When I was in Korea, I did very little reading, particularly the first year. I discovered e-books my second year and consumed a good number of those, mostly of the fluff variety. With the English book selection small, expensive, and far away, I was fairly limited in what I could read.
But I read several book blogs. I have favorite authors whose books I must read. My friends read great books. So inevitably, my ‘To Be Read’ list grew quite a bit while I was there. Now that I’m home again, I’ve been reading as much as I can. Some were fantastic, some were ‘meh’, and some were terrible and I choked my way through them. As far I remember, I have finished all of them.
I thought I’d pass on the love and recommend some of my favorites. Most of these are fantasy novels, as per my usual taste. [Click on the book’s cover to go the author’s page for it, which usually contains purchase links.]
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Orbit Books
So, this was pretty much the best book I’ve read recently (that being the last few months). I’ve read fantasy novels since I was young. My mother practically raised me on them. So it’s not surprisingly I still prefer them now that I’m older, and it’s not surprising I’ve read a lot of them in my day. So The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was a breath of fresh air. Yeine is summoned from her small country of Darre to Sky, the city which rules the world. It’s master is Dakarta, the head of the Arameri clan, and Yeine’s grandfather. There she finds her life intimately entangled with the gods of her universe – whose salvation lies with her.
The writing is fantastic, the plot takes some very nice twists, and I really liked Yeine. The book has gotten some nice press and I really can’t encourage it enough to anyone who likes fantasy. While the gods are at times bigger than life, they ultimately are moved by the same things as mortals: family, love, and hate.
The sequel, The Broken Kingdoms, is also really, really good. Most think it’s better. While I don’t think I can say quite that, it’s another excellent book. I really enjoy authors who can make you care for a character you hated in a previous book, and Jemisin does that fantastically in this book. The world which Jemisin so carefully built comes to life in this book, and again the heroine, Oree, is a complex young woman with a secret which may turn the balance of the world. I do recommend reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first, but it is possible to read this one without the previous book.
Nation by Terry Pratchett, HarperCollins
I’m not sure there’s anyone left on the internet who doesn’t know Sir Terry Pratchett. His Discworld books are internationally popular (and generally good reads). I’m rather behind with the whole Korea shebang, but I made sure to pick up Nation because I wanted to see Pratchett’s take on Robinson Crusoe. Dear readers, I was not disappointed. A giant wave destroys all of Mau’s tribe except for him. But the wave also left something new: a ship with a single survivor, a young ghostly girl named Daphne. Mau and Daphne try to build lives for themselves alone on the island, but soon other survivors arrive, both friendly and nefarious, and they discover a secret which turns the whole world around.
The main thing which fascinated me while reading the book was the themes behind it. How to survive when it seems impossible. How far mindless devotion will take us. The value of science and knowledge in a world of fear. I’m not going to lie, high schoolers should all be forced to read this book. It doesn’t get bogged down with romance, there’s plenty of exciting things going down, and it’s well written. Both Mau and Daphne are delightful characters, both hilarious and beautifully tragic. It’s one of the best YA books I’ve read and a credit to the genre.
The Native Star, by M. K. Hobson, Spectra Books
Emily Edwards is in a rut – everyone is buying spells via mail-order now, and as the resident witch of the small California town in an alternate 1800s, this is a big problem. Her solution only makes everything worse, and soon enough she’s on a cross-country trip with the world’s most annoying man, Dreadnought Stanton, to take care of a powerful magical gem that’s made its home in her palm.
Steampunk is the newest overplayed genre these days, but Hobson manages a unique twist on it. Emily’s story is delightful fun, and at times truly nervewrecking. Hobson isn’t afraid to make her characters hurt, and both Emily and Dreadnought go through some terrible events. Both are well-developed characters in their world, too. Emily is a pretty amazing heroine with some very realistic flaws but the guts to see through the end of her adventure. It’s an excellent mix of fun, adventure, romance, and world-building. Hobson’s world, particularly the magic, shows lots of careful thought and planning. I’m looking forward to the sequel to see if Emily manages to keep her happy ending.
So those were some of my top picks! I actually write reviews for every book I read, but at the moment those are private. 😉 They’re mostly to encourage me to think more about the book I read instead of just forgetting about them.