the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Best of the Year

Behold! my favorite things of the year!  I didn’t formally review most of these items,  my brain just hasn’t been wanting to write reviews for a while.   But I read (or watched) them!  And loved them!  and maybe you’ll enjoy some of them too.

 

The Quantum Magician (2018) and The Quantum Garden (2019), by Derek Künsken.  Space opera, con artists, human asshole-ness and hubris write large, genetically modified sub-species, and really old anger, what’s not to love?  The Quantum Magician got such an emotional reaction out of me (the kind of reaction that makes me want to hug the author because they are brilliant!) that beyond the review I had some shit I needed to unpack. After that first volume, I wasn’t sure the author could top it, so I went into the sequel, The Quantum Garden with worries it would just be more of the same.  Spoiler: the second book is even better than the first! it is super different than the first,  it’ll blow up your brain in the best way possible. I don’t know how many books are planned for this series, but these first two remind me a little of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastard books. the first book focuses on the con and the crew and their mission, and has you cheering on every page. The second book has a tighter focus, and that “I thought winning would taste better” moment, and it hits you smack in the feels the whole way. And then holy shit that twist!!!!     Anyway, if you like books that are smart AF, this is your series.

 

 

And Shall Machines Surrender (2019) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Apparently I like quiet stories.  I don’t know if this novella is meant to be a quiet story, but it was lovely and quiet for me.  AIs don’t have to raise their voices to show you how powerful they are, you know? An ex-lover doesn’t have to raise her voice to tell you she’s sorry, or that maybe she isn’t, right?  I like the idea of a city that is run by and designed for AIs, and they let humans live there because, I dunno, they think we are entertaining? Oh yeah, and they like to become hybrids with us, sometimes.  It’s the highest honor to become a haruspex – a person who is a physical host for an AI mind.  So why are haruspices committing suicide?  Orfea came to the AI city to start her life fresh. All she wants to do is get a job, pay her rent, and live a quiet life. And how is she supposed to do that, when the two people who know all her secrets waltz back into her life?  If you like quiet romance / mysteries that are beautifully written, this is the novella for you.  Yes! this is a romance! and a very hot one at that.

All Clear (2010) by Connie Willis – If you remember the entire scifi community screaming their heads off in spring of 2010, it’s because Connie Willis published Black Out in February of that year.   It ended on a cliff hanger.  There was no way of knowing if anyone was going to survive the next few chapters, and people were apparently, super pissed.  In October of 2010, the 2nd part of the duology, All Clear, was published.  I like to imagine that the world was quiet for a week or two, as scifi fans devoured All Clear, and laughed at their friends who were fans of the show “Lost” (oh, you think that’s a cliffhanger?).  After that week, after everyone read it,  everyone wept.   All Clear had me so pissed off. not because i had to wait to read it, but because of that never-ending chase around the church / drive to the hospital / what other stupid things can get in our way because this is starting to feel like a farce scene.  it couldn’t have been more than 50 pages but it felt like forever.  And then at the very end, at the museum.  I cried buckets, it was like I was gripping this stuff so inside me, and then it all came rushing out and I couldn’t control it.  I was also really mad at myself for getting all worked up over that scene that had annoyed me so much, I felt like by complaining about it, I was shitting on someone’s memory.  Anyway, if you love perfectly researched history, beautiful writing, characters you will care about so much that you get pissed off when things get in their way, if you crave stories that show you how wonderful humanity can be, Blackout / All Clear is for you.  Did you read Willis’s The Doomsday Book? Did you cry at the end? You’ll cry more at the end of All Clear.   Oh, you read all of those books and didn’t shed a tear? um, ok.

 

The Poppy War (2018) by R. F. Kuang –  Little orphan girl qualifies to attend an elite school where a)she won’t have to see her awful adoptive parents ever again if she doesn’t want to and b) she gets to learn magic and how to fight her country’s enemies.  What is this, Harry Potter? or maybe Name of the Wind? hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!  oh, that was a good joke!   Poppy War was my Baru Cormorant, my Machineries of Empire of this year.  That it to say, this is the book that broke me.   I appreciated the super fast pace of the book,  that every scene, every sentence moves the story forward in a meaningful way. Doesn’t hurt that I loved the characters and loved the world. This book is brutal, in every sense of the word.  The beginning got plenty of chuckles out of me, the end made me want to puke and crawl into a cave and never come out.  If you’re a Rin who wants to grow up to be a Jiang, this is the book for you.  if that made no sense at all, go read my review.  If you’re interested in knowing what my reviewing style is, that review will show you.  There is a sequel!  One day I’ll  be ready to read it.

Ivory Apples (2019) by Lisa Goldstein – This was one of my feel-good books of the year.  well, it isn’t a “feel good” book, but I felt really good while I was reading it.   Eldest sister Ivy is barely a teenager when her father dies,  and she and her sisters are given into the care of her father’s friend Kate. Ivy and her sisters know their family harbors a secret, they were just so young when they learned about it that they don’t really understand what the secret is. Kate will do anything to learn the family’s secret.  I’m purposely being super vague, can you tell?  If you like mythology, and stories about sisters, and magic that can be beautiful ,and gorgeous storytelling, if you want a story that leaves you feeling better about the world instead of worse, Ivory Apples is for you. I had fun with hot takes in my review, too.  I must have been feeling very snarky that day!

 

Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist (2005, translated to English in 2016) by Lola Robles – I love language.  I love how we shape how we communicate, and how our languages shape us.   This short novella is basically a plot that has been written around a thought experiment.  Rachel Monteverde, a terran linguist, is sent to visit a colony planet that was separated from the rest of human civilization for generations.  There are two human cultures on the planet,  one of whom revels in the bright colors of foliage and nature patterns and have the verbal mannerisms to match, and another culture where everyone is blind due to a genetic defect.  The groups just do not understand each other at all!  Rachel doesn’t care about their trade squabbles, what she does care about is getting recordings of their languages, and thinking about how and why the two groups have such different languages and experience the world in such different ways.    If you are a language and communication nerd like me, this is the book for you. I even reviewed it for you!

 

 

Vigilance (2019) by Robert Jackson Bennett – Gah, this is a hard book for me to talk about, even though I reviewed it.  It’s everything I hate about violence stories,  turned on it’s head (which is a good thing), and talking about this book gets me too close to the knife’s edge of getting pulled into political conversations. (but it’s just a book! Andrea, why are you getting so worked up about this?? Can’t you just enjoy things for once?)  Vigilance is what happens when businesses realize they can monetize fear and mob mentalities.  Where Capitalism and “you too could be the star of a reality show!” meet, you have Vigilance.  This novella is vicious, you should read it.  I really hope that reality tv producers and tv network head honchos never get their hands on this book.  Because then they’d make a movie out it.  And then someone else would be like “this is a damn brilliant idea! Let’s make this a real TV show!”, and that would, um, not be good.

Death’s End gets an honorable mention for the last hundred pages or so. It was SUCH a slog to get there, but the end really was so, so, SO, amazing.

 

Another last minute honorable mention is Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection  Conservation of Shadows.  I’m only about half way through the collection, but damn, every page is perfection and I’ve already come across stories I can’t wait to read again.  Also, the word escritoire needs to come back into fashion.

 

And here is my Favorite non-book stuff of this year. Also, I watched  a lot of Netflix this year.

 

The Politician (tv show) – ah, this show is so ridiculous and so over the top!  it makes fun of soap opera tropes, it makes fun of how in tv shows high school students never seem to have homework or classes, it makes fun of rich California kids, and the best part?  Ben Platt singing.   Also? the art direction (i don’t know if that is the right word) was pure perfection.   If you’ve got Netflix, watch this show.  After the first episode you’ll be like “what the hell did I just watch?”.  keep watching.

 

The Good Place – Season 3 hit Netflix this summer, and you bet I binged it.  Janet and Jason forever! thanks to this show, I’m now more than a little obsessed with The Trolley Problem.  This is my fave show because when I saw the first season, I badgered my parents to get the discs on Netflix, and they did.  and then because they have cable, they got to see the 3rd season on tv before I did, and we badgered each other about it and teased each other about episodes we hadn’t seen yet.  My parents have drastically different tastes in what kind of TV shows they like to watch,  so I loved that this show let me bond with both of them.

 

Dark – if you want a time travel thriller that might also give you nightmares, or if you want to scare your kids into never going into dark caves by themselves, this is the TV show for you. An import from Germany, the dubbing is just so-so, but I was able to get used to it pretty quickly.  Now that I’ve seen both seasons and am reminiscing on the first few episodes of season 1,  the only spoiler I’ll give you is the people who are quietest, those are the people you should be listening to.   The characters who seem to be in love with the sound of their own voice?  don’t listen to them.

 

Into The Spider-Verse – So far I’ve only gotten to see this movie once, it’s gonna be one of those movies that I just keep adding back to my Netflix DVD queue. I should remind everyone that I’m not into Superhero stories or Marvel or DC stuff,  that stuff just isn’t my thing.  That said, I loved every single thing about Into The Spider-Verse.  Every scene,  every line,  every detail, even the references that I didn’t get, even the famous people whose voices I didn’t recognize, I loved every second that I got to spend watching this movie.   Also?  OMG the visuals and the music and how perfectly it worked together.   That scene at the end?  It was a supernova ballet, and I loved it and I can’t wait to watch this movie again!  I don’t even care about Spiderman, and I loved this movie!!

There you have it!  That’s my favorite stuff that I consumed this year.

Can’t wait to see what 2020  brings!

 

 

As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

It’s been a weird year.

 

It’s been a year of comfort reads, more so than in years past. I reread some favorites, and they were still amazing.

 

It’s been a year of ignoring hype, a year of  #selfcare, a year of finding stability.  I probably DNF’d more books this year than I actually finished.  DNF’ing is a form of selfcare that I highly recommend.

 

I lost a job that I hated, and three months later  I landed in a dream job that I love.

 

I read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun and discovered the Alzabo Soup podcast. It has made my commute to work much more enjoyable!

 

It was a year of ignoring other people’s expectations, and selfishly focusing on my own wants. I learned what the word “sanctuary” really means.

 

I am happily addicted to the computer game Stardew Valley. It is therapeutic.

 

It’s been a good year.

 

In no particular order, here are my favorite books I read this year, with a link to the reviews I wrote.

 

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

 

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

 

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

 

Cold Iron by Stina Leicht

 

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

 

The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Brust and Skyler White

 

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

 

 

The best thing about being a book blogger is all the amazing books I get to read! I didn’t read as many books in 2016 as I wanted to, but I sure picked some good ones to read. If I’ve given you good recommendations in the past, but you think you might have missed some, this list is a great reference of stuff I think you might like. If you’re new to my blog and are wondering what kind of books do it for me, this list is a great place to start.

 

In no particular order, here are my favorite books that I reviewed this year:

 

The Narrator by Michael Cisco

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey

Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez

The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

Clockwork Phoenix Volume 5 edited by Mike Allen

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Way Station by Clifford Simak

Is it just me, or did 2015 fly by in like two weeks? How did that even happen? It certainly was a crazy year – I started a new job, we moved into a bigger apartment, i learned a whole new definition of the work “workaholic”, I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted.

Anyway, here is my annual “Best of the year” list, presented in no particular order, with links if you’d like to read my reviews.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, easily my favorite novel of 2015.

The Bone Swans of Amandale – by C.S.E Cooney, in her short story collection Bone Swans

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

Binti, by Nnedo Okorafor

Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany

The Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker

 

Honorable mentions for the year go to:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. I read it in 2015, but can’t actually talk about how freaking amazing it was until 2016. So I guess it’ll have to make my best of 2016 list.

and this stuff, which is omg, what I always wished ginger ale would taste like. Also? it’s alcoholic.

ginger ale

2015 was a crazy year, and I don’t mind that it’s over.  I’ll see everyone on January 1st for Vintage Science Fiction month!

I trolled the interwebs for a few hours to bring some other folks’ Best (science fiction & fantasy) Books of the Year lists.  Do your part to explode everyone else’s wish lists, and toss a link to your Best Of list in the comments!

libriomancer bigPaul Weimer‘s best of year list includes The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie and War Stories edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak.

Fantasy Findings best of the year included Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck, Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Beauty In Ruins didn’t give out many 5 star reviews this year, here are a few of the titles that made his 5 star list: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley, Deadlock by Tim Curran, and The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley.

The Book Plank‘s short list of best scifi of 2014 includes Binary by Stephanie Saulter and The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi among others

Books, Bones and Buffy‘s list of top ten adult books had a lot in common with my top 10 list, and included Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, and Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone. Her Top Ten YA books list included The Falconer by Elizabeth May, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, and Shadowplay by Laura Lam.

Best Fantasy Books has an extensive list of this years fantasy favorites, including Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, and Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb.

Eric Smith‘s favorites of the year included Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Blightborn by Chuck Wendig, and and Burn Out by Kristi Helvig.

city_of_stairs-cover1Nerds of a Feather guest posted their favorites, and waxed rhapsodic about City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, and A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.

Eamo the Geek‘s best of year list includes Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells, and Sand by Hugh Howey.

Geek Critiqued‘s best of the year list includes The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Lock In by John Scalzi, and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

and I suppose this Best Science Fiction and Fantasy list over at Kirkus is the definitive one? Includes Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear, Afterparty by Daryl Gregory, and Defenders by Will McIntosh.

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time. If you’ve been paying attention, nothing on this list will be a surprise to you.  If you happened to stumble by because you like “year end” lists,  these are my top ten speculative fiction books I read this year.  Looking for a good read? go find one of these.

Some of them are old.

Some of them are new.

Some of them were borrowed.

None of them are blue.

😉

I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  In no particular order:

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker (1999) – the second in The Company series, this novel is told from Joseph’s point of view (and yes, Mendoza is still really, really pissed off at him). Joseph gets to do one of his favorite things – pretend to be a God. But this time, he’s got to get even the skeptics to believe his act.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (2013) – No surprise this one made it to my best of the year list, as this is one of my favorite fantasy series.  It’s true, I ranted a little about a character who really annoyed me, but holy shit, that ending??  holy shit!  Also, I do just happen to have a Cinnamon colored dress/jacket combo and a four cornered grey hat in the making.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White (2013 )- Secret societies, multiple personalities, sublime prose, metaphysics, unexpected romance, characters that rip each other to shreds.  What more could you possibly want? I got meddled with, my switches got hit, and I never wanted it to end.  Just go read it already. Everything about this book was spot-on perfection for me.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990) – only the best Culture novel of the best space opera series in existence.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, but the subtlety, and the reveal at the end, and oh god I knew something was so horribly wrong as soon as he said he was going to cut his hair. . .

Read the rest of this entry »

The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Available Sept 24th, 2013

where I got it: NetGalley

you can read an excerpt over at Tor.com.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In a garden as old as humanity, disguised memories become the seeds of change. The residents of this garden archive the smell of your grandmother’s soup in the curve of a vase, or the feel of your first kiss in the color of piece of yarn.  Memory is a funny thing, you don’t even remember what happened until the smell of a particular white wine brings it all back like a flaming spike to the head.

A genre-bending cerebral thriller masquerading as a mainstream novel, The Incrementalists enchanted me in the first chapter, and in return I devoured the rest of it. I read this book in one day. Like Bastian in The Never Ending Story, I ignored the world, skipped the pop-quiz, hid in a corner and climbed right into the lives of Phil and Ren, and Celeste and Irina and Oskar and Jimmy, staying very quiet so they wouldn’t notice me listening in on their conversations. And I am still listening, because they told me where to look.

Who are the Incrementalists? A secret society of nearly immortal people who make the world a better place,one tiny change at a time.  No pay, no thanks, no credit in the history books, their work is as invisible as a fading dream. They are the ones in the garden. And when their human bodies die, someone new must be found to carry on the work, and carry around the personality of the recently departed Incrementalist.

It’s been a few months since Celeste’s old body died, and her ex-lover Phil thinks he’s identified a good Second for Celeste’s stub.  He approaches Ren with the offer, and unlike most  Seconds who take at least a week to make up their minds, Ren agrees almost instantly that this is what she wants. She doesn’t give Phil a chance to tell her it’s a painful experience. She never gives him the chance to warn her that once she’s accepted Celeste into her mind, there’s a good chance Celeste’s personality could completely subsume Ren, effectively killing her.  Ren says Yes, Phil says OK, and from that moment on the chemistry between them is palpable.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s that wonderful time of the year again! When we bake cookies and get cards in the mail and forget that we need extra time to warm up our cars in these cold, cold mornings.

It’s also time to talk about the best books we’ve read this year. I confess, I cheated a little on my list, I didn’t limit myself to books that came out in 2012, I’ve even got a reread on the list. Mostly space opera, a little fantasy and time travel, even a YA book made the list! In no particular order, here are my top  books that I read this year, with review excerpts and links to the  review should you feel so inclined to learn more about the titles that rocked my world this past year.

Redhead’s Best of 2012

224_large Faith

Faith, by John Love (2012)  – I read this all the way back in February, I knew right then it would make my best of the year list.  An amazing debut from author John Love, Faith is a dark and tense stand alone science fiction novel. The pages drip with a danger and fear that doesn’t quickly dissipate after you’ve put the book down.  This isn’t a book for everyone (that’s a polite way of saying it has lots of violence, amorality and swear words), but for those of us that like this sort of thing, Faith is quite the hidden gem.

(full review here, and I got to interview the author here)

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente (2012) – has anyone been putting out short stories, novellas and full length novels as fast as Valente? she’s the hardest working writer I know, and this year she got to walk away with Hugo for Best FanCast to show for it.  it’s no secret that Valente is one of my favorite authors, and the Hugo nominated Silently and Very Fast is certainly her most science fictional piece.  With her signature flair for poetic metaphor and lyrical storytelling, this novella follows the life of Elefsis, a house AI who was told fairytales by the human children in the house. To Elefsis, life is a fairytale, and it should have a happy ending.

(full review here)

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (2012) – I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, but when I do it’s a treat for it to be a beautifully written as this series (the 2nd book And Blue Skies from Pain came out later in 2012).  Northern Ireland, the 1970s, Liam Kelly would prefer to live a normal life. He’s not interested in getting arrested or learning secrets about his heritage. But all of those things are very interested in him, and in destroying everything in his life that he cares about.  Leicht spoiled me for urban fantasy.  I am eagerly awaiting future novels in this series.

(full review here)

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,535 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.