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!!)

Here, Have Some Lists

I’ve been single-parenting it this week while Hapa Papa’s been in London on vacation for work and quite frankly, I’m pretty exhausted. Usually, my mom would come over and help but she’s in Taiwan until Sunday. What the hell, family? What’s with the lack of consideration for what’s convenient to my life? Ah well, pretty much as soon as Hapa Papa walks in the door all rested and refreshed from his relaxing trip without me 10 hour flight, I will hand him Glow Worm, kiss Cookie Monster and Gamera, and run out the door to the nearest spa for a full body massage. I might remember to greet my husband on my way out.

Anyhow, as a result, you get a listy and bookish post today. Yay! However, rather than give you a list of books (and I still may but I may also let you flex your Google-Fu), I proffer you some authors you should check out in my favorite genre of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, YMMV – particularly if you don’t care for SF/F. As usual, all Amazon links are affiliate links.

1) Orson Scott Card – Most famous for his Ender’s Game Series (approximately 15 books set in that universe), he is one of my favorite authors. I avidly read his columns that review anything and everything on his site. His Ender’s Game movie is coming out in November (and hopefully, won’t ruin the book for me forevermore). Even though I love his science fiction, oddly enough, my favorite book of his is Enchantment, a modern fairytale of sorts. Card’s characters all have smart-ass mouths and the banter is quick, self-effacing, and often full of love. I wish I talked like them.

2) John Scalzi – His most well-known series starts with Old Man’s War and he is lauded for writing “accessible” sci-fi. In other words, you don’t have to be some hard-core geek to love his writing and his books. You just have to like reading. Bonus: Scalzi is hilarious and his fiction includes copious amounts of funny moments. However, what wins me over are his more surprising poignant moments.

3) Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson stepped in to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after Jordan passed away. However, Sanderson is an awesome author in his own right. Be forewarned, though. Most of his books are door-stoppers and usually top out at 100,000 words. But you can’t beat his unique magic systems, world-building, and immense scope. For an easy intro to his work, I would start with the normal length, free-standing Elantris. Then, I would move on to his Mistborn trilogy. Mind-blowing. However, my favorite is still Warbreaker. I can’t articulate why, I just do.

4) NK Jemisin – Jemisin is one of the few black female fantasy authors and I fully appreciate how that influences her writing. Fantasy, more so than other fiction in general, is often lily-white. Jemisin challenges that default and her writing and worlds are the better for it. I would start with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

5) Kate Elliott – I LOVE Elliott’s writing. Her worlds are also not in the default European setting and I really appreciate that! Plus, like Jemisin, she includes non-heterosexual pairings and considers them normative. Like Sanderson, is incapable of writing a short book, but I don’t mind at all. I love her writing. (My brother, on the other hand, is bored to tears by her.) I would start with Spirit Gate even though she is more well known for her Crown of Stars series.

6) Lynn Flewelling – Another fantasy author that includes non-het pairings in a positive fashion (I think she is famous for this, actually). I would start with The Tamir Trilogy, a truly creepy and horrific series that I still get the heebies thinking about. But it’s SO GOOD. *shudder*

Obviously, this list is not all-inclusive. I tried to include some famous authors as well as authors you may not have heard of. I may do another SF/F author list in the future but for now, since my brain is running on empty, this will have to do. If you want to see more of my SF/F books, check out my Goodreads shelf and filter by rating.

You know what? This post did not go as quickly as I had anticipated. *Shakes fist at sky.* I actually did some WORK! BOOOOO!!! 

Anyhow, like I mentioned, this is not an all-inclusive list. So, calling all my fellow SF/F geeks. What authors would you recommend?