My Favourite Things: 2015

I always wait until the last possible moment to write this post because, in the last two years, I’ve had to update a couple of the entries as I go to one last movie or find the book I couldn’t have made it through my life without reading. This year, the delay again proved worthwhile as I became absorbed in December by some of the best television I have ever seen, and a number of startlingly good books.

As always, highlighted entries point to my reviews and rambles.

Books

2015Books

I read about 270 books this year. That’s twenty less than 2014 and, consequently, I awarded fewer five star ratings. I had 64 to choose from when trying to decide which books to rave about. Narrowing my list of favourites wasn’t as hard as last year, however, as there were some clear standouts.

Science Fiction: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

This book kinda blew me away. Actually, there’s no ‘kinda’ about it. This book hit all my buttons: impending apocalypse (okay, it’s Armageddon, but good enough), deeply drawn characters and a sprawling sense of space—a universe you could live in, would recognise when you returned to it—poetry and a compelling narrative. Six compelling narratives, actually. Told from the consecutive points of view of six of the seven men and women making a pilgrimage as the galaxy prepares for war, this book is a saga in one volume. It’s three love stories and a treatise on military action. It examines humanity, religion, philosophy, art and politics. The story bends time and rules. It’s just nothing short of amazing.

I also enjoyed Kevin Anderson’s return to the Seven Suns universe in the Saga of Shadows, Pierce Brown’s follow up to Red Rising (last year’s top SF pick from me), Golden Son, and everything I read by Peter Clines.

Fantasy: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Long. Oh my goodness, so long. Every word is worth it, though. Every. Single. World. This book, these characters, this world! SIGRUD! Also, there’s a sequel coming out next year and I already have the ARC for it. *pause for epic flailing*

What sets this book apart is the world building. It’s truly unique. I have never read about a world like this one, and the world is such an integral part of the story. It’s nearly a character in its own right.

Close runner-up is Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations #1) by Michael J. Sullivan, a new to me author who is now an auto-buy author. I will read anything this man writes. A part of the charm of this series is the fabulous narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds. If you can afford to do this on audio, go for it.

Horror: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

This is a new category. I don’t usually read horror, but The Girl with all the Gifts is one of those stories that caught me by surprise. I can’t reveal much about the plot without giving away the magic, but what made this book work for me was the extraordinary journey of one of the characters. I despised this character at the beginning. I began to understand them halfway through. I was utterly besotted with their arc by the end—and then there’s a scene that just… Yeah, I’m haunted.

Graphic Novel: Commencement (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, #1) by John Jackson Miller

For me, this story combined elements of the original three movies and the world fabulously imagined by BioWare for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Great storytelling, decent art and fifty chapters to keep you invested for a good long time.

Romance: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis J. Hall

My review for Waiting for the Flood was a quote from within the book which, for me, defined the very essence of romance:

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted, really. Someone to make tea for. To know how they like to drink it, and share some pieces of time with them at the end of long days, and short ones, good days and bad, and everything in between.”

Movies

2015Movies

In Theatres: Furious 7

Apart from the fact this movie is a must see for every Furious franchise and Paul Walker fan, it really is the best one yet. The story, the stunts. The cast. The ending is bittersweet, as it had to be. I cried and, for about a month afterward, every time I heard the song See You Again I got all misty eyed.

I also really enjoyed both Southpaw and Creed. Southpaw was a shoe-in for me. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal? I didn’t have to be asked twice. Creed—you’ve seen Rocky (and a handful of the sequels), right? Why not treat yourself to Stallone acting, and doing a damn good job of it.

Yes, I have seen The Force Awakens and yes, it was a great film. I also really enjoyed San Andreas!

On DVD: Lilting, St. Vincent, Begin Again, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

I didn’t watch as many movies on DVD this year. I was too busy streaming season after season of television shows I’ve missed.

TV

2015TV

Broadchurch, Sense8, Grace and Frankie, The Expanse

These shows are about as disparate as you can get. The Expanse is the space opera I’ve been waiting for since BSG drew its last breath. Grace and Frankie explores interpersonal relationships between family, friends and lovers in so many wonderful ways. Sense8 is spectacular—cinematically and for the story. Broadchurch WRECKED me. Not sure when I last sobbed in front of the television in such a distraught manner. Thank goodness no one came to visit me.

Games

2015Games

Favourite Game: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Geralt…

Sprawling, endlessly entertaining, well-written, beautiful and…Geralt in all his grey glory.

I also finished Dragon Age: Inquisition which left me wanting and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Music

2015Music

I don’t listen to music when I write and I wrote a LOT this year. I also listened to a lot of audio books, which really cut into my music listening time—particularly when driving. But I still managed to get caught up by a couple of new to me bands and did have a few favourite songs.

Song of the Year: Hold Each Other (ft. Futuristic)

I adore Great Big World. I love apparent simplicity of their lyrics and melodies and the depth I always feel beneath—whether that’s due to the stories I apply to their songs, or the stories they’re telling me. In this song, I really like the three perspectives. And the video is REALLY cute.

Mark Ronson’s Uptown  Funk! ft Bruno Mars was my favourite danceable track this year and every time it plays, I think of a couple of my guys, Alvaro and Daniel, from Wrong Direction, which makes me happy. 🙂

I discovered The Weeknd well after everyone else, and well after FSOG, thank goodness. I heard The Hills as I was driving and nearly crashed trying to enlist Google’s help in identifying it.

I also discovered Twenty One Pilots and am still listening to Stressed Out over and over.

Fooddoughnut

This was the Year of the Doughnut. I discovered a Krispy Kreme about an hour and a half from my house and spent a stupid amount of time visiting other doughnut stores up and down the East Coast.

Activity

Being Offline

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a lot this year and because of the volume and increasing importance of writing in my life, I’m planning a separate post dedicated just to that! Given I spent so much time at the computer, by year’s end, my favourite activity actually became disengaging from the internet. Escaping to the real world to remember what the sun feels like. Taking day trips to reacquaint myself with my surroundings (and hunt for doughnuts). Hikes. Connecting with friends, face-to-face. Talking about anything other than writing, editing and publishing. Not being thoroughly confused and dismayed by social media.

That’s it, my list of favourite things in 2015. As always, the list is incomplete. I read so much, watched so much, listened to so much—and my tastes are so wide ranging and varied. I get a lot of joy out of mixing it up—leaping from a love story to a mystery, falling into a fantasy world and then jetting out to the stars. It keeps every adventure fresh and new.

Happy New Year and best wishes for your 2016.

 

PAX East 2015

PAX East has come and gone again and it’s left me with itchy fingers. I want to play games, lots of games. I wish I had the time. But until I get this next round of edits submitted, I have to stay focused on the world Jenn and I have created.

The highlight of my con experience was this statue.

Looking good, Geralt.
Looking good, Geralt.

I only wish they had had a playable demo. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt releases May 19, which just happens to be my birthday. I really can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

For a look at what else I previewed at PAX East, click through to read the article I posted at SFCrowsnest.

Here, I’ll leave you with a picture of beer. Because Boston has good beer, and this was the best I had while I was there.

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Reading Challenges: 2015

Despite the fact I only completed about half the reading I set for myself in 2014, I plan to participate in challenges again in 2015. Here we go:

2015 TBR Pile Challenge2015tbrbutton

Hosted by Roof Beam Reader, this challenge will once again be the lynch pin of my project. The goal is to read twelve books from my “TBR” pile over the course of twelve months. The challenge stipulates that the books must be at least twelve months old—released prior to 2014. With over two hundred qualifying titles on my current, physical TBR shelf, this will not be a problem.  Two alternates are allowed, just in case one of the twelve ends up in the “DNF” pile.

Last year, a few of my selections were books that had been on the shelf for too long and reading them felt more like an obligation than a pleasure. Therefore, this year I’ve tried to pick books I’m really excited about reading.

My selections:

The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie

(This is only holdover from last year’s list. I really want to read this book, I just know it’s going to consume a week or two. It’s long and involved and it’s an Abercrombie, which means I’ll need to read every gloriously gory word.)

Hounded, Kevin Hearne

The Archer’s Tale, Bernard Cornwell

Spherical Harmonic, Catherine Asaro

The Lost Fleet: Fearless, Jack Campbell

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

Salt, Maurice Gee

Thunderer, Felix Gilman

When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro

Twilight Falling, Paul S. Kemp

Way of the Wolf, E.E. Knight

Chindi, Jack McDevitt

My alternates:

The Red Wolf Conspiracy, Robert Redick

Wake, Robert Sawyer

For more details regarding participation, check-ins, mini challenges and giveaways, visit Roof Beam Reader.

Digital LibraryThe Digital Library

I don’t know how many titles I have in my digital library. I’m too afraid to properly count them. What I do know is that they date back to 2009, which is when I bought my first Kindle–and that I haven’t read a lot of them. Tsk, tsk.

Choosing twelve digital titles to read isn’t going to reduce the pile by much. I know I’ll buy more than twelve ebooks this year. But hopefully it will encourage me to read and/or toss some of the stuff that has been collecting virtual dust. So here is a second list, a challenge I have devised for myself.

Empress, Karen Miller

Manifold Time, Stephen Baxter

The Demon Awakens, R.A. Salvatore

Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon

Gray Justice, Alan McDermott

Star Fire, Mike Lee

Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill

The Old Man and the Wasteland, Nick Cole

The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon

Rule, Jay Crownover

The Unsung Hero, Suzanne Brockmann

The Red Knight, Miles Cameron

My alternates:

Storm Glass, Maria V. Snyder

Odalisque, Fiona McIntosh

My reviews for all of the above books are going to be short (and hopefully sweet). I have a lot of writing to do this year.

In addition to TBR Challenges, I’ll also be participating in:

2015sfexp275The Sci Fi Experience

This one spans two months, December and January. I haven’t chosen any specific titles as this is less a challenge than an opportunity to connect with my first love, science fiction, and share it with others. I’ve already posted two reviews:

Undercity, Catherine Asaro

The Fortress in Orion, Mike Resnick

I expect I’ll read another couple of eligible titles in the coming weeks.

The featured image for this post is ‘Idiom’ is by the Slovakian artist Matej Kren. It was first exhibited at San Paulo’s International Biennial in 1995 and is now a permanent instillation at the main branch of  the public library in Prague.