Dragons and Jetpacks, Top Lists

My Top Ten ‘Dragons & Jetpacks’ Books

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Back in 2012, at the same time that I started blogging, I founded a science fiction and fantasy book group on Goodreads, with two friends from university. After much debate, the group was eventually named ‘Dragons & Jetpacks’. We’ve somehow risen through the ranks of Goodreads groups, going from a very small group to almost 1400 members. We’ve been a featured group many times, and are lucky enough to have some really wonderful people, a core group of highly active members who love to chat about the wonders of SFF.

As a group, we elect one Fantasy and one Science Fiction book each month, and it is up to members whether they read one, both or neither. We also encourage members to organise Buddy Reads – often if a book has narrowly missed becoming Book of the Month, it becomes a Buddy Read. I’ve run three Buddy Reads for the group myself: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight and The Fellowship of the Ring – next up is The Two Towers.

Together we have read around 70 books over three and a half years, some of which I probably wouldn’t have even touched with the group’s recommendations. So I thought I’d share my top ten reads, all a result of the wonderful book group that I am proud to call my own. This only includes books that I read with the group, rather than books read previously that were then voted in as Book of the Month.

Vicious by Victoria Schwab Elantris

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO READ THIS. After reading Schwab’s fantastic A Darker Shade of Magic (another one of our picks, but one I read before the group did), I should have known I would love this. Recent reading has lead me to the following conclusion: I bloody love superhero stories.
  • Elantris (Elantris #1) by Brandon Sanderson – Ahh, my introduction to the wonderful writing machine that is Brandon Sanderson. Whilst this was a relatively short novel for fantasy, it felt so packed and huge and just typical Sanderson – so much enchanting detail, that you don’t want the book to ever finish.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie Red Rising

  • The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie – I also read this one really late, but that was due to myself and my copy of the book being in completely different countries. I’d say that was a pretty good excuse. That does not excuse me, however, from not having yet read books two and three.
  • Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown – THIS BOOK THIS SERIES THIS AUTHOR. I died whilst reading this series. Several times. I had this on my Kindle for AGES, a copy from Netgalley that sat there for far too long – positively criminal. Anyway, after finally sorting things out and actually devouring this book in about two days, I read Golden Son (also a group pick, possibly the quickest voted sequel ever) almost straight after, and Morning Star as soon as I received an ARC. Still smug about that.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

  • The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss – If you’re looking for a fantasy epic, then you don’t need to look much further than this HUUUUGE book by Patrick Rothfuss. I just love it. Some people say that the books are too slow – we have also read book two in the series as a group, and several members did not like the pace – but I LOVE it. I love all the crazy detail, I have SUCH a good image in my head of how everything looks.
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – I am an official Sanderson convert, thanks to D&J. In fact I’m reading one of his books right now, and have… five others waiting on my shelf. This man is a GOD. I’m quite surprised we haven’t voted in the rest of the series as Books of the Month to be honest, this one was so loved by everyone.

Locke Lamora The Six Gun Tarot

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch – Maybe not QUITE the 5-star read I was expecting/hoping for, but still great. Some wonderful grimdark, also I love tales of thieves/assassins/guilds.
  • The Six Gun Tarot (Golgotha #1) by R.S. Belcher – This one was pretty different: a steampunk Western. It makes me think I really need more of those in my life.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey The Night Circus

  • Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey – I feel like this book was a huge success, not just because the group generally enjoyed it, but because my Dad also enjoyed it. He loves his science fiction but doesn’t read that often – mostly just on holidays. He took this one on holiday with him, finished it super quickly and immediately texted me to ask if I had book two. He’s even re-reading the books now…
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I think this was the first book we read as a group, and it was really beautiful and enchanting. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, and I feel like we haven’t read anything quite like it since – a lot of our fantasy has been the heavy epic type. But this was a stunning story, and very visual.

Have you read any of these books? If you’re a member of a book group, has it introduced you to some great reads like mine has?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 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.

Feb 16

Last month I read a total of twelve books: Holy Cow by David Duchovny, Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas, Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown, Hawkeye: L.A. Woman (Hawkeye #3) by Matt Fraction, Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, Azumanga Daioh Volume 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma, Azumanga Daioh Volume 2 by Kiyohiko Azuma, Azumanga Daioh Volume 4 by Kiyohiko Azuma, Azumanga Daioh Volume 4 by Kiyohiko Azuma, Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories by Annie Proulx, A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab and Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari.

I was lucky enough to receive and read not one, but two amazing releases that I’d been anticipating this month: Morning Star and A Gathering of Shadows. Both were so, so fantastic and definitely worth the wait. I also did quite a few re-reads: Crown of Midnight and the Azumanga Daioh series, which is completely adorable. If you want to try a new manga, I highly recommend it – especially if you’ve not read any before, it’s quite a good way to ease yourself into it. I also read Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari, who I love on Parks & Recreation. The book wasn’t quite as funny as expected, but wow it was an interesting read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge, and was able to defeat Mystique, February’s villain! March’s villain is Poison Ivy.
  • I have currently read 26 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

The Sisters of Versailles

How was February for you?

Misc.

2016 – The Year Of Re-Reads & Readalongs?

rereads

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?

Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #4: Books Read In 2013

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Yes, I’m joining in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I was planning on doing a top ten of my books read this year on December 31st anyway, and since that’s the topic of this week’s TTT, why not join in?

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books Read In 2013

I’d love to know what your top books of the year are too, or if you agree with any of my choices – so feel free to leave your list in the comments, or perhaps link to your own top ten. I’m looking forward to the selections! And now, in now particular order, my top ten books read in 2013…

1. & 2. Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #1 & #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

You’ve probably seen these books everywhere on the blogosphere, and they deserve every ounce of praise. Sarah J. Maas has crafted a brilliant fantasy world and cast of characters, and I really hope that the series encourages people who might not normally try the fantasy genre to give it a try. Plus I met the author in October, and she was absolutely lovely – she shows a lot of dedication to her fans. I told her that Throne of Glass was my favourite book of the year, and she also remembered meeting Paola and Charlene a few months and a whole continent ago!

3. All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

An incredibly fun whirlwind of a read, this Young Adult novel involves time-travel and a Doctor… but not the kind of Doctor you’d like to take a trip through time and space with. Yes there’s a love triangle, which I normally hate, but this one isn’t quite as simple – in fact nothing is. I pretty much devoured this book in one sitting and had such fun writing a review full of Doctor Who references (I just had to!).

4. Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons

Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #3) by Dan Simmons

Knowing I am a big fan of science fiction, my dad kept trying to get me to read his favourite series, the Hyperion Cantos. I finally picked up the first book in the series, Hyperion last year, and I read book three this year. I’m so glad I decided to read it, because it has proven to be one of my favourite sci-fi series so far – it’s epic, brilliantly written and just amazing. Now I just have book four, which I hope to read in 2014! The first book in the series has been chosen as my bookgroup’s Sci-Fi Book of the Month for January 2014.

5. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind was the first book that my bookgroup chose to read together, and I don’t think we could have started on a better note. Rothfuss’ tale of Kvothe, the mysterious narrator, is gripping and exciting, enchanting and oh so unique. I recently discussed magic systems in fantasy novels, including that of The Name of the Wind, which is referred to as ‘sympathy’. I have book two waiting for me on my shelf and it’s definitely high priority – perhaps it will make my top reads of 2014?

6. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

If you’ve never read anything by Haruki Murakami, then you really should. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about: Murakami’s writing is weird, good weird, and incredibly imaginative. He has written many novels, and whilst some of them are perhaps more ‘normal’, this is not one of them. His writing really makes you think, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to describe a typical Murakami book. Basically, give it a try.

7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I really can’t rave enough about this book! I’ve said this so many times, but I’ve never read anything quite as fun as Ready Player One. With its pop culture references and crazy online world known as the OASIS, it’s pretty much the perfect book for anyone nostalgic for the 80s, early 90s, or any avid games (particularly online gamers). Know someone who would rather play a video game than read a book? Give them a copy of this and they might change their mind…

8. Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling wins ALL the awards for being ‘Most Surprisingly Amazing YA Book’. Being part of the book blogging community, you hear a lot of good stuff about a lot of good YA books – and although I’d heard that Graceling was worth the read, it wasn’t surrounded by all the fuss that Throne of Glass was, for example. I got it out of the library on a bit of a whim and then fell in love. It’s been a great year for fantasy books apparently!

9. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan cover

How close I was to returning this one to the library unread! Not because I didn’t like the look of it, but because I had so much to read and review – but luckily I caught up. Luckily, because wow. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read an alternate history before, and I’ve not read much steampunk, and Leviathan has most definitely peaked my interest in the genre. Not to mention the absolutely gorgeous illustrations that accompany the story.

10. Serena by Ron Rash

Serena by Ron Rash

Seriously underrated and under-read, Serena needs more recognition! A tale of determination, this book truly shocks. I can’t even remember how I heard about it, I just know that as soon as I did I wanted to read it – and ordered myself a brand new copy, which is a rare thing. It’s also being made into a film, featuring Jennifer Lawrence (yay!) as the eponymous Serena and Bradley Cooper as her husband, George Pemberton.

And there we are, my top reads of 2013! What were yours? Share them in the comments below!

Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013: Sarah J. Maas, David Levithan & Maureen Johnson

On Sunday, as part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I attended a panel called ‘The American Dream’, featuring three American YA authors: Sarah J. Maas, David Levithan and Maureen Johnson. I was so excited for the event, having just read and absolutely loved Sarah’s Throne of Glass series. I somehow also managed to bag a front row seat, right in the middle…
 
As with yesterday’s event, each author briefly introduced themselves and their newest releases: Every Day by David Levithan, Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas and Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.

Maureen had laryngitis, but that didn’t stop her from making funny quips and comments! I’ve not actually read anything of hers, but may look into it now – she has a wonderful sense of humour and seems like a very warm person. She apparently has a big Twitter presence, which she often referred to (I’m now following her!) and one audience member asked her about her Coverflip project. 
 
The basic premise of the Coverflip project is to re-design a book cover, as if the author was the opposite gender. Maureen mentioned that she had noticed a certain ‘type’ of cover, depending on the gender of the author, and asked her Twitter followers to compile some opposites. She had a massive response, and Huffington Post have actually put together a gallery of the results. My particular favourites are A Game of Thrones (written by a ‘Georgette R. R. Martin’), Stardust (which really does not capture the book at all and I think works so well in the constraints of the experiment) and Heist Society (completely and utterly the opposite). Someone even did a grungy looking version of Throne of Glass, which Sarah said she absolutely loves!
 
Sarah signing away!
 
Sarah spoke about how she has been working on her series since the age of sixteen, so for eleven years now, professed a love for fanfiction and her gratitude for her fans that have been following her since she first posted on Fiction Press. She cites Garth Nix, author of Sabriel/the Abhorsen series as one of her influences, which was exciting as I absolutely love that series and have done ever since I first read it at the age of twelve. And just to top it off, Sarah is a self-professed geek who often felt alone in her interests until she found people with the same enthusiasm online – much like myself.
 
David spoke a little about how he has often had trouble with his books – banned, pulled off shelves, censored – often just because of the title (a previous novel of his is entitled Boy Meets Boy, and his newest release is called Two Boys Kissing). Which is shocking, as I believe he is a prominent author in LGBT literature, and people should not have that sort of support taken away. He said he’s been told by many people that the presence of the books alone, books about people like themselves, has made them feel represented. What I didn’t realise was that he has done a lot of editing – including for Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.
 
Sneaky picture of David. Maureen was never quite in my sight!

We discussed social media – the host asked who in the audience had interacted with the authors some way online, and a lot of us raised our hands! As I said previously, Maureen is a frequent Twitter user, whereas David much prefers Facebook. In fact, he uses his Twitter so infrequently that his Book Lovers Dictionary project that was supposed to take four months has taken two and a half years, and he’s still only on the letter G! 
 
Sarah told us a funny story about her early experiences with social media and blogging platforms – when she was a teenager she started using Livejournal, blogging about her everyday life and writing down absolutely everything. This went on for a while, until a girl at her school told her to ‘keep a lock on her diary’ – all her classmates had been reading her Livejournal, and placing bets on who would be mentioned next!
 
Another of the topics of conversation was the stigma that comes with young adult fiction. It’s surprising how many people look down on it, or the authors, and see it as a ‘lesser’ genre because it’s aimed at teenagers. Yet Maureen made a wonderful point when she said that she thinks the young adult readership are better readers, because we accept so much within a story – we don’t go into a book expecting one thing, and one thing only, to happen. Genres can get mixed up and we’re fine with that. We’re also more likely to be vocal about things we’ve loved and hated, which is great for the author. It doesn’t matter what you read or write, it just matters that you are reading or writing.
 
There was just so much wonderful conversation, and the three authors worked really well together. I didn’t take notes this time so most of this is from memory, and to avoid a wall of text I shall move on to the signing!
 
 
I spoke to David first, and told him that I loved Every Day and that I thought it was a really unique story – my five-star review of the book is still to come. I like the little message he wrote for me, and will be looking out for Boy Meets Boy and Two Boys Kissing. Two Boys Kissing isn’t released in the UK until April though, sadly – I’ve already read some wonderful reviews of it by bloggers from over the pond.
 
 
I didn’t actually get anything signed by Maureen – I didn’t have any of her books and the queue meant that you could go between authors rather than going past each one at a time. But they were giving out some pretty promotional postcards and little badges for her new book, which you can see above.
 
 
And then I got to speak to Sarah! I told her that her books were my favourite books of the year, and she asked me to sign a hardback copy of Throne of Glass whilst she signed my books. She’s been taking it round on tour and getting fans to sign it, which I think is a lovely idea. I mentioned to her about some blogger friends of mine (Paola and Charlene!) who had been to her Crown of Midnight launch party in LA, and brought Finnikin of the Rock for her to sign (as she is a big fan of the book, and so are they). She remembered them (yay!) and said she felt almost like she was defacing the book, haha! I also told her that her writing playlist is basically exactly the same as my reading playlist, and she recommended the Oblivion film soundtrack to me.

After that, I wished her the best of luck and that was the end of the event – and how brilliant it was. I loved the chatter and found each of the authors easily approachable. Now I look forward to Charlene and Paola’s Finnikin readalong, and maybe if I meet Sarah again I’ll take that one along too!
 
 
I also bought myself an amazing book covers poster. I couldn’t decide which cover I wanted, so I did the best thing and got one with ALL the covers.

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #2: Favourite Fantasy Book Covers

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my new feature, made to replace Why You Should Read This Book. It will be 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: favourite fantasy book covers.

 

  • Mort (Discworld #4) by Terry Pratchett – I love the artwork of Josh Kirby, who does all the Discworld covers, and I think it really suits Pratchett’s work. The cover images always capture the essence of the book, whilst injecting that Pratchett-style humour.
  • HarperCollins’ covers for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – the effect isn’t obvious looking at the image on screen, but these covers are just lovely. Within the ring on the front (yellow for Fellowship, red for Two Towers, green for Return) there are light grey patterns relevant to the specific story, as well as runes along the top and bottom edges of the books. It’s not just The Lord of the Rings that has these covers – most of Tolkien’s Middle-earth based works have similar editions.

 

  • Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix – a darker cover than the first book, I think this captures the story very well: a lonely journey, through a dark landscape. The rune also has a pretty nice effect, as it’s raised from the rest of the cover.
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo – known as The Gathering Light here in the UK, our cover isn’t as nice as this US one. I really like the vector images and the colours used, plus the text intertwining with the horns/branches.

 

  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling – a gorgeous cover because of the colours used and delicate illustrations, it also looks suitably aged and you could almost believe it is the same edition that Hermione herself has!
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – whilst Throne of Glass also has a beautiful cover, I love how Celaena is really herself on this one – she looks deadly. I like that it’s almost a greyscale image, but for the bits of red.

What are your favourite fantasy covers? Share them with me and my readers in the comments below!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #28

weeklyru_16

My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) and Dragon Age: The Calling (Dragon Age #2) by David Gaider – so I recently finally played Dragon Age: Origins after owning it since it was released, and I LOVED it! I’ve been fangirling over the series (and Alistair) with Paola from A Novel Idea, and she said she enjoyed the books. I haven’t been impressed with Bioware’s previous books (Mass Effect ones) but… when I love a series I kind of soak up everything to do with. Even if it’s bad. But I’m hoping I’ll enjoy these ones! Now I’m onto Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, and then Dragon Age II (and a long wait for Inquisition…).
  • Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence – this is the Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. I bought it before the result was chosen though, because it was half price on Amazon and I’ve wanted to read it for a while.
  • All Our Yesterdays (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill – so I kept seeing this book everywhere, with such good reviews. I got approved for it on Netgalley but when I went to download it, it had been archived… so I bought it instead! And it was worth every penny.
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – I own Throne of Glass but haven’t read it yet… and even so, I bought the second book. It’s another series I’ve heard such good things about – and my friends Charlene and Paola got to meet Sarah recently! I’m hoping I’ll get to meet her in October, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss – the sequel to the aaaaaaamazing The Name of the Wind (I’ve done features on the book here and here), I want to read this as soon as possible!

 

From the library

  • Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer – so I picked this up forgetting the order of the books, and I haven’t read Cinder yet – but I’ve ordered it from the library to read first! Marissa is taking part in my Sci-Fi Month event, as Nara from Looking for the Panacea is interviewing her.
  • Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons – I’ve wanted to read this one for a while, and spotted it in the library – not my usual one, but one a little further from home that I should visit more often!
  • Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld – this is another one that I’ve seen around the blogosphere quite a bit. It’s an alternate history, which sounds pretty interesting as I haven’t read too many of those.
  • Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire #3) by Jaine Fenn – I’m interviewing Jaine for Sci-Fi Month, and read one of her books, Downside Girls (review here) at the beginning of the year. I thought it would be good to check out some more of her work!

 

That’s everything from last week! I bought more brand new books that I have in a long time – what did you get this week?