grace.
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links, Chocolate Dream, rooibos, neo naturally australian

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Neo Australia’s Chocolate Dream. It’s a sweet rooibos blend, with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cocoa nibs. Fans of chai are sure to enjoy it and it takes milk.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer, Tor Books, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: January 2017 by Tor Books
Format reviewed: Hardback, 336 pages
Series: Titan’s Forest #1
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Library
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nations opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

Crossroads of Canopy is a debut novel which has some amazing worldbuilding and explores a number of social issues.

Unar is a servant to one of Canopy’s thirteen deities, having come from poverty. Her escape from abuse and slavery had made her ambitious, helped by the fact she possesses a powerful potential for magic, and she firmly believes she’s destined to be the Bodyguard to the next incarnation of her deity. She’s not an entirely likeable character–she’s impulsive, occasionally selfish and lashes out at her loved ones. However, her strong desire for justice saves her from being unsympathetic. Despite being born to poverty, Unar grew up in Canopy–literally the highest stratum of the forest–and, as such, is privileged. Thus, it is unsurprising that she shows prejudice on occasion. However, unlike the other citizens of Canopy, she catches herself and constantly questions the injustice embedded in the status quo.

Although I felt some sympathy for Unar, I found the story held me at arm’s length and didn’t engage me on an emotional level as much as I would have liked. This may have been intentional, as one reoccurring theme of the story is unrequited feelings across many relationships, both romantic and otherwise.

However, there was plenty for me to engage with on an intellectual level, and it reminded me a little of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice trilogy in that sense. There’s a common perception that fantasy doesn’t examine social issues in a way that science fiction does. Crossroads of Canopy dispels that notion by putting class and race at the heart of the story.

The world is separated into three different societies located at different levels of the forest. Canopy is the highest level with access to abundant sunshine and fresh water. Understorey lies below, receiving very little sunshine and dealing with the refuse that is tossed on their heads from Canopy. We see very little of Floor, but the story indicates its citizens are plagued by floodwater and monsters. These three societies combine to form a literal class strata, where the higher you are the better off you are. This class structure is also intrinsically tied to race. Canopians are dark-skinned, while the sunlight-deprived Understoreans are pale.

The story also deals with issues of ageism and ableism. This comes primarily through the Canopian society, where the citizens make offerings to one of their gods to protect their children from falling over the edge of the branches which form their home. However, the disabled and elderly too feeble to work are pushed to their doom. In this way, it highlights society’s cult of youth.

Another thing I particularly liked about the worldbuilding is that it doesn’t use the typical broadleaf forests found in the US or the UK. Instead, we have the kind of rainforest often seen in Australia or Southeast Asia–the kind that features an abundance of gum trees and parrots.

The story is a bit slow-paced with few action sequences. The writing style was also a bit difficult to get used to at first; there was a lot of terminology and names to wrap my head around, and I found the occasional use of alliteration distracting.

However, overall Crossroads of Canopy brings a fresh approach to fantasy, making it well worth reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: Photo of Swarovski crystal & gold figurine of inkpot and quill sitting on a page that says 'create every day' (Writing)

Australian SFF book bloggers, Earl Grey Editing, speculative fiction, TWSBI 580, fountain pen, Lirael, Garth Nix, Dreamer's Pool, Juliet Marillier, Australian bluebell, tea and books

The Australian SFF awards season has been very kind to me this year. The preliminary shortlists for the Ditmar Awards were released yesterday and I was delighted to discover I’d made the ballot. Twice over. In the same category. The blog here at Earl Grey Editing has been nominated for Best Fan Publication in Any Medium. I also earned a second nomination as part of the Australian SF Snapshot (you can see the interviews I conducted here).

Congratulations to all the nominees! It’s an interesting ballot this year with quite a few familiar faces. I’m hoping to see a few at the ceremony at Continuum in June.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books, Mt TBR, A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab, David Malouf, Ransom, Emily Dickinson, Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mouse Guard, David Petersen

March was the first full calendar month where I didn’t have any reading to do for the Aurealis Awards. My reading rate subsequently took a plunge, but I remain happy, especially since there were a lot of good books this month. And things are likely to pick up again, now that the shortlists for the Hugo Awards have been released.

One of my personal reading challenges this year was to make at least one trip to the library per month. This month I managed two trips, picking up Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer, Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Chaos Choreography and Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 327
Mt TBR @ 28 February 2017: 309
Mt TBR @ 31 March 2017: 307

Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Sharp Shooter, Marianne Delacourt, Tara Sharp, Australian crime, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books, Twelfth Planet Press

Published: May 2016 by Deadlines
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Tara Sharp #1
Genres: Crime, paranormal
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tara Sharp can see auras, and its ruining her life.

When she tries to turn her inconvenient secret into a paying gig, her first job lands her in the middle of a tug of war between the biggest, baddest crime lord in town and the hottest business man Tara has ever met.

With only a narcoleptic ex-roadie, her pet galah and a vanilla slice for back up, Tara is ready to take on trouble with a capital T.

WINNER of the Davitt Award 2010 Best Crime Novel and nominated for Ned Kelly Award 2010 Best First Crime Novel

Sharp Shooter is an action-packed crime novel with a dash of the paranormal. It’s a quick, fun read that will particularly appeal to Australian readers.

The paranormal elements are light, restricted to Tara’s ability to see auras. However, the book carries the feel of urban fantasy. Tara has all the necessary feistiness but is more scruffy than polished. In the beginning, she’s a bit of a mess. She recently lost her job, caught her boyfriend in an affair with her flatmate, and is now broke and living with her parents. She is also struggling with her psychic powers. It turns out that the ability to see auras doesn’t automatically come with the ability to interpret them. I loved that Tara still has to find a mentor and learn.

She’s also surprisingly bad at people. Even with her psychic abilities, she misreads intentions. Diplomacy is not her strong suit and she often makes bad decisions. However, while she’s not always the best at respecting other people’s boundaries, she is good at setting her own. This was something I appreciated, particularly during one scene in a limo.

Despite being a reasonably fast-paced book, the story doesn’t launch straight into the action. It takes time to establish Tara’s situation and put her through some training. The beginning feels like a bit of a disaster–appropriately so, as Tara reels from one disaster to the next. It verges on disjointed, but never quite crosses the line, and by the end everything has pulled together.

I was delighted to discover the story was set in Perth and is filled with Australian idioms and cultural references. For example, the story makes reference to the proper way to eat vanilla slice. I don’t think it would be inaccessible to international readers, but I’m not in a position to make a good judgement on that issue. Likewise, I couldn’t say how faithfully Perth was represented, even though it felt authentic to me. The story respected its setting, rather than using it as vague background colouring. I especially appreciated that, unlike some Australian urban fantasy, the story didn’t feature an overabundance of guns.

Readers may want to be warned that the story features a love triangle… and one that so far seems weighted in one direction. However, it was counterbalanced somewhat by Tara’s friendships. She has two childhood friends: one male, one female. It was nice to see a platonic friendship portrayed between the sexes. The female relationships in this book run the gamut from antagonistic to loyal friends, which was nice to see, though I was a little disappointed it tended more towards the former than the latter. Similarly, although the gender balance between the characters was reasonable, virtually none of the women in positions of command. While this may be somewhat reflective of Australian culture, it remains a little bit of a let-down.

However, these are mostly just nitpicks. Overall, I enjoyed Sharp Shooter and found it a refreshing piece of Australian crime.

In celebration of the launch of Too Sharp, the third book in the series, Sharp Shooter is available for free across most platforms until 11 April.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links, loose-leaf tea, Arctic Fire, Adore Tea, Earl Grey Editing

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Arctic Fire from Adore Tea. The mint in this black blend is counterbalanced by a fruity flavour, making it a great afternoon pick-me-up.

Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: March 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Genres: Epic fantasy, YA romance
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Strange the Dreamer is another of the gorgeously mythic fantasy romances that Laini Taylor excels at. However, while I enjoyed it thoroughly, it had a few flaws.

Lazlo Strange is a wonderful character likely to appeal to bookworms. He’s not your usual stunningly-attractive hero. Instead, he’s a bit rough around the edges and had his nose broken when a book of fairytales landed on his face–which tells you everything you need to know about Lazlo. He was a highly imaginative boy with a thirst for stories who grew into a librarian with his nose stuck in a book. Before he went adventuring, of course. He works hard and is the sort of person to offer help to his rival simply because it’s needed.

The book takes us all the way from Lazlo’s humble beginnings to his deeds in Weep. This allows readers to get to know Lazlo well, but makes for a slow-paced story. I usually don’t mind this approach, but even I felt it was starting to drag.

It’s a story full of whimsy and the mythic that Taylor does so well. She is brilliant at creating a mood and making the impossibly epic seem plausible. The descriptions were lovely with some gorgeous turns of phrase. However, a little goes a long way–another reason the pace dragged in places.

Despite its sense of whimsy, it is quite a dark story. Readers triggered by rape and forced pregnancy may want to tread cautiously. These incidents never happen onscreen, but their impact resonates throughout the book. It’s a story that deals with cycles of violence and the seeming impossibility of breaking them.

Strange the Dreamer felt like it trod a lot of the same ground as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Some of it was the structure: the slow set-up, the gradual uncovering of the past and the late explosion into action. There were also some thematic elements that cropped up, such as the preoccupation with angels and demons (here flavoured with some Hindu-inspired elements such as the appearance and titles of the gods). The trajectory of Lazlo’s relationship with Sarai also felt very familiar and may be a bit too insta-love for some readers.

I was somewhat disappointed with the relationship between the female characters of this book. It’s a story that barely passes the Bechdel-Wallis test, with the female characters either isolated, preoccupied with the men in their life or at odds with each other.

It may sound as if I didn’t enjoy Strange the Dreamer when it actually swept me away (once it warmed up). I enjoyed the dark whimsy of it and the later stages of the book do a fantastic job of building tension. I’ll definitely be watching for the next book. However, this is definitely not going to be the book for everyone.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

Published: February 2017 by Less Than Three Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Contemporary fantasy, LGBTQIA
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (electronic only) ~Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gloria did not intend to start a halfway house for lesbian werewolves. It just sort of happened. Between running a small bed-and-breakfast with her friend Nadine, helping one young lycanthrope adjust to life after the bite and soothing ruffled fur when the other brings home an unexpected cat, Gloria has more than enough to keep her busy, but one thing is definite: she is not nor ever will be an alpha, whatever Nadine says. And the ever-expanding circle of misfits in her guesthouse is certainly not a pack. If only Nadine and the rest of the world were as simple and clear cut as she kept wanting them to be.

Humanity for Beginners is a quietly charming novella that subverts some current tropes common in urban fantasy shifter stories.

For a start, it centres a lesbian woman in her 40s–not your typical werewolf protagonist. Gloria denies the others’ insistence she’s their pack alpha. In fact, she denies there’s a pack at all (though never that they’re a family). Self-control is very important to her and she does her best to act as rationally and as human as she can. This doesn’t always work in her favour.

Gloria’s attitude towards pack dynamics stands in strong contrast to the toxic masculinity of the other packs portrayed in this story. Gloria doesn’t dominate through violence and aggression, as the other packs do. Instead, her approach is more maternal; she can’t help but be genuinely concerned for the well-being of her adopted family. This doesn’t mean she’s a pushover or that she wears her heart on her sleeve. Indeed, she sometimes struggles to stay neutral and let her fellow werewolves to make their own decisions, even though it’s really important to her that they do. She also is capable of enforcing boundaries where necessary.

This resistance to toxic masculinity also manifests in the type of story this is. Set in a rural guesthouse, Humanity for Beginners is a domestic tale that centres on relationships. As the characters sort out romantic, pack and family dynamics, they’re also busy preparing food, cleaning rooms and taking bookings. It’s a gentle story without a whole lot of action, though conflict remains present.

While each of the characters was distinct, the characters external to the pack could have used a little more depth. In particular, I would have liked to learn a little more about Damien, who is part of the family even though he’s not a werewolf. However, I feel the author did a reasonable job within the constraints of a novella.

Overall, Humanity for Beginners was a subversive story that was a pleasure to read.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

GUFF interviews, kangaroo, Earl Grey Editing, Elizabeth Fitzgerald

The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund is designed to promote connections between fandoms in Australasia and Europe. This year GUFF will send one delegate from Australiasia to Worldcon in Helsinki in August. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality. It closes 17 April.

Deciding how to rank the candidates can be a pretty daunting prospect, so over the next few weeks Earl Grey Editing will be featuring an interview with each candidate. So far I’ve interviewed Belle McQuattie and Donna Maree Hanson. Joining me today is Sam Hawke.

First and most vital: What’s your favourite beverage?

I once had a boss who went to a management course that convinced him he needed to get creative pictorial responses out of his staff, so for a few weeks he kept making us express our ideas in pictures. (When asked to draw a picture representing how we felt about a particular task, one of my colleagues drew a picture of herself crying, which made him cross and the rest of us giggle). In honour of a dumb and painful craze by the most annoying person I’ve ever worked for, I am going to answer this in visual form.

Sam Hawke, drinking preferences

Oh, and hot chocolate any time of day. Consequently, I am pretty easy to entertain.

I am definitely keeping this diagram to reference for next time we catch up. Also, don’t tell anyone but I’m not all that fan of pink fruit teas either.

Now, before I get too distracted: how did you come to be involved in Australian SFF fandom?

My love of SFF is present in my earliest memories: watching Star Blazers on our wee black and white TV with my siblings, going to the movies for the first time to see the Neverending Story, sneaking David Eddings books my sister said I was too young to read off her shelf. But outside my immediate family, in my pre-internet youth, my exposure to fandom was limited to occasionally getting a thrill when someone recognised my Red Dwarf t-shirt in the street and exchanging a knowing nod. None of my friends were ever into SFF so it remained a thing I shared with my siblings and my closet but not much further. I think my teenage years might have looked very different if I’d been born 10 years later.

I discovered the joy of Other Fans! On the Internet! eventually, and always having wanted to be a writer, it was natural that I mostly fell into bookish spaces. However, being very shy meant I was typically an obsessive reader but limited contributor to a lot of these places. I guess I can thank the group at Robin Hobb’s SFF.net newsgroup for finally drawing me properly into fandom. A few of us Aussies in the group met up at Supanova back in 2014 and hung out with each other and Robin in person (I don’t think I was even really aware conventions existed outside a faint knowledge of San Diego’s Comicon before that). That coincided with me finally finishing a publishable novel, joining the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, and getting up confidence to participate in spaces I’d previously just watched. This year I’m planning on attending at least 3 conventions – Continuum, Conflux and Worldcon – and I’m very excited to be involved. I really like the way shared love of fictional worlds can bring people together no matter how different they seem.

What Australian SFF work have you recently loved?

I’ve been pretty embroiled in writing/editing stuff the past few years and haven’t read as much as I’d like to – I’m particularly out of touch with recent short fiction, Australian and international. But I’m always a fan of and find room for the big Aussie fantasy writers like Trudi Canavan, Glenda Larke and Garth Nix – Jennifer Fallon is a particular favourite so I was thrilled to get my paws on the Lyre Thief, and am looking forward to the next one shortly. I’ve also loved Kate Forsyth’s fairytale retelling/historical fiction hybrids – do they count as SFF? I’ve also been catching up with Gillian Polack’s smart, literary-bent novels (The Wizardry of Jewish Women, Time of the Ghosts), and I just finished Thoraiya Dyer’s debut Crossroads of Canopy, which I really enjoyed – absolutely gorgeous, immersive worldbuilding. For something a bit darker, I thought Watershed by Jane Abbott, set in a nearish future Australia, was a really grim, clever piece of dystopia.

I recently read Jane Abbott’s Elegy and loved it. Looks like I’m going to have to pick up some more of her work!

And speaking of my Mt TBR wish list, City of Lies is the first book in your duology, The Poison Wars, and is set to be published by Tor in 2018. Congratulations! It must be a dream come true. Did you do anything special to celebrate, or did you immediately start work on the next thing?

Thank you! It is, literally, the dream. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone for AGES so I did a lot of squealing within the confines of my house, and I took my family out to dinner, but nothing more dramatic than that. I have been trying to think of something dumb and fun to buy as a celebratory treat (when I finished the book I bought myself the Kitchenaid mixer I’ve always wanted – I am a mad baker) but haven’t come up with anything delightful-yet-unjustifiable enough yet.

In some ways it still doesn’t feel real! I didn’t head straight into the sequel because I want to be informed by the direction the first one takes post-edits, so I’ve been dabbling in another, unrelated, fantasy that I hope will be the next project after this.

What’s coming up next for you?

Everything sort of depends how City of Lies goes – I’m contracted for 2 books but whether it stays at 2 or not depends whether it does well and people want more, I guess! So, yanno, hopefully people will buy it and like it…

Fingers crossed!

Lastly, what are you most looking forward to about Worldcon 75?

I have never been to a Worldcon so honestly I don’t entirely know what to expect other than a chance to hang with cool people and talk and think about the things I love (and hopefully find some new things to love!). I made a joke about Tim-Tam eating contests in my voting pitch on my blog but I am legit hoping someone challenges me to this because no-one EVER believes me how hard it is, and I will laugh salty tears of joy when they’re trying to finish biscuit number 2 and have just realised how things are turning very very wrong. I’m also hoping to meet and geek out over some great authors, attend interesting panels, butcher some Finnish, eat weird stuff, and get into some fun ridiculous arguments.

Sam Hawke

Sam Hawke has wanted to write books since realising as a child that they didn’t just breed between themselves in libraries. Having contemplated careers as varied as engineer, tax accountant and zookeeper Hawke eventually settled on the law. After marrying her jujitsu training partner and travelling to as many countries as possible, Hawke now resides in Canberra raising two small ninjas and two idiot dogs. Her debut novel, City of Lies, the first book in the Poison War series, is due out from Tor in July 2018. You can find Sam Hawke online at samhawkewrites.com, on Twitter as @samhawkewrites and on Facebook as www.facebook.com/samhawkewrites.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold, Subterranean Press, fantasy, World of the Five Gods, tea and books, books and tea, Earl Grey Editing

Published: February 2017 by Subterranean Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Penric and Desdemona #2
Genres: Fantasy
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print only) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Young Lord Penric now wears the white robes of the Bastards Order, complete with shoulder braids marking him as a divine and sorcerer, while he pursues scholarly studies in the court of the Princess-Archdivine. His demon of disorder, Desdemona, is, of course, present, accounted for, and offering clever commentary, particularly when she grows bored. And so when a Locator of the Fathers Order shows up on the Archdivines threshold in need of a sorcerer for a journey and she volunteers Penric, at least Des is thrilled with the prospect of an adventure. As they travel into the mountains to locate Inglis, a shaman accused of murdering his best friend, the situation grows into a test for all of Penrics developing talents.

Penric’s Demon was one of my favourite reads last year and so I was delighted to get my hands on a review copy of Penric and the Shaman. As expected, it proved to be a fantastic continuation of the series by one of SFF’s masters.

Time has passed since the last book. In the intervening four years, Penric has earned his braids as a full-ranking priest and has settled into a scholarly life. The narrative begins with a little taste of Penric’s current life. It’s quiet but Penric, being a huge nerd, loves it. Desdemona, having been through it all before (more than once), is bored by it. I really enjoyed this look into how their relationship has developed. It is part odd-couple and part parent-and-child, though this latter dynamic shifts over the course of the novella. One of my few quibbles with this book is that while we do get a few more glimpses of their relationship, we don’t get to see all that more of Desdemona.

What we get instead is an illustration of what their relationship looks like to outsiders. The story is told in close third-person from three points of view: Penric; Locator Oswyl, who has come to hunt down a shaman; and Inglis, the shaman himself. This enables us to witness what it’s like to be in Penric’s presence, to see the slips in phrasing and intonation when Desdemona takes over. It also shows us how frequently Penric is underestimated, his relative youth and cheery disposition often causing others to think him a fool, even dismiss him.

One of the things I loved most about Penric’s Demon was Penric’s kindness and I was pleased to see this remained present. The character is definitely less naive and there were glimpses of the burden he’s under. However, he never treats Desdemona as a burden and is unfailingly respectful to those around him. And even though he is less naive than he was, he still has lessons to learn–lessons that come as a surprise to him.

The gods continue to interfere in this world (and in Penric’s life) in ways both direct and indirect, which I very much enjoyed. I also liked the expansion of the world’s magic system and felt it interacted with the dominant religious system in interesting and plausible ways.

I found the opening oddly bumpy and the style jarred, but quickly settled down with Penric’s appearance. There was also a bit of info-dumping during Oswyl’s briefing of Penric and the Princess-Archdivine. It made sense in context, but I was on the verge of being lost before it was done.

However, on the whole Penric and the Shaman was an absolute delight to read. I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Neo, Ginger Jiva, loose-leaf tea, Earl Grey Editing

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Neo Australia’s Ginger Tea, a tasty blend of ginger, cardamom pods, tulsi and apple. This is an old favourite of mine and especially welcome on cool evenings when I’m looking to avoid caffeine before bed.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers )
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

The Impossible Story of Olive in Love, Tonya Alexandra, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: March 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Format reviewed: Paperback ARC, 284 pages
Genres: Contemporary YA, speculative fiction
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Plagued by a gypsy curse that shell be invisible to all but her true love, seventeen-year-old Olive is understandably bitter. Her mother is dead; her father has taken off. Her sister, Rose, is insufferably perfect. Her one friend, Felix, is blind and thinks shes making it all up for attention.

Olive spends her days writing articles for her gossip column and stalking her childhood friend, Jordan, whom she had to abandon when she was ten because Jordans parents would no longer tolerate an imaginary friend. Nobody has seen her until she meets Tom: the poster boy for normal and the absolute opposite of Olive.

But how do you date a boy who doesnt know youre invisible? Worse still, what happens when Mr Right feels wrong? Has destiny screwed up? In typical Olive fashion, the course is set for destruction. And because were talking Olive here, the ride is funny, passionate and way, way, way, way dramatic.

This story is for anyone whos ever felt invisible.

This story is for anyone who sees the possible in the impossible.

I had some very mixed feelings about The Impossible Story of Olive in Love. The premise was intriguing and the implications were well thought out. However, there were a few elements that really didn’t work for me.

Olive is not in any way a likeable character. She’s caustic, selfish and easily bored. She’s a drama queen who likes to cause trouble and leaves her loved ones to deal with the fallout. This makes sense in the context of the story. Being invisible (but not silent or intangible), she’s more used to hiding from other people than she is to interacting with them. This means she’s socially awkward and lacks both manners and diplomacy. However, given how much time she spends watching other people, her lack of empathy doesn’t completely make sense and I struggled to figure out what Tom saw in her.

I would probably have had more tolerance for Olive as an unsympathetic narrator if the story hadn’t had a few other unsavoury elements. The gypsy curse is a bit on the nose, and the gypsies responsible are the stereotypical feckless, vengeful vagrants. There’s also the occasional line that is transphobic, homophobic or ableist, which did not at all endear the book to me.

Which is a shame, because there were some potentially very interesting elements. Isolation was a strong theme and it was nice to see how this applied just as much to Tom and to Olive’s sister Rose as it did to Olive herself. Even though Olive is functionally able-bodied (more or less), they are essentially care-givers to Olive and this comes with a price.

The practicalities of being invisible have also been carefully thought out. Transport is a problem, as Olive can’t catch a bus or a taxi and driving herself around would look alarming. She’s never learned to kiss and since she can’t see herself in a mirror her makeup skills and sense of fashion are lacking. She can’t live on her own or even let herself in the front door for fear of alerting the neighbours.

I also appreciated the way the book avoided the obvious ending. There were a few elements that could have used a little more foreshadowing, but the outcome was more mature than I’d expected. It steered the book away from being a romance and more towards a coming-of age story.

However, ultimately The Impossible Story of Olive in Love wasn’t the book for me.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

 

Having recently been a judge for the YA categories of the Aurealis Awards, I’ve grown quite familiar with the genre. So I was delighted to hear the WSFS is exploring the possibility of establishing a YA award tied to the Hugos. Today I have [personal profile] forestofglory here to tell us a bit about the award.

I’m here to talk a bit about the prospective World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Young Adult award and ask you to take a short survey to help decide on the name of the award. WSFS is the organization that sets the rules for Worldcons and the Hugo and Campbell Awards. It is run by volunteers and is a direct democracy. I am part of committee formed to study the possibility of a YA award. Last year we recommended that a YA award similar to the Hugo Awards be created (kind of like the Campbell award). This year the committee was tasked with finding a name for said award.

Elizabeth asked me to talk a bit about the community aspect of this award so I thought I would share a bit about my background and my goals for the award. I bought my first Worldcon supporting membership a few years ago so that I could nominate for and vote on the Hugo Awards. I joined because members of my online community had been voting in the Hugos and made it seem like fun. After joining my first Worldcon, I became a member of a new-to-me community of Hugo voters. Mostly I participated online, talking with friends about what I had read and watched and what we wanted to nominate. I’ve had good experiences with the WSFS community, though the last two years were politically fraught. The Worldcon community is not always welcoming, it costs money to join, the rules are complex and arcane, and debates about even minor details can get heated. Nonetheless, I love how they insist that you are buying a membership, not a ticket. I love the long history of the community, dating back to the 1st Worldcon in 1939. As a member of this community, I want to reach out to the YA community to share things and ideas we both enjoy. For me that’s what awards are best at creating ways to honor and share things we love.

The push to create an award was started by Worldcon members who were also part of YA communities and wanted to see these communities brought together. Three years ago, a 20-person committee was formed by WSFS to study the feasibility of a YA award (I joined year ago after the committee was formed). Members are long-time Worldcon attendees, YA librarians, academics, lifelong YA readers, and young adults. We’re all volunteers.

Since I last wrote about the YA award process, the YA committee has been analyzing feedback from the first open-ended survey and creating a shortlist of possible names, which are featured on our current survey. The process of narrowing down the names was tricky and at times contentious. We needed eliminate names that were already in use for another award, or that had unfortunate double connotations. We also debated which names had cross-generational appeal and whether to consider names of real people. In the end we decided not to include names and picked a shortlist of six possible names.

You can read more about what we like about each name on the survey itself. You can also find more information of Facebook and twitter @worldconYA. The survey will be open until March 15. We would love to have your input.

Earl Grey Editing, English oak, autumn leaves

In addition to being a YA fan, Forestofglory frequently recommends short stories and discusses her thoughts on Hugo nominees at her blog.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Frogkisser!, Garth Nix, middle grade, fairytale, fantasy, books and tea, tea and books, Earl Grey Editing

Published: March 2017 by Allen & Unwin
Format reviewed: Paperback, 336 pages
Genres: Fantasy, middle grade
Source: Publisher
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Talking dogs. Mischievous wizards. An evil stepstepfather. Loads and loads of toads. Such is the life of a Frogkisser.

Princess Anya needs to see a wizard about a frog. It’s not her frog, it’s her sister’s. And it’s not a frog, it’s actually a prince. A prince who was once in love with Anya’s sister, but has now been turned into a frog by their evil stepstepfather. And Anya has made a ‘sister promise’ that she will find a way to return Prince Denholm to human form…

So begins an exciting, hilarious, irreverent quest through the Kingdom of Trallonia and out the other side, in a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs.

Garth Nix is highly regarded for his Middle Grade and YA fantasy, and Frogkisser! is unlikely to change that. It is a charming story with some fresh takes on a few traditional fairytale elements.

Anya is the youngest of two princesses. Her sister, Morven, is flighty and obsessed with boys. All Anya wants to do is hang out in the library and read books (and really, who can blame her?), but someone has to be the responsible one. Anya and Morven’s stepmother is off chasing rare plants, while their stepstepfather is an evil, cold-hearted sorcerer bent on taking over the kingdom. In order to achieve his ends, he plans to send Anya away to boarding school. However, Anya escapes first with the aid of the royal dogs.

Along the way, Anya encounters a number of fairytale tropes, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Good Wizard and a flying carpet. One of the things I loved about the story was that these elements never manifest in quite the way you expect them to–there’s always a twist . As someone with a stepmother I adore, it was refreshing to see the part of the villain instead played by Anya’s stepstepfather (the man her stepmother married after her father passed away).

Nix is clearly a dog person. Readers familiar with his Old Kingdom series may remember the Disreputable Dog. Frogkisser! has the royal dogs, a pack of canine advisers to the royal family. They’re presided over by matriarch Tanitha, and one of the younger dogs, Ardent, serves as a companion to Anya on her adventures. Being a dog person myself, I loved these characters and there were a few observations of canine behaviour that had me chuckling in recognition.

Tanitha isn’t the only female in a position of power in this book: women are everywhere. They are warriors, healers and bandits. It was such a delight to read a story where the gender balance was equal and where not all the women were white.

While it is a Middle Grade novel, adult readers will find plenty to enjoy. Geekish references are sprinkled throughout the story; there was one Lord of the Rings reference almost at the end that had me laughing out loud.

All in all, Frogkisser! is an absolute delight to read, no matter what your age.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Mt TBR, Goldenhand, Garth Nix, Threader, Rebekah Turner, Hexenhaus, The Bone Queen, Alison Croggan, The Impossible Story of Olive in Love, Tonya Alexandra, Elegy, Jane Abbott, Frogkisser!, The Ocean of the Dead, Andrew McGahan, books and tea, tea and books

The first half of February continued January’s frantic pace as I concentrated on finishing all the remaining Aurealis nominations. The second half slowed down to a somewhat more manageable pace.

Since I’m over halfway towards my goal of reading 100 books for 2017, I’ve decided to revise the goal up to 150.

My other personal reading goals also included one trip to the library a month. February included two trips: one to pick up The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin and When A Scott Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare (both so I could read along with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperback podcast), the other to pick up Binti: Home by Nnedi Okrafor.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 327
Mt TBR @ 31 January 2017: 307
Mt TBR @ 28 February 2017: 309

Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Read My Valentine, Earl Grey Editing, romance reading challenge

During February I ran Read My Valentine. Ordinarily, it’s my excuse to read and review as many romance novels as I can manage, but I was still reading for the Aurealis Awards until almost midway through the month. So, this year I took a slightly different approach and concentrated on reviewing work that represented a spectrum of sexualities and gender identities:

Hold Me by Courtney Milan. Trans F/Bi M. Contemporary romance.
Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles. M/M. Historical romance.
Among Galactic Ruins by Anna Hackett. F/M. Sci-fi action romance.
With Roses in Their Hair by Kayla Bashe. F/F. Sci-fi YA romance.
Viral Airwaves by Claudie Arsenault. Asexual M/F, plus M/M & F/M side relationships. Post-apocalyptic SFF.

I’m pretty happy with the representation here. I hope to continue this balance in future years and perhaps even expand it a little. I know I have a lot to learn about the aromantic spectrum, for example, and have been pondering how I might include representation in my reviews for Read My Valentine… or whether I make a point of reviewing some immediately after the challenge.

Outside of these reviews and the Aurealis submissions, I read very little romance: just two books. I have a forthcoming review of The Impossible Story of Olive in Love by Tonya Alexandra, which is, in any case, more of a coming-of-age YA than a romance.

The other was Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha. This is the third in a series of sci-fi dystopian erotica that I’ve found impressively feminist and sex-positive. So far, it has included favourable representations of bisexuality, polyamory, exhibitionism and BDSM. The explicit content means it’s not going to be for everyone, but if you don’t mind that sort of thing, I highly recommend it. I’m glad there’s still another five books in the series and a new, related series beginning soon.

Considering the lack of participation Read My Valentine has had, I’m not convinced the current format is working. However, since I’ve been enjoying it, I’m considering turning it into a yearly blog feature instead of abandoning it entirely. I’m also happy to take suggestions.

How about you? Have you read any romance this month? What romance would you recommend?

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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