Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #7: 2016 Releases I WILL Read This Year!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is new book releases you meant to read in 2016, but never got round to… and definitely plan to read in 2017! As I’m a bit of an expert on hoarding books that I will ‘read next’ for several years, I thought this might be a good one to do.

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Five of the six books above are sat on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I remember buying them eagerly, knowing that I’d soon be lost within them. And did I pick them up straight away? Nope. One was sent to me, Cloak of War, and I’d planned on reading it during Sci-Fi Month 2016 as I absolutely loved the first book, The Empress Game, which also took me ages to get around to. And the remaining book, A Closed and Common Orbit, I am DESPERATE to read, but I want to buy it – and I want the paperback. Which actually isn’t available until April so… that’s my excuse. I just really don’t like hardbacks, okay?! 😉

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I own both Time Siege and The Crown’s Game from the four books above, but still haven’t touched them. I’m also waiting for the paperback of Truthwitch, which I believe comes out in June!

What 2016 releases do you still need to read? Would you recommend any of the books on my list?

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Thoughts

Thoughts #48: My Favourite Female Authors

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As mentioned at the end of January, I’m focusing on female authors for the entire month of February, as my book group Dragons & Jetpacks has declared it ‘Women Writers Month’. I thought I’d start off by discussing my favourite female authors, and I’d love to hear yours!

Diana Gabaldon

diana gabaldon Outlander

My current lady of the moment is Diana Gabaldon, author of the fantastic Outlander series. If you’re into historical fiction, give it a try (or give the show a watch, totally worth it just for Sam Heughan alone, not to mention the beautiful Catriona Balfe and the gorgeous Scottish landscapes). Diana: thank you SO MUCH for creating the beautiful Scotsman that is Jamie Fraser.

J.K. Rowling

JK Rowling Harry Potter

Do I really need to explain this one? J.K. Rowling is my queen and shaped my childhood, forever.

Sarah J. Maas

sarah j maasThrone of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is another female author I love, although I’ve only read one of her series – Throne of Glass. I met her in 2013 and she was the sweetest. She brought her own copy of Throne of Glass for fans to sign, and it travelled all over the world. It was pretty cool being able to sign something that my fellow bloggers had also signed!

Jaine Fenn

Jaine Fenn Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

I’m going to make a mention of Jaine Fenn, who is truly lovely. She writes science fiction, and I first came into contact with her in 2013. She took part in my Sci-Fi Month event with an author interview, and I’ve met her twice now, both times at Bristolcon (where I was very shy because I actually don’t know how to act around authors…). She recognised my name instantly, thanked me for my review of her recent short story she’d sent me, and mentioned she had a new release coming and would I like to review it. Basically, she knows how to interact with her fanbase very well. Her sci-fi series is a mix of books to be read in order, and others that can be read as standalones within the same universe.

Marianne Curley & Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley and Katherine Roberts cannot be forgotten! Both of these ladies write fantasy for younger audiences, and wrote some of my favourite books as a child/teen. And both of them took time out of their busy schedules to let me interview them for my blog. Like Jaine, they are lovely people and know how to treat their fans 🙂 Marianne has written the Guardians of Time series which involves time travel (yaaaas) and Katherine has written several series, my favourite being the Echorium Sequence, where words and song are power.

And because this post will be an entire novel if I write a paragraph about every awesome lady, honourable mentions go to…

Kristin Cashore, S.J. Kincaid, Suzanne Collins, Laini Taylor, V.E. Schwab and Rhonda Mason.

Which fabulous ladies of fiction are your favourites?

Top Lists

My Top Books of 2015

As the title says, it’s time to discuss my top books of 2015! I already shared my top science fiction novels of 2015 as part of Sci-Fi Month, so most of the sci-fi has already been covered. However, there are a couple that I read after writing that post, meaning that some science fiction will sneak its way in! And because I’m super indecisive, I haven’t gone for the usual top ten, but top twelve…

And now, in no particular order…

Red Rising Golden Son The Empress Game

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown was by far one of my ultimate favourite books of the year. It was chosen as Science Fiction Book of the Month by my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and it was an instant huge success with almost every member who read it. It completely and absolutely blew me away, and I posted my review back in November. The sequel, Golden Son (Red Rising #2) was just as fantastic, and my review will be posted next month as part of the Golden Son readalong, in preparation for the release of the next book. The Empress Game (The Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason was another science fiction standout that just missed my last list. I don’t know what I expected when I started it, but it certainly wasn’t what I read. It was a true thrill ride, and I shared my five star review last month.

Skin The Alchemist of Souls Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

Skin by Ilka Tampke was a lucky library find. I’d been eyeing it up after browsing Hodder & Stoughton’s catalogue, and had been hoping for a review copy in the post. Although I wasn’t lucky in that respect, I did manage to find it in the library not long after release, and snatched it up. It was a truly gorgeous tale of Celtic Britain, specifically Somerset, and a young girl who is seen as ‘skinless’ by her tribe, due to her unknown parentage. The Alchemist of Souls (Night’s Masque #1) by Anne Lyle was my ‘brand new book treat’ at Bristolcon, and I was drawn in initially just by the cover. After reading the blurb I was certain that I had to own the book – and I started reading it the very next day. Let’s just say that I now want to read as many Elizabethan historical fantasies as I can get my hands on. Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan was one of the many Netgalley reads that I finally got around to – and one that I really wish I’d read sooner. Although that does mean less time to wait for the sequel… a steampunk type fantasy, that also featured archaeology, it was full of adventure. I shared my review back in October.

Simon and the Homo Sapien Agenda Warbreaker The Well of Ascension

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli was a total surprise, and a completely adorable book. I picked it up at the library because I’d seen a few bloggers raving about it, and thought I’d take the risk – after all, it was a library book. However, I fell a little bit in love. I feel that no top book list will ever be complete without at least one Brandon Sanderson book, but that’s okay because I have two. Both Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1) and The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) were typical Sanderson: basically amazing and all you could ever want in a book. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read so far, and need to hurry up and catch up with the rest of the Mistborn series.

Outlander Dragonfly in Amber A Darker Shade of Magic

2015 saw me get rather addicted to the TV series Outlander and fall in love with beautiful Scotsman Jamie, so imagine my delight when I discovered it was based on a book series – and a long one at that. Extra sexy Scotsman! Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon are both gorgeous, heartbreaking tales, and I can’t wait to continue the rest of the series. I’m slowly building up my second-hand collection of the books, I’m only missing two of them now! A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab was a book I was offered by Titan, and absolutely jumped at the chance to read. They even kindly posted me a copy out to the Netherlands whilst I was there. I devoured the book in two or three days, and then lent it to a friend who also loved it. Can’t wait to read some of her other work! I reviewed the book back in April this year.

What were your top reads of 2015?

Review

Review: The Empress Game (The Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason

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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.

Lately, I’ve had this really bad habit of receiving fantastic looking books, making plans to read them as soon as possible, and then ignoring said plans. And almost every single time, when I finally get round to the books, I wonder why it took me so long. The Empress Game was another fine example of this.

The focus of the story is the Empress Game itself, but it was so much more than that. The titular event sees all eligible young ladies – ladies of nobility – fight in arena matches in order to win the position of Empress Apparent. These are not matches to the death, but they can be brutal all the same, and it was interesting to see a society (or societies, rather) where the nobility, particular female nobility, were trained in such combat. It is an interesting way of choosing the right person for such a position, and whilst the reason why is never fully explained, one can imagine the kind of person it would produce: ruthless and ready to make the tough decisions that come with ruling.

Kayla is selected to take part in the Empress Game, not as herself but fighting as Princess Isonde, a fair claimant to the position with moralistic ideals, but sadly lacking the combat skills to prove herself worthy. Wearing a hologram, and with the help of some biometric/technological alterations, Kayla is able to take part in the Game. As the story progresses, the reader learns more about Kayla herself, her reasons for hiding, the history of her people and the future that may come to pass. What originally seemed like a book about fighting for the position of Empress soon turned into a book about fighting for what was right.

As for Kayla herself, I really liked her. At first she is very suspicious of those who employ her services, and she sees Princess Isonde as a total snob. Her fierceness covers up a hidden past, and her protectiveness of her younger brother Corinth is admirable. Soon, she begins to warm up, and even starts making friends. Isonde herself is shown to be a good person, not just someone who wants a powerful position for the sake of it. And Malkor, the agent that finds Kayla in the first place, provides support and friendship for Kayla.

A good chunk of the book is Kayla working through arena matches (within the Empress Game there are thousands). Mason manages to keep up the interest throughout, even whilst Kayla is just fighting as a day-to-day activity. The action and fight scenes were wonderfully written, with each movement feeling so fluid and easily to visualise.

There were a few little issues with the book: the conclusion was over too quickly in my opinion, although it did have its tense moments, and the romance was rather predictable. I do also worry that the title/parts of the blurb will make people think the story is something like The Hunger Games, with a fight to the death, last one alive pronounced the victor. However, let me assure you that The Empress Game is nothing like that at all. It turned out to be a fantastic read and I’m so excited to find out what happens in the second book. Whilst it feels like a classic space opera, it is also not too ‘heavy’, making it a great read for all types of science fiction fans. Whether you’ve just started reading the genre or you’re a hardcore fan, The Empress Game comes highly recommended.

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: Space Opera

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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.

Continuing my discussion of some of my favourite elements of science fiction, space opera is my final post on this subject. And just to clear things up, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, and often risk-taking as well as chivalric romance; usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons and other sophisticated technology.

Space opera is what I think of when I think of science fiction. It feels like the ‘classic’ sci-fi element and covers so many different possibilities: space travel, colonisation, alien contact, adventure, action, exciting technologies, a dash of romance. Many of the early works of science fiction fit the space opera sub-genre.

Here are some of my favourite space opera reads:
The Empress Game House of Suns Ender's Game

The Empress Game is a fairly recent release, and my review of it will be posted next month. House of Suns is an epic, sprawling space opera for fans of hard science fiction, whereas Ender’s Game is aimed at Young Adult audiences onwards. I’ll be sharing my thoughts of the film adaptation in a post next month.

And some space operas I’d love to read:
Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach Dark Run Inherit the Stars

I can DEFINITELY think of a space opera video game, because it is one of my absolute favourites: Mass Effect. This game sees you traversing the universe as Commander Shepard, gathering your forces to defeat an ancient alien race known as the Protheans, who are hellbent on destroying all civilisation. I discussed my love for the series in a previous Sci-Fi Month post from 2013, which also included a guest post by one of the ‘Story Doctors’ who worked on the game. In fact I seem to have discussed the game quite a lot, as searching for ‘Mass Effect’ on this blog comes up with five pages of search results… So if you’re looking for a good, solid science fiction video game that lets you explore space and communicate (and er… more…) with aliens, then Mass Effect is the game for you!

Mass Effect

And of course, we can’t discuss space opera without mentioning Star Wars…

Who else is excited for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens? Just a few people I think… The Star Wars films are classic space opera, adventure with a dash of romance. I remember when I was young, my dad sat me and my sisters down and showed us the original trilogy shortly before we went to see The Phantom Menace in the cinema. Although that film is ignored by many a hardcore fan, I love it because it felt like my way into the Star Wars universe – it felt less complex than the original, which was good as I was young at the time, and I LOVED pod-racing. However, that film has one massive flaw and I won’t tarnish my blog with his name 😉 Whatever you think of the Star Wars franchise, there’s no denying its impact on the space opera sub-genre.

Are you a fan of space opera? What does the term mean to you?

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