2015: The Worthy

So this year, according to my GoodReads account, I read or listened to just over 300 books, ranging from 10 pages in length to over 1100 pages in length. Obviously, I had to put a lot of thought into what books I found worthy this year, there being so many to sort through. So, I got it down to my top 15 (sort of) most entertaining reads of the year. None of these books were re-reads. In no particular order:

Squatch and a good book
Squatch and a good book

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different – and rigidly enforced – level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains . . .

Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon’s world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint’s Celestial Levels – and with the dying body comes bad news.

If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint’s base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon’s own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality – and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . . .

TERMINAL WORLD is a snarling, drooling, crazy-eyed mongrel of a book: equal parts steampunk, western, planetary romance and far-future SF.

FinnTheSeventhSonsDomino Finn’s Sycamore Moon series

The Seventh Sons

Two years after his wife went missing, Detective Maxim Dwyer is still running down leads. The isolated woods of Sycamore are home to many lawless men, and no one’s talking, but that hasn’t stopped Maxim from gathering suspects. Topping his list is the local motorcycle club, the Seventh Sons. His biggest obstacle? Everyone swears the bikers are werewolves. The small-town residents are wary of provoking the MC, and the marshal’s office is no exception.

Everything changes when a routine biker brawl turns fatal. Going against procedure, Maxim presses an enigmatic stranger for answers. But Diego de la Torre is running his own con. The outlaw deals in lies and legends, and no adversary can back him down. Not even the police.

It’s too bad that nobody’s above the law for Maxim. He’s willing to risk his badge, and his life, to prove it.

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersThe Blood of Brothers

Diego de la Torre is officially an outlaw now, a full-fledged member of The Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. The werewolf MC runs the wild lands of Sycamore with ease. At least until a dead body shows up and points to them as the culprits.

Detective Maxim Dwyer presses the Seventh Sons hard, but there are other guns in play. California bikers look to expand their drug trade. A mercenary outfit seeks revenge. Top that with an overbearing FBI agent who undermines local police, and both detective and outlaw have their hands full.

Brothers or not, Sycamore’s about to get a whole lot bloodier.

Claudie snoring
Claudie snoring

The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills — and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength – he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive – but Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Grounded in real, present-day science from the first page to the last, yet propelled by a brilliantly ingenious plot that surprises the reader again and again, The Martian is a truly remarkable thriller: an impossible-to-put-down suspense novel that manages to read like a real-life survival tale.

MooreRapunzelStayAtHomeMomRapunzel: Stay At Home Mom by Melinda Moore

Shut away from the world as a child, Rapunzel is now obsessed with the safety of her own children. When she locks her kids in a castle tower, her husband decides it’s time Rapunzel had a day off at Sleeping Beauty’s Spa. But the path to the spa is perilous, culminating in a confrontation with her fairy witch mother. Should Rapunzel have stayed safe in the tower after all?

Pico was rudely awakened from his nap for this pic.
Pico was rudely awakened from his nap for this pic.

Among Others by Jo Walton

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

 

FranklinMistressOfTheArtOfDeathThe Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a “mistress” of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king’s tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia’s investigation takes her into Cambridge’s shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .

 

The Anne Manx series by Larry Weiner and Radio Repertory Co. of America

WeinerAnneManxInLivesOfTheCatAnne Manx and the Lives of the Cat

This new science fiction series charges into action at a head-long pace, deadly serious and wickedly satirical. Great performances from Claudia Christian (Babylon 5’s ‘Susan Ivanova’), as Detective Annie Manx, an honest cop in a system under siege, and Patricia Tallman (B5’s ‘Lyta Alexander’) as the vicious Lieutenant Richmond. Annie and her boss are marked for death, as they stand between Richmond and a police take-over of the entire sector. But somehow, astoundingly – when Annie gets killed, she doesn’t die. Just how many lives does this cat have? Mystery, action, suspense, sex, and razor-sharp humour, all wrapped up in a splendid digital production!

WeinerAnneManxAndTheRingOfMinotourAnne Manx and the Ring of Minotour

The eagerly-awaited sequel to Lives Of The Cat hurls us into a web of intrigue swirling around an ancient temple, a mysteriousring – and a legend that offers the chance for someone to actually become a god. Jean Richmond’s murderous lunge for ultimate power forces Anne Manx to risk her own soul for revenge. Claudia Christian returns in this gripping SF thriller as the hard-driving future detective, Patricia Tallman returns as the evil Richmond, along with Alexandra Tydings (“Aphrodite” on Xena) as Charlotte Miller, with co-star Richard Fish as both Jack and Rory. Magnificent performances, escalating suspense, and slam-bang action will hold you riveted Larry Weiner’s brilliant new script, the intense reality of the sound production, and a superb original score by Angelo Panetta, combine to bring you whole new worlds of adventure on the biggest screen of all — your imagination.

WeinerAnneManxAndTheTroubleOnChromiusAnne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius

Claudia Christian is back as Anne Manx, the Galaxy’s smartest, toughest, most durable private investigator!
Chromius is a backwater world whose President Josephson has replaced democracy with tyranny. Patriots are planning a revolt to restore liberty, and Anne is caught in the crossfire and then thrown right into the midst of the struggle. Trying to help Archie (Andy Hallett) and Wendy (Paris Jefferson), a couple of citizens caught up in the fight for freedom, the story becomes a nightmare maze of danger, betrayal, and ulterior motives. It takes all the courage, fighting skill and detective genius Manx can muster just to stay alive as things heat up – and to figure out the shocking truth.
Action, mystery, action, danger, action, humor, action, and suspense all pile in on each other as the story grows. (Did we mention it’s got plenty of action?) Great writing, superb performances, and excellent sound design are all tied together with a complete original musical score.
The Trouble on Chromius keeps your mind on the very edge of its seat!

 

Tofu kitty as a book stand.
Tofu kitty as a book stand.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the eagerly awaited first volume in a new trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.
At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . .

GladstoneThreePartsDeadMax Gladstone’s Craft Sequence

Three Parts Dead

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

GladstoneTwoSerpentsRisingTwo Serpents Rise

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

 

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.
Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

BernheimerSecretsOfADListSupervillainSecrets of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

Cal Stringel may be dead to the world at large, but a select few know that he’s still alive and in control of the most powerful suit of battle armor ever created. He’s part of a rogue super team taking the world by storm and changing the dynamic for both heroes and villains alike. With change comes resistance and those holding control and power are not ready to just hand it over without a fight.

For the former D-List Supervillain, it’s time to break out the spare synthmuscle, charge the massive railgun pistol, and bring the pain. With his new team, he thinks he can take on the world, but is Cal biting off more than he can chew? He must deal with sanctioned hero teams and power mad bureaucrats on one side and the major supervillains of his world on the other.

As Cal and his allies ready themselves to face friend and foe, he will also have to deal with his relationship with Stacy Mitchell, also known as the Olympian, Aphrodite. Separated for over a year, they’ve only just reunited and are faced with the prospect of being on opposite sides of the coming conflict. Can they find enough common ground between the secrets and half-truths to sustain their fledgling relationship, or are they doomed like the last time to crash and burn?

SivecBuryMeBury Me by Tara Sivec

I hear screams in my head.
I see blood on my hands.
When I look in the mirror I see a stranger.

How is it that I can remember bits and pieces of my life, but nothing of any importance and nothing that makes any sense? Everything is twisted and nothing is right. I’m choking with every breath I take, suffocating on the unknown.

Two days ago, everything changed. Two days ago, the people I should trust the most became strangers in my convoluted head. The dreams I have can’t be real. The fleeting memories that whisper through my mind are scary and wrong…they have to be. If they aren’t, I have something much worse to fear than my fractured mind. I need to find out the truth, even if it destroys me.

I’ve been told my name is Ravenna Duskin. I’m eighteen years old and I live in a prison…

 

ForbesDeadLuckyGhosts & Magic series by M. R. Forbes

Dead Lucky

When a strange message arrives through an even stranger channel, necromancer Conor Night is driven to discover its meaning, even if it takes a road trip that he might not be healthy enough to survive. Joined by his sexy partner and an undead wise-ass, he’s about to rush headlong into a magic and mayhem filled night in New Orleans that will leave his future riding on a roll of the dice.
Luck, be a lady…

* Dead Lucky is a standalone novella (20,000 words) set in the contemporary, urban fantasy world of Ghosts & Magic. It precedes Dead of Night in the timeline, and is a great place to sample the series, get a deeper look into Conor’s backstory, or simply enjoy the ride. *

ForbesDeadOfNightDead of Night

Small-time thief and hitman Conor Night thinks having terminal cancer is his worst problem. The illegal treatments keeping him alive are expensive, and the side effects a mixed bag:

Conor can raise the dead.

When a low-end hit points to a high-end job, Conor is suspicious, but it’s an opportunity he can’t afford to ignore. Armed with a set of soul-sucking ancient dice, a collection of corpses, and the estranged daughter of one of the most powerful wizards on Earth, it will take all of his wit, charm, and magic to navigate the treacherous world of the dominant Houses and either finish the job, or be finished himself.

He’s got ninety-nine problems, and dying is only one.

ForbesDeadRedDead Red

Conor Night, the world’s only surviving necromancer, is used to having bad days. After all, he’s spent the last few years as a minor pawn in the Game of Houses while keeping one foot planted firmly in the grave. But between the job offer he can’t refuse from a wizard he doesn’t trust, and the appearance of a cult bent on sending him to the afterlife, his days are about to get a whole lot worse.

He’s used to the threat of death. Death making threats? That’s new.

JonasModernSorceryModern Sorcery by Gary Jonas

A SAVAGE MURDER

A husband armed with a sword hacks apart his wife in a Denver grocery store. There are dozens of witnesses, and the crime is captured on the security cameras. To the police, it’s an open-and-shut case.

To Naomi, the daughter of the couple, it’s evidence of dark magic. She hires her ex-lover, a private investigator named Jonathan Shade to prove her father is innocent.

Shade specializes in paranormal cases, but he isn’t buying it. Still, he takes the case, hoping to rekindle their relationship. Instead, Shade finds himself mixed up in supernatural intrigue with wizards, magically engineered assassins, and an ancient sorcerer returned to life who’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.

Too bad Shade doesn’t have any magic.

MoscaHighMidnightHigh Midnight by Rob Mosca

Ghouls, cryptids, homicidal clowns, knife wielding chimps and the best damn phantom bordello north of the border… welcome to Unity, Texas!

Sheriff Laredo Beaumont, former truck driver, hobo savant and ex-luchadore, along with his bonobo deputy Cicero are the sole law in Unity – a literal ghost town perched on the mysterious crater known as the Devil’s Outhouse – whose main economy derives from the spectral pleasures found within the Heskiaoff House bordello along with the Gallows Daughter Saloon (the last watering hole before exiting the American Dream). Whether corralling a pack of feral Chihuahua Yetis, giving chase to monstrous Thunderbirds or stemming the endless tides of sleep-walking dead – there’s no problem Sheriff Beaumont couldn’t handle either behind the business end of his trusted Colt or at the bottom of a bottle of Wild Turkey. But every man’s got his limits and Laredo has long reached his, retiring from the badge that bought him little respect and less gratitude. Ready to settle down with his beloved Sally Mae, a ghostly soiled dove working in the town’s infamous ghost bordello, Laredo has no idea that a gang of murderous clowns are closing in… each looking to settle a long forgotten score with the infamous ‘Sheriff of Unity’.

A gonzo pulp western for the 21st century, High Midnight is a timeless tale of blood and redemption set against a preternatural and pre-apocalyptic Texas.

Bury Me by Tara Sivec

SivecBuryMeWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Stephanie Willis

Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks (2015)

Length: 6 hours 36 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in 1965,  Ravenna Duskin, who recently completed high school, doesn’t feel quite like herself. Two days ago, she had an accident that left her with scratches, bruises, and a head wound. Her parents dote over her as she recovers, but her memories are not returning as quickly as she would like. Violent dreams haunt her sleep. She just doesn’t fell like herself at all.

My, oh my! This is one of the best Suspense genre books I have listened to in some time. I was hooked from the beginning and engaged the entire book. Ravenna and her parents (Tanner and Claudia) all live in a prison (Gallows Hill) that was turned into a museum/tourist attraction some years ago. Ravenna grew up in this prison, her father having worked there since before she was born, back when it actually held prisoners. As you can see, we have an interesting setting for this nail biting story to play out in.

We enter the story two days after Ravenna’s head wound accident. However, everyone is being rather vague about events of that day and it’s pissing Ravenna off. She wants answers. Her mother is trying hard to soothe her worries by making her pretty pink bed, braiding her hair, and preparing snacks on demand. Yet all that does is raise angry feelings within Ravenna and she doesn’t know why.

Indeed, Ravenna has a lot of emotions in this book and they swing back and forth. At first, we don’t know why and neither does Ravenna. But there is a mystery here, one that Ravenna can’t ignore. As the story moves forward, bits and pieces of her memory break through, and at first, they don’t make sense. Or at least, they don’t match what she has been told. More emotions boil within her, and sometimes they are violent ones.

Now, if you are concerned this book is full of teen angsty behavior and emotions, that’s not the case at all. I think most characters in her position would have most of the emotions she lives through in this tale. Something traumatic happened and no one wants to be honest with her about it.

The cast is small in this story, yet still interesting. Ravenna’s parents have their own ideas of perfection, secrets, and regrets. Nolan,the groundskeeper, is also not telling all he knows, though, admittedly, he’s a bit confused over Ravenna’s changing personality. There’s a mild romantic interest between the two. Trudy, who was once Ravenna’s best friend, is now somewhat too perky and goal-oriented for Ravenna’s taste. Then there’s the rude and somewhat creepy Ike, who is also a groundskeeper. Toss in the shadowy character of Dr. Thomas, and you have an interesting cast, all with there own little dramas.

The ending was very well thought out. For a while, I thought the story would go one way, and it didn’t, then I thought it would end this other way, and that wasn’t it either. I was happily surprised that I couldn’t guess the ending. I was on pins and needles for the climax. Then we have an epilogue that explains things further and gives more insight into the main character’s motives. It was excellent. I haven’t been this satisfied by a Suspense story in some time.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Stephanie Willis did a great job with Ravenna. She really brought forth all these emotions the main character is feeling without over doing it. I could really feel Ravenna’s confusion and resultant anger over the situation. Willis also had believable male voices and distinct character voices for the entire cast.

What I Liked: The tension and suspense; rather unusual setting; the mystery that no one wants to talk about; Ravenna’s missing memories; the climax as nail biting!; the epilogue explained further and was interesting in and of itself; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a thrilling book to listen to.

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