T5W: Gateway Books to Young Adult

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Top 5 Wednesday is a book meme created by Gingerreadslainey, and hosted here if you’re interested in participating!

This week’s theme is ‘gateway books to your favourite genre’, and I really had to think about it. I’m a fairly eclectic reader, enjoying everything from memoirs, to scifi, to a great contemporary read. I took a good look at my shelf and my favourites, and I had to conclude that I do seem to read and enjoy a lot of young adult reads.

So today I present to you, 5 gateway books to young adult reads! Just as complex and intelligent as books aimed at adults, I find they’re too often overlooked. I’ve mentioned some of these in other posts, but that’s because they’re fantastic and should be read!

The barometer I’ve used here is my dad. Some of these are books that I’ve gotten him to read and some of them are books that I think he would read. He now sometimes pursues YA on his own! If my dad can get behind Young Adult books, so can you.

eragonEragon, by Christopher Paolini

While this first book was made into an absolutely terrible film, and is quite honestly a bit of a simplistic Tolkien mirror, it’s the first of a quartet that is honestly worth your time. They contain a protagonist that grows in mind and spirit, a fantasy storyline that is fairly fast-paced, and a cast of interesting characters. I sped through them, and so did my dad.

For fans of classic fantasy, a la Tolkien and Eddings, just in an ‘easy reading’ sort of way.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Cardenders-game

A science fiction novel that’s been adapted into a well-received movie, this book is actually the beginning of an excellent series, and the jumping-off point for a second. While this book wasn’t written with the intention of being YA, it has been marketed as such for a while, and has certainly been enjoyed by children of all ages. I read it for the first time at 12, and then again at 16.

Definitely for fans of science fiction interested in exploring complex moral issues.

stolen-coverStolen, by Lucy Christopher

A very intense novel, the entire thing is a letter from a captive to her kidnapper. You’ll either love this book or you’ll hate it. The author is very gifted with storytelling, and basically explores Stockholm Syndrome from the inside. A book I haven’t read in ages but that has stayed with me for years.

For fans of contemporary thrillers and psychologically challenging books.

Sabriel, by Garth Nixabhorsen-1

The first book in a series, it has incredibly extensive world building. With different types of magic systems, and a protagonist who must learn a legacy of binding the dead, it’s certainly a page turner. It involves very interesting necromancy, and an antagonist who moves the story along at a rapid pace.

For fans of high fantasy and cool magic systems.

white-catWhite Cat, by Holly Black

One of my favourite teen authors, this is another book that you’ll either love or hate. The protagonist is an ungifted guy in a family of curse workers – people with various magical gifts. He starts having bizarre dreams about a white cat trying to tell him something, and must try to figure it out while navigating strange family secrets.

For fans of the paranormal, this is Supernatural meets the mafia.

There were other books that I would add to this list, but most of them speak for themselves, so I’ll add them here as honourable mentions. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, His Dark Materials, and anything written by Tamora Pierce are all well known and worth reading.

I hope that if you’re not familiar with Young Adult novels, I’ve helped to open a new door for you!

Have you read any YA novels that have convinced you that it’s a genre to look for? What is your favourite genre of books, and a gateway book you’d recommend for it?

Fall TBR List – Top Ten Tuesday

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I’ve discovered yet another book meme, this one hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Top Ten Tuesday is basically exactly as it sounds: participants list their ‘top ten’ of whatever the subject is every week. I thought I’d start this week since the topic is your Fall TBR list!

Generally I don’t ever have a coherent TBR, but this upcoming season seems to be the exception for me.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to read all of these, or if I’ll be adding in other reads here and there, but these are the books that I’m looking forward to getting to this season!

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

The highly anticipated continuation of The Old Kingdom series, I cannot wait to get my hands on this and throw myself back into the fantastic world that Nix has created.

The Night Wanderer, by Drew Hayden Taylor

Chosen because I want to do some spooky reading in October, and I’m excited to read something billed as ‘A Native Gothic Novel’.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke

A book I’ve been curious about since it came out, I finally came across a copy at my bookstore.  Apparently dealing with sentient rights, I’m looking forward to reading it.

My Real Children, by Jo Walton

A book about one woman’s life, and the two distinct paths it takes after a choice is made.

Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation, translated by Ken Liu

It’s always thrilling to read more diverse authors, and I’m so excited to take a look at the worlds created by these authors.

Children of Icarus, by Caighlan Smith

An ARC I got through NetGalley, there isn’t a lot of information about this book save that it’s based in mythology about Icarus.

The Dhow House, by Jean McNeil

Another NetGalley find, this time from Legend Press – who also published The Blackbird Singularity.

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

A protagonist who stops eating meat and the surprising consequences of her choice.

Spider’s Song, by Anita Daher

Another spooky October read, this time not supernatural but instead dealing with more human terrors.

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

Possibly another October read, I saw the movie trailer based on this book and am super intrigued about the concept.

Do we share any of the same books? What’s on your Fall TBR list?

Why I Don’t Use Star Ratings

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Since I started this blog, I’ve discovered an entire world of book bloggers and reviewers. I’ve learned that it’s possible to request to read books before their publication date, and I’ve learned more about the endless resource that is my local library.

As I follow more book bloggers, I’ve noticed that most everyone has a few things in common. Pretty much everyone has a review policy, book tags are fun to do in between reviews and original content, and book reviews are accompanied by a star rating of some kind.

Every time I posted a review I wondered if I was doing something wrong by not using a clear rating system.

Still, I’ve decided against using one for a few reasons.

My opinion is often one extreme or the other.

Usually, I either love a book or I hate it. (Hate definitely encompassing terrible boredom.)

I find it difficult on Goodreads to rate anything between 1 and 5, and feel grossly forced every time I do. I don’t want to seem too harsh or too generous with my ratings, so I compromise – which I don’t think is good for anyone. I have a great deal of enthusiasm for things that may be cliché tropes, or silly premises. Maybe I’ll just be in the wrong mindset for a book and give it a (potentially undeserved) 1 star rating.

I might love a book that you’ll hate, or hate a book that you’ll love.

Reading is a very personal and subjective experience. If I love something about a subject that you find dry and uninteresting, but you pick it up because you trust in my five star review, I’ve most likely wasted your time. Similarly, if you love a book because it addresses a personal issue that you feel touched reading about, there’s no guarantee that I’ll even be interested in it – maybe I’ll give it 1 star and you’ll never pick it up!

Which brings me to my final point:

I write about what I like and didn’t like about a book so that you can make an informed choice.

Its nigh on impossible to be objective when reviewing a book, and I don’t think it would be a benefit if I was. Passion, whether it be positive or negative says a lot about a story. When I write a review, I’ll focus on the specific reasons I liked or didn’t like a book. I do this to try and be fair so that if there are things I didn’t like, you can figure out if those are things you’d like! I feel that sometimes people see a star review and ignore or skim the text that goes along with it.

While it’s true that means you have to actually read through the entire review, I hope that if you’re following the site you enjoy it enough to do so and that you find it worthwhile.

Do you enjoy using or reading star ratings? Do you read reviews without star ratings? Are there other things that make reviews more fun or reader friendly for you?

T5W: Characters I Don’t Want To Trade Places With

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Wednesday is here again, and with it time for another Top 5! Top Five Wednesday was created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and you can find the group with topics and participants here. This week the topic is characters that I wouldn’t want to switch places with. It took some thinking, but I’m satisfied with my choices.

#1 – Harry Potter

Though it would be amazing to find out I was a witch, I would never swap places with Harry. In addition to being orphaned and growing up in an abusive household, Harry must deal with fickle fame and friendships, life threatening situations, a frankly absurd prophecy, and a psychopath’s bizarre vendetta against him. Thanks but no thanks.

#2 – Clariel (The Old Kingdom)

Clariel is a young woman with simple desires. She wants not love, or fame, or the pleasures of the flesh. She simply wants to be left alone. Her heart lies with the forest and there she wishes to stay. Sadly, her wish is impeded by the machinations of those who would use her as a pawn on either side of their political conflict. Considering her journey, I would never want to take her place.

#3 – Misao Harada (Black Bird)

Cursed to live a life surrounded by malicious beings unseen to others, and later to either be eaten by them or wed to one, Misao doesn’t have a life that I envy. Certainly she thinks she has a chance at love, but would it be at the cost of her family, her friends, her life, or even her mortality? Her fate isn’t one that I would wish on anyone.

(Disclaimer: I haven’t yet finished reading the series, please no Black Bird spoilers!)

#4 – Murtagh (The Inheritance Cycle)

Enslaved and forced to fight for a terrible cause, Murtagh was born to a father who scarred him for life. Tormented by his insidious upbringing, he never becomes the principled man he used to wish he would, instead making hard choices that bring pain to himself and others. Murtagh has a hard life that I certainly wouldn’t want to be dropped into – despite the dragon companion that I would gain.

#5 – Anyone in The Hunger Games

Dystopia, anyone? Yeah, no.

What do you think of my choices? Are there other characters you wouldn’t want to trade places with?

T5W: Books I Want To See As TV Shows

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Starting this week, I’ll be participating in fun Top 5 Wednesday topics. This was created by Gingerreadslainey on youtube and the group can be found here. Every Wednesday a new topic asks people to choose their ‘top 5’ books in a specific category. With fall TV season around the corner, this week is focusing on books that I would want to see as TV shows!

First, a disclaimer. I would only want to see these as *good* TV shows (I’m looking at you, Golden Compass movie). In an ideal world, these would be well-adapted, cast properly with great actors, with budgets for good VFX, accurate sets, and elaborate or well-worn costumes depending on the situation. Seeing these badly butchered would be worse than having no adaptation at all!

That being said, let’s begin!

#1 – The Samaria Books, by Sharon Shinn

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I adore these books. A perfect blend of theology, science, romance, and adventure, I would pay good money to see them on a screen. Just imagining the diverse cast of characters playing out their stories is thrilling to me. It would work best if the books were adapted in chronological order rather than published order, though I’m sure an argument could be made for that as well.

Seeing angels come to life would almost be as great as the bomb soundtrack that I’m sure would accompany large gatherings, and play gently in the background at all other times. With rather serious topics spread throughout the series, it wouldn’t always be light watching – but it would sure as hell be satisfying.

#2 – Beka Cooper Books, by Tamora Pierce

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I’m a fan of all of Tamora Pierce’s books. While I think it would be cool to watch *all* of her books as shows, I realise how difficult it would be in the cases of books in which the protagonists go from children to adults in the span of a series.

Beka Cooper is a ‘puppy’. Essentially a police officer in training in the slums of a city where law enforcement is not always looked upon kindly. In a medieval (but not historical) setting, Beka discovers the pains of arresting those she grew up with and keeping order when laws aren’t always the easiest to enforce or agree with. Oh, and she can hear the spirits of the dead carried by pigeons. A masterful set of stories that would be brilliant as a TV show.

#3 – Old Kingdom Series, by Garth Nix

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While I feel that TV has had enough of zombies for a while, it certainly hasn’t had enough of necromancy! These books are set in a kingdom where electronics are useless, modern machine made products disintegrate, and necromancers raise the spirits of the dead for their own ends. With a magic system (The Charter) that works rather like a religion, and a main character who puts the dead to rest, this is a seriously creepy and compelling series. As the series moves on, different main characters are introduced – and they bring with them a really cool history and even more world-building.

With great VFX, this would be stunning on screen.

#4 – Deathless, by Catherynne Valente

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This book was beautiful and disturbing. Because life is often both. A re-imagined Russian tale, it weaves Russian history with folklore to great success. The Czar of Life, Koschei the Deathless, is wonderful and terrible and Marya Morevna falls deeply in love with him. But as the war between life and death grows, their complex relationship is threatened – as is the strange life that Marya has come to love. This book is full of fantasy sequences more than at home in a fairy tale, and interesting side characters you’ll love learning about.

With the right actors, I can see the beautiful backdrops and heartbreaking scenes come to life. It would be brilliant.

#5 – His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

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Okay, so hear me out on this one. Everyone who read The Golden Compass and then went to see it in theatres knows what a botch-job it was. I had so much hope that it would be amazing but it just wasn’t. The religious influences were minimized so not to offend, which considering the whole thing is set in a parallel universe is ridiculous to me. Too much was compromised and it just didn’t work.

But imagine for a moment an adaptation with a script truer to the original source, and with enough time to accomplish truly telling the story. The rich settings would come to life with a colourful cast of characters just waiting to be discovered by new viewers. This show would have it all: a coming of age, drama, betrayal, witches, talking bears, and parallel universes! Best of all, it may actually be coming to a screen near you soon – though considering it’s a BBC collaboration with New Line (of the infamous Golden Compass film) I won’t hold my breath for a miracle.

So, there’s the books I’d most like to see as shows. Do you agree or disagree with any of my choices? Are there other books that you would rather see as TV shows?

 

 

Classic Remarks: Recommend A Tolkien Book

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Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.

I decided to join in this week because the question is about Tolkien!

Which Tolkien book would you recommend to a reader after they’ve finished reading ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’?

I think this question isn’t as straightforward as simply recommending a book. First, you have to find out what the reader most enjoyed about the Tolkien they’ve already read. Did they love the accessibility of the Hobbit, in my opinion a very non-pretentious high fantasy? Or maybe they loved Tolkien’s creation of languages and cultures in LOTR and wish to learn more about Middle Earth? Maybe they just love high fantasy epics and are looking to slake their thirst with a story packed with interesting characters performing heroic deeds?

Luckily, there’s a recommendation for each of those questions!

For readers who loved the accessibility of The Hobbit I would recommend Tales from the Perilous Realm. The five stories within have the kind of whimsy that I loved in The Hobbit, and I think it’s a wonderfully fun read.

For readers looking to learn more about Middle Earth but still seeking a story, The Silmarillion is my recommendation. Here, the reader gets to explore some of the fascinating history of Middle Earth. I’ve seen a few reviews in which the writer stated they approached reading The Silmarillion as if it were The Bible or a historical text, and that is absolutely the way to view it. Extremely worth it if you’re interested in the subject, but undeniably a bit dry.

For those wanting to read an epic tale, I would recommend The Children of Hurin. A captivating book, it will certainly deliver a story worth reading. This is really not a happy book – it very much reads like a Greek tragedy. What can go wrong will do so in terrible ways, but for those that are willing to cry on public transit the payoff of a great story is all that’s needed.

There you have it, three Tolkien recommendations that I think encompass his tales of Middle Earth quite completely! Though he did of course write on other subject matter, and many more volumes of his work were published posthumously, I think that with these three novels the door is opened to those seeking more of Tolkien’s work.

If readers continue to seek out his work, I’ll be waiting here with even more recommendations.

What would you recommend?