Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Missing: 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015 0
I posted a similar list last year, and I think it is worth posting a number of the books I didn't read in 2015.  Now, the actual list is absurdly long, but this is a decent representation of books I would have liked to have read and, for various reasons, never did.

For the sake of keeping this list manageable, I limited it to genre books.  If I browsed through listings of LitFic and Nonfiction, well, the list would be absurd. Even strictly genre, I could probably grow triple this list with ease.  Let's just say that reading more than 120 books in a year doesn't get you as far as you might think, even if all you read were books published that year (which I didn't). This still doesn't even scratch the list of SFF works that I missed this year. Heck, this only scratches the surface of the "notable" books that were half on my radar that I missed. I'll probably find another dozen in a few months.

I have put stars by the books that I currently own / have at home. I'm halfway through The Fifth Season right now, but am unlikely to finish it today (but if I did - I'm pretty sure it would have been near the top of my Best Of lists)

Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie
Half a War, by Joe Abercrombie
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, by Bradley P. Beaulieu
The Skull Throne, by Peter V. Brett
The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher
Corsair, by James Cambais
Prudence, by Gail Carriger
Armada, by Ernest Cline

Nemesis Game, by James S. A. Corey
*Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu
*Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott
The Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott
Last First Snow, by Max Gladstone
Harrison Squared, by Daryl Gregory
The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
*The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin
Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Cold Iron, by Stina Leicht
Day Four, by Sarah Lotz
The Autumn Republic, by Brian McClellan
Planetfall, by Emma Newman
Half Resurrection Blues, by Daniel Jose Older

Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab
Meeting Infinity, by Jonathan Strahan
The Mechanical, by Ian Tregellis
*Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente
*Sisters of the Revolution, by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The Just City, by Jo Walton

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Nine Favorite Reads of 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 1
As I've mentioned elsewhere: Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2015. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

Unlike my list of the top books published in 2015, this list is for the top books I read in 2015, no matter when the book was published. I'm also going to cheat a little and where a book overlaps with the previous list, I'm going to use most of the same text.  Because I'm lazy.


1. City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett: The sole reason this was not at the top of last year's list is that I didn't read it until the beginning of January and it just missed out. An investigation into the murder of a historian turns into a quest into the central nature of whether all of the gods were really killed and holy shit, this is good. This is epic fantasy, this is a mystery, this is an awesomely fantastic book that you need to read right freaking now.

2. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie: Tonally different from the previous two volumes, Ancillary Mercy is a crushingly good book that closes out Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy. I was in awe of just how much I loved this book, the characters, the setting. While I always wanted to know just a little bit more about what was going on in other places of the universe, the story kept me rooted and grounded and focused. I loved it.

3. The Martian, by Andy Weir: At this point I believe everyone in the world has heard of The Martian, and that includes my 74 year old mother who doesn't watch much tv beyond Dancing with the Stars or read fiction. I suspect even people who actually live under a rock will say "The Martian? Yeah, that's the one where that guy sciences the shit out of something." Well, Mark Watney does science the shit out of Mars and the voice and the science and the story here is damned good and fun and tense and thrilling and yeah - The Martian is great.

4. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik: I finished Uprooted as I began work on this list and it immediately shot nearly to the top. After all the hype and build up as I somehow didn't read this earlier, I was concerned that Uprooted would ultimately be a let down. It was not. It was oh so good. There is something to be said for a great standalone fantasy novel (see last year's The Goblin Emperor, but damn, they always leave you wanting more).

5. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson: Destroy the moon with the first sentence of the book, see how quickly I want to read your book. "The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." This was my first Neal Stephenson novel. It will not be the last.

6. Daughters of the North, by Sarah Hall: I'm not sure I can do this short novel justice in only a few sentences, so what I'd like for you to do is read the first three paragraphs of the co-review over at Lady Business (stop at the second Renay section if you don't want extensive story details).  Then come back for the rest of this list. Daughters of the North (or, The Carhullan Army, as it was originally published as) is a novel that has stuck with me for most of 2015 and is one that I'm actively looking forward to revisiting.

7. Signal to Noise, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia: Described as a "literary fantasy about love, music, and sorcery, set against the backdrop of Mexico City." Flipping between 1988 and 2009, Moreno-Garcia has written a beautiful novel that caught me up in its spell.

8. The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson: A comment from Dickinson on Goodreads mentions that there will be a sequel, though preferably only one. I would love to see Baru's story continued and wrapped up - to see if she's able to get her revenge on the Masquerade by destroying herself in the process. Brutal. Wonderful.

9. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho: Though the novel is technically the story of Zacharias Wythe, the titular character in Victorian England, the beating heart of the story is that of Prunella Gentleman, a wonderful character and a bit of a force of nature. Sorcerer to the Crown is set in Victorian London, so we've got "vicious politeness", as Amal El-Mohtar so eloquently put it. I highly recommend this.


Previous Best Reads
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2013
2014

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Top Nine Books Published in 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015 0
Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2015. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

This Top Nine List is more or less in order.  Ask me tomorrow and some titles may shift around a little bit.  Whichever order the list is in, these are the nine novels published in 2015 which I feel were the strongest titles of the year, popularity be damned.


1. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie: Tonally different from the previous two volumes, Ancillary Mercy is a crushingly good book that closes out Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy. I was in awe of just how much I loved this book, the characters, the setting. While I always wanted to know just a little bit more about what was going on in other places of the universe, the story kept me rooted and grounded and focused. I loved it.

2. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik: I finished Uprooted as I began work on this list and it immediately shot nearly to the top. After all the hype and build up as I somehow didn't read this earlier, I was concerned that Uprooted would ultimately be a let down. It was not. It was oh so good. There is something to be said for a great standalone fantasy novel (see last year's The Goblin Emperor, but damn, they always leave you wanting more).

3. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson: Destroy the moon with the first sentence of the book, see how quickly I want to read your book. "The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." This was my first Neal Stephenson novel. It will not be the last.

4. Signal to Noise, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia: Described as a "literary fantasy about love, music, and sorcery, set against the backdrop of Mexico City." Flipping between 1988 and 2009, Moreno-Garcia has written a beautiful novel that caught me up in its spell.

5. The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson: A comment from Dickinson on Goodreads mentions that there will be a sequel, though preferably only one. I would love to see Baru's story continued and wrapped up - to see if she's able to get her revenge on the Masquerade by destroying herself in the process. Brutal. Wonderful.

6. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho: Though the novel is technically the story of Zacharias Wythe, the titular character in Victorian England, the beating heart of the story is that of Prunella Gentleman, a wonderful character and a bit of a force of nature. Sorcerer to the Crown is set in Victorian London, so we've got "vicious politeness", as Amal El-Mohtar so eloquently put it. I highly recommend this.

7. Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear: Bear can write pretty much anything she damn well pleases and the remarkable thing is, it's going to be one of the best things you read that year. That's one of her many super powers, and Karen Memory is no different. I could tell you that this is the story of a late 1800's era "seamstress" having one hell of an adventure in a steampunk western, with an appearance by real life Marshall Bass Reeves and a distinctive narrative voice - and that should be enough to convince you to read the book. But all I really should have to say is "written by Elizabeth Bear."

8. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard: Imagine for a moment that angels fell from heaven and that they essentially took over Paris, setting up competing Houses and the brutal tension that would entail. Imagine, then, the humans that live under them, some serving and binding themselves to a house - some addicted to the angel's magic. Set up a curse and some murders, mix in de Bodard's fantastic storytelling, and you've got a recipe for one of the year's best novels.

9. Fool's Quest, by Robin Hobb: This is the fifteenth novel set in the Realm of the Elderlings and the eighth to feature FitzChivalry Farseer, and somehow, with all of those books and all of those pages, Robin Hobb manages to make this world feel both fresh and familiar and deeply necessary all at the same time. The story here isn't just the getting the characters to the next event, the story is actually the characters themselves - their journey, their relationships to each other, the brief joys and bitterest disappointments.



Previous Best Ofs
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2014

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Top Nine Author Discoveries of 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015 0
We are coming to the end of another year and it is time to start reflecting on all of the awesome stuff that I've read throughout the year.

Here then, are my top nine author discoveries of 2015, in no particular order except alphabetical. In the spirit of acknowledging that there is always something or someone I’ve missed, either by a slip of memory or just lack of opportunity, the traditional tenth spot on my list remains blank.


1. Rachel Bach: I pretty well devoured Bach's space opera Paradox trilogy featuring Devi Morris. She has written a number of fantasy novels as Rachel Aaron, but I'd love to see more SF from her.r

2. Robert Jackson Bennett: Bennett has been on my radar for a number of years, and I've always meant to pick up American Elsewhere. But then he wrote City of Stairs. And I read it. I loved it. City of Blades will be published in January and I shall read that, too. I plan to go back and read his other stuff. 

3. Jim Butcher: Until Skin Game was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2015, I had never read Jim Butcher. Now, I understand that it was the 15th book in a series, but it held up fairly well on its own and has me interested enough to go give the rest of the series a shot. I haven't yet, but now I actually want to.

4. Gail Carriger: I was charmed and delighted by Soulless, a novel of manners and vampires and werewolves in Victorian London. I really shouldn't wait much longer to read Changless

5. Becky Chambers: I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and I firmly believe that universe is such that she could write a number of books in it - preferably a couple more with the crew of the Wayfarer, but it's a rich enough universe to support a whole lot of fiction. I hope she writes it.

6. Eric Flint: Flint is the author of some 8000 novels with another twenty coming each month. Or something like that. That's how it feels. He is possibly most notable for his semi-shared world 1632, featuring a mining town up and thrown back into the year 1632 in Germany. Changes to history ensue. I've only read a couple of the 1632 books but have enjoyed seeing how stuff is playing out and have every intention to read more. One of those authors I should have read a long time ago.

7. Sylvia Moreno-Garcia: Her debut novel, Signal to Noise, was fantastic and is one of the year's best. I will read anything else she writes.

8. Diana Rowland: I am an avowed fan of her White Trash Zombie novels featuring Angel Crawford. They're so good, I read all five of them this year. Rowland has suggested that #6 is forthcoming in 2016. I can't wait.

9. Neal Stephenson: Yes, it is thoroughly possible that Seveneves was the first novel I've read of Stephenson, despite his giant reputation and landmark novels. Destroy the moon in the first sentence, I'll read your book.



Previous discoveries can be found for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Catching Up with the 2015 To Read List

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 0
Back in January I posted a list of 14 books I wanted to read in 2015. It was not meant to be an exhaustive list, and I knew that my son was due to be born three weeks later, so I really had no idea how this was going to go.

He was born the next day.

So things go. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the amount of reading I have done this year is not drastically different than what I did last year (135 books).  We still have a couple of weeks left in the month, but I'm confident I'm not going to quite hit that number. I will be in the 120's, though.

Two of the books on this list were not published in 2015. I can't say that I really expected to see The Winds of Winter, but because I put a GRRM book on the list every year no matter if it has a schedule or not, here it was. Scott Lynch's The Thorn of Emberlain has been pushed to 2016, which is good because it means I have more time to finally read Republic of Thieves. I just have to decide if I should re-read the first two books or just dive in.  I'm mixed.

I have copies of The Black Wolves and Radiance sitting at home. Black Wolves is slated for a review, so I needed to clear some mental space off and finish up the Public Speaking course I took at the local community college (last day of class was yesterday). Now I can ready myself for the book. I do plan / want to read Radiance still, but it also won't be finished this year. Probably won't start this year.

Which leaves The Just City. I never got to it and it is pretty far down my list if I'm being honest.

Still, 9/14 isn't too bad. It's really 9/12 if you consider books that were actually published.

1. The Just City, by Jo Walton (Jan)
2. Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear (Feb)
3. Wastelands II: More Stories of the Apocalypse, by John Joseph Adams (editor) (Feb)
4. Persona, by Genevieve Valentine (Mar)
5. The Rebirths of Tao, by Wesley Chu (Apr)

6. The Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott (Jul)
7. The End of All Things, by John Scalzi (Aug)
8. Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente (Aug)
9. Fool's Quest, by Robin Hobb (Aug)
10. The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (Sep)
11. The Empire Ascendent, by Kameron Hurley (Oct)
12. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (Oct) 

13: Mistborn: Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson (Oct)
14. The Winds of Winter, by George R. R. Martin (???)

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

NoaF: Camber of Culdi

Wednesday, December 09, 2015 0
My first essay for Nerds of a Feather is live as of today.  I've started a series of essays on the Camber Era Deryni novels. Find the Camber of Culdi essay here. I'm excited to continue to this series through the six earliest set novels.

Go on and take a look.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Nerds of a Feather

Monday, December 07, 2015 5
Now that the announcement is official, let's talk about the big news I've been sitting on for a month or so now:

I have joined the team over at Nerds of a Feather. I'll be blogging there a handful of times each month as part of their regular rotation of writers.

"But Joe", you ask me, "you barely post anything over here. Why should we expect that you'll be writing any more over there?"

Well, because I told The G that I would.

"You've also told us that you would be blogging on a more regular basis and look how that ended up."

That's true, and I'll own up to the fact that I've struggled with my motivation to write about much of anything that wasn't the Hugo Awards and now that we're in the off season my productivity has dropped.  But it's like this - I'm really excited for the chance to be writing for someone else and being part of something a bit bigger than this little blog I've been running for the past eleven years.

"So, you're leaving us. Is that it?"

Not exactly. I expect to still do some writing here.

"Like, as much....excuse us, as little as you've been doing already."

Pretty much.

"Thanks."

You're welcome.

"That was sarcastic."

I know, but there's no need for me to be rude.  Listen - this is going to be awesome because you're going to get overall MORE writing from me AND you might just get exposed to some other awesome writers if you're not already following Nerds of a Feather - which you should be.

"Okay"

Are we good?"

"I guess, but it's just that I'm a little lonely over here."

Oh, lone reader, I'm sorry!  I promise I'll link to most of my stuff over there so you don't miss any of it!  And! You can join the community over there, too! I'll still post some stuff here anyway. It's been eleven years, we can't say goodbye yet, can we?

"I guess not."

That's the spirit!  Let's do this thing! I've got a great essay coming up in just a couple of days. You'll love it, Lone Reader!


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Books Read: November 2015

Tuesday, December 01, 2015 2
The beginning of a new month brings with it the opportunity to look back at the month gone by and to give one last glance at what I most recently read. The below listed books are what I read during the month of November. 

1. Camber of Culdi, by Katherine Kurtz
2. The Sorcerer of the Wildeep, by Kai Ashante Wilson
3. Empire Ascendant, by Kameron Hurley
4. Shadow of Self, by Brandon Sanderson
5. Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
6. White Trash Zombies Gone Wild, by Diana Rowland
7. Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith
8. Sunset Mantle, by Alter S. Reiss
9. Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

Best Book of the Month: This month it is surprisingly difficult to pick a single best because almost everything I read was good to very good, but there might not have been a true standout. So - let's go with Empire Ascendant, Binti, and Career of Evil.  With bonus points to Camber of Culdi just because I love it so much.

Disappointment of the Month: This would probably be the first Stephen King collection I can remember reading that I wasn't excited and engaged the whole way through. There were some standout stories like "Ur" and "Obits", with "Drunken Fireworks worth a mention. But as a whole, I was a bit disappointed.

Discovery of the Month: I read two of Tor.com Publishing's novellas last month and another three this month. The more I read from them the more excited I am to read everything they put out. Long live the novella! 

Worth Noting: You should all read more Deryni from Katherine Kurtz and I highly recommend starting with Camber of Culdi because I find this era of the series to be far more interesting, engaging, and emotionally wrenching than the later Kelson novels.

Gender Breakdown: 5 out of the 9 books I read in November were woman authored (remember, Robert Galbraith is the pen name for J. K. Rowling). This brings me to 69/119 and continues to slide my percentage down just a smidge to 57.98% (from 58.18%). Goal remains on track. I'd like to slide that up over 60%, but I'm still nailing the goal so I'm happy.


Previous Months:
January
February
March 
April 
May  
June
July
August 
September
October
 
◄Design by Pocket Distributed by Deluxe Templates