Horror

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mikale’s Top Picks for 2016

minnie

 

Dear 2016, see ya later.

Like so many of us, I’m sort of ready for this year to be over. While in my personal and professional life I’ve met a number of invaluable people, and had more adventures than I can count, in general I think it’s fair to say that on a global level 2016 was a bit of a dud. As such, I find myself looking forward to 2017 with anxious trepidation… With all these feeeeeeelings it’s been a great year to  escape into the beautiful, fantastical world of fiction.

2016 was a great year for books,therefore allow me to  present my top five reads of the past year. I noticed a few patterns in my reading this year (apparently I’ve read A LOT of depressing literary fiction) so in an effort to be a little less insular, I’ve broken my list down into five of my  go-to’s.

Hope you enjoy, and good luck out there.

 

Best Series:  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels brilliantfriend

I am halfway through this four-part coming-of-age series which spans the life-long friendship of two intelligent and perceptive girls growing up in the Naples region of Italy.  Although the premise may seem simple, this character-driven series is all about the complexities and nuances of  both female friendship, and more generally of women’s lives. As such, it felt like one of the more fully developed explorations of a women’s experience I’ve ever read, with feminist themes throughout. Don’t let the awful cover art fool you: I can’t recommend this one enough and have already bought copies of My Brilliant Child for a few of my favorite women this Christmas.

*Still haven’t convinced you? Read this blog post about the author’s mysterious identity! 

Best Short Story Collection: B.J. Novak’s One More Thing 

onemorethingIf I were ever to decide to track down a celebrity and woo them with every ounce of wit and charm I posses, I’m pretty sure it would be for The Office’s B.J. Novak. While he didn’t do much for me as TV star, as an author? Oh boy.

He first came into the literary spotlight with the genius children’s story  The Book With No Pictures however with his latest collection of short stories Mr. Novak has proven himself capable of captivating audiences of all ages. In short, One More Thing is hilarious and charming. I listened to the audiobook, and found myself giggling like a lunatic on the seabus listening to a fictionalized John Grisham come to grips with a monumental typo, then later tearing up over the title story of a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket draw which threatens to unravel a family.  Although I am not normally a huge short story fan, this book captivated me.

 

Best Dystopic Why-Bother-With-Life Fiction: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver   mandibles

Word of advice: this is not an appropriate read when feeling down or financially pinched, during election time, or when travelling long distances on public transit.  Set in the not-too-distant future, The Mandibles is the story of one upper middle class Brooklyn  family as they struggle for survival following the crash of the US dollar in favor of an international currency called the Bancor.  Shriver’s story is less fantastical and more of an examination of how delicate our economic system really is, and thus is not only plausible but illuminating. Like a modern day Grapes of Wrath, this book  takes its readers down a seemingly endless hole of hopeless despair, and doesn’t offer a breath of air until ( thankfully unlike Grapes) the end. What I liked most about this book was how much I learned about economic theory. What I disliked? Well, it wasn’t the right choice of reading material during the US election…..

 

vegetarianBest Quirky and Compelling: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian is an experience. This three-part South Korean novella is  about a “previously unremarkable” young woman who decides to quit eating meat after a violent, bloody dream; a decision that sets in motion a series of events which eventually tears apart her family and social circle. Reading this book reminded me of a more guttural Murakami, with imagery so startlingly visceral and bizarre that I wish there was an accompanying graphic novel. Many of my coworkers didn’t get into this one, but the fact that I’m still thinking about this book six months later tells me it deserves to be on this list.

Overall Favourite: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton  course-of-love

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about the nature of relationships and the concept of romanticism.  As such, this book hit me right in the gut by combining both a well-written story, and the theoretical examination of a marriage.  I’ve already talked about this book so often both on this blog and to my friends that I’ll keep it short, and rather point you to this. Since first reading my library copy, I’ve purchased two copies to give out to friends, and have a few more to handout as Christmas presents.

 

-Mikale Fenton

Patricia’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

2016 is well-acknowledged to have been a pretty terrible year.  You know why.  On the plus side, 2016 has been a very very good year for books.  Here are my ten favourites:

hatchingBest Horror – The Hatching
I cannot imagine anything more terrifying than alien spiders that do what the spiders in this novel can do (and I’ve had six month’s worth of delicious fun trying.)  Let me say it again:  alien spiders.  (Also, they chew.) I pride myself on liking epically violent horror and yet could only read this book — the first in a series — with the lights on in the daytime when other people were around.  Warning: You will want to read the sequel immediately after finishing this book.  Also: alien spiders.

weepingwoman

Best Fiction for Art Lovers – The Weeping Woman
I feel deeply in love with this novel about a Cuban woman living in Paris and writing a biography of Picasso’s one-time lover Dora Maar, and have been mulling it over in my mind for the better part of this year.  Its release was timed near perfectly with the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Picasso: The Artist and his Muses.  I’m very much looking forward to a re-read in 2017.

exitBest Teen Read – Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Hermione Winters is a high school head cheerleader who gets raped at cheerleading camp.  The way that she copes and heals in the aftermath makes for compelling reading.  Hermione’s powerful relationship with her best friend Polly and the strength she draws from her make this book my favourite YA read of the year.

blizzardBest Post-Apocalyptic Red – The Blizzard
In nineteenth-century Russia. Garin, a district doctor, is desperately trying to reach the village of Dolgoye, where a mysterious epidemic is turning people into zombies. He carries with him a vaccine that will prevent the spread of this terrible disease but is stymied in his travels by an all-consuming snowstorm.*

prettyfastBest Quick Read – Life Moves Pretty Fast:  The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Anymore)
It’s okay to be authentically awkward in 80s films, and to dress badly, and to grapple with difficult problems.  Hadley Freeman celebrates many of our favourite 1980s films while examining them with a critical (often feminist) eye.  This book would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone nostalgic for the 1980s, or for those interested in feminist takes on pop culture.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

paxBest Book to Share with the Family – Pax
Pax is the story of a boy and his pet fox, Pax.  Peter’s father forces him to abandon his beloved companion in the woods.  Unable to be apart Pax and Peter each go on journeys to get back to one another.  The story is told alternates between Pax and Peter’s perceptions.  Pennypacker does a marvellous job of writing a page-turning adventure that still leaves room for quiet beautiful moments. (And Jon Klassen should illustrate everything.)

preciousBest Memoir – Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Craig Davidson is now a well-known writer of Canadian literary fiction.  He’s also a successful writer of horror under the pseudonym Nick Cutter.  And he used to be a bus driver. “For readers of Kristine Barnett’s The Spark , Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon, here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.”*

breathBest Tearjerker – When Breath Becomes Air

Confession: Even the title makes me teary.  I cried so much reading this book that my eyes hurt for a whole day.  After nearly a decade of training to be a neurosurgeon, 36-year old Paul is on the cusp of the career of his dreams when he learns that he has an aggressive form of cancer.  I cannot highly recommend this memoir enough: it’s questioning, moving, and wise.  Nor can I warn you enough against reading it in public.  It should come with a warning: for home use only.

everyheartBest Fantasy – Every Heart a Doorway
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people who still half believes in magical lands like Narnia or Fillory.  I can clearly imagine how privileged I would feel to belong in a place so precious that few people know it’s really real.  I can imagine how desperate I would be to get back ‘home’ to such a place if I left.  This book tells of children who have found their ‘home’ in magical places and are desperate to get back there.  It feels raw and true and beautiful.

homegoingBest Book of 2016 – Homegoing

The concept of Homegoing is simple and rich: it traces the lives of the descendants of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana.  One sister marries an Englishman an lives in a castle; the other is captured into slavery.  Each chapter jumps forward one generation.  There is longlasting evidence of the damage done by colonization and slavery in these very personal feeling stories.  Best of all, the ending is note perfect.

I’m super keen to know what other people’s favourite reads of 2016 are — Please share in the comments!

-Patricia

*Description from Bibliocommons

All Hallow’s Read (and Watch)

timeflies

Time flying

Time flies and somehow Hallowe’en has snuck up on me this year.  And now it’s only five days away!  I understand that doesn’t leave you a lot of time to plan what you’re going to read and watch for your Hallowe’en thrills, so without further ado, here are some frightening (and sometimes gory) recommendations to help get you in the spirit:

Before ‘found footage’ horror was a thing, there was Cannibal Holocaust: a 1980s Italian horror film in which a team of documentary cannibalfilmmakers head to South America and are brutally killed.  Initially released as a documentary, the film’s director was arrested on obscenity charges after its release.  Cannibal Holocaust –and several other horror films!– is available to stream from the library via InstantFLIX.

I can’t be the only one who has been waiting years for someone to write a novel inspired by Cannibal Holocaust because debut novelist Kea Wilson has done just that with We Eat Our Own.

A Head Full of GhostsWant less gore and more slowly deepening horror?  Try Paul Tremblay’s Stoker award-winning A Head Full of GhostsThe Possession is a reality TV show which delves into the lives of the Barrett family as they deal with their teenage daughter’s demonic possession.  Don’t let the reality TV veneer fool you: this book will have you utterly creeped out by the last page.

Have a must-watch scary movie or must-read Hallowe’en read?  Please share in the comments below — I’m always looking for new ways to lose sleep.

-Patricia

 

 

 

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

Kat’s Summer Picks, 2016

I think I’m in the minority when it comes to my idea of what summer reads should be. This is actually the time of year when I seem to want to start looking for some big epic books. Winter’s when I tend to need the lighter reads. It must have something to do with my aversion to heat and beaches…  But I’ve tried for a mix this time around, so there’s certainly some lighter stuff in here. But it’s the big ones I’m really looking forward to.

lastcallnightshadeLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge, by Paul Krueger*

Of course cocktails have a certain type of magic to them, but Krueger’s novel takes that much more literally, featuring bartenders whose cocktails pack an actual magical punch, allowing them to be the front line in humanity’s defense against demon incursions. Sounds silly? Ok, maybe. A bit. But it’s lots of fun.  I particularly liked that each chapter featured a cocktail recipe with the magical, and often very funny, “history” of the drink and its ingredients. Very entertaining! (June)

magicbitterMagic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie M. Holmberg

Another on consumable magic, although this one is baked goods. The protagonist, Marie, is a baker who can infuse her confections with emotion, which then get passed on to whoever eats them. She’s also an amnesiac, and can only remember her own name. The story is of her journey, being captured and sold during a war, and of re-discovering some of her past, and the consequences of that past. There are some light elements to it, but it also delivers on the bitter and sweet promises from its title too.  (June)

ageofmythAge of Myth, by Michael J. Sullivan

One of my favourite fantasy themes is the interaction between the world’s Gods and mortals. Age of Myth is the first in a new series, and its premise begins with a god dying by human hands for the first time, and as a result, humanity is on the brink of annihilation. I haven’t read Sullivan before, but his previous series, The Riyria Chronicles gets great reviews, so I have high hopes for a new series I can obsess over. (June)

barkskinsBarkskins, by Annie Proulx

I may have mentioned on a few occasions that I like big books, and while Barkskins isn’t a fantasy novel, it sounds like Annie Proulx’s long-awaited new title fits big book bill! Coming in at over 700 pages long, it begins with two penniless Frenchmen in New France, and then covers 300 years of their descendants as they each work to seize all of the resources they can get, leaving the modern-day generation to face the ecological consequences.  I’ll forgive it for being historical fiction rather than fantasy on the grounds that it sounds pretty awesome. (June)

greenancientlightA Green and Ancient Light, by Frederic S. A. Durbin

While I keep hearing buzz about this book, I’m honestly having some trouble getting a solid description of its plot, other than it taking place during a war – apparently a parallel (world?) to WWII – and about a boy sent to live with his Grandmother.  But it’s being praised with words like timeless, gorgeous, beautiful, and classic, and described as Fairy-tale like, and full of myth, and mystery.  So even though I still don’t really know what it’s about, that’s just making me want to read it more!  (June)

penricsdemonPenric’s Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Bujold’s The Paladin of Souls, second book in the World of the 5 Gods series and 2004 Hugo winner, was really the novel that re-kindled my love affair with Fantasy. I’ve always been intrigued by the systems of magic that fantasy authors create, and at that time I hadn’t come across one before used solely divine magic. Coupled with a middle-aged, female protagonist only recently recovered from a madness-inducing curse, and of course Bujold’s fantastic writing, I was hooked once again. So I’m just a *little* excited that she’s returning to that world with this novella (and another one in the works!), which takes place between the first and second books of the original series. (July)

Anaturalhistoryhell Natural History of Hell, by Jeffrey Ford

This is a collection of short stories, in a range of genres ranging through literary, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and mixed. While thematically the stories all explore wickedness,  Kirkus reviews promises it still has a great mix of creepy-ness, humour, and heart-breaking poignancy. So as far as a summer read goes, it will fit the bill in terms of a short (or at least segmented) read, but only for those of you who still like a little darkness in the summer. (August)

obelisk… and now the one I’m waiting for with barely restrained impatience: 
The Obelisk Gate
, by N.K. Jemisin

The sequel to my (tied for) #1 pick from 2015, The Fifth Season, this second installment in the Broken Earth trilogy picks up where the last one left off. In an Earth so regularly inflicted with natural disasters that its survivors have come to tell the seasons by whatever environmental catastrophe began them, it seems as if this latest event may trigger the end. While Essun continues to search for her missing daughter, she must also now contend with her world-destroying returned former mentor, who wishes to train her as his successor. I’m intrigued as to how (or whether) Jemisin will continue to pull off the three vastly different POV narrators in this book as she did in the first. (August)

Well, that should keep me busy all summer! What about you? What’s on your list?
* Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced read copy!

Happy summer reading, whether it be light or heavy!
Kat