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Smugglivus Day 28 – Guest Bloggers: Liz & Mark of My Favorite Books

Welcome to Smugglivus – Day 28!

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.

Today’s Guests: Liz and Mark of the speculative fiction/horror/fantasy blog My Favorite Books. Liz and Mark are quite the married couple – they promote a lot of the finest up and coming books in the UK and KNOW EVERYONE. It’s staggering! So, naturally, we had to have ’em over for Smugglivus.

Please give it up for Liz and Mark!


Retrospection and the Future

Events 2009

2009 for MFB (read for Mark and myself) has been a very interesting year. We set out to become as active as we possibly could within the blogging and reviewing community. We attended as many signings as we could, we created an autograph book and took it around to every event we attended, we took photos and we reported on various events.

It’s been a blast. When it comes to the adult events, the highlight was definitely the unexpected and very flash invite to attend the Gollancz Autumn party which was a fantastic evening. We got to hang out with some of the coolest and most creative people in the industry today – I got to say “hi” again to the amazing Robert Holdstock and found him to be as gracious and friendly as ever. I got to embarrass myself utterly by having the most cringeworthy conversation with Sam Sykes, debut Gollancz author, ever and then got rescued by Ana, Gav and Mark. Thank the gods.

Here it is to illustrate why I should not be left alone with people:

ME: You look a bit like Jack Black. I agree with Alex. (that would be Alex Bell)
HIM: Really? I am not sure I am happy with that…should I be insulted?
ME: You shouldn’t be – Jack Black was hot when he was younger.
HIM: !!!!
ME: Actually, more like Leo Di Craprio now, to be honest. It’s the eyes.
HIM: !!! What, I hate him.
ME: Oh, look at that: the earth just cracked open to swallow me. *dies*

On the kids’ side, the coolest event has to be a tie-up between Random House Three Author evening and the Puffin event. Both totally exceeded my expectations and I’ve now become fans of even more authors and am now unhealthily fascinated by Jason Bradbury…

The largest event we attended this year was definitely Eastercon. It. Was. Amazing. And for the record, I booked our tickets for 2010 already. Not only do you get to hang around with some cool writerly types, publisher types, and readers and fan-types, there is the traders hall and zomg, the lovely beautiful books they were selling was just ace!

Here are some choice photos from various events and some photos of some autographs from our autograph book.

2009 in retrospect

I read my first ever Eoin Colfer novel: Airman – and loved it. I thought that if this was the way the new year is starting, things are only going to get better. Mark discovered Brent Weeks and fell in love – embarrassingly he’s now quite a fan-boy but is still torn about his Joe Abercrombie/Brent Weeks allegiance. Mark also got the chance to get stuck quite heavily into his Black Library books and keeps raving at me about them and all you have to do is look at his reviews and you can tell that he’s a fan of the authors and their writing. He’s currently reading Gav Thorpe’s The Shadow King and it does sound simply amazing.

One of my many highlights for 2009 was Tom Lloyd’s The Stormcaller. I couldn’t believe the complexity and depth of character, political plotting and force of storytelling. It blew me away. I’ve not read the other novels as yet – I’m waiting for them to be in travelsized editions as lugging the oversized books around is just way too heavy. But I’d heartily recommend Tom’s writing. Definitely an author who deserves a larger profile for writing proper epic fantasy that makes you want to swing a sword yourself.

Probably one of the most illustrious people we got to meet this year was Raymond E Feist. Who sushed me. Yes, you read that correctly. I got all fan-girly and got him to sign my various books and I took photos and I then stood to the side, giggling with Danie Ware from Forbidden Planet and Kaz-Mahoney-soon-to-be-very-famous-author, and we made so much noise he looked up from his signing, scowled deeply and said “Can you please be quiet?” we were dumbstruck. Then he laughed and said “only kidding” and then did the rest of the signing whilst chatting to us and his various fans. *phew*

In May I tackled one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read and although I didn’t want to, I decided to put the review up regardless. The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw just did not sit well with me at all. It broke my heart because it was badly written, the story was unrealistic and the characters were flat and awful. He had managed to destroy one of my favourite genres. I have subsequently had a great number pop by the blog to leave their own negative comments and although it’s not something I’m proud of, I’m just relieved to have found that I’m not the only one who has issues with it.

We had the chance to attend – as volunteers – The Gemmell Awards. The event was a stunning celebration of one author’s strength of personality and determination to write larger than life fiction. So many authors and publisher peeps were there and we all felt very glamourous, swanning around in our fab outfits. Naturally, we got to swing axes around after the fact and needless to say, it’s been grand and if the inaugural Awards were this well received, we’re hoping for an even better year in 2010.

Looking at this entire year’s reading and things we got up, we’ve had a bumper year. I’ve read and reviewed in excess of a hundred books. Which I’m quite proud of but I know others out there who have read vastly more than that!

Goals for MFB for 2010:

Read more books to review, run even more competitions and stalk authors mercilessly for interviews.

On a personal level I want to read more fantasy. I’ve not read much fantasy this past year and I feel the need to sink my teeth into big books and experience some epic battles. I also want to read / try to read science fiction regularly – I’ll try a book a month, I think! I can see Ana and Thea laughing their heads off already. Shush! I also want to try and establish a level playing field for myself when reviewing. At the moment I’ve been swept off my feet by so many great childrens’ and YA books coming up that I’ve completely let all my adult reading fall by the wayside. Not good! Mark mentioned that he’ll be focussing on reading more sci fi this year too, along with some non-fiction books, which will be interesting for us as we tend to share books we’ve read and then we have little arguments about them…maybe I take a leaf out of The Book Smuggler’s forest and we do co-reviews!

Something I’m also thinking of bringing onto the blog is relishing “older” books and authors we’ve somehow managed to miss reading. I think highlighting these authors we feel passionate about, and who we owe our love of reading to, is a good idea! If we can garner these guys a new audience, then we’ve won a little bit, at least.

We’ll be doing as many events as we can in 2010 and we’ll try and blog about as many as we can and give away random goodies from these events, if there are any to be had. Stay tuned for that.

Overall, I’m incredibly excited about 2010 as a reader – forget reviewing, that’s accidental (and a happy accident) – but having had the chance to see some of the amazing novels coming out from the big names and the indies, I can’t wait for it all to happen soon dammit! One of the crowning moments for 2010 – for me personally as a big fan and reader of his books – is the publication of Phil Rickman’s novel: The Bones of Avalon with the main character being Elizabeth I’s conjuror and alchemist and maybe the original 007, John Dee. I’ve read the opening chapters and people, it’s amazing.

I can go on and on and on about upcoming books but to be honest, it’s going to get tedious and dull. All I want to say is: support your authors and bookshops. Without us, their readers and clients, these talented people won’t have jobs. Show your love by buying books from independents bookshops too, keep talking about authors and where you buy, and challenge yourself by trying a new author or a new genre and to just keep on reading!


Thanks Liz & Mark!

Next on Smugglivus: Gav of Next Read

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  • Sam Sykes
    December 28, 2009 at 2:29 am

    It actually wasn’t nearly that awkward and I had a lot of fun. The fact that I mean enough to someone to make someone feel such, though, makes me giddy.

    I’m very eager to see what MFB comes up with in 2010! If you aren’t reading this blog now, you should start! If you aren’t reading this blog by tomorrow, I will WEAR YOUR FACE AS A HAT.

    Smugglivus is almost over. That makes me sad.

    -Sam Sykes

  • hagelrat
    December 28, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Awesome year guys hopefully bump into you at some of the 2010 events. :mrgreen:

  • Mame Burkett
    December 28, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I just want to say thanks to the Smugglers for bringing a Smugglivus month of great interviews, books and blogs to my attention. I haven’t gotten through all the posts because I keep getting sidetracked to the sites and authors being featured. I want to be a Smuggler when I grow up!
    Happy New Years Ladies!

  • Carolyn Crane (CJ)
    December 28, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Wow, congrats on the big book and blogging year, you guys, and thanks for the recs. That is so great to feel like you’re surrounded by an endless ocean of fabulous books.

  • Liz
    December 28, 2009 at 11:55 am

    @Sam – dude, you rawk.
    @Hagel – dude, we are so meeting up in 2010 for a Bloggers Fest.
    @Booksmugglers – guys, you are awesome!

  • gav (
    December 28, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Just ordered The Bones of Avalon. Thanks Liz!! Didn’t even know it was coming out 😀

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