Sunday, January 01, 2017

Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! I hope you all had fabulous holidays and are not too busy making New Year's resolutions. My Week in Review fell conveniently on New Year's Day so I thought rather than just reviewing what I had read in the last week (which wasn't likely to be much) I would write a retrospective of my favourite books of 2016. This is no mean feat as a) I have a terrible memory for book names b) nothing jumped out as being especially memorable and c) I have a terrible memory for book names! Due to my commitment to jog my memory I trawled through all my WIRs and found a few reviews and voila I found 10 books/series. So in order of 'favouriteness' here are my fave reads of 2016:

1.  One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

One of the main reasons for this being my favourite book of 2016 was that I have been reading it over the course of the whole year as it was released a a weekly serial. Looking back at my WIRs I started reading the first chapter early last year (maybe in January) and I mentioned in a number of posts that I was enjoying it. I had the opportunity to review the e-Arc (which I jumped at) and it was even better in it's entirety and after edits/additions. This has been my go-to book when I have been feeling blue and needed a pick me up. Check out my full review here.

2.  Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I predicted back in April that Sleeping Giants was going to be one of my favourite books of the year and I wasn't wrong. This book is so well written, so innovative and has you gripped all the way through. Written in the form of transcripts I spent most of the novel wondering who the mystery interviewer was. The ending is an 100 volt shocker. This is fantastic sci-fi so get reading it. Read my review here.

UK Edition
3.  City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

If Bennett has a book out and I have read it, then it's  a guarantee that it will be on my 'best of' list. City of Blades is no exception. City of Stairs (book 1) in the Divine Cities series was one of my favourites so it makes sense that book 2 would be as well. Bennett combines unsympathetic characters that you still feel sympathy for, with a brilliantly executed plot, in an evocatively rich environment. You could read this as a standalone but why miss book 1? Check out what I thought here.

UK Edition
4.  Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

Four years after O'Malley's fantabulous debut The Rook he was back with Stiletto. Back with the Checquy but starring different characters we, the reader, get a front row seat to the merger of two sworn enemy organisations - The Checquy and the Grafters.  Hold on as it is a roller coaster ride of political maneuvers, deadly attacks and cocktail parties. Find out more by checking out my review.

5.  Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

Dreaming Death was a bit of a surprise for me. I thought the plot sounded ok but I was blown away with the characterisation and mostly with the description of the environment. This book was practically a scratch and sniff it was soo descriptive, all without over egging it. The murder mystery played second fiddle to the relationship between the two main characters, who don't even meet in person until much later story. Check out my full review.

6.  Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

I couldn't pick just one. Both of the novellas of this series are excellent in their individual way. This is story telling at its very best with the tale of the Knight Quinn told by a third party. Story 1 - The Emperor's Railroad is told in the first person in the form of a young boy's diary whereas book 2 The Ghoul King is more of a confession (or results of coercion). There is a HUGE reveal in book 2 and I can hardly wait for the next instalment. Great books, great covers, get reading!

The Emperor's Railroad review is here
The Ghoul King review is here

7.  Amra Thetys by Michael McClung

I read over a dozen books in the first round of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and I nearly lost faith in self published books until I came across McClung's series. I had become disillusioned with the quality of some of the prose so decided to check out the winner from SPFBO 1 which was The Thief That Pulled on Trouble's Braids. It wasn't long before I was buying books 2 and 3. Amra is a great female lead and the mystery keeps you engrossed from page 1 through to the end. My first review is here.

8.  The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series by Rod Duncan

I came across the final book of this series - The Custodian of Marvels through NetGalley but it was the final in the series so I had to go back an read the previous two books. Duncan has written an engaging steam-punky/fantasy world in which the intrepid Elizabeth Barnabas tries to right a wrong committed long ago while trying to steer clear of the dreaded Patent Office. Read what I thought about the final instalment here.

9.  Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

It's been awhile since a Kate Daniel's book has hit my fave list. While I enjoy the series overall the last couple of books have been closer to OK than to WOWILOVEDIT. For me, Magic Binds had more to it than Kate getting trampled and left for dead which seemed to be a focal point of the last 2-3 books. There was a real sense that Andrews is ramping things up for the culmination of the over-arching plot which I am looking forward to. As I wrote in my review this book is non stop action which has a purpose other than to see how tough Kate is to kill. I won't be waiting around to buy book 10. Bring it Kate!

10.  The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

While Wellington Books holds a secret place in my heart and while this further adventure in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences hits my top 10 I would be wrong to place it any higher than tenth place. I know, I can I be so cruel to dear Books especially when I donated to the Kickstarter campaign that brought this instalment into fruition? I still don't think I have forgiven the authors for what I can only describe as a time travelling transgression in book 4. The Ghost Rebellion is much closer to this series' former glory and I enjoyed the time I spent with characters past and present. Check out what I thought in a bit more detail here.

Apologies to all those books I had to leave out. There were some great ones but I didn't want to stretch it past 10 favourites. Now that I look at my list and my short list (which ran to 13) I was a bit more spoiled for choice than I originally thought.

To everyone that has cast a glance at this post and especially those who follow my Week in Review I wish you the very best for 2017. Let's hope the sad departures from the arts and sciences in 2016 doesn't continue into the new year and that we can find a silver lining in this politically volatile landscape. Until my next WIR Happy Reading.

One Fell Sweep
Innkeeper Chronicles 3
NYLA, December 20, 2016
eBook, 257 pages

DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has and may have to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that.

Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files 1
Del Rey, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 26, 2016

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

City of Blades
The Divine Cities 2
Broadway Books, January 26, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages
(US Edition)

A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.

The Rook Files 2
Little Brown and Company, June 14, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

In this spirited sequel to the acclaimed The Rook, Myfanwy Thomas returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic -- and slimy -- supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers---and the bureaucratic finesse---to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy---the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural threats, and...

The Grafters---a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

Stiletto is a novel of preternatural diplomacy, paranoia, and snide remarks, from an author who "adroitly straddles the thin line between fantasy, thriller, and spoof " (Booklist).

Dreaming Death
Palace of Dreams 1
Roc, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…

The Emperor's Railroad
A Tale of the Dreaming Cities 1, April 19, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 144 pages

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

The Ghoul King
A Tale of the Dreaming Cities 2, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 160 pages

Quinn returns in THE GHOUL KING, another story of the Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley.

The Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory.

After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot.

But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
Amra Thetys 1
Ragnarok Publications, September 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 298 pages

"They butchered Corbin right out in the street. That’s how it really started. He was a rogue and a thief, of course. But then, so am I. So when he got himself hacked up in front of his house off Silk Street, I decided somebody had to be made to pay. They thought that they could just sweep him away like rubbish. They were wrong."

Amra Thetys is a thief with morals: she won't steal from anybody poorer than she is; of course, anybody that poor generally doesn't have much worth stealing.

When a fellow thief and good friend is killed in a deal gone wrong, Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something far more precious: revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate—the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for—and they'll do anything to take it from her.

Trouble is, Amra hasn't got the least clue where the Blade might be. She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she'll be joining her unfortunate friend in a cold grave rather than avenging his death, and time is running short for the small, scarred thief.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids is the first volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.

The Custodian of Marvels
The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire 3
Angry Robot Books, February 2, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
Angry Robot Books, February 11, 2016 (UK Print)

You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent Office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to try. A one-time enemy from the circus has persuaded her to attempt a heist that will be the ultimate conjuring trick.

Hidden in the vaults of the Patent Court in London lie secrets that could shake the very pillars of the Gas-Lit Empire. All that stands in Elizabeth’s way are the agents of the Patent Office, a Duke’s private army and the mysterious Custodian of Marvels.

Rod Duncan returns with the climactic volume of The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, the breathtaking alternate history series that began with the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.

File Under: Fantasy [ Time Runs Out | The Duke’s Enemy | Open the Vault | A Union ]

Magic Binds
A Kate Daniels Novel
Ace, September 20, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim.  But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

The Ghost Rebellion
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 5
ImagineThat! Studios, June 17, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, pages

From authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, the award winning steampunk series continues...

The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria's life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.


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