Dragons and Jetpacks, Top Lists

My Top Ten ‘Dragons & Jetpacks’ Books

DJ16

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?

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?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #16: My Favourite Elements of Fantasy Fiction

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: my favourite elements of fantasy fiction.

1. Unexpected friendships

Two people thrown together by unexpected circumstances, whether it be a quest or for revenge, their previous distrust and even hatred developing into a close friendship – I LOVE THIS. My favourite (and possibly the most obvious) example is that of Legolas and Gimli in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It’s often a feature in fantasy fiction due to different races that do not get along, like dwarves and elves.

Would you like me to describe it to you? Or should I fetch you a box?
(image source)

You do however see something similar in Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, where Celaena, an assassin, becomes friends with a prince and the captain of the guard.

2. Assassins

Speaking of assassins… anything to do with them. Although I suppose it’s more of admiration of extremely skilled fighters. And the costumes. Yeah. There’s a reason I’ve been obsessively playing Assassin’s Creed lately (not that it really comes under the fantasy category unless you make an argument for the Animus?), and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the Unity trailer…

3. Archers & bowmen

This is for the same reason as assassins really, I’m in awe of anyone skilled with a bow. There’s been a big surge of interest in archery lately, due to films and books like Brave, The Hunger Games and Hawkeye in The Avengers. I always wanted to join the archery club at uni, but you spent most of your time waiting around for a turn at shooting, so I never bothered. Maybe this year?

Isolde (Neverwinter)
There’s a reason I always make archer characters in games…

4. Magic systems that demand sacrifice

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the magic in Harry Potter. But I also love it when a magic system demands that the user sacrifices something, so that magic doesn’t seem too easy or simple. It requires work and dedication. Examples of this are The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss and The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson. In both of these series, the magic user must sacrifice energy and health in order to use magic. Prolonged usage without a break is not an option, which feels more ‘realistic’ to me – despite the fact that it’s magic!

5. Guilds

Maybe I’m thinking back to my MMO days, but I love guilds in fantasy. Groups of people with similar interests or skills, often those who have lost all their family and friends, so the guild becomes their new family. Whether it’s a thieves guild, an assassin’s guild or a simple merchants guild, there’s a real sense of camaraderie. It’s probably more to do with how guilds made me feel on MMOs (well, Dream of Mirror Online more than any other), but they sort of give me the warm fuzzies. Yes, even those guilds full of heartless assassins.

6. Non-human MCs

It’s fantasy fiction! Why write about humans if you don’t have to?? If you’re going to be exposed to all these different fictional races and cultures in fantasy, why not see it through the eyes of one of them? It’s a much more immersive way to learn about them – for example, seeing The Hobbit through Bilbo’s eyes.

How about you – what are your favourite elements of fantasy fiction?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #15: Fantasy ‘Pick & Mix’

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 recommend fantasy novels, depending on what element you would like to read about.

I’ve chosen a selection of fantasy books, picked out some of the main themes or features of each, and then divided them accordingly. The idea is that you can pick one or more elements you’d like to read about, and pick a book from that category. Even better if a book crosses several different categories – which is where the ‘pick & mix’ comes in! When it comes to series I’ve generally only included the first book from each, unless the sequels contain elements that the previous books do not.

The categories are: Assassins, Dark, Dragons, Dwarves & Elves, Historical, Magic, Monsters, Political, Quest, Royalty and Thieves.

Assassins
Assassins
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Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas; Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore; The Way Of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks; Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence; Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers; Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb; The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski; Pyramids (Discworld #7) by Terry Pratchett.

Dark Theme
Dark

A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin; The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett; The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch; The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) by Gene Wolfe; The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie; The Left Hand Of God (The Left Hand of God #1) by Paul Hoffman; The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski; Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan; Low Town (Low Town #1) by Daniel Polansky; Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence.

Dragons
Dragons

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling; A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin; Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman; The Red Knight (The Traitor Son Cycle #1) by Miles Cameron; A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan; A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin; Dragonflight (Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey; Guards! Guards! (Discworld #8) by Terry Pratchett.

ffdwarvesandelves
Dwarves & Elves

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks; Men At Arms (Discworld #15) by Terry Pratchett; The Dwarves (The Dwarves #1) by Markus Heitz; Homeland (Legend of Drizzt #1) by R.A. Salvatore; Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle #1) by Christopher Paolini; Dawnthief (Chronicles of the Raven #1) by James Barclay.

ffhistorical
Historical

*By historical I mean the book is either based on a historical period, takes place in a historical period but has fantastical elements, or is an alternate history.

Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix; A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin; Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers; Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo; Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan; In Camelot’s Shadow (The Paths to Camelot #1) by Sarah Zettel.

Magic
Magic
Magic
Magic

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling; The Way Of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks; Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix; The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett; The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss; Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor; The Magicians’ Guild (The Black Magician Trilogy #1) by Trudi Canavan; Elantris by Brandon Sanderson; Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta; The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson; The Wind Singer (Wind on Fire #1) by William Nicholson; Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks; Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan; Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo; Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder; The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas; Song Quest (The Echorium Sequence #1) by Katherine Roberts; Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan; A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Colour Of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett; Dawnthief (Chronicles of the Raven #1) by James Barclay; Low Town (Low Town #1) by Daniel Polansky.

Monsters
Monsters

*By monsters I mean a wide variety of things: zombies, centaurs, orcs, goblins, demons etc. Not necessarily all evil!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling; Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore; Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix; The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett; Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor; The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski; Song Quest (The Echorium Sequence #1) by Katherine Roberts.

Politics
Politics

The Way Of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks; A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin; The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss; The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch; The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie; The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) by Gene Wolfe; The Left Hand Of God (The Left Hand of God #1) by Paul Hoffman; Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan; Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder.

Quest
Quest
Quest

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) by Gene Wolfe; Red Country by Joe Abercrombie; Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta; The Wind Singer (Wind on Fire #1) by William Nicholson; Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks; The Princess Bridge by William Goldman; A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan; The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas; The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen; Song Quest (The Echorium Sequence #1) by Katherine Roberts; Dragonflight (Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey.

Royalty
Royalty
Royalty

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas; Graceling (Graceling #1) by Kristin Cashore; A Game Of Thrones (A Song Of Ice And Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin; The Desert Spear (The Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V. Brett; Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence; Elantris by Brandon Sanderson; The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson; Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta; The Princess Bride by William Goldman; Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman; Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb; The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas; The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen; Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan.

Thieves
Thieves

Bitterblue (Graceling #3) by Kristin Cashore; The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch; Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence; The Princess Bride by William Goldman; Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan.

I hope this ‘pick and mix’ list helps you to find some new reads! 🙂