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.

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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.

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.

Best Books of 2014

Books due out in 2015 (but read in 2014)

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Another one of those books you devour in an afternoon that really does make you ‘feel all the feels’, to borrow a ‘net saying.A novel of those left behind when someone commits suicide, this is set after a college-aged Meg takes her own life. What this novel does fantastically well is present people in a very well-rounded manner and it seems to handle suicide in a very careful, good manner.

What I really appreciated in this novel is the protagonist – the friend who was left behind – doesn’t always have nice thoughts. The characters were refreshing even though this TA plot has been done and done and done before.

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

This continues after the movie left off, and the first book – running mostly back to back, so I would suggest this book is better suited to those who’ve followed the series and got their hands on everything so far. Which probably means regardless, you’ll enjoy the book if you’re a devoted fan.

As always, Veronica puts herself in danger, has some angst with Logan, solves some crime by being an excellent female, capable lead, and as stated earlier, interacts with all of favourite characters which makes this simply a nice, reminiscing read. The authors have done well by their fans giving us new content of the characters we know and love and really, what more can we ask than that? The writing is also excellent, which is a bonus – not always something we get with fandom tie-in books.

Books read and published in 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

First I had this on my eReader but it simply can’t be read easily electronically – not if you want to ensure you’ve read the whole book, in any case. I was on holiday at the time it came out, so it wasn’t too hard to treat myself to a print version also.

This was a lot of fun to read – I enjoy NPH’s work, and I do like reading autobiographies (kinda my book-snob version of reading tabloids in a way I guess?) and I do love the way he presented this – choose your own adventure with a few little surprises tucked away between the chapters. Well written, interesting and highly recommended.

A Darker Shade of Magic SAMPLE by V.E. Schwab

So the sample came out in 2014 so it’s placed down here, as I haven’t got my hands on a copy of the actual book, sadly. Thankfully, it’s coming out very soon so I don’t have long to wait for this magnificent piece of work! How does Schwab manage to only get better and better with each book?

This is going to be so excellent (having read the first 130 pages we received in the preview) and I can’t wait for the actual book to arrive. Kell, Holland, Lila – it’s going to be impossible to choose a favourite character!

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

I’m getting to be a bit spoilt helping out my publisher friends – I got to read this a few days early as a final proof while at a convention. I read the whole thing on my phone in pdf format, squinting and loving every damn minute. (And then I got to help code the ebook version which wasn’t as fun as I usually did it while hungry, and only got more hungry while doing so! I have heaps of respect for people who create ebooks now. Coding takes ages!)

But enough about all this – this is such a fabulous and fun book. We have a sassy cafe owner who happens to find herself in the perfect position to solve crimes. It helps she has crazy-excellent friends and a kinda-boyfriend who works for the police. Throughout the novel you get mouth-watering recipes and the dialogue and witty narrative are just to die for.

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

This one was listed for review on NetGalley, but not for my country. I requested it anyway and crossed my fingers… then shrieked, literally (quietly, I hope) in my hotel room when I woke up to find I’d been approved. I was at the CBCA judging conference and begged my awesome boss/mentor/friend Tehani to let me leach some of her wifi to get it on my kindle. Out of books I got to read early, this has to be the best one of the lot.

It’s SO awesome to have Fitz and the Fool back with us, and what a heart-breaking novel it was too. How Hobb puts out epic books so quickly I have no idea, I’m just so thankful we don’t have overly long to wait until the second book comes out.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This is a special book, as Helen is a friend of mine. It’s doing exceptionally well and won The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and is on allll these recommended lists and Helen’s going everywhere for book events and aaaahh it’s so cool!

It feels a bit rude to be so flaily over such a sad and serious book though. It’s about how she dealt with the death of her father – by buying a goshawk. She’s raised, trained and handled birds of prey throughout her life but a goshawk are the most violent and difficult… so throughout the novel we read of her grief and of Mabel, and she also includes information on the author TH White, known for his books based on Arthurian legend – for he also tried to train hawks and was part of her childhood obsession.

This is a beautifully written book, and so vivid for me as Helen’s shown us around the college grounds in Cambridge where she used to fly Mabel (among other things referenced) and I’m just so glad her book is doing so well!

I Am Juliet by Jackie French

I’ll always love Jackie’s writing, no matter what she does. Romeo and Juliet isn’t my favourite piece of Shakespeare, but I loved what she did with this novel, giving Juliet a voice that fits in quite well with everything canon around it.

As always, it ties in a few different streams of consciousness (a young man who has to play the role of Juliet a very long time ago) and although it sounds disjointed, Jackie manages to make it all work well together.

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories that are  fun, edgy, meditative, and feature diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

This anthology is going to win all the awards so just you wait until nominating for the Hugos begins!

To Love a Sunburnt Country (The Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French

This book was incredibly lovely and sad at the same time, set in Australia and Malay at the time of the war, showing members of a very large, sprawling family that we’ve seen through the generations in previous books in this series, and how the war has affected (effected? I never know which to use!) them in particular. I love the remote places Jackie mentions through this novel. She was so excellent when she came to our little town to give workshops and book talks, and has only cemented the fact she is one of my favourite authors of all time. She gave me great joy as a kid with ‘Somewhere Around the Corner’, and still does the same as I get increasingly closer to my 30s. Jackie’s books are special.

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty opens from the view if a man known as Frederick Chase, a senior investigator from America from a firm known as Pinkertons. He has come to Reichenbach for reasons fans will know well, and it’s here that he meets a fellow from Scotland Yard – Athelney Jones – an ardent fan of Sherlock Holmes who is becoming quite an excellent member of the police thanks to his faithful learning of our favourite detective.

This was such a dang good novel – highly recommended for anyone who likes any Sherlock Holmes stuff. While this doesn’t really focus on Sherlock and John, it’s so well done and that ending – my goodness, I wanted to throw things.

Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely

From the very first piece in this anthology I was swept away. This is a collection of wonderous fantasy, the kind that don’t always have a happy ending… Prepare to expect the unexpected as several of the tales take a sudden turn that even the most voracious of readers shan’t be able to expect.

This is one of FableCroft’s best anthologies to date, and I don’t say that lightly. Get it now!

The Protected by Claire Zorn

I instantly snatched this book up from the bookstore as soon as it was available. When I was a judge for the Children’s Book Council I discovered Claire Zorn through her book ‘The Sky so Heavy‘, which did damn well in the awards. Quite different from her last, this book follows a young girl who gets bullied in school, and is utterly realistic in every way. When her sister dies the bullying stops, but it doesn’t mean her life is instantly okay.

What I loved about this book was that the sister wasn’t exactly nice. This plot is quite common, but the sister was always so perfect in every way and missed terribly by everyone… and in this, she was just a typical older sister who’s just as desperate as any other teen to be accepted by her peers. Very, very well written. I’m not a CBCA judge this year, but I expect it to do very well.

Seven Days of Joyeux by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tansy is currently writing Musketeer Space, a web serial novel where a chapter is released most Wednesdays. We’re now just on halfway and the patreons raised enough money for a Christmas special! Originally we were promised a short story and then suddenly we get a 100+ page novella! It really is Christmas!

This is so much fun, and is an excellent sampler of Tansy’s work you can have a look through before you get hooked and start reading along. Who can resist a gender-bent version of The Three Musketeers? Tansy’s been one of my favourite authors for years now and her work is only getting more and more awesome.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and for the past few years. Split across different timelines, we see Toronto as disaster strikes, as well as the lives of the characters involved well before this incredible time, as well as the aftermath, and then also 20 years afterwards. Much like Nancy Kress’s ‘After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall’ (also brilliant), but Station Eleven mixes it up and takes you here, there and everywhere in perfect balance – at no time do you sigh when there’s a change and think ‘Nooo, I want to keep reading about that character, then!’, instead of you ‘Ahh, excellent!’ This seems to be a hard thing to pull off, and yet Mandel achieves it triumphantly.

This book takes the almost-overdone dystopian plot, but presents it in a literature sense – this is a beautifully written novel, and I would love to see more, whether it’s novellas or even more novels continuing on, or filling the gaps. I’ll surely be keeping an eye out for Mandel’s other books in the future.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

This was just as, if not more, enjoyable than the first. What I love most about Galbraith/Rowling’s writing is that it’s warm. It’s comforting. You see London through Strike’s eyes, for how lovely it is in parts but also how cold and relentless. She does an amazing job at capturing different characters so easily, as well as describing what life is like for Strike with his prosthesis. Now, where is the third book and can I have it now, please?

Also, I know it’s not how he’s described in the novel, but Idris Elba for the main character, please! Maybe it’s all the Luther I’ve been watching but I think he’d be perfect. If he has time now he’s totally going to be the next Bond.

The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab

This is possibly even better than the first. I’m a sucker for books that include academy-style schools, and it has the bonus of showing more of the world and its ‘magic’ system. And the characters. These are characters you just want to yell at (though I won’t say why, for the sake of spoilers.)

I’m so eager for a third book in this series, but everything else Schwab is doing is just as good so I don’t quite mind much when there’s another book coming out instead!

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

This was a book that took me a damn long time to read for some reason, even though I loved every darn bit about it. There was so much more of Shallan in this book which pleased me, even if other plot points broke my heart. The world and the magic system only get bigger and brighter in this addition to the series, and the very last chapter? SUCH a reveal and yet now I must curse Sanderson because I have no idea how I’m going to wait until the third book. But again, his other books that come out are just as good, so it’s not too bad having to wait!

Yoko’s Diary by Paul Ham

This was a book shortlisted in a part of the CBCA judging I wasn’t part of, so we’ve received copies to do our judges talks, but I wasn’t actually part of the judging committee. Which I think means I can say personally I loved it. It’s the actual diary of a girl who was 12/13 in 1945 during the war, then the journal abruptly stops on the 5th August, as the nuclear bomb took out Hiroshima, where she was working to clear rubble very close to where the bomb hit. The book also contains recounts of people who knew her, and was put together by her brother. It’s a very humbling book, and very interesting to see what life was like in Japan, during that time, from her eyes.

Books read in 2014 (yet published earlier)

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Yet another book I’ve been meaning to read since I fell in love with Sanderon’s books, and then the lovely Sam gifted me a copy when I took too long to read it! And now that I have, I’m kicking myself that I took so long! No one should let the fact this is middle grade delay why you would read it – the voice Alcatraz has is witty as he speaks directly to the reader, and the joy in this book – how zany and odd it all is – makes it such a joy to read. Honestly, if you haven’t read it yet but you’re a Sanderson fan – GO AND READ IT!

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Another book I’ve been meaning to read for countless years. It was even better than I was expecting. I read most but not all of the manga series, but other than that I haven’t seen anything else from the countless adaptions/versions out there (such as the tv show/movies etc). The book wasn’t as disturbing as I thought it would be, and I loved how it focused more on the Japanese psyche as well as the ideas of nationalisism (or is it patriotism?) and the Government’s force/influence. It was fascinating.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

I meant to read this back in year 12 (ten years ago now, my goodness) for my ‘compare two texts’ study (but then instead went with ‘My Brilliant Career’ compared with ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. I have to say, I was surprised by how much I loved this, seeing as I’ve always snobbily avoided chick lit (which is unfair of me, anything can be well written!) I loved the characters in this, and it was really quite fun!

It was also quite fun with how it was set out with the things she measured throughout her life (wine intake, her weight and measurements, etc)…

The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells

This was a gift from the lovely Tehani and the best boss I have – out of five, that’s saying a lot! – when she read it and loved it so much she started nudging others into reading it asap. It was EXCELLENT and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I love how the characters had serious thought put into them, and how there’s a range of sexual orientations yet no big deal is made of it – this is just natural and accepted and it’s such a relief.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

This was read in an afternoon – I just couldn’t put it down, even when I really should have. At the time of reading I was recovering from minor surgery which has made it hard to stare at screens or concentrate on anything other than podcasts in a dark room… but this book demanded to be finished, so I decided the headache was entirely worth it!

Just like ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart, this book leaves you wondering until it punches you in the stomach with the conclusion. The characters and plot are compelling throughout, and it jumps around from varying degrees in the past to the present which keeps you right on the edge of your seat. Fantastic!

Debris (The Veiled Worlds #1) by Jo Anderton

Jo is so lovely in person and I love alllll her work – just you wait until you can see what she currently has brewing, I got to beta read and wow-za! I really enjoyed this once I got into it and the rest of the series is just as good. It’s really accessible science fiction, and has fantastic world and magic building within.

The F- It List by Julie Halpern

This was a book read for fun – a strange thing this year! I noticed that both Sam and River had it marked on goodreads as five stars each, and as our tastes often align I wasn’t surprised when I loved the book. This is another young adult book that perfectly captures how teenagers talk to each other and interact. It caught the depth of feeling you have when you feel lost or like you’ve lost control of your own life.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This was picked as my genre book of the month – a classic novel in May. This was a book I’ve been meaning to read for 10+ years if not longer, but kept putting it off… only to kick myself when I finally read it, because it was utterly fantastic. Loved every page, though it was so tragic.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is the book that’s lasted with me throughout the year. I keep on gifting it to others as the chance comes up, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, even though it’s a bit hard to describe. It’s about a Golem and a Jinni (no, really?) who come to New York at the time of heavy immigration, and shows them trying to find their place among the humans. It’s such a beautifully achieved book, the kind you wish you could read for the first time again and again.

Havenstar by Glenda Larke

This was Glenda’s first novel, released in 1999 and then falling fate to the closing of the publisher. She re-released it herself on smashwords in 2012, editing it up a bit and such. It follows a young woman (Keris) who lives in a world where religion rules strictly, everything has an Order, and to go against the Order is to bring chaos and suffering and simply isn’t done. So she’s supposed to wear skirts, can only do certain trades, and is expected to marry and do good.

So clearly this is going to be an excellent book of misrule and adventure. Keris is an excellent protagonist and all the other characters are wonderful and varied and interesting. Glenda’s work is always character-driven (my favourite!) and the world-building in this is also astounding.

The Near Witch (The Near Witch #1) by Victoria Schwab

Children are disappearing in the town, along at the same time as a mysterious boy appears. The townspeople are harsh and desperate and acting towards completely the wrong thing, so it’s up to young Lexi to ensure the right thing happens, possibly to save a life.

I love Schwab’s work, and this was just as excellent as her others. A very beautiful book that I heartily recommend to Juliet Marillier fans in particular. Once I’d read this, I’ve now devoured everything Schwab has out and now I’m waiting eagerly for more.

Nexus (Nexus #1) by Ramez Naam

Mindjacking – the ability to read another’s mind and, if you want to, force them to move and speak as you wish. This is an exciting, past-paced novel that follows a young scientist who is caught improving Nexus, who then finds himself thrown into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realises.

This was engaging and fun and I really hope the rest of the series is just as good. It is a bit problematic with a few dating issues when they explore what Nexus is capable of, but at least it’s realistic I suppose.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Like most people out there, I’ve read Anne Frank’s Diary, though I’m unsure whether at the time it was only possible to get the edited version her father changed… but even Anne Frank’s diary pales in what it describes compared to this. Though short at a little over 100 pages, it’s a powerful window into what life was like in concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during 1944–1945.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m so glad I finally read this – once I picked it up, it was devoured within a few hours and now I want to throw aside everything else and finish off the series. If nothing else, it’ll help me get a whole lot of other books done that I need to read for reviewing and judging so I can get back into the rest of this series! Gaaansey!

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

This was another book I’ve owned for over ten years, but never got around to reading. Another fantastic book I’m kicking myself for not having read earlier! My book-buddy-Bethwyn joined me co-reading spree and we flailed about it as we went, updating each other to what chapter we were at. It helps we read at pretty much the same speed. We quickly devoured the whole series and now we’re ready to judge the new fourth book that’s just come out – excellent holiday reading to be had!

Seer of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters #5) by Juliet Marillier

Oh how I wish I’d read these books in order! You don’t need to, but I really should. This was an excellent book, just like her others, and I can’t wait to read the one remaining book in this series that I haven’t yet had time to. Ah well. One day soon, I hope. The characters in this one were oh so stunning, and I wish there was a follow up of the same characters, two or three years later.

When We Wake (When We Wake #1) by Karen Healey

This is a book I bought as soon as we were released from our judges conference. What a fantastic book! Dystopian set in Melbourne, Australia. Excellent characters who have a wide range of believable skills, who you really come to care for. I read this book so damn fast because I just couldn’t put it down. The second book is almost-nearly as good as the first, and I’m so damn eager for the third. If there’s going to be a third. There better be!

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Look at all the awards this won! And oh so worthy – this is easily one of my favourite books of all time and is kinda the second book in a series – Six Impossible Things has a few of the same characters that are present in this one, but otherwise aren’t really connected and both can be read separately. But they’re both excellent, so get them anyway!

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago.

Fiona Wood handles teenage characters SO well. Everything was so spot on and written magnificently that it’s a joy to read. Seriously. Get them both.