Things I Read and Loved in 2016

We’re getting into the last weeks of 2016, which means it’s time for year-in-review posts! Next week, we’ll get into What I Did in 2016. This week, I want to talk about what Other People Have Done. So, here are some things I Read and Loved in 2016. (I did read and love much more than this, but alas, I cannot fit them all.) Not all were published in 2016, but that’s okay. In no particular order:

 

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Every Mountain Made Low, by Alex White

The name “Alex White” should be familiar. He wrote the theme music for Six Stories, Told at Night! Alex is a ridiculously talented Renaissance Man, and I was excited to crack into his debut novel.

Ghosts have always been cruel to Loxley Fiddleback, especially the spirit of her only friend, alive only hours before. Loxley isn’t equipped to solve a murder: she lives near the bottom of a cutthroat, strip-mined metropolis known as “The Hole,” suffers from crippling anxiety and doesn’t cotton to strangers. Worse still, she’s haunted.

It’s an evocative world, but for me, the novel’s greatest strength is its protagonist: Loxley. She’s neuro-atypical, difficult, flawed—and oh, so very real. Plus, there is a veritable arsenal of Chekhov’s guns, which pleases me.

 

Mortal Love, by Elizabeth Hand

At Can*Con this year, I was asked, “Have you read any Elizabeth Hand? I think you’d like her.”

“Oh!” I replied. “I love Liz!”

And I do—as former student and reader. I read the back cover copy of Mortal Love at my graduating residency and had to have it:

In the Victorian Age, a mysterious and irresistible woman becomes entwined in the lives of several artists, both as a muse and as the object of all-consuming obsession.

Liz writes everything from sci-fi to noir thrillers. The books I’ve read are beautifully-wrought, vibrantly-coloured fever dreams. Completely entrancing, even as the colours keep shifting, shifting….

 

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The Six-Gun Tarot, by R.S. Belcher

This was a “Sure, I’ll try it!” find from the library:

Nevada, 1869. Golgotha is a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the darkness stirring in the abandoned mine overlooking the town…

1860s setting aside, I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. It’s not so much a single, linear plot as immersion into a world. Nor is it a single genre: Weird West, epic fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror all come together. Some reviewers aren’t convinced of the execution; I think it worked, but you have to play by the novel’s terms, rather than your own expectations.

 

Tamsin, by Peter S. Beagle

Another library book: “I like Peter S. Beagle, so I will probably like this!”

Jennifer Gluckstein moves with her mother to a 300-year-old farm in Dorset, England, to live with her new stepfather and stepbrothers, Julian and Tony. Initially lonely, Jenny befriends Tamsin Willoughby, the ghost of the original farm’s owner’s daughter.

Peter S. Beagle writes beautiful fiction, okay? Beautiful, unassuming fiction that wallops you with emotion. While I loved the way history exerts its inexorable power over the plot, I adored the nuanced relationship between Jenny and Tamsin. But then, I am a sucker for strong friendships and (pseudo-) sibling relationships in my fiction.

 

Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard

I bought this the day it was released. Howard has a discomforting ability to punch my very specific emotional buttons. And we seem to have very similar tastes and interests. And styles. And we were clearly both taught by James Patrick Kelly.  And it’s a little uncanny, actually. Anyway—

Imogen and her sister Marin escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love.

Sibling angst? Check. Musing on art and artistic obsession? Check. Faerie? Check.

Goddammit, Kat Howard. There’s a little unevenness here and there, but I loved this, finishing in a tearstained rush on the bus.

 

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Le Sang de Mirial, by Marie Bilodeau

Marie’s a pal of mine from my Dragon Moon days – I was stoked to pick this up at Can*Con. It’s a French translation of her novel Destiny’s Blood.

Layela et Yoma Delamores – des jumelles – ont passé la majeure partie de leur vie dans la rue, survivant grâce à de multiples petits larcins. Maintenant dans la vingtaine, Layela a convaincu sa sœur de se ranger : avec l’argent amassé, il est temps d’ouvrir un commerce. Mais quelques jours après l’inauguration de leur boutique de fleuristes, Yoma disparaît…

(Tl;dr: Epic space opera: twins try to open a flower shop after a life of petty crime, but then one disappears…)

My French is okay. I can make myself understood (clumsily), and I mostly understand when I’m listening/reading. About 1/3 of the way through this novel, I felt like I stopped translating in my head and just started reading. As is typical for Marie’s work, this is both surreally funny and bitterly dark. I was shipping two characters pretty hard, but I think my hope arose mostly from my spotty FSL skills.

 

Bonus Short Story: “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland,” by Sarah Monette.

Found in a collection of shorts from Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. I’m sensing a theme with what I like: Victorian things, Faerie, and unconventional relationships. This story has all three in spades, and the emotional undercurrent nearly melted even my icy heart.

 

So that’s my 2016, reading-wise. What about you? What did you read and love?

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Christmas music! John Gardner’s arrangement of “Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day” is delightful! It really does need to move quickly: the sprightly organ is perfect. Especially when the descant hits in the last verse: it sounds like we’re about to dance off the rails, but then we don’t.

Posted on December 12, 2016, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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