Claire’s Top Books of 2017

Claire's Top Books 2017

Like Rinn’s said in her post, it’s that time of year where we sit and reminisce about the great books we read over the past year!

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is one of my top 3 books of the year. I didn’t expect to like it when my housemate gave me a copy, but I loved every moment of it. I read it very slowly on purpose, I wanted to soak up every aspect of the world! Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is another treat that helped cement my love of the grimdark genre: It’s an amazingly well written, engaging novel that had me reading late into the night (and annoyed my girlfriend because I refused to stop reading well past 3AM). The last book here is Kushiel’s Dart  by Jacqueline Carey that I picked up as part of the Tor Books book club. It’s over 700 pages and took me the entire year to read but it’s worth it. It’s a great world that has beauty, intrigue and magic in it.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin has been in the news for the past few years, racking up quite a few awards, but I only just got my hands on it this year. It took some time to get into but Jemisin has made such a truly engrossing fantasy world that I can truly understand why the books are at the “top” of many fantasy lists. Alice by Christina Henry was another surprise read that I enjoyed massively because of its dark, gritty and terrifying take on a beloved classic. The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson – I don’t even know how I got this book, but it’s a wonderful fantasy tale based on traditional Chinese myths and religions – this is important to me because fantasy can seem very western/white.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed was the first book I read in 2017 and it utterly captivated me. It made me want to go hiking in the US though I do not have that sort of stamina! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is a MUST read because it helps readers see the value in different perspectives. Finally, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers was my surprise read because I am NOT a sci-fi fan. I love fantasy. Simply put! But Rinn recommended this so many times I felt like I had to do give it a go and it was well worth it, it’s a beautiful, stunning book that reads like an anthropologist’s tale of outer space.

What are your top books of 2017? Have you read any of these?

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Rinn’s Top Books of 2017

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It’s that time of the year when every book blogger shares their top reads, and I’m not going to disappoint! As usual, I can NEVER settle on just ten; this covers books I read in 2017, not just those published this year.

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Artemis by Andy Weir was maybe one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher. If you grab the UK hardback, make sure to look under the dust jacket! I wasn’t sure what I’d think of The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, but I am so glad I gave it a chance. It’s a really fantastic and meaningful story that is sadly very relevant in today’s culture. Has anyone been able to ignore The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood this year?? The book is shocking and the recent television series updates it for the modern world.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman is another book that got the TV treatment this year, although I have to confess I haven’t actually finished watching it. The book was truly weird (so truly Gaiman) and so unique. Another book I received from the publisher was An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney, a historical fiction that had me reading late into the night. Written by a local author, Planetfall by Emma Newman is a really interesting sci-fi that explores areas you might not expect in the genre.

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Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames was one of my book group’s fantasy picks and I LOVED it. It’s a funny book that made me think of epic gaming sessions. However I have to say, if you only read one of these books, you should definitely read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s heart-breaking and beautiful. Or if you’re in the mood for non-fiction, then try Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I really need to read more of her books now, and am currently waiting for more of her stuff from the library.

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 Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is definitely an absolute favourite of the year, and I managed to convince both Claire and another friend to give it a shot! I was late coming to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but it was so good. So slow and a HUGE book but I got through it pretty quickly because I just couldn’t stop. And finally… A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, the sequel to one of my absolute favourite books of 2016. It felt like quite a different story to the first but I still loved it.

What are your top books of 2017? Did you read any of these?

Paper & Pixels is on Facebook!

Paper Pixels

Paper & Pixels now has its very own Facebook page, so please head on over there and give it a like if you want our latest posts delivered straight to your news feed!

Please note that this was originally the Facebook page for Rinn Reads, so if you previously liked that then there’s no need to do anything further!

You can also find myself and Claire on various other social media sites:

Find Claire on Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Find Rinn on Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Steam | Twitch

Dead Space | Why Am I Even Here?

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If you know me, you probably know I am not a fan of horror.

So naturally, my first solo Twitch stream choice was a horror game I’ve had for a long time, but never played: Dead Space. The plot is pretty familiar if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise: trapped on a spaceship, being hunted down by things that travel through the vents – although in this case, it’s the mutated crew of the ship, not an alien species, which somehow makes it a lot worse.

Horror games are always a fun choice to stream, because both the streamer and the viewer can feel pretty involved. And honestly, I’m not sure I’d be playing this game without my followers chatting alongside and giving me the moral support I need to even move just one step!

So, here we are, my first two live streams of Dead Space. Twitch keeps recordings for up to 14 days, so I’m archiving my videos on Youtube as well. If you’d like to follow me on Twitch, or watch the videos on there instead, my profile can be found here.

Please note these videos contain plenty of shrieking and swearing – it’s a scary game! 😉 You may want to skip the first minute or two, as it’s just an interval screen whilst I was getting ready for the stream.

Have you ever played Dead Space? Are you a horror game wimp just like me?

Starbound | Space Adventures

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Last year, I found myself addicted to Stardew Valley, the Harvest Moon-esque farm life simulator released by Chucklefish Games. I farmed, raised animals, filled up the museum, made friends, got married (Elliott, in case you’re wondering…) and explored to the deepest, darkest parts of the mines.

Whilst I loved the game, it didn’t quite feel infinite. There were town boundaries, a limited number of mine levels, and once I’d completed the Community Centre I didn’t feel like there was much of a goal anymore.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that the developer had released not only another game, but a science fiction game. love sci-fi. For several years on my previous blog I ran an event dedicated to the genre in all its forms every November (and it’s quite honestly something I’m hoping to continue over here). And just to top it all off, this game was an open world sandbox, which is a description that will ALWAYS encourage me to give a game a shot. The freedom of roaming a huge world on my own terms, and being able to create stuff? Count me in.

Starbound opens with the player fleeing their home on a damaged ship, and requires you to use the resources of the nearest planet to get things up and running again. Whilst there are plenty of side-quests and a main story, the possibilities are pretty much endless. You can choose to be an explorer and lay your claim to planets, found colonies and see sprawling cities pop up, or even just kill everything in sight if that works for you…

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My super cosy home library

I’ve played around 40 hours of the game so far, maybe 5 or so of those with a friend (yes, it has online co-op!), and I’m already proud of my progress. I have a castle with a LIBRARY, a cellar that has my own little laboratory, and around 25 colonists in various types of houses.

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My spaceship crew, in our crew uniform

You can also recruit crew members for your spaceship and BUILD YOUR OWN SPACESTATION (I haven’t gotten that far, sadly). All of the planets and galaxies are randomly generated, and have different types of atmosphere, climate, threats etc. For example, there is a toxic jungle planet nearby to me at the moment, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to face that one just yet. And not only can you fly above the planet, but you can dig, dig, dig right down to the core – but be prepared to face whatever might be waiting for you down there!

Whilst exploring on my own, I managed to find a little village of llamas, who were apparently all Scottish (??!), a tiny frog town and some mushroom houses that were occupied by mushroom people… all on one planet. Whilst playing with my friend, we found a ‘Glitch’ town (medieval themed, but occupied by robots), and may have accidentally stolen a few items to furnish our own homes, which led to a long (and fatal) showdown with the guards.

This is the first in what I hope will be a fairly long series of posts, sharing my Starbound adventures.

Have you played Starbound? What sorts of things did you find whilst exploring?

Alice by Christina Henry | 5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I haven’t posted individually yet because I was over-thinking what should be my official “first” post. Eventually I realized that this was daft and that I should post something that I enjoyed, so I’ve chosen Alice by Christina Henry. Also, a note: I can’t do reviews that talk about prose, characterization, or structure or all of these fancy ways of evaluating books. I can’t do that, I don’t think like that! So I’m basically going to structure my reviews thusly: What I like and why, what I don’t like and why.

I really enjoyed Alice. It was the first time I read anything by this author and I only stumbled onto the book by accident – it was the only thing in the library that looked appealing and I needed a read for my commute so I grabbed it without reading the back. I love it because, I appreciate Henry’s unique and innovative take on the Alice story and its host of oddball characters.

Without giving too much away: Alice lives in a world where magic is discouraged if not outright banned for everyone except what I’ll call “high wizards” and some important gangsters. Alice, though, she’s in a pickle with Hatter and they’ve had rough, rough lives. Of course other beloved Alice characters have their personalities torn apart and stitched together in a unique take in this novel with heartbreaking and sometimes cruel ways.

And I really liked that! I loved that Henry’s take is adult, dark and nitty and gritty. I appreciate that she built the world from a seedy point of view: In this place, magic is power and only the powerful can hold it and what this power looks like is more focused on society’s underbelly than overt expressions of it (like royalty, etc). It’s a different perspective on magic and it is both painful and difficult to read – which is why it’s great and you should read it.

What didn’t I like? I’m really scratching my head here because I loved the entire thing. I devoured the book in a few hours over one day. So I guess, I really liked everything.

But a warning: If you’re triggered by sexual assault, abuse and trauma I would not recommend this book.

 

Artemis by Andy Weir | 5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a free finished copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

So, I was one of those people who didn’t actually particularly enjoy The Martian. Whether it was because I read it on Kindle (which honestly tends to hinder my enjoyment of books, I just hate it), or because it just somehow didn’t work for me I’m not sure, but one thing is for sure: after reading Artemis, I need to re-read The Martian, because Andy Weir is a FANTASTIC author.

First of all, this book is set on the Moon, and I honestly can’t think of many (if any?) books I’ve read that have that setting, despite all of the science fiction I’ve read. Most authors seem to go further out, Mars or even other solar systems and galaxies. In Weir’s world, humans have settled on the Moon, but life there is tough unless you’re super rich. It’s also become a holiday destination for the wealthy.

The book centres around Jazz, who works as a courier, but also perhaps deals with some slightly less legit activities on the side… Jazz smuggles contraband from Earth for various clients, which of course leads her into all sorts of trouble. She is offered a huge sum of money, more than she has ever dreamed of, to pull off a crime, and it’s there that the action really begins. There were plenty of ‘on the edge of your seat’ type moments, and all the mentions of various tech and space gadgetry completely satisfied my inner (not so secret) space geek.

Jazz as a character was so fun, and it was great to have a woman of colour as the main protagonist in a science fiction novel (more please). Whilst she does not practice Islam, we see elements of the religion through her father. I loved that Jazz was just so confident in herself and didn’t worry about others judging her, and she was a great, witty narrator. Even though she was living in relative poverty, at least in comparison to many of the Moon’s citizens, it really felt like she was making the most of what she had, and was so determined to reach her goal.

I also want to mention how truly GORGEOUS the hardcover is under the dust jacket. I took it off to see if there was anything interesting on the hardback itself, not really expecting anything, and it’s just so pretty (but also so simple), that I’m almost tempted to keep the dust jacket off.

Thank you so much to Ebury for sending me a free copy of the finished book. This is definitely recommended for all of you science fiction fans out there – whether you enjoyed The Martian or not! 😉