Wednesday, December 30

What Are Your End of the Year Book Recommendations?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I tend to read a lot in December, so around the end of the year, I'm usually running out of books. I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite reads from the year, and invite folks to do the same.

Here are a few of mine, though I know I'm forgetting a ton of great ones. (I really need to be better about keeping a Goodreads list). You'll see I was on a huge military sci fi kick this year, though I did branch out a little.

Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen

I really loved the western setting in this one, and how it was our Wild, Wild Western Frontier, but not quite. The mix of familiar with the supernatural was wonderful, and the protagonist, Nettie, is worth rooting for.

Blurb: Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don't call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound ability is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn't understand what's under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding -- at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first.

The Linesman, by S.K. Dunstall

My husband turned me on to this one, and I'm so glad he did. The premise is fascinating, and unlike any sci fi I've read before. The "lines" are fun and the whole situation kept me guessing. Book two comes out in February and I can't wait. 

Blurb: The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.

There's is Not to Reason Why Series, by Jean Johnson

Another rec from the husband, this one is interesting from a mechanical perspective (though I enjoyed the story as well--finished the series last night, and yes, there were tears). The story of a precog who knows everything thousands of years in advance is a tough character to write and plot for, and Johnson did some interesting things with it.

Blurb: Ia is a precog, tormented by visions of the future where her home galaxy has been devastated. To prevent this vision from coming true, Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military with a plan to become a soldier who will inspire generations for the next three hundred years-a soldier history will call Bloody Mary.

The Kate Daniels Series, by Ilona Andrews

This series has become one of my favorites. Love the characters, love the world, love the excellent way Andrews mixes in the subplots and keeps you guessing. If you like urban fantasy, just go buy it. 

Blurb: Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for magic…

One moment magic dominates, and cars stall and guns fail. The next, technology takes over and the defensive spells no longer protect your house from monsters. Here skyscrapers topple under onslaught of magic; werebears and werehyenas prowl through the ruined streets; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds.

In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight.

But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she must choose to do nothing and remain safe or to pursue his preternatural killer. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy…

The Paradox Series, by Rachel Bach

Yet another in my military sci fi binging, this one was a lot of fun. Space opera adventure, with a tough gal in armor who kicks butt and doesn't take a lot of flack from anyone. 

Blurb: Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

What were some of your favorite books of the year? Share!

Looking for tips on planning and writing your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.

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  1. Thanks for these great recs - some intriguing stories here I haven't been hearing about anywhere else!

    I'm currently reading The Mount of Char, and I definitely recommend it. It's an urban fantasy with lovely language and an utterly strange and dark plot that's challenging my imagination in a way I haven't come across in quite a while.

    1. Ooo, just took a peek at Amazon and that sounds really intriguing. Adding it to my list, thanks!

  2. I'm way behind in my reading this year. I did a review of a few on my blog, and I'm about to head out and get Michael Faber's The Book Of Strange New Things (a recommendation). I might take a look at Magic Bites as well, looks like a fun read. Happy New Year!

  3. I've started Kate Daniels too, and read the Paradox author Rachel Aaron/Bach's other books (wizard thief capers? a dragon thought too nice to survive? ohhh yes). You might take a look at City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. A conquered city where the gods are dead, on the edge of rebellion against the rulers trying to keep its history forgotten-- and a detective with a past she's not telling, trying to keep a lid on impending chaos. Fun.

  4. You by Caroline Kepnes
    Not sure if it was published this year or last, but I discovered it this year, so I'm listing it here :) It's written from the perspective of a stalker, and I found myself rooting for him to get the girl on more than one occasion! Maybe that says something about the way my mind works...Eek! I dunno. But it's an interesting read if you're okay with creepy!

    1. My mind works the same way. I actually had a story idea about a social media stalker years ago and told my mystery friend she should write it, LOL. This looks like the book I wanted.

  5. This year my "recreational" reading took a less-is-more turn due to enormous amounts of research, writing and editing. It kept me out of my normal library and book store crawls but, damn, i ingested tons of writerly blogs (like Fiction University!) so I didn't do any less reading at all. I guess that's something?
    However, I did discover Eric Jarosinski's "Nein. A Manifesto"—a book of brilliant philosophical aphorisms; a definite read-over-and-over experience. And, thanks to a fellow writer, I rediscovered the world of graphic novels. The work (and attitude) of Laura Lee Gulledge gave me a kick in the ol' enthusiasm. It was also nice to see some critical reinterest in the Hernandez Brothers' "Love and Rockets" series. Very groundbreaking work.

    1. I'll have to show my husband Jarosinski's book, that is perfect for him.

  6. `The Grendel Affair' by Lisa Shearin. It's a fun urban fantasy. I'd read her previous series about Raine Benares, (which is also a lot of fun) and I thought this was a nice change.

    I'm currently reading `Veiled Rose' by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. It's actually the second in the `Tales of Goldstone Woods' series and I haven't read the first, but so far I've been able to follow what's going on all right. It has a very traditional fairy tale feel that I really enjoy, and rarely come across.

    And I read `Mary Barton' by Elizabeth Gaskell. It is (I blush to admit) the first time I've read Gaskell's work even though I am a huge geek for Victorian literature.

    Oh Yeah, and Gail Carson Levine's second book about Elodie and her dragon detective friend Meenore, 'Stolen Magic'. I mean, a dragon detective, how cool is that?

    1. Love Lisa Shearin. I haven't read the new series yet though, but it looks good, too. And how can anyone pass on a dragon detective? Lots of great suggestions, thanks!

  7. Just started "The Hired Girl" by Laura Amy Schlitz. Her Deep POV is to be drooled over!

  8. Oooooh, lots of interesting books I haven't heard of! Thanks!

    Your mention of Rachel Bach (who I want to try) reminded me that Tanya Huff has a new Confederation novel out (start of a "new" series but also book 6 of the Valor novels), and I just love her kick-ass Marine Sergeant Torin Kerr.

    My end-of-year recommendation? Uprooted, by Naomi Novik and The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Oh, and I read Ancillary Justice this year, too. so definitely that one, and Sword, and I still have to read Mercy.

  9. All sound good. I read Ancillary Justice recently, but not the other two. I really need to pick up Novik's stuff. I've heard great things but haven't actually read her yet.