Disclaimer: Not all these books are recent. They are just recent for me. I read them this year, so they are on my 2016 list. Enjoy.
Ghostly Echoes, William Ritter, Pub. 2016 Algonquin Press
I was lucky enough to get a pre-release copy of this book, when I went to visit Mr. Ritter at Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, WA. Other local authors Megan Chance and Suzanne Selfors were also present, which was a nice surprise. Ritters is a humble being, personable and very talented. His books are riveting, fast paced and inclusive. While the main characters are, in many ways, privileged, there is an entire cast of characters, especially in this last book, that is diverse and well developed.
This book is part fantasy, part historical fiction, part Sherlock Holmes mystery and all parts awesome. Ritter has a way of keeping you guessing until the end, writing important truths while also entertaining, and a way with re-creating old tropes in a new and interesting way. If you haven't picked these books up yet, get on it. You'll be up all night cursing me.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, 2016
Speaking of cursing, there's been a lot of complaints about this book from big fans. I'm a big fan of the HP books, so let me give my two cents. I liked it as a screenplay. I thought the idea behind what would happen if the time turner ended up in less responsible hands was awesome and answered a lot of issues people had with HP 4 (though that's my favorite book, actually). I liked the ways in which I could picture what was happening if I were to go the play. As a thespian, I could really see the play coming to life in a touching, magical way.
I didn't love it, as much, as a book. I kinda hope it gets turned into a longer, more detailed book. There were a lot of points in which I wanted more, a fuller HP novel with the silly jokes, intriguing magic (which inevitably fails), and the detail of feeling. I think this had all those things, just on a smaller scale.
So, yes, read it. Expect a play, not a book, and you'll be very happy. It was a good story with some of my favorite characters, and I liked that we got to see them more grown up. I enjoyed the new characters and was very touched by the sneak peeks I got of those characters who passed. There was a lot of nostalgia and character development that I enjoyed. A must read.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern, 2011
Yes, I just got around to reading this at the beginning of the year. You may kick me. Truly. I wish I had read it sooner. This book is magical without being too high fantasy. It has a realistic historical feel without being historical fiction. It's a game and love story and traveling show all in one and I adore everything about it.
The magic was breathtaking, the circus was otherworldly and the story was very real, emotionally raw and beautiful. If you haven't yet read this, allow me to kick you. It is one of my all time favorite books now. If I could sink into any world, I'd loop a red scarf around my neck and follow the Night Circus wherever it went.
Spaced Out, Stuart Gibbs, 2016
This book, like those that came before it, is hilarious. I truly love the voice of the protag, who is realistically a bored young boy stuck in the most stifling environment you can imagine.
Gibbs does such a wonderful job really laying out the pitfalls and joys of life on the moon. And, as the protag will tell you, there's more to hate about living on the moon than there is to like. From the crap food to the crap company to the seriously strange mystery that must be solved, this book is one of the most entertaining reads of 2016.
If you like a little intrigue, mystery and science, splashed with space humor, this book is a no-brainer.
The Marvels, Brian Selznick, 2016
Excuse me while I blow my nose and wipe the tears from my eyes. Be ready to be moved by the beautiful, old-world meets new world art and the phenomenal text of Selznick's latest work. I adored Hugo Cabret, loved Wonder Struck, but my favorite book of his is now The Marvels.
If you are a lover of antiques, the stories they might tell, the craftsmanship and wonder of them, read this book. You'll put the book down and immediately want to throw off your ties to this time. Or maybe you'll immediately want to tell a story, a story that's not quite true and not quite fiction, a story that heals. Perhaps you'll remember your days acting and think, "I never felt more alive than when I was acting out another life." I felt all those things and more.
This story healed me. It made me appreciate life and love and family in a way I can't explain. One of the best books I've read, ever. Pick it up.
A Spell in the Country, Morgan Smith, 2015
This book is part military fantasy and part magical scare the shit out of you fantasy. Seriously, this book gave me chills in the way only Goosebumps did for me as a kid. Had some super cool spooky elements that were extremely surprising, especially coming from an otherwise high fantasy book. I really appreciated the protag. She is who she is; strong, smart and socially awkward, and extremely adept at military planning and intrigue. She's the complex kind of heroine that every person needs to read, and will love immediately after so doing.
The characters are interesting and well developed and the plot knocked my sock off. Did I mention it was nominated for a Hugo? Pretty cool, huh? It is. Go buy it with your monies.
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker, 2013
Really, Jones, it took you three years to find this gem? Shut it! I'm busy. But find it I did, much to my great amusement. This book has a very historical fiction feel to it. In fact, Wecker goes out of her way to re-create an authentic old-world America setting with accurate details. So it's historical fantasy, which is a combination I love.
We get to see the life of immigrants in more than one way--through some of the main Jewish characters and through the fantastical immigrants, Jinni and the Golem. And it's a delightful, feeling, wondrous journey Wecker takes us on.
The way she meshes fantasy and reality is so well done that she convinced me that the fantasy-like characters were just as believable as any of the other human immigrants in the book. This book delves into morality, what it is to be an American immigrant for humans and fantastical beings alike, and what it means to find your voice as a woman who was born with no say.
The implications of the stories in Wecker's book go way beyond fantasy and touch at topics that are still important today. I love this well written, touching, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking book.
Also, I wrote Wecker to tell her how much I loved it and she *happy giggle* wrote me back and told me to keep writing. I shall, Wecker, but I may never write a book like this one.
Never Let Me Books, 1-3, Jennifer Brozek, 2015
I zoomed through the books as if they were air and I needed them to breathe. These are up until your eyes hurt types of books. They have a lot of action, a lot of "if I put this book down, I'm going to just be awake wondering what happened" moments. These are military/strategy books, sure, but I usually don't like that sort of book and I loved these.
Because they are also a bit dystopian, a bit sci-fi, a bit fantasy, and a lot of awesome. The protag is a woman with mental health issues (yay! a protag who represents), who is dealing with them as best as possible while also trying to save the world. What would it be like if you were prone to hallucinations, and had to deal with things that are real but don't seem real? Read and find out.
Truly, though, Brozek does a wonderful job merging several types of books I love to pick up into exciting, fast paced reads with a protag who is complex and different. The ways in which Brozek highlights the misgivings people with mental illness suffer while also creating a thrilling couple of books with great characters is wonderful. Great job, Brozek. Keep it up.
Princess Academy Palace of Stone, Shannon Hale, 2012
I adored Princess Academy, the first book, but it's been a while since I've picked up Shannon Hale. My daughter, however, is very interested in princess books, so we listened to the first book last year. She loved the mental strength of Miri. The fact that she had power apart from being a princess (and is not sure she really wants to be a princess) was a perk for mom. So, we picked up the second book this year and: YES!
This book has so many of the same wonderful characters as the first, with their singular identities and drives. It takes us from the "happily ever after" of the girls, including the princess to be, to "what actually happens after." And the way Hale takes us on a ride through a historical-like landscape of scandal and intrigue is magnificent. Miri's growth is astounding, the things she faces as a young adult are real and the story is important in the same way the first was important. It's important because it says, "These are the things young girls worry about on a small scale. And these are the things all humans have had to worry about since the dawn of time."
Loved both of these books so much. Pick them up for your young readers. These are perfect reads for those who romanticize earlier times and politics. What would it really be like to be a princess people didn't want? Dangerous.
Transmutations of Fire and Void, Matthew P Buscemi, 2016
This book is strange, witty, experimental and seriously compelling. The author takes you through shorts of every sort: sci-fi, fantastical and speculative. All of them have characters who are intriguing and realistic. The writing is beautiful at times, sarcastic at other times, but always smart, and often playful. I was sucked in with these short stories. The editing, the formatting, the cover and the content are top-notch. Pick up this book and read it. Then read it again. Buscemi is a treat; he is such a smart writer with strange and compelling stories to tell.