Sunday, October 4, 2015

New Releases 10/6/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskins

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin

Wicked Ever After by Delilah Dawson

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Arlidge

The Searcher by Simon Toyne

You Are Dead by Peter James

The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

The Grave Soul by Ellen Hart

Against a Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer

Ghost to the Rescue by Carolyn G. Hart

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Killing Titan by Greg Bear

The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

Saturn Run by John Sandford & Ctein

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne

Seize the Night edited by Christopher Golden

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

The Survivor by Vince Flynn

The Stephen King Companion by George Beahm

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The White Rose by Amy Ewing

The House by Christina Lauren

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

New on DVD:
What We Did On Our Holiday
Insidious 3
Dark Places
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

New reviews at
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pre Pub Bool Buzz: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

Mike and I recently took a trip to Louisiana where I, of course, had to hit up two different bookstores. First stop was the tiny Faulkner House Books on Pirates Alley where I bought a signed hardcover copy of Christopher Moore's Secondhand Souls (I rationalized this purchase by telling myself we NEEDED it for the trip - Mike forgot his book and even though I had two physical books on hand, neither was anything he wanted to read and I was reading on my Nook).

The second trip was to this super cute bookstore my sister pointed out in the neighborhood where we were staying. Tubby and Coo's is small, but features a strong selection of genre fiction and has an entire upstairs devoted to kids. And of course I had to buy something there, too. This time I told myself it had to be something local.

I stumbled upon a signed hardcover copy of Alys Arden's The Casquette Girls on their shelves and asked the bookseller what he knew about it. Let me tell you, he was SINGING the book's (and author's) praises. He said it was his favorite local title, too. That was enough for me.

Well, it turns out Arden has caught the attention of the folks over at Skyscape and in just a few weeks they'll be releasing a brand spanking new edition of the book.

Here's a bit about The Casquette Girls from Goodreads:

Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.


After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normalneeds a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.

The new edition of The Casquette Girls is due out on shelves November 17. It's also to be the first in a series. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mini Reviews volume 4 - 2015 Debut Author Challenge Edition

I've been getting LOTS of reading done lately. So much so that I have the blog mapped out for an entire month and books still aren't getting featured. Hmm. So here are some more mini reviews to cover a few of those titles.

First up, Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson.

Odea Donohue has an interesting ability. By touching an item, she can travel into the dreams of the person it belongs to. The more special the item is to that person, the easier it is to get into their dreams. Dea's mother has warned her about this power, though, and has set out a few rules that are never to be broken under any circumstances. 

First, Dea is never to be seen inside the dream. Second, she can't interfere. Third, she can never ever walk a person's dreams more than once.

Dea sticks to the rules religiously until Connor arrives in town. From the start, Connor treats Dea and her friend Gollum differently than everyone else. As a result the three become fast friends. But Dea likes Connor as more than just a friend and unfortunately that's the start to her troubles. 

The first half of Dreamland zipped by. Dea's power is super cool and the rules definitely make it more intriguing. Beyond those rules we also learn that Dea's mother has been moving her around from town to town her entire life AND that she has something against mirrors. Lots of stuff to get excited about! Plus, Dea and Connor's friendship develops nicely, as does their relationship beyond friendship, so it's understandable when he becomes the prompt that changes things for Dea.

By the time we get to the truth about Dea's ability, I was kind of blown away. It was definitely not at all what I expected. Anderson's world building is on the one hand quite nice in terms of detail and description but at the same time I felt like there was a depth that was missing in this second half of the book.

I'm going to be a bit obtuse at this point to avoid spoilers, but the big reveal (the one the comes after we learn about her power) was not a surprise and it was too rushed for my taste when it did finally come. Frankly it just felt like a lot of the earlier focus on detail and such was thrown out the window in lieu of bringing the story to a close.

All in all it wasn't a total disappointment but it was one I thought could have been so much better.

Rating: 3/5

Next up Drowning is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley.

Olivia and Jamie have always been best friends. Next door neighbors from early childhood, they've stuck together through the years and supported one another. Olivia, for example, is the daughter of St. Francisville's only suicide and has lived all her life with the sideways glances and pity of her neighbors. And Jamie, well, his home life is less than great. After his father lost his job he turned to alcohol and never really looked back. Now in their senior year of high school Jamie has plans to attend college and Olivia just wants to make it past her eighteenth birthday. But all of that changes when the friends find themselves on the run in the wake of a horrific event. 

It's true that I might be just a little predisposed to love anything in any way connected to my home state, but I have to say that Stanley's debut is - in spite of that predisposition - still a book that is completely awesome.

Drowning is Inevitable is a powerful emotional read. It's a story of friendship and of love. Of sticking by those who mean the most to you no matter what. And it's a story of bad things that happen to good people.

Both Jamie and Olivia live in almost impossible situations. Olivia - and many around her - wonder if her mother's suicide means that Olivia herself will also take her own life. She lives with her grandmother who has begun to confuse her granddaughter with her dead daughter. Even Olivia's room belonged to her mother and is filled with the belongings and memorabilia of the mom she never met. And while her father is a presence in her life, his own grief of the past eighteen years has prevented him from truly being a dad.

Jamie spends his time worrying about and trying to protect his mother. For now, his writings and Olivia are his only escape. When asked why she doesn't leave, his mother says she committed to her husband through better or worse.

This is such a heartbreaking story! I cried. I cried A LOT! The characters are so well drawn and real that Stanley definitely made me feel like I was along for the ride the entire way. And of course, with all that they face I couldn't help but get emotionally involved. I guarantee you will as well.

Rating: 4.5/5

And finally, Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator by Jen Klein.

Jillian's mother is dead and her father disappeared even before that happened. He says he's off on work, but Jillian doesn't care. A junior in high school she's been left to all but fend for herself. 

Umbra Investigations is Jillian's lifeline. Her means of making money and (sometimes) paying bills. Her firm is focused on investigating the weird and supernatural, even if Jillian herself doesn't believe. What matters is that her clients do and as long as they're willing to pay, she's determined to keep up the charade. 

Then Jillian is hired by a fellow student, a girl who wants Umbra to find her missing boyfriend. And if Jillian fails, the student threatens to expose her for the fraud she really is. With new guy Sky Ramsey by her side she - whether she wants him there or not - Jillian vows to close the case even when the clues lead her in a decidedly bizarre direction. 

This debut by Jen Klein is seriously fun! Jillian is a gutsy heroine who puts on a good front but has basically been orphaned. Her mom died while she was in attendance and after a prolonged period of odd behavior too. Her dad is more focused on his work than he is on his daughter. She's not totally alone, though. Her aunt and uncle are there to support her, much as they try, and her cousin helps in her investigations. But Jillian is stubborn and has her heart set on her independence.

Then the twists start coming. In spite of her belief that all paranormal is fake Jillian's case starts to lean more and more in that direction. Before long Jillian begins to realize the truth, but by then the shit's really hitting the fan! 

I do hope this is the first in a new series. There's so much more to Jillian's story and I'm dying to read it!

Rating: 4/5

Short Fiction Friday: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of her people to be accepted into the Oomza University. For most, a place at the university is something to be proud of, but for Binti it is a pride tinged with something akin to shame. The Himba don't travel. They don't leave their people or their land. Binti's parents will never forgive her for her actions.

But Binti's journey, one that becomes easier as she meets her fellow students and travels further from Earth, is about to take a turn for the worse. The Meduse have been at war with the Khoush and now Binti is in the middle. But, as it turns out, Binti could be the one to finally end things.

I am fairly new to Nnedi Okorafor's work - I loved her piece in Robot Uprisings but have yet to read her novels (though Lagoon is in my TBR pile at this very moment). She has been garnering huge praise in sci-fi, though, so I was particularly looking forward to the release of this novella. I was not disappointed.

The story of a girl traveling far from home in search of higher learning isn't a new one, nor is the addressing of the prejudices Binti suffers. But Okorafor adds a number of twists. First, Oomza University is an interplanetary school with students from many different worlds. Second, the story takes place in an unspecified future with technology quite different from our own. Third, the story is set during a time of galactic war!

Okorafor excels in world building. This was definitely something I'd noticed in "Spider the Artist" and was reinforced in reading Binti. For such a short piece (just under 100 pages) she has very little time to let us get to know Binti, the Himba, and the world all the while telling the story itself - and she does it with some ease. (Or at least it reads that way.) We care about Binti, we root for Binti, we want Binti to succeed! And when Binti is in danger, we fear for her as well.

Binti is a fantastic tale and one I hope you'll check out along with the rest of the Publishing novellas this season. (You can check out my review of Paul Cornell's Witches of Lychford, which will have a follow up in 2016, here.) Also out now, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson and Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss.

For more on Nnedi Okorafor including an entire list of her releases so far, you can visit her website here.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

If you're a fan of food based reality tv and foodie focused memoirs, you likely recognize Ruth Reichl's name. A food critic, memoirist, and frequent guest judge on Top Chef, Reichl is a definite celebrity of the foodie world. Her books (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, etc) have given readers a look inside her childhood, her work as a food critic, her earliest days in the food industry... but Reichl's latest, My Kitchen Year is likely her most personal release yet.

A mix of cookbook and memoir, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, begins in the days immediately after the closure of Gourmet where Reichl had been working as editor-in-chief for a decade. And while the shut down came as a complete surprise, Reichl had to keep herself together for the book tour she was on - promoting a Gourmet cookbook!

Her own writings and thoughts are paired with the dishes she cooked in the days, weeks, and months to come. Cooking - and the food that came from that - offered comfort and perspective. An opportunity to reflect as well as an opportunity to look forward.

With the changing of each season, new ingredients and produce were something to experiment with and enjoy! A fall Butternut Squash Soup, a Pomegranate Sunrise Fizz to start a winter day, Rhubarb Sundaes to celebrate the onset of spring, and a Savory Sweet Pasta with capers and cauliflower for an easy summer weeknight meal. These dishes are just a taste of what you'll encounter in My Kitchen Year.

Recipes are written in a loose and somewhat conversation manner, allowing for the reader's own adjustments and preferences. Ingredients are broken into staples (a list of which Reichl includes at the beginning of the book) and "shopping list," or the items you might not have on hand.

The book is perfect for Reichl's fans and for anyone who loves the simple act of cooking. The act of creating a meal for themselves and their loved ones. In other words, anyone who enjoys the comfort a good meal can offer.

Thanks to the publisher I get to share one of those recipes with you today, a perfect fall recipe celebrating a perfect fall ingredient: apple crisp.

Apple Crisp 

Shopping List: 5 heirloom apples, 1 lemon, 3/4 stick butter 
Staples: flour, brown sugar, salt. 

Peel a few different kinds of apples, enjoying the way they shrug reluctantly out of their skins. Core, slice and layer the apples into a buttered pie plate or baking dish and toss them with the juice of one lemon.

Mix 2/3 cups of flour with 2/3 cups of brown sugar, and add a dash of salt and a grating of fresh cinnamon. Using two knives - or just your fingers, cut in most of a stick of sweet butter and pat it over the top. The cooking time is forgiving; you can put your crisp into a 375 oven and pretty much forget it for 45 minutes to an hour. The juices should be bubbling a bit at the edges, the top should be crisp, golden and fragrant. Served warm, with a pitcher of cream, it makes you grateful for fall. 

For more on Ruth Reichl you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter

My Kitchen Year is out now from Random House. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Emma: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition: Q&A with Juliette Wells + a Giveaway

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the beloved Jane Austen classic Emma! To celebrate, Penguin has just released a brand new annotated anniversary edition featuring an introduction by Juliette Wells - and I get to give one away!

We all (I think) know the premise of Emma, so instead of a review today I'm featuring a Q&A with Juliette Wells to give you a taste of what you can expect out of this newest edition.

A conversation with JULIETTE WELLS
Editor and Introducer of EMMA: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of EMMA, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition?

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December, 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December, 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!

And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th-anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.

In the Austen canon, what would you say makes EMMA special and unique?

Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.

Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle.

What was the publishing process like when EMMA was first published? How was the novel received critically? Was Austen as popular in her own day as she is today?

The publishing process was recognizable in some ways and very different in others. Austen didn’t have a literary agent; at that time, authors dealt directly with publishers. With Emma, she chose a new, more prestigious publisher—John Murray—than she had used for her three earlier novels, and she negotiated hard for a good contract with him. As authors are today, Austen was responsible for proofreading and approving copy before publication. Since being a published author was considered not so respectable for an unmarried woman, Austen chose to remain anonymous on her title pages throughout her lifetime. Emma identifies her as “the author of Pride and Prejudice.” Her identity wasn’t made publicly known until after her death.

Like Austen’s earlier novels, Emma was praised by reviewers, who appreciated Austen’s ability to convey a very realistic fictional world. Austen wasn’t a bestseller in her day; then as now, thrillers, adventure stories, and romances outsold quiet literary fiction. But Austen did have the satisfaction of knowing, in her lifetime, that readers appreciated her work. In addition to reading reviews, she kept track of the responses of her friends and family, which offer a wonderful glimpse into what everyday readers of Austen’s own time thought of Emma. Some of what they liked and didn’t like may be very familiar to us!

One of your specialties as a professor of English is how Jane Austen’s work continues to appeal to people, how it remains at the forefront of pop culture conversation. Last year, Alexander McCall Smith updated EMMA, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” hits the big screen in 2016, and movie and TV versions of Austen continue to draw viewers. Why do you think we keep updating and adapting Austen? What are your favorite adaptations or updates, and what makes them successful?

Austen really is endlessly adaptable, much like Shakespeare! You can transpose her stories and her characters to other places and times, and they still work. My own favorite creation inspired by Austen is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, from 1995. Clueless is a joy to experience, and smart too, much like an Austen novel.

I’m also a big fan of Sense and Sensibility, also from 1995, for which Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. Experiencing Austen through the eyes of a witty, thoughtful contemporary woman—it doesn’t get any better than that! I like Karen Joy Fowler’s novel The Jane Austen Book Club, from 2004, for the same reason—an experienced writer chooses to think about how Austen’s works matter to us today, and takes us along for the ride. Lost in Austen, the British miniseries from 2008, is also a big favorite of mine. A rabid Austen fan finds her way into the world of Pride and Prejudice and messes it up. It’s a hoot to see the Austen characters we know so well doing and saying things that they NEVER would have done or said in the original novel.

I think TV and movie adaptations of Austen are so popular for two main reasons. They’re beautiful to watch, no question. And they offer a respite—which a lot of people of all ages value—from the loud, fast, scary, stuff that much of mainstream entertainment is these days. The tricky part comes, sometimes, when someone knows and loves Austen through the films and then goes to pick up one of the novels, only to discover that the reading experience is a lot more complex and challenging than the viewing experience. I had those first-time readers of Austen very much in mind when creating this new edition of Emma.

What is it like to prepare a new edition of a book that’s so well-known and exists in many editions? What kind of research did you do? Did anything you learned during the process surprise you?

It was really important to me to create a truly new approach to Emma—a welcoming, reader-friendly approach. Excellent editions of Emma already exist for scholars and for devoted “Janeites.” With this anniversary edition, I wanted to open Austen up to people who hadn’t given her a try before, and to support their reading experience by using everything I know from years of teaching undergraduates and from talking with everyday readers. I certainly reached for plenty of scholarly and reference sources on my shelves, but I’d say my most important preparation was to have built up, over time, a sense of what readers are curious about and what frustrates them in their first encounter with an Austen novel. And, through my teaching, I’ve had a lot of practice at explaining historical concepts in an accessible way.

I also had the huge pleasure of re-reading Emma myself, slowly, with pencil in hand, making lists of topics to cover in my contextual essays and marking words that would likely be unfamiliar to present-day Americans. By doing this, I developed a much deeper appreciation of Austen’s artistry with words. This surprised and delighted me—I would have said I appreciated her artistry plenty before! But it wasn’t until I was trying to figure out how to convey the meaning of a particular phrase that I realized how much meaning she packs in with her clever, economical word choices.

Thinking about readers’ experience with Emma also shaped how the contextual material is presented in this new edition. In my experience, many ordinary readers, and even college students too, are put off by footnotes, or at best ignore them. So we decided instead to group topics together in contextual essays, which are easier—and, I hope, more fun—to read. Here too my experience explaining historical concepts And, there’s no question, the gorgeous cover by Dadu Shin is a beautiful invitation to pick up this Emma!

The illustrations for this edition are drawn from historical copies of Emma in the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College, where you teach. Can you tell us more about that collection? What is it, exactly?

The Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland began as the passion project of an alumna of the college from the 1920s, Alberta Hirshheimer Burke. Alberta loved, loved, loved Jane Austen’s writings and decided that her own purpose in life was to gather as much material as possible relating to Austen. So Alberta bought first and rare editions and even some manuscripts—such as letters in Austen’s handwriting—all of which she felt brought her closer to her beloved author. The images in our new edition reproduce turn-of-the-twentieth century illustrations of Emma by English and American artists, from books that Alberta owned, and which she bequeathed to her alma mater when she died in 1975. (Her manuscripts went to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.)

Alberta also cared deeply about ephemera with an Austen connection, such as newspaper and magazine articles, which she preserved in ten overstuffed scrapbooks. So our Austen Collection at Goucher is a terrific resource for popular culture studies as well as book history.

As a college professor, what’s your favorite aspect of teaching Austen? Do you face any challenges in interesting students in her writings?

Absolutely the best part of teaching Austen is that so many students are enthusiastic about studying her writings. She is an easy sell! Shakespeare is the only other English writer who has a draw like hers. And Austen has the advantage that her life story as a woman writer is especially appealing. Many of my students are creative writers themselves and find Austen’s confidence and perseverance to be very inspiring.

That said, I do often encounter people—students and ordinary readers—for whom Austen just seems unappealing. Maybe her novels seem girly; maybe they seem awfully full of privileged white people (not untrue); maybe the sentences or paragraphs are just too long. Stephen King said recently in a New York Times Book Review that he had never read any Austen, and I feel it’s a real shame that a great writer like him has missed a great writer like her! Maybe I’ll have to send him this new Emma and see if he can get into it.

I love it that everyone who reads Jane Austen has her or his own ideas about what’s important and what’s interesting. Some readers gravitate towards her humor, while for others, the morality really resonates. Pretty much all of us can find at least one character who reminds us of someone we know—and we’re lucky if it’s a character who’s nice!

Do you think we have a modern-day equivalent of Jane Austen? Or do you have any “further reading” suggestions for Austen fans who’ve read all of her books a thousand times and are looking for something new?

I love to read contemporary novels and memoirs, and I always keep an eye out for hints that an author is influenced by or interested in Austen. I recently re-read Allegra Goodman’s novel The Cookbook Collector and really appreciated how she weaves in elements from Emma as well as from her more obvious place of inspiration, Sense and Sensibility. I also particularly like that Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic-format memoir Fun Home and the Dykes to Watch Out For comics, gives several shout-outs to Austen. Flyover Lives, Diane Johnson’s hybrid family history / memoir, includes a fascinating account of what Johnson’s foremothers in America were up to at the same time that Austen was writing about much more privileged women in England.

I’d also warmly recommend the novels of Barbara Pym, a 20th-century English writer. Pym’s dry humor and close observation of everyday people ally her very closely with Austen. And it’s always rewarding to read, or re-read, 19th-century novels by authors who knew and loved Austen’s writings. In that category, I’d especially recommend Elizabeth Gaskell (start with Cranford) and George Eliot (outside of Austen, Middlemarch is my all-time favorite novel).

And, finally, I’d say that Austen lovers are the best people to ask about what to read next! Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of shout-outs for the novels of Anthony Trollope, so I may have to get cracking on his enormous oeuvre . . .

Big thanks to Penguin for providing the Q&A for today's post. I absolutely LOVE that this edition is for readers rather than scholars and it's such a gorgeous cover! This is one any Janeite would be proud to have in their collection and a perfect way to get started with her work if you're just coming to her.

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 12. (Open US only and no PO boxes please.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Guest Post by Tony Ballantyne

It's a two-fer Tuesday! Today on the blog I've got a very special guest for you - Tony Ballantyne, author of Dream London and the very recently released follow up, Dream Paris. You may not be familiar with Tony - yet - but trust me, you want to be. His work is a blend of sci fi, snark, and plain old weird! Take, for example, his fabulous short "If Only..." (published in Year's Best SF 18 edited by David G. Hartwell) in which a mother is banned from all science (it's a FABULOUS story, go find it and read it) or "The Waters of Meribah" (in 21st Century Science Fiction also edited by David G. Hartwell) where a criminal's punishment is to be turned into an alien. (There's more to it than that.)

And then we get to the Dream books, wherein a city is transformed into something that baffles the imagination. It began in London, but the people revolted and prevailed against their invaders. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end. Here's a bit more about Dream Paris from the publisher:

The geography-warping invasion that took over London has been defeated, but thousands of Londonders are missing...

Anna is doing her best: there are plenty of parentless teenagers living alone in the ruins of London, and she’s done a good job of keeping the dreams away so far. 

But then a tall, dark stranger with eyes like a fly enters her life. He claims to know where the missing people of London have ended up. He might even know the location of Anna's missing parents. Anna can help, but to do that she will have to let go of what little normality she has and journey into the heart of Dream Paris, where the revolution never ends...

And now I'll hand things over to Tony Ballantyne!

I've written elsewhere about how I listen to music when I write - especially when I'm in the opening stages of a novel. I choose music to get me into the right frame of mind, I choose music that reflects the landscape I'm trying to describe, I sometimes even choose music as a treat to get me to sit down at the keyboard.

When I wrote Dream Paris I imagined I'd be listening to chansons and cafe jazz, to Faure and Poulenc. What I actually ended up listening to was Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony.

Now, I've not really listened to Tchaikovsky since I was a teenager. But I listened to the Sixth Symphony a lot when writing Dream Paris. Something about "Pathetique" seemed very appropriate. But what?

I should point out, via a quick quote from Wikipedia that:

> The Russian title of the symphony, Патетическая (Pateticheskaya), means "passionate" or "emotional," not "arousing pity," but it is a word reflective of a touch of concurrent suffering.

Dream Paris was not intended to be explicitly Pateticheskaya in any of the above meanings of the word, although I like to think there is passion, emotion and pity in the book. So what was it about the symphony that kept making me put it on to play when I sat down to write?

It took me a while to realise that it was the middle movements that really did it for me: the 2nd and 3rd movements.

Someone brought up on prog rock should have realised the second movement was in 5/4 a lot sooner than I did. I remembered that movement as a waltz, as something in 3/4 time. It still is in feel. It's a Dream Parisian waltz. I've often imagined that the brass bands who marched at the end of Dream London would march in 5/4 time. I've even figured out how the steps to do it. So that was one link. The music that the children marched to at the end of Dream London would be a little like this. That insistent dream beat and the falling strings that will later die to nothing in the 4th movement...

But what about the third movement? Why did that strike a chord? In Dream Paris Anna, the narrator, is teenager. She marched into the parks in Dream London, she thinks she sees the world for what it is, in reality she's not even aware of herself. One of the themes in Dream Paris is that appearances never match what's underneath.

I've got a friend - I suspect we all have a friend like this - who says that she's "alright" when she's quite clearly not. She wears a brittle smile, insisting that all is okay while her world is slowly collapsing around her. The worse things are going, the happier she insists that she is.

And that's the third movement. Bright and happy on the surface, you can hear the emptiness behind it: the empty duelling between the strings and the woodwind before the movement's climax. It's full of hot air and false bravado, the way the melody rises higher but can't get away from the tonic.

What's being said isn't what's really going on. Just like in the Dream World, the music is just a mask over the real feelings. The Dream World is a mask over our world, but we only perceive our world as a mask over the real world beneath.

Tchaikovsky got there a hundred years before I did.

About the author:  Tony Ballantyne is the author of Dream London, the Penrose Series and the Recursion Series, as well as numerous short stories. His work has appeared in Interzone, Private Eye and Analog, and he has been nominated for the BSFA and Philip K. Dick awards. Tony lives in Oldham with his wife and two children. His imagination is completely spent as a result of writing Dream Paris, and he now spends his time staring at blank walls, subsisting on a diet of dry crackers and distilled water.

Big, big thanks to Tony for being here today! And big thanks to Solaris for setting up the guest post. Dream London and Dream Paris are both available now in paperback. For more on Tony Ballantyne and his work you can visit his website here. You can also follow him on Twitter