Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Hugo Awards: Nominations are Open!

The 2015 Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention), to be held in Spokane, Washington, USA in August, has opened nominations for the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  The awards are given annually and are sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS).  One of the wonderful things about these awards is that any member of Worldcon can nominate and vote on the awards in all categories.

The Hugos are awarded in the following categories:

  • Best Novel (40k words or more)
  • Best Novella (17.5k words to 39,999 words)
  • Best Novelette (7.5k words to 17,499 words)
  • Best Short Story (less than 7.5k words)
  • Best Related Work
  • Best Graphic Story
  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form (90+ minutes)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form (<90 minutes)
  • Best Editor – Long Form
  • Best Editor – Short Form
  • Best Professional Artist
  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Fanzine
  • Best Fancast
  • Best Fan Writer
  • Best Fan Artist

The John W. Campbell Award is presented and awarded along with the Hugos, but its rules are not governed by the WSFS,

Eligible works are generally those released during the last calendar year (so we’re looking at 2014 releases here), but you can see the full eligibility details for more information.

Are you someone who enjoys science fiction and fantasy in its myriad forms?  Do you have opinions on what was clearly the best of the best in 2014?

To be eligible to participate in nominations, you must meet at least one of the following criteria by January 31, 2015:

  • Attending or Supporting member of the 2014 Worldcon (Loncon 3);
  • Attending or Supporting member of the 2015 Worldcon (Sasquan); or
  • Attending or Supporting member of the 2016 Worldcon (MidAmeriCon II)

Supporting memberships to Sasquan are available for USD40.  To be eligible to vote in this year’s awards (after nominations are completed and the final ballot is determined) you must be an Attending or Supporting member of Sasquan.

I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on a few categories over the coming weeks as we approach the nominating deadline of March 10.  I don’t think I talked about the Hugos on the blog at all last year, so I’m excited to do so this time around.

A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

10551626Title: A Troubled Range (Stories from the Range, Book 2)
Author: Andrew Grey
Published: March 25, 2011
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:
Dakota Holden’s neighbor, Kent Jessup, has had a bone to pick with his father for…well, as long as Dakota can remember. The two have never gotten along. But when Dakota helps Kent’s son, Haven, during a storm and ensures he makes it home safely, the two seem clear that the rivalry isn’t something that is going to continue to their generation. And when Haven meets Dakota’s friend Phillip, it appears he may have more in common with Dakota than he thought…and more reason to visit Dakota’s ranch. But Phillip is only visiting temporarily, and Haven knows his father wouldn’t take too well if he ever found out his secret…

A great follow-up to A Shared Range. I really liked Phillip in the last book, so I was glad to see him return in this installment and embark on his own journey to find what makes him happy. There’s also something so endearing about Haven that I found truly drawing me in and keeping me for the duration. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this series continues from here…

Play It Forward by Frederick Smith

21413953Title: Play It Forward
Author: Frederick Smith
Published: January 19, 2015
Pages: 264
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Malcolm Campbell is content to quietly make a difference in the world. The organization he founded in Los Angeles, LADS, allows him to provide opportunities and positive examples to gay youth, himself being a role model to many. But when less than flattering videos of him and an ex-boyfriend show up on the internet, all of that may be in jeopardy. And even after the videos are taken down, Malcolm knows once something is on the internet, it can never truly go away.

There’s also the matter of his nephew, Blake, coming to visit for the summer. And then there’s Tyrell Kincaid, the professional basketball player that Malcolm met at a LADS event and the hint of a spark between them. Though it’s widely rumored that Tyrell is in a secret relationship with R&B singer Tommie Jordan. But all things can only be hidden for so long before they bubble to the surface and come out in the open…

This is the first book I’ve read by Frederick Smith, but it certainly has me interested in reading more. There are a lot of players here and it’s not an easy story to tell, but he does it well. The focus is on how Malcolm deals with all of the fallout of the situations and less on the endgame relationship, but it gets there.

The book is an interesting commentary, I think, on the closet, the nature of celebrity, community identity, and what it means to be an upstanding role model. There’s a recognition that even those in the spotlight are entitled to make their mistakes as long as they’re honest about them–especially with themselves.

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

16128152Title: Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin, Book 1)
Author: Jordan L. Hawk
Published: December 4, 2012
Pages: 236
Publisher: Jordan L. Hawk
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:
Percival Endicott Whyborne: scholar of dead languages and museum employee, somewhat repressed, and definitely a bit awkward. Griffin Flaherty: private investigator, and currently embroiled in a rather curious case. Griffin approaches Whyborne to translate the text of an old book, and Whyborne wants nothing more than to make quick work of it and be on his way. But when the two of them are caught up in forces beyond their control — both paranormal and romantic in nature — their hearts and lives may very well be in danger.

I first met these two when I read Remnant, the short crossover with K.J. Charles’ Caldwell & Feximal. So I was definitely excited to dive in and see where it all began for these guys. And I did enjoy this very much. It is, after all, a historical paranormal mystery romance, and I’m definitely a fan of that. I certainly look forward to seeing how things develop throughout the series.

The Martian by Andy Weir

20829029Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Published: 2011 (re-released October 28, 2014)
Pages: 369
Publisher: Andy Weir (re-released by Broadway Books)
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★★ ☆
Review:

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Within days of landing on Mars, the crew of the Ares 3 mission is forced to abandon the planet due to a strong sandstorm. In the course of evacuating, astronaut Mark Watney is hit with an antenna and dies. But while sensors indicated he was dead to the crew, they were wrong. Watney has survived and has been left behind with no way of communicating with the crew or with NASA back on Earth and definitely not enough supplies to make it until the Ares 4 crew arrives on the planet years from now. But he’s not one to just give up without trying and plans to use both his engineering and botany training to see just how long he can make it and if there might be some way to let those back at home know he is okay.

I was honestly surprised at how easily this one sucked me in. Most of the book is Watney’s mission logs–first person accounts of what he’s doing and thinking as he works to survive on Mars–but they read easily and are, at times, a bit entertaining, too. There are some cutaways to Earth and the crew that run in parallel to the logs to provide the story of what’s going on off-planet. While this is science fiction, it reads as nearly believable, and I think that adds to the authenticity and the humanity of the storytelling. I normally don’t enjoy hard science fiction (I prefer touches of the fantastic), but I really enjoyed this one. It’s not overly action-focused and it comes off a bit understated, but it’s very much worth the read.

2014 in Review: #6 & #5

ID-10088833Now that 2014 has drawn to a close and 2015 is here and upon us, I wanted to take some time this month to reflect on the best of what I read this past year.  I read way more than I ever have in a single year (306 books!) and while a few of them were not ones I’d recommend, most books were compelling and engaging reads.  While everything I’d recommend is either already here on the blog or still to come (I’ve some reviews already queued out into March), I’m going to highlight the 10 books I read in 2014 that I rated a whopping 5 stars.

Note: These are books I read in 2014, not necessarily published in 2014.

#6 – City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

20174424Hands down the top science fiction/fantasy title I read this year, City of Stairs, tells the story of Shira Thivani who, in the course of investigating the death of a diplomat, comes to learn more than she could have imagined about the history of her world, her country, and her family.  See my full review of City of Stairs.

#5 – The River Leith by Leta Blake

22034261When former amateur boxer, Leith, wakes up from a coma with amnesia, he starts on a difficult journey of finding himself.  But there’s a similar journey to be had for those around him as they find what role they will play in Leith’s new life.  See my full review of The River Leith.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Shared Range by Andrew Grey

8839364Title: A Shared Range (Stories from the Range, Book 1)
Author: Andrew Grey
Published: September 20, 2010
Pages: 208
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Dakota Holden gave up medical school when he learned his father was ill and trying to hide it from him. Someone needed to run the family ranch and he was it. So back home he went–and back into the closet–only getting away for one week each year. On one of these trips he meets Phillip who eventually decides to take a vacation of his own to visit Dakota and brings along his friend, Wally. Dakota and Wally hit it off, but Wally presents his own challenges for Dakota: Can he be out and still have the respect of his friends, family, and employees? And Wally’s need to help all animals–including the wolves preying on the area ranches’ livestock–can only serve to make it that much harder for him to fit in if Dakota somehow convinced him to stay…

There is a lot going on in this book. It’s just over 200 pages, but by the end of it, you feel like you’ve just read something much longer. Andrew Grey has constructed this story very well and he really brings these characters to life. I wanted to reach into the book and shake Dakota on more than one occasion and I would love to invite Phillip over for coffee. These guys are great!

2015 Reading Goals

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Curtis has
read 7 books toward his goal of 104 books.
hide

 

Last year I read way more books than expected.  After a few years of never really hitting my goals, I decided I was going to follow through on my resolution to read a book a week (52) in 2014.  Thanks to a number of reading challenges and the fact that I basically put all other media consumption to a minimum (my total movies watched last year was pathetic*), I shattered that goal and ended with a staggering count of 306.  It’s still a bit overwhelming to reflect on that total.

In setting my goal for this year, I decided to pick somewhat of a medium between my 2014 goal and my actual total.  While I clearly know I can hit that 300 number again, I don’t want to feel like it’s a necessity (and I know from past experience that once the goal seems out of reach, it’s so much easier to give up).  And this year I have a number of longer books I want to read, which is definitely going to impact that final number.  (And, let’s face it, I also would like to see more films and actually do some writing this year–last year’s word count is another very sad total.*)  So I’ve gone with 104–two books per week.  If I break that number, cool.  But I’m not pushing myself to do so because even if I beat last year’s record, I would still not be able to read everything I would actually like to read.  And I don’t doubt I’ll at least get there considering I’m averaging 5 books per week for the first two weeks of the year (building up a nice buffer for the busier times of year when it’s a struggle to fit in extra time to read).

*Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t regret all the reading.  It was more than worthwhile.  I’d just like to have a more balanced 2015.

Forever Under a Rainbow by Posy Roberts

22432745Title: Forever Under a Rainbow
Author: Posy Roberts
Published: June 6, 2014
Pages: 69
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Review:

Bridger is new to the concept of dating men. In fact, he’s really only comfortable labeling himself as “not straight” and nothing more. His path of exploration leads him online where he meets Stone, who seems interesting, and convinces him to go on a date. While Bridger enjoys himself and feels a connection, Stone doesn’t seem to feel the same way, telling Bridger the time isn’t right, leaving Bridger feeling a bit blown off–and suspecting it has to do with his inexperience. While Bridger sets out to find someone else, he can’t help thinking that Stone really is the one and wondering if he might somehow get him to come around.

This was a simple and easy to follow story. The characters are interesting (though we don’t get too much of Stone) and everything seems to flow well. Plot-wise, I would have like to see more in the way of relationship development–a bit more of a build–but it wasn’t so stark that it really detracted from the overall story.

Carte Blanche by Nash Summers

PrintTitle: Carte Blanche
Author: Nash Summers
Published: June 1, 2014
Pages: 57
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review:

Jude suffers from extreme OCD and social anxiety. He doesn’t venture out much, oft confined to his apartment. But when a new guy, Devin, moves in across the hall and seems intent on interacting with Jude, he begins to see a reason to venture beyond his apartment walls.

I’m definitely not a fan of those stories where Guy A’s troubles all magically melt away because Guy B steps into his life, and fear not–this is not one of those stories. The interplay between Jude and Devin is interesting and intriguing, genuine and unique. Devin may give Jude both a reason to reach out and support to do so, but Jude offers just as much in the way of challenge to Devin and helping him to grow. A short, sweet read and definitely recommended.