Sunday, August 28, 2016

#ReadThemAllThon Mini Review: Don't Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

Here's the first mini-review for books I read during the #ReadThemAllThon! Unfortunately I move in a week, so it's unlikely I'll be able to get to the rest of the books planned :( Poor Bulbasaur, I tried!

Star Rating: * 1/5 Stars

Title: Don't Cry, Tai Lake
Author: Qiu Xiaolong
Genre: Mystery
Review by Silicon
Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is offered a bit of luxury by friends and supporters within the Party – a week’s vacation at a luxurious resort near Lake Tai, a week where he can relax, and recover, undisturbed by outside demands or disruptions. Unfortunately, the once beautiful Lake Tai, renowned for its clear waters, is now covered by fetid algae, its waters polluted by toxic runoff from local manufacturing plants. Then the director of one of the manufacturing plants responsible for the pollution is murdered and the leader of the local ecological group is the primary suspect of the local police. Now Inspector Chen must tread carefully if he is to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder and find a measure of justice for both the victim and the accused.


Ah sexism, we meet again ... I didn't like this book.

Let's talk about the good first. 

This is an #ownvoices diverse mystery book set in Wuxi, China. It is very immersive in Chinese culture. There's no Westerners, no suggestion of "white dude saves everyone" (WOOHOO), it has amazing food descriptions that made me really hungry, and I liked seeing the city through the eyes of Inspector Chen.

Now the bad.

The mystery sucked. From the start of the book, I was wondering "why didn't they ask X?", and, well, X was the murderer. I'm horrible at figuring out mysteries, so it was a disappointment that my first guess was indeed correct (I get Miss Fisher mysteries wrong fairly regularly. I'm pretty bad).

The book is rather obviously focused at a non-Chinese audience--which is not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely took me out of the story a few times. It has a lot of extremely simplified explanations for things, for example:
"You haven't eaten, have you, Chen?"

It was a conventional greeting Chinese people made when running into each other on the street.
I personally disliked the abundance of poetry snippets. I want my clues, dammit!

And oh, the sexism. Put on your flame-retardant lab coat, I am going to set something on fire.

The book features one female character, Shanshan, who is--SURPRISE--young, beautiful, intelligent, kind, caring, nurturing, and THE LOVE INTEREST. She's a fucking FLING for Inspector Chen! She's also a suspect. NO. JUST NO. I was SO pissed at this development. They go on dates! Pour out their deepest thoughts to each other! Instantly fall in love! She sees him as her protector! ARGH.

Really really mad because this woman is a fucking ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER. She works at the company whose CEO is murdered. She is a LEGITIMATE SUSPECT and probably had HELLA CLUES (not to mention: FUCKING INTELLIGENT and RESILIENT) but dude was waaaay more concerned with how pretty and understanding she was than asking for her expertise--which he does, but really more because he wanted to take her on a date. So. Pissed.

The only reason I finished this book was to see if Shanshan was playing Chen all along in a masterful game of manipulation. Sadly, no.

Not recommended.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

ARC REVIEW: Necrotech by K. C. Alexander

Star Rating: ***** 5/5

Title: Necrotech
Author: K. C. Alexander
Genre: Sci-Fi
Subgenre: Cyberpunk/Transhumanist sci-fi
Review by Silicon.
Street thug Riko has some serious issues — memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.

In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.



To say I enjoyed this book would be a massive understatement. 

Do you like ass-kicking, foul-mouthed, shit-starting heroines? Fast-paced plots that just don't stop the punches? Human & tech integration with ACTUAL CONSEQUENCES and unique dangers?

Publication date is September 1st for ebook & UK, September 6th for North America.

This is an honest review in exchange for an ARC. Yes, I really did like it THIS MUCH.


Plot & Writing Style


The plot of Necrotech is one wild ride.

The major conflict in the story centers around Riko's girlfriend, who is turned into a "tech zombie" (necrotech) following events that implicate Riko herself, and which she cannot remember. Complicating the issue is her girlfriend's brother, who Riko must work with if she's to figure out what happened. The complicated, messy relationships between characters in this book is a real strength of the storytelling. I really liked how Riko is clearly a person who loves & is attracted to many people, and how HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS is a central theme & conflict for everyone. Deciding who to trust, who to betray, who to save makes up a big part of how everyone interacts.

Shit just keeps hitting the fan. Everything Riko does to try and fix the situation has consequences, positive and negative. The world of the story is tightly integrated, and Alexander does a great job giving us essential information through action sequences and really keeping tension up the whole time. This is a first person POV book, so when Riko doesn't know something we don't either. It's tough to make this work with an amnesia-driven central conflict, but I think it was well done. Amnesia isn't my favorite plot device, but for this story it worked. 

If you see this XKCD and think "I'd like to read that!" You will enjoy Necrotech. This is one of the fastest-paced books I've read, which packs punches both physical and emotional.




Humanity has become concentrated in cosmopolitan mega-cities due to massive environmental degradation (whee, it's the future!), and depends on nanotechnology to survive.

The way tech and humanity is integrated in this novel is really unique. I liked the way that tech upgrades came with a significant danger and cost--the possibility of being overwhelmed by your tech's needs and becoming a mere vessel for it to operate. Very creepy. I think the way that tech and environment meshed was well thought out and has interesting implications--for example, nanotech removes the possibility of cancer, so people pulse themselves with straight radiation to disinfect the extremely dubious water coming out of their showers. People can connect and talk to one another through tech-based psionics wired into their brains, but this comes at the cost of also being constantly assaulted with visual and aural advertisements.

It's a very dystopian, post-climate-crisis environment and a very interesting use of universal nanotechnology.




Yessssss Riko. She's the best.

Riko beats people up, she swears loudly and frequently, she screws up and pulls herself to her feet again, she asks for help when she needs it and powers through when she doesn't. She's a FORCE. She's the kind of heroine I've wanted to read for a long time but rarely actually GET. Usually when you have protags like this, they end up needing A MAN to come save them somehow. Riko is self-sufficient and would probably significantly fuck you up if you suggested that. She needs help, but she doesn't need to be saved.

I really enjoyed how flawed and human K. C. Alexander writes Riko. She's not an emotionless machine. She cares for people and for her reputation. When she screws up and hurts someone else, she feels guilt and regret. Sometimes she screws up BECAUSE she feels so guilty it makes her rash and punch something she shouldn't. Riko has fears and joys that are just so centrally REAL that she really comes alive off the page. Plus I deeply enjoyed watching her beat her enemies up. I would not want to get in this woman's way. She's not the most conniving or intelligent character on the page, and THAT'S OKAY. That's better than okay, actually, it shows how she has significant challenges to face that she genuinely needs others for.

There's a great variety in characters presented in this book, who are all very different, yet need each other to survive and solve problems.




Riko has had a long and sometimes complicated love life, and is bisexual. LGBT+ rep is casual and inclusive in this novel, and I really appreciated that. We frequently see Riko make passes at both men and women throughout the story, and there's absolutely no fanfare or big deal made out of who she's attracted to by any other character.

Riko is an amputee who uses a prosthetic metal forearm and hand. In a lot of SFF, loss of a limb is often swiftly compensated by something that functions the same, if not better. However, while Riko's arm definitely is advanced tech, it's not the same as if she'd never lost the arm. It feeds data back to Riko in a series of statistics about whatever it's touching, and she must interpret them rather than feeling as she does with her other hand. It has drawbacks and strengths that play uniquely into how Riko navigates the world. I felt this was excellently done.

Genetics is messy in the world of Necrotech. People can take pills containing  genetic material from other human ethnic groups which augment their abilities and change their physical appearance.While this makes it complicated to evaluate racial diversity in the book, I was very happy with the many characters of color we got to see, and who play important roles. This is definitely not one of those "the future is white"-type scifi books. I was happy with the diversity in this book.




You need this damn book. There's a longish excerpt posted here by B&N if you want to see for yourself. If you don't like swearing you won't like this book, but you'd also probably not be reading my blog. SO. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

#ReadThemAllThon TBR List!

It's probably a really bad idea for me to join the #ReadThemAllThon, given imminent moving & the fact that I'm behind on reviews (when am I not?). But I am gonna throw caution to the wind and join in anyway! Live on the edge!

#ReadThemAllThon is run by Aentee @ Read At Midnight


CP: 10

 The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin


A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
 468 pgs, +46 CP potential

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner—that she will be the cause of a bitter war—and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life.
279 pgs, +27 CP potential

A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood

From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.
354 pgs, +35 CP potential

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
342 pgs, +34 CP potential

Don't Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is offered a bit of luxury by friends and supporters within the Party – a week’s vacation at a luxurious resort near Lake Tai, a week where he can relax, and recover, undisturbed by outside demands or disruptions. Unfortunately, the once beautiful Lake Tai, renowned for its clear waters, is now covered by fetid algae, its waters polluted by toxic runoff from local manufacturing plants. Then the director of one of the manufacturing plants responsible for the pollution is murdered and the leader of the local ecological group is the primary suspect of the local police. Now Inspector Chen must tread carefully if he is to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder and find a measure of justice for both the victim and the accused.
262 pgs, +26 CP potential

Among Others by Jo Walton

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…
304 pgs, +30 CP potential

Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley

Watts is smoldering in ruins-and the cops are on Easy Rawlins's doorstep. Easy expects the worst, as usual. But, incredibly, they're asking for his help. A redheaded woman known as Little Scarlet had sheltered a man during the riots. Witnesses later saw him fleeing her building; not long after, Little Scarlet was found viciously murdered. Now, with his old friend Mouse at his side, Easy follows the case's single clue across Los Angeles. The missing man is the key, but he's only the beginning. Hidden in the heart of the city is a killer whose red-hot rage is as fierce as the fires that rocked L.A.
325 pgs, +32 CP potential

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
 456 pgs, +45 CP potential 

I tried to make this list as diverse as possible! It includes a lot of new-to-me stuff ... namely: YA, which I don't read that much! I also read romance extremely rarely, so we'll see how this goes. I'm excited that I got to list 2 diverse detective novels, 1 scifi with #ownvoices disability rep, 1 fantasy with disability rep, 2 PoC-inclusive fantasy books, and 2 feminist theme books! I can't wait to read these. Now I just need time!

Link me your #ReadThemAllThon TBR in the comments! Or just tell me your favorite Pokemon :D

Friday, August 12, 2016

REVIEW: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Star Rating: **** 4/5


Title: The Ballad of Black Tom
Author: Victor LaValle
Genre: Fantasy
Subgenre: Weird (or New Weird)
Review by Silicon
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?


I'm going to start this review a little differently: with a link to an interview of the author.

Despite being such a short book, LaValle's story is a highly complex one. The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling, a subversion of HP Lovecraft's infamous The Horror at Red Hook, a disgustingly racist rant thinly disguised as a story.  I'm not going to review that piece of shit in this post (ohhhh, but I have PLANS, plans with graphs, for the future), and if you're curious about just how bad it is I'm linking  a Storify of my livetweeting while reading the thing: here.

Essentially, Red Hook centers on the main character's dislike, fear, and misunderstanding of the immigrant (and non-immigrant PoC) community in Brooklyn. Black Tom is LaValle's answer to Lovecraft's bigotry. From the interview:
Where Lovecraft would’ve seen an enigma I could say these were people I knew. They were complicated but not mysterious. What if I reimagined Lovecraft’s old story from their point of view? What if I made one of them the engine of the tale? How much would change if the folks used to playing the background came center stage instead?
This is something LaValle absolutely succeeds in.


The Ballad of Black Tom follows the character of Charles Thomas Tester, aka Tommy aka "Black Tom", a black man living in Harlem who supports his ailing father by taking odd, magical jobs around New York City. On one fateful day, he meets a white man named Robert Suydam, who wants to hire Tommy to perform in and be a part of a mysterious event at his house--a project Tommy finds is unearthly, frightening, and dangerously powerful. And that's all I'm gonna summarize because it is really hard to write about this book without spoilers.

If you've read Red Hook, you know it starts out centered entirely on the character of Malone, and his PTSD from the terrifying events he witnessed during his investigation into Suydam's doings. LaValle very significantly does not even mention Malone until we've been immersed in Tommy's world, the world that Malone--and Lovecraft--find so utterly incomprehensible. And when Malone shows up, he's a side character--without agency--looking on as Tommy handles a detective's contrived aggression.

This is an excellent example of how LaValle subverts Lovecraft's original tale. Black Tom really feels like as if you took Red Hook, turned it inside-out, and kept only the bare bones of the story's plot while completely re-imagining the flesh, the heart of the story.


To be honest, LaValle GIVES the Red Hook story a heart, one we can connect to and understand, in the character of Tommy Tester. In Red Hook, Malone is constantly afraid of the faceless mass of Red Hook residents, who he does not even see as human. In Black Tom, these people are the heart and soul of the story--a grounding force, a community, that Tommy feels safe and comfortable and accepted in.

Something I really liked about Black Tom is the way its theme really is understanding, empathizing, while Red Hook is all about fearing the Other. Example: when Tommy and his father visit the Victoria Society, a Caribbean social club. Tommy initially had described the club as a den of illegal activity, a place where the most hardened criminals go. Now, actually there, Tommy feels remorse as he realizes he had been harboring assumptions about immigrants from the Caribbean which were untrue. He realizes that they exist in a whole world similar to his own, with similar hopes and aspirations, and not as mere caricatures that gossip had painted them. This was a really lovely scene, one of my favorites in the book. 

Where Malone has only amorphous, hysterical fears unattached to reality, Tommy's fears are painfully real. The descriptions of Tommy's interactions with police, with white men, ring SO DAMN TRUE especially considering today's insane racial injustice problem. Malone imagines terrors based on his own inability to empathize with People of Color. Tommy faces real consequences--harassment, illegal confiscations of property, violence--when he does not act completely submissive in the presence of white men.  You may think I'm making an inflated comparison, but hilariously even in Lovecraft's own Red Hook, nothing happens to Malone despite all the time he spends feeling uneasy around Red Hook residents. He just has a few bad dreams. Tommy faces real danger.

I am not going to spoil SHIT. But let's say the Inciting Incident is so raw, so extremely parallel to today's tragedies, that it took my breath away.

The second half of the novella has a significant change--we switch to Malone's PoV, and Tommy becomes Black Tom, seen only from the outside now. This half more closely parallels Lovecraft's original, with Malone's biases and prejudice directing his actions. However, we have a crucial insight now--we already know and understand the world that Malone is still so confused by, we can understand why events unfold that in Red Hook are so baffling in their lack of motivation.

In Lovecraft's Red Hook, evil is a sleeping, otherworldly being. Evil is the unknown, given a form by his crude sketches of the Red Hook community he cannot understand. Evil is bringing down an inhuman power which does not care about human life, which consumes indifferently to our suffering. But in Black Tom, evil is not an eldritch power--as Tommy says:
What was indifference compared to malice? 
Human malice is shown to be so much greater than otherworldly indifference. A significant message, especially given Lovecraft's own clearly evident prejudice, which saturates his Red Hook piece and obscures even the story itself.

Writing Style

LaValle's writing style is very unfrilled, plain and succinct. He says what he means to say and doesn't spend words embellishing the events that unfold, leaving them raw and piercing. Tommy's reactions and thoughts are described from a slightly reserved close third POV which works very well for this story and parallels the Red Hook POV style. Though, ultimately, the Red Hook story and LaValle's Black Tom have very different writing styles--LaValle does not spend nearly as much time in lingering description as Lovecraft, for example.

One element I think LaValle especially excels at is "show, not tell" reactions. Though he does not explicitly state what Tommy feels often, we can certainly imagine and empathize with what he feels throughout the book. The terrible events that unfold have a special horror because we can SEE the character's reactions, and imagine their internal state. With single, perfectly placed sentences, LaValle does an excellent job at that difficult task of implicitly directing a reader's thoughts without outright stating what he wants them to think about.


There is no way I have done, or could do this story justice in this review. This is one of those deep, layered stories that needs significant analysis to fully extract all meaning. I really think Ballad of Black Tom should be treated as one of those classics we read in English classes. It's certainly as complex.

Black Tom masterfully subverts an extremely difficult, tremendously problematic story by one of the biggest names in Horror. But it's much more than just a retelling. It's a reimagining, a reclaiming, a fundamental redoing that takes the worst parts of Lovecraft's racism and shows how his incomprehensible caricatures are actually people. Are a COMMUNITY. It shows us how unimaginable evil isn't actually an otherworldly force, but the capacity for hatred that lies within humanity itself.
"Indifference would be such a relief," Tommy said.
There's so much more in here that I would love to touch upon, but I am going to instead recommend other sources. Firstly, LaValle's own interviews give deep insight into his aims and aspirations while writing this remarkable story. Secondly, check out the reviews already posted, and those to come, in #DSFFBookClub, where we're discussing this book right now! Finally, @Cecily_Kane kindly linked me a BRILLIANT analysis of Black Tom and Red Hook by Vajra Chandrasekera at Strange Horizons: here. I highly recommend you read it, it certainly goes a lot deeper than my review and touches upon a lot of extremely important points.

This is a bit of an unconventional review for me, but it's an unconventional book! I certainly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you've read Lovecraft. If you love the New Weird fantasy/horror subgenre, this is a must.

Reading Black Tom, and Red Hook have inspired me to seek out more Lovecraft subversion tales. After reading Red Hook, I'm way more interested in reading these than Lovecraft himself. If you're curious about that racist as fuck story (yes, I am still REALLY pissed at Red Hook), you can read it for free here, though I recommend a LARGE glass of wine as accompaniment.

Join in the discussion at #DSFFBookClub, and let me know your thoughts on Lovecraft and The Ballad of Black Tom below in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Pokemon Go Book Tag!

This tag is just too amusing of an idea to pass by. Just pretend I'm not weeping in the corner over here because my phone is incapable of running Pokemon Go.

This took me embarrassingly wrong to complete because I'm easily distracted. Well, it's done now. BEHOLD.

Tag created by Aentee @ Read At Midnight.

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Yes really. I know it's a horrible LotR ripoff BUT I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OKAY.

A Wizard of Earthsea. Ursula Le Guin is my favorite classic SFF author and the Earthsea series is just so incredible in so many ways. My personal favorite is The Tombs of Atuan, because I was a weird morbid kid and the idea of the silent, dark labyrinth that had to be navigated solely by touch ... so, so good.

China Mieville's Kraken. I remember when New Weird was a big thing in the fantasy genre and LITERALLY EVERYONE was reading The City & The City, Perdido Street Station, and Kraken. I finally did start Kraken, and it is extremely weird, but so far it hasn't really drawn me in.

This is too easy in the fantasy genre, where every second book is a LotR remake. I choose Dragonlance by Weis & Hickman, which is so trope-y it probably wraps all the way around to original somehow. We all have guilty pleasures, ok? Mine happens to be campy, terrible D&D-based fantasy. I also read Drizzt. Shut up.

Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars. I've been eyeing this series for probably like 8 years or something. But after Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan, I don't know if I'm ready to get involved in another fantasy epic of the same size right now.

Art © 2015 by Plunderpuss
Given the fact that I intentionally avoid suspense & horror, this is hard. I'll link not a book, but a short story: Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong. Brilliant, amazing *shivers*

ACTUALLY I HAVE A BOOK TOO. Bonus round: NK Jemisin's The Killing Moon. Such a creepy magic system. And NK Jemisin EXCELS at grabbing your feels and not letting them go until she's extracted every drop of remaining emotional stability. READ IT.

Phèdre & Joscelin from the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. Normally I don't enjoy romance in books--*ducks thrown tomatoes*--but Phèdre and Joscelin have such a deliciously complicated relationship, with tragedy and consequences and crossroads and ... I LIKE POIGNANT BOOKS, OKAY? Happy isn't intense enough for me. Usually.

Kushiel's Dart is a wonderfully lush book, probably one of the first SFF books I picked up with significant LGBT+ inclusion. It has brilliant politics, complex human relationships, beautiful writing, and READ IT OKAY. READ. IT.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Holy shit. This book grabbed and didn't let go and was AMAZING. If you like brutal political intrigue, read this book. READ IT.

I tried and tried to think of one, but it turns out my gut reaction was right. I don't like spin-offs. NO SPIN-OFFS. Like, maybe Drizzt shit? But not sure if D&D-based fiction really counts ... since essentially every series is a spin-off. Pass?

The Sundering series by Carey. I was expecting it to be a clever commentary on standard fantasy tropes, but not particularly emotion-destroying. BOY WAS I WRONG. This series is like LotR except from the PoV of Sauron's side. And Carey really, REALLY makes you sympathize with them. So much that I was legit sad when the Good Side had victories. EVIL IS JUST MISUNDERSTOOD /weeps

Malazan by Erikson. Everyone who reads epic fantasy knows this name, knows of its legendary worldbuilding & notoriously difficult reading experience. I still love it. Even if I have to take a break between each Malazan book I read. One day I will finish it!

OK so Barnes and Noble has this amazing collector's edition leather-bound fiction and I basically want ALL OF IT. What I would really want, though? Octavia Butler (one of her best books: Kindred) in that kind of beautiful binding. One of the greats of SFF writing, she deserves equal treatment as Tolkien.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I'm actually not sure if this is a debut? I think it is. In any case, I NEED TO READ THIS. Mathematical space opera! I ADORE hard science fiction, so this sounds like exactly the sort of book I will love. Reading Glaiza's review made me so much more eager to get my hands on this book. Cannot wait.

Scott Lynch. The Gentleman Bastards series (Book 1: The Lies of Locke Lamora) is one of the only ones that I will go out and buy the hardcover within a week of the release. Like thieves, snark, and brilliant heists? You need these books.

I won't say GRRM, I won't say GRRM ...


... Winds of Winter. Sorry.

Do you have OPINIONS on any of these books? Sabers at dawn! (or write a comment below)