Favorite Grown Up Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Read in 2013 – 2014 (Catch Up Post 2)

While I was too sick to blog I read light, escapist adult novels—lots of chick-lit and action-adventure. Here are my favorite grown up sci-fi/fantasy reads over the past two years.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction for Grown Ups

Image- Ready Player OneReady Player One, by Ernest Cline (August 2011) – is a computer-aged version of Charlie searching for the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.  Like Charlie, Wade Watts lives in a grim world where most people are poor.  The only good thing about his life is The Oasis —a free virtual world with decent online schools, games, ways to earn a living, and more.  Wade attends school and spends all of his free time searching the Oasis for the three keys its creator, James Halliday, hid before he died.  Whoever finds the keys first becomes the new owner of the Oasis. A competing corporation has sent out hundreds of its own employees to find the keys so they can turn the Oasis into a money maker. Hundreds of independent “gunters”, like Wade, are trying to find the keys first, to preserve the one good thing about their world. Halliday came of age in the 1980’s and so the hunt is full of 80’s games, movies, and TV references— an era Wade has become an expert in.  It’s a tightly structured, engaging adventure, chock-full of fun 80’s details.  The enjoyable audiobook version is read by Wil Wheaton, which is amusing since Wheaton is one of the cultural references mentioned in the story.

Image- FledglingFledging, by Octavia Butler (January 2007) – I’ve read a number of Octavia Butler’s short stories but Fledging is the first novel of hers I’ve read.  She puts a neat twist on the whole vampire concept in this Jane Doe-type courtroom drama.

 

 

 

Image- Agent of HelAgent of Hel: Dark Currents (October 2012) and  Agent of Hel: Autumn Bones (October 2013) by Jacqueline Carey- I ended up reading the first two novels in this paranormal detective series because they were the picks for Felicia Day’s Goodreads book club (see more information below).  The series reminded me a lot of urban fantasy version of Janet Evanovich’s chick-lit-esque Stephanie Plum series, except instead of having a young woman investigating crimes in Trenton, New Jersey, Daisy Johanssen investigates crimes in Pemkowet, Michigan—a town with a open-secret connection to the supernatural and underworld. They’re fun, light novels—with a touch of emotional darkness—and a good dash of sex and romance.

Image- Wicked as They ComeWicked As They Come, by Delilah Dawson (March 2012) is another fun read from the Vangial Fantasy Book Club list.  Tish Everett— a home healthcare nurse getting over a difficult breakup—is strangely attracted to a necklace she finds at an estate sale.  When she wears the necklace to bed she’s transported into the world of Sang.  In Sang vampire-type people called Bluds are a marginalized minority and most of the worlds animals are bloodsuckers.  Tish meets handsome blud carnival owner,Criminy Stain, who insists the necklace she’s wearing was like an otherworld classified ad for his truelove, and the fact that she’s attracted to the necklace means she’s meant to be with him.  This is a enjoyable escapist fantasy romance set in a fun over-the-top world.

You Tube Book Clubs

Image- Vaginal FantasyVaginal Fantasy Book Club (on Goodreads and YouTube) – For a long while I’d been looking for a source for romance novels that were more feminist, preferably with sci-fi/ fantasy or historical elements.  I finally found the perfect source in Vaginal Fantasy Book Club.  The book club is run by actor/producer Felicia Day ( Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along BlogThe Guild, Supernatural). Every month she and her three friends pick two novels to read—one main pick and one alternative read.  

On the last Tuesday of the month the group gets together on Goggle Hang Outs/ You Tube to discuss the main book. The video discussions are available on You Tube, go on for about an hour, and are like eavesdropping on an especially fun, cool book club.   One member of the group also makes a short video to discuss the alternative book. There is also a forum on Goodreads and a Twitter feed that the group uses for discussing the book. 

Favorite YA Reads for 2013-2014 (2013-2014 Catch Up Post 1)

I read a total of 49 young adult novels over 2013-2014,  27 in 2013, and 22 in 2014. Here are my 13 favorites:

Favorite YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels I Read in 2013 -2014

Image- ScarletScarlett and Cress, by Marissa Meyer (published Feb 2013 & Feb 2014) – These are the second and third novels in, The Lunar Chronicles series, that start with the first novel—Cinder—a tale of cyborg-Cinderella. (Cyborgs in this universe are humans with bionic implants). Scarlett is a futuristic cyborg-version of the Little Red Riding Hood story and Cress’s story is a futuristic-space age Rapunzel tale. Each character is added to Cinder’s team to help her in her quest to save Prince Kai against Queen Levana and the Lunar Nation. This fun, Image- Cressswashbuckling sci-fi series that reads like a YA Saturday morning cartoon with several teen girl heroes. It’s my favorite current series. I can’t wait until the new volume—Fairest—is out at the end of next month. The audiobook narrator is excellent, too.

 

 

Image- Daughter of Smoke and BoneThe Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series, by Laini Taylor (2011, 2012, 2014) – I listened to this 3-book YA fantasy series on Audible. It takes place partly in Prague and partly in a parallel universe of angels and demons. (Technically the demons are half-human/half animal chimera). The world building is especially well done and the language is beautiful. It tells the story of Karou—a blue-haired teen Art school student – who doesn’t know who her parents are or how she came to live with Brimstone, her chimera father figure. When Karou investigates why Brimstone sends her all over the world to gather teeth, she finds out some shocking revelations about her father figure and herself.

Image- Fair CoinFair Coin and Quantum Coin, by E.C. Meyers (2012 for both) – An enjoyable two-book series about a teen named ­­­Ephraim who tries to improve his dysfunctional life with a magical coin and ends up changing more than he wanted. This is another series with strong world building and a cool concept, this time from a teen boy’s point-of-view.

 

Favorite YA Realistic Fiction Read in 2013 -2014

Image- The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars (January 2012) – I think by now everyone’s read John Green’s charming romance about two teens with cancer—or they’ve seen the excellent movie version. If you’re one of the few people who haven’t, I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s sad at the end, but it’s also funny, insightful, and utterly charming all the way through. The regular audiobook version is excellent. There’s also a version where John Green reads the book that I haven’t heard.

Image- Eleanor & ParkEleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (February 2013)- Rainbow Rowell has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. Eleanor and Park are two misfit teens living in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska and are first thrown together on the school bus when Eleanor has no place to sit and Park leaves the tiniest bit of room on his seat so she isn’t forced to stand. Eleanor and Park are quiet, sensitive characters and their slow-brewing romance is enjoyable and heart wrenching.  Another book with an excellent audio version.

Wildlife Awards CVR SI.inddWildlife, by Fiona Wood (September 2014)- This funny Australian novel is told from the point of view of two different teen girls—Sibylla and Lou—during the course of their school’s special semester in outdoor education. Wildlife portrays friendships with difficult people, sex and romance, and dealing with loss in an accurate, nuanced way. I also enjoyed reading about the Australian wilderness, noticing all the little details that make it different from the US.

Technically Wildlife is the second novel in a loose series. The first novel is not available in the US but I was able to understand the story without noticing it was a second in the series. I also listened to this on audible and loved the Australian accents of the two narrators.

Image- My True Love Gave to MeMy True Love Gave to Me (October 2014)- I read this YA holiday romance short story collection over winter break. It features stories from Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, and a host of other bestselling YA authors. There’s really not a bad story in the bunch—though I certainly liked some of the stories more than others. Overall, it’s a charming collection of holiday cheer and romance.

 

Image- FangirlFan Girl, by Rainbow Rowell (September 2013)- When Cath’s twin sister, Wren, decides the two of them should start college in separate dorms, with separate lives, Cath is suddenly on her own for her freshman year.  Cath is not confident that she can build a life for herself outside her twin sister and her fan fiction writing. This is Rowell’s second novel and it’s clear that she’s  good at writing about awkward, introverted characters who are kind of intense, but each unique in their own way.   I especially enjoyed a whole novel that centered around finding one’s identity through writing and fan fiction and liked the unique Nebraska setting— a state I know very little about.

Image- Isla and the Happily Ever AfterIsla and The Happily Ever After (August 2014) –This is the third and last book in the loose series by Stephanie Perkins that starts off with Anna and the French Kiss. Like the other two books before, Perkins is able to write likable characters with very specific interests and have them ooze with longing. Setting is also a big part of her stories and this time the focus in on three places: Paris, Barcelona, and New York. The main couple consists of minor characters from Anna and the French Kiss—Isla and Josh. Anna is probably the best of the series, but Perkins is so good at writing charming teen romance that even her lesser stories are worth the time reading.

* I put the date the book was published in parentheses.

2012 Favorites (Part 2: Books)

Favorite Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total Read -10)
The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright (2011) – The charming tale of a friendship between a cat with a secret and a mouse who lives in a pub  famous for its Cheshire cheese.  This is one of those animal tales that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.  There are some amusing bits about Charles Dickens frequenting the pub that will appeal to adults and lots of mystery and action that will appeal to kids.  The audiobook version is excellent and would entertain everyone on family car trip.

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – An engaging first book in a upcoming series about 3 orphaned boys who compete in a contest to see who could impersonate the long-lost prince best. The audiobook version is also quite good and would appeal to the whole family.

Aliens on Vacation (Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast), by Clete Smith (2011) – A boy goes to spend the summer with his grandmother at her space-themed bed and breakfast and finds out it’s there’s more to his grandmother and her inn than meets the eye. I liked this story because it’s very assessable to elementary school students.  It’s sort of like a Disney movie but in book form.

Favorite Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total Read – 8)
Cinders (Lunar Chronicles), by Marissa Meyer (2012)– A sci-fi version of Cinderella in a dystopian New China. Cinders is the best mechanic in the land and she’s also a cyborg—part human and part machine.  I loved the voice in this story, it’s refreshingly different from a lot of the other YA dystopian out there.  I guessed the twist early on but that just made it’s inevitable reveal more satisfying for me.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein (2012) – The less you know, the less you’ll be spoiled for this excellent, devastating but satisfying tale about young female spies and pilots in World War II. The audio version is especially good.

The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour (2012) – Recent high school graduate, Colby, has been planning on going on a year long trip to Europe with his best friend Bev for years. First, the two of them going on a music tour on the west coast with Bev’s all-girl band.  Colby is their roadie and transportation. Right now he and Bev are just friends by he’s sure by Europe they’ll be more than friends. Then she drops the news on him: she applied to college and got in (all without telling him) and she’s not going to Europe and she can’t even tell him why she waited until now to reveal her plans. Now Colby has one week to deal with his betrayal and figure out what to do with his life, all while he drives the girl that broke his heart up the coast for her tour.

Each of the characters is unique and the details of the band’s tour are fun and realistic.   The middle is a bit moody, but the story ends positively with Colby making insightful decisions about who he wants to be.

Favorite Book- Adult Non-Fiction (Total Read – 12)
Surpassing Shanghai (2011) – This thoughtful book describes education in five countries where the students receive the highest scores on international tests, including outscoring students in the US. The book describes education in China, Finland, Japan, Singapore, and Canada.  The first chapter on China is the weakest.  It’s hard to understand and focuses more on what Shanghai is planning to do rather than what it does now.  The other chapters are excellent though.

Each of the four other countries get top results from their students by doing the opposite of what the United States does.  Teaching programs are highly selective and recruit the best and the brightest. Teachers are supported, respected, and given a lot of leeway in teaching.  Also, testing is not done every year in these countries.  Students are only tested between schooling gaps, such as from elementary school to middle school, and the results count as much for the students and parents as they do for the teachers.

Middle Grade Fiction – For around 9-14 years or 4th-8th grades
Young Adult Fiction – For around 12 years and up or  7th grade and up

2012 Favorites (Part 1: TV, Movies, and Music)

Favorite You Tube Series
Husbands (seasons 1 & 2) –  An entertaining web TV series written by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell about a baseball player and an actor who get so excited that gay marriage is legal that they get married during a drunken night in Vegas, though they’ve only been dating for 6 weeks. They don’t want to set a bad example so they decide to make their marriage work– for the cause.  Espenson wrote for Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Dollhouse, etc.  There are tons of fun cameos by actors from various Whedon projects (including Joss himself in season 2), plus a few actors from other shows too.  Each season is only 25-30 minutes.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries – In Hank Green’s charming modernized version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett is a vlogger who tells us about her marriage-crazy mother and her life with her sisters in short weekly You Tube videos.

Favorite Movies (Total Watched – 18)
The Descendants
Hunger Games (2012)
Marvel’s Avengers (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Favorite Music Albums (Total Listened To – 26)
Greg Evain All Better Now (2012)
Ellie GouldingHalcyon (2012)
Lana Del ReyBorn to Die (2012)
Anna NalickWreck of the Day (2005)
Frank OceanChannel Orange (2012)

Favorite TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 36)
Alphas (season 1)
(The) Big Bang Theory
Castle
Fringe
Girls
(The) Good Wife
Grimm
Man Men
Nikita
Parks and Recreation
Revenge

Top Favorites of 2011 (In A,B,C Order)

2011 was a good year for me. I started biking, went on a writing retreat, camped at Assateague, and visited Vermont.  I even finished a first draft of my middle grade novel!  It's spectacularly crappy, but it's got a beginning, middle and end, and now I can start revising it into something better. 

I also did all my grocery shopping by foot or bike, bought all most all my produce at farmer's markets, and did the majority of my cooking from scratch this year.  Plus, I watched my oldest kid graduate from high school and sent him off to college. 

I was disappointed by how little I read in 2011 though. Hopefully in 2012 I can figure out how to do all those things and read more too. Anyone know where I can buy a Time-Turner like Hermione used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? That would be useful. Here are my favorites during 2011:

Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total Read -5)
Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud
Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total Read – 9)
All Unquiet Things, by Anna Jarzab
#Legend, by Marie Lu
# Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins

(I also read 3 fiction books for adults.)

Books- Non-Fiction (Total Read – 7)
#Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life, by Stephanie Staal
The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the Word's Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom, by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert – review coming

Movies (Total Watched – 19)
After the Wedding
#Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Heartbreaker
TiMER
Titanic

Music Albums (Total Listened To – 28)
#Adele, 21
Florence & The Machine, Lungs
The Frames, Cost
The Glitch Mob, Drink The Sea
Jack in the Box, Play It Again Jack!
K'naan, Troubadour
#Movits, Out of My Head
The Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love
Sufjan Stevens, Come on Feel the Illinoise & Age of Adz
#Vanessa Carlton, Best of Vanessa Carlton

TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 42)
#Being Erica
#The Big Bang Theory
#Fringe
#The Good Wife
Misfits
#Nikita
#Parks and Recreation
#Revenge
Skins, series 5
#The Vampire Diaries

Honorable Mentions:
#Up All Night
#Doctor Who

# – Indicates the book, movie, album, or TV season debuted in  2011.  Many of my favorites were works I discover this year but debuted earlier.

Middle Grade Fiction – For around 9-14 years or 4th-8th grades
Young Adult Fiction – For around 12 years and up or  7th grade and up

Top Favorites of 2010 (In A, B, C Order)

# – Indicates the book or movie debuted in 2010 or the TV show season aired in 2010. 
(Many of my favorites were books, movies, or shows I discovered this year but debuted earlier.)

Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total read – 13)
# (The) Carnival of Lost Souls: A Handcuff Kid Novel, by Laura Quimby
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban
# Mamba Point, by Kurtis Scaletta
(The) True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total read – 9)
# Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
(The) Boyfriend List, by E. Lockhart
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
# Mockingjay (The Final Book of the Hunger Games), by Suzanne Collins
# Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan

Books – Non-Fiction for Adults (Total read – 10)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life (P.S.), by Barbara Kingsolver
# Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough  New Planet, by Bill McKibben
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are, by Frans De Waal
(The) Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, by Michelle Goldberg
Pink Brain, Blue Brain, by Lise Eliot -review coming

Movies (Total watched – 30)
Blame It on Fidel
# Easy A – review coming
(The) Edukators
(The) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Good Bye Lenin
Jennifer’s Body

Julie and Julia
# Kick Ass
# Scott Pilgrim Versus The World – review coming
Sin Nombre
Whip It

TV Shows (Total watched – 36)
Being Erica
Better Off Ted

# (The) Big Bang Theory
# Castle
# Doctor Who
# Fringe
# (The) Good Wife
# Mad Men
# Modern Family
# Terriers

Honorable Mentions:
House Hunters International
# Nikita

(Middle Grade Fiction – For around 9-14 years or 4th -8th grades
Young Adult fiction – For around 12 years and up or 7th grade and up)

What were your favorites?

Top Favorites of 2009 (In A,B,C Order)

Fiction Books
1. Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
2. Gregor the Overlander (and the next two sequels), by Suzanne Collins
3. Hunger Games (and the sequel Catching Fire), by Suzanne Collins
4. (The) London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd
5. Sloppy Firsts, by Megan McCafferty

Non-Fiction Books
1. Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott
2. Malcolm Gladwell’s Books (Blink, Outliers, Tipping Point)
3. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
4. Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natatlie Angier
5. Uncommon Sense for Parents and Teachers, by Michael Riera

Movies
1. Charm School
2. Dangerous Minds
3. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
4. Slumdog Millionaire
5. Up

Music
1. Black-Eyed Peas –The E.N.D.: (The Energy Never Dies)
2. Frightened Rabbit- The Midnight Organ Fight
3. Lady Gaga – The Fame
4. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
5. Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack

TV
1. (The) Big Bang Theory
2. Being Human
3. Castle
4. Doctor Who
5. Dollhouse
6. Fringe
7. Mad Men
8. Slings & Arrows
9. Supernatural
10. Torchwood