Top Ten Books I’ve read in the first half of 2015

I have been, at best, a sporadic participate in Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish… But I am particularly excited for this week’s, topic, which is an opportunity to think about the reading since starting this blog and pick my favourite ten reads.

Some comments: the top three were very easy for this – they are not only three of the best books I’ve read so far this year, but three of the best books I’ve read, period. If I gave star ratings, they would be 5/5 perfect scores.

After the top three, things get a little dicey, and I’m not as confident about the specific order, which might be a little different if I were to make the list tomorrow. Or even an hour from now! I am confident, though, that the books below are a fantastic testament to all the amazingness I’ve been reading since I started blogging this year.

I’ve also refrained from selecting multiple books from the same series, in the interest of variety. So without further ado, the top ten books I’ve read so far in 2015 – titles link to my reviews for further elaboration on why I enjoyed them!


 

creature of moonlight cover10.  A Creature of Moonlight, Rebecca Hahn 

An example of a wonderful Young Adult fantasy novel with feminist themes… If you are emotionally invested in young women’s agency and empowerment or grandparent/grandchild love, then this will be an especially moving read for you, as it was for me.

golem and jinni9.  The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

The story of two unusual (and fantastical) immigrants and their journeys of self-discovery, set in New York City at the turn of the century.

palace of illusions8.  The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

A retelling of the Sanskrit epic the Mabharata from the point of view of Princess Panchaali, the woman who married five husbands and whose desire for revenge started a war.

orleans cover7.  Orleans, Sherri L. Smith

This is my go-to recommendation for Young Adult fiction since I read it: an original, well written, romance-free novel with a fascinating urban post-apocalyptic setting and a great protagonist.

shining girls cover6.  The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes

The story of a time-traveling serial killer who selects his victims (the “shining girls”) from across time, and of the survivor who is trying to hunt him down.  A violent, unique, genre-bending crime thriller that kept me glued to the page.

his majesty's dragon5.  His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik

This book was just so much fun. If you are looking for fantastical entertainment and the idea of an alternate history where the Napoleonic Wars were fought with (super lovable) dragons sounds appealing, then may I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

bone dolls twin4.  The Bone Doll’s Twin, Lynn Flewelling

A prophecy says that the country of Skala can only be ruled by daughters, and so a jealous king murders the women and girls in his line to ensure his son’s place on the throne – except for one niece, who grows up in disguise and believing she is a boy in this first book of the creepy and addictive Tamir Triad.

station eleven3.  Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

This haunting, post-apocalyptic book is about what humanity has lost and how they continue to derive meaning from their lives after the end of civilization as we know it. Not your typical piece of sci-fi, this  elegant and tragic piece of art has stayed with me long after finishing it.

left hand of darkness2.  The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterpiece is full of astonishingly beautiful writing from its first sentence (“I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination,”) to its last. Everything about The Left Hand of Darkness lived up to what I have heard about it, and I found the experience of reading it profoundly moving.

ancillary justice cover1.  Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

Sometimes you read a book and all you can think is, where has this book been all my life.  Unique ideas, challenging concepts, and themes that I care deeply about, all handled in an intelligent and meaningful way. A multibodied protagonist, a genderless society, artificial intelligence, social and class commentary… spaceships, explosions, personal vendettas, firefights. Ancillary Justice is everything that I ever wanted out of science fiction in one badass package.

 

Book Review: Ancillary Sword (Ann Leckie)

Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Science Fiction – #2 of 3, Imperial Radch

“When they behave properly, you will say there is no problem. When they complain loudly, you will say they cause their own problems with their impropriety. And when they are driven to extremes, you say you will not reward such actions. What will it take for you to listen?” 

After the events of Ancillary Justice, Breq has a ship and crew at her disposal, and is en route to the system of Athoek, one of many places “civilized” by the expansionist Radch Empire. Her goal is to bring stability to the system, a goal that is complicated by a repressive and stratified class system, the Radch Empire being on the brink of civil war, and the unnerving presence of a translator from the alien race the Presger – the only people to have created a weapon capable of destroying Radch ships.

I recently started my first reread of Ancillary Justice (let’s shorten it to Justice, from hereon out), the first book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy about imperialism and fragmented identity and loss. So far I still haven’t found a single thing about it I don’t absolutely adore. That is a lot to live up to, and unlike Justice  I did have some critical thoughts about sequel Ancillary Sword (Sword, from hereon out).  But that said, I loved every second of my reading experience with Sword, can’t wait to reread it, and overall feel like it more than met my incredibly high expectations.

Continue reading Book Review: Ancillary Sword (Ann Leckie)

Tough Traveling: Fathers

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is: FATHERS

Comes in two types in fantasyland.  Either a semi-mystical figure proving impossible to live up to or the overbearing type who doesn’t understand why his daughter doesn’t accept the traditional princess role.  He may be tough to get along with but usually does think he has his kids interests in mind.

I did something a little different this week, and focused on television… I love books, but it is fun to expand sometimes. So without further ado, a few of my favourite TV Dads! Continue reading Tough Traveling: Fathers

What I’m Doing Wednesday (June 24, 2015)

Reading

I had the tragic experience of having my ebook of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell from the library recalled with 100 pages left (nooOOOoooo should have read faster!)  I got back to the front of the queue so now I am finally finishing it. SO GOOD.

Also reading Temeraire no. 2, after so enjoying the first one!

Watching

Finally got to seeing Fury Road and nothing could have prepared for how awesome it is. IT’S EVERYTHING I EVER DREAMED OF AND MORE.  I kind of want to go back and watch it every day until it’s not in theatre anymore.

Playing

The first two episodes of Life is Strange, the video game about a teenage girl who can go back in time and how awkward and awful everything is in high school.  I have so many feelings about this game.

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik)

Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Historical Fantasy / Temeraire, #1 of 9

Basically the only thing you need to know about this book is that it is a reimagining of the Napoleonic Wars… with dragons. What more could you want??

Will Laurence is a British Navy officer with a fiancé, his own ship, a good first officer, and a comfortable set up for life in general. His career is unexpectedly derailed when his ship captures a dragon egg from the French. When Temeraire – the dragon – hatches, he latches onto to Laurence (as dragons do, apparently) and Laurence gives up his life on the ocean for one of dragonback aerial combat.

Continue reading Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik)

Tough Traveling: People on Boats

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is:  PEOPLE ON BOATS

Grab a map of Fantasyland and you are sure to see there is water.  Of course not everything important is going to happen on land, right?  Sometimes people actually have to get on a boat and hit the water.  Where, being fantasyland, anything can happen.

Some of the best people are on boats.

isabela

Like Isabela, pirate queen of my heart.

Continue reading Tough Traveling: People on Boats

What I’m Doing Wednesday (June 17)

Reading

This week’s reading is Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett and Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach.

Watching

I got completely caught up on Game of Thrones this week in time to see the finale live.  My overall thoughts are that this was a weaker season – everything interesting seems to have been saved for the last three episodes of the season, which made the rest of it pretty slow. I am also deeply disappointed with how the Dorne plotline – possibly my favourite in the entire series in the books – was handled. That said, this season was saved for me by the fact I loved Arya and the House of Black and White, Tyrion the always amazing, and – most of all – the battle of Hardhome in episode 7, which was SO AWESOME.  I was basically ecstatically happy the whole time.  I guess I love watching ice zombies ruthlessly slaughter people?

Playing

achievement unlockedWhooooo.

 

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker)

Review: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
Historical Fantasy – Standalone

“A man might desire something for a moment, while a larger part of him rejects it. You’ll need to learn to judge people by their actions, not their thoughts.”

A lonely man commissions a disgraced rabbi to create him a perfect wife, a clay Golem who will be always obedient. When her husband and master dies en route from Poland to America at the end of the 19th century, she is left alone and directionless in a new and unfamiliar world.

Imprisoned in a flask, a Jinni is freed to discover he is far from his home in the Syrian Desert, and bound to a physical form in the mortal world. As he adjusts to his new life, and his new home in New York City, he meets the Golem. This is the story of their friendship as they both try to figure out what they want out of their lives, and how they fit into their new communities.

Continue reading Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker)

Book Review: The Crystal Singer (Anne McCaffrey)

 Review: The Crystal Singer, by Anne McCaffrey
Science Fiction / Crystal Singer, #1 of 3

I have by and large had a very good streak with books lately. This book, unfortunately, broke that streak for me. I have some FEELINGS, and this turned out a bit more rant than review, so be forewarned.

Killashandra Ree is all set for the life of an intergalactic opera singer, when she is told she has an unfixable “flaw” in her voice that will prevent her from singing lead roles. Rather than settle for second-rate parts, she decides to study the dangerous and lucrative art of crystal singing on the planet of Ballybran, which she discovers she has a rare aptitude for.

Continue reading Book Review: The Crystal Singer (Anne McCaffrey)

Tough Traveling: Orphans

Today is Thursday, so it’s Tough Traveling at Fantasy Review Barn, exploring favourite fantastical tropes. This week is: ORPHANS

No one in Fantasyland amounts to anything if they still have both parents.  Rule number one.  Thanks to Stephanie for the suggestion (and let us all be surprised together that it isn’t in the Tough Guide).

We all know that nearly everybody is an orphan in fantasy.  So I’ve limited my list to books I’ve read in the last 6 months and that I haven’t yet used on Tough Traveling (otherwise, there would be even more orphans).

Continue reading Tough Traveling: Orphans