Tag Archives: winter reading

The SF Bluestocking Winter 2017 Reading List Wrap-Up

Spring has already sprung here in Ohio, both technically and actually, judging from the amount of allergy trouble I’ve been having the last couple of weeks, and I’m working on getting together my reading list for the next three months (look for it this week!), but I thought first I’d take a look at what I’ve read in the first three months of 2017. Last year was such a terrible year for me that I ended up struggling a lot to write much about what I read, though I read quite a bit. The good news is that this year I’ve been off to a pretty strong start, getting through most of my Winter Reading List and even reading a couple of things that weren’t on there. I’ve even written about almost everything I’ve read, even if it was just a short blurb and a star rating on Goodreads, although I am still finishing up my last few reviews of titles from my winter list.

This post, however, is about celebrating the best and most exciting of what I’ve read in the last three months.

29939303Best Fantasy Novel – Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

Crossroads of Canopy is a gorgeously imagined book about a young woman’s political awakening when she’s forced to question everything she knows about her society and herself. It’s set in a marvelously unique fantasy world in which people live in cities built in the tops of trees in an enormous rain forest, and it’s worth reading for the inventive worldbuilding alone, but it’s also got a wonderfully difficult and complex protagonist in Unar. Crossroads is a story about the roots of a revolution, and I cannot wait to see what happens next in Thoraiya Dyer’s Titan’s Forest series. While it’s not as thrillingly groundbreaking as, say, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth SeasonCrossroads of Canopy is, for me, similar in the the sense that it’s exactly the sort of thing I think of when looking towards the future of the genre, especially as it broadens to include epic fantasy that isn’t set in some analogue or other of medieval Europe.

29939160Best Science Fiction Novel – The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

This book was a complete surprise to me in every way. I’ve always rather intended to pick up something by John Scalzi, but I’ve never quite gotten around to it as I seldom read work by white men and have been mostly interested in new books, standalone titles, and debut authors in the last couple of years. Tons of people I know love Scalzi’s work, though, and since The Collapsing Empire is his newest book and the first in a series, it seemed like as good a time as any to check him out, especially when I got a surprise early copy in the mail from the publisher. It’s really good and hands down the most enjoyable thing I’ve read so far this year, smartly plotted and fast-paced, with lots of snappy dialogue and a great sense of humor. I couldn’t put it down.

33775885Best Magazine – FIYAH Literary Magazine, Issue 1, Rebirth

The first issue of FIYAH is excellent from its beautiful cover art to its collection of perfectly curated short fiction. With evidence mounting up that black readers and writers aren’t being served and included the way they should be in genre publishing, FIYAH is a uniquely valuable space for stories by, for and about black people. My favorite story in this issue was “Chesirah” by L.D. Lewis, but “The Shade Caller” by DaVaun Sanders and “Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber” by Malon Edwards were also standouts. If I have any complaint about the magazine, it’s that I’d love to see more nonfiction content in it, but that’s purely a personal preference. Issue 2 will be out on April 1.

marapr17_issue15covermed-340x510Best Novella – “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker

I at least try to read all of Tor.com’s novellas as a matter of course, and they’re pretty prolific, so I would have expected one of those to be my favorite so far. However, the fine folks at Uncanny just published their first ever (short) novella in #15, and it’s wonderful. Sarah Pinsker’s story of a convention–SarahCon–for Sarah’s from thousands of alternate reality might be my favorite novella of the last several years, to be honest. It’s smart and funny and thoughtful in perfect proportions. It was enchanting from page one, and it’s a story and concept that has been often on my mind ever since I read it. “And Then There Were (N-One)” will be available to read for free online on April 4.

33964649Best Comic Book – Ladycastle #1 by Delilah S. Dawson and Ashley A. Woods

I only read one comic in the last three months, but it was a good one. Since the sad/infuriating circumstances that led to the indefinite hiatus of Rat Queens, I’ve had a definitively medieval-fantasy-comic-shaped hole in my life, and Ladycastle is the perfect thing to fill it with. The art is slightly more cartoonish than I usually prefer, but it grew on me as I fell in love with the story and characters. The only problem with it is that there isn’t more of it, and they seem to be working on a slow production schedule with a couple months between issues. I want it all now.

31216072Best Sin du Jour Novella – Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace

Okay, so it’s the only Sin du Jour book published so far this year, but it’s awesome. And look at that cover! I always buy these as ebooks to save space, but the covers just keep getting better and better and I know I’m going to have to have them for my shelf. And this is why my dreams of getting rid of all my stuff and living some kind of minimalist backpacker lifestyle will always stay just dreams. Seriously, though you should be reading this series. They’re sharply written, laugh-out-loud funny, and have some of the best action scenes you’re going to find in print. This volume went a little heavier on character development, but in the last one a dude fought an evil Easter Bunny demon thing and it was rad.

31707853Best Non-SFF Thing I Read – Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

I’ll just quote from my own review of this title to explain why I loved it so much: “The stories in this volume are, from start to finish, thoughtful, clever, funny, tragic and hopeful in turn. These stories are a rage-filled paean to the strength and resilience and weakness and fragility and everything in between of women. This is an ugly, heart-wrenching, beautiful book, and if Roxane Gay wrote three hundred forty-four more stories like this I would treat them like a devotional and reread them every year for the rest of my life.” There are a couple of stories in this collection that are slightly SFF, but for the most part this collection is deeply rooted in the real world and real women’s experiences.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Borderline and Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker – I skipped the first book in this series last year, but I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it now.
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty – A riveting locked-door mystery in space, with clones.
  • Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman – I loved this first book in a new gaslamp fantasy series by the author of Planetfall. Probably my favorite thing I’ve read yet by Emma Newman.
  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer – This makes me feel about sci-fi the way that Crossroads of Canopy and The Fifth Season make me feel about fantasy.
  • Tor.com’s “Nevertheless, She Persisted” Short Fiction Event – This is well worth reading, but it just didn’t fit into any of my other categories here.

Biggest Disappointments:

  • Windwitch by Susan Dennard – I liked Truthwitch quite a lot last year, but this book only magnified all the problems of worldbuilding and character that were only minor plagues on the first one.
  • Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey – I was hyped to finally read something by this author, but this book felt unnecessary and self-indulgent, without much to say for itself or about Shakespeare or The Tempest.
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – I wanted to like this much-buzzed-about book more than I did, but I had a hard time getting past the casual normalization of marital rape, the villainization of the rape victim, and the trivialization of her eventual sad fate.

The SF Bluestocking 2017 Winter Reading List

I know it’s a little bit past the actual beginning of winter, but I think from now on I’m just going to break these seasonal reading lists up into more or less three month time periods and name them for the closest corresponding season. It’s just not practical to try and do a full year’s worth of books that I’m excited about, even in January, especially when there are plenty of still-to-be-announced releases for later in the year that I don’t even know about yet. So, this list will get you (and me) through March.

Magazines
I’m starting this year off with magazine subscriptions for the first time in many years. (Like, now that I think about it, I think the last time I regularly read any magazine was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine back in the early ’90s. Yikes.) Here’s what I’m definitely reading (and recommending, natch) in the first few months of 2017:

Tor.com Novellas and Short(-ish) Novels
I plan to continue reading all of these as they are published (or as ARCs if I am lucky and they show up on NetGalley). I know I’ve been full of praise for the last couple of years for Tor.com’s novellas, but I still basically love them. The novella length (and price!) is great for quick reading, and Tor.com publishes a great variety of new and established authors in a good mix of subgenres that offers plenty that I like and enough stuff outside my usual comfort zone to keep things interesting and challenging. After 2016, there are a couple of authors that I will be avoiding in the future because I just don’t care for their books at all, but other than that I expect to keep on reading these faithfully. The first quarter of 2017 has quite a lot to be excited for.

  • Dusk or Dawn or Dark or Day by Seanan McGuire – January 10
  • Sin du Jour: The First Course by Matt Wallace – January 10 (Contains books 1-3 of the series. I probably won’t be rereading it, but if you haven’t read it at least once, you should.)
  • The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott – January 17
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – January 24
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor – January 31
  • Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace – February 7
  • An Impossible War by Andy Remic – February 14 (This is one I’ll be skipping, but it’s surely a better fit for someone.)
  • Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp – February 21
  • Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan – February 28
  • Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher – March 7
  • Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman – March 14
  • Chalk by Paul Cornell – March 21

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Everything Else
Everything else obviously is the majority of what I’ve got on my TBR list. There are a handful of things here that I’m not 100% sure about, but in order to hit my Goodreads challenge numbers I’ll have to get through most of these. I hope I can, because there’s a ton of great stuff coming out over the next couple of months.

  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – January 3
  • Windwitch by Susan Dennard – January 10
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – January 10
  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler, John Jennings (Illustrator), Damian Duffy (Adapted by) – January 10
  • Dreadnought by April Daniels – January 24
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty – January 31
  • Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer – January 31
  • Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly – February 7
  • The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley – February 7
  • Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey – February 14
  • Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula by Margaret Atwood and Johnny Christmas – February 14
  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer – February 21
  • Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells – March 7
  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin – March 14

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