Some Honorable Mentions of 2014

The Day of Lists continues:

Here are the books I wanted to include on my best of, but something kept me from it.

Honorable Mentions should go to (in alphabetical order):

He Drank, and Saw the Spider (Eddie LaCrosse, #5)He Drank, and Saw the Spider

by Alex Bledsoe
My Review
You could substitute Wake of the Bloody Angel here. This series has long-surpassed the gimmick of a hard-boiled detective novel in a generic fantasy setting. Pigeon-hole it however you want, it’s just a good book.
4 Stars

The Lives of Tao (Tao, #1)The Lives of Tao

by Wesley Chu
My Review
Despite the buzz around this, I wasn’t sure I was terribly interested — nor did I really know what to expect. So, so glad I took the chance. A barrel full of exciting, gun-blazing, snarky fun.
4 Stars

Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark FantasyBad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy

by Harry Connolly

My Review
I’m not normally a short story reader, but more collections like this might make me one. Different types of fantasy, all well written, even in the stories that aren’t my cup of tea I found something to enjoy.
4 Stars

The Severed StreetsThe Severed Streets

by Paul Cornell
My Review
Audible.com has provided a sample of the audio book version. Give it a shot, I’m betting 30 minutes won’t be enough.
I was impressed by the first in this series, London Falling, but this kicked it into a different gear. It’s about London as an entity as much as it is about these characters and their opponents — it’s dark, twisted and a little hopeful. Some fine writing here.
4 1/2 Stars

The Intern's Handbook: A ThrillerThe Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller

by Shane Kuhn
My Review
Hyper-violent, comic commentary on corporate cultures with heart. Or something like that.
4 Stars

The HumansThe Humans

by Matt Haig
My Review
Haig’s got this gift for making us look at ourselves with the oddest type of outsider. Ultimately, I realize I’ve read and watched this story before, but I was either finished or nearly finished before I had that insight. Either way, didn’t care, because no one had told it like this.
4 1/2 Stars

The Westing GameThe Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin
My Review is forthcoming
I’ve sat down to write the review of this one I don’t know how many times. I read this dozens upon dozens of times as a kid — loving the characters, the story, the strange little puzzle. And then walked away from it for decades. Reading it this summer was a wonderful blast from the past, and although I felt like I could recite the thing en toto I couldn’t, it still filled me with joy. Not just for nostalgia’s sake, either. This was probably one of my 3 favorite reads of the year, but it felt like cheating to put it on the main list, so here it is.
5 Stars

LandlineLandline

by Rainbow Rowell
My Review
A marriage on the rocks, a career on the brink, a magic telephone and Rainbow Rowell’s charm and heart. What more can I say?
4 1/2 Stars

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple
My Review is forthcoming
First book I finished in 2014, and it’s stuck with me the whole year — even as I struggle to write a review. A strange, impossibly strange and entirely believable world, populated with people I’m convinced could exist — and maybe do. I don’t know what else I can say about this (probably explains the year delay). It’s good. Funny, heartfelt, tragic.
4 Stars

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The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Lives of Tao (Tao, #1)The Lives of Tao

by Wesley Chu
Series: Tao Trilogy, #1


Paperback, 460 pg.
Angry Robot, 2014
Read: May 29 – June 4, 2014

Last spring, it seemed that every writer I follow on Twitter was gushing about this book, but it really didn’t seem like my kind of thing. But last week, I saw it on the new book library shelf and decided to give it a shot. So glad I did. In case you haven’t seen it, the back cover blurb is:

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it. He wasn’t. He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes. Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

Roen’s obviously not your typical hero, or even your atypical hero. But he’s a good guy that you eventually like (as difficult as that can be to imagine when we first encounter him). Which is good, because he’s our entry point in to this world, and an entry point that you can’t stand doesn’t make for fun reading. As he gets to understand his place in this new reality he’s been exposed to, as he begins to understand how these aliens have changed world history — we get to, too.

This doesn’t seem like Chu’s first book, he writes with panache, skill and confidence. His action scenes feel authentic, his world is intricate and believable, and he tells his story in a compelling manner that keeps you turning pages.

There’s some real heart here amongst the SF action. Often in SF, particularly the more high-concept SF, characters can be 1- or 2-dimensional. Not here, the most minor of characters seem real, seem like someone you could bump into at the water cooler, public transportation or a government office. You get to like them as people, not just as representatives of Prophus or Genjix — and that’s key. People with convictions, aspirations and relate-able motivations. As long as Chu keeps that up, this series will be one to stick with.

While I liked the banter, the back-and-forth between Roen and Tao, Roen and the others — but I didn’t find the book as hilarious as so many others have. I just see it as a good suspense novel (with a wicked twist) featuring some snarky characters. And that’s good enough to enjoy this and to bring me back for more.

—–

4 Stars