The Mad Reviewer’s 2014 Holiday Book Buying Guide (Part One)

Yes, it’s that time of year again: time to recommend books that I loved.  Particularly new books that I just read this year.  In this Part One I’ll be recommending fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction.  And then in Part Two I’ll be recommending the remaining major genres: historical fiction, romance and just a miscellaneous category.  All links go to my actual reviews of the books where you can find links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and sometimes Goodreads in the newer reviews.  Enjoy!

FANTASY FICTION

Aranya by Marc Secchia1.  Aranya by Marc Secchia

When the blog tour for this book went around, I almost didn’t join up because I thought it sounded stupid.  But I would have lost out if I hadn’t because Aranya is one of the most unique, well-written and diverse fantasy worlds that I’ve ever encountered.  It has dragons, shapeshifters, people of many different cultures, vivid characters, beautiful writing and a believable fantasy world all jammed into one action-packed story.  I fell in love with it from the first page and I just cannot recommend it enough.  Everyone needs to buy this book.

Goddess Born by Kari Edgren2.  Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

I picked this one up because the head of one of the blog tour companies I’m affiliated with absolutely gushed about it.  We generally have the same taste in books so I couldn’t pass it over.  Like with Aranya, I’m glad I didn’t.  Selah, the main character, is just one of those characters you’ll never really forget and Henry is also very unique.  Putting them together into what’s not necessarily the best situation where both of them face rape and possibly death if they separate makes for a lot of tension, but it also gives them common ground.  They start to trust each other, become friends and eventually it turns into love but Selah is keeping a secret that could break them apart.

The Devil's Concubine by Jill Braden3.  The Devil’s Concubine by Jill Braden

I recommended this one last year as well and I really just can’t recommend it enough.  Jill Braden has created a diverse fantasy world in The Devil’s Concubine and her main character QuiTai is perhaps one of the best female characters I’ve ever seen in fiction.  She’s almost always one step ahead of her enemies but sometimes things don’t go exactly the way she wants to.  She’s ruthless and beautiful but also caring and gentle, paying for the schooling of Ponongese children in Thampurian schools and fighting for Ponong’s independence (in subtle ways, mind) from their Thampurian masters.

Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones4.  Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones

This is another return recommendation and Prophecy of the Most Beautiful certainly deserves it.  Diantha Jones has created a vivid fantasy world of gods and goddesses based on Greek mythology…and it’s a world that’s in great danger as the main character Chloe becomes the Pythia of prophecy.  Will the world as the gods know it end?  Or will Chloe lose everything she holds dear?  You’ll be on the edge of your seat for this first installment in the Oracle of Delphi series!

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin5.  A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

If you’ve ever thought about reading the books the famous TV series is based on, you really should just read it.  It’s an interesting take on a quasi-Medieval fantasy world that’s not all roses and rainbows.  George R. R. Martin glamorizes nothing about the period and even goes to great lengths to show how horrible it is but at the same time, creates some great characters.  He writes some of the best female leads in fiction and there is a reason that the book series was adapted into a television series: it’s just that good.

SCIENCE FICTION

Partials by Dan Wells1.  Partials by Dan Wells

Ooh, a science fiction book aimed at teens that contains actual science!  It’s a shocker, I know, but I was actually fairly impressed with the first installment in the Partials Sequence.  You’ve got believable characters, more plot twists than you can count and an interesting post-apocalyptic world where not everything is as it seems.  With lots of moral ambiguity and just a little romance, you really can’t go wrong with Partials.  I guess in hindsight I should have seen the main plot twist but it’s really how that particular plot twist came about that’s more interesting to readers than the nature of said twist.

Feed by Mira Grant2.  Feed by Mira Grant

This is not a new book at all, but I just can’t recommend it enough.  It’s a new take on zombies, one where two man-made viruses designed to help man combine to create—you guessed it—zombies.  Only this isn’t your typical zombie novel; it’s more of a political thriller that happens to have zombies because Feed takes place 26 years after the event called The Rising.  How has humanity changed because of zombies being a constant threat, a threat that can arise every time someone dies?  And what happens when some people decide they know better than everyone else and try to mold the world to fit their ideal?  Find out in Mira Grant’s amazing novel!

Captivate by Vanessa Garden3.  Captivate by Vanessa Garden

Captivate was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me because (and I’m not sure why I thought this) I thought this would be a book about mermaids.  That’s not quite the case, although mermaids certainly were the inspiration for the whole underwater city.  Captivate does in fact have a love triangle, but it’s much, much more realistic than so many out there in YA fiction.  It’s actually kind of natural but in the end Miranda makes a choice, something that also rarely happens in just the first book of a YA series or trilogy.  So if you’re looking for YA with some romance, but want something a little less stereotypical, Vanessa Garden’s debut is for you.

Feyguard; Spark by Anthea Sharp4.  Spark by Anthea Sharp

Spark is book one in the Feyguard series, a spin-off series to the main Feyland trilogy Anthea Sharp wrote.  It can be read as a stand-alone novel, though, and that’s in part because it is very well written.  Spark herself is a pretty awesome main character as the premier gamer in the world as well as a member of the Feyguard, sworn to protect mortals from slipping into the world of the Fae through the Feyland game.  This isn’t the most science-intensive science fiction, but the incredible technology of Anthea Sharp’s future world is enough to even make a non-gamer like me drool.

Crewel by Gennifer Albin5.  Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Within YA, Crewel and the sequel Altered stand alone in their uniqueness.  The plot isn’t necessarily entirely unique, but Gennifer Albin hits upon such an unique idea that it’s disorientating at first.  A world where fates are spun like thread seems more fantasy than science fiction, but there is an actual scientific explanation.  It also makes you really ponder the idea of free will vs. controlling factors (be they a deity or really terrifying science).  And if you’re like me and hate YA characters that can’t seem to keep their mouths shut ever, you’ll love Adelice.  She can actually control her emotions and knows when and when not to say certain things.  What  novel idea!

SPECULATIVE FICTION

The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy1.  The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

This is the kind of gift you’d really only give to your closest friend because (and I don’t say this lightly) there’s a ridiculous amount of trigger warning content within.  There’s rape, physical violence and some pretty awful decisions that the main character Rain has to make, all in the name of a possible cure for her little brother’s terminal illness.  It’s a dark story, but also one of beauty, forgiveness and redemption.  Trust me when I say that it’s not for the faint of heart, but that it is an excellent book.

Cameron's Law by Mia Darien2.  Cameron’s Law by Mia Darien

This is sort of urban fantasy/speculative fiction.  What would happen if humans found out about supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters?  If your answer was “kill them”, you’d probably be right.  And then what if in that world, supernatural creatures then obtained the same rights as humans?  Well, that’s the world Sadie Stanton lives in, where her boyfriend Cameron was murdered for being a supernatural creature and where she fought to push through legislation declaring personhood for all supernatural beings.  One year after, things are heating up in the town of Adelheid as murders seemingly perpetuated by vampires and werewolves keep cropping up.  Will Sadie be able to get to the bottom of things?

The Genesis by K L Kerr3.  The Genesis by K. L. Kerr

I read this one last year, but it’s really stuck with me and that’s in part because of the main character Catrina.  The Genesis is set in a futuristic world where a corporation keeps kidnapping and killing vampires in the search for the key to their immortality.  Catrina becomes a vampire in this rather dark world but instead of going into complete denial about being a vampire like so many other narrators, she tries to learn everything she can about it.  Shocking, I know.  The only thing that’s a little annoying in this book (to me anyway) is that we don’t really know much about Catrina.  However, this book is only the first in a series so I guess we’ll learn a lot more about her in the future.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence4.  Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I recommended this one last year and I’m going to recommend it again.  Prince of Thorns is a dark fantasy/science fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that is very clearly our own.  (Jorg reading old Latin philosophy in original Latin being the first clue.)  Our main character Jorg is ruthless, utterly vile and will stop at nothing to become Emperor.  And he’s only 14 years old!  Normally a character like Jorg would repulse me but he is very compelling and when you learn his backstory bit by bit, it’s no wonder that he’s so horrible.  But he’s also brilliant and strategically minded, meaning that the whole book is a fast-paced and interesting read.

immortalrules5.  The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

In a world where vampires rule and humans are their slaves, one teenage girl named Allison Sekemoto is scrounging on the edges of society to survive.  Rather than submitting to the vampires’ bloodletting twice a month she decides to run to the outskirts of the city and scavenge for food.  Only, her life gets turned upside down when she is attacked by feral vampires and is saved by a regular vampire who then turns her so she can survive.  She has to figure out not only how to survive as a vampire but how to reconcile her bloodlust with her code of ethics that’s strictly against killing for blood.  Julie Kagawa is one of those writers that gets better with time and by the end of this trilogy, you’ll look at vampires just a little differently.


If you don’t see your favourite genre here, stay tuned this week for part two, which will contain my historical fiction, romance and miscellaneous genre recommendations.  Did you see any new books that you might check out?  Or are some of your favourites already on here?

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  1. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Dec 14-20, 2014 | Oh, the Books!

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