Welcome to Smugglivus 2016! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2016, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2017, and more.
Next on Smugglivus 2016, it’s A Fantastical Librarian, Mieneke Van der Salm herself, here to talk about awesome stuff she consumed in 2016.
Another year, another Smugglivus! I won’t reiterate how much of a trash fire 2016 has been, but can we all agree that 2017 should be better?
That’s enough of that, Ana and Thea invited me here to share some of my favourite culture consumed this year and I have some awesome things to share. Starting with the things you probably already knew about: Stranger Things and Luke Cage. I realise that these were two of the biggest shows released in the past year, but let me just say if you haven’t yet watched these, you really, really should. They were both amazing in very different ways, but what they both shared were amazing female leads and I don’t care what you say about Mariah Dillard, lady knows how to get shit done.
I’ve also listened to a ton of podcasts in the past year. I’ve been mainlining numerous crime podcast — hit me up on Twitter if you need recs — but I’ve also listened to some amazing SFF podcasts. Of course, the ladies at Galactic Suburbia and Ana and Renay at Fangirl Happy Hour are still the best, but this year we’ve had an interesting new addition to that set in the form of Breaking the Glass Slipper. It’s hosted by Charlotte Bond, Megan Leigh, and Lucy Hounsom and focuses on women in SFF and horror. I really like the way they approach their discussions and the interviews they do—my favourite one being the interview with Emma Newman from last November. In the fictional podcast sphere my favourite new title was Ars Paradoxica. It’s a time travel story with evil scientists, good scientists and how wrong things can go when we try to fix our mistakes. I adore its protagonist Sally Grissom, whose grit and brains are amazing, but who struggles with the isolation of having been stranded more than seventy years before her time. The actors are great and the production value is really high. They are almost at the end of the second season and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
And now for the meat of my post, the books! Some of my favourite authors had books out this year and they were all as wonderful as I expected. I’ll just give you their names and the titles of the books real quick, before I move to the books that surprised me this year (yes, Ana, I know I’m cheating. Can you blame me?) So books by favourite authors that I loved:
– Corinne Duyvis – The Edge of Gone
– Genevieve Cogman – The Burning Page
– Kate Elliott – Poisoned Blade
– Emma Newman – After Atlas
– Daniel Polansky – A City Dreaming
– Jen Williams – The Silver Tide
– N.K. Jemisin – The Obelisk Gate (technically I’m still reading this, but wow!)
Now for the books that I didn’t see coming this year and that blew me away completely. Let’s start with Kaaron Warren, an author whose work I’ve read in the past and who has always impressed me, but her latest The Grief Hole was a captivating exploration of grief and the horror it can induce and it really got under my skin. A book that totally wrecked me (in a good way) was Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies. Norah’s story of anxiety and how she struggles with it and learns to cope hit really close to home. It was a gut-wrenching read, but absolutely brilliant — and incredibly funny and hopeful as well — and if you ever want to learn how anxiety can undermine a person’s ability to function, read this book. Another book that hit me right in the feels was Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing.
A historical mystery, it came as a complete surprise and Mazzola’s debut was incredibly strong. The Unseeing tells the story of Sarah Gale, a convicted killer in one of the most infamous murder cases in the early nineteenth century. What I really liked about this story is that while it is historical, it has a modernity to it that is very much due to the fact that the core aspects of the case — domestic violence, coercive control, the functioning of the criminal justice system — are still relevant today. I think I can safely call this my favourite historical novel of the year.
On a lighter note, though no less gritty, I loved Angela Slatter’s Vigil.
It’s her first urban fantasy and bears all the hallmarks of the genre, with a female protagonist, a murder mystery to solve, and plenty of supernatural beings to complicate matters. But it delivers all of these with a twist and in the not-so-familiar setting of Brisbane, Australia and makes for a delightful read. A similarly entertaining urban fantasy read was Paul Krueger’s debut Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge. Its story centred on Bailey, a recent college grad and a young woman looking for her path in the world, who finds her purpose as a mixologist fighting the supernatural threat of the tremens. Last Call is quirky and fun and a great read to cheer up during these dark December days. And lastly, a book that I think is one of the main contenders for next year’s Hugo Awards, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit.
It offers everything, from space battles, to mathematical magic, to interesting social commentary, and did I mention space ships? Check out Thea’s incredibly eloquent review of the book and make sure you read this book, because it is easily one of the must-read books of the year in SFF.
And with that, I’ve reached the end of my Smugglivus post for this year. All that is left to me to do is to wish all of you a wonderful Smugglivus Season and let’s all hope 2017 will be a brighter year for all of us.
Thank you, Mieneke