Tomorrow is Dewey’s Readathon – whoot! I absolutely adore the 24 hour readathon. It is The Best Way to Get Out of a Reading Funk TM. If you haven’t signed up… why not?!
But choosing the books to tackle during your readathon? That’s kinda tough. As a general rule, I look for YA novels (as they are shorter), Graphic Novels and books from authors I know I love. But, to be honest, you won’t know what you should be reading until you pick up the book you shouldn’t.
That said, here are a couple of books I think are perfect for a readathon. They are addictive, mind-blowingly good and should certainly keep you up all night. Usually, that latter point is one you might want to avoid… but not during a 24 hour readathon!
Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Goodreads)
I just finished this book a couple of weeks ago and was completely in love. I read this sucker in a single sitting; I was 1000% addicted. It takes a few chapters to get into it, but it is completely worth it.
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Goodreads)
This one won’t be a surprise to my long-time readers! I ADORE this series. It was what got me into the YA genre and resulted my first read-it-in-one-sitting reading experience since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was that good. And since this book came out quite a few years ago, it might be new to some of you…?
Temeraire by Naomi Novik (Goodreads)
This is my rare adult novel choice: despite being rather wordy – you might not finish it during the readathon – it is fantastically addictive. While reading it, I wanted (and still do) to move immediately to the universe Naomi created.
So, I hope this gave you a few ideas! Comment or tweet me if you have any suggestions for books I should pick up tomorrow!
I’ll be honest, 2011 wasn’t the best year for me book-wise. For starters, I only managed to get through 63 books this year. While that looks like a lot, it means there a loads of books that I didn’t manage to get through – mostly ARCS, sorry publishers! Out of those 63 books, I only gave five a 5 star review. In other words, only 8% of the books I read this year did I consider excellent. Now compare that to 2010, where I gave nine books 5 stars. Five vs. nine! Isn’t that just depressing?
That said, there have been some truly standout novels this year. Some of them had been on my TBR pile for years while some were from brand-new authors. Here’s how they break down genre-wise: 3 Dystopian YA, 2 Adult Fantasy, 2 YA Urban Fantasy, 1 Adult Urban Fantasy, 1 Literary Fiction, and 1 YA Science Fiction. They’re a diverse bunch of books, but they are all worth a read! (Click on the titles to read my reviews.)
Top Ten Books of 2011
A Game of Thrones should really count as 3 books, considering it is big enough to double as a weapon! If you’ve somehow missed all the buzz about the HBO series based on this book, you’ve obviously been hiding under a rock. It is fantastic. Read the book, watch the show, go to a convention!
Patricia Briggs writes amazing books and Cry Wolf was no exception. I absolutely loved how the novel jumped between different characters, and wow what a plot. A-MA-ZING.
Yep, The Hunger Games. It took me forever to get to this book but it was ludicrously amazing. I even got my mother to read it (she adored it, btw!). Catching Fire and Mokingjay were just good and OK, but they did not detract from the brilliance of this book.
Moloka’i is unlike all the other books on this list – it’s historical literary fiction! But wow, is it ever extraordinary. Even if you don’t usually read this type of book, I would give it a shot.
Do not be fooled by the cover of Academy 7, this is YA science fiction at its very best. The only, only issue I had with this book? It was too bloody short! Moooore, Anne Osterlund. More!
Pure is kinda a cheat for this list. The book doesn’t come out until 2012 but I couldn’t help but add it to my list. While it isn’t perfect, it was one of the most terrifying YA novels I have ever read.
Temeraire! What a fantastic book! Dragons and Napoleon and magical magical writing. Read it!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone was probably one of the most unique YA books I’ve ever read. I am so very, very glad that it has gotten the praise it deserves. Oh, and Laini? Awesome awesome pink-haired lady.
I was afraid to read The Gathering, as I adored Kelley’s Darkest Powers trilogy and everyone knows that sequels never live up to the original! The only exceptions being The Godfather II and… The Gathering! This book was every bit amazing.
Ann Aguirre’s Enclave lived up to everything I expected from it. And I expected a hell of a lot. Her Sirantha Jax series is a fantastic read, so I hoped and prayed that her venture into YA would be just as great . It was – it really was!
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
Series: Temeraire #2
Published by Harper Voyager
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Also in this series: Temeraire
When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.
Thoughts: I don’t usually start a sequel straight after reading the first book – especially if I adored said first book. I like to savour the series I love by spreading them across months, and sticking mediocre books in between the gems. So, that I started Throne of Jade right after reading Temeraire is a tribute to the awesomeness of Naomi Novik.
Yep, there’s a big fat “however”. You see, Throne of Jade? It’s just nowhere near as amazing as Temeraire. For starters, the novel is bizarrely balanced. I’d say about 3/4 of the novel is spent getting to China – and then the rest is a huge mishmash of action set in Beijing. While this is realistic timescale-wise, it did not make for the most entertaining of books. That said, it’s not as if the novel would have been better if it had been set entirely in China. I didn’t enjoy a minute of the time spent in Beijing – someone scratch Imperial China off my time-travel holiday list.
On top of that, I had some rather serious issues with the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence. For all his supposed genius, Temeraire acted like such a spoiled child in this book. And Laurence? He spent the entire book desperately pandering to Temeraire’s whims. I could forgive Laurence, but Temeraire… just… guh! *strangles dragon* He could get so bloody self-involved! I really do hope that he matures by the next book.
Throne of Jade also lacked the brilliant aerial fleet. We get only a few brief scenes with the gang at the start of the novel, and then they are left behind in Europe. They are some of the best characters in the verse (especially pseudo-love interest and kick-ass dragon rider extraordinaire Jane) and their absence was keenly felt. I’m hoping for a lot more of them in the next book.
Bottom line? A mediocre episode in an excellent series. Nevertheless, Naomi Novik novels = The Bee’s Knees.
Artwork from Zombies vs. Unicorns
Summer Shorts is weekly feature of short story/novella reviews, posted every weekend of July and August, 2011. Every week has a different theme – be it featuring a specific anthology, a particular genre, or a great author.
Last week I reviewed some great Kelley Armstrong stories, and this week I’m featuring two stories from the infamous anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns.
The Highest Justice by Garth Nix
Thoughts: I feel as though I got the “wrong” thing out of The Highest Justice. Nix was probably aiming to impress upon the reader how unicorns represent a higher, well, justice. Their purity of form being the physical manifestation of righteousness – dispensing out justice even when it is rather gruesome. I have no idea where he was going with his zombie so, needless to say, I didn’t get it.
And while his unicorn idea is a great one, I can’t say it carried me through this particular tale. No matter how many invisible, violent unicorns appeared – nor how many flesh-eating members of the royal family tried to take a bite out of people – my overwhelming impression of the plot was one of “meh”.
So what did I “get” out of The Highest Justice? 2,000 words of pure, unadulterated fantasy – complete with kings guards, royal betrayals and quite a bit of horseback riding. Coming straight out of reading The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, I’d been wondering what high fantasy YA novelists were out there… apparently I need to start reading some Nix!
Bottom line? A refreshing bit of high fantasy – Garth Nix may be worth further investigation.
Jess drew her sword and kicked her palfrey into a lurching charge. She caught the surviving bandit just before he managed to slip between two thorny bushes, and landed a solid blow on his head with the back of the blade. She hadn’t meant to be merciful, but the sword had turned in her sweaty grasp.
Purity Test by Naomi Novik
Thoughts: Oh my goodness, this was brilliant! Naomi Novik really needs to set up shop and teach other YA writers how to deliver a short story, because Purity Test? It had everything I could possibly want from a tale!
First off, it was funny as hell. I was reminded of Shrek, only with unicorns instead of donkeys and, er, more awesomeness. If I had highlighted all the quotes I wanted to share, the entire story would have been life jacket-yellow. As such, I managed to restrain myself:
“Where did you come from, anyway? Like, Fairyland or something?” The unicorn turned its head and gave her a blue-eyed glare. “Yes. Fairyland,” it said, dripping sarcasm. “Fairyland, where the fairies and the unicorns play, and never is heard a discouraging—”
The unicorn brightened, which Alison had to admit was something to see. “Are you a lesbian? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count toward virginity.”
Don’t you just want to read it right now? I sure would have after that!
Second reason for Purity Test‘s awesomeness? Pacing and editing. Introducing new characters, a new universe and describing the plot? It’s a hard thing to do in only a few thousand words. A lot of novelists, quite frankly, can’t do it. It doesn’t make them bad writers, just bad story short writers. Naomi Novik, it turns out, is both a fantastic novelist AND an amazing short story writer. She throws us straight into the plot, a provides 3D characters and a hysterical universe to enjoy. I was left wanting another story, but not a continuation of the one I’d just read. Per-fect.
Bottom line? Novik had be at the first sentence and kept me enthralled until the very last line. Zombies vs. Unicorns is worth buying just for this story!
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Series: Temeraire #1
Published by Harper Voyager
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Also in this series: Throne of Jade
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
Thoughts: This book was absolutely, positively lovely. It’s elegantly written, in that detached-yet-emotional style I’d attribute to Jane Austen (in other words, Novik adopts a style that ordinarily makes me yawn). But, despite the style, this novel really really worked for me. Novik doesn’t go out of her way with flowery text – instead she keeps true to the Napoleonic period she is writing in, and allows the characters to speak for themselves.
And what characters. Laurence is not exactly the warm and cuddly type. His strict, rule-abiding nature (along with his tendency to be outraged by the slightest breach in protocol) at first made him rather hard to relate to. He is a product of his environment – a symbol of the age, and whatnot. But as he grows closer to his dragon Temeraire and meets the fascinating cast of characters that make up the Bristish aerial fleet, he starts to loosen that stiff upper-lip of his. It was wonderful to see him come loose, while keeping all the gentlemanly qualities with which he was raised.
I also loved the aerial fleet. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I had been afraid that they would be the same upper-crust and bigoted types that made up Britain’s historic armies. That’s one of my main problems with historical war novels – even though I know they are depicting things in a certain way in order to be historically accurate, that doesn’t make it PC. Novik had the advantage of being able to logically insert a more “modern” group of armed forces into history.
But what really carries this book is the bond between Laurence and his dragon Temeraire. It is an extraordinary, beautiful relationship that made me gush more than any romance could have. It’s a difficult relationship to describe, as Novik’s dragons aren’t pets but neither are they “equals” to the humans that become their captains. Since they can speak, they can become a captain’s best-friend as well as their constant companion. There’s little room for family or relationships when you captain a dragon, yet you would want for nothing.
I found myself thinking about this book whenever I wasn’t reading it. Imagining what the characters were getting up to, and dreaming of their future endeavors. It was a rare pleasure.
Bottom line? If you’re looking for detailed fantasy/alternative-history novel, Novik is a must. If you’re looking for a fantastic novel about dragons, Novik is a must. If you’re literate, Novik is a must. Just don’t be put off by the formal style!