Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Trending Ten: Midyear Update

It's that time again. With thirty three books read and slightly over half a year gone by, I thought it time to update my Best of 2013 list again. We have some new faces and old favorites here. I'm sure with this many excellent novels already on the list and so many highly anticipated new releases coming before years end this list will go through more changes and I'll keep you all updated as we move forward. With that said, enjoy and I hope you find some additions to your bookshelves here.

10. Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

I’ve read more Chuck Wendig than any other author this year, in spite of my normal policy not to read any one author too often. But the profanity laced siren song of Wendig’s prose keeps me coming back, even if it leaves me feeling cheap and dirty when it’s through with me. I chose to include Wendig’s foray into YA over his more mature Blackbirds because it seemed like such a departure from his usual work, and because it still managed to have that very unique voice that I enjoyed in Wendig’s more ‘mature’ offerings. Under the Empyrean Sky is YA done exceedingly well and I am anxious for the continuation.

9. Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

Daughter of the Sword is an interesting mix of police procedural and historical fiction with a splash of urban fantasy. Steve Bein brings his first hand knowledge of both swordsmanship and Japanese history to the forefront of this engaging novel. With its interesting format of telling not only the present day tale of Tokyo detective Mariko Oshiro, but delving into the history of the mystic swords that give the series their name, Bein manages to give the weapons a personality of their own without resorting to the talking sword trope so overused in 80's fantasy. Bein turns in a story that fires on all cylinders and stands on its own, despite being the opening volume of a series.

8. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu: 

I usually don’t go for books with a strong sense of humor throughout. I find humor to be exceptionally difficult to do well and sight gags and satire alike just leave me cold. But The Lives of Tao managed to blend the very best elements of a buddy comedy with an espionage thriller and coming of age story in such a way that I found myself laughing aloud on a regular basis. The combination of a compelling every man protagonist and a unique take on the alien body snatcher tropes of classic science fiction makes Chu’s debut something genre fans won’t want to miss.

7. Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole: 

Myke Cole has upped his game with the sequel to his massively popular Control Point. With the addition of a new protagonist in Col. Alan Bookbinder, Cole avoids many of the complaints that centered around the star of the previous volume, Oscar Britton. Bookbinder is much more relatable than Britton and Cole uses his point of view to further explore almost every aspect of the setting to rousing results. Cole's real world experience in the military is once again in full display here, but this time the focus is more on the nature of leadership and Bookbinder's ascent from paper pusher to a true leader of men. Cole's star is definitely on the rise, and Fortress Frontier is a big part of that.

6. Joyland by Stephen King: 

The master of horror and a genre all to himself, King’s novels occupy almost a third of my personal library. His latest offering, Joyland is full of all the best that King has to offer; achingly real characters, a strong sense of place and time, a touch of the otherworldly, all tied together with a protagonist so well realized that he feels not only like an old friend but a reflection of us all.  Fans of The Body and The Green Mile should hurry to experience Joyland.

5. Cold Days by Jim Butcher:  

It's a testament to just how good some of the books in this list are, that the titan of urban fantasy comes in fifth with his latest Harry Dresden novel. Butcher is the master of keeping what could easily become a bloated series tight and action packed. Cold Days is a great example of everything that Butcher does well, high stakes, impossible odds, razor sharp banter, and beloved characters that constantly grow and change. This novel is a bit of a paradigm shift for Harry but Butcher does an excellent job of keeping his protagonist the same smart mouthed, hard charging, knight errant we know and love.

4. The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig 

The start of my Wendig obsession, The Blue Blazes was a departure for me falling solidly into the noir wheelhouse. But Wendig sells his dysfunctional family drama by always keeping the real emotional heft of the story just below the surface of the bombastic violence and ingenious world building. MookiePearl and his teenage nemesis Nora are as perfect a pairing of protagonist and antagonists as they come. Couple that with Wendig's sparse and brutal prose and you're left with a story that will resonate beyond the close of the final page.

3. The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett: 

Peter V. Brett's star has been on a rising arc for years. While I love his books, I never quite thought he was one of the heirs apparent in the genre. With The Daylight War, he's put all of my doubts to rest. This third volume in his Demon Cycle has all of the trademarks of his earlier work, great action sequences, powerful magic, compelling and realistic characterization, and a penchant for turning tropes on their ear. But in addition, Brett levels up not only the power of his characters but the intricacies of their story arcs. Brett’s entire cast possesses an unprecedented level of agency and the result is a story that thunders along to a conclusion that readers will be talking about until the next installment, The Skull Throne.

2. No Return by Zachary Jernigan:

It's highly unusual that I find myself liking a novel more over time. But Zachary Jernigan's debut novel, No Return, is an exception to that rule. A mash up of serious themes about spirituality, religion, violence, and sex populated with believable characters and not a stock player in sight, No Return  was a novel that wouldn't let go of me. I pondered the themes and questions it presented for far longer than it took me to read its scant three hundred pages, and that is a rare feat indeed. I'll be watching Jernigan with rapt attention because with chops like these he's certain to be going places. 

1. The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett: 

As I've said earlier, The Troupe is a novel that should be pushed on every lover of books. Bennett's intricate plot contains elements of suspense, fantasy, historical fiction, and family drama all woven together to create a rich tapestry of a novel that almost defies description. Bennett's command of character and dialogue is pitch perfect. The cast of The Troupe are all memorable with their own role to play in Bennett's rumination on art and how it effects and is effected by both the performer and the audience. There is less bombast in The Troupe than in most genre fiction, but there is a level of quiet understated magic to the story that will resonate with readers for far longer than epic battles or inventive magic systems. Robert Jackson Bennett has graduated to the list of authors that I must buy immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Man- we are like book soulmates. You're my brother from another mother! haha

    I've only read 2 on your list so far...but quite a few of these are on my to read! I should be reading Blue Blazes soon because he is A Writing God!