Top Ten Historical and Futuristic Books

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we were given the option of choosing topics that feature historical or futuristic books. Since I can’t make up my mind, I’m doing halfsies. Also, I don’t think I have enough for each genre to make a full list.

Five books set in the past that I loved:
The Sunbird ebook Code Name Verity - UK2 The Book Thief - UK The Secret Countess Nine Coaches Waiting

Five books set in the future that I loved:
Touchstone Trilogy Illuminae Archivist Wasp Silent Blade 2 Ender's Game - movie cover

I’ve tried read-alikes of these titles but I didn’t enjoyed them as much as the ones I mentioned here. I would love to discover more books that I can add to this list. Have you read any of these? What are books set either in the past or in the future that you would recommend based on the titles I have here?

Top Ten Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I Want To Read

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I LOVE reading sci-fi and fantasy (SFF) but I’ve noticed that I’ve been on a contemporary binge in recent months. I should be more conscious about mixing up my genres so I’m focusing on SFF books that I want to read for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post. I’ll even make it easier for myself and choose books that I already have copies of.

Among Others by Jo Walton – I’ve seen other readers raving about this book and that made me excited to grab a copy (and a hardcover at that), which I’ve yet to read.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – I haven’t tried any books written by Connie Willis and I’ve had my copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog for several years now. I think I put off reading this because I wanted to read more of Dorothy Sayers’ novels first, because I heard someone say that she’s mentioned in this book.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas – I have the ARC of this, which was passed on by my friend Holly. The sequels have been released and I still haven’t read the first book.

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart – I’ve read Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels but I haven’t tried her fantasy yet.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – I really feel bad that I still haven’t read this! It’s sitting on my bookshelf, making me feel guilty that I haven’t picked it up.

Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman – I’ve had this duology in my TBR pile for years! I grabbed copies when I started seeing positive reviews from fellow bloggers and I just haven’t found the time to read them.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – I’ve only read one book from Brandon Sanderson, which was Elantris, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read more of his work and The Emperor’s Soul seems like a good choice because it’s a standalone.

Shadows by Robin McKinley – I love Robin McKinley’s writing and it would be interesting to see what her latest book is like.

Fire and Hemlock or Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones – I really need to read more of DWJ’s books. I have so many of them in my TBR pile and I don’t know why I keep putting off reading them.

Dreamer’s Pool or Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier – More Juliet Marillier is always a good thing. I am so behind in reading her recent releases.

I have many more SFF titles in my TBR pile but these are the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. Have you read any great SFF books lately? Or is there a different genre that you would like to read more of?

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

I’ve been meaning to try Linnea Sinclair’s books for a while now and I’m glad I was finally able to do so when I picked up Games of Command. There was a time when I felt that sci-fi isn’t really my thing because the worldbuilding tends to be more complicated that what I usually like. But then I loved Silent Blade and Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews and the Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Host so I’ve been wanting to explore the genre a bit more. Linnea Sinclair has been recommended by blogging buddies Angie and Janice and I’ve had her books on my TBR pile for ages. I was recently in the mood for sci-fi so I ignored the other three books I was in the middle of, bought the Kindle edition of Games of Command and promptly got sucked in by Linnea Sinclair’s writing.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Games of CommandThe universe isn’t what it used to be. With the new Alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, biocybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten – and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary winds up in their ship’s sick bay–and in the hands of her best friend, Dr. Eden Fynn–Sass’s efforts may be wasted.

Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass’s secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart – and end Sass’s career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the biocybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings… for Sass. Soon it’s clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for – and everything they now have to live for.

I had a lot of fun reading Games of Command and I thought it was a good introduction to Linnea Sinclair’s work. I was so absorbed that I stayed up late to finish it. I have to admit that some of the terms and situations went over my head but I was fine with that, I felt like it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. I think that will always be the case for me whenever I read certain space opera novels. I would rather go with the flow of the book instead of spend too much time trying to figure out the science and the mechanics of that particular book.

Going into this novel, I knew that it was romantic sci-fi so I was looking forward to the romance and I wasn’t disappointed. The book focused on two couples but I liked the main story arc, between Sass and Branden, more than the secondary one. Admiral Kel-Paten is a biocybe, half-human and half-machine, and he’s not supposed to develop romantic feelings. But due to some quirk, he fell in love with Sass even though they’re on opposite sides of a galactic war. When truce comes in the form of an alliance, Branden fights to have Sass by his side as the captain of his flagship. I liked seeing these two interact with each other and I enjoyed seeing the story unfold from their points of view. Branden is highly competent in his work but he’s pretty clueless when it comes to human emotions. It was interesting to see his vulnerability and how he worked to build a relationship with Sass that goes beyond their professional connection. As for Sass, at first she was just concerned with keeping her secret past from Branden but then she grows to respect him during the months they work together. I found the slow burn romance between these two flawed characters sweet. Here’s a snippet that I really liked:

“When she saw the scars, she understood. They weren’t like Zanorian’s thin affectations. These were knotty, full of pain and bad memories. Unpleasant. Best kept hidden.

She understood that too. She had scars. But hers were inside, while his were on the outside.”

Games of Command is filled with action and adventure. I enjoyed the fast pace of the novel and have no complaints regarding the plot and character development. I just wish that it had an extended ending, I felt like the last scene of the book ended a bit abruptly and I wouldn’t have minded seeing more. I liked that Games of Command is a standalone novel and I feel like it’s a good introduction to Linnea Sinclair’s writing. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her. Recommended for fans of romantic sci-fi or space opera.

Other reviews:
Angieville
Specfic Romantic

Top Ten Books in Sci-Fi

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we got to choose what genre to focus on for our lists. I wanted to highlight sci-fi because it’s a genre that I haven’t fully explored. In no particular order, here are the sci-fi books that I’ve enjoyed reading:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews

Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

… and I’m one short. I couldn’t even make it to ten! I wasn’t sure if dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels are considered sci-fi so I decided not to include them (in any case, I haven’t read a lot in that sub-genre either). I guess it’s pretty obvious that I need to read more from this genre. Would you happen to have any recommendations for me based on the titles listed above? Connie Willis and Linnea Sinclair are already on my TBR pile.

Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst

I really liked Andrea K. Host’s And All the Stars last year and even included it in my best of 2013 list. I have been meaning to read the rest of her books since then. I know that several friends (namely Rachel, Estara and Li) have loved the Touchstone trilogy so I requested a review copy from the author and started reading it as soon as I was in the mood for sci-fi. I used to say that I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but given how much I enjoy reading Andrea K. Höst’s novels, it seems like I should read more from that genre. I read the omnibus version of the trilogy so this is a review for all three books – Stray, Lab Rat One and Caszandra – although I wouldn’t be mentioning any spoilers.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Touchstone TrilogyOn her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

Aussie teen Cass tells her story in diary format, so a big factor of the reader’s enjoyment of the Touchstone trilogy is based on how well you can relate and connect with her character. At first I thought it wasn’t going to work for me since I’m not a big fan of stories where the main character is stranded somewhere by herself. However, I found it easy to like Cass and the pace picked up considerably once she was rescued and brought to the alien planet Tare. Cass is smart, funny and has realistic reactions to finding herself suddenly stuck in an unfamiliar world. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to adjust to living in a foreign country, finding yourself in another planet with a drastically different civilization and language is probably a thousand times worse. I could definitely understand her homesickness and loneliness. I also feel like Cass handles herself quite well in spite of the physical and emotional obstacles in her path. Plus, I always think it’s a good thing when the main character of any novel is a book lover. Some excerpts:

“I’ve spent my life with stories of people who don’t walk away, who go back for their friends, who make that last stand. I’ve been brainwashed by Samwise Gamgee.”

_____________________________

“I’ve spent my whole life reading books. I vaguely remember Mum reading to me in our own bedtime sessions, and our house is practically a library. The way I think, the way I act, most of that’s because of the books I’ve read.”

How can I not like someone who says things like that? I was also fascinated with the technologically advanced world that Andrea K. Höst created – with nanotechnology and tiny computer interface that can be injected in human brains. You can do all sorts of amazing things with the interface like record what you’re seeing, watch movies, read books and play interactive games. In this world, there are also psychic space ninjas called Setari who are specially trained military personnel tasked with keeping the known planets and the space around them safe. Setari have special talents like telekinesis and enhanced sight/senses. Due to certain developments, Cass spends most of her time with the Setari and even befriends some of them. To be honest, I was a little confused with the number of Setari and their talents but I didn’t let that bother me and just kept reading.

One of the aspects of the story that I truly loved was the romance. I kept reading because I wanted to find out what will happen with Cass having such a big crush on someone. I thought she was destined to have “On My Own” as her theme song but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Slowest burn romance that I’ve read in a while! It reminded me a little of the romance in Crown Duel, with a male character who’s all stoic and unreadable, skilled in combat and also a great leader. I was so absorbed by this series that I kept squeezing in time to read it even though I was supposed to do other things – like pack for a trip home or get some sleep. I even read bits and pieces of this in the car, which I don’t normally do because it makes me dizzy. I hope that gives the rest of you an idea of how engrossed I was. The story lingered in my mind days after I finished reading it, giving me one heck of a book hangover. I devoured the Gratuitous Epilogue, which features the events after the trilogy, right after I finished the three books. What’s interesting is that I think Touchstone will even be better as a reread because I wouldn’t be confused by some of the things that initially bugged me and can pay attention to other details instead. I can now safely say that I’ve become an Andrea K. Höst fangirl. Seriously, more of my reader friends should be introduced to her work. If you haven’t read any of her books, consider this a push in the right direction. I already have Medair in my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Touchstone and hot choco

“All these planets, and none of them have chocolate. Severe oversight in world creation.”

Other reviews:
Me and My Books (contains spoilers)
The Book Smugglers – Stray, Lab Rat One, Caszandra

And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

I have been hearing good things about Andrea K. Höst’s books for a while now. I’ve been curious about And All the Stars, particularly, because it’s a standalone. My friend Estara was generous enough to send me a Kindle edition as a gift a few months ago and I downloaded it right away. Now I’m not a big fan of science fiction – I rarely venture into that genre and would only do so if a book comes highly recommended by someone I know. I don’t know why but I tend to get confused by the details in sci-fi (while I don’t have that kind of problem with fantasy novels). I was in the mood for something different so I decided to give And All the Stars a try last week.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

And All the StarsCome for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

It would be very difficult to talk about And All the Stars without giving away minor spoilers but I’ll do the best that I can. I really enjoyed reading this because of the surprising twists and turns so I wouldn’t want to ruin other readers’ experience by bringing up spoilery details. The story is set in present day (or not too far into the future) Sydney, where strange spires suddenly shoot up in the middle of well-populated cities all over the world. The spires spray an unknown dust-like substance that produces a cloud of haze. No one knows what the effect of the dust is on living things and I was wondering right along with the characters. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long as the story unfolded quickly. I have to be honest, I did have a hard time getting into And All the Stars at the start – I found it a bit difficult to picture the opening scene. I had to pause and try to figure out what was being portrayed. And that happened several times throughout the book, I would be thrown out of the story for a short while because of difficulties in imagining the scene. I didn’t let it bother me all that much and I would like to be clear that I ended up really enjoying the book as a whole. It may be a minor thing but I really liked that Manila was mentioned in this one because that rarely happens:

And All the Stars Manila excerpt

Other major cities were mentioned as well, emphasizing that what’s happening in Sydney is also taking place on a global scale. Aside from that, there’s also a pretty diverse set of characters within the story. I could relate to that because of where I live now (Singapore), which can be considered a cultural melting pot. Madeleine is a likable heroine, so devoted to her art that everything else fades away while she’s drawing or painting. While I’ve never had that kind of artistic talent, I enjoyed reading about it. Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was how at its core, And All the Stars is about friendship and people getting together to help each other in the midst of a crisis. Of course, I’m also a big fan of stories that surprise me and this one did. There was a scene that made me stop and say, “Wait, what?” and then I just wanted to finish reading this as soon as I could. Plus there was a slow burn romance that I could totally root for, one that is much more complicated that I initially expected, making it all the more swoon-worthy. I also liked that this is a short standalone (the paperback edition says it has 204 pages) and is a perfect sample of the author’s writing. Can’t wait to try the rest of her novels. Highly recommended for fans of unusual YA. Like I said, I’m not a big sci-fi reader so you don’t have to be one to appreciate And All the Stars.

Other reviews:
Bunbury in the Stacks
The Book Smugglers
Book Daze