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Smugglivus 2016: Books That Surprised Me (In a Good Way) by E. Catherine Tobler

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.

Smugglivus continues with a guest post from author E.Catherine Tobler whose short story The Indigo Mantis came out early this year from Book Smugglers Publishing.

The Indigo Mantis

Please give a warm welcome to E. Catherine, everyone!

Normally, books are a great escape for me, but this year, more often than not, I find myself distracted when I try to settle in and read. My panicked mind skips back to the news of the day, the losses we’ve incurred, and cannot focus. Books, a fabulous escape since I was a kidlet, weren’t hauling me in and carrying me away like they used to.

However, in looking back at what I’ve read this year, there were still a few books that did haul me wholly into their universe and out of mine, and it was bliss, bliss, bliss. If you’re finding yourself facing similar circumstances, here are some books that might do the trick. Warning: awesome ahead.

The Expanse series, James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes

I was only going to mention the first book, but I recently read book two–in two days–so I’m fairly confident it’s going to hold true for the entire series. The Expanse (yes, also a series on SyFy), tells the story of a settled solar system–ours, in fact. We have settled the solar system; people are being born on other worlds, in the asteroid belt, and beyond. Naturally, the characters remain human and haven’t set aside the often petty arguments of our species. Colonizing space seems to have only deepened some of them. The characters here are wonderful–Holden, Miller, Julie Mao–and yes I’m happy to say the women stand on an equal level with the men. Everyone has a fully realized life. If “aliens doing weird shit” is your genre, get on these books.

Bloodline, Claudia Gray


I did not expect to read another Star Wars novel in my lifetime; the expanded universe of books was never wholly my thing. I liked the Han Solo novels (A.C. Crispin) well enough, but could not get into the Thrawn books, or anything tackling Leia. And then, Bloodline showed up. Bloodline spends some time with Leia after Jedi and before The Force Awakens and let me say, I never realized how much I missed not seeing Leia be allowed to grieve over the loss of Alderran. Gray gives us that and much more, unpacking and exploring Leia’s marriage with Han Solo, and yes, her relationship to Darth Vader. Such a satisfying read.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut


I had zero idea what to expect with this novel–it was my first Vonnegut, but will not be my last. (I know, I am astonishingly lacking in many facets of my reading; thank goodness all the books remain to read.) I am not sure what I can say of this book that someone else hasn’t already; it is short, yet remains one of the deepest things I have ever read. This novel will make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same paragraph. If you think “classic lit” isn’t for you, you might want to pick this one up and see if it changes your mind. (In many ways, this reminded me of The Fan Man, by William Kotzwinkle, but really, these books are not related at all.)

The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi

Star Touched Queen

Lastly, if you need to escape to fairyland for a little while, indulge in this beauty, a story rooted in Indian myths–and while you will recognize some of the path you follow, other turns will take you completely by surprise. Maya seems cursed by the stars she was born under, and doesn’t exactly fit into her world; when she discovers where she does fit, nothing is quite as it seems. Much like Maya, I never knew I needed a prince on a water buffalo and then there he was…! Also please note this book contains a snarky, undead demon horse. Love.

Thanks, E!

1 Comment

  • Pixel Scroll 12/10/16 The Scroll’s My Destination | File 770
    December 10, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    […] TOBLER’S PICKS. The Book Smugglers continue their year-end theme: “Smugglivus 2016: Books That Surprised Me (In a Good Way) by E. Catherine Tobler”. They published Tobler’s short story “The Indigo Mantis” earlier this […]

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