Best Books of 2016

Books due out in 2017 (but read in 2016)

Keep Calm & Kill the Chef (Café La Femme #3) by Livia Day

Sometimes I love my job as a beta reader. Wait, sometimes? I mean every single damn time. This book was no different – I inhaled it, as I do with all of Tansy/Livia’s work. It’s fun as heck, tackles a subject we’re seeing around everywhere and either love or are apathetic about – this will appeal to both sides as it’s perfectly handled.

Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoraiya Dyer

Unar is a brave young woman, in that she leaves her parents (who wanted to sell her for food) and offers herself instead to the Gods, where, with her surprising amount of talent, becomes a Gardener in service to the God Audblayin. In this world where a God is female, they have male bodyguards and vice versa, and Unar hopes that her God will finally change genders (as she’s been female for so very long), so that she may earn the chance to rise to the position of bodyguard. This is a character driven story, and it’s beautiful in its landscape and the creatures that fill the backdrop. The characters surprise you at times, but a deep love and/or responsibility drive them also, and it’s this that you’re left with at the end.

You can read my full review here.

Shattered Minds (False Hearts #2) by Laura Lam

This one is coming out in June 2017. I’ve been lucky enough to beta read for Laura. The is the type of book that is hard to write anything about because it just has so MUCH (or the internet says, ‘all the feels’). This is very, very fantastic, I love it, I need more and I don’t want it to be over. The characters are addictive, the world is enticing (I love realism with touches of futuristic science fiction) and thrillers are always impossible to put down. Highly recommended, and I love that we get such a bad character that we feel so much for.

Masquerade (Micah Grey #3) by Laura Lam

Laura Lam is one of the authors that was impacted by the closure of Angry Robot’s Strange Chemistry imprint, which means that we got the first two books in this series in 2013 and then nothing… until Tor picked her series up, reprinted the first two with stunning new covers, and now are releasing the third in March 2017. We get beautiful closure to Micah’s heartbreaking and fantastic story, we see violence and heroics, and much about family in this one. I don’t often (ever) like to see favourite series end, but this one is done so perfectly that I think I can let it slide, just this once. It helps that the above series (False Hearts) is pretty bloody epic.

Hunted (Hunted #1) by Meagan Spooner

This was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to read more. I love her take on the old fables and making it equally demanding in terms of risk and skills needed by the characters to get where they dream to be. Here we have characters who need to be able to do whatever they need to in order to survive, and things are grim if they don’t have the strength or ability. I can’t recommend her writing enough.

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Lazlo Strange is an orphan, raised by monks initially and then in the Great Library of Zosma where he journeyed once to make a delivery and never left. Able to read three dead languages thanks to his time in the monastery, he’s taken on as an apprentice where he is able to turn his obsession of a long-forgotten city into the most extensive history in existence. Pieced together by tales once told to him by a senile monk, and any scrap of paper he manages to turn up in the library, he writes his own series of journals correlating any bit of information he can about the Unseen City, also known as Weep, as the name was stolen from the minds of everyone by what Lazlo can only assume is magic. This is until, one day, the golden prince Thyon Nero takes his life’s work from him for his own study. Just in the nick of time, as warriors and royals from the long-lost city arrive on their doorstep. And ask for their help.

This book is beyond beautiful. Taylor gives us characters that one can only crave will exist someday, in reality. It would almost be an unhealthy obsession, waiting and wishing for a Lazlo to appear someday.

You can read my full review here.

Books read and published in 2016

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes

This is, as the by-line says, a collection of stories, essays and other writing (such as poems). We start off with a poem titled Muse, about fishhooks in the fingers of gloves that embed themselves a little more with every keystroke, and it’s beautiful. In this collection, though it’s sometimes hard to see through the grit and the grime and the grim nature of the narrative, there is still hope and determination and people ready to struggle for what’s right. And that’s what makes this collection so damn powerful.

You can read my full review here.

Swarm (Zeroes #2) by Deborah Biancotti, Margo Lanagan, Scott Westerfeld

YAY! I love this series so much. It was such an anticipated read and it did not disappoint. I love these characters so damn much, and I love trying to figure out which characters are written by which author, and I love that they weren’t scared to really take parts of this novel into a fairly dark place. LOVE it, and now the wait for the third will be even harder!

Cold-Forged Flame (Ree Varekai #1) by Marie Brennan

This is just as interesting and versatile and easy to lose yourself in as her Lady Trent series. The characters are developed and utterly their own in so few pages, and this is exactly what a novella should be – self contained and satisfying without feeling rushed, but also makes you wish it were longer because it’s just so enjoyable. What I was most impressed with in this novella is how everything turned out. Our unnamed main character seeks and strives, yet makes dedicated and impressive choices, that shows she is either vastly intelligent, or of a good heart, or both. This type of thing is warming to read, and you can’t help but smile.

You can read my full review here.

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers

This was one of my highest anticipated books, after absolutely loving The Long Way to Small, Angry Planet which my friend Bethwyn won for me on instagram. I absolutely loved this book just as much as the first, and highly recommend them both to anyone – though this book isn’t out until October. Both books could easily be stand-alone and the reader would feel content. They’re so well written though, that the reader will grab them both and more as soon as they’re released, and still look forward to the next. This is such a lovely, heart-felt and detailed and dedicated series that I’m getting even more excited to see what the author has for us next.

You can read my full review here.

Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva & Holly Kench

This anthology is of high quality and needs attention – it’s a complicated thing showing both the drawbacks of having a disability, and also how a disability doesn’t mean you’re an easy kill if zombies attack. We need more visibility in fiction, especially as sometimes, books are all some of us had when ill or in hospital or simply not healthy enough or able to be running around with other kids at recess or in holidays. Surely a higher percentage of disabled children and adults turn to books for adventure over other forms of recreational amusement, so why the hell isn’t there more of this representation around?

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

This book is exactly what I needed at the time. Overworked and underappreciated, Maribeth is the working mother of four-year-old twins who doesn’t even realise she’s had a heart-attack (she’s too young to have one!) until she raises a mild concern to her doctor… This was a book I devoured in mere hours. Not a whole lot happens, but the characters are relatable, it’s not one-sided, and I’m glad to have read it. This is a solid read that’s believable, and the ending was satisfying in a way I wasn’t sure would be possible until Forman made it work.

You can read my full review here.

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle (The Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French

This was one of my favourite books of the year. For me, this author can do no wrong and has been my constant companion since I learned how to read. From Somewhere Around the Corner until now, I will always pick up a Jackie French book regardless of what it’s about (though I am really excited about the next science fiction series she has in the works!) and I’m just so happy that I still have a new book to look forward to (usually more than) once a year.

Rise: A Newsflesh Collection (Newsflesh #3.4, 3.5) by Mira Grant

This was a good collection of her short fiction that ties into the Feed world, with most being reprints other than the last two pieces at the end, one that show their parents just a few years after the Rising, and one that show George and Shaun themselves after the trilogy has ended. It’s a good collection, I loved reading it, and I wish to god the book had a better cover.

Iron to Iron (Wolf By Wolf #1.5) by Ryan Graudin

This was a whole lot of fun, and I devoured it in one night (as it’s more of a novella than a novel). It neatly adds more detail to the first book without being boring or telling us what we already know – for those who’ve read Wolf by Wolf, this is about Luka and Adele’s 1955 Axis tour before the 1956 Axis Tour Yael participates in. Now I’m even more desperate to get my hands on the second book before it comes out at the end of the year! And it might be time to hunt out some other Graudin books to keep me going until then.

Blood for Blood (Wolf By Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudin

This was an eagerly anticipated book as I loved the first, Wolf by Wolf, so very much. Alternate history, especially when it regards World War II, is a particular favourite of mine.  Yael continues to be an utterly amazing character and I just want more. Please, Graudin!

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas edited by Paula Guran

Novellas are currently my favourite thing. Longer than a short story so you get some meaty character development and/or world building, but only need half an hour to a few hours to lose yourself in before it sets you free to go flail about it to a friend.

This is a collection of the best of the best, and it shows. Highly recommended.

You can read my full review here.

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand

This was wow. I didn’t want to put it down, and devoured it and I want more. Featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, magic that condemns those granted with it yet also sets them free, and overall this was written with a light and teasing hand where the authors would dip in every so often and break the fourth wall in a way that always worked. Another one that’s highly recommended and just fun.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Imogen and Marin are sisters with an awful mother, one who is abusive physically in part, but mostly mentally, trying to turn them against each other from a young age. At first opportunity Imogen, the older sister, leaves… and it’s many years before the sisters are reunited again. Marin understands why Imogen had to leave (mostly), but being left behind is hard even when you are the favourite. Marin is a dancing prodigy, and with her talent she’s the wicked greedy gleam in their mother’s eye, who doesn’t value Imogen’s talent for writing even slightly. This is a wonderful novel that’s engaging, well written and just lovely. Easily going to remain one of my favourites for 2016.

You can read my full review here.

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

This 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!

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

This was another historical fiction novel set during war, expanding upon a woman’s place in the field. Kinda hard to get into on one hand and easy to put down, but then on the other hand entirely engaging and easy to understand – it’s an odd mix. Perhaps a book you have to be in the mood for, as it can be a bit depressing (obvious from the subject matter). I’d love to see more in the series, and as ever, will always get any books the author comes out with.

1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted by John Lloyd

This was excellent and I hope to slowly collect all of their books. QI and the podcast No Such Thing as a Fish are currently my go to ‘safe’ places because they make me happy with their silly fun and intelligent humour. It’s so easy for the pages to fly by as one usually links on to the next fact, for instance, on page 16 a fact about walnuts leads to one about almonds, and then the cost Britain spends on the Large Hadron Collider in comparison to on peanuts, and the cost of fuel needed to carry peanuts on a plane, and then on page 17 about how a farting sheep caused a freight plane to make an emergency landing, onto how Harper Lee was an airline booking agent… and so on. It’s addictive!

My review can be found here.

Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

This was a prequel to Rogue One, showing Jyn as she’s born and growing up, right until they’re delivered to the planet we see them on at the start of the movie. At times the book was a bit slow as it’s driven by politics (not my favourite), and sometimes the science went right over my head, however it was perfect for someone who is once again hungry for more after the fantastic film.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

This truly was a fantastic book. Set mostly in England but with brief sojourns to France, we follow Bish Ortley (recently stood down from London Met, for reasons Marchetta slowly drips out through the novel), as he goes to France when his daughter is on a bus that’s bombed. It turns out that also on the bus is a daughter of a women currently in jail, currently serving a life sentence for connections with a supermarket bombing many years earlier. Bish gets tangled in the kids’ lives, the previous crimes, and acts as the go-between between all the offices involved – London and French police, the home office, and the other parents of the injured or overwhelmed.

My review for this book can be found here.

Den of Wolves (Blackthorn and Grim #3) by Juliet Marillier

‘Den of Wolves’ by Juliet Marillier is the third and epic conclusion in the Blackthorn & Grim series. The first and second books, Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns were easily my favourites in the years they came out, and this volume is no different – now that I’m finished I immediately want to go back to the start and read them all over again. Throughout, this is a book where you come to the final page, and marvel at how far our beloved characters have truly come – their journey is incredibly tough and trying, but you see how they’ve grown as characters completely and utterly from where they started out in the first book, which makes it an incredibly rewarding series to read. With the plot entwined with lore and a very structured way of magic, the fey folk and what is possible, you have a deep and dependable trilogy to lose yourself in.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Reflections (Indexing #2) by Seanan McGuire

This was amazing, even better than the first in this series. We find out so much more about our favourite characters and things get a whole lot more real for the poor dears. This is elegant yet bold writing at its best. Fairytale novels may be coming thick and fast at the moment but Seanan is one of the best (if you want another rec, try Kate Forsyth).

I absolutely adore Sloane. And Demi really comes out of her shell, which is great. And I just want to clap at all the little things Seanan does that are out of the ordinary because she damn well can. Love it! God I hope there’s going to be a third!

Hold Me (Cyclone #2) by Courtney Milan

This is the second in the Cyclone series, however can be read as a standalone. The whole series however, starting with Trade Me and peppered with short stories here and there (listed in the back of the book) are all worth reading and impossible to put down. This was such a good read at the right time of the month when I was fed up with everything and just needed exactly this type of book.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

This was picked up because of a sampler – I do love it when we don’t have to wait for books that are discovered as a bit of a surprise! This was really quite excellent, having a wide range of characters to sympathise with or at least recognise from your own school days. I read this one in an afternoon and it helped bust me out of a reading slump, so many many thanks, Riley!

Kid Dark Against The Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts

This was such a joy to read. It’s no secret that Tansy is one of my favourite authors of all time. That said, some of her pieces of work spring beyond expectations, and this world is one of them. What Tansy rocks at is presenting you with characters you love in so few words and I especially loved the ending for this one. I really hope we get many more novellas in this series and then perhaps a collection of them all (when current publishing rights have ended of course), because there’s so much more to explore in this world.

You can read my review here.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

This 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!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

This was excellent. I have the hardcover version, and the finish is really very beautiful. Though I’d seen the film before reading, I did enjoy seeing the script as it adds tiny things here and there that I missed in the cinema, or I didn’t read the scene the same way as it was written. There are many instances of Newt showing real care and love for his creatures, and although that comes across in the film, reading it seemed to give more depth as they’re more itemised specifically. I can’t wait for more in this series!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

This was read in about two hours, and was utterly satisfying. I don’t want to say anything else in case of spoilers as parts certainly weren’t what I was expecting in the slightest, but yes. Loved it.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1) by J.K. Rowling

This came out while I was away on holidays (as did the two below) and was amazing, and not just because it features some of my favourite characters of all, McGonagle and Remus. I think I’d already read McGonagle’s before on Pottermore (as these are collections from the site), but it still feels like these collections have a little bit more information in them. In Remus, too, I appreciated getting to see a bit more of his relationship with Tonks, as it kinda didn’t feel real to me in the novels (as much as I loved them being together.)

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore Presents #2) by J.K. Rowling

This was probably one of the more satisfying collections, as it dealt with mostly things we didn’t get to see in the novels – the darker and more ruthless side of things, such as more about past Ministers of Magic, Azkaban and Tom Riddle’s interactions with Slughorn. Again, this information is on Pottermore (but it’s spread out…) and here, it’s all linked together into themes which works really rather well.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore Presents #3) by J.K. Rowling

This was lovely, and was perfect to read in little bits here and there when in the car going between sightseeing locations in New Zealand. I love seeing more and more about Hogwarts itself, as I find the building endlessly fascinating. I could take or leave the forest of doom.

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Now this one was a book I’d been eagerly anticipating for ages. I love Schwab’s work, and when this started to get pushed and pushed by media and the publisher I began to get a little worried. Sometimes I’ve noted that books pushed to a certain level by publishers aren’t always my cuppa tea.

Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by this – I can breathe a sigh of relief in the confirmation now that Schwab never disappoints and I can’t wait for the second book, and I already want to re-read this again to see what I could have missed in my blitzy can’t-put-this-down read because I certainly read it far too quickly.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

This was just as excellent as her other books. This one took me a while to get into, and then I left it so long I had to start again… but then I was hooked. I love how the characters were completely their own despite those around them, and the little pieces that made them themselves. Schwab is absolutely magical with the little quirks that make her characters feel fully formed, and I can’t wait to see people cosplaying the characters with their marks – bonus points if there’s one of the brothers with their sister together. Someone make it happen!

Vigil (Verity Fassbinder #1) by Angela Slatter

This was really very excellent – no surprises there, considering who wrote this. For those who have read the anthology Sprawl (from Twelfth Planet Press), Angela’s piece in that – ‘Brisneyland by Night‘ showcases the same characters and is set before this novel, I think (now I really do need to go and read Sprawl!)

This really was lovely (though it’s not always lovely), and really quite fun (even when it isn’t fun), to the point where I write this and the full review (open in another window) while I still have the last chapter (four pages) to read. I don’t want it to end, and I’m so glad I’ve read this while seeing Angela say on twitter how she’s working on book two and there’s more to come in this series. I really can’t wait!

You can read my full review here.

Crocs in the Cabinet: An Instruction Manual on how NOT to run a Government by Ben Smee, Christopher A Walsh

This book is perfectly summed up in the byline. Written by two award-winning journalists from the NT News, it collects the political history that swept the Northern Territory from about 2012 through until now-ish, listing every single embarrassing or just straight up weird event that occurred in this time.

You can read my full review here.

Sisters of the Fire (Blood and Gold #2) by Kim Wilkins

I devoured this in mere hours. Seriously, go get it now – there are few books I recommend as highly as Lies of Locke Lamora, but this series is one of them. This book is so good that it’s stressful to read, because as you see the pages dwindling away, and as the plot unfolds around you at the very end you’re so damn worried for so many characters and you worry Wilkins will take your favourites away from you.

You can read my full review here.

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

A hard read in a way, because so much of Mara’s mental health issues are what I’m still identifying as being part of my life. Draining and sad but such a recommended read. She writes well, and her observations are spot on.

Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley

I know of Lucy Worsley from the BBC documentaries. Her speech is lovely, and I especially love the work she does with Mark Hill – they’re like a zany version of the Lutece from BioShock in a way. But onto the book. Set in Tudor court (Henry VIII’s time), we meet Eliza Rose (fictional, not from history) when she is quite young. Quite spoiled and selfish, she thinks mostly of herself as she’s part of a noble family, so has always had an easy life and never had to lift a finger for it. However, her family aren’t as rich as they once were and this becomes more apparent as she gets older and travels a little, and sees what others call home. Although she is always told that her duty in life is to marry well and save the family estate, when it actually happens it’s a bit of a surprise to her…

You can read my full review here.

Books read in 2016 (yet published 2015 and earlier)

Rivers of London (Rivers of London #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

I’ve been planning to read this book for so long, as Becca loves it… and yet somehow never got around to it. Seeing as the author is guest at a con I’m going to at the end of the month I thought it was finally time to ‘give it a go’ – and I was hooked. I absolutely loved this and now I’m spoilt in that there are so many more to read, with a new one out so soon. Yay!

Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London #3) by Ben Aaronovitch

This was pretty good, mostly because a favourite character features heavily in it compared to the second novel, and while she probably could have done more, it was still good to see what she could do – and I do love the banter between friends, and the things the main character gets away with saying to her because she knows he has no malice and their twisted sense of humour matches. I also love seeing more and more aspects to the mythos that makes up Aaronovitch’s London, and even though we’re three books in so far, I don’t feel like putting it aside just yet at all. Usually with easy level fantasy I can quite easily take a break part way through a series to come back to it later, but this I keep picking up as soon as I put one down.

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

This was a book I started a few times but kept putting it down again as it strayed from the one version of One Thousand and One Nights I read as a child at my grandmother’s house – ridiculous, but I just struggled getting into it. Victoria Schwab then listed it as one of her favourites, and I told myself to just enjoy it finally, and so I did. I do love a series that comes with a handful of short stories interwoven throughout – so there’s more to tide you over until the next book comes out, and they’re nice bite sized pieces.

Bad Power (Twelve Planets #4) by Deborah Biancotti

This collection contains five interwoven contemporary short stories, set in Sydney. It shows people blessed/cursed with powers, and the ramifications this has on their lives and those around them. It’s also the book that had Scott Westerfeld approach Deborah about Zeroes, also co-written with Margo Lanagan, so if you like that book then you totally have to come back to the start to see how it all began.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

This was a book I’ve heard a bit about, but it wasn’t until someone pointed out it was basically Firefly that I got interested. Bethwyn entered us into a competition to win one earlier and I was the lucky one selected (and then sent her the book, of course!) so I already had it her ready and waiting to read at the time, but it still took me some time to get going.

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1) by Zen Cho

This was very slow going. I liked what I read, I enjoyed the characters, and I loved it as a whole, but a reading slump and depression just made everything Too Hard. Which is a shame, as otherwise this probably would have been one of my favourite books of the year. This was quite lovely. The characters were mainly the lovely part, as I would have liked to know more of the world building – especially that of the fairy realm. I’m really looking forward to the second book – let’s hope we get our hands on it soon.

Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1) by Wesley Chu

Cold and good at his job, James usually has no trouble dropping into past times (woo, timetravel!) to retrieve whatever it is he’s been ordered to bring back to his current time, whether it’s specific items as requested by high paying clients, or things that can be used to slightly extend the power resources of their current climate. They’re fighting a losing battle though – the worlds are in dire health and everything around them is failing. It’s no surprise that James has a drinking problem. Chu’s mastery with world building really shows in this book. You seamlessly understand their technology, the changes between worlds and times, and what restrictions and boons they all have – not an easy task.

You can read my full review here.

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

This was a book I’ve tried to get into maybe five times before, and failed each time. Once I made a substantial effort but now that I’ve finished it, I don’t think I got more than halfway (when I was sure I’d finished it… ah well). Thanks to the television show I’ve managed to finish the book (though have only seen tow episodes) and now of course I’m annoyed at the differences in the show, even though the authors of this book are working on the show also. Like others, I wish there were more female characters in this book that weren’t killed off fairly quickly, but I look forward to the rest of the series.

Asymmetry (Twelve Planets #8) by Thoraiya Dyer

This collection contains four short stories that deal with identity, the rules that we obey because that’s how we’ve been raised to be or aren’t conditioned to question, whether the ends justify the means and all over, the asymmetry in life that we both strive to achieve or that will happen regardless.

You can read my full review here.

The Ghost by the Billabong (The Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French

This was astounding by how much it took my breath away. It was the first book in a while that had me emotional and feeling again, and I was so damn upset that a certain something in the book didn’t happen that I wanted to… but we’ll see what happened in the next book, which hopefully comes out sometime this year – we’ve had confirmation that the characters in particular I’m upset about will appear there, so yay.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Read before the latest movie came out and getting in the mood for Star Wars… this made me cry, was absolutely fantastic and perfectly geeky. A Jedi Master and an ex-Sith must join forces in order to take out Dooku. Even though it’s not usually the Jedi way, they have been forced to weigh up the differences and conclude that his devastation on countless living beings outweighs his own life. The paid tasked with this have to go through their own mind games and reasoning and together it’s a cracking good read. I’d pay a scarily high amount for more in this series following these characters, but sadly it’s not to be.

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman

This was really quite epic. The characters seemed familiar and engaging. Set in the regency era book was a whole lot of fun and beautifully written. Parts aren’t strictly believable, but it’s a quick and relaxing read and that’s what’s needed sometimes.

The Female Factory (Twelve Planets #11) by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter

This collection contains four short stories that, as one can expect from our best writing duo in Australia, absolutely blow the reader away. I don’t think I’ve come across a bit of their writing yet that hasn’t been perfect – haunting, leaving an impact, horror-filled and yet still somehow beautiful… this has it all. Hannett and Slatter have it all, and I can’t wait to see and love everything they do in the future.

You can read my full review here.

Showtime (Twelve Planets #5) by Narrelle M. Harris

This was a dip into the horror side of things – ghosts and vampires, but never bad enough where I felt I had to put it down and give myself a shake. If you’ve read Narrelle’s novel The Opposite of Life then you’ll love the fourth piece in this collection, as you’ll see some familiar characters.

You can read my full review here.

Nightsiders (Twelve Planets #1) by Sue Isle

This collection contains four short stories that leave you desperately waiting for more – I’m still hoping there’ll be a novel so we can see more of the characters and Sue’s take on dystopian Australia. Set in and around Perth specifically, we see the devastating effects of climate change with a hint of the apocalypse.

You can read my full review here.

Cherry Crow Children (Twelve Planets #12) by Deborah Kalin

This collection contains four short stories that aren’t dramatically connected, but feel of the one place even if the characters or setting isn’t reoccurring. Going off awards alone I think this is the best performing collection in the Twelve Planets series, collecting the most so far. All are lyrical, beautiful, horrific and compelling.

You can read my full review here.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids (Amra Thetys #1) by Michael McClung

This was really excellent, and reminded me of Scott Lynch in a much simplified way – if there was just the one thief, with fewer troubles (and even then this poor thief has a world of problems, just shows how much shit Locke gets himself in…) What works in this one is how you barely get to meet a character yet when you know something bad is about to happen to him you’re thinking no no no don’t!

Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelve Planets #9) by Kirstyn McDermott

This collection contains four short stories that aren’t connected other than the same dark tone of their nature, and the mild horror elements – you can tell it’s Kirstyn’s writing throughout, but each is totally individual and unique, showing her versatility and why Australia is so lucky to have such a strong speculative fiction base.

You can read my full review here.

The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister #3) by Courtney Milan

This was possibly the best one yet, I’m in total agreement with Laura Lam on this one. Or as Alex says, seduction through science! We have a very smart female who announces her work through the mouth of her best friend, well known rake Sebastian. One day he decides he can no longer do this and hates who he’s becoming, but through this they struggle through where that leaves them. Like all Milan books, this has such complex characters and so excellent to see how it all comes to a conclusion and eee, I love her books so much!

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister 0.5) by Courtney Milan

This was an excellent read even though it’s only about a hundred pages. The characters are so developed so easily and it’s hard to let them go – you almost wish the next novel contained these characters more instead, until they capture your attention just as much. Milan is lucky she’s a dang good writer otherwise I’d be more upset about having to move on so constantly…

Trade Me (Cyclone #1) by Courtney Milan

This was just what I needed right now. Then Tansy spoke of this book on the podcast Galactic Suburbia and although contemporary romance isn’t my go-to genre at all – not when I already have so much I should be reading in speculative fiction to catch up… (such as Bujold and Czerneda) but she said this one had witty banter – and for TANSY to say that, Queen of witty banter herself (seriously, read her books now), I was there in an instant.

And this book was fun! It had tech as though the guy was son to Steve Jobs, it had women being eloquent and standing up to other intelligent people who then had mutual respect, it didn’t have everything too easy or too hard, and I can’t wait to read more of Tina’s housemate in the second book which is out in June or something. I’m so glad I read this book.

Love and Romanpunk (Twelve Planets #2) by Tansy Rayner Roberts

This collection contains four short stories of ancient history and alternate universe, of the Caesars and a near and far future. As someone who went through school with zero history classes I really am on the back foot when coming to this anthology. The author herself studied Roman imperial women so we’re in safe hands here – she knows everything back to front, more than well enough to then play around with it like a God herself.

Thanks to the beautiful writing of Tansy Rayner Roberts, the tales and stunningly realised. The urban fantasy makes these even more accessible and hey, who doesn’t like manticores?

You can read my full review here.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This was something I read when it was first released week by week (or whatever the post schedule was) online – I think on tumblr? And I loved it. The opening as a shark is just excellent. I either drifted off from reading it or maybe Noelle didn’t post all of it online if the book deal then came, but either way I didn’t see the ending… and now I’m so glad I have it in print form as it’s so damn worth it. Highly recommended! All about a shapeshifter who wants to be a sidekick to a super-villain. And it’s lovely.

Through Splintered Walls (Twelve Planets #6) by Kaaron Warren

This collection contains three short stories and a novella length piece (with the shorts being 10-20 pages each and the novella coming in at around 140 pages) that feel Australian without ramming it down your throat (which isn’t a bad thing anyway), and is also quite horrific without being gory. Intellectual horror, maybe? Insightful? Whatever it is, it’s good.

You can read my full review here.

Anticipated Books of 2017

2016 was taken up by running the Aurealis Awards and not being a judge for anything for the first time since 2011 – I thought it would be the year of reading whatever I wanted, but was in fact far too busy and burnt out. I do really like judging, and how it brings books I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of (let alone pick up to read, or even give myself dedicated time to enjoy) and gives me an excuse to read them asap… but I’m looking forward to 2017.

I also took part in a reading challenge to read each of the Twelve Planets as it works out nicely as one book a year – I want to do the same with another collection of books for 2017, hrm…

thornemberlainLike last year, the books shall be listed in alpha order by the author’s last name:

  • 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.

There’s also talk about one of his novella’s coming out within the next year, so fingers crossed for that. Even if they don’t come out, I’m well over-due for a re-read of the series so far anyway.

Bring on Helsinki’s Worldcon so I can flail at the author again, and hopefully buy him and Bear a drink.

A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames.

And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

  • Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Bellezaempressskiesbelleza

Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

  • Nexus (Zeroes #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

So there’s no title or synopsis, but I’m so there for this one.

This is such an excellent and fun series. We have a collection of characters who have interesting and diverse powers – some scarier than impressive, such as the very politician-style ability to command or coerce those around him to see his view and follow his lead. Heck with that! I can’t wait to see where this goes in the third book, and try to figure out which characters/parts each of these awesome authors have control over.

  • The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

dragonchocheartburgisAventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?

Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city – but what she doesn’t expect is that she’ll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon).

  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

I will follow Brosh anywhere, just as I will for Jenny Lawson. Anyone who can take anything delicate and hard such as mental health and make it something we can feel normal and not so alone about is a hero in my eyes. And then they even manage to make us laugh about it. I adore her work so much.

If you haven’t yet read Hyperbole and a Half then lucky you, you have something to tide you over until this one comes out.

  • Successor’s Promise (Millennium’s Rule #3) by Trudi Canavan

I loved the first book in this series and have high hopes for the second two.

Five years have passed since the Rebels confronted the Raen. Five years, in which the boy Rielle rescued, Qall, has safely grown up among the Travellers. Five years, in which Tyen has made a new home for himself, hidden from those who call him a traitor and the Spy.

Five years of chaos in the world, barely contained by Baluka and the Restorers. Worlds are at war, some overrun by insectoids changed into war machines, some drained of magic as sorcerers seek immortality.

As war threatens Rielle and Tyen’s hard-won peace, and Qall comes of age, loyalties will be decided and tested. The promises they have made could change everything. Qall’s very existence depends on them.

Because Dahli has the means to restore Valhan to power, and he will stop at nothing to succeed.

  • Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke 

I love everything this author has written.

A new space opera about a young woman who must face the truth about her father’s past from critically acclaimed author Cassandra Rose Clarke.

The Corominas family owns a small planet system, which consists of one gaseous planet and four terraformed moons, nicknamed the Four Sisters. Phillip Coromina, the patriarch of the family, earned his wealth through a manufacturing company he started as a young man and is preparing his eldest daughter, Esme, to take over the company when he dies.

When Esme comes of age and begins to take over the business, she gradually discovers the reach of her father’s company, the sinister aspects of its work with alien DNA, and the shocking betrayal that estranged her three half-sisters from their father. After a lifetime of following her father’s orders, Esme must decide if she should agree to his dying wish of assembling her sisters for a last goodbye or face her role in her family’s tragic undoing.

  • Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow

blackfeathersdatlowBirds are usually loved for their beauty and their song. They symbolize freedom, eternal life, the soul.

There’s definitely a dark side to the avian. Birds of prey sometimes kill other birds (the shrike), destroy other birds’ eggs (blue jays), and even have been known to kill small animals (the kea sometimes eats live lambs). And who isn’t disgusted by birds that eat the dead—vultures awaiting their next meal as the life blood flows from the dying. One of our greatest fears is of being eaten by vultures before we’re quite dead.

Is it any wonder that with so many interpretations of the avian, that the contributors herein are eager to be transformed or influenced by them? Included in Black Feathers are those obsessed by birds of one type or another. Do they want to become birds or just take on some of the “power” of birds? The presence or absence of birds portends the future. A grieving widow takes comfort in her majestic winged neighbors, who enable her to cope with a predatory relative. An isolated society of women relies on a bird to tell their fortunes. A silent young girl and her pet bird might be the only hope a detective has of tracking down a serial killer in a tourist town. A chatty parrot makes illegal deals with the dying. A troubled man lives in isolation with only one friend for company—a jackdaw.

In each of these fictions, you will encounter the dark resonance between the human and avian. You see in yourself the savagery of a predator, the shrewd stalking of a hunter, and you are lured by birds that speak human language, that make beautiful music, that cypher numbers, and seem to have a moral center. You wade into this feathered nightmare, and brave the horror of death, trading your safety and sanity for that which we all seek—the promise of flight.

With stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Pat Cadigan, Richard Bowes, Paul Tremblay, A. C. Wise, Usman T. Malik, Jeffrey Ford, Sandra Kasturi, Mike O’Driscoll, Priya Sharma, Alison Littlewood, M. John Harrison, Nicholas Royle, Livia Llewellyn, and Stephen Graham Jones.

  • Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoraiya Dyer

crossroadscanopyAt the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.caravalgarber

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

  • Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb

assassinsfatehobbOkay so this book I really will need to take the day off to read when it comes out – and if I get my hands on an ARC again I will be highly likely to squeal again – first time I was in a hotel room at a judging conference and I dashed out to McDonalds before we started that morning in order to download it (and I think that failed, and I begged Tehani to be able to use her mobile data to do so?), and the second I was at work. My co-workers pretended to understand.

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?

But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices.

  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Set within the unseen magical world of New York City, where standing within the magical world is governed by power, and social status can be gained or lost with magical duels.

Sydney is the rare duelist from the formidable House of Shadows. With power unmatched, she plans to take it all down.

  • Gilded Cage by Vic Jamesgildedcagevic

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.
 
But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
 
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
 
Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?
 
A boy dreams of revolution.
 
Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.
 
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
 
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

  • The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

keilsciencemagicLife in Outer Space was one of Melissa’s earlier books, and really quite enjoyable… so I’m on board for this one! I also hope to have time to read The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl sometime soon.

Meet Sophia: former child prodigy and 17-year-old maths mastermind. She’s been having panic attacks ever since she realised that a) high school is almost over, and b) after high school, former child prodigies tend to either cure cancer – or go crazy.

It’s a lot of pressure. So Sophia doesn’t have the patience for games right now, and she especially doesn’t have the patience to figure out why all these mysterious playing cards keep turning up inside her textbooks.

Meet Joshua: highly intelligent, cheerfully unambitious, and an amateur magician. He’s Sophia’s classmate, and he’s admired her for as long as he can remember.

He thinks the time is perfect to tell Sophia how he feels. And he doesn’t know how wrong he is …

  • Resistance by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

The Announcer calls my name, but she does not speak to me. This macabre spectacle has nothing to do with me. And everything to do with them. This is all for the thousands below – the compliant citizens of Otpor, the witnesses to my Execution, the silent and transfixed. This is their moment. Their reconditioning.

In a future post-apocalyptic Paris, a rebellion threatens to upset the city’s perfectly-structured balance and plunge its citizens into anarchy.

Two generations after the Execution of Kane 148 and Otpor’s return to Orthodoxy, forbidden murals are appearing on crumbling concrete walls – calling citizens to action. Calling for Resistance.

The murals will change the utopian lives of all citizens. But, for Anaiya 234, they will change who she is.

A Peacekeeper of the uncompromising Fire Element, Anaiya free-runs through city’s precincts to enforce the Orthodoxy without hesitation or mercy. Her selection for a high-risk mission gives Otpor the chance it needs to eliminate the Heterodoxy and Anaiya the opportunity she craves to erase a shameful past.

But the mission demands an impossible sacrifice – her identity.

  • Masquerade (Micah Grey #3) by Laura Lam

MasqueradeAnother piece of awesome to get hyper about – the close to a series Laura started publishing with Angry Robot, and has since moved to Tor with. If you’ve read the first two and can’t wait for the third, be sure to check out the four novellas set in this world in a mini-series called the Vestigial Tales which should tide you over for a short while at least.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light?

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more. Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

  • Shattered Minds (False Hearts #2) by Laura Lam

This is also brilliant. Just you wait, y’all.

She’ll fight corruption, but can she save others from herself?

Former neuro-scientist Carina craves killing. But to protect others, she self-medicates with Zeal, an addictive drug which allows her to satisfy these urges in dreams. Sudice Inc. damaged her mind when she worked on their secretive brain-mapping project—and this violence is the price she pays.

Carina wants to be left alone to self-destruct, until an ex-colleague passes her dangerous information on Sudice. She finds herself unwillingly drawn into a plot involving illegal experiments on unwilling volunteers, blackmail and assassination.
As Carina races to stop Sudice, she needs the incriminating data Mark locked in her mind. She persuades a band of hackers to decrypt her broken memories. One is a former doctor, Dax, who helps Carina fight her addiction to Zeal. If she can hold on to her humanity, they might have a future together. But all shall be for nothing if they can’t bring their enemy down, never to rise again.

  • The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2) by Isaac Marion

Do you follow Marion on instagram? You should. Did you read the first book in the Warm Bodies series, or just see the movie? Read the book.

Being alive is hard. Being human is harder. But since his recent recovery from death, R is making progress. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love, and the city’s undead population is showing signs of life. R can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart—building a new world from the ashes of the old one.

And then helicopters appear on the horizon. Someone is coming to restore order. To silence all this noise. To return things to the way they were, the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. The plague is ancient and ambitious, and the Dead were never its only weapon.

How do you fight an enemy that’s in everyone? Can the world ever really change? With their home overrun by madmen, R, Julie, and their ragged group of refugees plunge into the otherworldly wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire

datsabmcguireTwin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

  • Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows

I absolutely adored the book she co-wrote with two others, My Lady Jane – so here’s in for this too!

New fantasy trilogy about a girl stripped from her political family and imprisoned, her fellow inmates who know more than they say, and a dangerous secret about illegal dragon trafficking that might be her only hope of escape.

  • Find Me (Cyclone #4) by Courtney Milan

Currently the blurb offers: ‘Find Me is going to be about Tina and Blake again. Also having a point of view in this book: Adam Reynolds, Blake’s father.’ – this is great, I adore Adam. This series is such a joy to read!

  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurindjinnloveantho

A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

With stories from: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North,  E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Nada Adel Sobhi,   Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.

  • Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

frogkisserI adored ‘Newt’s Emerald’ so I know Nix can pull this off.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

With Frogkisser!, acclaimed bestselling author Garth Nix has conjured a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs. It’s 50% fairy tale, 50% fantasy, and 100% pure enjoyment from start to finish.

  • Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1) by Amy Plumdream-fall-plum

Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse…but she was terribly wrong.

Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.

  • Queen of Chaos (The Fourth Element #3) by Kat Ross

Persepolae has fallen.

Karnopolis has burned.

As the dark forces of the Undead sweep across what remains of the empire, Nazafareen must obey the summons of a demon queen to save Darius’s father, Victor. Burdened with a power she doesn’t understand and can barely control, Nazafareen embarks on a perilous journey through the shadowlands to the House-Behind-the-Veil. But what awaits her there is worse than she ever imagined…

A thousand leagues away, Tijah leads a group of children on a desperate mission to rescue the prisoners at Gorgon-e Gaz, the stronghold where the oldest daēvas are kept. To get there, they must cross the Great Salt Plain, a parched ruin occupied by the armies of the night. A chance encounter adds a ghost from the past to their number. But will they arrive in time to avert a massacre?

And in the House-Behind-the-Veil, Balthazar and the Prophet Zarathustra discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. But is it enough to redeem the necromancer’s bloodstained soul and thwart his mistress’s plans?

As a final showdown looms with Queen Neblis, the truth of the daēvas’ origins is revealed and three worlds collide in this thrilling conclusion to the Fourth Element series.

  • Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Return to a planet swept by apocalyptic storms, a world tipping into war as aristocratic families move to control the shard blades and shard plates, ancient artifacts from a past civilisation that can win wars.

As the world tips into a war for control of the mythical artifacts of power made from Shard, characters are swept up into new dangers which will threaten their integrity and their lives.

Huge, ideas-filled, world-spanning fantasy from a master of the genre.

  • To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.

I’ve reviewed the first 80 pages of this one right here.

  • A Conjuring of Light (A Darker Shade of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

aconjuringoflightLondon’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

This series is so damn epic, I’ve already read the first third thanks to a NetGalley sample and my goodness I can’t wait to get the rest. I adore Delilah so much!

  • Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

I really don’t know just how many books Schwab can bring out in a year, and I adore her for it.

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

  • The Returned (The Archived #3) by Victoria Schwab

Not much is known about this one, but it’s been announced it’s happening. I could have listed it below in my list of books I don’t expect to be out this year, but Schwab writes damned fast and I think if it’s ready the publisher will hand it to us asap rather than a year and a half later, so fingers crossed!

  • Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey…

  • Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

  • Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

strangethdreamerlainiTaylor is another author I’ll throw everything aside for and squee for more.

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men.
a mysterious city stripped of its name.
a mythic hero with blood on his hands.
a young librarian with a singular dream.
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled.
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

  • The Harbour of the Sun (The Books of the Raksura #5) by Martha Wells

I really need to get around to reading other books by Wells, but for now I’m enjoying this series muchly.

A former friend has betrayed the Raksura and their groundling companions, and now the survivors must race across the Three Worlds to rescue their kidnapped family members. When Moon and Stone are sent ahead to scout, they quickly encounter an unexpected and potentially deadly ally, and decide to disobey the queens and continue the search alone. Following in a wind-ship, Jade and Malachite make an unlikely alliance of their own, until word reaches them that the Fell are massing for an attack on the Reaches, and that forces of the powerful Empire of Kish are turning against the Raksura and their groundling comrades.

But there may be no time to stage a rescue, as the kidnapped Raksura discover that their captors are heading toward a mysterious destination with a stolen magical artifact that will cause more devastation for the Reaches than anything the lethal Fell can imagine. To stop them, the Raksura will have to take the ultimate risk and follow them into forbidden territory.

~

Other books I would of course jump for, but don’t expect to come out in 2017 are:

  • The Burning (Luther #2) by Neil Cross
  • Untitled (Cormoran Strike, #4) by Robert Galbraith
  • The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard, #0.5) by Scott Lynch
  • Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #3) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Lost Metal (Mistborn #7) by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Devil Book by Victoria Schwab
  • Vengeful (Vicious #2) by V. E. Schwab
  • Untitled (Blood and Gold, #3) by Kim Wilkins

~

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

2015 – December

December was when I decided I was going to do my best to hit my goodreads goal of 150 books, which meant more or less reading a book a day for a month. Thank goodness a lot of those days at the end were time off work due to enforced closedown. Most of those should hopefully be for Aurealis judging (I say, writing this at the start of December…) which I won’t list here.

Onto the novels read in December!

Let the Land Speak: A History of Australia - How the Land Created Our Nation

Let the Land Speak by Jackie French is a non-fiction book on Australian history and flora and fauna that I got for Christmas 2013 and finally decided to make a damned good effort to read it on the 1st January 2015, and finished it 1st December 2015. It was slow going because there’s so much to take in on every page, but it’s a worthwhile read. It’s going to be one of the books I wrap carefully in plastic and keep for a very, very long time.

As I Was Saying . . .

As I Was Saying by Jeremy Clarkson was a quick read. A lot of people think he’s a wanker, but he certainly has a way with words and is quite damn good at writing, seeing as that was his original and still primary job. A lot of people are happy to believe what the media spins about their favourite kickbag and look on the surface of the stupid things he’s reported as doing (and yes, he does say stupid things at times, who doesn’t), and yet reading this and getting a feel for the things he actually does think, and his own thoughts without being slanted by the media, are quite different to what many see most of the time. It’s worth a read. He’s certainly not a saint, but he’s a real person and sometimes it’s refreshing to see someone who voices their own thoughts, rather than someone who’s crafted by a team of politically correct quibblers.

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo was the end of a series I kept having to re-read every time a new book came out – I just couldn’t keep the plot or characters in my head once I’ve put down the book. Maybe I read too fast because at the time it’s just that good, but then it means I’m speed-reading and not retaining anything… who knows. This really was a very engaging and lovely series, and I can’t wait to read the next one!

Newt's Emerald

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix is a re-read as it was originally released in 2013 via his agent’s publishing house, and has now been re-published by Allen & Unwin, and is a third longer. It’s an enjoyable quick read, and I love it all so much! I wish there were more in this style by Nix.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling was read late for Bethwyn’s re-read – I should have read this last month but it completely slipped my mind. I might not agree once my re-read is over, but I think this is my second-least favourite book in the series – I found the competition overall to be all a bit eh – spread out over so many months and you don’t really get a feel for what the other visiting schools do for those months in between – do they hold their own classes on the ship or in the carriage? Who knows? It’s also when we first notice the other characters really changing and being setup for what we see in later books, so it’s all a bit of a ‘middle’ book.

Soldier on the Hill

Solider on the Hill by Jackie French was an interesting book, showing a boy and his mother who move into a farming town a bit more inland during the war as fears the Japanese will attack the Australian coast line increase. Getting used to farming life and also dealing with the fear of war from this point of view is interesting, especially when the main character is sure he’s seen a Japanese soldier hiding in the bushland, but he’s not trusted as he’s: 1. New to Town, and 2. A city kid. The resolution to this is an interesting one, and shows that Jackie’s writing goes from strength to strength.

Birrung the Secret Friend

Birrung the Secret Friend by Jackie French was a book that carries on from Nanberry, showing the initial setup of Australia in NSW with the first and second fleet, once there’s a few ‘houses’ and gardens are starting to flourish. In this book we see a young boy, Barney, who’s lost his mum, but adopted another young child to care for before they’re both taken in by the kind clergyman, Richard Johnson, and his pregnant wife. We see Barney setting aside his prejudices to understand who Birrung really is, her intelligence and knowledge of the land in tough conditions, and what her cultures mean to her even as white man starts to dominate even further. This is an intelligent book for younger readers, and highly recommended.

Pennies for Hitler

Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French is a book that carries on from her highly popular book, Hitler’s Daughter. A young boy Georg in Germany has a lovely life of cream cakes, excellent parents, servants and all else he could hope for. This is until it’s discovered that his father’s grandfather was part Jewish, and Georg’s father is killed in front of him. His mother just barely manages to have him sent from Germany hidden in a suitcase through France and onto London where he then faces the terrors of war and the anxiety of being discovered for either the enemy as a German, or as something he’s been brought up to detest – a Jew. When London becomes too dangerous he’s sent on to Australia, and then it all ends rather abruptly, which was a shame. Otherwise, it was really very excellent.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling is longer than I remember – though when it came out I devoured it in one long day, this time it took me several days to savour it – though that’s also possibly because I couldn’t bring myself to read the ending, which still remains just as upsetting to me as the start of the final book. At least now I’m up to date with Bethwyn’s re-read! This re-read really shows a difference in how I remember it, or different parts are meaning more now that it’s been a few years since my last read. And with these books there’s always something else to notice each and every time you re-read.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson was a surprising read – I read a lot about it as it won each award, but somehow I never noted that it’s written in verse. It does this incredibly well, I’ve read a handful of other books written in the same way (especially when judging the Children’s Book Award, there was a book about parkour that did it really well to convey movement), but this one does it even better, framing the thoughts that run around a little disjointed yet manages to give so much more feeling and depth to the subjects. I can easily see how this has won so many awards.

Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3.4)

Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus by Mira Grant was a good quick read, blazing in the usual Grant wit and fun with plot and characters and dialogue. The only thing that annoyed me in this was the American use of Legos, when it goes to a point of describing the two characters who use that term are Canadian and European. Everywhere but America say ‘Lego’ in all forms, as in ‘she’s playing with her lego (collection)’ and it doesn’t sound weird or wrong to us at all. THAT ASIDE (yes I harp on about it too much, being Australian), this was a nifty little piece and makes me so glad we have another Newsflesh novel coming out in 2016.

The Prince

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli was picked up because it was short, and then I was cursing myself because of course it’s a struggle to get through, as each and every paragraph requires thinking about. This is a classic, all about philosophy and politics and the human character. It was really quite a good read, and I only wish I’d had been able to study it in school with a good teacher – I don’t think I got as much out of it by myself – this is one of those books where you’d benefit from multiple points of view on it while you’re reading.

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson was excellent, somehow I enjoyed it even more than Brown Girl Dreaming. This is written as a general novel – still quite short, and about a boy called Melanin who has to get over his own homophobia (drenched on him by his peers and society in general) when his own mother comes out as a lesbian – with the added bonus that her girlfriend is a white woman – Kristen. Kristen is a lovely character and what this does really well, other than show Melanin who his real friends are, and how it’s okay to realise how very wrong you’ve been and move on from that, is how it shows Kristin as a real character and not just a plot point. She’s so very real, and combined with Melanin’s very real and caring mother, you get a very well told book in so few pages.

~

So I read so much in December I really wouldn’t have been surprised if my eyes started to bleed. I managed to catch up a heck of a lot with my Aurealis Judging, leaving only three series to read before mid February (though that’s when we have to have our decision, so it may then also require a re-read of one or a few series before then to come to our final decision and reporting).

After five years of judging (two years for anthologies/collections for Aurealis, then two years of fantasy novel, then this one year of the Sara Award… with a year of Children’s Book Council thrown in at the same time for 2014), I’ve decided that 2016 will be full of ZERO judging. Well, no tied-in judging anyway, like Aurealis. I was very much tempted to put in an application for the WA Premier’s Award but I’ve since decided not to. I’ll still put in my votes for the Ditmar and Hugo awards, etc, but no Aurealis. I really need a year of zero deadlines and to just be able to read whatever book I feel like, and catch up on all the books I should have read but never got around to these past few years. I’m really looking forward to it.

Best Books of 2015

Books due out in 2016 (but read in 2015)

False Hearts (False Hearts, #1) by Laura Lam

I’ve been lucky enough to beta read for Laura, and have even read through the second book in this series (not out until 2017 hence it’s not in this blog post), currently called Shattered Minds. The is the type of book that is hard to write anything about because it just has so MUCH (or the internet says, ‘all the feels’). This is very, very fantastic, I love it, I need more and I don’t want it to be over. The characters are addictive, the world is enticing (I love realism with touches of futuristic science fiction) and thrillers are always impossible to put down. Highly recommended, bring on June, and Laura, I still want more Oloyu at some stage!

Books read and published in 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

This was a novel I rated highly because I liked what it did and it felt different, however somehow at the same time I was a little disappointed (so great start to this Best Books post, eh? Stick with me…) It felt like it was shorter than it needed to be (in a plot/character way, rather than ‘oh that was so good I wish I had more’ – though a bit of that too), though it remained fascinating and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s probably more the fact that I liked what it did, so I would have liked to see it expand on everything a lot more, rather than show a seemingly small snapshot.

Zeroes (Zeroes #1) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

I’m a fan of all three authors, having read their work extensively. I was so dang excited for this book to come out and then surprisingly, despite the hype I got myself into, I still wasn’t disappointed. I’m so glad this is a series!

This is a character driven book, which are my favourite. The tidbits we get of the world were interesting and made me want to know more, but ultimately I can’t wait to see these characters again, see where they get to, see what battle they need to fight next. This is exciting and written with such an elegant hand (well, hands) that it takes the overdone superhero novel and makes it zingy and fresh. They’re all portrayed in an incredibly powerful way – and the best thing is that we get to see several instances of their powers manifesting. I’m hooked! I need more!

The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoir by Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan

In this book Lady Isabella Trent joins the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk with a range of duties, whether it’s to pursue her own dragon-hunting, capture examples of other bits and pieces of wildlife for another rich lady back home, or survey islands not yet charted completely. The ship she is on does other bits of cargo work when there’s time, and all in all they’re kept rather busy – even when there’s not a storm throwing them into life-threatening difficulties. Different from previous installments, in this piece her son Jake becomes a major character which certainly adds more depth to it all, and really centers this novel around a family affair.

This series just keeps going from strength to strength. This book leaves me desperate as always for the fourth book where we’ll get to go to the deserts of Akhia.

Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

I love Jackie French’s writing – this is a lovely book for younger readers that tells the story of Ophelia in a way that’s neither dull or simply full of information dumps. Hamlet’s family stab, poison or haunt one another and yet Ophelia somehow still strives to plan a sensible rule, one filled with justice and the making of delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing, not even howling ghosts, stand in her way.

Jackie makes history accessible to readers of all ages, even managing to mix in the spiritual and making it realistic, and I can’t recommend her historical fiction enough.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith

One thing Galbraith does very well is layers – he manages co-running plots that interweave yet also stay abundantly clear, even when there’s an element of mystery and the reader, along with the detectives, isn’t quite sure who the villain is. Another thing that’s done well is the balance of personal and private – the professional lives of Robin and Strike and how they conflict at times. How they have opinions on the other’s personal lives they aren’t entirely welcome to have, and how this can turn out sometimes – in fact, especially when they go wrong. Everything about this series is really well done – I mean, no surprise as Rowling keeps getting better and better, but still, it’s worthwhile to comment on.

This is another series that’s going from strength to strength, and I can’t wait for the fourth book!

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Sufficiently creepy and well-written – I could really go for more in this world. The characters were lovely and you didn’t want to leave them, even after only seeing them for such a short time. At only 100ish pages this is a fairly short piece, but Grant is one of the strongest writers of our current time so you could pick up anything she’s done and be amazed.

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin

I love alternate history. This is set as though WWII had quite a different outcome in the most terrible way – the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world in harsh and cruel ways, and have since hosted a motorcycle race across half the world to show off their best followers – ten chosen from each sector.

This makes for a fantastic book. It’s awful and electric and the ending is so perfect that I somehow didn’t see coming – I can’t wait for the second book! The writing is deliberate and lovely, and I’m really quite interested to see what else Graudin comes out with.

Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

This is a book that reminds me in part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Main character Aza lives in the same world we all do, however it’s like she’s drowning in our air. Sick all her life but surrounded by a fantastic family and a quirky lovely best friend (who is amazing, by the way), her life is suddenly turned around completely. The world building is exquisite and now I want to re-read this one all over again. It seems we may just get a second book in 2016, which would be amazing.

Fool’s Quest (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

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 – you almost need to break each book down into a trilogy of discussion to do it justice. What can one possibly say to summarise without spoiling and yet still manage to 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 you’ve finally got more work of a favourite author to read , but you’re also 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. This is 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 amazing author.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This one was just like her first book – beyond amazing. Lawson explains and discusses mental illness like few others manage to. She’s a wonderful person, startlingly real in a realm of ‘no one else can be as fucked up as I am’. She gives this a voice and a connection, showing many/most people with mental illness feel the same way and can relate. When you read her work you realise you’re not as alone as you sometimes feel, and you get painful gasping laughs at the absurdity (who knew laughing that much could hurt!) and the magic Lawson has with words as a bonus. I can’t recommend her books enough, I really can’t.

Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim #2) by Juliet Marillier

As we know, Juliet Marillier hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. Her work is a joy to read, weaving fantasy and fable together to result in strong plot and characters, with such a strong sense of self. This is the kind of book you can’t stop reading, and it makes you desperate for the next. Blackthorn is such a strong, amazing character who is intelligent, wise and passionate (in her own way), determined to do what is right even when it seems impossible.

This was one of my favourite books for 2015.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

This was a book that was a little awkward to read as for a few years I attended a church that is… really quite close to the church seen in this book, so reading this certainly made it all come back, and I can comprehend what the leaders are thinking when they put in place all these ‘guidelines’.

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. However… well, this book neatly shows all angles of people trying to do what they think is right and how that can cause others to react… so yes, amazing book.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book was 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 I’m honestly surprised this book hasn’t won all the awards this year. 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!

Letters to Tiptree by Alexandra Pierce (editor), Alisa Krasnostein

This one was a special book. I help Alisa out with her publishing house where I can, and visited in the last month of getting this book finalised and out there, so I certainly saw this book through every stage of its creation and only read it when we were at the point of a final proof – when we had initial copies in our hands ready for the launch.

This should be read in conjunction with the biography James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips for a full view of who Tiptree was, and what she achieved. Letters to Tiptree collects thoughtful letters from thirty-nine science fiction and fantasy writers, editors, critics, and fans in celebration of Alice Sheldon’s centenary, and explores the issues of knowing someone only through their fiction or letters, sexuality and gender.

Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5) by Mary Robinette Kowal

This was 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 – even though the previous four were pretty darn amazing themselves. 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.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

This was a book highly recommended from a few friends, and on reading I could instantly see why. The characters in this are raw and real – Sebby is all a bit wow. You feel so much for these characters and what they’re going through, and at the same time you just think wow, they’re so young. The diversity in this book is excellent as is the issues they deal with. The ending however… hrmm.

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

Now this one was a book I’d been eagerly anticipating for ages. I love Schwab’s work, and when this started to get pushed and pushed by media and the publisher I began to get a little worried. Sometimes I’ve noted that books pushed to a certain level by publishers aren’t always my cuppa tea.

Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised by this – I can breathe a sigh of relief in the confirmation now that Schwab never disappoints and I can’t wait for the second book, and I already want to re-read this again to see what I could have missed in my blitzy can’t-put-this-down read because I certainly read it far too quickly.

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton

This was a hard book to review. I could talk plot and characters and writing, sure, but what makes this novel incredible is something I know so little about, and I suspect there was a lot of clever stuff going on that went over my head as I know so little of the original material. In this book, Apollo and Athene attempt to build Plato’s Republic but also join the city themselves, reborn as children. They take over ten thousand children who are all roughly ten years old who were to be sold as slaves. They also take a few hundred adults from all over time who are all incredible and were either under-valued in the time, or were too excellent to be left to die in their proper time and put them together in the city, to see if Plato’s vision could be possible.

What we get is an amazing book that I still struggle to describe. It’s just – y’know, read it.

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2) by Jo Walton

Carrying on from the previous entry, the second in the series is also utterly brilliant. Though Walton is another author who isn’t afraid to do impossible cruel things you’re not expecting for the sake of narrative. In this, the goddess Athena has gone off in a huff and their wonderful philosophical experiment are starting to break off into factions and war which results in a rollicking good read, and leaves the reader desperate for the third.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Now this book was a very 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 just wish it had a better cover.

Between Worlds: The Collected Ile-Rien and Cineth Stories by Martha Wells

This was a collection of short stories set in her Ile-Rien and Cineth worlds. This made me desperate to read the rest of her books, and the lack of ‘read them in this order’ help on her site meant I soon went on to other books instead. Do I read in publishing order? Series order? Grumble.

But back to this – you can easily enjoy it if you haven’t read any of her other work and it provides a nice introduction and sample of her writing – then you’re lucky enough to have many series ready and waiting for you if this is your style. Every single short in this collection is very readable, and none were skipped.

The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below (Stories of the Raksura #2) by Martha Wells

As with the one listed above, this was also excellent – if you’re not really one for short stories and you want to do novels instead and want a new fantasy author to love, 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 – this collection was even more than I was hoping it would be (which is saying a lot) – especially the part right at the end. You know what I mean.

Cranky Ladies of History by Tehani Wessely

This was an anthology of cranky ladies of history – right what it says on the cover! This is an anthology of short stories, mostly historical fiction with a handful that have a few speculative elements also, featuring excellent authors from Australia and elsewhere. This is going to be great for schools as well as adults, and certainly taught me a thing or two about history.

Insert Title Here by Tehani Wessely

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. Several of these short stories 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!)

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!

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Now this was another book I’ve been waiting a long time for – having read her second while judging the Children’s Book of Australia Awards and then devouring her first because of the excellence that is the second… so as soon as I saw this was out for review I jumped on it… and I wasn’t disappointed. This book deals with high school and culture and not wanting to disappoint your parents, but what do you do if they don’t quite ‘get it’ in this new country?

Required reading also includes ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Six Impossible Things’, her previous books which aren’t a series but involve the same characters.

Books read in 2015 (yet published 2014 and earlier)

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Read for Hugo voting purposes, this was a very slow but very enjoyable read. I think it took me over a month for some reason, even though I loved it throughout – I could read for an hour and somehow only get through 4% at a time. Strange! But it’s an excellent book, and while I have no doubt that The Three-Body Problem was excellent, I really wish this book had won.

This is about a young goblin, motherless (and fatherless) and hated by the rest of his family, and yet through certain events he still becomes Emperor. We see him struggle his way through and get to be someone incredible.

Unfortunately this is a standalone – there will be no sequel, but possibly a companion novel with some overlapping characters, as per the author’s website.

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

This was the end of a series I kept having to re-read every time a new book came out – I just couldn’t keep the plot or characters in my head once I’ve put down the book. Maybe I read too fast because at the time it’s just that good, but then it means I’m speed-reading and not retaining anything… who knows. I loved all three; this really was a very engaging and lovely series, and this had such a satisfying ending in a very sweet way – with all the doom and gloom throughout the series you hardly think it’s possible.

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

This was a quick read because you just couldn’t put it down – it was heart-breaking and endlessly fascinating. Suggested by friend Kat when I re-read Craig Ferguson’s bio, I devoured this in less than a day. Highly recommended – though I guess most memoirs are only interesting if you know of the person first.

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

What an amazing life Craig has had – it’s so good that he managed to get on top of it all and survived to tell the tale. He’s fantastic at writing, keeping it interesting and funny yet also showing how hard it must have been, how sad and so wretched. I enjoy watching his show more now, knowing what he’s come through and from.

Let the Land Speak: A History of Australia – How the Land Created Our Nation by Jackie French

This book took me almost a year to read, but it’s probably the best account of Australian history I’ve come across, and has such a wealth of knowledge within. Mostly on how the flora and fauna that are special to Australia has had a part in shaping Australian history, I admit I was slow to get around to reading this, and then finally slogging through it. I got for Christmas 2013 and finally decided to make a damned good effort to read it on the 1st January 2015, and finished it 1st December 2015. It was slow going because there’s so much to take in on every page, but it’s a worthwhile read. It’s going to be one of the books I wrap carefully in plastic and keep for a very, very long time.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

This is probably the most inspiring book I’ve read in years. Col. Hadfield has an excellent way with words, clearly having spent ages trying to explain things most people have never and will never experience in a way where we can not only understand but comprehend what he’s trying to get across. I was lucky enough to see him live in August 2015 when I visited my friend, Alisa, and from here I can’t get enough of his work – look him up on youtube, the seemingly simple things he shows us about space are excellent.

Basically, he’s been up in space as part of the international space station which is a job he aimed for ever since he was a young child and became a jet pilot and a lot of other things along the way to get there in the end. It’s endlessly fascinating what it all involves.

New Avengers: Breakout by Alisa Kwitney

This novelisation is listed as a ‘dramatically different take on Brian Michael Bendis’ blockbuster Avengers comics debut’ – I found this through Tansy’s review on Galactic Suburbia (she’s always excellent if you need recommendations for all things geeky.)

This isn’t going to win any awards for great literature, but it could easily win on the ‘fun’ scale – Kwitney really captures the characters well, and inserts loads of little geeky references that shows Kwitney knows her stuff. I just wish the cover was better! I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up, and I would have actively avoided it if it weren’t for Tansy’s plug. Seriously, it does a disservice to what is a really quite excellent bit of fun. Especially recommended for fans of Hawkeye and/or Black Widow.

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

When working on Letters to Tiptree for Twelfth Planet Press, this came up as basically the required reading. Any information about the excellence that is Alice Sheldon left you hungry for more, and this biography is the perfect place to start. For those who know her for her work in science fiction, look into her life more – that was the tiniest bit of her amazing life – among other things she was a World War II intelligence officer and a CIA agent. From her childhood to her death, she was an amazing woman.

Every Word (Every #2) by Ellie Marney

Out of the trilogy, this is my favourite book – usually the second book is the weakest! The events in this book leave our characters even more broken than the first book, and closer to each other for it. The adventure, action and dramatic situation that takes place manages to be realistic in how they get out of it, which is a bonus – it would have been easy for the plot to have rolled out of hand yet this remains in character and effective throughout. Being set in England gives it that extra slice towards the Sherlock Holmesian nature that really works.

The Hero and the Crown (Damar #1) by Robin McKinley

This was a book I really should have read a long time ago, but I was late getting into speculative fiction and have sadly skipped a lot of the initial required reading that’s out there. This, I was a little hesitant to get into, thinking it would be a bit obvious having already read all the books that would have been built and inspired on from books like these… but I was pleasantly surprised to really, really enjoy it still.

What works best in this novel is how we see Aerin achieve everything. It’s a hard slog, it’s believable and she’s incredible for what she manages to do. It shows her inner strength, the luck she has, those who assist her throughout and how she learns from it all.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

This is a book that originally came out in 2013 through Garth Nix’s agent who has her own publishing house (I think that’s how it is anyway), but has since been re-published by Allen & Unwin, and is a third longer. Inspired by Georgette Heyer it’s a regency style novel set a little in London and mostly in Brighton, England, a town I know quite well. It’s an enjoyable quick read with a firey main character and a bit of cross dressing and high-jinx as things go terrible wrong – mix that together with Nix’s elegant hand at writing and you have a winner! I wish there were more in this style by Nix.

 

Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson is the second in the Legion series, about a man who has a ‘unique mental condition (that) allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialised skills.’ Basically, any information he takes in – even if it’s in audiobook form played at x5 speed, shall be allocated to one of his entities who will then be able to process and use that information, and rely it back to him. This is SUCH an excellent and fun series that it’s close to being my favourite work by Sanderson – which says a lot, seeing what he comes out with. I hope there’s more!

Anticipated Books of 2016

It’s the 17th December and that means it’s two weeks to go until it’s 2016! Where has the year gone…

Like last year, 2015 was 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, or even give myself dedicated time to enjoy) and gives me an excuse to read them asap, putting aside other things on my To Do list…

As always the start of the year was spent wrapping up the previous Aurealis Awards, and the second half was spent in the role as duel Judging Coordinator along with Tehani, which brings a surprising amount of paperwork. In addition, we introduced a new award to the Aurealis Awards known as The Sara, for Sara Douglass, which is to find the best Australian speculative fiction series finished between 2011-2014 which meant reading about 200 books.

thornemberlainBecause of this I’ve finally decided to forgo judging duties in 2016. Judging since 2011 has been amazing, but I need a year to catch up on books I simply haven’t had time for.

Like last year, the books shall be listed in alpha order by the author’s last name:

  • 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 (at this stage, anyway!).

There’s also talk about one of his novella’s coming out within the next year, so fingers crossed for that. Even if they don’t come out, I’m well over-due for a re-read of the series so far anyway.

  • Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

So I haven’t even read the first in this series yet so I have no clue what’s going on, nor have I looked for the synopsis of this one… but I know I’ll love it once I get around to reading it, so book two gets a place on the list regardless!

  • Untitled (Zeroes #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

So there’s no title or synopsis, but I’m so there for this one (and not just because I share a dinner table and discuss knitting with one or two of the authors when there’s a convention on).

This is such an excellent and fun series. We have a collection of characters who have interesting and diverse powers – some scarier than impressive, such as the very politician-style ability to command or coerce those around him to see his view and follow his lead. Heck with that! I can’t wait to see where this goes in the second book, and try to figure out which characters/parts each of these awesome authors have control over.

  • Marked in Flesh (The Others #4) by Anne Bishop

MarkedinFleshThis is a series I’ve been refreshing review sites for madly for months, and now it’s finally appeared! Fingers crossed I get approved…

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

  • In The Labyrinth of Drakes (Memoir by Lady Trent #4) by Marie Brennan

In The Labyrinth of DrakesI’ve adored all books in this series so far, so this is another book I’m totally on board for.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

I will follow Brosh anywhere, just as I will for Jenny Lawson. Anyone who can take anything delicate and hard such as mental health and make it something we can feel normal and not so alone about is a hero in my eyes. And then they even manage to make us laugh about it. I adore her work so much.

If you haven’t yet read Hyperbole and a Half then lucky you, you have something to tide you over until this one comes out.

  • Successor’s Son (Millennium’s Rule #3) by Trudi Canavan

There’s no synopsis out for this one yet, and I haven’t read the second book just yet as I need to re-read the first to bring all the subtitles back to the front of my mind. Hopefully over the Christmas break I’ll get the chance to read the first two again, and maybe I’ll take pointed notes for myself so I’m all ready for the third when it comes out! I loved the first book in this series and have high hopes for the second two.

  • Keep Calm & Kill the Chef (Café La Femme #3) by Livia Day

Currently if you sign up to Livia Day’s newsletter, you get access to the promotional library, which includes a sneak preview of the first chapter of this, which is all about one of the best characters – Xanthippe. This offers a unique look of our main character, Tabitha, and what makes this cosy crime series just so fantastic – pointing out how squishy and lovely Tabitha is which makes her such a terrible amateur detective, no matter how many ‘accidental corpses’ fall into her path. It’s Livia’s amusing humour which makes this series so much fun to read and adore.

  • Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

So this book is nearly out and my review friends have enjoyed it greatly, so I’m looking forward to getting it when it comes out.

TruthwitchIn the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

  • Defying Doomsday by Tsana Dolichva, Holly Kench

This is an anthology I backed for funding via pozible, and I know most of the people involved, so I’m counting down the days until I get my hands on this one!

Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

The anthology will be varied, with characters experiencing all kinds of disability from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters. There will also be a variety of stories, including those that are fun, sad, adventurous and horrific.

The stories in Defying Doomsday will look at periods of upheaval from new and interesting perspectives. The anthology will share narratives about characters with disability, characters with chronic illnesses and other impairments, surviving the apocalypse and contending with the collapse of life as they know it.

  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Corinne’s Otherbound was one of my favourite books read in 2014 and I can’t wait for this one. One chapter will apparently make us cry, and I’m sure it’ll be hard-hitting, not afraid to be utterly blunt with how being autistic changes Denise’s options and treatment.

EdgeofGoneJanuary 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.

Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

  • The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon

Fallon is one of the reasons why I originally got into Australian epic fantasy (yup, I was a bit late to the ball game, really) and I enjoyed the majority of her work not so much the latest YA…) so I’m incredibly hopeful/excited for this series to come out.

Her Serene Highness, Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, is off to Hythria, where her eldest sister is now the High Princess, to find herself a husband, and escape the inevitable bloodbath in the harem when her brother takes the throne.

Rakaia is not interested in marrying anyone, least of all some brute of a Hythrun Warlord she’s never met, but she has a plan to save herself from that, too. If she can just convince her baseborn sister, Charisee, to play along, she might actually get away with it.

But there is trouble brewing across the continent. High Prince of Hythria, Damin Wolfblade, must head north to save the peace negotiated a decade ago between the Harshini, Hythria, Fardohnya, Medalon and Karien. He must leave behind an even more dangerous conflict brewing between his wife and his powerful mother, Princess Marla.

  • The Rebirth of Rapunzel by Kate Forsyth

This will be a collection that will contain Kate’s research on the Rapunzel story that underpinned her stunning, award-winning novel, Bitter Greensas well as several other pieces related to fairy tales and folklore. The book is not your usual reference work, but an wonderful exploration of the subject matter, written in Kate’s clever and engaging style.

  • The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman

DarkDaysSo this one has apparently been moved forward at the last minute to be published before Christmas 2015 rather than early 2016, but now it’s not like I’ll get to read it until 2016 anyway so here it can stay.

I’ve read a sample of this through NetGalley and can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

  • Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb

Okay so this book I really will need to take the day off to read when it comes out – and if I get my hands on an ARC again I will be highly likely to squeal again – first time I was in a hotel room at a judging conference and I dashed out to McDonalds before we started that morning in order to download it (and I think that failed, and I begged Tehani to be able to use her mobile data to do so?), and the second I was at work. My co-workers pretended to understand.

There’s no synopsis out for this one yet – who needs one? Our hearts will be torn out, our poor Fitz and Fool and everyone they hold dear will feel pain of unimaginable suffering, and a good time will be had by all.

  • The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space was one of Melissa’s earlier books, and really quite enjoyable… so I’m on board for this one! I also hope to have time to read The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl sometime soon.

Meet Sophia: former child prodigy and 17-year-old maths mastermind. She’s been having panic attacks ever since she realised that a) high school is almost over, and b) after high school, former child prodigies tend to either cure cancer – or go crazy.

It’s a lot of pressure. So Sophia doesn’t have the patience for games right now, and she especially doesn’t have the patience to figure out why all these mysterious playing cards keep turning up inside her textbooks.

Meet Joshua: highly intelligent, cheerfully unambitious, and an amateur magician. He’s Sophia’s classmate, and he’s admired her for as long as he can remember.

He thinks the time is perfect to tell Sophia how he feels. And he doesn’t know how wrong he is …

  • The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

SidekicksI loved Will’s first book, The First Third – it was a book like Melina Marchetta’s – so perfectly showing the blending of cultures that occurs in Australia when you’re born here but your parents aren’t, so you’ve Australian but other things from other cultures are also deeply important, and sometimes clash in awkward, heartbreaking, and/or hilarious ways. So I’m totally there for his next book. It’s books like these that show just how damn strong Australian YA really is – not that there’s any surprise in that regard for us who live here. You just hope they get the worldwide recognition they deserve.

Isaac, Ryan, Harley and Miles aren’t four best friends, they’re three guys with the same best friend. When Isaac dies, they have to learn to fill the space he’s left in each other’s lives. And after so many years of being sidekicks, it’s harder being stars than they ever anticipated.

  • False Hearts by Laura Lam

HeartsFalseCommence high-pitched squealing for Laura Lam. Her writing is AMAZINGFalseHearts and I can’t properly articulate just how excellent this series is. Spoilt as I am, I’ve beta-read both this and the next in the series so I can confidently say – just you wait. It’s amazing.

Also look at these covers. Aren’t they stunning!

The novel begins in Mana’s Hearth, a retreat that’s closed off from the rest of society and denied access to technology or modern medicine, where twin sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When their lives are threatened they finally manage escape to San Francisco and a life that’s beyond anything they could have imagined. Ten years later, Tila returns to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder in the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life.

  • Masquerade (Micah Grey #3) by Laura Lam

MasqueradeAnother piece of awesome to get hyper about – the close to a series Laura started publishing with Angry Robot, and has since moved to Tor with. If you’ve read the first two and can’t wait for the third, be sure to check out the four novellas set in this world in a mini-series called the Vestigial Tales which should tide you over for a short while at least.

This is actually due out in early 2017, but ARCs should be available in 2016 so I’m leaving it here – and the re-release of the first two in this series (Pantomime and Shadowplay) are due out at the end of 2016 with stunning new covers. Don’t know what this series is about? Never fear!

Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.

The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?

  • The Fall of the Dagger (The Forsaken Lands #3) by Glenda Larke

There’s no synopsis out for this one yet, and I haven’t read the second book just yet as I need to re-read the first to bring all the many awesome characters back to the front of my memory… so with a week or two to go before the release of this one I’ll start my re-read, and it’ll be glorious. I can’t recommend Glenda’s work enough, and she’s amazing in person if you ever get the chance to chat or listen to her read/answer questions.

  • Shaming the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Melina was my favourite author growing up, so to hear she has a new book coming out fills me with a whole lot of hyper joy.

Bashir “Bish” Ortley is a London desk cop. Almost over it. Still not deaing with the death of his son years ago, as well as the break up of his marriage.

Across the channel, a summer bus tour, carrying a group of English teenagers is subject to a deadly bomb attack, killing four of the passengers and injuring a handful of others. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board. The suspect is 17 year old Violette LeBrac whose grandfather was responsible for a bombing that claimed the lives of dozens of people fourteen years ago; and whose mother, Noor, has been serving a life sentence for the part she was supposed to have played in the attack.

As Bish is dragged into the search for the missing Violette, and the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more Bish realizes that they may have got it wrong all those years ago, and that truth wears many colours. Especially when it comes to the teenagers on board the recent bus bombing. Including his daughter.

  • Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim #3) by Juliet Marillier

There’s no ETA for this one, but I’m hopeful as the first two were released one a year. I can’t wait for the third one for this one, Blackthorn and Grim are some of my favourite current characters so I’m desperate for more. This is another series I would take a day off work to enjoy without fail.

  • The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2) by Isaac Marion

Do you follow Marion on instagram? You should. Did you read the first book in the Warm Bodies series, or just see the movie? Read the book.

Being alive is hard. Being human is harder. But since his recent recovery from death, R is making progress. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love, and the city’s undead population is showing signs of life. R can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart—building a new world from the ashes of the old one.

And then helicopters appear on the horizon. Someone is coming to restore order. To silence all this noise. To return things to the way they were, the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. The plague is ancient and ambitious, and the Dead were never its only weapon.

How do you fight an enemy that’s in everyone? Can the world ever really change? With their home overrun by madmen, R, Julie, and their ragged group of refugees plunge into the otherworldly wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.

  • Every Heart a Doorway (Every Heart A Doorway #1) by Seanan McGuire

DoorwayMcGuireTaken from Alex’s excellent review of this:

McGuire has presented a story about the girls and boys who come back from fairyland… and wish they hadn’t.

Nancy went to the Halls of the Dead and basically learnt to act as a statue to please the Lord and Lady there. Her parents, of course, do not understand what she experienced and think she needs to be helped through whatever trauma is causing her to tell such dreadful tales.

Isn’t that all one needs to know to be hooked in? Also, I’ll read anything by Seanan/Mira. The only slight ‘issue’ with this is that it’s short at only 150 pages or so, I already know I’ll want more than that! The good thing with McGuire though is that she comes out with so damn much a year that we’ll always have something more to read soon enough.

  • Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Sarah Rees Brennan is another author I need more time for! I’ve enjoyed the little I’ve managed to read so far, and hear very good things of her from just about everywhere, so I’ll be marking this down and hoping I get the time!

This is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.

The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life.

  • Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

GhostTalkersAlternate history? Mary Robinette Kowal? I am so there.

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

  • Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6) by Brandon Sanderson

I adore the Mistborn series, not for the plot which is all a bit weak and dull, but for the characters. Wax and Wayne are amazing together with their witty banter, but Steris is where it’s at: she’s incredible.

A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

  • The Dark Talent (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians #5) by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve only read the first in this series also, but it’s one that I’m going to enjoy once I get the time to.

  • A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows FinalSo this is only part of the synopsis, but…

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

It seems to be enough to be getting on with, doesn’t it? I’ve already read the first third thanks to a NetGalley sample and my goodness I can’t wait to get the rest. I adore Delilah so much!

I’ve already written up about the sample I’ve read, and you can read that right here… but basically, Delilah is amazing, followed swiftly by the awesome that is Kell, and we also get an amazing plot in that of the Element Games. Bring it on.

  • The Returned (The Archived #3) by Victoria Schwab

Not much is known about this one, but it’s been announced it’s happening. I could have listed it below in my list of books I don’t expect to be out this year, but Schwab writes damned fast and I think if it’s ready the publisher will hand it to us asap rather than a year and a half later, so fingers crossed!

  • This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

I really don’t know just how many books Schwab can bring out in a year, but baby I’m all there for all of them on day one, eagerly grabbing and reading as soon as possible. If it’s possible to take the day off for the release, well, I’m there for that too.

SavageSongThe city of Verity has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. In North Verity, the Corsai and the Malchai run free. Under the rule of Callum Harker, the monsters kill any human who has not paid for protection. In the South, Henry Flynn hunts the monsters who cross the border into his territory, aided by the most dangerous and darkest monsters of them all—the Sunai, dark creatures who use music to steal their victim’s souls.

As one of only three Sunai in existence, August Flynn has always wanted to play a bigger role in the war between the north and the south. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate Harker, daughter of the leader of North Verity, August jumps on it.
When Kate discovers August’s secret, the pair find themselves running for their lives and battling monsters from both sides of the wall. As the city dissolves into chaos, it’s up to them to foster a peace between monsters and humans.

A unique, fast-paced adventure that looks at the monsters we face every day—including the monster within.

  • Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Taylor is another author I’ll throw everything aside for and squee for more.

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men.
a mysterious city stripped of its name.
a mythic hero with blood on his hands.
a young librarian with a singular dream.
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled.
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

  • Necessity (Thessaly #3) by Jo Walton

Walton’s Thessaly series was one that really took me by surprise, if only in the way that it reads as a highly literary series that I’d otherwise think I’m too dumb for. While I think I am missing many subtleties not having read the books this is all spawned from, it’s still a wonderful and highly enjoyable series that I can’t recommend highly enough.

More than sixty­-five years ago, Pallas Athena founded the Just City on an island in the eastern Mediterranean, placing it centuries before the Trojan War, populating it with teachers and children from throughout human history, and committing it to building a society based on the principles of Plato’s Republic. Among the City’s children was Pytheas, secretly the god Apollo in human form.

Convinced by Apollo to spare the Cities, Zeus instead moved everything on the island to the planet Plato, circling its own distant sun.

Now, more than a generation has passed. The Cities are flourishing on Plato, and even trading with multiple alien species. Then, on the same day, two things happen. Pytheas dies as a human, returning immediately as Apollo in his full glory. And there’s suddenly a human ship in orbit around Plato­­a ship from Earth.

  • The Edge of Worlds (The Books of the Raksura #4) by Martha Wells

Wells was one of my new favourite authors of all time very quickly, to the point where I’m now savouring several of her books as a treat once I have some bloody time to myself again – I can’t wait. This is a book I’d immediately jump to as soon as it comes out though, timelines be damned.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

  • In Your Face (anthology) edited by Tehani Wessely

I read anything that comes out from FableCroft, and so here we have their next anthology.

A collection of Australian speculative fiction stories that deal with very provocative and/or confronting themes, but with purpose – they will be pieces that perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which do so in order to interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in.

  • One Would Think Deep by Claire Zorn

OneWouldThinkDeepSet in 1997, centred around seventeen year old Sam. Sam has been raised by his mother and was very close to his maternal grandparents, his aunt and his cousin, until a rift caused his mum to become estranged from them. In the aftermath of his mum’s sudden death, Sam finds himself reunited with his extended family and moved to a small coastal town south of Sydney.

Claire’s previous books The Sky So Heavy and The Protected have both been devoured in an afternoon each, so although there’s barely anything known of this one yet, I’m eagerly awaiting this one. Bring on May!

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Other books I would of course jump for, but don’t expect to come out in 2016 are:

  • The Burning (Luther #2) by Neil Cross
  • Untitled (Cormoran Strike, #4) by Robert Galbraith
  • The Bastards and the Knives (Gentleman Bastard, #0.5) by Scott Lynch
  • Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #3) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3) by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Lost Metal (Mistborn #7) by Brandon Sanderson
  • Untitled (Blood and Gold, #2) by Kim Wilkins
  • Rewind (Newsflesh #4) by Mira Grant
  • Untitled (Wolf By Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudin
  • Untitled (Magonia #2) by Maria Dahvana Headley

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And then because you can never have enough books, why not a list of books I’m not entirely sure of yet, but I may just check out. The above are all books from authors I know and love – the following are books that simply sound interesting, and may soon to join the above list.

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

AlltheBirdsChildhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

  • Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them…until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett’s stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

  • Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

ExitBearHermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years — a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

RadioSilenceFrances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

  • These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

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

Other excellent blog posts I’ve come across for 2016 pondering are as follows. If you’ve posted one, let me know in a comment and I’ll check it out!