Tagged: book recommendations

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!


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.


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!


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?

The Mad Reviewer’s 2013 Holiday Book Buying Guide (Part Two)

(For part one, please see here.)

In part one of my annual book buying guide I covered fantasy, speculative fiction and science fiction books.  But I left quite a few genres out, so I’m covering as many as I can here in part two.  After all, not everyone likes the first three genres.


Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray1.  Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

I was initially a little skeptical of yet another Cleopatra Selene book, but this one definitely surpassed my expectations.  With some elements of fantasy mixed in with well-researched historical fact, you can’t go wrong with Lily of the Nile.  It also helps that Stephanie Dray has a captivating writing style.  Because of that, you really do feel like you’re right there along with the characters, both in Egypt in the beginning and Rome for the rest of the novel.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers2.  Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy is technically alternate history because it takes place in an alternative version of the Middle Ages.  It has an awesome heroine who falls in love at a natural pace and one of the most endearing, realistic relationships out there.  This is YA at its best, believe me.  And this is coming from someone who’s growing weary of old YA tropes.  You also can’t go wrong with an assassin story combined with some pretty intense palace intrigue.

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland3.  The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland

I never really thought about Josephine Bonaparte until I read Sandra Gulland’s amazing Josephine B. trilogy.  She really did have an incredible life and was a fascinating woman of the time.  If you’re into new takes on history, I can’t recommend the trilogy enough.  Even if you just read the first book, I can almost guarantee you’ll be sucked in by Sandra Gulland’s spell.  Her writing really does make you feel like you’re alongside Josephine, thus making her more sympathetic than history books portray her as.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough4.  The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

If you’re like me and like really, really long books with amazing characters and new takes on history you won’t regret investing your time in this book.  Colleen McCullough is an amazing writer and she brings to life towering historical figures like Julius Caesar, Gaius Marius and Cornelius Sulla.  Even if you don’t like Roman history in general, you can’t go wrong with her award-winning series.  Like I said, this book is really long but it’s more than worth it.  The characters are just amazing and McCullough has certainly done her research here.

The Skystone by Jack Whyte5.  The Skystone by Jack Whyte

A new take on Arthurian legends that blends history and magic.  What more can I say but buy this right now?  You’ll fall in love with Publius Varrus just like I did and then you’ll never want the series to end.  He’s not really a character that I expected to like in the beginning but Jack Whyte makes him so compelling that you can’t help but love him.  He grows so much over the course of this novel and I really did appreciate all the effort that was put into creating an accurate post-Roman Britain on Jack Whyte’s part.  It makes the whole Arthurian legend come vividly to life. Continue reading

The 5 Best Books to Read on Halloween

Yes, it’s that time of year again: time to dress up and scare children!  Well, that’s not what Halloween’s all about but for me that always seems to be the highlight of the occasion.  Especially when they’re bratty children that put on a tough act.

My personal joys aside, here are some of the best books to read this Halloween (or anytime this year):

Feed by Mira Grant

1.  The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

No, I will never stop recommending this series.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you love zombie fiction.  Like The Walking Dead on TV (or the comics)?  World War Z?  Any sort of zombie fiction?  Then you’ll love these genre-savvy protagonists as they poke zombies, tackle sinister government organizations and rail against how impractical female formal wear is.  Or at least Georgia does.  Shaun doesn’t really care. Continue reading

Spotlight: The Return Man by V. M. Zito

Spotlight is my Saturday feature in which I highlight a book I’m looking forward to or really enjoyed.  This week, I want to highlight one of the best zombie books I’ve ever read: The Return Man by V. M. Zito.

The Return Man by V. M. Zito

The outbreak tore the U. S. in two.  The east remains a safe haven.  The west has become a ravaged wilderness.  They call it the evacuated states.

It is here that Henry Marco makes his living.  Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other.  He must return to California, where the apocalypse began.  Where a secret is hidden.  And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who—or what—is watching you…

If you love AMC’s The Walking Dead, you will absolutely love The Return Man.  Heck, if you love zombies, good characters, fast plots and conspiracies, you’ll love V. M. Zito’s debut novel.  Basically: You’ll probably love this book.

Not only is Marco a great character you can sympathize with because he stayed back in the Evacuated States to return his zombified wife, but Wu is also amazing.  Wu is kind of an ambiguous character because he’s not a villain, but he’s certainly not a hero in the traditional sense of the word.  I can’t decide whether I like Marco or Wu better, so their journey together from both points of view was a satisfying thrill ride.

The plot is fast and dramatic (but believable) and the zombies are terrifying.  No, they’re not ‘fast zombies’, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t scary.  Believe me, with the descriptions Zito gives of the zombies and all the gore they cause, you may lose your appetite.  The purpose of those graphic descriptions isn’t so much to gross out the reader as to bring home the point that in real life, a zombie apocalypse would be absolutely horrifying.

I wouldn’t recommend The Return Man for sensitive readers, but for everyone else: Go for it!

I Need Your Help

Okay, so my little sister’s birthday is coming up and I have absolutely no idea what to get her.

Here in my household, books are usually pretty common.  Usually I’ll pick her up one of the books I read and liked but is still age appropriate for her.  She is only twelve and a half after all.  Unfortunately, she’s already read all of the age-appropriate books I own!  That’s where you come in.

I desperately need some book recommendations!  She’s pretty mature for a twelve-year-old, having read The Hunger Games trilogy, the Darkest Powers trilogy as well as some of Pauline Gedge‘s novels.  She loves fantasy and historical fiction, especially when there’s royalty involved, although she’ll read anything she can get her hands on.

However, please tell me of any mature content in your recommendation, which includes language, violence and sexuality.  If you can, please tell me the extent of the mature content as well (explicit, brief, mild, etc).

So, do you know any good books for her?  Please tell me in the comments below!