Idols, Friends and Mentors: Alexander von Humboldt’s Influence on Writing and Science

I actually wrote this post several weeks ago, before the corona virus crisis hit on a world scale… but given it’s about the importance of scientists and human beings connecting with and inspiring each other, be it in person or from afar, it actually feels somehow appropriate. So in case anyone’s looking for a positive break from reading about pandemics, here it is:

___________________

I don’t normally read a lot of non-fiction, but I recently picked up The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. Aside from informing me about a brilliant scientist and author called Alexander von Humboldt – who I knew very little about – it got me thinking again about a topic I’ve found myself mulling over often in the past year: namely, how much writers are influenced by the work of other writers who’ve come before them, or even those who are writing at the same time.

In the past, I’ve tended to to look at famous historical figures in isolation, focusing on the unique feats they achieved and how different it was to everything that had come before. Last year, however, when researching for a blog series about popular fantasy books in different decades, I was repeatedly fascinated by how many writers had been inspired by, or even been good friends with, other writers on my lists. Continue reading

The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2019

I’ve been a bit absent online these past two months, both because of the holiday period but also because I was trying to finish editing my novel-in-progress before the new year. It took longer than expected, but in the end I managed to send it off to beta readers just after Christmas, so that’s at least one resolution achieved! (even if others fell by the way side).

Now that I’m finally back to blogging, I figured I’d start the new year by looking at my favourite reads from the last one. I picked up many great books in 2019 but I’m only going to list the 5 that most impressed me, and I’ll do my best to keep my ramblings on each brief and spoiler-free (if you want to know more about any of them you can click the links to see the blurbs on Goodreads). Continue reading

5 Adjectives That Sell a Book to Me

My last post was about adjectives that turn me off books in promotional material, so this week I thought I’d turn it around and look at some common book-selling adjectives that might make me more likely to read a novel. Of course, no one word alone is going to sell me something, but there are a few that would help pique my interest if other signs are good.

I’ve ruled out obvious genre-markers like “fantasy” and “science fiction” (from the title of this blog it’s already pretty obvious I like those kinds of books), and narrowed it down to five that are most likely to catch my eye or appeal to my personal tastes: Continue reading

5 Adjectives That Don’t Sell a Book to Me

Whether it’s in a blurb, a social media post, an email from an author or publicist, or an advertisement, I often see adjectives used to promote books… and while some of those adjectives do their job well, I’ve noticed others immediately rub me up the wrong way. These seemingly innocuous little words provoke grimaces or eye-rolls, instead of doing what they’re presumably meant to do: make me want to read the book.

Of course, these are specific to me and my personal tastes, but I thought for some fun, and in case it helps anyone know how not to promote a book to someone like me, I’d list a few that stand out. Continue reading

My Hugo 2019 Favourites

Back in June I set myself the goal of reading as many of the finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards as possible, and in the end I was pretty happy with what I managed. So on the awards night at Worldcon I bustled into the auditorium, ready to cheer for my favourites… and not a single of my top picks won! I wasn’t too crestfallen, since I also liked the ones that did win, but it goes to show you how varied tastes are when it comes to awards. Apparently some of the categories were decided by a slim margin of votes, so there was stiff competition.

In light of this, and since everyone always talks about the winners, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a shout out to some of the finalists which didn’t win, but which I personally thought were fantastic. Continue reading

Attending Worldcon Dublin 2019

Between trying to read as many books before the Hugo voting deadline as possible,  finalising a draft of a novel, going to Worldcon, going on holiday, and getting all my wisdom teeth out (a nice treat I saved for my return home), it’s taken a while to find the time to blog again… but I’ve finally managed it, so I thought I’d share a few pics and experiences I took away from my first World Science Fiction Convention.

Continue reading

Casting a Vote in the 2019 Hugo Awards

I often like to look at which books get nominated for fantasy and science fiction awards. A nomination doesn’t always mean I’ll like a book, because I’ve come across winners I’ve loved and others I’ve hated, but I enjoy finding out whether I agree with the choices. I rarely actually vote in any awards, either because I can’t, or because I don’t have time to read the shortlisted entrants before the deadline, and I don’t like to choose without having considered them all.

This year, however, I’m going to WorldCon, so for the first time ever I’m able to vote in one of the biggest SF&F awards out there: the Hugos! I’m pretty excited about it, so I decided I’m going to try to read the finalists in as many categories as I can before the online ballot submission closes on July 31st.

I’m a slow reader, so I don’t know how many I’ll manage, but here are the main categories I’m going to attempt: Continue reading

The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2018

So this post is coming ridiculously late in the year, after everyone else has long finished their reflections on 2018… but I got so side-tracked doing that fantasy decades series that I never gave a shout out to my favourite reads from last year, which seemed a shame. So I figured: better late than never!

I read lots of wonderful books, but I’ve chosen the 5 that most impressed and bewitched me. For each I’m just going to say why I loved them (in a spoiler-free way), so if you want to know in more detail what they’re about, you can click on the links to read the blurbs on Goodreads. Continue reading

Popular 2000s Fantasy Novels

So at long last I’ve come to the final decade I’ll cover in this series: the 00s! This period saw a surge in fantasy films and television shows, with adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia bringing the genre and its classics to new audiences. The “Noughties” were also crucial for paranormal romance and young adult fantasy – sales grew exponentially, in no small part due to the success of Twilight.  Many series from this decade are still being added to today.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 2000 and 2010. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets: Continue reading

Popular 1990s Fantasy Novels

As a child of the 90s I confess to having a particular soft spot for this decade… but personal biases aside, this was an important one for fantasy. Best-sellers boosted the genre to further heights (the phenomenon that was Harry Potter started in 1997), and many popular series that began in the 90s are still being written today, not to mention adapted into to film and television hits.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most popular or influential fantasy novels published between 1990 and 2000. I’ve tried to use the original cover from that year where possible. Series titles are included in brackets: Continue reading