Archive for B R Collins

No more BSc for me!

Posted in Books with tags , , on November 5, 2009 by Cara Marie

I am very much enjoying being ‘on holiday’ (for a value of holiday that means very soon I will be working the Christmas retail rush). I don’t have to study! I can watch television in the evenings and not feel like I should be doing something else! I never have to think about rocks again if I don’t want to! It’s my choice.

I do have to finish making up my CV, and writing a letter about why I am special and ought to be welcoming in the publishing course. I’m thinking I should cut the parts ranting about how NZ publishers don’t appreciate sci-fi & fantasy. It shows I’m passionate?

Otherwise, since my last exam, I have been entertaining my niece, and making ice cream. I can report that my niece is tiring and charming, and that ice cream is delicious even if you eat it before it’s frozen properly. I’m also bemused to learn that ice cream isn’t so much frozen cream as frozen custard. I thought at first that custard was some sort of technical ice cream making word, because I think of custard as coming from powder, but no, actually custard. Fancy that.

I was going to write a review of BR Collin’s new book, A Trick of the Dark, but all I really have to say is that it gives my intense writerly envy. It’s a – psychological-fantasy thriller? Not as heart-breaking as her first book, but she is an amazing, gripping writer.

I’m not sure whether to be amused or depressed by the concerted effort gone to in the biography on the inside flap not to mention that she’s a woman. I read it on the internet, but really, isn’t every author who uses their initials these days a woman? Okay, not MT Anderson. But everyone else. I’ll just pretend some people don’t like their names. Must be it.

My favourite books of 2008

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2009 by Cara Marie

Because the only thing I love as much as reading books is talking about books.

Best YA SF

This was a good year for young adult SF. My favourite was The Traitor Game, from B.R. Collins (B is for Bridget – oh, Bloomsbury, I love you but this makes me sad). It’s told as two co-thematic stories – the contemporary one, of course, but instead of an old diary, where the protagonist might find their troubles echoed in the past, we have a story set in the invented world of our protagonist. This is the world he escapes too, though it is no less harsh than ours, and no less affecting of the reader.

I reviewed The Traitor Game shortly after reading it, and I’m glad to say it came out with the lovely cover here. It’s a gorgeous book.

The Savage, written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean, is another gorgeous book, though the pictures tells as much of the story as the words. I mention it here because it’s another story within a story – a boy writes a tale that begins to merge with his own life. I compared it to Isobelle Carmody and Stephen Woolman’s Dreamwalker.

Honourable mentions: Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games. The former suffered only from an unnecessary cliffhanger, and the latter I can’t fault technically, only it didn’t leave me as disturbed at the ending of it as The Traitor Game did.

New releases from favourite authors that didn’t ping me quite as well as I wanted were Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia. I’ll probably have to go back to them. I want to talk about why The Graveyard Book didn’t quite do it for me, but I think that’ll have to be a post on its own.

Best Adult SF

All the kids’ books mentioned were 2008 releases, and in hardback what’s more. My adult reading is a lot less current.

Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales was a two volume release, In the Night Garden in 2006, and In the Cities of Coin and Spice in 2007. I read them both at the start of this year, and reviewed them considerably later for the Salient women’s issue. Completely strange and wonderous.

Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels was less wonderous and more tear-at-your-heart. Notice how definitely I am sticking it in the adult section. I don’t know that this one will be a keystone for me, but I am certainly happy to pimp it out to everyone I can, over the age of 18.

I got more joy from reading Tanya Huff’s Valor series, though I’ve yet to read the most recent volume, which came out this year in hardback. I imprinted on Tanya Huff back when I was in intermediate, reading Wizard of the Grove. The Valor books are completely different from that duology – one epic, though female-centred, fantasy, one military SF. Tanya Huff can do the action, and she can do the wonderful, and she can also do the hilarious. Love love love.

Weirdest Books

Tanith Lee does wonderful too, but she can also do bizarre. I think Eva Fairdeath may be about her first book. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disturbed being in a character’s head.

A different kind of weird is Nishio Ishin’s Death Note tie-in novel, Another Note. It had ridiculous names, yes, but it also had a surprisingly satisfying denouement, and some intriguing repercussions for the series. And, of course, it was total crack, and in a beautifully presented package. If only I could remember who I lent it to.

I think Another Note is probably the only thing on this list was isn’t SF, and that’s only if you ignore the premise of the series it’s based off. I am not going to do anything about this deficit. Instead, I am going to move on.


I like stories about stories, and I also like my non-fiction to be about stories. I read the Norton Classic Fairy Tales around this time last year. It’s edited by Maria Tatar, and filled with goodies -such as the multiple variations of each of the included tales, including contemporary reworkings, which are fascinating put next to each other. There’s so much more in the evolution of a fairy story than you might expect. The collection of criticism at the end is also engaging, giving us other scholars to look out for, and also providing the opportunity to laugh at the Freudians.

At the end of the year, I read Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, which looks at fairy tales from a more personal perspective. It’s mostly essays, written by female writers and edited by Kate Bernheimer. It got me to thinking about my own fairy tale reading, and led me to a mostly forgotten author.

Other books that discuss fairy tales and the lives of women I read this year were Spinning Straw into Gold, which left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth, and Women Who Run with the Wolves, which was a compulsive read, though I didn’t entirely buy it.

I read 107 books through last year, not including the many picture books and early readers that one picks up working in a children’s bookshop. I’m really pleased that I’ve kept a record. You wouldn’t think I’d bitched so much about doing reading logs at high school, for sure.

The Traitor Game – B.R. Collins

Posted in Books with tags on June 29, 2008 by Cara Marie

At last! A reader that stood up to the hype the publishers gave about it! Although looking at the responses on Goodreads thus far, it’s one you either love or hate. I loved it. One of my workmates told me to read it, and she clearly knows me too well. Fantasy and intense high school bullying? I’m there!

The Traitor Game is the story of the friendship of Michael and Francis, who come together when Michael’s mother decides that, as he is starting a new school, it’s probably a good idea to know someone beforehand – Francis is the son of a church friend. Despite Michael’s complete lack of social skills, the boys forge a friendship, based around Michael’s invented fantasy world of Evgard.

Which all comes crashing down with an anonymous note left in his locker, leading Michael to believe that Francis has betrayed their friendship, and that all this time he has been mocking Michael and his world. We know this is not the case (it even says so on the jacket), and there are hints enough that even though Michael doesn’t see it, we know the truth behind the notes – and the truth of why what Michael does to Francis in revenge is just so terrible.

So there’s that horror you get from watching things you know are going to turn out badly, but it’s a testament to the author’s skill, I think, that you never blame Michael. That you care about him, even though his actions are sometimes quite contemptible. He’s clearly screwed up, and Francis can’t figure out his behavior, because he doesn’t realise just how screwed up that is.

It’s quite distressing to read. Thank god then, that this is YA and doesn’t have a tragic ending. Because it’s convincing enough that I probably would have spent the rest of the evening crying.

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