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? 🙂

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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?

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?

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?

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.

Arya Stark gif

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.

brienne gif

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.

cersei gif

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.

margaery gif

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.

sansa stark gif

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?

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 #19: My Favourite Fantasy Characters

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: my favourite fantasy characters.

My Favourite Fantasy Characters

1. Tyrion Lannister (from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire)

I pretty much loved Tyrion from the moment I first read about him in A Game of Thrones, and that grew with every chapter, every book of the series. It’s a series without any clear-cut good characters or bad characters; everyone is pretty much in the ‘grey area’ (with perhaps the exception of the Boltons…). You might think someone is evil, but you can guarantee that a later chapter will reveal WHY they acted as they did. Tyrion seems like the lesser evil of the Lannisters, despite his own family’s attempts to portray him otherwise. He may make some questionable choices later on in the series, but ultimately he’s just doing what he needs to in order to survive. His wit and intelligence are a shield blocking out the constant insults and prejudice he’s had to put up with for his entire life – and these are the sorts of characters I like. Ones that don’t have it easy, but they push on through and make the most of a situation.

2. Frodo Baggins (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings)

I’ve previously discussed in this feature why I have so much love for The Lord of the Rings, but I never really went into much depth about the characters. I don’t like it when people say Frodo whined the whole time, and that he wasn’t the hero of the story. Samwise may have carried him up Mount Doom in the end, but Frodo volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor – he didn’t have to. He completely turned his life on its head, going from a comfortable life of leisure to one of perilous adventure. And then, after everything he went through to get to Rivendell, he was still prepared to carry the Ring further, even knowing that the path would be much more treacherous. A wimp? No, I don’t think so. More like a completely selfless hero.

3. Luna Lovegood (from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series)

There are a LOT of lovable characters in the Harry Potter series, but Luna has got to be my favourite. She’s adorable, funny and she really doesn’t care what other people think of her. She’s totally herself, even if that means a lot of her peers find her strange, and that is something I really admire. I wish I could be more like Luna, and just not care when I think people are judging me (I think that a lot…). She’s not only honest to herself, but also her friends, and one of the loyalest people you could ever hope to know.

4. Alistair Theirin (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Ahh sweet sweet Alistair… apart from being completely gorgeous and lovable, as well as complete klutz in social situations, Alistair is someone who isn’t afraid to accept their own destiny, even if it’s not what they really want. For the good of the people, Alistair will make so many sacrifices. But actually, the main reason he’s one of my favourites is because of the romance you can pursue with him on Dragon Age: Origins… it gives me the warm fuzzies. You sort of forget he’s a video game character, because so much thought has been put into how he reacts to everything your character does. Like Luna, he’s loyal to the extreme.

5. Morrigan (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Morrigan is a bit of a dark horse. She reluctantly joins your party near the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, and responds to most of your questions with a dry wit. She’s not exactly easy to warm to and she certainly tries to distance herself, but like Alistair, she is prepared to make some big sacrifices if it means saving thousands of lives. She’s also an incredibly skilled mage (watch her in action in the Dragon Age: Origins cinematic trailer) and is just generally awesome in every way. Earning her respect is tough, but worth it.

Who are your favourite fantasy characters?