It’s that time of year again! Time to look back at the books I read and share with you the ones I enjoyed the most – the ones I would recommend or the ones that just struck me deeply. It’s always interesting to look at all I’ve read, because it gives a broad picture of what I was up to, what interested me, and where I ended up. It’s a more subjective measure of my year than anything I could come up with on my own.
That said… it’s telling that I read a lot less this year than last. 76 in 2014, but only 50 (give or take, probably give considering there are two weeks left in the year) in 2015. Part of this was due to my changing work life: I no longer have the luxury of listening to audiobooks for a large chunk of my day. Part of this was just my own failure to prioritize reading.
Which needs to change! If nothing else, reading will be a big goal for me in 2016. Reading is just as important as actually putting words on a page for a writer. Also I need to make a dent in this TBR pile. Honestly, it looks like it might fall over and crush me at any moment.
Here are my 2015 Books of Awesome, Part One:
The Killing Moon by NK Jemisin
“In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe – and kill those judged corrupt.”
THIS BOOK. This. Book. It is everything I love in fantasy: beautiful, well-crafted characters, interesting and new settings, diverse cultures, grappling with complex issues, fun! and fast! and just hooks its claws into you and doesn’t let go until you’re on the last page and then you need to take a few days to recover. Jemisin is one of those amazing writers who can write beautifully and plot tightly and characterize brilliantly and I just – go. Go read her. Now. I’ll wait.
Lock-In by John Scalzi
“Not too long from today, a highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge…”
If you like Scalzi, you’ll like this. If you like fun, fast, and hilarious mysteries, you’ll also like this.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
“There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions.”
Losing Pratchett this year was hard. He was a big, formative influence for me and many others. To celebrate his life, I immediately read some faves of his. Hogfather is one of his best and a good introduction to his writing.
Undertow by Elizabeth Bear
“André Deschênes is a hired assassin, but he wants to be so much more. If only he can find a teacher who will forgive his murderous past – and train him to manipulate odds and control probability. It’s called the art of conjuring, and it’s André’s only route to freedom. For the world he lives on is run by the ruthless Charter Trade Company, and his floating city, Novo Haven, is little more than a company town where humans and aliens alike either work for one tyrannical family – or are destroyed by it. But beneath Novo Haven’s murky waters, within its tangled bayous, reedy banks, and back alleys, revolution is stirring. And one more death may be all it takes to shift the balance.”
Bear has been on my TBR list for way too long and Undertow made me wish I’d read her sooner. I’m much more of fantasy girl than a sci-fi fan, but this book hit all the right spots. It was nerdy enough without being complete technobabble, it has giant talking frogs, and at one point it just goes completely nuts – but in the best way possible.
Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire
“Velveteen lives in a world of super-heroes and magic, where men can fly and where young girls can be abducted to the Autumn Land to save Halloween. Velma lives from paycheck to paycheck and copes with her broken-down car as she tries to escape from her old life.
It’s all the same world. It’s all real. And figuring out how to be both Velveteen and Velma is the biggest challenge of her life, because being super-human means you’re still human in the end.”
Pretty much anything written by Seanan is going to be an A++ gimme, but there’s just something more and beautiful about the Velveteen universe that made me shell out real cash for something I had already read (for free!) on her website. It’s hilarious and poignant and yes, I cried a few times, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it when it was all over.
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
“An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo’s proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled.”
I’m just going to read everything in the Laundry Files series and recommend it every year, because it’s good and you should read it. The Laundry Files is Elder Gods meets government bureaucracy, except it’s become so much more than that.
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
“The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of killings that share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie’s circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, ‘You need it. It will save your soul.’ Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies in an epic battle for immortality.”
I read this specifically because it included an ace character, and then I ended up having way too much fun along the way. I loved that it was set in New Zealand, I loved that it focused on Maori myth and culture, and I loved that the characters were fully fleshed out and real.
To be continued!