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.
Give a warm welcome to SL Huang, folks!
Books I Don’t Usually Read
Welcome to another addition of “books I don’t usually read!” I like sharing non-SFF for Smugglivus because I feel like these titles get less press in the SFF world — and I feel like they deserve ALL THE PRESS IN THE WORLD.
Romance: Trade Me, by Courtney Milan
I might have to start striking “romance” off of “books I don’t usually read,” because I keep finding more and more books and authors that attract me to the genre. Trade Me is fantastically good.
It’s also a wildly ambitious book — Milan gives all of her characters extremely complicated lives, problems, and family/friend relationships. Her characters grapple with heritage and ethnicity, class issues, LGBT issues, eating disorders, immigration, mental health, Falun Gong, drug use, messy parental ties, and more. And it delivers complexity and nuance on all of those. The people in this book feel true to life in a way that left me staggered.
The plot also gripped me from beginning to end, with a climax that had me screaming with glee. Oh, and it’s also light near-future scifi, if that helps draw you in!
Young Adult: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Do you like historical fiction? Do you like World War II fiction? How about historical fiction about kickass female pilots in World War II?
. . . Actually, it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t like any of that. Read Code Name Verity anyway.
This book is, at its heart, about a friendship between two young women. Two young women during a war, in which one of them is a pilot and the other an espionage agent, but in a way, that almost doesn’t matter. Well, it does — but it doesn’t, because the book is about the incredible bond between Julie and Maddie. The rich, historical backdrop was certainly part of what made me fall so hard for this book (the author has an afterward in which she talks about the research she did to get that level of detail . . . research on gloves! and pens! no wonder the texture felt so real!), but it’s not the heart of the story.
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” So sayeth the book, and I wish I had a thousand more books with that same sentiment.
Picture Books: Flotsam, by David Wiesner
I first read this book in Japan. In fact, it was the first book in Japanese I “read,” which is cheating a little bit because it has no words.
But it is still an unbelievable story.
This all transpired when I ended up in a Japanese bookstore looking at picture books, trying to pick out words in my less-than-beginner-level Japanese. I picked up Flotsam just by chance and opened it. And it was amazing. Amazing.
This all-illustrated story is a transportive experience into a magical realism underwater world, with twist and turns and wheels within wheels. It’s a children’s book that won’t get out of my head.
The Japanese person I was with was kind enough to translate the title for me so I could look it up, and I intend to buy it for all the kids of my friends when they reach picture book age. Possibly I will also buy it for many of the adults in my life, too.
Nonfiction: Physics of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku
I read embarrassingly little nonfiction. I’d read Michio Kaku before and I love him, so when I needed to do some research for a new space opera I’m working on, Physics of the Impossible was the logical choice. But it is so much more than a research book. It’s . . . well, it’s exciting.
Kaku goes through favorite scifi technologies like force fields, ray guns, and FTL travel and explains how impossible they actually are, what they would look like if they were real, and how long it might take for them to happen. But along the way, he detours into a fascinating tour of the universe that kept my jaw on the floor and my finger hitting the “next page” button. I intend to reread this book about fifty bajillion times.
Also, antimatter is just ordinary matter GOING BACK IN TIME. How amazing is that!