Welcome to Smugglivus 2016! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2016, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2017, and more.
Next on Smugglivus 2016, please give it up for our multi-faceted Brazilian friend Taissa Reis who is an agent, publisher, translator as well as one of the editors of the Brazilian Lit Blog Nem Um Pouco Epico
2016 definitely wasn’t a good reading year for me. I read the grand total of 17 books so far, from which 8 were for work and 5 were novellas, short stories or comics. That being said, I would never be able to make a decent Best of 2016 list. When Ana asked me to join the Smugglivus festivities, I was a mix of YES-I’M-SO-INTO-THIS and omg-what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-write-about. And then I remembered that, even if I didn’t read a lot, if there was something I was good at in 2016 was to annoy people into reading my favorites. And if there was something my friends were good at in 2016 was to completely ignore my recommendations. So, hoping to get a better outcome this time and because I don’t have any friends left to annoy, here is my Books I Shoved Into My Friends Faces But They Didn’t Read Anyway Smugglivus List!
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
When my friends ask me what they should read next, they immediately complete their sentences with “EXCEPT BINTI, I KNOW”. It was the first book (I can call anything with an ISBN a book and it counts towards my GR challenge, ok?) I read in 2016 and probably the best. Nnedi Okorafor’s descriptions of scenes, people and movements are so vivid that all I could think about while I was reading it was that I really wished I had the ability to draw because she was creating a whole animation in my mind with her words. I’ve felt SO MANY THINGS with this novella that when I try to form a cohesive argument about why people should read it I become a little pile of guttural sounds and my last appeal usually is “but it’s only 96 pages!”. I’m really, really happy that Binti: Home is on its way, but reading Binti was a whole experience in itself, and I really think you should read it as well.
And I Darken, by Kiersten White
This one I had to read for work and O-M-G how blessed was I to have the opportunity to receive money to meet Lada and Radu. The first thing I have to say about this books is that, for a genderbent retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler, this book had much less impaling and much less violence than I expected. Another point of the book that I was definitely not expecting to find is its deep focus on religion and the lack of it, and how it affects people differently. It surely is a slow book, but it’s so filled with FEELINGS. Sometimes I couldn’t stand Lada, it’s true, but Radu, oh, how I ADORED him more and more throughout the book and how much I suffered for him. At a point of the story, I almost put the book in the freezer so I didn’t have to handle with the consequences of something that happened because it broke my heart, but damn, that was a good book. As it’ll probably be a theme in this list, you can read And I Darken as a standalone (at least if you like open endings), but I also might have already preordered book 2 (Now I Rise, out in June, 2017).
Anything that Alyssa Wong wrote
Really, I’ll be happy if you read any work of hers. I started with The Fisher Queen on audio, in an amazing performance by Mae Heaney for the PseudoPod podcast and was hooked (heh heh). I heard the TW about violence, but I’m usually okay with most things except ghost/spirits/demons and rape. Well, if they had been more specific I might have missed this one because it does contains rape. I was listening to it standing up on the bus back home from work and was so happy someone got out of the bus on the rough part of the story and I was able to sit down, because shit, this woman can write a scene and my legs almost gave in, but it was totally worth it. Then I went on and read Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers and became a fan. Her writing and her themes are amazing and everything I need to read. Her essay on why she writes dark stories for People of color destroy science fiction is completely amazing and explains why sometimes I seek stories that I know that will hurt me, but also make me feel understood. I’m slowly going through her work because I don’t want it to end, so I haven’t read A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers yet, but it surely will be my next one. Also, she described her WIP as “spooky Southern Gothic romance” and I’m SO HERE FOR IT.
Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos
This one I read in 2014 and I don’t shove it into the face of every friend of mine because I know it’s a very singular story with a different kind of storytelling. Now, with the release of the second trade, I had a reason to get back to shoving this incredible comic into people’s faces. I absolutely love Emma Ríos’ art, and her style goes so well with the peculiar story created by DeConnick about myths, death and everything around it. It’s another one I can’t exactly describe without laying in a puddle of my tears sobbing “please, just read this and know the true meaning of my heart”.
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wrecker
When I was 12, I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and loved every bit of it, even though I knew I hadn’t understood at least 50% of the book. As I was reading The Golem and the Jinni, everything I could feel was that it was another book that would mean as much to me as JS&MN (minus the not-understanding part), and was not surprised at all when the author acknowledged that it was one of her influences. Wrecker makes 1899’s New York a character and, because our characters are not only immigrants by dislocation from their homes, but also for being supernatural creatures in a mostly human society, the book is very heavy on description and, honestly, a slow read. But I’m a sucker for slow narratives (hello, The Americans, my love) and really think that the story of Ahmad and Chava could only be told this way, and the only moment that the book doesn’t feel perfect to me is the ending, exactly the part in which the narrative rushes a little. It took me four months to read The Golem and the Jinni because I just didn’t want it to end and oh, the feelings. I shipped so hard in this book and hurt so bad that I had to stop reading at times, but it was SO good. In the same way as Binti and And I Darken, it stands on its own and I would be super happy with just this book, but I can’t wait to read the sequel that comes out in 2018.