Friday, January 13, 2017

Paul's TOP TEN Books Read in 2016

2016 was a year of uneven reading for me. I read a total of 47 books, but a big chunk of those were graphic novels. And when I did read, I did it in bursts. This was another great year for YA Fantasy books with the start of a few very promising series. 2016 was also a great year for representation and diversity in YA. 2017 is only going to improve. It's time to share my favorite reads of the year. Below you will find the TOP TEN books that I read in 2016. Click on the titles or cover pictures for links to my reviews!



 MY TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016


Ahsoka

False Hearts (False Hearts, #1)

Bloodline


Timekeeper (Timekeeper, #1)

Otherbound


Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)


Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)



What were your favorite books of 2016? What books are you looking forward to in 2017?


--PAUL

Star Wars: Obi-wan and Anakin (comic) - Paul's REVIEW


Obi-Wan & AnakinAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Star Wars: Obi-wan & Anakin

Author: Charles Soule
Illustrator: Marco Checchetto
Recent Release Date: July 19, 2016

Synopsis: Before their military heroism in the Clone Wars, before their tragic battle on Mustafar, and many decades before their final confrontation on the Death Star, they were Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his young Padawan, Anakin Skywalker. Now join them a few years into the "chosen one" Anakin's training. Teacher and student have grown closer over time, but it's been a difficult road. And things aren't about to get any easier. In fact, when they are called to a remote planet for assistance, the pair may be pushed to breaking point. As they find themselves stranded on a strange world of primitive technology and deadly natives, will they be able to save themselves? First they must learn who called for help...and why!



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Review: A new Marvel Star Wars comic set in the prequel era! Obi-wan and Anakin takes place between episodes I and II. There are a lot of allusions of things to come. The Anakin and Palpatine relationship is interesting. Other than references and characterization, this comic is just another one-off. Obi-wan and Anakin end up stranded on a planet. They meet the local, interesting people and have an adventure. It reminds me of a Star Trek episode because it doesn't really effect anything else in the overall story. 


I want more Prequel era comics! I loved all the bits that took place on Coruscant and that related more directly to the overall Star Wars story. 

I give this graphic novel a 4/5. For those reading all of the new Marvel Star Wars comics, definitely read this one too, but if you're a more casual reader you could skip this one. Unless you're a Prequel era fan like me!


--PAUL

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Timekeeper by Tara Sim - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this book as an eARC from Sky Pony Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*


Timekeeper (Timekeeper, #1)
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Timekeeper

Author: Tara Sim
Recent Release Date: November 8, 2016

Synopsis: In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.



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Review: Timekeeper is a great example of a YA Fantasy with a gay protagonist. It's set in an alternate Victorian world where clock towers literally keep time in order. It's such an original idea. 


I give this book a 5/5. I want more books like this. I love how Danny's sexual orientation is just one aspect of him, but it still contributes largely to his character and the story. This is another book I should have written the review of sooner after reading the book. I can only tell you that I highly enjoyed reading this book. I finished it in just a few days. 


--PAUL

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (audiobook) - Paul's REVIEW

AuroraAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Audible

Title: Aurora
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Year Published: 2015

Narrator: Ali Ahn
Audiobook Length: 16 hours 55 minutes

Synopsis: A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, Aurora tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.

Now we approach our new home. Aurora.


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Review: If you liked The Martian, I highly recommend Aurora. Science is at the forefront of this science-fiction novel. I liked that it wasn't just physics and engineering, too. There's a lot of population genetics and sociology. So much science goes into maintaining a generation ship, especially when things go wrong. 


There are a lot of great characters in this book, including the computer system. 

I listened to this book in audiobook format and I found it really interesting and when I got lost, it didn't take me too long to get back on track. 

I give this book a 4/5. If you're into hard science-fiction, this is a must-read. 

--PAUL

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake - Paul's REVIEW

*I received this book as an eARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*


Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns, #1)Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Three Dark Crowns

Author: Kendare Blake
Recent Release Date: September 20, 2016

Synopsis: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.



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Review: I am loving these YA Fantasies with ensemble casts! Just like Truthwitch, I absolutely loved this book. The world is big. The characters are well developed. The magic is so interesting. 


The different types of magic are so interesting. I wanted to jump into this world and explore it. This is just the first book and I am excited to more to come!

I give this book a 5/5 and highly recommend it. I know this review was pretty void of details, but I don't want to spoil anything. If you like Fantasy YA, this is a must read!


--PAUL

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Paul's REVIEW


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Upcoming Release Date: July 31, 2016

Synopsis: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.



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Review: I was disappointed. There was so much potential. This just comes off as fan fiction. I understand that this is the script for a play, but the things that I didn't like are basic story elements. Those elements might be covered up by glitz and explosions when you see it on stage, but they were my biggest grievance. 


I do not like how time travel is used in this book. Time travel was done so well in the Harry Potter series. The rules introduced here seem so arbitrary and don't make sense. It seems more like a way to show scenes and characters that the audience will enjoy. 

The tacked on romance at the end is so stupid. The Harry Potter series gets flack for the relationships set up late in the series, but Rowling did an excellent job of writing friendship. This book is the opposite. It writes a budding romantic relationship so well, but it calls it just a friendship in the end.

There are good things this book did. Slytherin was shown in a different light. Complexities of adulthood and the difficulties of parenthood were shown well. 

I wanted so much from this book so maybe I am being unfair in my critique, but I give this book a 2/5. I absolutely want to see this play. I may even read this book again, but I don't think it is good. The rating is also comparing it to the standard I have for all things Harry Potter.


--PAUL

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard - Paul's REVIEW


Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Title: Truthwitch

Author: Susan Dennard
Recent Release Date: January 5, 2016

Synopsis: In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. 



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Review: Why did no one make me read this book sooner!?! It's such a ME book. There's an ensemble cast. There's wonderful worldbuilding. An amazing magic system. Beautiful writing. It's the whole package. 


Dennard is such a great writer. The characters all have their own voices and interact in such cool combinations. There's an unknown greyness to a lot of characters, which I love. There's moral complexity. It's not an easy black-and-white/good-and-evil story. 

This is only the first book in the series and I'm already hooked. It reminds me of Star Wars and Avatar/Korra. There's such a big world and I am ready to explore it. 

I obviously HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book! And I will be reading its sequel very soon! I give this book a 5/5. It's just so wonderful I don't know what more to say about it. Just go buy it. Read it. Then fangirl about it with me!


--PAUL