Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015: Part 1

What a great year for reading! I posted more than 300 reviews this year and have some recommendations to give in many different genres. I will try to limit the “Best of” Awards to things published in 2015 or re-published in 2015 after getting first noticed in 2014. [This is common for short stories and novellas.]

POETRY: [tie]

If Your Matter Could Reform
–Robert Okaji’s If Your Matter Could Reform is exquisite. [5 beautiful stars] Note that his poetry blog is listed below in best creative writing blogs of the year, too.
Cut-up Apologetic
–Jamie Sharpe’s Cut-up Apologetic is funny, sharp, and poignant. [5 pointed stars] Canada should be proud.

Cat Lady
Honorable mention to the best long narrative poem I read this year: Mary M Schmidt’s Cat Lady. [4 fantastical stars]
 
 
 
 

GRAPHIC PUBLICATION:

Saga, Volume 5–Fiona Staples [illustrator] and Brian K. Vaughan [writer] for Saga, Volume 5. [5 imaginative stars] Read the whole series; it’s half guilty pleasure and half brilliant political commentary.

Trees, Vol. 1 (Trees #1)Honorable mention to Warren Ellis [writer] and Jason Howard [illustrator] for Trees, Vol. 1. [4 socially-aware stars] This is a series to watch out for.
 
 
 
 
 

NONFICTION:

Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on EarthEvolving Ourselves by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. [4 delving stars] Speculative science probing the forefront of the genetics game.
 
 
 
 
 
 

ANTHOLOGIES [single author]: [tie]

Nothing Is Strange–Mike Russell’s Nothing Is Strange. [4 absurd stars] Absurdism at its best, and unrelentingly so.

Ghost Summer–Tananarive Due’s Ghost Summer [4 eerie-&-bleak stars] Southern decadence, apocalypse and horror stirred together.
 
 
 
 
 

ANTHOLOGIES [themed, multiple authors]:

Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the DeepMermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep editted by Paula Guran for Prime books. [4 dysmorphic stars] Gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia are explored across cultures and traditions.
 
 
 
 
 

ANTHOLOGIES [unthemed, multiple authors]: [tie]

Writers of the Future Volume 31Writers of the Future Volume 31. [4 emergent stars] A diverse cast of previously unpublished fantasy and sci-fi competition winners.

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2015 EditionThe Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2015
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 –The 3 tome set of Prime Books “Best of 2015” series [4 synthesizing stars]:
     The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 editted by Paula Guran.
     The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 editted by Rich Horton.
     The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015 editted by Paula Guran.

BLOG [poetry, single author]

–Robert Okaji’s O at the Edges. He also authored one of the poetry collection picks above.

BLOG [creative writing, single author]

–Dakota Lopez’s Tales from Atelinor. A series of fantasy shorts spanning millenia on one non-Earth world.

BLOG [creative writing e-magazine]

The Eunoia Review. Mostly poetry, some short fiction. Posts twice daily.

Do you agree? Disagree? Did I overlook a big one? Feel free to let me know.

In Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015: Part 2, I conclude my “Best Of” picks with fiction short stories, novellas and novels broken down by genre including fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, horror, thriller and more. Happy reading.

Review: Tales from Atelinor by Dakota Lopez

4 of 5 stars.

Normally I review books and short stories. But in a complete change, I’m reviewing a blog, Tales from Atelinor, and a rather new one at that. Not that I’m apologizing or shifting my focus, the writing on this blog is worth checking out. The author has not quite realized fully fledged short stories, nor does he claim to have. His supposed purpose was to post some of his writings based on writing prompts. Admittedly, this is not a very promising premise. However, the results are at times stunning in that each prompt is used to explore a fantastic world that will hopefully later set the scene and history for a novel series. The world building and character development are well above average. The first short story I read on the site [and the second one posted] was “The Dry Season.” The following is my initial review of “The Dry Season” with some editing:

This is beautiful writing [4 star, as I’m a little stingy with stars so as to not run out]. The contemplative nothingness that is happening is reminiscent of Rothfuss’ Slow Regard for Silent Things. . . .Jary [the narrator] is a distracted writer with writer’s block who is trying to notice everything in order to write, but notices every distraction instead. It’s a lovely set-up. The pacing and world-building is appropriate giving a bit of social structure [in thinking about a conversation with a lordling] and history [in thinking about dubious scientific claims on lifespans] and culture [in thinking about musicians and troubadours]. Kudos.

That said–WTF?! One cannot end a story in the unresolved manor that this is left. Scott Lynch [author of The Lies of Locke Lamora] absolutely would end a chapter abruptly only to launch into a chapter that takes place 2-20 years earlier. Then in the scene following would dive right back into the shocking scenario. It’s an anxious and frustrating way to hear a story, but it pays off amply in that we know he will get back to the scene in some pages. This story just ends [though the author promises to revisit and resolve this story]. The world of Atelinor also resembles Lynch’s in the Gentlemen Bastards series in that it seems a middle ages society on the remnants of a great, unknown prior society.

I know this was only based on a prompt, but one cannot throw a wrench through a window and say The End.

The other short story posted, “The Akarian Calendar,” is also not a finished story, however it is a complete scene and an enjoyable one at that. The promising beauty is in “The Dry Season” even without being finished. If it were the snippet on the inside flap of a book cover, one would buy this book. It’s that intriguing, and well-voiced. The wait for a full story could end up being a long one since the author is so early in the process, but I enjoy feeling like I am viewing his writing process.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Authorized Thoughts: Blog Usability

In an attempt to increase the usability of my blog as a reservoir for my book reviews I’ve created an index organized by author, here. I am open to feedback as to how useful this is to navigate. This index does not separate reviews for poetry collections, novels, short stories and graphic novels, but rather keeps them all together since one could use tags or categories to navigate genre specific reviews. Thoughts?

I have also created an index for my original poetry, here. I am less convinced that this is in its final format. Again, I’m very open to feedback for this page.

Both pages have links at the top of the blog. Also, both pages can be accessed from the “Pages” widget below the “Tags” and “Categories” widgets in the sidebar.

Thank you for indulging in my self-referential, formatting post. Any and all feedback would be welcome.

Jaffa