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The Books I Read Last Year: The Good, The Bad, and The Meh (Part 3)

I had other plans for my Friday post, but when OneBearPig pointed out that “Meh” was my 99th post, I thought maybe I should talk about my “Good” books for my 100th. Plus, I’m about to mention both unicorns, the official site mascot, and zombies, which everyone knows are my thing, so it all comes to together in a big ball of awesomeness. Or something. Definitely something.

Part 1, The Bad, and Part 2, The Meh, can be found at these handy links.

 

Part 3 – The Good: (Put These on Your To-Read)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Books 1 and 2 of the Inheritance Trilogy, these two titles were among the novels I was most excited about last year. I heard about them from two glowing reviews on IO9 and picked up Hundred Thousand when I happened across it at my library.

This is exactly what happened: I came home from the library at 9 in the morning. I then read the entire first book in a breathtaking couple of hours, immediately left my house, drove back to the library and checked out the second one. I literally could not wait another day to read the next part of the story.

For the fantasy readers among us, please note this: it is a fantasy world with a POC lead, a non-Greek based mythology, with strong and vibrant female characters. Frankly, this should be enough of a selling point, but the books are fantastic in their own right.

The third book, The Kingdom of Gods, has been released but I was not finished reading it as of this writing.

 

 


 

Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead, and Aloha from Hellby Richard Kadrey

Urban noir mage novels are a dime a dozen these days. Some of them, like the The Dresden Files, are quite good, while many of them are horrible, horrible novels that are excuses for uninventive soft core porn. I am certainly looking in your direction, Anita Blake.

Sandman Slim falls into the former category, which you might have guessed from me including all three novels published on the good list. Kadrey understands that noir is more than fog-clouded streets, treats his femme fatales as more fatales than kittens, and has an inventive look at the concepts of Heaven, Hell, Lucifer, magic, and everything that falls in between. I think Kill the Dead is my favorite of the bunch, but your time isn’t going to be wasted no matter which one (or all of them) you pick up.

 

 

 


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Oh, what a book this is. It’s a love letter to nerd culture by a bona fide nerd – you know how some authors try to short hand when a character is a “loser” by saying he plays D&D and reads Tolkien? You’re not going to find that here. Oscar is a nerd, and maybe even a kind of loser, but so is the author, and the book is filled with a lot of love and empathy towards its main character.

You will not go wrong reading this. The book is brilliant. It won the Pulitzer! It might be my favorite thing I read last year. Hell, it’s my favorite thing I’ve read in the last two years.

 

 

 

 


 

Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black

Ok, I swear this isn’t a joke. Maybe the concept of the book was a joke, but the quality level is shockingly high. The book is a collection of short stories written by authors who are either Team Unicorn or Team Zombie. And honestly, I wasn’t aware that it was possible to write such interesting stories about unicorns.

Holly Black is one of my favorite urban fantasy writers to have hit the scene in the past few years and she’s proving herself to be a great editor as well. Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Libba Bray, and Carrie Ryan? Yes, please.

Ignore your distaste for anything so achingly hipster-ish and get the book. I promise you that it is relevant to your interests.

 

 

Want more reading recommendations? Try Selena’s 5 Books interviews or the great articles on the Book Review tag page.

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com.

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

85 replies on “The Books I Read Last Year: The Good, The Bad, and The Meh (Part 3)”

You should definitely check out ZvU, because even if you don’t like it, at least you didn’t pay for it.

I never read any of Meg Cabot’s novels, but I often run across her in short story form, and I really like those. I might actually read a whole book one day.

I got Zombies vs. Unicorns from my mom as a birthday gift last year, because she loves me and knows me so well… and maybe because I specifically asked for it, but that was besides the point. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stories, and it’s a good book for when I want to just zone out for a bit and get lost in fantasy.

The rest of these books, though, are going on my to-read list!

Oh sweet, thanks for the recommendation! I’ll definitely have to check it out – I’m definitely a fan of short story collections! (:

ETA: just looked the title up on Amazon and there seems to be a few titles by that name. I’m guessing it’s the one by Ellen Datlow and other authors, yes?

If you haven’t read Oscar Wao yet, do it now. I’d also recommend the audiobook, as the performances of the narrators are very good. I’m not well trained in the ways of literature, so excuse me for my plebian terminology, but this book has a very distinctive atmosphere that draws you in almost immediately. You just get the world it exists in super quickly, thanks to the writing.

EVERYONE MUST READ OSCAR WAO!

Aside from being so full of well respected nerdiness – it also contains a history lesson of the Dominican Republic that I could not get enough of. LOVED IT.

The dreaded part? I loved it so much I lent it to my boyfriend a month before he broke up with me. NEVER GOT IT BACK. May his soul rot.

And I think your review of Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is probably the best review I have ever read. THAT’S how you know a book is good. And I’ll be picking it up next week for sure. :) I am now very excited.

 

I know. :( He has my Grizzly Bears CD too.

But then, I kept his favorite college tee shirt, a wool sweater and most the friends. :) Turns out, I was the favorite one of the couple. He got weird and reclusive. I started baking-as-stress-relief. Cookies always win. :)

Oh my God, zombies vs. unicorns. A book of short stories is already a Thing I Love, as the Internet has killed my attention span, and one involving unicorns in the slightest is a priority read.

I used to own a book full of short stories about unicorns and I remember falling in love with it, lending it to a friend, and never seeing it again. I wish I could remember the title.

EDIT: “A Glory Of Unicorns.” That was it. Anyone else ever read this book?

Oh good god, it’s like netflix with all their recommendations! Brilliant!

Oh, but this is sad. On the start-up, where you rate what you’ve read already, I’ve only read one of the books. And it was only 3-star worthy.

Clearly I need this site. Thank you!

When you add a friend, it gives you an option to compare books you might have in common, so you can add more to your read list. And then as you add books, it gives you recommendations. Its awesome. And it doesn’t cap you at how many books you can list (which is why I don’t use LibraryThing).

That and LibraryThing sounds like the worst name ever. No effort in naming it?

My recommendations are a mess and I need to figure out how it all works but I’ll get there. After my first pass through the genres, I had rated 104 books that I’ve previously read. That seems like SO MANY and I haven’t even gotten all of them down. I’ll need to go more indepth as I develop my list.

Also! While I was getting all my Tana French loaded, I found her NEXT book! It doesn’t even have a cover posted yet but there it was! I promptly added it to the To Read list. OMG. I haven’t even finished Faithful Place yet. SO GOOD.

She wrote Into the Woods, right? I have that on my to-read pile and I’ve noticed a lot of people praising her writing.

That’s one of the reasons I love GR. A lot of authors and publisher’s participate on the site, they let you know when books are coming out, and there’s always giveaways of advance reader copies to get people’s feedback. Its a little addicting.

I keep a group there for the community book group I lead, where I can schedule what books we’re reading per month, but people can also add titles they’re interested in for the future. I find it so useful.

That’s good to know. I like first time authors, but they do come with their own set of issues. I’ve been looking for a new fantasy author, so the timing is perfect.  I only have some non-fiction free books left to read (I’m also a GoodReads winner). And I like to interspace my non-fiction with fantasy.

I thought about mentioning some of the 1st time author stuff in the review, but I decided that — especially given how hard it is to find ANY fantasy with non-white leading casts — they were really minor quibbles. And the author has been steadily improving — I think she’s going to be a big fantasy name in a couple of years.

That’s awesome. I don’t think there’s anything I love more than watching an author steadily improve and come into her own, especially female fantasy writers that aren’t pushed off to the side.

Side note: I added you as a friend on goodreads. I hope that’s okay. If not, I won’t be offended.

Unlike the beautifully edited book … the debate is the authors actually debating (two minutes each and so on) and is just hysterically funny; it’s then followed by them discussing their contibutions to the book and their own separate work. Definitely worth checking out their individual novels.

It was a long read but SO WORTH IT. I found myself caring very deeply about all the secondary characters and in the end, they really became primary so I found myself going much faster through the book. A great way to move the reader through the story!

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