Books

Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

587186E6-1C5E-4DC0-8879-9914CC1D4A8C-953-000000FE4E95B1D4I have something like 1,000 books (both electronic and physical) that I haven't read as of yet, but I still find myself at the library once or twice a month. Usually I'm there to pick up a book I've placed on reserve, but while I'm there I check out the books on display.

And that's how I come across books from authors I've never heard of, and probably would never hear of during my normal travels about town. This time I picked up “Sputnik's Children” by a Canadian author (Terri Favro) on a whim.

This book combines a few things that I enjoy: super heroes, time travel, parallel universes, and a slightly unreliable narrator. My favorite part of the book? Some details make me think it is entirely possible that this entire story happens only in the mind of the main character (either version of the main character at that!).

The stories follows a comic book creator whose creation, the girl without a past, is based on her life story. The twist? She isn't from around here… she's from an alternate timeline. Or is she?

Once again I don't want to get into the story too much, but it is interesting and well written to boot!

Who should read it: If you like comic books, time travel, or pending nuclear doom this book is for you.

Would I read it again: As usual, I probably won't re-read this book, but I will read Favro's next book.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

52F77A35-623C-4E2F-BB95-126F075ABB6D-3580-0000064962D30F21The follow up to “Missing, Presumed” does not disappoint. You know you're reading a good mystery when you say, “Oh no!” out loud at the end of a chapter.

This installment finds Manon Bradshaw back where she started with an adopted son in tow. Oh, and she's pregnant (the identity of the father isn't revealed early on which lends a bit of tension if you've read the prior books).

It is interesting that the main character, Manon, isn't really involved in the central mystery as an investigator. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to give anything away.

My only issue with the book comes in the form of the character “Birdie.” The author makes a pretty big deal about the fact that Birdie is fat, and I just got the feeling that this was a thin person writing what they think a fat person should act like. Just one fat guy's opinion.

That's a very minor quibble, though, in an otherwise gripping read.

Who should read it: Anyone who enjoyed the first one.

Would I read it again: I want to read the next one right now!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Very Important Corpses by Simon R. Green

31538E8F-A0CF-432F-81C3-555F02676C0C-2634-000004E3DBA6C809Another book by Simon R. Green! I borrowed this one from the library and read it in a day (it is both a quick read and a short book).

Ishmael Jones, the hero of this Green series, is an interesting character even if he talks pretty much like every other Green character. He's an alien that crashed landed onto earth in the 60's and who's ship recoded his body to be human. Though in the process he lost his memory, so he's been working for a variety of secret organizations (which is what all of Simon R. Green's characters do). They get his services, and he gets to move around and lay low even though he seemingly never ages.

Green takes this interesting character and throws him into mysteries that have a dash of the supernatural. This novel finds Jones, and his lady friend, on the shore of Loch Ness in a great house with a sorted history that is playing host to a secret cabal's annual meeting. Someone, or something, is killing people and Jones needs to find out who!

It is pretty obvious who is doing the killing, but it was an enjoyable tale (and much better than the last Green book I read. I do find it amusing that Jones isn't a fan of the ghost hunting organization that makes up the main cast of the series of which I am not much of a fan).

Overall, this did what I expect of a Green novel: took a few hours to read, made me chuckle a couple of times, and was generally pleasant despite the amount of gore.

Who should read it: If you like supernatural mysteries and manor houses you could do worse than this book.

Would I read it again: Nope, but I'll read the next in the series (I won't buy it, of course!).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


The Gunslinger by Stephen King

DD8AB116-959C-48B5-940B-37C5F0E04F49-2541-0000046AA4EB3BCDI am a master of timing, I tells ya.

Fellow Incomparable folks have been singing the praises of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King for a very long time and yet I've been resistant to start reading it. I think mostly because I have boxed away King in my head as a horror writer and I am not so into horror as a genre.

I know this is unfair to the very talented Mr. King, and so with the advent of the movie based on the Dark Tower series I figured now was a great time to try and borrow the book from the library. You know, when everyone else had the same exact idea:

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I was content to wait my turn when from the North came a Bookslinger who ended my wait by shooting the ebook onto my Kindle:

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(Thanks again, John!).

Now I really had to read it! Though I was concerned that I wouldn't like it and disappoint some people I jumped into it.

The first thing I realized when I started reading was that I really knew nothing about the Dark Tower series (I assumed a tower was somehow involved). This ignorance was cleared up by not one but TWO forewords by the author in the edition I read. It was interesting to read the two and notice how his writing style has evolved over time, plus I found out this was King's attempt to write an Arthurian legend set in the Old West.

That was a bit of a red flag for me: I'm not big into westerns but while The Gunslinger is certainly informed by westerns (and people in it love to palaver) it is really something else entirely.

The book does a good job of setting up Roland and the Man in Black as opposing forces in the quest for the Tower. Really, the whole book is one long case scene intercut with some world building (that train station!) and flashbacks to Roland's life. It was well structured and a quick read.

It does suffer from what some first books can suffer from: a lot of setting up the pieces on the board but not much actually happens. There are some encounters with mutants, some death, and eating some rabbits but mostly this book is about one dude following another one across a desert, over the mountains, and then camping with him for a little bit.

The real question is: was it good enough to make me want to read the next book in the series? Yes, it was. I've already but a hold on it at the library. Now I just have to wait for 50 people to read it ahead of me.

Who should read it: I assume if you're a fan of Stephen King you've already read it, but if you are and you haven't… you should!

Would I read it again: Nah, but I will read the next one.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Empire of Time by Daniel Godfrey

0DF0DF98-E82F-4E5F-8F22-9514A2820756-1665-0000030E1215A08F

A few years ago we were vacationing in the Hudson Valley. I found myself at a bookstore and I picked up a copy of “New Pompeii” on a whim (and based on the subject matter + the cover). It was entertaining, so when I realized a sequel had been published I bought myself a copy.

Empire of Time jumps ahead 15 years and shows us what has been happening in New Pompeii. Oh yeah, you need to know that there's a time machine in these books capable of plucking things out of the past and bringing them forward in time (but it only works 30 years distant and beyond… or does it?!). A company that created this machine plucked people from Pompeii right before the eruption and settled them into an exact replica of Pompeii (minus the water in the harbor, which was a big tip off to the Romans that they weren't in Kansas anymore).

Things go off the rails in the first book, and 15 years later things seem to have settled down in New Pompeii, though the outside world is falling apart. The main character, Nick, is a modern day man who functions as New Pompeii's ambassador. The world isn't too big on New Pompeii since the Romans continue to have slaves, but the world can't get enough of the garum and knockoff frescos New Pompeii produces so people overlook the slaves.

I don't want to get into too much detail, but this is a very satisfying conclusion to the story (though I don't know if there will be another entry in the series, there certainly could be but you aren't left hanging at the end of this book). To enjoy this book, though, you do need to read the first one.

Who should read it: Anyone who read the first one! And if you like Roman history, you should read the first one.

Would I read it again: I think I would read the series again at some point in the distant future.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat


Final Books of Vacation

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The final bookstore stop during our trip to Oregon was Powell's Books on Hawthorne. This is one of the “smaller” Powell's at only 10,000 square feet.

I, of course, bought some books:


More Goodwill Books

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When you vacation with Marisa chances are good you'll be visiting a thrift store or 4. While we were in Portland we headed on down to the Goodwill where Marisa found herself some fancy, expensive shoes for a steal (though she wasn't as thrilled with my reaction when she excitedly told me. I was all like, “That's good!” She texted her sister to get the correct reaction).

Goodwills usually have a selection of used books, which I enjoy browsing through. Now, I should say that since the books at Goodwill are so cheap I tend to err on the side of buying a book I'm even slightly interested in.

That's how I ended up finding three books in less than 5 minutes to purchase:

  • Terror On Tuesday by Ann Purser
  • Basilica by William Montalbano
  • Strange Images of Death by Barbara Cleverly

Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

D6EA9F41-2AB5-4A2E-8059-1D5FEE9103F3-330-0000006CFA85F506Urban fantasy is not my cup of tea. An urban fantasy book with a blurb by Seanan McGuire is a great way to get me not to read a book.

And yet.

Mishell Baker's Arcadia Project series is the exception that proves the rule. I had to read the first one, “Borderline,” for a podcast and I really, really liked it.

So much so that I bought the second one as soon as it came out. And then I didn't read it for awhile because, life, ya know?

I stayed up late last night to finish this book because I was enjoying it so. The main character has a raft of issues, and yet she uses what many would consider weaknesses to her advantage. She's great, and she reacts to supernatural situations in a pretty believable way (well, as believable as possible!).

I will say that I thought the final climactic scene was… well not really climactic or exciting. It sort of fizzles away, which in the story makes sense… but it left me unsatisfied. Luckily, the actual ending of the book won me back.

Who should read it: Anyone who has read the first book (and you should read it if you haven't!).

Would I read it again: You're probably picking up by now that I rarely re-read books, and this book isn't good enough to be an exception to that rule. It is quite good, don't get me wrong.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Powell's Haul #1

Editorial Preview

Any book lover who visits Portland, OR has got to go to at least one Powell's. I went to two whilst I was in Portland, because why not?

The City of Books is their biggest store right in the middle of downtown Portland. It is billed as the largest independent bookstore in the world, and I believe it! They carry something like a million titles. Displaying admirable restraint I purchased 6 books:

Powell's Haul (main store)

One of the things I love about Powell's is the fact they shelve new and used books together. That just makes me happy… and did I mention the mind boggling amount of books they have in that store? It is crazy!

Powell's, like any successful bookstore, also carries a bunch of other things. I picked up this super cool robot pin (though I have no idea where I'm going to put it):

Powell's Fashion Pin

And given who I am, I had to buy this:

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Stay tuned to see what I purchased at the other Powell's I visited. Can you contain your excitement?


All Systems Red by Martha Wells

24CE98FF-BD21-4FF9-B36D-2E140BD662D8-3012-000003B2DE6AA3D5Tor.com has always been a favorite of mine, and when they started publishing novellas I bought a few. I didn't read any, since I'm a very busy man and all, but I bought them and that has got to count for something!

I finally decided to read All Systems Red, and on one hand I wish I had read it sooner but then again if I had the wait for the second novella would be even longer.

The main character calls itself Murderbot, but I don't want to talk too much about it since that might give away some things that are better off discovered while reading. I will say that Wells manages to paint a very comprehensive world in less than 200 pages. I know there's lots more to discover in this universe and I hope that she is working on a full raft of books!

The ebook is super cheap, and it isn't a big commitment of time so just read it already.

Who should read it: If you like introspective robots, this is the book for you!

Would I read it again: Sure! Though I'd rather read the next one.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Ghost of a Dream by Simon R. Green

B4B96E36-D60B-42A8-8411-A792705C4A96-2868-000003669024383CSimon R. Green writes several series and Ghost Finders is my least favorite. I only pick them up if I find them for cheap in used bookstores which is why I just read “Ghost of a Dream.” I paid $2. That might have been too much.

This isn't a good book, though it is a quick read. Why isn't it good? Well, in it we follow the adventures of a ghost finding team. The one thing, we are told, these people are very good at is knowing if something is a ghost or not. In the first part of the novel, which is totally unrelated to the rest of the book, the characters meet someone who turns out to be a ghost, but hid it from them. This is treated as a big deal since it can't ever happen. Then it proceeds to happen at least two more times in the book. Ug. And that's just one example of why you shouldn't read this book.

Plus, in the book one of the characters always wears a white suit and sunglasses. The cover features three people, who I can only assume are the three ghost finders we follow in the book, and none of them are wearing a white suit OR sunglasses. Sheesh.

Who should read it: No one.

Would I read it again: No.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

IMG_0204Vacations are for reading mysteries!

Missing, Presumed is a modern day (well, set in 2011) police procedural; a genre that I typically eschew. I generally look for reading material that takes me away from the real world, not stories which highlight real world problems (I get enough of that watching the news, am I right?).

That being said, this book is set in England which is far enough removed from my daily existence that I could enjoy it (you won't find me reading any of the many, many NY/LA based police mysteries!).

Manon Bradshaw, the main character, is a 39 year old woman working for the Cambridgeshire police force and assigned to a high profile missing person case. It looks like foul play was involved, and to make things even more complicated the missing person is the scion of a physician to the Royal Family. Add in a motley assortment of characters, a handsome boyfriend, and a corpse and you've got yourself a fine mystery.

Each chapter of the book switches from character to character, which works well to paint the complicated picture of the case and Manon's life. That's what makes this book so interesting to me: the mystery is a good hook but I really wanted to learn more about Manon and her life. Good thing this is the first in a series! I'll certainly be reading the next book (I almost bought it the other day, but it is only about 300 pages and the hardcover cost $27. I'll probably get it the from library and then write about it!).

Who should read it: Fans complex characters trying to do their jobs.

Would I read it again: I'll read the next one!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Third book of vacation

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Seaside, Oregon isn't my favorite Oregon coast town. It feels to me what I imagine the Jersey Shore feels like, though to be fair I've never “gone down the shore,” as they say in Philadelphia.

It is a town populated with arcades, souvenir shops, and family friendly restaurants. Not really a place I would opt to go on my own, but Marisa has spent many a happy hour at Seaside with her family so there we stopped. Plus my nephews had fun at the arcade, so who am I to judge?

Luckily for me, there's a bookstore called Beach Books and I was able to spend a few minutes, and dollars, there. The bookstore itself is yet another typical beach bookstore: lots of fiction (with an emphasis on mysteries) and not too much else (Marisa found their cookbook section to be lacking).

I did pick up “The Crossing Places” by Elly Griffiths. I read “The Zig Zag Girl” by the same author last year on a lark without knowing she had written a long lived series. Based on my enjoyment of the book of hers I had read I bought this one, which is the first in her series (and was recommended by an employee at the book shop).


Second Book from vacation

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The second book purchased on vacation is a brand new copy of “Blueprints of the Afterlife” by Ryan Boudinot (the cover of which assures you that is it, in fact, a novel). Why this book? Well, I've looked at it countless times and I thought I should give it a whirl.

I picked this up from the Cloud & Leaf Bookstore in Manzanita, Oregon which is a lovely little beach town bookstore. Not much science fiction (boo), but lots of non-fiction, mysteries, and things that you'd read on the beach.

Oh, and if you're in Manzanita and are craving Mexican food I can highly recommend El Trio Loco 2.


First Books of Vacation

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I'm on vacation, and you know what that means: I buy books!

The first two books were purchased at the Goodwill in Tillamook, Oregon.

I don't expect the Simon R. Green book to be good, but I enjoy reading his stuff and it cost $2. The Pratchett will go on my pile of to be read Pratchett (I've read some of his stuff, but not enough!).


Celine by Peter Heller

IMG_0072Another day, another mystery! Though I tend to think that a book qualifies as a mystery only if it is possible for the reader to figure out the answer before the main character. Given my definition, I suppose “Celine” by Peter Heller isn't a mystery at all (though I guess a reader smarter than me could have figured it out which would make it a mystery again!) but it is a compelling novel just like it says on the cover [A little aside here: Why are publishers increasingly feeling the need to put “a novel” on book covers? My pal Dan Moren wrote a book recently on which the cover helpfully assures you it is a novel. Just in case you confused it for a… parrot? I don't get it. Anyway, read Dan's book. You'll like it! I did. And look, a bonus book recommendation within the text of another recommendation. Aren't you the luckiest blog reader in the world?]. Celine, the main character, is a lot of fun and one of those detectives you jus know you'd enjoy following around all the time. I'm hopeful that this is the start of a series, but given that Heller seems to be shooting for literary stand alone books I imagine this will be Celine's only adventure that we get to read.

Heller is a talented author whose work I have enjoyed previously, and I didn't even realize he had written this until I started reading it and his bio mentioned that he had written “The Dog Star.” Both share his spare prose style, with occasional eruptions of words to describe mostly natural settings (which makes sense given Heller is an adventure/outdoorsy writer), and memorable characters.

I did enjoy The Dog Star more because it seemed fresher, which is tough to do in the post apocalyptic genre. Celine is certainly a fresh-ish take on the detective, which is a feat unto itself!

Who should read it: People who are looking for a well written book featuring an older female main character who is quite handy with a gun.

Would I read it again: I would read another book featuring Celine in a second!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Mightier than the Sword by K.J. Parker

213C6E2B-B014-4579-BC81-E00D20D67BC1-519-00000097C3E425BEK.J. Parker is one of my favorite writers, which is odd because they don't exist. Well, I mean they do but that's not their name. K.J. Parker is the pen name of Tom Holt, another author, when he feels like writing fantasy (though this isn't high fantasy, so no magic here. Low fantasy, I suppose, is the term though it more often feel like alternate history without having to worry about actual history).

I like K.J. Parker so much, in fact, that I have purposefully not read several of his novels. Why? Just so I won't find myself in the position of having read everything has has written thus far.

The funny thing is, I have a hard time getting into Tim Holt novels but I drink up Parker novels like delicious Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.

Imagine my surprise, and glee, when I found out that there was a new novella out (found via the New York Times Book section, of course). I immediately hastened to Amazon and bought it.

And I have just devoured it on my flight to Portland, Oregon (the same flight on which I finished reading Amatka). It is a short book following a typical Parker character: someone involved in the ruling class, good at his job but doesn't want to be, and thrust into lots of intrigue. The book also features another of Parker's favorite things: long lists. Lists of fictional books, lists of fictional provinces, and lists of supplies.

I loved it all, and it doesn't hurt that the central mystery (if you can really call it that, since it is pretty incidental to the story) revolves around monks who love books (as does the main character).

Who should read it: I'm always hesitant to actually recommend Parker's books to people because I think they are to a very specific taste, and there's nothing worse than telling someone to read a book you really liked only to find out that they didn't enjoy it. Therefore, you shouldn't read this book.

Would I read it again: I would, but that would be very silly since I still have so much unread Parker left to enjoy!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

4F45465A-2FB3-4030-84BB-D7B24675BF47-519-000000930BE40660As I was reading Amatka I kept thinking about Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, which I very much enjoyed. Each work (I consider the entire trilogy to be one thing, because I'm cool like that) is what the kids would call “high concept.”

VanderMeer's work combines a high concept story idea with what can only be described as “writerly writing.” Some people love it (i.e. me), and others not so much.

Tidbeck takes a super high concept idea, what if people went to a strange place where you had to constantly name things to keep them from dissolving, and bolts on a very personal story about a woman trying to adjust to life in a new place, meeting a partner she never thought she could, and questioning the very foundations of her society.

I was doubtful about how long Tidbeck could make her core concept work. There's only so many times I want to read about someone calling a pencil a pencil so it doesn't turn into goop, but she did a masterful job of quickly building this strange little world and populating it with very real, and believable, characters.

Who should read it: People who love high concept worlds populated by very relatable characters.

Would I read it again: I would, which is saying something since I don't normally re-read things. I'm certainly going to be reading her next book (whatever it is!).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


Western Mass in books

📖 haul

Marisa and I often head up to Western Mass to visit our friends Becky and Eric over Memorial Day weekend, and we did just that this weekend. This was a special trip because we finally got to meet Reed (their son).

Overall, it was a successful and relaxing trip. However, I didn't get much reading done. Bummer.

We did, however, manage to visit three bookstores:

Where I purchased the books pictured above. Did I need any of these books? I don't understand the question.


2016 in Books

I read 75 books in 2016 (I thought I had read 76 but Goodreads counted a book that I hadn't read in 2016, that sassy website).

I've already blogged about some of my favorites, but here's the whole list (this post is inspired by Justin Blanton's. He and I read very different kinds of books):

*****

The Sparrow by Mary Russel Doria

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2) by Becky   Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky   Chambers

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2) by Liu Cixin

Woman with a Blue Pencil: A Novel by Gordon McAlpine

Slade House by David Mitchell

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

Anatomy of Evil (Barker & Llewelyn, #7) by Will Thomas

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2) by Daniel O'Malley

Zero K: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Necessity (Thessaly, #3) by Jo Walton

The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #1) by Alex Grecian

The Devil's Workshop (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #3) by Alex Grecian

The Harvest Man (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #4) by Alex Grecian

Lost and Gone Forever (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #5) by Alex Grecian

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2) by Amy  Stewart

The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) by Ellen Kushner

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

****

The Trials (The Red Trilogy Book 2) by Linda Nagata

Night Life (Michael Cassidy, #1) by David C.  Taylor

Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #8) by Kevin Hearne

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Strangler Vine (Avery & Blake, #1) by M.J. Carter

The Steel Remains  (A Land Fit for Heroes #1) by Richard K. Morgan

Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3) by Jeff VanderMeer

Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

Linesman (Linesman, #1) by S.K. Dunstall

Alliance by S.K. Dunstall

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Singer from Memphis (The Athenian Mysteries #6) by Gary Corby

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen, #1) by Aliette de Bodard

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

The Black Country (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, #2) by Alex Grecian

Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence, #5) by Max Gladstone

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel  Gonzales

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2) by Naomi Novik

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Cold Between (Central Corps, #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel

A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton

Look to Windward (Culture, #7) by Iain M. Banks

Blind Justice (Sir John Fielding, #1) by Bruce Alexander

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Daggerspell (Deverry, #1) by Katharine Kerr

In the Land of Giants: A Journey Through the Dark Ages by Max    Adams

Swordspoint (Riverside, #1) by Ellen Kushner

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner

Hell Bay (Barker & Llewelyn, #8) by Will Thomas

***

Murder at the 42nd Street Library (Raymond Ambler #1) by Con Lehane

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Dr. DOA (Secret Histories, #10) by Simon R. Green

Hour of Judgment (Jurisdiction, #4) by Susan R. Matthews

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Wolf Star (Tour of the Merrimack, #2) by R.M. Meluch

Dead Man Walking (Ishmael Jones, #2) by Simon R. Green

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

**

Manhattans & Murder (Murder, She Wrote, #2) by Jessica Fletcher

Raising Caine (Tales of the Terran Republic, #3) by Charles E. Gannon

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr

The Myriad by R.M. Meluch


I read lots of books from a variety of publishers, but here's the top three:

Tor Books: 8

Del Rey: 4

G.P. Putnam's Sons:4

I got to wonder about the author gender breakdown of the books I read in 2016, and it is pretty good:

Gender2016books

I didn't make an effort to read any particular kind of author's work, and I don't plan to. I read whatever strikes my fancy, but I think these numbers are telling me that I'm hearing about more books written by women, which Im all for!


My Favorite Books of 2015

2015 was a pretty rough year here at Blankbaby Manor which impacted my reading. I try to read at least 52 books a year, and I did't quite make it but I got close!

In 2015 I read 51 books (though if you follow me on Goodreads it appears as though I read 49 books. I read an omnibus edition of 3 novels in one, so I counted that as 3. Goodreads counts it as 1).

For some historical perspective, here's my book numbers since 2011:

2011: 46

2012: 53

2013: 73

2014: 58

Not my worst year, but very far from my best (I have no idea why I was able to read so much in 2013!).

I did read a number of very good books, and here are the ones I would recommend you read (note, these are Amazon affiliate links. You can probably find most of these books in your local library too, but then I don't get any money):

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Ken Liu is a very talented short story writer (and translator), but I wasn't sure if that would translate into being a great novelist. Well, "The Grace of Kings" didn't disappoint me. I will admit that I'm fascinated by fantasty/scifi books which are roots in non-western traditions so if that isn't your thing this book isn't for you.

Having this book grounded in traditions that aren't familiar to me gave it an added level of otherworldliness (which mostly speaks to my lack of knowledge about eastern traditions).

This book features two men who overthrow an empire and then struggle with what to do with the results. There are mechanical sea monsters, airships and more. Plus it is all written with Ken Liu's lyrical prose.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

When I'm not reading science fiction or fantasy I'm usually reading a mystery and "Girl Waits with Gun" is a great one. I mean, it is kind of a mystery but mostly it is a retelling of a crazy true story.

The main characters are the Kopp sisters are unique believable characters who border on ridiculous but never stray past the line.

The novel starts with a carriage being sideswiped by a car and goes from there. Lots of fun, and an interesting snapshot of a particular time in American history when technology and society were at a tipping point.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I love the idea of parallel universes with select people being able to move between them, and that's at the center of this novel. There are several versions of London and the main character is one of a few how can travel back and forth.

People aren't supposed to bring things back and forth with them, but it happens with unforeseen circumstances. A great read, and quick too!

If superheroes are more your cup of tea check out Vicious by the same author. I liked it very much (though not as much as this one).

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

This was probably my favorite fantasy book that I read in 2015. Now, it isn't for everyone because it is pretty brutal. The ending isn't satisfying if you're hoping for a good ending, but Baru is a great character and I thought the world building was very well done.

It reminded me very much of K.J. Parker, and that's a big compliment!

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Aurora is fantastic, and I'm pretty sure it'll be nominated for the Hugo. A clever tale of a generation ship falling apart with an interesting conceit. You should read it. Plus, this time around the main character isn't totally awful (until 2312, which I liked but can see how others might not).

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

I imagine somewhere the pitch for this book (which is soon to be a TV series) was something like, "Imagine the Game of Thrones only on the Mooooon!"

That gives you the flavor of the book, kind of, but undersells it. McDonald has been writing YA novels for a few years and I've read them. But I'm glad to have him back writing "adult fiction." This book is the start of a series and I look forward to reading the rest with great gusto.

Also, the opening scene of this book is just perfect.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Generally, I don't re-read things but I suggested we discuss The Foundation Trilogy on The Incomparable and other folks agreed (listen to the podcast).

I was a little worried that I wouldn't like the Foundation Trilogy anymore. I read it when I was in high school and it is pretty much responsible for my love of science fiction. Good news! I still love these three books, and if you haven't read them you should. Now. Go. Read them! Every library in the world probably has copies (not to mention used bookstores).


Overlooked Series

Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid books, wrote a great post listing some underrated series of books for adults. He wrote this in reaction to having his own series of books listed on this Buzzfeed list of underrated YA series (which lists a bunch of stuff that isn't YA).

I love this idea, and it has inspired me to create my own list of underrated series, one of which appears on Kevin's list (he has good taste!).

The Iron Druid Chronicles

I'll start off listing Kevin's series: The Iron Druid Chronicles. I'm not generally a fan of Urban Fantasy, it isn't my bag. However, Atticus O'Sullivan, the ancient Druid who is the last of his kind, is a lot of fun to read about. And his dog is fantastic (this makes sense if you read the books).

Ok, these books aren't literary gems but they aren't meant to be. They are fast, fun reads. All I can say is that I read one in a couple of hours and then bought every single available novel right afterwards and devoured them all.

Books in the series:

The Glamourist Histories

Jane Austin with a touch of magic is how I describe Mary Robinette Kowal's The Glamourist Histories. That's true of the first book, though the later entries in the series have a heck of a lot more action than you'll find in an Austin book.

Jane and Vincent, the main characters, are glamourists (they can create illusions, and do so for installation in manor houses and the like) who are very much in love and end up in many interesting situations. These situations include everything from encountering Napoleon's army to being fleeced in Venice.

Sadly, the final installment of this series is coming out this month. I'll read it and look forward to what else Mary Robinette Kowal has in store for us.

Books in the series:

The Athenian Mysteries

I'm a sucker for a period mysteries series, and Gary Corby's The Athenian Mysteries fit the bill. Set in ancient Greece, the books follows Nicolaos who has a knack for solving mysteries but has trouble making a living out of it. Pericles is sort of his sponsor, though they have a fragile relationship. Oh, and did I mention Nicolaos has a young brother by the name of Socrates? Yeah, that Socrates.

Once again, these books are fun, light, quick reads that always entertain.

Books in the series:

The Paradox Trilogy

Rachel Aaron, writing as Rachel Bach, wrote a damn fine trilogy of scifi books called The Paradox Trilogy. Devi, the main character, has some sweet power armor and dreams of serving her King. Those dreams don't work out as she had hoped, but she does get to encounter some "monsters" and fall in love.

I enjoy the fact that these books feature a strong female protagonist who falls in love, but isn't super happy about it (it is very complicated, as you'll find out when you read it). Also, did I mention the sweet power armor? It is pretty sweet.

The books in the series:

Engineer Trilogy

I've said time and again that K.J. Parker books are great. The Engineer Trilogy follows an engineer who is exiled for creating things that are out of spec, and he get his revenge. A lot of revenge.

This is a fantasy series, but there isn't any magic to be found. There is a lot of blood, gears, and betrayal. This isn't a lighthearted read, but man is it compelling.

The books in the series:


Books you should read (or give as a gift!)

Since it is the holidays here in the good US of A (and elsewhere I presume, but I don't concern myself with the goings on outside of our fine borders) I thought it only appropriate to share some of the best books I've read this year. Along with affiliate links and a plea for you to buy them for friends, loved ones, or enemies.

The Golem and the Jinni


Golemjinni
Hard to believe I read this book in 2014, but I did (finished it on Jan. 25th, 2014). This is a great book, as discussed on this episode of The Incomparable. And at the moment it is only $2.99 in ebook format. Why haven't you purchased it already?

Ok, so you want to hear a little bit of what this book is about. A golem is shipped to NYC, as you do, and he master dies. She's left to fend for herself and ends up meeting a Jinni. It is great.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

My Real Children

MyrealchildrenI love Jo Walton. Well, I love her writing (I'm sure she's a lovely person though). After reading her Small Change series I decided that I would just buy whatever her next novel is without question. That's why I preordered My Real Children and read it as soon as it appeared on my Kindle.

This book is science fiction, but with a light touch. The main character is an old lady who is in a old folks home and remembers living two lifetimes. Is she crazy? Nope, she is just remembering two different timelines of her own life.

Fantastic. And there are moon-bases, so: science fiction.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N


The Bone Clocks

BoneclockDavid Mitchell knows how to write a book I tells ya. The Bone Clocks is definitely science fiction, but since Mitchell wrote it people you'll find it shelved in the "Fiction" section of the bookstore (serious writers don't do science fiction, you see. Even though the Cloud Atlas was also SciFi).

This book pings around the world and history following the story of Holly Sykes who ends up involved in a war that she knows nothing about. I devoured this book (after I got through the first 30 pages or so).

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

Station Eleven

StationelevenI'd never heard of Emily St. John Mandel before (but what a name), however, this book is crazy good. It is a post-apocalypse book, but it isn't apocalypse porn. Most of the action happens a good while after the fall of society, when new rules and societies have been formed and life is somewhat stable (though nothing like we know it).

A traveling band of Shakespearean actors are the main vehicle of the plot with characters connecting threads across time before, during and after the pandemic.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

And the sequels

There are two other books that I quite enjoyed this year, but it is difficult to recommend them since they are both a part of a larger series.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi blew my mind with the bizarre stuff that it contains. This is a science fiction lovers science fiction book (though if you don't like rather baroque writing, this might not be your cup of tea).

Last year Ancillary Justice was my favorite book, and this year the sequel (Ancillary Sword) is on my best of list. You should read the first one though, and then pick up the second.