Another year, another boatload of books read 🙂 It’s time for me to suck it up and try to tell you which books I enjoyed the most over the year.
One of my favourite fantasy reads of the year is The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells. The world building is unparalleled, and I love the narration. I have the rest of the series, I just need to find the time to read it!
Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself … someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community.
What this stranger doesn’t tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power… that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony’s survival … and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell!
Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save and himself… and his newfound kin.
A fantasy novel that surprised me is The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Charthrand Voyages #1) by Robert V. S. Redick. It took a while to get going, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting novels I read throughout the year!
Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar.
For the ship’s true mission is not peace but war—a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies—including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat—and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.
The most interesting science fiction books I’ve read this year are Gemsigns (Revolution #1) by Stephanie Saulter and vN (The Machine Dynasty #1) by Madeline Ashby.
Humanity stands on the brink. Again.
Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.
After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.
Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war.
BZRK (BZRK #1) by Michael Grant is also an amazing YA SF read, I absolutely love the emphasis on nanotechnology.
Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind. Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal: to turn the world into their vision of utopia. No wars, no conflict, no hunger. And no free will. Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human. This is no ordinary war, though. Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain. And there are no stalemates here: It’s victory . . . or madness.
I think my favourite contemporary reads for the year were Slammed (Slammed #1) by Colleen Hoover and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. I also really liked Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder.
Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope.
Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.
Other types of speculative fiction:
I read The Returned by Jason Mott, which explores how the world would react if the dead came back to life. It’s not a zombie book, but explores life and death in a fascinating way.
Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time . Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.
All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.
I also enjoyed The Iron King (The Accursed Kings #1) by Maurice Druon, which is a historical fiction that George R. R. Martin based A Song of Ice and Fire on. It’s brilliant. Originally written in French, HarperVoyager is bringing out English translations of the whole series.
The Iron King – Philip the Fair – is as cold and silent, as handsome and unblinking as a statue. He governs his realm with an iron hand, but he cannot rule his own family: his sons are weak and their wives adulterous; while his red-blooded daughter Isabella is unhappily married to an English king who prefers the company of men.
A web of scandal, murder and intrigue is weaving itself around the Iron King; but his downfall will come from an unexpected quarter. Bent on the persecution of the rich and powerful Knights Templar, Philip sentences Grand Master Jacques Molay to be burned at the stake, thus drawing down upon upon himself a curse that will destroy his entire dynasty …
I have this thing where I avoid sequels – I think I’m scared they won’t live up the previous book. Regardless, I think the best sequels I’ve read this year are:
- Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
- The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa
- The Desert Spear (The Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V. Brett
Hands down, this one goes to These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. But The Bone Season (Scion #1) by Samantha Shannon is absolutely epic too and I don’t think I can choose between them!
It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets to the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder – would they be better off staying in this place forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
Other débuts I liked:
- The Holders (The Holders #1) by Julianna Scott
- Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi
- The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra Bracken
- Pantomime (Pantomime #1) by Laura Lam
- Broken (Broken #1) by A. E. Rought
Maggie Stiefvater – I read both The Scorpio Races and The Dream Thieves by Maggie this year, and loved both!
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Marie Lu – I also read Legend and Prodigy this year, and enjoyed them immensely. I have Champion, and I can’t wait to read it soon.
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near is one of my favourite Aussie books of the year. A perfect balance of creepy and dark, funny and romantic, this book should be on every shelf!
He’s gone the same way as those little birds that bothered me with their awful songs! And you will too, you and your horrible heart-music, because you won’t stay out of my woods!’
There’s a dead girl in a birdcage in the woods. That’s not unusual. Isola Wilde sees a lot of things other people don’t. But when the girl appears at Isola’s window, her every word a threat, Isola needs help.
Her real-life friends – Grape, James and new boy Edgar – make her forget for a while. And her brother-princes – the mermaids, faeries and magical creatures seemingly lifted from the pages of the French fairytales Isola idolises – will protect her with all the fierce love they possess.
It may not be enough.
Isola needs to uncover the truth behind the dead girl’s demise and appease her enraged spirit, before the ghost steals Isola’s last breath.
Other Australian books I enjoyed:
- Haze (The Rephaim #2) by Paula Weston
- Kinslayer (The Lotus War #2) by Jay Kristoff
- Valley of Shields (Empire of Bones #2) by Duncan Lay
- The Shadowed Throne (The Risen Sun #2) by K. J. Taylor
- Black Sun Light My Way (Children of the Black Sun #2) by Jo Spurrier
Books I loved, but you probably haven’t heard of:
I discovered Alex Shearer this year — I love the world he created in The Cloud Hunters, and the sequel Sky Run is just as amazing, if not even more so, than the first book. I highly recommend his books to everyone!!
Hunting the skies is not for the faint-hearted. In a world where water is scarce and deadly jellyfish swim through the sky, mollycoddled teenager Christien dreams of excitement and danger. When he meets the exotic and alluring Jenine and her family of Cloud Hunters, he becomes determined to fulfil that dream. . . .
In a richly imaginative tale, perfect for both boys and girls as they launch themselves into the world of fiction as independent readers, Alex Shearer creates a Dahl-esque fantasy that roams through realms of magic, wonder and adventure.
I also read Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill, which is one of the most ethereal books I’ve ever read. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, Queen of the Dark Things, which comes out next year.
In the début novel DREAMS AND SHADOWS, screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill takes us beyond the veil, through the lives of Ewan and Colby, young men whose spirits have been enmeshed with the otherworld from a young age. This brilliantly crafted narrative – part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Torro, part William Burroughs – follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods. Cargill’s tour-de-force takes us inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky-swilling genies and foul-mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped. With sensitivity and hopeful examination, Cargill illuminates a supernatural culture that all too eerily resembles our own. Set in a richly imagined and constructed world, complete with its own richly detailed history and mythology, DREAMS AND SHADOWS is a deeply engaging story about two extraordinary boys becoming men.
Books that surprised me:
Here are the books that took me by surprise – I enjoyed them a lot more that I’d expected.
Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler is a surprising read – it’s about a teenaged girl who has a kraken as a best friend. It is a gorgeous adventure with trolls and witches and magic.
The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price.
Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly’s quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way.
I also really liked The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab, I picked it up at the library because of the nice cover, and ended up loving it and now I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, The Unbound.
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
Other notable mentions:
- Taste of Darkness (Avry of Kazan #3) by Maria V. Snyder
- The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines #3) by Richelle Mead
Whew!! That’s some list! I really enjoyed all of these, and looking back, I’ve read some amazing books this year. I’m looking forward to next year, and more awesome books!!
Have you read any of these books? What were your favourite reads of the year?