Best of 2016

While scanning my Goodreads libraries, looking for a new read, I found myself reminiscing about some of the books I’ve particularly enjoyed this past year.

And so, given our proximity to Christmas, I thought I’d share a few stand-outs…

A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker and a conjurer in pre-revolutionary Boston.

He is hired by the well-to-do to track down and return stolen property, but, unlike his competitors, he is aided by his affinity for magic.

The law and the church, however, do not look favourably upon his darker talents.

I’ve loved D. B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles since I read the first novella, A Spell of Vengeance (a prequel to the series) — the mix of a well structured magic system and concrete historical setting (and in particular, this historical setting) just worked for me.

This, the third novel in the series proper, raises the stakes for Ethan to levels where he is forced to make all manner of compromises in order to meet the challenge.

The entire Thieftaker series was a great read, but A Plunder of Souls was by far my favourite.

In Your Face edited by Tehani Wessely

I had the unbridled pleasure of proofreading this anthology from Fablecroft Publishing (one of their last offerings for a while, as their editor-in-chief takes a hiatus).

This anthology of short speculative fiction abounds with trigger warnings — it is a collection of stories that flirts with and, in some cases, pries open provocative themes and societal taboos.

My favourites in the mix were:

‘The Lost Boys’ by Craig McCormack — a reworking of the Peter Pan mythos.

It paints a picture of the boy-who-wouldn’t-grow-up as a predator who preys upon vulnerable children, luring them to Neverland.

Needless to say, I will never be able to read Peter Pan in the same light again.

‘All Roll Over’ by Kaaron Warren spins the tale of the unspeakable things that occur on a mattress, written from the mattress’s perspective.

As with all of Kaaron Warren’s fiction, I found it disturbing, and it left an indelible imprint of some truly uncomfortable images.

I’ve been a fan of Fablecroft anthologies for a few years now — my work has even appeared in one — but this is, in my opinion, the strongest they have produced.

How to Be a Writer: Who Smashes Deadlines, Crushes Editors and Lives in a Solid Gold Hovercraft by John Birmingham

Written by the same author who gave us He Died with a Falefel in His Hand, this book is the Glock 19 that all writers should pack when behind the enemy lines of authorial obscurity.

It is, essentially, a collection of blog posts and essays from John Birmingham on the business of writing — as opposed to the craft of writing.

The tone of the book is playful, yet hard-hitting — full of inspired insults, cold realities and industry insights.

It’s like a boot-camp for budding writers, run by a personal trainer who is ex-SAS.

After reading this book, I found the gumption to pitch and write a little copy on the side — though unfortunately breaking one of the cardinal rules: don’t work for free.

And I have adopted the Eisenhower Decision Matrix — defining how to prioritise what is urgent and important — in more than just my writing life.

In short, if you want to be a writer, read this book.

I hope Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) is good to you, and you read a book worthy of blogging about.

See you in 2017.

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