It was my birthday last Wednesday and I had plans for the first time in years. One of my best friends had a work thing in Amsterdam and she came a day early to celebrate with me. I still had the gift voucher for the American Book Center that I won in a writing competition so I asked if she wanted to join me in looking for a good book. She’s also a book blogger and knows my taste very well. So who better to ask?
I don’t buy a lot of physical books anymore but I couldn’t resist being in Amsterdam and not visit the American Book Center. It’s one of the few English-focused bookstores with an excellent SFF section. I also happen to know one of the booksellers, Tiemen Zwaan. He also shared a few recommendations of his favourites and he even put aside the last copy of Legends & Lattes for me. Below is a picture of my whole haul.
A Psalm For The Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
Moon recommended this one. She said it was ‘so me’ and how could I say no to that?
Centuries before, robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered, en masse into the wilderness, never to be seen again. They faded into myth and urban legend.
Now the life of the tea monk who tells this story is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They will need to ask it a lot. Chambers’ series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
One of the classics. Tiemen recommended this one but I also see it a lot on other lists and on Reddit.
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.
Finder by Suzanne Palmer
For the readathon next month, I still needed a book with spaceships. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi so I usually have to look for something. Tiemen recommended me this one and it sounds fun. I don’t know anything aside from the blurb, so it’ll be a surprise.
Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.
His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.
Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly–and inconveniently–invested in the lives of the locals.
It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following Fergus around.
Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Another recommendation from Tiemen but one I see everywhere. I used to love the chonks and I hope I won’t get overwhelmed by the number of pages. The thing that got me was silkpunk. Tiemen said Ken Liu created a whole new genre with this book so I’m really looking forward to it.
Emperor Mapidéré was the first to unite the island kingdoms of Dara under a single banner. But now the emperor is on his deathbed, his people are exhausted by his vast, conscriptive engineering projects and his counsellors conspire only for their own gain.
Even the gods themselves are restless.
A wily, charismatic bandit and the vengeance-sworn son of a deposed duke cross paths as they each lead their own rebellion against the emperor’s brutal regime. Together, they will journey to the heart of the empire; witnessing the clash of armies, fleets of silk-draped airships, magical books and shapeshifting gods. Their unlikely friendship will drastically change the balance of power in Dara… but at what price?
The Grace of Kings is the first novel by Hugo-, Nebula- and World Fantasy Award-winner Ken Liu and the first in a monumental epic fantasy series.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
I’ve been wanting to read Jade City for a while now so I went ahead and bought it. I saw Fonda Lee talking about Jade Legacy on a panel recently and loved everything she said. Soon.
JADE CITY is a gripping Godfather-esque saga of intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.
The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
Give me all the cosy fantasy, yes please! I had Tiemen put this one aside for me because I really wanted this one.
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention
Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.
However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.
A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.
Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
My collection of Neil Gaiman books is growing but with this addition, my signed book stack also grows. Neil Gaiman signed it and this will be my third signed book of his.
A stunning and timely creative call-to-arms combining four extraordinary written pieces by Neil Gaiman.
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before”.
Drawn from Gaiman’s trove of published speeches, poems and creative manifestos, ‘ART MATTERS’ is an embodiment of this remarkable multimedia artist’s vision – an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.
100 Hugs illustrated by Chris Riddell
This is just the cutest book. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are amazing, not just these. But I love all the hugs, and I can make up stories in my head about the two characters and why they hug.
100 Hugs is a gorgeous collection of illustrated hugs from Chris Riddell, Children’s Laureate 2015-2017.
This is the perfect gift for a loved one, or to cheer yourself up on a dark day when all you need is a hug. The one hundred beautiful and intricate illustrations from the three-times winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal includes a hug for every emotion and occasion. But one thing is for certain: every hug will touch your heart.
In a perfect pocket-sized format, 100 Hugs is certain to comfort and raise a smile.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Today, this one came in the mail. My friend Aurelie sent this for my birthday. I love it so, so much and wanted to get a physical copy for my shelves. When I started unhauling books, I bought way more ebooks too, thinking I’ll just read them and forget. But it’s also nice to have my shelves filled with my favourite books. So I wanted one. I’m so happy with it because I know every time I’ll see it, I’m reminded of its brilliance. I’ll also definitely be re-reading this one.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.