This list was originally inspired by the post I stumbled across by M.L. Brennan who in turn was inspired by a Top Ten Tuesday by Danielle over at Coffee and Characters. So, you know all those times you read an amazing, incredible book, but then when you rush out to hit up your bookish friends to find out what they think you discover that – SHOCKER! – hardly anyone has read it or even knows about it? You know what we mean! That idea evolved into this topic, in which Mogsy and Wendy list some authors plus the books they’ve written that we think should be getting waaaay more attention!
BLAKE NORTHCOTT: I discovered Northcott’s first book, vs. Reality, via her Twitter feed, lured in by her sense of humour, obvious geek status and home girl pride. She writes novels about superheroes from a really unique angle. In fact, her first book was meant to be a comic, but when plans fell through, she converted it to a novel and has followed through with that concept for two more books in the series, plus an all new book, Arena Mode.
N.K. JEMISIN: The Killing Moon currently appears on numerous awards lists. I’m sure it’s there with good reason, but I couldn’t appreciate the book enough after reading her Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first. I loved that book so much that I read it twice within two months. A unique and diverse world with beautiful characters that have had a huge emotional impact on me. I haven’t started the second book in her Inheritance trilogy because I’m not yet ready for the emotional trauma!
JASON M. HOUGH: If you’re looking for a good place to jump into sci fi, or if you’re already a sci fi fan, get started on Hough’s new Dire Earth Cycle series. I think of it as down-to-earth sci fi that has all the necessary elements of space, technology and aliens, combined with action, drama, suspense and mystery. I love the diversity and the unpredictability that keeps me turning the pages.
MARTHA WELLS: Wells has already made a name for herself, writing within various popular fandoms, including the upcoming Star Wars: Razor’s Edge. But she has a number of books of her own that I bought in one big rush after finishing The Cloud Roads. Her worldbuilding is amazing and I love the physical and cultural uniqueness of her characters.
KAREN LORD: I love the subtly of Lord’s work. Her forays into science fiction (The Best of All Possible Worlds) and fantasy (Redemption in Indigo) might not seem to be science fiction and fantasy enough for some, but I really enjoyed her writing. Reading about her worlds and the characters within them made me feel like I was joining a bunch of friends on a comfy couch as they told me their tale.
WILL McINTOSH: I recently finished a book that arguably was what motivated me to start up this post in the first place, Love Minus Eighty. If you’re looking to read a sci-fi novel guaranteed to give you a strong emotional reaction, then this one is it. It’s a very human story despite the futuristic high-tech setting, and it made me want to check out more of Will McIntosh’s work. My mind is still blown.
M.L. BRENNAN: And speaking of motivation to write this post, my discovery of M.L. Brennan’s own list was what clued me in on this topic in the first place. I thought, “How apropos!” because I knew if I had to make my own list of “Authors that deserve more recognition”, M.L. Brennan would definitely be on it. I read Generation V this summer and it’s already rocketed itself up my list of essential Urban Fantasy. She’s so funny and creative, and it comes out in her writing and characters. I just cannot stop raving about this book to everyone I know who loves UF!
BEN H. WINTERS: Being the author of the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Ben H. Winters has already made quite a name for himself, but I still couldn’t help but notice that while a lot of my friends have his books on their to-read lists, only a few have actually taken the plunge! Though his “humor” books are probably still more well known, I personally adore his Last Policeman series which I’m glad to see is gradually gaining more attention.
TERESA FROHOCK: Seriously, whenever the topic of Miserere comes up, I find it really difficult to shut up about how amazingly good this book is. So, before I forget myself and write a whole essay about how much I love Teresa and her book, let’s just say that she single-handedly reaffirmed my decision to always finish every novel I start. Miserere takes its time to build up, but then rewards you in spades! The story is just so, so beautiful. And freakin’ look at that gorgeous cover! Read this, you must!
DJANGO WEXLER: You know how there’s epic fantasy, and then there’s EPIC fantasy? The latter goes beyond just transporting you to a different world and time, it also sweeps you up into an experience that’s truly grand, immense and awe-inspiring. Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names that I read earlier this year was one of those books for me. Keep an eye on this author and his series, because I have a feeling he’s gonna go places!
Click here for my original review.
Series: Book 2 of The Milkweed Triptych
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of Publication: July 17, 2012
Wow, did that seriously just happen?! Those were the words running through my head when I reached the very end of this book. Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any crazier with its genre-bending goodness, it decides to throw me for another loop (which in the context of talking about this book is a rather clever pun, now that I think about it. I’m just a little miffed now because I can’t explain it without spoiling anything!) The way I see it, as far as those shocking “I-NEED-to-know-what-happens-next” cliffhangers go, Ian Tregillis just raised the freakin’ bar.
If I had to go back and talk about the first book of The Milkweed Triptych, Bitter Seeds (see my review here), I’d probably describe it as an alternate history World War II novel with both fantasy and science fiction elements, mostly due to its main premise involving Nazi Germany’s lab-raised soldiers with superpowers versus the British’s warlocks and their demons. This second book still has all of that, except it takes place some twenty years later, and even though the war is over, Great Britain now finds itself locked in a precarious power struggle with the USSR.
Now Project Milkweed is threatened when they find out that Britain’s warlocks, the country’s greatest defense in keeping their enemy at bay, are being killed off by an unknown assassin. Meanwhile, a pair of super-soldier siblings who fought for the Nazis in WWII escape their Soviet prison and make their way to England. One of them is Gretel, the psychopath pre-cog who is still obsessed with manipulating the life of British agent Raybould Marsh. Even after more than two decades, she is still pulling the strings, nudging the future towards her own mysterious agenda.
By all accounts, I should have liked this book more, and I think I would have if it weren’t so utterly bleak. I know “Super soldiers vs. Warlocks” sounds like an interesting and unbelievably fun premise — which it most certainly is, don’t get me wrong — but part of me is still having trouble getting over how dark this series can be sometimes. While I’m no stranger to dark fiction with dreary themes, there’s just something about these books that unsettle the heck out of me and chill me to the bone.
I suppose depending on who you are, that can be seen as a good or bad thing. For example, in Bitter Seeds, I found that the disturbing ideas in the first book really worked in giving the story the hard edge it needed. I was able to transform those feelings of dread into suspenseful anticipation which kept me turning the pages, and also because I felt pity for the poor characters who have had such terrible things happen to them or are forced to make these awful decisions.
Unfortunately, my sympathy for the characters ran out and was largely absent for the most part in The Coldest War. The main players were mostly the same, but in the twenty-two years since the events of the last book, many things have happened to turn even the “good guys” into pretty despicable people in my eyes. While the main antagonist Gretel is still as evil as ever, I nevertheless had a difficult time bringing myself to muster up any enthusiasm to root for Marsh or Will this time around. There are no truly upstanding characters in this book, which normally isn’t a problem for me; I find I can be drawn to even the most morally corrupted of characters if they are written well, but I honestly couldn’t find anyone particularly likeable in this book, with the possible exception of Klaus, Gretel’s brother.
Story-wise, though, I am absolutely floored. The ending alone was probably worth all the frustrating moments the characters put me through, not to mention the next book presents the perfect opportunity for many of them to redeem themselves. That last line in the epilogue has got to be the most effective two words in the history of book endings. I can’t wait to pick up the third book for the finale, I MUST find out how it all ends.
Genre: Science Fiction
Date of Publication: June 11, 2013
Author Information: Website
I have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for love stories. But not just any kind of love story would do, oh no, because I like my romance the same way I like my Fantasy — gritty, transcendent, in-your-face, plus it helps if it’s just a bit bizarre! Love Minus Eighty is definitely all this and more, as if you couldn’t already tell from its exquisite tagline, “A novel of love and death in no particular order”.
Decades from now, dwindling resources have caused cities like New York City to practically fold in and build upon itself, creating a social stratification system that’s even more segregated than what we know today. No doubt, the book paints a pretty bleak view of the future, but it’s especially bad if you’re one of the hundreds of dead women cryogenically frozen in dating farms, awaiting your lucky day when some rich man will like you enough to pay millions for your revivification before whisking you home to be his wife.
And seriously, to think some of my friends complain about internet dating! Online dating sites have got nothing on the nightmare that are these dating farms, which charge male suitors thousands of dollars by the minute to “date” the dead women, whose consciousnesses are “awakened” for the session before the plug is pulled again and they go back to their state of non-existing. Will McIntosh expanded upon this idea from his award-winning short story “Bridesicle” (because that’s what society in this world called the frozen women. Horrible, right?) for this novel, which follows a group of characters whose lives are all interconnected because of these dating farms.
What a disturbing and yet fascinating basis for a story, and it’s all set before a futuristic backdrop which seems so outlandish but feels familiar enough to make you feel uncomfortable at the same time. It’s a world of digital information and social media on steroids, where attention seekers can be trailed by thousands of literal “followers”, their floating user screens going wherever that individual goes. People wear systems on their bodies to connect them to the network, allowing them to call up and communicate with multiple contacts at the same time. The setting was so vividly described that at times I felt like I was watching a movie (oh why oh why can’t this be a movie?!)
But in spite of all the new technology, some things always stay the same. For one thing, people will still look for love, that timeless, formless, unshakeable deep connection to another soul. This makes Love Minus Eighty a sci-fi novel that’s definitely more about the human story and less about the science and technology. Questions like how the dead can be brought back to life, or how these dating farms even manage to revive dead women for short periods of time aren’t the point. Instead, what’s important is the emotional impact of the story, and subsequently, the ethical implications of keeping women on ice and in limbo, basically according human beings who have the potential to live again less rights than what you’d give a dog in an animal shelter.
I also have to say the focus on love and dating was a nice touch, not only as it’s something practically everyone can relate to, but also because it makes the characters and their motivations feel that much more poignant. It’s hard to really say whose perspective was my favorite — Rob, Veronika, Mira, and even a couple of the supporting characters — because they each had their own experiences which I found acutely heartbreaking and intense.
Of course, this book wasn’t perfect by any means, and I for one had issues with some of the dialogue as well as the pacing, especially with the way it led up to the ending. However, the mere fact that I’m usually so persnickety about these things but was still able to overlook them meant that ultimately for me, Love Minus Eighty was all about the story and its provocative ideas. Above all, I enjoy books that make me feel (and here’s where that whole “I’m a sucker for love stories” comes in), and this one was at once a very thoughtful commentary on the ways of the heart and just twisted enough for me to eat it up.
Jo Fletcher Books recently posted the cover of the upcoming Fearie Tales, a collection of definitely-not-for-kids fairy tales twisted and retold by an amazing list of authors, including: Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Ramsey Campbell, Joanne Harris, Markus Heitz, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Angela Slatter and Michael Marshall Smith.
The exquisite cover is by Oscar-winning artist Alan Lee, who’s art will be featured inside the book as well!
Genre: Sci-Fi Apocalyptic, Police Procedural
Series: Book 2 of The Last Policeman
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date of Publication: July 16, 2013
What would you do if the world was going to end in a little less than three months?
Being a wimp, I’d probably hide in the basement closet with a comforter over my head, praying that it’s all a bad dream. Most likely I’d be depressed and wouldn’t be able to go about my everyday life like everything was normal. I definitely wouldn’t be like Hank Palace, the main character of this novel, because even with an asteroid hurtling through space towards earth threatening to wipe out all life on the planet, he’s still out there patrolling the streets trying to be the best damn policeman he can be.
Not that Hank’s even a policeman anymore; he’s been relieved of his duty, after what’s left of law enforcement in the country went through some major restructuring. In the time between Countdown City and the previous book The Last Policeman (my review here), things have gotten worse. Even the last vestiges of institution and pockets of civilization are starting to break down, with electricity gone now and water about to be next.
Hank, though, is still on the job, taking on a missing-persons case to find the husband of Martha Cavatone, the woman who used to be his babysitter. Much like he was in the last book, he becomes rabidly obsessed with the case, but is this merely due to his personal connection to Martha? Or it this just Hank’s own version of hiding in the basement under the covers? I get the feeling that beneath his focused exterior, he’s just as crazy with panic as everyone else. To me, this made him a very interesting breed of unreliable narrator.
Once again, I’m just floored by Winter’s interpretation of a pre-apocalyptic America. While I’ve read tons of apocalyptic novels, most of these take place after the destructive event has already happened, or they take place just before. Very rarely do you see a book like this where everyone knows the end is coming, but the catch is that it’s not coming for a while yet, and the world has to suffer through this plodding march towards doom like watching a slow death.
In circumstances like these, anything can happen, really. But the author makes it so realistic, showing a wide variety of human reactions to the killer asteroid. There’s Hank, who immerses himself in work, and there are also people like his sister, who still believes there’s hope and joins a commune. As you’d expect, there are also those who just lose it and commit suicide (thus giving us the basis of the first book) as well as a significant portion of the population that goes “Bucket List” (which forms an interesting theory for this book). As Hank notes, cases that seemed mundane under normal circumstances take on a whole different meaning in these new times, because there’s no such thing as “normal circumstances” anymore.
A police procedural set against a backdrop like this takes on a brand new twist – and I think this is the key to why I enjoyed this sequel even more than its predecessor. The Last Policeman had a good story, but I felt the details of the case Hank worked on in that book had very little to do with the social climate or the situation with the asteroid. This book, however, has those elements all over his missing-persons investigation. It made the impending armageddon an integral part of the case rather than just the background. Clock’s ticking and it’s getting real now, and this book really makes you feel it.
This was an audiobook read, narrated by the magnificent Simon Vance.
The birth of Gordon Black signifies the end of the world. Year after year following his birth, the world slides into more and more poverty and destruction. People call it the Black Dawn and the Crowman becomes its symbol. Whether the Crowman is a harbinger of the final end or the saviour of the world, no one is certain, but when the Ward goes after a teenaged Gordon, they are certain that the Crowman must be stopped by any means and that Gordon, tasked by his family to find the Crowman, must be captured. Meanwhile, in the post-apocalyptic future where life has reverted back to a time before technology with remnants of the old world buried, a young girl named Megan is summoned to take her place as the first ever female Keeper. Her task? To write the Crowman’s story.
This book is a cautionary tale (that occasionally gets a bit too preachy in its warnings against our reliance on technology and modern comforts and convenience, etc) and is told in a very unique way with very interesting characters. Gordon’s journey is intriguing, and I liked the way Megan’s role is worked in, with her seeing the events of the past in order to record the dark and painful tale of the Crowman.
The Crowman himself is a fascinating character. Is he a creature of good? Is he evil? Throughout the book, we get glimpses of his development and his influences on the world, but we’re never quite sure of his purpose and how he will decide the world’s fate. Is the world’s fate a decision for him to make? Or is the Crowman simply just doing his part in an incomprehensible cycle?
I was not overly fond of the Ward. The Ward represents the ruling party who wish to maintain control throughout the chaos and the Crowman is a threat to their hold on everything. They are Big Bad Corporations, The Man, Big Brother and every other example of oppressive regimes that we’ve seen in the past. Personally, I would have enjoyed their part more if they weren’t represented in such a heavy handed manner. In a time of chaos, it is understandable that there are those who try to control and take advantage. But those trying to maintain order and fairness, such as not allowing people to hoard food while others starve, is not necessarily evil. I would have liked it if the purpose of the Ward was as ambiguous as that of the Crowman.
Overall, I enjoyed Black Feathers. It was very good, but there’s a “but” floating around in my head somewhere that I’ve yet to put my finger on… Whatever that may be, for better or for worse, the book has stayed on my mind since finishing it, and I definitely approve of a book that keeps me thinking long after I’ve finished reading the last page.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy; Dystopia; Steampunk
Series: Book 1 of Masque of the Red Death
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: April 24, 2012
Never have I felt so broken up over writing a review for a book that ultimately ended up not being my cup of tea. It’s tough, seeing asMasque of the Red Death is a Young Adult dystopian novel inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, and so it is at once creative, original and highly ambitious — which all happen to be qualities I admire in a book. It had some good ideas, and so I wanted to like this, tried hard to like it, but in the end there simply were too many issues that prevented me from getting on board.
The book is set in a gothic, post-apocalyptic rendition of the late 1800s, with a dash of steampunk mixed in for good measure. 17-year-old Araby Worth lives life amongst the elite thanks to her father’s illustrious career as a scientist, while the poor are left to fend for themselves in a city ridden with plague and death. Those who have the means to afford them buy the elaborate porcelain masks which help prevent the contagion, but the dictator Prince Prospero has a iron hold over their production. Still grieving the death of her twin brother which she believes is her fault, Araby wants to help change the way things are by working towards making salvation from the disease available to all.
I’m torn over these details. On the one hand, I’m completely in love with the setting, and my one regret is wanting to know a lot more about the history and background than the book was able to give me. I also think the main character had a lot of potential, but for some reason Araby feels pretty much devoid of any personality. If I had to guess, I would say it’s the writing style; told in first-person present tense, the narration could have been a lot more powerful, but instead it came across very clipped as I was bombarded with simple short sentences that often described everything Araby saw in front of her eyes but sadly not what was going on inside her head. As such, I couldn’t get a sense of who she was at all.
Even now, there are so many blank spots in my mental picture of her as a character, since a lot of her motivations and behaviors just didn’t match up. Her father, for example, whom she thinks is cold, aloof and uncaring, is actually in my opinion a sweet, kind and rather cool dad! I mean, here’s a man who takes his morose teenage daughter for walks just to get her out of the house and on a whim would buy her nice things like books. Then there’s Araby, one of those girls who contemplates betraying her parents for a boy she’s only known for a grand total of like five minutes. I’m just shaking my head.
Which brings me to another thing that bothered me — the dreaded love triangle. It would be nice if I had any interest at all in either romantic option, but behind door number one is Elliott, the prince’s nephew who seeks to fuel a rebellion by convincing Araby to join him by his side. Meanwhile, behind door number two is William, the handsome porter with the awesome tattoos who works at the club Araby frequents and whom she is drawn to. One guy is arrogant, the other is dull, and both are patronizing to the extreme. It’s really tough for me to get into a book when the romantic drama takes up such a huge part of the story, especially when I think the heroine is deserving of so much more than what she’s offered.
I feel like I’m being too harsh in this review, but even after putting my YA-reading hat on and embracing the romance, I just couldn’t get into this book. I think it had some great ideas, but I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface on a lot of them, much like how I think Araby’s character could have been much better developed. While this book was a quick read, I can’t help but think maybe a little more detail could have gone a long way into fleshing out the story and making it more satisfying.
Want more steampunk? New to the genre? Visit Once Upon A Time’s Clockwork Carnival 2013 for all sorts of steampunk goodies.
I always love welcoming new books to my library, and the last couple of weeks saw some new arrivals from various sources!
In the physical book pile:
The Crimson Shield – won from a giveaway the author Stephen Deas (writing as Nathan Hawke) was hosting on his blog and on Twitter, so I was pretty psyched out of my mind when my copy arrived safe and sound from its long journey across the Atlantic. What a bold choice it is to leave all writing including title and author information off the front cover, but I can’t deny that the result is quite dramatic and effective. Can’t wait to read this book.
Countdown City – from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, the second book of the Last Policeman series. I read the first book earlier this year and was really looking forward to seeing what would happen next, so I pretty much devoured this sequel. Look for the review in a couple days!
Skulk – an ARC I received from Strange Chemistry, and it’s one of those books that make me really happy I check out YA. I meant to review this closer to its release date, and only picked it up to read a chapter or two just to see what it’s all about. I ended up finishing the book in a couple sittings because I couldn’t help it; it was pretty addictive. My review should be up closer to October when the book comes out!
Love Minus Eighty – oh man. Oh frickin’ man. My deepest gratitude to My Shelf Confessions for hosting the giveaway of this book, which is how I got my copy. I’d been falling to pieces lately pining to read this, and I was floored when I got the email saying I actually won. Currently in the middle of this and I can’t even being to describe how captivated I am by it right now.
Now on to the digital pile:
Looks like I didn’t do quite as well on the self-restraint front this week with NetGalley:
The Troop – looked interested from the NG newsletter they sent out.
Warrior of the West – invite from Atria to review the second book in the King Arthur Trilogy after I reviewed the first.
Letters from a Murderer – from Angry Robot’s mystery and crime friction imprint, this one looked like something I’d enjoy.
Ebooks I purchased:
Stormdancer – a friend of mine has offered me an opportunity to read the second book, but whether or not that pans out I wanted to read book one first before the sequel comes out. Plus, the description on this looked cool, and I’ve heard some great things.
Angelfall – an interesting looking YA book I came across while browsing Amazon’s own publishing titles, which got some pretty good comments and reviews. For a few bucks I picked up both the ebook and the audiobook Whispersync bundle.
The Mister Trophy – recommended to me by a Goodreads friend who told me to check this author and series out if I enjoy urban fantasy. It’s a short read and it could be had for a couple of bucks, so I thought, why not!
Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Series: The Dire Earth Cycle #2
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Date of Publication: August 27, 2013
Author Info: www.jasonmhough.com
With thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Exodus Towers takes up shortly after The Darwin Elevator. The “traitors” are now separated from Darwin, Australia after the discovery of a second alien elevator in Belem, Brazil. Skyler Luiken and the colonists are working to set up, well, a colony, using the new alien towers and their transportable auras. Tania Sharma and her crew are supporting them from above and desperately trying to keep Russell Blackfield from finding out about the colony, while still maintaining the food for air and water trade with him. Meanwhile, Sam Rinn and Kelly Adelaide are still imprisoned by Blackfield within Nightcliff.
From the first image of a girl dancing among the ghosts of desolation, I was hooked. Things quickly picked up from there, moving along at a spiralling pace that introduces some intriguing new characters, eager to stake a claim in the aftermath of Neil Platz’s death and Blackfield’s anarchy. The Jacobites take on a greater role and Skyler learns that he isn’t as unique as he thought.
And all the while, the mystery of the aliens and their purpose continues to loom over them, now with a clock ticking down, if Tania’s calculations on the “Builders’” schedule is correct.
For the first half of the book, my thoughts went off the rails because of how much was happening. I hate to use typical review buzz words, but I’m going to have to fling out “action-packed” and “edge of your seat” to describe the suspense, drama and excitement as I hopelessly devolved into subhuman squeals, flails and tears. I may have even uttered a loud “**** YEAH!” at one point.
Fortunately, before my review completely deteriorated into “lakjdflajf!!!,” with me huddled in the corner desperately reading The Plague Forge, impatiently awaiting news about when The Dire Earth Cycle is going to be made into movies, the second half of the book settled down and allowed my nerves to do the same.
Time is a big factor, with the Builders’ scheduled to – do something – in two years from where the book begins. After the initial action, events skip quickly through the more mundane aspects of taking control of Nightcliff and setting up the colony. This part of the book might seem dull to some, but, as I said, time is a factor and I appreciate the way Hough worked all of this preparation in under the continued, ominous mystery of the Builders. Are the Builders malevolent or benevolent? Their SUBS disease has wiped out/converted 90% of human life on earth, while their elevators and aura towers are protecting the rest. WHAT THE HELL DO THEY WANT???
Also during this time, the characters and their relationships change significantly and sometimes surprisingly. Certain relationships that seemed to have been forged in The Darwin Elevator have not ended up where I expected – and I love that! I might be disappointed that I don’t get what I thought were OTPs, but I love that Hough hasn’t taken the obvious routes.
I am really happy to spend more time with Sam, one of my favourite characters from the previous book. She’s a rough and tumble woman of Amazonian height who can hold her own against any man. She began as a dangerously subordinate member of Skyler’s crew, but she really impressed me after Jake’s death, showing a side of herself that isn’t just about the typical bluff and bluster. This continues in Towers, where she gets to display intelligence, leadership and compassion. Meanwhile, Hough continues to reveal that his other lead characters are not perfect and sometimes, aren’t even likable.
One thing I really want to praise is the diversity of Hough’s survivors. Too often, post-apocalyptic stories forget that the rest of the world exists. It’s ironic that the survivors have all been sequestered into one small pocket on the bottom of the world, yet Hough has made it clear that, when the crisis hit, everyone from everywhere attempted to make their way to Darwin. That means that the one million remaining humans are a true cross-section of the billions of people that used to live on the planet, and it does not feel like tokenism when we meet characters from various cultures, some of whom don’t even speak English.