Hello book world! I have been reading like there is no tomorrow (even though I have some good intel that there will in fact be a tomorrow). I thought I’d take a step back from reviews and hit you with a list of top books I’ve read (or re-read) so far this year.
I don’t have much of a selection process in how I go about picking out books to read. I do look at summaries and consult Goodreads users and Amazon reviews to see how the book scores with other readers. But ultimately, if I begin to read it and I like it, I keep going. My favorite types of books could be said to be magical realism or fiction that has an otherworldly flare to it all the while using real enough characters.
So, I am going to put my list below and they are in no particular order. I’m basically going to give you the Goodreads description and add in some of my own thoughts, which will be distinguishable by being in the ( ) symbols and italicized. I hope your TBR list grows!!
So without further ado, I give you the best of 2018 so far:
The Neon Palm of Madame Melancon by Will Clarke
Corporate attorney, Duke MelanCon, wrestles with twin emergencies that threaten his future. His employer, Mandala Worldwide, has unleashed a deepwater spill that could destroy the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, his crime boss mother, Madame MelanCon, has disappeared into the syrupy night. These two seemingly unrelated events are somehow quantumly entangled. Moreover, Duke discovers just “how entangled” they truly are when he comes face-to-face with what his “pet-psychic” sister calls, “a tear in the brocade of time.”
The Neon Palm of Madame Melancon takes readers behind a Louisiana backdrop of pollution and voodoo to explore Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” What begins as a comic romp in the tradition of Cervantes, ends with breathtaking revelations about the mysteries of time, the tragedy of love, and the unexpected impact Clarke’s Third Law will have on every aspect of our lives. (Remember when I said i like reality mixed with fantasy or a sense of magic? Well my friend, this is your baby!)
Lock In by John Scalzi
Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.
A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator” – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.
But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected. (Guys, this one was kind of a sleeper hit for me. I was skeptical at first but then I just devoured this book. There will be sequels!)
The Radleys by Matt Haig
Just about everyone knows a family like the Radleys. Many of us grew up next door to one. They are a modern family, averagely content, averagely dysfunctional, living in a staid and quiet suburban English town. Peter is an overworked doctor whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote and uncommunicative. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter, Clara, has recently become a vegan. They are typical, that is, save for one devastating exception: Peter and Helen are vampires and have—for seventeen years—been abstaining by choice from a life of chasing blood in the hope that their children could live normal lives. One night, Clara finds herself driven to commit a shocking—and disturbingly satisfying—act of violence, and her parents are forced to explain their history of shadows and lies. A police investigation is launched that uncovers a richness of vampire history heretofore unknown to the general public. And when the malevolent and alluring Uncle Will, a practicing vampire, arrives to throw the police off Clara’s trail, he winds up throwing the whole house into temptation and turmoil and unleashing a host of dark secrets that threaten the Radleys’ marriage.
The Radleys is a moving, thrilling, and radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, what it costs you to deny your identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting, iridescent bonds of family love. Read it and ask what we grow into when we grow up, and what we gain—and lose—when we deny our appetites. (Vampires and family life. That should be enough to at least scratch at your interest. Plus, look at that super cool cat on the cover!)
Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein
Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, while struggling to maintain a real-world relationship sabotaged by an addiction to his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and only in his absence does the family realize how real a son he has become.
Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society. Alexander Weinstein is a visionary new voice in speculative fiction for all of us who are fascinated by and terrified of what we might find on the horizon. (So, I’m not a huge short story fan, but if they all were like this collection, it would be all I read. These stories are magnificent. Read this!)
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
John Farrell is about to get “The Cure.”
Old age can never kill him now.
The only problem is, everything else still can…
Imagine a near future where a cure for aging is discovered and-after much political and moral debate-made available to people worldwide. Immortality, however, comes with its own unique problems-including evil green people, government euthanasia programs, a disturbing new religious cult, and other horrors.
Witty, eerie, and full of humanity, The Postmortal is an unforgettable thriller that envisions a pre-apocalyptic world so real that it is completely terrifying. (I know I said I wouldn’t pick a favorite, but I lied. This is the one. If I could marry a book, I’d put a ring on this one)
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It’s a brave new corporate world, but you don’t want to be caught without a platinum credit card–as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she’s allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale–and everything must go.
A wickedly satirical and outrageous thriller about globalization and marketing hype, Jennifer Government is the best novel in the world ever. (Fun, dystopian and a kick ass lead female character. Read this one for some good old fashion fun)
The Humans by Matt Haig
The Humans is a funny, compulsively readable novel about alien abduction, mathematics, and that most interesting subject of all: ourselves. Combine Douglas Adams’s irreverent take on life, the universe, and everything with a genuinely moving love story, and you have some idea of the humor, originality, and poignancy of Matt Haig’s latest novel.
Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien impostor who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth. (This is definitely one that will stay with me for a long time. A story about family, love and realizing that who a person is resides in who that person is not what they’ve done. Love and family are more than a shared home and goes deeper than surface lives we all live. I think about this book a lot and plan on re-reading it – many times)
Lexicon by Max Barry
At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics – at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.
Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell – who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.
Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. (I’ve currently read this one 2 times and listened to the audio book 3 times. o, in other words, me likey. Do yourself a favor and read this one. It is definitely mind expanding and inventive. You will never view language in the same way ever again.)
So, there you have it my friends. The top 8 books I’ve read so far in 2018. I really connected with each of these in some weird way. Also, just look at those covers! Some of those are works of modern visual art!! I hope that you take the time to look at a few of these and either purchase them or at least check them out from your local library.