Coming Attractions: Historical Fiction Month

book-316411_640This coming May will be all about the historical fiction here on A Fantastical Librarian. There were some awesome releases in the past month and I still had some fantastic books in my TBR-pile that had been languishing there in favour of the new and shiny. So when I jokingly told someone that I needed to do an exclusive historical fiction month, I actually decided to do just that. I have a list of titles I want to read and some interviews and guest posts lined up. And it’s not just straight historical fiction; there is some historical crime and some historical supernatural suspense in there as well. So I hope you’ll enjoy the month, even if you’re not a regular historical fiction reader; I know I’m looking forward to getting stuck-in on these titles.  Continue reading »

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Naomi Foyle – Astra

naomifoyle-astraLike every child in Is-Land, Astra Ordott is looking forward to her Security shot so she can one day do her IMBOD Service and help defend her Gaian homeland from Non-Lander infiltrators. The one of Astra’s Shelter mothers, the formidable Dr Hokma Blesser, warns her that the shot will limit her chances of being a famous scientist – or helping raise the mysterious data-messenger Owleons that Hokma breeds – and Astra reluctantly agrees to deceive the Is-land authorities and all her family and friends in Or.

Astra grows up increasingly conscious of the differences between her and the other Or-kids – then Lil, an orphaned wild child of the forest, appears in Or and at last she has someone exciting to play with. But Lil’s father taught her some alarming ideas about the world, and Astra is about to learn some devastating truths about Is-Land, Non-Land, the Owleons, and the complex web of adult relationships that surrounds her.

Last year I reviewed Naomi Foyle’s Seoul Survivors and while the book and I didn’t really get along, I was very impressed with Foyle’s writing. And the premise of Astra sounded quite interesting, so I was really looking forward to seeing whether I’d get along better with Foyle’s sophomore effort. And I’m glad to say I did. Astra is just as thought-provoking as Seoul Survivors was, but without the problematic elements and Foyle’s use of language and imagery is just as good, if not better as it was in her previous novel.  Continue reading »

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Sophia McDougall – Mars Evacuees

sophiamcdougall-marsevacueesThe fact that someone had decided I would be safer on Mars, where you could still only SORT OF breathe the air and SORT OF not get sunburned to death, was a sign that the war with the aliens was not going fantastically well.

I’d been worried I was about to be told that my mother’s spacefighter had been shot down, so when I found out that I was being evacuated to Mars, I was pretty calm.

And despite everything that happened to me and my friends afterwards, I’d do it all again. because until you’ve been shot at, pursued by terrifying aliens, taught maths by a laser-shooting robot goldfish and tried to save the galaxy, I don’t think you can say that you’ve really lived.

If the same thing happens to you, this is my advice: ALWAYS CARRY DUCT TAPE.

I love Sophia McDougall’s short fiction; I think she’s one of the most talented short fiction writers out there. I still have to read her Romanitas series; the first book in said series is patiently sitting on my TBR-pile. But when I heard about Mars Evacuees, learnt about McDougall’s inspiration for the book and read the flap text, I was sold and really wanted to read it. So I was gutted to learn that I had missed snagging an ARC of the book at World Fantasy last year, but made up for it by winning a competition McDougall ran for an ARC. There was much rejoicing in Casa Librarian at that news. And Mars Evacuees was everything I expected. It’s funny, smart, well-written and has oodles of character.  Continue reading »

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Robert A. Heinlein – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

robertaheinlein-themoonisaharshmistressIn 2075, Luna is no longer a penal colony, but it’s still a prison for everyone except its rulers …

A strange group of plotters are brewing up a revolution: an engaging jack-of-all-trades, his luscious blonde girlfriend, and a lonely talking computer. Their aim is the overthrow of the hated Authority and real freedom for the freebooting individualists who make up the moon’s population.

Set in a strangely familiar yet utterly alien human civilization of the future, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the most imaginative science fiction novels ever written.

Reading Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and writing this review filled me with trepidation. Hodderscape had impeccable timing with the selection of this title as March’s Review Project Title as there was a discussion (to put it in the kindest terms) over whether one could be a “real SF fan” without having read and enjoyed Heinlein. I’d read Starship Troopers in days long past and thought it was okay. But after this debate and also because I’ve become a more critical and socially-aware reader since that time, I really was a little apprehensive starting The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And with reason, because oh boy, I had issues with this book.  Continue reading »

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Guest Post: E.J. Swift on Post-ecological Politics in The Osiris Project

ejswift-cataveiroE.J. Swift’s debut Osiris had some interesting reviews when it came out, but since it was published by Nightshade Books and at the time didn’t have a UK publisher, I never got around to reading it. However, I did get an e-copy in one of Nightshade’s giveaways at some point and when I received an ARC for Cataveiro, the second book in The Osiris Project, it seemed like the universe was giving me a hint, so I’ll be reading both books in early June. In the meantime, I’m happy to bring you a guest post by E.J. Swift explaining some of the ecological politics in her series The Osiris ProjectContinue reading »

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Scott Tracey – Darkbound

scotttracey-darkboundNo one hates being a witch quite like Malcolm. But if there’s one thing worse than being a witch, it’s being a Moonset witch. There are very few things in his life that he can control, and after a fight with his siblings, he’s losing his grip on what he’s got left.

A creature as old as Hamelin has crept out of the Abyss, and its siren song has infected the teenagers of Carrow Mill compelling them, at first, to simply be swept away in love. But love soon turns dangerous, as passion turns to violence and an army of sociopaths is born.

The Pied Piper isn’t just a story, and he’s got his eyes set on Malcolm, promising a life of freedom from magic and the shackles of the Moonset bond. As Carrow Mill burns, Malcolm must make the hardest choice of his life: family? Or freedom?

In the sequel to last year’s Moonset, Scott Tracey returns the reader to Carrow Mill. However, we don’t return to Justin’s point of view, instead the story is told from Malcolm’s perspective. It’s an interesting shift, especially as it means we get a different look at the members of the Moonset coven, both past and present. While I enjoyed Darkbound quite a lot and it was a good follow-up to Moonset, there were some things that disappointed me and some troubling aspects to some of Tracey’s word choice and ambiguity as to Mal’s sexual orientation.  Continue reading »

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Michael Boatman – Last God Standing

michaelboatman-lastgodstandingWhen God decides to quit and join the human race to see what all the fuss is about, all Hell breaks loose.

Sensing his abdication, the other defunct gods of Earth’s vanquished pantheons want a piece of the action He abandoned.

Meanwhile, the newly-humanised deity must discover the whereabouts and intentions of the similarly reincarnated Lucifer, and block the ascension of a murderous new God.

How is he ever going to make it as a stand-up comedian with all of this going on…?

Last God Standing was one of my Anticipated Reads for this spring. As I said in that post “…when I read the blurb I immediately wanted to read the book as it seemed like it would be a really fun read. I love Boatman as an actor, he’s got a great sense of timing, which is key to comedic acting, and it’ll be interesting to see whether this translates to his writing.” Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed with the book. First of all, Last God Standing‘s blurb doesn’t really do it justice; Boatman asks some pretty deep questions in his book and it is far from the comedic fling that it looks like from the blurb. Secondly, I had a hard time connecting to the narrative. I kept getting lost and having to go back a page to figure out exactly what was going on. However, despite these problems, there were things that worked really well in this book.  Continue reading »

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Jonathan Strahan – The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eight

strahan-bestofsffvol8The best, most original and brightest science fiction and fantasy stories from around the globe from the past twelve months are brought together in one collection by multi-award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan.

This highly popular series is released in the UK for the first time with this edition. It will include stories from both the biggest names in the field and the most exciting new talents. Previous volumes have included stories from Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Joe Abercrombie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, Bruce Sterling, Adam Roberts, Ellen Klages, and many many more.

Over the last almost four years that I’ve been running A Fantastical Librarian, I’ve come to appreciate the art of short form more and more. But most of my short fiction consumption comes from reading anthologies and listening to podcasts such as Escape Pod, PodCastle, Lightspeed and Clarkesworld; most of the fiction published in magazines completely passes me by. And when the email about a review copy for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year volume 8 arrived, it plugged that gap nicely, especially given the fact that I was in the process of putting together my nominations for this year’s Hugo’s. What I found in this continuation of Jonathan Strahan’s series of ‘Best of the Year’-anthologies with a new publisher, was a fantastic set of stories, some of which didn’t completely work for me, but all of them interesting. Below I’ll call out some of the stories I really liked and talk in more detail about my favourites.  Continue reading »

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Jennifer E. Smith – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

jenniferesmith-thestatisticalprobabilityofloveatfirstsightWho would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn’t forgotten the book. Or if there hadn’t been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn’t fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she’d run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else – the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn’t sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it’s the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver…

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

One of my favourite YA novels last year was Jennifer E. Smith’s This is What Happy Looks Like. It was the perfect read for a blue day, which had me grinning from ear to ear from beginning to end. So when I saw Smith’s previous YA novel The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight as a Read Now title on Netgalley I jumped on it. And it was every bit as good and as fun as I expected it to be. It also hit me right in the feels as I connected quite strongly to Hadley’s feelings about her dad, as it reminded me of my own relationship with my dad at her age.  Continue reading »

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My 2014 Hugo Nominations Ballot

hugo_rocketSince the nomination window has now closed for the Hugo Awards, which means I can’t change my mind any more, I thought, like many others before me, I’d post my Hugo Nomination Ballot. Not just to share what I nominated but also so I can do a comparison once the nominations are announced to see whether any of my nominations made it through and later on what my predictions are and after LonCon what I got right. There are several categories where I haven’t nominated anyone or anything, because I either hadn’t read or seen anything in said category or because I just don’t know enough about it to judge. So without further ado here are my nominations.  Continue reading »

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