Smugglivus 2015 Guest Author: Susan Jane Bigelow

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: Susan Jane Bigelow, a Science Fiction writer, whose books we adore (and will be publishing next year!). Author of the post-apocalyptic/superheroes/space opera Extrahumans series as well as the Grayline Sisters series.


Please give it up for Susan, everybody!

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Favorite Books of 2015

It’s another Smugglivus, hooray!

This is one of my favorite yearly rituals; whenever I read a book I always think about whether it’ll make it on to my Smugglivus list. Thank you once again to Ana and Thea for inviting me back, and to all of you cool people for reading!

It’s been kind of an odd year for me, writing-wise. I didn’t have any new books come out for the first time since 2011, but I did have a few short stories published in Apex Magazine and the Queers Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed, which was very cool! My political writing, which you can see every week at (should you be interested in the politics of my small northeastern U.S. state of Connecticut), took up a lot of my time and energy. And of course, I’ve been preparing for next year’s Bookstravaganza—but more on that later.

I always say I wish I had more time to read. I swear, someday I’m going to—but it wasn’t this year. Still! I read a lot of great stuff. Here’s the list, in no particular order, of my faves:

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell


Do you like Harry Potter? Do you like work that messes with genre conventions? Do you like powerful stories with intense emotional arcs, especially ones about two boys who are sworn enemies falling in love? Then this book is probably for you. It’s… it’s so good. Carry On is wonderfully weird in that it started out as the fictional Harry Potter knockoff the protagonist was writing an epic fanfic about in Rowell’s earlier novel Fangirl (also amazing). However, the story and the universe just was too good not to write, and so we now have a fantasy to kick the ass of any other Chosen One fantasy out there. Best of all, it’s all done with the same compassion, humor, insight and sharp wit that characterizes all of Rainbow Rowell’s work.

In short, I yelled a little with glee when I saw this was coming out, and the book totally justifies my reaction.

Castle Hangnail – Ursula Vernon

Castle Hangnail

I have a thing for fantasy books that mess around with genre conventions (see above), which makes this middle-grade book from Ursula Vernon pretty much perfect. It’s the story of a girl named Molly who shows up at a magical castle pretending to be the wicked witch appointed to be in charge of the place, and the various minions who are initially dubious of her. Because it’s an Ursula Vernon book, there’s plenty of gorgeous and funny illustrations, as well! This book is both hilarious and heartwarming, and I still think about it a lot.

Sparrow Hill Road – Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road

This is another book that won’t leave me alone. Whenever I’m driving somewhere late at night on a dark highway, whenever I see a dingy roadside diner, whenever I just walk along the side of the asphalt, I think of this book about the ghost of a teenage girl wandering the highways of America. It’s compelling, dark, and above all, it’s full of that restless, melancholy energy of the road and travel. I’m really glad I read this one.

Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie

Ancillary_Sword_by_Ann_Leckie Ancillary Mercy

What is there to say about these books that hasn’t already been said? I read them both in 2015 and couldn’t put them down. They both have so much to say about justice, fairness, life, and love, and all in way that constantly feels original, fresh, and deeply relevant.

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor

Here’s a book about a nice, open, and trusting person shoved into unbelievable and unenviable circumstances. It hit all my political sweet spots. The world of the imperial court is compelling and appropriately byzantine and overwhelming. This book has a lot to say about power and compassion, and how the two don’t always have to be at odds with one another.

Bonus cartoon of the year – Steven Universe


Have you watched this show? Go watch it! How in the world can a cartoon about genderless space rocks be so utterly amazing and compelling? How can the relationships in this show be so true to life and real? And it’s not just light fare, though it can sometimes be very silly—it morphs into one of the best science fiction shows on TV by the end of the first season. I am in love with this show and have seen all the episodes at least three times. I have seen Jailbreak probably a dozen times or more, and I’m not even remotely tired of it!

The Year Ahead for Me:

This next year’s gonna be a big deal. The amazing Book Smugglers are re-releasing the first three books in the Extrahumans series, followed by the heretofore unreleased final book! Guys, I am so excited about this. I can’t wait! I hope you’ll all stick around for this ride, because it’s going to be a good one.

There are a couple of other things working their way through the pipeline, too, and I hope to be able to share them with you soon!

Thanks again for reading, and to Ana and Thea for everything they do.

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  • Heidi
    December 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Doing a Smugglivus happy dance over your publishing the last Extrahumans book!

  • slategrey
    December 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Great list. I didn’t even know Ursula Vernon had a MG book out this year. Sounds so fun!

    I agree completely about Ancillary Sword/Mercy. I liked Ancillary Justice, but the last two were so wonderfully not what I expected. I loved literally every page of Mercy.

    I think The Goblin Emperor always deserves more praise. It was my favorite book of last year, and I can’t wait to re-read it (or, for that matter, the whole Imperial Radch trilogy)

    Steven Universe sounds…different. I’ll have to check that out.

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