Category: Other People’s Books

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Other People's Books

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)

I loved this book, and honestly can’t say why. Good characters that I could get attached to, but not the most memorable ever. A well-imagined universe, but not fascinating in itself. A good pace, lots of excitement, but I’ve experienced better. So what is it about this? I just couldn’t stop reading. Maybe it was the emotional roller-coaster that hooked me. Maybe it was the fact that this story shows just a little more intellect and depth than most. The story has light-hearted moments, sad moments, excitement, introspection… there’s a little bit of everything going on as we go an the long ride through space with this band of misfits. I was caught and the story wouldn’t let me go. Rarely have I been so glad to be trapped.

The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks

Other People's Books

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel Book 1)

OK, so maybe Brent Weeks doesn’t need any more advertisements or reviews. Still, it’s just a good book. The “powerless orphan becomes something special” trope isn’t new, by any means, nor is the plot of the book anything you can’t probably guess at just by reading the back cover. But it will capture you nonetheless. The world is detailed but easy to relate to, and the pacing keeps your eyes open late at night. But the people are the best part. This is the rare sort of book where most of the characters, not just a few, are memorable people who you’re likely to think about long after you’ve finished reading.

I read books 2 and 3 of the series as well and although like just about every series, they weren’t quite as good as the first, they still got read pretty quickly. What better advertisement for a book than the fact that I felt the urge to go down to the bookstore and pay way too much cash for new versions instead of waiting to find used copies?

Pines, by Blake Crouch

Other People's Books

Pines (The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Book 1) by [Crouch, Blake]

As a general rule, if books get a whole lot of attention, get turned into a movie or TV series (this one was a pretty good TV series), and so on, it kind of turns me off. But I have to admit: this book was just plain brilliant. The author does a superb job of slowly lowering us into a mind-bending experience, and expertly find the point where it’s almost too much strangeness and then “Oh my God, DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?” And then it gets wild from there. Really, everyone should try this. Different people like different genres, but I honestly feel like the only person who might not like this one is that lonely person who exclusively reads werewolf-themed bodice-rippers.

H2O (re-released as The Rain), by Virginia Bergin

Other People's Books

H2O (H2O Series Book 1) by [Bergin, Virginia]

It’s hard to find a novel populated with young folks that deals realistically with the gritty, awful truths of a world-ending disaster. This one does. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s not one of those stories where out plucky heroine somehow rises above and conquers the world. But it’s a good story, absorbing, sometimes disturbing, sometimes sad, but always worth the journey.

Something from the Nightside, by Simon R. Green

Other People's Books

Something from the Nightside (Nightside Series Book 1) by [Green, Simon R.]

Brilliant, different, snarky fun. The book, like the characters in the book, doesn’t take anything too seriously, but it sure is fun. I’ve read all the Nightside books that have been released so far (11 of them), and though things might start getting rather worn by book 9 or so, the first ones are truly memorable fun. The author has created a uniquely twisted mirror-world that is hugely fun to play around in, and a good cast of reluctant, misfit heroes to follow through that world. Give it a try.

Empty Space, by Alan Black

Other People's Books

Empty Space by [Black, Alan]

Empty Space

Can a sociopath be a hero? Why yes. Yes he can.

I love Alan Black’s books because he takes a fun sci-fi adventure and peppers it with truly interesting characters who give the story an extra level of exploration and fascination. This one has that in spades.

The book starts out like many other sci-fi tales, in a far-future world of a highly stratified society where our hero is, against all odds, working to rise above his lower-class roots and make something of himself. It comes as no surprise that members of the higher society whose ranks he aspires to join are not welcoming, and actively set out to sabotage him. What is a surprise is the character’s reaction.

I’m not going to spoil the author’s gradual development and unveiling of his main character, but I will tell you that Mr. Black does what very few authors do: he acknowledges that his character comes from a difficult upbringing, he doesn’t shy away from the horrible things that happen to that character as a member of a disadvantaged class. Moreover, the author does shy away from the emotional scars that the character’s past has left. Instead, those scars become the key to why this main character is different than any of the others whose stories you’ve read.

By the end, I found myself rooting for the main character, of course, while at the same time having a vigorous internal debate with myself about what it said about me that I was pulling for a guy who, to be honest, did some pretty terrible things to other people, deserved or not.

Thank you, Mr. Black, for giving me that extra layer of meaning and introspection. It makes a fun story so much more.

I Am the Weapon (Unknown Assassin series, Book 1), by Allen Zadoff

Other People's Books

I Am the Weapon

(Note that this was originally released under the title “Boy Nobody.”)

There are a lot of teen spy novels out there: hapless teen is living his regular life one day, and the next day he is thrown into being a spy, which is a life filled with adventure, secret bases, high tech gadgetry, and overly dramatic bad guys. (Cherub, Department 19, Alex Rider, H.I.V.E., and so on.)

This teen is different. He’s no light-hearted Joe bumbling through his life. This teen is serious. This teen is a pure assassin; no regrets, no feelings, no sympathy. Get close to the target, kill, and move on to the next job. He didn’t really have much choice but to become an assassin and, to tell the truth, hasn’t had much of an urge to be introspective about it. As a basis for a character, it’s brilliant. The main character does, as you may suspect, start to question his life choices and the choices that are made for him. The bad guys and good guys become less clear, instead of more clear, as the novel moves along, and the reader navigates the main character’s reality as it starts to shift beneath him.

It’s a fun read, but it’s also got a unique perspective that brings it above other novels in this genre. If you’ve enjoyed any of the teen spy novels out there, you’ll love this one.

I’ve since read the other novels in this series. They aren’t quite to the level of book 1, mostly because the concept and character are no longer new, but the quality of the series remains high.

Metal Boxes, by Alan Black

Other People's Books

Metal Boxes by [Black, Alan]

Metal Boxes

Good stuff! This was my introduction to Alan Black, and I’m sure glad I found him. He’s a reliable source for a rousing tale, full of action and avoiding the stereotypes of his genre when he can.

This book is all I’ve learned to expect from Alan Black. It’s a little off the path of most science fiction novels, with a main character that’s more a misfit than a swashbuckling hero. But as you might guess, he does eventually come into his own.

Very good editing and the author shows a serious talent for storytelling. I feel like I know the characters well, and the world-building is very succinct and clear.

And finally, the ultimate test: I lost track of time as I read this, becoming fully involved in the character’s struggles and really rooting for him. Pick this book up for some good entertainment.

Traitor’s Blade (The Greatcoats), by Sebastien de Castell

Other People's Books

Traitor's Blade (The Greatcoats) by [de Castell, Sebastien]

Traitor’s Blade (The Greatcoats)

For about the first third of the book, I was really enjoying this as a fast-moving, light-hearted adventure tale. But sometimes a reader can identify the magical moment when a book crosses from good to great; from fun to memorable. For me, (don’t worry – no spoilers here) that was when Falcio said “Watch out for the arrow.”

At that moment I realized I was reading something that was exquisitely plotted and prepared, with rich characters that I truly cared about, living in a world I could see with perfect clarity.

The only negative I can mention is that I read this book in January, and I think I’ve already found the book I’m going to be telling others was the best book I read in 2016. (Update – it’s October now, and yes, this is still the best book of 2016).

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

Other People's Books

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Patrick Ness is quickly becoming one of my two or three favorite authors. Everything he produces contains not only a well-thought-out plot, but also seems to come from a unique perspective that other authors haven’t approached before. Whether it’s hearing the thoughts of a dog (Knife of Never Letting Go) a book where you’re not even sure what the “monster” is (The Monster Calls) or whatever it was that happened to me in More Than This, Patrick Ness just never lets me sit still and read. He has to show me something different.

And this book is really all about “unique perspective,” in several ways. There is a typical YA thriller going on in the background someplace, but we’re just learning about the regular kids: the ones with no superpowers who are not the Chosen One and aren’t super-spies either. And guess what? These kids have their own lives, too. They have problems. They’re trying to navigate family, peers, and even themselves. Who needs an adventure with aliens when you’re trying, like every other teen, to figure own your own life in this weird little world?

Patrick Ness slips so many interesting philosophical nuggets into this narrative as he tells the tale of these “regular” kids. I want every person in my life who works with teens (teachers, parents, etc.) to read this book just because of these glimpses into the heads of these teens. I found their lives fascinating, and the way their lives fit within the framework of their unique home town and the stories happening in the background of the town… This is a true five-star book from Mr. Ness… Again!

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