My Favorite Reads of 2015 Part 1

Apparently, I haven’t posted about books (not including Chinese readers, obviously) since May 2015. May 2015!! (Ok, I did post about graphic novels a few weeks ago, but there were only two.) So, since I read 140 books last year (humblebrag), I think I read enough to give some qualified recommendations.

So, here then are my favorite reads from 2015 in no particular order. For brevity, I consolidated series into a single entry and links will be Amazon affiliate links to the first book in the series. Also, this is only part 1 because otherwise, the list would be even more overwhelming.

1) Black Wolves by Kate Elliott – Set in the same universe as her Crossroads Trilogy, this fantasy novel is awesome for the following reasons: people of color as the main POV characters; older women and men as the main POV characters; intrigue; betrayal; and heartbreaking story. So excellent.

Since The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott is by the same author and has several short stories that will flesh out this world, I also highly recommend this particular book. It will also give you glimpses in the worlds of her other series and includes several of her essays that I have found illuminating in terms of discussing culture, women, gender, and people of color (among other things) in world-building and why that is important.

2) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – What happens when your nation is conquered and destroyed by an Empire?Destroy it from within, of course. And through accounting! This book was utter perfection. I’m sure I’ve missed at least half of the clues and tells, but dammit all if it doesn’t make me love this book more.

Brutal. Heartbreaking. Fantastic.

Also? POC main characters. (You’ll note this is a theme for many of my favorites for 2015.)

3) The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – It’s the end of the world. Again. The first of a new series, I sobbed. Sweeping and epic. There are “mutants” and slavery and all sorts of heartbreak. The style might take some getting used to, but it is totally worth it. Again, POC main characters (as well as a WOC author).

4) The Martian by Andy Weiss – One of the rare occasions where I watch the movie before reading the book. The book was every bit as hilarious as the movie – and I LOVED the movie. Botanist/astronaut gets stuck on Mars. This is the story of how he survives.

5) The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – Epic new series based on the Chinese Warring States period, it was so weirdly awesome to read of characters that had cultural touchstones that were familiar to me in a deeply Chinese way. I would have preferred more women and a different ending, but loved it all the same. The book was a slow build, but I did love the vast array of characters and plots and intrigues. I was sad by the way a lot of the story went, but I think it was realistic in terms of how people would react and behave.

In case it wasn’t clear from the description, POC everywhere! and POC author.

6) The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence – Full disclosure. I almost threw away the first book after reading only about 15 pages or so because the main character, Jorg, is so despicable and casual about rape. However, since there are no graphic descriptions of rape or violence, I was able to push my initial revulsion aside.

The first book, Prince of Thorns, is the weakest in the series and I thought it was just okay enough for me to want to know what happens next. King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns are SO GOOD. Totally worth wading through the first book to reach the conclusion.

Lawrence wrote a companion trilogy, The Red Queen’s War, that is 2/3 of the way done and is worth reading, too. Knowledge of the first trilogy isn’t necessary, but it is definitely fun to see how things connect.

7) The Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory – I review this series more fully here. The series features a Chinese American cop who gets psychic impressions from the things he eats. Full of violence, absurdity, and lots of profanity and sex, Tony Chu is a BAMF and really entertaining to read.

8) The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi – A near future tale that at its heart, is a murder mystery/thriller. Bacigalupi paints an extremely bleak view of the future and drought conditions of the West. However, his writing is fantastic and you guessed it: more POC and WOC characters.

An excellent companion book to this novel is Bacigalupi’s Pump Six and Other Stories. Full of short stories in his various worlds, they give you a good glimpse into his writing. Also, prepare to be utterly disillusioned with life. (But totally a great collection of stories. Really!)

9) The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett – A series of five (the last one is supposed to be published in 2017) that begins with The Warded Man. Again, the first book is the weakest in the series, but was interesting enough for me to continue. (Granted, it’s quite a long book to wade through, but it is satisfying enough.)

The Desert Spear, book two, is really where Brett takes off and it just doesn’t stop. Also, the endings just get more and more WTF in a “Wait, I have to WAIT HOW LONG UNTIL THE NEXT BOOK??” kind of way. I’m just grateful most of the books were out so I could just plow through them one after the other. I’m pretty sure I lost a week or two to this series.

10) The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie – Though many people do not enjoy how the series ended, I ultimately think the books are all still worth reading. The fight scenes are exhilarating, the characters are not so much lovable – but I still loved them. Gritty and full of bite.

Ok. That should be enough for now. Never fear, book lovers. I will have more on Wednesday. Now get to reading these books! (And all at once!!)

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