Honourable Mentions for 2016

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

Books due out in 2017 (but read in 2016)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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

You can read my full review here.

Resistance (Divided Elements #1) by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

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

You can read my full review here.

Books read and published in 2016

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow

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

You can read my full review here.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

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

The Escapement of Blackledge by Melody Ellsworth

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

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

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

You can read my full review here.

Squid’s Grief by D.K. Mok

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

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

You can read my full review here.

City of Wolves by Willow Palecek

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

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

You can read my full review here.

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

This is a book that felt slow to read but almost not in a bad way – I enjoyed it throughout. I love the dynamic between Jade and Moon so much, and I love Stone and a few others – though it’s hard to keep them straight some times. This was a good adventure of a book, and as always I hope to find the time to read more of her other books at some stage!

Books read in 2016 (yet published 2015 and earlier)

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

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

Cracklescape (Twelve Planets #7) by Margo Lanagan

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

You can read my full review here.

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here.

2016 – March

I have no idea what happened to March. Let’s move on, shall we? Most of it seemed to involve a trip around Australia to see friends, attend a wedding, convention, two awards nights, then crawl home and want to sleep for week.

Onto the novels read in March!
Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch was excellent! I’ve been planning to read this book for so long, as friend 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! The second one is now dangling tantalisingly for me to read only if I finish off most (well, all) of the books in the March Reading Challenge list. Or if I’m particularly moody and need a pick-me-up!

Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire was excellent. It’s such a short novel that it’s hard to write an even shorter review about it without giving too much away, but what I can say is that this is a murder mystery wrapped in a surreal twisted fairytale. This book is all kinds of awesome, and manages to wrap everything up sweetly in so few pages, yet it seems there’s also another two books on the cards in this series, which is excellent news. I eagerly await the next! You should get it on pre-order (if you haven’t already) immediately.

You can read my full review here.

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton was a mixed bag. The start up was good… and then the middle is a fairly long and uneventful ‘road’ trip, and then doesn’t pick up again until the end which does almost save it, but possibly not enough for this book to be memorable or for me to continue with the series. Which is a shame, as the cover at least is stunning.

You can read my full review here.

Tell the Wind and Fire

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan was disappointing, I didn’t finish it. This novel was quite confusing. The synopsis doesn’t match the story and overall the characters were acting… oddly. Right at the start the main character is crying and screaming at guards one moment and then flicking her hair and winking/flirting the next? Overall it was fairly obnoxious and uninteresting.

Thief of Lives (Twelve Planets book 3)

Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex was a surprisingly quick read – I usually take the Twelve Planets slowly to fully understand them, and this one somehow managed to slip by fluidly. This collection contains four unconnected stories, one historical fantasy, one crime, one of the relationship between woman and man, and one urban fantasy. With a wry and elegant sense of humour, Sussex tells us stories that we’re unlikely to read elsewhere. This is also excellent for feminist fiction if you have a hankering.

You can read my full review here.

Court of Fives (Court of Fives, #1)

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, despite having such a dull cover still grabbed me. It was a simple and easy novel, easily read in an afternoon which means I probably skimmed over a few of the weaknesses others are identifying. It’s a fun novel that feels like someone’s taken Wipeout and mashed it with the Hunger Games. Elements aren’t entirely believable, but it fit with what I wanted to read one afternoon and it’s on a few Hugo lists, so I’m glad to have read it!

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch was a bit different from the first book, to the stage where I wasn’t sure I loved it as much as the first… but it all come together in the end and now the author has my trust that he knows what he’s doing! He was excellent to meet at Contact2016 and I’m glad I went to his kaffeeklatsch.

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March contained a trip to both Perth and Brisbane, for a wedding, to see friends and their new kidling, and to attend NatCon (Contact 2016)! We worked on publishing biz so the above also includes a novel I read for editing purposes, and doesn’t account for the time spent working on publishing things in general, selling books, taking pitches for 2017 and beyond publishing schedule (if any make the cut), and so forth.

March was awesome, I’m exhausted, and as always I wish I read more! Now Hugo Nominations are closed, and we wait with held breathe for what happens next. I also did woefully poorly in the March Reading Challenge list where I tried several books and just couldn’t get into them, so spent my travelling time listening to podcasts instead. Blah.

Review: Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex

tolSussexSeries: Twelve Planets #3
Published by: Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 9780980827477 (ebook)
ISBN 13: 9780980827453 (paperback)
Published: July 2011
Pages: 120
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Related Reviews: A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Thief of Lives is the third 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 four unconnected stories, one historical fantasy, one crime, one of the relationship between woman and man, and one urban fantasy. With a wry and elegant sense of humour, Sussex tells us stories that we’re unlikely to read elsewhere. Being Twelfth Planet Press these are excellent for feminist fiction, and there’s much chatter about ‘The Story of O‘ especially, as many don’t know what to make of it. More of that below.

Alchemy

In Babylon, three women are walking home late one night after a hard day of gathering sweet rushes for their work, when one catches the attention of a demon; Azubel. He follows her through the course of her work, seeing what others don’t in her, wanting to protect her and retaliate from those who harm her. It takes time, letting her become used to his presence, but eventually he tells her that one day, the perfumes she makes will be wanted by the king himself.

This was my favourite of the four. Historical fantasy, this shows the very first inklings of the progression of what would become chemisty and the intelligence behind it, as well as the always satisfying tale of a woman who, instead of doing her ‘duty’ of marrying whichever man (or men) her family insist, manages to use her intelligence and ability to secure a satisfying life. And that there’s still more to have even once you’re old, and nearly gone.

Fountain of Justice

Meg, a solicitor, is kept busy by the easy-going scum of the earth, those being for done for drugs or  minor traffic infringement (being drunk and trying to sleep in the middle of the road type of thing), which is made interesting by the fact a close friend has a hopeless 15 year old son who keeps getting himself in trouble. When the friend is in hospital recovering from a domestic violence episode it means Meg now has a 15yo to wrangle, if not for public peace then at least for her friend.

This was of interest to me, basically because some close friends are solicitors who have to deal with this, and working in HR it’s sometimes a requirement to go to court to note down what a (soon to be) ex-employee has been brought in for. I was a little disappointed with the ending though – I was hoping for something a little more finalised.

The Story of O

The shortest piece of them all at only 11ish pages, we have here some college guys snickering about what they think the female side of an orgasim is like – all thanks to how good they are in the sack, of course. Petra is pissed for a whole variety of reasons, and eloquently, explains it best throughout the piece.

This is the one that has confused many people somehow. Other reviews say it’s possibly for a difference audience, it’s tedious, etc BUT… friend Alex says it best:

On one level it is quite a funny story about students and their conversations, and plays into the common theme that university students are all rather busy with sex and drugs. But the reality is that underneath is a genuine questioning of why discussion of women’s sexuality and experience of sex is more often than not hidden, or spoken of only hazily, or left to blokes leering and imagining them as God’s gift to womankind. It’s frank and honest, refreshingly spiked with wry humour. But don’t read it on public transport if you are the blushing type.

Thief of Lives

Set in Bristol, this piece captures the Britishness quite perfectly. We have Ally, research assistant to an author, who is there for work and out at night on arrival thanks to jetlag, proud of her ability to blend in anywhere and not fear the dangers of midnight out on the streets as a single woman.

The book scene of England is a strange mix. You have the Oxbridge side and you have those who aren’t, and they all come with their range of opinions and expectations. When Ally attends a book night dressed as what she calls a Vampire ambassador, she causes a stir – certainly getting everyone’s attention.

From here it says a lot about authors and the work they do, the liberties they can take at times, and how this is reflected both in characters of other worldly means and the city of Bristol itself. It ends with an uplifted mood, and it’s then you realise you demolished this collection of shorts much faster than you planned for!

This collection has the following mentions when it comes to awards:

Shortlisted for the 2012 Chronos Awards

March 2016 reading Challenge

The books are piling up again already and this means I need a challenge in order to get through them!

For the Twelfth Planet Press Challenge

  • Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex ✔

Contact2016

  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch ✔

To Review

  • Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan ✔
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton ✔
  • The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon ✔
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ✔

Gifts

  • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (from the lovely Alex!)
  • At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus (from the lovely Sam!)
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (from the lovely Sam!)
  • Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers (from the lovely Sam!)
  • The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (from the amazing… yup, you guessed it, Sam! I’m so spoilt!)

I’m so excited for just about all of them, so time to get started~

ETA: How could I forget about when Hugo nominations are due? As always I’ve left it too long to properly read as widely as I would like. One day I’ll accept it’s not possible to read absolutely everything eligible :p If at all possible I will try read the below also, and perhaps some of my gift books will have to wait a little longer :(

Hugo Nominations

  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  • Updraft by Fran Wilde ✔
  • Court of Fives by Kate Elliott ✔
  • Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
  • The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
  • Cold Iron by Stina Leicht
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

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!