2015 JS Book Recommendations

As I first did last year, it’s time to recommend the best books I’ve read this year. Maybe you’ll like them too. Or, maybe someone on your gift list will.

Turns out, I read a lot of good books in 2015! It wasn’t easy to whittle down the list, but here they are, the five books I absolutely could not put down in 2015. I’ve given a brief explanation why you should read each, but hopefully not enough to spoil anything.

1) I’ll start with a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. If you don’t mind dark and gritty (and if you read my books, I assume you don’t), this book is simply stunning. It’s on the top of my “read again if you ever decide to write a western” list.

2) The next two are books I’ve loved for a long time, but re-read this year, so I’ll lump them together. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Many people read these books in high school, but I’d recommend saving them for (or re-reading later with) an adult’s perspective on the world.

3) While writing SUPERPOWERED, I got into a lot of graphic novels. One that has stuck with me and that I continue to read as issues are released is Saga by by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Illustrator). It would be overly simplistic to call the story Romeo and Juliet set in space, but I think it’s great proof that adding a different spice (and this one is spicy!) can completely change a familiar dish.

4) The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Minor spoiler: This book contains sentient zombies. Which, normally, I don’t like. I’d rather see new human perspectives in the zombie apocalypse than I would like to see the ZA itself re-invented. That said, this book has a lot of heart and a lot of creativity, without too much gore. Stuff it in the stocking of the most sensitive zombie fan you know.

5) Rounding out this year’s list in the only Indie book on here (I know, I should be better than that!): Reapers by the Thornton Brothers. What starts off as a clever Lord of the Rings parallel to the Iraq war (our cast is comprised of “black ops” rangers, but the setting is high fantasy) eventually evolves into something much more. I won’t say too much, because there is some massively creative storytelling in here.

Honorable Mentions

First, we have The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I went into this story blind, simply because GdT is one of my favorite filmmakers, and the audiobook is narrated by the delightful Ron Perlman. If you want your own Monet Experience, I’d highly recommend picking up the book and diving in. The opening air of mystery is fantastic. It didn’t make my top reads cut, however, because it’s a cliff-hangar book. None of the story is resolved by the end and I’m assuming you have to read all three to get any closure. To boot, Perlman only narrates the first book. So I’ve started watched the TV show instead of continuing the series.

Next up is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which falls just short of amazing. The book jumps around its timeline, presenting some chapters in a WWII “present” and then going back to the backstory for others. I know this is a popular technique to keep readers hooked by teasing the climax, but I feel like it cheapened the experience here. In fact, if you decide to check out this book, I’d recommend you go through and write down the dates at the front of each chapter, then read the book chronologically. I’m willing to bet you’ll have a brilliant experience with it.

Over the summer, I listened to the audiobook of A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z Williamson. On the cover, it shows a caveman, a centurion, and a modern US soldier standing atop a jeep and fighting off ice age beasts. Nuff said, right? I’m a sucker for a good time travel story. And I wanted to love this one, but there just wasn’t any interpersonal conflict in the novel. Several groups of people were shuffled through time, and they were all just like, “cool, let’s do this.” I needed a bit more.

I was looking forward to The Fold by Peter Clines for a long time. It’s the sister-book to 14, which was one of my favorites of the previous year. The story is still a lot of fun, but the main character’s (minor spoiler) perfect “mimetic memory” is too much of a superpower. I loved the average Joe falls into a crazy world that 14 gave me, but the protagonist of The Fold feels like an AI computer and so the stakes were lowered. I always felt he’d come out on top. Still, this book was worth the read and I’d check out another written in that same universe.

Finally, we have Armada by Ernest Cline. This author is on fire, and he’s delivered another fun book, but not quite to the level of his first, Ready Player One. This book feels just a little bit too inspired by Ender’s Game and the conclusion felt somewhat truncated. That said, it’s a fun, quick read (or a cool listen by narrator Wil Wheaton). Worth it, but not amazing.

So, what do YOU think? Have you read any of the titles listed? Any suggestions for me?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Five Books for Christmas!

None of these books are Christmas themed, but they all make great gifts.

No, SUPERPOWERED won’t be out in time for the Holiday Season. So I figured I’d do the next best thing and recommend the best books I’ve read this year (even though Click Your Poison Books make great stocking stuffers… /end_shameless.plug)

Here they are, the five books I absolutely could not put down in 2014. I’ve given a brief explanation why you should read each, but hopefully not enough to ruin your chances of a Monet Experience.

1) First up is The Martian by Andy Weir. This book is probably the year’s biggest self-publishing success story. From obscure indie, to bestseller with movie rights optioned by 20th Century Fox, Mr. Weir’s ride is enviable to any author. But I didn’t know any of this when I picked it up, and that’s not the reason you should. You should read it because it’s a great book! Fast-paced, believable near-future science fiction at its best. In fact, once you’ve read this one yourself, check out my Martian Theory.

2) Next is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a non-fiction book that bills itself as “The Story of Success.” This is a book that will change the way you look at the world. Do you really need more of a recommendation than that? I listened to the audiobook here and it’s one of the few author-narrated books that doesn’t suffer from the lack of a professional voice actor. Good luck reading this one and not telling everyone you know about what you learn from it.

3) As part of my superhero research, I picked up Watchmen for the first time. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, this graphic novel redefined comic books. All the dark and gritty superhero movies we love so much owe their existence to Watchmen. I learned much about writing a compelling superhero tale from the pages within, and though I didn’t really enjoy the movie when it came out, I had a newfound respect for the film after reading the book. Isn’t that always the way?

4) After thoroughly enjoying The Edge of Tomorrow with Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise (you can read my blog on the ending if you’ve seen it), I sought out the script and novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. And while they don’t line up with the movie much at all, I enjoyed the novel in its own right. It’s a much more philosophical and romantic journey, clearly inspired by videogames, but still kicks ass and takes names with buckets of sci fi action.

5) Rounding out the list as my anchor is the Ex series by Peter Clines. Start with Ex-Heroes and go from there. The book is heralded as The Walking Dead meets The Avengers, but for my money, it surpasses both. As someone who writes zombies and superheroes myself, this series is right up my alley and highly recommended as worthy of your time.

Honorable Mentions

First we have Wearing the Cape by Marrion Harmon. Another self-published gem, Mr. Harmon has some extremely creative ideas in here. I enjoyed the read overall, but it didn’t quite make my list because of the simplistic characters. Caveat: I don’t read much Young Adult, so I wasn’t the target audience, but if you’ve got a youngster on your list–go ahead and pick this one up.

Next is The Boys written by Garth Ennis and iillustrated by Darick Robertson. Another superhero tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s dark, twisted, and rounds out with a great surprise. The only reason it doesn’t make my list is that it’s too gratuitous. If you’ve read my books and chosen some of the more sinister options, you know that’s saying something. I don’t mind dark and gritty, but this graphic novel went over the top IMO.

My other favorite non-fiction read in 2014 was Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne. I had no idea just how far science has come since Darwin first published his theory, and this book does a great job presenting those proofs. Want to know how new species come about? This book will explain it. My only complaint is that the author spends a bit too much time battling his religious opposition in these pages, to the point that it might turn off some readers who would otherwise give the book a read with a more open mind.

Rounding out the honorable mentions is Suicide Squad written by Adam Glass and illustrated by Federico Dallocchio. I only read a few issues of this bad-guys-are-the-good-guys graphic novel, and while I initially enjoyed the story, it didn’t manage to hold my attention. That said, I am really looking forward to the movie!

So, what do YOU think? Have you read any of the titles listed? Any suggestions for me?

Feel free to comment below, like, share, and subscribe (top left)!