Best of 2017 Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Best of 2017 Giveaway Hop, Hosted by Bookhounds.

It’s time to not just talk about the best books of last year, but also to give some away. This blog hop celebrates the best books of the previous year, at least according to yours truly.

I publish three different “Best of the Year” lists. One for me, one for Library Journal and one for the SFR Galaxy Awards, coming up at the end of the month. But no spoilers for the Galaxy Awards, to that means two lists to work with.

Two lists for you to work with, that is.

So take a look at 17 for 2017 here on Reading Reality, and the whole Library Journal Best Books 2017 article and let me know which book appeals to you the most.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more fabulous bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

17 for 2017 : My Best Books of 2017

I always say I’m not going to keep doing it this way, that the numbers just can’t keep going up every year, but then I get to actually doing the list and discover that it works out. Again.

This is my list of the best books of my year, with a couple of Amy’s in the honorable mentions because she loved them so much. These are the books that either stuck with me, or that I kept trying to shove into other people’s hands, or both.

There’s more non-fiction this year than usual. It seems like it was a great year for narrative non-fiction that reads every bit as well as fiction. A couple of these are going to end up on my Hugo Awards nomination list, because they were absolutely awesome science fiction and/or fantasy that deserves a recognition. A special shout-out to The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis, her amazing debut novel, which was my first A+ review for the year.

And a grateful shout out to Kevin Hearne and his publishers for A Plague of Giants. I heard about this book while writing my SF/F Spotlight article for Library Journal, and just had to have it. Kevin not only gave me a quote for the article, but also helped me pester the publisher to get me an eARC from NetGalley (and, as it turned out, Edelweiss). I cast that net as wide as possible and hooked a real gem.

I have two other best lists, but they have different venues, and also different sets of restrictions, where this list is  whatever I want it to be. My best e-originals for 2017 are part of the Library Journal Best Books 2017 mega-article. And my best SFR for 2017 will appear in January, as part of the SFR Galaxy Awards.

Although 2017 certainly had its ups and downs in real life, the year in books was fantastic!

Best Books of 2017:

American War by Omar El Akkad
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Grant by Ron Chernow
The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
The Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
White Hot by Ilona Andrews
Wildfire by Ilona Andrews
The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

Honorable Mentions:

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Kith and Kin by Kris Ripper (guest review by Amy)
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Outsystem by M.D. Cooper (guest review by Amy)
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Best E-Originals of 2016

I debated whether or not to post this, but decided to do so just in case it ever gets lost from the LJ archives. This is my original text for my Best E-Originals 2016 column for Library Journal. Up until this year, it has been posted as a separate column, but this year my picks were gathered in with all the other picks from LJ’s genre fiction reviewers, and split between the top 5 and the rest of the list. So here’s the original, in its unedited entirety, for my own archives. And hopefully for your reading pleasure, or for additional books added to your own towering TBR pile.

Best Books 2016: E-Originals

It’s that time again. Time for the best books of the year lists. For the fifth year in a row, I am pleased to add my Best E-Originals to the throng. In the early days of this list, back in 2012, it was all romance. And while romance is still a big part of ebook-only and ebook-mostly publishing, every genre now has its share of excellent books published in e first or only. As more publishers create ebook-specific imprints and more established authors take advantage of the possibility of being hybrid authors, this trend can only continue. I’m looking forward to more great books and more expanded possibilities every year.

final flight by beth catoCato, Beth. Final Flight. Harper Voyager Impulse (Clockwork Dagger #2.6) ebk. ISBN 9780062411280. $0.99 FANTASY

Set in the world of the author’s award winning Clockwork Dagger series, this steampunk adventure is a tightly packed little story with a surprising emotional punch. It is a story about the costs and horrors of war, set in an insular and isolated setting. A ship’s captain is commandeered by his government to conduct a dangerous mission. As the journey continues, he comes to the realization that the cause he has sworn his life to is not just, and that his government is using nefarious means to produce unspeakable ends. Instead of blindly following orders to the ultimate death of his ship and crew, he discovers that if they band together, they can strike a blow for what is good and right, and possibly snatch a sliver of hope for freedom. In a well-drawn fantasy setting, this story strikes a surprising and poignant parallel to the journey of United Flight 93 on September 11.

for crown and kingdom by grace draven and jeffe kennedyDraven, Grace and Kennedy, Jeffe. For Crown and Kingdom. Self-published. Ebk. ISBN 9781533742049 $3.99 FANTASY ROMANCE

This duology contains fantasy novellas by Draven and Kennedy, both centered around the theme of the high cost of being a ruler, and accepting that no gift comes without a terrible cost. In Kennedy’s story, The Crown of the Queen, we have a story that serves as a bridge between the fight for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms that has covered her previous three books, and the story of the world that will be built because of that victory. So here we have the story of a young woman who must rule because she is needed, and must accept that the cost of her victory was the death of the mad king who came before her, a man who was also her father. It is also the story of the librarian who comes out of the shadows to force the queen she has spent her life making to do what must be done for the good of the kingdom. Draven’s story, The Undying King, feels like a myth of a time long gone. An immortal king has exiled himself to a ghost city. He is discovered by a cursed woman who needs his powers as much as he needs someone to rescue him from his loneliness. A man cursed to eternal life falls in love with a woman who has been cursed with death. Everyone that Imogen touches dies, except Cededa who cannot die. They are perfect for each other – until the world intervenes and tries to tear them apart.

mad lizard mambo by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Mad Lizard Mambo (Kai Gracen #2). DSP Publications. Ebk. ISBN 9781634777445 $5.99 M/M URBAN FANTASY

In my second Best Ebook column, all the way back in 2013, I included the first book in the Kai Gracen series, hoping against hope that the author would return to this world. At the time, Kai was a labor of self-published love on the part of the author, so the future was uncertain. Here we finally have the second book of Kai’s adventures, and it is every bit as good as the first. Kai is an elf and a licensed bounty hunter in the very dystopian future that has resulted when the secret worlds of the fae and the sidhe, the Underworld of Celtic mythology, crashed into 21st century Earth with disastrous results. Kai, an outcast who is not part of either the fae world he was born to or the human world, hunts and kills the strange and deadly creatures that now roam the wild spaces of this new world, like the dragons flying over the Mojave Desert. But Kai has also spent his life as a pawn on both sides of the divide, and he finds himself forced on a dangerous quest to uncharted lands to protect his friends and perhaps find out a bit more of who he really is and why he was created. The danger is deadly and the worldbuilding here is utterly absorbing.

seducing the bachelor by sinclair jayneJayne, Sinclair. Seducing the Bachelor. Montana Born: Tule. (Bachelor Auction Returns, Bk. 3). Apr. 2016. 179p. ebk. ISBN 9781944925413. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY WESTERN ROMANCE

This contemporary western romance is also a military romance, as the hero has come home at the end of his second deployment under orders to deal with his emotional baggage before he even thinks of signing up for a third hitch. Although there’s some mention of PTSD, most of what Colt Ewing is carrying around in his emotional duffle bag goes back to his childhood with his abusive, alcoholic uncle. The story is all Colt’s, as he learns that he isn’t defined by his past, and that he has a future if only he’s willing to reach for it – along with the woman and her son who make him realize that he deserves his own happily ever after.

lonens war by jeffe kennedyKennedy, Jeffe. Lonen’s War (Sorcerous Moons, Bk. 1)
Kennedy, Jeffe. Oria’s Gambit (Sorcerous Moons, Bk. 2)
Kennedy, Jeffe. The Tides of Bara (Sorcerous Moons, Bk. 3)
Ea. vol: Brightlynx Publishing. $2.99. FANTASY ROMANCE

The first three books of this projected four-book series wrap an epic fantasy around a romance that feels like it will be one for the ages. Lonen and Oria first meet across a bloody battlefield, as Lonen has just conquered Oria’s kingdom. But Oria is merely a princess, and as soon as Lonen leaves her country, the powers that be overturn the peace that Oria brokered. Lonen returns to avenge the betrayal, only to discover that Oria is not the author of it, but is the hope of salvation for his people. And possibly hers. This fantasy story points out that just as handsome is as handsome does, barbarism is as barbarism does, and Oria’s supposedly civilized people are much more barbarous than his in all the ways that count. Their willingness to grab power at any cost to maintain their corrupt hegemony has made them an enemy that must be conquered at all costs if the world is to survive. Lonen and Oria’s marriage of convenience turns into a marriage of passion as she breaks out of the chains her people bound her in to become the queen and savior that she was meant to be.

just give me a reason by rebecca rogers maherMaher, Rebecca Rogers. Just Give Me a Reason. Loveswept: Random. Feb. 2016. 185p. ebk. ISBN 9780804181495. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Just like the other LJ Starred Review in this list, this book is memorable because it is just a bit different. The heroine is about to become a single mother, pregnant and perfectly content to raise her child on her own. The hero has just gotten divorced, and needs to spend every waking hour saving his failing business. Neither of them trusts that other people will be there for them, and with good reason. But the heart wants what the heart wants. Neither of these people are looking for a happily ever after – more like the reverse. They both expect to be alone and prefer it that way. This is a story about love as a compromise, where they each get just enough of what they need to cobble a relationship together.

caught up in raine by lg oconnorO’Connor, L.G. Caught Up in Raine. (Caught Up In Love bk. 1) Collins-Young Publishing LLC. Apr. 2016. 308p. Ebk. ISBN 9780990738152. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

What makes this lovely contemporary romance stand out is the way that it realistically explores a theme that is more often tittered at than done well. Jillian Grant is a 42-year-old widow and romance novelist. She is dealing with the grief and guilt of her past by fictionalizing it into her romance writing. When she first meets 24-year-old Raine MacDonald, she is struck by his strong resemblance to the hero of her work-in-progress, who is himself a stand-in for her first love. Their age difference keeps Jillian from believing that Raine could possibly be interested in her, but tragedy in his past has made him grow up earlier than is usual. She is just what he never realized he was looking for, if they can both figure out whether the man Jillian has fallen for is the man that Raine is, or the one he looks like. For readers who enjoy older woman/younger man romances, this is one of the few that deals realistically with both the joys and the issues that inevitably arise..

documenting_lightOttoman, EE. Documenting Light. (The Hellum and Neal Series in LGBTQIA+ Literature Book 1) Brain Mill Press. Aug. 2016. 292p. Ebk. ISBN 9781942083436. $4.99. GLBT ROMANCE

This is a story that works well on multiple levels. It is both a romance between two contemporary characters who identify as genderqueer, and an exploration into the past, through a photograph that seems to portray long-lost family members who were just like the contemporary couple, and whose existence has been, not merely shrouded in mystery, but deliberately locked away. So when Wyatt brings the old photo to the local historical society, it presents Grayson with a puzzle he can’t wait to solve. And as these two trans characters being to explore a relationship, they also explore the buried past. And deal with the difficult present, as both are estranged from their families as a result of their gender identities. Well-crafted stories with transgender characters are a bit scarce, but this one seems to have hit that difficult mark.

emperors arrow by lauren dm smithSmith, Lauren D.M. The Emperor’s Arrow. Carina Press. July 2016. 160p. ebk. ISBN 9781460397435. $3.99 FANTASY ROMANCE

This is a fantasy where political skullduggery plays an important role both in getting the hero and heroine together and in showing the number of ways that the heroine subverts stereotypes, both among her own people and for the reader. The Emperor holds a contest that seems to be not dissimilar to the reality TV show The Bachelor, where every noble family in the empire is expected to send a daughter to compete to become Empress. They are hostages for their family’s good behavior, but don’t realize that. Except for the warrior Evony of Aureline, whose people are considered barely civilized, but are unquestionably loyal to the throne. The Amazon Evony is looking for a man to sire a child, as all the women in her tribe have done. The Emperor discovers that Evony is the only one standing between him and certain death. That they discover that they love each other is a problem that neither of them ever expected. This is Smith’s debut novel. She won the Grand Prize in Harlequin’s 2015 So You Think You Can Write Contest, and they were absolutely right. She can.

pets in space by se smith et alPets in Space by S.E. Smith, Susan Grant, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Alexis Glynn Latner, Lea Kirk, Carysa Locke. Cats, Dogs and Other Worldly Creatures Books. Oct. 2016. 566p. Ebk. ISBN 9781942583400. $3.99. SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE

This is a tremendously fun collection of novellas that all feature pets who travel the galaxies, along with their humans. The settings range from an intergalactic cruise liner to a canine cyborg from outer space looking for a pack of his own here on Earth. While some of the stories feature the earth-typical cats and dogs, admittedly with some extra-terrestrial powers, not all the pets are familiar. Or even biological. One story features a komodo dragon, who is hiding his identity as a real dragon. One young engineer on a generation ship has turned his miniaturized robot drones into a family of pets. And one young explorer has adopted a bunch of electrical sparks called a telfer. But in each story, the humans and their otherworldly pets save the day, generate more than a few laughs, and find their happily ever after among the stars.

Honorable Mention

fall of poppies by heather webb et alA Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, Lauren Willig, Marci Jefferson
Ea. story: William Morrow. $0.99 HISTORICAL FICTION

E-book publishing makes many things possible, or at least reasonable, than was true in the days of print-only publishing. So it is with A Fall of Poppies, a beautiful and heartbreaking collection of stories set on November 11, 1918, the day that formally ended the Great War, World War I. The stories in this collection focus on that singular moment when the war ended and the survivors had to face the wreckage left behind and figure out how to pick up the pieces, or even what pieces to pick up. As a collection, different stories will speak to different readers, although they all serve their theme well. The collection as a whole is available in both paperback and ebook. But one of the lovely things that ebook publishing has made possible is the commercial viability of publishing short stories and novellas as single titles. All of the stories in this collection are available individually as ebooks. So readers can choose to purchase their favorite authors, or the stories that have been most recommended to them, without having to purchase, or feel obligated to read, the entire collection.

16 for 2016: My Best Books of the Year

 

2016 fire lettersAnd here we are again, for another wrap up of best books of the year. This year, just like every year, compiling this list is both a labor of love and and a pain in the ass. It’s always fascinating to look through the backfiles of my reviews here at Reading Reality, as well as everything I read for The Book Pushers, Library Journal, and the on-hiatus Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

I do all my end of the year wrap-ups in one glorious binge. So I don’t have to wade through the year recently past over and over, once for my Library Journal Best E-Originals column, once for this list, again for the SFR Galaxy Awards and once more with feeling (mostly groaning) to figure out which books I can’t wait for that are hopefully being published next year.

The lovely thing about the years going by is that each year gives me an opportunity to add one more book to the list. This is also the bad news, as it’s getting extremely unwieldy and I’m going to have to stop at some point. So this year it’s just a list. Attempting a narrative got unconscionably long-winded, to the point of confusing what was and wasn’t where. Next year I may try a “Top Ten” in each category as separate posts. We’ll see.

I’m always interested to see how my best books list compares to others. If you are really curious, and want to add an additional mountain to your current TBR pile, Largehearted Boy compiles a list of ALL the best books lists every year. It’s awesome, and awesomely intimidating if you have even a glimmer of a thought about reading them all.

But here’s mine for 2016…(all links are to my reviews)

Science fiction:
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Honorable mention:
Admiral by Sean Danker
Indomitable by WC Bauers
The Invisible Library/The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
The Liberation by Ian Tregillis

 

 

 

Fantasy (Epic and Urban):
Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson
Cast in Flight by Michelle Sagara
The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone
Revisionary by Jim C. Hines
The Tale of Shikanoko (Emperor of the Eight Islands, Autumn Princess Dragon Child, Lord of the Darkwood, The Tengu’s Game of Go) by Lian Hearn
Treachery’s Tools by LE Modesitt Jr.

Honorable mention:
Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes
Teeth, Long and Sharp by Grace Draven, Antioch Grey, Aria M. Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Mel Sterling

Nonfiction:
Spaceman by Mike Massimino

Honorable mention:
Carry On by Lisa Fenn
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Romance and Women’s Fiction:
Assassin Queen by Anna Kashina (fantasy romance)
Family Tree by Susan Wigg (women’s fiction)
Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick (historical romantic suspense

Honorable mention:
Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh (paranormal)
Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery (women’s fiction)
Dirty Heart by Rhys Ford (romantic suspense)
Hell Squad: Finn, Holmes, Shaw by Anna Hackett (science fiction romance)
Wild Man’s Curse/Black Diamond by Susannah Sandlin (romantic suspense)

Historical fiction:
Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Honorable mention:
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

Mystery (historic and contemporary)
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
When Falcons Fall by CS Harris

Honorable mention:
A Maiden Weeping by Jeri Westerson
Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann
White Mirror by Elsa Hart

Looking back over the year, I don’t think I can pick a single favorite, or even two. But if I had to, I would probably go with A Great Reckoning and When Falcons Fall. As much as I love SF and Fantasy, it tends to be the mysteries that stick with me at the end. And every entry in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series has been an absolute winner for me. I am eternally grateful to the person who introduced me to Gamache.

But that’s a wrap for this year. Next week, I’ll be looking forward to the books I’m most anticipating for 2017. Also looking back just a bit to see how the books I was so eagerly waiting for at the beginning of 2016 actually turned out.

 

14 for 14: My Best Books of the Year

 

2014 digital numbers

I do three different “best of the year” lists in different contexts. This is my personal list, but…I also do a Best Ebook Romances of the year for Library Journal, and I’m one of the judges for the SFR Galaxy Awards, which is effectively a best SFR of the year list.

So there are repeats. After all, if it was one of the best in one context, there’s an awfully good chance it will be one of the best in another if applicable. Even so, when I looked at my A+, A and A- reviews for the year, I had too many choices.

That being said, I have wondered whether I could (or should) keep going with the theme of “besting” the same number of books as the year. So far, it is working all too well.

bollywood affair by sonali devIn the romance category, I have three that stood out from the other terrific books I read this year. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev was an absolute standout. (It’s also on my LJ list). Dev’s book is a slow burning romance and an introduction or exploration into Indian-American and Indian culture. Her heroine is a good girl with a little bit of defiance, and her hero is a bad boy who discovers how much fun it can be to be good.

Jeffe Kennedy’s Mark of the Tala is a great fantasy romance and the first book in her Twelve Kingdoms series. In this one, what I loved was the number of different ways that the road to hell gets paved. Her hero and heroine want to do the right thing for both their peoples, and are lucky enough to fall in love in the process. But this is a story about the fight for the soul of two kingdoms, and a lot of men do evil in the name of either good or power. This one goes surprisingly well, if sadly, with Maleficent.

Robin York, better known as Ruthie Knox, told one of the best New Adult stories I have read so far in the genre in Deeper and Harder, the story of Caroline and West. These are real people facing real problems, including a “wrong side of the tracks” type of love story. They overcome a lot of obstacles, with a lot of love, but also quite a bit of heart-rending pain.

No Place to Hide by Glenn GreenwaldI read a bit more nonfiction than usual this year, and two titles have stuck in my head long after I finished. Partially for the topics they cover, and also significantly for the marvelous writing style. No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald reads like a spy thriller, but it is a cautionary tale about the case of Edward Snowden, the NSA papers he released, and the subsequent persecution of the reporter who covered the story. It will make you look at everything you read that purports to be true with a much more critical eye.

Forcing the Spring by Jo Becker reads like a legal thriller, but it tells the story of the fight for marriage equality using the lens of the case against Prop 8 in California. Becker was embedded with the legal team during the five years that this case wound its way to the Supreme Court, and her “you are there” style of reporting will keep you on the edge of your seat.

ryder by nick pengelleyTwo books don’t fit into categories at all well. Ryder by Nick Pengelley is action/adventure, with a heroine who is a combination of Indiana Jones, Lara Croft and Robert Langdon from The DaVinci Code. Ayesha Ryder kicks ass, takes names and discovers secrets that weren’t meant to be revealed in a delightful thriller.

The Bees by Laline Paull feels like a bit of an allegory – it is social commentary about human behavior disguised as bee behavior. But it is also a story about listening to your own inner voice and absolutely NOT blooming where you are planted. You will find yourself rooting for the bee, and laughing at some of her observations that hit close to home about both bees and us.

The urban fantasy series Mindspace Investigations by Alex Hughes continues to wrap me in its web. This year’s entries in the series are Marked and Vacant, and the one word titles represent something in the life of the series protagonist, Adam Ward. Adam is a recovering drug addict, a police consultant, and a telepath. He’s also in love with his equally damaged but otherwise normal police partner. The layers created in this post-apocalyptic but still mostly functioning version of suburban Atlanta are fascinating. It is just close enough to now to recognize what is still going right, and what went wrong.

queen of the tearling by erika johansenIn epic fantasy, my favorite this year was The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. This is in the classic mold of the hero who is raised in obscurity to become the ruler, but the hero is a heroine. This one has the feeling of the King Arthur story, but with a Queen instead. So Queen Kelsea is a fish very much out of water who has to learn fast to save her kingdom. Unlike so many retellings of the Arthur story, Kelsea operates in shades of grey; good choices can have every bit as costly an outcome as bad choices, sometimes more costly. She is learning by the seat of her pants while attempting to preserve her kingdom and fighting with everyone on all sides. A marvelous coming-of-age epic fantasy on a grand scale.

But this year, so many of my memorable reads were in my first love, science fiction.

Two books that I am not going to say a lot about because it’s all been said. These were bestsellers and were covered everywhere.

ancillary sword by ann leckieJohn Scalzi’s Lock In is a murder mystery wrapped in a near-future science fiction setting that, as is usual for Scalzi, has as much to say about our current society as it does about the future in which the book is set. This one works on multiple levels, and has a surprising twist that will tell you a bit about yourself as well. Great fun and an awesome read.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie is a worthy sequel to the “sweeping all the awards winner” Ancillary Justice. This series is fantastic space opera with a unique point-of-view character from a galaxy-spanning empire with a fascinating culture and a very different way of managing its far-flung holdings. Whatever you might have heard about how good this series is – it’s even better than that.

damnation by jean johnsonJean Johnson’s Theirs Not to Reason Why series concluded this year with two books, Hardship and Damnation. Johnson’s series, like Leckie’s, is epic space opera, but Johnson is firmly in the military SF camp with this series. Her heroine rises through the ranks of the Space Force as the story is told, while she fights an interstellar war, first as a grunt, but eventually as Commander of the Armies. The thing that makes this series unique is that her heroine, Ia, is a precognitive who knows what has to happen, but still has to move heaven, earth, the central command, and everyone she ever meets into the right place at the right time to save the universe in a future that she will never live to see. Awesome from beginning to end.

Soulminder by Timothy Zahn was a complete surprise. Zahn is probably best known for his Star Wars fiction, but this is something completely different. As with Scalzi’s Lock In, Soulminder is SF of the laboratory type, where it is a scientific discovery that fuels the story arc. Also as with Lock In, there is a definitely plot thread about the way that humans will take something potentially good and pave the road to hell with it. (Soulminder was published before Lock In, so any resemblance is unintentional). For hard science SF, Soulminder has a surprising amount of story concerned with keeping one’s soul. It is a tale that embodies the principle “for evil to flourish, it is only necessary that good men do nothing.” It’s also about what happens when those good men stop doing nothing.

forever watch by david ramirezLast but not least, The Forever Watch by David Ramirez. If you threw Gorky Park, Blade Runner, one of Robin Cook’s medical thrillers and Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang into a blender, along with spice from The Matrix and Madeline Ashby’s Suited, you might come up with a story that has some resemblance to The Forever Watch, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good. The Forever Watch is epic SF of the generation ship type, and it was one of those books that I shoved at people because I was so captivated. And it has one of those ending plot-twists that makes you re-think the entire story.

And that’s my top 14 for the year. 2014 was a wild ride, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store! What were your favorites of 2014? Do share! We all need more awesome books to read!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-17-13

Sunday Post

For those of us in the U.S., we’re still two weeks away from Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah!) but the Best Books of 2013 lists are already starting to appear like harbingers of Winter. (I can hear you now, fans of Game of Thrones, intoning that “Winter is Coming!”) Well, yes, it is, but I want my holidays first!

I know that the holidays are coming because Library Journal just asked me for the 2013 Best Ebook Romances list. I think we have a tradition, since this is now my third annual column. (For the curious a look back at the 2011 and 2012 lists). Picking the 10 best is hard. Picking the 10 best and writing them up on deadline is even harder.

SFRQuarterly_issue1_coverAs they say, it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. And this is one job that I love!

Speaking of love, if you love science fiction romance and have somehow missed the meteor shower announcing the first issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly, consider this your captain speaking. Our first issue is awesome. Download us to your tricorder and enjoy!

Once you come back from the future, here’s what’s going on at Reading Reality…

Current Giveaways:

The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane (print copy, USA and Canada)
Trancehack by Sonya Clark (digital copy)
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway
Gratitude Giveaways Hop – $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Blog Recap:

ill be home for christmas by jessica scottBittersweet Magic Release Day Blast + Giveaway
A Review: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Jessica Scott
A- Review: The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane
Guest Post by Author Andrea Kane + Giveaway
B Review: Highland Shifter by Catherine Bybee
A Review: Trancehack by Sonya Clark
Guest Post by Author Sonya Clark on Trancehacking + Giveaway
Gratitude Giveaways Hop
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway
Vote for Real-Life Heroines: Harlequin’s More Than Words Awards 2014
Stacking the Shelves (67)

Coming Next Week:

seductive powers by rebecca royceTangled Web by Crista McHugh (review)
Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams (blog tour review)
Countdown by Michelle Rowen (review by Cass)
Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft (blog tour review + giveaway)
Highland Protector by Catherine Bybee (blog tour review + giveaway)
Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce (blog tour review + giveaway)

11 for 2011: Best reads of the year

2011 is coming to a close. It’s time to pause and reflect on the year that is ending.

There’s a lovely quote from Garrison Keillor, “A book is a present that you can open again and again.” There’s a corollary in this house about “not if the cat is sitting on it” but the principle still applies. The good stories from this year will still be good next year. Some of them may even have sequels!

These were my favorites of the year. At least when I narrow the list down to 11 and only 11. And even then I fudged a bit. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (reviewed 12/1/11). This book had everything it could possibly need. There’s a quest. There’s a love story. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s an homage to videogaming. There are pop-culture references to every cult classic of science fiction and fantasy literature imaginable. There’s an evil empire to be conquered. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Omnitopia: Dawn by Diane Duane (reviewed 4/22/11). On the surface, Omnitopia and Ready Player One have a lot in common. Thankfully, there is more than meets the eye. Omnitopia takes place in the here and now, or very close to it. The world has not yet gone down the dystopian road that Wade and his friends are looking back at in Ready Player One. On the other hand, any resemblance the reader might see between Worlds of Warcraft mixed with Facebook and Omnitopia, or between Omnitopia Corp and Apple, may not entirely be the reader’s imagination. Howsomever, Omnitopia Dawn also has some very neat things to say about artificial intelligence in science fiction. If you liked Ready Player One, just read Omnitopia: Dawn. Now!

The Iron Knight (reviewed 10/26/11) was the book that Julie Kagawa did not intend to write. She was done with Meghan, her story was over. Meghan is the Iron Queen, but what she has achieved is not a traditional happily-ever-after. Victory came at a price. Real victories always do. Meghan’s acceptance of her responsibility means that she must rule alone. Ash is a Winter Prince, and Meghan’s Iron Realm is fatal to his kind. The Iron Knight is Ash’s journey to become human, or at least to obtain a soul, so that he can join his love in her Iron Realm. It is an amazing journey of mythic proportions.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (reviewed 10/18/11) is a story that absolutely shouldn’t work. The fact that it not only works, but works incredibly well, still leaves me gasping in delight. Dearly, Departed is the first, best, and so far only YA post-apocalypse steampunk zombie romance I’ve ever read. I never thought a zombie romance could possible work, period. This one not only works, it’s fun. There’s a sequel coming, Dearly, Beloved. I just wish I knew when.

Debris by Jo Anderton (reviewed 09/29/11) is the first book of The Veiled World Trilogy. It’s also Anderton’s first novel, a fact that absolutely amazed me when I read the book. Debris is science fiction with a fantasy “feel” to it, a book where things that are scientifically based seem magical to most of the population. But the story is about one woman’s fall from grace, and her discovery that her new place in society is where she was meant to be all along.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (reviewed 09/19/11). If you love mysteries, and you are not familiar with Louise Penny’s work, get thee to a bookstore, or download her first Chief Inspector Gamache mystery, Still Life, to your ereader this instant. Louise Penny has been nominated for (and frequently won) just about every mystery award for the books in this series since she started in 2005. Find out why.

I love Sherlock Holmes pastiches. (This is not a digression, I will reach the point). I have read all Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell books, some more than once. I almost listed Pirate King (reviewed 9/9/11), this year’s Holmes/Russell book instead of Trick. But Pirate King was froth, and Penny never is. A regular contributor to Letters of Mary, the mailing list for fans of the Holmes/Russell books, recommended the Louise Penny books. I am forever grateful.

The Elantra Series by Michelle Sagara (review forthcoming). I confess I’m 2/3rds of the way through Cast in Ruin right now. I’ve tried describing this series, and the best I can come up with is an urban fantasy series set in a high fantasy world. I absolutely love it. It’s the characters that make this series. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is clearly drawn and their personality is delineated in a way that makes them interesting. There are people you wouldn’t want to meet, but they definitely are distinctive. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny in spots, even when it’s very much gallows humor. I’m driving my husband crazy because I keep laughing at the dialog, and I can’t explain what’s so funny. I would love to have drinks with Kaylin. I’d even buy. But the Elantra series is not humor. Like most urban fantasy, it’s very snarky. But the stories themselves have a crime, or now, a very big problem that needs solving, and Kaylin is at the center of it. Whether she wants to be or not.

If you are keeping score somewhere, or just want the reading order, it’s Cast in Moonlight (part of Harvest Moon), Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret, Cast in Fury, Cast in Silence, Cast in Chaos, and Cast in Ruin.

The Ancient Blades Trilogy by David Chandler consists of Den of Thieves (reviewed 7/27/11), A Thief in the Night (reviewed 10/7/11) and Honor Among Thieves (reviewed 12/21/11). This was good, old-fashioned sword and sorcery. Which means the so-called hero is the thief and not the knight-errant. And every character you meet has a hidden agenda and that no one, absolutely no one, is any better than they ought to be. But the ending, oh the ending will absolutely leave you stunned.

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher (reviewed 7/29/11) is 2011’s entry in one of my absolute all time favorite series, The Dresden Files. And I saw Jim Butcher in person at one of the Atlanta Barnes & Noble stores. Ghost Story represents a very big change in the Dresden Files universe, where Harry Dresden starts growing into those extremely large boots he’s been stomping around in all these years. If you love urban fantasy, read Dresden.

Turn It Up by Inez Kelley (reviewed 8/10/11 and listed here) is one of the best takes on the “friends into lovers” trope that I have ever read. Period. Also, I’m an absolute sucker for smart people and witty dialogue, and this book is a gem. “Dr. Hot and the Honeypot” pretty much talk each other into a relationship, and into bed, while they give out sassy advice over the airwaves on their very suggestive and extremely successful sexual advice radio show.

My last book is a two-fer. Break Out (reviewed 8/4/11) and Deadly Pursuit (reviewed 12/6/11) by Nina Croft are the first two books in her Blood Hunter series, and I sincerely hope there are more. This is paranormal science fiction romance. Like Dearly, Departed, this concept should not work. But it absolutely does. And it gets better the longer it goes on. If you have an urban fantasy world in the 20th century, what would happen if that alternate history continued into space? Where do the vamps and the werewolves go? They go into space with everyone else, of course. And you end up with Ms. Croft’s Blood Hunter universe, which I loved. But you have to read both books. The first book just isn’t long enough for the world building. The second one rocks.

I stopped at 11 (well 11-ish) because this is the 2011 list. I could have gone on. And on. And on. My best ebook romances list was published on Library Journal earlier in the month. LJ has a ton of other “best” lists for your reading pleasure. Or for the detriment of your TBR pile.