Misc.

A Guide to 2017 Releases

When it comes to listing my most anticipated books for the year, I find it pretty difficult. How am I supposed to restrict my choice to just five or ten books, when thousands are published every year? Instead, I’ve decided to create a comprehensive little guide to the ones I’m most excited about, sorted by genre – with the main focus on science fiction and fantasy, but what else would you expect? 😉 As this post was written in mid-December, by the time it goes live I’ll probably have another 50 or so books I want to add…

Science Fiction

The Massacre of Mankind (War of the Worlds #2) by Stephen Baxter, Empire Games (Empire Games #1) by Charles Stross,
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty,
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel, The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda, The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu, The Wanderers by Meg Howey, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, Blight by Alexandra Duncan, Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory, Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones, Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin, Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Fantasy

The Winds of Winter (A Song of Ice and Fire #6) by George R.R. Martin, A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab, The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco, Crossroads of Canopy (Titan’s Forest #1) by Thoriya Dyer, The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad, Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by V.E. Schwab, Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell, The Heart Of What Was Lost (The Last King of Osten Ard #0.5) by Tad Williams, Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence.

Horror/Thriller

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1) by Amy Plum.

Historical Fiction

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White.

Contemporary

American Street by Ibi Zoboi, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson.

Which 2017 releases are you most looking forward to? 🙂

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2016

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of fourteen books: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by V.E. Schwab, The Sin Eater’s Daughter (The Sin Eater’s Daughter #1) by Melinda Salisbury,
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin, Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb, Aristocrats: Britain’s Great Ruling Classes From 1066 To The Present by Lawrence James, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide #1) by Douglas Adams, Goldenhand (The Old Kingdom #5) by Garth Nix, The Fireman by Joe Hill, Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, Nerve by Jeanne Ryan, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I have to say, October was a really great reading month. I managed quite a few books, and half of them were 5-star reads. I re-read two books this month: A Game of Thrones (which I have been meaning to re-read for about five years) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s really hard to pick a standout because so many were amazing: Goldenhand, Greatcoats, Americanah, This Savage Song… not to mention my first ever Robin Hobb novel, Assassin’s Apprentice. Basically I would say read them all!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I managed to defeat October’s villain, Jack O’Lantern, in the DC vs Marvel Challenge. Next month’s villain is Indigo, who I am not familiar with.
  • I have currently read 107 books towards my Goodreads goal. I’ve now hit the goal of 100, but I won’t raise it as I don’t want to pressure myself.

 

Currently reading:

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
How was October for you?

A Novel Experiment

A Novel Experiment #4: A Bookish Family Results

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A Novel Experiment is a feature of mine where I try some experimental reading over the space of a month or so, and then report back at the end of the month. What is experimental reading, you may ask? My goal is to try different ways of reading, such as reading only ebooks, only one genre, only non-fiction etc, for a month, and then see whether it affects how much and how eagerly I read. Obviously this is not going to be something I repeat every month, but rather every couple of months or so. Previously, I have tried sticking to a monthly TBR list, which went quite well.

For September, I decided to read only books from my parents’ shelves. So how did this go?

  • I read four books from my parents’ shelves, and am currently reading a fifth
  • I read one book from my friend
  • I read one book from my sister
  • And I read two books from my own shelves

So maybe it didn’t go 100% to plan – but I did branch out and read slightly different titles to what I normally read – however, I still stuck to my ‘usual’ genres, in a way. I’ve still got a pile of books I chose for the month from my parents’ bookshelves in my room, and they’re pretty much all historical fiction, travel and a few classics, so things I would read anyway. So maybe I wasn’t branching out as much as I thought?

I also found myself looking longing at my own shelves, bursting with science fiction and fantasy books, almost every day. I just REALLY want to read some epic fantasy right now (in fact, I really really want to re-read the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and have for months), so that will probably be my next read. I don’t know whether it was the timing, as I’d just been reunited with my own entire book collection, but so many of my own books have been calling out for me to read them throughout September.

23347055 Wild Americanah

So how do I think it went?

I was actually very distracted this month. I couldn’t focus on several of the books, and some were truly disappointing. I had to divert from the challenge a little bit in order to still be able to take part in the DC versus Marvel challenge, but still most of the books read in September did not belong to me. In fact, the one book of my own, Stranger of Tempest, was probably the one I struggled with most, and was really very disappointing. My absolute favourite of the month was Wild, borrowed from my mum’s books – but I’d already known I wanted to read it, after watching the film, and I love travel books anyway.

So whilst I perhaps didn’t branch out as much as I meant to – sticking to familiar genres like historical fiction and travel – it was still an interesting experiment. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the books I did read, but I also felt myself pining for my own bookshelves. I don’t think I’ll be depriving myself entirely of my usual SFF diet again!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #27: Fantasy Inspired By Middle Eastern Culture

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, previously posted every other Friday but now a little more occasionally! It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: fantasy inspired by Middle Eastern culture.

It has always bugged me that so many of the fantasy books I read are clearly inspired by Western culture. For example, many novels take inspiration from Scandinavian countries, because their history, culture, architecture and ancient religions provide some pretty wonderful inspiration. But this works well for so many other countries, so why aren’t we seeing their influence?

Actually, Middle Eastern culture does have a lot of influence on fantasy fiction. But very rarely are the heroes and heroines from this background. It seems to mostly be used as an inspiration for the ‘enemy’ culture, to represent barbarians and people of a ‘less developed’ civilisation, for example the Dothraki in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, who are initially shown as very violent and cruel. This got me thinking about books where this is not the case, and where the main civilisation represented in the book is actually inspired by the Middle East. I was pleased to find quite a selection during my research, and would love to hear about some more if you can share any!

Rebel of the Sands Twelve Kings The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

  • Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton – a Persian inspired fantasy that seemed to me like an ‘Eastern Western’ e.g. lots of gun slinging.
  • Twelve Kings (The Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu – the first in an epic fantasy series with political corruptness, assassins and immortal kings.
  • The Desert Spear (The Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V. Brett – whilst the culture is perhaps shown as barbaric at first, POV chapters open up the reader’s eyes to why Jardir’s world is the way it is.

Throne of the Crescent Moon Desert of Souls Lions of Al-Rassan

  • Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1) by Saladin Ahmed – I’ve not read this one, but it was very highly recommended when I was searching for books for this post, and seems to be inspired by Arabian Nights.
  • The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1) by Howard Andrew Jones – unlike most of the books on this list, this one is actually set in our world, but with a fantasy twist.
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay – this was one of the Books of the Month for Dragons & Jetpacks but I STILL haven’t read it (story of my life).

The Golem and the Jinni The Will of the Wanderer In the Night Garden

  • The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker – yet another Dragons & Jetpacks Book of the Month that I still haven’t read! I do remember members of the group commenting on how beautiful this book was though.
  • The Will of the Wanderer (Rose of the Prophet #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – one of the older books on this list, this tells the story of a battle between many gods.
  • In the Night Garden (The Orphan’s Tales #1) by Catherynne M. Valente – the description of this book of short stories sounds more than enough to convince me: ‘A book of wonders for grown-up readers’!

Do you have any other recommendations?

Misc.

2016 – The Year Of Re-Reads & Readalongs?

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All through 2015, I seemed to tell myself I would soon re-read certain books and series, but I never got round to re-reading any of them. So I’m determined to make 2016 the year that I re-read these series – and why not host some readalongs/discussions so that others can join in on reading these with me?

These are the series I hope to re-read next year:

I’d love to know if any of my readers would be interested in joining in with readalongs or discussions of these books, whether you’d be reading them for the first time, or re-reading. Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Would you be interested in joining any of these re-reads/readalongs? Are there any books that you really want to re-read?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #26: The Femme Fatales of A Song of Ice and Fire

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: the awesome female characters from the series A Song of Ice and Fire.

This post contains spoilers for the series A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as its television adaptation, Game of Thrones.

The series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is known for its stand-out female characters. Although it is loosely based on medieval history, a time when women were seen as second class citizens – and many are treated that way in the series – there are some that defy all expectations of society ‘at the time’ (or rather, considering the time period that the series is based on). Each one is, in her own way, a wonderful and unique individual.

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Arya Stark

At the start of A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya is only nine years old. She is mischievous and a bit of a tomboy, all in all quite a typical nine year old. But accompanying other losses comes the loss of her innocence and childhood. She is thrown into a world so different from her life at Winterfell. She disguises herself as a boy in order to travel north from King’s Landing after her father’s execution. She witnesses murder, brutality and so many horrors, yet all it does is harden her, prepare her for a new life at the House of Black and White. All in all, Arya is focused, ruthless and willing to do whatever it takes to put things right – even if for her that currently involves murdering those responsible for the deaths of much of her family.

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Brienne of Tarth

I really love Brienne and her absolute sense of loyalty. From noble blood, but never ‘traditionally’ attractive or ladylike, she has carved a place for herself in this world that expects women to be meek and fragile things. She is a skilled fighter and becomes part of Renly’s bodyguard, albeit in a short-lived role. Her loyalty and determination are some of her strongest qualities. Brienne has put up with a lot of teasing and cruelty in her life due to her appearance, but she has never once let it stop her trying to achieve her aims.

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Cersei Lannister

In the first few books, Cersei seems like one of the series’ main villains – but then you realise that A Song of Ice and Fire has no main villains – just a cast of characters doing whatever they need to survive. This very much applies to Cersei, who is just trying to protect her children. She may have some rather odd taste in men (!!) but she knows how to get by in this brutal world. Her behaviour isn’t always ideal though – at one point she accuses her father of not giving her any power because of the fact that she is a woman, and he responds by saying it is nothing to do with that, and everything to do with the choices she makes. She is cunning and highly intelligent, and holds herself with such poise as to give herself more power. You don’t want to mess with Cersei or her babies – she is just like a lioness in that regard.

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Daenerys Targaryen

Like many other women of A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys changes drastically throughout the series. At the beginning, she is in her early teens, forced into marriage with a man who is much older and with whom she cannot communicate. She is threatened and possibly even abused by her older brother. However, Daenerys soon learns to adapt to her new setting and play things to her advantage. And when she later invades and becomes Queen/Khaleesi of various cities throughout Essos, it goes as well as you would expect it to with a teenager in charge. But Daenerys learns from her mistakes and finds out who her true friends are. She doesn’t give up even in the fact of assassinations attempts, mutiny and losing control of her dragons. Every time someone thinks they have pinned down the Mother of Dragons, they are proved wrong. Fire cannot kill a dragon, and the men of Westeros/Essos cannot stop Daenerys.

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Margaery Tyrell

Margaery has certainly had to put up with a lot. Firstly, an arranged marriage to a man more interested in her brother than her, then a marriage to a monsterous tyrant, swiftly followed by one to an adolescent boy-king, with Cersei for her mother-in-law. And then, once everything finally seems to be going right, she is accused of having incestuous relations with her brother, and is thrown into prison. And whilst Margaery does not seem to have been quite as unlucky as some, her constant bright moods and sly manipulation of others really make her one to watch.

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Sansa Stark

Oh Sansa, I am so, so sorry. You’ve had it rough in the books, but the TV show has made it so much worse for you. Forced to watch the execution of her father, abused and tormented by Joffrey, almost killed by a mob then on the run with Littlefinger, who clearly has ulterior motives towards her, then forced into a abusive marriage with Ramsay Bolton, Sansa is possibly the most maltreated character of the series (ESPECIALLY the TV series). Yet Sansa, sweet innocent Sansa who dreamt of a life in King’s Landing full of lemon cakes and new gowns, rises from the ashes like a phoenix; she is reborn. Hardened by her experiences, she knows the best way to progress is to continue playing the naive, wide-eyed girl – and most importantly, not to trust anyone.

These women of Westeros, these femme fatales, are severly underestimated by those around them. That may be the last mistake they ever make.

What do you make of the women of Westeros? Who are your favourite characters?

Thoughts

Thoughts #36: Do We Really Need ‘Strong Women’?

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As you probably know, I am a big reader of science fiction and fantasy. Typically, in the past, these genres were dominated by men, and even in the 21st century women are often under-represented, both as authors and characters. Therefore, as any self-respecting woman would do, I have always supported and been proud of works where female characters are shown to be ‘strong’. I cheered for Arya Stark as she made her own way in life through the A Song of Ice and Fire series, despite her young age. I love the fact that Harry and Ron would never have gotten far without Hermione. Vin’s development from a timid young girl to confident young woman in the Mistborn series was fantastic.

But then I thought to myself – why do we need to be told this, or in many cases tell ourselves, that these women are strong?

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That is not to say that I look down on any of the works mentioned for their portrayals of women – in fact I’ve named some of my favourites here. But why can we not just assume from the beginning that these female characters are strong, or that their strength is something every woman has, that just presents itself in different ways? Some are physically strong, like Brienne of Tarth, others are emotionally strong, like Katniss Everdeen. Just because we don’t see it all the time doesn’t mean it’s not there. Do we really need to label female characters as ‘strong’ for showing great physical, mental or emotional prowess, when if a male character were to do the same we would never say that? It almost feels like saying it’s a surprise for a female character to present herself that way.

But at the same time, people should be recognised for their attributes and actions. Some characters go through absolutely horrific events, so of course we want to refer to them as ‘strong’ to show that they are survivors, they are more than capable – it’s like an umbrella term to cover all the different ways in which they have dealt with things. After considering all this, I’m now really torn between the two viewpoints. On one hand, calling one woman over others ‘strong’ demeans the remainder and indicates that we don’t expect them to show strength, but on the other hand they should be recognised for what they have done.

What do you think – should we still refer to female characters as ‘strong’ or do you think the word is patronising?

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