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.

Honourable Mentions for 2016

To come tomorrow, a post containing my favourite books that I read in 2016, both posts are listed by author.

Books due out in 2017 (but read in 2016)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

From when she was ten years old, Scarlett (from the Conquered Isle of Trisda) wrote to Master Legend of the Caraval, begging him to visit their isle for her younger sister, Donatella. Years pass, and it isn’t until she’s engaged that he writes back, confirming that he and his players will indeed be visiting, and he encloses three tickets to his invite-only show.

You can read my full review here.

Resistance (Divided Elements #1) by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

Due out in the end of January, we have a kind of Avatar meets The Hunger Games. Set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic Paris (which only seems more and more eerily possible what with the awful violence there this year), we have a nation that’s divided into four elements – fire, water, air, and earth. Everyone is born anonymously directly into nurseries so your loyalty can only be to your fellow elements. We first meet Kane 148 only to see him executed immediately. He was a fire elemental, as are Anaiya 234 and Niamh (number unknown at this stage) who are peacekeepers, and who we meet next, out on their rounds interrupting violence and breeches of the peace. Until, when Anaiya goes home and discovers something they all find chilling, and from there the plot takes off in appropriately fast moving action.

You can read my full review here.

Books read and published in 2016

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow

This collection was picked up initially because it included some favourite authors, such as Kaaron Warren, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix, along with the knowledge of Datlow’s brilliance, and that I trust Tachyon as a publisher in general. 24 short stories, female editor, 15 contributors assumed to be male, seven female and two unknown, is certainly strange to see from Australia when our horror scene is so female-strong. I would have liked to see more female contributors, but I trust Datlow and Tachyon both, so on I read and I wasn’t disappointed.

You can read my full review here.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

This was a hard but valuable read. Hard because it felt so realistic, was harsh, and as someone who wouldn’t last long in a dystopian for many reasons… hard hitting. This is a worthy read because of the diversity and the fact it’s set in a country that’s not England or America, and because it’s just so well written.

The Escapement of Blackledge by Melody Ellsworth

This was just a bit of fun. Written by Mary Robinette Kowal as if from one of her characters, this short had a fun voice to it, was quite explicit, and quite amusing. Highly recommended if you’ve read her Glamourist Histories series, and if you haven’t… well, that’s where you start from, and we’ll see you in a little while.

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

This is a murder mystery wrapped in a surreal twisted fairytale. Soon after Nancy arrives at the home, other children start to turn up horribly murdered and as Nancy is the newest and this sort of thing didn’t happen before she arrived… well. It’s a reasonable assumption.

You can read my full review here.

Squid’s Grief by D.K. Mok

Squid’s Grief is a roller-coaster of life events that would have most people saying ‘to heck with that’. Poor Squid has had one bad day after another and just wants a break, a fresh start, a chance that everything will turn out okay for her just once. Though she tries to do the right thing, and has a list of rules while she breaks the law (only steal cars that belong to criminals, or are double-parked, or something), the poor thing just gets into worse and worse trouble.

The characters are what drives this piece. You deeply care for Squid and Grief, even though you wouldn’t exactly what Squid near you (smells bad, steals shit, super unlucky life etc), and as more comes out about Grief you certainly wouldn’t want him close either.

You can read my full review here.

City of Wolves by Willow Palecek

I didn’t realise this was a novella when I first picked it up, but it works incredibly well in this format. Much like Seanan McGuire’s ‘Every Heart a Doorway’, this in the shorter format leaves you wanting more whilst feeling utterly satisfied with the characters and plot.

In a Victorian England-esque city, we have Drake, a private investigator for hire who frequents the worst part of town, and doesn’t make much to show for it. When he gets an offer that’ll earn him more than he sometimes makes in a year, even if it does involve nobility (who he usually tries to avoid), he takes on the job for the gold alone and heads on to the fancy estate to start investigating.

You can read my full review here.

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

This is a book that felt slow to read but almost not in a bad way – I enjoyed 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, and as always I hope to find the time to read more of her other books at some stage!

Books read in 2016 (yet published 2015 and earlier)

Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4) by Ben Aaronovitch

This 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?

Cracklescape (Twelve Planets #7) by Margo Lanagan

This collection contains four short stories that are connected by how the creepy and fantastic sometimes can be lurking just below the surface. Like Harry Potter caught our imagination and wonder with the idea of being just behind a brick wall if you know the right order to tap or the right word to say, in Lanagan’s collection we see the ordinary turned extraordinary. Margo Lanagan is the writer where if someone says they think fantasy or horror or whatever is ‘always the same’ or not for them, give them her writing and she’ll soon show them what the genre has to offer. So dependable!

You can read my full review here.

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

I originally read this in 2012, but re-read it recently so I could remember who everyone was and what had happened in order to read the third book. Originally of this I said it was a grand, rich world that’s set in a Russia-inspired fantasy, with excellent and fun characters that you can’t help but care for. The main character Alina is excellent, and both Mal and the Darkling have their strong points that make you want more of both of them in different ways. My favourite character however, is Genya.

9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers #1) by Sarah MacLean

I love the female characters in this and how supportive of each other they were, and I would have loved to see more of his twin. Would have been in tomorrow’s post, except I didn’t always enjoy the comments about the female characters. I get that it’s of the time, and so on, but doesn’t make it enjoyable.

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) by Courtney Milan

This is an excellent start to a series and really hooks you in by the to-ing and fro-ing between what our characters are torn between. Really love that some of the characters appear to be utterly different than what one expects or previously thought, and really love how it’s carried out. I also love that the author self publishes and releases a full collection of every novel/short story/novella in this series and all for under $10US. Almost half a million words for that price!

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2) by Courtney Milan

This was fun and a joy to read. It’s so easy to fall in love with the characters and their wit, and charm, and how the books don’t fall as you would expect. I started reading this series to keep me going until the new book in the Cyclone series comes out, but you know what? Now I’m here to stay.

And On That Bombshell: Inside the Madness and Genius of Top Gear by Richard Porter

This was a behind the scenes look at Porter’s time with Top Gear, which he was through his late 20s and through his 30s, a bit before they started to re-work the show into what it was when it brought Hammond and May into the team early on. It’s a frank and (feels to be) truthful look at what it was really like, and that they were hard-working, messy, childish, intelligent people getting the impossible to happen.

Thief of Lives (Twelve Planets #3) by Lucy Sussex

This collection contains four unconnected stories, one historical fantasy, one crime, one of the relationship between woman and man, and one urban fantasy. With a wry and elegant sense of humour, Sussex tells us stories that we’re unlikely to read elsewhere.

You can read my full review here.

Anticipated Books of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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

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

  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Bellezaempressskiesbelleza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

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

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

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

  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke 

I love everything this author has written.

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

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

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

  • Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

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

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

  • Gilded Cage by Vic Jamesgildedcagevic

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

  • The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

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

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

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

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

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

  • Resistance by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

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

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

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

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

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

But the mission demands an impossible sacrifice – her identity.

  • Masquerade (Micah Grey #3) by Laura Lam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the story of what happened first…

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

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

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

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

  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

  • Find Me (Cyclone #4) by Courtney Milan

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

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

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

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

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

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

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

  • Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persepolae has fallen.

Karnopolis has burned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

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

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

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

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

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

  • Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Weep.

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

~

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

Best Books of 2015

Books due out in 2016 (but read in 2015)

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

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

Books read and published in 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

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

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

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

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

Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

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

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

Robin Hobb is right up there in my top handful of favourite all-time authors and her books are always full of so much that it’s dang hard to review them – you almost need to break each book down into a trilogy of discussion to do it justice. What can one possibly say to summarise without spoiling and yet still manage to somehow capture the all encompassing feeling of best book of the year without it just being a whole lot of keysmash?

We already know that Hobb isn’t exactly kind to her characters. Starting this book is a bit exciting because you’ve finally got more work of a favourite author to read , but you’re also slightly apprehensive because you just know the poor characters we love are going to be broken just a little bit more. And we weren’t wrong. This is such an epic, fantastic book that manages to break all expectations no matter how high they are, I just can’t explain how much I love this amazing author.

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

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

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

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

This was one of my favourite books for 2015.

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

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

For that, this book is really excellent at capturing everything fairly. These people are honestly trying to do what they deeply feel is best – they’re not malicious, cruel people. However… well, this book neatly shows all angles of people trying to do what they think is right and how that can cause others to react… so yes, amazing book.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book was such a thing of beauty though with lovely descriptions and dialogue, excellent female characters, a romance that manages to seem new and different even though it’s a bit of a trope, and a plot which takes unexpected tropes so I was still surprised by the ending somehow.

This book had everything. I adore the ideas used within and I’m honestly surprised this book hasn’t won all the awards this year. This is a must-read for fantasy lovers and even those who don’t often read fantasy – it’s just that good. And it’s a stand-alone novel! Not many of those around in the fantasy genre!

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

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

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

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

This was the end of a five-book series, and blows the previous books out of the water – what an ending! I can’t believe that this is over – even though it had a very satisfying ending and was one of my favourite books in the whole series – even though the previous four were pretty darn amazing themselves. Parts of this had my heart in my throat (such a charming expression) because they’ve become some of my favourite fictional couples and I just couldn’t believe the lengths Kowal bravely took them to.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

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

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

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

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

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton

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

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

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2) by Jo Walton

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

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Now this book was a very beautiful, wonderful novel. A bit uncomfortable if you’ve been in (or are in) a similar situation but ultimately so perfect because it somehow manages to capture all of it – the awkward suffocating interactions with everyone else, and so forth. What I really loved was the communication between the two main characters, especially how they bickered – this was how you knew they were connecting as good friends and ‘getting’ each other. I can’t recommend this book enough – I just wish it had a better cover.

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

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

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

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

As with the one listed above, this was also excellent – if you’re not really one for short stories and you want to do novels instead and want a new fantasy author to love, start with ‘The Cloud Roads’ then come back here and flail with me.

This collection of short stories was enjoyable and made me hunger for her other work – this collection was even more than I was hoping it would be (which is saying a lot) – especially the part right at the end. You know what I mean.

Cranky Ladies of History by Tehani Wessely

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

Insert Title Here by Tehani Wessely

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

Sometimes in anthologies you find a short story or three doesn’t manage to capture your interest or you just can’t bring yourself to continue reading it… in this anthology however, each and every single story is as strong as the next, and all were supremely readable. Tehani Wessely has done a stand-out job with this anthology!

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

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

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

Books read in 2015 (yet published 2014 and earlier)

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Avengers: Breakout by Alisa Kwitney

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

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

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

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

Every Word (Every #2) by Ellie Marney

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

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

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

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

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

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

 

Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson

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

Honourable Mentions for 2015

To come tomorrow, a post containing my favourite books that I read in 2015, (minus any that I had for judging as I can’t discuss them just yet.) These shall be listed by arthur,

Books due out in 2016 (but read in 2015)

No books here! Either all the books I’ve read early after excellent and will be discussed tomorrow, or I haven’t been doing much review reading lately – all will be revealed tomorrow!

Books read and published in 2015

AbductiCon by Alma Alexander

This is all about a few hundred people attending a geeky convention, only for the hotel they’re staying in to be kidnapped by time traveling androids. Highly appealing premise to someone who attends 3-4 of those types of conventions myself each year, and also for it to happen directly to a group of people who read science fiction novels almost religiously.

This isn’t entirely well written, like, it’s not exactly going to win a Hugo – but it is very fun, and very geeky, and that’s what you need to come to the table in order to read this one. Why aren’t there more books like this?

As I Was Saying . . . by Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson. Bit of a wanker, but overall I do enjoy his work, and Top Gear in general. Originally Clarkson is a journalist – he wrote for his high school and/or college paper, and he certainly has a way with words and a certain eloquence if you give him a chance. Sometimes what he says is problematic, and sometimes he certainly suffers from the media twisting his words for click bait, but if you give his books a go you might be surprised to see how well thought out his opinions are given his own space. This book was particularly good, and discusses the recent dramas that went on in his life recently, such as the issues in the other country and his parting from the BBC. On those topics, Jeremy certainly has my vote.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

In my humble opinion, this wasn’t as good as the podcast. It’s so much easier to accept weird when it surrounds you, with Cecil’s voice making it work. There are many things about Night Vale that faithful listeners can repeat in the same tone and infliction. Cecil is a favourite, and without him while this is enjoyable, it isn’t as good. And that’s why it’s on this list rather than tomorrow’s. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is still fun. It’s just not as amazing as I hoped it would be.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I found this all incredibly interesting. While I’ve mostly liked what I’ve seen of Felicia’s work, I wouldn’t call myself a fan – I don’t keep an eye out for what she does and make sure I inhale it all – she’s decent, I enjoy what I see and that’s about it. This memoir was both accessible and perked my interest in everything else she’s done and I found she wrote everything in an easy manner, utterly truthful throughout with a good eye for what it was literally like, such as being in World of Warcraft early on. This was a really enjoyable memoir, accessible to both fans of Felicia and geeks in general.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

This is an odd book. Most reactions after I and everyone else I knew read it was confusion at what to say about it in review or even how to rate it. It’s an odd, frazzled book that’s a bit horrific and has a result no one really expects. You can’t put the book down, and you kinda want to shake yourself off once you’ve read it, but there’s no doubt that it’s pretty amazing.

Every Move (Every #3) by Ellie Marney

Though this series is a pale parallel to Sherlock Holmes, and the second book was stronger than the first and third (or I just enjoyed them in England more than anywhere else), what’s really strong in this book is how Rachel and James both deal with what they’ve gone through – it’s interesting to see their thought processes. James tends to throw himself even deeper in his work until he collapses or explodes, and Rachel tunes out coldly into PTSD, unable to cope or react. I found them both realistic and heartfelt, and love that they helped each other through it in the end.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University – an amazing place of study that has a human population of 5%. To say that leaving her family and her people behind is hard is an understatement, it simply isn’t done and there’s little chance of going back thanks to the shame she’s now brought her family for leaving, and utterly ruining her marriage prospects. This is soon the least of her worries though, as the journey to the uni takes a turn for the worst no one could have expected…

At 100 pages, this piece packed a heck of a punch for so few pages. Superbly written, this was highly enjoyable and really very well done.

Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

In this book we see David becoming more and more of an individual, a guy he is as himself when he’s not devoting every waking minute to revenge for his father. All the characters in this are varied and interesting, most you can’t guess at with what they’ll do next, and this book packs a few surprising wallops too for good measure. All of the characters are coming together really nicely, in a style that Sanderson is known for. Certainly better than the first in this series, this is shaping up to be really very decent.

Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson was excellent. Wax and Wayne are amazing characters, and I loved seeing a lot more of Marasi and especially Steris who is easily my favourite character, just for her deadpan nature and off-balanced sense of humour and outlook on life – I adore her. Plot-wise I could take it or leave it, but the end result was quite a surprise and packed a decent punch… but really, I read this for the characters and banter. The plot of this particular series is shrug-worthy.

Books read in 2015 (yet published 2014 and earlier)

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

I originally read this in 2012, but re-read it recently so I could remember who everyone was and what had happened in order to read the third book. Originally of this I said it was a grand, rich world that’s set in a Russia-inspired fantasy, with excellent and fun characters that you can’t help but care for. The main character Alina is excellent, and both Mal and the Darkling have their strong points that make you want more of both of them in different ways. My favourite character however, is Genya.

Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Like above! Originally I said that this one was interesting to see how the characters have matured and grown believably from one book to the next. Alina in particular has had to come out of her shell as she struggles to accept who and what she is, which of course leads to her taking a more active role in things. No longer satisfied to run away, she has to turn against her pursuers and grow up to stand any chance of getting what she wants. This is one of the few strong second novels of a trilogy, so a round of applause for this one.

Just One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Forman

You have to be in the right kinda mood for a Gayle Forman novel. They’re all kinda the same, and you can devour them in a few hours, and they’ll always pack an emotional punch – so if that’s what you’re here for, you’re in luck!

This one was a hit hard hitting for me – not that I’ve been as stupid as Allyson has, but being part of long-distance relationships myself and seeing others in online relationships – I could so easily see this happen, and there’s something so deeply personal and embarrassing about being stuffed around like that. Eugh. Poor thing.

The Stepsister Scheme (Princess #1) by Jim C. Hines

This is another one of those wacky fairytale spec fic books that are just a bit cracky but ultimately feel comforting because it’s taking something we know and have been raised on, and taking it to a different place. This one works really well, but it’s so satisfying that I don’t really feel the need to read the others in the series, which is a bit sad. Ultimately, this is a fun introduction to Jim’s work if you haven’t yet read anything else.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I read this in a day amongst other things – I just couldn’t put it down. It’s so good to have such an interesting protagonist, and this story is going to last with me for a while. I’d love to see what she accomplishes when she’s older! (Even by a few months, she’s not going to be held back by much.)

The MC – Frankie is really quite fun in this – she’s witty, she thinks things through, she’s a geek for all kinds of facts, and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself. I felt the interactions between her and other characters were excellently realistic, capturing frustrating conversations and reactions without making them over-angsty or simplified. It also unfolded a balanced discussion on gender perception with a range of attitudes for and against and somewhere in-between. This isn’t a black and white book – it shows all the shades in between.

Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik

I found this one a bit slower than the previous two somehow – I found it a bit more confusing as to what was going on war-wise, probably because my own knowledge of history is truly woeful. At the same time, I’m looking forward to what happens next! I do really love how different each book is from the last, all due to setting. It keeps the entire series fresh but means we get to stick with our favourite characters.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

So this was the very first book I read in 2015, and was a book recommended to me by a stranger on Goodreads when I asked for books set in Japan that give a good view of Japanese everyday life. This book is pretty good at that, and also has a kinda magical realism element that I must confess I mostly skim-read. It was good, but I was much more interested in the characters and other elements, rather than those that took this out of a realistic setting. Highly recommended if you want something a bit different, or have an interest in Japan.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

This was an interesting book that seemed like it had been written a long time ago and was making all these amazing leaps to what the future could be like – but then in checking, it was only written in 1992. While technology has made leaps and bounds since then, it had a feeling to it of being written in like, the 50s. Props to making Y. T. an excellent and engaging character, and if only Hiro had remained as interesting as he was initially.

Emilie and the Hollow World (Emilie #1) by Martha Wells

I love books for younger readers that feature younger main characters who are intelligent and witty and manage to Get Stuff Done without adults – it’s empowering, and as a kid I remember getting annoyed at books being too easy and ‘speaking down’ to me as the reader, or the children in the book itself. This book would have been amazing to read when I was younger, though I of course still really enjoyed it now – it’s a rollicking ride and huge fun, and basically anything Martha Wells writes is excellent.