Top Lists

Top Reads of 2014

Top Reads 2014

As the title suggests, it’s time to share my top reads of 2014! I read so many good books this year that it’s not a top ten, but a top fifteen… And now, in no particular order:

Lexicon by Max Barry Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene Jane Eyre

Lexicon by Max Barry was a wonderful surprise. Sent to me by Hodder, it took a little while for me to pick it up, but I’m so glad I did. It is insanely clever and unique and DEFINITELY worth a read. Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene was another surprise from Hodder (who spoil me!), a fantastic new start to a fantasy series, with a truly gorgeous cover. And Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë… oh this book. I am so SO glad I re-read it!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of those books that I’d heard such good things about, bought a copy of and still hadn’t read. Then I finally got to it at the beginning of the year, and was blown away. I even met Laini in April, when the third book in the series was released, but I still have yet to read that one. Perfect for my Borgia fascination, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I just devoured. It’s got everything you could ever want in historical fiction – backstabbing, court gossip, murder – and everything you would expect from a book about the Borgias. And The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, why did I take so long to get to you?? I have the second book in Leiden, and I’m looking forward to reading it in January.

Brideshead Revisited Insignia by S.J. Kincaid 2495562

Another classic I’m glad I tried, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is truly wonderful, and completely satisfied my taste for books set in Oxford (yes this is a thing). Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, on the other hand, completely satisfied my thirst for another book similar to Ready Player One. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is a fantastic, if rather long, follow up to The Name of the Wind. It is one epic fantasy series I will not forget.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud was one of those books that took me completely by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and now I recommend the series to everyone. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was another wonderful library find, the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that I can’t wait to continue. And when it comes to autobiographies, I’m not sure if you can beat Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my favourite singers, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about and I loved the way it was written too – as if the reader is just sat having a drink with Johnny.

Seraphina Fangirl Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

A very recent addition to my list, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is another one that caught me by surprise. At first I wasn’t sure, but as I read more of the book I was utterly enchanted by her take on dragons. And once again showing that I really need to branch out and maybe not always judge books based on genre, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was an ABSOLUTE treat. I loved Cath and instantly identified with her. And finally, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding pretty much satisfied my post-Firefly needs. SO GOOD.

What were your top reads this year?

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?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: May 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.

Books Read May 2014

Last month I read a total of fourteen books: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris, Fantastic Four: Books of Doom by Ed Brubaker, Ms Marvel: War of the Marvels (Ms Marvel #8) by Brian Reed, Insignia (Insignia #1) by S.J. Kincaid, The Amazing Spider-Man: Book of Ezekiel (Amazing Spider-Man #7) by J. Michael Straczynski, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers (Guardians of the Galaxy #1) by Brian Michael Bendis, New X-Men: E is for Extinction (New X-Men #1) by Grant Morrison, Doctor Who: Keeping Up With The Joneses (Doctor Who Time Trips #3) by Nick Harkaway, Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) by Chris Wooding, Lexicon by Max Barry, The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar, Sabriel by Garth Nix and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.

I read a lot of graphic novels this month, but I think I’ve read every one I can get my hands on in the county library system… so looks like I’ll have to find them elsewhere from now on. My favourite of the graphic novels was Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers – some great art in there, and I am SO excited for the film! Standout novels included Lexicon, Retribution Falls and Insignia. The latter two are the first books in series, so that’s two more series to continue now…

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read four books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge – two books towards defeating Bullseye, May’s villain, so I didn’t quite manage to beat him. Next month’s villain has been revealed as Loki, so hopefully I’ll be able to take down the trickster god!
  • Last month I raised my Goodreads goal to seventy-five books. I’m now at seventy-one books, so it looks like I’ll be raising it again soon!
  • I read one book for my USA Challenge, which admittedly I’ve mostly forgotten about…

 

Currently reading:

The Quick by Lauren Owen Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

 

Off the blog:

May has been uneventful… in fact most of the ‘Off the blog’ stuff I shared last month happened in May. Oops! I did go and see X-Men: Days of Future Past on Thursday, and LOVED it. It also reignited my *ahem* ‘interest’ in Michael Fassbender… But apart from that, pretty uneventful! Here’s some stuff from my Instagram:

May Instagram
Left to right: My awesome new Game of Thrones t-shirt from Teefury; scaring myself silly by playing Bioshock in the dark & with headphones; my town has a festival every day and the May bank holiday weekend was just PERFECT for it 🙂
Review

Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

I’ve received quite a few books from the wonderful Hodderscape recently, and I’m working my way through the pile. I started off with this particular book – and what a way to start!

The reader is immediately thrown into the action, with a scene where one of the two protagonists, Wil, is at the airport and gets waylaid by two strange men. They drug him, and he manages to make a run for it, but his sense of confusion and the frantic feeling of needing to get away now is so well conveyed. It doesn’t hold back on the swearing or coarse language, and you know from the get-go that these guys mean business. I found myself whizzing through the pages, needing to know what their motive was, and why they were targeting Wil in particular.

Well as it turns out, words are power. People who are trained in the use of words are known as ‘Poets’ (they use pseudonyms when working, the names of famous poets), and can use them to convince, coerce and control others. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds though: any old words won’t work on everyone. As well as digging into linguistics, the book explores psychology, in that everyone’s personality represents a different ‘segment’, of which there are over two hundred. To control someone, you need to work out which segment they are, and then use the appropriate words. And on top of this, the words need to be of their language to have the greatest effect, e.g. using English words on a French person would not be as successful as using French. However, there are a few words, know as ‘barewords’, which can affect anyone, and they are also incredibly powerful. Wil has a link to one of these ‘barewords’, which is why he is being hunted. I liked that Max Barry included all of these rules, it meant that although Poets had great power, there was some sort of restraint.

There is also a bit of a 1984 vibe in the book: the government and many companies record personal information (lots of excuses are given for reasons why they need to record various personal things e.g. terrorist attacks), which is then processed by Poets, allowing them to sort the population into segments. The information is then used (or rather, abused) by lots of people, including political parties who may go canvassing, and change their stance depending on who they are talking to. Most of this information was revealed in between chapters, through newspaper articles, emails, IM chats and forums. It felt a little set back from the main story, sort of added in to keep the reader informed. It was nice to have this background information, but I felt it might have worked a little better if it was somehow more integrated into the story.

My favourite chapters of the book were the ones that followed Emily. When the reader first meets her, she is a sixteen year old runaway, living on the streets and getting by on card and slight of hand tricks. She is approached by someone from the ‘Academy’ (the school where the Poets are trained) and is given a chance to improve her life. One of the entrance tests for the Academy includes trying to persuade people in the street to cross the road and talk to her – this was possibly one of my favourite scenes, just for its sense of humour, although one of Emily’s ‘methods’ seemed a bit ludicrous for a sixteen year old! I particularly enjoyed her chapters because they were generally the ones where the power of words was explored; as Emily learnt about the Poets and their power, so did the reader.

I’m not sure if it wasn’t too clear to begin with, or if I was just being slow on the uptake, but the stories of Wil and Emily are actually on two slightly different timelines. I was unsure at how they were going to weave together, but as I read more of the book the cogs started fitting into place and I loved trying to predict what was going to happen next.

I am so grateful that I was sent this book – I’d not heard of it before I received it, and I’ve not seen it on many other blogs or Goodreads, so it might have missed my attention otherwise! It is a wonderfully unique concept, and although some parts of the story (mostly Wil’s) were a little too slow moving, I devoured it in a matter of days. A definite recommendation for fans of cerebral thrillers, or people interested in linguistics and psychology.