2017 in books

Preambule

Hopefully I have broken the bad luck series I have been in the past two years; not only I managed to read all the books I planned to, I even manage to more or less explode my challenge with 65 books out of 35 \o/. What happened? Better work conditions with my new position and a new house might just have been what I needed so I could find more time for reading…

Our friends at Goodreads have done some nicely presented stats here and this article will go in more details than just stats :)

As always, a mix of re-reading books I like and new authors & series and some disappointements as well, nothing is perfect…

To the books!

Old Books

  • Like last year with Les rois des étoiles, some books are so good I can not not find some time to re-read: in 2017, it was Wasp by Eric Frank Russell, yet another book I read a long time ago in French and found again to read in English. The humour in that book still makes almost cry from laughing…
  • Another long-time favourite of mine is Villains By Necessity by Eve Forward. Fairly standard Fantasy at first glance, it starts with the victory of the Light: Good as won, crime is abolished, villains are slain yadda yadda. But some villains just can’t adjust to this new World Order and things just go downhill from here. Lots of laughs.
  • Found a Twitter post mentionning a freely available novella from Ray Bradbury called All Summer in a Day, very nice.
  • Thanks to a friend of mine who reviewed the French version (thanks Stéphanie!1), I got to read an old novel by Frank Herbert called The Dragon in the Sea.

Old Series

There we find series I started before 2017, like the The Frontier Saga or The Secret Histories.

  • My first book was the last of the First Law trilogy with The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. Excellent conclusion for an excellent series in High Fantasy with attaching characters and good plot. Many books to follow :)
  • The final book in the The Others series by Anne Bishop Etched in Bone got delivered beginning of March as scheduled and it was a good as the other four, a fitting conclusion. She did blew everything with her first series but managed to get even better with that one. I could do with more books in this universe and she will deliver apparently :)
  • For TV series, I generally read books before watching the show. Didn’t happen with The Expanse though. I watched the entire first season before getting to the books and I can say that the series is very faithful. I enjoyed Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (a pen name for two authors). First season doesn’t cover all of book one so reading in parallel is a bit tricky. Excellent TV series and book. I watched season two so I have to keep on reading :)
  • I have read the two next books in the Jake Grafton series by Stephen Coonts: Final Flight and The Minotaur. We see the transition of Jack Grafton from US Navy fighter pilot to Counter-Espionnage at the Pentagon.
  • Aliette de Bodard’s second book is finally out! The House of Binding Thorns is the second book in the Dominion of The Fallen series and it was really good. Post-apocalyptic Paris with magic, angels and… dragons!2. I also read Children of Thorns, Children of Water, set between the two books and Lullaby For a Lost World, a very interesting novella about death and what happen to dead people, unsettling.
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Another book I read a long time ago in French (didn’t liked it much) and rediscovered in English. It is a bit slow at the beginning but it gets better. The Dark Tower movie released in 2017 with Edris Elba & Matthew McConaughey is good but is more “inspired” by the book than anything else. 6 books to go :)
  • Read two volumes of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The series is going well, with more background info on Harry.
  • The last two books in the long-running series of The Secret Histories by Simon R. Green, Dr. DOA and Moonbreaker. While most books are stand-alone, these two have to be read in sequence. Many things happen (not all good as usual but it gets worse there) to Molly and Eddie. I like the british humour in these books. The plot is not complicated but it is lots of fun.
  • I added five more books in Ryk Brown’s The Frontier Saga Sci-Fi series. Still very light and fun to read. I am getting near the end of this saga, there is at least a few more books in a new one.
  • Next book is from The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross. It is called The Jennifer Morgue. I was a bit afraid of finding the book too similar to the previous one but he managed to stay interesting. Lots of geeky humour (less than before which is good, one can stand only so much of it).
  • one more book in one of my favourite series, Ambassador by Patty Jansen, Blue Diamond Sky. Cory is finally on holidays but of course, events don’t stop at such a puny thing and Interesting Things™ happen :) This series is always a pleasure and we get to understand a bit more about the Coldi culture.
  • Trudi Canavan has finally released the 3rd (and surprisingly not the last) book in the Millenum’s Rule series. Successor’s Promise was really good and I understand the need for a 4th one. Lots of things need more explanations & details :)

Binge Reading

It does not happen often but I got into a binge-reading frenzy toward the end of the year. I guess some book or discussion reminded me of the various series by David Eddings, namely The Belgariad, The Malloreon, The Ellenium and The Tamuli. So except for The Hidden City, I read all the books…

New Series (and authors)

  • After hearing a lots of good things about her books, I jumped into V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series with A Darker Shade of Magic. It was really a blast! The whole world with several London, each with its pecularities & colours, the characters from Rhy to Lila Bard & Kell, the plot, everything was more or less perfect. This is the best series I’ve read in 2017 by far.
  • Git Commit Murder by Michael Warren Lucas. Michael is generally known for his Tech books about Free Software (under M. W. Lucas) but he has a fiction side with several Fantasy and Murder series. He committed (haha) this book as some kind of fan-fiction about the various conferences he regularely attend and it was fun! Lots of things I can relate to :) — The second book by Michael was Salvaged by Systemd; yes, an erotic story set not only in a geeky setting but a UNIX-related one. Loved it. Do I need to mention it is highly NSFW?
  • After the success of The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, what could she possibly invent to be even better? We have the answer in the first two books — Breath of Earth and Call of Fire — in this new series Blood of Earth, a new magic system using power from earthquakes. Very original and interesting characters as always. Really nice. Looking forward the next book! I also read a novella from the Clockwork Dagger universe called Final Flight.
  • I follow many authors on Twitter and finding new authors works very well. Tom Lloyd is one of these recommandations. His series called The God Fragments is High Fantasy. Lynx is a mercenary using a Mage-gun which cartridges are made from gods’ powder and the whole magic system is build on these fragments. Relics are generally left untouched so it is a rather use of them :) Attaching characters, good plot and lots of action, yummy! Read Stranger of Tempest and Princess of Blood with a short novella in-between Honour Under Moonlight. Waiting for the next…
  • Mark Lawrence was on my list of “to-read” author for a long time and I finally read Prince of Thorns, #1 of the The Broken Empire Series. It is rather dark (I like that) and graphic. A bit slow-paced but nice, takes some time to get used to writing. Original story.
  • Twitter hit again and I read a fabulous novella by Amal El-Mohtar called Seasons of Glass and Iron. It comes from the The Starlit Wood anthology edited by Dominik Parisien. I must read more of her, loved that short one.
  • like Beth Cato, Becca Andre had to reinvent magic in a new way and I must say I loved Ferromancer, part of an anthology called Dominion Rising with 22 stories by many authors. This is the beginning of the Iron Souls series and I am pretty sure I will love it. Nicely done Becca.
  • I have seen many positive reviews of Jeannette Ng Under the Pendulum Sun so I bought it. While I’m not that familiar with the Christian theology, the premises of mixing this with the Fae in their own country was interesting. It is beautifully dark, the world building is good and the atmosphere gloomy although I have some reservations on the pace, it is a bit too slow for my taste (and that hurts the story as well).
  • Another Twitter recommendation (thanks Aliette and others!) was The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson. Whenever Molly bleeds, a new her is created, intend to kill her… Recommended!
  • Librarians, Fae et Dragons, what could anyone ask for more? This is The Invisible Library new series from Genevieve Cogman. I read the first three books (The Invisible Library, The Masker City and The Burning Page). If Shades of Magic” wasn’t my best series of 2017, The Invisible Library* would be on that seat, it is that good. I like everything from the characters, races, plot & action. Excellent series, so good I kept the fourth one for next year, not wanting to realize the next book was so far away…

Comics

  • A small digression at the beginning of the year to finish the excellent comic series called Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić with The Volume 5. A very good comic about the vastly unknown (to me) world of BDSM through the relation of two women, Ally and Lisa. Very nice drawings and interesting story, nice way to learn more about BDSM. Highly NSFW of course but this is not the kind of comic you’d bring at work anyway ;-)
  • Logicomix par Apostolos Doxiadis is an interesting book (thanks Elifsu for the gift!), exploring research in Mathematics (esp. logic) and Philosophy through the life of Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970), British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate.

Non Fiction

  • As many of you readers know, I have a keen interest in Cryptography and like many scientific fields, women are way under-represented (which will not surprise anyone not living under a rock) so when I saw the announce of a new book about Elizebeth Smith Friedman called The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone, I jumped right on it. Anyone interested in the History of cryptography knows William F. Friedman, known as the man who broke Purple the Japanese cipher machine and many things. But who did know that his wife, née Elizebeth Smith, was his equal in cryptographic skills? She created a Coast Guard cryptographic team, broke an Enigma without any help from Bletchley Park, helped expose many Prohibition-era gangs and Nazi spy networks in South America during WWII and worked in tandem with William during WWI. She is as much part of cryptographic history as her husband is. I knew she was good from Kahn’s book but I didn’t know she was that good. Fascinating book that will interest anyone if only for the new light it gives on events during WWI & WWII.

French Books

  • I managed to slip a French book (and a paper one to boot!) this year (thanks Rayna!), Quand sort la recluse by mystery author Fred Vargas. I read another of the Commissaire Adamsberg series some time ago (Sous les vents de Neptune) and was not convinced. I am afraid I stay unconvinced about the series, it is nicely done, everything fits and that’s my main issue, it fits all too well it is not really plausible. Way too neat for me, maybe I’m being too difficult and crime books are not my favourites.
  • A blast from a distant past hit me and I read the first SAS book by Gérard de Villiers. Malko Linge is an Austrian Prince with an expensive mansion and he is paying the bills with money from the CIA in various countries. For more than 35 years, spawning 200-ish books, more or less following news from the world, many things happen to Malko during these missions, not to mention a large number of female conquests…

Dropped Books

As usual, some books never make it to the “Read” state. Something was wrong with it, I didn’t felt anything, got bored and finally never managed to get back to these.

  • A Dance of Death by David Dalglish. First two books were OK-ish but could push myself to finish the 3rd one.
  • more surprising to me was La Zone du Dehors by Alain Damasio. I have been wanting to read it for a long time, waiting for an electronic version. I know it is highly relevant to our current world of global surveillance, maybe even more so than “1984” but I had high expectations. Alas, while I recognize why people like it for what it depicts, it is so freaking boring. Second-rate SF&F for me, sorry. Could not persuade myself to finish it, I’m not interested.
  • another surprise is Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh. I’ve known the series from long but never managed to get my hand on it. I finally got down to that and… I’m crawling in it, can not really relate to any characters, pace is slow and it is difficult to see where it is going. I know there are a lot more books but it is more of a burden than anything else. I may come back to it later but there are too many interesting books waiting to be read.

Last words

You may have noticed over the years that I read a lot of books written by women. From Fantasy to Space-Opera, they always manage to surprise me and show incredible skills in weaving stories. No surprise there to find strong female characters and I do enjoy this. I fully intend to keep on discovering new authors and series in 2018 :)

Series

Authors

Archives

Notes

  1. Here is her review on Outrelivres

  2. “Everything is better with Dragons!” — more or less then feeling of many on Twitter, including me :)

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