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?

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Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Review of The Six Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

I can’t say that I have read many, if any Westerns. And I definitely haven’t ever read a supernatural/paranormal themed Western novel. The Six Gun Tarot was a new and unique experience for me, and definitely one I would happily repeat. Golgotha initially seems like a small, typical mid-Western town of the late 19th century, but soon it is clear that it is a magnet for all that is unusual.

The main character, Jim, ends up in Golgotha after trekking through the 40-Mile Desert, fleeing a crime he committed and perhaps others. The sheriff is a man who has evaded death countless times, his deputy seems to have an affinity with coyotes, the mayor hides ancient treasures and a respected lady of the town is not quite who she seems. The Six Gun Tarot has a wide range of interesting and diverse characters, each of whom have some kind of secret. Jim, whilst shown as the main protagonist, is often put aside in favour of the other denizens of Golgotha, and this is not a bad thing in the slightest. I have to say that my favourite character was definitely Maude Stapleton, a respected lady of Golgotha who is trained in the art of assassination. Belcher really focuses on the back story of each major character, bringing them all vividly to life.

The evil blight that overtakes the town reminded me a little of something from Leviathan Wakes, and the origins all tie in nicely with the religious beliefs of that particular period and location. However, the religious elements are not overpowering and do not feel at all ‘preachy’ – this was important to me, as someone who would find that a complete turnoff. It felt like, whilst this was happening to Golgotha now, it was not the first time something out of the ordinary had taken place in the town. Additionally, the author also recognised social issues that would have taken place in that era, such as sexism and many of the inhabitants’ prejudice against Mutt, a Native American character.

I’m so glad I finally got round to checking out The Six Gun Tarot – several months after it was chosen as my book group’s Book of the Month! I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series, and may have to delve further into this newly discovered, rather niche genre.

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Steampunk

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

If you’re not really familiar with the term ‘steampunk’, here is a quick definition:

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. — from Wikipedia

Steampunk is something I’ve only recently started getting into. I think I first delved into it when I started blogging three years ago, so whilst this may not seem recent, it is fairly recent compared to the amount of time that I have been reading science fiction. Yet so far, every single steampunk book I’ve read has surprised me and enraptured me.

It really draws me in because it is a mixture of two of my favourite things: history and science fiction. Often, steampunk titles are set in the past and involve futuristic elements, or set in the future with elements of the past. Another fantastic feature of steampunk is when it is used to create an alternate history, like in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

Here are some fantastic steampunk reads that I have enjoyed:
Leviathan Incarnation by Emma Cornwall The Six Gun Tarot

This selection alone demonstrates the variety that comes with steampunk. We have an alternate history of the First World War, a Victorian vampire novel that is a semi-retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a steampunk Western.

And others that I can’t wait to try out:
Karen Memory The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack The Aeronaut's Windlass

One of my absolute favourite steampunk themed video games is Dishonored. Here’s a short summary from Wikipedia:

Set in the fictional, plague-ridden industrial city of Dunwall, Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of the Isles. He is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin, seeking revenge on those who conspired against him. Corvo is aided in his quest by the Loyalists—a resistance group fighting to reclaim Dunwall, and the Outsider—a powerful being who imbues Corvo with magical abilities. — from Wikipedia

It is a truly fantastic game, and gives the player the option to undertake missions in a variety of different ways, including ultra-violent options and much more peaceful ones. Each choice the player makes has an effect on the outcome of the game.

dishonored

However, a game like Dishonored does remind me that steampunk is such a versatile element of science fiction. It is hard to believe that something like Dishonored and a title such as Star Wars could be considered part of the same ‘family’ – which shows just how varied science fiction is a genre. It contains so many different elements and facets that there must be something for everyone. Steampunk could be a fantastic way to introduce someone to science fiction, particularly fans of fantasy fiction.

What are your thoughts on steampunk? Do you love it or hate it?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 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.

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Last month I read a total of eleven books: This House Is Haunted by John Boyne, Wool (Wool #1) by Hugh Howey, The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone, Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan, The Empty Throne (The Saxon Stories #8) by Bernard Cornwell, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, The Rough Guide to the Royals by Alice Hunt, The Six Gun Tarot (Golgotha #1) by R.S. Belcher, The Fearless by Emma Pass, Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid.

The standout book of the month was definitely Red Rising, and my review will be shared as part of Sci-Fi Month in November. I’m also hoping to read the sequel, Golden Son, by then. I also really loved Thief’s Magic, a fun fantasy adventure, and was impressed by The Six Gun Tarot, although it was a little different from what I expected. Finally, Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda was just adorable and I managed to read it in a night, staying up far too late just to finish it.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read four books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. October’s villain is suitably creepy: Venom.
  • I have currently read 73 books towards my Goodreads goal of 75, and will likely raise it to 100 soon.

 

Currently reading:

The Alchemist of Souls
How was September for you?

Misc.

Netgalley Science Fiction Readathon

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In preparation for Sci-Fi Month 2015, I thought I’d set myself a bit of a challenge: to read as many of my science fiction Netgalley ARCs as possible for the event. This has two purposes: it provides me with content for the event, AND it helps me raise my Netgalley ratio even higher! If you want to join in with this readathon in preparation for Sci-Fi Month, you are more than welcome.

I’m posting about this because I need help deciding which books to start with! I don’t think I’ll manage them all before November, so let me know if you recommend any of these. I will definitely be reading Red Rising, as it’s part of my book group’s monthly pick for September.

Here’s what’s on my list:

The Water Knife The Mechanical The Buried Life Avalon Rising The Body Electric Red Rising Doctor Who: Touched By An Angel The Fearless The Forever Watch by David Ramirez Black Moon The Waking Engine by David Edison The Almost Girl The Six Gun Tarot Viral Nation

As you can see, I have a lot to choose from. So I turn to you, my readers: have you read any of these? Are there any you would recommend?

Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, November 2014

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!

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Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Goodreads

A final, apocalyptic, world war has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending the majority of mankind off-planet. Those who remain, venerate all remaining examples of life, and owning an animal of your own is both a symbol of status and a necessity. For those who can’t afford an authentic animal, companies build incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep… even humans.

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The Six Gun Tarot

Goodreads

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.

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