Top Ten Tuesday (7): Top Ten All Time Favorite Fantasy Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we are talking about our Top Ten Favorite Books in a Genre of our choice, and I pick fantasy.  This list will be a mix of adult and YA books.  It will also probably lean toward books I’ve read more recently because if I didn’t review it on Goodreads, I might as well never have read it.

Top 10 All Time Favorite Fantasy Books

1. The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – This is the beginning of a series of a bunch of interrelated trilogies, but it’s the first one that really grabbed my heart.  Fitz is one of my favorite characters in all of fantasy. If you like communicating animals, dragons, a great underdog tale, and court intrigue, you will love this one. 

asassins apprentice

2.  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I feel like this is a popular one, but if you haven’t read it, I think it’s a great entry point into epic fantasy.  This book follows a guy named Kvothe telling his life story over the course of three days, and each book in the trilogy represents a day of the story. It’s so great and an excellent entry point into epic fantasy, even though it’s a chunker.

name of the wind

3. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan – This is taking a little bit of a risk because only the first book in the trilogy is out, but I instantly fell in love with this book as soon as I read it.  It is slightly reminiscent of The Name of the Wind in that it is a scribe telling the story of a guy known as The Hope Killer, but in many ways I actually loved this book even more. Shocking, I know, but you REALLY need to try this one if you like fantasy at all.

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4.  The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavirel Kay – This is actually just a  placeholder for all of Guy Gavriel Kay’s stuff (except, oddly enough, the Fionavar trilogy, which I personally didn’t like).  But this one, A Song for ArbonneSailing to Sarantium, or Tigana… basically the list goes on and on. His writing is this gorgeous historical, magical prose with characters that you just must love. Lions is one of the only books that I have ever read, closed, and then immediately re-opened because I wasn’t ready to let go.

lions

5.  Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – This is kind of also a Marilliet placeholder because I totally love her works, but also this is such an excellent entry point to fairy tale retellings and fantasy.  This is a retelling of the Wild Swans fairy tale, but it completely stands on its own.  The romance is pitch-perfect, Sorcha is an amazing female protagonist, and man I just love love love this book.

Daughter of the Forest

6. The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – This is definitely a Sanderson placeholder.  I am an absolute Fanderson – he basically can do no wrong in my eyes.  I absolutely adore the Mistborn trilogy, I love Warbreaker, I love Way of Kings, I love Steelheart, and you KNOW I love The Emperor’s Soul…. ugh, I just love them all. I think this one is probably the best entry point to Sanderson.  That said, The Emperor’s Soul would also be a great starting place since it’s a short story that I feel like gives a really good test to see if you like his writing style.

final empire

7.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – This is where the YA fantasy recommendations start.  I love Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and I actually think it would be a great cross over into adult fantasy. The world-building is just freaking amazing, the realistic writing of Prague makes you feel like you are right there, and it’s one of my absolute favorite story that incorporates angels.

smoke and bone

8.  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente – This is just so different than anything else I’ve ever read.  The language is so fantastical, the world is immersive, and the characters just stick right with you.  I get totally transported to this world when I read these books, and I highly recommend them.

fairyland

9.  The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner – This is a freaking amazing series that focuses on Eugenidies, who (as you might guess) is a thief.  He gets caught in a nearby kingdom and ends up being asked to go on a journey in order to help the king.  Gen is one of my favorite male protagonists for sure.  And for those of you who like The Winner’s Curse, the author of that said in a recent Twitter chat that this series was one of her inspirations.

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10. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – This is a throwback recommendation – it was a Newberry honor winner in 1983! It follows the story of Harry Crewe, an orphan girl, who has just moved to a border town that basically is the last defense against a tribe of people known as the Hillfolk.  For reasons that are not immediately apparent, Harry is kidnapped by the Hillfolk King and ends up learning a lot about herself.  The book was so enjoyable and I highly recommend it.

blue sword

11. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – This is a bonus choice and is really representative of one of my favorite sub-genres in fantasy, which is urban fantasy.  I love the Dresden File series (though for me they get great starting at around book 4), and I also love the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  These are great reading slump busters for me because they are characters I love in realistic settings with excellent magic and supernatural characters.  They also generally read as standalones, even though they are all related in one big series.  Just excellent.

So how about you?  Do you like fantasy as much as I do?  What are some of your favorites?  I had to leave off SO MANY that I really love, and chose to lean a bit more toward adult stuff since I think the YA stuff gets pretty good coverage in the blogosphere (at least the corner I hang out in).  Are any of these on your TBR?

Epic Recs (2): March with Danie!

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Ok – I loved participating in Epic Recs so much last month that I am doing it again!  Epic Recs is a really fun online book club idea hosted by Judith at Paper Riot and Amber from Books of Amber.  Basically they recommend books to each other every month that the other one has to read and review.  And they’ve opened this awesomeness up to others to participate in and they will even pair you up with someone who’s reading taste they think goes along with yours.  Can we just talk for a second about how awesome this is?  If you’re interested in more info and the rules and whatnot, check out Judith’s post here.

This month I am teaming up with one of my best blogosphere friends Danie from The Bookish Brunette!  Danie’s blog is so amazing and a must visit for basically everyone.  If you like my blog, you will DEFINITELY love hers.

So what are we reading this month? 

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I was actually pretty torn on what to recommend Danie this month until I read her most recent Top Ten Tuesday post!  In that post, Danie mentioned that she had never read anything by Richelle Mead and I just KNEW I had to recommend Vampire Academy.  I think Danie is going to really love Rose and REALLY freaking love Dimitri.  Even better, Rose and Lissa have (at least in this first book) one of my favorite friendships in all of YA and so I knew I had to recommend this for Danie.  When I first read this book, I got so swept up in the series that I basically marathoned all six.  I really hope Danie loves this series as much as I did!

Danie suggested I read The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd.  Here’s what she had to say about it:

“I am choosing this one because it was my all-time favorite of last year. And everyone needs to read it. It was beautifully written, and the story itself was perfect. I honestly have so much love for this book. I wasn’t interested in it at all, until I got the sequel for review so I decided to try it. And became obsessed with it. I push it on everyone. If the time period isn’t your thing, or the subject matter bugs you a bit, keep reading. Go into it with a completely open mind.”

I am have had this one on my radar for so long and really keep meaning to get to it.  I mean, that cover!  I am super-excited that Danie pushed this one on me and I can’t wait to see what I think.  Come back at the end of the month to see how we liked these awesome books! And in the meantime, definitely check out Danie’s post here to see what she thinks of her rec this month!

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shades of grey

Book Summary

From Goodreads: Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie’s world wasn’t always like this. There’s evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.

Eddie, who works for the Color Control Agency, might well have lived out his rose-tinted life without a hitch. But that changes when he becomes smitten with Jane, a Grey Nightseer from the dark, unlit side of the village. She shows Eddie that all is not well with the world he thinks is just and good.

Review: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you enjoy cleverly-written, tongue-in-cheek, intelligent fantasy, you really must read something written by Jasper Fforde.  While Fforde is probably best known for his Thursday Next series, which is also excellent, Shades of Grey was his first entry into the world of YA.  This was swiftly followed by his next YA series, The Last Dragonslayer, which I ALSO really loved. This is becoming a pattern with me and Fforde, as you can see.

Shades of Grey is a really engaging dystopian written in Fforde’s usual nonsensical style. In this world, people are divided in a very strict caste system based on the hues they are able to see, governed by the Colortocracy.  When a person comes of age, they are permitted to take a test that evaluates what colors you can see and how well.  Both the color spectrum you can see as well as the strength of the hue provide your lot in life.  Everything from the person you are able to marry to the job you are able to perform is defined through this test.  Fforde makes clear that this society has come directly from the society we live in now, though how this major change came about is not immediately clear. There are many references to our present world, and through these Fforde manages a few tongue-in-cheek jabs at our society.

As with so many Fforde novels, Shades of Grey is utterly confusing at first, because the world is never built through info-dump, but through tantalizing clues throughout the novel. And yet somehow, it works.  You find yourself building the world in your mind as you go as then, snap, the final piece falls into place on the very last page and it all comes together. The world was immense and clearly developed. And because it was based entirely on a color-based ranking system, the entire novel was just so visual, making it a very interesting reading experience.

Another Fforde hallmark is a somewhat stilted cadance and flow to the dialogue.  The characters speak in stilted ways and it does take a few chapters to get completely used to the flow of the novel.  That said, I loved the characters in this novel, even though few of them were actually likeable. I particuarly enjoyed Eddie’s character development as he goes from a sort of goody-two-shoes to uncovering the various flaws inherent in his world.

My only sadness is that the rest of the trilogy is not yet out.  I am comforted by the high re-read potential this novel has and I look forward to pulling it back off the shelf very soon.

Bottom Line

This novel is yet another example of Fforde doing what he does best — writes these impossibly possible novels that stick with you long after the book is over. Highly recommended.

Top Ten Tuesday (6): Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we are talking about our Top Ten Popular Authors We’ve Never Read.

Top 10 Popular Authors I’ve Never Read

Ok, this is tough because I feel like I have at least read one book from many authors that come to mind.  That being said, there is always more to read, so here are the authors that stand out.

Young Adult Authors

1. Cassandra Clare – I know, I know. Everyone has read and seems to have enjoyed her Mortal Instruments series, but I read like 50 pages and could NOT get into it. I keep meaning to give it another try, but haven’t been able to bring myself to yet!

2.  Sarah J. Maas – I KNOW! I haven’t read Throne of Glass yet and I really really mean to.  I even had it out from the library at one point, but the back made it sound like it was a love triangle-y book and I just wasn’t in the mood at the time. That said, I’ve since heard that’s not really the case and really want to try again soon.

3. Tahereh Mafi – Confession time. I even own the entire Shatter Me trilogy. Signed. So what is my problem! The prose in these books is divisive from what I have heard, but if you love it you REALLY love it.  Because of that, I want to give these books a fair shot.  And come on, I OWN THEM ALL!

4.  Ransom Riggs – I also own both of the Miss Peregrine’s books, also signed.  I am a huge fan of Ransom Riggs the person, and I hear this set of books just keeps getting better.  I am annoyed by this one and will be trying these books out ASAP.

5.  Paullina Simons – I keep hearing such excellent things about The Bronze Horseman trilogy, and that sucker has been on my TBR for-freaking-ever.

Classics and Classic Adult Fantasy Authors

6. Charlotte Bronte – I keep meaning to read Jane Eyre. Everyone seems to really love and enjoy it, but I am not the biggest fan of that era of British literature and I keep avoiding it.  I need to make this happen at some point, though.

7.  Terry Pratchett – I’m not sure how I call myself a fantasy fan without ever having even TRIED Discworld, but there it is.  Hopefully soon – this one is on my definite to read in 2014 list.

8.  David Eddings – Similar to my feelings about Discworld, I feel like I truly must give The Belgariad series a try.  I think I own them all in two different forms – both standalones and a bind-up. I hear this is a really defining series in fantasy and I just need to get going!

9.  Ilona Andrews – I am a really big fan of urban fantasy — particularly Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.  With this being the case, I KNOW I need to get some Kate Daniels in my life ASAP, but I just haven’t gotten around to it!

10. Mercedes Lackey – With this author, I admit I just don’t know where to start. There are so freaking many books in the Valdemar world and there seems to be debate as to which order to read them in.  But a well-known, female fantasy author who I haven’t read… I’m embarrassed.

So that’s my list! Which ones of these do I need to shoot to the top of my TBR? And which authors do YOU wish you had made time for already?  I can’t wait to hear!

February Wrap-Up

Hey all!  I am starting a new thing here on the blog: the monthly wrap-up!  I will probably mess with the formatting a bit as I figure out the way that works best for me, but here we go!  The format for this first one was totally inspired by the awesome Rachel over at Tiger Lily Rachel (though hers, as usual, looks way prettier) – you should definitely check her February wrap-up out as well!

Overall Stats

This month overall was really strong, reading-wise.  I was able to complete 19 books, bringing my total up to 50 books for the year.  This is insane to me; the highest reading year I have EVER had before now was 132 books (still strong), but I am on pace to pretty much crush that.

My 19 books included two novellas and two graphic novels, and all together included a grand total of 6,041 pages.  Insane!  As usual, my most-read genre was YA (9/19 books), but actually some of my very favorite reads this month were adult novels.  If you want to see everything I read, and read at least a short review, you can check out my Read This Month shelf on Goodreads by clicking here.  I tend to leave this up for “last month” for at least a week or so.

Five-Star Reads

This month, I actually had three five-star reads (and a crap-ton of four star reads).  My five-star reads were:

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Spinning Heart   vicious   never sky

I actually think that order is even the order I would internally rank those 5-star reads.  I actually gave Under the Never Sky four stars at first, until about a week later when I STILL hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it.  It was one of my favorite YA dystopians in awhile, and that is saying something.  Don’t know what took me so long, but I’m glad to be on-board that train now!

February Book Reviews, Features and Favorite Posts

I was able to write four book reviews this month (and honestly, I thought it was more!).  I will definitely focus on increasing this number for next month.  If you are interested in checking those out, here they are again!

A Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (5/5 stars)
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson (3/5 stars)
Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott (4/5 stars)
Unwind by Neil Shusterman (4/5 stars)

That last review was done as a part of Epic Recs, which is a really fun feature where book bloggers pair off together and make book recommendations to each other.  I had SO much fun doing it, and I highly suggest you check out that post to learn more!

I also participated in the Book Blogger LoveAThon this month and had the opportunity to meet so many more bloggers and add a TON of great blogs to my reading lists. I really need to update my blog roll and that is definitely on my to-do list.  To see what the LoveAThon was all about you can check out my LoveAThon 2014 category here! If you’ve never participated before, I HIGHLY recommend it next time it comes around! It was hands down the most fun I’ve had blogging!

My personal favorite post was actually made on January 30, but with the Academy Awards coming up, I want to give it a little more love and that was the Bookish Academy Awards tag that I filched from BookTube.  I had SO much fun putting this post together!  Check it out here!

I had SUCH a fun month blogging and reading.  I can’t wait to see what March brings!!

Top Ten Tuesday (5): Top Ten Rewind!!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we are all doing a Top Ten Rewind, which is basically picking a theme that you missed in the past.  I am going to go with Top Ten Books I’d Hand to Someone Who Says They Don’t Like to Read. This one was originally done February 7, 2012 and you can see the original post here.

Top 10 Books for “Non Readers”

Finding the perfect book for someone who says they don’t like to read is basically my personal mission in life. I think that there are so many reasons that people THINK they don’t like to read — forced to read material in high school that they couldn’t connect with, buying into the feeling of there being things you “should” read, not reading genre fiction widely enough, and so forth.

I am a really firm believer that there is a book out there for ANYONE but that there is no perfect first book for EVERYONE.  So much depends on the person and what he or she likes or is interested in.  So I hope that this list is a great starting off point, but I know it’s not the end of the discussion! Anyone else have some must reads? Let me know – I’d love to hear them!

If you like ANIME or DISNEY MOVIES, then try…

Lots of people who do not like reading are actually really visual people.  Reading, for some, is not quite visual enough, at least at first.  I think that part of what can help this is reading the right kind of book. I’d suggest one or two of the following:

1.  Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones.  This book actually inspired a 2004 anime of the same name by well-known Studio Ghibli and director Hiyao Miyazaki.  It is a super visual book, with beautiful writing and a fun story about a girl who (no shocker) discovers a floating castle. There are witches and wizards and magic and a tiny hint of love.  Plus, as an added bonus, you could watch the movie (before or after) you read the book!

howl

2 (and 3 and 4).  Read a graphic novel!  I think a graphic novel is a really excellent entry point into reading, especially for people who are more visual than text based.  There are so many, and I am no expert, so I’d hate to leave anything amazing out.  But I personally have enjoyed Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, an autobiographical retelling of a girl’s life growing up in Tehran; Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff, a swashbuckling adventure tale; and the series Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, a manga series about a girl and her very interesting new friends that (I think) serves as many people’s formal introduction to reading manga.

persepolis  delilah dirk fruits basket

If you like spending lots of time ONLINE, then try…

5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  If you are a fan of Internet culture, you cannot help but love Fangirl. This awesome book sits right on the cusp of YA, exploring a girl’s first year at college.  It turns out this girl has a really amazing online presence, but when it comes to so-called “real life,” she is not as invested. Fangirl is the perfect book for anyone, but particularly someone born in the Internet era.

fangirl

6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book is basically a must-read manifesto for anyone who grew up in the 1980s. There are so many amazing pop-culture references and some super-cool worldbuilding for an evolved society that spends more time online as they do in the “real world.”  This entire story is basically told through a video game and if you grew up in the 1980s, enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph or love gaming, I promise you will love this book.

ready player one

7. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. I think this is a great entry-level science fiction trilogy about a world that is literally spend entirely plugged in — all members of this society are issued a patch to go over their eye that helps them stay in these involved virtual-reality realms at all times. It’s not real, it’s Better Than Real! This isn’t so science-y that it will turn off non-science loving readers, and there is a healthy dose of romance, but there’s a super-strong heroine, a gorgeously rendered world, and some fun science stuff along the way that will keep even the most disengaged reader wondering what is going to happen next.

never sky

If you like BLOCKBUSTER MOVIES like The Hobbit or Spiderman, then try…

8. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce.  This book begins an amazing adventure series wherein a young girl trades places with her twin brothers and goes off to school to learn to become a knight. She has lots of adventures on the road to knighthood and these books just read like an adventure movie.  Even better, the books introduce you to the realm of Tortall, and if you end up loving them, there are many more series in this land waiting for you.

alanna

9. Vicious by Victoria Schwab. This book just reads like a superhero movie.  In this novel, there are people with special powers called EOs (Extra-Ordinaries).  Two of these EOs used to be college roommates and best friends.  But if you know anything about origin stories, that is a perfect recipe for future mortal enemies.  So how did it go so wrong? And who’s the good guy here?! Vicious raises as many questions as it answers about what it means to be good and evil, and whether anything like that even exists.  This is a fun, action-packed read for fans of blockbuster superhero movies.

vicious

10. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  Another super-visual book about superheroes gone totally wrong.  In this novel, superheroes, here called Epics, are real and they are using their powers for evil.  They have taken over cities, terrorize “normal” people, and are basically just a force to be seriously reckoned with.  Enter The Reckoners, a band of non-super people who are trying to take back their world and destroy the Epics.  This book is action packed and a must-read for any fan of superhero movies, especially as it turns the superhero ethos on its head – does great responsibility REALLY come with great power?  As a sidenote, I’ve tried to keep most of these recommendations relatively short, since people who don’t like to read can often be turned off by large books. But if that’s not the case, I would definitely also recommend the slightly longer (but slightly better) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson here.

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Ok! Those are my recommendations – how about you?  Any go-to books that you push on people who claim not to enjoy reading?  Have you had any successes?  I’d love to know!

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My First Epic Recs!

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I am so freaking excited!  This is my first time participating in Epic Recs, which is a really fun online book club idea hosted by Judith at Paper Riot and Amber from Books of Amber.  Basically they recommend books to each other every month that the other one has to read and review.  And they’ve opened this awesomeness up to others to participate in and they will even pair you up with someone who’s reading taste they think goes along with yours.  Can we just talk for a second about how awesome this is?  If you’re interested in more info and the rules and whatnot, check out Judith’s post here.

This month I was paired up with the AWESOME Kim from The Avid Reader.  Not only have I gained a really awesome book recommendation, but another really awesome bookish friend!  You should definitely check out her awesome blog if you haven’t already for some really amazing YA recommendations.

So what are we reading this month? 

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I checked out her shelves and IMMEDIATELY knew I had to push Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. It fit right in with her love for strong female leads, YA slow-burn romances, and desire to start a new series. I really hope she loves it – I sure did!

Kim suggested I read Unwind by Neil Shusterman.  Here’s what she had to say about it:

“For you, I was torn in at least three different directions… but then I read your review of The Darkest Minds, and your sheer enthusiasm for that book made me decide that I’m picking Unwind, by Neal Shusterman for you. You said that part of your love for The Darkest Minds stemmed from its close examination of Ruby’s character – how her past has shaped the person she has become. You’ll have a similar appreciation for Connor, Risa and Lev. This is one of my favorite books and I think if you like dystopian even a little you can’t help but love this one. It’s definitely one that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.”

I am super excited to dig into this one!  Come back at the end of the month to see how we liked them and in the meantime, check out Kim’s Epic Recs post here!