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

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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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

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Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

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The Green Children by Domino Finn

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Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

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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

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A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

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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

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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.

Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStoneNarrator: Paul J. Joseph

Publisher: Paul J. Joseph (2015)

Length: 2 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 1 Through the Fold

Author’s Page

Sally Buds is the doctor on an underfunded and rather ill-equipped asteroid mining station full of gravity sick miners. She doesn’t get along with the station chief, LaValley, but in some ways his hands are tied with the steep budget constraints. She confides in Ian Merry Field, a shuttle pilot, about the records from a lost ore shuttle that mysteriously returned from the Kelthy region. There is something very odd and plenty of people don’t want Sally and Ian poking their noses into this mystery.

This was a fun story with lots of great tech. In many ways, this was a pretty straight forward story, which let me sink into it quickly, sit back, and enjoy it. Jackie, Sally’s significant other back on Earth in Santa Fe, provides a key piece of info for Sally and Ian in their investigations.With that, Ian and Sally go on a secret mission to figure it out. What they find is one of the biggest discoveries of humankind.

I’m not big on romance, so I was glad to see that it didn’t really play a role in this story. When I read the description and saw we had Sally and Ian thrown together, I was worried we might get distracted with some soppy romance. But never fear! Both Ian and Sally have other romantic ties, so they were able to focus on the mystery at hand. Yay!

I liked all the geeky, science bits tossed in. Plus we get all this cool tech for exploring and mining the asteroid belt. Also, the Canadian Mining Consortium was not the good guy we all expect from friendly, polite Canadians! This was great because we need more Canadians trying to take over the universe. Muwahahahahahaha!

I listened to this book for free on Podiobooks.com.

Narration: The author, Paul J. Joseph, narrated his own story and it was pretty good. He was consistent in his voices and accents. While he was not quite as good as a seasoned professional, I have listened to far worse. The production was really good – volume was consistent, no mouth noises. There was perhaps 1 repeated sentence in the entire book.

What I Liked: All the cool tech; lots of science bits; Ian and Sally are not a romantic item; reference to Santa Fe; asteroid mining; evil Canadians; Sally has a girlfriend; pretty good narration. 

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike, but the cover is rather so-so for this book and doesn’t really indicate the asteroid mining that plays such a central role in the book. 

Paperbook Giveaway & Interview: Paul J. Joseph, SF Author of Through the Fold Series

JosephMarkerStoneFolks, it’s my joy to have Paul J. Joseph on the blog today.  We chat about books to movies, villains, geeky arguments, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Honestly, this is something I think about surprisingly often, but not necessarily the way one might expect. The game I often play with a favorite movie or any kind of story would be to wonder how it would be perceived by somebody else.  Imagine if you could share with a young Gene Roddenberry some of the more recent Star Trek movies just to find out if in fact those things based on his vision are anywhere near his original expectations.  And, though it may sound like a really silly idea, I’ve often wondered how an earlier version of myself might perceive my own writings, especially before I wrote the first one or while I was thinking of the initial details.

But seriously, there are loads of movies and books that I love, but those that stand the test of time are relatively few.  Some that rise to the top may not be all that popular or well known, but I suppose that’s the point of the question.  I love the movie Unbreakable, starring Bruce Willis.  As both a film maker and a writer, I can’t speak highly enough of the true mastery of the details of that movie.  I honestly prefer that to all the other works of M. Night Shyamalan.  I also liked The Thirteenth Floor, another obscure science fiction movie.  For dystopian masterpieces, (I know you may hate me for this) I’d have to choose Soylent Green, yes I loved that movie and there is now a food company called Soylent, imagine that!

JJosephHomesickWho are some of your favorite book villains?

Looking over my favorite books, it’s surprising how many good science fiction stories don’t actually have obvious villains.  For example, who was really the villain in 2001?  Who was the villain in AI or Solaris?  In 1984, the most depressing book I’ve ever read, I would have to say that the villain is not the O’Brian character, but Big Brother himself.  The scary thing there is that, since he really didn’t exist, he couldn’t be killed, and that’s really the point.  In science fiction, villains can stretch the boundaries a bit, and I’m particularly proud of some of the villains I’ve designed.  In general, I don’t like one-dimensional villains. Most cheap horror stories and bad science fiction have villains that like to kill people for no particular reason.  Even though it worked, Alien would fall into that category.  The alien could not be reasoned with and it had no back story.  It was pretty much like fighting a virus or any other force of nature.  The Terminator was also like that, though he did it with class.  The T-1000 was a far better villain in the second movie, however, because he didn’t look like a villain and could basically be anybody.  My favorite villains are the ones who have charisma and possibly curb appeal.  Magneto in the X-Men movies always had a point.  We may not want him to win, but we understand where he’s coming from.

JosephWebOfLifeDo you have any phobias?

My most significant phobia would be heights.  I can go to the top floor of any building and look out the window, but there is only so far I can climb up a ladder.  When I visited New Orleans one time we stayed at a hotel that had a rooftop pool.  I could swim in it, but I had to hold on tight to the railing in order to look at the skyline.  Grandfather Mountain is another matter.  There are no railings!

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

This is a particular passion of mine because I’ve seen some terrible bastardizations of books in my time. Almost every attempt to recreate a Dean R. Koontz book has ended in disaster, though I haven’t seen them all.  Two great attempts of novel into film would be 2001 (and 2010) though much of what made those books so interesting really didn’t translate visually.  Solaris was the other.  The Tarkovski version was fascinating, but hardly scratched the surface of the book.  The later George Clooney version was far worse, however, to the point that much of the story was completely different than the book.  Honestly, the best I’ve seen thus far was the John Hurt version of 1984 that was actually made in 1984.  Both the movie and the book left you feeling just as empty, and I can’t really think of a single scene in the book that wasn’t represented.  I’m not so much into PC games, though I did play them when I was younger.  I will say that Silent Hill, which I only played briefly, made an excellent movie!  That’s the best example I can think of.  Generally, there isn’t enough information in a video game to make a truly great movie or book in my opinion.  The best that can be done is a movie based on the idea of the game, which is a very different thing.  Honestly, most games based on movies or books are greatly over-simplified.

JosephSplashdownIn this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I will step out and say that I don’t really like self-promoting.  I honestly prefer to let my work speak for itself whenever possible.  Social media campaigns are the way to go these days and I’m very glad we have these, but the work involved is often tedious, repetitive, and ineffective.  Because I have a media background, I have no problem making my own websites, some book covers, and general graphics.  I enjoy that kind of work because it involves producing something that can be later evaluated for what it is.  A social media campaign is more amorphous and often involves posting just to post.  I’m just not good at that.

JosephInfinityMachineCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I actually have a lot of those.  All of my books are available as podcasts and I have loyal listeners all over the world.  One woman told me I had a hypnotic voice.  I didn’t quite know how to process that.  Several people have told me they would drive places just to keep listening to my chapter installments.  I have a friend in Australia who corresponds with me from time to time, and I had a very nice couple of phone conversations with a fellow in Detroit who wanted to help me market my work.  One of the strangest encounters I had was with somebody who kept asking me very detailed questions about the universe I wrote about, surprisingly detailed based on only listening to my work.  He also put together an elaborate timeline that supposedly kept track of elements in the story.  In short, he may have known more about the details of the story than I did, and I was amazed that he would spend so much time studying it.  I like to converse with readers and am happy to make time for them.  The only author I’ve ever been in contact with is Nathan Lowell, who wrote a series of books called the Age of the Solar Clipper.  I became interested in this series when I first learned to podcast.

JosephWindowInTheSkyWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I must admit that it’s hard to write science fiction without breaking some rules, and there are some arguments that always come up.  For example, most space-based adventures have real time conversations between planets and stars, where time delays would be inevitable.  I write about VR links where my space explorers can visit their families in real time.  I allude to the existence of some kind of faster-than-light transmission, but that’s really just a copout.  My father was a physicist, and the most interesting discussion I ever had with him was one where I thought he was going to laugh out loud at one of my more far out ideas, but he actually said it would be possible, or at least not impossible.  This was concerning an alien environment I write about in Web of Life.  There we have what amounts to a massive “bubble” in space in which there is an atmosphere, but no gravity.  From the inside it appears to be a never ending sky where wind currents go in all directions, but there is no up or down.  Considering that my father didn’t like most science fiction, I took his lack of laughter as high praise.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The very first book I ever read was The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Alfred Hitchcock.  My mother put it in my notebook in the sixth grade.  I don’t think there is a single Three Investigators book I haven’t read.  I didn’t read the Hardy Boys, though.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I don’t have a lot of national or international activity in the near future, but I will be participating in a small private book signing on the 10th of September at a store called 2nd and Charles in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The fun begins at 12 and it goes until 2PM.

Other than this, my most immediate plans include publishing a short story anthology, possibly called Twisted Fire.  The next series I am working on concerns an artificial intelligence on a journey of self-discovery.  He kind of exists in the same universe Sally Buds inhabits, but he chooses to make his home on Mars.

Where to Find Paul J. Joseph

Website

GoodReads

Twitter

Facebook

Smashwords

PodioBooks

Amazon

Author Bio: 

Paul J. Joseph is an independent film maker as well as a story teller through writing. One of his recent films has been featured in the 2010 Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival. He has been teaching mass communication courses at a college level for 20 years, and currently works at a small private university in North Carolina. He lives with his wife Tyreese, his son Ian, a mother in law, and three cats.

Paul Joseph’s first love has been and always will be science fiction. He looks for ideas that are based on plausible trends in technology, both good and bad. He is particularly interested in space travel and time travel, which can include alternate realities and paradoxes. He tends to avoid fantasy and magic. So, if you are looking for elves and fairies, this is not your guy. On the other hand, ESP and other observable phenomena may well be fair game.

JosephMarkerStoneBook Blurb for Marker Stone (Book 1 of Through the Fold series): There’s trouble on CMC-6 and it’s been brewing for a long time. The golden age of space travel and asteroid mining has ended and the bean counters have taken over. Sally Buds’ patients are all suffering from low-gravity syndrome because the Canadian Mining Consortium won’t spring for gravity generators and the miners won’t exercise. On top of this the station might be facing hard times. An expensive mining robot disappeared while surveying a region of space known and Kelthy. But then, after a replacement is over, it reappears. How could the station personnel have been so incompetent? But Sally has another question. Where did the probe go when it was out of contact? Where did the strange rock samples come from and why did the images it saw not correspond with known star charts? Her new friend Ian Merryfield, an RAF shuttle pilot, wants to know, too. But the station commander does not. What is in the Kelthy region and why do things disappear there? Is it a hoax intended to scare away claim jumpers or is it the greatest discovery of the twenty-first century? Ian and Sally intend to find out even if it means risking their careers or even their lives. Not knowing would be worse.

JJosephHomesickBook Blurb for Homesick (Book 2 of Through the Fold series): The mission to New Ontario, isn’t going as planned. Scott Anderson walked ten paces onto the new world and disappeared from radio contact. Not knowing Scott’s fate but fearing the worst, Captain Sally Buds embarks on a rescue mission that risks her life and that of her pilot, Ian Merryfield. There Sally and Ian uncover a chilling reality. Something terrible has happened on New Ontario. The evil regime of the Masters have consumed an entire civilization and established an empire of unspeakable barbarism. And now, so far away from home and help, it becomes clear that the Masters’ rapacious attentions have been drawn to Earth. Sally and Ian must now defend themselves and their planet from a tyranny that goes beyond slavery.

Giveaway!

Paul is generously offering up five Kindle copies (international) of Homesick and two print ones (USA only). Homesick works quite fine as a stand alone novel. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you like? 2) What country are you in – ebook or paperbook? Contest ends October 3rd, 2016, midnight.

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