Big Book Recommendations

The topic of this post was kindly provided by Trina and her Monthly Recommendations group on Goodreads.

This is pretty self-explanatory, so onto the recommendations!

1. The Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – big book, quick read

2. The Inda Series by Sherwood Smith – so, so good!

3. Green Rider Series by Kristen Britain – kind of a cheat here since most versions of the first book are just under 500 pages, but the hardcover is 504!  And the series grows as it goes on with the newest one being something like 800 pages.

4. The Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce – can’t have a list without her on it!

5. The Farsala Triology by Hilari Bell – haven’t read in a while but loved it at the time

6. The Naming by Alison Croggan – again, haven’t read in a while and sits just under 500 pages, but I thought it was very good when I read it years ago.

Top 4 books of 2016

topI got to my target of 50 books, in fact reading 51 ‘books’.  Of these a large number, perhaps about a third, of them were re-reads which I exclude from this list.  So if you noticed that I read Harry Potter this year but don’t see it on this list, that is why!  Also this list was going to be 5 books, but I didn’t quite get the last book I thought I would end up on this list with enough time to actually read it before the end of the new year!  But it’ll grace next year’s list for sure!

So here are my top 4 books of 2016:

4) Epic by Conor Costick

3) The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

2) Night Study by Maria V Snyder

1) The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Honourable mentions: I loved most of the Maria V Snyder books I read this year, with a glaring exception, but only picked my most favourite for this book.  

 

Brandon Sanderson

jackcompassShort and sweet post: I need some help!  I want to read Brandon Sanderson but he has so many books and series and all that.  So I post this question to those of you who know is writing better then I, what do you recommend is the best reading order for hes books?  Essentially all his books are on my to read list, so no holds barred here!

Any and all comments or links to others who have discussed this are welcome!

Glass Series by Maria V Snyder, Part 1: Introduction to the books

The Glass series is a trilogy that I read one after another during a busy week of work, travel and interviews, so I didn’t have time to write individual reviews; thus I’m writing a three part series review.  I have a lot to say about these books and therefore I’m splitting things up to make it more manageable to read.

This first post is going to be a spoiler-free overview of the series.  The second part will be a spoiler-free review on the books, with some thoughts and comments I had while reading and after I was done everything.  The last post, which will likely be the longest post will have lots of spoilers.  There are some major plot points I want to discuss and analyse, some of which I had a number of issues with.  The things I want to discuss I cannot do without spoilers of some or all of the three books and they are too important to leave out of a discussion/analysis of this series.  Since not everyone likes to read spoilers, that is why I have decided to write it as a separate post and leave it up to you to decide if you want to spoil yourself.

So without further (and boring) ado, here are the books:

Book One:

Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

Published May 2009

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 488

Genera: Adult low fantasy (magic present but no other humanoid or mythical creatures)

My Rating: 4 stars

Read in under 36 hours

 

Book Two:

Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder

Published September 2009

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 379

My Rating: 4 stars

Read in under 24 hours

Book Three:

Spy Glass by Maria V Synder

Published September 2010

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 479

My Rating: 2 stars

Read in approximately 24 hours

 

Overview of the series:

This series follows 20 year old Opal Cowan, who is finishing off her last year as a student of magic at the Citadel in Sitia.  Opal is first introduced to reader’s of Maria V Snyder’s works in the Study Series, more specifically the last book Fire Study where Opal plays a large role in tying up the conflict of that series.  However, her peers are not that impressed.  Considered a ‘one trick magician’ by her peers, she is surprised when the Master Magicians have a mission where her skills as a glass blower and magician might be of use: the glass orbs of the Stormdancer clan are breaking and killing the magician trying to calm storms and bottle up their energy.  Opal knows glass, but does she know enough about magic to help the Stormdancers?

From this mission onward we follow Opal as she deals with many twists and turns and political snags in her life and as she discovers new aspects of her magic that she and all the ‘experts’ in magic have never seen before.  During the course of this series we get to see how Opal grows as a person as a consequence of her own actions and other’s fears.  

Note #1: While you can read these books without reading the Study Series (Maria V Snyder) there are a few events that occur in those books which are referred to in this series.  I my opinion it would help to have read those books and know the background of Opal and Sitia.  Also a large number of characters that appear in the Glass series overlap with the Study series and the full depth of characters is better having read the Study series.  

Note #2: these books are ADULT fantasy.  They contain adult material and triggering topics.

List of known triggers: rape, assault, violence, torture, kidnapping, child neglect (minor, occurs in third book and has happy ending).  I will be discussing a few of these in the third review post, but I will point out that triggers before I talk about them.

 

Get Excited: Book Companion for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio

rio

The Summer Olympics in Rio opens up tomorrow night!  Four years goes by so fast!  For those of us at home watching all the winning moments happen who might have a bit of free time to learn more about Olympians, Olympic sports and what it takes to compete at the highest level in the world, I have a book recommendation for you!

First I want to thank Amber @ Book Stacks Amber for the idea for this blog post. Amber has a whole 15 book recommendations to my tiny 1. Thank you Amber!

lauren hopkinsThe book I think you should read to get you excited for Rio is Finding Our Balance by Lauren Hopkins.

This book is the first in a three part tale that details the journey of a young gymnast who is trying to make the US Olympic team.  The journeys of other gymnasts are also highlighted in this first book.

When 15-year-old newcomer Amalia Blanchard makes a splash with her beam routine in front of the entire U.S. national team, veterans like Ruby Spencer—whose 2012 Olympic dreams were dashed due to an injury just a month before the Games—and Emerson Bedford—a two-time world champion set to run the show in Rio—start to take notice. With preliminary competitions to get through before the team trials, all three have something to prove, as Emerson struggles to maintain her queen bee status, Ruby tries to show everyone she is still a contender, and Amalia hopes she has what it takes to stand out in a talented field. Finding Our Balance follows these extraordinary teenage girls through heartbreak, triumph, and everything in between as their lifetime of training comes down to a single summer that will change their lives forever.

Now I gave this book a fairly lukewarm reception in my review, but that is coming from someone that know more then your average amount about the sport and the US Olympic process.  For those that know less about the sport but want to know more, this is the perfect book for you!

First off, the author actually knows her stuff.  She might not have participated in gymnastics as an athlete, but she has researched the sport so intensely over the past few years and learned so much that NBC actually hired her to help with Olympic coverage!  That means the moves you learn about and the scoring actually makes sense in the real world of gymnastics and will translate well to what you will see during Olympic coverage.

Secondly, the characters are interesting and diverse in their personalities, abilities and backgrounds.  In a sport that you have to strive for perfection at every turn no one character is without her flaws which I appreciate.  Even elite level athletes have areas they need to work on and this book shows that.  

But what if I’m not interested in gymnastics? you say.  

Well I hope you will still give this book a chance to see what the sport is all about as it may surprise you, but even if gymnastics is not your thing, I think readers would be interested in knowing more about the commitment and sacrifices it takes to become an Olympian.  

But you just spoiled the ending for me! Obviously the main character becomes and Olympian! Why should I read this! you cry.

Actually, this first instalment stops before the Olympic team is even named, so only the author herself (and likely her editors) know whether Amalia and the rest make it onto the team.  Even then there is always the chance of injury prevent her from actually competing at the Olympics!  So I don’t think I spoiled anything for you and there is much excitement to come.  

Hesitant about starting the first in a series of three as the rest are not out yet?  

Don’t be!  The second book is supposed to be released shortly (by the end of the month, I believe) with the third hopefully being out sometime next year.

Happy Olympics everyone!


Lauren Hopkins can be found over at The Gymternet which she has been running for years, if you want to find out more about the sport of Gymnastics

Best Suggested Books I Loved (Previous Top 5 Wednesday topic)

Me and book suggestions have a strange relationship and one day I will write an entire blog post (or more??) on the topic.  When I’m not doing massive overtime at work and having only one day off a week where I sleep most of the day and manage to squeeze out a few blog posts to queue up to post throughout the week.  

Today, however, I want to spotlight a few books that were suggested to me that I absolutely love, have read too many times to count, and recommend to anyone who will listen.    

First Test, book 1 in the Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce

First_TestI still remember this one.  This also happens to be the book that really got me into reading.  I was already a reader before this book ended up in my hands but this is the book got me hooked.  While at the library, already with a stack of books to sign out, a librarian handed me this book and told me it was very popular and that she thought I would love it.  I remember signing it out mostly to appease her and my mom then to actually read it.  I read all the other books in my pile and was going to go back to the library without reading it but on a whim I actually started the book.  And never put it down.  And them made my mom the the librarian look up basically every book in the series and Tamora Pierce’s previous series to read.  

Crown Duel (previously Crown Duel and Court Duel) by Sherwood Smith

Crown_Duel_This time I asked for recommendations and this was one of them.  I looked it up and was interested by didn’t expect to be blown away.  But I went ahead and grabbed the book from the library (inter-library loan, actually, since my system didn’t have it) and was BLOWN AWAY with both this book and much of the rest of the books Sherwood Smith has written (though I admit I have only read about 1/4 of them, but I stand by my recommendation of her Inda Series).  This book is the first to break my long-held rule of not buying books.  Occasionally I would buy one or two but t was not really a planned thing.  This one I HAD TO HAVE.  About a year later I got my first credit card basically because I wanted to buy the prequel to this book and was hard to find it in stores in Canada so I bought it from the States online.

Looking at the two books in this list with the covers of the copies I read first, I see they both have girls with a black eye on the cover.  Funny how that works!  Though I will say about a decade separated them from each other when I first read them. 

Is there a book you are very grateful someone recommended to you?

 

Book Recommendation: Inda by Sherwood Smith

inda-bigSo you want a book series that is like Game of Thrones with the a large, interesting cast of characters spread over multiple locations.  You want a medievalesque setting with political intrigue and drama, but without graphic depictions of violence and death.  You want great descriptions of what is happening without the endless discussion of all the food items being eaten during the scene.

If you want all this and more I think I have a book recommendation for you.  If you don’t want all this and more, I still have a book recommendation for you.  This recommendation is non-spoilery for major plot points but if you are one that wants to know nothing before reading a book, this might not be the post for you as I talk about a theme or two and mention some things about unnamed characters found in narrative.

Meet the first book in a series of four books by the amazing author, Sherwood Smith.

Inda-225x300

Inda by Sherwood Smith

Published August 1st 2006

Publisher: DAW

Pages: 576

Genera: Adult low fantasy with some magical elements

Number of times read: approximately 5 times plus several skims

Inda is named after the main character in this book series. As a second son, Inda is supposed to stay home, as is tradition, to learn to defend his father’s and one day his brother’s lands.  However, due to political reasons to be discovered Inda ends up being sent to the Royal academy, a place traditionally meant only for first sons to learn to fight and to lead.  What happens at the academy and the friends Inda makes ends up having long term consequences on the kingdom of Marloven Hesea and the surrounding lands.

Inda’s journey continues and expands in the rest of the series all of which have been released: The Fox, King’s Shield and Treason’s Shore.

So what makes this series so great?  To start with, it takes place in a large, complex, rich and original world which includes many diverse and different cultures and groups of people.  Just take a look at this map which is hand-drawn by the talented Sherwood Smith:

maps

That is one damn good map.

What are some other things I love about this series?

It’s complicated.  There are multiple story arcs that are complex, interconnected and interesting.  Unlike Game of Thrones were there are a few arcs and characters I did not like or bored me for whatever reason all the arcs and main characters are interesting and have depth.  These novels are complex but not in a way that bogs you down with the details.  Rather these novels have level of complexity that reveal itself after a re-read or three and after you read some of Sherwood Smith’s other works.  Inda has a writing style that is easy to read yet also has a complexity that I don’t see very often in novels.

That’s another thing, this series has many spin-off series and continuations.  All that world building has not gone to waste as Sherwood Smith has written many more novels that explore different parts of her world and even made a nifty timeline to show how the various books fit together (note: some of these books are yet to be released).  If that is not enough, she has extra snipets to be found on her website and elsewhere (linked on her website)  to enjoy!  The Inda series does stand on it’s own, but if you enjoy it as much as I do there is a lot more where that came from!  To go back to the ‘it’s complicated’ point I made, the more books you read the more connections you can find between the books and the deeper you can go in the complexity.

Pirates.  Need I say more?  And yet they are ~complex~ pirates and may make you question what you would call a pirate.

Pirate_shipThis series is amazingly sex positive.  Sex is a normal part of the main society that the series focuses on (and other societies that are introduced) and they way this culture deals with sex is very sex positive.  Children growing up in this society know sex exists, but in an age-appropriate manner (there is an adorable story about this to be found in the books) and coming ‘of age’ – basically hitting puberty, which is described as being different for every character – is treated as a wonderful thing.  To top that off, LGBT characters are plentiful and a normal part of this world, meaning that are not mocked by the narrative and there are many main characters that are gay or lesbian or bisexual or asexual (I can’t off the top of my head think of a transgender character but I could be wrong) and these characters have interesting and complex narratives.  There are characters that are demisexual, basically only having sex with those they have a real connection to and characters that have multiple partners and are in healthy relationships with all of them.  Now, this is an adult book, yet the sex is not graphic for those that are not ready or prefer not to read about it.  The sex is ‘fade to black’ but the narrative of the book does talk about how is having sex with who as it does impact the character’s actions and thus the consequences to the rest of the kingdom.  Sex is not the main focus of the book, though, for those trying to inch away because it’s all about the romance.  It’s not. It’s about the characters and their relationships, which does include but is not limited to sex. 

Fantasy elements exist in this series, but they don’t dominate the story, which is one of my favourite things.  I love books that the presence of magic impacts everything happening in the narrative, but I also love stories that have magic but it’s not the be-all-end-all in the story.  These books are the latter.  The magic is more ‘commonplace’, things like doing dishes or using the toilet.  Then there is also the child spell for people that cannot have a child themselves, it makes a child from both of them (neat, huh? Also sex positive!).

This series is more character-driven then plot-driven, yet that does not make it a slow or uninteresting story; indeed there are several plot arcs to be found.  But a lot of the focus is on friendships and loyalty that extends through time and the consequences that these can have.  There are many, many examples of great friendships to be found throughout this series.  Male-male friendships.  Male-female friendships.  Female-female friendships.  And with all the sex everyone has with everyone there is very little jealously for the sake of drama.  Sure jealously exists but its not the ‘teenage female being jealous of another female and putting her down’ tire old trope that is typically seen.  The characters are interesting, morally complex and everyone has their own character development throughout the series, which considering the vast number of characters is a feat in itself.

neurodivergenceI think I’m going to wrap up the list of things I love with one more point.  There is an author-confirmed neurodivergent character.  Now the autistic character is not stated as having autism in the book, this is a confirmation outside the series.  Some people might find this a plus, others might not.  I think it’s interesting as I didn’t catch this the many times I read the books, though admit I knew less about neurodiverence at the time.  Now I want to go back and re-read the series to see what my thoughts are since I do tend to like being told a character is neurodivergent as its better for diversity, but also coming up with your own interpretations of the text is a marvellous thing.  Additionally, there is a character with a stutter and an apparent learning disability.  Representation.  It matters. 

So what are some downsides to these novels?  Well I mentioned not all the planned or written novels are out yet.  That is a bummer.  There are a few stuck in publication limbo at the moment but hopefully will be out soon.  Yet, this really is not a negative as there are still more then a dozen books set in this world to read.  Another downside is that it can be hard to find some of her books.  Fun story time, I got my first credit card specifically so that I could buy her book “A Stranger to Command” from B&N in the states since I couldn’t find it in Canada.  Now this has to do with publishers and whatnot, but it’s also a problem with libraries (as not everyone can buy books).  A mix of being less well-known and harder to find in bookstores makes is fairly hard to find her books in libraries.  The Inda series is one of her more popular (set of) books so it’s easier then others, but still a downside. 

Finally, there are more male main characters then female main characters, however as I mentioned, these books are very sex positive and also female positive and the female characters that are present are important and interesting.  Also the number of characters with their names, nicknames and titles might intimidate at first, but there are online resources to help with that (check out the Sherwood Smith website) and I personally did not need them when I first made my way through the books.

wistheria

This flower is Wisteria and has some importance in the series

And though I have spent a long time thinking about and writing this review, I still do not think I have done this series justice.  It is just too good, too interesting and complex to put into words how great it is.

Have you read Inda?

Have I managed to convince you to read Inda?

The neurodiverent necklace can be found and bought at Lulus Stampings Etsy shop (found here) which has a wide variety of interesting jewellery that it would be hard to pick from however if there is something you want that you don’t see she also makes custom designs as well!  The image was used with permission.  Please check her out!