You may recall my previous post about my top 10 reads of the year as of September. In that post I focused primarily on new releases, but now I’m here to give you my absolute favorites and some of those from my previous list have been knocked out the running!
Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
Arabella grew up on her father’s plantation in Mars, until her mother decides she needs to be raised a proper lady and sends her back to Earth. After struggling to adjust to her new life, Arabella catches word of trouble back home on Mars and does the only thing she can think of to get back – disguises herself as a boy and takes a job on a trade ship.
Who doesn’t want to read about Victorian-era, steampunk, space adventures in spaceships made of wood that sail through breathable atmosphere? Arabella is sassy and smart and I loved reading about the differences in ways of life and politics throughout the different planets. The sequel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus is solid too.
Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank
Set in LA in the 1970s, this is the story of two boys starting sixth grade in one of the first schools to desegregate. The boys start off as enemies, but soon realize they have a lot more in common than they’d ever imagined.
Meaningful middle-grade at its best. I loved the dynamic between the two boys and the friendship that bloomed between them. If you’re looking for a contemporary (well, sorta) set in 1970s America and based on the author’s childhood during a time when desegregation was just beginning, I highly recommend this.
The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
The world’s technology has advanced; mosquitos no longer drink blood, Big Macs can be printed and teleportation is possible. A man finds himself duplicated after a teleportation accident and must fight off the powerful agency that seeks to destroy he and his twin and the religious cult that seeks to exploit them, all while trying to find his wife.
I love me a snarky protagonist and teleportation mishaps. This book has all that, plus interesting and amusing footnotes, lots of action, and a beautifully shiny cover!
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Dill has become a pariah at school after his father’s scandalous church practices that sent him to jail. He’s starting to feel like his future is hopeless, that he’ll be stuck in the same backwater town, while his best friend Lydia moves away to college.
What’s this? A YA contemporary made my top list!? I have my friend Chelsea to thank for this recommendation. The teens in this story didn’t annoy me to the point of insanity (which is rare) and they were compelling to read about. Not to mention there were some major feels that blindsided me (in public, no less!) and if you’re looking for a quick read with no love triangles this book might just be what you need.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
In a companion/prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, Jack and Jill’s ordinary, if somewhat constrained, lives are uprooted when they climb into a trunk and out on to the haunted moors. Each sister chooses a mentor and as their newfound skills develop, the divide between them widens.
The Wayward Children series is full of characters that have come back from magical worlds they’ve stumbled upon and now must adjust to life in the real world again. This is an excellent viewpoint to highlight and I enjoy the varied cast of characters (some good LGBT rep going on). This book had a wonderfully dark tone that left me desperate for more.
Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp
Slud was prophesied for greatness from birth and when his family and clan are destroyed by elves, he vows to take revenge on the stinking goblins inhabiting the mountain that was once his home. The crude troll, aided (unwillingly) by an unkillable goblin rouge, will take on a whole goblin clan if it’s the last thing he does.
Foul-mouthed troll? Check. Foul-mouthed goblins with hilarious names? Check. Bloody action scenes? Check. Old gods thirsty for revenge? Check. How many more boxes do you need checked?! I need more from this universe, stat.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
After the annihilation of the human race, robots rule the earth. But larger, hive-minds seek to destroy individual bots and add their knowledge to their massive database. Some of the bots are fighting back and among them is a bitter, weary scavenger named Brittle.
Brittle, my girl! Obviously, a robot, I love stories about robots. This was the perfect mix of desolate future where humanity has ceased to exist, and compelling non-human characters and their battle for what is essentially a human lifestyle. I mean, those are all things you look for in your sci-fi, right?
The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear
The Dead Man and The Gage were hired to guard a caravan as it travels, but they soon find themselves wrapped up in the politics of two ruling queens who are struggling to keep their thrones.
Yet another diverse read, but in a fantasy setting this time. There are automatons and cat-people and a Dead Man and transgender queen and several women in power (even if they’re struggling to keep it), wrapped up in a world with a heavily Eastern flavor.
Artemis by Andy Weir
Jazz has lived on the moon most of her life. Rather than follow her father’s footsteps as a successful welder and builder, she’s chosen the life of smuggler. But when she uncovers a plot that could change the lives of everyone in the base, she puts her less-than-honest skills to work in order to save the place she calls home.
This is one of the most fun books I’ve read this year. Similar to The Martian, in that it has a wise-ass narrator and lots of whacky, lucky escapes, I didn’t want to put this down.
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Winslow Houndstooth has been hired to root feral hippos out of the Mississippi River. But as he assembles his crew, it’s clear to them there’s more than just a contract at stake – Winslow has plans of vengeance.
Another exciting read with a diverse cast. This novella packs in a lot of action and character history and I’m incredibly excited to read the follow-up. I mean, savage hippos lurking in the swamps in the southern US after a failed plan to farm them for meat…who doesn’t want to read about that?! Cowboys, but on hippos! HIPPOCOWBOYS!
Honorable Mention goes to:
The Fireman by Joe Hill
A plague called Dragonscale is quickly wiping out humanity – its victims are first covered in gold, shimmering scale patterns, much like those of dragons, before they eventually spontaneously combust, burning to death and sometimes causing others to ignite with them. Harper is a nurse and made a pact with her husband that they’d kill themselves should they ever fall prey to the ‘Scale – but that all changes when Harper finds out she’s pregnant.
While some of the characters in this book drove me up a wall, it was mostly in a good way (or at least a compelling way) and the plot was so awesome that I didn’t care. I don’t read a lot of plague books (is that a sub-genre? It should be…) so maybe I’m easily impressed, but I loved the concept Hill created and his lead character, The Fireman, stole the show.
There you have it! Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks?