TOP PICKS – November 2023
Welcome to this month’s Top Picks!
Every month, we’re going to share with you our favourite reads of the month. We’ve rounded up our contributors and asked them each to recommend just one favourite read of the month. Somehow, we’ve reached the end of yet another month!
A big thank you to Nils for coming up with this feature, and our contributors for taking part!
Nils: Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett.
I’ve slowed my reading down somewhat this month but I did manage a great buddy read of Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree with Beth. Bookshops serves as a great prequel to Legends and Lattes where we meet a much younger Viv who’s forced to take some time away from her mercenary adventures. As expected there’s a great cast of side characters in the form of a sweary bookseller, a heartwarming baker and an intriguing bag of bones.
However, as great as that read was, I fell head over heels for Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett, a sequel I have been dying to get my hands on since I read Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. There’s just something about this light academia series that I find so spellbinding. Wendell and Emily share a prickly relationship but I love their romance and banter, I love the world of Fae with all its whimsical magic and creepiness and I love the adventurous chaos that the narrative always manages to deliver! This one isn’t out until January but you can pre-order and read my review in the links below:
Theo: House of Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I’ve had just a couple of Speculative Fiction reads this month. There was the newly released System Collapse by Martha Wells, latest instalment in the adventures of the resourceful but sardonic Murderbot and their friend ART (arsehole research transport) known to its crew as Peri/Perihelion. I enjoyed a fun pacey action packed story full of Wells’ worldbuilding of a fascinating electronically interconnected future. The nature of such a world with murderbot able to access a wide variety of cameras and ‘feeds’ and drone inputs makes them an literally omniscient first-person narrator, but also – in this outing a somewhat unreliable omniscient first person narrator.
However, fun as System Collapse was, my pick of the month goes to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s soon to be released House of Open Wounds. In contrast to Wells’ inventive first person point of view, Tchaikovsky gives us a sprawling ensemble cast meeting at that nexus of all that is awful in war – the mobile army experimental) surgical hospital. It is a gloriously chaotic, compelling and amusing story with so many favourite characters and lines. I have written a full review for the hive, but it bears repeating – “every page is a fecking joy.” #
Jonathan: Alphaland by Cristina Jurado
This month I’ve read Tim Powers’ excellent new novel My Brother’s Keeper, which imagines the Bronte sisters fighting werewolves. As a result it’s sent me back to Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, original gothic classics.
But my overall pick for this month’s reading has to be Cristina Jurado’s game-changing short fiction collection Alphaland, which hints at so many new and exciting possibilities for the future evolution of Weird fiction.
Cat: Dead Letters, Episodes of Epistolary Horror edited by Jacob Steven Mohr
Another difficult month because so many choices! This time it’s an anthology: Dead Letters, Episodes of Epistolary Horror edited by Jacob Steven Mohr, published by Crystal Lake Entertainment. Most anthologies are a mix of good and bad (depending on the reader’s preference), but in this one I honestly cannot recall a ‘bad’ story. The ‘found footage’ format styles lend themselves beautifully to horror, especially in ‘what you can’t see is WORSE’ scenarios. Varied and brilliant, I’ve been recommending this for weeks and will continue to do so!
Beth: Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree
I’ve been plagued by illnesses this month and as a result it’s been a dreadful reading month. I did manage to read Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi for book club, and whereas it was a nice enough read, I was very disappointed by the distinct lack of cat I’d been expecting from the cover (and the covers of each subsequent book in the series)
My top pick of the month though is definitely Travis Baldree’s cosy sequel Bookshops and Bonedust, reading this with Nils is what’s got me through what’s been a challenging month. I didn’t find it as cosy as Legends and Lattes, there was more action involved this time round, but there was still plenty of cosiness and I absolutely lived for Fern and her bookshop. It’s a very worthy sequel indeed!
What was your favourite read of the month? Share with us in the comments!