My Top 5 Books of 2017

Looking back over the book lives I lived this year, five particular books stood out (note: they weren’t necessarily published in 2017, just read by me in 2017). Here they are, in no particular order:

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I’m a sucker for books about books. Books about bookstores are a special treat. This one is about a bookstore on a barge whose owner faces a personal crisis that sends him, his bookstore, and a young writer down the river in search of the owner’s lost love. Full of book nostalgia, hope, and deep thoughts, this was a treat to read.

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Thrill Me is a craft book on writing speculative fiction. As a writer, I consume a lot of craft books … and most of them get left unfinished, because they’re as dry as my ninth grade math text. My personal philosophy about craft books is if they aren’t written well enough to keep my interest, I shouldn’t be letting them teach me how to write. This is where Thrill Me shines: it grabbed me in the beginning and thrilled me to the end. I devoured it, yearning to get back to it each time I put it down. It reminded me why I love speculative fiction and why I write it. An inspiring book for all writers in the genre.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is a powerful middle grade fantasy about grief. As he sorrows and rages against his mother’s imminent death and all the changes this brings, Conor’s grief is physically manifested in a terrifying, Ent-like monster. It is a beacon to the genre in that it never preaches, it never sugarcoats, and it never holds back. The raw power of Conor’s grief is a punch to the gut the reader won’t soon forget. I’ve rarely been so moved.

 

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This middle grade fantasy is a beautifully written, fantastical romp into the bog home of a repressed people forced to sacrifice the youngest child in their village every few years to a mysterious witch. The witch, on the other hand, cannot figure out why these silly folk keep regularly abandoning infants in the forest. She rescues them, feeding them starlight and finding them homes beyond the bog, past the sleeping volcano that seethes beneath the story. Then one night, the witch accidentally feeds one of the foundlings moonlight instead of starlight and enmagicks the child, whom she names Luna and raises as her own. As Luna grows, the real evil demanding the babies be sacrificed becomes clear as Luna, the witch, a dragon, a swamp monster, a desperate new father, and a mad woman embark on a journey that will bring them together and change their world forever. This adventure is a wonderful romp I never wanted to end. I’ll be reading this one again soon.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This one makes it to the list because of its originality. A prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, this novella in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill through their portal into a dark and frightening world. One of the twin sisters is adopted by the local vampire to a life of luxury and blood, while her sister Jack is apprenticed by the vampire’s nemesis, a mad scientist. They come of age beneath the burgeoning knowledge that they are destined to become the next generation of an ancient rivalry, and on opposing sides. But deep within Jack’s heart stirs an impossible loyalty to her sister. It’s a heck of a story that brings the mad scientist of old spooky movies into the new millennium.

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That finishes my list and as the old year closes I’m excited to see what books 2018 will bring … in January alone I’m counting down to the release of Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky (the third in her Wayward Children series mentioned above) and the English translation of Ahmed Saddwi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad.

What were some of your favourite books this year? Any you’re looking forward to?

the child Santa forgot

Jane’s parents didn’t celebrate Christmas, but the media did. There was money to be made. From mid-November onward, Jane’s world was saturated with the spirit of Christmas. Santa always came through. A miracle for every child. Presents for everyone!

“Don’t worry,” her strange Aunt Ellie promised Jane, every year, “I’ll make sure Santa finds ya.” Her mind, Mum said, got hurt when Aunt Ellie was young. “Santa’s a magic fellow. He would never miss a girl like you.”

Like magic, there would be a festive envelope waiting on Christmas morning, tucked beneath Jane’s pillow where her parents would never see it.

An envelope stuffed full of expired coupons.

Buy one pizza, get another pizza free, expired October 7th. Twenty dollars off a round of golf at The Meadows. Good until August 22nd. Jane would pore over them, looking for some twisted pattern, a reason why Santa left those particular coupons. A clue to tell her what she had done wrong to anger him so.

It wasn’t until Jane was eight or nine that she realized the envelopes were from Ellie, stocked with the best intentions her broken mind could muster.

Jane continued to struggle with Christmas as an adult. She decorated trees and played Santa for her own kids, forcing herself into rituals she didn’t understand, or love, or care to. The smudge of old shame clung to the season like grime to a roadside snowbank. But she watched.

She watched for the children Santa was forgetting. Taking care to send them magic in whatever way she could. Sometimes it was a spare candy cane, or a coin left in their path, a toy tucked inside a hollow tree to be found some distant day. Passes to the zoo, ones that never expired, tucked inside an open backpack pouch.

She did it for Ellie, who Jane supposed had the idea in the first place. She did it for herself, to prove she could make her own magic, and she did it for the kids, because Santa wasn’t going to.