Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top reads for 2014

Okay, if I have to have a list of my absolute top ten favourite books for 2014, this would be it. Bear this in mind, however, that many of these books were not published in 2013 or 2014. In fact, some of them are decades old, and I make no apologies. Some of these are rereads, but for what it’s worth, they stand out for me as the books I enjoyed the most for the year past.

Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok
If I have to name one book that completely blew me out of the water, it’s Sister-Sister. Rachel’s prose sings, and there’s a really good reason why I stand by my statement that she’s the secret love child of Poppy Z Brite and Nick Cave. Sister-Sister is part surreal dreamscape, part ghost story, part tragedy. It’s not a story that will settle in a convenient box.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Scott’s writing style put me off a bit as he does a third-person skirting around omniscient, but hell, the sheer cleverness of the writing, the plot twists, the world building … that all conspired to have me in Scott's thrall. The Lies of Locke Lamora gets off to a slow start but patient readers are rewarded by a thrilling conclusion. I honestly could not imagine how Locke would get out of his bind.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
This is part of my desire to revisit Fitz’s world. I was completely swept away by Robin’s writing when I was a teen, and her world has lost none of its magic. In fact, I was alive to far more nuances than ever before. Seriously, I can’t wait to dip further into the trilogy. Robin doesn’t pull any punches, and her characters go through hell. And triumphs are bittersweet.

Fulfillments of Fate and Desire by Storm Constantine
Since I’m now writing for Storm’s Wraeththu Mythos, it stands to reason that I need to actually *read* the books. The Devil knows I’ve been threatening to all these years. But Storm’s writing is to be savoured, and I suspect I’ve been holding back because I’m scared of running out of her words. There’s a reason why she’s one of my all-time favourite authors.

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Mark is wicked. He has a way with words, and I was also really sorry to hit the end of his Broken Empire trilogy that features the doings of our young friend Jorg. Yet this is a fitting conclusion to the saga of the young prince who would be emperor. The pace is cracking, and Jorg’s somewhat astute observations make for some rather dark humour and uncanny wisdom for one so young in a broken world.

Darkspell by Katherine Kerr
Another reread for me. Katherine Kerr remains a firm favourite, and I’m gradually working my way through her Deverry Cycle in its proper order. She combines Celtic mythology in a fantasy setting, with reincarnation as a theme with strong pagan leanings. Truly, she’s also one of the reasons why I hold by my love of the fantasy genre. There is love without the romance being overbearing, as well as thrilling adventure, mystery and battles. What’s not to love?

Fletcher by David Horscroft
Technically this book shouldn’t be on this list, since I did the proofreading for the manuscript before it went to print. But I loved the book so much, and it was so thrilling and nasty, that I have become *that* friend who gifts copies to other friends via Amazon just to force them to read it. This is a blood-drenched post-apocalyptic kick-ass thriller featuring my new favourite psychopath. Also, I worry about David. A lot. But he’s a great guy. Really.

The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne van Rooyen writes YA like it’s supposed to be: with a gritty, authentic voice. In this novel, she explores gender identity in such a way that made me hurt so much for the characters. Beautiful, beautiful writing, that stands head and shoulders above nearly all the YA fiction I’ve read in years.

Queen’s Hunt by Beth Bernobich
I must thank Cat Hellisen for introducing me to Beth’s writing. (For good measure, do go grab Cat's books while you're at it.) I still haven’t gotten round to reading the third in Beth's epic, but what I can say is that this is solid fantasy that delivers. There’s magic, intrigue and whiffs of reincarnation, as the characters navigate a dangerous path. I’d recommend this to folks who enjoy Robin Hobb.

The City by Stella Gemmell
Last, but not least, I have to mention The City. It was not an easy book but hell, its sheer magnitude was something else. The real star was not so much the people who inhabited the City, but rather the City itself, built layer upon layer, and stuffed to the eaves with secrets. Some might find the emphasis on the setting rather than narrative tedious but I just loved every last bit of description.

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