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?

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Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, March 2015

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
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Goodreads

1866 Arizona, Confederate officer John Carter, Gentleman of Virginia, forever aged 30, wakes naked on Mars. Low gravity increases his speed and strength exponentially, so he impresses green alien Thark captors with fighting, wins high rank. He frees Dejah Thoris, Princess of red men in Helium, only to lose her to the Prince of opposing red Zodanga.

DJ_F
The Wise Man's Fear

Goodreads

My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trehon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view. An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King’s Road.

All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived… until Kvothe.

Have you read either of this month’s picks? What did you think?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 2014

monthlyru16

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.

December 2014

Last month I read a total of thirteen books: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little, Moriarty (New Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, Seraphina (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman, Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis, The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan, Revival by Stephen King, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix and Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard.

My standout books for the month were definitely Revival by Stephen King, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I have a review of Revival coming up so I won’t talk about it now, but Seraphina caught me totally by surprise. I also really loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please – I have so much love and respect for her. It was also fantastic to finally start The Dark Tower series by Stephen King!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. The challenge is now over, and I earned a total of ninety-four points for my team! There is now a DC vs. Marvel Challenge for 2015.
  • I read 135 books towards my Goodreads goal, and managed to complete it – my goal was 120!

 

Currently reading:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

How was December for you?

Review

Review: The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

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

Having recently finally read The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in the epic Kingkiller Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss, I couldn’t wait to make a start on The Slow Regard Of Silent Things. As much as I love Rothfuss’ series, I thought it would be refreshing to get a different viewpoint, see the story from the point of someone other than Kvothe. I really love Kvothe as a character, but I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time with him, as each book clocks in at almost 1000 pages.

Auri’s story is definitely something new. It’s not so much a new perspective on Kvothe’s tale, as Kvothe himself does not make an appearance, but it was fascinating nonetheless to hear from someone else in Kvothe’s world. Despite being book number 2.5, you could probably read this one after either book, but definitely not without having read at least The Name of the Wind. It makes the assumption that you already know Auri (or really, why would you have picked the book up?), at least as well as a reader can know her. Auri is another character that I’ve always loved within the series – she has that aura of mystery that actually somehow still remains, even after reading this book.

I always had a sense that Auri knows more than anyone else, and just doesn’t let on, and The Slow Regard of Silent Things only makes me more sure of this. She may be the only character in the book, but the inanimate objects seem to come to life the moment they come into contact with her, as if she breathes life into everything she touches. It says so much about Patrick Rothfuss’ writing that he can make a story about a young girl going about her rather peculiar day-to-day activities into something so fascinating and delightful.

If you’re worried that this book will reveal too much about Auri and who she is, then there is no need – it is a wonderful insight into the life of Auri that somehow leaves her more of a mystery than ever, and that’s what I really like about it.

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 #11: Fantasy Final Exam!

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 mix things up a bit, and set a quiz for my readers!

I’ve come up with a bunch of questions from various fantasy books – you’ll find the answer for each one under the spoiler link, as well as the title of the book it’s about (if that’s not already the answer 😉 )! Let me know how you did in the comments. If you’re unsure about some of the answers, or unfamiliar with a series, it may be worth looking at previous Fantasy Fridays. All these books have been featured in the past…

1. Who is Adarlan’s Assassin?

[spoiler]Celaena Sardothien. (from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, books include Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight)[/spoiler]

2. Which form of magic does the Abhorsen/Old Kingdom series centre around?

[spoiler]Necromancy. (the books in the series include Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix. Apparently there will be a fourth book, entitled Clariel!)[/spoiler]

3. What are the four colours of the Istari?

[spoiler]Blue, Brown, Grey and White. Saruman also becomes the ‘Many Coloured’. (from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)[/spoiler]

4. What physical feature gives away a Graceling?

[spoiler]Different coloured eyes. (from the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, books include Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue)[/spoiler]

5. Tywin Lannister is related to Joffrey Baratheon in what way?

[spoiler]Tywin is Joffrey’s grandfather. (from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin)[/spoiler]

No, of course I didn’t just want an excuse to use this GIF again…

6. What is the magic system in The Kingkiller Chronicles known as?

[spoiler]Sympathy. (books in the series include The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss)[/spoiler]

7. Death makes an appearance in many books of which well-renowned fantasy book series?

[spoiler]The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. AND DEATH TALKS LIKE THIS. WHICH MEANS I ALWAYS IMAGINE HIM AS SPEAKING VERY LOUDLY, NOT QUITE SHOUTING, LIKE HE’S A LITTLE BIT DEAF. WHICH IS FOR SOME REASON VERY FUNNY.[/spoiler]

8. Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy series, which opens with Shadow and Bone, features a world based on which country?

[spoiler]Russia. (from The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo, books include Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm)[/spoiler]

9. Who finished writing The Wheel of Time series, after the death of Robert Jordan?

[spoiler]Brandon Sanderson. (The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.)[/spoiler]

10. How old would Harry Potter be today?

[spoiler]He was born on 31st July 1980, meaning that he would be 33 as of 11th April 2014. (from The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)[/spoiler]

I’VE BEEN HERE!!

11. What is the name of the female elf featured in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but does NOT feature in the original book – and who plays her?

[spoiler]Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly. (film [mostly!] based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)[/spoiler]

12. In the book The Magicians, where is the gate that leads Quentin to Brakebills?

[spoiler]New York. (from The Magicians by Lev Grossman.)[/spoiler]

13. What is steel used for in allomancy?

[spoiler]Pushing. An Allomancer who can burn steel can use it to push off of things, or push it towards enemies. A Mistborn, who can also burn iron (which pulls), can combine the two to push and pull themselves around areas, allowing them to cover long distances in a short period of time. (from the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, books include The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages and The Alloy of Law.)[/spoiler]

14. Who wrote The Broken Empire series?

[spoiler]Mark Lawrence. (books include Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns)[/spoiler]

15. Percy Jackson is the son of which Olympian god?

[spoiler]Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. (from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.)[/spoiler]

How did you do? I’m excited to see the results! If you didn’t do well, I hope this dwarvicise GIF will placate you.

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?