I read a total of 57 books in 2016, far lower than usual, but it was a particularly busy year for me in regards to writing and other projects. Nevertheless, there were many great reads this year, so many that I would not be able to narrow them all down to just a few. So, here are my favorite reads, all categorized, because that’s how I roll.
Best Science Fiction Novel
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. The more I read Connie Willis’ work, the more I admire her as an author. Doomsday Book was no exception. Set in Oxford—at a university in which historians are able to actually travel back in time to witness and experience the past eras they research—the story is split between Kivrin, who travels to the Middle Ages (one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history), and Dunworthy, her mentor who is terrified to see her go and is left to face his own crisis in the present day as a sudden influenza outbreak flares up, forcing Oxford to go into quarantine. Dealing with disease as it does, it’s a dark story, although it is laced with Willis’ wit and humor. I especially loved Kivrin’s journey to the Middle Ages and fell in love (as Kivrin does) with the family that takes her in. A fantastic book, one that had me itching to read more in Willis’ time travel series.
Wait. July is over already? Where did the year go?
I’ve long loved the work Charlie Jane Anders does — both as the host of Writers with Drinks and as a long-time editor and writer at i09. So I was thrilled to have been able to pick up a copy of All the Birds in the Sky (which I got signed at one of her readings in San Francisco).
The novel is sort of a like a nature witch and mad scientist love story that explores the philosophical differences between how magic and science approach deal with a world that’s falling apart. Both have their own ways of trying to make things better, but when magic and science begin to clash, it threatens to destroy the world instead.
I love the characters in this novel. Both Patricia and Laurence had rough childhoods that they managed to survive and deal with in their own ways. Though they are both flawed, they also have their own sense of compassion that leads them to try to do good in the world. Somehow, despite all their differences and mistakes, they manage to fit together.
Anders’ writing is beautiful — a mixture of beautiful details, humor, and emotional resonance. I loved this book.
On Saturday, I took a jaunt up to the city to Borderlands Books for a reading and book signing with the amazing Charlie Jane Anders in celebration of her new novel All the Birds in the Sky. It was a packed house, with standing room only as Charlie read from her charming and funny tale about a witch and a mad scientist becoming friends. I laughed out loud several times during the reading and then waited in a rather long line to get my book signed (during which time, I found too more books to purchase that day). It’s was a joy and a delight to have been there, even though I couldn’t stay longer to mingle. I’m just so happy for her and for all of her success.
All the Birds in the Sky description:
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.
What I’m Reading
Since I started it first, I’m reading an ARC of Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, which is the story of a young high school student coming of age in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, when the infamous Son of Sam serial killer was shooting young women on the streets. So far it’s interesting.
On the docket: All the Birds in the Skyby Charlie Jane Anders
What I’m Writing
As expected, the my day job work pretty much stripped my brain of words or any interest in looking at computers last week. So, I honestly can’t remember actually putting any words to the page. I might have done, might have worked on a book review, but I’m not sure. So, yeah.
Anyway, now that the big day job project is done, it’s time to get back to creative things in my off hours.
Goal for the Week:
Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
Tobias Carroll discusses things left unsaid or unspoken in fiction — “Every story that works gets the level of description that it needs. Which isn’t to say that the level of description needed for every successful story is the same; quite the opposite.”