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text 2017-01-12 20:44
7 Favorites of 2016
Bone - Jeff Smith
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle
The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay
The Iron Jackal (Tales of the Ketty Jay Book 3) - Chris Wooding
The Fear Institute - Jonathan L. Howard
The Fisherman - John Langan

Yeah, it's a little late, but these are my favorites of the books I  read last year. I'm only listing one per author/series, and I am not including short stories, but one novella did make the list, as did one graphic novel. So, in no particular order, my favorite books read in 2016

 

1. Bone - Jeff Smith  Bone - Jeff Smith  

 

    Easily the longest book I read  last year, and the one I'd been wanting to read the longest. I remember reading an interview with Smith when this was first being serialized about twenty years ago. Basically, if Carl Barks (of the old Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics) had written LOTR... It's gorgeously drawn, and surprisingly deep, epic and hilarious in equal measure. Despite being over 1300 pages long, I read it in a day. It is truly that compelling.

 

2. The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle  The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle 

 

    I read a lot of Lovecraftiana in 2016, but this was easily the best example. This novella is an inspired retelling of "The Horror at Red Hook," easily one of Lovecrafts most racist stories, that flips the whole thing on it's head. The main character goes down some dark paths, but you always understand why. This tale both celebrates and excoriates HPL while telling a great story in it's own right.

 

3. The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch  The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch  

 

    The first, and easily best, of the Gentleman Bastards series, this introduces us to a spectacular crew of conn artists as they take on a huge job in a fantastic city reminiscent of Renaissance Venice. Told in both flashback and present day, with truly remarkable characters, this book should be read by any fantasy fan. The rest of the series thus far has been a case of diminishing returns, but still fun. Either way, I'm in it for the long haul.

 

4. The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay  The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay  

 

    Loosely based on Song of the Cid, this is a flat-out gorgeous novel that deals with heavy themes while still being very funny and entertaining. Thhis also may have been the best-written book I read last year.

 

5. The Iron Jackal (Tales of the Ketty Jay Book 3) - Chris Wooding  The Iron Jackal (Tales of the Ketty Jay Book 3) - Chris Wooding  

 

    I read and loved the entire Ketty Jay series in '16. Still, this penultimate volume was the most epic and exciting, while also having several of the best character moments. It is almost too easy to describe this series as a steampunk-fantasy Firefly... So that is exactly what I'll do.

 

6. The Fear Institute - Jonathan L. Howard  The Fear Institute - Jonathan L. Howard  

 

   Another great Lovecraftian piece, albeit one deeply involved with old HP's Dreamlands, an aspect of his work too often ignored in favor of his Mythos. This is the third in Howard's Johannes Cabal series, and the first to feel like a genuine horror novel. This is my favorite of the five books in the series thus far.

 

7. The Fisherman - John Langan  The Fisherman - John Langan  

 

    True, there are other books I rated higher, but this one makes the list, if only for the novella that serves as the novel's centerpiece. The rest of the book is quite good, but Der Fischer is possibly the single greatest piece of cosmic horror I have yet to read. It is indebted to Lovecraft without using any of his actual narrative inventions, instead using Talmudic, Cabbalistic and Biblical sources for it's horrors. Truly amazing.

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text 2017-01-06 13:04
7 "Gotta-Get" Books
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies - John Langan
Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction - Neil Gaiman
Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared - Christopher Fowler
The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune - Stuart Galbraith,Stuart Galbraith IV
The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

Thus far, I've been talking about books I already own that I need to read. As much as I want to focus on that, there are quite a few books out there that I very much want to get and read this year. These aren't new releases, rather books I just haven't gotten to yet. Some are from legends in their respective fields, some are from fave authors, and some just seem nifty.

 

1.The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies - John Langan  The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies - John Langan  

 

    Just recently, I read Langan's The Fisherman, and was quite fond. Though I liked the book as a whole, the centerpiece story-within-a-story just floored me. As well, Langan's "Red Death" riff that I read in a Poe-inspired anthology was fantastic. As such,I want to get into more of his shorter works.

 

2. Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay  Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay  

 

    I read two of Kay's novels last year, and adored them. So I'm going to pick up at least this one in '17, possibly another as well.

 

3. Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb  Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb  

 

    Hobb is well-known and loved in the fantasy scene, and this is the first book in the trilogy that launched her over-arching world. I have a love-hate relationship with high fantasy, but this just sounds fun.

 

4. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction - Neil Gaiman  The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction - Neil Gaiman  

 

I am a massive fan of Gaiman, have been since reading American Gods far too many years ago. Also, I dig pop-cult essays a la Hornby and Vowell. So this is a no-brainer.

 

5. Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared - Christopher Fowler  Invisible Ink: How 100 Great Authors Disappeared - Christopher Fowler  

 

    I dig books about books, and stories of near-success are often more fascinating than either pure success or failure. And, I like history.

 

6. The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune - Stuart Galbraith,Stuart Galbraith IV  The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune - Stuart Galbraith,Stuart Galbraith IV  

 

    I love movies, how they're made, who makes them, the whole shebang. Also, I like exploring unfamiliar cultures. Mix two strong personalities with long, interesting careers, post-war economics and fears, and various technical and creative challenges... Dude, I am so there.

 

7. The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith  The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith  

 

    Like many people, I read and loved the Harry Potter series. Combine that with the fact that I am a long-time mystery fan, especially P.I. novels, as well as the general praise heaped upon this series, and it's surprising I haven't read  this yet. That changes this year.

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review 2016-10-24 15:03
The Implausibility of Happenstance: "Children of Earth and Sky" by Guy Gavriel Kay
Children of Earth and Sky - Guy Gavriel Kay

Rick in Casablanca notices the vast implausibility of happenstance: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Is serendipity a good thing in fiction ever? For me, one of the precepts of good writing has always been that coincidences are only permissible when the writer is setting up the narrative. Indeed, they’re often necessary: Circumstances have to come together in some way to launch an extended action. A sudden hailstorm brings man and woman together under the same awning, creating the necessary meet, and things can build from there, as it happened with Rick and Ilse. But, in my Tomus Primus of Good Writing wisdom says: “don’t use a coincidence to develop or resolve the plot.” It seems Kay forgot this cardinal rule.

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

 

SF = Speculative Fiction.

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review 2016-07-25 04:42
#24in48 Wrap-up
Children of Earth and Sky - Guy Gavriel Kay

I had a good, productive weekend even though I didn't squeeze in as much #24in48 as I had hoped. 

 

I did finish Children of Earth and Sky (300 pages or so read, about 6 or 7 hours).   It was OK, but didn't have the magic of Tigana or The Lions of El Rassan.  

 

I started Words in the Dust (listened to about 2.5 hours), but it was surprisingly difficult to listen while carrying on with the rest of my weekend (I don't like headphones or ear-buds and the Kindle Fire was hard to hear over background noise).

 

So approximately 9 hours read/listened out of my target of 12.  2 batches of blueberry jam made, and life lived.  

 

Good night sweet Readathon. 

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text 2016-07-24 04:35
#24in48 Update 2
Children of Earth and Sky - Guy Gavriel Kay

Read about 200 pages in Children of Earth and Sky after dinner.  There's about 100 pages left and I'm heading for bed.

 

Good reading to all those in different time zones, or who are spending the night with books instead of pillows.

 

 

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