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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternalWhere I Got It: Borrowed it

Narrator: Jim Frangione

Publisher: Recorded Books (2009)

Length: 14 hours 11 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Black Dagger Brotherhood

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 in the series but stands pretty well on it’s own. There are a handful of scenes that are enhanced by having read Book 1 (Dark Lover) first.

This modern-day vampire romance centers on Rhage, a warrior in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Contained within him is a beast and occasionally Rhage must let that beast out. Thankfully there are evil-doing Lessers (lower-caste vampires) that need taking out. Then he meets Mary Luce and he finds himself wanting something more out of life. Mary will be the catalyst for change, and not just change for Rhage.

I was luke warm about Book 1 but I hear that this series gets better and better. The female characters started off with more detail than in Book 1. Mary works at a law firm, volunteers at a suicide hot line, has a battle with cancer, and a bit more. She comes into the story with a full life and depth. However, once she meets Rhage and her hormones kick in, most of that depth goes out the window. As with Book 1, the main female character gives up her life to be with her vampire lover, however Mary does sigh over it once or twice. Bella is a secondary character and Mary’s neighbor. She serves as a source of info to the reader about vampire society. However, we learn very little about her, so she’s a one-dimensional character. Also, the ladies spend quite a bit of time cringing over this or that, including the mere sight of weapons. Sigh.

The most interesting character in this book was John, a young vampire. However, he doesn’t know what he is and he’s use to staying away from people in general to protect himself. This book definitely gives more info on the vampire caste system and how they interact with one another, along with how things have changed over the years. There are non-warrior vampires that do no harm to humans, meanwhile the Lessers have given up their heart and soul for near-immortality and do plenty of harm when they can get away with it. Then there are the women that serve the Scribe Virgin. I really enjoyed learning about all these different types of vampires as John was learning about his origins.

So Rhage is the big, gorgeous, muscly warrior and main love interest in this book. Prior to meeting Mary, he used sex as a way to let off some steam and keep his inner beast in check. He’d turn on his vampire mojo to get a woman interested, ramping up her libido while removing her inhibitions, have some sexy times with her, and then wipe her memory clean of the encounter. Does this sound like the vampire version of a date rape drug to anyone else? So this is pretty standard behavior for some the vampire warriors and totally acceptable to the Brotherhood. Yeah. I think the Brotherhood needs a full weekend seminar on what constitutes sexual assault.

I found it hard to root for Rhage and hope he had a good outcome. I think this is why I didn’t become totally engrossed in the story. I definitely connected with Mary because she has all this interesting stuff going on; she’s got depth. Meanwhile, Rhage has that man child thing that all the Brothers seem to suffer from. For instance, he’s been alive for hundreds of years but has never had a female friend. I can suspend my disbelief over vampires but not over the main character’s lack of experience.

The naughty bits were long in coming. We had plenty of teasers leading up to the coupling, which was steamy and sweet. The sex scenes become a bit more robust as the story continues.

I will be continuing on with the series as I heard Book 3 is where things get really good. The vampire society and it’s history are very intriguing. Also, I want to know what happens with John.

The Narration: Jim Frangione did another good job. I’ve really become fond of his voice for this series. When an individual male character is talking or doing the inner monologue thing, the voices are distinct. However, when a group of the guys get together and are chatting back and forth, the distinctness disappears. 

What I Liked: We get more info on the complex vampire society; John’s a fascinating character;  mary started off very interesting; The cause of Rhage’s inner beast is also interesting; the naughty bits.

What I Disliked: Mary falls into boring one-dimensionality once the hormones kick in; Vampire version of a date rape drug; Lack of depth for the main character (Rhage).

What Others Think:

All About Romance

 

Dear Reader

The Hope Chest Reviews

Indie Reviews

Heroes & Heartbreakers

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward

WardDarkLoverWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Jim Frangione

Publisher: Recorded Books (2009)

Length: 13 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Black Dagger Brotherhood

Author’s Page

This is a vampire urban fantasy romance story, heavy on the romance. Set in a modern-day New York state, Beth is a news reporter given the fluff jobs. Darius, one of the vampire elite, worries for his half-breed daughter as her time of change is nearing. He seeks the help of his lord and brother in arms Wrath, who refuses to get involved. Tragedy strikes the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Wrath changes his mind on this issue even as the Brotherhood hunts down their enemies.

I listened to this audiobook as part of a group read. I picked it up for the naughty bits set in an urban fantasy setting. This book was a mixed bag of pluses and minuses. I’d heard a lot of good things about this series and I was hoping it would be similar in feel to Gena Showalter’s Alien Huntress series that I have enjoyed. Both series do a good job of romance with a bit of erotica. So far, I like the Alien Huntress series better mostly because the female characters are integral to the plot, have independent lives, and get to do cool deeds while using weaponry.

There were only three female characters for the entire book, and one of them came in during the last quarter of the story. While Beth started off pretty interesting with her news reporter job, a woman working in a man’s world kind of thing, she quickly was relegated to main romantic interest. Marissa is a vampire and bonded to Wrath in some way though neither is happy with the arrangement. She has no interests outside of that relationship and doesn’t seem to do anything other than look beautiful all the time and sulk over not being wanted. Wellsey comes into the story late and we don’t learn much about her other than she is mated to one of the vampires of the Brotherhood. So, the women were less than one dimensional and rather boring.

On the other hand, we have this mysterious Black Dagger Brotherhood. It’s a band of leather-clad, tattooed male vampires that watch each other’s backs and also keep the Lessers (lower caste vampires) in check. These uber-vampires don’t need to feed on humans but do need to eat regular food and feed on vampire blood regularly. For that, they have a servitude system in place that is still a bit vague to me which is fine. I like a long series like this to have these little mysteries that can take a few books to fully flesh out. In this book, we get a flavoring of what the Black Dagger Brotherhood is with plenty more to explore.

Now the Brothers themselves all have silly names and sometimes they are spelled silly too. There’s Rhage, Vishous, Zsadist, Torhment, etc. So I had to get the giggles out at the beginning of the story, and then I was able to focus on the plot and not get distracted by these names. Tho I do wonder if they are using names given to them by parents or names they gave themselves later on in life.

Meanwhile, there a group of Lessers ruled by the mysterious Omega and managed by Mr. X. These Lessers are up to no good and it’s mostly humans that suffer, their bodies littering up the city. Wrath and his Brothers have a hard time locating them, as humans can be tricked by them or serve them outright.

The Brothers all have anger management issues of one flavor or another. In fact, it’s not limited to them as Butch, a city cop who has a protective streak for Beth, also suffers from the same anti-social behavior. Pretty much, they are all man children that haven’t dealt with their issues. These vampires have lived for hundreds of years and haven’t progressed with their social skills. Maybe that is part of being an uber-vampire. Anyhoo, it made the actions and sometimes even the dialogue predictable.

OK, so this is no great feat of literature or of vampire stories. But, as I already admitted, I picked it up for the naughty bits. These bits were hot and steamy. We jumped into the first erotic scene early on in the story, and then a second one follows pretty soon after that. Then we get a bunch of teases for the rest of the story. I was a bit surprised that things were pretty PG13 after the second erotic scene. Yet I applaud the author for having one of the main characters bring up safe sex, the chance of pregnancy, and possible STDs.

I’ll be continuing on with Book 2 as part of the group read. There’s enough here to have me wonder if the series gets better. Also, there’s some bromance going on that gives a few of the male characters some depth. Now, this is for the publisher. What is up with this book cover? The two people on the cover don’t look like any of the characters. There’s no leather, no muscles, no fangs, no tattoos, no weapons. Basically, this cover speaks of a sweet romance, which this is not. As a lover of SFF and not one for Romance, I would give this book a pass based on the cover.

 

The Narration: Jim Frangione does a good job with Wrath’s voice. He provided an accent for Marissa’s voice, but if he didn’t I would have had trouble telling the difference between Beth and her, as I did with Beth and Wellsey. He did great job with imbuing characters with emotion, no matter what the scene. There was never any hesitancy on the sex scenes. Sometimes when several of the Brothers were all talking in a scene, they all sounded alike, there being very little to no difference in character voices. 

What I Liked: The mystique of the Black Dagger Brotherhood; their sneaky enemies Mr. X and the Omega; there’s still plenty to learn about this particular vampire society; the few sex scenes were steamy; the bromance!

What I Disliked: The ladies are pretty darn boring; the men are mostly man children with lots of hangups; the cover totally misses the mark.

What Others Think:

All About Romance

I Spit On Your Taste

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Dear Reader

 

Upcoming Read Alongs and More

Chupacabra has spotted something!
Chupacabra has spotted something!

Heya Folks! We’re wrapping up the read along of Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey and planning the read along of Book 2, Kushiel’s Justice. Looks like we will be starting that read along March 20th. I’ll put out an official post once we have that settled. If you’re interested in joining, just leave me a comment and I’ll add you to the weekly emails.

WardDarkLoverAlso going on right now is a fun group read of J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series over on Facebook. It’s 13 books and we’re going to try to do 1 book a week, but that might get modified as we go forward. The awesome Cyndi Marie is organizing this read along. So if you have read series and want to join in the fun discussions (and little contests with prizes) or if you are simply craving some vampire romance, go check that out.

McGuireALocalHabitationIf urban fantasy is more your style, I’m very excited to say that we’ll be continuing the October Daye series (by Seanan McGuire) with Book 2, A Local Habitation. I really enjoyed Book 1 and it has been a test of my will to wait for the read along of Book 2 to start. You can find all the info and keep up with discussions posts over at the GoodReads SF/F Read Alongs Group. Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow has organized this one. Just because I am really excited about it, here’s the schedule:

Week 1: Saturday 5th March, Chapters 1-8 hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Saturday 12th March, Chapters 9-16 – hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 3: Saturday 19th March, Chapters 17-25 – hosted by Books By Proxy
Week 4: Saturday 26th March, Chapters 26-end – hosted by The Bibliosanctum

LynchLiesOfLockeLamoraNext, Imyril of X+1 blog is organizing a read along in April of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which is Book 1 of The Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch. I love these books! I’m sorely tempted to participate, but I will have to see how much is on my plate. Plus I did a read along of these books before with The Little Red Reviewer. Hopefully, Book 4, The Thorn of Emberlain, will be out later this year so it would be great to reread them…. Argh! The torture of having too many great books to read! Again, you can find out all the details over on the SF/F Read Along group.

Luxor as a bookstand.
Luxor as a bookstand.

I also want to take a moment to send a big thank you to Paul of Audio Book Reviewer who heard I have been ill. He mailed some audiobooks to me to help me while away the time. I’m very excited to be digging into these. I have a little confession – I have never read a Star Wars book. Yep, this SF fan hasn’t read a single Star Wars book. Now, thanks to Paul, I have Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi, and I love his Iron Druid Chronicles. Thank you Paul!

In January, I unexpectedly spent nearly a week in the hospital. Pneumonia was one culprit. Pulmonary hypertension was another. And it looks like I have another lung issue going on but I won’t know until I talk to the specialist (pulmonologist) in early March. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since I went into the hospital.  My face is very tired of being leashed to an oxygen unit. Anyway, I was pretty tired when I got out of the hospital, but I’m getting back into blogging. My life is lots of audiobooks, a little bit of questionable TV, and Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.