Category Archives: Recommendation

June 2019 Recommended Books

We built a patio this June, something large enough to eventually put in a fire pit and bench when we get our strength and motivation back (and maybe when summer is starting to fade). I have been informed I could now officially be an apprentice to a mason as I have gained some basic sand-slinging and leveling skills.

Taught my son to play Misty Mountains on the keyboard as well! He picked it up quick enough, transferring over his training from the violin, and we had a great time coming up with personal mnemonics to remember the notes. Great Big Dinosaurs Fart Atrociously was perhaps the winner. He’ll certainly not forget it, which was the point XD

These are my favorite books I read in June, with an addendum that I also read and enjoyed Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (a YA Fantasy about dangerous, fantastical libraries) and that it’s gone on my shelf awaiting to be picked up by the girl in a few years.

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The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
(Fantasy Mystery)

This book. Probably one of my favorites for the year so far. While reading I could clearly see the nod to Agatha Christie and it was no surprise to discover Turton made a comment about her in his Q&A at the back end of my copy. This blend of mystery and fantasy is one I continually reach for and yet, quite often, the urban fantasy that overwhelmingly attempts to tap into the mystery genre does not come close to satisfying my desires. The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle went beyond my expectations despite all the praise I knew it to have. The prose by itself would have made the story. Then add in all the twists, the turns, the confusion and excitement, and the existential question of who is Aiden Bishop underneath all these hosts he wears made this novel go straight to sitting next to some of favorite Agatha Christie. I can not wait to see what Turton writes next!

Five Unicorn Flush by T. J. Berry
(Science Fantasy)

Sequel to Space Unicorn Blues, Five Unicorn Flush came out this past May and covers what happens after the separation of some of the characters at the end of the previous novel. I can’t say much for fear of spoilers, however, I was relieved that our lead, Jenny, did not suddenly and magically become able-bodied, since that would have felt unrealistic and unachievable, and she continued to be the stubborn, successful character we met before. The darkly humorous bent this series owns continued on through this book, making it fun despite serious under-workings.

The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo
(Middle Grade Fantasy)

I don’t normally recommend the middle grade books I read to my kids, but this book is so touching and well-crafted I can’t help but make an exception. The main story is told by an African grey who desperately wishes to fly free from the pet store in which he’d been born, while two other (human) characters are shown through journal entries and letters. The underlying theme of grief and growth is seamlessly folded into each character’s arc in a poignant, but different way. Enough so that while reading the second half of this book my daughter kept telling me she felt funny, felt like she needed to cry, and I agreed with her wholeheartedly. Even better, Leonardo took famous poems as inspiration to write others from the bird’s perspective in such a way that the poems were accessible to children who had never heard of Carroll or Frost or Keats. I ended up adoring this book!

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May 2019 Recommended Books

Last month I read a few more nonfiction books than I normally do, so they took the place of the fantasy and science-fiction novels I have from the library. But I still found some really great ones out of what I read!

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Every Heart a Doorway
by Seanan McGuire
(Fantasy)

This was the most poignant book I read last month, dealing with belonging, sense of self and the pain of others’ rejection of that self. What I found so intriguing was the story takes that particular order as well, with each character having found the place they belong, finding themselves within that place and then their newly-realized self being rejected by their home or their parents,etc. Very often you’d see this story unfold the opposite direction, with characters discovering themselves and then finding the place they belong. There’s a desperation in each of these young people that is achingly similar, yet their very desires are so different from one another.

The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst
(High Fantasy)

Are you surprised to see this book on my rec list this month? I tried my best to save this novel for June, but my willpower fizzled. I adored going back to Renthia and being introduced to an entirely new region. The islands have their own harsh rules in this world, many born from necessity, and the characters all respond to those restrictions and trials in their own ways, though each of them has the hope of seeing something better for the future. Loved this book and hope dearly that Ms. Durst writes more in Renthia, no matter where she sets the stories.

Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja
(Humorous Military Sci-Fi)

This book did not take itself seriously and was amazing for that fact! The story gave me some Catch-22 vibes, where much of the humor resides in the absurdness of the situations with a character who doesn’t truly know what he’s doing or even if he wants to be doing it. There are many instances of poking fun at science fiction cliches or military expectations, but done in a good-natured way that the entire story leaves you with a smile on your face.

April 2019 Recommended Books

One of the books I read this past month was Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu–read to my daughter. There were so many references to other famous stories and fairy tales that I realized she wasn’t familiar with yet, so we got an abrupt jump to the length of our list of to-read together.

As for my favorites, these stories I’m recommending because I enjoyed them the most out of everything I read :)

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The Ingenious by Darius Hinks
(Dark Fantasy)

This was my absolute favorite book of April. The description of the City drew me to this novel in the first place–a city that absorbs people, culture and even land and then moves on after a few years to another place, creating a setting filled with thousands of years of possibility and differences. The whole of the story held a haunting, somber feel while you follow a woman dealing with layers of addiction who yet is still striving to stand up to the heavy expectations thrust on her at an early age. I found the story powerful and the writing beautiful, painfully beautiful at times when it seems as if Hinks was mixing the fugue-filled state of Isten within the storytelling.

The Reluctant Queen & The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst
(High Fantasy)

It’s not often you read about a woman heroine with kids. Not unless the kids are dead, long moved beyond needing mothering or the kids show up at the end as part of the happily ever after. So maybe I’m a tiny bit biased, but I loved getting to read from the perspective of a woman who doesn’t have illusions of grandeur, doesn’t have the desires that spark grand, sprawling adventures and is making most of her choices based on what’s best for her family rather than the rest of the world. And the world of Renthia is still its conflicted self, dark, yet filled with possibility. There were a few obvious plot threads, but when the world is this magical and the story fun, I care far less about being completely surprised at every turn. (Yep, The Deepest Blue is on my list to read come May! Already have it on my bookshelf taunting me!)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
(Mythological Romance)

I read Circe last year and absolutely adored the story, so picking up its predecessor this year was a no-brainer. I admit, Achilles wasn’t what I expected. I thought there would be more focus on the retelling of the Iliad section of the novel, less focus on Patroclus and Achilles growing up. More grittiness and less drama, yet I found I loved it regardless of expectations. This novel is essentially a crème de la crème of gay fantasy romance and while it’s not so much a retelling of Greek myth, it uses the setting beautifully. And now I have to wait for Miller to write a new book because there is no more back-list to mine.

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A mention I want to add: I read Foundation (Isaac Asimov) for the first time in April. I’d read all his robots books as a youth and loved them; have reread The Caves of Steel multiple times. While I found Foundation interesting, it wasn’t as eye-opening and intriguing as I think it might have been had I read it while still young enough to be surprised by some of the changes to the economy. I also read Hyperion for the first time, however, I’m holding out on a complete opinion until after I read through more of the series. So much world-building though!

March 2019 Recommended Books

I haven’t had much action going on in the submission/publication department, but even with this dearth, I’ve been keeping busy the past few years with reading, writing and general lifey-type things. Since I’ve begun (again) the ever-consistent process of submitting, I thought I would at least keep better track of what I’ve been reading. And then, since I’ve been keeping track, I can now look back over and consider which books I’d recommend to friends (or at least to friends who enjoy similar genres XD)

So, here are my favorite books that I read in March!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
(Dark/High Fantasy)

This was a delicious blend of the macabre and the fanciful that I wasn’t quite expecting when I began, but absolutely adored by the end! The spirits in this story are disturbing, strange and carry all of the wrath of old fae-type legends and makes for a scary undertone in an otherwise beautiful setting. Incredibly quick-paced, even during its comparatively slower portions during the lead’s training sections. I loved that there was a welcoming inclusion of female friendships (the women more often working together despite the competitive nature of their chosen path in the world) that didn’t overshadow the rest of the adventure and action. Recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid of a little death and dismemberment ;)

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
(Science-fiction)

Finally picked these four books up, though I don’t know why it took me so long considering I’m a big fan of Wells’ Raksura books. All Systems Red has been on my list since it came out and I just kept adding to it with each subsequent publication. A part of me is glad I waited though, because I got to read them back to back without much break between to forget details of the stories. They’re each a fun romp with an interesting lead who is constantly balancing its own secrets with its desire to protect the humans around it. Each story revolves around a new (or newish) conflict, goal and enemy, with the lovable rogue SecUnit at its core. They’re softer sci-fi, more focused on the character of Murderbot and its introspection and humanization, though they don’t delve too far into what it means to be human, keeping instead to the adventure and character development of Murderbot itself. I think I liked that best about the story overall, because it was a beautiful story about someone who didn’t want to be anything but itself in a world that expected it to want to be something it wasn’t.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
(YA Historical Fantasy)

I hadn’t tried Chokshi before so this book was a fun surprise. The Forging abilities were not only fresh and interesting in a magical design sense, but they were also embedded in every scene, on every page, in both the history of the world and in the details of the everyday. At its core, the story is a heist, with puzzles and math and specialized characters each with their own unique views and skills. It is YA, but it’s most definitely open to a wider audience. Even if you don’t generally enjoy historical settings, I think you’ll like this one because it’s put together beautifully.

Ship of Smoke And Steel by Django Wexler
(YA Fantasy)

This was another author I had not tried before; I had a few of them this month hoping to find some new fun adventures for my bookshelf. This one made me pick it up because…ghost ship! And the ship was just as intriguing in the reading as it was before I opened the book, and a whole lot bigger. You could call the Solitan a labyrinth it’s so huge. There are strange creatures and ghostly mysteries, not all of which are solved by the end of the book, but enough to leave you satisfied. I’d say, that although the genre is considered YA, the novel feels geared toward an older YA to adult audience given some of the more gritty representation and blunt, experienced characters.

Space Unicorn Blues by T J Berry
(Science Fantasy)

Another one with an interesting ship concept, this time in space. I admit, the Jaggery, a living ship where the bulk of this story takes place, is part of why I enjoyed this novel as much as I did. (It has a lake and a secret network of tiny tunnels for all its dwarves!) That, and the interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy that often had a comical undertone to it despite the dark situations. As for the characters, there’s a half-unicorn, a disabled ex-military, a trans ‘business-woman’, and a grizzled older pilot, all of whom have lost and suffered because of choices they’ve made in the past. The fact that these characters had to deal with actual loss because of past (and later current) choices, made this story more layered than just what seems to be on the surface.

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I did read more science-fiction novels in March, but unfortunately they weren’t quite for me. Maybe next month! I also read a couple of older books, including a few Agatha Christie. I started a quest to read her work a few years ago and I don’t think I’m even half-way through yet, but I’m three books closer :) They’re nice, calming stories that are good to read as almost a reset button if I’ve struggled to enjoy the last few books.