Tag Archives: Rachel Caine

Top Twelve Books I Read in 2012

“I know what I’ll do,” I said to myself a few days ago. “I’ll write a post sharing the best books I read in 2012. That should be fun and easy, and it lets me do my favourite thing and recommend good books to people who may not have come across them.

Yeah. Great idea, Jo.

Over the last few days, I’ve been desperately trying to whittle my list of 69 books down to the top 10 must-reads. But I just couldn’t do it.

“I know,” I said to myself, never afraid to keep up a conversation in my own head. “Just treat a series as a single entity. I read lots of books that were part of a series last year.”

Yeah, didn’t help much. I managed to get my list down to 6 stand-alone novels and 10 series.

When I vented my frustration on Facebook and Twitter, Richard Lake suggested I make it a Top 12 list. You know, since it was 2012. That’s not cheating, right? Right?

So here you have it. I’ve divided my list into 6 stand-alone books and 6 series, and written a super-short description of why you should read them. (Note: I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by author. Because that’s just how I roll. And that way I didn’t have to find a way to rate them in comparison to each other.)

Stand-Alone Novels

Tiger Lily — Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger LilyA retelling of the Peter Pan story from the perspective of Tiger Lily. It’s a beautiful, tragic love story that had me laughing out loud, feeling awe and wonder at the beauty and casual cruelty of Neverland, and crying pitifully for the last few chapters. It’s rare that I’m so moved by a story. When I finished I clutched the book to my heart and carried it around with me, because I wasn’t ready to let it go.

City of the Lost — Stephen Blackmore

City of the LostJoe Sunday is not a nice guy. He’s a thug, a leg-breaker, and a sometime killer. And that’s before he’s murdered and turned into a zombie by a maniacal old man intent on achieving immortality.This bloody, visceral, gore-filled horror novel is amazing. Joe Sunday’s voice is what really makes it work. Despite his thuggish ways, he’s honourable, courageous, and the consummate hero — even when his deeds are less than heroic. I couldn’t get enough of him.

Ready Player One — Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneIf you know there’s a difference between an African and a European swallow, you’ve ever written “Don’t Panic” on the front of a notebook, or you know how many lions it takes to form Voltron, this book is for you. The plot revolves around Wade Watts, a VR computer game known as OASIS, and a search for hidden clues and treasures. But more than that, this book is an homage to the ’80s and geek culture. I loved every moment of it. Oh, and Hello, Firefly-class spaceship!

Addition — Toni Jordan

AdditionThis is a romantic drama about a woman living with extreme OCD, while searching for love and meaning in her life. It’s an authentic look at the mindset of someone whose own mental faculties seem to be working against them. Grace is unable to hold down a job, and struggles with the day-to-day necessities of choosing what to wear and doing the shopping (ten bananas, ten toothbrushes, ten eggs…). While I didn’t like the ending, I appreciated the story and think it would appeal to readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult and similar authors.

Goodnight Nobody — Jennifer Weiner

Goodnight NobodyWhen a free-spirited fashion journalist and ex-singer goes from being a single girl-about-town in New York to the suburban mother of three kids under 4, she’s pretty sure her life is over. And then one of the ‘Perfect Mommy Brigade’ is murdered, and she can’t help but investigate. Especially when she finds out her ex-boyfriend is somehow involved. This romantic crime novel is easy to read, relatable and engaging.

Giants of the Frost — Kim Wilkins

Giants of the FrostA romantic thriller involving supernatural elements by way of Norse Gods. An english scientist takes a posting to a remote Scandinavian island when her engagement goes horribly wrong, and finds herself embroiled in a love story a thousand years in the making. She’s the reborn soul of the God Vidar’s true love, and now that she’s back in the world Vidar is prepared to sacrifice anything, including his divinity, to be with her. It’s scary and exciting and romantic and tinged with enough tragedy to make it a truly authentic love story.

Series

The Morganville Vampires — Rachel Caine

Glass HousesI read all 13 Morganville Books in 2012. This is a Young Adult series set in a small town in Texas where vampires run the city and attempt to live amicably and openly with humans. Claire is 16, super-smart, and completely unprepared for what she finds when she starts college in Morganville. Packed with interesting secondary characters, an engaging plot, and more twists and turns than I can count, this series is a great example of YA writing at its best. I look forward to more Morganville in the future.

Revivalist — Rachel Caine

9780451464132_WorkingStiff_CV.inddI read the first two books in 2012, and am looking forward to the next book in the series coming out in 2013. First, let me say that this is the same Rachel Caine who wrote the above Morganville Vampires series. But if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t know it. The tone, theme, and writing style are completely different. Bryn is a hard-working, no-nonsense, ex-soldier who decides to start a new career as funeral director. All is going well until she’s turned into a zombie. Not a slobbering, brain-eating, apocalypse-causing zombie. Oh no, something much better. A zombie created by… (wait for it!) Science! The series has it all — action, horror, romance, secret conspiracies, evil corporations, and enough double- and triple-crosses to keep me guessing from start to finish.

The Athenian Mysteries — Gary Corby

The Pericles CommissionI only read the first book in 2012, but will be reading more. The Pericles Commission is an historical crime novel set in Ancient Greece. When the older brother of Socrates has a corpse almost dropped on his head, he sets out to solve the crime. There’s plenty of real historical information and people, and an amazing crime story. I loved the cleverness and wit in the writing, and it’s a really easy read, even with the names (which were all Greek to me…).

The Disillusionists Trilogy — Carolyn Crane

Mind GamesUnlike many Urban Fantasy series out there, this one is a set trilogy of books. I read the whole series in 2012. The series centers on Justine Jones, a neurotic hypochondriac, and her role amongst the Disillusionists — a group of vigilantes set on finding the wicked and disillusioning them of their selfish behaviours. For a fee, of course. It’s a dark, gritty series set in a world of psychic powers, super-villains, and treachery, where no one can be trusted — least of all your allies — and reads like a dark superhero story.

H&W Investigations — Jess Haines

Hunted by the OthersI read the first two books in 2012, and am looking forward to reading more. This series is everything an Urban Fantasy series should be. It’s full of vampires, werewolves, and mages — but the protagonist is PI Shiarra Waynest. Human. With a major grudge against Others — the name given to supernatural creatures as a whole. The vampires are seductive and dangerous and the werewolves are honourable and prone to bursts of aggression. The series reminds me of a World of Darkness RPG. Only better. Much, much better.

Downside Ghosts — Stacia Kane

Unholy GhostsI read the first three books in 2012, and the next two are first off the rank in 2013. This is a dark Urban Fantasy series set in a near-future world where ghosts killed most of the population and magic is part of every day life — as long as it’s Church-sanctified magic. Let me say again, this series is dark. There’s ritual sacrifice, murder, drugs, disease, and betrayal. Chess, the main character, is as screwed up as it’s possible to get, and the mysteries she solves are intertwined with her own traumas and drug addiction. It’s an amazing series, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who prefers their fantasy to be full of rainbows and unicorns.

Honourable mentions also need to go to:

  •  The Black Sun’s Daughter series by M.L.N. Hanover
  • Croak by Gina Damico
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Have you read any of these books/series? Do you want to? What were your top reads of 2012?

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Books I’ve Read in 2012: Part 1

This year I set myself a goal to read a minimum of 50 books and to share them here on my blog. To that end, I will be writing a quick wrap-up/review every time I finish five. I love sharing the books I’ve enjoyed with other people, and would love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these, or if you decide to do so based on my recommendation. (Actually, I’d love to hear from you anyway. I’m addicted to comments.)

Wintersmith — Terry Pratchett

Description

Tiffany Aching put one foot wrong, and now the spirit of winter is in love with her. He says it with frozen flowers, which is sweet. But he also says it with snowflakes, icebergs, and avalanches. If Tiffany can’t find a way to deal with the Wintersmith, there will never be another spring. Fortunately she’s got Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle to help her. Crivens!

Review

There was no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy this book. I love almost anything Discworld, and Granny is my second favourite character (after Vimes). The story was simple but elegant (in the tradition of all the Nac Mac Feegle tales), and the book definitely didn’t disappoint. If you’ve not read any other Discworld novels, this is not the one I’d suggest you start with (there’s a lot of references to previous books, and very few really “new” characters), but it was a fun, fabulous read.

As a side-note, I didn’t technically “read” this book at all — I listened to it on audiobook during my drive to and from my parent’s house at Christmas time. This is the first time I’ve listened to an audiobook and I have to say: I was impressed. I laughed out loud, got teary at the right places, and enjoyed the experience of hearing the characters “speak”. But what I find most interesting is that, when I think back, I don’t remember it as an audiobook at all. I just remember it as a book. I have no more recollection of the narrator’s voice than I would normally have of the font size or type. I just remember the story.

I will definitely be listening to more books in the future.

 

Brave New World — Aldous Huxley

Description

This classic novel is a darkly satiric vision of a utopian future. All negative emotions have been removed from the human experience. There is no anger, grief, jealousy, or unrequited love. Everyone is happy. Perfectly happy. All the time. They’re engineered that way through genetics, pharmaceuticals, and childhood training. The loss of family, romance, and art is but a small price to pay for the eternal contentment of mankind.

Review

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d never before read Brave New World. In some ways, I really regret not having read it a long time ago. In others, I’m glad I didn’t.

The world in this novel is, quite frankly, terrifying. Between the enforced sexualisation of children and the training rooms where babies are taught to hate books and nature through the use of electric shocks, there is very little pleasant about the means they use to reach their contented end. This is a world where the word “mother” is pure smut, love is unheard of, and a pro-consumerist mentality is programmed in utero, and that’s disturbing enough. But the thing that I found most terrifying is the logic behind this “perfect” society. Logic that makes inexorable sense.

It’s simple, really: If no one wants for anything they can’t have, no one will be unhappy. If all your hopes and desires are fulfilled the moment you have them, there’s no cause for angst or frustration or anger. So the solution is simple. Step 1: Make sure people only want the things that you want them to want. Step 2: Provide those things on demand.

But the truly terrifying part of this novel is not just that it makes so much sense, but that I can see parallels between this mentality and the real world.

I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed this book. At least, not in the sense that I usually use the word “enjoy”. It was powerful. It was monumental. It was amazing. But it wasn’t something to be savoured or enjoyed. That being said, I do recommend you read it. Just don’t expect to walk away from it feeling happy.

The God Engines — John Scalzi

Description

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this — and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It s what he doesn t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put — and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely.

Review

John Scalzi is best known for writing science fiction, but this novella is tagged as fantasy (despite its futuristic setting). It’s only a short book (136 pages), but it definitely packs a hefty punch. Right from the first sentence, this book grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. In fact, it has one of my all-time favourite opening lines:

It was time to whip the god.

In this world, the people all worship and serve Our Lord, the strongest and only “true” god in the Universe. Many centuries ago, Our Lord bested all other gods and chained them to His service. These bested gods now serve as engines in the fleet of space ships that patrol the galaxy and keep order. For the most part, the gods do as instructed. But if they don’t… well, Our Lord’s justice is absolute.

The characters in this story are so real, they could have stepped out of the pages and had a party in my kitchen and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. The story is intricately woven and well told. The writing is superb –I’d read another of Scalzi’s books without a second thought.

But.

My only criticism is that I felt the story was wrapped up too quickly. I loved the character of Captain Tephe, the world-building was phenomenal, and the story held me enthralled. And then it was over. I turned the last page and had to sit and catch my breath, sure that a few dozen pages must have fallen out of the book somewhere. Don’t get me wrong — it doesn’t feel incomplete. It doesn’t even feel particularly rushed. It just ends too soon for my liking.

I’d recommend this book to those people who aren’t afraid of a heavy premise and story (despite the light page count) and to those who like fantasy elements in their science fiction.

The Big Over Easy — Jasper Fforde

Description

It’s Easter in Reading — a bad time for eggs — and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Following the pathologist’s careful reconstruction of Humpty’s shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody. As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack’s Lime Green Austin Allegro, the clues pile up, but Jack has his own problems to deal with. And on top of everything else, the Jellyman is coming to town.

Review

After reading a couple of really heavy stories, I felt the need for something light. Something fun. Something that I could sink my teeth into, only to find it was full of chocolate. And that’s why I picked up this book, at this time.

Many, many years ago I picked up Jasper Fforde’s ‘The Eyre Affair’ at a small bookshop when I was desperate for something to read. I went on to devour the rest of the Thursday Next series, and fell in love with Fforde’s voice and style. He’s the type of storyteller who can spin a ludicrous tale with a straight face, and have even the most sceptical listenere wondering if perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a measure of truth to his story.

Humpty Dumpty is an egg. A four-foot tall egg. He’s found dead, having apparently fallen off his wall in the middle of the night. Or was he pushed?During the course of the investigation, DI Jack Spratt and DS Mary Mary encounter three little pigs, the gingerbread man, magic beans, three bags of wool, Georgio Porgia, and a host of other familiar characters.

The whole story is full of little in-jokes and cute coincidences, but the key word in “nursery crime” is definitely “crime”. Fforde tells the story straight — it’s a police procedural with nursery rhyme characters. There’s a CSI team, a medical examiner, forensic evidence, clues and red herrings, unexpected confessions, jealousy, subterfuge, lies, and enough straight-faced satire for any three books.

Fforde’s writing is hilarious — effortlessly so, it would seem — but this is so much more than just a comedy. It’s one of the best mystery stories I’ve read in quite a while.

Working Stiff — Rachel Caine

Description

Bryn Davis knows working at Fairview Mortuary isn’t the most glamorous career choice, but at least it offers stable employment — until she discovers her bosses using a drug that resurrects the clientele… as part of an extortion racket. Now Bryn faces being terminated (literally) with extreme prejudice. With the assistance of corporate double agent Patrick McCallister, Bryn has a chance to take down the bigger problem — pharmaceutical company Pharmadene, which treats death as the ultimate corporate loyalty program. She’d better do it fast before she becomes a zombie slave — a real working stiff. Some days, you’re better off dead.

Review

Let me start this review by saying: READ THIS BOOK!

Seriously.

I saw Working Stiff reviewed a while ago on All Thing Urban Fantasy, where it was rated 5/5. The description of the book didn’t really appeal to me — zombies? really? — but the reviewer (Julia) was so enthusiastic that I added it to my TBR list anyway.  And, let me tell you, I’m so glad I did.

Bryn is just your average, ordinary working girl. Well, assuming that by “average” you mean someone who grew up in a small town, joined the army to help her pay off her student loans, spent 4 years as a soldier in Iraq, and discovered that she had a quiet respect for the dead; the kind of respect that had her deciding to train as a funeral director when she left the military.

I liked Bryn right from page one. She hooked with her no-nonsense attitude, her strength, and her compassion. And then she got turned into a zombie, and somehow that made her even more relatable. (Not a slobbering, brain-eating, apocalypse-causing zombie. Oh no, something much better. A zombie created by… (wait for it!) Science! )

Yes, inside the beckoning pages of this book, you’ll find such wonders. Zombies! Nanobots! Spies! Gunfights! Double-crosses! Triple-crosses! Ticking clocks! Secret conspiracies! Evil corporations! Mad scientists! Thrills! Spills! Automobiles! And in between the mystery, the action, the corporate espionage, and the themes of life vs death, there’s even a hefty dose of romance.

Seriously, what more could you want from a book?

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