2016 – February

This was a month where I wished I read more often (but somehow managed to read quite a bit in the end) and did a bit of slush reading, bit of editing, and took on being acting manager of Twelfth Planet Press while the boss is on maternity leave. And her baby is SUCH a little cutie! Welcome Master S to the world, I can’t wait to meet you next month! (But M will always be the star~)

Onto the novels read in February!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling was read for Bethwyn’s read-along, but it was rather hard as it was meant for the previous month, where we lost the amazing Alan Rickman, right when this is essentially Snape’s book. It still hasn’t really sunk in, and I bet at some stage I’ll imdb his name to find which new movies he has coming out soon.

This book was both better and worse than I remember, better in the characters and the changes we really do see thrown at us to see what’s coming in the next book, and worse in that this book doesn’t feel as free and certainly isn’t as contained, as this was what brings us to the finale. Nothing wrong with that, but I would have loved more flashbacks (thought not sure on any justification to make them necessary). Who doesn’t want more young Marauders? I’d also have loved to see more of Draco’s arc – not as a fangirl in any sense, but because I feel that is quite developed despite the little we see of it.

Roses and Rot

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard was something I liked the sound of as soon as I read the blurb, and I was glad to see that it both met the mark and exceeded expectations. Neil Gaiman raves about it, if that helps? This is a wonderful novel that’s engaging, well written and just lovely. Easily going to remain one of my favourites for 2016.

My review can be found here.

Sharp Edge (Tara Sharp, #4)

Sharp Edge by Marianne Delacourt was read for editing purposes as it’s soon to be published by Alisa and I at Twelfth Planet Press, and I can’t say any more of it until we publish – spoilers though, it’s really quite excellent!

Love and Romanpunk (Twelve Planets book 2)

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts was read for  the Journey Through Twelve Planets reading challenge which is hosted here, and was originally read in the year it came out. If anything, it’s even better since my first read through, and it’s honestly hard to pick which short was my favourite.

My review can be found here.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab was a re-read along with the twitter hashtag #ADSOMreadalong which has been mostly awesome, timezones aside. Previously read when it came out this was one of my favourite books of the year and it’s still just as good, if not better, since then. Lila is amazing. Kell is amazing. Holland and Rhy and Athos and Astrid are amazing. They all are! This is a book where everything and everyone is epic and you want to read fast to get MORE quicker, but need to read slower to take it all in and make it last longer.

Epic, epic author.

Fantasy-Faction Anthology

Fantasy-Faction Anthology by Marc Aplin is an anthology that combines both fantasy short stories, as well as short essays on various topics such as general advice, the use of elves, historical research and economy building and so on – possibly the first anthology I’ve read that mixes the two so fluidly.

My review can be found here. Short answer is that I do really recommend it.

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman was really quite epic. I read the start in a sampler at some stage, and then pre-ordered it because I simply had to read the rest. It arrived, and I kept meaning to get to it buuut just didn’t get around to it until now. And I loved it! 2017 is far too long to wait for the second novel, but I’m so glad there’ll be at least three of them! This regency era book was a whole lot of fun and beautifully written~

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell was a fun novella to read, and I wish there was more of it! Written about the release of the latest Star Wars movie, this is the kind of life that geeky geeks really get. I’ve never waited in line overnight (because where I live, I would literally be the only person there), but going to several cons a year and living/breathing general fandom – I know these characters. I am those characters. Loved it!

Eliza Rose

Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley was a quick and lovely read, set during the time of Henry VIII and all the awful things he did.

Through this we see why he may have done them, what drove him to act this way, and how it impacted the characters around him. What this book did really well is that there were no heroes or villains – we saw the good and bad side for everyone, and what drove them, what they feared and what upset them.

My review can be found here.

The Sidekicks

Sidekicks by Will Kostakis was a much anticipated book as I loved The First Third. This one didn’t disappoint, showcasing three characters that couldn’t be more different from each other – joined by one friend in common, who has recently died right before the start of the novel. The characters all shone in different ways and if you start reading their part rolling your eyes at the them, by the end of their section you adore them. Really loved this and can’t wait for his next novel!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling was part of Bethwyn’s read-along, and I managed to catch up in order to finish in the planned month. I note last time I read this I gave it 4/5, and I think I honestly felt that at the time. Now, it really is amazing. Or maybe just because this time I didn’t bother reading the epilogue. When I finally got to the end I did feel a smidge of need to keep reading just to have anything, everything, more! But holding back was the right decision.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab is one of my most anticipated books of the year, but then, anything by Schwab is. I received a preview back at the end of 2015 which allowed me the first 150 pages or so and just couldn’t put it down. And now the rest is here! I re-read the first book as above at the start of the month, and then re-read the start of this one even though it was mostly fresh in my mind just because it’s such a joy to read. Especially Lila’s first chapter!

Throughout the book I just couldn’t get over how epic it all was. I couldn’t get over how much I so deeply adored each and every character, and I love what she did with the King (certainly not the easy road, throughout the whole arc) and just whoa. Whoa whoa whoa, I need the third book now just as desperately as I’ve ever needed the next Scott Lynch. This is a rare thing!

~

February was a strange month, where I both had a lot to do and at the same time, not very much. Health problems are once again at the forefront of life and stress reigns. Bring on March.

Review: Insert Title Here edited by Tehani Wessely

InsertTitleHerePublished by: FableCroft Publishing
ISBN 13: 9780992553418
Published: April 2015
Pages: 416
Format reviewed: Proofing copy from Publisher
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Recommended

Tehani Wessely reports that this is the darkest anthology she’s put together. Having read most if not all of her anthologies, this certainly caught my attention. On reflection having read this, I would have to agree – here we have an anthology where every single story is heart-breaking or grim or absurdly strange and wonderful, and all are incredibly read-able. A handful demand full novels set in the world using that idea or world-building, and all make me want to look for the author’s other work (if I haven’t already!)

FableCroft are going from strength to strength with each anthology better than the last – which is saying something. This one is due for release in April for Swancon in Perth, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

2B by Joanne Anderton

I’m slowly turning into Anderton’s biggest fan or something. What a way to start an anthology! This is an incredibly strange, magical and wonderful story of a town where things grow on trees, such as pencils and car tyres. Glass flowers sprout from the security cameras the Councilmen install (which is really beautiful imagery, I love it!) Also, an incredibly peculiar thing happened to the residents of the town which I won’t go into (spoilers, sweetie) but it’s enough to deeply unnerve you, despite what a wonderful miracle it is.

Anderton’s writing is slightly distant and yet very personal, showing us how the main character Chloe appears to others and also her thoughts and views on the world and those she comes into contact with. The world is probably the most interesting part of this strange tale, leaving you wanting more. Who wants a novel using this idea? I know I do!

Oil and Bone by Dan Rabarts

Set in New Zealand, Anaru and Piripi are escorting Englishman Clark through the Southern Alps to make some money on the side of a journey they have to make anyway – to retrieve something that was stolen from them.

This is a piece that involves words of another language other than English (Māori), and it does it well, using them smoothly so the reader knows what the word means at all times, and also adding another depth to this piece, presenting the culture in a welcoming way. The tale itself however isn’t as welcoming, as it’s a tale for searching for things that may be best left where they’ve found themselves. It’s grim and twisted and delightfully dark, full of action and a bit more dark.

Almost Days by DK Mok

‘Gainful employment, on the other hand, only happened to me after I’d died.’

That’s a pretty good way at catching a reader’s attention – with a line like that, one simply must read on to find out what that involves.

This is the kind of tale where the plot needs to be a surprise, which leaves me with less to tell you now – all I can say is that this is a delightful piece that really makes you wish you had a chance at playing in their world for a time (but perhaps not for very long, I think I’d find it stressful having that much responsibility!) and that the characters are delightful. This piece has very beautiful imagery and a very, very satisfying ending.

Collateral Damage by Dirk Flinthart

In a world where military actions have been completely monetised, done strictly by contract, Mariko has now left her previous position of being head of a mercenary company in favour of forming a brokerage with a plan to bring down the now-corrupt brokerage system entirely.

This is quite a fun piece, whilst being technical and deep in the world of war and the complex systems that make it all possible. Though the plot is strong, it’s the characters that drive this one with an incredibly satisfying ending (in a different way from the previous short) as you cheer Mariko along, and the sassy closing line doesn’t hurt matters either.

Her Face Like Lightning by David McDonald

Full disclosure here, David is a mate and lately I get to proofread some of the pieces he completes. That aside, I honestly think he’s getting better each and every piece I get my hands on – now we’re just hanging out for a novel sometime soon, David!

Poor Horatio is minding his own business one night, staggering drunk, when he’s accosted as he leaves an inn. When he comes to he discovers his attacker is a giant, sent by a scary woman who knows exactly who Horatio truly is.

The dialogue in this is sharp and witty, starting to remind me slightly of Scott Lynch’s work. We see the beauty and brutality of Heaven, we see a diverse cast with an intensely developed backstory for a short story, and wow, what an ending.

This is easily one of my favourite pieces in this anthology.

Empty Monuments by Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin

Discovering an entire planet that’s completely devoid of life – bacteria included – is certainly worrying, baffling, thought impossible. Parmesh is driven to distraction by it, but Meleiana, pilot of the Zhang He, seems to think it can all be explained. They and others are there to map solar systems, catalogue lifeforms and match what they find to previous builders so they can try decode who’s responsible for that particular part of space. As they look closer, things appear to be stranger and stranger, and going by how the rest of the anthology has been so far, you start getting a little worried as to what they’re going to discover.

This piece does an excellent job of explaining what they’re all doing to a reader who has little-to-no scientific background and knowledge. It’s also excellent at building up to a whole big something, making it impossible to put down until you discover just what’s going on here. It’s also excellent having a main character who doesn’t know science either – she’s just there to get them there and get them out – and it works marvellously as a window into the plot.

Then wow. This ending? It really packs a punch, and really leaves you thinking. What would we have done if we’d discovered the same thing?

Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught by Alan Baxter

Barran is the Guardian of the Temple of the Relic. Sometimes he protects the temple from people sent by other nations trying to steal the relic, and sometimes it’s people sent by the king to test Barran and make sure he’s still worthy of the title. With this great honour comes a lot of time for thought though, as Barran hasn’t left the temple since he was 19 and confirmed in the service. He understands blind faith and the value in it, however perhaps it isn’t as simple as that.

This is quite an engaging story, though I would have liked to see more of the character Belane. The ending especially works well; this is a well measured short story that delivers well.

Circa by Caitlene Cooke

Circa is a time-traveller – not much more needs to be said to explain why this short is particularly excellent. This piece deals with the balance in the universe, and how two instances of the same person or object cease to exist in the same universe – it causes a seizure, the universe can’t handle it. It also shows what happens if someone is dragged through time – spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.

This piece is packed full of action and quick-thinking, as Circa has to figure out a way to save herself or if not that, make the best of a bad situation. This is complicated and timey-wimey and pretty dang-excellent.

Living in the Light by Sara Larner

Another excellent beginning that makes it impossible not to read on: ‘My child turned into a hummingbird. He was a premature birth, so I expected some complications.’ This also works well to set the tone, as the tale results in a slightly unnerving, magical and incredibly sad piece of literature. As someone who’s seen far too many doctors (though not for anything as severe as poor Clara) I can relate to the mother not wishing to take her child to the doctor, but you can feel her growing panic also, even if you’re not a mother.

This piece is written with a sort of distance, and you get the feel of the mother taking a step back to try to understand what on earth is happening here. You become transfixed by the pace of what becomes normal for her, and then increasing as sometime as simple as a night-light going out spells something much more significant. The ending packs a punch like so many others in this anthology, but for this one my mouth dropped open as it all fell into place. This one is certainly one that’ll last with me.

Always Another Point by Alexis Hunter

Jenna is trapped on a ship, suffering double miseries and on the run. Another piece where the less said about the plot in this review means better reading for you on your first read of this anthology.

You can only read on with sympathy for this one, hoping she gets out okay and gets a chance to heal – from more than one heartache. This piece parallels many issues and discrimination we have in the world today, and is also incredibly sad. However, it also ends in hope. This is a strong piece that needs to be read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Footprints in Venom by Robert Hood

Agul Tana has a job – to save New Uruk by bringing back old King Gilhamesh which shall somehow fix their troubles. Though the new world is suffering the same troubles that ruined our current Earth they’ve long left behind, the founders have looked to ancient religion and mythology for the answers.

This is a complex piece that involves the goddness Ishtar and deals with the surreal. It’s emotive and sensual and certainly contains a lot of big ideas that are worth pondering for a time, even if it means putting down the anthology for a few minutes to do so.

Salvatrix by Marianne de Pierres

Ralph is a shearer, who sometimes works for a place rumoured to lock up the mistress when the Governor is away. Places like this are always good for gossip when you have different tier levels of servants and workers, but Ralph reckons there’s some truth to it – especially when one of the housemaids he’s diddling, Liza, is upgraded to the mistress’ attendant. The mistress is also incredibly beautiful, and Ralph soon finds himself entangled in something he couldn’t dream of walking away from, especially as it turns out Ralph may be connected to her in more ways than a simple shearer.

This is written with an easy hand, capturing the lingo used of the time such as slang for the cigarettes and lifestyle, smoothly weaving this all together into something a bit mystical and fantastic. This makes the outback a little magical, and makes you wonder of the possibility of what could be happening out there in the little towns of ours where there’s few eyes and ears to record what they’ve witnessed.

Ministry of Karma by Ian Creasey

Anthea, pregnant, is looking to the tarot and other mystic signs for knowledge, but it’s only fretting her as every omen seems to be bad and gloomy. Using a dowser she’s come to discover what kind of lives her unborn son has previously experienced, but the news can only be grim when the dowser advises to call her husband back into the room once she’s done, so they can receive the news together.

The idea behind this one is really dang interesting – and quite true of what already happens today, and what could continue happening if the testing they’re speaking of being available does eventually become commonplace. I’d certainly love a novel set in this world, perhaps at the start of Anthea’s working life or when everything started to change. This has got miles and miles to discover through it, and another one of my absolute favourites in an already-strong and fantastic anthology.

Reflections by Tamlyn Dreaver

Hana has lived her whole life on the moon with her mothers, who run research on the atmosphere and why it’s failing. Though she knows she’s being difficult, Hana doesn’t want to leave and this manifests in pouts and whines to no effect – they all have to leave. Then Hana discovers something wonderful.

What I liked about this one was how realistic it was – you’d have to read the end to see what I mean, but I’m glad it didn’t go in the direction I was expecting. This is short and sweet, strong and well written. It’s also good pacing against the previous piece which is quite a bit longer, so they make good juxtaposition against each other.

Sins of Meals Past by Matthew Morrison

Written in second person – which is not common and hard to pull off successfully as it is done here – we are a nurse who’s helping an old man who is slowing dying in his own home rather than a hospital or care facility. He has all the things necessary, and each scene describes in minute detail how every faculty of the nurse is attended to – what order things are done in, where the waste is thrown, how a patient is observed and moved around. This old man we’re attending to however is quite peculiar, and you only get more and more unnerved by it all as we read on.

Like one of the previous pieces in this anthology, here we have a short story that explains something I personally don’t know about – medical terms galore, and uses them so expertly and fluidly that we easily understand what’s going on, and almost feel like we’re almost equipped to do what we’re reading we’re doing. This is a fairly deep story, another that will surely last with me for a long time.

The Final Voyage of Saint Brendan by Tom Dullemond

Captain Brendan is sailing under Fleet captain Plymouth, hunting down and/or chasing down islands. Island hunters, they’re trying to harpoon a small island as their own great island is dying. They’re London’s last hope, and the speech Plymouth gives Brendan surely leaves him something to think about.

This another short piece that packs a good punch, grim and dark but feeling completely right in the actions they take. This reminds me a little of one of the more recent Doctor Who episodes, in the best of ways.

One Who Knows by Darren Goossens

Sara and a few others are stationed on a planet to collect various kinds of data. Sara’s role is to observe and be-friend the local population of region 2138B4, and currently she’s closest to Eng, who is pregnant. With medical training Sara offers her abilities to the group for scratches to precent blood-poisoning and such, but is told she won’t be able to be present for the birth, as this is only for certain, very few and very specific people to attend. This doesn’t stop her from monitoring the huts themselves at the time of the birth though, which means when something goes wrong, she knows about it and makes her way there from the base with haste, and begs to be allowed to help.

This is quite a delicate piece, hitting the heart-strings and showcasing many different characters with quite a lot of depth with such few lines to them each. Deceptively simple, this shows that you don’t need action in a short story when characters drive it so damn well.

The Last Case of Detective Charlemagne by Kathleen Jennings

This one begins with an extract discussing said detective, telling us that they’re a long-running series of pulp crime novels, and it works exceptionally well in wishing they existed! I always love to read about writers and their writing, and this is no exception, with the added bonus of witty dialogue that really adds to the style of pulp crime fiction.

There are multiple layers to this one, leaving the reader to find more to think on after a re-read. It also has such a sad but true line near the end which I won’t spoil by writing here – it really needs to be read through the natural course of the short story in order to pack the punch it gives. This short story will speak miles to those who read voraciously.

The Winter Stream by Daniel Simpson

Another incredibly hard-to-read, sad piece that involves family and the complete and utter sadness that can come from it, as well as the sacrifice for something so utterly worth it, but still – what a life to have. There’s quite a few pieces in this anthology that follow this style – be sure to read this anthology with breaks so you don’t get completely morose over it! (In a good way, it’s such an emotive collection of works.)

This follows a man who has been looking after his very young son, Lucas, for an extraordinarily long time. He’s an old man now and growing increasingly worried for the future – the rest of the family having been unable to cope with the situation, and having left them behind a long time ago. As a reader you’re left wondering what you would have done in their situation – would you have been unable to do anything but what the father has chosen to do, or would you join the side of seemingly everyone else? This also speaks on what it means to be human, and whether such a thing can be counted so simply to the seven signs, as is documented in here. A heartbreaking piece that’s really well written.

The Falcon Races by Thoraiya Dyer

This is the type of short story I could never hope to do justice with for a review. Irrumburri is the first protagonist that we meet, and we see her receive a phone call from her husband to say he’s been unfaithful to her. She calls her sister to talk about how awful he is, even though they “disagree on almost everything in life”. Karima is the second protagonist we follow, Irrumburri’s sister. Then we have Solomon, her son. Together we see a well-rounded view of their family, and what troubles them.

This short story has an incredibly deep blend of cultures in it, some which feel very close to what I see each day, living in this part of Australia. It does culture very well, showing how strong it is in their lives and how it leads their every breath. This is an incredibly well done piece, one I would expect to see used in classrooms up here in future.

The Art of Deception by Stephanie Burgis

Hrabanic used to be the most famous swordsman in the region, but since he was fired by the archduke, he’s turned into almost a nobody. His landlady and love has to go home, soon, to the White Library – and with that, my interest is certainly piqued. He promises to keep her safe which she takes as a promise to go with her to this dreaded library, and from here he has no option but to go with her.

This piece was a whole lot of fun – epic fantasy through and through, another that makes me wish we had a whole novel of these characters and this world. This is one of those character-driven pieces with the added bonus of an excellent magic system which gives us an incredibly strong ending to this anthology, which is strong overall. Sometimes in anthologies you find a short story or three doesn’t manage to capture your interest or you just can’t bring yourself to continue reading it… in this anthology however, each and every single story is as strong as the next, and all were supremely readable. Tehani Wessely has done a stand-out job with this anthology!

2014 – October

This month I managed to read 16 novels – it should be jumping in numbers now that judging has begun! Below I’ll list the novels read for my part in judging the fantasy novel category in the Aurealis Awards which I’m not able to discuss, then below shall carry on as normal for books I’ve read for enjoyment or review.

Novels read for Aurealis Judging

  • Beckoning Blood by Daniel de Lorne
  • Impossible Magic (#2 The Destiny of Dragons) by J. F. R. Coates
  • Pickles and Ponies: A Fairy-Tale (#1 Radugan Tales) by Laura May
  • Allegiance (#2 Betrothed) by Wanda Wiltshire
  • Evertween by Laila Savolainen

And now, onto the novels read in October!

The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura, #3)

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells was such a damn good ending to the Books of the Raksura series, and while I know there are more in the same world so I don’t really have to get sad, I still am! I loved seeing his journey in particular, and I’m going to miss him as a main character. Same with Jade. She is such an excellent, kickass character. I hope we get to see them again at some stage.

Drowned Vanilla (Café La Femme, #2)

Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day is easily one of my favourite reads for 2014. Smart and sassy and fun, this is everything I love in a book. The characters are so vibrant and relatable – so many of these characters make me think, ‘he is EXACTLY like my friend in Brisbane!’ and so on. While I don’t hate reading crime and do so occasionally, it’s not exactly one of the main genre’s I turn to when I want a book to read. Livia Day changes all that.

Stories of the Raksura: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud

Stories of the Raksura by Martha Wells continues on my current obsession. Short stories that have been printed in a nice book to make them easier to get your hands on, this offers you little bits of backstory and added characterisation for those who just can’t let go of this series yet. Like myself. And Tehani.

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells was a bit disappointing, really. For as much as he’s hailed as one of the fathers of the field, I just can’t enjoy his work whatever I try. I mean, they’re technically good and interesting, it’s just also… kinda boring on the other hand. Far too easy to put down, and just all a bit dull!

Goodhouse

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall is SUCH a good book! You can read my review of it over here. Highly recommended, so engaging, so gripping. It’s not out until January 2015 – which isn’t that far off, really. Where the heck has a the year gone. This is a fairly confronting book, and if you like reading about bleak futures and ‘facility’ style dystopian-kinda things, this is for you.

The Singing Stones (The Lost Shimmaron, #2)

The Singing Stones by Margo Lanagan is a book I’m reading for intern-at-FableCroft purposes. Not much else that I can say at this stage other than you’ll hear more about it once it’s released.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a book recommended to me by the aforementioned Margo Lanagan at dinner back in Canberra at the start of the month. This is a kinda memoir where Sedaris rambled about his quirky life and so on. First recommended to me for the bit on how he went about learning a language, something I’m currently struggling with. He’s quite amusing and witty throughout, and this was an okay book in all.

Citrine (The Lost Shimmaron, #6)

Citrine by Marianne de Pierres is another in the Lost Shimmaron series, another I’m reading for intern-at-FableCroft purposes. Not much else that I can say at this stage other than you’ll hear more about it once it’s released.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2.5)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is a novella set in his current Kingkiller world, focusing on the character of Auri. Though it has mentions of Kvothe we don’t see him, and this is mostly about Auri going about her day, what she thinks and also, how she thinks. It’s a bit of an odd novella, and overall… while I like it in many ways, it’s not going to be one of my favourite books of the year. It’s nice, but it’s not as special as I hoped it would be. But it’s nice.

More Fool Me

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry is another of his memoirs. I was really quite disappointed with book. Fry’s previous memoirs have been among my favourites but this one just fell rather flat – it’s all a bit mediocre. This book read like it was churned out, rather than written with the intent of something that needed to be said, like his previous in the ‘series’, as it were. I have a lot of time and respect for Fry, but this book… yeah. Annoying and worrying.

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a book I’ve been meaning to read since it first came out, and now the tv show has only compounded that. When October’s theme was horror it seemed like the time had finally come to read it! This was highly enjoyable – I love seeing how countries and departments try to deal with mass disasters. I loved the mentions of the little offices that exist to deal with not-often-heard-of things, and the characters (though harder to follow in this than they are in the TV show, their names just don’t really suit them in book form), were really interesting. Though I note the female hacker from the show isn’t in this book.

~

November’s monthly challenge is contempory – any suggestions for what I should read?

Anticipated Books of 2014

Goodness, where has the year gone? It’s been a flurry of book judging for me, leaving little time to focus on books of my own choosing. Not necessarily a bad thing because judging brings books I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of, let alone pick up to read, straight to my lap and gives me an excuse to read them asap!

That said, I’m looking forward to picking my own books. Here’s a few, in alpha order by author’s last name to make it fair. Publishing dates are taken from Goodreads, so may not all be accurate. But here’s hoping we get them all during 2014 – if we do, what a year it’s going to be!

  • The Thorn of Emberlain (Gentleman Bastard, #4) by Scott Lynch

Except I will do this book first, apart from the others. I don’t keep it a secret that Scott’s my favourite author – I adore the wit and characters he writes, and that besides he’s a lovely, lovely person – far too kind. And then the tiny fact that I have a cameo in this book, that I won in an auction mid 2011. The character will be known as Kelise.

There’s also talk about one of his novella’s coming out within the next year, so fingers crossed for that. And he has another short story in an anthology, but for the life of me I can’t find details of the name or editors. He read a section of it at Brighton WFC 2013 and it’s probably going to be my new favourite short story, jumping just ahead of In the Stacks – it’s honestly wonderful.

  • Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3) by Leigh Bardugo

This series has been one that gets better as it goes along, and that’s with the first book being pretty darn good. I think the first arrived without request from the publisher for review, and I was instantly drawn in – the sequel was one I threw everything aside to read immediately. It has a strong female main character, and fairly complex supporting characters who you honestly don’t always know what their motives are – in the best got-to-keep-reading way possible.

  • Murder of Crows (The Others, #2) by Anne Bishop

MurderCrowsA series that took me by surprise – I think another I received the first to review and thought I’d give it a go, and was instantly drawn into the world for my trouble. It’s another vampires and werewolves series, but heck does it do it well. This is the book for everyone who is sick to death of shape shifter novels, because it does it so damn well, and it reminds you to not turn your back on any trope.

  • Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray

Ghosts and such done well this time, set in 1926 or thereabouts, with stunning female leads who get stuff done. It gives such a feel for the time with the fashions and general scene, what was expected of a certain type of gal and all the rest. Beautiful prose.

  • Clockwork Universe anthology edited by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier

A book that came from Kickstarter that has the tagline ‘When aliens reach Earth, they encounter the clockwork mechanisms and Victorian sensibilities of a full-blown steampunk civilization.’ It’s due for release (for backers at least) in May 2014 and currently has a list of authors including Scott Lynch, Bradley Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, and Ian Tregillis, plus others.

  • The Tropic of Serpents (Memoir by Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

TropicofSerpentsThe first book in this series was a thing of beauty, and I expect nothing less from the sequel. Lady Trent is the world’s pre-eminent dragon naturalist in a time when a woman learning anything from books is entirely looked down upon, as it simply isn’t done. The first book was set in the year 1895 in a magical realm that’s quite alike Victorian England. Females are expected to grow to be proper and marry well, even when dragons exist and who really wouldn’t want to run away and be amongst them! The first book was dramatic, and it leaves me wondering what could dare happen in the second.

  • UPGRADED anthology edited by Neil Clarke

Another kickstarter joy. An original science fiction anthology for the cyborg age. Edited by a cyborg. Stronger. Better. Faster. We will rebuild you. The following authors have already agreed to submit a story: Elizabeth Bear, Helena Bell, Tobias S. Buckell, Pat Cadigan, Greg Egan, Xia Jia, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Yoon Ha Lee, Ken Liu, Chen Qiufan, Robert Reed, E. Catherine Tobler, Genevieve Valentine, Peter Watts, E. Lily Yu

  • Armada by Ernest Cline

I came to Ernest Cline from his Ready Player One novel, which was incredible amounts of fun. This one sounds it’ll be much the same: Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the high-tech dropship lands in his school’s courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he’s sure he’s still dreaming.

But the dream is all too real; the people of Earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the videogame he’s been playing obsessively for years isn’t just a game; it’s part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they’ll need to defend Earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming.

  • Drowned Vanilla (Café La Femme, #2) by Livia Day

Also known by the name Tansy Rayner-Roberts, Livia has an excellent series there that delights the reader with snappy and intelligent dialogue. And the descriptions of the food! The main character runs a café and the way she describes the food would make you hungry for it, even if it’s of food you wouldn’t normally eat. Or worse, are allergic to. The descriptions of the clothes are also one of Livia/Tansy’s strengths. And the characters. And then it’s crime. So basically it wins on all fronts.

  • Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres

peacemakerI haven’t read everything by de Pierres, but this book sounds dang interesting. Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park – the world’s last natural landscape, overshadowed though it is by a sprawling coastal megacity. She maintains public safety and order in the park, so when an imaginary animal from her troubled teenage years reappears, Virgin takes it to mean one of two things: a breakdown (hers!) or a warning. When the dead bodies start piling up around her and Nate, she decides on the latter. Something terrible is about to happen in the park and Virgin and her new partner are standing in its path…

  • This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.

  • Untitled (Cormoran Strike, #2) by Robert Galbraith

Also known by the name J. K. Rowling, this series was so excellent I kept thinking to myself ‘I really need to hunt out any other books by Galbraith!’ – I just kept forgetting who ‘he’ actually was, thanks to the writing style. I found the first book highly enjoyable, and could perfectly visualise Idris Elba in the MC role – partly thanks to his work in Luther of course, but because I think it would be excellent to see the actor do basically the same role in a way, yet manage to make it an entirely different character.

  • Steampunk World anthology edited by Sarah Hans

Currently in Kickstarter mode so get on over and pledge if you’re interested! A diverse steampunk anthology from your favorite award-winning authors, including Jay Lake, Nisi Shawl, Ken Liu, and Lucy A. Snyder, due to be delivered somehow in February 2014.

  • The Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Well, it’s Robin Hobb so this one’s a given. I admit I haven’t read all of her books just yet – Solider Son and her Megan Lindholm work is in my bookcase, glaring at me, but more Fitz and Fool will certainly jump the queue. Another lovely author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice now. She was so excellent on her panels at WFC in Brighton that my partner can’t wait to read her work.

  • Blood of Innocents (Sorcery Ascendant Sequence #2) by Mitchell Hogan

Another series that proves that it is possible to do self-published well, and of quality. This one will apparently have ‘faster pace all the way through. A better balance of action, adventure, character building/development, dramatic tension and world building.’ We look forward to it!

  • A Very Singular Guild (City of Orphans, #3) by Catherine Jinks

A very fun series that’s set in London where there are boggles, which are quite like Dementors in how they make everyone feel, but they also eat the poor little children. The series has the same core characters, but follows a different one each time. This book shall follow Ned, one of the boggle hunters. What works so well in this series is the sense of self and the characters, as they’re expertly woven together with lovely use of language to capture the time.

  • This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Six months after the events of These Broken Stars, the second book in the trilogy follows a new pair of star-crossed lovers—one a rebel fighting for his home, the other a soldier, her mission to eradicate the rebellion—facing down a powerful darkness hidden in the wilderness of a newly terraformed world.

The first book did the characters well, and it was an enjoyable space opera. What stood out was the prose, it really is quite a lovely novel to read. It had alternating chapters which really worked quite well, and overal it’s simply a survival story, which is always interesting, especially in science fiction.

  • Kaleidoscope anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Funded via Pozible rather than kickstarter, this anthology will be part of the QUILTBAG, neuro-diverse, disabled, from non-Western cultures, people of color, or in some other way not the typical straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied characters we see all over the place. That said, these aren’t going to be issue stories. The focus here is contemporary fantasy, and while the characters’ backgrounds will necessarily affect how they engage with the world, we’re not going to have a collection of “Very Special Episode” stories about kids coming to terms with their sexuality/disability/mental illness/cultural identity, etc. We want to see protagonists from all sorts of backgrounds being the heroes of their own journeys.

  • Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely

A reprint anthology for anything that was first published in 2013, that will collect the best young adult short fiction of the year published in the anthologies dedicated to the form, the occasional special edition of a magazine, and individual pieces appearing in otherwise “adult” anthologies and magazines, and bring them together in one accessible collection. So many young readers are avidly reading speculative fiction in novel form; we want to introduce them to the delight that can be found in the short story as well.

  • Shadowplay (Pantomime, #2) by  Laura Lam

So this one I’ve already read, but it’s due out in early January. You can read my review here, but in summary, I liked it even better than the first which is saying quite a lot. We meet the new characters Cyan and Maske and the book turns a little darker, providing excellent reasons to keep reading as fast as one can to make sure they all reach the end of the book safely!

  • The Lascar’s Dagger (The Forsaken Lands, #1) by Glenda Larke

LascarsDaggerAnother favourite Australian author where anything that has her name on the cover will be instantly devoured.

Saker appears to be a simple priest, but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. Wounded in the line of duty by a Lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility it brings, Saker can only follow its lead.

The dagger puts Saker on a journey to distant shores, on a path that will reveal terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he serves, and destroy the life he knows. The Lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

  • H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Well, first things first, Helen is a friend. She’s also utterly amazing, and has done so much in her life that it’s feat she has time to babble on twitter and be part of one of the funniest twitter rps I’ve seen. That aside, her book is going to be fantastic and I’d say that whether she takes us on adventures around Cambridge when we visit or not.

HisforHFrom the age of twelve, when she first saw a trained goshawk, Helen Macdonald had determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, especially T.H. White’s tortured masterpiece The Goshawk, that describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest.

When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she turns to White’s book again and becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this widest of animals.

  • The Caller (Shadowfell, #3) by Juliet Marillier

Marillier’s work is always so lovely and emotive. She manages to work a complex layer of historical fiction with old myths and legends, and it comes together into something weighty and different to what else is out there. This will be the conclusion of her excellent trilogy:

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill–a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk–Neryn sets out on a legendary journey that will explore her talents. 

  • Dreamer’s Pool (Blackthorn and Grim, #1) by Juliet Marillier

The start of a new series! All about a magical healer’s adventures in a world based on medieval Ireland.

  • The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colors of Madeleine #2) by Jaclyn Moriarty

The first book was another that was flung my way from the publisher, who had taken note of my reading tastes and thought I may like it. Nope. I loved it. Set half in Cambridge, England, and half in the fantasy Kingdom of Cello, we have the main character of Madeleine Tully of Cambridge who has two friends, Belle and Jack; a mother who is ill and a father they left behind in some other part of the world.

In Cello (the town of Bonfire, to be exact) we have Elliot and the colours, dangers that roam around the kingdom laying havoc and destroying lives. Elliot’s own father is missing, but Elliot plans to find him and bring him home again. It’s already been a year without him – a year too long.

This novel is nothing but unique and is an instant favourite, one I’ve been desperate to read more of.

  • The PaulandStormonomicon anthology edited by Paul and Storm

Actually an add-on to a kickstarter, where the main aim was a CD, I think. I’m shamelessly in it for the anthology, but who knows, maybe I’ll love their music also – I should probably check it out!

The anthology will have stories from James S. A. Corey, Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo, Lev Grossman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Mikey Neumann, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, and Scott Sigler, with perhaps more to come!

  • Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal

ValourvanityAnother author who was so amazing at WFC Brighton that my partner is eager to read her work. And I won one of her books from knowing Doctor Who – did you know there’s a Doctor cameo in each of her novels? I had no idea! She read out the parts in each and we had to guess which Doctor it was. She is the best voice actor I have ever heard, (sorry, Gideon Emery, you’re still pretty amazing), and is a delight matched with Patrick Rothfuss, especially over his twitter competition.

Oh, and her books are obviously some of my favourites also.

Sure, they seem ‘girly’ as they’re Jane Austen with ‘pretty’ magic – the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. It’s like you can pinch and twist strands of colourful magic in the air, and manage it into something of a glamour. But these books are so beyond that. Read them!

  • Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

So I haven’t actually finished reading the first in this series, Steelheart, just yet. But anything Sanderson is engaging and this series has superheroes and all, so as soon as I’m done with my judging books, I’ll be straight into the first.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in.

  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson

Oh heck yes, a sequel to The Alloy of Law, Wax and Wayne and sassy female characters who are blunt and determined and get things done! It’s so excellent to see what the metal-based abilities were like in the first Mistborn books of Elend and Vin, and then how they progressed so rapidly with Wax and Wayne. I can’t wait to see more of their world.

  • Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2) by Brandon Sanderson

WordsRadianceMore Kaladin! Honestly, how does Sanderson do it. Come out with so many books so quickly, I mean. In my humble opinion most are of quality, or are at least fun. This one I hope has a good introduction so it brings back the first book to my awful memory, so I don’t have to read the thousand plus pages again. Which would be nice to re-read anyway, but with this list and perhaps judging again next year I’m already worried about lacking time!

  • Athena’s Daughters anthology edited by Silence in the Library Publishing

Currently in Kickstarter mode, so get on over and pledge if you’re interested!

Athena’s Daughters is a collection of short speculative fiction by some of the industry’s best female authors. This anthology features stories written by women about women. some of the authors shall be Mary Robinette Kowal, Gail Z. Martin, Cleolinda Jones, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Rabe, Sherwood Smith, Janine K. Spendlove, Vicki Johnson-Steger, Cynthia Ward, and Jean Marie Ward and new and exciting talents like Maggie Allen, Conley Lyons, Doris Stever, and C.A. (Christine) Verstraete. With an introduction by retired astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Pam Melroy.

  • Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) by Laini Taylor

GodsMonstersThis is one of my favourite series, because Laini Taylor’s work is such a thing of beauty. There’s a novella set between the second and third book and it’s so perfect that someone (Heather Vee) said on twitter that it’s ‘so charming that it makes me want to punch love right in the goddamn mouth.’ And that’s so true. Laini’s work makes you almost wriggle with happiness. This series makes me desperate to visit Prague. If you haven’t read this series, get straight to it immediately.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

  • Veronica Mars: The First Book in an Original Mystery Series by Rob Thomas

The first book in an original mystery series featuring twenty-eight-year-old Veronica Mars, back in action after the events of Veronica Mars: The Movie. With the help of old friends—Logan Echolls, Mac Mackenzie, Wallace Fennel, and even Dick Casablancas—Veronica is ready to take on Neptune’s darkest cases with her trademark sass and smarts.

  • Cranky Ladies of History anthology edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner-Roberts

An anthology of historical short fiction inspired by cranky ladies of history, with a list of leading ladies yet to be announced. Submissions are currently open, and you can see here for more details.

  • Insert Title Here anthology edited by Tehani Wessely

Another that currently has submissions open, but Tehani’s anthologies are always such a joy that we know it’ll be fantastic.

  • Crash (Twinmaker #2) by Sean Williams

I really enjoy Sean’s work – especially his earlier series The Change which is an incredibly visual, Australian-feeling crashtale. While the first book in the Twinmaker series was good, I found myself more interested in the world itself rather than the plot and characters. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how the series progresses.

In a near-future world in which technology can transport you anywhere instantly, can a coded note enable you to change your body—to become taller, stronger, more beautiful? Clair is pretty sure the offer is too good to be true. But her best friend, Libby, is determined to give it a try, longing for a new, improved version of herself. What starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when Libby falls foul of a deadly trap. With the help of Jesse, the school freak, and a mysterious—but powerful—stranger called Q, Clair’s attempt to protect Libby leads her to an unimagined world of conspiracies and cover-ups.

What books are you eagerly awaiting? Do you have any suggestions for what I should keep an eye out for?