I read some books over the recent holidays and wrote some reviews of them, but I’m aware that many people (myself included) went away or spent time with family and friends rather than with their computers. So I wanted to recap some of the reviews I posted over the break in case you missed some.
And the end of December, I read and reviewed:
Salvage by Jason Nahrung, a novella out from Twelfth Planet Press. A snippet of my review:
I found Salvage to be quite dark. I’m inclined to classify it as the horror version of magical realism. The fantastical elements didn’t come to the fore until near the end and would have surprised me if I hadn’t been expecting them (since Twelfth Planet Press do primarily publish speculative fiction). The publisher is categorising it as “Australian Gothic” which I think is fairly apt.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a YA novel that technically isn’t spec fic, but felt close enough. My review was also syndicated over at Visibility Fiction. An exerpt:
At its heart, Beauty Queens is an indictment of the beauty and pageant industries and the beauty standard. Through the interactions of the characters and their journeys towards self-discovery on the island, the story explores what it means to be female in a materialistic society obsessed with perfection and the limitations (and secret powers) of feminine expectations.
Transgressions by Phillip Berrie, a self-published fantasy novel written by — full disclosure — a friend. I tried to be as unbiased as possible in my review. Excerpt:
The world building was well thought out. There were lots of small world-fleshing out bits dropped in, which I enjoyed. A particular favourite was the psychic wave that rolls with the sunrise which interferes with some types of magic and jolts magic-wielders awake if they’re sleeping.
The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, an ebook release of a SF novel first published in the mid-90s. I was impressed at how the technical aspects stood up to the test of time. I am looking forward to reading more of Nagata’s books in this world. Review excerpt:
There was a lot to like about The Bohr Maker. I very much enjoyed the worldbuilding; one of my favourite things was the nanotech introduced into the river running through the slum (which was downriver of the rest of the city) which changed the water from foetid to clear with edible “fluff” floating on top of it that some of the poorest residents of the city collect to eat. Obviously, it sucks to have to eat river fluff, but how neat is the technology? It would be an awesome invention to carry through to the real world.
Broken by AE Rought, a new YA book from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot. It turned out to be a love story with horror elements (and not exactly paranormal ones either). Excerpt:
In essence, this is a story about their slowly blooming relationship. I thought the pace at which Emma’s feelings and their relationship developed — in story terms — was pleasantly slow. There was no irrational insta-love from Emma and we see lots of minor key moments in the development of their relationship, like SMSes that give Emma gooey feelings with only a few words, and uncertainly, and small nice moments. Although in actual time the book spans less than a month, I found the development of their relationship absolutely believable.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, the action, pseudo-SF YA book that was the inspiration for the movie of the same title. I enjoyed the movie more. Review excerpt:
I’m not a fan of science fiction without any accurate science at all, so that didn’t help. But the action isn’t too bad and I didn’t find the book actively offensive. The writing is distinctly pedestrian with stilted dialogue and bursts of summarised conversation which were less fun to read through than the proper dialogue (eg “I told her blah and she said that blah and I agreed”).
I Am Number Four was the last book I read in 2012 (though due to a backlog it didn’t appear on the blog until January. The next reviews are the first few books I read in 2013.
After the Darkness by Honey Brown is a contemporary novel with horror/thriller elements. Absolutely nothing supernatural or unbelievable happens, but Brown managed to capture an excellent sense of creeping dread and darkness. It’s an excellent read. Review excerpt:
Although the book is called After the Darkness, it’s really about how hard it is to leave the darkness behind. It’s also about how darkness is often contagious, touching on the way in which abuse victims often go on to re-enact their trauma as a way of coming to terms with it. And the hopelessness that comes with fearing for your life. And having to relate to people in a life you have to pretend is normal.
Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren is a collection of three short stories and one novella, all horror. I really loved the short stories which felt like perfect creepy camp-fire tales. Review excerpt:
I didn’t enjoy “Sky” as much as the short stories. Not because it was bad, but because it made me uncomfortable in a less enjoyable way. If anything, it reminded me most strongly of Warren’s Slights, but less horribly disturbing. Whereas the short stories are almost the kind of creepy tales you might tell around a camp fire at night.
I enjoyed Through Splintered Walls very much, despite reading the three short stories in the middle of the night during a bout of insomnia (I’m not sure why this seemed like a good idea at the time, but I suppose it could have been worse).
I wrote a couple of non-review posts over the holidays, too. Going back a bit in December, I set myself some reading challenges for 2013, and at the start of January I posted some reflections of 2012 (including pie charts!) and made some resolutions for 2013.
And that’s what you missed here if you were away from the internets over the break.
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Reads Tsana is Most Looking Forward To
I have to admit, I wasn’t originally planning to do an anticipated reads list. But then someone on twitter mentioned that all the anticipated (fantasy) reads lists she’d seen were populated entirely or mostly by male authors. Since most of my favourite writers are female, obviously my most-anticipated list is going to be mostly female-authored books. And if no one else was going to make a list like that, I suppose I’d better. (And to be clear, this isn’t intended to be a “women only” list, but it has turned out a mostly women list.)
Also, the list can be divided into three parts: YA, not YA and books with uncertain release dates which might not actually be in 2013, but are books that I am SUPER KEEN to read. Why should 2013 releases get to have all the fun on all the blogs? Can’t we look further forwards than just one year?
Aside from those categories, the books aren’t listed in any particular order.
- Black Sun Be My Guide by Jo Spurrier, the sequel to Winter Be My Shield, which was one of my favourite books in 2012. It’s due out in June 2013 from Harper Voyager AU.
- Valley of Shields by Duncan Lay, the sequel to Bridge of Swords, which I read and (obviously) enjoyed earlier this year. It’s due out in April 2013, also from Harper Voyager AU.
- A Trifle Dead by Livia Day, the first crime book from fantasy author Tansy Rayner Roberts coming out from Twelfth Planet Press sooooon
- The Fall of Fair Isle trilogy by Rowena Cory Daniells, being re-released by the author as ebooks, after being out of paper print for a while, coming some time in 2013. You may have noticed, I’m a big fan of her books generally.
- Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. The concluding volume in The Mortal Instruments trilogy (book 1, book 2), which I’ve enjoyed immensely. Personally, I’m predicting a tragic ending and I’m looking forward to reading how she pulls it off.
- The Assassin’s Curse. A pirate, an assassin, a curse and an incomplete story. Of course I want to know what happens in the end.
- Etiquette and Espionage - Gail Carriger. The first book in her new finishing school series. I’ve adored her Parasol Protectorate series and I’m pretty much up for anything else she feels like writing in a similar style. She also has the first book of a sequel series, Parasol Protectorate Abroad, called Prudence and Imprudence, coming out later in 2013, but I figured I should just pick one to be excited about for this list.
Non-specific Release Dates
- Reunion by Jennifer Fallon, Rift Runners book 3 (book 2 review). I believe this has been delayed due to Earthquakes in New Zealand, and there’s no definite release date yet (but maybe it will come out in 2013, we can hope).
- Next Vorkorsigan book from Lois McMaster Bujold.
- Glenda Larke’s next series book 1 of which is tentatively titled The Lascar’s Dagger. Because she’s one of my favourite authors and since her Watergivers trilogy concluded in 2011, I haven’t had the chance to review any of her books here yet.
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Tsana’s Best of 2012 Reads
Inevitably, I find myself looking back on the many (more than 100!) books I’ve read in 2012 and thinking about which books stood out the most for me. I have been keeping track of my favourite (5 star) reads in the sidebar, but there are ways for books to stand out (in a positive way) without me awarding them 5 stars.
So I have devised a few psudo award titles to convey my most memorable and recommended reads of 2012. Note that the award titles don’t necessarily convey why I think the book is worthy of mention; that’s what reviews are for. In no particular order, sixteen memorable books or series that I read in 2012:
Most Psychologically Disturbing Book
Slights by Kaaron Warren - I still think about it in the context of slighting people/being slighted and bits of soul ending up in the slightee’s death room.
Book Which Reminded Me Most of High School
Shift by Em Bailey - And by reminded me of high school I mean in the sense of manipulative and mentally ill friends. In case you missed it, I was enthusiastic enough when I read Shift to also interview the author: link.
Series With Best Non-standard YA Love Triangle
The Trylle Trilogy: Switched, Torn, Ascend by Amanda Hocking - spoiler: she doesn’t choose the first boy that comes along AND she has a sensible reaction to being watched in her sleep.
Book With The Coldest Setting
Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier - I learnt what snow blindness actually is from reading this book.
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold - It sort of surprised me that Pratchett wasn’t really a contender for this one, but I suppose he has been getting darker and less laugh-out-loud funny in recent times. (Although The Unadulterated Cat was hilarious, it was less memorable than the Bujold.)
Best Book/Series Written By A Man
The Mistborn Trilogy: The Final Empire/Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson - I admit there wasn’t a huge amount of competition, but Duncan Lay’s Bridge of Swords was a very close contender.
Best Book Set In Melbourne
The Price of Fame by RC Daniells - Other contenders were Black Glass by Meg Mundell(which I didn’t enjoy as much)and Shift by Em Bailey which had some scenes in Melbourne but has already got an award. The Price of Fame definitely paints the most intricate picture of my home city, however.
Best Series of Collections by Australian Women
The Twelve Planets from Twelfth Planet Press - So far I’ve reviewed Nightsiders by Sue Isles, Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex, Showtime by Narrelle M Harris, and Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan.
Best Concluding Volume To A Fantasy Trilogy
Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts - the whole series was great, but I read the first two pre-blog.
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke - And a teenage girl who was actually keen to learn maths so she could properly navigate her (future) ship. I can’t wait to read book two in 2013.
Best Fantasy Book In a Modern Urban Setting
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - I was tempted to call it Best Book Set In South Africa, but that felt a bit like cheating.
Best Book Containing Aliens
And All The Stars by Andrea K Höst - and teenagers with sensible plans. I think this is also my favourite YA book overall for 2012.
Author Who Tortures Their Characters Most
Rowena Cory Daniells - I set this one to author because I couldn’t decide between The King’s Man and The Outcast Chronicles: Besieged, Exile, Sanctuary. The former has very compressed suffering, but the latter has so many more pages in which to visit misfortune upon all the characters.
Favourite Collection of Russian-flavoured Short Stories
Moscow But Dreaming by Ekaterina Sedia - also contains several non-western fairy tale type stories.
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang - It was definitely still a YA dystopia, but it impressed me with it’s exploration of the premise. See review for more details.
Best Series Featuring Angels
The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare - Something I discovered this year was that angel books bother me. I thought it was just Fallen by Lauren Kate (read pre-blog) which I didn’t like, but I didn’t enjoy Rebecca Lim’s books either. I think what makes me like Cassandra Clare’s books is that she treats angels as just another magical creature (along with demons, warlocks, faeries, vampires, werewolves…) rather than making them overly divine. I eagerly await the conclusion to the series.
But wait, there’s more! Sort of. Watch this space, because I have yet to do my concluding round-ups for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in particular for the science fiction component (10 SF books by AWW) which I’m just finishing off now.
So stay tuned!
Australian Women Writers Fantasy/Miscellaneous Challenge - Round Up 2
I have read my second ten books for my fantasy/misc genre Aussie Women Writers Challenge (as distinct to the SF specific one) which means, it’s time to post a little about them. Genre-wise, this was another mixed bunch.
First, the list:
- Secret Ones by Nicole Murphy (review)
- Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy (review)
- Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman (review)
- Mercy by Rebecca Lim (review)
- Shift by Em Bailey (review)
- Destiny of the Light by Louise Cousack (review)
- The Dark Divide by Jennifer Fallon (review)
- Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier (review)
- Slights by Kaaron Warren (review)
- Suited by Jo Anderton
First there was paranormal romance in the form of Nicole Murphy’s first two Dream of Asarlai trilogy books. Fun reads and I look forward to getting my hands on the third book in a few weeks.
Then there was quite a bit of big fat fantasy (aka BFF; I don’t want to use more loaded terms like “high fantasy” or “traditional fantasy”): Ember and Ash by Pamela Anderson, which went on to win an Aurealis, Destiny of the Light by Louise Cusack, set mostly in a world with no animals, The Dark Divide by Jennier Fallon, which is a little bit different since parts of it are set at the turn of the real world millennium but then none of these fantasy books are generic, and Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier, a debut fantasy from Voyager which will be out in about a week
— watch for the review on the weekend but review spoiler: I loved it.
Then two YA books: Shift by Em Bailey (interview link) which is one of my favourite books of the year, and Mercy by Rebecca Lim, about an angel skipping through different people’s bodies. They were quite different to each other and both felt different to the many US-authored YA books I’ve read this year.
Slights by Kaaron Warren is the only horror book I’ve read this year or, now that I come to think about it, in a while. (Since The Intruders by Michael Marshall book, probably.) Anyway, it’s one that’s stuck with me quite strongly.
And finally, there’s Suited by Jo Anderton which isn’t out for about a month so no review yet. I could’ve lumped it in with the BFFs but it’s a little bit steampunky in it’s setting so it gets it’s own subgenre of fantasy. It’s the conclusion to Debris and well worth the wait.
So, what have you guys been reading?