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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)

Book Club Discussion Questions for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

This month, it’s my turn to choose a book for my only in-real-life (as opposed to the online) book club. Probably to absolutely no one’s surprise, I chose Ancillary Justice, which you may have noticed I am rather fond of.

With most books I can nab a set of questions already online somewhere, but nothing came up during a cursory search this time… So I came up with some of my own. I know many of you have read Ancillary Justice as well, so I thought I would put them up here first to solicit some feedback – are there any changes you would make to what I’ve come up with? Did I ask something silly? Are there questions you would add, or quotes you think are particularly discussion-worthy? I would love any input!

Spoilers ahoy if you haven’t finished AJ yet. Go read it now!

Continue reading Book Club Discussion Questions for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

Book Review: Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie)

Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Science Fiction – #1 of 3, Imperial Radch Trilogy

“If you’re going to do something that crazy, save it for when it’ll make a difference, Lieutenant Skaaiat had said, and I had agreed. I still agree.  The problem is knowing when what you are about to do will make a difference… The single word that directs a person’s fate and ultimately the fates of those she comes in contact with is of course a common subject of entertainments and moralizing stories, but if everyone were to consider all the possible consequences of all one’s possible choices, no one would move a millimeter, or even dare to breathe for fear of the ultimate results.”

I already expressed some pre-review excitement on this blog. That entry can basically be summed up with the following:

  • Ancillary Justice is a book about a SENTIENT SPACESHIP that enjoys SINGING
  • And it’s amazing

Ancillary Justice takes place during two different periods of our starship protagonist Breq’s existence. Created as a tool for the expansionist Radch Empire, one timeline focuses on her experiences as a segment of twenty bodies (ancillaries) enforcing for the Empire on an annexed planet. In the second timeline, she has only a single body, and she is outside of Radch territory and on a mission of her own. What happened to Breq and what she is doing now are gradually revealed in an exciting and fantastic space opera, and possibly my new favourite book ever.

Continue reading Book Review: Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie)

Singing spaceships: a pre-review of Ancillary Justice

I didn’t even read the blurb on the back of the book (well, it was an e-book) before I started reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The only thing I knew about it was that it won All The Awards in 2014, so I thought I should give it a shot.

Because I didn’t know anything I then had this fantastic experience of figuring out what exactly I was reading about that went something like this:

  1. Protagonist is not human, cool
  2. Protagonist seems to be able to occupy multiple bodies at the same time oh wow EVEN COOLER
  3. wait
  4. is she
  5. yes yes she is A SENTIENT SPACESHIP!!! !!!!!!!!

Continue reading Singing spaceships: a pre-review of Ancillary Justice