Seanan McGuire

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Kat’s Spring Picks 2016

 

Although it often doesn’t feel like it quite yet, we’re well into Spring… and I am not doing so well in my efforts to broaden my reading list to titles outside the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre.  But what’s the point in a New Years’ resolution if you’re not going to bend it a bit?  And, I’ve included a few non-genre (or at least low/no-magic fantasy) titles here, and it’s really the effort that counts, right? …right?  Anyway, here are some of the titles that have kicked off my Spring reading list!

March

nestThe Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Sweeney’s debut novel focuses on four siblings who are very close to finally receiving the inheritance (“The Nest”) that has been put away for them. They are all depending on this money to solve a variety of problems in their lives, many of which they’ve brought upon themselves.  It’s a light but still moving dysfunctional family drama, exploring what money can do to us and our relationships.

 

adulthoodmythAdulthood is a Myth, by Sarah Andersen

And for something much more light-hearted, this is a collection of Sarah Anderson’s “Sarah’s Scribbles” comic,  exploring the theme of young adulthood and it’s expectations, disappointments, and challenges.  For those who have difficulty with the whole concept of being a grown-up (and I include myself there…), it’s thoroughly enjoyable and reassuring.

 

April

everyheart
Every Heart a Doorway
, by Seanan McGuire

This is novella plays on the familiar trope of children finding doorways to other worlds. However, it doesn’t focus on the other worlds themselves; it’s concerned with what happens to those children after they come home, and especially those children who can’t adapt to normal life again. If they’re lucky some of these children find their way to Miss Eleanore’s school, which hides from the parents its true purpose as a place for these children to be understood and helped through the transition, while being around others who have had similar experiences. It’s beautifully written, and McGuire really makes you feel the yearning of the children for their lost worlds. My only warning is that it’s short, and will leave you wanting more!

sleepinggiantSleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

Told in oral history style through interview recordings and diary entries, Sleeping Giants is enjoyable, straightforward Sci-Fi. It’s premise is the discovery of a giant robot (whose body parts are scattered all over the world) and the team who assembles it.  However, it’s focus is equally on the characters themselves, and how they cope with the challenges – physical, mental, interpersonal, and political – of a discovery that will have massive repercussions for the entire world.

 

May

smoke

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Smoke is set in Victorian-era London, where “sin” – whether it be actions or even just thoughts – is literally visible on a person, in the form of smoke emanating from the body. Upper class society is structured around making oneself as pious as possible, so you almost never display Smoke.  It’s a really interesting concept, and Vyleta’s world-building here is excellent. I especially liked the exploration of class structure here, as it related to the tolerance of Smoke.  Recommended for those who enjoy alternate-history fiction of the Victorian persuasion, with a little fantasy thrown in.

centralstationCentral Station by Lavie Tidhar

Tidhar was the 2012 World Fantasy Award Winner for Osama, and has been compared to classic Sci-Fi giants like Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut.  This novel is almost more of a collection of inter-related stories, and has been described as a blend of speculative fiction, family history, faith, racial and cultural tension, all meditating on what it means to be human. It’s a challenging but rewarding title.

 

Enjoy!

(and thank you to NetGalley for providing advanced readers’ copies!)