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Our Five Favorite Comfort Fantasies Reads

By Kaleb Russell

We love a good sprawling fantasy epic as much as the next person–those stories are loads of fun, and bring intensity, drama, and Big Feelings to our hearts. BUT, some days it’s nice to crack open a book that makes you feel as though you’ve been wrapped in the warmest blanket, one to turn to for pure, wholesome escapism when the weight of the world weighs heavy on your shoulders. Here are 5 fantasy books to seek out for a warm reprieve.


Image Placeholder of - 12Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

A famed war hero does the unthinkable after decades of raising hell on the battlefield: opens the first and only cafe in the great city of Thune. Legends And Lattes is a special kind of epic fantasy novel. This is a fantasy novel about what happens after all that cataclysmic business is done and over with. A heartening read about pursuing your dreams and finding a new way to be…maybe a new way to love, too.

Image Place holder  of - 99A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Two men from opposite worlds must set aside their differences to uncover a magical conspiracy in an alternate version of Edwardian England. A fascinating blend of Red White & Royal Blue and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, fans of “enemies-to-lovers” will surely enjoy this quiet, tender romance.

Placeholder of  -49Weave A Circle Round by Kari Maaren

A fantastical romp for the ages! Come check out the book publishers weekly regards as “offensible Odyssey through the past and future”. Read about the mind-bending journey of a tired high school girl and her pair of wacky neighbours as they travel through space and time.

Poster Placeholder of - 31A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Follow Lady Trent as she recounts her journey to becoming a peerless accredited dragon naturalist in this book written in the style of a memoir. Part travelogue, part romance, part cozy mystery. This book has it all, along with some gorgeous illustrations of dragons.

Place holder  of - 40The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Linus Baker is a Case Worker for the Department In Charge Of Magical Youth, responsible for inspecting government sanctioned orphanages for magical children to ensure the children’s “safety” and that they don’t enter the eyes of the general public. One day, he’s given an assignment by Extremely Upper Management to observe six children who may or may not bring about the end of the world–one of which just so happens to be the Antichrist– as well as their charismatic caretaker, Arthur Parnassus, who will do whatever it takes to keep his children safe. The House In The Cerulean Sea is well regarded by many as a relentless delight sure to brighten any reader’s day. Featuring a tender romance between two caring men from two different worlds, this is a heartwarming story about finding love and family in the midst of hard times and insidious Injustice.

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Nebula Awards eBook Sale

The Nebula Awards are coming up in May! Haven’t read all the nominees yet? Here’s your chance to pick up the Tor books in the running this year, discounted for a limited time.*

On Sale for $2.99

 

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly (Best Novel)

Placeholder of  -87 In Amberlough, amidst rising political tensions, three lives become intertwined with the fate of the city itself.

As the twinkling marquees lights yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means — and people — necessary. Including each other.

Buy Amberlough: B&NeBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (Best Novel)

Place holder  of - 63 Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Buy Autonomous: B&N Nook | eBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren (The Andre Norton Award)

Image Placeholder of - 16 Freddy doesn’t want people to think she’s weird. Her family makes that difficult, though: her deaf stepbrother Roland’s a major geek, and her genius little sister Mel’s training to be the next Sherlock Holmes. All Freddy wants is to survive high school.

Then two extremely odd neighbors move in next door.

Buy Weave a Circle Round: B&N Nook | eBooks.com | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

Sale ends on April 30th.

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New Releases: 11/28/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card

Image Placeholder of - 80 At the Battle School, there is only one course of study: the strategy and tactics of war. Humanity is fighting an alien race, and we fight as one. Students are drawn from all nations, all races, all religions, taken from their families as children. There is no room for cultural differences, no room for religious observances, and there is certainly no room for Santa Claus.

But the young warriors disagree. When Dink Meeker leaves a Sinterklaaus Day gift in another Dutch student’s shoe, that quiet act of rebellion becomes the first shot in a war of wills that the staff of the Battle School never bargained for.

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

Image Place holder  of - 68 Freddy doesn’t want people to think she’s weird. Her family makes that difficult, though: her deaf stepbrother Roland’s a major geek, and her genius little sister Mel’s training to be the next Sherlock Holmes. All Freddy wants is to survive high school.

Then two extremely odd neighbors move in next door.

NEW IN PAPERBACK:

Seriously Shifted by Tina Connolly

Place holder  of - 51 Teenage witch Cam isn’t crazy about the idea of learning magic. She’d rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother’s wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them.

Now Cam’s learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don’t get him first, that is.

Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

Placeholder of  -82 In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war…a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed location, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

NEW FROM TOR.COM

Starfire: Shadow Sun Seven by Spencer Ellsworth

Poster Placeholder of - 42 Jaqi, Araskar and Z are on the run from everyone – the Resistance, the remnants of the Empire, the cyborg Suits, and right now from the Matakas – and the Matakas are the most pressing concern because the insectoid aliens have the drop on them. The Resistance has a big reward out for Araskar and the human children he and Jaqi are protecting. But Araskar has something to offer the mercenary aliens. He knows how to get to a huge supply of pure oxygen cells, something in short supply in the formerly human Empire, and that might be enough to buy their freedom. Araskar knows where it is, and Jaqi can take them there. With the Matakas as troops, they break into Shadow Sun Seven, on the edge of the Dark Zone.

NEW IN MANGA:

Don’t Meddle With My Daughter Vol. 2 Story and art by Nozomu Tamaki

Magical Girl Special Ops Asuka Vol. 1 Story by Makoto Fukami; Art by Seigo Tokiya

Shomin Sample: I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner Vol. 7 Story by Nanatsuki Takafumi; Art by Risumai

Tales of Zestiria Vol. 3 Story and art by Shiramine

There’s a Demon Lord on the Floor Vol. 4 Story and art Kawakami Masaki

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Unfinished: Writing Through Grief

Placeholder of  -46 Written by Kari Maaren

When you’re a debut author, everyone assumes you’re writing like mad. You should be writing like mad. You defeated the odds and got your work accepted by a publisher, right? So where’s your follow-up? Have you hauled out six trunk novels and polished them? Are you working on a sequel? Two sequels? A brand new novel in a different genre? Seventeen short stories, all of which you’re sending diligently out to magazines at the speed of light? How energised are you? And how’s that panic doing? You’d better get something done. You don’t want people to forget about you, do you? You don’t want to drop off the radar. How’s your writing? I bet it’s good. I bet it’s amazing. Where is it?

I haven’t finished a novel in seven years.

This essay probably isn’t going to go where you think it’s going to go. It’s not a story of high expectations and anxiety and the sophomore slump. It’s a story of grief.

Poster Placeholder of - 19

I wrote Weave a Circle Round in 2010 and edited it until the summer of 2011. In the spring of that year, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We—my father, my sister, my sister’s young family, and I—had suspected for a while that this diagnosis was coming, but the anticipation was nothing compared to the confirmation. The summer in which I completed the initial edits on my novel was a summer I spent sad and scared and furiously angry. I screamed at people who didn’t deserve to be screamed at. I burst into wrathful tears when I couldn’t find a friend’s apartment building. I’d experienced grief before, but this was new. This was like being tortured by the universe. And the worst bit was that it wasn’t actually me the universe was torturing. It was my wonderful mum, who didn’t deserve what was happening to her and who was herself sad and scared and angry to a degree that dwarfed my own feelings. And because I didn’t even live in the same place as her—my parents were, at the time, living on what was basically a road through a forest on Vancouver Island—I couldn’t even be there to comfort her or my dad. My mum was losing pieces of herself, and I wasn’t there.

At the time, I didn’t realise what was happening. I thought I was in a bad state, but surely I would still be able to function to some degree. And I did. I kept on at my comics. I started writing and performing music on a regular basis, and as the years went by and my mother’s disease progressed, I even produced a couple of CDs. I shopped out my novel to publishers. And I wrote. I did write. I just didn’t finish a single story. I started a sequel to Weave a Circle Round, and I got halfway through before I stopped. The story wasn’t working. There were too many characters. I’d chosen the wrong character to be the protagonist. The story was going on and on without getting anywhere. Years later, after I’d got my acceptance from Tor, and there was suddenly a lot more urgency in the air, I tried again with another novel, then with a novella. With the novel, I got several chapters in before I lost the thread. With the novella, I again got halfway through. I knew I had to write, but my mind was blank. I’ve always loved going for walks because I imagine out stories while I’m doing it. Now I couldn’t. I would go through spurts where everything seemed normal again, but the blankness would always return.

And my mum was getting worse. She declined by leaps and bounds. She was miserable; she understood what was happening to her, even towards the end, and she hated it. We all knew it. Even as our lives went on—even as my sister’s family grew and moved to a new city, and my parents followed her to a province they’d never lived in before, and my niece and nephew shot up into small human beings, and I pumped out comics and music and taught my students about thesis statements, my mother’s life was on a strange pause we all knew would never end. She would never get better. She would always, in a way, be unfinished.

Grief is weird. You don’t necessarily know it’s happening when it is. It doesn’t wait until after someone dies to pounce; it gets its claws right into you while the person for whom you’re grieving is dying. My mother died on December 16, 2016, with her family around her, but we mourned her for years before that. The mourning continues. It’s different now. It’s for our loss, not for hers. For over half a decade, we watched her lose more and more even as she desperately clung to what she still had. “My guy,” she would say to my father in the last few months, when she had hardly any words left, when she didn’t know who or where she was. The last thing she clung to was what she had loved.

I sometimes feel guilty or inadequate that I haven’t finished any writing in years. I’m letting myself and others down. Writing is what I’ve always done and what I’ve always wanted to do; I’m not wholly me without it. But I think I’m going to have to accept that seven-year pause as something that needed to happen. I’m writing again now. This summer, I completed the first draft of a new novel. When I go out for walks, I find myself spontaneously thinking out stories, imagining my way through the scenes, just as I used to. Grief is still everywhere, but it’s a different kind of pain. And one of the new novel’s major characters is the protagonist’s mum.

It was painful, but still wonderful, to finish her story.

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Follow Kari Maaren online on Twitter (@angrykem), Facebook, or on her website.

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Picking Up the Banjo: Unusual Paths to a Writing Career

Place holder  of - 49 Written by Kari Maaren

I’ve had a weird path to becoming a published author. If I were to go back and trace it, it would look something like this: child with writing ambitions > university student > grad student > webcartoonist > university instructor > independent musician > about-to-be-published author (as well as webcartoonist, university instructor, and independent musician, all at the same time). If you want advice on how to replicate this path, I can’t help you. All the advice I’ve heard about building a writing career will tell you to do the opposite of what I did: begin submitting early (I submitted a novel once in my twenties and then nothing until my mid-thirties), produce lots of short stories (I’ve got one old short story kicking around looking for a home), don’t split your attention between too many endeavours (yeah…), rely on hard work rather than dumb luck to get your first acceptance (yeeeeaaaah…). It’s good advice. But I don’t think it’s the only way.

The creative people I know tend to be creative in all sorts of directions at once. I know at least two writer/cartoonist/musicians, one of whom also designs escape games. Writer/musicians are common as well; I know several of those. Some of my most creative friends are physicists. I know a physicist/writer (who also loves and has written musicals), a physicist/singer/pianist, a physicist/artist, a physicist/guitarist who eventually left physics to become a pilot, and a very successful physicist/filmmaker.* Physics is not exactly a creative art, but it is creative, and it tends to attract people whose brains are happy to mull over string theory and parody lyrics at the same time. Grad school in general is full of people overflowing with a sort of angry creativity that occasionally erupts into comic songs, satirical magazines, and short films about how croquet can go terribly wrong.**

Many of my non-grad-student friends are creative too, and again, the creativity is not singular. It’s funny how we’ve got this idea that concentrating on a single area is necessary for success. Well…maybe it’s not so funny. Musicians will understand this one. Compare a multi-instrumentalist with someone who has studied a single instrument—let’s say the clarinet—for decades. The clarinetist will have mastered this one instrument to an extraordinary degree. She’ll live and breathe the clarinet. Her hard work and talent will combine to make her extraordinary. This doesn’t guarantee her success, but it gives her a leg up.

Poster Placeholder of - 25 The multi-instrumentalist plays the piano quite well and the guitar okay and the mandolin with surprising skill and the accordion in a slapdash manner that is actually rather appealing. She can handle the flute and the tin whistle and the banjo and the ukulele. She’s acquired a cittern and a second-hand saxophone and is learning to play the harp. If you hand her some sort of percussion, she’ll figure it out. She hasn’t achieved mastery on any of these instruments, but she’s a lot of fun at sessions.

So which one has it right? The clarinetist has poured everything into a single instrument; the multi-instrumentalist has spread the love around. To some, it will seem like a no-brainer: the clarinetist wins, of course. She is utterly familiar with her instrument. She has spent her life sculpting something sublime. Others, however, will be on the side of the multi-instrumentalist. She’s learned to adapt. She can transfer the skills she’s acquired on one instrument to others. Her approach is more chaotic but also more flexible. And who’s to say that her ability to pick up a banjo and just sort of figure it out will not add something to her musicality that the clarinetist is lacking?

Not all creativity is the same. Some grows from intensive study; some comes together in a glorious mishmash that appears sloppy and haphazard from the outside but produces something that wouldn’t have been possible with a more single-minded approach. One type is not necessarily better than the other. And so I’m not sure the “there is only one true path to becoming a writer” cliché is entirely fair. It also may not quite be keeping up with the unexpected zigzags our culture has been taking lately. The Internet is a strange and wonderful landscape full of weird creativity. I’m not sure it’s always going to be seen as a bad thing to be bizarrely creative online while trying to rev up your writing career.

If you’re more of a clarinetist, stick with that. Mastering one skill completely is a fantastic thing to be able to do. But if you’re just not built that way, don’t be afraid to pick up a banjo. Sometimes that bit of twang is just what you need to get you to your goal.

I’m not actually sure why I know so many physicists. My degree was in English literature.

It’s called Oddballs, it was created by grad students in the 1960s, and someone has taken it down off YouTube…damn it.

Order Your Copy

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Follow Kari Maaren online on Twitter (@angrykem), Facebook, or on her website.

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