The 2020 Reading List: February

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

February:

Die on Your Feet by S.G. Wong: The first book in the Lola Starke mysteries. I blurbed the third book in the series, and it was really neat coming back to the ground level of the series with this excellent opening volume. I knew the gist of how the metaphysics of Wong’s Crescent City worked, but that definitely deepened reading Die on Your Feet. This is the kind of setting I’d love to run a pulp-noir RPG in. I’m looking forward to reading more Lola Starke.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: A standalone graphic novella in the Criminal ‘verse. I’ll read pretty much anything Brubaker and Phillips put out. They are consistently among my top comic teams regardless of the type of stories they’re trying to tell, but I sure have a soft spot for their Criminal books.

Dreams of Shreds & Tatters by Amanda Downum: I think I held off reading this one for as long as I did because I wanted to read The King in Yellow first, as the King plays a role in this book. I’m aware of The King in Yellow largely through RPGs and stories riffing on the work, but never got around to the original Robert W. Chambers piece. I still haven’t done that, and maybe there’d have been more in this book that jumped out at me if I had, but I enjoyed the story well-enough anyway even if I wasn’t catching all the references. I really liked Downum’s prose, which felt a little like reading a dream, entirely appropriate for this book.

The New Fantasmagoriana II edited by Keith Cadieux: Stories by Adam Petrash, Jess Landry, J.H. Moncrieff, David Demchuk. All four writers stayed in Winnipeg’s supposedly haunted Dalnavert Museum and wrote the first drafts of their stories overnight. I really enjoyed each story, and I think Demchuk’s was the stand out for me. Cadieux says in the foreword that the writers had the same experience, and leads me to believe the only downside to reading all of the stories in a row is some of that sameness came into the book. There are Victorian mansions in each, and children play a role in each story. Definitely not a deal breaker though. And it’s my own fault really, all in a row is not how I typically read short story collections.

Spectaculars by Scratchpad Publishing: I backed this roleplaying game on Kickstarter and it arrived recently. It is awesome. I have a soft spot for superhero RPGs, and I cannot wait to get this to the table, although I’m not sure if I want to play it or run it more. The box set is huge, and full of game trays, tokens, and power cards in addition to the rule book and setting book. I haven’t seen a game that emulates comic books as well as this one does, I hope the first read impression holds when I actually start playing it.

Night’s Dominion Volume 3 by Ted Naifeh: The concluding volume of a high fantasy graphic novel series that I’m definitely sad to see go, but what a great ending. Now that the series is done I’m looking forward to reading it in its entirety in a short span and seeing how that changes things.

Here’s what I read in January.

The 2020 Reading List: January

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was to read more, I thought keeping track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku would help keep me honest. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

January:

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski: The first novel in the Witcher series. Full confession, I started this one over Christmas but wasn’t done until the new year. The main reason I checked this out was because I loved the show. I’d read The Last Wish years ago, and never felt compelled to read more in the series. Sadly, I think that instinct was the correct one. While reading Blood of Elves definitely helped me keep track of some of the characters on the Netflix series, Sapkowski’s writing just isn’t for me. I’ll happily keep watching the show though.

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: The twelfth October Daye novel. Now I’m mostly caught up on the novels, just waiting for the latest hardcover to hit paperback. May check it out at the library if I get a hankering, but with a new book dropping in February from McGuire’s InCryptid series, I might be good for a while. This wasn’t my favourite book in the series, which remains Book 3, An Artificial Night (the book that really made me all in for this series), but it was fun. McGuire’s got a knack for keeping the reader intrigued even this deep into a series. Every time I finish an October Daye novel I want to play a game of Changeling: The Dreaming.

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw: The first Persons Non Grata novella. This is the first bit of Khaw’s work that I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be seeking out more. I’m thrilled to see there’s another book in this series. Hammers on Bone had an amazing voice and a great noir feel. Oddly enough it was recommended to me by Michael at Whodunnit when I was on the hunt for Once Broken Faith (another October Daye book) and no one had it in stock at the time. Thanks, Michael!

All Systems Red by Martha Wells: Book One in the Murderbot Diaries. I’ve been aware of Martha Wells’ work for a while, but never cracked a book. All Systems Red was recommended and loaned to me by my pal Karen Dudley, but I’ve seen so many great things about the series from folks on my Twitter feed. I’d mostly given up on reading science fiction until I’d finished this. Wells writes fantasy too, so I  should check out some of that eventually too.

Fury From the Tomb by S.A. Sidor: Book One in the Institute for Singular Antiquities series. I picked this one up on a whim because it looked like it would hit me in the Indiana Jones/Brendan Fraser Mummy feels. It was a little bit that, and a little bit not. Fury From the Tomb was a fun, fast-paced read. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that the narrator was enough to my taste to rush into book two.

Heathen: Volume 1 by Natasha Alterici: A fun viking fantasy series. I stumbled onto the artist’s work on Twitter a while ago, and finally got around to reading it. Heathen has almost everything I like in Norse myth: valkyries, Odin being a dick, shapeshifters, Sigurd and Brynhild! Alterici’s art sold me on the series but her writing is clever, honest and heartfelt. Can’t wait to read Volume 2!

What have you been reading, folks?

Michael Van Rooy

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Chadwick Ginther

A year ago today, Winnipeg lost one of its rising literary stars, and I lost a great friend. Michael passed away while on tour promoting his third novel, A Criminal to Remember. As tributes were organized, I had the honour of being asked to speak about what Michael meant to me, both as a bookseller who loved to read his books and as an emerging writer whom he’d mentored.

Here’s what I had to say:

I first met Michael shortly after he sold An Ordinary Decent Criminal. At the time he was the restaurant manager here in Prairie Ink. Michael wasn’t a mentor yet, but he was still an inspiration. Here was someone who had done it. He’d made that first big sale.

Michael always had questions then. About how the store did its displays. What worked. What didn’t. What made me pick one book over another when…

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Music Monday: Kill the Lights by The Glorious Sons

Another band I’ve stumbled across after listening to the radio a little bit more. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Kingston that results in music I like, but here we are. The Glorious Sons join The Tragically Hip and The Headstones on my Kingston, Ontario playlist.

Her daddy had some money that he could lend us
So she took me to Paris
To try and make me a renaissance man
We were young bloods, searching for something
Spent youth on the dream of love
We were too close to see it coming
Now I’m running from the things that we were dreaming of

Eligible Works 2020 Edition

It’s that time of year again! January 1st marked the start of the Aurora Awards nominations and the Hugo Award nominations. If you are one of those nominating or thinking about nominating works for science fiction/fantasy-related awards, in 2019 I published the following:

“The Enforcer” (short story, 5000 words) published in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Tyche Books. August 2019. You can read an excerpt here.

“Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” (short story, 4700 words) published in On Spec # 112, Vol 30 No 2, November 2019. You can read an excerpt here.

Thanks for reading, folks! If you’re voting on any the various speculative fiction awards this year and want to read more of “The Enforcer” or “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” please drop me a line. If you’re looking for additions to your reading list Cat Rambo and A.C. Wise keep pretty comprehensive lists of who published what in 2019.