2015 Favorite Books.

Now that the year 2015 is over, I’m going to talk about the books I enjoyed the most during the year. Not like certain places that have voting for the best books in October or November…

I’ve broken the books down into two categories for 2015’s reading. The first are the books I enjoyed reading more than any other, which were released in 2015. The second category is books that were not released in 2015—or books in series where only the latest book was released, but include the entire series. I realize the division is a little arbitrary, but it’s how the books break down in my mind, so it’s how I’m going to list them here. Also, note that I’m not including rereads here—all of these are books that I read for the first time in 2015, else the list would be pretty much the same (and almost completely Sanderson) every year.

Releases:

5. Gemini Cell.

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I don’t read a ton of SF books, but my 5th place for 2015 is actually a tie between two SF novels. The first, Gemini Cell, is a brilliantly paced, brutal, and exciting military SF/fantasy tale that I absolutely devoured. It’s an excellent starting place for Myke’s universe if you’ve never read any of his books before, so check it out!

5. Time Salvager.

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This was my first Wesley Chu book, which I read because 1) I had it, 2) Chu was nominated for the Campbell Award, and 3) I was going to get to see him twice in 2015 (ArmadilloCon and WorldCon). It earned him my Campbell vote, and is probably my favorite time travel novel. It’s a very dark book, but has beautiful glimmers of hope, and I’m really looking forward to Time Siege next year.

4. The Autumn Republic.

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The concluding volume of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, which is a series I’ve been following from the beginning. McClellan has a real talent for battle scenes and rough, gritty fantasy without being grimdark (in my opinion), and it really shines here, when everything is going wrong, and the gods themselves are waging war across the planet. If you’ve not read any of his work, go check out some of his short fiction—it’s an excellent and quick starting point at a good price-point, and will hopefully convince you to pick up Promise of Blood.

3. The Providence of Fire.

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Staveley’s another author I’ve been following since his first book came out—and even before. The Providence of Fire is slightly longer, and perhaps a little slower paced than The Emperor’s Blades, but is also a more satisfying and epic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed how it is unabashedly straight up epic fantasy, done right. I am eagerly anticipating the last volume, out in March.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic.

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After Vicious (see below) was my first read of the year in 2015, I immediately preordered this one, and it is not a decision that I regret. I enjoyed the parallel Londons and the amazing characters that Schwab presents in the book, and how easy, fast, and thrilling the book was to read.

1. Sanderson.

Surprise, surprise, right? Well, Sanderson continued to not disappoint in 2015, with not 1, but 2, absolutely stunning novels full of everything awesome.

1-1. Firefight.

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As the second volume in a strict trilogy, this one should have been a bit longer, slower, and more boring than the first one. Even in my favorite series, this happens, and I don’t complain.

Someone forgot to give Sanderson the note about that, though, and Firefight was, in my opinion, better than Steelheart, and it has the distinction of being one of two books I read (probably since The Princess Bride, certainly of 2015) where I thoroughly enjoyed and cheered for the romance.

1-2. Shadows of Self.

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Cosmere! Mistborn! Wax and Wayne! Steris! Marasi! [SPOILER]! What isn’t to love? Shadows of Self was easily my favorite book released in 2015, and I can only imagine how entertaining it must have been for the people riding in the car with me while I finished the book on my way to the Sanderson signing. So many amazing, unexpected, surprising, and downright mindblowing moments. If you’ve never picked up a Sanderson book before, I might have to start recommending the Era 2 (1.5?) books as another starting point now.

Other new reads/Authors:

This list is 7 books long because the last 3 spots were more or less a tie—I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books, though they were all quite different, and they all earned their spot on my list.

5. The Goblin Emperor.

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The Goblin Emperor was a book I read last year because it was on the Hugo nominees list—and it is the book that ended up getting my vote. It’s just so much fun and happiness. This book has been described as anti-grimdark, and it fits the label. If you need an uplifting fantasy novel, check this one out!

5. Robin Hobb.

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I only managed to read Robin Hobb’s first trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, last year. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and while it’s not flashy, it is still powerful, and her writing has a way of making things compelling, and she puts her characters through intense torture without resorting to tactics such as chopping off hands or other bits. I’m definitely aiming to read more of her books in the coming year, though I don’t know if I’ll have time to catch up to the latest books she’s written or not—but I’ll certainly try!

4. Jaime Lee Moyer.

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Now, this one is a little bit of cheating, since I’m talking about the Delia trilogy, the last book of which, Against a Brightening Sky, came out in October. However, I decided to consider the series as a group, and so I placed it on this list, because the first two books came out before last year. I only managed to review the first book, Delia’s Shadow, before school overwhelmed me and I had to take a break for a few months from blogging, but I read and loved the entire trilogy. Set in an alternate San Francisco, the books fall largely into an alternate history setting. The characters are such good people, the mysteries are intriguing, the magic is exciting, and the endings were exciting, even if they left questions unanswered.

4. Dan Wells.

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This one is also cheating a little bit, since I’m talking about Dan’s John Cleaver books, the latest of which, The Devil’s Only Friend, was released in 2015. Also, the series in ongoing. But… This is my list, so I get to do what I want with it. While I felt the first book got off to a slightly rocky start—it foreshadowed the supernatural elements a little too heavily for my tastes—they ended up being really good, quick, exciting reads, even though horror is not usually my genre of choice.

3. City of Stairs.

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I’ve talked about this one a lot—it was a surprisingly good read, and I am so glad that I made the time to read it. I really enjoyed Shara, and Saypur and the continent, the worldbuilding, the way political issues were handled, and Sigurd. I can’t talk about Sigurd enough… I think the most convincing recommendation I can give for this book is that when I was about 100 pages from the end, and forgot my copy at home, I bought the eBook so I could finish reading it on my phone on the train to work.

2. Vicious.

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I keep talking about how Schwab is one of my new favorite authors from last year, and this is the book that did it for me. My first read of 2015, it set the tone for the rest of the year, and I am so glad to hear that we are going to get a sequel! Seriously fun tale of superheroes and supervillains—and of people. Also, it has a really cool time-line structure that I’ve never seen any other book pull off successfully.

1. Ready Player One.

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I read this book for the first time last spring. Upon finishing the book, I turned it back over and started from the beginning, not even pausing to have something to drink. I don’t think I’ve done that since Harry Potter.

Since then, I’ve listened to the audiobook. And reread the book. So yes, I’ve been through it 4 times last year, something else I’m not sure I’ve done since I was reading Harry Potter, back in the days when I wasn’t in college and had a lot more free time.

This book scratched every itch I didn’t even know I had. Gaming, nerd-dom, geekery, virtual reality goodness, some absolutely awesome characters and twists, as big of an epic battle of good against evil as you can imagine, and the other romance that I cheered for. It was perfect, and in the grand scheme of books I’ve read, the only ones I’ve loved more are the Stormlight Archive.

It’s that good.

I realize that I haven’t posted a review of it yet—that’s because I haven’t figured out how to hack Goodreads to give it 6 stars. (I’m working on it, though.)

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So that was my year in books… What did y’all enjoy reading last year, new or old?

Richard Anderson: An Appreciation

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Badass covers, right? Everyone’s heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It holds true a lot of the time. I’ve seen books with amazing covers that sucked, and I’ve seen the reverse even more often. (Take the first paperback cover for Mistborn as an example.) Regardless, however, I admire beautiful cover art, and I will still occasionally pick up a book just because it looks amazing. Right now, that means I’ll try anything with a Richard Anderson cover. So far, he has not lead me wrong. But even if he somehow does, I will likely keep picking up the covers and hoping that I can, some day, get posters of some of his art. What makes me say that? Well, let’s look at a few more of his covers.

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What I really like about Anderson’s art is that he not only paints awesome pictures, but he also matches them evocatively with the book’s material. He draws the characters from the book, and they are often in situations that occur during the book—situations which are instantly recognizable and memorable. The exception to this is, I think, the TEB cover above which represents the three main characters and the feel of the novel so perfectly that the fact that the scene never occurs in the book is more than excusable.

His covers aren’t for every book, of course. I can’t see his cover on something like The Last Unicorn, for example. It has to be the right pairing of artist and subject matter. I feel that he is usually perfectly matched for the covers I’ve seen. In addition to the above badassery (I mean, blood magic portals to alternate evil doppleganger universes…[Mirror Empire] Come on. That oozes awesome.), he painted the first cover that made me immediately go out and preorder the book based on the title and the cover alone, without knowing anything else. I’ve since obtained a copy of this book through mostly legitimate methods, and I really enjoyed it. Here’s the cover.

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I’ll pause for a moment before I conclude so that you can go order that one. Go on, I’ll be here when you get back.

I’m going to end this post with one more picture, one of the latest covers revealed in Richard Anderson’s ever-growing collection of amazing art, which is the cover to what is perhaps my most anticipated book of next year behind the only the next Stormlight book (When will Sanderson get a Richard Anderson cover? I would buy the heck out of that.). Badass birds, awesome red-heads, dual-wielding axes, a lovely dark color scheme with a hint of red, this is just so amazing.

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ARC Review: Time Salvager

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From Goodreads:

Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

James is a chronman, undertaking missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. The laws governing use of time travel are absolute; break any one of them and, one way or another, your life is over. Most chronmen never reach old age; the stress of each jump through time, compounded by the risk to themselves and to the future, means that many chronmen rapidly reach their breaking point, and James Griffin-Mars is nearing his.

On a final mission that is to secure his retirement, James meets Elise Kim, an intriguing scientist from a previous century, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and his common sense, and in violation of the chronmen’s highest law, James brings Elise back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, somehow finding allies, and perhaps discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from tor.com. This has in no way affected my review. It’s awesome, period.

Time travel stories are hard to get right. Wesley Chu got it right.

Time Salvager is Wesley’s fourth novel, but the first one I’ve read. It makes me want to go back and read his other books—it really was amazing, right from the first page. It has one of those first chapters that really hooks you and draws you in. I dare you to read it and not want to immediately read the rest of the book.

Time Salvager uses the concept of time travel in a way I’ve not seen it used before. The people of the far future, when humanity has run itself out of resources, are desperate for more. They send people back into the past with the sole goal of stealing energy sources and other resources from history, while causing minimal impact on the time stream. This is the “salvage” part of the concept, and it adds a really interesting twist combining a post-apocalyptic future and a time travel adventure.

For adventure it is. While I love a book that can immediately make me want to pick it up for the cover (Richard Anderson!), or just the concept—the above paragraph would probably be enough to sell me a copy of this one—I also like a good plot. The plot here is not too convoluted, and that, for me, made the book even more enjoyable. It’s a straight-forward, fall in love, break the rules, and maybe accidentally save the world while you’re at it adventure story. The pacing is brilliant, and it has just the right amount of hinting at an even bigger conspiracy going on behind the scenes that make me want to buy and devour the other two books of this trilogy as soon as they come out.

In addition to the really cool use of time-travel, Chu has done some in-depth world-building that makes the book really enjoyable. The last names, for example, are a subtle, brilliant touch that just makes the book feel even more real and awesome. There’s also a number of cameos of people I recognize from the Twitter community. I spotted 5 of these, and it’s fairly likely I missed some others, but since they’re all subtle and handled well, they never distract from the real storyline.

The characters are marvelous. James, our viewpoint character, is a downtrodden man who has been through too much, saved too many items from ships being wrecked or buildings about to be destroyed in wars. He has a massive drinking problem, and the nightmares to go with it. He’s the perfect beaten-down nobody. His counterpart, Elise is just the opposite. Optimistic, cheerful, and overloaded with brains, she balances out his bleak attitude, and brings a ray of hope to the dismal future. I loved their interactions, and the way that Chu worked them together.

Perhaps my only complaint with the book, minor though it is, was the ending. It wasn’t terribly satisfying, and felt more like the cliffhanger ending you would usually see on the second book of a trilogy rather than the first. It still was quite exciting, though, so it didn’t ruin the experience for me.

In exciting news, the book has already been optioned as a movie, and I am mostly excited to see how it will turn out. I think it will make a great movie that fits well, thematically and action-wise, with many of the various other dystopian movies that have been released recently, and I expect that it’ll be a hit with the crowds. As long as they keep the story intact, it’ll be awesome, and I am certainly getting tickets to see it as soon as it comes out.

In summary, Time Salvager is a time-traveling adventure dystopian mashup that is brilliantly done and well paced. I loved my first taste of Wesley Chu’s writing, wish him the best of luck with this year’s Campbell Award, and am looking forward to seeing the movie—and since I’m giving this book five of five stars, you totally need to read it before said movie comes out!

Wesley Chu’s Website.

Goodreads.

Amazon.

5 Books I’m Excited to See on the Screen

More and more books are being optioned and developed, either for TV or the big screen these days, though they’re still giving the short end of the stick to some authors such as Sanderson. Most people credit Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones for this success, and they’re probably not wrong. Here’s my list of the top 5 upcoming movies and tv shows made from books (that I’ve loved and read) that I’m really excited for.

5. Shannara.

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This one may be a bit of a hit or miss. I loved the Shannara books when I was a kid. They were the first books that kept me up at night, under the covers, with a flashlight, lying to my mom and saying I had gone to sleep, so that I could finish reading them. In some ways, they’re what inspired my love of the fantasy genre.

But they started coming out in the 70’s, and fantasy has matured a lot since then. If they’re done right, of course, the stories can still feel fresh—LoTR is much older, and was amazing—but I have doubts about MTV’s ability to do them right. Regardless, they’re treasured fantasy that remains close to my heart, and I’m definitely going to give the show a try before I decide whether it’s good or not—and I’m really hoping it is good.

4. Jonathan Strage and Mr. Norrell.

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Okay, I know this one is already out, at least partially, but because it’s still ongoing, and I haven’t seen it yet, I’m still counting it on the list. I read this book last year, and I loved it for the stuffy sense of atmosphere, mixed with the brilliantly rich worldbuilding and characters. I have high hopes that the right adaptation would be able to bring that amazing world to the screen, and perhaps add just a touch of tension and movement to the story, making it into a great series. I’m definitely binge-watching this over a weekend later this summer when it’s all available at once. The trailer looks pretty cool, too.

3. Time Salvager.

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I know, I know. It’s not fair to tease you with this one when the book isn’t even out yet. I’m not sorry. This was an amazing book, and it has the potential, with the right screenplay, to be an amazing movie. There are many ways it could go wrong, of course—especially directed by someone known for explosions over plot, but I am optimistic that we will get an amazing movie. I’ll have my review of the book up on release day, but I urge you to preorder it now. It may be my favorite time travel adventure novel I’ve ever read.

2. The Martian.

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My top two entries have a bit of an unfair advantage, as their trailers have already been released—and they are amazing. If you’ve not read The Martian yet, the trailer is a pretty darn good introduction.

I’ve never read anything quite like it before. I was expecting another Apollo 13/Gravity rehash, with just a bunch of scary space moments that still can drive a good story—but I got so much more. The science, and the level of detail that Andy Weir put into the thought behind this book—this book reads more like Einstein pulling a Robinson Crusoe on Mars… Plus the Apollo 13/Gravity moments that everyone loves so much. It’s amazing, and they look like they’ve done a perfect job with casting the characters. I am super excited to see this one, and I’m glad they moved the release date up so I can watch it sooner.

1. Mockingjay Part 2.

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The Hunger Games trilogy is a masterpiece. In particular, I feel that the second half of the third book, the basis of this movie, is utterly brilliant in its depiction of the final struggle against evil and the repercussions of war and trauma. It makes me cry, and messes me up like not much else can do—and I love it for that. The first trailer just came out for this one too, and here it is:

(Brienne!) I get chills every time I watch that. The music, the characters, everything. If they stick to the landing half as well as the book did, this is going to be a freaking brilliant movie. Extra bonus: It comes out on my birthday. I’ve gone to the last 2 movies for my birthday party, and I already have plans to do that for this one too.

What movies or TV series are you looking forward to that came from books?