Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.
Who: Martha Wells, Nebula Award-nominated author of great fantasy novels including the fab Wheel of the Infinite and the Books of the Raksura series – The Cloud Roads, the first book in that series, was one of Ana’s top 10 of 2011.
Recent Work: The Serpent Sea, the excellent follow-up to The Cloud Roads. Book 3, The Siren Depths has been released recently and we will be reading it SOON.
Please give a warm hand to Martha, everyone!
I’d like to thank the Book Smugglers for inviting me to participate in Smugglivus again this year!
A Few of the Books I Read this Past Year:
The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn
I very much enjoyed this book. It’s technically categorized as urban fantasy, because it’s set in modern day, and the main character, Maria, is a woman who is in love with a shapeshifter. But it’s not an action-packed story about killing demons or monsters, though it is a mystery. The shapeshifter can’t control what animal he turns into or when he transforms. It’s on a cycle that has been getting increasingly more intense, so his periods of being human are getting shorter. Maria has close relationships with the other women in her family and with friends at work, but has become an excellent liar to conceal her longterm love affair with the shapeshifter. Her relationship is contrasted with others, including a co-worker who has a violently abusive spouse. It’s a very dark, sexy book, and a very quiet, realistic story about what it would actually be like to love a person who spends most of his time as something else and has little control over where and when he shapeshifts. It’s about love, obsession, lust, power and control, and being willing to do anything to keep the person you love/want. The second book in the series, Still Life With Shapeshifter, is out now, and I can’t wait to read it.
Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch
This is the third book in the series Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) and Moon Over Soho. I really love this series. The main character, Peter, is a young police constable who ends up apprenticed to the last wizard of London’s Metropolitan Police. It’s funny, it’s original, and it’s an excellent fantasy mystery. I’ve described it before as being for people who like fantasy and also like BBC or PBS Mystery series like Luther or Morse or anything with “Inspector” in the title. I enjoyed the third book a lot and don’t want to say much about it for fear of spoiling it, but I’m wishing I had the fourth book already. (There is a bit in the description on the jacket about Peter having a conflict with an FBI agent over the fact that she’s an evangelical Christian, but this is not an element in the book. There are a couple of slight hints that she’s religious, but she and Peter never have a conversation about it and it doesn’t affect anything that happens. So, yeah. Book jacket descriptions are weird like that sometimes.) If you like competent, smart characters dealing with insane supernatural dangers and who are still able to see the humor in their situation, these books are for you.
The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
This book is showing up on some “best of the year” lists and it certainly deserves it. It’s a secondary world fantasy set in a world modeled on Ancient Egypt, where a Gatherer-priest of the Dreaming Moon begins to suspect that something terrible is stalking the city. (I’ve always been a fan of anything set in Ancient Egypt or influenced by it. Thanks to National Geographic, as a kid I went straight from dinosaurs to Ancient Egypt. Two of my favorite books by Andre Norton were Wraiths of Time, set in an alt-universe SF version of Meroe and Shadow Hawk, set in Egypt under the Hyksos.) I don’t want to talk too much about what happens because I don’t want to spoil the mystery, but did want to note that even though there is a second book in the set, The Shadowed Sun, already published, that The Killing Moon is a complete story and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson
This is part of a mystery series set in 1920s Scotland. I loved the funny, self-deprecating tone of the prose, and I loved the main character, a forty-something married-with-kids-and-stuffy-husband upper class woman who finds new life and purpose as a detective. I had to track down the earlier books in the series, but had no trouble starting with this one. This book is funny but also gets into some serious issues, like the labor strikes at that time in Scotland, and how horrible conditions were for coal miners. I love the fact that over the course of the series, you see the main character examines her attitudes and expands her understanding of other people and issues that would normally be alien to someone in her position.
Good Night, Mr. Holmes: The Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler Series by Carole Nelson Douglas
The earlier books in this series are just now starting to come out as Kindle ebooks. Good Night, Mr. Holmes is the first and tells Irene Adler’s story from the perspective of her friend, Penelope “Nell” Huxleigh. In this series, Irene doesn’t die at sea, but she and Nell go on to solve mysteries and have adventures, and they occasionally encounter Holmes and Watson. I loved every single one of these books and am very glad to see them being re-released as ebooks.
Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp
I read this book a few years ago, but wanted to go ahead and recommend it here. It tells the story of the women writers, directors, editors, and producers of early pre-Code Hollywood. Women who built studios, made stars, won Oscars, and who have been almost completely erased from history and the public consciousness.
To quote the book:
“….during the teens, 1920s, and early 1930s, almost one quarter of the screenwriters in Hollywood were women. Half of all the films copyrighted between 1911 and 1925 were written by women.”
Growing up in the 70s, I remember hearing that Ida Lupino was the first woman director. She wasn’t even close to being the first, but all the others had been forgotten, no one talked about them.
For example, Frances Marion. Beginning in 1917, she was Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter (not highest paid woman screenwriter, but highest paid period) for thirty years. She wrote 325 scripts, over 200 were produced, and she was the first woman to win a screenwriting Oscar. She was a director and a producer, the only woman on the first board of directors of the Screen Writers’ Guild, and its vice-president. (As a war correspondent, she was the first Allied woman to cross the Rhine in World War I. She walked along a road through a deserted battleground, alone, and in the dark.)
As the 1930s ended and the 1940s began, Marion’s scripts for MGM were uncredited, and she and the few other women writers still working there had to carry scripts in unmarked envelopes so no one would know they were writers. They were required to let people assume they were secretaries. This book is a great way to rediscover those forgotten women.
Books I Can’t Wait to Read:
Cold Steel by Kate Elliott
This is the third book in the Spiritwalker Trilogy. I loved the first two, Cold Magic and Cold Fire, and I’m really looking forward to this one. The official description of the setting of the trilogy is: an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendants of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
This is a YA graphic novel written by Prudence Shen and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. It’s being posted online as a webcomic at http://www.nothingcanpossiblygowrong.com/ but the print edition will be out in May 2013. I can’t wait! Here’s the official description:
“You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely — until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders, and the cheerleaders retaliate by making Charlie their figure-head in the ugliest class election campaign the school has ever seen. At stake? Student group funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms — but not both.
Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not! Nothing can possibly go wrong.”
Dossouye: The Dancers of Mulukau by Charles Saunders
Another book I’ve been looking forward to is the second Dossouye book, about the adventures of a woman warrior from Abomey, a kingdom in a setting based on historical Africa. This one has been out for a while, I just haven’t had a chance to read it but I’ve loved all of Charles Saunders’ stories.
Bones of the Old Ones by Howard Andrew Jones
This is the second book in the Dabir and Asim historical fantasy series, and has just come out in hardcover. Set in 8th century Arabia, Dabir and Asim have adventures and solve magical mysteries. I loved the first book, The Desert of Souls, and have been looking forward to this one.
Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol: A Mystery by Gyles Brandreth
This is the latest in Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde historical mystery series. This is another series where I’ve enjoyed every book. Oscar is a funny, engaging, and sympathetic character, and the mysteries are intriguing. Also, Arthur Conan Doyle shows up occasionally.
Other things I Liked:
The Guild is a webseries written by Felicia Day, now in its sixth season. It’s the story of a young woman, played by Felica Day, who is at a low point in her life and her only fun interactions are online, with the other members of her gaming guild. The series shows how they meet in person, and build real friendships and grow to support each other, and it’s all awesome and hilarious. The series is free to watch online, either at the original web site or on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel. Season Five, where they all take a road trip to a big ComicCon-style convention, is my absolute favorite.
Free fantasy stories and novel excerpts at Black Gate Magazine
Black Gate is a fantastic fantasy adventure magazine, and has just started to post free fiction online here. Some of these stories have appeared in the print magazine and some will be new. The main blog site at http://www.blackgate.com/ also posts reviews and news. This is a great place to read stories by authors like Judith Berman, Harry Connolly, Dave Gross, and others.
Thanks for sharing your favorites, Martha!