Tag Archives: readinglist

BristolCon 2018

Despite feeling snuffly and tired, I got myself to BristolCon 2018! (Well, with the help of Sammy and Joel, who assisted in dragging me out of bed and into a car at a far-too-early hour of the morning…)

Kate and Lia snugglingIt was a much more chilled BristolCon than I’ve had previously; as I was expecting to be on the Grimbold stall for the day, I hadn’t booked myself in for any panels, and only had a few people that I was wanting to see. It was a definite bonus to arrive and find a wonderful gang of people that I did want to talk to – including the ever-deadpan Dave Hutchinson, Pete Sutton, Chloe Headdon, Stephanie Burgis, all of the Grimbold team (including our newest arrival, 5-week old Lia!), Anna Smith-Spark, Anne-Mhairi Simpson and Nick Hembery! It was great to meet faces that I either knew and hadn’t met in person, or were completely new – and to manage to snatch words with old faces too (hi Bav!) and catch up with some people I’d briefly seen at FantasyCon.

Grimbold stall at BristolCon
Photo from Sophie E Tallis

I got to one panel on books that the panellists held dear to their hearts, despite problems; the GOH interview of Joanne Hall by Roz Clarke; and Pete Sutton’s launch of Seven Deadly Swords, which I edited – and is excellent, by the way. Historical thriller. Go read it. Beyond that, I was mostly chatting or chilling or sitting at the stall.

I did get more of a book haul, though! Two freebies from the goodie bags; Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The War of the Worlds from Wordsworth Classics. A copy of The Magicians from the freebie table, along with Stranger of Tempest by Tom Lloyd, The Affinity Bridge by George Mann, Autodrome by Kim Lakin-Smith, and a random copy of Your Favourite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore.

Book haul from bristolcon 18

So, congrats and general awesomeness to all the volunteers and organisers – everything seemed to be running smoothly and it was an excellent con! And lovely to see everyone who was there – including all the people I spoke to or met that I haven’t managed to mention!

I’m now absolutely exhausted after two cons in a row plus a busy week at work, so please forgive me if I’m not entirely with it for the next week…or I may just have my nose buried in a book…

Review: The Haunting of Tyler May

The Haunting of Tyler May by BJ Mears

As Tyler May empties her classmate’s bag she discovers a secret that turns her life upside down and challenges her perception of the known world. She begins a journey that takes her from the hunted to the hunter; from a disbeliever to the keeper of the truth. Will she and her friends have the courage to stand together and face the sinister forces that threaten humanity? As each day passes, Tyler must decide how far she is willing to go. After all, she is just one teenage (girl.

This is the first in a series of a YA, horror-mixed-with-adventure type thing…and I liked it! I’m not entirely sure I’m the right audience, and the second book is on my TBR (but not at the top), but – it was a fun read!

The basic plot is that Tyler accidentally gets her classmate’s bag, finds a mysterious book and a bunch of notes, finds an odd gadget…and finds a world of trouble! Tyler’s a fun heroine; she manages to get herself into trouble without entirely meaning to but still definitely knowing she’s heading in that direction, and the mix of frustration, stubbornness and morality makes her a fun protagonist to follow. I liked the hints of Tyler’s frustrations mixed into her adventures; she needs to make lists, needs to be ordered – and still wants to go hunt the bad guys!

I admit to not being entirely sure about her enemies…I tend to get cynical about Nazis as baddies, but I was fairly happy to mentally give it a pass. It’s meant to be a fun adventure romp, and I think baddies get a pass to be Bad in that scenario. Certainly they make effective – and fun – adversaries, and the helpers (and hinderers) that Tyler meets along the way add to the cast.

On which note, I love the gadget that Tyler uses – there’s a whole bunch of different functions, a rabble of ghosts, and I love the inventiveness of Tyler’s use of it! The Tower was definitely my favourite.

So; a fun, horror-tinged story that features a stubborn, strong-willed and adventurous heroine, a plot-full of baddies, and some great characters. Worth a read if you’re a teenager, or it sounds like fun – and there’s the rest of the series if you like it!

Review: Shorts and Snippets

 

Aether by PandaFried

Aether coverOn a dull little planet called Earth, seventeen Winston Privet dreams of another life of magic and adventure, in comparison to which his own mundane existence feels pointless, wrong and incomplete. That reality, though, is about to change.

First, an in-progress one, so it fits with ‘snippets’ – a mix of a fairy story and Harry Potter with some added bite! I’m really enjoying this one and looking forward to seeing where it goes…

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Prime Meridian coverAmelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life.

It awaits her.

This is a mix of a personal story and snippets of film description; it mixes Amelia’s day-to-day life with the heroine’s exploits. But Amelia’s day-to-day life seems trapped in an endless cycle – where once she wanted to go to Mars as a colonist, she had to give up her studies to care for her mother, and now floats from cafe to cafe earning tiny amounts as a befriender or blood donor. Even an ex coming back into her life isn’t much of a release – but I loved how all the threads came together.

It’s a simple story, a gentle story, but it’s got teeth underneath: it’s a story about hopelessness and the endless cycle of frustration, but there’s some lovely moments of hope – and the film wound through gives it a silver-screen glow.

Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

Spirits abroad cover

“If you live near the jungle, you will realize that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

This is a mix of 15 shorts, ranging across fantasy to horror. My absolute favourite was The House Of Aunts, a romance about a teenager meeting their crush while also being a vampire and dealing with an entire houseful of aunties! I also adored Liyana;  it’s a sweet and gentle story with a bucketful of tears underneath. The characters were complex and brilliant in The Mystery of the Suet Swain, and Prudence & the Dragon is also great fun and definitely about the two figures at the centre of the story – even if it doesn’t exactly turn out how one of them had planned!

Throughout the collection, I loved the extra winding details, the way the author tells the stories; One-Day TravelCard to Fairyland is a good example, and Lion Bows is also very atmospheric; I loved the characters and the concept of a lion eating ghosts – until they find one that maybe they don’t want to eat! Balik Kampung is also a heart-tugging and gentle story about a shade returning to the world for the Festival and trying to get back to her husband, but remembering what happened to her along the way.

While all of the stories are easy to read and interesting, some needed extra details – but then that’s part of the joy of coming from a Western background to a different tradition – as the author notes, everyone knows the story of Hang Tuah and Chang E! It’s a nicely varied collection, too; every story has a heart-tug, but every one handles it in a different way.

Overall, a lovely collection; varied and interesting and haunting.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Lady Astronaut coverThirty years ago, Elma York led the expedition that paved the way to life on Mars. For years she’s been longing to go back up there, to once more explore the stars. But there are few opportunities for an aging astronaut, even the famous Lady Astronaut of Mars. When her chance finally comes, it may be too late. Elma must decide whether to stay with her sickening husband in what will surely be the final years of his life, or to have her final adventure and plunge deeper into the well of space.

A short novelette based after the end of The Calculating Stars – sweet, sad, and hopeful! You don’t need to have read The Calculating Stars (I’ll do a review soon!), but it’s definitely more poignant if you have. Worth a read.

Book Cover Challenge: #7

I was challenged by a friend over on Facebook with something that’s been going round: publish seven covers of books that I love; no explanation or reviews, just a picture of the cover – and I’m bringing it onto here!

I’m meant to challenge someone else each day, so – you’re reading this. I’m challenging YOU. (You can do book covers or film posters, whichever works for you.)

Day #7: There’s Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson

Book Cover Challenge: #6

I was challenged by a friend over on Facebook with something that’s been going round: publish seven covers of books that I love; no explanation or reviews, just a picture of the cover – and I’m bringing it onto here!

I’m meant to challenge someone else each day, so – you’re reading this. I’m challenging YOU. (You can do book covers or film posters, whichever works for you.)

Day #6: Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course