Monday, December 21, 2009

Top Five Reads of 2009

I was hoping that I would have a greater selection to choose from this year. I was on target for 50 books read this year, but then I got a new job and 50 became 35. On the bright side that is 6 more books to choose from than last year.

Without further Ado...

#5 Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

While I do not think that this book is better than his First Law trilogy, 'Best Served Cold' is still an entertaining read. I had very high expectations of this book when it came out and I think that had affected my overall enjoyment of this book which is a shame. The advantage of 'Best Served Cold' is the fact that it is a stand alone book.

The book follows a woman called Monza Murcatto, a once loved and trusted general. However, her paranoid boss betrays her. He sets up a trap, kills her brother, stabs and throws her off a mountain. Yet she survived. While she is recovering from her grievous wounds she has had plenty of time to plan her revenge on the seven men who were involved in her betrayal. Once recovered, she gathers a motley crew: A master poisoner and his apprentice, a Northman (barbarian), an ex-general of the Thousand Swords (mercenaries), an ex-convict and an ex-inquisitor (government lackey). How will she exact revenge? Seven against the resources of a whole nation!

"You know your in for a comedy filled killing spree when Abercrombie is writing" - Sleeping With Books

#4 The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud

I have read more young adult (YA) books this year than I have ever had, and time after time I am surprised at how much I enjoy them. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riodian, Candle Man by Glenn Dakin, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin are just some amazing YA books I have read. However I felt that Stroud's Book 1 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy topped them all. It was funny, clever, fast paced and had that page turner quality you want from a book.

The book follows a young magicians apprentice called Nathaniel, who in his impatience summons a powerful 5000 year old Djinni, Bartimaeus. He charges Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand off a powerful Magician and soon things go terribly wrong for Nathaniel and his Djinni. One rule and really the only rule of being a magician is to never let someone know your 'true name' as your true name grants power over you. Well Nathaniel has slipped up.

Definitely a must read YA book. The chapters with Bartimaeus are written in the first person, while chapters with Nathaniel are written in the third person. This has also made reading a little more interesting because of the different perspectives.

"So refreshing to see a YA book that is different from the rest. Funny, Distinctive and a great read" - Sleeping With Books

#3 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick

I remember watching this film when I was 18...and hated it. If you don't know the film...well that is because the film was re-titled as Blade Runner. Yes, I know that the film was great blah blah, but I was 18 ok! I liked the explosions of the 90's and Blade Runner didn't have any!

So 9 years later I read the book and you know what? It made my top 5 reads of 2009.

It is the year 2019 and human replicants (clones) with artificial intelligence are a possibility. However, like pets, they need to be registered and owned by someone but there replicants who seek freedom and escape. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter whose job is to hunt down these renegades and retire them. Although the replicants have A.I. they lack one very human trait, the ability to be empathetic. This is the key to finding out replicants and real humans.

"'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' is not a simple science-fiction book, Phillip K. Dick delves much deeper, philosophically and psychologically" - Sleeping With Books

#2 Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

While waiting for Martin to actually finish the 5th book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, I began reading more of this other works. Fevre Dream instantly hooked me in and I finished it within several days. The setting, the character depth and the storyline just draw you in. You can really start to appreciate Martin as an absolute genius and that he is not just a one series wonder.

Abner Marsh's dream of racing the Eclipse, the fastest Steamboat on the Mississippi River is destroyed when a storm sinks all but one of his ships. It wasn't long that a stranger named Joshua York meets him in St. Louis and offers him money for half his company. Marsh is an honest man, as honest as he is fat and ugly and refuses to cheat York out of his money. But when York offers to build Marsh a boat fast enough to compete with the Eclipse, Marsh is hooked. The Fevre Dream is built and Marsh could not be happier. However, when Joshua York refuses to come out during the day and makes unscheduled stops that takes up valuable delivering time, Marsh's crew are muttering among themselves and Marsh has questions of his own.

"Interview with a Vampire meets Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" - Sleeping With Books

#1 Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I read this book in January and it was such a hard book to top and as this shows, nothing did this year. Mistborn is the first book of the trilogy with the same name. The subsequent books being 'The Well of Ascension' and 'The Hero of Ages'. The magic systems used in this world were so unique to me and I liked it very much. Sanderson has a lovely way of introducing characters and making you like them. From this book, one of my favourite ever characters in Sci-Fi or Fantasy was created.

The Lord Ruler has lived for a 1000 years and his empire is split into two factions. Those of nobility, are physically, mentally and financially superior to the Skaa and are a part of the Lord Ruler's upper class. The nobility get to have magnificent balls, trade, plot and generally be happy about their lives. The other faction, the Skaa are a slave race not too different from humans (the nobility) and are considered inferior in every way and are there to be used and abused by the nobility.

During these many years of rule. People have revolted against the Lord Ruler. People have tried to kill him, all of them have failed, but it isn't for a lack of trying. How do you kill a a God, when beheading him is only a minor annoyance?

Kelsier is a Mistborn. A man with special talents, he can manipulate people's emotions, control metal with a thought and gain superhuman strength when called for. He is wants to overthrow the Lord Ruler, but being Mistborn isn't enough, because he is not unique.

I really can't give this book enough justice. It was such a great read and I am looking forward to the day that I reread this series. Brandon Sanderson is also the person the Jordan family selected to ghost write the last three books of 'The Wheel of Time' by Robert Jordan.

"Mistborn is character driven and has amazing plots. Sanderson has captured everything great about fantasy and put it into 3 very enjoyable books" - Sleeping With Books

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: Candle Man

Three is the magic number. That is how many rooms Theo Saint has ever seen. Three is how many people he knows in his life. Three and Zero and are the amount of minutes he is allowed outside of his designated area per year. Theo has a deadly disease. He wears gloves constantly and is monitored day and night. He has to get treatment in the ‘Mercy Tube’ or the disease gets worse, but one day, someone kidnaps Theo!

I’ve been reading quite a few children/YA books lately and I think I’ve found a recurring theme. A good children/YA fantasy book contains the following: a young boy or girl, they have powers, it is set in a relatively modern world, it is fast paced and it has strange creatures. Candle Man by Glenn Dakin contains all of the above.

A couple of girls in my class said that the book was very good so I put it at the top of my TBR pile and was I in for a great treat. Theo for a boy who has been sheltered from the outside world for all of his life was never dull, never self loathing but took everything in his stride and everything was a great interest to him. This is a testament to Dakin himself. He wrote the story with a few subplots but never did they get in the way of the major story and in the end he tied it all up perfectly.

What I also liked about the story were the creatures that gave the book a fantasy feel to it. Gone are the usual dwarves, orcs and elves; they are replaced with smoglodytes, extinct creatures and the forgotten gargoyles (with a twist).

I can’t wait to see how much attention this book will get because it is right up there in terms of quality with books like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.