Tag Archives: reading

Narrelle’s summer reading reclist

While not everyone gets a break over summer, it’s always a good time for a reading recommendations list. And given I managed to read (as of 24 December) 159 books and novellas in 2018 (let’s see if I can make it 160 by NYE), I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you!

Seasonal delights

I don’t generally make a point of reading seasonal tales, but I’ve read a few that delighted me in different ways this year. If you’re looking for something a little different, may I present:

Merry Happy Valkyrie: A Holiday Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s Christmas, Jim, but not as you know it. Norse mythology, Tasmanian snow in summer, secrets and a movie studio making Xmas schmaltz. What could possibly go wrong apart from, you know, everything? TRR never fails to be delightful, and she’s particularly and vividly charming with this gorgeous story!

Unchaining Krampus by JP Reedman. It’s Christmas. It’s a fairytale. It’s horror and demons and goblins and self rescuing princesses. It’s a hoot.

Christmas Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce by Brandon Witt. I discovered this author through the Facebook MM group I haunt. It was cute and a lot of fun to follow Paxton Peterson’s meticulous planning all go to ruin through a snowmobile accident and the delicious advent of a handsome neighbour.

The Miracle of the Lights by Cindy Rizzo. Christmas isn’t the only festival that can fall this time of year. Rizzo’s sweet story is about two Hasidic Jewish girls in love, losing each other and finding each other during Hanukkah in New York City.

Patreon Novellas

One of the reasons my count is so high is that I’ve been reading lots of wonderful shorts and novellas from the writers I support on Patreon. I love Seanan McGuire‘s fantasy work and every few months I get a new one.

Another joy is the work of Tansy Rayner Roberts – and I’ve sung songs to her before in this blog. For those who listen to podcasts (I never had time) Tansy podcasts many of her books before releasing the ebook, so you can get in ahead. A recent absolute gem is Tea and Sympathetic Magic, a sassy, smart, funny, brilliant regency-style story of. Well. Tea and sympathetic magic. Read an excerpt on Tansy’s website.

I don’t restrict myself to her Patreon stories – I’ve also this year loved to pieces her Creature Court prequel Cabaret of Monsters (backed through a Kickstarter), Girl Reporter (the latest in her superhero series), the  and all the parts of the Belladonna University series.

Basically, you will never go wrong with a Tansy Rayner Roberts story.

Young Adult fiction

This year I finally got to Ellie Marney’s Every series, and tore through Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move. Set in modern Australia, the stories are a clever reworking of Sherlock Holmes influences while also being their own thing entirely. Of course I love them.

Alex Marchant (who edited the recent Richard III collection, Grant Me the Carving of My Name) first came to my attention as the author of the very fine Ricardian YA adventures The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man. I’m looking forward to a third in the series, and recommend the first two very highly.

Romance! Adventure!

I’ve adored Emily Larkin‘s work for a while now and loved The Spinster’s Secret, My Lady Thief and Primrose and the Dreadful Duke.

In a similar vein, I’ve discovered Erica Ridley – more sassy Regency heroines, thank you!

Rohase Piercy’s My Dearest Holmes was recently re-released, after being one of the first officially published Holmes/Watson love stories, back in 1988.

A twist on canon-era Holmes/Watson has just come out from Improbable Press – K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather. Holmes is a queer woman, Watson is a queer man: bisexuality is a thing, and so is BDSM in the Victorian era. I loved it.

Non-Fiction

I also read some wonderful non fiction –  the account of the Burke and Wills expedition is thoroughly examined in The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd.

Vikki Petraitas’s The Frankston Murders is an account of the murders that took place in Frankston in 1993 – compassionate and thorough, with a focus on the women who died and their families and communities.

Transgender Warriors : Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by the late Leslie Feinberg and Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century by Graham Robb are both a little difficult to get, not being available in ebook form, but I learned a huge amount from both of them for current and upcoming books, and I recommend them thoroughly.

That’s probably more than enough to be getting on with! If you have any recommendations of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, my very best wishes to you all, and my hopes that this whole planet has a happy, hopeful, sunshiney new year.

Queer Victorian London

In preparation for working on a short story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I’ve picked up some books to give me insights into late-Victorian queer culture and society’s attitudes towards it.

Victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality (and to a whole bunch of things) is usually deeper and more textured than a cursory glance would indicate. And while it’s true that terms like ‘gay’ and queerness as it’s currently lived and experienced were not how Victorians understood them, that doesn’t negate the fact people who would probably now identify on that spectrum were managing their lives, one way or another.

Which all brings me to this reading matter, designed to help me understand more about how queerness was experienced and lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so that I can translate those experiences for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a world where they have declared their love and physical desire for each other.

I tend to read books on these topics with a block of sticky notes at hand, so I can mark ideas I want to get back to.

The book pictured in the header, Catharine Arnold’s City of Sin: London and its Vices, is already festooned with notes for me to return to when I do the next round of research, which will be to go over marked passages and decide what to use and how.

One note in City of Sin refers to the pornography people could obtain in Holywell Street, including homosexual and lesbian representations. William Dugdale is noted as a “prolific publisher of filthy books” and further on, Arnold refers to the practice of pornographers having to smuggle their books into the UK, risking fines and imprisonment.

I have made a note that the unexpurgated copy of Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights is very probably in John Watson’s private book collection. He’s an earthy man, after all, with a penchant for gambling and whisky. Why not a little saucy literature?

Further on I’ve marked the pages about the ‘telegraph boys’ who made extra money by having sex with men. The role of the Turkish baths (which Holmes and Watson frequent in canon) in homosexual liaisons is discussed 25 pages on from that.

I expect to read more queer-specific details of London life in the three other books pictured above, and will doubtless leave those pages bristling like a paper-based porcupine in due course.

I’ve already started with Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb, and even the introduction has provided some valuable insights.

How will these snippets and suggestions be used? Will they become significant plot points or background detail?

At this point, who knows? But by filling up my brain with some of that colour, texture and depth, I hope to introduce just enough research to make the stories feel authentic and engaging without presenting them as a series of lectures of What I Learned About Queer Victorians This Summer.

NB: A version of this post originally appeared in my Patreon on 2 February 2018.

Review: Faerie Apocalypse by Jason Franks

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the mind of people who set about pursuing quests in the worlds of magic? Potential lovers seeking the fairest of them all; mages seeking further power; sons seeking fathers; daughters seeking vengeance; those seeking simple distraction and escape from their everyday lives.

Jason Franks has. And he doesn’t think very highly of them.

Faerie Apocalypse plays with the tropes of quests and fantasy violence. He twists the old storytelling standards of cycles-of-three, cunning humans outwitting faerie malevolance, all the same-old-same olds.

Franks isn’t afraid of being pretty damned gruesome with it, either. Many encounters end not merely with violence but with gore so extreme it’s less horrific and more a form of nihilism. If Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus in a spirit of ‘I’ll show YOU a revenge tragedy!’, Franks has said, ‘I’ll show YOU a tide of pointless butchery!’.

Except that it’s not pointless. The purpose, mostly hinted at throughout the brutal excapades of the mortals, the mage, the daughter of the warrior queen and the Bad Little Dog is very pointed, but it’s a spoiler to say what it is.

I loved how the inklings that supposed mortal questers aren’t as noble or heroic as they’re cracked up to be turn into certainties that they’re all pretty awful people with little regard for the consequences of their actions. Where they go, death follows, on a scale that humans in the mortal world have wrought with such horrific abandon.

The level of butchery is a bit much at times, but it’s a deliberate choice that is less gratuitous than it seems, by the time you reach the end and learn why. Though the hint is in the title. It is a faerie apocalypse, after all.

I’ll admit that I have a fonder spot in my heart for the wild and wickedly funny Bloody Waters , but it’s good to be reading Franks again and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

About Faerie Apocalypse.

Over the centuries the Faerie Realms have drifted away from the mortal world. But for some, the Doors will open. For some, there is a Way to travel there, if they want it badly enough.

If they dream it hard enough.

In this era, only lovers, poets, and madmen can access the Realms of the Land—and for good reason.

A succession of mortals travel to Faerie: a veteran seeking beauty; a magus seeking power; an urchin seeking his wayward father; an engineer seeking meaning. These mortals bring the horrors of our age to the Land, and the Folk who live there respond in kind.

Buy Faerie Apocalypse

Five Questions for Tansy Rayner Roberts

Today, Tansy Rayner Roberts answers five questions about her new book:

Tansy Rayner Roberts

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

Girl Reporter – and it’s absolutely the clear, best, most obvious title for this story, given that it’s all about the ‘girl reporter’ trope in superhero stories. I may have been slightly inspired by Kelly Link’s Girl Detective short story from some years ago – I love stories that are named after slightly problematic tropes! (I also published a story called Fake Geek Girl, so.)

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Oooh I like the time travel option, it’s definitely necessary. For Friday, someone with sassiness like 80’s era Nadine Garner, or Melissa Howard who played Rebecca in Dead Gorgeous, that ABC TV show about Victorian ghosts.

For Tina Valentina I’d love an actress who was a big name in the 80s-90’s for that authentic cred – like Claudia Black or Lucy Lawless. Justine Clarke, maybe?

Actually all three of those might be slightly too young, we can also go forward in time, yes?

There are so many options for Griff but my head settled on 90’s Matt Day and I can’t go past that.

Caitlin Stacey is my favourite of everything, I was thinking Solar but actually I can see her as Astra. Clearly I’d have to write her an Astra story to give her a bigger part.

Isla Fisher and Rose Byrne could fight it out for who gets to be Megadethra.

Rachael Taylor as Danni/former Catsuit. Yes, I’m pretty much casting just the women here.

I think Celia Pacquola would do a good job of Astra III.

I want people who have read the story to come back and fill in the blanks here!

3. What five words best describe your story?

Fun, snarky, heroic, action-packed and loving.

4. Who’s your favourite hero and/or sidekick? (Not necessarily a team)

I adore the relationship between Hawkeye and Hawkeye in Marvel comics. The way that Clint Barton dealt with a young woman taking his name and superhero identity while he was dead/out of town… at first he was determined to put her in her place, but they became a great team, and he happily shares the name and status with her instead of insisting he is senior. I like the way that their mentor-mentee relationship is often quite broken and sibling-y because he’s less competent at life than she is. So great.

Another favourite was Barbara Gordon as Oracle, mentoring Stephanie Brown as the new Batgirl.  And of course you can’t really talk about the sidekick relationship without addressing Bruce & Dick from 60’s Batman. “Robin, it’s important to stay in school. Be a good role model. Drink plenty of milk.”

5. What song reflects a theme, character or scene in your book?

Ha this is a ridiculously hard question for me. The Press Gang theme music? All the Crazy Ex Girlfriend theme songs as sung by Megadethra? Remy Zero’s ‘Save Me’, still the absolute best creative decision made by the Smallville production team? Ooh NO I know what it is. It’s totally the Birds of Prey song from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

(but an honourable mention to this version of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero, as performed by Melissa Benoist on Glee.

About Girl Reporter

From the award-winning author of Cookie Cutter Superhero and Kid Dark Against the Machine comes a brand new novella about girl reporters, superheroes, and interdimensional travel

In a world of superheroes, supervillains, and a machine that can create them all, millennial vlogger and girl reporter Friday Valentina has no shortage of material to cover. Every lottery cycle, a new superhero is created and quite literally steps into the shoes of the hero before them–displacing the previous hero. While Fri may not be super-powered herself, she understands the power of legacy: her mother is none other than the infamous reporter Tina Valentina, renowned worldwide for her legendary interviews with the True Blue Aussie Beaut Superheroes and her tendency to go to extraordinary lengths to get her story.

This time, Tina Valentina may have ventured too far.

Alongside Australia’s greatest superheroes–including the powerful Astra, dazzling Solar, and The Dark in his full brooding glory–Friday will go to another dimension in the hopes of finding her mother, saving the day, maybe even getting the story of a lifetime out of the adventure. (And a new girlfriend, too.)

About Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tansy Rayner Roberts is an award winning blogger, podcaster and fantasy author. She co-hosts the Galactic Suburbia and Verity! podcasts, and is well known for writing feminist commentary on pop culture including superhero comics and Doctor Who.

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Buy Girl Reporter