Best Books of January 2016

Best Books of January 2016

Well, we’re already a month deep into 2016 and so far so… uh… good? I mean, overlooking that whole David Bowie, Alan Rickman thing… Too soon? Yeah, too soon.

To take my mind off all the tragic losses 2016 has thus far slung our way, I dove into my reading list pretty deep. As of today I’ve read 19 books in January. Truth be told, some of them were nothing more than short stories, but a good bunch of them were 600-700 page Chihuahua crushers. Curious as to which ones I found most fabulous? Well, keep reading, dear reader, and I shall tell you.

Best Books of January 2016!!!

Blindsight – Peter Watts (For fans of cyberpunk/posthuman space operas with an almost unhealthy diet of technobabble)

I LOVED Blindsight. There, I said it. This book isn’t for everybody. It’s heavy like some extra-super-duper whipped cream on the technobabble, which can be off-putting if you’re not into that particular brand of sci-fi. But, if you can get past that, you’re in for a story of ideas unlike anything I’ve read since Charlie Stross’ Accelerando. This story is told from the point of view of a highly autistic individual with significant cybernetic augmentations. This gives the story a cold, almost clinical, feel at times, but it works beautifully because it’s perfectly within keeping of that main-characters baseline emotional output.

Still not convinced? Well, here’s the trump card: Vampires in space. Yeah, that’s right. Blindsight has the most fantastically awesome setup for vampires that I have ever read. But Watts didn’t stop there. Nope. He didn’t just bring vampires back, he launched them into space. Needless to say, this is one of the most original vampire/scifi mashups I’ve ever encountered.

Brilliant!

Kingpin – Kevin Poulson

This is one of those “Stranger than Fiction” type books based on the real life events of the super hacker Max Baylor. Interestingly, I didn’t know this was non-fiction when I started the book. By the third chapter I thought, this story is a little too crazy, this author needs to work on telling a more believable story. Then I went to the Google machine only to realize that the story was in fact ALL TRUE. My mind was blown as Kevin Poulson takes us on a wild ride through the seedy underbelly of internet crime.

Kingpin ranks right up there alongside Kevin Mitnick’s Ghost in the Wire as one of the best books on the history of computer crime/hacking. Highly recommend this, though beware, you’ll never look at the internet the same way again.

Stone and Iris – Jonathan Ballagh

Ballagh is the new kid on the Indie block and he’s got the chops to last. Stone and Iris is the first short story I’ve read from him, but it probably won’t be the last. Ballagh employs a depth of prose that is downright beautiful in places. Stone and Iris shows alot of the tell-tale signs of a new author in terms of plot and structure, but Ballagh’s raw talent shines through. This guy could definitely be one to watch in the coming years.

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

This was easily the most ambitious bit of storytelling I encountered this month. Okorafor shows of her mastery of prose and storytelling by weaving seamlessly between multiple POV’s like it’s nothing. She begins the story in pulled out 3rd person, then does some deft head-hopping (of the likes I haven’t seen executed so well since Dune), before transitioning into a couple crazy chapters of 1st person. With such a complex narrative type, there were plenty of opportunities for Okorafor to stumble. Surprisingly, she never really did. What follows is an imaginative first contact story unlike anything I’ve ever read before. If there was anything to gripe about in this story, it might be that it’s perhaps a bit too meta at times. Then again, that’s a huge part of its charm.

So now what about you, dear reader? What’s tickled your literary pickle this month? Read anything good? Stop into the comments and let me know. I’m always on the lookout for great new reads. Don’t disappoint me!

Martha’s Bookshelf Giving Away Free Copies of Time Heist!

Martha’s Bookshelf Giving Away Free Copies of Time Heist!

 

Martha’s Bookshelf has just reviewed the Time Heist audiobook and is giving away 3 FREE copies of the ebook and 1 FREE copy of the audiobook.

martha's bookshelf

 

“The primary characters are intense and strongly flawed. The addiction aspects are interesting even as they are repellent.” – Martha

If you’ve been wanting to snag a copy of Time Heist, but haven’t been able to scrounge
up the necessary loose change from the couch, then this is the opportunity for you. Just head on over to Martha’s Bookshelf and leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway. If you’re undecided about whether you want to read or listen to Time Heist, well, then you might want to give her review a gander and see if that can’t persuade you one way or the other.

P.S. I have no control over the pricing of the Time Heist audiobook. Sometimes it’s $24, sometimes it’s $2. Right now it’s one of those special moments where it’s only $2! Which is a crazy ridiculous price for an audiobook. CLICK HERE to grab your copy today before that sale runs up.

 

Top 7 Short Stories of 2015

Top 7 Short Stories of 2015

the leighgendarium

So some of you may or may not already know that earlier this month it was announced I’d be joining The Leighgendarium to write one or two Indie oriented reviews per month. Well, yesterday I decided to start it off with a bang and do a “Top-7 short stories of 2015” list. If you’re into the short fiction, you should definitely head on over there and check it out. I guarantee you’ll find a new author/story to love.

Parallel - High Resolution

 

Also on the sort fiction front, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my own horn a little toot-toot. Ryan from RedEaglesLegacy enjoyed Parallel enough to add it to his end of the year list. Huzzah! If you’d like to get your own copy of Parallel (along with two other free stories), signup for my NEWSLETTER and you’ll automatically get 3 free short stories.

Alright, folks. ‘Til tomorrow!

Top 5 Books of 2015

Top 5 Books of 2015

I like to think I’m showing up fashionably late to the “Top 5 of 2015” party. Then again, a lot of you are already blitzed out of your mind and laying haphazardly strewn across every plushy and hardwooded surface imaginable, so I might just be tossing this post up into the ether never to be seen or heard from again.

*shrug* So it goes.

In 2015 I read 133 books–which isn’t bragging, because let’s be honest, reading ain’t exactly the sexiest of activities in the world (not when there’s such a thing as naked bowling.) Now, I don’t have the numbers, nor the inclination, to go digging through that pile of books to break them into subcategories, but if I had to venture a guess off the top of my head, the genre breakdown would look something like this.

75% fiction

25% non-fiction

I can use my imaginary statistics to go even further if you’d like:

Science Fiction: 40%

Fantasy: 30%

Mystery/Thrillers: 5%

Writing Craft: 15%

Biographies: 1%

Physics: 3%

Books on how to get rich: waytoomany% (these are my guilty little pleasure)

 

Alright, so now that I’ve broken this list down into totally arbitrary subdivisions that bear little to no resemblance to reality, let’s move forward and talk about which books in particular rose to the top in 2015. To be clear, these aren’t books published in 2015, merely read by yours truly. Also, they are listed in no particular order (or if there is an order, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.)

TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2015

Okay, so before, you remember how I said, “In no particular order”? Yeah, that was a lie. This is tops. Easily. Altered Carbon was Richard K. Morgan’s DEBUT!!! novel, and holy balls is it good. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have read this after writing Time Heist cause a lot of the technology and world building are similar and I’m afraid there would’ve been nothing stopping my subconscious from going all unsupervised kid in a candy store on those five finger discounts (for those who don’t understand my weird metaphors, that means I would’ve stolen everything not bolted to the floor.)

I reviewed this book earlier in the year, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m just going to let past-me do all the heavy lifting:

“Altered Carbon has absolutely everything you could want out of a futuristic cyber-punk, mystery thriller. A compelling lead character not so dissimilar from Han Solo, a murder mystery that’ll leave you scratching your head until the very end, action and suspense up, and then out, the wazoo, and worldbuilding of the sort you would expect in a Brandon Sanderson novel.

Simply put, if you’re a fan of cyberpunk there are three authors you really need to read: William Gibson (Neuromancer), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), and Richard K. Morgan (Altered Carbon). Do it now. you won’t regret it.” – Me (circa 2015)

Again, I’m going to quote the hell out of past-me, that poor, overworked sap:

“If I was handing out Hugo Awards City of Stairs would have won Best Novel in 2014. There aren’t enough words to describe how much I loved it. So, suffice it to say, I liked it a whole lot.

City of Stairs defies the oddsr with a weird urban fantasy genre buster of a story about dead gods, magic, a city half destroyed, bureaucracy, and all sorts of other things.

In terms of building a complex world filled with intricate overlapping parts, City of Stairs stands alone (okay, maybe not entirely alone. Rise of Two Serpents by Max Gladstone was pretty good at this, too).

As always, I award bonus points for stories that feature strong female leads who are not simply caricatures of a male, but with female parts. I’ll continue doing this until we arrive at the time and place as a culture where this is no longer praise worthy. For now, unfortunately, it is.

If you’re into urban fantasy with complex characters all trying to act according to their own needs and wants, then you really can’t go wrong with City of Stairs.”

The Red by Linda Nagata was such a breath of fresh air in the military sci-fi genre. I reviewed this entire series (and interviewed Linda for good measure) over at SFSignal.com so you should definitely head over there to see why you should read this book. (Hint: it’s because it’s fantastic!)

The Red REVIEW!

Linda Nagata Interview!

 

“Every epic fantasy is judged to a large extent by the quality of its world-building. The type of reader who likes to lounge in the Epic Fantasy pool is looking for immersion. They want to feel as though this other world is real, tangible. This is part of the experience, and one that Ken Liu delivers in spades. He has created a robust world filled with a unique pantheon of capricious, unknowable gods; technologies similar to, and yet entirely unlike, anything we are currently familiar with; and complex political histories and interactions between neighboring cultures. The level of detail to which Liu flushes out all these categories is truly astonishing. By the end of the book, I was left with this sad, forlorn feeling upon realizing that this world wasn’t actually real. Which is pretty much the highest praise I can give to an Epic Fantasy.”

I gushed all over this book. Click here to read the full review!

I have a confession to make: I am a story structure nerd. So when my buddy Ernie Luis put me onto this book, I dove in feet first and holy balls am I glad I did. This is the most thorough book I’ve ever read on the quantitative analysis of story craft. It doesn’t really matter where you are on the road to publication (nervous noobie, irate intermediate, exasperated expert), you’re going to gleam some useful nuggets of knowledge in here. The book, in and of itself, would be enough, but Shawn Coyne has gone one step further and done a very thorough podcast with Tim Grahl where they break down each chapter of this book (Podcast LINK). Also, he’s thrown up a number of video series on youtube AND is maintaining The Story Grid website which he updates constantly with new and insightful tidbits.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a story nerd like me or just a closet writer, if you want to improve your craft, get this book.

P.S. Get the paperback. It’s a huge book more akin to a textbook. I know the $30 price point might be off-setting, but seriously, you’re going to come back to this book ALOT. You want it on your shelf.

 

And that about does it for me. Keep your eyes to the sky ’cause in the next couple days I’m going to do a similar blog post for The Leighgendarium where I outline the 5 Best Indie Books I read in 2015. In the meantime, scoot on down to the comments section and tell me your top 5 books of 2015!

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