Category Archives: Books

Books by others; whatever I’m reading.

2015 Books Read

Posted on January 5, 2016 by

keep readingMy 2015 books read list is embarrassingly short, in part because I reread quite a few things, in part because I tanked out of a lot of things. This does mean that if it’s on here, it was quite a good book. I also read a stonking pile of short fiction but was miserable at capturing the individual stories. Here’s the list of novels:

1. Hilary Davidson, The Damage Done
2. Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
3. Melanie Tem, The Yellow Wood
4. Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
5. Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August (reread)
6. L.R. Lam, False Hearts (advance copy)
7. Hilary Mantel, Beyond Black
8. Tana French, Faithful Place (reread)
9. Eric Larsen, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
10. Robert Wiersema, Black Feathers
11. Tana French, The Secret Place (reread)
12. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (reread)
13. Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (reread)
14. S.M. Stirling, The Desert and the Blade: A Novel of the Change
15. Fran Wilde, Updraft
16. Daisy Hay, Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives
17. Amberlough, by Lara Elena Donnelly (advance copy)
18. Minette Walters, The Shape of Snakes (reread)
19. The Last Witness, by K. J. Parker
20. The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again, by A.C. Wise

21. Experimental Film, by Gemma Files

22. The Flame in the Maze, by Caitlin Sweet

23. Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction, edited by Sandra Kasturi and Jerome Stuart

Blowing up Napoli on Eating Authors

Posted on December 21, 2015 by

Lawrence M. Schoen has invited me over to his blog today to talk about one of my most memorable meals. It took some time to settle on a specific repast. As many of you know, Kelly was a wine columnist for Chatelaine for four years, and during that period amazing restaurants were all but lining up to pour well-crafted booze and buttery entrees down our throats. Her throat, mostly, but sometimes a plus one got invited. I have had some exceedingly fine plus one meals.

Here’s a selfie of the two of us the day after the meal in question, though, as a teaser. Notice how pleased we look with… well, with everything? And who’s that dude photobombing us?

All Imported-10

Lawrence, by the way, is the author of the upcoming Tor novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, which will be out on December 29th. This may be an exceedingly fine time to have a novel out, unless you hope to see it on everyone’s Best of 2015 lists, so I’m hoping your curiosity will be piqued by the cover and you’ll check him out when it’s released. Some of you probably got bookstore-themed gift certies from Santa, didn’t you?

Memorable Books – Janny Wurts Sorcerer’s Legacy

Posted on December 20, 2015 by

Stubby-RocketI have an article about thrillers up on Tor.com, and in it I talk about Sorcerer’s Legacy as well as some of the more manly-seeming novels I read in my teens. There’s a bit of a comments thread, some of it defending Clive Cussler because I took a wee poke at his grasp of international politics. Check it out; join the fun!

Excerpt: Jason Bourne may have a touch of amnesia, sure, but at the end of the day he’s still a blond-haired, blue-eyed, multilingual killing machine with a box full of unmarked currency, operating in a world that expects a dude to be able to throw a punch. Elienne is a pregnant widow in a royal court that figures a lady probably shouldn’t be heard unless she’s rockin’ the pianoforte. Who would you rather be if everyone within earshot wants you dead?

And while I’m talking about books I read in the Eighties that had some serious staying power, here’s the cover of Paula Volsky’s Illusion,  a fantasy retelling of the French Revolution. Anyone remember that one?

Buncha Blog Posts

Posted on December 10, 2015 by

Alyx-self-portrait2I have been gadding around the Internet rather a lot lately. Speculating Canada asked me to talk about the books I read this year, so I have written up ten of them, a Good-Bad-Ugly List of sorts. Not all of the books are new, or even novels, but I did read them and they are noteworthy.

I will, of course, post my annual books read list on December 31st… I’m hoping to knock off two more titles between now and then.

This is the Story of My Reading Life featured me in an interview and review on Wednesday. I was at The Book Wars on Tuesday, and Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup on Monday.

Meanwhile, some of my fellow writers on Facebook enriched my pool of frequently asked writer questions with the following entries:

How long have you been writing?
How long does it take you to write a story/novel?
Is there a good instruction book one can learn to write novels from?
Do your characters come from real life, and since I totally believe they did, who did you base them on?
Do you ever regret putting _______ together with ______, romantically? Wouldn’t they have been better off with _________?

J. Kathleen Cheney thinks heroines are witches

Posted on November 25, 2015 by

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist.  Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist.  Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The final book in that series, The Shores of Spain came out in July, and a new series will debut in February 2016 with Dreaming Death.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I still have two books from second grade, and one of them is The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. I don’t know how heroic one would consider Kit Tyler, the main character of the book. She doesn’t fight a battle, kill demons, or win the rich gentleman’s heart (actually, she does that last one but hands it back.) I admired her anyway.

I loved that book too! What was it Kit did–what qualities did she have that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

What Kit Tyler does is defy expectations. That’s what I admired about her. She didn’t do things simply because she’d been told to do so. Since I seem to be wired that way myself, I could relate to most of her decisions.

Some of them came from simple ignorance on her part. For example, her inability to make decent corn pudding because she’s too impatient–I understand that all too well. To this day, I lack patience in cooking.

Kit makes mistakes, and most of the time she learns from them. But a lot of her defiance is borne of a willingness to look past other peoples’ prejudices and let her conscience drive her instead. And because of that she teaches a young girl to read and makes friends with the title witch. When she’s falsely accused or witchcraft herself, she faces down her accusers in court (with the help of her friends)….even though she was given a chance to escape her jail earlier and run away. She did what she thought was right, though, while knowing it might have a terrible outcome.

Of course, because it’s a novel, things come out all right in the end.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

I would like to think that most of my heroines do the right thing, even if it’s not what they’re told to do, not the socially accepted thing, or not the most financially sound decision. In a lot of ways, they do go back to that second grade reading experience. They make mistakes. I want them to learn from them, like Kit Tyler did (although I will eschew the corn pudding experience.)

And I want them to make the hard choice, the choice that they could have worked around.

Hard choices are what make a heroine, even if she’s not killing demons.

Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

In most ways, hero and heroine are the same, the protagonist of the story. But heroine carries one added factor: the heroine usually has to defy societal norms. In most cultures, men are expected to step up while women are expected to wait. And that’s where a heroine’s actions can be much more subtle, yet still be heroic. In some places, heroism might be something as small as wearing trousers or going to school or talking to someone your family doesn’t approve of. And while men can face similar challenges, in most places, the bar is harder for women to cross. So I feel like the word heroine has that additional baggage attached.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and Louise Marley. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.