Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
[A must-read, firmly ensconced on my to-read list.]
Awakened by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast - Exonerated by the Vampyre High Council and returned to her position of High Priestess at Tulsa’s House of Night, Neferet has sworn vengeance on Zoey. Dominion over Kalona is only one of the weapons she plans to use against Z. But Zoey has found sanctuary on the Isle of Skye and is being groomed by Queen Sgiach to take over for her there. Being Queen would be cool, wouldn’t it? Why should she return to Tulsa? After losing her human consort, Heath, she will never be the same—and her relationship with her super-hot-warrior, Stark, may never be the same either…
And what about Stevie Rae and Rephaim? The Raven Mocker refuses to be used against Stevie Rae, but what choice does he have when no one in the entire world, including Zoey, would be okay with their relationship? Does he betray his father or his heart?
In the pulse-pounding eighth House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast, how far will the bonds of friendship stretch and how strong are the ties that bind one girl’s heart?
[House of Night #8]
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne - Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
[I read and reviewed an ARC of this last month. The short version - good read but sucky cliffhanger]
Hex Appeal edited by P. N. Elrod - In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?
In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.
[Worth it for the Jim Butcher and Ilona Andrews stories alone.]
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
[Somehow I missed this when the hardcover was released last fall. Almost 8,000 5-star reviews on Goodreads - My to-read list is growing faster than I can read them this week.]
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson - Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse creates a stunning, near-future world where technology and humanity clash in surprising ways. The result? The perfect summer blockbuster.
As he did in Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson masterfully envisions a frightening near-future world. In Amped, people are implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities—and rights—of "amplified" humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as "amps." Owen is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps may be about to change the world—or destroy it.
Once again, Daniel H. Wilson's background as a scientist serves him well in this technologically savvy thriller that delivers first-rate entertainment, as Wilson takes the "what if" question in entirely unexpected directions.
[Wilson's Robopocalypse examined the near-future after the advent of AI. This time he tackles Cyborgs. Wilson is a robotics engineer - his science is sound but his futures don't seem probable. Waiting for the paperback release for this one.]
Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton - When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…
But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…
[I confess to being one of the legions of fans who abandoned this series when the plot went out the window in favor of wall-to-wall sex somewhere around book #13. I recently picked up and read Skin Trade (Book #17) and was pleasantly surprised to see the series returning to its roots (less sex, more action/adventure/mystery). Word on the street is that both Hit List (#20) and this title (#21) are remaining true to the formula that gathered so many fans in the first place - sex AND plot. Thus, I'm planning a catch-up on those I missed, this one included]
Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds - With his critically acclaimed Revelation Space novels, Alastair Reynolds confirmed “his place among the leaders of the hard-science space opera renaissance.” (Publishers Weekly) With Blue Remembered Earth, the award-winning author begins a new epic, tracing generations of one family across more than ten thousand years of future history—into interstellar space and the dawn of galactic society…
One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…
Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his long-running studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey’s family, who control the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans for him. After the death of his grandmother Eunice—the erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur—something awkward has come to light on the Moon, so Geoffrey is dispatched there to ensure the family name remains untarnished. But the secrets Eunice died with are about to be revealed—secrets that could change everything...or tear this near utopia apart.
Perhaps nowhere are the competing ideas of heaven and hell exhibited more clearly than in the dark and tormented soul of Thomas Cale. Betrayed by the girl he loves but still marked by a child’s innocence, possessed of a remarkable aptitude for violence but capable of extreme tenderness, Cale will lead the Redeemers into a battle for nothing less than the fate of the human race. And though his broken heart foretells the bloody trail he will leave in pursuit of a personal peace he can never achieve, a glimmer of hope remains—the question even Cale can’t answer: When it comes time to decide the fate of the world, to ensure the extermination of humankind or spare it, what will he choose? To express God’s will on the edge of his sword, or to forgive his fellow man—and himself?
Unfortunately, my family wasn’t so lucky. In my absence, Drood Hall was destroyed and all my relatives were killed. Which left me as the Last of the Droods. I didn’t much like being The Last Drood, I can tell you—and then I realized that things weren’t as they seemed. Someone had activated a dimensional engine, sending my Drood Hall off to an alternate Earth, replacing it with a burnt-out doppelganger. My family is still alive out there. Somewhere. And nothing’s going to stop me from finding them…
[The Secret Histories #6]
Blood Kin by M. J. Scott - I didn’t plan on becoming a thief and a spy. But options are limited for the half-breed daughter of a Fae lord. My father abandoned me but at least I inherited some of his magic, and my skills with charms and glamours mean that few are as good at uncovering secrets others wish to hide. Right now the city has many secrets. And those who seek them pay so well…
I never expected to stumble across a Templar Knight in my part of the city. Guy DuCaine is sworn to duty and honor and loyalty—all the things I’m not. I may have aroused more than his suspicion but he belongs to the Order and the human world. So when treachery and violence spill threaten both our worlds, learning to trust each other might be the only thing that saves us.
But even if a spy and a holy knight can work together, finding the key to peace is never going to be easy…
Home From The Sea by Mercedes Lackey - In Edwardian Britain, magic is real. And Masters of the Elements control Fire, Water, Air, and Earth...
Mari Prothero has lived all her life with her father, Daffyd, in a tiny fishing village on the coast of Wales. Though Daffyd takes his boat out on the sea regardless of weather, Mari has learned not to fear for his safety, for her father is a Water mage, and always comes home safely with a large catch. Mari knows that in her family, children are expected to marry at eighteen, to an appropriate stranger. However, Mari is a fledgling Water Master with a rebellious nature. She has no intention of agreeing to any arranged marriage. But Mari has yet to learn the truth of the magical heritage that must be protected by these very marriages. For the Protheros are descended from Selkies—magical beings who are able to change from seals to humans—and to continue her line, she must marry a full-blooded Selkie...
Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford - It's not easy losing the love of your life...
But when Maggie Graham freed Rowan Mackenzie from the curse that bound him to this world, she took the first step toward her new life as director of the Crossroads Theatre. As a hectic new season begins, magic takes a back seat to ticket sales as Maggie balances the demands of her interfering board president and a company of actors that includes bewildered amateurs, disdainful professionals, a horde of children, and an arthritic dog. But magic is hard to banish from the old white barn, where memories lurk like ghosts in the shadowy wings and the unexpected is as time-honored a tradition as the curtain call. And when the tangled spells of the past turn Maggie's life upside down, it will take more than magic to ensure the happy-ever-after ending she longs for.
Redshirts by John Scalzi - Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
[A must-read for any fan of Star Trek, or well, pretty much anyone!]
Judgment at Proteus by Timothy Zahn - In Timothy Zahn's Judgment at Proteus, the Quadrail that connects the twelve civilizations of our galaxy has been the flashpoint of a battle for dominance fought mostly unnoticed by humankind. But Frank Compton of Earth, aided by the enigmatic woman Bayta, has fought on the front lines, using every bit of his human ingenuity and secret agent skills to outwit the Modhri, a group intelligence that would control the minds of every sentient being it can touch.
Following a trail of deception and death to Proteus Station, Compton has discovered a conspiracy that threatens all life in the galaxy: the Shonkla’raa, an ancient enemy thought to be long dead, is rising again. So serious is the danger that the Modhri, the enemy of his enemy, may now be his friend, as the burgeoning threat of a race of invincible soldiers emerges.
If Compton and Bayta can’t stop them, the Shonkla’raa will decimate all who oppose them, destroying the Quadrail and billions of lives throughout the galaxy.
KOP Killer by Warren Hammond - Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto.
When she died, however, Juno’s life went downhill. And then his first partner, the corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police, was murdered. The man responsible, Emil Mota, is using the KOP for his personal gain. Juno has been laying low, but now he’s ready to do whatever it takes to take down the bastard.
Rather than working from inside the system, he’s decided that the only way to take down the KOP is to create an independent base of power. So he gets involved with a team of dirty cops and starts working as a rent-a-thug for a whorehouse that needs protection.
Juno’s last partner knows that his risky plan has a purpose, but she’s that rarest of creatures on the hothouse planet of Lagarto: an honest cop. She can’t help him.
When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption....
The Broken Universe by Paul Melko - Possessing technology that allows him to travel across alternate worlds, John Rayburn begins building a transdimensional commercial empire, led by him, his closest friends, and their doppelgängers from several different parallel universes. But not every version of every person is the same, and their agendas do not always coincide.
Despite their benign intentions, the group’s activities draw unwanted attention from other dimensional travelers who covet their technology and will kill anyone to control it, a threat that culminates in a nuclear standoff for dominance throughout the multiverse.
Bury Elminster Deep by Ed Greenwood - Elminster's archenemy, the vampiric Lord Manshoon, thinks he has destroyed Elminster at last. But Elminster survives in the form of magical ash, and with the help of his scion, a fop who is growing into a true nobleman, and his longtime companion Storm, he still has a chance to counter Manshoon's insidious plots.
Silver by Rhiannon Held - Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.
The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.
Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.
Mother of Storms by John Barnes - It is 2028. A strike to destroy an illegal Arctic weapons cache has a catastrophic side effect. Massive amounts of energy are liberated from the polar ice, suddenly and radically warming the Earth’s climate.
In the middle of the Pacific, a gigantic hurricane thousands of miles across is forming, larger than any in human history. A storm with winds of supersonic speed. A storm that changes direction at whim. A storm that refuses to die. A storm so vast it spawns dozens more in its wake.
Blinded by intrigue, expedience, and greed, the world’s politicians and power brokers ignore the killer storm’s threat until it’s too late. The death toll climbs to the tens of millions as it savages the Pacific coast, and the smaller storms it spawns are wreaking havoc across the planet.
While the survivors scramble for advantage, a handful of courageous men and women undertake a desperate plan to save humanity from total destruction—a plan so visionary it may alter forever the future of the human race.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo - Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
[I read an ARC of this last month - an absolutely brilliant novel. I can't recommend this enough.]
The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan -The Goblin Market has always been the center of Sin's world. She's a dancer and a performer, secure in her place. But now the Market is at war with the magicians, and Sin's place is in danger. Exiled from the market she loves, Sin is thrown together with Nick and Alan - whom she's always despised.
Alan has been marked by a magician and can be tortured as the magician pleases. As Sin watches Alan struggle to continue to protect the demon brother he loves, she begins to see him in a new light. When Alan is finally possessed as a punishment for Nick's disobedience, Sin can only watch helplessly as the boy she has grown to love is destroyed. No one ever comes back from a possession - ever. But no one else has a demon for a brother. How far will Nick go to save Alan? And what will it cost them all?
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma - Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens to the present if we rewrite the past?
Félix J. Palma explores this provocative question, weaving a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting—a story full of love and adventure that transports readers from a haunting setting in Victorian London to a magical reality where centuries collide and a writer’s mind seems to pull all the strings.
Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson - Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet—especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.
Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe—government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerilla warriors—and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument....
Incorporating the traditions of the First Peoples as well as the more familiar stories of Greek mythology and Arthurian legend, Shadows Cast by Stars is a haunting, beautifully written story that breathes new life into ancient customs.
Mirage by Kristi Cook - Violet McKenna is back for her senior year at Winterhaven and thrilled to be with Aidan after a long summer apart. But while their love for each other is as strong as ever, their troubles are far from over.
News of a rogue vampire on a killing spree sets everyone on edge. While Aidan is determined to stop the killer, Violet is chilled by a horrifying vision she simply must prevent...for if she can’t, two people she loves will meet a violent end.
In the midst of Violet’s fear, a mysterious newcomer enters her life—and he has some vital information not just about her past, but about her future as well. Now everything Violet held as truth is upended, and she is left not knowing whom to trust, if she is in danger, and—worst of all—whether she and Aidan are really meant to be together.
Surrender by Elana Johnson - Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.
All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.
Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….
Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer - Sarah Weaver wasn't looking forward to starting at an all-girls school. But that was before she met Maddy. Maddy and her best friend, Agnes, are fun and rich and interesting-and for some reason, they seem to really like Sarah. Before long, Maddy and Agnes have moved Sarah into a big house off campus, where they cook together, buy each other presents, and share each other's secrets. So why does Sarah feel like something's bizarrely wrong? As more and more cracks start to show in Maddy's and Agnes's perfect veneers, Sarah notices some strange and disturbing things: Maddy's compulsive lying, Agnes's obsession with Maddy, and the deterioration of their friendship. And just when Sarah begins to question her own sanity, things turns deadly. Fans of Pretty Little Liars will devour this juicy debut novel.