Category Archives: Fantasy

Sirens Reading Challenge 2015: What I’m Going to Read

I am involved in a nonprofit, Narrate Conferences, that puts together literature events. One of these is Sirens. I’ve been a little swamped lately, so I’ve tried to advise more than be staff, but that doesn’t always work out; I end up coming back for more. This year, I’m working mostly on programming-related things. The other thing I’ll be doing is reading, reading, reading. In fact, staff members are absolutely required to know what’s going on in fantasy, particularly as it relates to women in fantasy, and particularly women in fantasy works that are related to the annual theme, which this year is rebels and revolutionaries. It’s not only essential to know the literature so we can understand and enjoy all the great discussion that comes up at Sirens, it’s essential to be aware of what that literature has been and where it’s going. It’s the best way to support readers, authors, and professionals whose work is so often considered to be less worthy, I think.

So, each year, we put together a general reading list for people interested in the guests of honor and in getting to know more about what women are reading and writing in fantasy, and we put together a (researched) list for staff that’s a little more focused, because it’s all too easy to read narrowly. I read a lot more middle grade and young adult work, because that’s what I’m interested in and the community I follow most closely, than I do work targeted at adults. If I wanted to look for books in a big chain bookstore, my selection by/about women very, very limited, and I’d miss out on some really good books, as well as, frankly, all those books that I don’t personally love, but that are important, and worthy, and to be (re)commended. If I only shopped on Amazon, I’d get lots of links to work that’s very, very closely related to the book I searched for, instead of a more curated, more diverse, more exploratory selection.

The staff list gets split up into chunks, and you select so many books from each chunk to read, beyond any of the selections you’ve already read. The idea is that you’ll be exposed to work that you might not otherwise have picked out for yourself. And, of course, you can recommend all these neat books to other people.

This year, we’re offering up a challenge for anybody to take part in, with bragging rights and buttons for conference attendees. Read 25 new-to-you books, expand your mind, read great fantasy work by women. I’m in grad school and working, and my pleasure-reading time is…small, but I’m going to try to complete the challenge as it is anyway. For a lot of the books I haven’t read, I’ve actually read chunks or excerpts, so it should be easier! If you’d like to try out the challenge too, the details are below, and here. If I crossed out a book, I’m counting it as read, or eliminating it from the pick-so-many sections, but I’m happy to share thoughts on them if you need a recommendation!


If you’re looking for a bit more structure for your Sirens reading, or you simply love a challenge, you’re in the right place. Each year, our staff reads a wide selection of fantasy works written by women, some within our theme and some more broadly. This year, we invite you to take our challenge!

To take the challenge, simply read 25 books, in accordance with the rules below, by September 12, 2015. Once you’ve finished, send us an e-mail to help @ with Reading List Challenge as the subject line, and let us know that you’ve finished the challenge and the books that you read to do so. We’ll give all timely finishers a special button at Sirens, suitable for gloating. Game on.

To purchase these books, please consider using the links below on the website, which will take you to the website of the Tattered Cover, Denver’s renowned independent bookstore. If you use those links and then purchase books or other items, Sirens will receive a referral fee from the Tattered Cover.


In each required category, you must read—or have previously read—each work listed. In each category of selections, you must select books by authors who are new to you. If you cannot reach the required number of selections without selecting authors you have already read, you may select works you haven’t read by authors you have read before. If you cannot reach the required number of selections without selecting books you’ve read, bravo, and please read as many new-to-you books as you can to complete the challenge.

Guests of Honor: Required

Rae Carson: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Kate Elliott: Cold Magic or Court of Fives

Yoon Ha Lee: Conservation of Shadows

I have read parts of the other books, and of course I want to read the work by the guests of honor! But for now, let’s count this as one book to read.


Rebels and Revolutionaries: Required

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale

Alaya Dawn Johnson: The Summer Prince

Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice

Melina Marchetta: Finnikin of the Rock

Nnedi Okorafor: Who Fears Death

Tamora Pierce: Trickster’s Queen

G. Willow Wilson: Alif the Unseen

I thought I had this nailed, but I might have only read Trickster’s Choice, and not Trickster’s Queen. So, conservatively, 3 books to finish.


Rebels and Revolutionaries: Select Five

Katherine Addison: The Goblin Emperor

Victoria Aveyard: Red Queen

Kelly Barnhill: Iron Hearted Violet

Elizabeth Bunce: StarCrossed

Sarah Beth Durst: Vessel

Sarah Fine: Of Metal and Wishes

Catherine Fisher: Incarceron

Shira Glassman: Climbing the Date Palm

Kameron Hurley: The Mirror Empire

N. K. Jemisin: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Erika Johansen: The Queen of the Tearling

Intisar Khanani: Sunbolt

Marie Lu: The Young Elites

Laurie J. Marks: Fire Logic

Jodi Meadows: The Orphan Queen

Sara Raasch: Snow Like Ashes

Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes

Sherry Thomas: The Burning Sky

Nahoko Uehashi: Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness

Kit Whitfield: In Great Waters

I’ve read a couple of these, and have a couple more partly read. I’m going to pick, for the challenge, these five: Of Metal and Wishes, Sunbolt, An Ember in the Ashes, Climbing the Date Palm, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. But I will probably read more here.

Middle Grade/Young Adult: Select Five

Lindsey Barraclough: Long Lankin

Franny Billingsley: Chime

Stephanie Burgis: Kat, Incorrigible

Emily Carroll: Through the Woods

Cinda Williams Chima: The Demon King

Corinne Duyvis: Otherbound

Jessica Day George: Tuesdays at the Castle

Hiromi Goto: Half World

Shannon Hale: Book of a Thousand Days

Rosamund Hodge: Cruel Beauty

Ambelin Kwaymullina: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf DONE

Laura Lam: Pantomime

Margo Lanagan: Yellowcake

Grace Lin: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Juliet Marillier: Wildwood Dancing

Patricia McKillip: Ombria in Shadow

Dia Reeves: Bleeding Violet

Heather Tomlinson: Toads and Diamonds

Leslye Walton: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Ysabeau Wilce: Flora Segunda

Funnily, I have read parts of a lot of these, too, but not the whole things, and I have a lot of these on hand to read. I’m tentatively going to read these five for the challenge: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, Otherbound, Half World, Flora Segunda, and Cruel Beauty. Though I do love Juliet Marillier and that’s one I haven’t read, and the Ava Lavender book won some awards…


Adult: Select Five

Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girls

Lois McMaster Bujold: Paladin of Souls

Ronlyn Domingue: The Mapmaker’s War

Emma Donoghue: Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Eugie Foster: Returning My Sister’s Face: And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice

Charlie N. Holmberg: The Paper Magician

Mary Robinette Kowal: Shades of Milk and Honey

Violet Kupersmith: The Frangipani Hotel

Kelly Link: Get in Trouble

Karen Lord: Redemption in Indigo

Kushali Manickavel: Things We Found During the Autopsy

Seanan McGuire: Sparrow Hill Road

Erin Morganstern: The Night Circus

Helen Oyeyemi: Mr. Fox

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya: There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In

Kiini Ibura Salaam: Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction

Sofia Samatar: A Stranger in Olondria

Delia Sherman: Young Woman in a Garden

Karin Tidbeck: Jagannath

Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Jinni

And another set of books where I haven’t fully read many, but know a lot. Tentatively picking Foster, Kowal, Kupersmith, Link, Oyeyemi, Petrushevskaya, Samatar, and Sherman, which is eight but I like some of all their work that I’ve sampled, SO THERE.


Self, you have like ten minutes to shower, eat, and get to class because you chose blog instead of do things, so get cracking.

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Filed under Adult Books, Fantasy, Just for Fun, MG, Reading, SF and SpecFic, YA

Really? Women Write? Fantasy?

Every now and then, I have a conversation during which I mention that I spend a lot of time volunteering for an organization that hosts literature-related events (though I typically only mention it when I think the person would be really interested, or uninterested enough to let it pass). One of the events is a conference that focuses mainly on women* in fantasy, as consumers, producers, and characters. Sometimes, I get this:

PERSON: I didn’t know a lot of women wrote fantasy.

ME: Oh, they do, but it’s a lot harder to find it in book stores than you’d think.

PERSON: Well, if women wrote it, it would be there. So there can’t be all that many. [Digression about GRRM, Tolkien, and others, whose work I like, but.]

ME: There are loads! I despair of ever making it through my reading list. It’s probably as tall as I am, if you print it out very small and use both sides of the page.

PERSON: Well, Tolkien Tolkien Tolkien…

From there, I start fretting that my favorite people won’t be able to write anymore, etc., and zone out.

But here’s a better ending, and I’m lucky to encounter this more often, if not recently:

PERSON: Women write/women write something other than what I know about (often only romance and a few blockbusters)/women write fantasy?

ME: Yeah!

PERSON: Oh, cool. What would you recommend/what do you like about it/what’s the interesting news?

And I think this is a good rule of thumb for any time you encounter something outside your realm. That’s interesting, can you tell me more, or recommend something, or tell me your favorite? It doesn’t have to apply to this specific scenario, but polite curiosity tends to open people up to sharing, which benefits both people. Let’s exchange ideas. And let’s not think that what is offered up to us first is the entire world.

*All genders welcome.

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Filed under Fantasy, Reading