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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Top Lists

My Top Ten Series To Continue Reading in 2016

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Inspired partly by Amber reminding me that I need to hurry up and read the rest of the Mistborn series, here are the series I want to continue reading in 2016. This only includes books that are already published. Next week I plan on sharing the series I’ve given up on…

Hero of Ages The Alloy of Law Shadows of Self

I love Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series soooo much – well, the two books of it that I’ve read. So I really need to get my arse in gear and read the remainder of the currently published books, especially as Gollancz sent me a beautiful hardcover of Shadows of Self just before it came out. I’m looking out for some good deals – perhaps 3 for 2 in Waterstones or something – to get myself copies of books three and four.

Voyager Drums of Autumn The Fiery Cross

I fell in love with the Outlander series by Diana Galbaldon in 2015, both the television adaptation and the books. As with Mistborn, I’ve read the first two books but no further. However, most of the rest of the series is waiting for me on my shelf, minus book six and the most recent release, which I’m waiting for in paperback. I can’t wait to escape back to Jamie and Claire, but I have to space these books out because they’re just so huge and epic.

The Tropic of Serpents The Voyage of the Basilisk

I finally read the first book in this series, A Natural History of Dragons at the end of last year. But I still have two more books to go with Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. Titan sent me a copy of the third book, and I can’t wait to get to it – I just need to pick up a copy of book two, although I’m pretty sure my local library has a copy.

Red Seas Under Red Skies The Republic of Thieves

The first book in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch was a previous Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group. I enjoyed it quite a lot – perhaps not as much as some of the other books we’ve read together, but definitely enough to want to continue. I found the second book in a free (!) book shop, the third I requested on Netgalley when I first started blogging, long before I realised it was part of a series. So not only will this allow me to catch up with the series in time for the release of the fourth book this year, but it will help me tackle my Netgalley ratio.

The Merchant of Dreams The Prince of Lies

Having bought the first book in the Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle at Bristolcon last year, I was completely swept away by the author’s fantasy version of Elizabethan England and the court politics at the time. I’d love to finish the trilogy soon – this is one of the very few series on this list that is actually completely published.

Queen of Sorcery Magician's Gambit Castle of Wizardry

I was first introduced to the Belgariad series by David Eddings by two of my friends in Leiden. Once they knew I was really into reading, particularly fantasy fiction, they told me I had to try this series and were amazed that I’d not heard of it before they mentioned it. Anyway, the sweeties that they are, they clubbed together to buy me the first book for my birthday – and they were right, I really enjoyed it. It’s quite a long series if you also count the two other series that link into it, but each book is fairly short, especially for fantasy novels.

Before They Are Hanged Last Argument of Kings

The first book of The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie was another one of my book group’s choices for Fantasy Book of the Month. And again, it was something I put off reading for far too long, and I am repeating that with the sequels – both of which are sat on my bookshelf!

The Black Lung Captain The Iron Jackal The Ace of Skulls

Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series is a perfect, perfect series for fans of the TV series Firefly (taken too early RIP), who are looking for something in book-form to quench that Firefly thirst. Or at least that’s what I assume – because have I read the entire series? No. No I have not. Despite absolutely LOVING the first book and thinking it was everything I needed post-Firefly, I haven’t even touched the sequels. NEED. TO. CHANGE. THAT.

Rebel Spring Gathering Darkness Frozen Tides

I picked up the first book in the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes a year or two ago, thinking it looked like some fun Young Adult fantasy fiction. It was – but I also fell a little bit in love with it. Now apparently the FIFTH book is scheduled for release this year and I haven’t even picked up the second – get a move on, Rinn!

Caliban's War Abaddon's Gate Cibola Burn

The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey is another of my book group’s monthly picks. We have read the first book together, but I have book two waiting me on my shelf. The first book has recently been made into a television series, and I’d quite like to make sure I’m caught up with the books by the time the series catches up to them!

What series are you planning on continuing? Have you read any of these?

Top Lists

My Top Ten Summer Reads

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Now that I’m back in the UK, I have access to ALL MY BOOKS! This is so exciting – although my Kindle was a bit of a godsend in that it allowed me to read a wide variety whilst in the Netherlands, I also really missed having an actual book in my hands most of the time. I was also aware of the many unread books I had back at home, not to mention review copies I’d received whilst away. Therefore I was eager to get back to my collection! 😉 So here are the top ten books from my shelf that I can’t wait to read this summer.

Summer Reads

  • Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee – I’ve heard a lot about this series since it was published, especially the first book. I was never particularly bothered about reading it, but then I got a free copy in my Glamour Book Club goodie bag. After checking out some reviews, it seems that plenty of my friends were surprised by it – it’s not quite as it seems.
  • The Bees by Laline Paull – I was kindly sent this by HarperCollins, and it sounds so unique. Told from the point of view of a bee? How could I not be intrigued by that?
  • Beneath London by James P. Blaylock – steampunk is something I’ve gotten into more recently, and definitely something I want to read more of. So when I was offered this one by Titan Books, I had to snatch up the opportunity to read it.
  • The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy – I won this from Goodreads, and I really want to give Benjamin Percy’s writing another shot. I read |Red Moon last year and felt there was something missing, so I hope I enjoy this one more.
  • The Twelve (The Passage #2) by Justin Cronin – it took me ages to find a second hand copy of this, and it was just before I left for Leiden last summer. So now I can finally read this sequel!

Summer Reads

  • Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1) by Stephen R. Donaldson – I picked this up for free at London Film and Comic Con last summer, and then managed to find the other two books in my local charity shop just after. It comes highly recommended, and also fits in nicely with this month’s DC vs. Marvel villain challenge!
  • Before They Are Hanged (The First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie – I read the first book in this series over Christmas, and really loved it, so it’s definitely time to read more.
  • Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – I’ve wanted to watch the film Edge of Tomorrow ever since it came out, but haven’t yet gotten round to it – now I’m going to try and read the book first. The original title was actually All You Need Is Kill, but versions published with the film cover have the new title. I bought this from Amazon, as part of a 3 paperbacks for £10 deal.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – this was Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group earlier this year, and I managed to get it as part of the deal with Edge of Tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but my book group seemed to enjoy it so here’s hoping I do too!
  • The Hunter’s Kind (The Hollow Gods #2) by Rebecca Levene – I was super excited to receive the first book in this series last year, and couldn’t wait for the sequel, which has just been published. Thank you, Hodder!

What are you planning on reading this summer?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 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.

January 2015

Last month I read a total of eleven books: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) by Brandon Sanderson, Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks by Justin Richards, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez, The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5 by Jonathan Stroud, Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson, Pawn of Prophecy/a> (The Belgariad #1) by David Eddings, Asylum by Madeline Roux, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Breathe (Breathe #1) by Sarah Crossan, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie.

I’m so glad I finally got to read The Blade Itself, it was well overdue and I loved it. I also finally read Pawn of Prophecy which was a birthday present from and highly recommended by two friends. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and the one that follows it! Steelheart pretty much blew everything out of the water though, and The Well of Ascension was a fantastic sequel. BRANDON SANDERSON IS A WRITING GOD.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read nine books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. I managed to defeat the Joker, mwhaha!
  • I have currently read eleven books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

How was January for you?

Review

Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I have to say, after finally reading the first book in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, I now understand why he is ‘Lord Grimdark’. The Blade Itself felt like a whirlwind of a book, despite probably being the slower of the three as it builds things up. Of course I was expecting the book to be grisly, but it was definitely grimmer and darker than I thought it would be – and that’s no bad thing. There are several points of view within the story, and each felt unique.

I really loved the range of characters that Abercrombie has created to populate his world. Inquisitor Glokta is the crippled, vicious product of two years of torture, both despairing of what his life has turned into and using his disfigurement to his advantage. Occasionally, just very occasionally, I got small glimpses of what he was like before, or how he could have been, had he not been tortured, and I actually felt sorry for him. Jezal may have been, at first glance, the handsome young hero of the story, but actually as it progressed it was clear that he was an arrogant and spoiled young man, clinging to his heritage and wealth and using them as a stepping stone to make his way up, rather than pure talent.

And then there were others – Logen as this battle-scarred, grizzly warrior, whose misunderstanding of foreign cultures occasionally made him feel like a small child trapped in a hulking great body. It was really interesting to see him after reading one of Abercrombie’s other books, which is technically set after the events of The First Law series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes from one man to the other. Of course, I can’t forget Bayaz and Brother Longfoot who, for me, especially in Brother Longfoot’s case, provided the comic relief. It’s definitely going to be an interesting journey…

There is a medieval feel to the book, as you often find with fantasy – that sort of society, but with added magic which is always a bonus. One thing that would have been nice would be more female characters. There were only two, and the first didn’t appear until around halfway through the book, the second about three-quarters. More time for them over the next two books, please?

The Blade Itself is definitely not the book you want to read when you have to be up early the next day. It’s a page turner and a half, and will keep you reading well into the night if you’re not careful. Definitely HIGHLY recommended for all fantasy fans, especially if you’re looking for something a bit (or rather a lot) darker.

Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, October 2014

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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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The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Goodreads

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

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Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Goodreads

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce – and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine – and what he will become is far stranger.

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

Review

Review: Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie

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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.

Having only previously read one of Joe Abercrombie’s books (Red Country), happy to read more of his work and curious to see how it would compare, I was glad when this was chosen as my book group’s Fantasy Book of the Month for August. Immediately I could tell that Abercrombie had adapted his writing style for a young adult audience – things were much more toned down. The language was less heavy, both in terms of description and swearing (!), and there was pretty much a complete absence of sex and violence – although the latter comes more into the story later on.

I was immediately thrown into Yarvi’s world and this was not an issue – the world and culture was slowly built up around the story as and when needed. Definitely a ‘smaller scale’ fantasy in comparison to Joe Abercrombie’s other work, this is by no means a ‘light’ fantasy. Despite the young adult target audience, it still retains that style that ‘Lord Grimdark’ is so well known for, whilst still being suitable for younger readers.

To me, it didn’t feel massively eventful. I think I was expecting a bit more action and whilst this definitely picks up towards the end, it was a slightly slower story than expected. And as I’ve come to learn from dark fantasy – once things seem like they’re working out and getting better for the protagonist, you can guarantee they’re only going to get worse…

I have to admit that I didn’t make too many notes on this book, as I read most of it whilst sat in cafes around Leiden and didn’t have a notebook with me. I apologise for this review, it doesn’t feel quite as coherent as I’d like it to be but right now my mind is filled with archaeological theory and I haven’t worked on much blog stuff in a little while! But what I can say is that it is definitely worth the read – particularly for those who haven’t read any Joe Abercrombie before, it’s a good way to ease yourself in to his style of grimdark fantasy.