Top Ten Tuesday: A Selection of Favorite Fantasy Books and Series

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books From My Favorite Genre. I bounce between genres quite a bit, but thought I’d focus here on fantasy. My list includes stand-alones as well as series, and because I’m sticking to just 10, I ended up not including three that pretty much go without saying: of course I love the Narnia, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Lord of the Rings books! (See? I managed to mention them after all!)

My top ten, in no particular order:

  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Codex Alera (series) by Jim Butcher
  • The Immortals (series) (standing in for ALL Tortall books) by Tamora Pierce (review)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (review)
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series) by Patricia C. Wrede (review)
  • Wayward Children (series) by Seanan McGuire (review)
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King (review)
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner (review)
  • His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

What genre did you pick this week? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years, highlighting one favorite books per year. What a great excuse for a trip back through my shelves!

It’s really hard to come up with just one favorite per year, so some of these are chosen somewhat arbitrarily from among all my five-star reads. If I’ve reviewed the book here on my blog, the link is provided — check it out if interested!

  • 2018: The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah (review)
  • 2017: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (review)
  • 2016: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (review)
  • 2015: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart (review)
  • 2014: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • 2013: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (review)
  • 2012: The Martian by Andy Weir (review)
  • 2011: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (review)
  • 2010: Feed by Mira Grant
  • 2009: Under the Dome by Stephen King

What were your favorite books of the past 10 years? Do we have any in common? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/6/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Goodness, I’ve barely read or posted anything this past week! Well, okay, the main book I read was on the longer side, so maybe it just feels like I didn’t do much reading — I read A LOT, but all in one book!

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Weird and wonderful, and I loved it. My review is here.

I also finished the audiobook of The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. Great story, with terrific narration by Bronson Pinchot. My review is here.

Pop culture goodness:

It had to happen sooner or later — I saw the new Avengers movie! And enjoyed it, although I do have some doubts and quibbles about various plot points. Ah well, despite that, it was a very entertaining way to spend three hours.

Fresh Catch:

Quite a splurge this week, I can’t figure out what got into me!

Some books I’ve already read, some that are new to me… I’m excited to have them all!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. I’m happy to be starting this one, since it’s a follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi, which I really liked.

And meanwhile, I’m just waiting and counting the hours until Tuesday — release day for the newest Mercy Thompson book! I can’t wait for this book to arrive so I can dive in:

Now playing via audiobook:

Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne: I was going to start a serious novel as my next audiobook… but why do that when I have Kate McKinnon to listen to? I’m just starting today, but I have a feeling this will be exactly what I need this week!

Ongoing reads:

Three ongoing reads at the moment:

  • Besieged by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection — a group read for my Outlander book group, two sections of the story per week.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — my book group’s current classic selection. We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Tortall: A Spy’s Guide –– I’ve had this on my nightstand for weeks now, reading it in teeny-tiny chunks. Maybe I’ll finish this week…

So many books, so little time…

 

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Audiobook Review: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

 

“Once, in a kingdom called Delain, there was a king with two sons….”

Thus begins one of the most unique tales that master storyteller Stephen King has ever written—a sprawling fantasy of dark magic and the struggle for absolute power that utterly transforms the destinies of two brothers born into royalty. Through this enthralling masterpiece of mythical adventure, intrigue, and terror, you will thrill to this unforgettable narrative filled with relentless, wicked enchantment, and the most terrible of secrets….

I originally read The Eyes of the Dragon ages ago, probably not long after its release in the late 80s. And honestly, I didn’t remember much about it, other than (a) it was a real departure for Stephen King at that point, and (b) I liked it.

Why did I decide to revisit this story? I’m not really sure what brought it back to my attention — I think maybe it popped up on my Audible recommendation list? In any case, the audiobook caught my eye right when I was in between listens and I decided to give it a try. Great choice!

The Eyes of the Dragon, as far as I can tell, is one of King’s early departures from writing straight-up horror. It’s not a horror story at all — instead, it’s fantasy set in a far-off kingdom, where an evil magician is determined to thrust the land into chaos and bloodshed in order to satisfy his own dark purposes.

King Roland the Good is an okay king, kind but not particularly effective, and perhaps a little too under the sway of his advisor, the magician Flagg. Roland has two sons — his heir, Peter, and a younger son, Thomas, who grows up in his older brother’s shadow, always plagued by feelings of inadequacy and jealousy as he watches Peter grow into a fine, beloved young man. When Flagg’s schemes end with Peter falsely imprisoned on charges of murdering his father, Thomas gains the throne, but he’s guided in all things by Flagg, who uses Thomas’s weakness to destabilize the country. But Peter is strong and smart, and doesn’t give up so easily…

Such a terrific story! I was completely enthralled by this tale of loyalty, royalty, friendship, betrayal, and the evil that threatens to undermine families and kingdoms. The characters are so well drawn, showing shades of personality and motivation, and finding hidden dimensions in characters that might otherwise seem like a stock type.

The audiobook is narrated by actor Bronson Pinchot, and he’s wonderful. He captures the folksy nature of the storytelling (as the book’s narrative voice often interjects the narrator’s own opinions and speaks directly to the reader/listener), and also does an amazing job with the voices, from old King Roland to timid Dennis the butler to upright Peter, and of course, most especially, the insidiously scary Flagg.

The Eyes of the Dragon is an excellent adventure — don’t miss it!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Eyes of the Dragon
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: February 2, 1987
Print length: 484 pages
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 23 mintues
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Top Ten Tuesday: The best books I read in 2018

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Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019! 

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Best Books I Read In 2018.

According to Goodreads, I gave a 5-star rating to 73 books in 2018, and a 4-star rating to 83. That makes 156 books that I pretty much loved. Yowza, what a year! I don’t think I can limit myself to just 10 books here… so I’ll highlight a few, include a few others by category, and see how it all works out…

Here are (just a few of) my favorites from 2018:

1) Powerful family drama set in Alaska: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (review)

2) Two views of an an ancient classic: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (review)

3) Terrific historical fiction that I read because of my book group: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (review) and The Chilbury Lady’s Choir by Jennifer Ryan (review)

4) A surprising moving short novel by Stephen King:  Elevation (review)

5) Amazing woman-power science fiction:  The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (review)

6) Action/adventure with THE BEST heroic duo: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer (review)

7) New books in beloved series:

8) Deliciously fun contemporary romance: 

9) Intriguing story collections:

10) A couple of classics that I finally read!

 

What were your favorite reads of 2018? Please leave me your link!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wishing one and all a terrific new year filled with wonderful books!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/19/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Still in the midst of family stuff, but all is well. How’s that for vague? The upside of the semi-craziness of the past week is that I ended up with a lot of sit-around-and-wait time on my hands, which of course translates to sit-around-with-a-book time for me.

What did I read during the last week?

The Human Division (Old Man’s War, #5) by John Scalzi: This is a set of interconnected stories rather than a novel, but it’s still set in the Old Man’s War universe and quite fun. I have one more book left in the series, and then I’ll write up some thoughts to wrap things up.

Pulp by Robin Talley: A terrific YA story set in both contemporary and historical time periods. My review is here.

Elevation by Stephen King: A surprisingly moving novella. My thoughts are here.

In graphic novels:

Saga, volume 9: Wow, this one really hurt me. That ending! And I’m more than a little heart-broken that the creators are taking a one-year break before returning to the story. I need more Saga, now!

Runaways: Best Friends Forever: The new Runaways run, written by Rainbow Rowell, continues to be light and fun.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 401, “America the Beautiful” (aired 11/4/2018) – check out my thoughts here.
Episode 402, “Do No Harm” (aired 11/11/2018) – my reaction post is here.
NEW: Episode 403, “The False Bride” (aired 11/18/2018) – my reaction from last night is here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw TWO movies this weekend!

Quick take: I loved the music and the performance scenes, but wish there’d been more actual insight into Freddie as a person. A lot, whether about Freddie himself or Queen as a band and family, felt too surface-y. Actually, this movie made me realize that I’d be perfectly happy with a 2-hour long movie of Queen’s performances! *scurrying off to watch Queen videos on YouTube*

Quick take: Hmm. Quite a lot of spectacle, but I’m not sure what the movie was hoping to achieve. It’s pretty dark, losing most of the quirkiness of the first Fantastic Beasts movie in favor of dark-wizard doings. My copy of the screenplay book arrived this week, but I didn’t want to read it until I’d seen the movie. And now that I have, I’ll pick up the book and see if reading the story gives me a different feeling. Overall, my issue with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that they’re kind of kids’ movies (or so it would seem), but since all the characters are adults, we lose the sense of wonder that the Harry Potter films provided as we saw this incredible world through young, unjaded eyes. The Hogwarts scenes in this new movie stand out as lovely little moments, but they’re really just minor snippets. (But hey, it was fun to see a different take on Hogwarts robes!) Overall, the movie is very dark and crowded, and definitely the middle of a story that’s still has plenty left to unveil. Maybe it’ll take a repeat viewing to find the charm that must be there.

Fresh Catch:

This week’s new book arrivals:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: I’m at about the half-way point. It’s fascinating to read this book about the Trojan War so soon after reading The Song of Achilles.

Now playing via audiobook:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I do most of my audiobook listening while out walking, and there just hasn’t been much of that this past week… hence a lack of any real progress with this book, despite loving it. I hope to get back to it this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December.

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: Elevation by Stephen King

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

The latest from legendary master storyteller Stephen King, a riveting, extraordinarily eerie, and moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together—a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences.

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure what to say about Elevation, or even how to categorize it. Is it horror? Not in the jump-scare, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, monsters-eating-your-face sort of way. But does the idea of losing weight without losing size, and with a day you’ll weigh zero pounds looming, scare you? Then yes, you might call this horror. Or fantasy, in that I’m pretty sure there’s no such documented case of a person being perfectly healthy, losing weight, and causing anything he/she touches to have zero weight — sounds pretty fantastical to me.

All that being said, my main take-away here is that Elevation is a truly excellent read — brief, spare, and finely crafted, with sharply defined characters, mounting tension, and an overall feeling of both well-being and loss permeating the entire story. Scott Carey is a likable guy stuck in a weird situation, who tries to make the best of things by doing his part to make a small difference in the lives of the people he cares for.

And despite the short length of the story, it was plenty of time to get emotionally involved. Was that a lone tear making its way down my cheek as I read the last few pages? I’ll never tell.

Beautifully written, Elevation is a quick, low-commitment read that will leave you feeling — dare I say it? — elevated.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: October 30, 2018
Length: 146 pages
Genre: Fantasy/horror
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/12/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I may be a little absent during the coming week due to some family happenings, but hope to be back in the swing of things ASAP. Meanwhile, I have plenty of books and my Kindle to keep me company, even if I’m not posting much.

What did I read during the last week?

Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey: I finished this the previous week, but finally posted a review.

The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn: I loved this book, a sequel to last year’s Bannerless. My review is here.

I also read two super cute, super fun young adult books this week. Check out my thoughts, here.

In audiobooks:

Page (Protector of the Small, #2) by Tamora Pierce: I loved this book! The series is terrific so far — continuing onward.

In graphic novels:

I enjoyed The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds, a pretty great graphic retelling of the classic. He has a new version of The Iliad coming out in the spring, and I’m already looking forward to it!

Outlander returns!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 401, “America the Beautiful” (aired 11/4/2018) – check out my thoughts here.
Episode 402, “Do No Harm” (aired 11/11/2018) – my reaction from last night, here.

Fresh Catch:

A few new books this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

So many books — it’s so hard to choose! I finished a book late Sunday, which means I need to pick something new to read. I’ll probably bounce between these two for the next few days.

Now playing via audiobook:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: Such a fun series!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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Top Ten Tuesday: The longest books I’ve ever read… and the longest books I’ve read 2017/2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read. I actually did this topic back in 2015 as a TTT freebie, and that list hasn’t changed… so I thought I’d repeat those, but also mention the longest books I’ve read more recently (2017-2018).

First, my ten longest books ever (according to Goodreads, based on mass market paperback editions):

1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1,463 pages)

2. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (1, 443 pages)

3. A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (1,439 pages)

4. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (1,177 pages)

5. The Stand by Stephen King (1,167 pages)

6. Shogun by James Clavell (1,210 pages)

7. War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk (1,056 pages)

8. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (1,038 pages)

9. Hawaii by James Michener (1,036 pages)

10. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1,011 pages)

 

My more recent reading has been a bit less ambitious — here are my longest reads from 2017 – 2018:

1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon (1,117 pages)

2. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (826 pages)

3. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (819 pages)

4. Rise: A Newsflesh Collection by Mira Grant (816 pages)

5. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King (702 pages)

6. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (656 pages)

7. The Angry Tide by Winston Graham (624 pages)

8. Feed by Mira Grant (599 pages)

9. Caliban’s War by James S. A Corey (595 pages)

10. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (592 pages)

What books are on your list this week? Please share your TTT link!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books By My Favorite Authors (that I still haven’t read)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read. Usually, when I love an author, I read everything he or she has written… but there are always some books that fall off the bookpile or get otherwise overlooked. My selection of books by favorite authors that I still need to read :

1. Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell: This is the sequel to Doc, which I truly loved. Mary Doria Russell is a brilliant writer (The Sparrow will always be near and dear to my heart), and I bought Epitaph as soon as it came out. Why haven’t I read it yet? No idea… other than me just being lame.

2. The Sumage Solution by G. L. Carriger: Gail Carriger is an absolute favorite of mine, and I’ve read every bit of her published work… except The Sumage Solution. Maybe it’s because of the contemporary setting, since I love Carriger’s steampunk Parasol-verse so very much… but I haven’t quite brought myself around to starting Sumage. And there’s a sequel on the way, so I’d better get to it.

3. The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: I haven’t read a single book by John Scalzi that I haven’t enjoyed… but so far, I’ve only read his stand-alone books. I keep swearing that THIS will finally be the year when I read Old Man’s War… but it just hasn’t happened yet, and we’re getting frighteningly close to the end of 2018.

4. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: I bought this the day it was released, and I’ve just gotten too overwhelmed by ARCs and library books to ever get around to starting. I loved Uprooted, so I’m really excited to start this one.

5. SO MANY  BOOKS by Stephen King: I always think of myself as a Stephen King fan, but it’s scary to think how many I’ve missed! Just looking at the unread King books on my shelves, I have Duma Key, Lisey’s Story, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, books 4 – 7 of The Dark Tower series, The Green Mile, a few short story collections… ugh, it never ends! I guess on the flip side, I’ll never run out of good options for when I want to be scared silly by a book.

6. Earlier works by Patricia Briggs: I adore the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series, and could read those books over and over again (and yes, I’ve gone back for re-reads already). I really should make a point of reading some of her other works too, although I think I’m resistant to leaving those familiar worlds and going more into straight-up fantasy rather than urban fantasy.

7. More Jojo Moyes! I’ve loved so many of her books, and I actually own copies of these… so why haven’t I read them?

8. The Silk and Song trilogy by Dana Stabenow. I adore the Kate Shugak books — the characters, the crime drama, and the amazing Alaska setting. I really admire Stabenow’s writing and I enjoy historical fiction, so this trilogy (about the granddaughter of Marco Polo) should be right up my alley, despite the lack of Alaska! Seriously, the story sounds great — maybe a reading priority for 2019?

9. The Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant: I loved the Newsflesh books SO much, and love everything she writes under her other (real) name (Seanan McGuire). I did actually read the first book in this trilogy, and thought it was really, really icky but also amazing… so I just need to return to the world of tapeworms and medical experiments gone haywire!

10. Yesternight by Cat Winters: I’ve read everything else by this author, and I think she’s so incredibly talented! I own a copy of Yesternight (I bought it as soon as it came out), and have every intention of reading it… so this is yet another book that I have no good reason for not having read yet, other than the good old “so many books, so little time” excuse.

What books are on your list this week? Please share your TTT link!

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