A while back I ran a book blog called Temporaryworlds over on livejournal (which should give you an idea on what I mean by “a while back”). And although it’s been some time since I’ve felt the urge to review every single book that I read, I still come across a lot of great books that I want to talk about and recommend to others. So, I figured why not do that here on a quarterly basis? Below you’ll find my top reads for Winter of 2018- or January, February, and March. Selections include both novels and graphic novels, as I read plenty of both.
Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron (Fantasy/Science Fiction)- The fifth and final book in Rachel Aaron’s wonderful Heartstriker series combines the vastness of epic fantasy, the fast moving plotting of urban fantasy, and the worldbuilding of post apocalyptic sci-fi. Julius, once shamed for being a nice dragon, has gained plenty of allies and BIG responsibilities over the course of multiple books. And he’s going to need all the help he can get if he’s to face his biggest challenge yet: the literal embodiment of the end of the world. This is one of my favorite series, filled with lots of action, great humor and compelling relationship dynamics (both of the romantic, and platonic variety). I was so happy to see it end on a high note.
Lady Killer, vol 2 by Joelle Jones (Horror)– The second volume in this story about a housewife who moonlights as a contract killer doubles down on both the gleeful violence of the first, as well as the nail biting suspense. I don’t know what I find more impressive, the skill in which Josie’s double life is brought to page on a visual level (the colorful fashions of the 60s against all the bloody carnage is an interesting contrast), or how Jones creates sympathy for a protagonist who does such awful things. We’re going to get a volume three, right? You just can’t leave things on that cliffhanger! Artwork also by the writer, Joelle Jones.
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy)- The third volume in the Stormlight Archives delves deep into the character of Dalinar Kholin, and brings our heroes face to face with some hard truths about themselves, and the world around them. If you’re a fan of massive fantasy tomes, no one is dong the genre better right now then the master of magic systems, Brandon Sanderson. Filled with high stakes, sympathetic characters, and worldbuilding that you can really delve into, Oathbringer earns every one of its 1200+ pages. The only bad thing about finishing this book is knowing that I will need to wait years before the fourth volume hits the shelves.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)– The first book in The Interdependencey series has everything you could want from a John Scalzi book: humorous dialogue, eye opening sci-fi concepts, and characters you can really fall in love with. The fact that the audiobook version is narrated by Wil Wheaton makes it even more impossible to put down. As you may have guessed from the title, The Collapsing Empire tells the story of a large inter-planetary empire, and what happens when it’s discovered that the intergalactic channels that connect its many pieces are about to collapse. I am eagerly looking forward to book two, which is set to come out later this year.
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)– Fuzzy Nation is actually a book that I’ve owned for a while now, having purchased the audio version in a sale YEARS ago. Despite being a fan of the author’s work, I put off reading it because it was a retelling of a classic sci-fi novel-Little Fuzzy-which I had yet to read. But after enjoying the shit out of The Collapsing Empire, I decided to it was time to dive in, regardless of how familiar I was with the source material. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. Fuzzy Nation tells the story of a prospector on an alien planet who comes across adorable cat-like creatures that he dubs “Fuzzies.” Only when he introduces his latest find to a local biologist, he discovers that these creatures might be more than just animals, but sapient beings who rightfully own the planet they are currently mining the shit out of. Fuzzy Nation combines adorableness with genuinely interesting ethical dilemmas, and the suspense of a court room drama. It was a fast read (I flew threw it in just a couple of days), but a really worth while one.
Jem and the Holograms, vol 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson (Contemporary)– Showtime is the cartoon Jem rebooted in comic book format, and boy is it great. Think about everything you loved about the cartoon as a kid, only less soap opera-y, and updated for a modern audience. They even make the music performance aspect really work, despite the fact that it’s not an auditory medium. Unfortunately, my library does not have access to any of the other volumes in this series, so I’m going to have to go through other avenues if I want to continue the series. Artwork by Sophie Campbell.
Saga, vol 8: by Brian K Vaughan (Science Fiction)– Here’s a great example of a comic book series that’s still going strong, years after its debut. While previous volumes of Saga have taken things to epic sci-fi heights, volume eight takes a smaller route by examining the very real tragedy that comes with a miscarriage. We see this on a practical level, as Alanna and Marko struggle to find a place that will perform a late-term abortion on the dead fetus, as well as a more emotional one, as Hazel must come to terms with the loss of the brother she never had a chance to meet. Really strong stuff this time around. Artwork, as always by Fiona Staples.
Ms. Marvel, vol 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson (Superheroes)– Ms. Marvel remains one of Marvel comics most consistent offerings, and the latest volume Mecca really shows you why. Author G. Willow Wilson uses the storyline of people targeting super powered individuals in Jersey City as a metaphor for examining prejudice and radicalization. There are some pretty big twists this time around, and things end on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see how things are resolved in volume 9, which is supposed to come out on my birthday (!!!) July 31st.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Historical Fiction/Romance)– This has to be the strongest stand alone graphic novel I’ve read in years. The Prince and the Dressmaker is a love story, set in France, between a poor dressmaker with big dreams, and a prince who sometimes likes to wear dresses. This book is filled with lovable characters that you can route for, and wonderful artwork (especially when it comes to the dresses!). If you have any interest in graphic novels and historical romances, I’d recommend picking this up ASAP. Artwork done by the writer, Jen Wang.
Geek Actually: Season 1 by Cathy Yardley, Melissa Blue, Cecilia Tan, and Rachel Stuhler (Contemporary/Chick Lit)– Now here’s something a little different. Geek Actually is a Serial Box Production, meaning that it’s basically a television series in fiction form. Each serial is written in “seasons”, and the story is broken down into episodes that roughly take the same amount of time to read as it does to watch an episode of television. Geek Actually is my second serial that I’ve experienced through Serial Box, and I’m really impressed with the results. It focuses on the story of five different nerd women from different walks of life, each struggling with the challenges related to their professions, love lives, sexualities and more. I think the thing I like the most about Geek Actually is the variety of perspectives presented, covering everything from the gaming industry, to publishing, to cosplay. The characters themselves are both complex and diverse, each one having a significant arc. The story starts off lighthearted and fun, but it’s not afraid to examine with some of the darker struggles that women have to deal with- including stalking and sexual assault. It’s clear from the finale that there is more story to tell, and I look forward to seeing where our five leading ladies will go in season two.
Honorable Mentions: Desperate Hours by David Mack, Black Bolt: Vol 1: Hard Times by Saladin Ahmed, Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn, The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu.
So that’s it! What books have you fallen in love with lately?