British Fantasy Awards 2018 – Best Fantasy Novel Judge

Now that the shortlists have been announced I am happy to be able to tell you about my place on the judging panel for one of this year’s awards.

The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel

Shortlist – As voted by the British Fantasy Society members

🤩Age of Assassins, by RJ Barker (Orbit)

🤩The Court of Broken Knives, by Anna Smith Spark (HarperVoyager)

🤩The Ninth Rain, by Jen Williams (Headline)

🤩Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot)

My fellow judges and I will be reading the shortlisted books (it will be my first read of all of them) and then battling it out carefully negotiating and debating in order to crown our favourite.

What I’m looking for in a best fantasy novel:

  • Characters who are flawed and believable (and I have a penchant for characters with a bit of snark)
  • A plot that challenges me in some way to learn or question the world around me
  • A story that makes me feel intense emotion
  • Solid worldbuilding
  • Writing that is beautiful but that doesn’t get in the way of telling the story

Not much then.

Huge congratulations to all of the shortlisted authors and good luck for the Award Ceremony in October.

What would you be looking for?

Have you read any of the shortlisted books?

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The #Selfie of Marion Faye – #amwriting

Over Christmas I read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and I was not a fan. However I loved the actual concept so I got it into my head to do a modern YA retelling which I started last night.

Thought I’d share the start of Chapter One to see what you think.

Click.

Click.

Click, Click, Click. Fifth photo lucky.

I’m lying in bed, right arm extend above me trying to get a natural shot that captures my “just woke up” face. But the pretty version, after I’ve combed my hair and brushed my teeth. Of course I know that no-one can smell my breath in a photograph, but I’d just know. Every time I looked at my profile I’d feel icky thinking that that was the morning I had night before garlic bread breath.

I got it. That perfect shot where my hair is spread artfully on the pillow, there’s a slight blush in my cheeks; Max Factor Rose Garden, and you can just see a hint of my piercing blue eyes opening. Almost like that Sphinx thing in that old Neverending Story film dad made me watch this weekend. Part of my “Proper film education”.

If I upload this there’s no way that Ian can ignore it. He’ll be shot with my laser eyes, caught in my trap. I hope.

I upload it to my account and use the Lark filter – it seemed apt for a morning shot.

Status – urrgh weekday mornings

Hashtags – #tooearly #morningssuck #bedhead #nofilter (okay the last two aren’t entirely true but needs must).

Within 30 seconds of hitting the share button I have ten likes. All from guys from school, but none from Ian… yet.

“Marion, you’ve got fifteen minutes to eat breakfast before I drop you to school,’ mum yells.

Make that five by the time I’ve put my uniform on and it takes all of that to make breakfast look insta worthy. I layer seeds and fruit and yoghurt in my super cute Cath Kidston pink floral breakfast bowl, take a quick shot and upend it all into a plastic container to eat in the car, chia seeds and all.

I balance the makeshift bowl on my lap and spoon the contents in left handed as mum sings along to whatever old person station she listens to in the morning. I’ve had to resign myself to losing the battle of secretly tuning the station to Radio 1 each evening, especially as she now takes the car keys up to her room rather than leave them in the key bowl by the door.

Instead I use my non feeding hand to feed my soul and check how my insta posts are doing.

#breakfastbowl #cathkidston #eatclean #chiasuperfoodness has 102 likes and one comment which turns out to be some spambot selling diet pills. Blocked.

But this morning’s selfie has 327 likes and 20 comments. My heart leaps and I scroll through the commenters handles, nothing from Ian. Just as I’m about to check through the list of likers another notification pops up.

Whov-Ian liked your post.

Operation “Get Him Back” has commenced. I can even overlook the Doctor Who nerdiness because of THOSE abs, which his latest gym shot highlights. I don’t like his picture tho. I’m not that needy.

I now look back through the comments on my pic which are all a variation on two themes.

“Well jel – wish i looked like that first thing”

“Looking stunning as always hun”

“You should totes make this your profile pic babe”

and

“Fit as”

“I’d like to wake up next to that”

“😍😍”

There’s one though that stands out, from an account called Duckfacersdie.

#fake #nofiltermyarse #getalife

I think – #potkettleblack but click on their profile anyway and up pops a feed of similar shots of girls with bubble font hashtags posted all over their pics and mine is the most recent. I don’t look at the comments here but report and block them too. Boy it feels satisfying.

I choose to follow the advice of babesunit8 and update my profile picture. I really do like how I look in this one, for once.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

With London Pride being yesterday I thought that time was right to finally review this Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash.

Synopsis

Maggie is fifteen and has basically spent every summer of her life at one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, where her days are full of a pleasant, peaceful sort of nothing. Until one confounding moment of innocent physical contact catapults her into gut-twisting love with Erin, an older, wiser, and surprisingly – at least to Maggie – female counselor. When it seems as if Erin might feel the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for either Maggie or Camp Bellflower to endure, let alone understand.

Author

Maggie Thrash is a staff writer for Rookie, a popular online magazine for teenage girls. This is her first book. She lives in Delaware.

Honor Girl was first published in 2015 and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.

What I thought

This is a non-fiction book, based on true events and is presented as a graphic novel. It is about a girl discovering her sexual attraction to another, older girl at summer camp.

I thought it was excellently done and a great use of the genre. The book is illustrated in watercolour pencil and pen images which were finished digitally and even the font was designed by Maggie. The art is fairly simplistic but there’s something powerful in its simplicity especially in the close up images like below.

I’ve seen some criticism of the ‘ending’ but I really liked the fact that is was realistic. Nothing against fictional coming out stories but the happily ever after they often portray does not often represent the stories of many teens in this situation. I also thought Maggie’s confliction was represented powerfully.

I read some of the one star reviews of this book on goodreads and whilst I agree with some of the concerns highlighted over this being about a relationship between an older 19 year old camp counselor and a 15 year old girl I can’t help but wonder how vehemently those concerns would be expressed if the counselor had been male and the 15 year old female. In fact I’ve seen many older boy/younger girl stories like this fictionally and in real life that are seen as ‘part of the norm’.

This is set in a summer camp in southern America a ‘few’ years ago so usual camp activities take place including shooting guns and the safety around such activities is more lax than I think it would be now. This was again a criticism I read from others, though I think we need to take care to read stories in their context not just applying today’s standards.

I liked the use of humour and ‘silliness’ when describing the typical teen girl behaviour such as lusting over the backstreet boys, being mean to each other and scaring the younger girls. As such I do think that teenagers will relate to the story whatever their sexual orientation. It’s about growing up, discovering yourself, falling in love and heartbreak. What is more universal?

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher Walker for the purposes of an honest review. I read it a year ago so apologies for the delay in reviewing.

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