Favorite Books A-Z
I borrowed this idea from the Bionic Book Worm, who hosts the meme Top 5 Tuesdays where for the month of July the themed topics are books that start with a letter of the alphabet. Having seen the fun posts around the blogosphere, it got me wondering if I could come up with a favorite book for each letter myself! With all the craziness in July, I practically missed the whole thing, so today I’m going to do a lot of catching up and run through the full alphabet from A to Z.
Yep, it was tough. With some letters I was hard pressed for options, while others I had so many favorite books to choose from it was hard to narrow it down to just one. I had a fun time putting this list together though, as it also gave me a chance to feature some books I haven’t thought about in a while.
An Alchemy of Masques and Shadows turned out to be an incredible surprise and one of the most engrossing reads I’ve had in a long time. Evocative and creatively imagined, it is a gorgeously written debut encompassing an interesting mix of speculative genre elements. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, historicals, steampunk, action or adventure that captures your attention.
In general, I find that most second books of a trilogy rarely live up to the first one, and so I foolishly thought this would be the case here as well. Well, I’ve never been happier that I was wrong. RJ Barker has topped the first book Age of Assassins with a spectacular sequel containing even more intrigue, more action, and more heart.
Children of Time was my first novel by this author, and wow, what a way to start my initiation into the Adrian Tchaikovsky fan club! I have never read anything quite like this book before, and I have to say the praise it’s gotten has been well deserved. I just loved this.
This is simply a gorgeous book, filled with pain and sadness but also hope, healing and love. There is a heavy element of romance in here, but it is so well embedded in the overall story that it hardly distracts, despite being so intensely passionate. I really can’t recommend this one highly enough, especially if you love mythology and fairy tales.
Earth Girl takes place in the far-flung future, narrated by eighteen-year-old Jarra. She is among the one in a thousand born with an immune disorder that confines her to Earth. Humans have developed portal technology at this point, using it to colonize a multitude of worlds, but Jarra can’t visit any of them. Very little about this story falls prey to clichés, and it is a refreshing change to anyone looking for a different kind of YA novel.
Horror, humor, and a heist all in one? I couldn’t have asked for more. Say what you want about vampires being a tired old trope, but they can still be pretty terrifying, especially when you have an author who knows how to portray them like the monsters that they are—the way they’re meant to be. So if you want some terrifyingly good entertainment, read this book.
A combination of East Asian sources with Western elements, The Grace of Kings also features elements from a variety of genres including epic fantasy, mythology, and even a bit of steampunk. Its themes speak to the human condition, exploring the corrupting force of absolute power and the chaos that inevitably follows great change.
Who can resist the Napoleonic wars but with dragons? But yes, while there were indeed many scenes of airborne dragon battles, the bulk of the book also focused on the main character and his relationship with his dragon. Don’t get me wrong, while I loved the action, it was the bond between Laurence and Temeraire that I adored.
Ink and Bone may be a YA novel, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a teen or an adult, it’s a must-read for all those who treasure the gift of the written word. A perfect mix of breathtaking fantasy and edge-of-your-seat dystopian fiction, this is a masterfully written novel guaranteed to hook you in.
A classic Crichton, Jurassic Park is one of the first books I ever read by the author. Fast moving, intensely action-packed and suspenseful, the story also amazed me with the insanely smart science and technology. And of course, who can forget the dinosaurs? Needless to say, it led me to pick up a lot more of his other books.
Epic in scope and oh so sensual, Kushiel’s Dart was a book I read in college and I still love it as much today as I did back then. In fact, it’s one my favorites of all time. Beautifully written, Carey’s prose flows so well and is so gorgeously evocative, it’s hard to believe this was her debut.
The Lies of Locke Lamora felt a little like Oliver Twist meets Oceans 11 meets The Godfather – is there a more delectable combination? But once the world and the characters get a chance to establish themselves, that’s when the story begins to take on a personality of its own. I couldn’t have stopped reading even if I tried.
Tregillis dazzles with an inventive blend of mind-blowing fantasy, history, steampunk, and existential philosophy. This time we see humble French metallurgy pitted against the demonic alchemy of the Dutch, in a story set in the early 1900s. Even if you’re not into those genres or that historical period, the writing makes this worth checking out and the story is truly unlike anything I’d ever read before.
Talk about a page-turner! The Naturalist was exactly what I wanted out of a mystery-thriller—fascinating, addictive, and dramatic in all the best ways. It also captivated the science geek in me by featuring a protagonist who is a computational biologist, using the study of plant and animal behavior and physiology to solve crimes. Think The Da Vinci Code, but with biology.
There’s a lot going on in this book: survival, politics, romance, and even a mystery with the reappearance of a ghost ship that went missing two years ago. There’s also a lot to love—so many places to go, people to meet, and stories to discover. I enjoyed every moment reading this book, which reminded me of everything I love about colonization sci-fi.
To say I wholeheartedly recommend The Poppy War would be a massive understatement. Inspired by the Second Sino-Japanese War in the early half of the 20th century, the story includes many parallels to real events, but the setting more resembles the culture and civilization of the Chinese Song Dynasty, where religion and worship of folk gods played a large part in the people’s daily lives. The result is a heady mash-up of fantasy and historical fiction, peppered with many elements derived from Chinese mythology, and it was everything I wanted and more.
Color me pleasantly surprised–a book that ostensibly bore many hallmarks of your average possibly-YA-but-maybe-not fantasy novel in fact turned out to be a very refreshing and unique read. I honestly didn’t expect to like this book so much, but the once the plot escalated into high-stake dramatic circumstances, I just really liked how everything came together.
I didn’t even get past a quarter of the way through this book before I thought to myself, “Okay, this one is totally going on my ‘favorites’ shelf.” In a word, it was fun. So, so much fun. It helps if you’re a fan of urban fantasy, but I think even non-readers of the genre would enjoy this book because of its originality and humor.
Brian Staveley returns to the world of The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne with this standalone novel starring one of the its most intriguing characters, Pyrre Lakatur. When we first met Pyrre, she was shrouded in mystery, but this is her incredible story. Even if you haven’t read Staveley’s debut trilogy, this book would make a splendid introduction to his work.
There are so many things I love about this book, but most of all I love how it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It was lighter in tone than I expected, which was a huge plus because I always appreciate a bit of humor with my fantasy. Very few books are perfect, but some stories have a way of bringing you to a place where you’re just having too much fun to care. That’s where Traitor’s Blade took me.
Under Heaven tells the story of a middle son of a Kitan general who spends two years in the mountains burying the bones of soldiers from a war that took place there, and is given 250 “heavenly” Sardian horses for his honorable deed. As always, I appreciate the immense detail Kay puts into his books, which makes the world of Kitai come to life.
From the moment I saw the publisher description for The Valiant, I knew I had to read it. I make it no secret that I am fascinated with anything to do with Ancient Rome, and so historical fiction set in this time period is like an instant must-read. And secondly, female gladiators! By combining history and ideas from her own imagination, the author brings this incredible world to life.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t always into fantasy fiction, but The Way of Kings was one of the gateway books that helped me discover and fall in love with the genre. It’s still one of my all time favorites, and when you just want to curl up with a big book and escape into an immersive epic world, no one is better at delivering that than Brandon Sanderson.
I wasn’t exactly swimming in books starting with X, but luckily there was this audio drama tie-in featuring a full cast including David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and several other actors from the original X-Files TV show returning to voice their respective characters. Needless to say, the nostalgia factor was insane, giving me a chance to skip down memory lane.
You Die When You Die was a crazy wild ride I never wanted to end. After having a blast with Angus Watson’s Iron Age trilogy I had a good feeling that his new book would be another glorious full-hearted adventure through new frontiers of dark fantasy, and I was right. It’s a story that commands your full attention from the very first page, whisking readers away on a journey set in an imaginative world full of riveting characters and gritty adventure.
So, what can I say about this book that would do the sheer ingenuity of its premise justice? It’s like James Bond meets Memento meets an episode of Star Trek. Let’s just say the tagline of Zero World–“This will be the most interesting mission you’ll ever forget”–serves its story well, a promise of adventure and thrilling action packed into those ten simple words.