Just Giblets

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 2 & 1

3rd February 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 2 & 1

2015 was a good year for speculative fiction, with four out of the top 5 books I read this year coming under the science fiction/fantasy/horror genres. My top 2 books feature a favorite author, and one I’ve been meaning to read for years, and finally did. And they’re both named Nei/al.

#Trigger Warning2 – Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Has Neil Gaiman ever disappointed? I can’t say that he has, and this collection of short stories continues that streak. Using a title that was born from the internet to alert readers/viewers etc. to potentially offensive/disturbing content, Mr. Gaiman ponders the idea that his own work would one day bear the label, “trigger warning.” Good fiction should challenge the reader, often disturbing, scaring, challenging us. This collection certainly succeeds on that level.

Ranging from re-imagined fairy tales, Holmes’ tales, or Dr. Who stories, to several ruminations on death, memory and love, Gaiman’s stories reel you in with fanciful flights of imagination, then grab you somewhere startling and potentially upsetting. The result is delight, and a terrific read that will keep you pondering what your own personal trigger might be.

 

Seveneves#3 – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

When the moon explodes scientists soon predict that the resulting debris burning in the earth’s atmosphere will eliminate all life on earth in a couple of years. The majority of Stephenson’s nearly 900 page book follows the urgent, yet tenuous plan for an ark to small habitats to be constructed around an existing space station to save the brightest of humanity to one day repopulate the human race. The latter portion of this epic jumps forward 5000 years too explore what has become of the human race in a way that rivals the space epics of Frank Herbert or Mary Gentle.

Stephenson spins a riveting tale by blending a space thriller with a deft character study, exploring the character traits that may ultimately form the basis of humanity. While 900 pages is a daunting task, the book never drags, and urges you to keep reading to see how the characters will overcome the herculean obstacles that inevitably end up in their path. This is my first Neal Stephenson novel… I guess it’s finally time to read Snow Crash.

posted in 2015, Books, Lists | at 11:18 pm | 0 Comments
23rd January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 4 & 3

A debut novel and the first of two short story collections take the #4 & #3 spots on this year’s Best Books Read in 2015. And the #3 book is the second book by Simon Van Booy to appear in the Top 10! Nice work, Simon!

Join#4 – Join by Steve Toutonghi

Steve Toutonghi’s debut novel, Join is a lovely piece of speculative fiction that explores a near future that explores the next phase of humanity and how the changes to the race have dire impact to the planet itself. In an unspecified future, individualism has a whole different look as more and more people chose to join. Small groups of people merge minds into a single consciousness while retaining their physical bodies, allowing them to experience life through multiple bodies, and in affect, living forever, for while individual bodies die, the consciousness remains alive in the Join. While much of humanity has chosen to live this way, there are still solos living individual lives either by choice, or because the process is more than they can afford.

But even as humanity moves toward its next phase of life, the planet itself is in grave environmental peril. Worse, Chance, a join of five, stumbles upon the existence of a potentially mad, and decidedly murderous abomination called Rope. Meanwhile Chance’s friend Leap finds itself in grave peril from a rare condition that only affects Joins. Chance and Leap must find a way to save Leap, while avoiding the terrifying fate that could await them both through Rope’s machinations.

Reminiscent of recent work by David Mitchell and Neal Stephenson, Steve Toutonghi has created a fascinating future for humanity, all the while exploring the concepts of individuality and immortality, posing questions with no easy answers.

 

Tales of Accidental Geinus#3 – Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy writes beautiful books filled with deep longing and transcendent love. He is also a keen observer of human nature, from different points of view, ages, and backgrounds. His novels are lush and thought-provoking, but his short stories are masterful. Mr. Van Booy follows the great Alice Munro in the examination of human nature.

In his latest collection of stories, Simon travels around the world to provide the rich tapestry that make up his character. England, Nigeria, Beijing and New Jersey are among the backdrops that form these tales. He explores the nature of poverty and invention in ‘Golden Helper II: An Epic Fable of Wealth, Loneliness, and Cycling,’ and unspools a tender act of human kindness in ‘The Goldfish.’

I always look forward to Simon’s carefully constructed tales, and Tales of Accidental Genius adds another beautiful chapter in his literary body of work.

posted in 2015, Books, Year-end lists | at 12:25 pm | 0 Comments
20th January 2016
by Michael

Best Books Read in 2015 – #’s 8 & 7

Contemporary fiction with female leads — some might call it women’s fiction. For me, I’m just more interested in stories about women, and these next two novels were definitely very interesting! Lydia Millet and Jojo Noyes come in at #’s 8 & 7 respectively.

 Mermaids in Paradise#8 – Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet has constructed a complex novel that still serves as a light-hearted, entertaining read while exploring deeper issues along with protagonist, Deb.

While honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands, Deb & Chip find themselves among a small group of tourists who inadvertently discover the existence of real mermaids. Despite their best attempts to share their discovery in a responsible way, various factions such as the tourism industry and religious zealots threaten to turn this spectacular scientific discovery into something frightening or even murderous.

Millet weaves a narrative that includes ironic humor, modern romance, and speculative fiction that works on every level. The slyly subversive ending puts a unique spin on the novel as a whole.

One Plus One#7 – One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes writes romantic comedies that have a bit of a bite and earn any sentimentality that they display. In ONE PLUS ONE, Jess is a hard-working single mom who cleans houses to try to make ends meet. Her daughter Tanzie is at that awkward pre-teen stage, but she is a math wiz beyond compare. She also cares for her ex-husband’s son, Nicky, who is awkward and sensitive, and often the victim of local bullies.

When an opportunity arises that could lead to Tanzie attending an exclusive private school, Jess finds herself with no alternative than to depend on Ed, a wealthy man whose house she cleaned. Ed has hit a rough patch himself, but he finds himself drawn into Jess’s family drama and the two reluctantly find themselves drawn to each other. But life is rarely smooth, despite Jess’ eternal optimism, and the roadblocks these two face are large.

The emotions shared by these characters, both positive and negative, don’t come cheaply and are beautifully played out. This is a fun book to read that will make you laugh and make you cry. It’s got real chops and I highly recommend it.

posted in 2015, Authors, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:32 am | 0 Comments
18th January 2016
by Michael

2015, The Year in Books — a Few Observations and a Stellar Ongoing Series

2015 was not a good year when it comes to me and reading. I read the lowest number of books in 2015 that I can remember. Honestly, I barely broke 20, including two plays and two graphic novels. I plan on doing better in 2016, but if the beginning of January is any indication, I’m not off to a good start!

Science/Speculative Fiction and short stories did well in 2015, and a couple of favorite authors released new books. No non-fiction this year, and sadly, no books about bees. The good thing is that nearly all the books I read this year were good reads.

Before launching into my Top 10 I would like to mention those books that didn’t make the list, but are worth reading, then call out a fantastic continuing collected edition that I’m not including in the list because of the serial nature, but is always a great read.

howHow to be both by Ali Smith – Ali Smith’s complex novel explores relationships and art. It transcends time and space, bringing together a young woman in contemporary times who recently lost her mother and is trying to make sense of her life through a particular little-known painting that she loved; and the original artist of that painting whose story unfolds in a unique manner, paralleling that of the main character.

 

 

Worlds Gone ByWorld gone by by Dennis Lehane – Dennis Lehane wraps up his Joe Coughlin stories with a visceral burst of blood and crime in World Gone By. Is there honor among thieves? This is a moral conundrum that Lehane tackles firmly in his latest, finely written novel. Family is at the heart of World Gone By, as Joe still reels from the loss of his wife ten years past, and struggles to raise his son in a dangerous world that he claims to have retired from.

 

MeatspaceMeatspace byNikesh Shukla – Nikesh Shukla has created a fun, fast-paced tale for this latest generation, the one that lives their entire life online. Meatspace refers to the real world, the one where people interact face-to-face, and where things can get messy, complicated and emotional. The novel and its revelations unfold relatively smoothly, and Shukla’s voice is authentic and captivating. If there is one flaw it’s that Kitab’s struggle with his doppelganger goes on one round too long, and because of that, Aziz’s journey occasionally eclipses Kitab’s, but it all wraps together beautifully in the end.

 

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell – Sweet romantic novel about Georgie, who gets a chance for her big break in comedy writing for her own television show, even as her marriage veers dangerously close to going off the rails. While at times Landline feels little formulaic or trite, there is some real emotion behind the writing, and author Rainbow Rowell has a good command of language that makes this entertaining read a little more than a diverting trifle.

 

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro – Kazuo Ishiguro tackles fantasy to tell this parable about the benefits of time erasing pain and betrayal, yet sometimes having a more difficult time with vengeance and retribution. Ishiguro starts off slow, but as the journey ensues, and the purpose of the quest starts to take shape, The Buried Giant takes on a powerful momentum, until its inexorable and sobering conclusion.

 

 

A Reunion of GhostsA Reunion of Ghosts – Judith Claire Mitchell – Despite the dark themes running through her novel, Mitchell is funny, and the distinct voices of Lady, Vee and Delph are funny too. Added to the humor and the family drama, there’s some rich history woven into this novel, with the afore-mentioned great-grandfather being a brilliant scientist and contemporary of Albert Einstein, who is a character in the family story. Mitchell weaves these elements together skillfully creating a novel that’s both fun and sobering.

 

Saga, Voume 5Also read this year were the next two volumes of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ outstanding ongoing series, Saga. While the saga of Saga continues to be compelling, complex, entertaining and gorgeous, there comes that point in every ongoing series where the dramatic tension starts to seem forced, and situations are set up that have a slight feeling of, what can we do to our protagonists next? Fortunately, Vaughn is a talented enough writer to keep writing great stories even if the larger story arc start to buckle a little.

In volume 4, Hazel is now a toddler and narrating a difficult time in her parents’ lives. Marko and Alana, members of two warring races, find their relationship drifting apart as they try to keep food on the table. Meanwhile, their enemies draw closer, and their friends prove unreliable

Saga, Volume 4Volume five sees the completion of Yuma’s time in the series, and that’s too bad. She was a fascinating
character, both visually and storywise, and I’ll miss her.

All-in-all, despite a slight dip from 5 to 4 stars, it’s hard to argue that Saga is one of the best ongoing series out there. And with only five volumes in, you can easily catch up.

 

And one final comment about the JustGiblets blog in general. I notice that nothing has been posted for the year between my round-up of the best books of 2014, and now. Guess that means the blog is pretty much dead?  Or maybe I’ll try to be more active this year.  Only time will tell. Check back for my Top 10 books read in 2015.

posted in 2015, Books | at 11:39 am | 0 Comments
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