Bout of Books

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Because I am apparently all about the reading challenges when I’m not writing, I’m also taking part in Bout of Books, a week long read-a-thon that starts today!

Want to join in? There’s still (just) time to sign up!

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Reading My Own Damn Books

Anyone who’s seen me talking about books and reading online has probably noticed that I have a slight problem with buying books – to the point where my to be read stack has become a small mountain that’s long overflowed my (generous amount of) shelves.

Last year I saw Elizabeth Fitzgerald talking about the #readmyowndamnbooks challenge, and I’ve been looking out for signups to open again – and they have!

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I don’t have any specific targets in mind – I would like for the majority of the books I read to be ones I already own, so that’s the general target I’ll aim for.

I’ll be tracking this over at Goodreads with a dedicated shelf if you want to follow along.

Want to join in? You can sign up here.

 

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My favourite books of 2016

It’s time for the obligatory favourite books of 2016 post (as we all kick 2016 in the butt on the way out, heh).

Total number of books read this year: 176

Favourites (bearing in mind that I can’t talk about books which are current entries for the panel of the Aurealis Awards which I’m judging):

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The Pillow Friend by Lisa Tuttle.

Read due to it being reviewed on The Writer and the Critic. This has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time, and I’m going to have to hunt up more of Tuttle’s work.

 

 

 

story-geniusStory Genius by Lisa Cron

Read mostly because I’d read Cron’s earlier book, Wired for Story. I have a habit of accumulating a lot of writing books, and this last year, I’ve been slowly working my way through a lot of what’s on my shelf. This has been the best of them.

 

 

 

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A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Another one read due to The Writer and the Critic. The first Tremblay I’ve read (I think) but it’s not going to be the last. I still find myself thinking about this one at odd times.

 

 

 

 

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Drowned Worlds edited by Jonathan Strahan

Easiest my favourite anthology of the year, and I think one of Strahan’s best. Go and read this one if you haven’t.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dig World by Bajo and Hex (and the sequel, Dragon Land)

Read both of these two with my seven-year-old, who is computer game mad (unsurprising, given his parents) and a big fan of Good Game and Bajo and Hex (and got to meet them both this year and get the first book signed!). I cannot rave enough about these books, which I think are going to get a lot of reluctant readers interested in books. If you have kids, grab these.

 

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Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

If I could live in a book, it would be this one. Very much in the vein of Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, so if you’re a fan of that, you should read this.

 

 

 

 

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I read the whole of the Raven Cycle and while I don’t think the whole series quite stuck the landing, I know that I’m still going to be rereading them a fair bit.

 

 

 

 

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Defying Doomsday edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

Disclaimer: I have a story in this.

I am still haunted in particular by the Seanan McGuire story in this.

 

 

 

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I have to confess that this is the first Novik that I’ve read. I devoured this in the span of an afternoon, which is a rare thing for me in adulthood.

 

 

 

 

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Borderline by Mishell Baker

I don’t have the words for how much I adore this world, and I am making grabby hands for the next books.

 

 

 

 

 

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Also, I am with the lack of words for just how amazing this book is. It’s the kind of book that makes me wish I could write, and pretty much cements me as a lifelong fan of Anders.

 

 

 

 

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I was on the Aurealis panel which awarded this Best Science Fiction Novel, and it is so deserving of the award. I have the sequel sitting on my TBR mountain, waiting until I’m done with this year’s Aurealis reading.

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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I’m signing up again for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2017.

This year I’m going for the Franklin level again – read at least 10 books by Australian women, and review at least 6.

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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It’s the time of the year again to wrap up the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

I signed up in 2016 for the Franklin Challenge – to read at least 10 books, and review at least 6.

How did I go?

 

 

Minimum target to read: 10

Actually read: 61 (my Goodreads shelf of books read for the challenge)

Goal: Met! (and then some).

I have to admit, reading a lot of books by Australian women is much easier when you’re a judge for the Aurealis Awards. The hard part is not being able to talk much about the books during the judging period (Technically, we’re allowed to talk about and review them, with a disclaimer, but I’m not comfortable doing that often. I always aim to review several of the entries after the judging period, but I often drop the ball on that, due to time and energy constraints).

Minimum target to review: 6

Actually reviewed: 13

Goal: Met!

Again, having a reviewing project helped here – in this case, a good chunk of my reviews were for the Journey Through The Twelve Planets project. Due to life getting in the way, Ju and I didn’t get to complete the reviewing project during the year, but we made good progress, and hopefully we’ll be able to finish during the next year.

Links to my reviews:

Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti

Waking in Winter by Deborah Biancotti

Showtime by Narelle M. Harris

Nightsiders by Sue Isle

Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan

Who’s Afraid? by Maria Lewis

Coral Bones by Foz Meadows (reviewed as part of Monstrous Little Voices)

Squid’s Grief by D. K. Mok

Captive by Amanda Pillar

Survivor by Amanda Pillar

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren

 

 

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Review: Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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The brand new anthology from multi-award winning editor Jonathan Strahan, featuring stories set in futures wracked by the deluge, from some the best writers in SF, including Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken Liu, Paul McAuley, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Charlie Jane Anders, Lavie Tidhar, Jeffrey Ford, and James Morrow.

We stand at the beginning of one of the greatest ecological disasters in the time on Man. The world is warming and seas are rising. We may deny it, but we can’t hide when the water comes. Already the streets of Miami flood regularly and Mick Jones looks more and more prescient when he sang that “London is drowning and I, I live by the river!” all those years ago.

And yet water is life. It brings change. Where one thing is wiped away, another rises in its place. There has always been romance and adventure in the streets of a drowned London or on gorgeous sailing cities spanning a submerged world, sleek ships exploring as land gets ever rarer.

Drowned Worlds looks at the future we might have if the oceans rise, good or bad. Here you’ll find stories of action, adventure, romance and, yes, warning and apocalypse. Stories inspired by Ballard’s The Drowned World, Sterling’s Islands in the Net, and Ryman’s The Child Garden. Stories that allow that things may get worse, but remembers that such times also bring out the best in us all.

Published by: Solaris

Buy: Booktopia (affiliate link).


An eARC of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Jonathan Strahan is one of the foremost editors of short speculative fiction working today, producing annual Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthologies since 2007, as well as many other themed anthologies, including the excellent Infinity series. Drowned Worlds is an anthology which explores what the world–and humanity–might become after climate change has caused the sea levels to rise.

In the introduction to the anthology, Strahan talks about reading J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, which he calls “one of the great British disaster novels”. He goes on to talk about following links from The Drowned World to Paul McAuley’s The Choice, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore. All of these combined with the real world effects of climate change into the inspiration for this particular anthology. Looking at that inspiration, one might think that the reader is going to encounter many bleak visions of the world in the stories in Drowned Worlds, but the reality is anything but. There’s a strong thread of hope which weaves through all of the stories–life always finds its way, and humanity endures, even if has been forced to change.

The authors featured in this anthology could be read almost as a who’s who of groundbreaking science fiction writers working today. All of the stories in the anthology are excellent,  and though several of them didn’t resonate with me personally, they were still a very good read and likely a reader with different tastes to mine will pick them out as the strongest in the anthology.

Many of the stories are outstanding because of their use of voice, among them Christopher Rowe’s Brownesville Station and Nalo Hopkinson’s Inselberg. Catherynne M. Valente’s The Future is Blue also falls into this category, combining a brilliant, unique voice with an technicolour world that is described with Valente’s usual deft literary hand.

Many of the strongest stories in the anthology focus almost entirely on humanity and character’s relationships with each other, with much of the changed/drowned world almost receding into the background. The characters and their lives are changed by the world, but they are not defined by it. There is so much hope in these kinds of stories, which include Paul McAuley’s Elves of Antarctica, Kathleen Ann Goonan’s Who Do You Love, Charlie Jane Anders’  Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived By Her Mercy, Nina Allen’s The Common Tongue, The Present Tense  and Rachel Swirsky’s Destroyed by the Waters. Each of these stories has heartbreak, but there is also hope, and the assertion that even though the world has changed, humanity and individual humans will find a way to continue.

Also to be noted are two excellent stories which draw on mythology and belief: James Morrow’s Only Ten More Shopping Days Left Till Ragnarok (which may be one of the most biting and brilliant titles I’ve read) and Sam Miller’s Last Gods.

Fans of Sean Williams should also note the inclusion of his story The New Venusians, which ties into his Twinmaker universe. I’ve adored the novels and stories I’ve read in this universe, and this story is no exception.

Overall, Drowned Worlds is one of the best anthologies I’ve read, with every story strong and compelling. In another editor’s hands, this could easily have become an anthology filled with doom and despair, and while the stories contained within absolutely acknowledge the grief and anger of a climate-change-wracked world, they also give the characters a quiet strength, and hope that no matter what, humanity will endure. The whole collection is highly recommended, with my personal favourites being the Valente, Morrow, Anders, Swirsky and Goonan.

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AWW16: Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan

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A presence haunts an old dresser in an inner-city share house. Shining sun-people lure children from their carefree beachside lives. Sheela-na-gigs colonise a middle-aged man’s outer and inner worlds. And a girl with a heavy conscience seeks relief in exile on the Treeless Plain.

These stories from four-time World Fantasy Award winner Margo Lanagan are all set in Australia, a myth-soaked landscape both stubbornly inscrutable and crisscrossed by interlopers’ dreamings. Explore four littoral and liminal worlds, a-crackle with fears and possibilities.

Published by Twelfth Planet Press.


This review is presented as part of my commitment to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 and to my commitment to A Journey Through the Twelve Planets.

I purchased this book.


 

Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan is the seventh book in the Twelve Planets series of collections published by Twelfth Planet Press.

Knowing that a Margo Lanagan collection was going to be part of the Twelve Planets was, I have to admit, one of the reasons I was initially interested in the series. Lanagan is one of Australia’s best writers of short fiction (as her stack of very well-deserved awards testifies), and I knew that she and Twelfth Planet Press were going to create a collection that was something amazing (and I hasten to add that all of the authors involved in the Twelve Planets have also done the same).

For me, Lanagan’s short fiction frequently reads something like a fever dream. The conventions of what is “supposed” to make a short story work aren’t always there – there aren’t always explanations for the strange things happening, and sometimes there are no real conclusions, but Lanagan is so skilled with language and imagery that none of this matters in the least. The stories in Cracklescape fit very much in the fever dream model (albeit fever dreams which may continue to haunt your waking hours).

The collection opens with The Duchess Dresser, in which a a man picks up the titular dresser from the side of the road and brings it into his room in the flat he shares. The dresser has a mysterious stuck drawer – a drawer which begins to rattle as odd things begin to happen, all centred around the dresser. There is something both unsettling and poignant about this story. It will make the reader think about the impressions we leave on the world, and what may be seen beneath the surface of things, should you only know how to look.

Isles of the Sun is an extraordinary story (which I wonder-and I’m not sure if I’ve seen Lanagan talk in an interview about this or not-was inspired by the clip for Sigur Rós’s Glósóli)  which walks the border between this world and another, dreamlike place. Part of Lanagan’s skill with writing speculative fiction is the grounding of the fantastic in the real, and this story is an excellent example of this.

Bajazzle is one of my favourites from this collection, giving the reader a glimpse into a strange group of women (they may be a cult of some kind, but it their presence is shown with essentially no explanation), the Sheelas, inspired by the the sheela-na-gig, a carved female figure seen in churches in Britain and Ireland. The use of the viewpoint character Don, a misogynist who has little respect for his wife, in a story about women reclaiming their feminine power in such a startling fashion, is a brilliant stroke.

The last story in the collection is Significant Dust, which is the most emotionally wrenching of the stories. On the surface, its the story of Vanessa, a girl who’s run away from a tragedy, but her story is interwoven with a real supposed UFO encounter. All of the stories in the collection are good, but Significant Dust is extraordinary, and amongst Lanagan’s best.

Cracklescape is a brilliant collection by Margo Lanagan, and continues the extremely high quality of the Twelve Planets collections. If you’ve never read any Margo Lanagan, this is a fine place to start – just be warned that you’ll need tissues when reading a good portion of her work, and you’ll likely find yourself wanting to devour everything she’s written.

 

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