Tag: Chris F. Holm


Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 26 January, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, so I took a while to think of a theme I liked… But you’ll be relieved (or not) to discover that I did eventually make my mind up: the theme for me this week is “top ten books I picked up at random that were a really good idea”. All of these books I just grabbed in a bookstore or library, without checking reviews or being recommended them. I’ve linked my reviews in cases where I’ve posted them here, though!

Cover of A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington Cover of The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams Cover of A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel 11806282 Cover of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

  1. A Taste of Blood WineFreda Warrington. I thought this might be a silly vampire story, but I was in the mood for that. I didn’t expect it to be as well written and absorbing as it was — nor to have LGBT+ characters, female scientists pre-WWII, and a rich mythic background.
  2. The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams. I actually bought this whole series in one go, plus his Otherland books, and enjoyed them all greatly. Time for a reread, soon!
  3. A Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. It’s been a while since I read this series, so I just remember picking it up in Borders and getting quite absorbed.
  4. Dead HarvestChris F. Holm. And that whole series, in fact. I really loved the pulp pastiche covers, and loving the story was a good bonus.
  5. The Invisible LibraryGenevieve Cogman. Granted, I didn’t read it until rather later, but just the summary was enough to make me grab this one.
  6. The Gate to Women’s CountrySheri S. Tepper. I liked this so much more than I expected. I’d been more or less anti-recommended Tepper’s work, and just picked this one up because it was in the SF Masterworks list.
  7. The Universe Versus Alex WoodsGavin Extence. I picked this up in Belgium — I can’t remember if it was the time my ereader broke and I just had to get my hands on some books, any books, to fill the void. Anyway, I ended up loving it, but I hadn’t read anything about it beforehand and I was quite surprised by the depth of the subject matter.
  8. The Rose GardenSusanna Kearsley. On the face of it, this didn’t even look like my thing. But I ended up giving it four stars, so not bad, right?
  9. On Basilisk Station, David Weber. I loved this — and my sister loved it even more. Yet I remember just being mildly curious when I picked it up at the library…
  10. Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds. Even if I hadn’t loved the book, it’d be worth the price of entry because it was the book that got my sister back into reading, after years of not being interested. And it’s still her favourite.

Cover of The Gate to Women's Country by Sherri S. Tepper Cover of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence Cover of The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley Cover of On Basilisk Station by David Weber Cover of Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

I really need to jot down ideas for freebie weeks in advance. Any suggestions, people?!

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The story behind The Killing Kind

Posted 1 October, 2015 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

You might know I’m a bit of a fan of Chris Holm’s work — you can find my reviews of his Collector trilogy here, and of his new book The Killing Kind here — and we’ve had some great interactions (including some signed bookmarks for the Collector series, featured in my review of that trilogy!), so I was excited to be contacted and asked if I wanted to feature a post from him about the journey behind writing The Killing Kind.

It’s a bit of a jump from publishing SF/F Chandler/Hammett pastiche with Angry Robot to writing a book set in reality (albeit the dark underside of reality I wouldn’t want to visit, unless guided by an author like Chris in a safely fictional vehicle)… but as you can see from Chris Holm’s post here, maybe it has something in common with the Collector trilogy after all.

It just wouldn’t die, you see.


The Story Behind THE KILLING KIND
Chris Holm

It began, as many criminal enterprises do, with a layoff—with a man, suddenly out of work, nearing the end of his rope.

Writers don’t often talk about their day jobs, but I’m a scientist by training. For a time, I thought I wanted to be one of those bug hunters the CDC dispatches whenever there’s an outbreak of something deadly and exotic. (My wife, as you might imagine, was thrilled.) I was serious enough that I enrolled in a microbiology PhD program at the University of Virginia—but ultimately, it didn’t stick. A field that challenging demands one’s full attention, and I couldn’t bring myself to shelve my dream of becoming a published author. So I dropped out of grad school, took a job as a researcher for a small biotech startup, and got writing.

Nine years, one unpublished novel, and a handful of short stories later, that startup folded—and for the first time since I was sixteen, I was jobless. So when my buddy Steve Weddle told me he was launching a new print magazine and asked if I’d like to contribute a story, I said sure. He couldn’t afford to pay me, but I didn’t care. I needed something to do to keep me from climbing the walls while waiting to hear back on all the resumes I sent out.

I pitched Steve couple story ideas. One was lean and mean at maybe 3,000 words—the sort of story I was known for (inasmuch as I was known at all). The other was a monster, a behemoth—an idea so ambitious that I worried it’d get away from me, and wind up too long to print. When I told Steve so, here’s what he replied:

“The problem with online writing (which I love and have nothing against and love and did I make it clear that I love online?) is that folks have a tough time scrolling through a 10k word blog post of a story. So if you have a piece that’s longer than 5k, being in print would be the way to go, I think. AHMM and EQMM and those folks have limits to size. I mean, they can’t just run 20k of something because it’s cool. Needle can. It’s what we were built for. Yeah, some quick punch is great. But something longer, developed, intricate, high-concept would be great to see in print.”

So, caution thrown, I sat down and wrote “The Hitter”—a hard-bitten tale of violence, loss, and redemption, featuring a hitman who only hits other hitmen. It came out fast. Crazy fast. And at 11,000 words, it wound up more novella than short story.

“The Hitter” appeared in Needle’s second issue. To my surprise and delight, people really responded to it. It was nominated for an Anthony Award, and selected to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. I’m pretty sure that means I owe Steve a beer.

But for some reason, the story still nagged at me. Unlike all the other shorts I’d written, it felt unfinished—which was odd, since it was already longer than the lot of ’em. I told myself to leave it be. That I shouldn’t mess with a good thing. Then, one day, I woke up with an idea that changed everything. I could pull back the camera. Shift the narrative from claustrophobic first-person to sprawling third. Show not just the (hopefully redemptive) journey of the hitman protagonist, but also that of the antagonists who want him dead, and those who hope to bring him to justice. A few months later, I’d finished the first draft of THE KILLING KIND.

Whether the transition from short story to novel was successful isn’t for me to say—but so far, buzz has been good. THE KILLING KIND received the first starred review of my career, from Kirkus. I’ve gotten glowing blurbs from writers I admire. In one of the more surreal turns of my life, the legendary David Baldacci called it “a story of rare, compelling brilliance.”

I’m grateful, if a bit befuddled. All I was trying to do was make this story finally shut up. I’m nearly finished with book two, and it hasn’t yet. It’s almost enough to make me wish I’d been laid off ages ago.

Almost.

***

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. His critically acclaimed Collector trilogy made over forty Year’s Best lists. His latest novel, THE KILLING KIND, is about a man who makes his living hitting hitmen, only to wind up a target himself. For links to Chris on Twitter and Facebook, visit www.chrisholmbooks.com.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 29 September, 2015 by Nikki in General / 16 Comments

Hmm, this week’s theme is about recommending stuff you like if you like something popular, and I’m never sure about what’s actually popular and what I just know about because I’m in my own little circle. So I’m just going to suggest some readalikes.

  1. If you like N.K. Jemisin, especially The Fifth Season, try Kameron Hurley. Reading the start of The Fifth Season, I was so struck that it ‘felt like’ The Mirror Empire.
  2. If you like J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly in The Lord of the Rings mode, try Poul Anderson. He was also one of the founding writers of SF/F, and dug into a lot of the same material that influenced Tolkien.
  3. If you like Raymond Chandler, try Chris F. Holm. Mostly if you like SF/F as well, because the Collector series is a lot of fun, and riffs on Chandler and Hammett’s style and plots. But The Killing Kind is also great.
  4. If you like Jacqueline Carey, particularly the Kushiel books, try Freda Warrington, starting with A Taste of Blood Wine. There’s a similar lushness there in the language and style.
  5. If you like Ilona Andrews, try Jacqueline Carey! She has written some urban fantasy type stuff with the Agent of Hel trilogy, which is now complete.
  6. If you like Catherynne M. Valente, try Patricia McKillip — or the other way round, both being differently famous depending on your circles. The lyrical writing and some of the themes seem akin.
  7. If you like any books at all, try Jo Walton. She’s written in a whole range of genres, but mostly I’m thinking of the fantasy/coming of age story, Among Others. If you’re in love with books, you’ll have something in common with Mori.
  8. If you like Ellen Kushner’s Swordspointtry Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone. Also has LGBT themes, in a more fantastical world. Never seems to get the love I’d like to see for it!
  9. If you like epic fantasy, of whatever stripe, try Tad Williams. I really enjoyed the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books, and though they stick quite close to a traditional fantasy mould, they had a lot there that I appreciated, especially by way of characters.
  10. If you like Gail Carriger, try Genevieve Cogman. The tone is less silly, but some of the same enthusiasm and tone is there.

I’ll be interested to see what other people are recommending here! I found this one difficult, because I’m never sure how to judge other people’s taste.

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Review – The Killing Kind

Posted 16 July, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of The Killing Kind by Chris F HolmThe Killing Kind, Chris F. Holm
Received to review via Netgalley

I was excited to get this ARC. I loved Holm’s Collector series, and though this goes more into the detective line and away from the fantastical aspects that got me into it, I still love Holm’s writing, and I love the concept. I don’t know if this is meant to become a series or something — there’s room for it, given the ending, but it would be awkward to put the emotional punch into it. The main character is already a ghost, cut off from family and friends: there’s basically only two people he cares for, and by the end of this book, one of them is dead and the other is going into witness protection where she should, in theory, be safe.

Still, if Holm decides to write more, I trust him to do it well. There’s a redemption plot here, after all: Hendricks is killing hitmen with the eventual goal of redemption. When exactly he might reach that, I don’t think the character knows.

Anyway, this has slick writing, with just the right levels of detail. I love that it has some queer characters, too, just casually in with the rest because that’s how it works. I felt like I knew what was coming a little too often at the end, but maybe that’s just in comparison to mysteries where the end is deliberately from out of nowhere.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday Thoughts: Audiobooks

Posted 4 September, 2014 by in General / 15 Comments

Aaaaand this week’s theme from Ok, Let’s Read:

Do you listen to audiobooks/Have you listened to an audiobook in the past? What books? Do you enjoy audiobooks? Why or why not? Are there certain genres that you feel might lend themselves better to being read in audiobook form?

Audiobooks! I love listening to audiobooks, particularly while I’m crocheting or doing something else that similarly occupies my hands but not (too much of) my mind. For a long time I was just listening to the BBC adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ work, and the mammoth set that is The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: I’m now supplementing that with a bit of Ngaio Marsh read by Benedict Cumberbatch, and I have some other books on the queue: some Iain (M.) Banks, one of Chris Holm’s, Trudi Canavan… I love the BBC audioplays of most things best: they do great casting, and they have a great range of stuff. My favourite was probably the adaptation of The Dark is Rising. It’s different, but I can accept that, because that’s what adaptations have to do. (Same reason as I reluctantly accept Faramir being less noble in The Lord of the Rings movie, because the reasoning makes sense. Also why I accept that some people will enjoy The Hobbit film, but I don’t: it’s an adaptation, and I can accept why they’ve done it that way, it just doesn’t work for me.)

So yeah, right now I’m listening to Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh) and Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm). I’m struggling a little bit with Dead Harvest, even though I love the novel itself: it’s not abridged, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the narrator at first, though by now I’ve decided he sounds perfect. Just a pity he doesn’t change his voice a little when Sam changes bodies…

The downsides to audiobooks for me, really, are when I disagree with the adaptation, the choice of narrator, the abridgement, etc. Also the pace: I’m a fast reader, and in the time it took the narrator to get to chapter three in Dead Harvest, I could’ve been on chapter ten by myself. Still, it’s a different medium and I try to enjoy it for what it is.

In terms of genres, no, I don’t think there’s a particular genre that lends itself to the form. I do think there’re styles that do, though: something with a lot of dialogue, and less by way of visual description, or with a good first person narrator, for example. So much depends on how the adaptation is done.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 3 September, 2014 by in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
The Hidden Landscape (Richard Fortey), which is gorgeous even though it’s about geology, a subject I care very little about. I think he could actually make me interested in gardening, a subject which I often point out to Grandma I know less than nothing about except I guess I know plant biology.

What are you currently reading?
I’m in a bit of a slump, actually, which makes all my ARCs and review copies a little awkward. Still, I’ve got Dead Harvest (Chris F. Holm) on the go as an audiobook, and Manon Lescaut (Abbé Prévost) has been loaded onto my ereader ready for a class. I think I’m 10% of the way through that? So yeah, not too bad, though I know the plot basically because of the reference in Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers).

Oh, there is also We Are Here (Michael Marshall), which I’m enjoying in a slowly-unravelling sort of way. I like Michael Marshall (Smith)’s writing in general, so. There’s also Black Unicorn and Book of Skulls, still, which I probably mentioned last week, and The Toll-Gate (Georgette Heyer). As you can see, I’m not taking the reading slump lying down…

What will you read next?
For one of my Coursera classes, I need to reread Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), so that’s most likely what I’ll do. I also have a biography of the Brontes out of the library, so maybe I’ll read that too.

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Thursday Thoughts: Social Media

Posted 28 August, 2014 by in General / 9 Comments

Today’s Thursday Thoughts from Ok, Let’s Read is about social media:

Have you ever connected with an author through social media? Do you think it’s important to have things like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a blogger, reviewer or author? Why or why not? How do you think social media has progressed and changed the bookish world in recent years? And, now for a fun question: Are there any authors who’s Twitter feed you just can’t get enough of?

I have connected with authors through social media, quite a lot. I tend to follow authors I like or who say interesting things on Twitter, so I do actually discover new books through Twitter sometimes. I met Jo Walton through LiveJournal, and after a couple of years chatting on there, I met her in person a couple of weeks ago and spent the day with her and a lot of other people. So that was pretty cool. I’ve also got some authors on Facebook and stuff like that — Chris F. Holm is on my FB list after he linked to a post here and kindly added me so I can read the discussion, and I follow him on Twitter, etc. It can be a really good tool for just getting brief but meaningful and non-stressful interactions with authors: I’ve had back and forths with Saladin Ahmed, Kameron Hurley, Joanne Harris, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin… It’s great. Some interactions have been more positive than others (Nnedi Okorafor and I didn’t completely get on), but it’s always interesting.

I think it helps to have at least one social media account, to boost your profile a bit and give you another medium to talk, maybe less formally than in a blog post. Instagram seems less important to me, and I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but Twitter and the ability for people to RT my reviews is great, plus there’s plenty of competitions for ARCs and so on that go on via social media. Goodreads and LibraryThing are also good ways to connect with other book reviewers, and a lot of the reviewers I follow are still on those platforms — I transitioned to my own blog because I disagree with some GR policies, and didn’t want them to have my content exclusively, plus it wasn’t a good place for posts like this. It’s also better to have your own blog for getting ARCs, and you can’t really do blog tours on GR or LT, so there’s that as well.

It does change the way the book world works in some ways, for those who do interact with authors on social media, and for authors who interact on social media. Sometimes I think authors do themselves a disservice by airing their opinions hastily (or sometimes at all) on Twitter. Sometimes authors really promote their work that way, though.

As for authors whose Twitter feeds I can’t get enough of, there’s obviously John Scalzi, who is usually smart and pretty much always hilarious, and Kameron Hurley, because I enjoy her blog posts and her thoughts on pretty much everything. N.K. Jemisin often has smart things to say and interesting links, too.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 14 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 30 Comments

Yep, it’s that time again. Time for Stacking the Shelves, as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, that is. I didn’t think I’d been too acquisitive this week, but I have been tearing a streak through Ngaio Marsh’s novels, so… heh.

Books bought

 Cover of Death in Ecstasy by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Vintage Murder, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Artists in Crime, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death in a White Tie, by Ngaio MarshCover of Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death at the Bar, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Surfeit of Lampreys, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Death and the Dancing Footman, by Ngaio Marsh    Cover of Colour Scheme, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of the anthology Long Hidden

I already had Long Hidden as an ARC, but I figured I was taking too long to read it and I wanted to get a better look at the art anyway. So tahdah. Ngaio Marsh wise, well, I think I’m doomed to the whole series. Such a hardship…

Review copies

Cover of 8 Pounds, by Chris F. Holm Cover of Dead Letters, by Chris F. Holm Cover of I, Morgana, by Felicity Pulman Cover of the comic Noir

A while back, Chris Holm pulled his crime fiction anthologies from Amazon (explanation here), and offered to send them out to anyone who got in touch to ask. I did, but forgot to load them on my Kobo at the time, so forgot to feature them here. Now I have!

Sadly, I was turned down for Garth Nix’s Clariel this week, despite the numbers of people who see my reviews across various sites. If you have it, believe me, I am burning with jealousy.

And finally, yep, it’s that time again — new Captain Marvel!

Cover of Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel, issue #4

Enough to keep me busy, you think? What’s everyone else been stocking up on?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 17 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

Some other blogs I follow do this meme, every Tuesday, and it seemed like a good idea. So! This week the top ten theme picked by The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten new-to-me authors in 2013”. This is pretty hard — I’m rubbish at picking top tens — but hey, with this one I just need to use Goodreads and look among my four and five starred books for this year, and hopefully I should be able to figure something out. They will not, I warn, be in any particular order.

  1. Cassandra Rose Clarke. I loved The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which reminded me of a more daring, personal The Positronic Man (Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg). All sorts of themes which I love, and there’s something so powerfully sensual about it, too — there’s a physicality to it that surprised me and moved me.
  2. Georgette Heyer. I think I may technically have read one or two of her detective novels in 2012, but I kept away from her Regency romances, because I thought that was obviously not my thing. How wrong I was! The Talisman Ring, The Reluctant Widow and The Grand Sophy were probably my favourites. Heyer’s romances are actually way more fun (for me) than her detective novels, and often wickedly funny too.
  3. Karen Lord. I’ve only read part of The Best of All Possible Worlds, but I’m enjoying it, and I really loved Redemption in Indigo. Folk-story type narration and structure, awesome female characters, etc.
  4. Martha Wells. I’ve only read City of Bones, but I loved it. Non-traditional gender stuff, avoids the easy way out, lots of tasty, tasty world building. I think I’ve bought almost all the rest of her books as a result.
  5. Franny Billingsley. Oh my goodness, Chime. Just, oh my goodness. I loved the narration, the magic, the things it said about abuse and surviving and living again. I also enjoyed The Folk Keeper and Well Wished — less so, and they’re less touching/heavy subjects, but they’re a lot of fun too.
  6. Arthur C. Clarke. Yeah, I know, I’m a bit late on this one. But I really enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t realise that I’d enjoy his writing style so much — I had him sort of filed away as maybe like H.G. Wells, interesting for ideas but not quite entertaining. Wroooong.
  7. Lord Dunsany. Yeah, again, I know. I read Time and the Gods and am determined to spend more time reading his stuff: it’s just the sort of mythic, rich stuff I can really dig into.
  8. C.J. Sansom. I’ve been meaning to read his stuff for quite a while, but this year I finally got round to it. I enjoy his writing style, and while there are bones I have to pick with the Shardlake books, I do enjoy his way of portraying that time period and his choice of protagonist.
  9. Chris F. Holm. About time another Angry Robot author showed up, doncha think? I love Dead Harvest, etc: it’s funny, it’s a good pastiche of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett et al., and the covers are amazing. I just had so much fun reading these books.
  10. David Weber. He and Aliette de Bodard fought a fierce battle for this last spot, but he won. I loved On Basilisk Station, despite many flaws I could find in it. I mean, ten pages of exposition slap bang in the middle of an epic space chase/battle. WHAT. But still. I love Honor and I’m looking forward to reading more of the series.

I’m being good and sticking to the letter of the law: only a top ten. The top ten books I read in 2013 is coming up not next week but the week after: goodness knows how I’ll manage with that. But for now, off I go to bury my nose in the pages of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley).

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