Category Archives: book reviews

2016 Top 5: Books I read

I just finished sending out my Christmas cards, and I feel the need to do some 2016 recap posts.  I haven’t done those in a while…

As of last count, per Goodreads, I have read 62 books this year, and I can probably knock a few more out before December 31. Here are my favorites for the year.

#1 – The Expanse

My absolute favorite for the year is The Expanse series by James SA Corey (who is actually two people, neither named James. The more you know…)  The first book is Leviathan Wakes.


If I’ve talked to you about books this year, I have gushed about The Expanse. At last count, there are 6 novels and something like 3 novellas. (The novellas aren’t particularly worth it, in my opinion, but do add something to the background of the series.) There is a fantastic show on SyFy adapted from the novels, season 2 starts in February.

The Expanse is a fantastic addition to the Space Opera subgenre. The characters are real and believable, and the series delves deep into the moral quandaries of otherness and belonging, of created families, of the consequences (often unintentional) of telling what one believes to be the truth.

It has been a long while since I have found a series where I have to pick up the next book as soon as I am finished with the last. After  I finish Babylon’s Ashes, I am going to be in a sad place while I wait for the next book.

#2 – Locke and Key

From this point on, I’m not ranking the books, because there is foolishness in that, but these are my favorites.

Locke and Key by Joe Hill is actually a series of graphic novels, but I listened to the Audible adaptation, and ZOMG was it amazing.  Not only was it a full cast reading, the sound effects and music were amazing too.  I ended up checking out some of the books from the library to just look at the art and see how it was translated to audio.

Locke and Key tells a spooky coming of age story of a family that moves into a family mansion filled with keys that don’t just unlock doors.  An evil spirit wants to be released and will do anything to manipulate the kids in the family to discover the keys that will enable it to escape the underworld.

Both the graphic novels and the Audible adaptation are top notch.  You will not be disappointed.

#3 – Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword,  and Ancillary Mercy (The Imperial Radch series)

The Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie was another favorite this year.  I ended up re-reading Ancillary Justice with my SpecFic bookclub because I enjoyed it so much, and I purchased both hard copies and Audible versions.

Ancillary Justice and its sequels could almost be classified as Space Opera, but they are far more human than just space battles and such (and when you read the books you’ll understand the irony of that statement). In fact, they have elements of first contact, classism, and a strong undercurrent of what it means to be human. Also, lots and lots of discussions about tea.

4 – The Wright Brothers

Lest you think I only enjoyed SciFi, and dark fantasy this year, I also really enjoyed David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. I thought I knew something about the story of the first flights, but I realized my (admittedly basic) understanding more or less ended at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

There is a whole lot more to it than that, as it turns out. From the absolutely critical involvement of their sister, to the time spent trying to convince governments at home and abroad that their flying machine was not some crackpot inventor’s fever dream, there was a lot of the story I was missing. And McCullough masterfully pulls it together, as he always does.

I was doubly lucky that The Henry Ford museum has two replicas of the Wright Flyer and I was able to stop by after work one day while I was listening to the book to more closely examine the genius work of those two bicycle builders from Ohio.

#5 – The Boys in the Boat

I didn’t know going into the year that I needed to read the story of a crew team from Washington working towards a gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  And yet somehow I did need exactly that.  In The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown tells a fascinating story of everything that came together to bring home the gold medals, from a very talented boat builder, the dedication of both the crew and its coaches, to its  rivals, to the production of the Berlin Olympics themselves.

I think there is no more quintessentially American story than this one.

Bonus!: All the Birds in the Sky

Because my top 5 list already has 12 books in it, why don’t I just throw in a 13th for good measure (Although technically, Locke and Key is collected in 5 or 6 volumes, so, you know, I’m really bad at top 5 lists.)

I just finished All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and if it isn’t in all of the year end round ups of best SciFi and Fantasy novels of 2016, someone is doing it wrong. Simply put, this book should win all of the awards next year. It tells the story of two people whose lives keep intersecting at critical and sometimes awkward points. One is a modern witch, the other a techno wunderkind. They are best friends, enemies, lovers, and more, but more than anything they are, they are there for each other when no one else is. Also, their middle school guidance councilor is a trained assassin. So there’s that.

These were some of my favorites this year. What did you read this year that you loved? Couldn’t put down? Kept you thinking?

I read a whole bunch of books. You won’t believe which are my favorites. Number 3 made me laugh

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, thanks in no small part to Audible and Overdrive, which let me read while I am commuting, cooking, and working out at the gym.  So far, I have 46 titles accounted in my Goodreads account, and I am 171 days ahead of my annual reading goal. Granted, at least 10 of those are graphic novels (I had a mild Flash obsession going there for a bit.).

Here are some of my favorites so far this year, in no particular order.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store  by Robin Sloan – If you love quirky mysteries, Google, Helvetica, awkward protagonists, or glow-in-the-dark dust covers, this is the book for you.

The Stand by Stephen King – The forces of good and evil gather in a post-apocalyptic show down. This was the second of three books in a row that I read that start with a virulent pandemic.  That was not on purpose, and it stressed me out. I could not be an epidemiologist.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Fantastic science fiction.  There’s a movie coming out later this year.  I bought a second copy for my Mars themed bathroom.  XKCD described it thusly :

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman – This was the story of the first few years of my career at Ford Motor Company.  It was interesting getting the behind the scenes look at some of the things that happened.  It is also a fantastically well written book if you are interested in the auto industry in general.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I don’t rightly know how to describe this book.  Gaiman writes books that demand to be read but elude description of why you should read them. I put this one off for a long while, but I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.

What have you read and loved so far this year?

Top 5 Books of 2008

Ok, It’s the 6th and I’m still doing Best of 2008 lists. This one should be my last. This is the one that was the hardest for me, because I couldn’t make up my mind, so every time I decided to do one of my blogs this one got pushed back. Originally, it was a top 10 list, but I decided that I probably could never make up my mind on 10 books, and so 5 books was easier. My biggest problem was trying to figure out which books I’d read this year. I kept an ok record over at GoodReads.com, but I know that I missed quite a few in the last several months of 2008.

So here’s my list:


5- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


I found the concept of this one both intriguing and compelling. The main character is afflicted with “Chrono Displacement Disorder.” He often and involuntarily will be displaced in time, although his time walks mostly seem to center on people and places that are important to him. The story focuses on him and his wife, who obviously are living in different time lines. She first meets him when she is a young girl, he first meets her when he is 28 or so. The story jumps around a lot, giving hints and whispering secrets, all the way through. It’s a very interesting read.

4- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson


I became obsessed with the Appalachian Trail at some point in 2007. I was, in part, feeding my obsession by reading this book. Bryson tells of his experience hiking the AT with his friend Katz as Bryson became reacquainted with America. His story is both funny and poignant. The two parts that stick out most in my mind is the story about Katz flinging his food from his pack because it weighs too much, and the tragic story of the American Chestnut, once prevalent in American forests, but decimated by blight. Of course, I wanted to hike the AT even more after reading this. Maybe 2009 is the year for it.

3- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


It’s really hard to explain why I liked The Name of the Wind. Perhaps the best way is to drop a quote from the main character, and let him speak for himself :

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

The story dragged me in, without me even realizing that I was being dragged in.

2- The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson


I’ve blogged about this one before. I picked up Sanderson’s first book, Elantris, to see if he would make a good substitute for Robert Jordan. I’m glad I did. It lead me to this one. Of the three in the series, this was by far the best. It really comes off as a caper story (Think Ocean’s 11) dressed as a Fantasy novel.

1- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan


The Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of the books that most influenced me this year. I plucked it from Amy’s bookshelf and read it. I’ve been having an internal conversation about food all year. (You’d never guess that, coming from the guy who obsessively blogged his vegetables… 😉 ) Pollan investigated the origins of his food chains. He followed four meals from four distinct food chains from beginning to end. In doing so, he described America’s unhealthy relationship with food. I think I’ve changed the way I eat (fresher, more diverse food) and the way I think about food (closer to home) because of it.

So there you have it. My top 5 books from 2008. What are yours?

Bonus:

Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor

It’s not really a book, it’s more of a webcomic, but I spent a lot of time reading it in 2008. The story is great, the characters even better, and I’m still only part way through 2006. Go figure. I’ll get all caught up one of these days.

Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn) Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
You must read this book! While I enjoyed Brandon Sanderson‘s first book Elantris, I loved this book. His characters are so right and so believable, the plot is crisp and new, and the setting is perfect.

It isn’t often that you find a fantasy novel that is new and different. While it has epic qualities to it, it is not your typical epic fantasy. The scale is so much more personal and while the characters seem to be out to save the world from evil (like so many other fantasy novels), it seems they are also out to save themselves from evil.

I only have a few more dollars on my Borders gift card, but they’re going right to the sequel.

Can this guy finish up A Memory of Light any faster?

View all my reviews.