We’ve just enjoyed a week away in the Snowy Mountains (which is why it’s been a bit quiet around here lately, my apologies.) One of the best things for me about holidays is the unfettered reading time, so I thought I’d share with you all what I’ve been reading over the Xmas/New Year break and our recent week off.

Firstly, there were a couple of contributor copies of things I have work in that I hadn’t got around to yet. Apart from the obvious joy of getting published and sharing a Table Of Contents with some seriously talented other writers, having a story in a publication usually (and should!) means that I get a copy of said publication. Free reading material – one of life’s highest pleasures.

ME6Midnight Echo 6 – I’ve mentioned this a few times recently, so I won’t bore you again. Suffice to say that it is a bloody brilliant issue of the magazine, and I don’t say that only because I have a story in it. The standout story for me was Joanne Anderton’s Out Hunting For Teeth. But every story is great and there’s extra interviews and all sorts of stuff. This is the sci-fi horror special and you’d think that might make for saminess. (Yes, that’s word, so get fucked.) But it doesn’t. There’s a great variety here and as the issue also includes the winners of the AHWA Flash and Short Story competitions, there’s a couple of non-sci-fi horror stories too. Great bang for your buck.

Anywhere But EarthAnywhere But Earth – This is another contrib copy for me, as it features my story, Unexpected Launch. However, mine is only one of 29 stories in this 728 page epic tome of a sci-fi anthology. I think this book will go down as a must-read in modern science fiction. The scope of the stories and the talent of the contributing authors is astounding. It really is a fantastic array of ideas and style. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ll dig this book. If you’re not, it’s a great place to start. And if you know someone who says they don’t like sci-fi and you want to try to convert them, buy them this book. There were a handful of stories that didn’t really work for me, but that’s the case with any anthology. And this one has 29 stories, so there’s definitely something for everyone and I would bet that the majority of people would really groove with the majority of stories in here. Probably the standouts for me were Penelope Love’s SIBO, William R D Wood’s Deuteronomy, Robert Hood’s Desert Madonna, Damon Shaw’s Continuity, Brendan Duffy’s Space Girl Blues, Angela Ambroz’s Pyaar Kiya and Steve Cameron’s So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper. Although the real star of that last story is a secondary character. In fact, a brick.

Blue Grass SymphonyBlue Grass Symphony – This is the debut collection from Canadian-born Australian writer Lisa L Hannett. It’s an outstanding achievement. A selection of tales of magic, darkness, intrigue, mystery. Hannett’s style is clear throughout, even though the stories cover very different ground. There’s a brilliant vampire story here that’s worth the cover price alone. Seriously, if you thought vampire stories had been done to death, buy this book and read From the Teeth of Strange Children. There isn’t a bad story in this book and it’s a superbly dark and twisted exploration of life in mythical Blue Grass towns and counties. Great characters, great stories. Lisa is a friend of mine, but this isn’t just mate’s favours. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Boys 9The Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride – Garth Ennis is one of my favourite writers and I’ve been loving this series. The Boys is about a world where superheroes exist and they’re a bunch of dangerous, narcissistic prima donnas and The Boys exist to keep them in line. If you like your graphic novels to be powerful, irreverant, digusting, offensive, thought-provoking and just downright fucking brilliant, you should read The Boys. In fact, you should read everything by Ennis. And volume 9 knocked me sideways. The end of the book just takes your guts and wrenches them out. Stunning. And for the comic book nerds out there, check out the cover and think about The Dark Knight Returns. Classic.

ProphecyProphecy by Joanna Penn. You may remember I was talking about Joanna Penn’s first book, Pentecost, a while back. This is the new one, a sequel and the next ARKANE thriller. It’s a short book, around 65,000 words I think, and rocks along nicely. It’s a religious thriller, with a kick-arse female protagonist called Morgan Sierra. Sierra is a bit like a female James Bond/Jason Bourne/Indiana Jones hybrid. In this book she’s in a race against time to unravel a mystery before a powerful international health and wellbeing company can destroy a quarter of the world in accordance with the prophecy of the Four Horsemen. Penn’s ability as a writer is improving and her characters are developing well. There’s clearly going to be a series of ARKANE books (the next one is touted at the end of this one) and I think they make for great reading. Penn has a degree in theology and her knowledge and research, of ideas and locations, really shines through in these stories. In some ways I preferred the story in the first book, but I loved the ideas in this one. There’s nothing world-changing here, but as rollicking thrillers these books are great – perfect for holiday reading.

So that was my recent word consumption. I’ll also post these comments on Goodreads and Amazon. Remember, folks, we’re the gatekeepers now. If you read things and enjoy them, talk about them – blog, post reviews at online stores, tell your friends and families. As authors, we’ll love you for it.

So what about you? Did you read any great books over the end of year break?