My 2018 List of “You-Gotta-Read Them” Books

Note: Not all the books were published in 2018. I just wanted to share with you eight titles I’ve read this year and have really liked.

Okay, here we go, in no particular order!

Pride and Prometheus—John Kessel

Derek Newman-Stille, eight-time winner of the Aurora Award for Speculating Canada, is also the editor of the We Shall Be Monsters anthology about Frankenstein. (Yours truly will have a story featured in it.) Derek was not only responsible for my falling in love with Mary Shelley’s novel, but also for introducing me to this gem from John Kessel. Taking place years after the Austen tale, we discover the Bennet at the forefront is Mary. (Nice coincidence in the name, eh?) Mary encounters Victor Frankenstein and becomes very much drawn to him but has no idea that the grim Victor is trying to figure out how to construct a bride for his creation. She eventually finds herself face-to-face with the Monster and risks her own reputation to get to the bottom of Victor’s plans, which affect her own family. Like a master tailor, Kessel seamlessly joins the two worlds of Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein together, and the ending left me so satisfied.

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ID of book cover: A glum surf-tossed moor on a grey day. Two figures with their backs to us—a tall scruffy masculine being, slouching, and a woman in a blue Victorian-style dress with her hand in the crook of his arm. You can buy the book here!

Of Echoes Born—’Nathan Burgoine

Never, ever, ever, ever in my life have I come across a compilation like this. Of Echoes Born is a collection of short stories that reads like the camera is simply shifting to different scenes of a local queer community. What knits these stories together is the intensely creative use of colour, representing emotions, but not always in the clichéd way we’ve imagined. There’s great diversity within the community as well.

I’ve been a fan of this author for a while now; however, in my opinion, he topped himself with this work. Even if you “don’t like short stories,” put that feeling aside and grab this one. It all comes together like one cohesive novel. Masterfully done, in my awestruck opinion.

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ID of book cover: Blue glass background with man’s face. One eye is green and the other blue. You can buy the book here!

Moonshadow’s Guardian—Dianna Gunn

I find an occupational hazard of being an editor is becoming a fangirl of my authors. When Dianna Gun, author of Keeper of the Dawn, asked me to be one of the editors of Moonshadow’s Guardian, I jumped at the chance. Fantasy readers, you’ll want this book in your TBR pile, but maybe move it close to the top. In fact, just read it right after you finish this article. Moonshadow’s Guardian has so many of the elements of the genre—demons, the undead, telepaths, sorcerers, and a quest while flying an endearing dragon—but it’s all done in such a fresh and kinda badass way. It was really hard for me to slow down to edit it because I wanted to rush ahead and find out what came next! And adding the god Loki into the mix was fantastic.

It’s the first of a duology, and I’m really looking forward to the next book!

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ID of book cover: Moonlight evening, everything in shades of purple. Young warrior woman with long dark hair and carrying a sword on her back sits on a furry dragon, petting the side of his face. You can get buy the book here!

Human Remains—Melissa Yi

Okay, so this is book 5 in her Hope Sze Medical Crime series, but I still really loved Human Remains, and even though it had some spoilers from a previous book, it still read like a standalone to me. It’s about a doctor who accidentally stumbles upon the murder of a scientist who works in a stem-cell lab where she’s just been assigned, but we soon find out there are tie-ins to deadly viruses (or life-altering ones like Ziska). It’s not always easy to guess who the good guys are, too. There’s great character development and rhythm in this story. Even though I’m no scientist or doctor, I found the medical language easy to follow. Also, as a human who suffers from panic attacks, I felt Hope’s moments of breeeeeathing were so relatable. I’m intrigued by her two boyfriends as well. Must dive into the other novels to find out more.

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ID of book cover: Black background with a profile of a human skull, neck, and shoulders, in blue. You can get buy the book here!

Life and Lemonade—Jamieson Wolf

I’m a close friend of the author and one of the editors of this book. But really, who cares? If I had never met Jamieson, I would still have loved the second book of the Lemonade series. In this sequel to Lust and Lemonade, we again enjoy the sassy wit of the gang, especially Nancy, but there’s so much more to this story. Along with the squishy sweet romance that makes us melt, much darker themes are explored in Life and Lemonade. Wolf takes us through the blatant ugliness of abuse and does so with such realism, I found myself holding my breath. At one point I even gasped with an “Oh, no! No!”

I defy you to be able to put this book down. Wolf’s episodic chapters will make it hard for you to stop reading. Third book, please!

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ID of book cover: Orange background. Five people looking extremely concerned while sitting on chairs in a hallway. You can get the book here!

Tremontaine—created by Ellen Kushner and written by a band of awesome authors

The final season of Tremontaine is upon us. At the time of publishing this, I’ve read 10 out of 13 episodes. I love this world of intrigue so much that I tell everyone to read it and have dubbed myself a TremontainEvangelist. What’s not to love? In this sorta kinda 18th century world that’s not Earth but has recognizable cultures, there’s a deliciously conniving and beautiful duchess, the desire to dominate the chocolate-trade, savoury romances and dalliances, a lot of twisty-turny plots, “battles” between rich and poor, and excellent diversity. I particularly love how the writers crafted one girl’s neurodiversity as part of who she is, and how her friends accept and respect her. You can get all the seasons on Serial Box, which I highly recommend, because they have the most excellent audio versions of the episodes as well. Warning: you’ll get hooked. I just know it.

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ID: Grey cobblestone background. Two figures sword-fighting. Text reads: Tremontaine, The Final Season, a Serial Box Original. You can get all four seasons here!

Skylark—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.

I had reviewed this book in 2017, but it hadn’t come out yet. Skylark is now available, and space opera fans will gobble it up. (Yes, I’m one of the editors, but like I said, I’m a major fangirl, too.) The characters are endearing, funny, bitchinly cool, and I want to be their friends. The adventure of Skylark will keep you glued to the last page. A great story that is still my favourite of all her works.

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ID of book cover: Split scenes with sword divider—alien ship against a starry sky, a man in a dark space uniform staring at us with piercing blue eyes. You can buy the book here!

Gatecrasher—Stephen Graham King

I don’t know what it is, but I have a fondness for wormhole stories. They usually are pretty awesome, but as usual, Stephen Graham King’s imagination and gorgeously crafted technological settings take this space opera all to a new level. But why is this revolutionary space travel system being constructed in secret, on the fringes? Welp, you know our beloved Maverick Heart team just has to find out, right?

It was also so great to be reunited with the crew and the sentient ship (’Vrick) in this sequel to Soul’s Blood. And as much as I adore the original “meat” duo of Keene and Lexa-Blue, I also love the addition of Ember. I can’t wait to see how he fits in with the team going forward. Fantastic world building, great story. The Maverick Heart Cycle will definitely be a favourite series of mine and I can’t wait for the next book.

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ID of book cover: Black background with circular ring and bright light. You can buy the book here!

That’s all for this year!

Oh, and if you read these books, don’t forget to leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I thank you on their behalf! (Because it’s super nice to get reviews.)


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Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm (Renaissance) and The Stealth Lovers (Renaissance 2019). When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She’s also teamed up with co-editor Talia C. Johnson on the Nothing Without Us anthology (call for submissions are ongoing until Dec 31, 2018.)

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Life in My Microcosm: Cait G’s Top Ten Books of 2017!

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.

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You can buy Keeper of the Dawn here!

#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.

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You can buy Parasomnia here!

#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!

The Reluctant Barbarian book cover

You can buy The Reluctant Barbarian here!

#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!

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You can buy Lust and Lemonade here!

#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.

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You can buy Making a Living here!

#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.

Soul's Blood book cover

You can buy Soul’s Blood here!

#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.

Cycling to AsylumYou can buy Cycling to Asylum here!

#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.

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You can buy the books here!

#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.

Commander Bennejin Skye, drawn by S.M. Carrière (Prints available on Redbubble!)

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?

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So far there are three series out. The latest (as of time of publishing this post) is Season 3. You can buy them on Amazon or by subscribing at serialbox.com!

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!

That’s it!

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.

Happy word-looking!


cgauthorCait 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.

Cycling to Asylum

Cycling to Asylum: A Plausible Future?

Cycling to Asylum

When a story stays in my head days after I’ve read it or has a major impact on me, it goes on my reviews list. Su Sokol‘s Cycling to Asylum is one of those books that will remain with me a good while.

In Asylum we meet Laek, a married school teacher and father of two with a genuinely beaming smile that could bring you to your knees. A man of integrity who stands up for social justice, Laek, with his lawyer wife Janie, are no strangers to doing the right thing, even when it means pushing boundaries. This can be challenging in a United States of the not-so-distant future, where screens, wrist bands, and a violent police force monitor one’s activities constantly. There’s also something else about Laek—he disassociates from the moment far too often, and has a nebulous past where he managed to live most of his youth “off the grid,” away from policing eyes. When a figure from that past turns up one night, Laek is jolted with the realisation that he and his family are no longer safe in their home of Brooklyn, New York.

This book is like four stories in one, as we read the perspectives from Laek, Janie, Siri (their daughter), and Simon. The author does an excellent job in bringing us into the four different head spaces. 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 that 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.

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.

Cycling to Asylum was long-listed for a Sunburst award, and I could see why. In fact, in my humble opinion it should have been short-listed, at the very least. The characters’ perspectives equally kept my interest, meaning, I didn’t want to skip over any one of their chapters. The political insights were also frighteningly plausible. Finally, being an ex-Montrealer, I found the nuances of that city so perfectly captured, I felt homesick.

I highly recommend this for your next read. Just. Wow.


cgauthorCait 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.