Top Ten Tuesday: My Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I missed this topic a few weeks back, but there are SO MANY amazing books to be released this year.  I keep finding new ones to gawk at and feeling overwhelmed at the amount of reading I have to do to catch up.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (Sept 15, 2020)- This is the prequel I never knew I needed.  It’s a Kingsbridge novel set during the Viking Age.  A KINGSBRIDGE NOVEL SET IN THE VIKING AGE!!!  A favorite series by a beloved author during my favorite time period.  It’s like Follett wrote it just for me.

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell (Nov 24, 2020) – I’m sorry to start this list with two pieces mostly unrelated to my blog content- but when I found out about this title just a couple weeks after Follett’s, it felt like Christmas was coming early. I’ll probably sob my whole way through this book because I know it’s the last but I have never loved any fictional character as much as I love Uhtred.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Oct 13, 2020) – I’ve been eager for this too, since I first heard about it in spring.  Although her Sixth World series (that starts with Trail of Lightning) wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I loved her short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience and I’m hoping to see more of what drew me in about that story here.

The Trials of Koli by MR Carey

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey (Sept. 15, 2020) – The Book of Koli has undoubtedly been my favorite read so far this year, so I can’t leave it’s sequel off the list.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski (Oct 27, 2020) – I can’t tell if this is set in the same world as The Witcher, but regardless I’m thrilled to see this.  It’s been around for quite some time, but it’s never been translated before. I’ve seen some reviews that said this is Sapkowski’s best, so even though there’s no Geralt, I’ll be there with bells on.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (Oct 6, 2020) – We all know how much I love horror, and while I still haven’t had a chance to try Kingfisher, I’m super excited for this.  The blurb reminded me of House of Leaves and also like the Horror version of Ten Thousand Doors of January.  No idea how that would work exactly but I’m there for it.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones (Sep 1, 2020) – After the most excellent Mapping the Interior, and the even more excellent The Only Good Indians (RTC), consider me an official fan of Stephen Graham Jones.  This is what I think of when I hear the term literary horror and it’s brilliant.

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (Aug 25, 2020) – According to the author’s twitter, the first word of this book is “Bro” and Grendel’s mother “is a warrior woman, not an ugly troll woman”.  I was thrilled with her modern contemporary retelling- The Mere Wife, and I am so excited for this modern feminist translation of Beowulf.

Confessions on the 745 by Lisa Unger

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Oct 6, 2020) – I’m in love with the premise of this – two strangers confess their problems to each other on a train. A few days later, one of those problems mysteriously disappears…

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon (The Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal (Jul 14, 2020) – Okay, so this one is cheating, since it’s already been released, but I haven’t read it yet. It is on hold at my library though!  If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend checking it out (starting with the short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars).

I’ve been out of the loop – so I’m curious, which new releases are you most looking forward to?

 

Book Review: War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

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Rating:  ★★★★

I realize I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately (I’m sorry!) but it’s only because I’m so excited for the next book, Sword of Kings, due out in November.  I had put off reading this one, scared it was finally going to be over, but with another book scheduled for release it felt like it was finally time to put my fears aside.

I read a handful of other reviews on GoodReads when I finished, and multiple times I saw this series accused of being formulaic, and perhaps it is, but I’m not one to mind formulaic when the formula works.  What I love about these books is the characters.  This late in the game I do find myself missing some of the older characters, Alfred, Brida, Ragnar… and Aethelflaed, but aside from being Uhtred’s story, this is really the story about the making of England, and in a story that epic the characters will inevitably change.

Uhtred is in his 60s for this book.  He’s more cautious, superstitious, he’s less impulsive, less confident, anger doesn’t control him the way it used to.  I found myself missing some of his other qualities as a younger man, but his wit is still fully intact and there were several parts of this book that made me laugh out loud.

I found myself tripped up again and again by the names.  Specifically the Aethelhelms, Older and Younger, (or was it the Aethelweards? seriously I can’t remember).  Then there seems to be a whole slew of other Aethel-somethings..  sigh.  I remember Svein of the White Horse and Ubbe Lothbrok, and the Ivars and Haesten and Odda… I can’t remember where the heck the Aethelhelms came in.

Anyway- this book actually felt less formulaic than the previous 10.  I think it had a lot to do with Uhtred’s character development, but also, this is the weakest he has ever been physically.  His victory in this book never feels guaranteed.  There are no last minute, evil genius save-the-day plans (like bee-bombs, although there is a hysterical smiting).  A looming dread blankets the whole book, from beginning to end.

The other elements of a Saxon Story are all there: the fun action scenes, the witty comebacks, the general disdain towards Christianity from Uhtred.  Most of all – the laughs.  It’s what generally what keeps me coming back, so I’ll end this review with a little pagan humor:

“You’ve got dirt on your forehead,” I said, “so has he,” I pointed to the other priest.
“Because it’s Good Friday, lord.  The day our Lord died.”
“Is that why they call it good?”

War of the Wolf can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books on my Fall 2019 TBR!  Although fall is not my favorite season, it does have a certain charm, pumpkins, farmer’s markets, arts festivals, and halloween!  So my plan, of course, is to cram as many scary, spooky and dark reads into fall as I can.

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza – A girl named Clara receives a note written in a secret language she once shared with her dead twin sister Zoe, regarding the suspicious death of a local boy in a very strange and suspicious town.  I’ve never heard of this author before- but I have high hopes for the book, which should make a great October read!

I will make you pay by teresa driscoll

I Will Make You Pay by Teresa Driscoll – This was a NetGalley Read Now (not sure if it still is) that I picked up on impulse.  The title is pretty self explanatory.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a fast paced thrill ride with lots of twists and turns.

Sword of Kings by Bernard Corwnell

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell – With the release of this looming on the horizon, I finally sucked up my fear of reading the last book.  I’m excited to read them back-to-back, but also scared, because we seem to be getting closer to the end of Uhtred’s life and I don’t think my heart could take it.

INTO_THE_CROOKED_PLACE6

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo – I don’t often read YA anymore, but the description reminds me of a magical Six of Crows.  I’m trying not to be too hyped about it.

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski – This is my designated Halloween read.  Honestly I have no business adding backlist titles to my TBR right now, I am already behind and have way too much to catch up with, but I need at least one solid horror novel on the list.

 

The First Law Trilogy and A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – I’m not being delusional about my ability to cram all three First Law books in before my planned buddy read of A Little Hatred on October 22.  Nope.  That’s not me.  This is all a totally reasonable plan.

The Menace From Farside by Ian McDonald

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald – Another planned buddy read for when it releases on November 12.  This is a novella and it’s one of my favorite series and I’m pretty much dying to get my hands on it.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia.jpg

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia – Tuesday Mooney embarks on an epic treasure hunt left behind by an eccentric billionaire!  I’m not really sure where the ghosts come in to play, but with a title like Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, how could I turn it down?!

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – I requested this way back in summer when I thought I had plenty of time to read it.  I’m actually hoping to cram it in before the end of September, but who knows.  I’m excited to be getting more Historical Fiction on the list, since it was really kind of my first love in the reading world and the amount of it I’ve read this year is abysmal.

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Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton – The author was kind enough to send this to me in exchange for a review, which is long overdue.  However- with a cover like that and a tale of the Fae I feel like it will make another great fall read and I’m really looking forward to it!

That’s it!  I’m seriously excited for absolutely every one of these books, but also terribly overwhelmed looking at them all.  What about you?  What’s on your list?

2019 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Well- I’m a little late to the party on this one.  I wasn’t tagged by anyone on this and don’t plan to tag anyone else but I wanted to do it anyway because it looks like fun.

But first some mid-year stats because I love stats of any sort.

Pages read: 16,149

Novels or Novellas read: 37
Graphic Novels read: 6
Short Stories (not as part of a larger collection): 6
Short Story collections: 3

Genre Breakdown:
20 Fantasy
16 Science Fiction
6 Science Fantasy
3 Thrillers
3 Classics
2 Historical Fiction
1 Western
1 Horror

25 “not men” (women and non-binary authors), 27 men (6 of these are Brian K. Vaughan from reading the Saga series, so I’m not doing too bad here).

12 featuring LGBT+ characters

9 authors of color

32 New-to-me authors (which is fantastic for me because I have a tendency to read the same authors over and over again)

Challenges:  I’m not really participating in any challenges this year.  But I’ve been randomly filling in a list of Pop Sugar prompts and I think I’ve been able to fill in about 28 prompts.

Best book I’ve read so far:

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky is the only book I can put here without an asterisk next to it.  A close second is:

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.  The only thing holding this back from being a full 5 star read for me is the ending, which felt a little too abrupt for me.

Best sequel I’ve read so far:

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Moon Rising (Luna #3) by Ian McDonald.  Technically not a sequel.. but a next-in-series.  My other options were Saga Vol. 2, and Mahimata (Asiana #2) by Rati Mehrotra, which were both solid reads.

New release I haven’t read yet but want to:

Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

All of them?  Does that count?

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald (novella set in world of Luna)

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marhsall

The Institute by Stephen King

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

Biggest disappointment:

TheStand_SK

The Stand by Stephen King.  I’ve had several disappointments this year- but there really isn’t anything more disappointing than a favorite author’s well-loved book not living up to the hype for you personally.  It’s my own fault for expecting too much, because I know King is hit or miss, but I really wanted to love this and couldn’t.

Biggest surprise:

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney.  It was such a surprise I didn’t even know I wanted to read it until it was in my hands.

Favorite new author (debut or new to me):

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass.  I didn’t rate this 5 stars, but it’s probably at the top of my 4 star reads.  I would have put Headly (The Mere Wife) here, but I ended up DNF’ing her Queen of Kings, and I loved Brodsky’s The Wolf in the Whale but I am not overly interested in reading her others.  So I’m going with Cate Glass, because I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel to this one.

Newest fictional crush:

I don’t have one so far this year!

Newest favorite character:

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Omat & Brandr from The Wolf in the Whale.  I don’t know if either of them individually are new favorite characters but they are definitely a new favorite couple.

Book that (almost) made me cry:

blrw_mj

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. So if I’m being honest I think the only book that made me cry this year is once again The Wolf in the Whale.  But I really would hate to use that book for all of these prompts.  So the runner up, which almost made me cry, was Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Book that made me happy laugh:

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky.  This book is really funny- and it needed to be because it’s also really dark.

Honorable mention to Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, which I’ve only read a little of so far but has given me a few laugh out loud moments.

Favorite book to film adaptation I saw this year:

The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell.  I don’t know if this is cheating, since I actually read the book in 2017.  The Last Kingdom which is a Netflix show is one of my favorite shows.  I saw season three earlier in the year and enjoyed that (although I do think it deviated a lot from the books).

Favorite review I’ve written this year:

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.  Mostly because it gave me so many fabulous quotes to include.

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Honorable mention to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West because the review kept evolving after I had written it.  It started as a rant, and then when I went to edit the rant I had thought about the book some more and I had to add a whole slew of new stuff.  And later when I edited that, I had even more thoughts to add.

Most beautiful book I’ve bought so far this year (or received):

Inland by Tea Obreht

Inland by Tea Obreht.  I recently received an ARC of this in the mail and even though it’s an ARC there’s a cover with some promotional blurbs and behind that the front cover is just really pretty with all the colors.

Books I need to read by the end of the year:

SO MANY.  I feel so far behind right now.  But a few that I already own that I really want to get to are:

Micro by Michael Crichton

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

And that’s it!  I’m a little disappointed I don’t have more titles to freak out over.  Hopefully the second half of 2019 will be a little better!

Top Ten Tuesday: Fearsome Females

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Today’s topic is character freebie, and this post is long overdue.  The truth is, all my all time favorite characters are male, and most of my favorite authors are men.  I can’t answer why because I honestly don’t know. So today I’m going to give a shout out to the strong female protagonist (or sidekick), which I probably don’t talk about enough.

The characters below, listed in no particular order, are not only not damsels in distress, but they are probably bailing their male counterparts out of a sticky situation.

Mackayla (Mac) Lane of the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning – Admittedly, we know we can count on Barrons to show up when Mac gets in over her head, but let’s not forget the Mac does a pretty good job of holding her own most days.  I mean- I wouldn’t survive a rhinoboy… especially not while keeping my fingernails painted.  I love that she manages to still be very feminine while also being tough.

SoC_LB

Inej Ghafa of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Inej has had a really traumatic life.  Honestly I think she should be far more broken inside than Kaz considering what she’s been through, but mentally and physically, she’s a warrior.  I adored her for it.

Kinsey Locke of Locke & Key by Joe Hill – This is one book (graphic novel) where the girl really was my favorite character.  She might be tough due to in-book magic, but she also experiences a lot of growth over the course of all six books.  Far and away my favorite character from that series.

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

Willa Herot of The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – Have you ever heard the song “Two Black Cadillacs” by Carrie Underwood?  I feel like Willa Herot is the wife in that song.  Like if you cheat on her- she’s not coming for the mistress, she’s coming for you.  And she’s probably going to laugh about it later over tea.

Ferius Parfax of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – She’s a fast talking, card slinging, Argosi wanderer with a thousand tricks up her sleeve and a soft spot for a kid named Kellen.  If you’re in a sticky situation- Ferius is the person you ask to clean it up.

Hild of The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – Sorry Nona Grey, Hild is the original warrior nun.  She don’t take no shit from nobody, and I love that she’s one of the few character’s that’s ever allowed to put Uhtred in his place.

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Nemesis of The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid – Here’s one I don’t mention.  Nemesis is actually a bioengineered weapon.  Only death will stop her.  Seriously.  It’s the way she’s programmed.

TLW_MC

Sarah Harding of The Lost World by Michael Crichton – Here’s something you might not know: Michael Crichton was writing strong female protagonists before it was the cool thing to do.  Sure they probably all resemble Lara Croft, but I remember reading the scene where she literally carries Dr. Ian Malcolm out of the trailer hanging over the cliff on her back and I think I might have actually cried.  A) Because he was taken from us too soon, and B) because fuck you Steven Spielberg for changing that scene.  Harding spent this whole novel rescuing the boys and I just loved her for it.

Circe_MM

Circe of Circe by Madeline Miller – Circe spends a lot of the early pages being a doormat, but those later chapters when she figures out she doesn’t have to remain a doormat?  Ugh- loved every minute.

Yennefer of The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski – In the debate between Triss Merigold and Yenn, I’m always going to be team Yenn.  I love that between her and the supposedly emotionless Geralt, she manages to be the least emotional.  I don’t see this dynamic often in literature or anywhere but it never gets old for me.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Gaela of The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton – I had a lot of complaints about this book, and even some about Gaela, but damn it, it didn’t stop me from admiring her.  I can’t really explain why I loved her so much without spoilers – but I was cheering her on the whole time.  If the tragedy in this book had been that the antagonists won, I wouldn’t have shed a tear.

Thisbe Saneer of Terra Ignota by Ada Palmer – Something happens to Thisbe early on in these novels and we don’t actually get to spend a lot of time with her, but we do know that Mycroft is terrified of her.  Which says a lot considering Mycroft’s history.  Also- I really, really want a pair of her killer boots.

Madame D’Arouet of Terra Ignota by Ada Palmer – If Thisbe is the lady putting the knife in your enemy’s back – Madame is the woman framing you for it.  She just gets ickier as the books go on, but she’s never boring.

Gone Girl Gillian Flynn

Amy Dunne of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (major spoilers ahead) – So Amy is the one most readers love to hate, and while I sort of hated the ending too, I have to admit, I’m not sure Amy would be the same character if the book didn’t end that way.  I mean- she’s cunning enough to frame a man for a murder that, never mind he didn’t commit, but didn’t even happen.

That’s actually more than 10, and I feel like I could keep naming names, so we’ll stop here.  I do want to say that while my list has an excess of women you wouldn’t want to double-cross, I don’t think that’s the only way to portray a strong female protagonist, it’s just those types of characters I gravitate to most, regardless of gender.

What about you? Did you do a Top Ten Tuesday too?  Leave me a link below so I can check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite couples!

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I am so excited for this week’s topic.  The only thing better than one awesome character is two characters with chemistry.  Fair warning- I went way beyond ten with this, and they aren’t all romantic couples.

 

15. Eric & Jenny from S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams – I didn’t love S.  The meat of the book (Ship of Theseus) was boring and didn’t make a lot of sense.  It was only saved by Jenny and Eric and their notes all over the margins.  It’s a slow burn sort of romance and took some time to build.  I love this couple because they fell in love over a book!

14. Thaniel & Mori from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley – I love these two because you’re never quite sure where they stand with each other.  It’s a will they/won’t they, but if you love nothing else about this book, you’ll be dying for a Happily Ever After by the end.

13. Claire & Jamie from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Ugh.  These two.  Listen- Outlander is a phenomenal book, and I absolutely love how much Jamie loves Claire.  I included them despite the fact that I only ever read the first book through to completion. Why are they so damn long?  (And no I haven’t watched the show.)

12. Caris & Merethin from World Without End by Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth series are some of my favorite historical fiction books of all time, and World Without End  remains my favorite of the trilogy.  If you aren’t ugly crying by the time Caris’s face is revealed on the angel overlooking Kingsbridge, there’s something wrong with you.

11. Eugenides & Irene from The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – This is some of the best YA Fantasy Fiction out there.  I’ll admit that when Eugenides revealed his love for Irene, it came as a little bit of a shock, but I really just wanted him to be happy.  I love that Turner left so much to the imagination about their relationship.

 

10. Anita Blake & Jean Claude from the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton – I know Hamilton drove this series into the dirt after all of 8 books or so.  Honestly I don’t care.  Of all her lovers- Jean Claude remains as one of the ones who loved her first, loved her best, and loved her most.

9. Ken & Mishima from Infomocracy/Null States by Malka Ann Older – This was another slowly, but lovingly built romance.  The best part?  Aside from an odd scene where Mishima physically attacks Ken, it seemed like a totally normal relationship.  No over the top expectations, no premature confessions of love, no waiting until they were ready to get married for sex.  Honestly- they are probably one of the realest couples I’ve seen portrayed in literature.

8. Mira & Carey from The Moon and the Other by John Kessel – Mira and Carey are interesting because their relationship is already somewhat established by the time we join in on their story.  Also- this book will rip your guts out, douse them in kerosene and light them on fire.  It’s that good.

7. Falcio val Mond & Ethalia from The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell – There are better romantic couples on this list- but in these books Ethalia was badly needed.  Poor Falcio just doesn’t ever seem to catch a break, so his stolen moments with Ethalia always put a smile on my face.

6. Apollo & Simmea from Thessaly by Jo Walton – (MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS SERIES) I don’t even know how to label these two.  I think they are platonic friends officially.  But I think Simmea tends more towards romantic love for all of book one, and Apollo completely loses his shit when he loses Simmea.  This is far and away the most complex couple on this list.

 

5. Uhtred & Gisla from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – (You didn’t honestly think we’d get through this list without Uhtred making an appearance did you?  Brace yourselves- he’s got two more spots on this list.)  I loved when Uhtred and Gisla were together.  She was like the voice of reason in his life.  The only person he genuinely listened to, and one only woman he sleeps with that he seems to truly respect.  This was not a HEA and it ripped my heart out.

4. Elizabeth Bennett & Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yes it’s terribly cliched.  No I won’t take them off.  It doesn’t require more explanation than that, does it?

3. Kaz Brekker & Inej Ghafa from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – If I’m being honest- the entire SoC crew and their significant others belong up here.  None of the relationships in this book suffered needless angst and I feel like that’s pretty rare in a YA novel.

2. Elma & Nathaniel York from The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Instead of explaining this one I’ll leave you with this very short story available free on Tor.com.  You’re welcome. https://www.tor.com/2018/07/02/read-mary-robinette-kowals-the-lady-astronaut-of-mars/

1. Mac & Barrons from the Darkfever series by Karen Marie Moning – No- I don’t care that Barrons suffered a total character assassination in the past couple books.  I don’t care that Moning has run out of ways to pit them against each other.  They remain my favorite book couple of all time, and when I thought about my list they were the first two to come to mind.

But I promised more than romantic couples right?  So here we go:

My favorite frenemies:

 

4. Ballister Blackheart & Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – From the moment I first saw these two on the same page I was shipping them.

3. Dolores Claiborne & Vera Donovan from Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King – This probably takes second place as one of the more complex relationships on this list.  They love-hate each other, but they have each other’s backs.  Stephen King sort of killed it (okay he actually killed it).

2. Jorg & Rikey from Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – I don’t know if the term frenemies actually applies to these two, but poor little Rikey sure can’t catch a break from Jorg.

1. Uhtred & Alfred from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – I told you he’d be back.  These two are honestly one of the most entertaining pairs I’ve ever read in literature.  They need each other, but they hate each other, but they love each other.

But wait!  There’s more!

My favorite bromances:

 

4. Geralt & Dandelion from The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski – These two.  There’s nothing I love more than Dandelion getting into trouble and Geralt coming to save his ass.

3. Jackal & Oats from The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – That moment when Oats shows up at the Betrayer Moon to fight the centaurs but really it’s just to see Jackal?  Perfection.

2. Kest & Brasti & Falcio from The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell – This is probably the penultimate bromance.  These guys are literally the three musketeers… rewritten.  And their banter is the highlight of all the books.

1. Uhtred & Finan from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – Uhtred and Finan to me are like the book version of Ragnar and Floki.  It’s pretty obvious there’s nothing Finan wouldn’t do for his pal, and I’m happy Cornwell had the good sense to keep him around for more than a single book.

Whew- sorry that was long.  Book couples are one of my favorite things.  But you know what’s painfully, sorely, obviously missing from this list?  Female friendships. (Sistermances- is that a thing? Can we make it a thing?)  If you have one on your list please link to it so I can check it out!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroes

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Hello!  I apologize I’ve been on hiatus.  October and November are super busy months for me at work and December hasn’t been looking up either.  A couple weeks to go and hopefully I can get back to reading and blogging regularly.

Today’s TTT was a freebie.  I’ve already listed my top ten favorite villains, so I wanted to go the opposite route and talk about my favorite heroes.  We’ll venture into four forms of media today: Books, TV, Video Games and movies, so I’ll apologize in advance for not making this post completely bookish.

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10. Apollo in The Just City by Jo Walton (review here) – The Just City is a book that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough.  It’s incredibly relevant, beautifully told, thought provoking, and entertaining.  Apollo is a favorite, not only because of the transformation he goes through, but because of his complexity. He’s thoughtful and loving, but also sometimes driven by rage, and clearly very flawed.  (You see a lot of that in book two: The Philosopher Kings.)

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9. Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator – Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time (and that’s saying a lot because it’s largely a tragedy which I find incredibly depressing). He’s a reluctant hero, driven largely by love for his family.  When he is first asked to help make Rome a Republic again he declines, wanting instead to return to his home.  He embodies just about every quality you could ask for in a hero, and despite not really trying or even being in a position to do so, he succeeds in his goals.

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8.  Jericho Barrons in the Darkfever series by Karen Marie Moning – Jericho is arguably one of the least heroic characters on this list.  I wouldn’t say he undergoes a major transformation throughout the books, but as we come to know more about him and better understand him, it’s hard not to be sympathetic.  Also- the man is damn entertaining to read.

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7. Nathan Drake in Uncharted – You’ll notice a large part of my list is comprised of video game characters.  Aside from television- you’ll spend more hours with game characters than you ever will with book or film characters.  Furthermore, being that you control them, it’s really, really hard not to become attached.  Nathan Drake first appeared in Uncharted in 2007.  He’s a charming, fast talking, scrappy adventurer.  He seems to have a knack for getting himself into trouble. When the last game released in 2016, I was literally sobbing my eyes out at his ending, both because it was perfect for him and because I knew it was the last game he’d star in.  (In case you’re curious about Nathan Drake: I just stumbled across a 15 minute short film that nailed everything I love about him.  You can find it here.  Also- where is the full length film and why is that not a thing already?)

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6.  Falcio val Mond in The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell (review here) – This is another series I feel like doesn’t get enough recognition.  These books are so much fun.  Reading this was a lot like playing Dragon Age.  The banter between the characters is perfect.  Falcio himself is honorable and loyal to a fault.  He’s self deprecating, freely admits he’s not the best swordsman of the Greatcoats, and frequently sings himself out of life and death situations.  He cares a lot for his friends and it shows.

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5. Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski (as well as the video games, review for The Last Wish here) – My love for Geralt, admittedly, comes primarily through the game The Witcher 3.  He’s truly unique in that he’s a mutant, and the wider world he lives in actually doesn’t like him or want him around.  Witchers are viewed as a necessary evil (they take contracts to kill monsters, something their mutant abilities make them much more equipped to do).  He’s basically a snarky, mutant, sword wielding ballerina.  What’s not to love? (Side note: Henry Cavill being cast as Geralt in the upcoming Netflix series is a crime.)

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4. Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2 – Arthur would probably be a better fit for my villains and antiheroes list, and truthfully, him being a hero is entirely dependent on how you play (I played the honorable outlaw so we’re going with it). There were a lot of things I felt RDR2 didn’t get right (mostly the gameplay) but Arthur’s narrative is not one of them.  He’s loyal, he cares deeply for the people around him, and he’s willing to suck  venom out of a complete stranger’s leg.  I haven’t even finished the game yet because I’m not sure I’m emotionally equipped to watch that ending. Rockstar, if you’re reading this, I NEED an alternate ending DLC.

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3.  Ezio Auditore da Firenze of the Assassin’s Creed franchise – I find it really odd that Ubisoft made a character so compelling for three games and literally no more in all EIGHT other games.  (Admittedly, Bayek came pretty close.)  What I love about his story, is that we get to see the full arc, from the time he comes of age to his death.  Like many of the heroes on my list, on the surface, he seems like a carefree, easy going kind of guy, but as his story and arc progress, it becomes clear that he cares a lot about the fate and the troubles of his people.  (Fun fact: the real protagonist of the first few AC games, Desmond Miles, is voiced by the same actor who voices Nathan Drake! Thank you Nolan North.)

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2. Uhtred, son of Uhtred of The Last Kingdom/Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – This series has also been turned into a TV Show for Netflix, and Alexander Dreymon (above) does a pretty good job as Uhtred- but ultimately, he’s no Uhtred.  I don’t think it’s Dreymon’s fault, I think the show producers are cutting WAY TOO MUCH of the book’s plot lines for TV Uhtred to live up to book Uhtred.  He is compelling because his greatest downfall is his pride.  I mean, he has lots of reasons to be proud, he’s pretty much unstoppable, but it makes people hate him.  Even though they need him.  He’s a little like Geralt in that way- a necessary evil.

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1. Ragnar Lothbrok of Vikings – Ragnar is far away my favorite fictional character of all time.  It’s due in large part to Travis Fimmel, who played this character brilliantly.  In the show, Ragnar is a master strategist.  He’s often ten steps ahead of his enemies (remember season 2 with King Horic? and how he conquered Paris?).  But sometimes he is curiously naive.  He admits he wasn’t the greatest father, and that he wasn’t the greatest king.  Watching him triumph and then unravel slowly over the course of the show were the greatest four seasons of television I’ve ever seen.  All the actors on the show do a phenomenal job, but it definitely lost a little of it’s spark without Ragnar around to break up the tension.

Looking at this list I was really sad not to have any women on it.  I can’t tell if this is mostly due to my personal tastes as a reader/watcher/player, or if modern media is really just lacking that many well written heroines. There are a lot of heroines I can think of that are well done and that I adore, but many of them play supporting roles to the heroes (Lagertha in Vikings, Aethelflaed and Hild in The Last Kingdom, Ciri and Yen in The Witcher, Simmea in The Just City, and Valiana val Mond of the Greatcoats.)  Writers, if you’re reading this- give me a female version of Uhtred or Ragnar (think genius warrior with fatal flaws and a sense of humor.) Readers – if that heroine is already out there- please let me know!

Book Haul!

A couple weeks ago one of my local libraries had a Friends of the Library book sale.  I love used books- almost more than I love new books, and was pretty impressed with the offerings!  I kept walking around picking up stuff until my hands were full, at which point one of the kindly library volunteers would laugh and give me a bag.  When the bag was full she’d shake her head and hand me another bag.

As much as I would have liked to take  home both of those bags, I was able to cull the pile and came away with a few books I’m super excited about!

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Unfortunately fellow Sci-Fi/Fantasy lovers, I only came away with one book in the sci-fi genre- Micro by Michael Crichton.  But I found THREE Cornwell books I don’t already own from his Richard Sharpe series (which I still need to start) and I’m super excited about them.  A lot of Cornwell’s readers love this series, perhaps even more so than his Saxon Stories (though I find that hard to believe).

I also took a chance on one author I’ve never heard of or read before, Anthony Riches, picking up the first book in his Empire series, Wounds of Honor.  This is a novel of the Roman empire – one of my favorite eras in history.  Have you seen Gladiator?  The blurb mentions Emperor Commodus, and I really hope this Commodus is one the same as Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus.  Unfortunately- it doesn’t seem like he’ll be a major player, but I’m excited to read it just the same.

My wonderful daughter (with some help from my wonderful mother) also picked this out for me for my birthday, which was nearly a month ago.

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This is a post-apocalyptic novel about a plague that kills most of America’s children, and leaves the ones that live with (what sounds like) some supernatural powers.  It has a 4.11 rating from over 100 of my GoodReads friends, who can be pretty critical, so I’m super excited to start it. It’s also being made into a movie- so I need to hurry up and read it before I get to the theatre!

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Have I mentioned yet that Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite authors?  Second only to Stephen King?  Luckily for me he’s just as prolific, has been writing for years, and doesn’t seem to feel the need to make his books a thousand pages long.  The Saxon Stories, starting with The Last Kingdom, follow Uhtred of Bebbanburg.  A boy kidnapped by vikings at a young age and raised with the old gods.  When he finally returns to his people, he’s a lone pagan in a sea of Christians, trying to drive back a sea of invaders that were once his people, for a king he doesn’t even like.  How’s that for inner turmoil?

I won’t get to this one for some time- I’m considering buddy reading the entire series all over again (you know, someday) but I sleep better at night just looking at it on my shelf.  So there’s that.