Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 on 2014-05-06
Pages: 160
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
five-stars
Filled with more than 300 images, the official illustrated tie-in to the second chapter of the DreamWorks Animation critically acclaimed Academy Award® nominated How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is based on the characters in Cressida Cowell’s bestselling series and features an introduction by the voice of Stoick the Vast, Gerard Butler.Mirroring the style of the bestselling The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, this outstanding insider’s guide introduces fans to the creative process behind the film, from the story and the characters to the visual development art and animation, to the rigging, surfacing, and lighting. The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 includes more than 300 concept sketches, preliminary drawings, architectural plans, and digital artwork that reveal how teams of artists bring the Dragon and Viking worlds to life with modern cinematic energy.Starring the voice talent of the original cast—Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T. J. Miller, Kristin Wiig—along with Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, and Djimon Hounsou, this action packed comedy adventure continues the story of Hiccup and Toothless five years after they have successfully united dragons and Vikings on the Island of Berk. While Astrid, Snoutlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds.When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.

I’ll be honest: I don’t really know how to review an art book. Much to my artist husband’s sorrow, my appreciation of art is usually limited to such devastatingly acute thoughts as, “Wow. Pretty.” I’m still training myself to read comic books. If I don’t stop to think about it, my eyes go right to the text and completely pass over the art.

When this book arrived in the mail, it was difficult for me to see anything but the gorgeous art. In fact, I had a hard time not completely devouring all the pages right there. I tried to set the book aside until I’d seen the movie (spoiler alert: I still haven’t), but that didn’t work. After a week or so, I saw it sitting there next to my usual work space and couldn’t resist. Yes, that means that I’ve read all of the spoilers the book contains for the movie. Whoops.

image001

I’m going to tell you a secret: the only degree I have to my name is an AAS in Multimedia Technology. What does this vague description mean? It means I spent two years and way too much cash studying GUIs, web design, and… 3D animation. So when I tell you that this book contains line drawings, characters sketches, and full renders of landscapes that just boggle the mind, I actually do know a little bit of what I’m talking about (unusual for me,  I know :P).

I decided, when it was far too late financially to extricate myself, that 3D animation was not for me. Despite the fact that I had a desperate dream of working for Pixar, when I realized that 1) I could not draw. At all. And 2) 3D animation requires hours upon hours of teensy, tiny, painstaking tweaks to every single aspect in every single dimension for even the smallest of objects… Well, at that point, I was out on animation as a career.

What it does mean is that I can appreciate the thoughtful work behind these gorgeous, full-color renders of not only dragons and Viking ships, but strange northern landscapes covered in icebergs like giant, glittering knives. It’s beautiful, and sometimes scary, and seeing the progression of the character sketches is amazing.

This hardcover has heft, too. Even the cover is thick and glossy, slick and beautiful in the hands. If you have an appreciation for animation or even just love How to Train Your Dragon (there are some character sketches from part 1 as well as those from part 2), then this book is worth a look through. It’s certainly built to make it worth the hefty hardcover price. I even sold a copy myself, as after showing a co-worker the book, she immediately put it on her wishlist to buy for her son.

I’m extremely grateful to the publisher for sending me this hardcover book to review. It isn’t something I would have picked up on my own, but I’m certainly glad I had the opportunity to see it. Five of five stars for people who love art or dragons or these movies in particular.

five-stars

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

This is the first book in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, released February 5th, 2013.

The Blurb

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

e&eFourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

The Review

First, I want to remind you that this is a YA series. That means that this book has a totally different feel than the Parasol Protectorate series. This book lacks Alexia’s acerbic wit (I’m sure Sophronia will develop hers in time) and the more adult themes of love/sex/marriage (at least for now). Most YA series focus on the problems of becoming an adult, and Finishing School is no different. The only difference is, Sophronia will become an adult knowing how to curtsy properly, sneak appropriately, and how to poison one person specifically at a dinner party for fifty.

I also love the name Sophronia. Probably because it’s like Sephrenia and when someone asks me what my middle initial stands for, I tell them Sephrenia. (I like to be mysterious.)

It is a genuine pleasure to, in this book, see some familiar characters at younger stages in their life. You may recognize such people as Sidheag Maccon, Niall the werewolf, and Genevieve “Vivi” Lefoux. I’m still trying to figure out if we’ve seen Sophronia anywhere in the Parasol Protectorate series and we just don’t know it (or maybe I don’t remember it), but if so she wasn’t ever mentioned by her first name.

I didn’t fall in love with Sophronia the way I did with Alexia. Sophronia is missing an element of snark that I love a lot. I assume, however, that since she’s young she’ll grow into it. (I imagine that quite a lot of Victorian ladies dealt with their world with snark. I know I would.) So this book doesn’t quite rate as highly as it’s predecessor series. However, if you’d enjoy seeing a Victorian Hogwarts with steam and gears instead of magic (and on a dirigible!) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph AdamsThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination on February 19, 2013
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
four-stars
From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?

If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

Everyone knows that superheroes are boring. Villains are more interesting: more complex in their madness, more brilliant in their darkness. When the villains are also genius scientists… Well, then you have something remarkable. The authors writing for this collection go in all sorts of different directions. Some of their villains are well intentioned, others are narcissistic, some are spurred on by achievement, others by revenge. And some of them are truly, genuinely mad.

I’ve been trying to decide on a favorite story, but I don’t think that I can. They are all wonderful and unique in their own way.

  • Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List (Austin Grossman),  in which a mad scientist/villain apologizes to his girlfriend for deceiving her, is a perfect opener.
  • Father of the Groom (Harry Turtledove) seems to be the weakest in the set, telling the story of what happens when the Bridezilla’s new father in law is a mad scientist.
  • Seanan McGuire’s Laughter at the Academy is the mind-bender of the bunch.
  • Letter to the Editor (David D. Levine) is an unexpected twist.
  • Instead of a Loving Heart (Jeremiah Tolbert) is the kind of story I wish The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (see my last review) would have been.
  • The Executor (Daniel H. Wilson) is one of the best in the book, and probably the most touching.
  • The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan (Heather Lindsley) reminds us why evil geniuses should work alone. This one made me smile, and is one of my favorites.
  • Homo Perfectus (David Farland) was the most disturbing of the bunch, featuring a power-hungry, rapist CEO.
  • The narrator of Ancient Equations (LA Banks) had me rolling my eyes.
  • Alan Dean Foster’s Rural Singularity could be the best in the book and certainly has the most unique mad scientist.
  • Captain Justice Saves the Day (Genevieve Valentine) takes a refreshing approach.
  • I’d love it if The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss) became a series. How cool would it be to have more stories of popular fiction’s most mad scientists’ daughters?
  • The anthology’s headliner Diana Gabaldon has the longest story in The Space Between. It’s well-written but ill-explained and wasn’t in the running for favorite.
  • Carrie Vaughn’s Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution is another story I hope we might see more of eventually.
  • Blood & Stardust (Laird Barron) was entertaining, but hard to follow at times.
  • I’d say L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has the creepiest villain — a political mad scientist — in A More Perfect Union.
  • Naomi Novik’s Rocks Fall is brief but particularly special. I found it intriguing.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s We Interrupt This Broadcast reminds us that she can do much more than her long form fantastical Victorian romance and do it very, very well.
  • Marjorie M. Liu gives us the interesting tale of a man dealing with the legacy of his name: Lex Luthor in The Last Dignity of Man. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and will make a tug or two on the heartstrings.
  • The Pittsburgh Technology (Jeffrey Ford) is the only one who doesn’t show us the face of the mad scientist behind the sinister plot. Not the strongest story in the bunch, but worth a read if you have the time.
  • Mofongo Knows by Grady Hendrix takes us back to pulp novels, stories of simian villains, and their inevitable conclusion. If you liked Chuck Wendig’s Dinocalypse Now, you’ll like this story.
  • I found The Food Taster’s Boy by Ben H. Winters the most thought-provoking and a good final note. It reminded me somehow of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.

I read this book when I was sick one weekend, so all the stories have a certain surreal quality in my memory now. (This is the sick weekend that ended with me washing my face with shampoo accidentally because I was that exhausted and disoriented from being awake for what seemed like 473 hours in a row.) I received a digital ARC from Netgalley but ended up buying it anyway. Overall, I’m pretty glad I did. 

four-stars

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

This book is the first in a series from debut author Jay Kristoff called The Lotus War. It will be released on September 18, 2012 from St. Martin’s Press in hard cover and digital. Buy it here.

The Blurb

A DYING LAND 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever. 

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. 

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire. [Goodreads]

The Review

Do I really need to tell you anything besides “Psychic teenager and her freaking griffin  fighting Japanese steampunk empire”? No? I didn’t think so, but here’s the rest of my review anyway.

Airships. Griffins. Crazy hallucinogenic drugs made from lotus flowers. Evil dictator. Endless war. Vast expanses of wilderness. And one small girl just trying to stay alive. All of this plays out under the ominous blood-red sky — a sign of man’s destruction of his own world.

It’s really much too soon to be naming anyone as Brandon Sanderson’s successor, but if we needed to appoint one then Jay Kristoff would have my nomination. Stormdancer has some of the same mind-boggling world-building that one would expect from one of Sanderson’s door-stoppers (but in a much more bite-size format at only 366 pages for the hardcover).

I adore Yukiko. Everything from her stubborn refusal to forgive her father for her mother’s disappearance, to her defiance of emperor and rebels alike, to her teenage pining over a boy, to her brutal reprisals for betrayal: I love everything about her. Have you heard people talking lately about what a role model Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games) is for teenage girls? Well, as much as I agree with them, I have to say – move over, Katniss, because Yukiko is going to kick your ass. The Girl on Fire is a sputtering candle flame next to the inferno that is this Girl with the Thunder Tiger.

Does it sound like I’m gushing? I think it sounds like I’m gushing… I seriously didn’t realize how much I loved this book until I sat down to write this review. But – I love it. Not to mention the cover is gorgeous. My bet is that Kristoff is going to be a guy to watch in the next few years, and I look forward to being proven right. (No, I have no doubt that I will be proven 100% correct in this and many other things.)

If I hadn’t also read Libriomancer, then Stormdancer would be my favorite book of the year. Please note, however, that though I compare this book to a YA novel, and while it has appeared on many a YA list over on Goodreads: this book is being published as an adult title. It does contain lots of violence and at least one instance of “sexeh time”. I doubt a teenager would have many issues reading this, but your mileage may vary.

I’m giving this 4 & 3/4 out of 5 stars, only because I want the sequel to have some room to grow.

[xrr rating=4.75/5 imageset=default]

 

Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

This is the debut novel from Daniel O’Malley, published on January 11, 2012 from Little, Brown.

The Blurb

The body you are wearing used to be mine.

So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her. 

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own. 

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined. [Goodreads]

The Review

This book shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. There are info-dumps galore. The main character’s name is a confusing jumble of consonants. The reader spends a large portion of the book confused. Hell, I thought this book was a “straight” thriller when I first picked it up!

Yet the info-dumping is done quite quaintly in letters from our heroine to her post-amnesiac self. It grates after awhile, but the intriguing story managed to drag me through it. It’s also noted fairly early on that Myfawnwy is pronounced like “Tiffany” but with a beginning “M” sound. (Still, I stumbled over the pronunciation in my head each time I came across it.) And it does seem sort of realistic to have the reader just as bewildered as the the point of view character, after all. I don’t know where my expectations of the book having no supernatural element came from, though.

In any case, for a book I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy and that I fully expected to put down forever after a couple of chapters, this does rather well. Myfawnwy’s story is unique and captivating. It itched at me under my skin whenever I wasn’t reading it, just as the thought of this review has itched at me since I put the finished book down. It was such a nice new spin on the genre that I really had no idea where the story was going to go. If the ending is any indication (and I assume that it is), then we should be expecting a sequel, too.

The Rook is a solid foundation for some truly original ideas in urban fantasy. I look forward to seeing another installment soon.

Review: Fated by Benedict Jacka

Fated is the debut novel from Benedict Jacka. It’s been praised by no less than the likes of Jim Butcher — with good reason, I say. It released on February 28th, 2012 by Ace Books (a division of Penguin USA).

 

The Blurb

Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…[GoodReads]

The Review

Fated is a fabulous novel. I can see why Jim Butcher blurbed it. I have waited on this book to come out since Jim mentioned it at a signing way back in June 2011. It seemed…. Well, fated that the release date was my birthday. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that this book more than lived up to the anticipation.

This book is as slim and subtle and powerful as Alex Verus’ talent. You could even say that Fated is the stiletto of urban fantasies (I just did). It’s an iceberg story: the reader sees just the tip of what is clearly a massive expanse of world-building. I liked it. And I loved Alex, all noble and haunted and conflicted as he was.

I have already gobbled up the teaser for volume two, Cursed, and will be waiting eagerly for that release date as well — which GoodReads has listed as May 29th, 2012. In fact, someone at Ace Books? Can feel free to send that second volume right over so that I can gush all over it. 😉

Guest Review: Department 19 by Will Hill [From ~ap~]

A Note from Kiara: Since today is my birthday, I’m taking a day off! The following review was written by my dear friend, ~ap~, who writes about reading over at Writing About Reading.  She’s the best, and you should go read  her. Especially since she’s currently giving away a signed, hardcover of Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. The contest ends tonight, so why don’t you hop on over and enter? We’ll wait. … There. Now that that’s settled, on with the review! 

Department 19

Department 19

Author: Will Hill

Format: author-signed paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins

Original Release Date: 3/29/2011

Length: 496 pages

Acquired: won in a publisher giveaway

Department 19 WebsiteFacebook & Twitter

The blurb from the website:

Jamie Carpenter’s life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein.

Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula.

Aided by Frankenstein’s monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond – from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania.

My moderately spoilery thoughts:

Considering the fact that this is a YA book, I rather enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against YA, but at times the genre can be frustrating to read, as though YA writers assume that their readers aren’t mature or intelligent enough to handle content that’s a bit more complex. Some of the writing in Department 19 definitely seemed more appropriate for a younger crowd but all in all, it was fast-paced enough to keep the pages turning and intriguing enough to keep me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. I also found myself anxious to get back to it as soon as possible whenever I had to put it down to eat or shower or sleep or work… pesky, pesky work.

Some of my favorite sections of this book dealt with the short glimpses back in history at the protagonist’s ancestors. Jamie Carpenter’s great-grandfather worked with the fabled Abraham Van Helsing and joined his circle of Dracula-staking buddies when Department 19, aka Blacklight, was formed in 1892, 100+ years before Jamie’s story begins. His grandfather met and befriended Frankenstein’s monster, who seemed quite civilized and took on his creator’s name after he passed. Finally we learn more about his father Julian, who was also a member of Department 19 and who apparently betrayed it, and so is much hated by the time Jamie is tossed headfirst into insanity.

Before the events in this story, neither Jamie or his mother had any knowledge of the classified, vampire-killing, militant branch of the government which his father had been an honored member. He was honored before that whole betrayal thing, anyway, after which his colleagues tracked him down and summarily executed him in his driveway in front of his family. I had a hard time swallowing such fly-off-the-handle type of behavior from a highly-trained, professional organization, but I didn’t let it detract (much) from the rest of the story.

I enjoyed the fact that the author touted Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a chronicle of true events, rather than a work of fiction. As one Department 19 Operator explains to a civilian after she admits that she has read Stoker’s book, “It’s not a story; it’s a history lesson.” Though that reminded me of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, in which Dracula is essentially a How-to guide for killing vampires of the Black Court, the concept fit well and the premise opened the door for the inclusion of Frankenstein’s character, which added some spice to the story.

Jamie is torn from his life as an awkward teen when his mother is kidnapped by one of the oldest vamps in the world, after which he is rescued from the same vamp by yet another monster straight out of a horror story. A monster who happened to be pals with his dad, once upon a time (no pun intended). Of course, neither Jamie or his mother had any knowledge of the vampire-killing militant branch of the government before this story takes place so we get a lot of info-dumping to catch Jamie (us) up on the history of the organization and his family’s part in it. I feel that Hill did a great job of fleshing out Jamie’s character, from the vehement anger at his father for his betrayal and for his lies about his job to Jamie and his mother, to his stubborn insistence in ignoring what he’s told by senior members of Blacklight. I often found his behavior exceedingly annoying but it was probably pretty accurate for a teenaged boy.

Aside from a bit of choppy jumping back and forth action toward the end of the book, the only issue I had with the story was the excessive gore. Yes, I do realize that this is a Stoker-esque portrayal of vamps as blood-sucking monsters and that much blood and murder and mayhem is likely to take place, but the book is aimed at a 12+ audience and I just felt that it was a little too bloody for the pre-teen set. I got the feeling while reading the many fight scenes that the author was writing something as anti-Twilight as possible and while I approve, multiple mentions of characters being soaked in blood and then the image of a vampire covered in gore from head to toe, flinging drops of blood from her hair in the midst of battle, was just a wee bit much.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this read to anyone who wants a good ole vamp-staking story. There are cool weapons, a lot of action, and an impressively in-depth history of the Blacklight organization, as well as a dun-dun-dun-DUNNNN ending that will, hopefully, make you look forward to the next book, Department 19: The Rising, as much as I do. (teaser chapters here)

[Winner] Magic Most Foul Giveaway for DARKER STILL

Okay. We’re finally ready to announce a winner!

And our winner is….

DAWN!

Who said, “Sounds like an interesting read. Will have to check out her work.

Well, now you can, Dawn! Please email me at: kiara at Waiting for Fairies dot com with your mailing address so that I can get it to the appropriate people. Congratulations!

Full disclosure:

In order to draw the winner of this giveaway, I combined the comments from the two Magic Most Foul posts here and here, in the order in which they were posted. I numbered them from oldest to newest. You cannot see it on the front end, but rest assured I have the time stamps down to the minute here on the back end of things. Then, I had Random.org spit out the following chunk of numbers:

77	69	65	36	3
43	54	2	89	31
75	1	89	97	11
26	62	3	31	83
28	47	31	68	22
32	62	44	39	58
63	100	34	61	33
86	98	87	49	55
53	83	60	94	57
79	73	96	94	37
11	88	59	11	90
2	75	57	61	27
65	58	97	50	75
95	68	71	82	43
64	25	87	66	2
99	78	89	3	97
25	37	100	57	100
4	36	27	18	2
36	4	36	26	37
85	61	93	76	16

Timestamp: 2012-02-23 23:04:36 UTC

The first number that was an actual comment (left to right, top to bottom) was our winner. That was comment#3, which was Dawn. :)

Again, congratulations, and I hope you’ll stop back as we still have more giveaways for you to win! And you still have time to enter the Knits for Nerds Giveaway!

Top 10 Books I Read in 2011

Since everyone else was busy doing end-of-year posts, I figured I’d throw my 10 cents out there as well. Here are my top 10 from 2011. These are books that I read in 2011, not necessarily that were published in 2011. 

1. Number one, of course, has to be Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story. Because the 13th book in a series where the main character is dead? Not only is that some epic story-telling timing, but to also write it in a fashion that leaves the reader breathless? After thirteen books?? Oh, yes. I never did a review of this one, because, well. It’d be like flowers professing to love sunlight. Well – duh.

2. Angel Town by Lilith Saintcrow. A perfect end to a perfect series. Hard, fast, and brutal – Saintcrow’s signature. Fabulous.

3. Hounded by Kevin Hearne. You can read my review here. But I’ll repeat this much: “I loved this book, and I can see even just from the following volume that the author’s work is getting even better. I look forward to following this series through a long and prosperous life.”

4. Dead Iron by Devon Monk. I’m a fan of Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series, too. Dead Iron is a new genre for Monk: steampunk.  (Monk is no stranger to exploring genres.) I loved this book. It was like a stew of different paranormal elements that shouldn’t have been so yummy – but totally was.

5. My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland. My review is here. “…mix[ing] the macabre with the sincere… balancing the grotesque with the sarcastic, and the desperate with the ordinary. This is a fun book, with a bit of depth if you care to look for it.” It also wins my pick for Best Cover Art of 2011.

6. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. I liked this book even more because it’s set in London, and I don’t know much about the British constabulary. Peter Grant is notable because he’s actually a pretty average guy before being chosen to work under Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale. The blurb professes that Peter has the “ability to speak with the dead”, but it seemed to me those ghosts spoke to him out of convenience and not because of an inherent talent.

7. Tricks of the Trade by Laura Anne Gilman. I reviewed this book back in January. So far it remains my favorite book in the series, even though the characters were more fully fleshed out in the following volume. Gilman handled a delicate situation excellently in this book, and she deserves high marks for that.

8. The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin. It’s not often you find a fantasy novel with a blind protagonist, and this one is woven deftly. The world is rich and unique. You can read my review of the first book in the series The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by clicking here.

9. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber. A great new YA paranormal that evokes The Portrait of Dorian Gray and Edgar Allen Poe. You can read my review of it here.

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you haven’t heard of this book, you’ve been living under a rock. A young adult dystopian with some interesting things to say.

Special Mentions: 

I tried to keep this list limited to either series books that were truly exemplary, or new or almost-new series. That said, there are several more that would have made the list had I not limited it. Those are (in no particular order):

  • Blackout by Rob Thurman
  • Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson
  • Heartless by Gail Carriger
  • Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen

Other notables: 

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Shotgun Gravy by Chuck Wendig (novella)

One book I wish I hadn’t spent time on? The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It was billed as an “adult Harry Potter”, but I think it’s more accurately described as “the anti-Harry Potter”. If HP was about the power and strength of friendship, then The Magicians is about a group of the most selfish, spoiled people I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. It *was* fascinating, and for those who don’t mind hating their narrators, it may not be such a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong. It was well-crafted and well-written – but I didn’t like the way it made me feel.