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Monthly Archives: December 2015

My Top 10 Reads of 2015

I realize most on this list were not released in 2015, but I am okay with that. I don’t like hype or jumping on bandwagons, so I generally wait until all of it dies down before I delve into something new.

Also, 2015 was the year of fantasy for me. I jumped head first into the genre with much fervor and great enthusiasm. Since I had only opened myself up to the genre last year (2014), I had much catching up to do. My first being, Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. So, I apologize for the lack of variety in this list but it was what I decided was worth reading in 2015.

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10. Alice in Zombieland – Gena Showalter

I absolutely love Gena Showalter’s YA novels. Yes, they always have romance in them but they are beyond fantastic. Plus, I had been trying to get my hands on this novel for a while (without ordering it online) and it was always sold out. When I finally got it in my possession, I wasted no time in cracking it open and sinking into the pages. I also read this on the heels of The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie and it was a welcome change from the heaviness of that novel.

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9. Eragon – Christopher Paolini

I did mention I just started reading fantasy as of last year, right? I know, I know. I’ve already heard it from so many people. How could I not have read this series until now. Well, I had no interest until now. I was raised in a house where horror reigned supreme and dragons were stupid, big lizards. When I did start reading fantasy, that opinion quickly changed and I couldn’t get enough. I loved the movie adaptation of this novel and so I purchased it. It took me so long to read it because I didn’t want to hate the movie afterwards. And I don’t. I love them both.

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8. Tin Men – Christopher Golden

I was browsing Goodreads one day and I came across one of their giveaways for an ARC of this novel, so I clicked it. A few weeks later, it came in the mail and I began reading it. I was so wrapped up in the story that I forgot to eat for almost an entire day. This solidified my love for Christopher Golden. (Dead Ringers is also fantastic).

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7. The Iron King – Julie Kagawa

I absolutely love stories of the Fey. Even as a little girl I would seek out these kinds of stories. There is a lot of nostalgia behind this choice. The Iron King has all of the elements I look for in a story, adventure, twisty story lines, humor,  taking something known and putting your own spin on it… the list goes on. I love the melding of genres. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I cannot wait to finish this series!

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6. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)

I have to admit, I was completely nervous picking up this book. I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I knew Rowling had written this series. I wanted it to be just as good as Harry but I wanted it to be so completely different. I was battling with myself. What if it isn’t as good? Could anything be as good? How is she going to pull this off? But when I started reading, I forgot I was reading a book by the same person who wrote Harry. I was thrilled that while still good, it wasn’t even the same style. There were no similar themes… well, not enough for me to be like, “well, she did that again”. I am so happy to see her break away from a worldwide beloved character and prove she’s not a one trick pony.

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5. Cinder – Marissa Meyer

Okay, not going to lie. I am a sucker for a good retelling of classic fairy tales… even those of the princess variety. This book was beyond hard to put down. I needed to know what was going to happen next. I believe I read it all in a 24 hour period. I am excited to continue this series.

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4. The Warded Man – Peter V. Brett

I loved this story!! There were so many elements that I loved, to list them all would just be annoying. However, I am going to list a few.

Oh, the Victorian values of this culture. I adored this element, simply because it was something familiar in a world so strange.

The fact that a boy, not a man, not an elder, not a priest, figures out how to ward his own skin and no one else has this idea. At first I was like, don’t you think someone else would have figured this out by now, that’s just idiotic. Then I was like… you know what… Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it is idiotic and that’s why it takes a boy willing to do it, to prove it works. Who else would tattoo their flesh on a whim? Once I realized that I was on board with the idea.

And lastly, I loved the world building in this novel. While it was simple and many things from our world translated fluidly, I feel like the melding was well done.

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3. The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie

I HATE THIS NOVEL… NO, I LOVE THIS NOVEL… NO, I HATE JOE ABERCROMBIE… NO, WTF ARE YOU DOING?

That seems to summarize my reading of this novel. I loved it, I hated it… Needless to say, the book riled me up 90% of the time I was reading it. I threw it at one point. And then BAM… nothing happens (ie, cliffhanger). WTF, Joe Abercrombie.

Well played, Joe Abercrombie…

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2. Queen of Fire – Anthony Ryan

The final installment of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, which just happens to be my favorite fantasy trilogy, didn’t pack quite the punch that the first two did. While I love that it wrapped up loose ends, that seems to be all this book was for. Don’t get me wrong. It was still an amazing book (it is ranked #2 in my favorites of the year!!). The entire series is amazing and you should go pick them up and read them right now!!

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1. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

This book is so… I honestly do not even have the words. Amazing, yes. Beautifully written, yes. Magical, yes. I just don’t feel I can do the writing justice. The descriptions in this novel make you feel as if you are participating in everything that is taking place. The flow of the novel is seamless. There is nothing I can even critique and say… well, it’s not perfect. It is a genuine masterpiece (and I am in the process of reading book 2).

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Great Audiobooks

Looking for a great listen. Have a long car ride, a road trip or a long commute? Just want someone else to do the reading? Here are a few of my favorite audio books.

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The Raven’s Shadow trilogy is voiced by Steven Brand and not only is his reading great but the story itself is one of my all time favorites.

Buy it here.

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The Martian performed by R. C. Bray is humorous and, for the science nerd, a quite intriguing listen. The constant stream of thought, calculations, ramblings could be just what you are looking for.

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Phil Gigante’s voice is amazing! This would be worth the listen for that reason alone but I actually love these novels. They are absolutely fantastic and the crossover to her other series (the Fever series, which is also fantastic).

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Young Adult at its best. This quickly became a favorite of mine. I really enjoyed the reading of this series.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

Last Minute Gift Guide for the Book Lover in Your Family

Okay, it’s down to the wire. What are you going to purchase for that book lover in your family?

Duh, a book!!

But there are so many…

Of course there are. No book lover is built alike. We are all interested in something different.

So, how do I pick something for someone when there is such a huge selection?

Your best bet is to go with a new release. This I say, because every book lover holds out on the one book they have really been wanting when the holidays roll around, simply because they know that is the obvious choice as a gift for them.

Top Gift Picks – HORROR

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This to me is the obvious choice for the horror fan in your life. Most fans of the genre love anything written by the King of Horror… see what I did there 😉

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So, you happen to know that your book lover does not love Stephen King. That’s okay, here’s a solid contender. Your horror fan will not be disappointed.

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But, my horror fan only reads vampire novels. Then they will be pleasantly surprised by this collection of shorts, unless the vampires you speak of are of the sparkly variety. (Umm… Just realized this is the 2nd book I have recommended with Christopher Golden on the title page but not going to take it back 🙂 )

 

For the Fantasy Fan:
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I am almost positive your fantasy fan has not picked up this novel but they should. Such an enchanting read, a coming of age novel that is par for the course of fantasy at the moment.

I called to the Myst, and it sent us you.

For hundreds of years, high-born nobles have competed for the chance to learn of the Myst.

Powerful, revered, and often reclusive, Mystics have the unique ability to summon and manipulate the Myst: the underlying energy that lives at the heart of the universe. Once in a very great while, they take an apprentice, always from the most privileged sects of society.

Such has always been the tradition—until a new High Mystic takes her seat and chooses Pomella AnDone, a restless, low-born teenager, as a candidate.

Commoners have never been welcomed among the select few given the opportunity to rise beyond even the highest nobility. So when Pomella chooses to accept the summons and journey to Kelt Apar, she knows that she will have more to contend with than the competition for the apprenticeship.

Breaking both law and tradition, Pomella undergoes three trials against the other candidates to prove her worthiness. As the trials unfold, Pomella navigates a deadly world of intolerance and betrayal, unaware that ruthless conspirators intend to make her suffer for having the audacity to seek to unravel the secrets of the Myst.

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If a new author isn’t something you want to give your book lover, how about one of the best in the genre?

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series.

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life.

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father’s fate.

Combining the best of Shogun and Netflix’s Marco Polo, Black Wolves is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

For the Young Adult Reader

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This is a great choice if you really just want to open up a new world to your young adult reader. Imagine how hard it is to write a novel with no sound words.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…

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Looking for a spine-tingling YA read. This is it.

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

For the Historical Fiction Lover

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A little history, a little fantasy and very good.

The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods—or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.

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This…

In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.”Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen reimagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love,Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.

For the Literature Fan</strongimage

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Because, what literary fan doesn’t like John Irving?

John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.
As we grow older—most of all, in what we remember and what we dream—we live in the past. Sometimes, we live more vividly in the past than in the present.

As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. “An aura of fate had marked him,” John Irving writes, of Juan Diego. “The chain of events, the links in our lives—what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do—all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.”

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past—in Mexico—collides with his future.

For the Sci-fi Fan:

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I was able to read this novel in its beginning stages and it wasn’t quite up to par. However, it was rewritten into a fantastic novel that any sci-fi fan will enjoy.

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.

Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.

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There is so much buzz about this one that I want it myself.

In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.

Charlotte’s attacks have everyone on high alert—everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.

But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he’s Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.

As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive … and what makes life worth living.

If I missed a genre it is either because I don’t read that genre or there have been too few releases recently to give a solid recomendation.

Feel free to contact me (via comment) if you need a more specific recommendation.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Authors I Love – Jeanne Kalogridis

Take a walk on the dark side with me.

I am a huge fan of the darker characters that Jeanne Kalogridis  takes on. I love how deeply she delves into the history of a person and it blows my mind every time.

I will warn you, her books are not for the faint of heart, they are not for the prude, and the are not for the easily offended. Her dark characters do dark things and her plot lines twist and the people she writes about border on the insane.

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Covenant with the Vampire (The Diaries of the Family Dracul #1) by Jeanne Kalogridis

This is one of my favorite vampire series’. It is undeniably dark and sucks you in from the very beginning.
A sensual, terrifying, incredibly accomplished first novel, this fascinating prequel to the classic and most popular horror novel of all time, Dracula, focuses on Dracula’s great-nephew, who inherits the job of managing his great-uncle’s estate…and his appetite. Written in diary form as Draculais, this compulsively readable book has revelations that will shock and delight readers of the original. More erotic than Anne Rice, Kalogridis is a major new voice in vampire fiction. The first chilling tale in an exciting new trilogy is a rich and terrifying historical novel set fifty years before the opening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. At the castle of Prince Vlad Tsepesh, also known as Dracula, Vald’s great-nephew Arkady is honored to care for his beloved though strange great-uncle…until he beings to realize what is expected of him in his new role. It seems that either he provides his great-uncle with unsuspecting victims to satisfy his needs, or Vlad will kill those Arkady loves. He is trapped into becoming party to murder and sadistic torture. And it is in his blood. When Arkady learns that his newborn son is being groomed one day to follow in his footsteps, he knows that he must fight Dracula, even if it means death.
*Copied from Goodreads.
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The Borgia Bride byJeanne Kalogridis

Vivacious Sancha of Aragon arrives in Rome newly wed to a member of the notorious Borgia dynasty. Surrounded by the city’s opulence and political corruption, she befriends her glamorous and deceitful sister-in-law, Lucrezia, whose jealousy is as legendary as her beauty. Some say Lucrezia has poisoned her rivals, particularly those to whom her handsome brother, Cesare, has given his heart. So when Sancha falls under Cesare’s irresistible spell, she must hide her secret or lose her life. Caught in the Borgias’ sinister web, she summons her courage and uses her cunning to outwit them at their own game. Vividly interweaving historical detail with fiction, The Borgia Bride is a richly compelling tale of conspiracy, sexual intrigue, loyalty, and drama. *Copied from Goodreads.

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The handsome Giuliano de’ Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence’s magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.

More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano’s nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.

Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself. *Copied from Goodreads.

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And this is my all time favorite of hers.
Mother Marie Francoise, born Sybille, is a midwife with a precocious gift for magic — a gift that makes her a prime target for persecution at the hands of the Church. She flees her village and takes refuge in a Franciscan sisterhood. Before long, Sybille’s unusual powers bring her under the scrutiny of the Inquisition. Michel, a pious and compassionate monk sent to hear her confession, finds himself drawn more intimately into Sybille’s life and destiny than either of them could have imagined.
Like a magician herself, Jeanne Kalogridis weaves a tale of star-crossed love, of faith and heresy, of mysticism and witchcraft, against a fascinating historical backdrop — the Black Death, the Hundred Years’ War, and the catastrophic defeat of France at the hands of the English. The result is a page-turning novel about one of the most intriguing periods in history. *Copied from Goodreads.
These aren’t all of her works, just my favorite. Feel free to click on her name to see her Goodreads profile and explore her works further.
 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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