Another year in the books (heh heh, a little author humor there)
So I, er, haven’t done as much writing this past year as I had hoped to. But what I have done is read a lot of great books and played a bunch of great games! Without further ado, here is Jessica’s Best of 2015 list:
A lot of the stuff I read in 2015 was actually published in earlier years, so I’ll make two lists here – my top reads of 2015, as well as top books published in 2015.
READ IN 2015
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
I tore through books 1 through 5 in this series in a matter of 2 weeks, I was so hooked! Darkfever was good, Bloodfever was great, Faefever and Dreamfever were a-freaking-mazing. The fifth in the series, Shadowfever (published in 2011), was actually a big disappointment to me, but it wrapped up the story of Mac and the Sinsar Dubh and so I’ll include it. Moning actually went on to add more books to the Fever series after that, but with a new plot and focusing on different characters, so I don’t count them as exactly part of this same group. I did go on to read Iced, and although I mostly enjoyed it, it definitely has turned into something that is more of a guilty pleasure, with more sex and violence than actual substance, but still great fun. I imagine someday I will move on to Burned and the soon-to-be released Feverborn, but I’m not in any hurry (unlike with books 1-5 that I devoured!)
The Martian by Andy Weir
What a fun book this was! The science was impressive, the stakes high, and yet the narration was hilarious.
Mark Watney is thought dead by his fellow crew members who leave him behind when forced to abandon their mission on Mars. Left alone on the planet with no other manned missions due to arrive for a couple of years, Watney is forced to “science the s#*%” out of the situation in order to survive. The book is mostly comprised of his journal entries.
“By my reckoning, I’m about 100 kilometers from Pathfinder. Technically it’s called ‘Carl Sagan Memorial Station.’ But with all due respect to Carl, I can call it whatever the hell I want. I’m the King of Mars.”
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This book dragged a bit for me in the middle, but overall I thought it was pretty amazing. It’s lyrical and bittersweet as it unfolds the chapters of woman’s life, with the twist that any time she dies, her life starts over again from the beginning. She has no concrete recollection of her previous lives, just occasional uneasy feelings and portents of doom when she approaches situations that didn’t end so well for her in past run-throughs. This allows her to make small changes that steer her clear of repeating mistakes of her past/present/future, and it’s fascinating to watch how big of an impact these changes can have in how her life plays out, all against the backdrop of 20th century Europe.
Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani
Sunbolt is a novella, with a full-length novel sequel due to come out in the near future. The first half of this story was decent, but the second half absolutely blew me away. The whole concept of the resigned breather was compelling – restraining himself in order not to hurt Hitomi, but fearing the end result is likely inevitable. The ashes and cinders rendered by the titular sunbolt, memories seared from our MC’s mind – such great imagery here! And of course the Promise in Hitomi. I can’t wait to read the rest of her story!
PUBLISHED IN 2015
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
While I didn’t love this sequel as much as its predecessor, Red Rising, it was still one hell of a fun ride. There are some truly great snippets of writing in here. I particularly love parts of Darrow’s initial meet-up with the Jackal. The Jackal creeps me out, but in the best way possible.
The Pyramids of London by Andrea K. Host
Host’s newest novel provides fresh new takes on many facets of fantasy fare, such as vampirism. The steampunk elements of the book are great fun. In the end, this book ended up being different from what I expected, but still quite enjoyable. I absolutely adore Heriath/Makepeace and find the dynamic between him and Rian quite fascinating, and hope to see more of him in the next installment of the series, Tangleways.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
This is Day’s memoir about growing up home-schooled (and mostly self-taught) while bouncing around the southern U.S., graduating college with a 4.0 double majoring in math and music at 20 years of age, then moving to Hollywood to make it big, baby! She reflects on the advent of the internet in homes of the public, and how it can be such a great tool to bring together people with common interests who might otherwise feel like outsiders. She tells her story with the great wit and humor she is known for.
Technically, this book belongs in the next category, but this is my blog and I decided to put it here, so deal with it 😉
BEST NONFICTION READS IN 2015
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (published 2006)
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye (published 2014)
I don’t play as many video games as I would like to these days, but of the ones I did end up trying out this year, here were my favorites:
Tales from the Borderlands by Telltale Games
I love adventure point-and-click RPG type games, and this fits the bill. However, I had heard TftB was also something of a comedy, and I wasn’t sure it was quite my cup of tea. But I read so many good reviews, and with a little help from Andrea K. Host and Kyle Arrington (thanks so much for the recommendations, guys!) I gave it a shot. I am so glad I did, because this is hands-down my game of the year!
Released over a series of five episodes, TftB is based in the world built in the Borderlands ‘first person shooter’ games, but you need not play those first in order to enjoy this. I had no knowledge of Borderlands going into this, and it wasn’t a problem.
Hyperion is a somewhat tyrannical corporation (created by the late sociopathic Handsome Jack) based on Helios, a space station that orbits the planet Pandora. Pandora has an Old West feel to it, but is filled with a bunch of criminals and psychopaths. This combination creates a very steampunky vibe.
You go back and forth between playing two characters in this game: Rhys, a goofy but lovable guy with cybernetic implants who works (or worked) as middle management with Hyperion. When his company rival becomes head honcho and demotes him to Vice Assistant Janitor, Rhys and his accountant buddy Vaughn decide to get revenge by hijacking the rival’s deal to buy a highly desirable and rare vault key, which might just lead to treasures untold.
The other playable character is tough as nails Fiona, a con artist from Pandora. She and her sister Sasha have a new heist in the works: trying to sell a fake vault key to the corporate scum from Hyperion.
Hijinks ensue. The vault key is revealed as fake, the great sum of money meant to buy it is blown up, but in the meantime the existence of another vault key is revealed. Rhys and Vaughn, Fiona and Sasha are all thrown together in their attempt to find this new treasure to make up for what was lost in the deal gone wrong. But they’ve ticked off a lot of people in the meantime, and these new enemies aren’t going to make things any easier for them.
The characters are really likable, the story is fantastic, the writing is smart, the game is FUNNY, and Tales from the Borderlands provides some ridiculously fun storytelling. I can’t recommend it enough! And last I knew it was available for 66% off through Steam, so if you’re even thinking about playing, you should definitely give it a try – I did, and I’ve voted it BEST DECISION OF 2015. Okay, not really. But it’s probably close!
And for the record – I REALLY love the way Telltale does the opening credits near the beginning of each episode. So great, with perfect licensed music choices to accompany them. Check out the one for episode 2:
I also really, really love the one for episode 5, but keep in mind this one will be a bit spoilerific, so you might not want to watch it yet if you plan on playing the game and want to see it for yourself.
Until Dawn by Supermassive Games
I know I’ve already written about this game in a previous post, so I guess I’ll keep in short and sweet here. This is a survival horror game with supernatural elements, with a neat story and exciting gameplay. How many of the 8 playable characters can you keep alive until dawn?
Life is Strange by Dontnod Entertainment
I’ve posted about this game previously as well. It has its faults, but overall I still greatly enjoyed the story. The ending (my ending, at least – for those of us who made the RIGHT choice!!!) was especially poignant.
What this category means is that I have started playing this game, have not finished yet, but enjoy it and expect to really like it all once I’ve finished 🙂
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture by The Chinese Room
You find yourself in a recently-abandoned village and explore the absolutely gorgeous environs in order to glean clues as to what happened to its missing population.
I guess that wraps it up! I look forward to reading, playing, (AND WRITING!) more great stuff in the year to come.
Happy New Year, everybody!