My Favorite Fiction Books from 2017

I read other books than the ones listed below, but they were non-fiction or fiction I didn’t want to include as a favorite.

Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)

21

  • A Dragon of a Different Color
    by Rachel Aaron
    This is the fourth installment of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, the story of which proceeded nicely until this one. The middle of this book is a world-building info dump disguised as dialogue. Still worth it if you’re invested in the series. Lots of great things happen, but I hope the next one moves faster.

    22

  • We Are Legion
    by Dennis E.  Taylor
    I bought this from Audible.com because it’s not available through my local library system. I was pleasantly surprised. Taylor’s protagonist is a snarky nerd who finds himself part of desperate space exploration program. Funny and sarcastic.

    18

  • The Very First Damned Thing
    by Jodi Taylor
    I admit I downloaded this for free from Audible.com. It’s an introduction to Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s universe, which looks good. Interesting, but didn’t blow me over. I’ll probably give the series a try.

    09

  • Name of the Wind
    by Patrick Rothfuss
    I have been wanting to read this for quite a while. Rothfuss unleashes a beautiful writing style with this first book and the story kept me going. The story is complete, but there are some unanswered questions for the rest of this series to address.

    16

  • Crosstalk
    by Connie Willis
    The protagonist got on my nerves, but I so badly wanted to find out what was going on, I plowed through it. Not on the same level as Willis’s The Doomsday Book, but a fun read.

    17     24

  • Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods
    by Sylvain Neuvel
    This series has been a nominee for Goodread’s Best Books two years in a row, and I can see why. The story is told by a group of people involved in a project of finding robotic parts buried around the world and building mechanical giants. Neuvel includes a lot of twists and surprises.

    07

  • The Book of Lost Things
    by John Connolly
    Looks like a kid’s book, but with all the violence, sex and depressing imagery, it’s definitely for grown-ups. Connolly adds some adult themes to some beloved fairy tale icons and draws up this creepy tale.

    15

  • All the Birds in the Sky
    by Charlie Jane Anders
    This turned out to be one of my surprise favorites of the year. Patricia and Lawrence keep crossing paths. At the end of the world, they become involved in a war, end up on opposite sides.

    19

  • Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
    Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.

    17675462

  • Raven Boys
    by Maggie Stiefvater
    A group of teens in backwater Virginia, get mixed up in dark matters in their search for a lost king.

Mainstream Fiction

14

  • Landline
    by Rainbow Rowell
    This popped up a couple of times as a book I should read, so I did. A woman tries to repair her marriage by magically talking with a younger version of her husband from the early days of their relationship. Didn’t really reveal how using an old landline phone could do that.

    12

  • A Visit from the Good Squad
    by Jennifer Egan
    While this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, I’m not sure it is any more thematic than any other similar piece of fiction. I did enjoy the complex characters Egan developed through a series of interrelated short stories.

    11

  • Invisible Monsters
    by Chuck Palahniuk
    Every page of this novel is insane. It creeped me out, but it was Palahniuk at his most bizarre and entertaining.

    05

  • No Country for Old Men
    by Cormac McCarthy
    Man stumbles across a lot of drug money. Lots of anti-heroes in this book. Good read and a good movie, too.

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  • Call Me by Your Name
    by Andre Aciman
    A coming-of-age story about an Italian teen in the seventies who falls for an older guy staying with his parents for the summer.

Classics

01

  • Fahrenheit 451
    by Ray Bradbury
    What would happen if books were illegal and burned when found? I need to read this one again and soon.

    02

  • Slaughterhouse-Five
    by Kurt Vonnegut
    Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.

    03

  • A Separate Peace
    by John Knowles
    Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.

    06

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Finally, after three tries, I got through it. A slow-paced novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Hemingway’s case. It built up the tension.

    04

  • A Farewell to Arms
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.

    08

  • Winesburg, Ohio
    by Sherwood Anderson
    A little depressing, with characters who are depressed. Still glad to add it to my classics repertoire.

Young Adult Fiction

20

  • Thirteen Reasons Why
    by Jay Asher
    Lots of controversy about this book and the Netflix series based upon it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think a girl would really kill herself over the reasons presented in this story. But news events in the last month have changed my mind. It does happen.

    10

  • The Outsiders
    by S.E. HintonI decided to re-read this on its fiftieth anniversary. This is the novel that created the whole Young Adult genre–although I doubt Hinton saw herself as the one who would pave the way for all the vampire novels in the Young Adult section. It’s always fun to re-read a book to see how I’ve grown since the last time.

 

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22 Summer 2016 Books You Won’t Want To Miss

reading-in-a-park-1312435From the Huffington Post:

Soak up these family dramas, advice column collections and near-future hijinks.

This summer, in addition to the obvious 2016 warm-weather pastime of drinking watermelon water while listening to “Lemonade,” we’re looking forward to reading new books! Because, although we are big proponents of couch lounging, reading in the grass while using a book to shield your eyes from the sun has its particular joys.

Thankfully, there’re a lot to choose from. It may not be the summer of “the next next ‘Gone Girl,’” but there’s a meticulously wrought new thriller out in June, one that examines a violently broken relationship between sisters. There’s also a wry adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” a screwball story set in 2052, and a new slate of advice columns from Heather Havrilesky, aka Ask Polly. Choose wisely, dear readers; in our opinion, you can’t go wrong with one of the following.

Four quick reads on writing

When I was on vacation earlier this month, I read some e-books on writing. Even though these gems were inexpensive and quick, they provided me with some valuable lessons to apply to my writing craft.

Here they are:

  • 2940045351874_p0_v2_s192x300Self-publishing a Book
    By Hank Quense
    Quense has a great series on self-publishing and this is the second one I’ve read. He’s great about explaining why he does it the way he does, but let’s the reader know everyone needs to self-publish the way that is best for himself. Good advice on what publisher to use. I will be coming back to this book as a reference.
  • 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
    2940152280371_p0_v1_s192x300By Rachel Aaron
    I loved Aaron’s Eli Monpress series and I can’t wait to read more of her stuff. She gives advice on how to increase the amount of writing that gets done during a writing session by applying her triangle of knowledge, time and enthusiasm. Now, if that sounds vague, she does get specific about what they mean in this book.
  • Writing from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between
    By James Scott Bell
    9780910355117_p0_v1_s192x300I love Kill Zone, a blog for which Bell contributes as part of a community of writers. This book provided a fascinating piece of advice about character development for novel writing: the “Mirror Moment.” Once again, it’s something I knew already, but didn’t know I knew. This quick read will change the way you plan your novel–and it’s easy to apply to a draft you’ve already started.
  • Scrivener Superpowers: How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Process
    By M.G. Herron
    2940157649920_p0_v1_s192x300I already read several books on Scrivener when I first learned to use it. The difference between those books (although they were wonderful and helpful) and this one is that Scrivener Superpowers gets into the nitty-gritty of not just learning to use it, but how to use is as a writer. His No-Nonsense Novel Template is also great.

So if you’re looking for some quick lessons for improving your fiction writing with maximum impact, you should check these books out. I highly recommend them.

Support Self-Published Writers and Small Publishing Houses

printing-press-1181030.jpgAs I plan my reading list for 2016, I want to include several self-published writers and small, independent publishing companies. So far I plan to read the following:

In Passing

41h0dp9njSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Check out JR Wirth‘s new book In Passing. I designed the cover! Here’s some promo copy:

“Trying to bring closure to her haunted youth, Mary Elizabeth Stroll’s past and present converge during a haunting, day-long interview. In Passing is a dark, yet romantic, paranormal tale, which thrusts two adolescent, suicide victims into a haunting afterlife odyssey where they find love and meaning. The journey leads them to intervene in the lives of other distressed young people, all the while amorous feelings grow. The two are then reunited with their lifeless bodies to search for the truth and their lost love.”

Books on writing I read in 2015

Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but,  honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:

2940151898539_p0_v3_s192x300Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense
Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?

9780985780401_p0_v1_s192x300Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland
Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.

51QhpMsap6L._UY250_Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio
Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.

Some memoirs I read in 2015

I read several biographies/autobiographies/memoirs this past year, and here is what I thought of them:

9780316334310_p0_v2_s192x300Born With Teeth
by Kate Mulgrew
Actress Kate Mulgrew offers up vignettes of her life as an actress and also her personal triumphs and tragedies. Some remember her as Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope; some remember her as Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager; some now know her as Red on Orange Is the New Black. The nerd in me was hoping to get more behind-the-scenes stories about Voyager, and while she goes in to detail about how she landed that iconic role, she only glosses over her eight-year run as a captain for the Federation. But that’s okay. This memoir is well-written and is focused around her heartache of giving away a daughter at birth.

9781937009304_p0_v1_s192x300For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
by Jason Sizemore
Jason Sizemore gives the history of how he started his own small publishing company of horror fiction. While this book would be interesting to those in the independent publishing field, I’m not sure the appeal goes beyond that. The problem with this book is that the author doesn’t seem to know what kind of book it’s supposed to be. Is it a memoir? Is it a how-to? He includes some well-told anecdotes, but I’m not sure most people would get into this one.

9780618871711_p0_v2_s192x300Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel
A beautifully illustrated comic book style narrative about Bechdel’s dysfunctional childhood. The author had to be brave to share her story about her eccentric father and his early death. She struggles with her relationship with him and finds a connection with him in an unusual way. Warning: adult situations in this story.

9780374531263_p0_v5_s192x300A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
In the early 90’s, a boy from a village in Sierra Leone is forced to join the rebel’s army. This is the author’s version of his story and how he escape the fighting. Apparently there is some speculation about the accuracy of the author’s memories, but it’s still a great read that reveals the tragedy of children in politically-motivated combat.

9781453258132_p0_v1_s192x300The Man in the Empty Boat
by Mark Salzman
I enjoyed Salzman’s Iron and Silk and True Notebooks, but I realized he hadn’t written anything in a while. This book explains why. Salzman tells about his crippling anxiety and how it affected his life, including his writing, and also how he dealt with the death of his sister.