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.

2016 – July

July was the month of Pokémon Go (as most of the world would be aware) and where I realised I was off to New Zealand in August which could now be classed as ‘next month’, and so I’d have to get fit. From the 6th July onwards I walked 8-10ks (6 or so miles) a day most days – even though for (what feels like) a lot of that the app didn’t even work. Luckily I both live and work by quite a nice beach (a foreshore at home, and esplanade at work) and the showers at work seem to have had an upgrade… so… no excuse, really.

At the time of writing this, I have walked 241.11 kms (148.95 miles ish) in July.

Onto the novels read in July!

Take a Pique

Take a Pique sampler was a collection of seven previews, sadly, most of which were a little hit and miss.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews
The Movie Version by Emma Wunsch
The Graces by Laure Eve
Seven Ways we Lie by Riley Redgate
The Romantics by Leah Konen
Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
Every Falling Star by SungJu Lee & Susan McClennand

My full review of this one can be found here.

Seven Ways We Lie

Seven Ways we Lie by Riley Redgate was picked up because of the above 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!

Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1)

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu was absolutely brilliant – I read it as an e-copy but ordered in a print copy, and shoved it into a co-workers hands by the end of the day so she could read it also.

I’ve enjoyed Chu’s writing previously and this is no different. The characters are endearing, the world building is really engaging, and I didn’t want to put this one down for even a moment. I’m glad I left it long enough that now the second book is available (though I was lucky enough to get it for review also) because I can’t wait to read more!

You can read my full review here.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4)

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan was quite good, but somehow didn’t grab me as the previous books have. Maybe it was my mood, or maybe I feel that the character has done its run and I don’t need to be there for the rest of it. I hope to come back and read the entire series once it’s done, once I’ve had a bit of a break from it.

The Escapement of Blackledge

The Escapement of Blackledge by Melody Ellsworth was really quite fun, and I loved picking out all the other authors in this – Rothfuss, Sykes, and so on. Yay! I love how much fun the spec fic community has. I hope more come out in a similar vein.

Cracklescape (Twelve Planets book 7)

Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan 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 seventh book in the Twelve Planets series, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors.

You can read my full review here.

The Walled City

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin wasn’t as loved as I hoped it would be. I’ve come to this author after reading Wolf by Wolf, and I much preferred the characterisation and how the story was presented, and overall just found my interest in it a bit lacking. Ah, well!

On the Edge of Gone

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more. I love the short story set in this same time from Defying Doomsday and it was hard-hitting at the same time, where I needed to take a break from how dire and emotionally draining the book was. There were so many ups and downs, yet it remained realistic throughout, and I was incredibly happy with the ending where the main character finally does something for herself. One of the best ‘end of the world’ books I’ve ever read. I’d love to see what happens in the future in this plot.

City of Wolves

City of Wolves by Willow Palecek was a quick and enjoyable read, with fun characters, decent plot, and ticked every box. I’m loving the increase in novellas that are coming out – mostly thanks to Tor, and each have been of excellent quality.

Overall, this is a very fun book, and one I recommend for a lazy afternoon where you want some excitement, or snarky and snazzy writing.

You can read my full review here.

Daughters of the Storm (Blood and Gold, #1)

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins was a rushed re-read in preparation to read the second book for review, Sisters of the Fire. I absolutely loved this book both the first and second time reading it, and I loved the short story I read years ago before I knew it was ever going to be so much more. There are countless strong and excellent female characters in this, and I love how they swear and how Bluebell has such rage and ability. And I want to pick up Ivy and put her far, far away somewhere because my goodness she needs a good kicking. LOVE IT. READ IT. If you haven’t already, you’re lucky because you’ll have two novels and a short story to devour whilst I’ve waited years in between each!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 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.

~

July was hectic, and I’m getting more and more excited for August and my trip to New Zealand!

Review: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

TimeSalvagerWesleyChuSeries: Time Salvager #1
Published by: Tor
ISBN: 0765377187
ISBN 13: 9780765377180
Published: July 2015
Pages: 384
Format reviewed: eVersion from Publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Time Siege (Time Salvager #2) (coming soon)

Named for the planets they originated from, we first meet James Griffin-Mars when he’s still a highly-ranked time traveller called a chronman. He’s not coping too well, stuck in a job with many years left on his contract, even though the highly-stressful job often kills the employees well within that time frame.

Cold and good at his job, James usually has no trouble dropping into past times 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.

James has few friends – almost zero, in fact. His handler Smitt is the closest he’s got, and they’ve stuck together for a long time. When a high level job comes through that few chronman are equipped to handle, James and Smitt are sought out for it. It seems risky, poorly explained, slightly confusing… but it holds a golden ticket to an end to their contract, and they may even get to go to one of the nice invite-only planets, which means they can escape the grunge. If only they can complete this one mission.

On this trip, he happens to both catch the eye, and notice, a scientist by the name of Elise. Coming from such a depressing time he is wonderous at her happy and hopeful nature, her sparkling eyes, and her purity. She’s sassy and isn’t impressed by him in general (a change from his normal life, though he is indeed in hiding whilst in her time… this however remains throughout the book, and is something he finds refreshing.)

And from here, things get a whole lot more tricky.

I’ve enjoyed Chu’s writing previously and this is no different. The characters are endearing, and as a friend commented when she saw that I was reading it, this has a story that stays with you if you put the book down for any reason. The plot and action scenes flow well that you don’t get exhausted by all the action but at the same time there aren’t any dead bits either.

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.

What works best though is the ending. Just when you think well, this is it, I’m satisfied with how the plot and characters have all tied things together, I can finally relax and digest this novel… Chu leaves us with an ending that makes it impossible not to pick up the next book in the series immediately to see what happens next. Very, very well played, Chu.

Books Upcoming: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu

TimeSalvagerWesleyChuTime Salvager by Wesley Chu

Release Date: July, 2015

Tor Books

Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.

~

The first 17 chapters were released on NetGalley as a ‘read now’ preview, and as I’ve enjoyed Chu’s previous books, this was probably a record in how quickly I got the file.

This futuristic world is gritty and real – death comes easily, and James (and others) look back upon the past as being the ideal. This version of the future is falling apart and the description handles this well, showing us this rather than telling. So many futuristic novels make a point of showing what they’ve changed for the better, and sometimes we see the utopias collapsing or everything turning out to show that the ‘perfect’ world doesn’t exist. This shows us an already failed future as humans still haven’t stopped destroying whatever it is they have.

The science feels that it’s handled well. Time is a tricky one in a book like this, yet Chu handles this in a way that’s not confusing and adds another dimension to the novel to give it the added difficulty of – well, reality, really. Paradoxes that come with time travel are something that’s endlessly interesting to play around with and Chu stretches this well, shaping it into something that gives you a bit of a grin to read what he does with them.

I’m generally a person who reads purely for the characters. In this, though the main character James is interesting and introduced in the very best of ways, Smitt is the one who steals all the best lines – he’s a delightful friend to this jaded protagonist.

Overall, I can’t wait to read this one. Tor bring out books you can rely on every time – they’ve certainly published my favourite novels from the last few years and the books they have coming out soon are only getting better.

Honourable Mentions of 2014

To come tomorrow, a post containing my favourite books that I read in 2014, (any that I had for judging have been omitted.)

So it seems from previous years that I order these by title. Strange, but I hate breaking tradition.

Books due out in 2015 (but read in 2014)

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

In Goodhouse, the families of convicted criminals are tested for a set of genetic markers (though this book seems to be set in 1980 or around-abouts). Boys who test positive become compulsory wards of the state and are removed from their homes to be raised on “Goodhouse” campuses, where they learn to reform their darkest thoughts and impulses. It’s not really said what happens to the females – perhaps it is thought that they remain good and wholesome.

What’s most powerful in this book is how the children are treated. James has zero rights – the school is run by different levels of ‘enforcer’ type characters, some who are even students themselves who have been given additional privileges. James is constantly attacked and victimised, but it doesn’t matter what he says to whom – he’s either ignored entirely, or there’s minor confusion as the culprits seem to never had existed.

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross

A novel that was originally due out in 2014 (and I received for review back then) only to then fall victim to Angry Robot cancelling their Strange Chemistry imprint. This book has been picked up again thankfully, and is due out in 2015.

This is a novel about a world where continent-sized storms called ‘hypercanes’ cause havoc on the surface, so everyone lives well below the Earth’s surface. For the rich and powerful there are holidays to the surface as if it’s the height of fashion, and this is what Jansin Nordqvist’s family do, along with her partner – it’s all amazing to see the sun for the first time and so on… until they’re attacked, and she’s taken prisoner.

And from there, Jansin begins to learn that perhaps all she’s ever been told about the world may not be strictly true. And if that’s the case, then can she really live her life the same again?

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop

This is a series that keeps getting better! Sometimes the first book in a series is amazing, and then they kinda trail off as the series gets longer and longer… but the second and third are only more excellent, and there seems to be many more books planned to come!

This book went into just how much the humans have stuffed up, and what consequences there shall be to come – which is spiraling out of control as the humans against the Others are getting more and more violent. The humans that are on the Others’ alliance are getting more airtime also, and we’re getting to know them better.

This book was a bit lighter on the Simon/Meg aspect, but it’s all very realistic and lovely. Bring on book four!

Books read and published in 2014

Admission (Pandora Jones #1) by Barry Jonsberg

A local author, I’m a bit fond of Jonsberg – it doesn’t hurt that he’s an excellent author. This is an interesting ‘the world is ending’ book that takes a certain group of people – kids mostly – into a camp in order to protect and prepare them for what the world has become.

Yet not everything is as it seems. Throw in a few abilities and you have a traditional YA novel that still manages to be gripping and interesting even if the plot points have all been done before. The characters are what drive this, so it’s good that’s one of the best aspects of the novel.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

This was a fast-moving novel that’s split into sections that show Liz Emerson’s life before she crashes her car, killing herself. It also shows a whole of other sections of her life and those around her with multiple perspectives, and manages to not be confusing throughout.

It’s a book that emotionally invests you but in addition to that, the writing is beautiful. It shows how characters in a novel can be interesting even if you don’t like them too much.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Now this was a book with a difference. Now that we’ve moved past the books of worldwide disaster and zombies and such, we’re getting these ideas with a twist and a difference. This is written with an almost literature sense to it, and really begs the question, what does it take to be considered human?

The only reason this book isn’t on my ‘best books’ post (books that got five out of five stars) was because while the ending was fantastic, the book didn’t always grab me throughout and there was something a little off about the characters sometimes. Ultimately though, Melanie was the character that drove this book home and really, any book with an excellent ending will do okay with me.

Landry Park (Landry Park #1) by Bethany Hagen

Honestly, this book has merged so much into The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkoski that I couldn’t remember a single thing about this one alone. I liked them both independently of each other at the time, but now it comes time to recall things about them separately, Winner’s Curse has overtaken this one. Whether it’s because I read it second, who knows.

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

Well 2014 must have been a pretty good year if I got two books from the same series within months of each other. Yay for reviewing!

‘Murder of Crows’ is the second book in The Others series, written by Anne Bishop. It picks up quite soon after where the first book, Written in Red, left off, and notes just how long Meg has now been living in Lakeside Courtyard. It’s a surprisingly little amount of time, yet we already know so much about them all and can see how far she has become part of, and invested in, the lives of theterra indigene.

Overall this is a strange second book to a series, because they’re usually lacking or full of information and not much action, whereas this one expands on everything – world building, characters, and has its own distinct plot while also tying securely into the first.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to get such a strong second book in a series, but there we go. It was excellent!

The Wizard’s Promise (The Hanna Duology #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Another book I loved so much that fell victim to Angry Robot closing down Strange Chemistry! Hopefully it’ll find another deal along with the second in the series sometime soon. Other than that, she has another book coming out in 2015 called ‘Our Lady of the Ice’.

This was a wonderful and strange book that reminds me a bit of Laura Lam’s writing. This was about a young witch who is stuck as an apprentice to a strange fisherman. Trouble and mysterious things keeps finding her, and what’s wonderful about this book is the description and characters that carry us there. I’m hungry for the next book, dammit!

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

This was such a pretty story. Ophelia is a witty young sassy protagonist who doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. Their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows after their mother dies, and they’re all still in mourning, losing themselves in lonely, antisocial ways rather than banding together in their grief. Ophelia explores their new home, and on her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room, locked there by his step-mother, Her Majesty the Snow Queen.

It’s a middle grade book with a difference. The plot seems over-done, yet the novel is anything but. It really is magic.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Yet another entirely different novel. This is no simple love story, set worlds apart. Because of tropes, one almost expects Amara and Nolan to find a spark together, but throughout they remain stoic and barely able to work together. Throughout the novel we come over unexpected things, which leads the author as someone to be watched closely for what they come out with next. As a debut novel this is a fantastically strong book, with only a few, very minor quibbles. I would have loved to see more of the world, as it wasn’t one of the usual white-person filled medieval style fantasy. I would have loved to see more of the magic that binds them all. You don’t need to see more of either in order to enjoy and believe in the story – as I said, they’re very minor quibbles, and I should add in ‘selfish’ there, too. It’s what I would have loved to see, personally.

The author has another book set to come out in 2016 – On the Edge of Gone. Can’t wait!

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman

Set in the 1930s in Munich, just after World War I (then called The Great War) when Germany is in turmoil. Gretchen Müller is a young adult, and a proud member of the National Socialist Party – that is, until, her own conscience begins to show what seemingly no one else can. Their close family friend was one a badge of honour, and now she’s feeling incredibly ashamed. One guess to who it is.

In this fast-paced historical fiction, we see what Germany was like at the time and how desperate things became. We see another side to Hitler, with how he liked to draw, eat simple foods, and gave insightful and philosophical encouragement to those who surrounded him.

This is quite an excellent historical fiction novel, bravely written. Highly recommended for those who love Elizabeth Wein.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Tales from Temerant) by Patrick Rothfuss

Where to start with this book. It’s a strange piece of work and if I’m perfectly honest, it isn’t something I entirely loved depending on my mood. The author himself warns you off reading it in the first few pages.

At times when reading it I was a little disappointed. Or a little bored. It was sometimes easy to put down – though I did always pick it up again quite soon after. And all in all it’s a lovely book, it’s a good read but… This is only a book for those who have read his Kingkiller Chronicles series and have time for a little whimsy.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Took a while to get into, but then it gets really quite engaging and a very quick read. It’s so good to have our series back! First a movie and now this, and a second book out soon also – LoVe fans rejoice! (Yes, Logan and Veronica really do get the OTP name to end all other OTP names, I must admit. Even if my OTP is John/Aeryn from Farscape.)

This was the crime and characters we know and love, written with quite an excellent touch that’s above the usual fandom tie-in novel. Though this one could have had a bit more Logan in it, please.

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

This was such a quick read after I failed to pick it up all year! Reading Temeraire by Naomi Novik got me in the mood for it and then I devoured it within a few hours.

I have to admit, I didn’t like it as much as the first, but I’m still quite invested in the series and shall probably continue. The events of the first book leave everything in quite sad, dire straits and in this book you see the protagonist struggling on all sides (and accomplishing epic magnitudes to be sure) in order to find her own place in the world and hush all the nay-sayers.

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

After Melody’s wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Apologies, I took the above from the goodreads profile – these books are hard to sum up! From there, we see the Vincents battle through injustices and manage to get by on their wit alone. These books are such a rollicking good ride, each as good as the last!

The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

Tad Williams is an author I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I own most of his books and they look pretty fantastic on my shelves, but I haven’t yet actually started one of his novels.

This was a very enjoyable collection with most shorts earning a four or a five out of five from me. They work and fit together very well, with most having religious overtones, and cleverly taking tropes or well worn steps in fantasy and using them to their strengths.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Ahh, one of the most spoken about books in YA to come out this year. This is the type of book you need to know nothing about before going in, so I’ll keep it short. The prose is pretty excellent, lyrical in parts and beautiful in others. It’s weird and uncomfortable in others and the ending will certainly … well. Just read it. It’s a quick read, and can easily be done in an afternoon, so get to it.

While We Run (When We Wake #2) by Karen Healey

So I was a judge for the Children’s Book Council Awards. One of eight across Australia (one from each state/territory) who had to read 380+ books and then spend a week discussing them out to choose the winners. You’d think after that I’d take a few days off reading – or even a week, maybe.

Nope. I inhaled this series instead. Literally the first afternoon we had free, a few of the other judges and I went directly to a bookstore. Go figure.

This was SUCH an engaging series and I keep checking around to see if there’ll be a third book. Come on, Karen! I need more!

Tegan Oglietti is no ordinary girl – she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life 100 years later. That alone should be enough to get you interested – does it help that the characters are dang interesting?

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Kestral has two choices in life – either join the military (and follow her father’s footsteps), or get married. Neither choice seem enticing to Kestral. (This is the novel I just can’t keep separate in my head from Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.)

It’s good to see a main character who has strength in intellect and strategy. Though Kestral has been brought up to be a fighter, it also stresses that she’s simply not that good – she can hold her own, and she’s competent in many subjects thanks to years and years of training, but she lacks the natural flare. Unfortunately, while this book was quite entertaining, my ARC of the second in the series has been quite dull and suffers heavily from middle book syndrome.

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

This novella is mostly about Dr Marianne Jenner. She’s at an age we don’t see too often in speculative fiction – she’s old enough to have three children of her own, a deceased husband, and as we see throughout the novel, two grandchildren.

We see her being congratulated for a paper and suddenly threatening men from the government burst into the room and escort her away – because aliens have landed, and they’ve requested her presence specifically.

Nancy’s writing is engaging – you can’t put the book down at all. It’s quite short (I’d say it’s a novella rather than a novel) so you could get through it in an afternoon.

Books read in 2014 (yet published earlier)

2012 by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

This anthology takes eleven of Australia’s best known speculative fiction authors and allows them to present unique ideas for the near future (at least at the time of writing it was the near future!) It will be interesting to see in ten years how these stories and ideas stand – to see if the issues of terrorism and climate change still stand, or how they’ve since developed.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This was quite a fun, lovely and vivid book. Some parts felt it dragged a little, but overall this was a three and a half star read (out of five, going on the goodreads rating scheme), with excellent characters and a really fascinating magic system.

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab

This is a character-driven novel, my favourite kind! Schwab writes characters that are just so good and become instant favourites. Like Wes. She’s also so good at describing worlds and magic and it’s kinda set in a fancy academy-style school, and also in a massive library – so what’s not to love here?

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

Another book that’s hard to sum up. I really quite liked this – the characters were interesting, and it managed to take a kinda creepy idea and present it in an almost-acceptable way.

The Lives of Tao (Tao #1) by Wesley Chu

Another fun book! This was is such a different series, that combines humour with the slight desperation of an overweight geek who is pretty miserable with life who hasn’t dreamed, even if it were only once or just for a few moments, of being discovered by someone or something and trained up for Something. In this case, it’s to be a secret agent. Aliens are involved and they’re pretty sassy. We have female characters who are worthwhile and competent, and we have a main character who is hard to dislike.

Nanberry by Jackie French

This book is set at the very start of Australia during the first waves of convicts being dumped on the shores, and it presents an extraordinary view of what life was like them from multiple points of view – how beautiful but also how terrible and hard it all was, what it was like from the point of view of an Indigenous person, from that of a well-off doctor (one of the most highly respected people of that time), and that of a convict-turned-house servant.

I’ve loved Jackie French’s work since I was in primary school and she’s just such a damn good writer that her book for children remain utterly readable no matter how old you get.

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

This one was recommended to me by my book-twin Sam. I picked this to be the first book read for the year as I like to start the year with a very enjoyable book, and I wasn’t disappointed! This is a juvenile book, but goes to show that as long as it’s well written you can enjoy anything. This was a lovely tale with a very effective magic system, delicate prose, and engaging characters – everything was so easy to visulise that I didn’t want this book to end!

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

So this book is set before ‘Wildlife’ – one of my favourite books of all time now, but you can read the books utterly separate. Both books capture teenage life so well, and depict social pressures as well as dating, drinking and so on with perfect clarity, never seeming over dramatic or unrealistic.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

This was a very, very slow book to get into. I forced myself through it a bit knowing at least I could rely on Sanderson that it would probably eventually be good. It eventually paces up to be an enjoyable novel overall, and it leaves you very, very interested for the second. Again, characters drive this one.

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

So I finally picked this one up after meaning to for ages, thanks to the television show – as I imagined a lot of people have. The show followed it quite faithfully in a way and both were engaging enough – I do love seeing how a city reacts to a disaster. I probably won’t be continuing with the series though – I feel I’ve got enough from this book, and there are probably other books that do the same thing enough to keep me entertained.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

This was a quick, sad read where you see the terror of war in much more of a stark way – this book was written from a solider’s point of view so it was pretty depressing the whole way through. You can see why it’s won awards.