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… 😉

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY SciFi Month Edition: MyTop Ten Sci-Fi tv series – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 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. 

When TV series dealing with SF are mentioned everyone, even people who are not interested in the genre, thinks about Star Trek, which is understandable since it’s the longest-running SF television show and the most known. But there are many other past and present TV shows that are just as good and this is my opportunity to shine the spotlights on them.

Here we go – click on the titles to be directed to the respective Wikipedia pages:

BABYLON 5

This is for me THE science fiction show, the one that set my standards for the genre and the one I will always mention when asked which is my favorite. Some might consider it dated – it ran from 1994 to 1998 – and yet it has weathered time very well: the CGI shows its age, granted, but B5 is not so much about space battles or weird aliens, but rather about people and the way they react to extraordinary events. Its main attraction to me, what keeps it fresh and enjoyable, no matter how many times I rewatch it, comes from the characters’ journeys and the depth of the dialogues. Here is an example, one of my favorite moments from one of my favorite characters:

FARSCAPE

I like to say that where Babylon5 appeals to my mind, Farscape appeals to my emotions: it is the often harrowing journey of a man thrown all the way across the galaxy who finds himself in the company of weird aliens that, slowly but surely, morph from uneasy traveling companions to friends and family.  Farscape is colorful and outlandish, crazy and deep at the same time, and it holds an added bonus: through its fandom I made many friends – some online, some in real life – who have become, like the crew of the living ship Moya, family. And it’s no mean thing…

THE EXPANSE

I came to know this series through the books that inspired it, one of the best space opera sagas I ever encountered: it translated very well to the screen and despite some “growing pains” (yes, SyFy, I’m pointing my accusing finger at you!) is has found a steady following and, hopefully, a spreading audience.  There are some very talented performers giving life to the books’ characters, and here is one amazing example, portraying a character who is not in the books but was created by combining the personalities of several – with great results…

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

I’m doing a series of rewatch posts for this one, so you might want to see what it’s about in my SciFi Month Sunday posts…

FIREFLY

Here is a sad example of the short-sightedness of network executives, who pulled the plug on this show before it had the barest chance of getting its feet wet. Since then, its fandom has remained steady, and the core story has become something of a well-loved theme in the genre, that of a crew of misfits trying to survive in a hostile galaxy. Here is the video for its famous intro theme…

STARGATE UNIVERSE

Another SyFy big mistake in my opinion: this offshoot of the Stargate franchise was darker and more moody than its “big brother” but I liked the theme of this group of people finding themselves on an ancient, but very advanced, ship on a mystery journey across the galaxy,  as personal problems and hidden agendas mingled with their efforts at survival. It also had one of the best soundtracks in the genre, one that was never offered for sale – the latest big oversight in a long series of them 😦   Here is the main theme:

FRINGE

Parallel universes, alternate realities, and a slow-evolving mystery that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish: Fringe is an intriguing mix of science fiction and crime investigation, with some (well, not so few…) touches of horror that make for a very fascinating mix, and supported by intriguing characters – on both universes… Here is a series I might not mind rewatching if I had the time 🙂

SPACE: 1999

This is an older series that ran for only two seasons from 1975 to 1977 (yes, prehistory, I know…) and while often cheesy and unsophisticated, it sported some great sets that were quite advanced for the time the series was shot, particularly where the interiors of the Moon Base were concerned. Granted, it required a huge suspension of disbelief (if, as the inciting incident shows, an explosion occurred on the hidden side of the Moon, our satellite would have been thrown toward Earth, not launched into deep space) but it was fun and, at the time I first watched it, it was the only SF show available, which makes me quite nostalgic…

DEFIANCE

This was an interesting story, showing a post-apocalyptic Earth in the wake of an alien invasion: the extra-terrestrial races looking for a new home on our planet started a terraforming project that wrought havoc on the environment and led to an uneasy coexistence between humans and aliens. The setting reminds me a little of the western frontier, and led to an interesting storyline, which was brought to a hurried close in the third season by the usual incomprehensible decision of SyFy’s executives. If this sounds like a Groundhog Day situation… well, it is, and if I sound not-so-slightly peeved, yes, I am (((SIGH)))

PERSON OF INTEREST

It might not seem that this show could be classified as SF, and the idea of an all-seeing Machine watching over humanity’s deeds is practically a reality – just look at the kind of ads you receive after your internet searches… And yet this Machine, though unseen and unheard, takes on a definite personality which becomes even more pronounced when its evil twin, called Samaritan, tries to take over the world.  Here is the chilling intro sequence where the voice-over warns us about being constantly watched…

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me

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.

It’s no secret that since I started book blogging most (if not all) of the recommendations I get come from my fellow bloggers, particularly those whose preferences are close to mine – although I have to admit that sometimes those very recommendations asked me to take a leap of faith and move away from my comfort zone, and when I did I was always rewarded with some amazing novel I would not have otherwise known.

So, besides listing a few of the books I read – and loved – thanks to other bloggers’ suggestions, I want to celebrate my fellow book lovers and their unending source of great advice 🙂

RED RISING, by Pierce Brown
DREAMER’S POOL, by Juliet Marillier
ILLUMINAE, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
CERTAIN DARK THINGS, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
KILL CREEK, by Scott Thomas
THE HUNGER, by Alma Katsu
FIREFLY: BIG DAMN HERO, by James Lovegrove
THE WICKED KING, by Holly Black
RECURSION, by Blake Crouch
BROTHERHOOD OF THE WHEEL, by R.S. Belcher

And this is just a small sample of the books I encountered thanks to some very inspired reviews I read: what about you?

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Most Inspiring Fantasy Covers

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 was a Cover Freebie, so I choose to list the most inspiring Fantasy covers.

We keep telling ourselves that we should never judge a book from its cover, but we also acknowledge that more often than not it’s the cover that draws us to a given book, in the hope of discovering that beauty is not just skin-deep, or rather, cover-deep…

Here are some of the books whose covers, together with their promise for a wonderful story, enhanced my reading experience:

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N. K. Jemisin

Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch

Half a War – Joe Abercrombie

The Last Stormlord – Glenda Larke

Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier

Promise of Blood – Brian McClellan

A Time of Dread – John Gwynne

Godsgrave – Jay Kristoff

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

The Spider’s War – Daniel Abraham

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books that should be adapted into Netflix shows/movies

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.  

In one of my more recent posts I complained about Hollywood’s apparent inability to come up with enough original stories and the studios’ tendency of focusing on sequels, prequels and reboots when there is a TON of amazing books from which to draw inspiration. Maybe those studios executives don’t read enough…?

Anyway, the appearance – and success – of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and their brethren gives us much hope about the possibility of seeing our favorite stories translated for the small screen (which, given the average size of new television sets, is not so small anymore…).

In the aforementioned post, I expressed my hope that Megan O’Keefe’s Protectorate novels would be picked up for a TV series, but there is a long list of other books I would love to see developed with the same level of care and skill as is happening, for example, with James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, stories that are not solely confined to the Science Fiction realm, but also come from Fantasy or Horror. And there is a great deal more than just ten, listed in no particular order, so apologies for ignoring the rules this time! 🙂

 

EMBERS OF WAR by Gareth Powell
DONOVAN by W. Michael Gear
THE MURDERBOT DIARIES by Martha Wells
OF BLOOD AND BONE by John Gwynne
THE FIRST LAW by Joe Abercrombie
THE POWDER MAGE by Brian McClellan
THE NEWSFLESH by Mira Grant
THE ILLUMINAE FILES by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff
OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi
BLACKTHORN AND GRIM by Juliet Marillier
THE WOUNDED KINGDOM by R.J. Barker
RED RISING by Pierce Brown
REVELATION SPACE by Alastair Reynolds
GENERATION V by M.L. Brennan
THE PLAYER OF GAMES or USE OF WEAPONS by Iain Banks

 

 

I hope that some streaming platform executives are listening right now…

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY:  Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

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.  

 

 

Since I started blogging in 2014 there is a huge amount of books I read, enjoyed but never had the chance to review, and I’m very happy of this Top Ten Tuesday prompt that will give me the opportunity of talking a little about them.

 

Of course the pride of place goes to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, which I often mentioned but never examined in depth – and here is a thought for the future, when I might decide to finally write down my considerations, after a thorough reread of course. So, ladies and gentlemen, here are THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT, by JRR Tolkien

 

Another constant feature of my exchanges with fellow bloggers is of course DUNE, by Frank Herbert, that for me is the SF equivalent of Tolkien’s works as far as the impact on my imagination goes.

 

Moving to a different genre, there is THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, by Frederick Forsyth, one of my “blasts from the past, the high adrenaline story (probably fictional, but who knows?) of a skilled marksman and killer-for-hire whose target is nothing else but Charles de Gaulle. The man is a shadow, and as elusive as smoke, and the story of the hunt for this man is one of the best thrillers I ever read.

 

EYE OF THE NEEDLE, by Ken Follett is another novel that took my breath away: it follows a German spy working undercover in England during WWII and collecting information on the Allies’ defenses and troops deployment. He is called The Needle because of his penchant for a stiletto as a weapon of choice.  This novel is a successful blend of thriller and historical fiction, and a compulsive read as well.

 

THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins: I read this one on the recommendation of a friend and I enjoyed the dystopian setting as well as the main character, who shortly became a sort of template for many YA heroines – not always as successful in characterization as Katniss was.

 

HEROES DIE, by Matthew Woodring Stover is a very peculiar novel, because it starts as epic fantasy, following the adventures of Caine, the Blade of Tyshalle, a fearless hero, only to reveal at some point that the fantasy setting is an alternate world in which actors like Caine are sent to playact their exploits as a form of entertainment for the viewers of our modern world. It’s a weirdly hybrid premise, but it works very well…

 

WARCHILD, by Karin Lowachee is one of the most poignant stories I ever read: young Jos is enslaved by pirates who capture the ship he was traveling on, killing all the adults. To survive in such an abusive world he will have to go to horrible extremes and suffer the anguish of torn loyalties. A highly emotional story and one that literally tore at my soul.

 

Vampires are among my favorite supernatural creatures, and the main reason I’m so fascinated by them is that SALEM’S LOT, by Stephen King, is the first book I read focusing on them, and one I still consider a fundamental story in the genre. And that scene of the young, freshly turned boy, calling to his friend from beyond the window, is one that I will never forget.

 

CHASM CITY, by Alastair Reynolds, was my introduction to the author’s Revelation Space saga: it introduced me to his rich universe and to the horrifying concept fo the Melding Plague, a virus attacking nanotechnology and from there infecting the organic material in human bodies with implants. A city so ravaged by the Plague is the background for a nightmarish search for vengeance…

 

Are there some… unsung favorites in your bookcases?

Reviews

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Most Surprising Books

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 was a freebie…

 

Strange as it might sound, having to choose a topic instead of following the one listed for this week proved to be more difficult than I had imagined, until I decided to showcase books that were surprising reads, for many different reasons.

 

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, by M.R. Carey

I added this novel, my first but not the last by this author, to my TBR expecting a horror story focused on a zombie-like worldwide epidemic, but what I found was a deeply emotional coming-of-age tale centered on a compelling character balanced between childish innocence and world-wise maturity.

 

SOULLESS, by Gail Carriger

Where I enjoy Urban Fantasy and – in lesser measure – steampunk, I’m aware that these genres leave little space for humor, especially of the tongue-in-cheek kind, so I was delighted to find this element present in spades in Gail Carriger’s saga about Alexia Tarabotti, weird heroine that sat firmly in my preferences from the moment in which, attacked by a ravenous vampire, she protested about not having been “properly introduced” first…

 

SEA OF RUST, by C. Robert Cargill

A novel about robots inheriting the Earth after humanity’s downfall might sound like a very dry story, but that’s not the case of this book, chronicling the journeys of Brittle, an artificial being traveling the desolate lands left after the disappearance of mankind and trying to survive against its own predatory kind. A deeply emotional story, no matter how strange this might sound with this kind of protagonists.

 

OUTPOST,  by W. Michael Gear

Stories centered on the colonization of alien worlds are among my favorite kind of read, but the ones with a fresh approach to the theme are rare: such is the case of the Donovan series, where the intriguing – and very, very deadly – alien world offers a fascinating background to strong, engaging characters and their struggles for survival and expansion. An ongoing series that four books into its run is still able to offer many surprises.

 

EMBERS OF WAR, by Gareth Powell

Again, a strong beginning to a brilliant space opera series – but the best and more remarkable element here comes from Trouble Dog, a sentient spaceship that is not just the product of an advanced A.I., but integrates actual human neurons and a very definite personality, capable of a wide range of emotions. The interactions of Trouble Dog’s avatar with its human crew are without doubt one of the best features of this story.

 

KILL CREEK, by Scott Thomas

A haunted house; a disparate group of people settling there for a fateful night; things that go bump into the night. If this sounds like deja vu, think again, because nothing in this novel is what you might expect from the premise. Not even the house…

 

CHILDREN OF TIME, by Adrian Tchaikowsky

I hate and fear spiders – and all manners of creepy-crawlies you could name – so one would think that I would reel in horror from a story in which evolved spiders come to create a civilization that ultimately moves into space. And yet, Mr. Tchaikowsky managed to make me root for these spiders, to take active interest in their evolution and to enjoy this novel very much.

 

TRAIL OF LIGHTINING, byRebecca Roanhorse

A new concept for Urban Fantasy lies at the core of this book, because if focuses on the culture and traditions of Native Americans, and in particular of the Diné – or Navajo. It was therefore a double journey, both narrative and cultural, and it compelled me to learn more about a civilization I knew next to nothing about.

 

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WHEEL, by R.S. Belcher

There are two elements that proved surprising here: the concept that the Knight Templars of old would morph into an organization, drawn from people traveling the roads like truckers or patrolmen, dedicated to the protection of travelers; and the fact that the main character is so outwardly different from the concept of hero as humanly possible, and yet he gained my affection in no time at all.

 

HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE, by K. Eason

A fairy tale retelling of Sleeping Beauty, complete with gifts – and curses – from the fairies, set on a science fiction background? It sounds quite weird and not something that would meet my tastes, but this story is quite deceptive in its premise and it turned out to be a delightful read, complete with a very unexpected, very relatable heroine.

 

 

And what are the books that surprised you? 🙂