Aurealis Award judging has started once more – last year I listed them separately but this year I think I’ll just leave them off – it’s not like I can discuss them at all.
This year I’ll be judging the first year of the Sara Douglass Series Award, which shall try to determine the BEST series that was finalised between the years 2011 and 2014. Sara Douglass was an amazing Australian author who sadly passed in 2011 (and we can’t believe it was so long ago already), and we are very glad to have been able to name the award for her, as her series got countless people into speculative fiction.
At an estimate we’ll be reading more than 80 series, and as most series have three-five books… it’s going to be an incredibly fun, exhausting feat I’m sure!
Onto the novels read in June!
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga is a really beautiful, wonderful novel. A bit uncomfortable if you’ve been in, or are in a similar situation but ultimately so perfect because it somehow manages to capture all of it – the awkward suffocating interactions with everyone else, and so forth. What I really loved was the communication between the two main characters, especially how they bickered – this was how you knew they were connecting as good friends and ‘getting’ each other. I can’t recommend this book enough – I wish it had a better cover.
The Improbable Theory of Anna & Zak by Brian Katcher was a story I kept swinging between loving and disliking slightly. Sometimes this was fun and then sometimes a few parts that were quite boring and/or irritating which brought it down – I should have liked this book a heck of a lot more than I eventually did, seeing as it’s geeky and about con-life and I read it while on way to a convention myself. I think I was expecting too much from this, and it was a little too American for me to truly feel for the characters, who were just a bit annoying all over.
Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb is a book that made me squeal so dang loudly when I managed to get an ARC – Robin Hobb is right up there in my top handful of favourite all-time authors and her books are always full of so much that it’s dang hard to review them. What can one possibly say to summarise without spoiling and somehow capture the all encompassing feeling of best book of the year without it just being a whole lot of keysmash?
We already know that Hobb isn’t exactly kind to her characters. Starting this book is a bit exciting because it’s more of her work to read, but slightly apprehensive because you just know the poor characters we love are going to be broken just a little bit more. And we weren’t wrong.
Such an epic, fantastic book that manages to break all expectations no matter how high they are, I just can’t explain how much I love this dang author.
Stories of the Rakura: Vol 2 by Martha Wells was excellent as always – if anyone wants a new fantasy author to love, jump straight into her work, please! Start with ‘The Cloud Roads’ then come back here and flail with me.
This collection of short stories was enjoyable and made me hunger for her other work – right, of course, when judging work starts to pick up. Sigh. It can be the reward, I suppose. That aside, this collection was more than I was hoping it would be – especially the part right at the end. You know what I mean.
Investigating Sherlock by Nikki Stafford was a surprisingly quick read, written with an easy hand, taking quite a lot of fact and blending it in as though it’s an easy conversation between friends as you squee over a piece of fandom that’s important to you which made it quite enjoyable read. You can read my review of it here.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik is probably the best book I’ve read this year, which is saying a lot considering the books I’ve read so far. Just this month, having read the latest Robin Hobb, I mean, come on. This is such a thing of beauty though with lovely descriptions and dialogue, excellent female characters, a romance that manages to seem new and different even though it’s a bit of a trope, and a plot which takes unexpected tropes so I was still surprised by the ending somehow.
This book had everything. I adore the ideas used within and all these other plot related things I’m trying to keep out of this mini-review. This is a must-read for fantasy lovers and even those who don’t often read fantasy – it’s just that good. And it’s a stand-alone novel! Not many of those around in the fantasy genre!
Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal is the end of a five-book series, and blows the previous books out of the water – what an ending! I can’t believe that this is over – even though it had a very satisfying ending and was one of my favourite books in the whole series. Parts of this had my heart in my throat (such a charming expression) because they’ve become some of my favourite fictional couples and I just couldn’t believe the lengths Kowal bravely took them to.
Now that this series is at an end I guess all that’s left is for me to save up for the audio versions and enjoy them all again that way someday – Kowal is an excellent voice artist and does the best audio for her characters. Find a sample and see!
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn was a book recommended to me by Sam and a day after finishing it, I’m still not sure what to think about it. I wanted to stop reading about half way through, and honestly after reaching the end, I don’t think too differently from that half way point. It’s a heavy, bleak, nasty book with an ending that is a bit… lacking, really. I know that’s the point of it, but it was a hard slog despite it read really quickly.
Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu is a book that was a little awkward to read. I was baptised as a child, and went to religious schools growing up, but my parents were and are firm atheists. For the most I agree with them, though for a few years I attended a church that is… really quite close to the church seen in this book. I attended when I was in my 20s so I wasn’t overly easily swayed, and left pretty quickly because I just couldn’t stand – among many things – the lack of trust they had for their members, but reading this certainly made it all come back.
For that, this book is really excellent at capturing everything fairly. These people are honestly trying to do what they deeply feel is best – they’re not malicious, cruel people.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was a sweet and quick read as long as you can suspend belief of a few things – it makes up for nearly all of it by being an enjoyable read with a twist I certainly didn’t see coming. I’ve been slush reading too much lately that I was just picking out all the plot inconsistencies and the ‘but if THAT then WHY not this?’ and so on. Overall it’s a really fun book and I’d still highly recommend it, so it’s pretty dang good to still be recommended after so many little ‘wait what, WHY on earth,’ moments.
The Just City by Jo Walton was a book I’ve meant to read for ages, and though it was a little slow to get into (being so different and involved from what I usually read), I then couldn’t put it down and devoured it as quickly as possible. And I’m so glad the second book is out so soon!
This is a hard book to summarise and I’ve already done it once this morning, so instead, you can read my review of it here.
Ophelia by Jackie French is the second book in her reinterpretation of Shakespeare (the first being about Juliet), and this one was quite enjoyable as I don’t know Ophelia as well as other characters in Shakespeare at all – I’ve never played her. This was read in an afternoon to recover from the weight that is The Just City, and I loved every moment of it. French’s writing was what got me reading hungrily as a child, and so now I still get every book she brings out even though I’m almost old enough to have children of my own at the age to be reading her. This is what good writing is – to be enjoyed at any age, on any subject.
Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts is a web-serial of the Three Musketeers, genderbent and set in space. You can read it online for free here and if you’re quick, you can back it on Patreon so that you get it just before it ends, which means you get it as an ebook once it’s finished. Which is only a few weeks away now! And we need cover art!
We started reading this over a year ago now. I’ve been reading it week by week (once or twice saving up three or so chapters to then read in a chunk), and now it’s all over! I was lucky enough to get the last few chapters early to start proof-reading it all and wow. What an ending! WOW.
What a month! So many favourite books of the year in all this, it’s amazing.
July brings more judging work, and also some reading for book club. I’m currently part way through Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and should really start Armada by Ernest Cline soon. I should also start The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison to read for Hugo judging. So much reading, so little time!