What I’ve Read in 2016 (Micro Reviews!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers, Urban

Well, it’s been a while, but let’s not bother with excuses. Let’s just take a look at what I’ve managed to read in 2016, shall we?

Note: This post will include affiliate links.
  1. Chapelwood by Cherie Priest 4 Stars(Buy).

    • Lizzie Borden novel. The last? Very good horror, and I don’t even like much horror.
  2. Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 4 Stars
    • This read-thru I was bothered a lot more by the “a woman is more valuable as brood mare” themes in this series. Blech.
  3. Wake of Vultures by Lila Bown 4.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Genderfluid(?)/Trans cowboy with magic in the Old West. (The character doesn’t know the modern words & doesn’t label themself so it’s hard to know what word to use.) I read this one and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road close to each other, so they’re kind of twisted together in my head even though they’re Totally Different other than being Old West themed.
  4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Would have probably been better in print given the formatting, but was a surprise win for me. This convinced me to read A Lot More Science Fiction this year.
  5. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s Jim Butcher, of course it’s great. Looking forward to more world-building.
  6. Back Lash by Devon Monk 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • If you love Shame & Terric, you’ll love this. If you haven’t met Shame & Terric yet, go read the Allie Beckstrom series.
  7. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark  by Harry Connolly 2.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Elderly protagonist FTW!
  8. The Circle Opens: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Realized I’d never read any Pierce beyond Alanna, so I’m rectifying that.
  9. The Circle Opens: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  10. The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  11. The Circle Opens: Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  12. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
    • Seanan is as solidly wonderful as Jim Butcher always is, in different ways.
  13. Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
    • Did I mention these are FREE??
  14. Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  15. The Way Home by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  16. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (re-read) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I needed to read Daughter of the Blood because of having an ARC but had no idea where the story had ended.
  17. The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  18. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (nonfiction) 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Completely worth being the only nonfiction I’ve read this year. Also, hilarious.
  19. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly 2 Stars
    • Middle aged female narrator!
  20. Daughter of the Blood by Helen Lowe 4 Stars
  21. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (review copy) 1.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This book was… not that great, in my opinion. I hate when folks try to do “it has magic but it’s still LITRACHURE”. But I’m also very Anti-Apocalypse stories. I find them bleak. YMMV.
  22. Kin by Lilith Saintcrow 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Go back & read the whole trilogy; there’s one for Snow White, Cinderella, and Red. About the various ways abuse marks us forever, and the ways we rise through the muck.
  23. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop 4 Stars(Buy)
    • TW: Self Harm. Still a little weirded out by this whole cutting business, honestly, but it’s a GOOD story. Bishop has a history of being gratuitous anyway, in my opinion. YMMV.
  24. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold 2.5 Stars
    • I was amazed by how many old-school Sci-Fi I’ve missed. Bujold’s science fiction is as solid as her fantasy. Some of this book is now in Trope Territory, but can I really hold that against it when it’s taken me this long? SOMETHING set the trope, after all.
  25. Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Content warning here for drug use. Readers who haven’t been That Low may not get Chess. (I didn’t at first but it was because I didn’t want to.)
  26. Burned by Benedict Jacka 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Is it insulting to call this ‘discount Harry Dresden’? It’s not meant as an insult, believe me. I really like this series.
  27. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I loved this but also it broke me a little. As I have very little sense of my own ancestors or what the hell my inherited culture should even be, I put this down feeling sad. IMO, this is the #1 reason you should Read This.
  28. The Root by Na’Amen Gobert Tilahun 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This was a highly, highly interesting premise with a sort of not stellar execution. I’d still be willing to read sequels, though.
  29. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Women with agency in the Old West! Prostitutes even! Who knew? (Also a black US marshall, ok, read this.)
  30. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Basic love-triangle YA fantasy with the added bonus of showing us all what living under a murderous dictator is going to look like. Ho ho ho!
  31. San Diego 2014: Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (novella) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I’m not even a Browncoat but this story got me right in the feels.
  32. Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter 4 Stars (Buy)
  33. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 2 Stars(Buy)
    • I think sequels to this would be rated higher, the first one was a lot of Protagonist Being Clueless.
  34. Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger (novella) 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a sexy story, okay? A girl’s got needs.
  35. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Just. Frickin’. Read. It.
  36. The Tower & the Hive by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  37. Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I can’t really explain it, okay? But it’s a good read if you like fantasy that’s not of the warrior/elf/bard/dwarf type.
  38. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3 Stars
    • Okay so this is a Wee Bit patronizing, but I like Acorna so I’ll eventually be finishing the series.
  39. Imprudence by Gail Carriger 5 Stars(Buy)
    • I love Prudence almost as much as I love Sophronia, okay? READ.
  40. Wicked as They Come by Delilah Dawson 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Worth it for the bludbunnies.
  41. The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • ZOMG
  42. The Circle Reforged: The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce 3 Stars
  43. The Circle Reforged: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  44. Petaybee: Powers that Be by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough3 Stars
    • I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
  45. Six Gun Snow White by Cat Valente (DNF) 1 Stars(Buy)
    • I wanted to like this so much I kept reading to the point where I kind of hate it now. But it’s lyrical and beautiful and I’m pretty sure recommended by Neil Gaiman so you should at least TRY to like it.
  46. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • WHAT is this world?! I like it! More, please.
  47. Ghostbusters (2016) novelization by Nancy Holder 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Ladybusters are MY Ghostbusters and haters & trolls can fuck right off. Kthxbye.
  48. Staked by Kevin Hearne 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • OBERON!
  49. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
  50. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 3.5 Stars
    • Rincewind honestly isn’t my favorite wizard. But Equal Rites made everything better.
  51. Acorna’s Quest by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3.5 Stars
  52. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes 3 Stars(Buy)
    • A really good twist on the “troupe” fantasy à la Final Fantasy or Dragonlance. But also I pretty much disliked every single one of the narrators on a personal level, too, so there’s that.
  53. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 4 Stars(Buy)
    • This won awards for a damn reason.
  54. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan 3.5 Stars
  55. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett 4 Stars
  56. Tainted Blood by ML Brennan 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I don’t know why I like this so much because it’s basically weird-creature-of-the-week urban fantasy and that’s been done before but dammit if I don’t really like this anyway.
  57. Star Wars: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig 4 Stars(Buy)
    • GAY STAR WARS! STAR WARS IS GAY NOW! Get over it.
  58. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
  59. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (current reading) (Buy)
    • I’m still reading this so I’m not gonna rate it yet but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Zer0es by Chuck WendigZeroes by Chuck Wendig
Published by HarperCollins on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Political, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of "progress."

Cross Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother with The Matrix, add a dash of I, Robot and you’ll have the plot of Zeroes. The scariest part of this book is how absolutely plausible the scenario is. Perhaps the technology isn’t quite ready yet, but with NSA spying, Citizens United, and all the other craziness going on in our government over the last couple of presidencies, it’s not really all that far-fetched to think about the kind of shadowy conspiracies that could be happening behind the scenes. Which is why I usually avoid this type of book. Our world is getting dystopian enough in real life, I don’t need it in my fiction too.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t recommend this book to folks who disagree with that need. Written in Wendig’s signature third person present, this book vibrates with intensity. Which is hard to do when half of it involves the main characters sitting around in front of computers. Far less technical than Doctorow’s Little Brother, you won’t need to know much about computers here.

I’ll be honest — this is no Miriam Black book. None of the characters here have Miriam’s dark anti-heroic charisma. These are just regular, flawed, unextraordinary people. The “Anonymous-style rabble rouser” is a loser hick whose best tricks are all social engineering and who’s exposing rapists in order to make up for high school inaction that resulted in a girl’s suicide. The “Arab spring hactivist” acts self-righteous because her hacking skills are being used as political leverage for the oppressed. (Not that she’s wrong, just that she gets annoying about it.) The old school cipherpunk is a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist and doomsday “prepper”.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the “black hat hacker”, who was just trying to buy his mom a house when the SWAT team burst in and arrested him. Sure, he was purchasing it with the ill-gotten gains of a credit card skimming scam, but since he was the most Leverage-like of a crew which has been compared to the Leverage team, I might be a little prejudiced. I always liked Hardison the best. (Just a note: this book is, in my opinion, only by the barest of margins comparable to Leverage. They seem almost totally different in both character and operation to me.)

I liked the troll the least. I will always like the trolls the least. Wendig does a good job of humanizing her with her own checkered past, and she does have a redemption arc of her own. But she’s also the worst kind of mean girl — humiliating and tearing down other people to make herself feel better. She even uses the old troll victim-blaming logic: if they didn’t want their secrets being found, they shouldn’t be stupid enough to have them in the first place. The sick sense of superiority is palpable.

I always feel like if the characters are real enough for me to dislike, then the author has done their job. None of the characters in this novel are heroes. They are ordinary people, with skills that anyone could learn, whose bad choices lead them almost by accident to discover a conspiracy. They step up to fight the conspiracy not out of any real heroism, but more out of self-preservation. Most of them aren’t even particularly likable, but they don’t have to be. In the end, it doesn’t matter why they stepped up — only that they did. Ordinary people, people who were convinced they were screw ups or criminals or just lesser in every way, who took a breath, grabbed hold of their courage, and fought back.

With the Hugo awards being announced the night prior to my writing this, the lesson becomes more powerful. Little people, ordinary people — screw ups and rejects and weirdos, like we all think that we are — when we join together, we can make a difference. We can save the world.

four-stars