Category Archives: Reading Adventures

2016 in Review: #2 & #1

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week five of this series, we move up to the final two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#2 Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Winterwode

When I learned that J. Tullos Hennig was planning an additional three books in The Wode series, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. This series combines so many elements I love: fantasy, history, well-written retelling, m/m relationships, overcoming challenges, a few drops of angst, etc. This is the third book in the series and the first of the aforementioned three additional books.

In this installment, things continue to escalate with increasing stakes for Robyn and company. The powers-that-be aren’t willing to go down without a fight. And Gamelyn still finds himself torn between the life he thinks he wants and the loyalty he feels toward the knights. But they can all unite against the corruption that is sitting on the throne, as it threatens not only their way of life but their actual lives and the lives of those around them…

Read my review from August 9 for more on this title.

#1 City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

My top two reads for the year have a few things in common: fantasy, series, conflict, strong characters–just to name a few. This is a series that caught me off guard. When I read City of Stairs (which pulled a five-star rating from me in 2014), I had expected some run-of-the-mill fantasy story that’s just like all the other ones that the presses seem to be pumping out at an ever-increasing rate. But the story pulled me in faster than I could have expected and the characters kept me right on through to the end.

Honestly, I feel like City of Blades is even better than its predecessor. The characters here are developed, complex, and well-written. The story is provides the reader with excellent backstory/world building, complex conflict, and a compelling narrative. And Turyin–well, we need more characters like her.

Read my review from January 26 for more on this title.

2016 in Review: #4 & #3

ID-10088833

Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week four of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#4 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

I was a bit of a latecomer to the amazingness that is this suspenseful mystery novel. But I could immediately see why it found such widespread success with reading audiences of all types. It’s one of those books that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat, digging deep to find every possible clue that you know just has to be there, and yearning for that final answer to the question. I’ve yet to see the film adaptation (going to be a latecomer there too), but I’m looking forward to it!

Read my review from October 13 for more on this title.

#3 Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Guyliner

I could probably gush for pages on how much I truly enjoyed this book. There’s definitely something about j. leigh bailey’s writing style that resonates with me (just look up the author tag her on the blog!). The characters are multidimensional, the stories and situations have a realism to them, and I find myself lost in the pages of the book every time. I think this was the first young adult story I picked up from this author, but it is safe to say that I will continue to pick them up as long as they keep being written…

Read my review from January 4 for more on this title.

2016 in Review: #6 & #5

ID-10088833

Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week three of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#6 Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Nonsense

Yes, I have some nonfiction on this best-reads-of-the-year list. And this one is what I would call a must read. Not only does it provide great insight into how we approach ambiguous or unclear situations, but it also provides some great strategies for how we can use those situations to our advantage. I also found myself looking at some situations that otherwise perplex me (like the 2016 election for the President of the United States) in new light. And it’s a fairly easy and accessible read. Consider picking it up!

Read my review from January 1 for more on this title.

#5 A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

There are so many examples of a sequel to an amazing fantasy title just sort of falling flat: this is definitely not one of them. V.E. Schwab takes readers right back into the work she created in A Darker Shade of Magic, and I found I didn’t want to leave. I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series due out this year.

Read my review from December 29 for more on this title.

2016 in Review: #8 & #7

ID-10088833

Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016. In week two of this series, we move up to the next two books on my top ten.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#8 Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

A promising start to a dystopian YA series with more of a fantasy bent, I found myself enjoying this title despite the whole “compromised-by-romance-with-a-boy” trope. The worldbuilding was fascinating to me and the story itself is engaging and interesting. There are some fun twists to be seen as the story unfolds. (I just wish the sequel had turned out to be better than it was…)

Read my review from February 21 for more on this title.

#7 Reclaiming Hope by Shell Taylor

Reclaiming Hope

I don’t know what else to say about this book that I didn’t say in my review, but it’s one that still sticks with me a while after reading it. It tells a story that you definitely don’t see much in popular entertainment or mainstream books, but it’s a story that needs to be told. I’m hoping for the potential to see more of these characters or similar stories from this author.

Read my review from January 8 for more on this title.

2016 in Review: #10 & #9

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Another year come and gone–and some fantastic reading adventures along with it! As I typically do in January, I want to take some time to review some of my favorite reads of 2016.

Note: These are the best books I read in 2016, not necessarily published in 2016.

#10 Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

Kings Rising

This long-anticipated conclusion to the Captive Prince series did not disappoint! I was pulled right back into the world of the story–right from the cliffhanger ending of the previous book that left many readers chomping at the bit to get their hands on this. I’m also pleased to see the author’s rise to success in taking this from a free story posted in installments on LiveJournal back in the day to an international publishing contract. It just goes to show that you just need the right person to notice your talent to get your break.

Read my review from August 11 for more on this title.

#9 Phase Shift by Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen

Phase Shift

And here’s another final chapter in a great series. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up Chaos Station back in early 2015, but I quickly became attached to these characters and their world. Over the course of the five books, the authors delivered some amazing consistency and quality writing that really bring this world to life. I don’t always go for space travel stories, but there was no question for me from the first book that I’d be following this one to the end.

Read my review from May 2 for more on this title.

FanExpo

This week I’ve ventured north to FanExpo Canada in Toronto. Talk about a humongous convention! (Total attendance expected to reach 140,000. After wandering around here for a few days, I think they probably hit that mark.) It’s been an interesting experience, both as my first visit to Toronto and to be at a convention of this size.

One thing that has hit me, perhaps partly due to just coming off of WorldCon a couple weeks ago, is that I think I’ve become less enamored of the commercial cons. Yes, they’re the ones that bring in the big media celebrities from movies and TV. But they’re also expensive, overcrowded, and clearly focused on making money off of fans. The contrast to a fan-run, nonprofit convention like WorldCon is a stark one.

I already planned to focus more on the fan-run conventions in the next year due to my schedule. But I have a feeling I can expect a better overall experience for me in the end anyway…

WorldCon

I’ve just returned from MidAmeriCon II, the 74th incarnation of the World Science Fiction Convention. It was such a blast and provided the opportunity to connect with authors, artists, and other fans. My first WorldCon attendance certainly hooked me, and I’m excited for the opportunity to attend WorldCon 75 next year.

I collected a number of new books at the con, which I expect you’ll see reviewed here in the coming months. But this also means I’m a little bit behind on a few things. There are some review requests I’ve received that should hopefully get responses today. And book reviews should resume tomorrow.

Pokémon Go

I’m just going to be honest: Pokémon Go is totally cutting into my reading and reviewing time. Anyone else caught up in this utterly simple but incredibly addicting game? I’m hoping now that I’ve achieved quite a bit in the game, I can get back into my reading routine because…wow…I am behind!!!!!

Hugo Awards, Pt. 2 – Thursday Thoughts #4

Thursday ThoughtsOn Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

What’s in a Ballot

During the nomination period, I wrote about the Hugo Awards here in this space. I explained what they are, why I’m interested in them, and some of the drama surrounding the awards that hit a head last year. While many of us wanted to believe we could be spared some of the same issues this year, I know I knew it was unlikely to happen.

The finalists were announced in April. While the ballot doesn’t look as bad as last year (there aren’t nearly as many categories that were swept by the slate), there are some really troubling nominations. In the Best Related Work category, for example, not only are there several works not deserving of award consideration, but some of them are outright attacks on people.

In some categories, the slate included some deserving works. I’ll be honest that I didn’t look at the slate until after the finalists were announced. And there were maybe three nominations I made that were also on the ballot. So it’s not all bad, right?

Don’t Be Fooled

Let’s face it: the real reasons that the Rapid Puppies slate exists are that Vox Day feels he is deserving of an Hugo Award and it bothers him that so many people he despises (John Scalzi, women in general, etc.) get the recognition he wants. Yes, he will say his crusade is to stop people from being nominated because of who they are and instead focus on the merit of their work. And yet, his name shows up several times on the ballot he created. And most of the works are published by Castalia House, where he is both a writer and an editor. So even if we accept that his crusade is about “merit,” it’s very clear that to him “merit” means “me and my people.”

No Award?

I expect that we will see No Award at least a couple of times this year. I don’t think we’ll reach (or beat) the record of 5 non-awards in a single ceremony. But what is truly frustrating is that this crusade doesn’t do anything to help the awards. The people who support the slate say they’re trying to fix a broken system. But what it does is not only rob some deserving individuals of recognition on the ballot, it also robs fandom and the World Science Fiction Society from celebrating great works together. None of us want to see a category with No Award. That’s no fun. But the members have shown that they will use it when they feel nothing on the ballot is worthy of consideration. Or when they are forced to consider works that are, quite frankly, abhorrent.

Hope for the Future

I mentioned in my last post on this topic that some rule changes were put forward at last year’s WorldCon. Those changes were debated, refined, and approved. But any changes to the constitution must be ratified by a second convention business meeting. Those items will be on this year’s agenda, and I am excited to say I will be there in the room advocating for much-needed reform.

What I like best about the reforms suggested, though, is that they aren’t necessarily focused on just minimizing the impact of a slate. What they actually do is give each individual member as much of a voice in the final ballot as possible, not just favoring the most popular works. The fact that it also makes it far less likely for a slate to sweep a ballot (unless other members also feel those works are deserving), is just an added benefit.

What’s Next?

Well, voting is open and I’ve been catching up on some of the things on the ballot that I haven’t seen/heard/read. Voting closes at the end of July and we’ll find out the results in August. (And again, I’m very excited to be attending my first ceremony in person at MidAmericon II in Kansas City.)

You’ll probably see some reviews in the coming weeks for some of the books that are finalists that I’m still catching up on. A few have already been here on the blog. And maybe we’ll have a Thursday Thoughts roundup with my final ballot once I have it all sorted and submitted. 🙂

Adapting The Handmaid’s Tale – Thursday Thoughts #3

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

There’s always a sense of excitement I feel when I hear that a book I’ve enjoyed is being adapted for the screen. Not only does it mean there will be more attention for the book and the author, but I know I get to experience the world of the story brought to life. So I can’t let news like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood getting a small-screen adaptation go by without comment.

I make no secret that I love dystopian fiction. In fact, I don’t think I could make a secret if I wanted to. And The Handmaid’s Tale is quite simply one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s a true gem of a work, and those who haven’t read it should run to their nearest library and check it out. (And I suggest doing so before the show airs, since we know adaptation rarely does justice for the book.)

There are reasons I should be worried, I’m sure. Every book-to-screen adaptation has its problems. It’s inherent in adapting a book to a film that things need to be cut. I remember lamenting the things that were cut out of the Harry Potter series of films. There are things I think are critical to the story that are only to be found on the page.

But that’s to be expected in a film adaptation. A book that takes several hours to read would be a film of a similar length if everything stayed in. And while people are willing to go see 20+ films featuring James Bond, there’s something different about an episodic series of films than a seven-volume telling of a single novel.

What one really needs to worry about is when those responsible for the production take too much creative license. I’m thinking of adaptations of books like Geography Club where I felt like I was watching a different story–just set in the same place with the same character names. And there’s the equally troubling adaptation of The Scorch Trials from The Maze Runner series. So many liberties were taken there that I remain completely perplexed about how they will be able to do The Death Cure without writing a completely new plot.

What has me excited about this particular adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (it was previously adapted for film; a decent production but nothing stellar) is that it’s for the small screen. A television show offers more space and time to deal with the story. A ten-episode season of one-hour episodes gives around 450 minutes versus the 120 minutes where movies tend to top out.

That’s not to say television is the answer to true-to-book adaptations. Examples like The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars showed clear deviations from the book series early on. Part of the reasoning for changing things up is to give the story something new for fans of the books. Of course, sometimes it’s fans of the television show that influence production. True Blood (which was always presented as being based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries) notably kept a character alive, deviating from the books, due to popularity with the show’s fans.

Even with the tendency for television to explore different avenues of the story, I’m ready and waiting for The Handmaid’s Tale. Due to the ability to explore so many layers with more time, I think I’m just more ready to forgive deviations on the small screen.

But, as a friend of mine says, “At the end of the day, any adaptation is a crap shoot.” That may be true. But every once in a while the dice land in our favor…