Monday, December 7, 2015

My Favorite Fiction of 2015 (With Drink Pairings)

What were some of my favorite fiction books of the past year? 

Back in December 2011, I started a blog column, Authors, Alcohol & Accolades, which asked some of my favorite authors about their preferred drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. There have been 11 editions of this column so far, with more to come in the future. The inspiration for this series is that I am a voracious reader, of both fiction and nonfiction, and I wanted to combine that interest with my love of food & drink. The series has proven popular and it has been fascinating to explore what authors enjoy drinking.

As a special year-end addendum to that series, I'm posting a list of my Favorite Fiction Books of 2015. This list will include books of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery/Crime/Thriller. During the past twelve months, I've read approximately 270 books, both fiction and non-fiction, which provides a large pool for my choices. Most of the books on these lists were published in 2015, though there are some exceptions which were published in prior years but which I didn't read until this past year.

The books are not listed in any specific order of preference, simply by alphabetical order by the author's last name, except for the anthologies which are just listed in a random order. As a special addition, I'm also offering some suggested drink pairings for each work, selections which I think are fitting for various reasons. Hope you enjoy.

My Top 10 Favorite SF/Fantasy/Horror Novels of 2015

1) Twelve Kings in Sharakhai: The Song of Shattered Sands, Book One by Bradley Beaulieu
An exciting start to a new, epic fantasy trilogy with gladiators, immortal kings & strange creatures.
(Read with a cup of Arabic spiced coffee.)
2) Nightwise by R.S. Belcher
The start of a dark urban fantasy series that has plenty of edge & attitude.
(Read with a shot glass of Jack Daniels.)
3) Golden Son: The Red Rising Trilogy, Book Two by Pierce Brown
Intense & action packed SF which will keep you on the edge of your seat.
(Read with a flute of fine Champagne.)
4) Knight's Shadow: The Greatcoats, Book Two by Sebastien de Castell
Swashbuckling swordplay, witty repartee, revenge, betrayal & heroics.
(Read with a large glass of earthy Burgundy.)
5) Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
A fascinating action tale with a cool & compelling take on time travel.
(Read with a glass of VORS Palo Cortado Sherry.)
6) Lords of the Sith by Paul Kemp
The Emperor & Darth Vader take central stage in this intense, action-packed SF adventure.
(Read with a glass of inky-dark, bold Petite Sirah.)
7) Cold Iron: The Malorum Gates, Book One by Stina Leicht
A rollicking flintlock fantasy, in a well developed realm, which will make you eager for the sequel.
(Read with a frosty mug of Ale.)
8) The Grace of Kings: The Dandelion Dynasty, Book One by Ken Liu
A mesmerizing epic fantasy that kept me riveted through the final page. A must read.
(Read with a glass of elegant Junmai Daiginjo Sake.)
9) The Autumn Republic: Powder Mage, Book Threec by Brian McClellan
A stunning & satisfying conclusion to this flintlock fantasy trilogy.
(Read with a glass of aged Madeira.)
10) The Providence of Fire: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book Two by Brian Staveley
An action-packed and thrilling follow-up of this epic fantasy.
(Read with a glass of Argentine Malbec.)

When analyzing my list, you'll see that 4 spots were taken by the 2nd or 3rd books in a series (including #3, #4, #9 & #10), and a couple of those books were even better than the first books in the series. Some of the books will have sequels released in 2016 so it will be interesting to see how they fare on my lists next year. All of the books on this list garner my highest recommendation and you should check them out. .

To winnow my list down to only ten novels was very difficult, and tough cuts had to be made. However, there are still novels which didn't make my Top Ten but which are more than worthy of my hearty recommendation. To give them some well-deserved recognition, I am awarding ten of those novels Honorable Mention status. In essence, this makes my list into a Top Twenty list. These are all books which should please most readers and you need to check them out too.

My Top 10 Honorable-Mention Novels Of 2015

1) The Awesome by Eva Darrows
(Read with a glass of youthful Zinfandel.)
2) The Conformity by John Hornor Jacobs
(Read with a glass of powerful Barolo.)
3) The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence
(Read with a glass of expensive Bordeaux or a strong, dark Lager.)
4) Predator One by Jonathan Maberry
(Read with a glass of two fingers of a peaty Scotch.)
5) Clownfellas: Tales of the Bozo Family by Carlton Mellick
(Read with a glass of cold Milk spiked with Rum.)
6) Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
(Read with a glass of German Spätburgunder.)
7) On Her Majesty's Service by Joseph Nassise
(Read with a glass of aged German Riesling.)
8) Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale
(Read with a glass of dry Hard Cider.)
9) He Who Walks in Shadow by Brett Talley
(Read with a glass of savory Mead.)
10) The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
(Read with a glass of finely aged Burgundy.)

As I've read a significant number of mystery, crime and thriller novels this year, I thought they deserved their own Top Ten list, to reward all of the compelling novels in this genre I have enjoyed these past twelve months.

My Top 10 Favorite Mystery/Crime/Thriller Novels of 2015

1) The Backlist by Eric Beetner & Frank Zafiro
(Read with a glass of traditional Chianti Classico.)
2) One Kick by Chelsea Cain
(Read with a glass of warm Mulled Wine.)
3) Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier
(Read with a glass of Washington Merlot.)
4) The Killing Kind by Chris Holm
(Read with a Glencairn glass of smoky Laphroaig 15 Year Old.)
5) Tussinland by Mike Monson
(Read with a glass of cheap American Bourbon.)
6) Uncle Dust by Rob Pierce
(Read with a glass of Blanton's Bourbon.)
7) Take Down by James Swain
(Read with a shot of American Rye Whiskey.)
8) Deal Gone Bad by Tony Wiley
(Read with a glass of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.)
9) The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
(Read with a shot of Reposado Tequila.)
10) The Cartel by Don Winslow
(Read with a shot of Anejo Tequila.)

I've read several Advance Reader Copy (ARC) novels this year and wanted to give recognition to a couple which I think were exceptionally worthy and which hopefully will be published in the near future.

                                     My Favorite ARCS

1) Chains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards
(Read with a glass of a powerful Australian Shiraz.)
2) The Angel of the Abyss by Hank Schwaeble
(Read with a glass of an Absinthe cocktail.)

I also want to give some raves to my favorite short story collections of the past year, Anthologies often don't get enough credit but they can be quite compelling books, with an interesting mix of stories, often based around a specific theme.

My Top 10 Favorite Anthologies Of 2015

1) Sharkpunk edited by Jonathan Green
(Read with a big Mai Tai, or any other Tiki cocktail.)
2) Operation Arcana edited by John Joseph Adams 
(Read with a small glass of an ethereal Sauternes.)
3) Limbus Inc. Book 2 edited by Brett Talley 
(Read with a glass of aged Amontillado Sherry.)
4) Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries & Rogues edited by J.M. Martin 
(Read with a cold glass of an intriguing Craft Beer.)
5) A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests edited by Josh Reynolds & Miles Boothe
(Read with a shot of smoky Mezcal.)
6) Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed edited by Joseph Nassise & Del Howison
(Read with a bottle of Canadian Beer.)
7) With Sword & Pistol by Edward Erdelac
(Read with a shot of Rum Punch.)
8) The Madness of Cthulhu, Vol.2 edited by S.T.Joshi
(Read with a glass of old Absinthe.)
9) Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule edited by Todd Robinson
(Read with a big glass of Spiked Eggnog.)
10) SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest edited be Geoff Brown
(Read with a shot of high-proof Whiskey.)

Finally, I want to give some recommendations for some of my favorite novellas of the past year, those long form stories which just don't reach the length of a novel though the line between short novel and novella is very ambiguous. Novellas often seem to get ignored on many other "Best Of" lists but I believe they are definitely worthy of attention, especially considering the high quality novellas that are appearing more frequently.

                               My Top 10 Favorite Novellas Of 2015

1) Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium by Clive Barker
(Read with a glass of sweet, herbal Vermouth.)
2) Nine Toes in the Grave by Eric Beetner 
(Read with a glass filled with a Manhattan cocktail.)
3) In Midnight's Silence: Los Nefilim, Part 1 by T. Frohock
(Read with a glass of elegant Fino Sherry.)
4) Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2 by T. Frohock
(Read with a glass of aged Amontillado Sherry.)
5) Gator Bait by Adam Howe
(Read with a glass of cheap Bourbon.)
6) Prisoner 489 by Joe Lansdale
(Read with a glass of brash White Whiskey.)
7) Return To Honor by Brian McClellan
(Read with a glass of Light Rum.)
8) The Builders by Daniel Polansky
(Read with a glass of Japanese Whiskey.)
9) Theok the Indomitable by James Tuck
(Read with a glass of a dark Lager.)
10) The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler
(Read with a glass of Dark Rum.)

What do you think of the Drink pairings? Would you choose a different Drink for any of these books?

All of the books on these lists would make great holiday gifts for others, or even yourself. Please support an author, a small, independent business person, and buy more books. And if you read and enjoy a book, please leave a review of that book online and also tell your friends about it. The author would greatly appreciate your efforts.

What were some of your favorite books this year?


Civilian Reader said...

Hah! Pairing Brian Staveley's with an Argentinian Malbec - my favourite book on your list with my favourite wine! And, probably, how I did indeed read much of that book...

Richard Auffrey said...

Glad you like that pairing. Cheers!

Unknown said...

What an impressive list of books and this was a really clever blog post :) Thanks for sharing. I have added quite a few of your mystery and crime recommendations to my TBR pile this winter. I think a book that definitely needs to make it on a future list of yours is "Uncontrolled Spin" by Jerry Summers ( <----- you can read an excerpt from the book on his website. This book has crime, romance, suspense, and it's an awesome murder mystery. It's been compared to Moonlighting, Dexter, Remington Steele and Bones. I also like the fact that he goes in depth with character development so you actually get wrapped up in their lives and the main focus isn't on just the crime scene. I really hope you will check it out! It's a must read for sure