My Favourite Books of 2016 – Part Two

Hey everyone, 🙂 I’m back with my second ‘Favourites of 2016’ post, and in this post I’ll be telling you about books from Alex Marshall, John Burnham Schwartz, Justin Cronin, Christopher Golden and Suzanne Van Rooyen.

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

This novel, which kicks off what promises to be a rollicking, ass-kicking trilogy, follows a mayor’s wife on her quest for revenge – obviously, she’s much more than initially revealed. 🙂 The novel is by turns incredibly funny, brutal, thoughtful and inventive, with excellent world building and stand-out characters; multiple points of view allow the reader to gain a wide-screen (if I can use that description, which I’ve just done…) understanding of the various conflicts and story lines, while also giving us the gritty, ugly, beautiful detail we Fantasy readers crave. There’s plenty of inventive and interesting magic, battles and skirmishes (skillfully written, brutal and entertaining), and intrigue a-plenty. One also gets the sense that the world Alex has created is absolutely filled with stories we only glimpse, which also serves to make the world live and flex and breathe more deeply. Undeniably, though, the characters of this novel are the stars – Villains without being the quintessential bad guys. 🙂 Highly recommended!

If you’re not aware, Alex Marshall is, in reality, Jesse Bullington. 🙂 Order your copies here.

Next up, Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz:

I’m not a fan of literary novels – a term, I have to add, which just doesn’t make sense to me, and smacks of incredible elitism. That being said, when I read something which falls into that bullshit category (which doesn’t happen often), the novel has to be accessible, and by that, I mean that I don’t want to feel as if I should be sipping a too-expensive wine while sitting in a too-expensive chair in my ‘den’. Reservation Road is a novel anyone can read. You don’t have to be part of some inaccessible circle of award-chasers to appreciate this novel. And yes, I watched the movie, years ago, but this novel… I completely forgot about the movie while reading it, and the movie was good. The novel is heart-breakingly sublime. Absolutely unflinching, incredibly emotional. It hits hard, folks – as it should. And I don’t have kids; folks who do have kids and read this might not be able to finish it, but I urge you to stick with it. Order your copies here.

Next up, Justin Cronin‘s ‘The City of Mirrors‘:

The Passage absolutely rocked me back on my heels. It is, to date, the only novel that had made me cry like a baby within the first 30 or so pages, due to Justin’s absolutely incredible prose and ability to evoke emotions. The Twelve continued the epic (and this trilogy truly is epic), ending with an incredible climax, and The City of Mirrors ends it all beautifully. What sets this trilogy apart from most post-apocalyptic Horror sagas is the sheer beauty and strength of the emotional journey the reader embarks on – as with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels, the focus is on the characters; their dreams, their heart aches, their losses and triumphs and decisions, and how who they are and what they do echo down through the years and decades. Yes, Justin has created a world which fell to a terrible, brutal plague, but this world is as filled with beauty and love as it is with terror and grief. And I’ve never truly, deeply sympathised with the ‘bad guy’, but here, I had no choice. Stephen King said that the trilogy “will stand as one of the great achievements in American fantasy fiction.”, and I completely agree. It’s a lyrical, intense, intelligent, brutal and beautiful exploration of relationships, terror, the collapse of society and the stubbornness of true survival. Massively recommended!

Next up, Ararat by Christopher Golden:

I’m a big Horror fan, and I’m also a big fan of novels that tread different genres. I enjoy it when writers are ambitious and take chances, and where they create expectations and proceed to fulfill those expectations in ways the reader (who is also a writer, in this case) could never predict. Ararat is one of those novels. On the face of it, the novel is a story about one of the biggest finds in Biblical and proper, scientific Archeology, to what lengths the characters go to cement their place in history, and what, inevitably, goes wrong. And I don’t mean ‘inevitable’ as one of those ‘people are digging where they shouldn’t and get into shit because of it’ tropes; I mean ‘inevitable’ in the sense that things go wrong, whether between people (relationship-wise), colleagues (who disagree and have varying levels of education and study), or representatives of governments (and the complications involved when these get-togethers are further hampered by religious constraints). Yes, there’s a helluva lot that does go wrong in this novel (and, in effect, goes exactly right), but Christopher doesn’t push for disaster simply to pile up the odds against the characters – there’s reason and sense behind what happens, and varying degrees and levels of disaster, too – emotional, professional, physical, etc. Cause and effect, for sure, but injected with a healthy dose of how the myriad characters would truly react (Humans make dumb decisions for very good reasons, and the opposite also holds true). Christopher also really enjoys tropes, man – in the ‘know the rules and break them’ sense, because what I expected and predicted didn’t happen, but what does is so much better. There’s plenty of menace in this book, coupled with a slowly-creeping sense of ‘oh, shit-shit-shit’, and I’m pretty sure readers will enjoy the hell out of it. Expect to be surprised, expect to feel the cold and experience the claustrophobia and terror, and expect this book to sit in your head for a good long while. Excellent stuff! Pre-order your copies here.

Next up, ‘I Heart Robot‘ by Suzanne Van Rooyen:

I don’t think I ever read a novel quite like this before. I was expecting the quintessential and stereotypical forbidden romance, and instead, what I read was one of the best explorations of humanity (in it’s various forms) I’ve ever encountered. If you want a love story, it’s here – and it’s sweet and dangerous, fraught with mistakes and realizations, constantly tested and evolving… In other words, real. If you want an epic confrontation between humanity and what humanity creates, it’s here – but it’s not Michael Bay-here; it’s Children of Men-here. It’s subtle and powerful and far-reaching, the kind of unfolding clash which really makes you think about what it means to be human, to have feelings and an identity, to seek connection. Suzanne explores the politics behind this clash, the philosophies driving the players, the varying effects of the technology… There’s so much going on in this novel, so much that it deals with, that you’ll probably be re-reading it or, better yet, discussing it in your group after everyone’s read it. And what also helps is Suzanne’s understated, almost invisible prose – damned well written. I’m extremely jealous. Read it.

***

That’s it for now – next week I’ll have some more of my favourites for you. 🙂 Until then,

Be EPIC!

 

 

My Favourite Books of 2016 – Part One

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well, and that 2017 has been good to you so far. 🙂

I’ve been busy editing novels and writing them, plus we had an internet-outage that lasted just over 6 weeks… I was, understandably, pissed off.

Anyway, that’s all done with, and I thought I’d kick off this year (in the second month of the year, no less…) with a post of books I read during last year (which aren’t many) and why I enjoyed them.

Let’s head a year back, to Weston Ochse‘s ‘Halfway House‘:

Halfway_House-423x628

Now, first of all, Weston is a damned deserving winner of the Bram Stoker Award. He writes Horror that clings like the odour of a three-weeks unwashed body… I read Halfway House a little more than a year ago (and received it to review from Weston some time before that), and the novel is still fresh in my mind. It’s the kind of tale that works on many different levels, and for many different reasons; it’s a story of emptiness-filling, primarily, but it’s also a story that looks at the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, the lives of surfers and the homeless, grief and how differently everyone deals with it (or tries to), and much more that I hope you’ll discover on your own. Here’s a link to order the book.

Next up, Jon Sprunk‘s ‘Shadow’s Lure‘:

Shadows-Lure_cover-199x300

Shadow’s Son‘ was a damned good debut – Jon managed to not only keep the story tightly character-focused, but also managed to bring in interesting world-building, magic, politics and damned cool combat. So, I was a bit worried that the second book in the trilogy wouldn’t be able to build on the first – but it did, and kickassingly so. Caim is tested even further – not only physically, but psychologically, and we find out more about his world and the various cultures and factions wrestling for dominance. We also find out more about Caim’s companion (surely one of the most mysterious characters in the trilogy), and events push toward a satisfying and hard-hitting climax, which not only ties up some of the story lines and mysteries from book 1 and 2, but also preps the reader for what’s coming in book 3, ‘Shadow’s Master‘, which I still need to read. These books are truly cool, fast-paced and clever, and I can tell that Jon really enjoys playing with the expected tropes and putting his own spin on them. Highly recommended for anyone who loves Fantasy. For more info, and to order the books, follow this link.

Next up, Karen Miller‘s ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth‘, the first book in the Gambit duology, and sadly, not Canon.

Clone Wars Gambit 1

The fact that Karen is a damned good writer and storyteller doesn’t have to be discussed or explained; her Empress trilogy really impressed me, and (as I’ve said to many people) The Falcon Throne is, in my honest opinion, better than what GRRM has given us with ASoIaF. And Karen has written more than one Star Wars novel (The Clone Wars: Wild Space, was her first) and I really enjoyed what she did with Obi-Wan and Bail Organa, but damn, in Stealth, Karen really opened up – I haven’t read any other Star Wars novel which so deeply explores and explains the characters of Obi-Wan and Anakin. Not only is the tale fast-paced, with great action scenes, thrills and intrigue, and true Star Wars-moments, but Karen managed to make it really clear why Obi-Wan and Anakin respected and trusted each other so much, as well as showing us the depth of their bond. When I finished the book (and I still have to read Siege), I was struck with an incredible sadness, because the betrayal’s of Revenge of the Sith hit harder than even George Lucas could achieve (and I’m a huge fan of GL). I kind of wanted to somehow travel to Obi-Wan and Anakin and beg them to disappear, to leave the war and everything else behind. 🙁 Damned good book, and right up there with Star by Star and Traitor. To order the book, follow this link.

Next up, Greg Rucka‘s ‘Alpha‘:

Alpha

Greg first came to my attention with his runs on Batman and Detective Comics, which I enjoyed immensely – so I was really interested to read one of his novels, and I wasn’t disappointed. Alpha stars Jad Bell and follows his efforts to take on a group of damned dangerous terrorists who take over the US’s biggest theme park – not Disneyland, but a fictional stand-in, which serves just as well. Greg managed to balance a racing plot with political intrigue, hectic action and surprises, while putting his hero through his paces. Plenty of thought went into how a terrorist attack on a theme park would unfold, and it’s obvious, too, that Greg knows combat and weapons, too. Alpha is a quick read (these action thrillers usually are), and resolves the plot while opening up the main character, Jad, to a world of danger he’s just beginning to find out about. I have no idea when I’ll read the next book, Bravo, but it’s definitely on my list. Order the book at this link.

That’s it for part one. 🙂 In my next post I’ll be sharing my thoughts on work from Alex Marshall, John Burnham Schwartz, Justin Cronin and Christopher Golden. 🙂

Until then,

Be EPIC!