Until then... who loves reading? We all do! So I wanted to take a few moments to rave about the books I've read over the last few months. The first of these I started in April; the last I finished literally last week, in between proof-reading for both myself and others.
And the whole reason I feel the need to do this is because this has been one of the best strings of books I've inhaled in years. So let's go!
(by Sarah Woodbury)
Of course, my reading adventure HAD to start off with the 17th installment of one of my favorite series ever--Sarah Woodbury's "After Cilmeri." I could go into the text and explain what goes on in this fantastic set of novels, but since this is so late in the scope of this epic time-traveling (actually dimension-hopping) adventure, I'll just let you all know that I. Love. Every. Single. Book. It's that good. Wales is that fantastic a setting. Sarah Woodbury is that great of a writer. Start it from the beginning. You'll thank me.
(by Michael Wallace)
Michael Wallace has long been known to be a genre-hopping artist. I've read his dabbles in science fiction (Starship Blackbeard), historical fiction (Wolves of Paris), and cult thriller (The Righteous), and I've enjoyed every one. Which made it an easy decision to jump into this little fantasy trio.
Much to my surprise, it wasn't traditional fantasy at all. What Wallace presents here isn't your boilerplate sword-and-sorcery, but a kind of futurist-technocrat-maybe-post-apocalyptic take on the genre. Inside I found a world that looked a lot like ours after it had "passed on" (as Stephen King would say), filled with futuristic technology being gradually discovered by a society that seems to have regressed to pre-industrial revolution levels.
The world Wallace creates is vivid, the mysteries are intriguing, and there are clues aplenty as to what might've happened in the past to bring things to where they ended up. This is a fantastic little series that I can't help but recommend.
(by Christina Garner)
Ah, here's some traditional young-adult fare. The typical story of a young girl hilariously named Ember, and her discovery that (of course) she has a secret fate far beyond anything she could've ever imagined.
I kid about this book being "typical," because in truth, it's anything but. That glossy veneer disguises what is actually a quite intimate and harrowing exploration of mental illness and the effects it has on those closest to you. It also includes possibly the most accurate depiction of a bipolar manic episode that I've ever seen put down in writing. The action scenes are very well done, the leads are all likably flawed, and the mythology Garner has created is unlike any I've seen in this type of fiction. Anyone who enjoys urban fantasy should find a lot to like about this book.
(by Cidney Swanson)
Who's up for some hard sci-fi with a fresh young edge?
I loved every little detail in "Saving Mars." From the vivid descriptions of life in a human settlement on Mars to the plucky young heroine who's doing all she can to protect her home planet to the sociopolitical intricacies that led to the Mars colony being abandoned to the super-creative (and super-creepy) depiction of what society on Earth evolved into, there's something in this book for everyone who appreciates speculative fiction. Another hearty recommendation from me here.
(by Melissa F. Miller)
Out of all the books on this list, "Irreparable Harm" was probably the most surprising for me. Not because I didn't think it would be good, but because I don't usually enjoy legal thrillers.
I did enjoy this one. Damn did I enjoy it! Sasha McCandless is one hell of a kick-ass protagonist. She might be only five feet tall and thin as a rail, but Miller does a great job of showing why--and how--she's able to kick the butt of the men who underestimate her. But this isn't an action-adventure story! No, it's actually a pretty effective mystery that also successfully dives into some really interesting nuances of the legal profession. Never again will I be able to hear a cell phone go off while on a plane and not feel a moment of panic.
(by S.M. Reine)
No offense to any of the others on this list, but everything begins and ends with the epic saga of Elise Kavanaugh, monster killer and dedicated yet troubled young woman.
It is truly NOT hyperbole for me to say, in all seriousness, that this is the most I've ever enjoyed reading a book. Though to call it "a book" would be wrong, because "The Descent" is actually an entire collected series, encompassing seven novels and three short stories. When I'd started reading, I'd intended on only reading the first book and then moving on to the next on my list. But SM Reine wouldn't let me. She sucked me in so damn hard that I couldn't help but devour every last goddamn page. I even hemmed and hawed about picking up the next series starring Elise, but eventually succumbed to giving other writers a chance.
This series is everything I've ever wanted. Harrowing. Heartfelt. Violent. Complicated. Mysterious. Intimate. All set within a world of shadows, where messed-up things lurk in the dark corners where most normal people are just too afraid to look. Every character Reine creates is fleshed-out and lovable in their own damaged ways. I was able to connect with almost every single one of them on a personal level, even though they're all so different, which shows some out-of-this-world talent. Even as the tale goes from relatively small--a woman trying to make ends meet in Reno while milking her demon-hunting skills to eek out a living--to unbelievably huge--a literal showdown in heaven--these people you've been following for nearly three-thousand pages retain their grounded natures. Again, everyone, that takes oodles of talent.
So yeah, buy this book. Shoot, buy all of SM Reine's books. I know I'm gonna end up with a rather huge collection of them by the times I'm dead.
(by Krista D. Ball)
And now, some traditional fantasy fare struts into the house!
A little bit of world-building, a little bit of female empowerment, a little bit of prophesy, and a whole lotta elves describe this book pretty accurately. It's a fun start to a journey about a powerful half-elf named Lady Bethany, who has to deal with a long-ass life, training hapless humans soldiers, an upside-down prophesy, an insane sister, and her own mommy issues. A really fun read. So fun, in fact, that I went out and bought the rest of the series before I'd even finished reading the first installment.
(by Nathan Lowell)
I've heard good things about Nathan Lowell for years, but for some reason, I never bought any of his books. After reading "Milk Run," I wish I'd dived in sooner.
This isn't typical science fiction, as Lowell doesn't focus so much on huge, galactic-level stakes. He seems more interested in the mundane, steering us toward a smaller story of a young heroine (sensing a theme here?), fleeing some sort of conspiracy, trying to make a living doing what she does best--helping fly a spaceship. The stakes might be relatively small, but the amount of interesting things that happen in the story aren't. There's intrigue, mystery, and some pretty clever problem solving. Yet another series that I'll be picking up again soon, because I can't wait to see what Lowell has in store next for these interesting characters.
(by Phoenix Sullivan)
Man, do I love myself a good romance. I'd call it a guilty please, but that would suggest there's something to feel guilty for. Well, there isn't.
This is one hell of a book. It's short and to the point, and filled with what feel at first like stock romance caricatures. Until you dive in, that is. Sullivan is able to pain an EXTREMELY vivid portrait of two damaged people finding solace in not only the pleasures of their bodies, but the love of creatures as innocent and empathic as elephants. Nicky and Peter become very real people dealing with very real issues, and watching their bond develop was exhilarating. The sex scenes are wonderfully graphic, full of hot and steamy details, the few action sequences are exciting. A wonderful little book.
(by Kit Rocha)
Another romance! This one with an insane post-apocalyptic-sci-fi twist!
Let's just say this book was a revelation for me. I've never before read a romance novel set in such a detailed, fully-realized, fantastical setting. It was like a dream come true!
I mean, EVERYTHING in this work of art is crafted with so much nuance that it's almost intimidating. The world Rocha has built is obviously lived-in (the fact this series is the second set of books set on this version of Earth proves that), helping to frame everything in a sense of grounded realism despite the fantastical setting. And the characters! They seem so very real-to-life as well, even if they're an emotionally stunted trained warrior straight out of Kurt Russel's "Soldier," a brilliant and overly empathic doctor, and a bunch of biker-punks-slash-holy-warriors. I know, sounds strange, right? It is. But it isn't. Everything just fits together perfectly. Including the long, involved sex scenes around which the plot is constructed. It was a wonderful experience overall. I heartily recommend.
(by David Gaughran)
And finally, we reach the last book populating this leg of my reading journey. Appropriately, it's a tight little novel of historical fiction, which brings everything full circle.
"Liberty Boy" brings us to late-nineteenth century Dublin, where revolution lingers just beneath the surface, a powder keg ready to explode. Gaughran does a bang-up job of showing us what it's like to be a poor local under English rule of Ireland by giving us two distinct point of view characters--down-and-out Jimmy O'Flaherty, who only wishes to make enough money to escape the violence and constant hangings and make it to America, and Kitty Doyle, a virulent young woman whose patriotism for her country and her love of her fellow Dubliners overrides all else.
This novel succeeds in presenting what life in those turbulent times might have been like, sprinkling in little historical facts throughout the narrative that had me jotting stuff down to research later. So very much needed when writing this kind of fiction. But the plot itself is interesting too in how mundane it is. Not much happens. There are no great stakes, other than Jimmy's quest to make money for himself and his mother. But it WORKS. I was enraptured every step of the way, right up until an ending that's far more bitter than sweet, and sets up a second installment that I can't wait to dive into.
And... that's it! Hope you got something out of this breakdown of some really great little books. And considering I actually had a good amount of fun putting this post together, I just might make this kind of thing a twice-yearly endeavor.
Until the next time!