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.

2015 – March

This month I managed to read 10 novels. What an appalling month. I think reading almost 400 books for Children’s Book Council, then however many books for Aurealis, reviewing, and otherwise has finally burnt me out. I have dozens of books I really do want to read – but I try and I fall asleep, or just can’t focus.

Did I mention I’ve been diagnosed with Ross River again? The last few weeks were filled with blood tests and doctors visits, as well as being enrolled in a fairly impressive leaders course through work that’s cost my department thousands for me to attend. So that’s taken a lot of focus also.

But anyway. I’ll catch up to my goodreads challenge eventually. Trying not to worry. This month became an attempt to get reviewing done before I go away in April.

And now, onto the novels read in March!

Firefight (Reckoners, #2)

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson is a review book I had hanging around for ages. For some reason I never manage to review this series in a timely manner, but once I get into it, I can’t put it down! You can read my review of it here. I really like the direction this one is going in, and I’m pretty eager for the next book. Third is the charm, right? Hopefully I’ll dive right in!

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

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab is a book I’ve 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 – Schwab never disappoints, 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. Highly recommended~

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is a book I read while trying to get back into a bookclub I love. Sadly, it didn’t go too well as I’m the odd one out – I really didn’t get into this book at all. I think I was just too anxious to get caught up in my reading in general that I just couldn’t give this the attention it deserved and I just couldn’t get into the rhythm of the book. A shame, as Black used to be one of my favourite authors.

Insert Title Here

Insert Title Here edited by Tehani Wessely is the latest anthology out from FableCroft Publishing, where I intern. While I proof-read, I review, so here’s a full review short by short, which you can read in full here. And then go out and buy it! It’s the darkest anthology they’ve done yet, and I loved every bit of it. If I had to recommend any anthologies from FableCroft, it would be Phantazein or Insert Title Here, and Cranky Ladies of History for those who don’t think they love spec fic – it’s an awesome anthology for paving the way in gently with some historical fiction.

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2)

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik is the second in a series Alex got me and Tehani into – however Tehani’s read all in the series within a matter of days (it seems, at least) and here I am still chugging along slowly. I love the series though – and this book certainly took us in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting.

SNEAK PEEK: Corsair SAMPLE

Corsair by James Cambias was a 100 page preview that I wrote a little about here.

Every Word (Every, #2)

Every Word by Ellie Marney is my review here. I read the first book for Children’s Book Council judging, received the third to review and requested the second also so I could read the series properly. I’m glad I did, as I loved this book. The action was excellent, and I really loved how the characters grew and took off in this piece. I do love London which is probably what swayed me also.

Every Move (Every, #3)

Every Move by Ellie Marney is another review book. Sadly, I didn’t like this one as much as I did the middle book – so that’s a turn up. Didn’t love the first or third books, but loved the middle. You can read my review here. (I’m being harsh in this short review, I’m exhausted. It was still quite good, I just enjoyed the middle book more and had high expectations!)

Water So Deep

Water So Deep by Nichole Giles is quite a fun book, another I’ve reviewed because why not. You can read my review here. Though not immediately apparent, this seems to actually be a series. Not sure when the next one is out?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is another review book – you can read my review here. This was a book I devoured in a few hours and really, really enjoyed. This had such a complex yet simple, very interesting protagonist which made it impossible to put down. I can’t say I really enjoyed the ending – Lockhart’s endings always catch me by surprise somewhat, but it was still dang worth the read.

~

April is going to be taken by up two weeks of travel. I’m off to Perth, then Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. Swancon (also the Natcon) first, then the Aurealis Awards night, with visiting almost every single friend I have throughout Australia so I highly doubt I’ll get much reading done surprisingly. I used to read so much on planes and now it’s all about comedy audios and podcasts as I try to doze.

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

tDHoFLBPublished by: Allen & Unwin
ISBN 13: 9781760113308
Published: January 2008
Pages: 345
Format reviewed: Paperback from Publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Frankie Landau-Banks attends a prestigious boarding school where the majority of the student population are made of money – mostly old money, but a few self-made newbies there too. Though Frankie isn’t generally one of these people, her father was and he’s determined that the world still operates on who you know, so his children shall attend – no argument.

At first Frankie is simply enjoying school – she’s a bit geeky and is in a range of clubs, she gets along well with her roommate, she has a boyfriend who then cheats on her but manages to get on from that… then the cutest guy she’s had an eye on, comes to her rescue when she falls off her bike. He’s part of one of the more socially exclusive groups and soon brings her in on it – but there she discovers there’s a club even more elite than this – the club her frustrating father went on and on about – an all-male secret society (yes, like in The Skulls), and she wants in. She’s growing increasingly more annoyed with her delightful boyfriend and how easily he dismisses her intelligence. She cops the same attitude from her family and those around her – why is it socially acceptable for guys to do what girls can’t, and so on.

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.

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.)

Honourable Mentions of 2014

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

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

Books due out in 2015 (but read in 2014)

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

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

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

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books read and published in 2014

Admission (Pandora Jones #1) by Barry Jonsberg

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

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

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

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

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

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

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

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

Landry Park (Landry Park #1) by Bethany Hagen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

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

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

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

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

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

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

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

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

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

Books read in 2014 (yet published earlier)

2012 by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

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

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

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

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab

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

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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

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

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

Nanberry by Jackie French

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

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

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

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

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

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

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

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

2014 – February

Ahh, February. The first month where I didn’t have any judging work remaining. I’ve been judging non-stop since July last year and it was an odd feeling. At least until I looked to my review pile and jumped straight back into reading ‘work’.

Still, I managed to read mostly for pleasure. In the end I managed to read 14 as it still seemed to be a slump month somehow. A slump which, strangely enough, also swamped my book buddies River and Sam.

This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl

This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl (and her parents, friends, and John Green), which I mentioned in my January post of currently reading. This is a confronting read, though I would have liked to get to know Esther more while reading it. We hear a lot from her parents and a few friends who say the different she caused for their lives, and how the treatment went each step of the way, but by the end I didn’t know Esther as well as I assumed I would. I would have liked to see more of her personality. This remains an important and worthy book but it felt more like a personal eulogy best kept between friends and family.

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson was a very, very slow book to get into. I actually started it while I was in London last year back in October, and it just wasn’t gripping me. During my reading slump in February I forced myself through it a bit more as if I wasn’t reading, at least I could rely on Sanderson to know what to expect rather than possibly ‘ruin’ an ‘unknown’ author for myself when it’s really the slump at fault. It eventually paces up to be an enjoyable novel overall, and it leaves you very, very interested for the second.

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey  was my first review book for the year! It was a worthy adversary, a very decent zombie book in the current deluge of zombie books. This was unique and had characters you don’t exactly enjoy, but are certainly invested in pretty quickly. I love a good dystopian, and this had the added bonus of being set near London. Highly recommended for someone who wants something a little different, especially if you want a zombie novel that does its own thing.

A Very Singular Guild (City of Orphans, #3)

A Very Singular Guild by Catherine Jinks is another juvenile novel, a series I became acquainted with whilst judging in the Children’s Book Council. This series is pretty darn fun, and mostly readable for adults too if you’re okay with reading something easy and light. It’s a book that writes the accents in the dialogue, but I feel it does it well. I found this latest instalment not as engaging as the previous, but still good.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was another book I read when struggling out of my slump. What a strange book! There’s not much I can say on it really, as it’s one of those books that’s far too easy to spoil. It didn’t make me cry, but it is a book that is making people cry. It’s odd. It’s unique. It was a very quick yet lasting read and I highly recommend it.

Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is a book I’ve been meaning to read for oh so long. I met the author at Brighton’s World Fantasy Con last November, and told myself sternly that I would at least have read it before I return to England for Worldcon in August. And there, I’ve done so. You can see why it’s on so many Must Read Fantasy books because it’s such a turning point for when it was written, and has such a distant and distinct style even now. I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, but that could have been the remnants of my awful reading slump.

Double Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #4)

Double Share by Nathan Lowell was a disappointment, I must say. I’ve highly enjoyed the previous books in this series which often did so very well even though nothing was ever really happening in them. This one though… it’s left a sour taste in my mouth, and I’m disappointed in the author. There’s institutionalised female abuse and rape that’s been ignored or unresolved until the MC comes along, who suddenly seems like such a Gary Stu in this instalment. In previous novels his abilities are handled much better – in this, it’s simply weak writing. He fixes everything far too easily somehow, and everyone is suddenly magically better, the perpetuators seemingly get on with their lives without any great justice served on their sorry asses… and overall… this was just a depressing and lacking novel.

Liquid Gold (Mocklore Chronicles, #2)

Liquid Gold by Tansy Rayner Roberts takes us to happier things. I read this series completely out of order thanks to judging the third in the series. This is an enjoyable series, even though Tansy wrote it quite a fair while ago and her writing we know and love from today has moved on into a different direction since then. This has been edited and re-released, but you can still tell it’s early work. And it’s good. Tansy isn’t afraid to be different with her characters, plot direction and the subtle hints she drops within her work. It’s refreshing to read an author who has opinions and manages to deliver them eloquently. I’m going to miss the world of Mocklore now :(

The Lives of Tao (Tao, #1)

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu is a book I discovered at World Fantasy Con in Brighton when Scott Lynch gave part of his reading time to Wesley. It was worth it. Wesley has such a fun and different series to share with us all, that combines humour with the slight desperation of an overweight geek who is pretty miserable with life. Who hasn’t dreamed, even if it were only once or just for a few moments, of being discovered by someone or something and trained up for Something. In this case, it’s to be a secret agent. Aliens are involved and they’re pretty sassy. We have female characters who are worthwhile and competent, and we have a main character who is hard to dislike. I’m looking forward to when I’ve caught up with my review work to get stuck into the second book!

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a book I discovered after Sam got me to read The Real Boy by the same author. I have to say, I prefer tRB more, but only slightly. Ursu really is the Queen of writing children who are still discovering who they are, on that awkward cusp of still being children yet not allowed to act like children anymore because it isn’t ‘cool’. She also handles disabilities so delicately you’re not even sure whether they’re disabled characters or not, and that’s not the focus of the story – not by far. She twirls in folklore with a twist, and plants the seed of hope with the reader.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was part of my re-read when I received Dreams of Gods and Monsters to review and started reading it, only to discover that I really needed to get back into the whole world first! I had forgotten details of Ziri for example. At the start I was annoyed with myself because one of the most-anticipated books of the year had arrived and yet I couldn’t start reading it yet – then I fell into the story and loved it even more on my third read through. It made me feel like I was overcome with shudders all the way through reading. She has such a talent for making you feel the love between her characters like no one else I’ve ever read.

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor was of course next, and just as excellent. It is amazing seeing where this novel turns to and how the characters develop. Laini has a talent for making unlikely things believable, which gives her more options to work with. This is a series that keeps getting better – though the first book will always remain special to me.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #3)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor was everything we could have hoped for. It surpassed expectations and goodness was it hard to receive because it is so hard to do it justice. This. Was. Amazing. We get to see so much more for the worlds and characters involved, and most importantly, it ties everything up satisfyingly in the end. What a journey! Thank you, a thousand times over, Laini Taylor. You have accomplished something spectacular with this series.

Written in Red (The Others, #1)

Written in Red by Anne Bishop was a book I didn’t expect to love. I think I read it on Tehani’s recommendation, or simply because I saw that she had read it, and our reading tastes are generally similar. So it has vampires and werewolves in it (or at least creatures we usually title that way by similar attributes), but in this novel Bishop weaves a lot more in besides, handles it all darn well, and then also puts in things that we don’t normally see. This was a re-read as I’ve just received book two for review!

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Next in my list to read shall be Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop which I have for review. My now-retired boss has loaned me The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan so I really should read that as quickly as possible… and other review books I’ve currently got awaiting are The Visitors by Sally Beauman, The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty (which will require a re-read of The Colour of White, first!), and Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman. Phew!

This is a little disappointing for my list of books I’m aiming to read in 2014 as I’ve only crossed six off the list (of 74) but it’s been a busy month for review books and I decided I simply had to re-read previous books in order to fully appreciate the novel. It’s been a joy. I honestly think I’m enjoying the books even more on a re-read so hurray for that.

Bring on March!