Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic is:

BOOKS ON MY FALL 2021 TO-READ LIST

We are all painfully aware of how even the best reading plans can be subverted by the appearance of a new, intriguing book or the desire to move forward with a favorite series, or… well, you know the drill 😀

So, even though there is a number of books I’ve ben wanting to read for some time, I know that any kind of promise I make to myself does not stand on very solid ground – but I can at least try.  Today’s list is equally split between Fantasy and Science Fiction, and starting with Fantasy, here are the books I plan (or rather hope…) to read this fall:

Only time will tell, of course….

Science fiction books have a slightly better chance of making it into my TBR, since SciFi November is approaching rapidly and I need to stock up on SF reads to be able to contribute adequately to one of my two favorite blogging events of the year.  Here are my choices:

A couple of these are already loaded on my e-reader, so I am almost certain they will make the list. Other than that, I can only cross my fingers and hope that no other shiny titles will come to distract me from this… ahem… righteous path 😀

What about you? What are your reading plans for this fall?

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Smile!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic is:

Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

Let’s face it: a good portion of our reading material deals with pretty dark themes like post-apocalyptic fiction, grimdark fantasy, battles between darkness and light and so on. And let’s not go over real-life issues, like the ones we have been dealing with in the past year and a half…

So, it’s always nice and comforting to have some books that help us restore some much-needed balance and are able to elicit a smile. While I was compiling this list, I discovered that most of the titles that are bound to make me smile come from series, and of course the first one that comes to mind is

Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA, a space opera featuring the journey of a young man afflicted by serious disabilities in a society that values physical prowess above all. Miles Vorkosigan learned that intelligence and wits can work just as well – if not better – than muscles, and as I followed his story I came to appreciate and enjoy the touches of humor that the author seamlessly blended into the story. One of my all-time favorite, indeed.

And what about Gail Carriger’s PARASOL PROTECTORATE? This is a very amusing series set in an alternate 19th century England, where supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves live shoulder to shoulder with “normal” humans: Alexia Tarabotti is a very independent spinster whose ability, if you want to call it that, is to obliterate supernatural faculties by mere contact. From here, mayhem and amusement ensue in equal parts…

Patrick Weekes’ ROGUES OF THE REPUBLIC is another peculiar fantasy saga focusing mainly on heists and on a ragtag group of weird individuals like a bumbling magician, a unicorn and a talking hammer, just to name a few. I still need to read the last book in the series, and I’ve often wondered if my procrastinating is caused by the desire of not letting go of these unfailingly amusing characters.

GENERATION V by M.L. Brennan represents a very different take on the theme of the vampire, because it showcases Fortitude Scott, the youngest scion of a powerful vampire family who refuses to bend to his blood-sucking heritage and tries to lead as normal a life as possible. Which proves quite difficult, what with family pressures and his sidekick, kitsune Suzume Hollis, a very, very, very mischievous shape shifter.

When Kings of the Wyld, the first book in Nicholas Eames series THE BAND, was published it marked a definite change of pace and tone in the fantasy genre, and one I still remember very fondly: think of a group of former adventures, now well past their prime, connecting again for a last mission and traveling through a land where the weirdest creatures lurk around every corner. I loved them all and they will always have a special place in my bookish heart.

When in need of a comfort read, Stephanie Burgis’ HARWOOD SPELLBOOK series comes immediately to mind: an alternate, gender-swapped Regency England where women hold political power and the men wield the magic infusing most aspects of life. And yet there are exceptions, like Cassandra Harwood, whose magic abilities can even surpass those of a man. What a scandal!!! 😀

I hardly have to say anything about Martha Wells’ MURDERBOT DIARIES because I know that the majority of you has read and appreciated this series of novellas about the cyborg SecUnit who gained independence from its conditioning thanks to its love of serialized media. MurderBot’s antics are a constant source of joyful amusement and I hope that we will be able to read about its adventures for a long, long time to come.

DR. GRETA HELSING, by Vivian Shaw: this was one of the discoveries I own to my fellow book bloggers, the adventures of a very peculiar physician whose specialty is the treatment of supernatural creatures – from vampires to mummies, from ghouls to ghosts, Dr. Van Helsing’s waiting room is a constant source of wonder and a parade of the weirdest beings one can imagine, and Vivian Shaw is able to give them all the perfect touch of humanity to turn them into household fixtures. Well, sort of…

FIREFLY: BIG DAMN HERO, by James Lovegrove

FIREFLY is one of my favorite TV series, one that was canceled before it had the time to explore its full potential. Thankfully, in recent times a series of tie-in books, mostly written by James Lovegrove, has revived the story and brought back the characters that fans had come to love and appreciate during the too-short run of the show. I only read two books so far, but they managed to bring back the spirit of the TV series and the “voices” of the characters, and I’m glad they help us keep Serenity flying in our minds.

And last but not least, the only stand-alone book in this list: John Scalzi’s REDSHIRTS, a loving parody of Star Trek and its trope about security people – the ones wearing the red shirt in the original series – trying to avoid away missions because they know these usually mean an untimely demise for them. That is, until they discover what is an unusual and unexpected twist in the narrative… One of Scalzi’s best stories, and one I always remember fondly.

And which books make you smile? 🙂

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Reasons Why I Love Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  

When I think about it, it feels as if I’ve been a reader all my life: not true, of course, because for the first handful of years in my existence I did not know how to read – although I’ve been told that I learned pretty early and was already proficient enough by the time I started school.  Since then, books have always been a constant presence in my life, and I still remember my grandfather admonition about harming my eyesight through too much reading…  

A few of my acquaintances often comment about my fascination with books, and reading, as if it were something unusual (or maybe weird, but they are far too polite to use that word 😀 ), so – even though I know I’m preaching to choir here – let me list some of the reasons I enjoy losing myself in a good book, or two, or three, or…. Ok, who’s counting?

BOOKS OPEN A WINDOW ON THE “ELSEWHERE”

Be they based on the real world or in some imagined ones, books allow your mind to wander in far away places and to experience different situations, to wonder what you would do in the same circumstances as you follow the characters along their journeys.  To quote GRR Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives. The man who never reads lives only one.”

BOOKS HELP YOU FORGET THE TROUBLES OF THE WORLD

This has never been more true than in the past year and a half: the solace offered by books, as the world suffered through the pandemic and people went a little (or more than a little…) crazy, is quite priceless, and I have often wondered how non-readers managed to cope with such a grim reality without the refuge offered by an engrossing work of fiction.

BOOKS CHALLENGE THE MIND

This is particularly true when it comes to speculative fiction, but it can also be applied to mainstream literature: the age-old, but still valid, question “What if…?” spurred many authors to imagine situations where a little change in everyday routines could have an avalanche effect on characters, on the perception of our world or in the creation of new and amazing ones. And we readers enjoy the results… 

BOOKS PROTECT YOU FROM BOREDOM

Have you ever faced a long journey, a slow-moving queue at the post office or an interminable stay in the doctor’s waiting room? We all did, and all of us who were armed with a book were able to let time fly without almost noticing it, because we were traveling in some other place, some other time. Where others felt that those long minutes, or hours, were wasted, we filled them with joy and wonder.

BOOKS ARE THE BEST COMPANIONS FOR A RAINY AFTERNOON

No need to explain this one: a rainy afternoon can turn into an amazing adventure, or a thrilling quest, once we have a comfortable armchair to sit in and a hefty book to wade into. My own idea of paradise 😉

BOOKS GIVE POWER TO YOUR DREAMS

Yes, I know, many accuse readers of speculative fiction of being guilty of escapism, of not keeping our feet firmly rooted in reality, but they keep forgetting that many of the discoveries that have bettered human conditions came exactly from dreams: mankind dreamed of the ability to fly, to reach other planets, to cure terrible illnesses, to learn the secrets of our ancestors.  Escapism, right? TSK!

BOOKS ARE LIKE SURPRISE PRESENTS

Granted, when we choose a book it’s because the synopsis intrigued us, or we know the author’s favorite themes, but still there is that element of surprise, of not knowing exactly what the story holds in store for us: there is that little clause in the unwritten contract between author and reader that says “amaze me”. When it’s fulfilled, it makes the book, and the story it tells, very special indeed.

BOOKS ARE THE BEST HOBBY IN THE WORLD

Yes, because you can take them anywhere! Try and do the same with watercolor painting, piano playing, carpentry, and so on… A book fits everywhere and when it comes to ebooks you can have an entire library (well, almost…) at your beck and call in a small space and with little weight.

BOOKS GUIDE YOU TO SLEEP, OR SHARE YOUR WAKEFULNESS

I know I’m unable – no matter how tired I am – to go to sleep if I can’t read at least a few pages of my current book: it’s something of a Pavlovian conditioning, but without a chapter or two under my proverbial belt, I can’t go to sleep. On the other hand, if I fall prey to a bout of insomnia, books are there to share the long hours of wakefulness until sleep finally decides to make an appearance.

BOOKS ARE THE BEST INVENTION, EVER

Maybe I should have placed this at the very start of the list. I cannot imagine a world without books, can you?

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Wyrd & Wonder Edition – #Wyrdandwonder

image by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  This week’s topic concerned the ten most recent reads – possibly with a one-line comment about the story – and I decided to adapt it for Wyrd & Wonder, showcasing the ten fantasy books I most enjoyed in the past few months.

THE SHADOW OF THE GODS, by John Gwynne

A breath-taking story of loyalty and courage in a fascinating Norse setting.

THE FALL OF KOLI, by M.R. Carey

The poignant end to a coming of age story and journey of discovery in a post-apocalyptic world.

BEST SERVED COLD, by Joe Abercrombie

Revenge does not warm your heart and it steals your soul, but makes for a gripping story…

THE MASK OF MIRRORS, by M.A. Carrick

Adventure and treachery, conspiracies and politics – and a city steeped in magic.

CALL OF THE BONE SHIPS, by R.J. Barker

Sailing ships made of dragon bones, avian windcallers and crews you come to love and care for.

HOW TO RULE AND EMPIRE AND GET AWAY WITH IT, by K.J. Parker

From mediocre playwright to city ruler: sometimes destiny has a strange sense of humor…

THE OBSIDIAN TOWER, by Melissa Caruso

Her touch is death, but her heart is in the right place, and friends can make a huge difference.

FOUNDRYSIDE, by Robert Jackson Bennett

A ninja-like thief and a talking key for a once-in-a-lifetime heist.

MOONTANGLED, by Stephanie Burgis

Another adventure in the alternate England where women rule and man practice magic – but not always.

BLOOD OF EMPIRE, by Brian McClellan

The last (?) book about the Powder Mages: a bittersweet goodbye to a great saga.

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Colors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here. 

This week’s topic required some changes from my usual way of finding books to list, because I normally pick examples from the titles I blogged about since the start of my “adventure”. This time, however, there were not enough examples to fill the ten places required by the meme, so I decided to list books that I have not read or reviewed but that are either known to me because they are famous (and I might read them yet one of these days…) or because I know their author by fame of by having already read some of their works, only none with colors in the title. 😉

And I tried to offset my lack of actual knowledge of the the books themselves by doing something special…

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Spring Cleaning

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here.  

My TBR does indeed need an energetic spring cleaning, because I tend to amass books as if there was no tomorrow – and the fact that they take up no space at all on the shelves, since they are ebooks, turns me into an irresponsible hoarder…

So I’ve looked at the books that have been on my TBR for a very long time and that I need to read before I forget why I added them to my TBR. In truth I DO know why I acquired them: some fellow blogger’s  review piqued my interest and showed me that I might very well enjoy that particular story, so why did I not jump straight in? Because I’m too easily distracted, that’s why! 

Let’s hope that I can soon make my amends to these poor “orphans” I neglected for so long – here are some of them, with the indication (barring any mistake on my part) of the date in which they were added to my TBR:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo  (October 2015)

An intriguing magic system and a dangerous heist: now that Leigh Bardugo’s previous saga has been optioned for a Netflix series that will air soon, reading this book has become one of my priorities. Just the word ‘heist’ should be enough to make me dust off this one ASAP!

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding (December 2018)

This looked like a classic fantasy quest and a very engrossing book, and probably one of the reasons I have not started it yet it’s because it’s a big tome – not that I have anything against big books, on the contrary, but I’m still on the fence about this one. For no reason at all…

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (April 2016)

I’ve been wanting to read something by Bernard Cornwell since forever, and his historical fiction series have always looked very intriguing, but so far I have not managed to pick up this one, although the story itself is very fascinating. Probably knowing that I might find myself enmeshed in another engrossing and time-intensive series is the main reason for my continued hesitation.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (January 2017)

Many of my fellow bloggers sang high praises for Brent Weeks, which of course made me curious: what prevented me from satisfying that curiosity so far? I have no idea….

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (March 2016)

This book’s main attraction for me resided in the fact that commenters described it as “genre-defying”, given its mix of SF, Fantasy and Dystopian, and I always enjoy stories with blurred borders between genres. Moreover, it might be a good addition for the next SciFi Month this November!

Farlander by Col Buchanan (November 2011)

Another mixed SF/Fantasy offering sporting one of my favorite themes: a guild of assassins and a young apprentice learning the “trade” during perilous times. Given that this is one of the oldest additions to my TBR I will have to hurry up and… dust it off, so to speak, as soon as possible.

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (May 2017)

Two or three years ago I read – and enjoyed – the first book in the Invisible Library series, but never moved further than that: my fellow bloggers agree on the series’ narrative value, so I must make an extra effort to keep up with the author’s production.

The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes (November 2015)

The final book in the Rogues of the Republic series I enjoyed very much: a mix of Fantasy and tongue-in-cheek humor that always amused me. Honestly I have no idea why I did not finish the series, but I will have to keep this one in mind when I am in need of something delightfully funny to amuse me.

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell (August 2018)

This author is one the most appreciated among my fellow bloggers, and I’ve been looking at this first book in the Greatcoats’ series for some time: the Four Musketeers’ vibe that I get from it should have proved irresistible, but so far I seem to have been able to ignore its siren song…

Firefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (June 2016)

The reviews I’ve read about this novel – and the others in the series – unanimously speak of a story that requires a tight focus from the reader, so I have kept procrastinating while waiting for the… perfect moment in which to let myself be carried away with it. I should keep this one in mind for the already mentioned SciFi Month this fall, as well.

It will be interesting to see, by the end of the year, how many of these books I have actually managed to read… 🙂

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Bookish Valentine’s Day

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here. 

Even though romance is quite low on the list of themes I enjoy in my books, I wanted to find a way to follow the parameters of this week’s Love Freebie in honor of Valentine’s Day, and after some thought I decided that listing the book series that are closer to my reader’s heart would be a more than acceptable compromise.

So I picked up 5 each among my favorite Fantasy and Science Fiction series, to balance out the mix. For Fantasy the winners are:

Powder Mage – Brian McClellan

The Wounded Kingdom – RJ Barker

Blackthorn and Grim – Juliet Marillier

The First Law – Joe Abercrombie

Of Blood and Bone – John Gwynne

On the whole these are all quite… energetic series, with a good share of battles, duels and recklessly spilled blood, which might not look very fitting for a Valentine’s Day celebration, but they all managed to transport me in another time and place and made me care for their characters, which is reason enough to sustain my deep affection for these stories.

Moving over to Science Fiction, my choice fell on these:

The Expanse – James S.A. Corey

Donovan – W. Michael Gear

The Murderbot Diaries – Martha Wells

Embers of War – Gareth Powell

Vorkosigan Saga – Lois McMaster Bujold

There is a little more lightness here, mostly thanks to the tongue-in-cheek humor coming from Murderbot and to Miles Vorkosigan’s happy recklessness, but these series still delight me for their wonderful combination of drama and humor and I know they will always be at the top of my lists.

And now it’s your turn: where did you lose your bookish hearts? 😉

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here. 

Looking back on my 2020 reads, I saw that I added a good number of authors I never read before, and that some of them introduced me to series I either did not know about, or had not started yet.

So, without further ado, here are (in no particular order) the ten new authors who brightened my TBR in the past year:

Becky Chambers, Michael Connelly and Vivian Shaw get the lion’s share in this department, since the covers I listed are simply place-holders for the rest of their respective series, two of which still have several books to explore… But that’s for the (hopefully near) future! 😉

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here. 

One of the most common (and enjoyable) activities for a book blogger is the compilation of a list of “wanted” books: just by reading the recommendations of our fellow bloggers we are able to add a considerable number of books to that list, further enlarged by the discoveries we make on our own.

But no matter how good we are in making inroads in our TBRs (and I’m afraid I’m not…), there is always a great number of titles that we are unable to get to, and more often than not contemplating the milestones of that “road not taken” makes us regret those missed opportunities.

In 2020 I posted a list of titles I wanted to read without fail, only to realize once again, not that he new year has started, that the road to Hell is, as I’m fond of saying, paved with unread books. Here are my missed chances:

Happily enough, since the start of 2021, I managed to read two of them: Best Served Cold and The Spider’s War: should I consider this a hopeful start for my list of missed 2020 books? Keeping my fingers crossed…

Reviews

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme where every Tuesday we look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point, ten) bookish examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  Top Ten Tuesday (created and hosted by  The Broke and Bookish) is now being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and future week’s topics can be found here. 

The end of the year is always the time to review our reading achievements, and before I go into some year-end statistics I’d like to showcase the 10 books that I most enjoyed, although this list proved something of a difficult choice, since the books that earned a well-deserved 5-star rating were much more than that.  So I decided to line up the ones from my two ever-favorite genres that truly shined, and here we go:

FANTASY:

This year, Joe Abercrombie earned the lion’s share of the 5-star ratings for Fantasy, which does not mean that the two other competitors – John Gwynne and RJ Barker – did not amaze me with their books: it’s just that I went on something of an “Abercrombie Rampage”, that’s all 😉

SCIENCE FICTION:

Here I can show more variety, author-wise, and this year saw the return of a couple of series I enjoyed and the appearance of an unexpected “outsider” in the form of a TV tie-in book that, surprising for its kind, turned out to be an amazing, quite enthralling read.

And now it’s your turn: which were your favorite books this year? Inquiring minds want to know… 😉