The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

FinnTheGreenChildren

Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStone

My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

Where I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Marc Thompson

Publisher: Random House Audio (2015)

Length: 9 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 12 Star Wars

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 12 in the series, it works perfectly fine as a stand alone novel.

This story is set in between the original tales of New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Told from Luke Skywalker’s viewpoint, there’s plenty of daring piloting, espionage, laser blasts, and a touch of flirting. Luke is running several small missions for Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia Organa. Then this much more important, and dangerous, mission comes along: rescue an Empire cryptographer, Drusil, who is under constant surveillance. Skywalker will have to team up with new recruit Nakari Kelen, who has a rather fancy space yacht.

This is my first Star Wars novel and it was a lot of fun. I was interested in this book because I have read Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and really enjoyed them, and I really enjoy Star Wars, so I figured if you put the two together, you’d  have something I really enjoyed. And, indeed, it was quite a bit of fun. There’s no major game changers or reveals in this novel, but considering where it’s placed in the Star Wars timeline, that’s to be expected.

I like the addition of the character Nakari. She’s independent, assertive, and competent. Also, the Rebel Alliance isn’t too sure how far they can trust her so for much of the book I had to  wonder if she was a double agent and would betray the mission in some way. This added some suspense to the novel. She also brought some humor to the story line with her jokes and gentle teasing of her father, a bio mogul who practically has an army himself – an army of scientists and explorers that search out new life forms to study for his pharmaceutical labs.

There were several smaller ‘missions’ that had to be accomplished first in order to go after the big target (rescuing the cryptologist) and I liked that this was a multi-layered space adventure. First, Skywalker is being sent off to negotiate with a group of weapons dealers and along the way he interferes in the Imperial pursuit of an unknown ship (just because he can). Once he receives this cryptologist mission, the space yacht needs upgrades and that means running some errands for Nakari’s dad. So there’s plenty of opportunities for mistakes to happen, death to creep in, dismemberment to be claimed later on the insurance forms.

Luke is also still exploring his abilities with the Force. He doesn’t have a current Jedi teacher and he feels a little lost in this area. He does carry his lightsaber that his father left him and a few others he comes across in this adventure know what one is on sight. Luckily, the lightsaber wins him some much-needed allies even as he has to cut down foes with it. Little nuggets of wisdom come from various sources and Luke puts them to use in getting in touch with the Force. In this book, he’s still a bit unsure of himself, awkward in romance, and just a touch naive. It’s totally how I picture him in my mind at this point in the Star Wars timeline.

The book is well balanced with plenty of action, moments of reflection (mostly Force related), some well-timed humor, and perhaps a budding romance. I also enjoyed that R2D2 was around for most of the story as he is one of my favorite characters. Other original characters make cameos in this book, either in person or as memories of Luke’s. All in all, it struck the perfect Star Wars tone and it was a great fix for my Rebel Alliance need. Now, all I need are some Nerf Nuggets.

A fellow blogger (thanks Audio Book Reviewer) sent me a box of bookish goodies a few months ago as a get well present and this is one of those books. This is not a review copy but I felt like reviewing it anyways. As always, my opinions are my own.

The Narration: Marc Thompson was a great pick for this book. He sounded like a young Luke Skywalker and his voice impersonations of other classic Star Wars characters were pretty good as well. I loved his light snark for Nakari. He had to come up with some inventive alien voices and I am sure his throat was raw after some of those sounds he came up with! There were lots of sound effects and music for this audiobook. Mostly, they were on target though there are a few places where the effects drowned out the narration. Also, sometimes the music would be playing in the background and I couldn’t figure out why – it just seemed off. Most of the time, it was perfect, reflecting a poignant or triumphant or anxious moment. Yet a few times the music was not reflective of the moment and I wondered why it was there distracting from the story. Still, all in all, it was like listening to a Star Wars movie and Thompson’s performance was excellent. 

What I Liked: The many unsung missions of Luke Skywalker are finally being told; Nakari is a fun addition to this story; plenty of aliens; plenty of action scenes; a little flirting; Luke continues to explore his abilites with the Force; Nerf nuggets!; great narration!

What I Disliked: Sometimes the music sound effects were just too much.

What Others Think:

The Force.net

Making Star Wars

Geekritique

BuzzyMag

Coffee with Kenobi

The Wookie Gunner

EU Cantina

Nerdvanna

Sunshine Blogger Award

I was awarded the Sunshine Blogger Award by My Library Card Wore Out, and yes, I did get a little bit of a giggle out it. But I guess even the sun has a little dab of darkness here and there whenever it farts a bit of pent up energy into the universe.

As it goes with these fun little awards, there are rules – which I don’t always adhere to, but I expect most people do these things for fun.

  • Name drop and link to the blog of the person who nominated you.

  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.

  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.

  • Bend said rules

And here are the questions from My Library Card Wore Out, along with my answers.

What are you currently reading and why did you choose that book?

I’m always in the middle of a few books. I’m currently listening to my very first Star Wars book, Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne. I’ve really enjoyed Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and then a blogger friend gifted me his Star Wars book. I’m only 1 disc into it so far, but it’s a lot of fun and makes me want to rewatch the Star Wars movies. Then I’m also listening to Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett. It’s a great kid’s book that takes place in Norway and had all this mythology stuff thrown in. Trolls and the Wild Hunt! Then on the Kindle I’m also listening to Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese. The humor reminds me a little of Douglas Adams but not so over the top all the time. I’m quite enjoying that as well. Then I’m trying to eyeball read Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror and The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet. I’ve been dealing with a lengthy illness and it leaves me greatly fatigued so my text reading is very slow.

When you were a teenager, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A biologist of one flavor or another. For awhile, it was a marine biologist. Then I was into bugs. Reptiles are cool too. Pandas – so adorable and so horribly inefficient at surviving!

There’s a massive asteroid heading your way and it is about to destroy planet Earth and you have 24 hours to live. What would you do for your last 24 hours?

Well, first I call those that I want along for the ride and tell them to get their butts over here. Then I start packing my rocketship. I’ll need food, bedding, entertainment, toilet paper, pet food, and seeds to get the grow vats started. Then the last 6 hours will probably be spent convincing people and pets to get their asses on the ship, doing the final checks and warm up, and then actually getting off the planet.

Tea or coffee?

Tea. Black orange tea is one of my favorites. Last year I tried to become a coffee person, but it tears up my stomach when I drink it straight, and so I really only like it if it’s totally froofrooed up, and then it’s not really coffee anymore, is it?

Book or movie?

Usually a book, though I do like action movies with lots of special effects on the big screen. The age of the Super Hero movie is a great thing to alive for!

You can only watch one movie for the rest of your life. What will it be and why?

That’s a tough one. I’m tempted to cheat and say The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Firefly series including the movie Serenity. Lady in the Water is a top pick as well. Or perhaps Brick. Or Pitch Black.

You find a genie and he says that he can transport you into your favorite book. Forever. What book would it be and why?

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey. It’s a great mix of historical fiction and fantasy, with no small amount of quality sex thrown in.

What’s your favorite website (any subject)?

The giant panda cam at the national zoo. It feels a little voyeuristic but, hey, it’s pandas!

If you could meet any celebrity, who would you meet and why?

I think it would be great to meet Alan Dean Foster. I grew reading his scifi books and I especially love his Pip & Flinx series. From his website, it looks like he travels a lot as well, so I bet he would have lots of great stories to tell over drinks.

You can also meet any person from history, who would you choose to meet and for what reason?

Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was a ruler, and a fairly successful one, at a time when women weren’t rulers. She was also a bit more tolerant than other nations in regards to religious practices. Tho she did have a temper, so things would never be boring in her court.

You can only study one thing for the rest of your life. What would you choose to study?

Women in history. Since it has been overlooked for so long, there’s always more coming to light, so I think it will be decades, perhaps centuries before that chunk of history runs out of surprises for us.

As usual, I like to leave these things as an open mic. If you enjoy answering random questions, please join in – either in the comments or via a blog post. With that said, I will mention some blogs I enjoy following. I spend time over at The Audio Book Reviewer, where they have not only reviews but also giveaways and narrator and author interviews. Musings on Fantasia is a great place for not just chatting about books but for also writing tips/shares and such. It’s run by the author Liesel Hill, whose short story The Hatching is one of my favorites. I’m fairly new to following X+1, who has been hosting a read along of The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch, but there’s other good stuff there too. I’ve read several of Edward Lorn’s books and I like to follow his blog as well – book reviews, darkly humorous fun stuff, sometimes commentary on current events. Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust is rather eclectic in book reviews, some commentary, and cool giveaways. I enjoy catching the weekly Buzz Worthy news over at Cuddlebuggery. Under My Apple Tree is also an eclectic reader/reviewer and posts pics of birds and flowers as well. For more audiobook fun check out the AudioGals and The Guilded Earlobe.

Here are my 11 questions for folks who want to play to answer: 

  1. Do you have any phobias
  2. If you were to create your own special ice cream, what would it be?
  3. Who are your favorite hero duos?
  4. What was the last thing to keep you in suspense?
  5. Do spoilers ruin the experience for you?
  6. Who is your favorite comedian?
  7. You’re about to be tossed into a post-apocalyptic world –  pick the world.
  8. If you could be a super villain, what would be your super villain name?
  9. You’re arranging a family dinner out – fancy place where you have to dress up or comfy clothes and comfort food?
  10. What are your current top 5 favorite reads?
  11. What is your favorite format (paperbook, ebook, audiobook) of reading material?