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.

Review: Nightmares anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow

NightmaresDatlowBy Line: A New Decade of Modern Horror
Published by: Tachyon Publications
ISBN: 1616962321
ISBN 13: 9781616962326
Published: November 2016
Pages: 428
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

This collection was picked up initially because it included some favourite authors, such as Kaaron Warrn, 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 onwards with the reading and reviewing.

Shallaballah by Mark Samuels

We open with a Frankenstein’s Monster-like tale, of a man with a face that’s a patchwork of skin. It sets the tone for the whole anthology, showing us the darker side of speculative fiction in this collection of modern horror stories.

Sogol works in the entertainment industry, and after a horrific car accident needs the knife skills of a possibly-insane cosmetic surgeon who is the only one who has the talent to get him back in front of the cameras in time. He’s assured that in mere days his scars will start to fade and his hair will regrow, but as time ticks on and he suffers one insult after another in this dim and dirty place (and he’s a celebrity, he’s used to better, this is an outrage!) one starts to ponder what he’s exactly found himself in…

Sob in the Silence by Gene Wolfe

A horror writer shows a visiting family the haunted house he now owns, and walks them through how he’s going to do it up. They discuss all kinds of things – what the house was used for in the past, after a family were murdered in it – the usual shebang of what causes a haunted house – and the terrible things that’s happened in there since. The writer gives the daughter of the family alcohol and butters her up during their conversation, praising her intelligence and other things… so it’s no surprise to anyone what happens later in the night.

There is nothing creepier than someone who acts with cold hard efficiency, who seemingly feels nothing (or perhaps, too much) and Gets Things Done. Thankfully, the ending to this one is satisfying.

Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge

A man gets a call late in the night (or early in the morning), and it’s the kind that’s never good – not when you’re an adult, anyway. Fun late night calls happen during uni days.

This was a depressing and hard story to read for all the right reasons – when things just aren’t fair and life is cruel or you can’t imagine such a thing happening to anyone – especially deliberately.

The thinking behind this one is profound and leaves you contemplating things, and was a good resting place of the anthology.

Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren

Disclaimer aside, I know Kaaron a little through being both part of the Australian Spec Fic community, and I love her writing.

A girl works in a ward for girls who are recovering anorexics. She listens to their chatter and fixes their teeth as their failing bodies lose hair and flesh and strength. She hears from them of a man of ash, and then isn’t all that surprised when he turns up at her dentist office some time later.

This one gave me a Hannibal vibe – the descriptions of the ash man were like watching Mads Mikkelsen. Very well carried out, and my favourite so far in the anthology.

Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle

A young girl has been through unspeakable horrors, and to make matters worse, her parents, the doctors and the police, don’t believe her. They believe she’s been through something awful, but the facts aren’t all lining up, and they put it down to how her brain is coping to fill in the gaps.

This is a slow playing and detailed short that makes you want to hunch up – you feel her despair and how she barely has any fight in her left now, and as the end unfolds you can barely believe the ending. Very, very well done, and I’m sorry Kaaron but I may have a new favourite in this collection.

Spectral Evidence by Gemma Files

I have to admit I didn’t quite understand this one. It’s interesting – a collection of photographs which are described to us, and then tells us the writing they have on the back of them – writing from two different people from two different times. One set of the writing however has strange ‘baby’ this and that descriptions, which I just didn’t get what it was trying to do. It has footnotes though, and that was also interesting.

Hushabye by Simon Bestwick

A man happens across something disturbing happening in the bushes one night, and though he is too late to save the victim entirely, he’s drawn into a hunt the police can’t solve on their own. Able to step where police can’t, and also able to have his own actions covered up by delicate police reports, we soon have a hero on our hands.

I like that this one had a positive resolution in all factors, and the writing was easy yet detailed, horrific yet readable. Excellent.

Very Low-Flying Aircraft by Nicholas Royle

A man mourning the loss of his wife signs up to get away from his awful family who call him heartless, and the memories of his wife, even if it means leaving their newborn behind. He tries to keep the men in order, but hazing always happens, and though he thinks he shouldn’t make excuses for them he finds himself using the common line ‘boys will be boys’,

In this I don’t quite get how all the ends come together – things seem fragmented, mentioned for no end result – the sad ending a little sadder because… well, what happens next?

The Goosle by Margo Lanagan

Another disclaimer for the previous reason stated, and I love Margo’s writing already.

This one is almost too unsettling for words. A Hansel and Gretel tale a little more twisted than the original, What happens if Hansel ever returned to the house, a little older? What kind of life did he have afterwards, how would his mental state be, and what of his parents?

This is the only reprint in the anthology that I’ve read before, and it hits all that much harder on a second read though. Lanagan is terrific with words. Terrific and terrible.

The Clay Party by Steve Duffy

A group of forty-eight set out from Missouri to make a new home for themselves, in wagons with oxen and all their hopes and dreams besides. This is however a short story in a horror collection, so one may guess that things don’t go too well for these travellers, especially as their leader, Clay, has zero experience in leading a party.

I found this one to be surprisingly beautiful, and really lost myself in the story. I think if it were a novel it would be too depressing overall, but it works very well as a short, especially as it is told in journal entries. Another favourite to add to the list.

Strappado by Laird Barron

This one I couldn’t really get into – I could visulise the characters, but not why they were there, or what plot was going on around them, which made it hard to follow. I did however enjoy the characters and the dialogue.

Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham Jones

An old time crook travels through the wild west selling his snake oil remedies and whatever else, but what makes him different is he swears he’ll stay in the town until his remedies work, and then collect the money. He does, and as an added bonus his horse disappears and he winds up in a jail cell, so there’s no way to dispute his promise.

This one was excellent, dry and awful and a good ending that leaves you satisfied. I like that it wasn’t obvious what would happen next, and that a few things manage to take you by surprise and even leave you feeling a bit sad that such-and-such has just happened… even if it may be for the best.

Mr Pigsny by Reggie Oliver

A mob bloke dies, and it’s up to an uncle to take nephews to attend the funeral or else risk disrespecting a powerful family. Somehow he got along with the deceased okay for the few times they had to interact, in a way that he doesn’t really have any time at all for the rest of the family. Even though the man has literally killed a man through his work, our main character, who happens to be a professor at a significant British university, didn’t really hold that against him.

It’s at the funeral that he discovers that he’s been named in the will, and though taken by surprise, accepts his dues even though they then involve a strange little man… while the brother of the deceased – a man much harder to like – gets really quite angry and unsettled by the whole story.

As the story goes on, you’re hooked by both the normalcy and the unnaturalness of it all, and it turns into a cracker of a story. Really well done.

At Night, When the Demons Come By by Ray Cluley

The writing on this one just didn’t appeal, so I wasn’t able to get into it. Some kind of apocalypse has happened, there are demons, and the descriptions are kinda messy, such as ‘We had a couple of guys on our college football team, back when things like that mattered, who were as big as this man. A couple, as in put them together and you had the right size.’ Cute, but rubs me the wrong way for some reason, as well as the character thinking girls are useless and ‘nice tits’ blah blah. I know it’s setting up the character, but I just can’t be bothered to read it. My loss, as it probably does something clever with it later on.

Was She Wicked? Was she Good? by M. Rickert

Possibly one of parents’ worst nightmares – the slow discovery that there’s something not quite right or good about their child. As many parents they have quite different ideas of what can and should be done to try to correct this before it’s too late, until one night a decision has to be made without pause. It feels short even for a short story, as we jump from an event in the past, to the now, and then to the next season.

Thrilling and never quite explaining enough, this was good in all kinds of ways, and leaves me wishing there was more. Perfectly handled.

The Shallows by John Langan

A man talks to a crab stuck in the sink, and reminisces about his wife’s grandfather who passed away, and who was to bestow his name Augustus on his great-grandson. We’re not immediately told but one assumes that the son perhaps didn’t survive – or perhaps I’m being grim and misunderstanding, and they just chose another name for reasons soon to be clear. As one could assume, the man is from a different time and can say and do some quite vile things.

In all of this, all I really want is to see a crab walk at such a speed that it keeps up with an ambling human. I’ve seen them move quite fast before, I think I just like the domesticity of it all.

Little Pig by Anna Taborska

A woman flees her home with her children after the death of her husband, battling snow and wolves with an almost dead horse pulling the sleigh, desperate to reach her parents. All too quickly her odds of survival grow less and less, and she’s soon left with a terrible choice to make…

In this one, though I was captivated by the story, I didn’t quite get the point of it and how it matters that this grandmother has now come to London to meet her grandson-in-law. Like… what am I missing here?

Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn

This one I found triggering and couldn’t read.

How We Escaped out Certain Fate by Dan Chaon

Zombies have come and changed everything forever. People live behind massive barbed wire fences and young teens can fire and clean a gun better than anyone. We hear an accurate account for how a zombie invasion would probably happen – many more injuries and deaths caused by not reacting well enough when those close to you happen to turn…

This one worked well as it shows zombies in almost a natural state of living – not the cause for the story, but the padding around to give that added flare of the dramatic. Quite enjoyed this one.

The Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love by Robert Shearman

A young girl is consoled by gifts of dolls from her often-travelling father, who doesn’t take the time to gift things to his much older son. This son has his quirks with his sister, but is sent away to war where he dies overseas, and his sister mourns him.

Years pass, and a young man who avoided war by being too young, is bullied by his older brothers but ‘wins’ somewhat by being the one who gets to marry first – somehow charming an uncharmable woman at a dance, who usually dismisses everyone else. She says there’s nothing wrong with silence, and they court over silent dinners, and then suddenly, they’re happily married.

This one was so utterly creepy and worked well in how it seems to have two separate stories (like we see in Little Pig) that then come together in a many layered ending. This one works and works well, which is no surprise as Shearman’s work is always excellent.

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan

This one I couldn’t get into either – it had a way of writing on and on like a stream of consciousness which just isn’t my thing, unfortunately.

Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix

I saved this one for last in hopes I could then push through until the end of the anthology, and try to catch up on my review pile in general, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A young man breaks into an old man’s home for the thrill of it, and he likes the power he has over anyone. He runs into more than he bargains for, and we then jump to another scene, of a woman bringing her father things from the shop and idle chatter of things she’s seen.

We have Nix’s usual easy yet detailed way of writing, that easily captures your attention and holds it. We have interesting characters that we feel we know with little to no description as he fluidly adds little bits here and there that add infinite character. We have an efficient story that hits hard, and feels like a novel in such a short time. As always, with Nix’s writing, you can never have too much.

The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Jack, a bookstore owner, gets a midnight visit from a muscley chap named Patrick, who’s shot a guy in the head but the guy kept standing there, until Patrick said ‘Lay down! You’re dead! I shot you!’ …and then the guy drops ‘like a fucking tree’. Jack doesn’t know what to make of this story and wrongly laughs, making Patrick only angrier.

It spills out from there, and we have an excellent ramble of a story that seems just dangerous enough to keep you turning the pages, interested, but not grossed out or too worried by what’s going on. Really enjoyed this one.

Ambitious Boys Like You by Richard Kadrey

It’s 2am, and a couple of cousins are up to no good. They pull up outside a derelict house – one Witt always used to avoid as a kid for thinking it was haunted. His cousin, Sonny, is from Houston and doesn’t believe in anything. They cover their faces and get out of the car and Witt starts thinking about what he hopes to find through this robbery – he wants cash, not gold, noting he’s not a pirate and wouldn’t know what to do with gold really anyway.

This is a good ending to the anthology, a slow burning and longer short than most, and a strange tale that’s a little like Home Alone with strange things happening that must be tricks or something… but even more sinister, and not as funny. The timing in this one is excellent, and well worth the placement.

2016 – June

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

Onto the novels read in June!

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows was wow. I didn’t want to put it down, and devoured it and I want more. Featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, magic that condemns those granted with it yet also sets them free, and overall this was written with a light and teasing hand where the authors would dip in every so often and break the fourth wall in a way that always worked. Another one that’s highly recommended and just fun.

Nimona

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson was something I read when it was first released week by week (or whatever the post schedule was) online – I think on tumblr? And I loved it. The opening as a shark is just excellent. I either drifted off from reading it or maybe Noelle didn’t post all of it online if the book deal then came, but either way I didn’t see the ending… and now I’m so glad I have it in print form as it’s so damn worth it. Highly recommended! All about a shapeshifter who wants to be a sidekick to a super-villain. And it’s lovely.

One Would Think the Deep

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

Kid Dark Against The Machine

Kid Dark against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts was such a joy to read. It’s no secret that Tansy is one of my favourite authors of all time. That said, some of her pieces of work spring beyond expectations, and this world is one of them. What Tansy rocks at is presenting you with characters you love in so few words and I especially loved the ending for this one. I really hope we get many more novellas in this series and then perhaps a collection of them all (when current publishing rights have ended of course), because there’s so much more to explore in this world.

You can read my review here.

Leave Me

Leave Me by Gayle Forman was a book I devoured in mere hours. Not a whole lot happens, but the characters are relatable, it’s not one-sided, and I’m glad to have read it. This is a solid read that’s believable, and the ending was satisfying in a way I wasn’t sure would be possible until Forman made it work.

You can read my review here.

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

The Thief who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung was really excellent, and reminded me of Scott Lynch in a much simplified way – if there was just the one thief, with fewer troubles (and even then this poor thief has a world of problems, just shows how much shit Locke gets himself in…) What works in this one is how you barely get to meet a character yet when you know something bad is about to happen to him you’re thinking no no no don’t!

To care about a character that quickly is rare.

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

Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)

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

Through Splintered Walls (Twelve Planets book 6)

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

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

You can read my review here.

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

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

Rise: A Newsflesh Collection

Rise by Mira Grant was a good collection of her short fiction that ties into the Feed world, with most being reprints other than the last two pieces at the end, one that show their parents just a few years after the Rising, and one that show George and Shaun themselves after the trilogy has ended. It’s a good collection, I loved reading it, and I wish to god the book had a better cover.

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June was crazy excellent. Enough said.

Review: Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren

Series: Twelve Planets #6ThroughSplintered Walls
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780987216229 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780987216229 (paperback)
ASIN: B00A9EZ4IU (kindle)
Published: May 2012
Pages: 183
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Through Splintered Walls is the sixth book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write 4 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

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.

Mountain

A woman who just wants to cook and protect her family is in a mentally-abusive relationship with a bully of a husband, and is dismayed to see her once-sweet son beginning to follow in his footsteps. They live near a mountain that is known for ghosts – was part of their childhood as the location of dares and challenges to survive a night there, to throw bottles off the side, and so forth. Many people have odd stories of where they’re so sure they once saw a ghost there – and there’s many to choose from. Some see a child, a naked woman, a hairy man. It’s on this mountain that the woman sorts out her life once more, and archives her dreams.

Creek

John’s kids like the stories their aunt Olivia tells them, of the Quaking Women. They’re women who’ve drowned who don’t make it out to the sea to turn into mermaids. The drag marks by the creek, the feeling of something grasping at your toes, the reason to never swim where you can’t see the bottom. The reason Olivia has a bald spot – where the screaming woman grabbed at her hair, screaming for her long dead child.

The kids probably think it’s just a cool aunt’s pretend stories, but they come from a real place. When Olivia was 18 she went along with her father for work, naming creeks in the area and surveying land with sketches and photos. It’s at one of the creeks that they meet a green, mottled woman, who hasn’t been okay for some time. Suddenly there’s more of them, and it’s a miracle Olivia and her father get away alive, though they’re left with changes that’ll stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Road

An elderly couple live near a terrible part of road, where there are often accidents. Mobiles don’t work there, so they’re used to the visitors – frantic people who’ve just been in an accident and need a phone – they direct them to it, offer to call for them, make them a cup of tea, offer to accompany them back to the accident to confirm with police that they weren’t drunk at the time. The police know them well too, defend them to the hilt when someone, traumatised through what they’ve been through, takes offence to the offer of tea at such a time.

‘Far enough from Melbourne to make them tired, close enough to Sydney to make them want the trip to be over’, is such a good description of Australian driving.

Another, like the one before it, with a sweetly disturbing and sad ending.

Sky

Sky takes the normal, makes it weird and grotesque and fascinating. We have a small, weird, country town where everyone works for the cat food factory. This piece includes a rapist, for those who wish to avoid such triggering topics. The cruelty shown in everyday life is amazing (in a bad way), and it somehow seems more shocking because of how normal it feels while reading.

In this town, you have to fight (to the death) with the person who currently has the job you want. Like most pieces with hard impact, the less you know about this piece going into it, the better. It’s messed up, and it’s the one that’s stayed in my mind the clearest after first reading it in 2012 when this collection came out.

This collection has the following mentions:

The 2013 ACT Writing and Publishing Award

 “Sky” Winner of the Horror Short Story, Aurealis Award

Shortlisted Collection, Aurealis Award

Through Splintered Walls of Art – Finalist, The City of Kwinana Corporate Community Award

Reading Challenge: A Journey Through Twelve Planets

journey-through-the-twelve-planets

In 2011 Twelfth Planet Press began the publication of a series of single author collections featuring short stories and novellas from twelve of Australia’s most prominent female short fiction writers in the speculative and horror genres. The authors were instructed to write four stories of any genre, and each were allowed to take the stories and collection as a whole in whichever direction they desired.  In 2015, the Twelfth Planet was published.

Through Twitter, Ju from The Conversationalist and Steph from Forest of Books discovered that they both planned to read and review all of the Twelve Planets in 2016, and a challenge was born! If you want to join in, please click here.

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What is the aim of A Journey Through the Twelve Planets?

The aim of this challenge is simple: to read all of the Twelve Planets during 2016, and post a review for one of the books at the end of each month. (Note that the Thirteenth Planet has also been announced; for the time being, this challenge will focus on the original twelve).

What will we be reading and in which order?

We will be reading the Twelve Planets in the order of publication below (links go to the book purchase pages at Twelfth Planet Press):

Nightsiders by Sue Isle – my review

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts – my review

Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex – my review

Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti – my review

Showtime by Narrelle M Harris – my review

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren – my review

Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan – my review

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer – my review

Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott – my review

Secret Lives by Rosaleen Love – my review

The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter – my review

Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin – my review

The collections are also available through Smashwords and Amazon in ebook form.  Print versions of the collections are available, though several are sold out or close to being sold out at this time.

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One a month sounds like a good plan – I hope I can keep up!