Saturday, November 29, 2014

SciFi Month Favorites Roundup

Well we're just about done with SciFi November. Here is a round up of some of my favorite posts from others!

Do you have doubts that you'll like scifi? Start here!

A book review that sounds fascinating! Check it out!

Lovely Literatures favorite Futurama episodes. I agree on almost all of them!

Why are war and science fiction so often connected? So true!

Sci-Fi November - Hosted by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

(Cook)Book Review: "Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes" by Jennifer McLagan

I'm not a foodie but for some reason this book called to me. I think because no one is ever like "Oh I love bitter things" but the taste of dark chocolate, coffee and IPA beer are really popular. I honestly thought this book was going to be more like a food history with recipes, but it was more like a recipe book with some food history, but it still worked out okay.

(I was laughing right at the beginning with the dedication. It says "For H., Thanks for trying to make me love rutabaga". )

The first thing I have to say is that this book is gorgeous. I have a hardcover and it was beautiful and weighty in my hands. The pictures are phenomenal. It took foods that I would look at in the produce section of a grocery store with suspicion and made them into works of art. I mean, look at the cover!  If you have a foodie on your Christmas list who loves high quality pictures this would be a perfect edition to their coffee table, even if they never made a recipe.

The recipes were a little (okay a lot) out of my skill set. Almost all of them call for lard or duck fat, which I'm sure makes them delicious! The one recipe I thought I might be able to swing would be the beer jello jigglers. (That's not what she calls them but that's basically what they are). At first I was like "eew, gross" but really aren't we halfway there with jello shots already? And these probably won't give you gut rot like those do. She doesn't have a recipe for it in the book but she does mention champagne jello and THAT I can get behind with no qualms. Great for New Year's Eve!

Here's some quick fun facts:

-Did you know that our natural reaction to very bitter foods (namely, BLEH) might be a natural defense against accidentally poisoning ourselves since so many poisons are bitter?

-Most people think of Belgian food as waffles, frites and chocolate but they also love nutmeg! (Mmmm)

-Gentian is possibly the most bitter plant in the world. Boom.

In short, even if you're cooking impaired and not a super adventurous eater (like me) you will still get something out of this book. Even if you just want to look at some beautiful pictures! I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars!

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, November 24, 2014

SciFi Month: Author Interview - Siobhan Davis of "True Calling"

Sci-Fi November - Hosted by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books!

Hello everyone! Guess what, we have another author interview today! It's Siobhan Davis.

Find her on goodreads!
Find her here on twitter!
Find her official website!

This was your first book! Was there something that really surprised you about the writing process?

Yes! That writing the actual book was the easy part! I wrote the first draft of True Calling in six weeks and the story just flowed from the minute I started putting words to paper. However, I could never have anticipated how challenging and frustrating the editing process was, nor how long it would take to complete. At one stage I was quite prepared to throw my laptop out the window and forget all about publishing my book. But I persevered, and eventually plucked up the courage to publish it, and here we are

What did you do when you got stuck, or need some inspiration?

The story had been rebounding in my brain for so long that I didn’t struggle with the plot, once I actually got down to writing it. In fact, it was almost a relief to pluck the words out of my head! I mapped out the story, chapter by chapter, and was largely true to my plan, except where the story organically developed as I delved into it. The challenging part for me was consistency and development of my characterization, effective world building, and ensuring that the writing flowed smoothly. Other books were my source at inspiration at times where I felt the writing didn’t feel right, or could be improved. I’m also part of an amazing writing group, IWI, established by award-winning author Carmel Harrington, and some of the girls in the group have been tremendously supportive and helpful at periods when the going has been tough.

The story is set on another planet (earth isn't really a nice place to live anymore). What was the most fun aspect about writing a story set in outer space? What was the most challenging?

It was fun being able to let my imagination run wild and to create a world of the future. A future where advanced technology and medicine is central to the continuation of mankind, but also to explore how the fabric of society adapts and changes, as a consequence. The setting is in the not-too-distant future, and it was important to me that Novo still felt relatable and believable. Because I wanted readers to resonate with the story and the world, and to imagine themselves living there and dealing with the things that Ariana has to face. Some of the book reviewers have commented on this aspect of the world-building, so I hope I’ve successfully achieved that.
The challenging part –in trying to create a future world that is also relatable– is in ensuring that the advancements are appropriate for the timeframe, so maintaining a balance was key.
Because True Calling takes place between two worlds, Earth and Planet Novo, the experiences of the characters in each place are vastly different. I had to contrast and compare the utopian type environment on Novo with the dystopian existence on Earth. That was challenging but interesting to imagine, and write.

Do you have a favorite way to interact with fans and readers?

I don’t mind how fans and readers reach out to me and all the feedback I’ve received so far has been great. I’ve had some wonderful emails and I always get such a buzz when someone loves True Calling, and takes the time to comment or write about it.

You say on your website that you are "teen forever". How do you feel about the recent arguments lately against adults reading YA? (Like this rage inducing article from slate.)

Okay, so, I am going to go on a bit of a rant here – apologies upfront! 80% of my time I am a responsible wife, mother, employee and quite strait-laced! I relish the other 20% where I give in to my inner-teenager and indulge my passion for teenage books, music and movies. For me, it is pure escapism and a way to chill-out. I think life is about diversity, in our choices and our interests, and we should never be afraid to show who we truly are.

Harry Potter and The Twilight saga were the stories that hooked me on the YA genre, though at first I remember feeling embarrassed that I was reading them, until I realized that I was not alone. I read the same survey quoted in the Slate article, where the analysis identified that 55% of people who purchase YA books are adults, and I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.

Now, I don’t just read YA books, I am also an avid reader of crime fiction. Tess Gerritsen is one of my all-time favorite writers, alongside Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs and Michael Connelly, to name a few. I also read other adult genre’s; I’ve read a lot of the classics, plenty of corporate non-fiction books and I do not discriminate in my choices.  If I like the sound of a book, or I have received a recommendation, then, I’ll read it.

However, there are certain times when all I want to read is YA. Because I love-love-love the action/adventure, kick-ass heroines, swoon-worthy romance, and the pure fantasy of the worlds created by some of my favorite YA authors. I don’t tend to read as much contemporary YA stuff, though I adore John Green’s TFIOS, and I disagree completely with Ruth Graham’s observations of this book in the Slate article. I found the dialogue between Hazel and Gus to be very compelling, emotive and refreshing, and yes, it was a little cheesy at times, but I still loved it. Moreover, how is that ending a typical satisfactory ending? Or Allegiant’s ending, when that had the Divergent fan base split right down the middle?

So if it’s seemingly wrong, as an adult, to read books ‘written for teenagers’ then does that logic apply to movies as well? Some of the greatest, and most successful, movies of all times have been children’s and teen movies. Back to the Future, Rebel without a Cause, ET, Harry Potter, etc., etc. Does going to see the latest Avengers Assemble movie with my children (one is a teenager) set a bad example? In the same way it’s suggested that my reading of Laini Taylor’s ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ Trilogy or Jennifer L. Armentrout’s ‘Covenent Series’ would imply? To suggest, as Ruth Graham does in her article, that reading YA fiction sends out the wrong message to our teenage children, is ridiculous in my view. Surely the point is this: If children see their parents reading, they are more inclined to read themselves, irrespective of what genre the content is. Anything that encourages the youth of today to read more is a positive in my book (pardon the pun). Sharing some of the same reading material opens up opportunities for parents to engage in meaningful discussions with their children about these books, and to explore the issues/themes.

Rant almost over.

Some commentators have said that the writing quality in YA literature is questionable in the extreme. I disagree. While I do not pick up a YA book expecting it to be a literary work of art, I am often pleasantly surprised at the exceptional talent of so many who write in this genre. Many of these books surpass the quality of a lot of so called ‘adult literature’ that is out there in the market.

In my opinion, readers should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding books they choose to read, without risk of vilification. Because the pleasure of reading is what it is all about, and that is purely subjective. If we start expecting people to restrict their reading material, based on a narrow societal categorization of what’s deemed appropriate, then ultimately fewer people will read, and that is not okay with me.

(Wesley note:Phew! :) Preach it sister!) 

What's next for you?

My priority is completion of the True Calling series and then I’ll focus on my other WIP’s. I have another YA sci-fi in the works, and I’d love to write historical fiction at some point in the near future.

Thanks Siobhan!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: "Sinful Folk" by Ned Hayes (HFVBT)

Displaying 04_Sinful Folk_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.jpg

I said yes to being on this tour for basically one reason, reading this books blurb reminded me of one of my all time favorites "In the Company of Liars" by Karen Maitland. I was pleased when I flipped open the cover of "Sinful Folk" and found a little praise blurb from Karen herself! That's how I knew I was in good hands with this book. 

I always appreciate a book set in the middle ages that is honest. Not everyone was a member of some great wealthy family with trunks of clothes and servants and ate fine food in big dining halls. Far, far, far more people were living in terrible conditions, barely scraping by, and were filthy. This book pulls no punches by showing that these people live tough, dangerous lives. Especially if you are a woman.

This book starts with a bang, a mysterious fire has started in a home in the village and 5 of the village's boys are killed. Our narrator, Mear, has a son named Christian among the dead. Mear is inconsolable, and joins the other fathers of the murdered sons on a journey to London to seek justice from the king. This will be a very dangerous and long journey because they are traveling out of their village without the regional ruler's permission and the roads are full of bandits and assorted bad guys on the prowl for the unprepared and unprotected. (They also load up all of the bodies on a cart and pull them along. Which is kind of gross, and weird. But okay.It's not like they could take forensic pictures for proof or anything. And it's winter so everything was frozen.But still.)

If you asked one of Mear's traveling companions for a description of Mear they'd say something like "Uh, quiet? Keeps kinda to himself?" The truth actually is that Mear is a woman named Miriam, and is only pretending to be mute. She (and baby Christian) came to their village at a time where their lives were very much at risk Mear took on that disguise for their safety. (I couldn't pretend to be mute unless my life REALLY depended on it. I know one day I'd drop something heavy on my foot and be like "SON OF A" and the jig would be up!) So anyway Mear has more self control then myself and she has been living this way for a long time. As she travels with her companions she has a lot of things in her mind. Most importantly: who killed these boys? But also: now what do I do? Is someone going to find out my secrets? (Because Mear has a lot of those) Can I ever come out of hiding?

The group encounters all kinds of trouble and baddies on their way and Mear's past is brought front and center! I liked this book because of what I mentioned before, the middle ages is not pleasant and they make no bones about showing it. The story kept pretty interesting considering most of the time it was a bunch of men (and one woman) with a cartfull of 5 dead teenagers on the road to London. It's liked a middle ages road trip buddy comedy! (Just kidding). 3 stars from me!

About the Author

Ned Hayes is the author of the Amazon best-selling historical novel SINFUL FOLK. He is also the author of Coeur d’Alene Waters, a noir mystery set in the Pacific Northwest. He is now at work on a new novel, Garden of Earthly Delights, also set in the Middle Ages.
Ned Hayes is a candidate for an MFA from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop, and holds graduate degrees in English and Theology from Western Washington University and Seattle University.
Born in China, he grew up bi-lingually, speaking both Mandarin and English. He now lives in Olympia, Washington with his wife and two children.

Praise for Sinful Folk

In December of 1377, five children are burned in a suspicious house fire. Awash in paranoia and prejudice, the fathers suspect it is the work of Jews and set out to seek justice from the king, loading the charred bodies of their boys onto a cart. Unbeknownst to them, among them is a woman, Mear, who has been hiding out in the town for the past 10 years posing as a mute man. It is a treacherous journey, for their rations are spare and the weather is brutal. And always, they are haunted by the question, Why were their boys in Benedict the weaver’s house, and who would do this to them? Mear, ever resourceful, not only watches for clues to unravel the mystery but also provides invaluable aid in finding their way, for she has traveled this way before and is the only literate one among them. The reason for her false identity is slowly revealed as the villagers are chased by bandits and must overcome numerous obstacles, hunger and fear among them. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Hayes’ novel is woven through with a deep knowledge of medieval history, all conveyed in mesmerizing prose. At the center of the novel is Mear, a brave and heartbreaking character whose story of triumph over adversity is a joy to read. –Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist *Starred Review*

“A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, evocative, compelling and peopled with unforgettable characters artfully delivered by a master storyteller.” – Brenda Rickman Vantrease, bestselling author of The Illuminator and The Mercy Seller

“Brilliant, insightful, unflinching and wise. This spellbinding mystery will keep readers turning pages until the last sentence. Remarkable.” – Ella March Chase, bestselling author of The Virgin Queen’s Daughter and Three Maids for a Crown

“Suspenseful, page-turning mystery of a mother pursuing the truth… Every reader will come to love the brave and intrepid Mear, a most memorable character in a most memorable story.” – Jim Heynen, award-winning author of The Fall of Alice K.

“Sinful Folk is a work of art. Miriam’s story is a raw and brutal and passionate tale, but her story touches the reader because it’s a timeless story – a wonderful portrayal of medieval life. Highly recommended.” – Kathryn Le Veque, bestselling author of The Dark Lord and The Warrior Poet

“A suspenseful and mesmerizing tale full of rich and vital characters. Ned Hayes crafts a narrative that shows a devotion to craft in each word.” – Renée Miller, editor of On Fiction and author of In the Bones


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: " Prayers for the Stolen" by Jennifer Clement

Hope that you all had a lovely weekend! I took off Monday for my birthday and I had all kinds of plans to be constructive and running around but the weather was so cold it was hard for me to leave the warm comforts of my apartment. (But I did, for like an hour). On Saturday I got to do a big dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine, Weber Grill, and it was so good we didn't even mind that we had to drive back in the first snow of the year. (That's a bit of a lie, I minded but it's because driving in snow the first time of the year it's dangerous because everyone forgets how). My parents and sister got me a lovely Longchamp bag to replace the pink backpack that I've been using as a carry on in all my travel adventures. Though it was spacious and endured a lot it just wasn't very adult like. My belated birthday present to you is talking about this awesome book so....

You.Guys. You guys. This book. I picked it kind of impulsively from Blogging for Books and I am so glad, it's definitely the best one I've had so far. If you're looking a book that checks the boxes on diversity and a female author AND is awesome than this book is right for you!

Ladydi (Yeah, like Lady Di. I won't tell you how long it took me to put that together but safe to say it was towards the end of the book) and her mother live on a mountain in Mexico about an hour outside of Acapulco. It's a dangerous place to live, there's a lot of violence from the drug cartels, especially kidnapping of the young girls and women who live in the small unprotected villages. The mother's of the village try to "ugly up" their daughters to make them unappealing to the men who would steal them away for, basically, sex slavery. (They also hide them in holes, which is only sometimes successful).

Ladydi's mom has a drinking and stealing problem but I think she's my favorite character in the book. She watches documentaries about ancient Greece and Rome on the satellite so there's all these random references to Delphi and oracles.She had all the best lines like:

"Don't ever pray for love and health, Mother said. Or money. If God hears what you really want, He will not give it to you. Guaranteed." When my father left my mother said, "get down on your knees and pray for spoons."

(There's also a prayer for ladders at one point.)

Ladydi's life really changes when she gets a job as a nanny for a really rich family that spends the weekends in their Acapulco mansion. She gets tangled up in all kinds of ugliness that is beyond her control and she gets swept up in all kinds of bad things. Though she is faced with the kind of brutality that humans are capable, she is also shown great kindness from surprising sources.

Though there is murder, poverty, loneliness, kidnappings and sudden absences the book is actually pretty humorous, and sometimes downright funny.  There's the this feeling of hopefulness throughout the book which caught me by surprise. I loved this book, I will be recommending it to everyone online and off! 4 out of 5 stars from me!

Also, the font on this cover? Love.


I recieved this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review: "Past Encounters" by Davina Blake (HFVBT)

This is the second book that I've read in the last few months in which the book switches focus between a soldier in an awful predicament and the people waiting for him at home. Hmmm. Wesley reading trend I guess!

Our story is told from 3 viewpoints: Rhoda, Peter and Helen. But then Rhoda and Peter also use flashbacks in telling their stories. It sounds kind of complicated and confusing but it really isn't I just have explained it badly :)

In present time Rhoda and Peter are about to hit their 10 year wedding anniversary. Their marriage really didn't turn out the way that they had expected or hoped.  They are not close in a emotional or physical sense, and are kind of just strangers who occupy the same space. One day Rhoda opens a letter addressed to Peter. It's from a woman. A woman that Rhoda doesn't know, who talks about meeting Peter at their "regular time." Rhoda is shocked, she doesn't know who this Helen person is but she assumes that they are having an affair. (Not an unfair assumption, to be fair). When Rhoda finally gets up the courage to confront Helen she finds out that it's not an affair, it's something far more surprising and complicated...

In flashback, we find out what Rhoda and Peter's life was before and during the war. They start dating not too long before Peter departs and get engaged a little hastily. Most of the tension in their relationship comes from Peter's parents just being terrible. They look down on Rhoda and generally are overbearing and oblivious. (I did not like them.) They get engaged at the train station just as Peter leaves for training.

Things don't go quiiiiiite as Peter had expected for Peter in the war. He gets captured by Germans nearly immediately. He endures horrifying conditions for (I won't tell you how long, because it's a little spoilery) a long time. Thoughts of Rhoda help him endure but he has sporadic and then no contact from her.

Back home in England, Rhoda dutifully carries on. She works at a newspaper/bookstand at their small town's train station. She also volunteers for the war effort by helping serve to to the soldiers who are on their way to London to make their way to the fronts. She hears from Peter occasionally and then it all stops and doesn't hear from him for a (spoilery) long time. Then one day there's gossip around town that a movie is going to be filmed in their humble hamlet. For once the gossip turns out to be true and that's when Rhoda meets someone who changes her life...

I liked a lot of things about this book. I think the situation that Rhoda finds herself in was (unfortunatley) not unique and it was interesting to hear that story. Life went on, in a lot of ways for the people left at home. I liked the train station setting. An apt metaphor for the constant coming and going for people going off to unknown beyond. What I liked less: Peter's parents. Such jerks! Argh! Sometimes I felt like there was a couple too many secondary characters that we never really got to know about and then they kind of just dissapear or we just don't know very much about them. Overall, a compelling story about love and heartache and forgiveness and war, 3 out of 5 stars!

02_Past Encounters

About the AuthorDeborah Swift

Davina Blake used to be a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, during which time she developed a love of research which fueled her passion for the past. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and also writes successful seventeenth century historicals under the pen name Deborah Swift. ‘Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly recommended.’ The Historical Novels Review From Davina: ‘I was inspired to write ‘Past Encounters’ because I live close to the railway station where the iconic ‘Brief Encounter’ was filmed in 1945. I have often used the refreshment room that featured in the film when waiting for a train. I love a good cup of tea, preferably accompanied by a chocolate brownie!’


England 1955.
The day Rhoda Middleton opens a letter from another woman, she becomes convinced her husband, Peter, is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks the mysterious woman down, she discovers she is not Peter’s lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster. There is only one problem – Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster.
Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out why Peter has kept this friendship a secret for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime experiences she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For Rhoda too cannot escape the ghosts of the past.
Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, PAST ENCOUNTERS explores themes of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.
Includes bonus material for reading groups.

Praise for Past Encounters

“Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly Recommended!” – The Historical Novels Review

Praise for Deborah Swift

“stellar historical fiction” -Orange Prize Nominee Ann Weisgarber
“compelling'” -Westmorland Gazette
“The past comes alive through impeccable research…and the sheer power of descriptive prose” -Lancashire Evening Post

Friday, November 14, 2014

SciFi Book Month - Book Review: "The Accidental Time Machine" by Joe Haldeman

Sci-Fi November - Hosted by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books!

I read this as a part of my library's adult summer reading program, it's probably not a book I would have picked out on my own to read but I totally enjoyed it!

Our narrator and main character is Matt. Matt is one of those people who is brilliant but isn't quite living up to his potential. He's a grad school dropout from MIT but has stuck around as a lowly lab assistant. However, through a series of events I won't get into, he realizes he's got a time machine. Matt does all kinds of math and science stuff and realizes that this time machine has a pattern to where it will move, and how far into the future it will go.It starts with tiny shifts and small gaps in time but they both grow expositionally bigger the more you use it.

The first time he uses the machine he is zapped 30 days into the future and finds himself in the middle of a Boston street during rush hour (he's wearing a wetsuit and has a turtle named Hermann in a Chinese takeout box with him, just to make it that more crazy. Also the car has no tires. So.Yeah.) This obviously takes some explaining to the HIGHLY skeptical Boston PD. He manages to activate the time machine and get himself thrown even farther into the future.

He encounters many types of people and places in his travels as he bounces his way west across the United States and beyond and through time. He lands in a world where he is lauded as a hero, one where no one really thinks he's that special, one where he barely escapes trouble because he's not circumcised and more.

There's also a world that takes places thousands of years in the future where all of Los Angeles is grown back into wilderness and is inhabited by talking bears who are kind of a-holes. Loved it.

1 qualm: It seemed like (with the exception of Martha) that if you were a character in this book and you were religious you were bad and or stupid and or backwards. I'm not saying that there aren't religious people who are those things, because there certainly are, but it was kind of like okay okay I get it.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I liked the talking bears, even though they were in the book for less than 5 pages. I like the different ideas presented about what the world will look like in 50, 500, 1,000 years from now. Most of them aren't super appealing, but some had good parts. There is some science and math involved in this book but it's easily skimmed :)

The cover is cheesy, but you know, judging book by it's cover and blah blah

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SciFi Month - 5 Interesting Things About Ursula Le Guin

Hello! Today I'm going to share with you 5 (hopefully) interesting things about Ursula le Guin. Thanks again Wikipedia!

1.She and Philip K Dick were in the same high school class (but they didn't know each other). What are the odds that 2 giants of the literary world come out of the same high school class?

2.She submitted her first story for publishing in Astounding Science Fiction magazine at the age of 11. It was rejected, but I wasn't doing anything remotely that impressive at 11!

3.She was the first person to win the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel twice for the same books! (The books were Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed)

4.She talks about anarchism a lot in her books (though she doesn't identify herself as an anarchist) though she said that her Taoist beliefs and anarchy fit together in some ways.

5.She read JRR Tolkien for the first time in her 50s and said that it showed her "what was possible" with the fantasy genre.

Photo by Eileen Gunn

Sci-Fi November - Hosted by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books!

Monday, November 10, 2014

SciFi Month: Alternative History Series Recommendation (and a plug for Literrater)

I like alternative history books, if you don't catch on to that fact by the end of this month I'll just tell you outright right now. There is a great trio of books by Jo Walton ("Small Change") that I really enjoyed. The books are all loosely strung together by a few character who show up in more than one book but you could read them independently of each other and not feel lost. I really enjoyed all of them but I think my most favorite was the first book. Hopefully they arouse your curiosity :)

The descriptions and picture are from Goodreads. Click on pictures for link:


One summer weekend in 1949--but not our 1949--the well-connected "Farthing set", a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before. 

Despite her parents' evident disapproval, Lucy is married--happily--to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband David found themselves invited to the retreat. It's even more startling when, on the retreat's first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic. 

It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates. But whoever's behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn't reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts…and looking beyond the obvious.

As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out--a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.


In 1949, eight years after the "Peace with Honor" was negotiated between Great Britain and Nazi Germany by the Farthing Set, England has completed its slide into fascist dictatorship. Then a bomb explodes in a London suburb. 

The brilliant but politically compromised Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard is assigned the case. What he finds leads him to a conspiracy of peers and communists, of staunch King-and- Country patriots and hardened IRA gunmen, to murder Britain's Prime Minister and his new ally, Adolf Hitler.

Against a background of increasing domestic espionage and the suppression of Jews and homosexuals, an ad-hoc band of idealists and conservatives blackmail the one person they need to complete their plot, an actress who lives for her art and holds the key to the Fuhrer's death. From the ha'penny seats in the theatre to the ha'pennies that cover dead men's eyes, the conspiracy and the investigation swirl around one another, spinning beyond anyone's control. 

In this brilliant companion to Farthing, Welsh-born World Fantasy Award winner Jo Walton continues her alternate history of an England that could have been, with a novel that is both an homage of the classic detective novels of the thirties and forties, and an allegory of the world we live in today.


In 1941 the European war ended in the Farthing Peace, a rapprochement between Britain and Nazi Germany. The balls and banquets of Britain’s upper class never faltered, while British ships ferried “undesirables” across the Channel to board the cattle cars headed east. 

Peter Carmichael is commander of the Watch, Britain’s distinctly British secret police. It’s his job to warn the Prime Minister of treason, to arrest plotters, and to discover Jews. The midnight knock of a Watchman is the most dreaded sound in the realm. 

Now, in 1960, a global peace conference is convening in London, where Britain, Germany, and Japan will oversee the final partition of the world. Hitler is once again on British soil. So is the long exiled Duke of Windsor—and the rising gangs of “British Power” streetfighters, who consider the Government “soft,” may be the former king’s bid to stage a coup d’état. 

Amidst all this, two of the most unlikely persons in the realm will join forces to oppose the fascists: a debutante whose greatest worry until now has been where to find the right string of pearls, and the Watch Commander himself.


Here's my plug for Literrater. You basically go on, rate books that you've, and then earn points to use for free books or for gift cards. It's a fun way to spend time (especially if your husband has a tendency to fall asleep on the floor at 8:30pm which mine has a tendency to do). Here is my referral link if you'd like to sign up!

Sci-Fi November - Hosted by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

SciFi Month - Author interview with Yoon Ha Lee


Everybody! It's time for an author interview! The author you will be learning about today is Yoon Ha Lee. Just reading her bio will make you smarter. She went to Cornell and Stanford. She's written over 40 short stories, but she also writes poetry and her website has interactive fiction games created by her! This is one multi-talented lady, as you will see from her answers!

Want to find her on twitter? Here!
Want to get the complete lowdown on Goodreads? Here!

Please ignore all the weird formatting. I'm having issues.

You write in several different formats including poetry and short stories. Is one format harder than the rest?

I'd say that they're hard in different ways.  In poetry, formatting matters in a way that it typically doesn't in short stories (or at least, not the kinds of short stories I write).  You have to pay attention to things like line breaks.  And every word counts for more simply because there are fewer words to work with.  It's not unlike writing very short flash fiction in that regard.  If you're writing an 8,000-word story, you have some leeway with your first 1,000 words.  If your story is 2,000 words, you'd better get moving much faster than that!  So part of it is mathematical.

For me, writing poetry feels harder for the unrelated reason that I do it far more seldom.  Every so often a poem idea hits me and I commit one.  I've devoted far more time to short stories, so it's probably a matter of practice.  I've done it more and I have more of a method developed that works for me.

When you start writing do you know where you're going with the story(ending, character development) or do you just go where the story takes you?

In general, I need to know the ending, the midpoint, and the beginning.  Preferably in that order, but I'm usually not so lucky.  The ending is what I want to leave the reader with--whether that's an image or a "moral" or a plot twist.  Everything has to build toward that ending, so the sooner I know what the ending is, the more I can tailor the rest of the story toward it.

For the midpoint, I want to know what happens to recontextualize the story so that the reader can be prepared for the climax/resolution.  And then I worry about the beginning, something to catch the reader's attention.  I sweat blood over this stuff--I want to know these three things at minimum before I even start writing.  Usually, for a short story, I will also write a mini-outline in the form of a list of events/plot points that I want to hit.  This sometimes changes in the process of writing but I need the guideline to keep me from writing myself into corners.

I used to write stories by just coming up with a cool-sounding opening and following it, but this was generally disastrous.  I still have a bunch of story openings from high school and college that wound up going precisely nowhere because I was just wandering around in circles.  This is a waste of my time and I prefer not to do it anymore.

Characters are often very difficult for me.  I can come up with a plot but then I need to find characters for that plot to naturally happen to, and sometimes that takes a while.

How does your extensive math background help your writing?

Well, I wouldn't call it extensive!  A B.A. only gets you so far; sometimes I regret not pursuing a doctorate, but it wouldn't have worked out.

The first big thing, which I glimpsed in high school, is the sheer beauty of mathematical imagery.  I used to read books like Ivars Peterson's The Mathematical Tourist and James Gleick's Chaos back then, and I was fascinated by the pictures of fractals and the descriptions of nonlinear systems and so on.  Math is the language the universe is written in, and its poetry breaks my heart.  I know a lot of people have had bad relationships with math in the USA, but I want to enable other people to glimpse what I've glimpsed.  Because I know it's only a glimpse; there's so much that I never got to see because I stopped studying math so early.

(Wesley's note: I'm so stupid at math and it has been the cause of many angry feelings and tears but the way Yoon describes it makes it sound so lovely to me).

The second is that being a math major informed how I structure stories.  I want to emphasize that this isn't the only way to do it!  But one of the things that people get confused about with pure mathematics is thinking that it's about solving equations and doing computations, and math is so much more than that.  It's about patterns and structures and making arguments based on premises in a very rigorous fashion.  When I write a story, I think of it as an argument that I'm trying to make, and I want to structure the plot like a proof.  Science fiction and fantasy are especially interesting for this because you can control so much of the initial setup, the axioms.

What special challenges does writing sci fi present?

One of the difficult things is the necessity of explaining the world and context in which the characters move.  For other genres of fiction, you can say, "This is set in Las Vegas in 2000" and people automatically have some idea of what that means and what a character's behavior means in the context of that setting.  With sf that's not necessarily true. Granted, true originality is difficult--I don't aspire to it myself!--and there's a lot of premade genre furniture you can use. Aliens that want to enslave and eat humans, FTL spaceships, clones, whatever.  (I spend a lot of time on TV Tropes reading about this stuff.)  But there's the possibility of losing the reader in a setting so unfamiliar that they can't figure out what's what.  Handing off information to the reader is interesting: you don't want to do the old "As you know, Bob" lecture, and you don't want to kick them out of the story with paragraphs of bad exposition, but that information has to be conveyed somehow.  It's something I'm still working on.

Where do you go when you need to find inspiration for your writing?

I like computer games and roleplaying game campaign sourcebooks for general ideas.  Also poetry; I keep Bryher's Arrow Music, Sonya Taaffe's Singing Innocence and Experience, and Amal El-Mohtar's The Honey Month next to my desk for when I get stuck and I need to read something beautiful to encourage me to go on.

If I get truly stuck, I take some time off and wander around looking at random things, especially nonfiction.  I never know when some chance throwaway detail will strike a chord in me.  Catalogues and magazines are good because they don't require a huge commitment in terms of reading and you can find brief articles on whatever topic.  Zingerman's Mail Order catalogue is great for learning appetizing ways to describe food!  In general, it's a lot like how I dealt with recalcitrant problem sets back when I was in college.  If I got so stuck I couldn't even see the problem in my head anymore, I'd take a break and play a computer game or go for a walk or do something totally unrelated, and more often than not this break would get my backbrain working.

For plotting, I like to think of stories that really inspired me, in whatever format, and try to extract what I liked about them and figure out how I could do my own take on them.  For example, "Combustion Hour" is about shadow puppets dealing with the end of the world.  That came to me after reading John Tynes' tabletop roleplaying game Puppetland, in which the players play puppets fighting against a tyranny.  Tynes' version does not involve cosmology and stellar evolution as far as I remember, though!

Inspiration can come from anywhere, including a mail order catalogue, love it! Thanks for taking the time Yoon!


Monday, November 3, 2014

SciFi Month : 5 Interesting Things About Arthur C Clarke

Hello! Today I'm going to share with you 5 (hopefully) interesting things about science fiction giant Arthur C Clarke. Thanks Wikipedia!

1. During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force working with early detection radar. He even went on to be a radar instructor.

2. He appeared as himself in the 1994 made for tv movie "Without Warning". It was a story about 3 pieces of a meteor hurtling through space toward earth and how it was handled by the news and media.

3. He lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until he died in 2008. He was an avid deep sea diver.

4. He requested that his private diaries be sealed until 30 years after his death, then they might be published. When asked why the 30 year wait he said ""Well, there might be all sorts of embarrassing things in them."

5. He has won so many awards that I can't even list them all here. He won a Hugo, he has a CBE, he shared an Oscar nomination with Stanley Kubrick, nominated for a Nobel Prize and etcetera and etcetera and etcetera. It's a bucket load, just trust me.

Arthur C. Clarke | ARTHUR C. CLARKE IN 1952


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Review: "100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go" by Marcia DeSantis

So excited to share this fun travel book with you guys! It is a fun read with great descriptions, and it basically plans your next several trips to France. Though the book is steered toward women many of the stops would be enjoyable for anyone! (Men might not be crazy about the perfume shopping, but some might be! Who knows? No judgement!) And though about 30 of the places are in Paris, there are more than enough options if you want to get out of the City of Lights and see the rest of what this great country has to offer.

Here are my three favorite suggestions

-Underwear. I'm the girl who waits to do all of her underwear shopping at the semi-annual clearance at Vickie's. (TMI? Maybe? Sorry.) So I wouldn't generally be one to blow a lot of money on underwear. However, the descriptions of the shops with their lovely, soft, light as air wares were making me think that a couple really luxurious pairs of 'roos might be a good idea for every woman.

-Perfume. I like to smell nice, but I'm still on the same bottle of Ralph Lauren's Romance that I have been for the last 4 or 5 years at least. Marci talks about going to several amazing places looking for just the right perfume. One of the shops were the company that created the perfume for the wife of Napolean III. Still in business! It made me want to throw away all of my old bottles and try something new and exciting!

-Memorial Museum for the Children of Izieu.I know it's kind of a swing to go from shopping for luxuries to talking about a memorial for murdered children. This memorial tells about a group of Jewish children who were in an orphanage in the city of Izieu,not far from Lyons. The regional Gestapo director was Klaus Barbie, a terrible human being who would later be convicted as a war criminal , and his officers swept into the orphanage. You can guess what happened to almost all of the 44 children and 7 adults found at the orphanage.

I liked that the chapters were nice and bitesized which meant for a fast read. Everytime I finished the chapter I'd be like "yep, that sounds good. Let's go to France and do that". Everything sounded fun or exciting or interesting, even the sad things (like Normandy and Holocaust Memorials) sounded like must-visits.It didn't bother me personally but there isn't much by the way of pictures in this book. There's a couple but they're black and white and about the size of a postage stamp. I give it 3.5 stars!

Author Marcia DeSanctis

on Tour
October 27-November 5, 2014
100 Places cover

100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go

[travel essays]
Release date: October 21, 2014 at Travelers' Tales
380 pages
ISBN: 978-1609520823


Told in a series of stylish, original essays, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is for the serious Francophile, for the woman dreaming of a trip to Paris, and for those who love crisp stories well-told. Like all great travel writing, this volume goes beyond the guidebook and offers insight not only about where to go but why to go there. Combining advice, memoir and meditations on the glories of traveling through France, this book is the must-have in your carry-on when flying to Paris. Award-winning writer Marcia DeSanctis draws on years of travels and living in France to lead you through vineyards, architectural treasures, fabled gardens and contemplative hikes from Biarritz to Deauville, Antibes to the French Alps. These 100 entries capture art, history, food, fresh air and style and along the way, she tells the stories of fascinating women who changed the country?s destiny. Ride a white horse in the Camargue, find Paris? hidden museums, try thalassotherapy in St. Malo, and buy raspberries at Nice?s Cour Saleya market. From sexy to literary, spiritual to simply gorgeous, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is an indispensable companion for the smart and curious traveler to France. [provided by the author]


  [caption id="attachment_2221" align="alignleft" width="113"]Photo credit: Ron Haviv Photo credit: Ron Haviv[/caption]   Marcia DeSanctis is a former television news producer for Barbara Walters, NBC and CBS News. She has written essays and articles for numerous publications including Vogue, Marie Claire, Town & Country, O the Oprah Magazine, Departures, and The New York Times Magazine. Her essays have been widely anthologized and she is the recipient of three Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel journalism, as well as a Solas Award for best travel writing. She holds a degree from Princeton University in Slavic Languages and Literature and a Masters in Foreign Policy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter Buy the book: Amazon, upcoming on Travelers' Tales.  


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