Several of my author peeps post about their favourite books of the year and I think it’s a great idea. We’re not only writers, we’re also readers!
This year I dove into books from authors I’ve met or had contact with on social media (except maybe Mary Shelley, but we so would have been tweeps). I especially wanted to read more of my fellow Renaissance authors, as a fan, though, not merely for promotion. You see, my new favourite thing is reading authors I know or am acquainted with, because I find it adds a gravitas to my experience. I also love telling them directly how much I enjoyed their work. It’s kind of a squeeful thing for me to have that contact.
So, without further delay, here’s my Top 10 List of Books I read in 2017! (They might not all have been published this year, but I read them this year.)
It was hard ranking these, because I loved them all. Many of the books could have been tied, so take my grouping with a grain of salt. Except maybe the top three, because I went absolutely bonkers for them. ~ Cait
#10: Keeper of the Dawn, by Dianna Gunn
This debut novella by Canadian author Dianna Gunn hits it out of the park. It’s a story about Lai, a young woman who has been training all her life to become a priestess, which also involves being a skilled warrior. When she fails the trials, which she never expected, Lai runs away into the unknown and finds a people only previously spoken of in myth.
I found Lai a refreshing lead female character who isn’t one-dimensional. She is far more gifted than her peers and can best anyone in a fight yet wrestles with personal insecurities and fears. I liked that about her. Made her real to me.
The book has great Ace representation and strong characters. The story flows well and I gobbled it up in no time.
#9: Parasomnia, by Éric Desmarais
What I thought would be a book about several people who shared a sleep disorder turned out to be just that, except maybe for the total bitchin’ fantasy element thrown in! I can’t say enough about how freaking cool it was for Canadian author Éric Desmarais to mashup a medical mystery with a mystical fantasy. Also, this was the most creative way I’ve ever seen a transfeminine character introduced into a story.
I wish I could write more, but too many spoilers. Trust me, you should get it.
#8: The Reluctant Barbarian, by John Haas
What happens when an angel grants your wish? Nice, right? Except for the fact that you were nine at the time and now you’re in your 40s… and you wanted to be Conan the Barbarian back in the day. Also, the friend you wished you could become barbarians with is dead. Bah, no problem. The angel insists the wish has to be granted so they can move on with their backlog. And your dead friend will join you for barbaric adventures anyway…as a zombie.
Honestly, this is the plot in Canadian author John Haas’ book, The Reluctant Barbarian. And it’s funny as heck. For a light read with a lot of chuckles, do pick it up!
#7: Lust and Lemonade, by Jamieson Wolf
OH, THE SASS! I loved this book, which really felt like a Netflix show I binge-watched. Each chapter is an episode unto itself. In Lust and Lemonade, by Canadian author Jamieson Wolf, we find Blaine, who wants to get away from his local hook-up culture and find a real relationship. The only problem is he has trust issues (for a an extremely valid reason). Still, with encouragement from his lemonade-making granny, and his collection of fabulous and quirky friends, Blaine takes a deep breath and moves forward.
They call Lust and Lemonade the queer Sex & the City, but I like it far better than that show. Watching Blaine and his friends navigate their romantic relationships while providing support to each other was a fun and touching ride. And then there’s THE THING THAT HAPPENS, and THEN THE OTHER THING, which I can’t tell you about. You’ll just have to read the book. Go ahead!
#6: Making a Living, by Nathan Fréchette (writing as Caroline Fréchette)
So. Many. Burritos. Mmm. Yeah, I love stories that also include food. Because food.
Making a Living ruined my hatred of zombie stories. Just killed it, because I enjoyed this book so much. In fact, at the time I had been stung by a toxic beetle and my face was all swollen, and I still couldn’t put this novel down!
This was the first line: “When Nathan came to, the dead girl was crying. He was relatively sure she wasn’t supposed to do that.” How do you expect me to not read a story that starts this way? Canadian author Nathan Fréchette pulled me right into a situation where not all ghouls are necessarily bad, yet the cruelty of humanity shines through. Honestly, I’d rather spend time with a zombie with a heart than a human who’s heartless. Great character and world development.
#5: Soul’s Blood, by Stephen Graham King
In Soul’s Blood, there’s this trio of awesomeness consisting of Keene, Lexa-Blue, and ’Vrick, the sentient ship. Similar to Firefly, they take on trade missions that sometimes go a little awry. Keene is the cautious techno-genius, Lexa-Blue is the fearless fighter, and ’Vrick manages to keep them all from getting killed. I love Canadian author Stephen Graham King’s use of humour in the novel, especially with ’Vrick calling Lexa-Blue “Meat.” I guess to a machine, we are just meat-based computers. An eye opener, really.
There are so many things I loved about this book. It’s masterfully crafted, and my favourite thing was the juxtaposition between the high-tech continent of the Technarch and the low-tech, mystical continent of the Sotari. The author manages to navigate both places skillfully, which is a feat, in my opinion.
#4: Cycling to Asylum, by Su Sokol
That thing, when an author writes what is supposed to be fiction but it’s so real, you get the chills? I had the same feeling reading Cycling to Asylum as I did watching the prequel scenes of the new Handmaid’s Tale series. I could see how we could easily go from where we are now to a dystopian and oppressive reality.
This book is like four stories in one, as we read the perspectives from Laek, Janie, Siri (their daughter), and Simon. Canadian author Su Sokol does an excellent job in bringing us into each character’s head space. What struck me the most about this novel was how the overly-monitoring, paranoid policing culture of the US could become a reality in any country, if we become too complacent about human dignity. I dare to say it’s almost a prophetic warning to stay sharp and speak out against hate speech, and to vote, vote, vote for leaders who work to protect the rights of our fellow citizens.
Support this fantastic author and read this book. Then maybe vow to never let the story happen in real life.
#3: Triad Blood, Triad Soul, by ’Nathan Burgoine
Demon. In a Jayne hat.
First off, I am not a paranormal story fan. Oh, look, I just lied, because did I ever go crazy over Canadian author ’Nathan Burgoine’s Triad series. It’s about how these three men form their own triad complete against tradition. Where wizards are normally grouped with wizards, demons with demons, and so on, Luc (vampire), Curtis (wizard), and Anders (demon) form their own protective bond. It’s safer than being lone beings who’d be easy prey.
I read the first two books (please tell this man to write the third one, because reasons) and I loved them. Mind you, the problem with reading a book about vampires, demons, wizards, and werewolves who live in the Ottawa area is that now I’ll keep looking over my shoulder whenever I grab at tea in The Glebe!
I found these stories sexy, spooky, and captivating. I loved the triad of Luc, Curtis, and Anders, but it was Anders who had me howling with laughter. (Apparently lusty demons have no filter. Who knew?) Also, the references to geek pop culture were a scream.
#2: Skylark, by S.M. Carrière
It’s Canada, in the future. We made alien contact years ago and they kicked the snot out of us. We call them the Daemons. They conquered much of our land and live in their territory and we do, too, but our land might be full of diseased humans who come out at night and want to kill us. Enter a third enemy, another alien force that’s capturing our people stationed in space and literally stripping them to the bone. Worse yet, these bad aliens are getting closer to Earth. Okay, this is not good. Might be a time to join forces with the Daemons. They don’t want to eat us, at least, and seem to be warriors with beyootchin’ skills.
Skylark is the callsign of Commander Skye, a man I want to sleep with until I walk funny. (Yes, Sonia, he is dayyymn sexeh). His team of fighters is assigned to collaborate with the Daemons, lead by the Tahorah. The characters are endearing, funny, badass, and I want to be their friends. The adventure of Skylark will keep you glued to the last page. A great rhythm to a story that is still my favourite of all Canadian author S.M. Carrière’s works.
Where to buy Skylark? Ah, there’s the rub. I’ve read it because I was the first to edit the book, but take heart, it’s being considered by a publisher as I write this and I’ll definitely let you know when it’s out! BECAUSE OH MY FREAKING WORD, it’s good!
#1: Tremontaine, by Ellen Kushner and a band of untouchable authors
This year I coined a term: TremontainEvangelist. This is a person who loves the Tremontaine series so much, they want to go door to door and ask people if they have Tremontaine in their lives. I was enthusiastically encouraged to read this series by Nathan Fréchette, and I’m so glad I did. It’s the most amazing, addictive, alluring, and awesome colelction I’ve read, and that includes Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books.
Tremontaine is part of the title of a duke, William, but anyone who reads the series always associates the duchy with his spouse Diane, who’s gloriously and deliciously cunning, wicked, manipulative, and best of all, a drinker of chocolate. (I am so cosplaying her.) The series is broken into episodes—yup, they are actually called episodes—and I quickly learned that Tremontaine is written by several authors. Honestly, I found the entire work so seamless, this impressed me all the more.
The series is a prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint (which I will read after I get all the Tremontaine I can eat) and it focuses on the lives of key characters in the different social groups of the City, and how they are affected by the chocolate trade as well as the regular ol’ lust for power in the upper classes. Read my review of Series 1 here. There is great queer representation, and I loved the way they portray a character with neurodiversity. Tremontaine has duchesses, courtesans, ruffians, forgers, warrior princes and warrior princesses, hired swords, rebel scollars … and did I mention the part about the chocolate?
Honourable Mention: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
If this were a list of the classics, I might have put this book at number one! I was so ignorant of the Frankenstein story, based on all the pop culture that emerged from the original book. But you need to read the 1818 version by Mary Shelley. It’s exquisitely done. I told a friend that the book comes across like Jane Austen, but dark!
For those of you who write science fiction, paranormal, and horror, you owe it to yourselves to pay tribute to this fine lady. You can buy it here!
Hope you grab some or all of these books and dive in to some good reading. Oh hey, and don’t forget to leave reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and such. It’s really helpful for us authors.
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a comedic space opera where boy meets girl, but girl doesn’t notice boy because she’s sharing a body with another boy. She is also the creator and editor of the Spoonie Authors Network. You can follow Cait on Facebook and Twitter.