2016 was a tumultuous year, no doubt. Many of my beliefs were challenged and transformed. Much of that transformation had to do with the new authors and books I exposed myself to. Below are five of the books that left the deepest impressions on me. I hope you find something in here to enjoy in 2017!
I discovered Rose Lemberg’s work during a reading at MidAmeriCon II this last August. During the reading, she shared her prose work, but her poetry is just as lovely and fascinating. And I wish I could have a recording of her reading all of these poems because her voice is mesmerizing and really adds to the experience of her work. If you haven’t heard of Rose before, you MUST look her up and start following her work. Her first novel is being shopped around now to publishers, but she has several works available for free reading on Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
2016 was a year of firsts for me. One first was reading more nonfiction than I ever have since leaving college – maybe even more than then.
This was also my first year to delve into the subject of Paganism and Wicca in particular. Even if you aren’t interested in the religion, Starhawk’s beautiful, poetic introduction to this topic is worth a read. If nothing else, it will inspire you to take a closer look at the natural world and the way we relate to it.
Here’s another first for me – queer/gay romance. I resisted giving this genre of literature a try for a long time, convinced it had nothing to offer me as a straight woman.
But here’s the thing, queer/gay romance has EVERYTHING to offer straight women. You know why? Because it features couples who are true partners and equals. And, from what I’ve read so far there is very little of that lover worship that so much of the romance genre is drenched in. So much of heterosexual romance uses the same old tired tropes of delicate, small female and a much larger stronger male. The alpha male trope has gotten very out of control, with heroes bordering on criminal/abusive behavior. Now, I can’t say that some queer/gay romance doesn’t feature those disturbing trends. But, in an age where women of colors and creeds are once more having to fight for their rights to be heard and respected (ugh! does it EVER end?), finding heterosexual romance that speaks to the fight can be difficult.
K. J. Charles is an EXCELLENT place to start if you’re interested in exploring queer/gay romance. Not only do her books feature awesome magic and alternate history settings, but her characters are incredibly nuanced. She blends the various threads of her narrative ingeniously and nothing feels contrived or forced.
I’ve been a fan of Intisar’s since I read her excellent YA novel Thorn. In “The Bone Knife” she once more proves why she’s such an amazing writer.
Anybody who knows me well, knows I struggle with writing short fiction. It just eludes me. I’ve knocked off a few short pieces – some of which were pretty good. And a sci-fi short story is actually the first piece of fiction I ever sold. But I struggle with the format.
In “The Bone Knife” Intisar makes it look SO easy – as all true artists should. In very few words, she manages to create a world, introduce us to and make us care about great characters, and tells a tension filled narrative that leaves the reader wanting more.
This was among the first nonfiction books I read in 2016. And, damn, it knocked me for a loop.
Not only is it well and sensitively written, but it is as fascinating as any historical novel.
Be advised, though, if you uncomfortable with your beliefs being challenged (and I mean if that causes you fits of anger), you might not like When God was a Woman. However, if you are willing to enter this book with an open mind and a willingness to consider the possibility of alternate truths, make sure you read this. You will not be the same afterwards.