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Robert Batten

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Author

December 20, 2018

2018 in Books

2018 was a good year for reading. As they do every year, Goodreads have started generating member’s “year in books” reports, and it’s always fun to dive in and remind yourself what you read (you can view mine here).

The Stats

This year, I finished 65 books, which is way up for me, but is also deceptive, as that includes children’s books I read with my son. If I remove those 31 short stories, that means I completed 34 novels in 2018.

Shortest and longest books as visualised by Goodreads.

In total, I read approximately 13,000 pages, with the shortest book being only 16 pages (Stephen Biesty’s Trains) and the longest book coming in at 768 pages (The Fireman by Joe Hill).

Highlights

I read some great books this year and have shared reviews on a few, but have sadly fallen behind in my recommendation posts. Here are some of my favorite books from those I read in 2018...

Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry

Cover of Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Young Adult

Sorcery for Beginners could well be the next Harry Potter. This is a fantastical urban fantasy where an unsuspecting child is drawn into a world of magic and danger. One thing that really sets this book apart is that it is written as an instruction manual for magic, where the story is used to educate the reader while also introducing spell instructions, facts, and warnings. The illustrations are delightful and the story A+. You can Read my full recommendation here.

If you like the sound of Sorcery for Beginners, learn more on Goodreads here or buy a copy from Amazon here.

World War Z by Max Brooks

Cover of World War Z by Max Brooks

Genres: Horror | Sci-Fi | Zombies | Dystopia | Post Apocalyptic

World War Z is presented as a historical record of a zombie apocalypse, told through survivor stories compiled via interviews. It’s an unusual approach to the genre and it works well by giving us a perspective not possible in other zombie fiction. Even more impressive is how Brooks manages to tie these independent tales into a a narrative that is consistent and enjoyable. You can read my longer post on World War Z here.

If you want to know more, you can look up World War Z on Goodreads here, or pick up a copy from Amazon here.

The Creakers by Tom Fletcher

Cover for The Creakers by Tom Fletcher

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Children’s

The Creakers is a delightful story about a town where all the grown-ups disappear. For this children, this is paradise and the jump into enjoying themselves with gusto. All except one.

The novel is aimed at children and though it has some parts that could be scary, it’s told with a great sense of humor and meant even my three-year-old enjoyed it. You can read my recommendation for The Creakers here.

You can learn more about The Creakers on Goodreads here, or grab a copy from Amazon here.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Cover of The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Genres: Fantasy | Sci-Fi | Dystopia

The Fifth Season is the first book in the Broken Earth series. I’d been hearing good things, so I picked it up. I had know idea what I was in for.

This novel is amazing, grand in scope, intense, and troubling. The world Jemisin has created is amazing, the characters intriguing, and the story is epic. But it’s also dark. In a world where a society is graded on how well it can survive the regular apocalyptic calamities that befall it, you can’t expect everything to be rosy. Bad things happen to good people. Good people are twisted. And having finished the first book, I suspect it’s only just getting started.

Having said all that, this novel blew me away. It’s amazing, and if you don’t mind your coffee black, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it. Find out more at Goodreads here, or grab a copy from Amazon here.

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey

Genres: Science-Fiction | Space Opera

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in the Expanse series and on which the Expanse TV series is based. I loved the TV series, which led me to the books, and as good as the show is, the book is better. I loved the attention to detail in these books — the science is just so damn good — and the way it's woven into the epic story without getting in the way. If you love space opera you need to read this. I've written more about it here.

If you're interested in Leviathan Wakes, you can look it up on Goodreads here, or grab it from Amazon here.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Cover of The Fireman by Joe Hill

Genres: Sci-Fi | Horror | Dystopia

The Fireman dumps us in a dystopian future where a mysterious disease (they don’t really know what causes it) triggers mass spontaneous combustion in people around the world. Society is struggling to cope as not just people burn, but forests and cities as they take their surroundings with them. Into this chaos, we meet a simple, kind-hearted nurse who just wants to help while securing the future of the unborn child she carries.

The Fireman is a slow burn (sorry not sorry) that keeps building tension throughout. It deliberately telegraphs events and lets you sweat over them (again, not really sorry) as they creep inexorably closer. I loved this book, though people tend to be divided on the ending. You can read my longer recommendation for The Fireman here, look it up on Goodreads here, or grab a copy from Amazon here.

The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Cover of The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Genres: Sci-Fi | Dystopia

The Seclusion is the debut novel from journalist Jacqui Castle and it’s a ripper. The story is set in a dystopian future America that has been twisted into an isolationist authoritarian nation, separated from the rest of the world by the enormous Northern and Southern Security Borders (sound familiar? Amazingly, Castle wrote this before the 2016 US election).

There’s no pretending The Seclusion isn’t political and if you identify with the alt-right, you’re unlikely to enjoy it (or maybe you will). Personally, I loved this novel. Patricia is a great protagonist who grows throughout as events spiral out of control. The world, though extreme, is well realized and the journey from present-day to dystopian future all too believable. You can read my longer recommendation for The Seclusion here.

If you want to know more, look up The Seclusion on Goodreads here, or grab a copy from Amazon here.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Cover of Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Alternate Reality | Paranormal Romance

Iron and Magic is the first book in a spin-off trilogy from the Kate Daniels series, by Ilona Andrews. The main KD series follows the protagonist, unsurprisingly called Kate Daniels. Throughout this series, Hugh D’Ambray has been a fan favorite villain. So much so, that as an April Fool’s joke, Andrews posted a fake blurb for a dedicated Hugh book. Only, the internet didn’t want it to be a joke. In fact, not only did they get bombarded with requests from fans online, but librarians started reaching out asking why people kept coming in and requested a book that didn’t exist.

So they wrote it. And it’s book one in a trilogy. And it’s awesome.

If you’re interested in this, you’ll really need to read the Kate Daniels series, starting with Magic Bites. You can look up Iron and Magic on Goodreads here, or get it from Amazon here.

The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin

Cover for The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin

Genres: Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Alternate Reality

The Phantom Forest is another fantasy novel that stood out for me this year by creating a world that broke the mould. Focussing heavily on the afterlife in a world rich with lore, it follows a young woman as she does her best to keep her and her brother alive in an unforgiving land. You can read my longer recommendation for The Phantom Forest here.

The Phantom Forest isn’t yet out (I was lucky enough to read an early review copy), but it’s worth grabbing when it drops. You can find out more at Goodreads here or pre-order a copy from Amazon here.

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox by Forthright

Cover for Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox by Forthright

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Alternate Reality | Paranormal Romance

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox is the first book in the Amaranthine Saga. The Amaranthine are the animal spirits of the world, such as the Japanese Kitsune (fox spirit). This series is set several years after the Amaranthine revealed themselves to the world, creating chaos and panic. Now, humans, reavers, and Amaranthine are learning to coexist in the open, which isn't always easy. Especially when human souls taste so sweet.

In many ways, this is a classic paranormal romance, but beautifully told in a world that is rich and unique. TATEF is pretty short, but was great fun. I should note, I've also now read the second book in the series (Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal) and it's also excellent.

If you're interested in Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox, you can look it up on Goodreads here, or buy a copy from Amazon here.

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Cover of Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Alternate Reality | Paranormal Romance

Welcome to the second entry in this list by Ilona Andrews. Earlier I called out Iron and Magic, which is book one in a spin-off trilogy from the Kate Daniels series. Magic Triumphs is the tenth (not including side novellas) and final book in that main series — and holy hell what an ending. The Kate Daniels series is one of, if not the, most impressive urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. Everything is impeccable, including the incredibly high standard maintained across every installment. I’ve read many series that start out strong and lose their way, but not KD. If you enjoy urban fantasy and haven’t tried the series, start with Magic Bites. If you have started the series and haven’t finished it yet, hurry up so we can talk.

You can look up Magic Triumphs on Goodreads here or buy it from Amazon here.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Cover of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genres: Fantasy

Children of Blood and Bone has been nominated for a ton of awards (and won a bunch, too). This is with good reason — it’s a stunning piece of story-telling set in a fantasy world founded upon African culture, which means it stands out from the overwhelming mob of generic “high fantasy” on bookshelves the world over. You can read my longer recommendation for Children of Blood and Bone here.

If you’d like to know more, look it up on Goodreads here or buy a copy from Amazon here.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Cover of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Genres: Sci-Fi | Dystopia | Young Adult

I live for the dream that my children will be born free," she says. "That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them."

"I live for you," I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. "Then you must live for more."

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed.

I’ve been getting hassled about reading this series for a while, so finally sat down and read the first installment — Red Rising. It was fantastic. Darrow is such a great character and Brown does an amazing job building a believable world. I became completely caught up in the narrative and cheered out loud on several occasions as Darrow successfully pulled off something particularly outrageous. I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the series. You can read my full recommendation for Red Rising here.

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads.

Lifelike by Jay Kristoff

Cover of Lifelike by Jay Kristoff

Genres: Sci-Fi | Dystopia | Young Adult

On an island junkyard beneath a cigarette sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for secrets; she’s already too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building is a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive was the handful of credits she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can destroy machines with nothing more than her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

This is my first Kristoff novel and it will not be the last. Wow. This book was so good it blew my mind. There’s a lot of Idiocracy in the world, but… darker. Much darker. In inexperienced hands this could have come off cheesy, but it doesn't. The characters are a sarcy delight and the story is an intense rollercoaster. And that ending… Holy Hell. You can read my full recommendation for Lifelike here.

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Cover for Redshirts by John Scalzi

Genres: Science-Fiction | Humour

At first glance, Redshirts appears to be a simple spoof of Star Trek, specifically, "What would happen if the often-memed 'redshirts' realised their only reason for existence was to die dramatically on an away mission?" This alone would make the book worthy of examination, but I came to realise it was more. The premise may be whimsical, but Scalzi has written a solid narrative that stands alone, even if you've never watched an episode of Star Trek.

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, narrated by Will Wheaton (Will-Friggin'-Wheaton narrating a Star Trek spoof people!), and it was brilliant. You can read more of my thoughts here.

If you're interested in Redshirts, you can look it up on Goodreads here, or buy a copy from Amazon here.

Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Cover of Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Genres: Urban Fantasy | Alternate Reality | Paranormal Romance

Diamond Fire is a novella from Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy series and bridges the gap between the original trilogy and a new set of novels coming out next year (also, entry number three for Andrews this year). It's short but great fun, focussing on the younger sister of the original trilogy's main character.

The Hidden Legacy series is set in an alternate reality where a serum was once developed that unlocked magical abilities in people. Magic quickly spiralled out of control and the serum has been banned, but magical ability has proven to be hereditary, so those with the gift are now the world's elite. I've previously said everything Andrews releases is gold, and this is no exception.

You can get Diamond Fire from Amazon.com here, or look it up on Goodreads here. If you want to start the Hidden Legacy series, book one is Burn for Me.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Cover of Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Genres: Science-Fiction | Space Opera

Old Man's War is a novel a friend of mine has been recommending for years and I finally made time to read it. The novel is the story of John Perry, a man who signed up to the Colonial Marines at seventy-five because they promised to make him young again. This is an intense, sprawling, tangled tale that rampages through an unfriendly galaxy.

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, narrated by William Dufris. I love this book and Dufris does an amazing job narrating it (he's perfect for this novel).

If you're interested in Old Man's War, you can look it up on Goodreads here, or grab a copy from Amazon here.

Shadow’s Bane by Karen Chance

Genres: Urban Fantasy

Shadow's Bane is part of the Dorina Basarab series, which is actually a spin-off of the best-selling Cassandra Palmer series. I love the Cassandra Palmer novels (see my previous recommendation here), but since the Dorina books started coming out have found I prefer them; Dorina is just so much fun as a main character. This installment in the series involves some MASSIVE character development for Dorina (I can’t say more than that without spoilers, but, squee). It was brilliant fun in true, hold-on-to-your-hat, what-the-hell-just-happened, Dorina style. I’m also embarrassed to say it took me way too long to figure out who the “bad guy” was, even though it was telegraphed in neon lights. Oh well.

If you haven’t read any of the books, it’s probably worth starting with Touch the Dark (book one of the Cassandra Palmer series) or Midnight's Daughter (book one of the Dorina spin-off). If you want to know more about Shadow’s Bane, you can look it up on Goodreads here, or buy it on Amazon here.

And that's a wrap

Thank you all for following along in 2018. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (feel free to substitute your favourite season's greeting here)! In 2019 we should finally get Blood Capital on shelves! I'll be working hard through the holiday break and have taken January off to try and finish these edits.

See you in 2019.



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