Tag Archives: books

If you haven’t seen this stop motion film in a bookstore after dark…

… then you must.

You’re welcome 🙂

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My favourite books of 2011

The books listed here were not necessarily released in 2011, but read in 2011. You can read reviews of many of the books I’ve read over at ASif! or sometimes on Goodreads, which is where I keep track these days. I read over 400 books during the year – many of them for children or young adults, but if it weren’t for Goodreads, I don’t know how I’d remember them all!

So, which did I like best?

Marvel Runaways (graphic novels) – read on Tansy’s recommendation, and really great stuff.

The Vorkosigan Saga (reread and blogged with Alex)

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts (a Twelve Planets collection)

Eona: the last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Teeth: vampire tales edited by Ellen Datlow

Happy as Larry by Scot Gardner

Treachery in Death and New York to Dallas by JD Robb

The Fitzosbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

Deadline by Mira Grant

Toppling by Sally Murphy

Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers

Chicks Dig Timelords edited by Lynne M Thomas and Tara O’Shea

Songs of Love and Death edited by George RR Martin

Debris by Jo Anderton

Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti (a Twelve Planets collection)

Steampunk! An anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This is a pretty long list, derived almost entirely from cross-checking those books I gave five stars to on Goodreads in 2011. However, if you check out my Goodreads, you’ll note that there are hundreds of unstarred books – these are CBCA judging books and I have not included my favourites from those here, because it’s an ongoing judging process. There are some VERY excellent books in the mix though, and I look forward to starring them later this year!

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Mini-reviews

 Just in case you wondered, I stopped doing mini-reviews here because I started using Goodreads. Goodreads is cool. I love Goodreads now.

Oh, and yes, I recently started watching Doctor Who 🙂

Reminder that I’m not really blogging here any more – I’ve moved over to thebooknut.wordpress.com – RSS me! 🙂

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Weeding

Today (now yesterday, forgot to finish the post!) I did weeding. Not the garden type (NEVER the garden type!) but the books on the library shelves type. We’ve been at this for a couple of weeks now, since we decided to move some things around, which necessitated some extra shelf space. We’ve got a pretty good collection, and since I’ve been there we’ve already culled a major portion of the (very old and ugly) non-fiction (just prior to our big reno) and I’ve also reduced the fusty old fiction to a minimum too. I’m fairly lucky to have a reasonable amount to spend each year on new books (plus I donate a fair amount, thanks to the judging and reviewing gigs I have), but over time we have put a significant dint in the amount of books on the shelves. After all, the collection has been built up (ahem, and apparently never weeded!) over 20 years – replacing old crap with newer, more relevant books takes time, and to be honest, there really was too many books on the shelves.

This might sound odd, but as soon as we weed, or move the collection around to get more space on the shelves, the books get used more. Overfull shelves are intimidating to kids, and it makes it difficult to find the good books among the crud, so shelf space and removing old books is essential. Not always easy though, particularly when you know a section is well used and you either can’t afford to replace for new, or can’t actually source any decent new books to take their place. We’re working through it though.

One thing I will note: I daresay it’s a lot easier for me to weed this collection, which I’ve only been working with for four years, than it would be for those librarians in the same position for a decade or more – chucking out books you remember buying would be a lot harder!

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In judgement

This year I was invited to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition. I was judge for the KSP Speculative Fiction comp a couple of years ago and enjoyed the experience (my judge’s report for that one isn’t on their site anymore – might post it somewhere for posterity) so I was happy to say yes. Foolishly, I thought it probably wouldn’t be a huge job – first year of the competition and all. I didn’t reckon with the powers of Lee Battersby, competition organiser and champion! Ended up with nearly 140 entries across three categories (Youth, Open and 50+). The stories had only one theme – the inspiration of an artwork owned by the RCC, the very evocative “The Eviction” by Derrick Carroll.

I did my duty and chose the winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd plus three honorable mentions in each category – 18 in all). It was blind reading – all names stripped from the manuscripts, just numbered. So imagine my surprise when Lee told me that the winner of the Open and 50+ categories was the same person, and the winner of the Youth section was her daughter! I was blown away, particularly as the three stories were all very different. I would never have imagined the Open and 50+ stories to have been written by the same person. I thought that was pretty funny. It was even funnier tonight when all the winners were announced at a lovely little event put on by the Council, when I realised that every single one of the 18 stories I’d selected as winners was written by a woman. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

Am I a gendered reader? I wouldn’t have thought so. Yes, a lot more women than men pass through my hands when I’m reading these days, but fifteen years ago, four out of my top five favourite authors were men (Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Raymond Feist and David Eddings – Anne McCaffrey rounded out the five). It’s changed since then, and while I still do read and enjoy many books and stories by male authors, if I’m given the choice between a new male author and a new female author to read, I’ll almost certainly pick the female.

I don’t think I can put the motive for this change squarely in the court of the company I’ve been keeping for the past several years (I’m looking at YOU Alisa, Tansy, Helen, Alex et al!), although of course that helps. I would suggest that part of it is an exposure to more woman writers, but also my own growth and change as a person. It’s an interesting thing to consider about myself.

***

Anyway, here’s the gist of my judging report for the competition:

It was a great privilege to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition this year. The huge number of entries was a surprise for the first year of a competition, but demonstrated the interest in the creative arts in our area and across Australia.

With such a darkly intricate artwork to draw inspiration from in “The Eviction”, it’s hardly surprising that stories were evocative, compelling, disturbing and engaging. While many writers took a very literal interpretation of the work, others used it with a light touch, with satisfying results in both areas.

The image prompted many ghost stories, which was fascinating, and a multitude of works featuring a cat as protagonist. Both types of story can be difficult to execute successfully, and the best took the trope and gave it a unique twist. While many works were very well-written, some were let down by a lack of true story, being instead mood pieces or vignettes. A very short story is possibly one of the hardest types of writing to execute well, as in a limited space there is still a need for plot, character and good writing. Rarely can any one of those three elements stand well enough on its own to create a good story – almost always, all three are required. The very best of stories uses all three seamlessly and integrates them into a work that makes it impossible to tell which of the three are doing the hardest work in making it great!

YOUTH SECTION

1st place – While not unique among the entries in terms of the premise (ghost stories were a favourite trope for this competition), this story was executed extremely well. The characterisation and set up of the story were very believable – it was creepy and sad, and above all, written beautifully.

2nd place – An action-packed piece that took me to a completely different place than I’d anticipated! Cleverly done and well-written.

3rd place – One of the few stories submitted that examined the painting itself rather than simply drawing inspiration from it. While not quite as well put together as the first and second place stories, it held my attention and made me want to read it again once I got to the end.

OPEN SECTION

1st place – Eerily beautiful, this haunting story still packs a punch. I love the paranormal premise here, and the writing is excellent.

2nd place – This solid story was a dark little insight into what goes on behind closed doors. A quite innocent facade but not all that pleasant to read!

3rd place – Another behind-closed-doors story – the narrator of this piece was particularly likeable. A little sad story.

50+ SECTION

1st place – This story took a fabulous idea and pulled off a well-paced, creepy tale. The over-the-top characterisation set off this horror story very cleverly. Great writing!

2nd place – As an editor, I would have advised the author to do some judicious trimming of this story, but it’s overall a very well-written piece. I liked the way the painting played an important role in the story.

3rd place – A number of the submissions tried to use an anti-hero narrator – someone completely unlikeable telling the story. This is a difficult thing to do well and this story did it best. Cleverly done.

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