Author: nvclkat

Kat’s 2017 Most Anticipated Reads

It’s apparently the year of the sequel, at least for my anticipated reads. But three of my current favourite series are wrapping up this year and I’m very, very excited about that. I didn’t even come close to finishing my 2016 TBR list, but since the whole point of a TBR list is to keep adding more to it, here we go!

January Releases:

bearandnightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

One of the few on my list that’s not part of a series, Arden’s debut novel draws heavily from Russian folklore, and is perfect blend of mythology, history, and magic, with fully realized characters and an incredibly well-captured setting. If you liked Uprooted, definitely read this one next. It’s a perfect winter read, although its Medieval Northern Russia Winter setting means that warm blankets and tea while reading this one are a must.

bintihome Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

In this sequel to 2015’s Hugo and Nebula-award winning novella, Binti – who left home abruptly to attend an off-world university against her family’s wishes – now returns home with her unlikely friend Okwu, and humanity must truly face whether it’s possible for the two races to truly exist peacefully.

February:

conjuring A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab

This is the finale to Schwab’s brilliant trilogy (which includes A Darker Shade of Magic, and A Gathering of Shadows), where there are four separate worlds with four Londons. Each of the Londons have a different relationship with magic, but there is only one magician left who can travel between them. This chapter in the story promises to wrap up the trilogy in a pretty spectacular fashion, and I’m hoping we get to learn lots more about the fallen black London….

March:

collapsingempire The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

I love John Scalzi, and not just for the twitter account he made for his kittens (@scamperbeasts), even though it’s adorable.  In his new book, humanity has gone to the stars and has colonizing many other planets, but only because of access to the Flow – a phenomenon that allows them to bypass faster-than-light travel (which doesn’t exist). But when it’s discovered that the Flow moves, and may soon cut humanity off from travel between its worlds, they must scramble to save their empire from collapse.

April:

wakinggods Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel

This is the sequel to 2016’s Sleeping Giants, a sci-fi/conspiracy story of of a team of scientists and military personnel discovering and assembling a colossal robot, who’s parts were scattered all over the earth. The book was quickly optioned for a movie last year. In this follow-up it looks like the now-assembled robot has some company, and Earth may be facing invasion. If you like straight-forward sci-fi that still manages to balance plot and character development, this series is a great pick.

borneBorne, by Jeff VanderMeer

I never actually read VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, but I heard so many good things about it that I’m going to try his new one. It’s dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction about a world destroyed by bio-engineering run amok, and a scavenger who discovers a strange biotech creature which she immediately feels strong, inexplicable bond with.

June:

downamongthesticksDown Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire

This is the second book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series. The previous title, Every Heart a Doorway, was one of my favourite books from 2016, so I’m really excited for this one. It’s not really a direct sequel though; it follows the back-story of two of the most interesting characters from Every Heart, but promises to be much darker, as the world that sisters Jack and Jill found themselves was like a horror movie, filled with mad scientists, vampires, and death.

August:

wardedmanThe Core, by Peter V. Brett

This is the final installment of Brett’s Demon Cycle, which is so far one of my all-time favourite fantasy series. There’s no cover for this book yet, so I’ve posted the first book in the series – The Warded Man. In this last book – The Core – Arlen and Jardir travel down for the final face-off with the demons who have plagued (and decimated) humanity for so long. This series is exciting, fast-paced, featuring some great world-building and a really fascinating system of magic, so if you’re an “epic fantasy” fan I’d definitely recommend this one.

stoneskyThe Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin

The first in this trilogy – The Fifth Season – was brilliant, and the second opened up the world and characters even further, so I’m very excited for this concluding volume. In this last one, Essun’s daughter Nassun has fully come into her power, and now between the two they will either save or destroy the world.

 

 

September:

communication Communication Failure, by Joe Zieja

The first in this “Epic Failure” series, Mechanical Failure, was the funniest, most ridiculously silly book I’d read in a long time; while that can be a tricky thing to maintain in a series, I have high hopes for this one.  It’s a military sci-fi, which is not normally my favourite, but the snappy dialogue, ridiculous (but unfortunately not too far out of the range of realism…) characters, and unrelenting chaos and absurdity won me over and I can’t wait for more!

 

Of course I am continuing not to mention The Winds of Winter, The Doors of Stone, and The Thorne of Emberlain here because that’s asking way too much in a year already packed with sequelly goodness, but I can still keep my fingers crossed for at least an official publication date. What SF/FAN are you most looking forward to this year?

Happy Reading!
Kat

 

 

 

 

 

Kat’s Top Reads of 2016

My Top Reads list this year is admittedly a little short. While 2016 hasn’t been as bad a reading-year as it has been a year in general, I did get stuck on several books for way too long, and had more than a few misses from titles I’d had high hopes for. That being said, it’s definitely not all bad! I did find a few books that I really truly loved among those that I…. didn’t quite love as much.

arcadia Arcadia, by Iain Pears

I’m starting with my number 1 pick for the year, because it’s just that kind of year. This is an ambitious mix of sci-fi and fantasy, following 10 separate characters in 3 different timelines. It’s a little confusing and slow at first, but it’s completely amazing when all the pieces start to fit together (which they continue to do right up until the last few pages, making for an increasingly page-turning read). The book also has an app version, which allows you to put the whole story together in different ways. The plot is difficult to describe (and I don’t think the book blurbs do it justice), but it involves a lot of time travel, and explores the relationship between past and present, fact and fiction, in ways you would never expect.

everyheartEvery Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire

A close second on my 2016 favourites list, this novella is set in an unusual school that takes in children who at one point in their lives have discovered a doorway to another world. These worlds usually fit the children perfectly, but then they were somehow cast out and forced back into our world where they don’t fit anymore.  The story is lyrical and beautiful, and I adored the characters and the worlds they found, and then heartbreakingly lost. My only complaint was previously that it was too short, but fortunately there’s a sequel due out next year! This is a great pick for teens, or adults like me who are still convinced there’s a doorway to another world out there somewhere…

mechanicalfailureMechanical Failure, by Joe Zieja

This book finally allowed me to add a new title to my list of the best in ridiculously funny sci-fi & fantasy for the first time in years (it’s still a very small list. I’ll promise I’ll share when it’s bigger). In this story, Sergeant-turned-smuggler Wilson Rogers is forced to return to military service, only to find that the easy going, peacetime military of his younger days is a thing of the past, and things are about to go seriously, catastrophically wrong. It also features an ill-tempered robot whose programming won’t allow him to swear, and the phrases he comes up with to compensate earned me a lot of funny looks in the airport when I kept giggling. Another great pick for teens, and of course for very silly adults.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

A novel by the author of The Last Unicorn, this is a great pick for fans of magical realism. It features a vivid (and relatively local!) setting and characters who feel truly real and whose growth and are wholly believable, along with a bit of mythology and magic thrown into the mix. A short but beautiful and bittersweet read.

 

gatheringofshadowsA Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab has had a great year between this title and her teen book This Savage Song (written as Victoria Schwab). This is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and it definitely lives up to the high standard set by its predecessor, with a fascinating world, interesting characters, and a fast paced plot. I particularly loved that we got to see so much more of Lila in this one. This is a great pick for series readers, as they won’t have long to wait for the final installment – A Conjuring of Light – which is due out in February.

 

infomocracy

Infomocracy, by Malka Older

In a year dominated by politics and elections, this title a timely read. In this quasi-utopian vision of the future, the world votes for a single government via a global system of micro-democracies. Keeping this system running is the Information, a global organization that controls and disseminates data in order to keep the electorate informed.  The plot of course centres around an election, but the strength and intrigue of this novel lies more in its political and informational world-building. It’s a fascinating read, full of big ideas that are worth exploring.

Well, I guess that makes this my top 6 for this year! Next year my reading resolution is to put down the book if it’s not keeping me up past my bedtime. While that might not be the healthiest approach for my sleep cycle, it should result in a healthier-sized best of list for 2017.

What were your favourites this year? Any sci-fi / fantasy you feel I’ve missed?

Happy holidays, and happy reading!
Kat

Most Borrowed eBooks of 2016

cloudlibrary-app-icon

Our most-borrowed eBooks for 2016 are a great mix of brand new titles and some of the best from 2014& 2015.  I was going for a Top-10, but we’ve got too many ties for that to work, so instead I present the Top-7 of the year, as borrowed from our Cloud Library eBook collection!

 We have a three-way tie for 7th place:

When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi
Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg
I Let You Go Claire Mackintosh

 A two-way tie for 6th place:

The Martian Andy Weir
Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert

 A two-way tie for 5th place:

The Illegal Lawrence Hill
All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr

 And the Top 4 are:

#4:  The Widow Fiona Barton
#3:  The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
#2:  The Nest Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
#1:  Everyone Brave Is Forgiven Chris Cleave

I personally need some new titles to beef up my potential list of 2016 favourite books, and a few of these look like they might hit the mark. So excuse me while I go add a bunch more eBooks to my Kobo, and stay tuned for more most borrowed lists!

Kat

Calling All Writers… it’s NaNoWriMo!

nonawrimo

Apparently everyone has a book in them. But can you write that 50,000 word book in one month? That’s the NaNoWriMo challenge.  Need some help and/or inspiration? We’ve got you covered!

passionfornarrativeA Passion for Narrative, by Jack Hodgins

Canadian writer and teacher Jack Hodgins offers advice, examples, and exercises to help you develop your narrative skills – both writing it, and reading it.

From Where You Dream, by Robert Olen fromwhereyoudreamButler

Butler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and this title is a series of lectures that capture his approach to writing, which he teaches in his creative writing class – also known as “Literary Boot Camp,” due to its (and Butler’s) intensity. His method is very prescribed, and some have described it as a bit dogmatic, but his advice has nevertheless been invaluable to many aspiring writers.

writingadviceUltimate Guide to Writing Advice, by signature-reads.com

Or, if those titles are a little too weighty for the approaching end-of-the-month deadline, try the Ultimate Guide to Writing Advice. It’s a free 23-page eBook from Signature Reads, featuring tips on creating an effective writing routine, banishing writers’ block, and insights from 12 award-winning authors.

Looking for help writing a specific genre? Try one of these:

writing

Writing Mysteries, by Margaret Lucke

Writing Romance, by Vanessa Grant

Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy, by Crawford Killian

Writing Historical Fiction, by Rhona Martin

Or, check out our Lynda.com resource for professional video tutorials to help you write, produce, and publish your book! Lynda.com has thousands of video courses and tutorials on a wide variety of creative, business, and technical topics, taught by industry professionals (who are also awesome teachers!). Lynda.com is accessible for free, from home, with your library card (to North Van City residents only though!).

Log in to Lynda.com through nvcl.ca first, and then try one of thlynda_blog_badgeese courses:

 

And what are you going to do after you’ve finished your 50,000-word masterpiece? Get some help navigating the publishing and self-publishing worlds:

selfpublishbootcamp     writingebook     publish    publishamazon    perfectbound

 

 

Also, if you just need some quiet, dedicated writing time during NaNoWriMo, there are even local write-ins you can attend. The closest one to us here on the North Shore is our friends over at Vancouver Public Library Central Branch – check out the sessions they’re hosting here.

Good luck, and happy writing!
Kat

Kat’s Fall 2016 Picks

While I’m not quite ready to admit that Fall is actually on the horizon, I’m more than happy to start thinking about what I’ll read during the season. And I’m sure I’ll be ready for some serious reading time once this  foolish attempt to ride my bike up to Whistler is finished on Saturday. So here’s what I’ll be reading while I’m taking a break from my bicycle and letting my poor muscles recover!

September

survivingloganSurviving Logan, by Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw

At 5,959m elevation, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest peak. In 2005 North Shore Rescue put together a team of experienced mountaineers and search-and-rescue personnel to tackle the summit. The expedition started out with good weather, but it quickly took a dangerous downturn, trapping three members of the team on the mountain. This true story recounts their efforts to survive the storm as conditions turned from bad to worse, to near tragic. There are many great mountaineering books out there with amazing stories of survival, but I’m really looking forward to reading one featuring local figures.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

In his first novel since 1999, the author of the beloved The Last Unicorn tells the story of a longtime couple who take in a young waitress, who in turn begins to inspire development and change in the both of them. This book is being described as mythical fantasy, and even has a Pacific Northwest setting to boot, so this is probably the book I’m most looking forward to this season.

nutshellNutshell, by Ian McEwan

A tale of deceit and murder, told from the point of view of a 9-month-old unborn child. It’s a mix of psychological thriller, mystery comedy, and tragedy, but the narration alone sounds too odd and interesting to pass up!

 

 

October

numberofthingsA Number of Things, by Jane Urquhart

Inspired by Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial (I did not know that was a word until now… 150 years, for those of you in the same boat as me), Canadian author Jane Urquhart tells the stories behind 50 Canadian objects, including a particular cherry tree, an artist’s shoe, a tea doll, and a royal cowcatcher. I had to look up what several of the items actually were (including the cow catcher… apparently my train-knowledge is lacking), so this promises to be an informative read made poetic by Urquhart’s always beautiful prose.

cyclistoutinthecoldThe Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, by Tim Moore

Travel writer Tim Moore has previously attempted to cycle the Giro d’Italia route on a period bike while in a period costume, and the Tour de France route complete with the requisite cheating and excessive wine-drinking. Continuing to display a complete lack of self-preservation, he has most recently spent three months cycling the 9,000 km route of the old Iron Curtain on a two-geared East German shopping bike. Moore’s books are always worth a read, and are a great mix of travelogue, history, and amusement at someone else’s self-inflicted pain.

appetitesAppetites, by Anthony Bourdain

In chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain’s latest, he offers a collection of his personal favourites, both from home and from his travelling years of sampling food from all over the world. It contains recipes that Bourdain thinks everyone should know how to cook,  but also promises to “terrify your guests”… apparently that’s “with your culinary efficiency”, but I’m choosing to take it out of context. Especially since the cover itself is a bit on the terrifying side.

crosstalkCrosstalk, by Connie Willis

In Crosstalk, Science Fiction writer Connie Willis takes social media and communication to an extreme with a near-future world where couples can actually get a procedure increase empathy between them. The procedure is designed to help with emotional connection and communication, because nothing could possibly go wrong with that, right?

 

November

fateofthetearlingThe Fate of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

This is the conclusion of the Tearling Trilogy. Its first volume (The Queen of the Tearlingwas fairly standard fantasy, but in a surprising move the second volume (The Invasion of the Tearling) began crossing over into dystopian sci-fi, and after that I can’t wait to see how Johansen is going to tie it all together. But the real strength of this series has always been the wholly believable development of Kelsea’s character, from awkward, insecure teenager to strong monarch determined to save her people, so I would definitely recommend checking out the series – it’s unique, with a steady, engaging plot that gives equal weight to its characters and its action.

willfulchildWillful Child: The Wrath of Betty, by Steven Erikson

I’m always looking for new books to add to my funny sci-fi & fantasy list (which is still a work in progress), and I’m definitely on the Trekkie-spectrum, so I have high hopes for enjoyable silliness on this series. This is the sequel to 2015’s Willful Child, a spoof on the whole exploring the galaxy Star Trek type genre, which sold me with the tagline “Bravely going where they really shouldn’t”. I’ll be saving this one for a really rainy day when I need a laugh.

 

What are you reading this season? You know, when it arrives. Which definitely isn’t quite yet.

– Kat

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Horror Awards Roundup

The 2016 Hugo Award winners were announced on the weekend, and I was really happy to see that, despite the ongoing drama of the Sad / Rabid Puppies and their efforts to return science fiction to its “traditional” roots, the Hugos are continuing to reward innovative and diverse storytelling. I’m also stoked that my two favourite novels from 2015 have both picked up awards (and two of the most prestigious ones to boot!) – Naomi Novik’s Uprooted won the Nebula, and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season won the Hugo. I wouldn’t have been able to pick one over the other, so I’m glad they were both recognized.

For those unfamiliar with the major awards in this multi-faceted genre, here’s a roundup of some of the major ones, and the winners/nominees for 2016 so far!


The Hugo Awards 

hugoawardFirst awarded in 1953, the Hugos are given by the World Science Fiction Society. Anyone can actually nominate and vote on the Hugos by becoming a Worldcon member for the coming year. There are currently 14 categories, including best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story, best graphic story, best dramatic presentation (long and short). See http://www.thehugoawards.org/ for the full list.

2016 Winners Include:

 

The Nebula Awards

nebulaEstablished in 1965, the Nebulas are presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and honour the best works of science fiction or fantasy published in the United States. There are 6 categories: best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story, the Ray Bradbury award for outstanding dramatic presentation, and the Andre Norton award for young adult science fiction and fantasy. See http://www.sfwa.org/ for more.

2016 Winners Include:

  • Best Novel: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
  • Best Novella: Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Andre Norton Award: Updraft, by Fran Wilde

 

The Bram Stoker Awards

stokerawardPresented by the Horror Writer’s Association, this has been awarded for “superior achievement” (rather than “best”) in horror and dark fantasy writing since 1987. There are currently 11 categories, including: novel, first novel, short fiction, long fiction, and young adult fiction. More information – and a better look at their amazing trophy – here: http://horror.org/awards/stokers.htm

2016 Winners Include:

 

The Philip K. Dick Award

philipkdickThis award is given to the single best original paperback of the year, published the US. It’s a joint effort, currently presented by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, The Philip K. Dick Trust, and the Northwest Science Fiction Society, and was first presented in 1982. See http://www.philipkdickaward.org/ for more info.

2016 Winner: Apex, by Ramez Naam

And there are still a few of the major awards still to be distributed this year:

The World Fantasy Awards 

worldfantasyawardFirst presented in 1975, the World Fantasy Awards are given out for the best fantasy fiction by the World Fantasy Convention. Up until this year the trophy was a bust of a caricatured H.P. Lovecraft, but it has now been retired due to complaints that Lovecraft, while an important influence on the genre, cannot be representative of the entire genre due to his overt racism. No word on what the new trophy will be, although the World Fantasy Convention finished receiving submissions in April. The 2016 winners will announced in late October, and there are 10 categories. Read more at http://www.worldfantasy.org/

2016 Best Novel Nominees:

 

The Arthur C. Clarke Award

arthurcclarke
This is a British award, given to the best science fiction novel published in the UK (although there’s no restriction on the author’s nationality, as long as the book was published in the UK – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was the first winner). It was established in 1987, and, like the Philip K. Dick, is a single-category award. Read more at https://www.clarkeaward.com/

2016 Nominees:

 

Sunburst Awards 

sunburstawardCanada’s own award for “excellence in Canadian Literature of the fantastic,”
this is a juried award for speculative fiction in 3 categories: adult, young adult, and short stories. It has been distributed since 2001. Find out more at http://www.sunburstaward.org/

2016 Shortlist Nominees for Adult Fiction:

 

I know this list of awards is woefully incomplete, so for a great run-down of more of the sf/fan/horror awards out there, check out http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/

Any ideas for 2017’s nominees yet?

– Kat

Backyard Bears & Other Outdoor Musings

With multiple local bear incidents in the last week and my inclination for spending my spare time outside, in or around the woods, I’ve been thinking about living in such close proximity to wildlife as we do North Van, and what that means in terms of ensuring both their and our well-being. I’ve also been evaluating my outdoorsy know-how (particularly in regards to bear encounters!) and have decided that I could definitely use a refresher course. So if you’d like to brush up your wildlife and wilderness safety knowledge with me, here’s what I’ll be reading!

Co-existing With Our Neighbours…
livingwithbears bearsinbackyard livingwithwildlife   urbanbestiary
These titles each offer a look at living in close quarters with our furry (or feathered… or scaly) neighbours. Linda Masterson’s Living with Bears Handbook (on order) is now in its 2nd edition, and offers practical solutions to avoid conflicts with backyard bears. Edward R. Ricciuti’s Bears in the Backyard (on order) follows a similar vein for other animals – including coyotes and cougars – as well as bears,with a great mix of stories, research, and advice.

Russel Link’s Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest (on order) covers a wide variety of backyard visitors – mammals, birds, and reptiles – specific to our region, discussing both how to identify them and live harmoniously with them. Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary is a more philosophical title, exploring the science, myth, and stories of common urban critters using a through a bestiary-like format.

In Defense (and Celebration!) of Bears…
grizzlymanifesto bearspirit
For most of us, bears inspire equal parts fear and awe, and these two titles do an excellent job exploring that. In The Grizzly Manifesto, journalist and conservationist Jeff Gailus explores the politics of Grizzly population management in both the US and Canada, and is a an eye-opening wake-up call. Bear: Spirit of the Wild is a bear photography collection from National Geographic, and (as you’d expect) is filled with powerful, spectacular shots of polars, grizzlies, black, and spirit bears from photographer Paul Nicklen’s journeys in the Canadan, Alaskan, and Norwegian wilderness.

Outdoor Safety…
ultimatebackcountry outdoorsafety bearaware
For those of you who spend time hiking and backpacking,  here are a few titles specific to outdoor adventure. Aram von Benedikt’s Ultimate backcountry Survival Manual is a recent release (May 2016), covering a wide array of backpacking gear, skills, and survival situations – including animal encounters – in detail.  BC Author Mike Nash’s Outdoor Safety & Survival covers all of the essentials, including gear, navigation, wildlife encounters, first aid, and other emergency situations (personally, I love the cover). Alternately, if you’re looking for something more focused, Bill Schneider’s Bear Aware (on order) is – in Falcon Guide style – a succinct, “quick reference bear country survival guide.”

New Outdoor Adventure Books…
bravingit becomingwild
Or, if you prefer your outdoor adventure by proxy, try one of these recent titles. Braving It by James Campbell is a story of a father and daughter’s adventures in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as an exploration of a father-daughter relationship and a child’s coming-of-age.  In Nikki van Schyndel’s Becoming Wild, she recounts her experiences living self-sufficiently for 18 months in coastal BC’s wilderness. I’m most intrigued by her bringing a cat along…? My cats wouldn’t last a minute – they’re more afraid of bugs and spiders than I am.
Wishing you happy and safe outdoors-ings, whether in person or by armchair!
– Kat