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Top Books of 2016

Top Books of 2016

It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to share my top books of 2016! For Sci-Fi Month I always share my top science fiction novels of the year, so this list won’t include any unless they were read in November or December. Otherwise, this list includes anything read for the first time this year, published at any time. And because I’m not very picky with my ratings and really bad at deciding top tens, I actually have a top fifteen, and would have gladly made this a top twenty or twenty-five…

This Savage Song The Road to Little Dribbling Uprooted

  • This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by V.E. Schwab – I really don’t expect anything less than perfection when I read one of V.E. Schwab’s novels now. It might be an issue one day perhaps, but it hasn’t caused any problems so far. This Savage Song was so unique and mesmerising, dark and mysterious. And my review is so overdue…
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson – I love travel writing, and no-one more than Bill Bryson. I think I’ve now read all of his books but one, and this was just as fantastic as usual. He is one of those writers who can take something really mundane and make it hilarious, who can narrate pretty much any kind of situation.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – This was one of the Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy Books of the Month this year, and it is just gorgeous. It felt so real and layered, yet so fairytale-like. I don’t normally like to read in places like coffee shops, but I remember sitting in one just utterly entranced by this, ignoring everything else around me.

Goldenhand Invisible Library Voyager

  • Goldenhand (Abhorsen #5) by Garth Nix – The long-awaited sequel to Lirael, Goldenhand was absolutely worth the wait! I’ve loved this series ever since I first read it around the age of 12, and have re-read all the books several times. Clariel, the prequel released a few years ago, was good, but Goldenhand is something else. It drew me back into the world that Nix created, and made me feel like I was reading the series for the first time all over again.
  • The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve CogmanThe Invisible Library feels like Genevieve Cogman peered into my brain, saw all my favourite elements of fantasy and steampunk, and threw them into a book. Libraries, assassins, alternate worlds, intrigue, secret societies… this was another Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy BOTM, and for some reason at first I wasn’t too bothered about reading it – but I’m so glad I did!
  • Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon – More Jamie and Claire Fraser, how could I not rate this one five stars? I don’t think any of them will ever live up to the first book (Cross Stitch/Outlander), but I just love this series so much. I’m torn between rushing through the rest of the books, and taking my time with them so that they last longer.

Paper Girls Nevernight You're Never Weird on the Internet

  • Paper Girls (Paper Girls #1) by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson – A graphic novel set in the 1980s, about a group of 12-year-old paper girls who encounter something weird on Halloween night. This was a gift from one of my colleagues when I left my job in Oxford, and it was so good! I can’t wait to read the other installments. Also, I absolutely love the colours on the cover…
  • Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight was one of those books that I knew I was either going to love or hate, because one of Jay Kristoff’s books really doesn’t appeal to me, but I really enjoyed another. However, this really worked for me. It was dark and brutal and relentless.
  • You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day – Back in 2006/2007, I discovered a little webseries called The Guild, a series about a bunch of socially awkward geeks who played an MMO together. It spoke to me like nothing else, and I loved that it was fronted by a woman (gasp!). From that moment on, I’ve followed Felicia Day’s journey, and it was so amazing to get to read about it – and really identify with so many of the things she went through.

Wild Traitor's Blade Queen of Shadows

  • Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed – I have to admit: I watched the film first. It was a fantastic film, and no wonder with such great source material. Strayed’s heartbreaking account of the reasons behind her journey, and her tenacity and determination are amazing.
  • Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell – Another Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy Book of the Month that I should have read sooner, because once I picked it up I couldn’t stop. This was so, so good, and amazingly refreshing. I feel like there’s not a lot of fantasy written from the first person. I’ve now read book two in the series as well.
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas – Words cannot express how much I love this series. Some people seem to have gone off it lately, but I just love how dark it has gotten. Who needs happy endings? 😉

The Demon King Assassin's Apprentice Americanah

  • The Demon King (The Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima – This is a book I grabbed from the library because it was available, and I’ll be reviewing next month – but oh my gosh I am SO glad I picked it up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest, and I am honestly quite tempted to just go out and buy the boxset…
  • Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb – My first ever Hobb, even though I own about seven of her books, and WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG. This was another one I rushed through in about three days. I’m just really glad I have a whole selection waiting for me on my bookshelf.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I read this as part of my Novel Experiment to branch out genre-wise, and only read books from my parent’s bookshelves. It was so different from what I’d been reading before, and I loved it – but maybe that’s why.

What were your top books of 2016? Have you read any of the books on my list?

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Review

Review: Goldenhand (Abhorsen #5) by Garth Nix

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

And here it is at last, my long overdue review of Goldenhand by Garth Nix. I started reading this as soon as it landed on my doormat, and read it in two days – back in October. Sadly, due to my preparations for Sci-Fi Month, and the fact that sometimes I take FOREVER to get my thoughts together, it has taken me this long to write my review up.

I first read Sabriel, the first book in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen/The Old Kingdom series when I was 12 or 13. I think it was a birthday present, and I’m not sure who from now – but whomever it was, I am incredibly grateful to them. This was the beginning of my love for the series, and I devoured the next two books as soon as I could. It is a series that has remained with me ever since, and in the fourteen years since I read it for the first time, I have re-read it countless times. I even took part in a readalong of Sabriel on my blog a few years ago. When Clariel was published in 2014, I was of course ecstatic – but it didn’t feel quite the same. Being a prequel to the main series, it was lacking what I had fallen in love with – namely the familiar characters, ones that I’d ‘adventured’ with.

And then along came Goldenhand.

Goldenhand picks up where Lirael leaves off. We get to follow the badass Second Assistant Librarian turned Abhorsen-in-Waiting once again. We get to see familiar faces, such as Sabriel and Touchstone. Returning to the Old Kingdom was just truly magical, and it felt like reading the series for the first time all over again. It brought up those feelings, that enchantment I felt when I first read Sabriel, and how drawn I was into the world of the Abhorsen.

Nix’s writing is just as excellent as ever, and of course the world building is stellar. He builds even further upon his creation of more than a decade ago, and Goldenhand helps to paint an even more vivid picture of the world in which Lirael lives. It is even published using the same classic font as the first books, which somehow reminded me even more strongly of this world into which I had escaped. And what I love about this world is how much it feels like ours, but with a magical twist. As a bookish twelve-year-old (and even now as a bookish 26-year-old) I could totally imagine myself accompanying Lirael and Sabriel on their journeys, exploring Anceltierre and The Old Kingdom. There is enough of a threat to the world that you feel a sense of peril, an urgency to read on and make sure that the heroes will be okay, even when you know things will turn out okay. I’ve never encountered anything like the magic system in these books in any other – a magic that feels so real and entwined in everything.

Goldenhand is, without a doubt, an excellent return to the Old Kingdom, and one that cannot be missed. If, like me, you fell in love with the series on your first read all those years ago, then for nostalgia’s sake pick up a copy of Goldenhand and dive back in! If you’ve never read any of Garth Nix’s books, then I highly recommend you start with Sabriel and work your way through the series – it is an absolute classic for fantasy fans, no matter your age. Truly a series I will treasure forever.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2016

monthlyru16

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.

oct16

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?

Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, September 2016

DJ16

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!

DJ_SF
Cinder

Goodreads

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

DJ_F
Sabriel by Garth Nix

Goodreads

Sabriel is the daughter of the Mage Abhorsen. Ever since she was a tiny child, she has lived outside the Wall of the Old Kingdom–far away from the uncontrolled power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead.

But now, her father is missing and Sabriel is called upon to cross into the world to find him, Leaving the safety of the school she has known as home, Sabriel embarks upon a quest fraught with supernatural dangers, with companions she is unsure of–for nothing is as it seems within the boundary of the Old Kingdom. There, she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her hidden destiny.

Have you read either of this month’s picks? What did you think?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2015

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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.

 

The Emperor's Blades Golden Son Edge of Tomorrow Feed Ubik Illuminae The HIve Construct Clariel by Garth Nix A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Brooklyn

 

Last month I read a total of ten books: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley, Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown, Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1) by Mira Grant, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, Illuminae (Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill, Clariel (The Old Kingdom #4) by Garth Nix, A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

As last month was Sci-Fi Month, I tried to read as much science fiction as possible. Golden Son was definitely the stand-out book of the month, and my review will be posted in January, as part of the readalong in preparation for the release of Morning Star! I also particularly enjoyed Ubik, from one of the masters of science fiction, Philip K. Dick. In true PKD style, it’s odd but so, so unique and wonderful. Brooklyn was sweet, not at all my usual sort of book but I went to see the film with my mum when I visited my parents last week, and it was a gorgeous film, which encouraged me to pick up the book.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read two books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. The final villain of the challenge is Mister Sinister.
  • I have currently read 90 books towards my Goodreads goal of 100.

 

Currently reading:

The 100
How was November for you?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #22: Scariest Creatures in Fantasy

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! This post is a special edition as part of Horror October!

Today I want to talk about: the scariest creatures in fantasy.

The Nazgul/Ringwraiths

Nazgul

From: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Why? They never tire, they are relentless and they will keep going until they get what they desire – the One Ring. Their terrifying shriek can be heard from a long way away and only serves to put fear in the hearts of their victims. Not only can they catch up to you on horseback, but they also have Fell Beasts which means you’re pretty much always within their reach. Not to mention the fact that they carry Morgul blades, and you REALLY don’t want to be stabbed by one of those – or you might become Ringwraith #10. Stay near running water though, and you might be okay…

Dementors

Dementor

From: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Why? They look terrifying, and they literally suck the happiness out of everything. So not only would you be faced with this horrific looking creature, but you’d also feel utterly full of despair and pretty much helpless. And then once you’ve given up, the Dementor will try to SUCK OUT YOUR SOUL. Ugh. Not a nice way to go. Better start learning that Patronus charm.

The Dead

Sabriel by Garth Nix

From: The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Why? Unless you’re a Necromancer, or happen to be the Abhorsen, you’re pretty much powerless against the Dead of the Old Kingdom. Seeing as the Old Kingdom is almost uninhabited I’m not sure what you’d be doing in there in the first place, but it’s a bad idea. Even the Abhorsen’s Bells, one of the few things that can send the Dead back to the Final Gate, can turn against him or her.

White Walkers

White Walker

From: the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Why? Do you happen to have any handy Dragonglass/obsidian lying around? No? Well then you’re probably dead, because that’s the only way you can defeat a White Walker. They’re brutal, strong and bloodthirsty – and not particularly picky about their prey. I would advise staying south of the Wall…

What are some of the scariest creatures in fantasy that you’ve come across?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

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: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?