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Best of 2012 – Kim Curran

Like everyone else out there in internetland, I wanted to write a best of 2012 list. But when I sat down to write it, I realised it would be so sickeningly smug, so saccharin-soaked, that you’d switch off after the first paragraph. That’s because 2012 has been, without a doubt, my best year yet. From book deals to flying lessons, it’s been a year of literal and metaphorical highs.

So, instead of boring you all with how brilliant it’s all been (and it’s been beyond brilliant) I thought I’d write a list of all the great bits of advice I’ve been given in 2012.

It’s worth it

I know there were times when I felt writing was impossible – when nothing was going right and I was being bombarded with agent rejections – that I wondered if the struggle would ever be worth it. Friends who had made it told me it was. They encouraged me too keep going and said, ‘just wait, you’ll see’.

And I can tell you now; they were right. It really is worth it. Getting The Call to tell you you’ve got a book deal is as awesome as you imagine it. Holding your book in your hands makes all the pain vanish. And actually seeing your book in a real live shop, well, that never gets old.

So, if 2012 has been a year of struggle for you, don’t give up. The only difference between those who make it and those who don’t is tenacity and an ability to learn from your mistakes. So make your New Year resolution to work even harder, push yourself even further. Leave any bitterness or anger at the vagaries of the industry behind you and just hold on to the knowledge that it is, I promise you, worth it.

Suck it up

I thought that getting an deal was the tough bit. That once I scribbled my signature on that contract it would be plain sailing. Boy, was I wrong. It actually, in many was, gets tougher. Because now you have people relying on you, people expecting things of you. You also have new books to write which are now ‘under contract’. Mix in that oh-so-special roller-coaster of reviews and the pressure can become almost crushing. The week before my book came out in the shops, I emailed my agent saying it was all too much and could we just stop it all from happening. He told me to just suck it up.

And he was right. Having a deal is a huge privilege and no one should ever forget that. And sure, it comes with a bag load of crazy. But you just have to suck it up and focus on what matters (see point 4). I was also told this year that 90% of being a writer is holding your nerve. Which is so very true. When all the madness is going on around you, you just have to get your butt in a chair, hold your nerve, and write.

Enjoy it

My good friend Miranda Dickinson, once told me, when I was bemoaning my lack of success and complaining about the world, to enjoy it. To enjoy the writing while it was just for me. Because time would come when it wasn’t just for me anymore. And I thought, yeah, right easy for you to say with your bestselling books and your million fans. But, as always, she was right.

When you’re writing just for you, when the story is yours and yours alone, that’s as good as it gets. It’s pure and perfect and untouched. And it’s so important to hold on to that. To hold on to the joy of making stuff up and getting it down. And I’ve forgotten her advice a lot this year, but 2013, I’m going to make sure I enjoy every last second.

Make friends with writers.

Now, I don’t know if writing makes you crazy, or if you need to be crazy to write. Either way, writers tend to be a little unhinged, each in their own unique way. Probably because we all spend far too much time on our own, listening to the voices in our heads. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re a writer, you need to have friends who are writers.

Because only other writers ‘get it’. Only they understand the agony and ecstasy of writing, freaking out about deadlines, worrying about tax returns, being unable to leave your house because you’re expecting to hear back from an agent/editor about something you sent them 30 mins before. Only they can share their stories of insanity, give you advice on how to make it through unscathed, point out the pitfalls and give you a helping hand over the stumbling blocks.

The highlight for 2012 for me has been all the amazing people I’ve met and become friends with, many of them other authors. Almost everything I’ve learned about the business of being a writer has come from them. And without them and their words of wisdom, their good humour and their kindness, I’d have become even crazier.

All that matters is the work

It’s all too easy to get caught up in all the ‘noise’ of being a writer. The reviews, the sales figures, the expectations and judgments of others. And amid all that fuss the one and only thing that really matters gets lost. And that’s the work.

So, I wanted to leave you with the advice Neil Gaiman gave to The University Of The Arts this year, as it’s the best advice anyone creating anything could listen to: Make Good Art.

Best of 2012 – Ingrid Jonach

As we head swiftly into the last few days of the year, we bring you Ingrid Jonach’s Best of 2012 list!

Best Book: I read so many brilliant books in 2012, including a number of published and yet-to-be-published books by my fellow Strange Chemists! If I had to choose one book though I would say ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I know it was a 2010 release, but I read it last April and WOW.

Best Moment: 2012 was an enormous year for me, which saw me buy a house, get married, score a book deal and become a dual citizen of Austria! Whew! You will therefore have to forgive me for choosing two moments: one was finally tying the knot after ten years with my partner Craig; and the other was reading my offer letter from Strange Chemistry!

Best Holiday: My honeymoon to Japan. We visited Tokyo, Kyoto and the Japanese Alps, where we hung out with snow monkeys and enjoyed the hot springs. We also went to Tokyo Disneyland (which leaves Hong Kong Disneyland as the last remaining Disneyland I need to visit!).

Best Song: BOM, BOM, BOM by Sam and the Womp. I just think this song is so much fun! I challenge you to listen to it without dancing around like an idiot. STARDUST by Lena was the runner up (it was one of our wedding songs!).

Best Movie: Les Miserables! I have seen it on stage three times across two different countries, and have also watched and rewatched both the 10th and 20th Anniversary, but this movie took the cake even without the talent of Michael Ball, Alfie Bowe or Philip Quast. I was so stoked though that the original Jean Valjean (Colm Wilkinson) was part of the cast!

Best TV Show: Supernatural Season 8, of course. Sam and Dean Winchester are my replacement for Buffy.

Best Website: The Strange Chemistry website! I was so excited when I saw my author and book pages go up.

Best Purchase: Aside from our house, I would say an old deck of author playing cards from the early nineties. I bought them from etsy and the packet is still sealed, so I guess it could contain regular cards or nothing at all for all I know!

Any of Ingrid’s choices resonate with you? Do you have a best moment from 2012?

Reading Challenges for 2013

It’s the time of year where you start to think about reading resolutions for the New Year, and challenges are a fantastic way of achieving various targets. We have the intention of reading about 100 books next year, and will keep a record on Goodreads, but we have seen a number of other entertaining challenges and thought we should do a round-up for those who might be interested in joining up.

The Generic Challenges

So these are the challenges we could find that don’t require any specific genre, and are mostly about keeping track of the number of books you read.

1) Mount TBR Reading Challenge – concentrate on books from your TBR pile

2) TBR Pile – very similar as the first, but hosted by a different blog

3) 100 Books in a Year – pretty much as it says on the tin!

4) Ebook Challenge – particularly useful if you have a lot of Netgalley or Edelweiss titles stacking up *winks*

Slightly More Specific Challenges

Whether completing series, reading debut authors or tackling standalones, we have the challenges here!

1) Finishing the Series – working on completing the various series you might have on the go

2) Catch-up Challenge – similarly, work on catching up with the series you have started and not completed

3) Debut Author Challenge – Reading books by debut authors (might we suggest A E Rought, Laura Lam, Julianna Scott, Christian Schoon, T L Costa, Eliza Crewe and Rosie Best from our list of 2013 authors?)

4) Standalone Reading Challenge – a challenge to make sure you tackle those standalone novels on your list

5) Book to Movie Challenge – from Twilight to Beautiful Creatures, from The Hunger Games to Warm Bodies: how about reading the book they turned into a movie?

6) 50 States Reading Challenge – read a book associated with each of the 50 States in America!

Specific Genre Challenges

Finally, our list of much more specific challenges, where you’ll be required to look at genres.

1) New Adult – this category has exploded in the last few months; now it’s your time to get started.

2) Dystopian Challenge – if you not all dystopia’d out, here is a challenge to help you keep track of all your dystopians.

3) YA & MG Time Travel – with more and more time travel novels being released, this is how to note them all down!

4) YA & MG Fantasy Challenge – list your Kristin Cashores, your Rae Carsons and your Melina Marchettas!

5) Fairytales Retold – time to finally tackle those Jackson Pearce novels…

6) Paranormal Reads – this is a fun way of reading more paranormal novels, by taking a different paranormal creature each month!

7) Get Steampunk’d – we think a number of people will be including Etiquette and Espionage on this list *grin*

8) Mythology Challenge – Greek, Roman or Norse – your choice!

So, which challenges are you intending to sign up to? And, if you’re hosting a challenge yourself that hasn’t been listed above, please do add it in the comments!

EDIT: Challenges we’ve been asked to add!

1) What’s In a Name – organise your reading into fun categories!

2) British Books Challenge – tackle books by UK authors.

Favourite Places of 2012 – Gwenda Bond

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a little sick of the best of book lists–and most of my favorite reads this year would be on ones you’ve already seen, I’m sure. And this year has been such a crazy whirlwind of First Book Release OMGZOMG Write Second Book OMGZOMG Write Another New Book (still working on that) OMGZOMG–and do all the other stuff that has to be done–that I’ve seen very few movies, and while I’ve watched a bunch of TV, I blab about that all over. So, I started wondering what I could do to mix it up a little and capture a bit of this terrifying, exhilarating year that has left me with so many favorite moments and so many people to thank and I had an idea.

Because I got to visit some very special places this year, and in each one of them, witness my dream having come true. My own first book in the places that have been my personal idea of heaven (along with libraries) since I was a child. While I can’t even begin to express my enormous gratitude to the wondrous booksellers that inhabit these special places and let me visit, hopefully this will be one little way of doing so. That’s right, this is going to be a list of:

My Favorite Places of 2012: The Magnificent Independent Bookstores I Visited This Year (in the order I visited them)

1. Duck’s Cottage Downtown Books, Manteo. My very first book event EVER was here, before the book even came out, in the heart of Roanoke Island. Downtown Books has only existed in this location for a couple of years, having valiantly stepped in to make sure the space stayed a bookstore after long-time occupant Manteo Booksellers was forced to close due to devastating hurricane damage. Co-owner and bookseller extraordinaire Jamie has been a huge champion for Blackwood and has become a friend. She made this event more special than I could have imagined, even going so far as to invite members of The Lost Colony theater–in costume. If you’re vacationing in the Outer Banks, you must visit her and the store. I wrote about this day at length here.

2. The Book Cellar, Chicago. I was lucky enough to have another pre-release event here, though this one was mere days before the book came out. Visiting this gorgeous store (which not only has a great inventory and atmosphere, but also sells booze and is across from a gelato shop!) was doubly, no triply special, because it wasn’t just me, but my Strange Chemistry release sister Kim Curran, and two fine stand-up gents published by the Angry Robot side of the house, Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher. It was honor being in such a spectacular store with all of them, surrounded by generous local folks and friends and other friends who schlepped over from WorldCon.

3. Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville. I actually got to visit Malaprop’s twice in 2012, which would make it a good year all by itself. The first time was for a group event with eight other southern kidlit and YA writers while we were on retreat nearby and the second was the day after Blackwood’s release with Beth Revis, Susan Dennard, Sarah J. Maas, and Meagan Spooner. Both times were a total treat. Malaprop’s is an Asheville institution and with good reason. It’s one of the nicest bookstores you’ll ever visit, filled with wonderful booksellers, and right in the middle of a fantastic city.

4. Morris Book Shop, Lexington. We are very lucky in Lexington (as you’ll see by this entry and the next) in terms of bookstores. Morris Book Shop has become not just one of my favorite bookstores, but a place I consider a dear friend, because it’s filled with dear friends. Supportive and excited about literary culture, book lovers with wide-ranging taste who’ve built a store that exudes that inclusive, idiosyncratic aesthetic. Shout out to Wyn, Hap, and my YA-loving pal Alison. They hosted my launch party, and didn’t bat an eyelash when I made a Monas Hieroglyphica in pastry.

5. Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington. Like I said, lucky! One of the biggest treats this year has been getting to know the amazing booksellers (and all round book superstars) at our largest independent–I’ve no doubt it’s one of the largest in the country, and it’s definitely one of the nicest stores I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Getting to do an event here was thrilling, because it’s the bookstore I grew up with. It’s a part of my history–and my present–as a reader. And it also has a restaurant and bar, which serves the George R.R. Martini and the Suzanne Collins. So glad I’ve gotten to know Brooke, Amanda, Cheryl, and Michael this year.

6. Oblong Books and Music, Rhinebeck. Of course, this was on my list of Bookstores I Must Get To If At All Possible, as it’s the frequent lair of my agent Jenn, who includes among her many talents (of course) bookselling. Back before she was ever an agent, or ever my agent, I hoped one day I’d get to do a fabulous YA event at one of her stores. So, my recent visit to Oblong–which is a beautiful, airy bookshop with all the books you want, in the midst of a picturesque village filled with interesting shops and tempting restaurants–was extra special. Not to mention I got to do an event with one of my personal writing heroes, Ms. Libba Bray, meet Oblong’s wonderful owner Suzanna, and witness the magic of the Hudson Valley YA Society up close. If I lived nearby, I’d be there constantly.

7. McNally Jackson Books, NYC. I only got to stop in at McNally Jackson briefly as I was on my way home from Rhinebeck, but at some point I’m going back and lingering. This is the kind of bookstore you walk in and immediately want to spend hours in. I was signing some stock and seeing bookseller and amazing author (!) Kate Milford, and eavesdropping on her conversations with patrons who came in while I was hanging out were a clear indication of how much trust the people who shop there put in the store and its staff. And I wasn’t surprised by that in the least. At the moment, they also have a gorgeous window display designed by Sophie Blackall. It doesn’t get better than that.

I highly suggest visiting any and all of these stores, if you get a chance. And that’s a wrap…as I start planning what books I’m going to buy for presents when we hit Morris and Joseph-Beth in the three days left before Christmas as I type this. Thanks again to all these bookstores for helping make my 2012 an unforgettable year. I hope to visit you all again soon.

Best of 2012 – Jonathan L Howard

Now, see, it’s Christmas Eve and no doubt you need something to read to tide you over while you wait for Christmas to arrive and Santa to bring your presents *winks* So we’d like to introduce Jonathan L Howard, bringing you his best of 2012!

I’ve been asked for a “Best of 2012” list, but as I am wilfully abstruse, I have decided to interpret this as “Memorable Stuff of 2012,” good and bad. I’m such a rebel.

Strange Chemistry: Yes, yes, I know, what a suck-up. The truth is, Katya’s World was a difficult sell. It wasn’t urban fantasy, it wasn’t high fantasy, it wasn’t a retold fairytale, it wasn’t brimful of romance. Other publishers had noted the lack of these elements that were currently hot, and were accordingly cold about the book. It was Strange Chemistry with an avowed interest in publishing some SF as well as fantasy that said, “Hell, yes.”

Thomas Dunne Books: Yes, yes, I know, more sucking up, but Johannes Cabal had been in publishing Limbo (surprisingly similar to the real Limbo, right down to the forms) in the US for a couple of years. I was (and still am) getting several inquiries a week from readers in the US and Canada asking why Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute is so difficult to find. Now, thanks to Thomas Dunne signing me, I can tell them that not only is that book coming, but the long-awaited – including by me – fourth Johannes Cabal novel is contracted for, too.

Dredd: The cinema’s so expensive these days that I very rarely see a film twice there. This year I did it twice. The first time was for The Avengers (Assemble, if you must), which I enjoyed when I saw it by myself. Then my daughter wanted to see it, so I had no qualms about going to see it again. The second case, however, I saw it by myself twice purely for my own gratification because it is so bloody good. And, incidentally, one of only two films I’ve ever seen where I thought the 3D worked well, the other being Hugo. Dredd gets pretty much everything right, and that it flopped is infuriating beyond belief, while lame, cookie-cutter films left it in the dust. People – presumably people who have no idea of how film production works – have called Dredd a knock-off of The Raid. Nonsense. The Raid came out first, but it was, I believe, the second into production. Also, The Raid, while a good, noteworthy film, falls down in several respects both technical and in narrative. Dredd has one plot flaw that irked me, and another lesser one that made me curl my lip (if you’re interested, I’ll include the things that bothered me in a spoiler bit at the bottom), but otherwise I thought it was excellent. That there will almost certainly be no sequel pains me.

Great writers, gone, but their work remains: Just to remind you, this list is memorable things about the year for me, and that’s not just the good stuff. Two writers whose work meant a lot to me died in 2012 – Ray Bradbury and Harry Harrison. I’ve written elsewhere of what a huge influence Bradbury was on me, so I shan’t repeat that here. It would be remiss not to extend the same courtesy to the memory of Harrison, a mad and energetic imagination with a wonderful sense of the absurd. I first encountered his works with, unsurprisingly, The Stainless Steel Rat, books that excited me for the coherent vision of an incoherent future, full of factions, splinters, and technology that was for the most part believable. As a boy, the gauss weapons and mini-grenades fascinated me almost as much as the use to which Slippery Jim put them to. Some of my favourite work of his, though, was squarely pointed at younger readers – the Man from… spoof novellas. I read and reread The Men from P.I.G and R.O.B.O.T. so many times, the cover fell off.

BristolCon: This one I’ll be brief about. Suffice to say, this is a brilliant one day SFF con, incredibly friendly, and a lot of fun. If you can go, go.

Sandman Slim: I’m currently embarked upon the fourth of Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” novels Devil Said Bang and enjoying it just as much as I did its predecessors, which is to say, lots. Other writers have touched upon grimy folk dealing with the supernatural, but nobody does it as well as Kadrey, and that’s because the books are so damn clever. It’s relatively straightforward to make a hash of occult conspiracies and throw it at your protagonist, but doing it convincingly is another matter. Kadrey’s prose is brilliant; hard-bitten and streetwise but never sinking into parody and also managing to be laugh-out-loud when the occasion demands, which is no mean trick considering the world Slim inhabits. I should point out that Kadrey and I have a bit of a mutual-appreciation society going on, as he also likes Cabal, but I didn’t know that when I read and loved Sandman Slim. Just read them. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have good time. And speaking of getting on well with writers…

The fellowship of writers: I’ve been published since 2009, but 2012 was really the first year I’ve met a lot of fellow writers. And, you know what? They’re pretty cool. This is significant for me because I think it led to a visceral appreciation that I am, actually, an author. That sense of “Yes, I write books and they get published, but I’m not really an author” is finally in abeyance. It’s a relief if only from the point of view that, when people say, “So, you’re an author?” I no longer look behind me to see who they’re talking to.

The Olympics: I never thought I’d rate the Olympics as something I looked back on fondly. I, and I know I wasn’t alone, was convinced it would be an unmitigated disaster. There had already been so many spectacular mistakes in the run-up, that when that opening ceremony started, I was in full-on cynic mode. And… the damn thing was good. It was really good. And then it was followed by a fortnight of terrific sport, and I say that as somebody who hates sport. But this was mesmeric. Then a good closing ceremony, and then an awesome Paralympics. How did this happen? The British just take it for read that we’re rubbish at this kind of thing. The Millennium Dome showed how we can botch projects up beautifully. But the Olympics… gosh.

Science: I’m writing SF here, and you think something like the probable discovery of the Higgs boson isn’t going to excite me? And the “Curiosity” landing on Mars? If you don’t think that was a major engineering feat, you should look at how the rover was set down. I was delighted although astounded when it actually worked; it was just so Heath Robinson. Oh, and a breakthrough that made me nod appreciatively was that, if you’ve read Katya’s World, you know the standard sidearm is the maser. In real world terms, a maser is an unlikely weapon because it takes a lot of equipment to generate a maser beam, far too much to make it practical as a weapon. This year, however, a way of creating vastly smaller maser emitters was developed. Between getting closer to the metal in physics, robotic space exploration, and breakthroughs in maser technology, it’s been an oddly Russalka sort of year.

Arkham City: It was released in 2011, but I only got to play it this year. Still an over-dependence on SNES style boss fights for my taste, inherited from Arkham Asylum, but amazingly good fun for all that. The closest you’re going to get to being Batman without necessarily being a monomaniacal billionaire.

City of Heroes: More super heroes, but a down beat this time. My whole family has been playing CoH since 2006. A terrific MMO, not without its flaws, but the plus points vastly outnumbered them. We’ve played a lot of MMOs down the years, but City of Heroes was always the one we came back to. Part of its attraction was that it had such a terrific community, and that people were there to have fun. There seemed very little of the trolling and munchkinism of many other games. Then, in August, the publisher announced that were closing the servers as of the 30th of November. Just like that. No negotiations, no wind downs, and – astoundingly for a such a long-lived game – no final event. I mean, Hell’s teeth, even Tabula Rasa was given the dignity of a final event. But no, after seven years, they simply pulled the plug. Not cool, NCSoft. Not cool.

M.R. James: Yes, so we’re talking about a chap who wrote a handful of (the best) ghost stories (ever), and who has been dead a very long time. Ah, but… I reread the M.R. James ghost stories every year. About ten years ago, the wonderful Ash Tree Press published a collection called A Pleasing Terror that also contained his unfinished stories and a pile of other bits and pieces that were nigh on impossible to find elsewhere. It was a limited edition and I could never afford a copy. Last year, however, they announced their intention to publish a new edition, with a bit of extra material that had been overlooked for the first. I pre-ordered a copy. Subsequently, they got in touch to say that putting it together was taking longer than anticipated and, as a stopgap, would I like the text of the first edition as an ebook. Yes, please. And it was this edition that I read for my annual reread this year. It’s a depressing thing that MJR wrote relatively few ghost stories, but the bliss of working through the usual list and then… there’s new stuff (or, at least, new to me) was wonderful. Yes, it’s unfinished pieces, frequently ending in mid-sentence, but it’s James, and you find yourself wondering where he intended to go with the stories. Ghost stories and Christmas – a very pleasing terror indeed.

*SPOILERS* The two things that bothered me were, one, why didn’t Dredd take the opportunity to replenish his ammunition from Chan? He has time, after all, and it would only have taken seconds. Even if he felt he didn’t have those few seconds, he makes no effort to rearm himself with a weapon from a dead perp. Whyever not? And secondly, the rigorous training that Judges undergo will make corruption rare, if not unknown. How, then, did so many corrupt judges manage to meet up and work together from the same section house? It just seems incredibly unlikely.

Best of 2012 – Laura Lam

Our lovely Laura has stopped by to give us her Best of 2012!

2012 was a big year for me, full of highs and lows. The highs were great. When 2011 ended (see my end of the year post), I had a revision request from Strange Chemistry, but absolutely zero idea if they would like the revision of Pantomime (spoiler: they did). So 2012 held my first book deal and I got The Call. I also found fantabulous agent Juliet Mushens, and now at the end of 2012 I have finished Pantomime and held the ARC in my hands and written the first draft of the sequel. Not long into 2013, it’ll be out on the shelves. Definitely the greatest part of 2012 hands down.

But I experienced a lot of great things in 2012 other than writing, so here they are:

Best places travelled: London, Edinburgh, Chicago, home to San Francisco.

Best film seen in the cinema: Untouchable. I saw it twice. Love that film so much. No it’s not a big gorgeous cinematic adaption like The Hobbit, but it was the film that touched (hurr) me the most. Honourable mentions: Argo & Looper.

Best TV shows watched: 30Rock, Breaking Bad, MasterChef Professionals, Monster (anime), Time of Eve (anime), Avatar: the Last Airbender, Remington Steele, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Best authors I haven’t read before 2012 that I’ve enjoyed: Kendare Blake, Graham Joyce, Bryony Pearce, James Smythe, Stephanie Perkins, Sarah Waters, Amy McCulloch, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Julianna Scott, Elspeth Cooper, Megan Lindholm (though I’ve read all her Robin Hobb work), Mary Robinette Kowal, A.E. Rought, Sean Cummings, Chelsea Cain, Mike Carey, Rachel Hartman, Niel Bushnell, Joe Hill, Marissa Meyer, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Kim Curran, Nicola Morgan, Gwenda Bond, Ransom Riggs, Chuck Wendig, Bernard Beckett, Eva Stachniak. Whew.

2012 was a good year overall. But I’m looking forward to 2013. :-)

Best of 2012 – Cassandra Rose Clarke’s favourite movies

A big welcome to Cassandra, who is bringing us her thoughts on the films that she loved during 2012:

Argo: During the climactic scene of this movie (which involves going through customs in an airport, no chases or gunfights involved), I was freaking out. It was one of the more intense things I’ve ever watched. The entire movie was like that, actually: a gradual build-up of tension and suspense contrasted by leavening moments of Hollywood wackiness. It fit together surprisingly well. Although Argo is based on a true story, I don’t know how true-to-life it really is (I did read that the aforementioned airport scene wasn’t nearly that interesting in reality). Still, as a piece of storytelling, it is amazing.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: This is such a beautiful movie, and I’m not sure a little 250-word blurb can do it justice. In a way, it reminds me of Moonrise Kingdom, another movie on this list: both films are about childhood, both films have a dreamy, elegiac quality that draws you in and holds you in place. However, Beasts of the Southern Wilde amplifies its whimsical elements to the point of perfect magical realism, and it focuses on the lives of imperfect people living along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. It’s a movie about Hurricane Katrina and about the modern American south and it’s simply wonderful.

Bernie: Okay, so technically this movie came out in 2011. However, because I don’t have super special access to film festivals, I saw during its wide release, which was in… 2012! So I’m including it here. Bernie is a true-crime comedy about a murder that took place in the East Texas town of Carthage back in the ‘90s, and it is one of the best movies-about-Texas I have ever seen. It’s funny and weird and captures the voice of small Texas towns perfectly. Matthew McConaughey, in one of his rare non-sleazebag roles, is basically unrecognizable. So is Jack Black, for that matter. This may actually be my very favorite movie of the year, if I had to pick.

The Cabin in the Woods: I’m not someone who makes much of an effort to avoid spoilers, but I did manage to see this movie without reading anything about it beforehand save for Roger Ebert’s review, which revealed nothing. I’m glad, because if I had known [SPOILER] going in, I would have refused to see it, because [SPOILER] is a speculative fiction trope that annoys the crap out of me. That this movie could have included such potent Cassandra-kryptonite and still be one of my favorites of the year is a testament to how entertaining it is. I also loved how, when I watched it a second time, I was rooting for a completely different set of characters.

Life of Pi: I debated putting this on here — I almost put Wreck-it Ralph instead, which I enjoyed quite a bit despite my irrational dislike of video games. However, my issue with Life of Pi wasn’t so much with the movie itself but with a twist in the story that really, really upset me. Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I left the theater, and although it was a touch heavy-handed, I could see and appreciate the point the movie was trying to make. And even without that twist it was a still a gorgeous fantasia wrapped around a survival story, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

Moonrise Kingdom: Another quirky survival story, although it couldn’t be more different from Life of Pi. Wes Anderson is always a good bet for me, but I hadn’t really fallen in love with any of his movies since The Royal Tenenbaums — until I saw Moonrise Kingdom. Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky are basically Margot Tenenbaum and Max Fischer as thirteen-year-olds, but in Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson delves deeply into those two character archetypes, creating something poignant and romantic. This movie is like reliving the best parts of your childhood, when the whole world seems vaguely magical and ultimately full of possibilities.

Prometheus: I will not back down from loving this movie, despite its massive anti-fandom. I agree that the screenplay has its problems, but Prometheus was too much of a perfect storm of Stuff I Like that I was able to ignore Damon Lindelof’s need to generate needless mystery. I mean, we’re talking emotional robots, female characters, gorgeous visuals, Wes-Anderson-like familial strife, roguish space ship captains, evil corporations, and aliens. It was like someone made a movie just for me.

How about letting Cassandra know your favourite movies from 2012?

We’d like to introduce you to Rosie Best!

And who is Rosie Best, we hear you ask? She’s only the most recent Strange Chemistry author to join the family! She has signed with us for two books, the first called SKULK and coming in October 2013 (represented by Catherine Pellegrino of Catherine Pellegrino and Associates). Please give her a warm welcome and read on to find out why this is awesome news *grins*


Rosie Best lives in London and loves all things nerdy. She is an editor at Working Partners Ltd, working on a huge variety of projects from first chapter books about unicorns to dark YA journeys through the land of the dead. She’s also written for Working Partners on a freelance basis, on series published by Usborne and Hot Key Books. The opening of Skulk won a place in the 2012 Undiscovered Voices anthology. When not writing or indulging a passion for video games, she sings with the Crouch End Festival Chorus.

Rosie is a giant nerd.

Rosie’s website:

Rosie’s Twitter:


When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes. As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

Rosie had this to say about signing with Strange Chemistry: “I’m beyond thrilled to be signing with Strange Chemistry! It’s a great list, run by people who really love and understand genre fiction. Strange Chemistry is the perfect home for Skulk and I can’t wait to share the book with you all next year!”

And Amanda said this about the deal: “Skulk is a smart, urban and, above all, modern take on YA and I’m absolutely delighted to have signed Rosie to the Strange Chemistry family. She’s enormously talented and brings a wealth of experience.”

Best of 2012 – Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce is our next lovely author to highlight some of what made 2012 a good year for her:

Best hospital staff – Macclesfield children’s ward. Maisie (age 6) was in hospital for a fortnight in May with Cryptosporidiosis and they put up with my ‘mummy hysterics’ for the whole time, even when I was convinced she had brain damage at 2am (when she was confusedly sleep talking) and made them test her on the spot.

Best agent – Juliet Mushens, who got me a book deal for The Weight of Souls, only one month after I approached her.

Best holiday spot – Fuerteventura, where I spent a wonderful week in August with my family. It’s a beautiful place and so friendly.

Best books – Tom Pollock’s The City’s Son, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys, JR Ward’s Rapture (I’ve been waiting for that one), Laura Lam’s Pantomime

Best films – Avengers Assemble (I’m an enormous Joss Whedon fan so I also liked Cabin in the Woods this year), Dark Knight Rises (Although I was very disappointed by the Disney-fied ending), Skyfall (Best Bond ever), 21 Jump Street (I’ve already watched it four times), Rise of the Guardians (can’t wait for that to come out on DVD so I can buy it and watch it again), Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (not a new film, but new to me. Loving Robert Downey Junior at the moment).

Best moments – Winning the Leeds Book Award for Angel’s Fury, being shortlisted for the Cheshire Schools Book Award (also for Angel’s Fury – winner announced next year), getting a book deal with Strange Chemistry, seeing my daughter get her eighth gymnastics badge, go snorkelling and play grade one standard in her violin, seeing my son start to read, swim with no armbands and love his preschool, find out that my sister in law has beaten her cancer

Can’t wait for 2013!