Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 wrap-up

Over the past year, I reviewed twenty-two books for the Australian Women Writer's Challenge, which is the smallest number I've managed since the challenge began. But it's been a strange year. so I can live with that. And, actually, I read more than that because of Aurealis judging, but most of the Aurealis books did not get reviewed, for various reasons. Here's to getting more AWW books read in 2016.

So what books did I read in 2015? Well, here's a list:

  1. Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington (review)
  2. Space Dogs by Sophia Parsons Cope (review)
  3. The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner (review)
  4. Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin (review)
  5. Graced by Amanda Pillar (review)
  6. The Female Factory by Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter (review)
  7. The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter (review)
  8. Winning the King by Nicole Murphy (review)
  9. Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (review)
  10. The Dagger's Path by Glenda Larke (review)
  11. The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim (review)
  12. The Blackmail Blend by Livia Day (review)
  13. Drachengott: Wind by KJ Taylor (review)
  14. Drachengott: Earth by KJ Taylor (review)
  15. The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (review)
  16. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (review)
  17. Cloudwish by Fiona Wood (review)
  18. Curses and Confetti by Jenny Schwartz (review)
  19. Letters to Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (review)
  20. Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter (review)
  21. Drachengott: Fire by KJ Taylor (review)
  22. Drachengott: Water by KJ Taylor (review)

Breaking that down into categories with a little more detail about each...

YA books

  • Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington (review) is an interesting story about a girl who lives in two parallel universes, swapping over in the middle of the night to the other life.
  • The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner (review) is a standalone YA fantasy/steampunk book set in a world where magic is intrinsically linked with music. A very enjoyable read.
  • The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim (review) is a contemporary novel (with a mildly supernatural feel) set in Melbourne about a girl whose mother just disappears one day. Among other things, the story involves her dealings with the police and trying to work out what happened to her mother.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (review) is a modern epistolary tale. Set mostly on space ships in the distant future, a collection of message logs, transcribed security camera footage, and AI data tells the story of an attack on a mining colony and two teenagers that barely escape with their lives.
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood (review) is another contemporary novel, this time about a high school girl (also in Melbourne) whose parents came to Australia as refugees in the 70s. Since she won a scholarship to a private school she has had to deal with many differences between her schoolmates lives and her own family's Housing Commission flat.


Fantasy books

  • Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin (review) is a collection of four (longish) short stories that all tend towards darker themes. One could call them horror, really. They are all gorgeously imagined and very good, if disturbing.
  • Graced by Amanda Pillar (review) is paranormal romance, more or less, set in a world quite different from our own. There are vampires, werewolves and magic, all the key ingredients for a good, character-driven, paranormal romance.
  • The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter (review) was my first introduction to Slatter's gorgeous writing. This book is a collection of short stories all set in the same fantasy world and loosely linked with each other. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • The Dagger's Path by Glenda Larke (review) is the second book in Larke's current trilogy. Larke is on of my favourite authors and this latest book does not fail to deliver. Epic fantasy with a mis of magic and locales.
  • Drachengott by KJ Taylor is a four-part epic fantasy story. Each of the four instalments (Wind, Earth, Fire, Water) is quite short, but together they tell the story of four "chosen ones" coming together to defeat the mighty Drachengott.
  • The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (review) is one of those books that sits somewhere between science fiction and fantasy. It uses science fictional ideas, like nuclear war and dystopia, but ultimately it's more magical than it is scientific. Either way, it was an enjoyable and less straightforward read than I had expected.
  • Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter (review) is a novella set in the same world as the Bitterwood Bible, and just an enjoyable to read.


Science Fiction books

  • Space Dogs by Sophia Parsons Cope (review) is a stand-alone comic written and drawn by a friend of mine. It's about Soviet dogs who were sent into space setting up their own colony and is an absolute delight.
  • The Female Factory by Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter (review) is another collection of four short stories, this time science fictional and focused on reproduction, gender and women. Four quite different stories along similar themes, an intriguing read. (And also the winner of the Best Collection Aurealis Award.)
  • Winning the King by Nicole Murphy (review) might sound a bit like a fantasy book from the title, but is actually science fiction romance and the second in what I believe is a trilogy. It has mining, diplomacy, space travel and romance in it.
  • Curses and Confetti by Jenny Schwartz (review) is a steampunk novella set in Western Australia and following characters that have featured in some of Schwartz's other novellas. Steampunk + Australia, what's not to like?
  • And of course, Illuminae, covered under YA, is also science fiction.


Other books

  • Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (review) is an anthology about — as the title suggests — historical women who were awesome, interesting and/or a bit scary. Technically this is a collection of historical fiction, but it has a bit of a fantasy vibe to it (perhaps not surprising given some of the participants).
  • The Blackmail Blend by Livia Day (review) is a cosy mystery novelette about the same characters as Livia Day's other, longer, books. It's quirky and full of food.
  • Letters to Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (review) is an anthology of mostly letters, written by contemporary authors and addressed to James Tiptree Jr/Alison Sheldon/Racoona Sheldon (who were all one person), released on the centenary of her birth. There are also some more academic extracts included in this anthology.


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