Category: Reading

A Love Letter to my Favorite Book Published in 2016, on the Occasion of its One-Year Birthday

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It’s January 12th – which means it’s exactly one year to the day from the day that Patrick’s Secrets of the Dragon Tomb was published!

I can’t even count how many times I’ve read this book – and I loved it more and more every time. When I read the first draft, well before it sold or even found an agent, I knew immediately that it would be published. It was so sparky and funny and exciting and heartfelt. It was just wonderful! And I loved every new version more. The final, published version absolutely blew me away…and I wasn’t the only one!

Publishers Weekly gave it one of their rare starred reviews, saying

Samphire’s swashbuckling tale is both a pitch-perfect pastiche of a Victorian serial and a well-rounded, three-dimensional story of a boy learning that the world is more complicated than he thought. Abundant humor, intricate worldbuilding details, and precisely timed slapstick and mayhem mesh as neatly as the gears and levers of the water abacus, producing a gorgeously articulated clockwork of a novel.

(And you can read the full review here.)

You can see a whole batch of other great reviews from other magazines and blogs here.

It’s a wonderful book, full of hilarious moments, exciting action adventure, wild pterodactyls, dangerous clockwork crabs, spies and mysteries and infuriating (in the best possible way) family members. I looooove practical, put-upon Edward and his family full of eccentric geniuses and social climbers.

I love this book!

And look – it has a brand-new cover lined up for its paperback edition:

Isn’t it cool?

The paperback edition won’t come out until July 18th, though, on the same date that Book Two – the wonderful The Emperor or Mars – will be published, carrying Edward and his sisters on even more fabulous adventures. (Sea serpents! Museum heists! And a very, very awesome girl thief!) So if you want to catch up in time to grab Emperor on its publication day, I vote for you to buy Secrets of the Dragon Tomb now, in celebration of its one-year birthday.

Happy birthday, Secrets! I love you! πŸ™‚

My Favorite Adult F/SF Novels in 2016

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I posted last week about my favorite MG books read in 2016, and I promised to do a followup post about my favorite adult reads. Of course, I always have less time than I expect over the kids’ school holidays…so this followup is a little late for holiday shopping. Sorry! However, if you (like me!) are a last-minute holiday shopper, or if you just want to look for more fun new books to read yourself, here’s a list of adult fantasy novels that I genuinely loved in 2016, along with snippets of the reviews that I wrote for them on Goodreads (and links to some of the longer reviews):

Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory
A fabulously fun steampunk adventure story with a great, sympathetic (and very diverse) cast of characters and a completely gripping narrative voice. Karen, the narrator, is just *awesome* – matter-of-fact, brave, loyal, funny, and far more impressive than she realizes – and I cheered for her arc of empowerment by the end. I also loved her sweet, fumbling romance, and Priya, her love interest, is truly wonderful too. (Read my full Goodreads review here for more details and discussion.)

Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road
A slow-paced but truly lovely fantasy novel, set in an alternate version of the 19th-century American west in which the Devil staked his own territory centuries earlier and the rest of the territorial borders have shifted around that. The heroine, Izzy, is a sixteen-year-old coming of age and coming into her own as the Devil’s Left Hand, traveling the roads of her boss’s territory with a mentor who has magical issues of his own. The alternate history setting is fascinating and well thought-out, the writing is absorbing, and the characters are wonderful. By the time I was halfway through reading this book, I’d already preordered Book 2, which is coming out next month – I can’t wait to read it!

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to San Francisco’s glamorous local superheroine, Aveda Jupiter…who was once her best friend Annie long ago, before a rift between dimensions scattered random superpowers across the city. Annie grabbed onto her new superpower whole-heartedly and flung herself into the spotlight, renaming herself Aveda Jupiter and fighting demons on livestream to the delight of her internet fans; Evie panicked and hid as deeply in Annie’s shadow as she could. But when she has to take Annie/Aveda’s place at an event with the help of a magical glamour, she’s finally forced to recognize her own true strength in more ways than one….with the help of a very nerdy, very hot scientist, lots of great friends, AND her rebellious little sister.

This book was so funny and fun and so full of real heart, it filled me with pure delight throughout. It’s full of fun urban fantasy adventure, hot (AND sweet and funny) romance, intense female friendships and complex, important family relationships. Basically, it has everything I love most in a book! And it’s all done so well. (Read my full Goodreads review for even more raving. I LOVED THIS BOOK.)

Ilona Andrews’s Magic Binds
This turned out to be one of my very favorite books in the whole Kate Daniel series so far (which is, by far, my favorite-ever urban fantasy series – I didn’t click with Book 1, but when I started again with Book 3, I got hooked HARD). I love the combination of humor with real emotion, tension and adventure, and these characters all feel like old friends by now. I loved the mixture of madcap wedding planning moments along with genuinely heartwrenching issues, freaky magic and fun fantasy action. I adored all the different kinds of relationships between women in this book, including one I would never, ever have guessed at any earlier in this series – it came as a delicious surprise in this book. And most of all, I cannot wait for the next book!

Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special
I just discovered Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series and have been DEVOURING it. I tore through both of these first two books within less than 3 days! Urban fantasy, ballroom dancing and talking mice – this series is just ridiculously fun. You can read my full reviews of Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special on Goodreads.

***

What about you guys? What were your favorite f/sf reads in 2016? I’d love to hear about them either here, on Facebook or on Twitter. (You will not be surprised to hear that I am ALWAYS looking for new recommendations! πŸ™‚ )

My Favorite MG Books in 2016

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It’s our last week of work before the kids’ school holidays begin…and of course, we’re also frantically gift-shopping at this time of year! In case you are, too, it seemed like a good moment to start posting my totally subjective, personal lists of favorite books I read this year. (Also, I just like looking back on them!) So here is my first list – all MG novels I utterly adored, in no particular order:

island-cover

Sally Nicholls, An Island of Our Own
When I asked for recommendations of books that were filled with real comfort and joy, Frances Hardinge & Terri Trimble both recommended this one, and they were absolutely right. In terms of voice, overall feel and sheer charm, this book felt like a contemporary MG version of I Capture the Castle. Totally enchanting, heartfelt, and full of warmth, with wonderful characters and such a fun story. I loved it!

(ETA: A reader on Facebook pointed out that this isn’t available in the US, so I wanted to let you guys know that you can get it from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.)

hoodoo

Ronald Smith, Hoodoo
Hoodoo has one of the most fabulous narrative voices of any MG novel I’ve read in a long while. It is SO delicious and compelling, and I love the way the (creepy) magic is worked so seamlessly into the everyday life of the characters! This whole book is gorgeously creepy and magical.

Note: I really mean it about the creepy bit – I had to put it down at one point because I couldn’t read it at night! (I am a horror wimp) – but the characters are all SO wonderful, the story is so much fun and the magic feels so real, I HAD to go back to it afterward, no matter how much I knew it would scare me. (I just made sure to read the rest of it earlier in the day! πŸ˜‰ )

time-for-jas

Natasha Farrant, Time for Jas
An absolutely beautiful conclusion to one of my favorite-ever MG series. When I finished reading, I literally cried even though it wasn’t a sad ending – I was just so full of emotion! I loved this book SO MUCH. It’s funny – sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious! – and zany and fabulous, with one of my favorite-ever big, quirky literary families (who wouldn’t want to hang out with the Gadsbys? they’re so much fun!), but it’s also a book that really profoundly looks at the questions of why we make art and how creativity works. It’s a deeply compassionate look at complex, sometimes incredibly painful and yet still loving family dynamics, and what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t fit in to the norm, and and and…

It’s just beautiful. Really, really beautiful. And it’s my favorite book in this whole fabulous series, which is saying a LOT. (You can find the whole series listed in order here.)

cloud-cover

Anne Nesbet, Cloud and Wallfish
This book is utterly BRILLIANT. It’s exhilaratingly smart and fun, a wild ride from the very beginning, when 11-year-old Noah is picked up from school in Virginia by his parents only to be told his name isn’t really Noah, he isn’t really 11 after all, and they’re heading to East Berlin (this is set in 1989, when the Wall was still up) IMMEDIATELY, using an all-new set of names and a made-up history he urgently has to memorize….oh, and that from now on, he can’t ask any questions, because SOMEONE will always be listening from the moment they arrive in East Berlin!

It’s a fascinating and enormously fun story full of secrets and codes and mysteries, the setting is incredibly rich…and oh, the emotional developments as Noah makes a true friend in one of his neighbors and is drawn into her own painful and mysterious story!

This was an utterly compulsive read from beginning to end, I enjoyed every moment of it, and again, the ending made me cry in a very, very good way.

bayou

Jewell Parker Rhodes, Bayou Magic
Beautiful magical realism full of rich family relationships, strong women and girls, and beautiful writing. It isn’t fast-paced, but it is luscious! I looooved dipping into it a bit at a time and I always came out of each reading session feeling better about the world.

strange-star

Emma Carroll, Strange Star
Magical, creepy, and so beautifully written and immersive. I devoured it within less than 24 hours! As someone who’s always been fascinated by Mary Shelley, I personally loved the masterful way Carroll built real history into her drama (and played with echoes of Frankenstein, too!), but this book would be just as much fun for someone who’d never heard of the Shelleys in their life. The voices of the characters are utterly compelling, the story is exciting and scary, and even when I was most filled with dread, I could not stop reading.

critchlore

Sheila Grau, Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions
This book is full of wacky, funny, gross-out fun AND an enormous amount of real heart, and I loved it. Runt Higgins is a non-morphing werewolf who was left as a baby at Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions for his own protection. Now – in hopes of finding his parents again – he’s trying out for the elite Junior Henchman training program, with the help of his wonderful group of friends, including Frankie, a Frankenstein-style created boy whose head pops off when he gets too upset, Syke the hamadryad who can swing from tree to tree, and the crowd of sweet, shuffling zombies for whom Runt’s become responsible. The characters are all fabulous and very funny.

It’s such a great mixture of fun and humor and genuinely creepy moments, and what carries it all through is Runt’s true sweetness, his unstoppable optimism and his deep love for his created family. I enjoyed every minute of this book SO MUCH.

eliza-rose

Lucy Worsley, Eliza Rose
I absolutely devoured this book, a delicious historical novel set in Tudor England, with a fabulously sharp and spiky narrator who is the cousin (and rival) of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife Katherine Howard. The truth is, I’m not sure exactly which genre to class it in, as it breaks some of the “rules” of children’s literature – it looks from the cover like an MG novel, and starts with Eliza at 12, but by the end of the book she’s 20 and has been dealing for years with the questions of how to operate in a licentious and brutal court. There aren’t any explicit sex scenes, but the issues discussed are certainly adult…as, of course, teenage girls were expected to be in that era.

It’s all incredibly addictive, smart and entertaining and perfectly handled. I loved that Worsley let her heroine be sharp and unlikeable at various points, with her pride getting in the way of her own good. I loved Eliza’s voice – and oh, I swooned over her romance! And the historical era is conveyed beautifully throughout. I was already a huge fan of Worsley’s historical nonfiction, and now I can’t wait to read her next novel too!

(ETA: Apparently this is going to be published under a different title in the US, as Maid of the King’s Court, and not for a while yet. But you can find the UK edition on The Book Depository now.)

**

Later this week or next week, I’ll post about my favorite adult f/sf books of the year. But in the meantime, if you’ve been curious about my own next MG book (dragons and chocolate!)…

Final-UK-Dragon-Cover

For the next 24 hours, you can bid to win a signed, early (final!) copy of The Dragon Heart as part of the #FundsForFox auction, raising money for wonderful YA writer and all-round wonderful human being, Fox Benwell. The book won’t be published until February in the UK and May in the US – but if you bid now, you might be reading it in the next couple of weeks! Good luck!

(And I was absolutely thrilled by this lovely review of the book by one of my favorite book bloggers yesterday. Hurrah!)

What were your favorite books this year (in any genre)? I’d love to know!

Aftermath

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I spent a lot of yesterday crying, in the aftermath of the US election. I am still sad and shocked and scared – scared for the rights and safety of Muslim-Americans, of Mexican-Americans, of African-Americans, of LGBT Americans, and more; scared for the health and safety of the Americans with chronic illnesses who won’t be eligible for health insurance anymore if/when Obamacare is repealed; scared for the future of the planet – my children’s future – with an incoming US government (just at this moment of global crisis, when we most need to DO SOMETHING) that doesn’t believe in climate change and has promised to remove the few controls that we already had…

And that’s not even the full list of my fears in the wake of this news.

This stuff is HARD – and whether or not you share my personal political perspective, I hope you can understand the fear that so many people are feeling right now.

But.

I was trying to figure out, yesterday, what I could do – what small, positive steps I could take to combat those fears and not feel helpless.

The first thing I did was make a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has promised to fight for the constitutional rights of ALL Americans.

Another organization doing important work right now (and accepting donations) is the National Immigrant Justice Center, whose mandate is to protect human rights and provide access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The Huffington Post made a good list of other positive actions people can take right now.

And I’m going to take one other small personal action. I’m going to go back to writing, after my day of crying yesterday.

penrics-mission

What got me through the last 36 hours was Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series. I read #2 and #3 over the course of that time and got to sink into a smart, absorbing fantasy world told from an extraordinarily kind and compassionate perspective. It let me escape my fears and remember that kindness is real and hope is important.

I may only be able to take small positive steps myself. But one of those small positive steps, for me, is trying to give other people comfort and reassurance with my own writing.

Here we go.

Getting Giddy on Books

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Hurrah! I sent off my MG spies-and-fairies book to my lovely UK editor yesterday morning, meaning that I have officially hit my final (so far!) deadline of the year. Whew!

This has been a seriously intense last year for very good reasons – in just over ten months, between April 2, 2016 and February 9, 2017, I have three books coming out (Masks and Shadows, Congress of Secrets and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart), and a significant (30,000-word) freelance project under a pen name! I am SO grateful that this has all come together so amazingly well, but: oof. I am so relieved to have hit my final and most important deadline – the one I’d been most worried about – because honestly, there were a few points this year when I didn’t know how I could do it.

WHEW!

murder

And the very best part is that suddenly, all I want to do is READ! For the past several months, my brain has been so intensely focused on my own books-in-progress that I didn’t have the energy & attention to read many new-to-me books by other people – all I could manage were comfort re-reads. But now I want to read EVERYTHING!

I devoured Mary Stewart’s re-released novella The Wind off the Small Isles earlier this week, which was lovely – and such a treat to get a new-to-me Mary Stewart story after all these years! – and finished Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike (a.k.a. Murder is Bad Manners in the US/CA) yesterday morning. (You can see my slightly spoiler-y review on Goodreads. The short version: I ordered Book 2 about 30 seconds after finishing Book 1! VERY addictive.)

twonaomis

Now I’m a third of the way through Ilona Andrews’s Magic Binds (the latest book in my very favorite urban fantasy series ever), really loving it, and also impatiently waiting for today’s expected book mail: Robin Stevens’s Arsenic for Tea (Book 2 in the Wells & Wong MG mystery series) and my preordered copy of Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, which I’ve been looking forward to for months.

jumbies

I also just bought Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies, which looks absolutely fabulous and has gotten great reviews.

So in other words, I am completely giddy on books right now! πŸ™‚

Most of my energy for the next few days has to go to cleaning our messy house (because we’ve been in Deadline Mode for far too long!) before an upcoming kid birthday party. Pretty soon, I’ll start writing my own novels and stories again. (Monday, I hope!)

But right now I’m just going to roll around in all the books I can for a while longer. Hurrah!

***

Oh, and since I am posting this on a Wednesday, and Wednesday is Book Quote Wednesday over on Twitter, I might as well share the quote I put up on Twitter today. This week’s theme for #bookqw was “mistake,” so here’s mine from Masks and Shadows:

masks-and-shadows-quote-4

Happiness, Good Quotes, and Reading Recs

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Whew! I finished Draft 1.1 of my MG spies-and-fairies book on Wednesday, and I heard from my lovely agent today that she likes it! Double-WHEW. πŸ™‚ I am feeling so happy and relieved right now.

Will there ever be a time in my career when I stop feeling so nervous every time I send off a new book?

I had a really good Twitter-conversation earlier this week with another writer whose work I love about ways of getting the work done. One of the things we talked about was how we both use inspirational quotes to get through the times when we’re struggling (whether that’s because of health, confidence, or any other issue). Coincidentally enough, we’ve both used book-money to commission jewellery with the mottos that personally inspire us. (So now I wonder: How many other people have done that, too? Have any of you guys? If so, I’d love to hear about it!)

Her beautiful motto is Post Tenebras, Lux (After darkness, light); mine, for a long time, has been Invincible Summer (from Camus’s quote “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”)

What about you guys? Whether or not you’ve ever put it on a piece of jewelry, do you have a motto that you come back to for inspiration?

hoodoo

In terms of a different kind of inspiration, I’ve been reading so many good books over the last few weeks! Ronald Smith’s Hoodoo has one of the best narrative voices of any MG novel I’ve read in a long time. It is gorgeously creepy and magical! In fact, it’s so creepy that at one point I had to set it down because I was getting shaky just reading it! (I am a horror wimp.) But the story was so compelling and the magic all felt so real, I HAD to come back to it even as a horror wimp – and I absolutely LOVED it. πŸ™‚

Natasha Farrant’s Time for Jas is the fourth book in her Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series, which is one of my very favorite MG series ever. The series is about a quirky, sometimes-dysfunctional, always-loving family in contemporary London, it’s all enormously funny and sometimes incredibly heart-wrenching, and this fourth book was just perfect. I cried at the end, in the very best way. You could probably start with this book and enjoy it just fine (and it was in fact my favorite book in the whole series), but why not start at the beginning with After Iris and get to enjoy the whole course of the family’s journey? (I re-read After Iris immediately after reading Time for Jas, and I loved it more than ever.)

bayou-magic

I’m halfway through Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Bayou Magic, and it’s a wonderful contemporary MG fantasy set in Louisiana, full of family, fireflies, mermaids, love and magic. It’s so beautifully written and so full of warmth that reading it feels like getting a big hug! I’m forcing myself to move slowly through it, so I get to enjoy it for as long as possible – and I feel happy every time I read a new chunk of it. πŸ™‚

I’ve also just started Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike (a.k.a. Murder is Bad Manners in the US/CA) – the first book in the Wells & Wong series of British schoolgirl mysteries set in the 1930s – which is SO MUCH fun, I’m kicking myself for not reading it two years ago when it first came out! Then again, that means I can devour the first four books in the series (along with two bonus stories!) all at once now. So: that’s an excellent consolation! πŸ™‚

And the wonderful Ying Lee just interviewed me over at The History Girls about my own book Masks and Shadows. The questions she asked were so thoughtful and in-depth – they were really fun to answer! You can read the interview here.

Happy Friday!

Edits, Geek Feminism, and Good News

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Whew! I’ve been doing intense line-edits for one book or another ever since I got to America (first the Americanization edits for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and then the copyedits for Congress of Secrets), and now it’s time to dive into my first big rewrites for my MG spies-and-fairies novel (tentatively titled The Storyteller’s Secret). Someone referred to this time as my vacation recently and I may have laughed a little hysterically…but luckily, I really love these books, so I’m happy to be immersed in all of their different worlds again!

(And speaking of different book-worlds: my new Kat story was sent out to my newsletter subscribers this morning at around 7 a.m. UK-time – but when I woke up this morning in the US, five hours later, I saw that a few people had signed up for the newsletter just after this particular issue was sent. If you are one of those people who signed up this morning, and you were hoping to get the issue with the story inside, please let me know which email address you signed up with, and I’ll forward you the newsletter ASAP.)

I’ve also been reading myself, of course, and the book that I’ve been loving most this past week has been Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution, which is smart and fun, powerful, thought-provoking, entertaining and inspiring. I’ve resonated with an awful lot of it – and even when I disagree with Hurley on specific points, I still love the reading experience. Highly recommended!

My seven-year-old was practicing with his camera one night and took a picture of me reading it. Don’t I look like I’m pondering Serious Philosophical Issues? πŸ˜‰

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(Sadly, the real truth is that he told me how to pose. But still! πŸ˜‰ )

This week I also had good news for Congress of Secrets, which was that I got some really gorgeous new blurbs for it from authors I love. And when I say ‘love’…well, you guys may remember that the person who inspired me to write historical fantasy in the first place was Judith Tarr. I discovered her books as a teenager and thought: YES. Not only did I love them (I can’t even count how many times I’ve re-read Lord of the Two Lands!) but they showed me the way and I knew that THAT was what I wanted to do, too!

So when I saw this blurb…

Congress of Secrets is a feast for the lover of historical fantasy: rich, complex, beautifully researched and engrossingly told. Burgis is a new star of the genre, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Judith Tarr, author of World Fantasy Award finalist Lord of the Two Lands

…Well. Yes. There were some tears involved. And you can see the rest of the lovely blurbs on the book’s page. They all made me really, really happy.

Now it’s time to dive into my spies-and-fairies book to try to turn it from a messy first draft into a slightly more polished Draft 1.5 to send to my agent. Luckily, I have chocolate on hand to help! πŸ™‚

Happy Tuesday!

Comfort Reads in Hard Times

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This morning when my agent phoned, she asked, “How are you? I mean, apart from the world being miserable, of course.” And of course that is how it’s felt lately. Orlando, Jo Cox, Brexit, Istanbul…

How do we cope in these times? Some days I end up crying and reading the news nonstop, unable to detach…and unable to work. After those times, I have to go offline completely to get my work done. Now I’m trying to take in the news in short, controlled chunks, doing whatever I can see to help…and then coming back to my work and my kids without letting myself be wrecked for them.

Last week I asked for recommendations of comfort films. But comfort books get us through hard times, too.

Here are some of the books that I’ve reread again and again through hard times, immersing myself in their worlds. This isn’t a list of my favorite books, it’s a list of my favorite comfort books, which isn’t exactly the same thing, although those two lists do overlap – my comfort books are among my favorites, but some of my favorite books aren’t on this list because they aren’t comfort reads:

In MG and YA:

  • Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes
  • Hilary McKay’s Casson Family books, starting with Saffy’s Angel
  • Virginia Euwer Wolff, The Mozart Season
  • Ursula Vernon, Castle Hangnail
  • Joan Bauer, Squashed
  • Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Spindle’s End
  • J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter books

  • In adult f/sf:

  • Lois McMaster Bujold’s 5 Gods series, starting with The Curse of Chalion (although they can be read as standalones, and my very favorite and most-often reread is Book 2, Paladin of Souls
  • Judith Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands
  • Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor
  • Gail Carriger, Soulless
  • Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds

  • In adult romance:

  • Nora Roberts’s In the Garden series (contemporary romance, female friendship and ghosts)
  • Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series (romance and chocolate in contemporary Paris)
  • Lucy Parker’s Act Like It (sweet, fun rom-com in London’s West End)
  • Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (hot, emotionally intense paranormal romance)
  • Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series (fun paranormal romance with strong fantasy worldbuilding)

  • What about you guys? What are your favorite comfort reads to escape into when you need to?

    Finding Personal Bright Spots

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    Yesterday was a very, very bad day for me, along with many other people in the UK, and you can read yesterday’s post on Facebook if you want to know more about how that felt.

    But.

    Today is all about outings with the boys, keeping the windows in the house open to soak in the sunshine and fresh air, and self-care at home – in other words, finding ways to feel positive and hopeful about small, concrete things so that big, national and international fears can’t overwhelm me.

    So.

    Here’s my list of 5 small personal bright spots right now:

    penric

    1. Lois McMaster Bujold has a new novella out, Penric and the Shaman! Hooray! She is one of my favorite authors, I *adore* her fantasy stories in particular, and I loved the first novella in this series. Needless to say, I clicked “Buy” immediately, and I’ve already started reading it. SO much fun and an instant comfort-read.

    houseofsecrets final

    2. Today I got my fourth blurb for my upcoming Gothic novelette, House of Secrets! You can read all the blurbs so far on the story’s webpage. They’ve been really lovely for me to see.

    3. After taking the boys out this afternoon, I made myself a hot chocolate with cinnamon and nutmeg, and it was delicious.

    rat-mug

    4. I am deeply, irrationally tempted by this adorable rat mug. (I know everyone cringes at the idea of rats, and I would cringe, too, if I came into contact with wild rats – but I had a domestic pet rat when I was first in university, and he was sweet and funny and affectionate and clever and a perfect pet for someone in a one-room living space. Now that I don’t live in a dorm room anymore, I’ve gone back to keeping dogs or cats as my preferred pets, but this mug still made me smile – and I may well give into it even though we have about 1 billion other mugs cluttering up our shelves already! I have a weakness for mugs…)

    castles

    5. Last night Patrick and I finally tried out a board game he’d given me for Christmas, The Castles of Burgundy. It’s extremely complex, especially for tired people who only get a chance to play boardgames at night (one bit of the many, MANY pages of rules promised: “Don’t worry, this remains challenging even after many plays” – and we both groaned “Noooo!” at that ‘reassuring’ news!)…and yet it is also somehow very, very deeply addictive. Playing it last night, I laughed and groaned and puzzled over what on earth we were supposed to be doing…and felt better than I had all day.

    What about you guys? What are your own personal bright spots this weekend, in the midst of all the scary news? I would really like to hear them. Honestly, I really need bright spots to cling onto right now.

    Websites, spies, superheros and spaceships

    - 4 comments - Reading

    So, first of all: hey! I have a new website! Isn’t it pretty? πŸ™‚

    You guys might remember (or not!) that last year my old website was hacked beyond repair. Augh! We had to take it all down, and I threw together an interim, very basic WordPress site until Patrick (wearing his website designer hat) could build me a new one. Which he did! But then…

    Well, it turns out that you can’t actually put up a new website until someone’s written the text for it. Which would be me, the author. But I’ve been really busy! So poor Patrick has had to be Very Patient while I took months to getting around to FINALLY putting together the text…

    And here it all finally is! Hurrah. And whew! πŸ™‚ I’m so happy to have a full, functioning website again, complete with chapter excerpts for all of my books. Do please let me know, if you surf around it, whether you find any broken links or typos. I put up all the content last week during the kids’ half-term break, so there was a LOT of familial distraction going on, to say the least, and typos would not be unexpected. πŸ˜‰

    I got to return to my novel this week, though, and I’m so happy to be back. (I used to be a web editor in my last day job, and it’s interesting work, but it’s definitely not as fun as writing fiction!) This is my MG spies-and-fairies novel (veeery tentatively titled The Storyteller’s Secret), and I hit 40,000 words on it yesterday. Hurrah!

    My heroine and her friends (and nemeses) have hit a major turning point and are now charging toward the ending (about 20,000 words away) with full momentum. It’s always my favorite part of the book to write! (Although I have to learned to foresee that sometime around 45,000 words I will hit that point where I think: Wait. How WILL they get out of this one? Aaaah, it isn’t possible! At which point, I have to eat a lot of chocolate to calm myself down before I can figure out the answer. πŸ˜‰ )

    kid-dark

    I’ve also been doing lots of reading. I just read Tansy Rayner Roberts’s short story “Kid Dark Against the Machine” and LOVED it! You can read my full Goodreads review here, but in short: it’s a superhero story that’s witty, clever, funny and full of so much heart that I teared up at the (pitch-perfect) ending. It’ll be available to read for free on the Book Smugglers website on June 14th, but you can buy the ebook already, and it’s totally worth it. (Also, the ebook includes fun extra material, which is a bonus.)

    And on a very different note, I also loved C.A. Higgins’s Lightless, a science fiction thriller that’s intensely character-based and suspenseful and full of fascinating women on various sides of big, morally ambiguous issues.

    What about you guys? What have you been reading lately?