April 2019 Recommended Books

One of the books I read this past month was Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu–read to my daughter. There were so many references to other famous stories and fairy tales that I realized she wasn’t familiar with yet, so we got an abrupt jump to the length of our list of to-read together.

As for my favorites, these stories I’m recommending because I enjoyed them the most out of everything I read :)

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The Ingenious by Darius Hinks
(Dark Fantasy)

This was my absolute favorite book of April. The description of the City drew me to this novel in the first place–a city that absorbs people, culture and even land and then moves on after a few years to another place, creating a setting filled with thousands of years of possibility and differences. The whole of the story held a haunting, somber feel while you follow a woman dealing with layers of addiction who yet is still striving to stand up to the heavy expectations thrust on her at an early age. I found the story powerful and the writing beautiful, painfully beautiful at times when it seems as if Hinks was mixing the fugue-filled state of Isten within the storytelling.

The Reluctant Queen & The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst
(High Fantasy)

It’s not often you read about a woman heroine with kids. Not unless the kids are dead, long moved beyond needing mothering or the kids show up at the end as part of the happily ever after. So maybe I’m a tiny bit biased, but I loved getting to read from the perspective of a woman who doesn’t have illusions of grandeur, doesn’t have the desires that spark grand, sprawling adventures and is making most of her choices based on what’s best for her family rather than the rest of the world. And the world of Renthia is still its conflicted self, dark, yet filled with possibility. There were a few obvious plot threads, but when the world is this magical and the story fun, I care far less about being completely surprised at every turn. (Yep, The Deepest Blue is on my list to read come May! Already have it on my bookshelf taunting me!)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
(Mythological Romance)

I read Circe last year and absolutely adored the story, so picking up its predecessor this year was a no-brainer. I admit, Achilles wasn’t what I expected. I thought there would be more focus on the retelling of the Iliad section of the novel, less focus on Patroclus and Achilles growing up. More grittiness and less drama, yet I found I loved it regardless of expectations. This novel is essentially a crème de la crème of gay fantasy romance and while it’s not so much a retelling of Greek myth, it uses the setting beautifully. And now I have to wait for Miller to write a new book because there is no more back-list to mine.

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A mention I want to add: I read Foundation (Isaac Asimov) for the first time in April. I’d read all his robots books as a youth and loved them; have reread The Caves of Steel multiple times. While I found Foundation interesting, it wasn’t as eye-opening and intriguing as I think it might have been had I read it while still young enough to be surprised by some of the changes to the economy. I also read Hyperion for the first time, however, I’m holding out on a complete opinion until after I read through more of the series. So much world-building though!

March 2019 Recommended Books

I haven’t had much action going on in the submission/publication department, but even with this dearth, I’ve been keeping busy the past few years with reading, writing and general lifey-type things. Since I’ve begun (again) the ever-consistent process of submitting, I thought I would at least keep better track of what I’ve been reading. And then, since I’ve been keeping track, I can now look back over and consider which books I’d recommend to friends (or at least to friends who enjoy similar genres XD)

So, here are my favorite books that I read in March!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
(Dark/High Fantasy)

This was a delicious blend of the macabre and the fanciful that I wasn’t quite expecting when I began, but absolutely adored by the end! The spirits in this story are disturbing, strange and carry all of the wrath of old fae-type legends and makes for a scary undertone in an otherwise beautiful setting. Incredibly quick-paced, even during its comparatively slower portions during the lead’s training sections. I loved that there was a welcoming inclusion of female friendships (the women more often working together despite the competitive nature of their chosen path in the world) that didn’t overshadow the rest of the adventure and action. Recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid of a little death and dismemberment ;)

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
(Science-fiction)

Finally picked these four books up, though I don’t know why it took me so long considering I’m a big fan of Wells’ Raksura books. All Systems Red has been on my list since it came out and I just kept adding to it with each subsequent publication. A part of me is glad I waited though, because I got to read them back to back without much break between to forget details of the stories. They’re each a fun romp with an interesting lead who is constantly balancing its own secrets with its desire to protect the humans around it. Each story revolves around a new (or newish) conflict, goal and enemy, with the lovable rogue SecUnit at its core. They’re softer sci-fi, more focused on the character of Murderbot and its introspection and humanization, though they don’t delve too far into what it means to be human, keeping instead to the adventure and character development of Murderbot itself. I think I liked that best about the story overall, because it was a beautiful story about someone who didn’t want to be anything but itself in a world that expected it to want to be something it wasn’t.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
(YA Historical Fantasy)

I hadn’t tried Chokshi before so this book was a fun surprise. The Forging abilities were not only fresh and interesting in a magical design sense, but they were also embedded in every scene, on every page, in both the history of the world and in the details of the everyday. At its core, the story is a heist, with puzzles and math and specialized characters each with their own unique views and skills. It is YA, but it’s most definitely open to a wider audience. Even if you don’t generally enjoy historical settings, I think you’ll like this one because it’s put together beautifully.

Ship of Smoke And Steel by Django Wexler
(YA Fantasy)

This was another author I had not tried before; I had a few of them this month hoping to find some new fun adventures for my bookshelf. This one made me pick it up because…ghost ship! And the ship was just as intriguing in the reading as it was before I opened the book, and a whole lot bigger. You could call the Solitan a labyrinth it’s so huge. There are strange creatures and ghostly mysteries, not all of which are solved by the end of the book, but enough to leave you satisfied. I’d say, that although the genre is considered YA, the novel feels geared toward an older YA to adult audience given some of the more gritty representation and blunt, experienced characters.

Space Unicorn Blues by T J Berry
(Science Fantasy)

Another one with an interesting ship concept, this time in space. I admit, the Jaggery, a living ship where the bulk of this story takes place, is part of why I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. (It has a lake and a secret network of tiny tunnels for all its dwarves!) That, and the interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy that often had a comical undertone to it despite the dark situations. As for the characters, there’s a half-unicorn, a disabled ex-military, a trans ‘business-woman’, and a grizzled older pilot, all of whom have lost and suffered because of choices they’ve made in the past. The fact that these characters had to deal with actual loss because of past (and later current) choices, made this story more layered than just what seems to be on the surface.

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I did read more science-fiction novels in March, but unfortunately they weren’t quite for me. Maybe next month! I also read a couple of older books, including a few Agatha Christie. I started a quest to read her work a few years ago and I don’t think I’m even half-way through yet, but I’m three books closer :) They’re nice, calming stories that are good to read as almost a reset button if I’ve struggled to enjoy the last few books.

Shades of Amber published at BCS

Shades of Amber has gone live today in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 95th issue. It is a short story set in a world where vibrant color swirls upon the skin of every person and limited spectrums are looked down upon. This is my third professional publication :)

The other story in the issue is Margaret Ronald’s The Governess and the Lobster, so I’m in some very good company.

Writer’s of the Future’s Vol. 28 PW Review

Writers of the Future Vol. 28 has been published in ebook format (mmp forthcoming July 21st) with my story, Of Woven Wood, taking the first slot in the anthology.

I’ve recently returned from the workshop week and awards ceremony and will have decently thorough write-ups of my time out on the west coast out in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I just found out that Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the anthology:

“The 28th installment of this venerable anthology series collects the 13 winners of the Writers of the Future contest for 2011, drawing from the ranks of new authors and artists. Many of the contributors have already seen other success in the field, and it’s not hard to imagine some of them making award lists in the near future. The offerings are thought provoking and varied, with a general trend toward excellence. Standouts include Marie Croke’s “Of Woven Wood,” in which a golem learns to deal with his creator’s death; William Mitchell’s “Contact Authority,” a tale of outer space espionage; and Scott T. Barnes’s lyrical “Insect Sculptor.” The selections are weighted toward science fiction, with several fantasy pieces and some that defy genre, like Nick T. Chan’s “The Command for Love.” The future is in good hands.”

Bolding mine. Yay for good reviews and personal mentions :)

Sale to BCS

When I first summoned up the courage to begin submitting my stories instead of hiding them pointlessly in notebooks, Beneath Ceaseless Skies had only just started publishing a few months before.

At the time I set my sights on it because it was gorgeous (I’m a sucker for pretty) and was one of the mags that published a higher percentage of stories I enjoyed reading (go figure, since about 90% of what I write is . . . secondary world fantasy).

Luckily for me Scott Andrews never accepted any of those submissions because I’m a whole hellava lot prouder of the story he did just accept.

I’m super excited to announce that my short story “Shades of Amber” will be appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies!

This is also my third pro sale :)