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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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Top SF Novels Of The Year

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Today I want to share with you my top SF novels of the year – by this I mean read this year, not necessarily published this year.

1. The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion Cantos #4) by Dan Simmons

The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

It took me a while, but I FINALLY finished The Hyperion Cantos! Dan Simmons’ epic series ends with The Rise of Endymion, and what a finish it was. The series is huge, complex and very much timey wimey but a DEFINITE recommendation to all science fiction fans out there.

2. Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry proved to be one of my surprise hits of the year. I was sent a copy of the book by Hodder & Stoughton, and I’d not actually heard of it beforehand. I’m so glad I made the time to read it before going off to university, because it’s so damn clever and unique and I cannot emphasise how much you should read this if you’re looking for something a little bit different in your sci-fi. You can also read my review of Lexicon.

3. Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) by Chris Wooding

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Fan of Firefly? Distraught by the fact that it only got one season? (IT’S NOT FAIR OKAY THERE ARE SO MANY SHOWS THAT SHOULD BE CANCELLED BUT NO THEY CARRY ON) Then give Retribution Falls a try, I can guarantee it has everything you miss from Mal and co.

4. Insignia (Insignia #1) by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia reminded me of a mix of Ender’s Game and Ready Player One, for young teens. Considering that these are two books I love, of course I was going to fall in love with this one! I really need to get my hands on the rest of the series. Any book involving gaming and online communities is pretty much going to grab my attention.

5. & 6. Behemoth & Goliath (Leviathan #2 & #3) by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth and Goliath, wow WOW. Actually, the whole series, but I read the first book last year. One of my absolute favourite young adult series, this steampunk retelling of the First World War is just SENSATIONAL. Perfect story, amazing steampunk inventions, wonderful characters – plus it’s beautifully illustrated. Yes, yes and yes. You can also read my review of Behemoth.

7. Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

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

Leviathan Wakes is the first book in a new ‘epic’ sci-fi series that shows a LOT of potential. I’m so glad this one was chosen by my book group because it meant I got round to it sooner. I recommended it to my dad, who is a big sci-fi fan, and he took it on holiday with him earlier this year. He texted me whilst he was away to ask if I had the second book – definitely a hit with him too! You can also read my review of Leviathan Wakes.

8. Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep was a wonderful Netgalley find, and is one of the few standalone books on this list. For a relatively short science fiction novel (350 pages or so) it packs a lot in, and it felt huge. Definitely worth a look if you don’t want to delve into another new series at the moment and don’t know where to start!

What are your top science fiction reads of the year? Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think?

Misc.

Horror October: Horror Books Read This Year

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For today’s Horror October post, I wanted to share the books I’ve read this year that fit the theme – some are horror, others more thrillers, others just plain creepy!

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is definitely one of my highlights of the year! I’d been anticipating this sequel to The Shining ever since I first read about it, before the cover was even released. Hodder sent me a review copy earlier in the year, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve already read The Shining then hurry up and read this!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not so much a traditional horror, it is really a thriller, but it shows just how horrific humans can be to each other. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I won’t! I’m looking forward to seeing the film of this one too.

  • My rating for Gone Girl: [simple-rating stars=”four-stars”]

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz was an interesting read. It was told entirely from interviews, newspaper articles and other sources of media. Unfortunately its format meant I had no connection whatsoever to any of the characters, and the ending was just incredibly frustrating.

The Quick (The Quick #1) by Lauren Owen

The Quick by Lauren Owen

The Quick was also another unique novel: wonderfully Gothic and rather slow paced. I took a while to read this one for various reasons so I think it might need a re-read at some point, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also had the privilege of meeting the author, Lauren Owen, in April, and definitely made a fool of myself. Oops.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy had me super excited – it was a werewolf novel with a twist and had such wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t agree with them. The writing was wonderful but the story just felt… lacking. Also it promised me a good scare and just didn’t deliver!

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris was another disappointment. I really love her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (or the True Blood books if you prefer), even if the last few just felt like a chance to make some easy money. So I was hoping a new series would be a new start, and whilst Midnight Crossroad wasn’t bad, there was nothing special about it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is another one that’s had great reviews, but I just didn’t get along with. Too many vampires and falling for the bad boy, ugh… The concept of the Coldtowns was original, but vampires? So overdone right now… It does have one of the most horrific opening scenes I’ve ever read though.

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

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

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is hard to explain in terms of the horror genre without giving away some big plot points. I definitely wasn’t expecting the horror element when I started reading it, and it’s definitely a memorable part… I read it with my Goodreads book group and it was pretty well received!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one of my stand-out books of the year. I wasn’t expecting to love it so much, but it pulled me right in. It may be aimed at younger readers but it is SO amazing. Think a mix of Sherlock and Supernatural, with teenage protaganists.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any horror recommendations based on what you’ve read this year?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #25: Alien

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: Alien.

Alien

The commercial vessel Nostromo receives a distress call from an unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly bioform has joined them.

Since I’m putting this feature on hold for Sci-Fi Month next month, I thought I’d do a special science fiction edition now – and the next one will be a special horror edition! I’ve chosen Alien because it’s an absolutely fantastic film. It’s tense and keeps you on the edge of your seat, it’s claustrophobic and scary. It pretty much set up the whole ‘survival horror’ genre.

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

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

So I may have recommended Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey previously, but it definitely works for fans of Alien. It has that same sort of claustrophobic feeling, not to mention some terrifying extra-terrestrials.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is one of my favourite books, and it definitely needs to be read if you enjoyed Alien! When you think of books featuring aliens, I’m sure this is one of the first ones that comes to mind – and for good reason. Like Alien itself, it was pretty ground-breaking at the time.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is another classic science fiction novel. It’s not quite as claustrophobic as Alien, but it definitely has that constant feeling of danger. I also really enjoyed this one, it’s definitely my preferred work of Wyndham’s.

Are you a fan of Alien? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2014

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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 twenty books, which sounds like a lot but many of them were graphic novels: After Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #13.5) by Charlaine Harris, Mass Effect Foundation: Volume 2 by Mac Walters, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor, X-Men Forever 2, Back in Action (X-Men Forever 2 #1) by Chris Claremont, Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 2 by Stan Lee, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Civil War: Marvel Universe by Ed Brubaker, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore, Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas by Peter David, Wolverine First Class: Wolverine-By-Night by Fred Van Lente, X-Men Legacy: Emplate by Mike Carey, The Avengers: Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost, The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner.

I was so happy to finally finish the Leviathan series, and it’s now one of my favourite Young Adult series out there. I read some other great books this month: Days of Blood and Starlight was just as gripping as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Falling Kingdoms was a wonderful fantasy read. I also went crazy on the graphic novel front, ordering as many Marvel comics as I could through my county library service. And there are still plenty more to read! I also read most of Dragon Age Library Edition: Volume One, but unfortunately my ARC stopped about three quarters of the way through. I did email Netgalley, who contacted the publisher but sadly I haven’t heard anything and the title has now been archived. I will just rate and review it based on what I did managed to read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, so unfortunately I didn’t do as well as last month, and I also didn’t quite manage to defeat April’s villain, Kingpin. Better luck next month! May’s villain is Bullseye, and he looks to be quite a challenge.
  • I’ve already beaten my goal of fifty books for this year on Goodreads. I’ve raised the goal to seventy-five, which I think will still be manageable – I may even reach that before August, and I can raise it again!

 

Currently reading:

>The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Quick by Lauren Owen

Off the blog:

The majority of April was fairly quiet, but this past week has been pretty busy. I’ve been off work since last Tuesday, although I’m back today. On Wednesday night I went to the Glamour Book Club to see Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen, and I also met up with some fellow book bloggers! I will cover the event in detail in a future post. My friend joined me in London, and she stayed until Tuesday. On Thursday night, we went to see Jace Everett in Bristol. It was a TINY event, with about one hundred people – but the venue put out chairs, so no-one was dancing and I felt like we gave off a bad impression. But despite that, I loved the music and got to meet the man himself afterwards, and get a CD signed. Then on Friday we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which I really enjoyed, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day which meant a trip to Forbidden Planet in Bristol, as well as Bristol Zoo because it was a lovely, sunny day. Oh, and a few weeks ago my Dragon Age: The World of Thedas book arrived, which my fellow Queen of Ferelden, Paola, convinced me to buy. I was just a *little* bit excited by its arrival, as you can see…

Some highlights from April 2014.
Some highlights from April 2014.

 

How was April for you?

 

Review

Review: Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Leviathan Wakes was the science fiction Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. It had been on my radar for a while: I previously recommended it for fans of the TV show Firefly and plenty of my friends had read and enjoyed it. As a result, I set out with some rather high expectations.

Some science fiction novels take quite a bit of getting used to, with their unusual and unique terminology and technology, but not this one. It is both immediately accessible and understandable whilst retaining a futuristic feel. We’re made aware of terraforming, ‘faux food’ (this is one of the things that scares me about the future. No delicious real food!), and hand-held communications terminals – but as of yet, no faster than light travel. From the very beginning it is packed full of political backstabbing and corruption, with elements of crime noir and horror. Whilst it’s not big on the action, there are plenty of tense moments to grip the reader. It feels like a science fiction novel that covers many boundaries and could appeal to many different types of people, not just fans of science fiction.

The crime noir element is thanks to Miller, a cop assigned to tracking down a young girl and one of the point-of-view characters. He feels like a bit of a cliche: slightly more than occasional heavy drinker (brought on by the stresses of the job), rocky relationship with his ex-wife, practically married his career and putting it before everything else. Throughout the story he shows signs of perhaps not being particularly emotionally stable, and the case takes a real toll on him. The reader watches him fall, and it’s both heart-breaking and a bit of a relief for a combination of reasons. His obsession with the case, and the young girl he is meant to be searching for, becomes all-consuming, and his descent into madness puts more than one person at risk. A talented and dedicated policeman becomes a creepy, obsessive character with little or no morals in about five hundred pages, and it was the sudden reversal of my feelings about Miller that really got me.

As for the rest of the characters, it would have been nice to have some more background information. Holden and Naomi were great, along with the rest of a good cast of more minor characters, but where were their detailed back stories? There may be more in the next books, but it would be nice to have something from the beginning.

At times, Leviathan Wakes reminded me more of Alien than Firefly. The latter part of the book was very tense, dark and gave me a real claustrophobic feeling – as if I were the one trapped aboard a spaceship with some mysterious extra-terrestrial life. I would definitely recommend it to fans of writers such as Alastair Reynolds and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as those who like a horror aspect with their science fiction!

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2014

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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 thirteen books – an improvement on February! Bitterblue (Graceling #3) by Kristin Cashore, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, The Cruel Path by David Normoyle, Doctor’s Notes by Dr. Rosemary Leonard, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantastic Four Vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shanarra #1) by Terry Brooks and X-Men Legacy: Aftermath by Mike Carey.

Standout books include Bitterblue, The Book Thief and Fangirl. I was happy to finally read the conclusion to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, and Bitterblue tied the threads of the first two books together nicely. I read The Book Thief as I’d like to go and see it in the cinema, but haven’t quite gotten round to that yet! And finally, I won Fangirl in Lianne’s giveaway, and it was an absolute delight. You can read more about how it surprised me in my review. I’ve now read thirty-six books towards my goal of fifty this year. I may think about raising it in June or July.

Challenge progress:

  • I read eight books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, which I’m very pleased with! I also managed to defeat this month’s villain, Juggernaut. April’s villain is Kingpin, who looks to be quite a challenge.
  • One book ticked off of the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist, which also happened to be our science fiction Book of the Month.

Currently reading:

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Reviews on the blog this month:

Other posts:

Upcoming:

  • Quite a few reviews including Leviathan Wakes, Doctor’s Notes, In Real Life and The Cruel Path.
  • Something to do with Marvel…
  • And more Museum of Literary Wonders posts as I’ve been meaning to do for a while!

Off the blog:

Not much has happened! I’m kind of scared and excited at how quickly this year has gone so far. Only four and a half months before I move to the Netherlands for university. I can’t wait! I’ve also started playing Smite with a friend, it’s an MOBA where you play as gods – perfect for a mythology geek like me, though I keep pointing out the flaws within the system… it’s really fun though! As for the coming month: my mum is running the London Marathon and I’m SO proud of her. She’s running for a charity called WellChild and has raised a fair amount of money so far. And at the end of the month, it’s back to London again for a cocktails & conversation event with Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen – are any of my fellow book bloggers going as well?

How was March for you?