Welcome to Smugglivus 2015! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2015, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2016, and more.
Who: Erika of Book Punks and since I love their official description, here it goes:
Book Punks are, above all, readers.
Book Punks are feminists, anarchists, nomads, critical thinkers, academics, high-school drop outs, free-spirits, freaks, geeks, pirates, and bohemians. Book Punks are writers, librarians, editors, time travelers, magicians, book sellers, and lovers of the written word. Book Punks are obsessive, kind, respectful, subversive, and open-minded.
It’s Erika and Book Punk’s first ever Smugglivus!
Ahoy, and thank you Book Smugglers for inviting me to be a part of Smugglivus 2015. Rather than giving you a plain old top five list, I decided to rehash an old tradition from my jock days called “the blow-pop awards.”
(Yes, I was and have always been a jock in addition to a huge book nerd, insomuch as someone who participates in perpetually obscure sports can be a jock.)
Anyways, back when I played polo we always had these end-of-year “blow-pop awards” that we gave to everyone for some adorable quirk or another. I won an award for being unintentionally creepy, which is cool, I guess, and now I’m going to give blow-pop awards to some of my favorite books of the year. I read a mix of 2015 releases and older, and I think it would be unfair to exclude some of my less-than-recent favorites just because they aren’t fresher than fresh.
Best extended drag king performance: Leah “Lee” Westfall in Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
I have been a sucker for the girl-disguised-as-boy trope since I was a kid, and I don’t think that will ever change. This spellbinding tale of a magical girl (disguised as a boy!) who goes on an epic journey across the country during the California Gold Rush made my readerly heart pitter pat, break, race, and do all sorts of other crazy acrobatics. It is my favorite thing I’ve read all year; I may or may not have quietly wept a few times simply because I loved what I was reading so much.
Most lovable shapeshifting killer: Nimona in Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Ballister Blackheart is a curmudgeonly supervillain who reluctantly takes on the shapeshifting punk Nimona as his sidekick. Nimona is a non-sexualized female badass, which is so stupidly rare in the graphic novel/comic world that it almost pisses me off that it’s so remarkable here. Add to that a heartbreaking depiction of the tenacity of trauma in a survivor’s life and a delicate, subtle inclusion of a non-heteronormative relationship in a genre graphic novel, and this is one unique, dynamite piece of work.
Best new addition to the The Golden Girls: Baba Yaga in Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
I adore folklore and fairy tales (who doesn’t?) and this BDSM infused version of the Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna story is the bomb. Valente’s writing is fluid and dripping with poetry, and she weaves the fairytale world into the real world so that the two are inextricably intertwined and reflective of each other. She breathes piss and vinegar into all of her characters, but most of all into Baba Yaga, a brash old witch of a Comrade that would fit in just perfectly with the rest of the old biddies at 6141 Richmond Street, Miami.
ONLY acceptable dream sequence I have ever read: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
The setting is 1920s New York City, and the cast is a diverse band of mystically gifted bright young things in this wonderfully creepy follow-up to The Diviners. A sleeping sickness is sweeping through Manhattan; people fall asleep, get sucked into the worst nightmares everrrr, and, unable to wake up, end up being consumed from within by these living nightmares. Now, I normally freaking hate dream sequences in books. However, because Libba Bray is a master storyteller and her Diviners series is such a show-stopping stunner, this dream world soars. This is a must-read series if you like meticulously researched, character-driven magical historic fiction with a heavy dose of the occult.
Most embarrassing audiobook to be listening to with your windows down as you pull into the parking lot at work: Carsick by John Waters
John Waters tells the story of his cross country hitchhiking trip, plus two fictional best scenario/worst scenario stories. I’m from Maryland and was produced by whacky parents, so I’ve been a fan of John Waters since I was a kid. If you don’t like his brand of sicko perversion this probably isn’t for you, but I thought it was hilarious, even when the security guard at work heard very typical Waters language blasting out of my open window. (I should add I work at a school, so everything about the scenario was totally inappropriate.)
The “so good it made me put off going to the bathroom so I could keep reading” award: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
OK so I am only halfway through this one but HOLY CRAP I am obsessed with it. It’s the story of the desperate journey of a mini-fleet of spaceships carrying refugees as they try to find a jump station that will enable them to escape their would-be murderers. But wait, there’s more! Some of the refugees are infected with a virus that basically makes them zombies minus the dying part, so I guess that makes them psychopathic murderers? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! THE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE THAT DRIVES ONE OF THE SHIPS IS ALSO INSANE AND DEALING WITH EXTREME EXISTENTIAL ANGST. Great timing! BUT WAIT, THERE IS EVEN MORE. The narrative consists entirely of various forms of communication, making for a frighteningly immediate and riveting read. It’s a real game changer, and I can’t shut up about it.
What I’m looking forward to in 2016
First and foremost, HOLY CRAP The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater can’t come out soon enough; my brain has never been more in love with another person’s creations than it is with hers. I’m also really excited for The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman; I adored her Eon/Eona duo and am excited to see what she magic she’s conjured this time. Laini Taylor FINALLY has another book coming out called Muse of Nightmares, and I don’t even know what it’s about but I would probably push an old lady out of my way to get my hands on it. Cat Winters also has a new one coming called The Steep and Thorny Way; I adored her In the Shadow of Blackbirds and I work with this gang of eighth grade girls who passed around The Cure for Dreaming like it was their introductory bible to feminism which was the cutest thing ever. Finally, Saving Montgomery Sole is high on my to-read list by Mariko Tamaki because I love her brain and also have a totally goofy crush on her.