Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, July 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
Long Way

Goodreads

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

DJ_F
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Goodreads

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined.

And this month… a special moderator pick:

Blood of Elves

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #10: A Gateway Into The Fantasy Genre

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: gateway fantasy books.

I know that fantasy can sometimes receive a bit of a bad reputation – some people seem to think it’s either a really difficult genre to read, or really geeky, or they just have no idea where to start. So I want to share with you today a three stage process for people new to the fantasy genre. I’ve split them into three ‘stages’, with the idea that you tackle them in order, to build up confidence reading the genre. It was really hard to split these books into stages, and I hope my explanations of why and how I split them make sense and don’t offend anyone!

Stage One: for younger readers AND/OR fantasy set at least partly in our world

Sabriel by Garth Nix Inkheart by Cornelia Funke The Magicians by Lev Grossman The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

These books come under ‘Stage One’, as they are either aimed at younger readers so the fantasy world is not as complicated as say, The Lord of the Rings, or they are set either partly or entirely in our world. I think these are pretty good books to start with, particularly the ones set in our world: Sabriel by Garth Nix, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Magicians by Lev Grossman (this one is definitely an adult book!). This way you won’t be immediately thrown in at the deep end, and at least some elements of the story will be familiar. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett and Song Quest by Katherine Roberts are set in fantasy worlds, but are aimed at younger readers so you know you won’t need to worry about keeping up with a huge cast of characters, assortment of strange languages and entirely new and vast geography that you might find in books for older readers.

Stage Two: aimed at Young Adult audiences and older AND/OR set in a ‘less detailed’ fantasy world

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore The Wind Singer by William Nicholson Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta Mort by Terry Pratchett Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I say ‘less detailed’ because I do not mean in ANY way that the author has only half-heartedly created their world, or that these books are seen as ‘lesser’ fantasy. I just mean that the scale of the world-building is as not big as some of the books in the next stage. ‘Stage Two’ includes these sorts of books, as well as Young Adult Fantasy, which often falls into the category anyway. Throne of Glass (my review) by Sarah J. Maas, Graceling (my review) by Kristin Cashore, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson, Finnikin of the Rock (my review) by Melina Marchetta and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo come under Young Adult fantasy fiction, and all are fantastic examples of the genre. Mort by Terry Pratchett, like the rest of the Discworld books, is primarily aimed at adults but Pratchett’s brilliant sense of humour makes it a lighter read.

Stage Three: ‘heavier’ fantasy

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett Mistborn (The Final Empire #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Feeling ready for ‘Stage Three’? By ‘heavier’, I mean that these books have more detailed world building than those in Stage Two – perhaps the author has created an entire history, a new language etc. If you’re prepared to take a dip into the world of heavier fantasy, then I’d recommended starting with The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan. And if you’re not too scared of reading some Tolkien, then give The Hobbit (or even The Lord of the Rings) a shot! So many people are unsure about reading his work, but I was recently interviewed by Pages Unbound for Tolkien Reading Week, where I shared my love for Middle-earth – hopefully that will convince some people! As you feel more confident with reading fantasy books, I would highly recommend the following: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Are you going to give any of these books a try? Have you read any of them already, or are there any others you’d recommend for new fantasy readers?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #3: Fantasy Sub-Genres

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: sub-genres of fantasy.

I did mean to post this one last week, but as I have proven in the past couple of weeks, I’m really good at double-booking myself and actually posted my Spooky Songs playlist for Horror October instead.

Fantasy isn’t all just witches and wizards. There are many different types of fantasy, for all different kinds of people. I’ve tried to sort them into sub-genres but some cross over into other genres, and you’re more than welcome to debate with me about it!

High or epic fantasy

e.g. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett

High or epic fantasy typically takes place in a completely different world from our own, and the author has often created new languages, a new religion and a whole new completely different way of life for the characters. Different races are often present, as well as monsters, e.g. hobbits in Tolkien’s work, or dragons in George R.R. Martin’s work.

Contemporary & urban fantasy

e.g. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Contemporary and urban fantasy tend to be set in our own world, but with added fantastical elements – the most popular example is probably Harry Potter. The books are set in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, but there is another side to our own world within the books. As with Percy Jackson, where the Olympian gods are real and ancient places are connected to modern day landmarks in the USA. Urban fantasy often includes more paranormal elements, such as vampires and werewolves.

Science fiction fantasy

e.g. John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

Science fantasy is typically fiction that is a bit of a mix of the science fiction and fantasy genres. It often gives ‘realism’ (in a sense) to things that could not really happen in our world, through sense. It is sometimes used to describe post-apocalyptic fiction.

Mythology based fantasy

e.g. The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Mythology based fantasy is pretty much as it sounds – fantasy novels based on myths and legends. Some books stick to the legends, whereas others play off of the well-known stories. Common stories covered by these sorts of books are the legends of King Arthur, and the Trojan War – as both are possible historical fact, but there is no definite proof.

Historical fantasy

e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn, Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell and The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Again, just as it sounds, historical fantasy is fantasy based on real historical periods, with a twist. Often elements such as magic are added to the story, or the world that the story is based in is clearly our own with some differences. Popular periods of history are the Viking age or feudal Japan, as well as Victorian England.

Dark fantasy

e.g. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Dark fantasy can be interpreted in a couple of ways. It can be used to describe fantasy novels where the main characters are anti-heroes or have questionable morals, such as Jorg in Prince of Thorns. He is part of a group of thieves and bandits, who rape and pillage others. It has also been used to describe horror fantasy, for example Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Of course, there are so many different sub-genres, some books fit into several – there are lots of different ways of looking at it! Are there any books that you would define as a definite genre? What do you think about the way I have categorised these examples?

Challenges

Challenge: TBR Pile 2013 Challenge Progress

 
I am currently taking part in the 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, and as of yet have not written any progress posts, so I’m taking the chance to make one now! My goal was  to read 15 books over the year, from a list of 30. You can view my original post here, which includes the list.
 

So how have I done so far?

 

  1.  An Abundance of Katherines by John Green – my first John Green book (The Fault in Our Stars is waiting for me…) and such a sweet read.
  2. Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff – I just finished this one. A bit disappointing really. This was meant to be the ‘romantic’ version, rather than Tristan and Iseult falling in love because of a love potion, but it really didn’t feel it.
  3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Beautiful and so, so moving.
  4. The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Fantastic dystopian YA story, and I also recently read the second book in the series, The Scorch Trials.
  5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – This one caught me by surprise, it was original and interesting, and rather different from what I was expecting!
  6. The Magicians by Lev Grossman – Definitely accurate in the ‘Harry Potter for adults’ description, with some C.S. Lewis thrown in for good measure.
  7. The Sun in my Eyes: Two-wheeling East by Josie Dew – I love Josie’s travel writing, she’s so witty and has some amazing experiences.
  8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – This book was so sweet, especially compared with many of today’s characters.

 
Eight out of fifteen, and only (basically) four months into the year – I think I will achieve my target, perhaps I could even read all thirty!
 

And now, my readers, how are you doing with the challenge if you’re taking part? What have you read this year so far that you loved?

 
Past Features

Weekly Roundup #15

weeklyru_16

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

Bought

  • The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett – I’ve spoken about this book a lot – you can read my review here. Waterstones were doing a special edition paperback for £2.99, so now I finally have my own copy!
  • 11.22.63 by Stephen King – this one from the charity shop, practically brand new and only £1. It’s all about time travel and trying to prevent the assassination of JFK – which occurred on the eponymous date.


Library

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman – described as ‘Harry Potter for grown ups’. Yes. Yes, and yes!
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – I have actually never really read the blurb for this one… I just kept seeing it everywhere and it has a pretty cool cover. That is quite honestly the only reason I ordered it.
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner – I added this to my TBR list when looking through the Dystopian genre on Goodreads. It claims that if you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll love this – but I think they say that for every YA Dystopian novel these days. We shall see!
  • Ready Player One by Robert Cline – this one sounds so cool – like a mix of Tron and Blade Runner!

What have you received to read this week?

Challenges

Challenge: 2013 TBR Pile Challenge


I am continuing this challenge throughout 2014, as I hope to have read all 30 books by the end of the year.

I have decided to join the 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, which runs from 1st January – 31st December 2013. You can read the rules and join the challenge here. There is also a handy Goodreads group for the challenge, which will track your challenge books for you, as long as you shelf them correctly.

I have almost 300 books on my TBR list, and some have been sitting there for years. One of the rules of this challenge is no books published after 2013, and no ARCs – which rules out a lot of my review books. This means I can read the books I want to, and have been meaning to read for some time – which means they’ll most likely be ones that I already own. I have set a goal of 15 books (considering that I also have to read review copies), any from this list:

1. The Odyssey by Homer
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (read 2014)
3. Endymion by Dan Simmons
4. The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons (read 2014)
5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
8. Redhead by Ian Cook
9. Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
10. The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
11. The Ice Storm by Rick Moody
12. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
13. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
15. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
16. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
17. Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
18. The Sun in my Eyes: Two-Wheeling East by Josie Dew
19. The Weeping Empress by Sadie S. Forsyth
20. A Walk in the Wood: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trial by Bill Bryson
21. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
22. Dear Fatty by Dawn French
23. Gone by Michael Grant
24. Virals by Kathy Reichs
25. Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
26. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (read 2014)
27. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (read 2014)
28. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
29. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
30. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Keep track of my progress or take a look at my tbr-pile-challenge shelf!

 Just under half of my list…