Review: Ex Libris edited by Paula Guran

Byline: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore
Published by: Diamond Book Distributors
ISBN: 1607014890
ISBN 13: 9781607014898
Published: May 2017
Pages: 384
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

This anthology is made up of reprints, taking from other anthologies or magazines such as Uncanny and Subterranean, so some you may have come across before. Of these, I’ve already read the shorts by Elizabeth Bear, Kelly Link, Scott Lynch, and Tansy Rayner Roberts – but as these are my favourite authors I eagerly reached for the rest. After all, what better subject than libraries.

Unfortunately I struggled with this anthology. Usually I love to review each story individually, but I didn’t find myself able to have enough to discuss about each one. Please find following what I loved about a few of them. This is a steady anthology, one that has a beautiful cover and a few very excellent pieces in it, but unfortunately is not an easy collection to read through continuously (either in a week, or a few weeks).

In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages

In a fitting start to the anthology we see a quaint proper library replaced with a new one that boasts proper fluorescent lighting and ergonomic chairs, and it’s written with the kind of tone we can appreciate – a library isn’t just a place with stacks of books, libraries that were our friends growing up are places of comfort – not sharp lines and electronics. Not all the books make it over, and for some reason the seven librarians remain in the old building also – and it’s here they receive a late return. As we all know, late books require a fee to be paid, and this payment is quite odd indeed.

This is quite a lovely short – a little bit magical and a little bit of old comfort you instantly wish you were one of the librarians in their quiet comfort, or the lucky little bundle of payment. Reading this one was an excellent start to the anthology, and is so lovely in such a gentle way that it beautifully sets the tone.

The Books by Kage Baker

I love the premise of this – just like how I loved it in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – how in a not so distant future a rabble group of people travel the world to entertain and remind others of things so they can’t be forgotten and lost to the ravages of time in a post-apocalyptic world.

This one is an excellent piece to broaden the anthology out. We start with a safe library we’ve always found comfort in as children with Klages’ story first, and then Baker takes us out into the big unknown, and shows how stories are our constant, and the one thing we can’t do without – up there with food, water and shelter.

In Libres by Elizabeth Bear

Euclavia has been instructed by her advisor that her thesis really needs another source. He recommends a full rare book, rather than a particular article, and this means she has to go to the library. To the Special Collections section in particular. And for this, she wants her oldest friend, Bucephalus, (a centaur) to come with her, as libraries are a cause for concern.

They arrive, and the librarian they meet both recommends against it, and asks whether she’s done anything to earn the ire of her advisor – slept with the tutor’s spouse, etc. ‘Any reason for him to want you dead?’ is literally asked.

This creates such a fantastic piece of work where librarians carry both sword and wand, and people like poor Eu who need to enter are instructed to bring a ball of twine, three days of food, a bedroll, no fire, no shoes on antique rugs, no pens (but pencil and notepaper are allowed)… though as a plus, there are first air and water stations wherever there are restrooms which is say, every five kilometers… however they all move around, so who knows, really.

Brilliant through each part, and Bear, I want a full novel of this, please.

Summer Reading by Ken Liu

‘After mankind had scattered to the stars like dandelion seeds, Earth was maintained as a museum overseen by robot curators.’

We have CN-344315 as our protagonist. He last saw a human over five thousand years ago, but he still goes about his routine – just like our favourite Wall-e, and like him, he cares so much about what humans have left behind.

This short story is endlessly quotable, like a lot of what Liu writes. ‘Data only lives when it is constantly copied.’ ‘Books are long alive when they’re read.’ ‘For books are seeds, and they grow in minds.’

Beautiful.

The Inheritance of Barnabas Wilcox by Sarah Monette

As one can guess from the title, Barnabas Wilcox has passed away, and his inheritance involves a country house to his nephew. One of the stipulations being that his library catalogue of an astounding number of books be finished – only his nephew doesn’t know where to begin, so he writes to a boy he knew in school – one he was never close with, but he’s the only one he knows who to turn to. And as Booth is in awe of the now deceased antiquary Lucius Wilcox, he agrees.

Like a good horror or murder mystery, the pieces slowly fall into place. The insane ramblings of the uncle. The abundance of a certain type of tree in the garden, and the horrid scratchings on the library door. I haven’t yet read any of Monette’s work but now I really, really want to.

What Books Survive by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Like some of the oldest and best fiction, space invaders have come. Now nothing electronic works, but as long as they stay behind their walls, the invaders seem to leave them pretty much alone. The only issue is that some houses have no or very few physical books, and along with half the houses (which means everyone has to squish in together), the shops, and the school (so now the town hall acts as the school also)… they left the library on the other side of the barricade. Something that 16yo Katie Marsden can’t stand.

This is such a fun and wonderful piece – kids with gumption, and it tackles the hard questions. Such as ‘Should I pick books [to save] because of posterity and shit like that, or should I just be selfish and save the ones I wanted to read?’ Personally I reckon save the ones you want to read – life is too short if invaders have come.

Now Tansy is a fan of the kindle, as am I, but this certainly is a strong reason to be a fan of both mediums for sure.

The Green Book by Amal El-Mohtar

This is such a clever piece that the least said about it, the better. Even if you pick up this book and flick to Amal’s section first – totally worth it.

In the Stacks by Scott Lynch

An old favourite. Fifth year exams for the High University of Hazar require the aspirants to enter the library and return with a library book.

Simple, right?

Well, the motto of the librarians here is: RETRIEVE. RETURN. SURVIVE.

Dressed in armour, equipped with swords and years of training, four of them are there to take the test. As one of the thankfully longer pieces in this anthology, we get such a fun romp of a tale where you see so much of their whole world even though we mostly see their sprawling library alone. Another piece that demands a full novel or ten. The language and dialogue makes anything by Lynch such a joy to read. The descriptions, witty banter – in many awful moods I’ve picked up something by Lynch and felt better within minutes – if only it could be bottled.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu

After college, a young girl returns to where she grew up to work in the library her father ran – as it’s always felt like home, and other people don’t make much sense anyway. She’s had a feeling that she’s always been looking for something, and she finally finds it in a slim volume of poetry, that’s part of a collection donated by a family clearing out their father’s estate.

This is a beautiful piece of work. ‘It was still there, a slim volume squeezed between other books like a mysterious woman hiding in the attic.’ Basically one can be assured that if Liu has translated it, then it’s always going to be worth reading.

2016 – June

June was the month of launching the Aurealis Awards, of which I am running almost alone this year. It was also taken up with the Australian election during the last week, as I worked as a rural pre-vote officer after hours in addition to my day job. I tried to do a read-a-long somewhere in all that and I think I finished off five books in that week in the end, but I’m not sure. I don’t even know what day it is.

Onto the novels read in June!

My Lady Jane

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

Nimona

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson 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.

One Would Think the Deep

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn was one of my highest anticipated for the year because I adored her previous two novels so very deeply. And then this was just a little bit… I’m not sure. Different, I suppose. Excellent capture of characters as we’ve previously seen, but the plot just didn’t grab me. The previous books have been pretty bleak but I still wanted to keep reading – this one was just a bit… awkward. It could have been my mood, and hopefully I’ll try it again in the future.

Kid Dark Against The Machine

Kid Dark against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts 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.

Leave Me

Leave Me by Gayle Forman 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 review here.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (Amra Thetys, #1)

The Thief who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung 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!

To care about a character that quickly is rare.

What also works about this is the range of characters from all works of life, who come together to work and possibly be… well, not friends, but they interact with each other without malice and it’s also believable despite you believing in the world they’re from which also shows how rare that is. This is a self-published book that won the ‘self published fantasy blog-off hosted by Mark Lawrence’, and it didn’t disappoint!

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch was a reassuring read. Whenever I don’t know what I feel like reading, I open his next book and get lost in a few chapters. And then it feels like I’m taking ages to read it so I feel like it’s slow, but then it’s also because so much happens that I enjoy each chapter so much that it reads so well, and then something ALWAYS happens right at the very end (the very definition of a cliff-hanger, but almost a sneaky one, because it’s not always TA-DAH DRAMATIC but makes you go ‘what the hell, NO!’ and you have to pick up the next book immediately to find out what the hell is going to happen. That makes a good book, right?

Through Splintered Walls (Twelve Planets book 6)

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren was read for the current Twelve Planets read/review a book a month challenge we have on. I read it in its release for the Aurealis Awards, but with my memory being as bad as it is, I’m always glad for an excuse to re-read! This is the sixth book in the Twelve Planets series, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors.

These short stories (three and a novella) feel Australian without ramming it down your throat (which isn’t a bad thing anyway), and they’re quite horrific without being gory. Intellectual horror, maybe? Insightful? Whatever it is, it’s good.

You can read my review here.

The Edge of Worlds (The Books of the Raksura, #4)

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells was another that felt slow to read but I did enjoy it throughout. I love the dynamic between Jade and Moon so much, and I love Stone and a few others – though it’s hard to keep them straight some times. This was a good adventure of a book, but I wish it had more flow to the adventure so it didn’t feel as slow. Or maybe that’s just my mood again?

Rise: A Newsflesh Collection

Rise by Mira Grant 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.

~

June was crazy excellent. Enough said.

Review: Kid Dark Against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts

KidDarkPublished by: Book Smugglers Publishing
ISBN 13: 9781942302285
Published: June 2016
Pages: 70
Format reviewed: eVersion from author
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

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. First seen in the anthology Kaleidoscope ‘Cookie Cutter Superhero’ was one of the most popular with many people demanding that we see a novel in this world at some stage. Tansy has a thing for novellas at the moment however, so that’s what we’ve got in Kid Dark against the Machine.

In this world, Australia has Australia’s Mightiest Heroes – an often-changing team of superheroes that are spat out by a machine, changing lives instantly (as you’re chosen, it’s not automatic to just anyone). Powers come from the machine so you instantly have the most ninja-y of skills within seconds, and the ability to read a room for danger and tactical information like it’s as natural as breathing.

While ‘Cookie Cutter Superhero’ (highly recommended, go read it now if you haven’t already) shows someone new coming through the machine, ‘Kid Dark Against the Machine‘ shows what happens to those who have returned to normalcy (if such a thing is even possible) once they are no longer active heroes. We have Griff, who was once side-kick to a type of hero who’s quite familiar (sly nods here and there which are rather snicker-worthy), and is now helping out in a boys home he grew up in. Here, he has a chat with one of the current boys about something that turns out rather interesting. I won’t give spoilers, but with superheroes there always must be… right?

What Tansy rocks at is presenting you with characters you love in so few words. I so want to see more of The Dark and Catsuit and all the rest. Please, Tansy, please? Like the scene at the end of that movie where they’re all sitting around a table eating burgers, can we have that with your characters please?

Ahem. 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.

Review: Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva, Holly Kench

DefyingDoomsdayByline: An anthology of apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled and chronically ill characters.
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN: 9781922101402
Published: May 2016
Pages: 432
Format reviewed: eVersion
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

This anthology was funded by a pozible campaign that was launched Swancon Easter weekend 2015, and delivered a few weeks and a year later in May 2016.

And the Rest of Us Wait” by Corinne Duyvis

This short story goes hand in hand with Corinne’s latest book that came out in March, On the Edge of Gone. Iveta is famous for a talent show she once appeared on, however she’s just like everyone else when a comet is set on destroying the earth, and Iveta and her family join countless others in a refugee centre to wait it out.

There are generation ships and shelters which offer more permanent solutions, but not everyone has been granted access. As if life isn’t hard enough, Iveta has a slew of medical requirements that certainly make things more dire for her than others as the comet hits, and the temporary shelter faces further issues such as power and ration issues.

We see a range of different reactions. The angry and the uncontrollable, the snippy and resigned, and those who are still hopeful, and think now is a good time to stage a musical act. I mean, it’s not like anyone is going anywhere, trapped far underground and slowly running out of air.

This is such a strong opening to the anthology, showcasing a wide variety of topics that are explored both for and against (should people receive ‘special’ treatment, is it ‘special’ treatment if the end result ends in truly unfair results, and so forth. ‘Otherbound’ by Duyvis was also amazing so it’s no surprise that this short story is also – if you haven’t read her work so far this is a good place to start, and then go and hurry to get her two other novels. You won’t be disappointed.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath” by Stephanie Gunn

Jeez, what an opening. A condescending man tells children that God put roses in their lungs as they’re too young to understand what cystic fibrosis is. As though they wouldn’t be able to explain if someone had taken the time to tell them in a way they could that doesn’t result in horrific nightmares, what the hell, man.

The flu has struck Australia, if not the world. Three sisters take care of each other on their family farm, their mother and Bryce now buried. The last broadcast on the emergency channel warned everyone to stay inside and don’t leave their houses, but it’s been some time since then and they’re starting to worry about what to do when their horded medication runs out.

This piece is very emotive – many sentences making me grimace to myself in a mix of horror and sympathy, lines such as ‘More than once I’ve been tempted to slice through the scars, just so I could stretch properly.’ Aarrrgh, Aussies, why do you write horror so well even when the piece isn’t strictly horror?

Something in the Rain” by Seanan McGuire

Holly has schizophrenia and autism, has lost her parents and only has her cat for company, and then, as the story progresses, the school bully. Water has turned toxic and dangerous, and rains come each day for a little longer and a little more intense, and you don’t want to be caught out in it if you want to survive.

This was an awkward piece – the bully is horrible and I get anxious when any form of media involves pets – I can take all the violence and deaths as you can throw at me (well, I may not enjoy it, but I can keep reading), but as soon as there’s the chance something can go wrong to an animal I’m on edge, and I will stop reading/watching if anything happens to them.

This piece I could breath a sigh of relief on. I wanted to punch Cathy and – well, not hug Holly as I doubt she’d appreciate that, but help her in some way in the very least. And now I need to go have a nap to calm down.

Did We Break the End of the War?” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Okay well it’s not time for a break after all if a favourite author is up next. Jin and Aisha are scavengers in this world that’s been torn apart by the Pulse, which knocked out the electricity and left only teenagers. They rarely see others but they are out there, and they avoid them where they can. They go through houses and take what’s useful, then trade it with other groups later. Markets are arranged and advertised via graffiti, and this is simply how life is now.

They pick up Billy, a pretty boy who fits well into their well formed duo, and now they specialise in batteries/tech, medication and…. art supplies. That is, until at the next market Jin discovers the other two have been keeping something for him, and that there’s a lot more to the Pulse than he’s ever given thought to before.

Like all of Tansy’s short stories, this one is much bigger than leaving it to this one short. This needs to be a novel.

In the Sky with Diamonds” by Elinor Caiman Sands

Megan has cerebral palsy, and was implanted with an AI when she was young, who helps her along where possible. Called Jennifer, they are alone on a capsule trying to distract and delay an attacking alien force long enough for a shuttle to get away – a shuttle where her sister Lucy and others are quickly running out of hope.

One of the very few authors I don’t think I’ve experienced before? A few lines made quite an impact – ‘I’ll just float here with my eyes shut and see what happens. Maybe I’ll just doze. I’m so sleepy.’

Two Somebodies Go Hunting” by Rivqa Rafael

Lex and Jeff go out hunting because their dad took off ages ago, and their mum is busy with another child who’s ill. Meat is scarce and there’s the possibility of bringing back some kangaroo. The hot outback is dangerous enough as it is, and it doesn’t help that Lex has a bung leg which means there’s some sand dunes simply out of her ability – so what happens if her little brother falls, or runs off? Her little brother who may possibly have autism – there’s no diagnoses after the apocalypse.

We’re now in a world where children know the names of various bacteria because it’s that and things like bird flu which have wiped out the country, to the point there they joke they’re an endangered species now. Their trek is surely too tough for their ages, but together and with their knowledge of the land and simply what they need to do to survive, is enough. I loved the interactions between the siblings, and the point we’re left at.

Given Sufficient Desperation” by Bogi Takács

Dyspraxia is what keeps Vera in workrooms, looking at hours and hours of streams of various images as aliens record her response, rather than running away from it all and joining the militants who are trying to fight back against the alien invaders. To communicate with them, the aliens speak to them in voices taken from Hungarian movie stars – Oszkár Gáti—the Hungarian dubbing actor of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, Artúr Kálid for Will Smith… etc.

This one was the good kind of weird, keeping you reading to figure out what’s happening, what’s happened, what’s going to happen. I certainly understand the need for real sleep, and the tears at the end.

Selected Afterimages of the Fading” by John Chu

I love how this one starts. ‘A row of dumbbells sorted by weight, ranging from pointless to respectable.’

In a world where everything and everyone is fading if you don’t look at it and give it the attention it deserves, a guy with an image disorder struggles with a romance…

I had to look muscle dysmorphia up to get a clearer understanding of this one. ‘Reverse anorexia’ is what comes up when you google it; ‘Affecting mostly males, muscle dysmorphia is an obsessive preoccupation via a delusional or exaggerated belief that one’s own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual’s build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. (wiki)

This one has a steady and sweet exit (not an ending), and as always, I really enjoy Chu’s work, even when I’m not sure I’m smart enough to truly understand the layers.

Five Thousand Squares” by Maree Kimberley

It’s been fifteen years since the war, and there’s been changes to the world (both political and terra-weather related) where Kaye and Micha lie, and both have chronic pain issues that involve arthritis and generally make life difficult. With these things in mind when raising young families, they make a plan to stick together just in case something does happen, in order to get through it in a team. Micha’s home is high enough to avoid trouble if there’s a floor, so it’s there they stockpile food and supplies.

Good thing they do, as one night Micha contacts Kaye, saying her hip and knee both agree that things are about to go to hell. Most people with arthritis or a broken bone at some stage can tell when big rains are coming, and this is what we see happen here.

What is so excellent about this piece is how it takes something we often hear about, but few understand. It’s one thing to say someone has chronic pain and can’t do x, y, z, but to truly understand what that must mean is quite different. We see the struggle and what has to happen that we don’t get to see in the general blockbuster movies, and though I’ve only had brief brushes with this type of restriction thanks to ross river, it really, really speaks to me.

Portobello Blind” by Octavia Cade

Anna is a bored and pondering whether she is the sole survivor of the apocalypse. She spends hours fishing in order to eat, (surely so many books/movies get it wrong with how easy some apocalyptic people have it, as collecting drinking water and food for the majority of each day wouldn’t make for good watching – I love how right this gets it), only to hit us with the fact she’s blind, and you’re left worrying how she manages to do anything safely… and the fact is, she doesn’t. She cuts her hands baiting the line, she falls into the waves when she overbalances, trying to catch her escaping fish, and she has to boil a kettle to check the power is still on, and hence, the satellite radio is still working even if no one is answering.

Her strength is amazing, as well as her determination and intelligence to cope and think of what she needs to make this work. Though I agree with her that pineapple would be way better. And that sheep are pretty excellent companions.

Tea Party” by Lauren E. Mitchell

Tally, Bingo, the Count, and Chess, along with a few others, are riding out the end of the world, which came in earthquakes and huge expanses of land disappearing below water. They go shopping every once in a while – mostly to get a slew of medications they can’t exactly grow themselves. In this case Tally and the Count go out – a weird choice for the Count, but Tally’s not complaining. Along the way they meet another surviver, just in time for another glimpse of what the world still has in store for them.

I liked that while this one had a bit of action and excitement in it, that a lot of it was showing how they cared and helped out each other. You really get the feel that they’re going to make anything and everything work somehow, simply because they have to as that’s how life is now.

Giant” by Thoraiya Dyer

Skye, also known as Rhomboid in the Moltorian language, only has chickens for company. Born with pituitary gigantism and poor hearing, it’s almost certain she’ll die if she leaves the microgravity – her circulatory system will shut down if she leaves the ship she’s always been on. There was once a crew on the ship but they wanted to kill her when she was younger because of her affliction – if it wasn’t for her mother and the ship’s doctor, she would have been thrown out an airlock. Hugo, her father, finds her, and wants to help. She just wants to be left alone.

It’s a complicated tale of a girl trapped by guilt and having always waited for her father, yet at the same time wants him to leave her and go back to Earth. She can make it happen – with her size comes strength. What I like about this one especially is how the colours unite the beginning with the end.

Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel” by Samantha Rich

On days when Emm goes hunting, she stays in bed late to get her thoughts in order – a bit of superstition that hasn’t failed her yet. Makes perfect sense to me – more dozing/resting always sounds like a treat. I also agree with Emm’s later thought regarding ‘help’ (people who want to steal her knowledge/secrets) by thinking ‘fuck that, and fuck them.’

Spiders have taken over the Earth? Heck with that. I’m allergic but beyond that they don’t bother me. They freak out a friend though, and because I’m a terrible person I once sent him an email (we work for the same office) with no title/preview, so when he opened it, it was a full screen, very high res closeup photo of a spider. His co-worker reported back to me that he squealed a little and jumped back from his desk, so that was a success.

Emm hunts out spider silk, which is then used for clothes. A rich commodity for trading in this new world. Thank god they don’t have a hive mind though. This piece is one of my favourites (I think the start endeared me to her completely), so highly recommended. Unless you’re like Kane. In that case, read with the lights on because the spiders are detailed quite well.

No Shit” by K. L. Evangelista

Plague has come, and Jane has buried her parents. She looks for other survivors sometimes, but otherwise enjoys the night… until flares light up the sky, and she finds another survivor.

They meet in daylight hours, both careful but eager to meet someone else who has survived – Sam seems nice (AND he can bake!), even if he does read very serious things – ‘Coping with Change’, ‘Compost Toilets’ – very useful considering the time they’re in, but surely all that stress calls for a good bit of relaxation reading. I also love how he’s still all ‘I want to stick together but I don’t want to make you feel like we have to, we don’t HAVE to’ because that’s exactly how I’d be even in a freakin’ apocalypse. Overly polite and thinking others wouldn’t want to have me around even though HELLO, hardly anyone else alive.

They set out in a winnebago to search for other survivors, and so living in close quarters means that soon enough Jane has to tell Sam she has Crohn’s and that while it wasn’t life threatening when there was medicine and doctors around… these days… who knows?

I love the humour in this one. The voice behind it is really quite nice, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more from this author. This is another contender for favourite in the anthology.

I Will Remember You” by Janet Edwards

This piece starts with the words ‘Day Five’, which is such a surprisingly interesting way to start. We soon learn that Megan, sixteen, is going to die within the next few days – everyone  is – by the time sunset arrives on day thirteen. Aliens have arrived and have marked everyone with a few blue dots which will align with how soon they’re due to die. Seeing as Megan was born without a hand – where everyone else has their marks, she’s not to know. She’s received abusive messages demanding to know where her marks are – were they on her arm instead? She didn’t know what to reply with.

This piece is so perfect to end with. The end of the world and the hope directly afterwards is a clean finish, and it’s so dang interesting and complex, yet fits perfectly within the shape of a short story. Yet another contender for ‘favourite’, and I know that this one in particular will be staying in my mind for some time. I’d love to see a follow-up of how they’re going in a few months, and then a few years. Make it happen, Edwards!

~

In the introduction at the start of the anthology, Hoge, (author of Ugly), says ‘People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world,’ which is certainly something to think on. This anthology is excellent as examining that.

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?

2016 – February

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

Onto the novels read in February!

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

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

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

Roses and Rot

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

My review can be found here.

Sharp Edge (Tara Sharp, #4)

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

Love and Romanpunk (Twelve Planets book 2)

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

My review can be found here.

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

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

Epic, epic author.

Fantasy-Faction Anthology

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

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

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

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

Kindred Spirits

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

Eliza Rose

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

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

My review can be found here.

The Sidekicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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