Top 20 Books of 2017

I set my Goodreads challenge to complete 15 books, and I read 73.  There’s something to be said for underestimation.  I low-balled it because last year, I put 20 on my challenge, but only finished 19; however, I discovered that by putting books on my schedule/to-do list, I could complete them like a fiend.  At some points I was reading eight at a time, but I mostly stuck with my favorite number: seven.  That…was too much though, and while I love to read, I also want to have enough time to do other things.  So I cut down to four, which might still sound like a lot, but one is a Kindle that I read on my lunch break; one is a fiction/fantasy; one varies between a classic or a non-fiction/reference (before I was reading one of each); and the last is a graphic novel/manga, which are easy to breeze through.  Compare this to two Kindles, one fiction/fantasy, one classic, one non-fiction/reference, one graphic novel/manga, and one library book. I’m currently borrowing Death Note from the library for my manga, and I’ll borrow fictions/fantasies from there, too.

Total Books Read: 73

  1. Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin
  2. In the House of the Wyrm by George R. R. Martin
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  5. Rest in Piece by B. W. Ginsburg
  6. The Missing Orchid by Fia Black
  7. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh
  9. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. The Illustrated A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  11. Descendants by Rae Else
  12. The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton
  13. Riddled With Senses by Petra Jacob
  14. The Quantum Ghost by Jonathan Ballagh
  15. Radiance by Grace Draven
  16. Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K, Vaughn
  17. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  18. Eidolon by Grace Draven
  19. A Father’s Protection by K. J. Hawkins
  20. Saga: Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughn
  21. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia (edited) by Patrick Thorpe
  22. Saga: Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn
  23. Silent Child by Sarah K. Denzil
  24.  A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  25. Saga: Volume 4 by Brian K, Vaughn
  26. Saga: Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn
  27. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
  28. Saga: Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn
  29. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  30. Talon by Julie Kagawa
  31. Saga: Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn
  32. Stone & Iris by Jonathan Ballagh
  33. Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
  34. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  35. Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
  36. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Volume 1 by Katie Cook
  37. Poetic Edda: The Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes by Anonymous
  38. Never Never: Part One by Colleen Hoover
  39. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  40. Never Never: Part Two by Colleen Hoover
  41. Never Never: Part Three by Colleen Hoover
  42. The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess by Akira Himekawa
  43. Goldie Vance Volume 1 by Hope Larson
  44. Shadows on Snow by Starla Huchton
  45. Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
  46. Monstress #1: Awakening
  47. An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
  48. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  49. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  50. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  51. Dweller by Jeff Strand
  52. Abstract Clarity by B. W. Ginsburg
  53. Chobits, Vol. 1 by CLAMP
  54. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  55. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  56. Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom by Tsugumi Ohba
  57. Master of Crows by Grace Draven
  58. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  59. The Diamond Tree by Michael Matson
  60. Promethea, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore
  61. Blink Once by Cylin Busby
  62. Death Note, Vol. 2: Confluence by Tsugumi Ohba
  63. The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
  64. The Daemoniac by Kat Ross
  65. The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
  66. Death Note, Vol. 3: Hard Run by Tsugumi Ohba
  67. Death Note, Vol 4: Love by Tsugumi Ohba
  68. Gyo by Junji Ito
  69. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
  70. Parallel by Anthony Vicino
  71. Death Note, Vol. 5: Whiteout
  72. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  73. Death Note, Vol 7: Give-and-Take by Tsugumi Ohba
Total Fiction/Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 46 (63%)
Total Classic: 3 (4%)
Total Non-Fiction/Reference: 4 (5%)
Total Graphic Novels/Manga: 20 (27%)

I was going to do this whole shebang with “Most Read Author,” “Favorite New Author,” “Favorite Series,” and all this other stuff, but I decided on just doing a Top 20 with that number as an increase from the original 10.  I marked around 14 books as potential Tops and figured I could find six more.

20. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

The cover of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David EaglemanOne of the best parts of reading this book was the perfect timing when I read it: in the midst of watching a Let’s Play of SOMA, which I’ve spoken of at great length (even though the review/essay is still to come).  Incognito explores the intricacies of conscious, subconscious, and unconscious processes and how the latter two form the foundation of the first.  It’s written in such a way that psychological novices can still follow with relatable analogies and examples, but the volume is not without some major issues, which I started noticing around Chapter 4 with Eagleman’s views on beauty/attractiveness that spiraled unfortunately towards racism (yes…really).  He also didn’t fully explore the reasons behind why we have unconscious biases, which never just come out of a vacuum.  While the author has a flair for piquing interest in subjects that could easily come off as tedious, his essentialism and (seemingly) unwillingness to take environmental influences into account raises my brows (and hackles) a bit (e.g. his insistence that having a Y chromosome essentially makes one more violent without considering this propensity could be due to how those perceived as having a Y chromosome are treated from [often before] birth is only one of many).  While I enjoyed the book for what information it imparted, especially for those unfamiliar with psychology, the fore mentioned (and other) issues prompt me to insist it be read with a discerning eye and copious grains of salt.

19. Dweller by Jeff Strand

The cover of Dweller by Jeff StrandThis novel was like a more fucked up version of Harry and the Hendersons, if the Hendersons were a once brutally bullied loner and Harry was a man eating abomination.  I really wanted to know where the monster came from.  Was he some government experiment gone wrong?  A throwback from an early time?  A creature from an alien dimension?  Everything about him just breeds more questions, but his relationship with Toby is both poignant and disturbing.  A lot of fucked up things happen in this book.  I was initially unsure about Strand’s writing style, but it grew on me as did Toby’s character.  It made sense why the author wrote it in this way: it perfectly reflected the MC’s mental state.  This is one of those books that has the perfect ending, as in there’s no other way it could’ve ended for these characters that would’ve been as satisfactory.

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Shattered Sea #1)

Title: Half a King
Series Title: Shattered Sea
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Date Added: July 14, 2015
Date Started: May 27, 2017
Date Finished: June 18, 2017
Reading Duration: 22 days
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark

Pages: 385
Publication Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Media: eBook/Kindle

Shares Paradigms With: Hamlet, The Lion King, ASOIAF, Radiance (Wraith Kings), An Ember in the Ashes

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no villains. Only people, doing their best.

Prince Yarvi lives in a society very similar to the Ironborn of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: harsh, cruel, and unforgiving of weakness.  They follow Mother War, eschew Father Peace and present a juxtaposition within the two ideals, as the mother or feminine side is usually associated with tranquility whereas war and battle are typically portrayed as masculine.

Seriously…you don’t get much more “masculine” than this, and he’s literally the God of War.

As the second and youngest son of King Uthrik, Yarvi had neither hopes nor ambitions for the throne.  He was meant for the ministry, studying under Mother Gundring, where having only one good hand would make no difference.  Yarvi’s bitterness bleeds on the page, because he cannot live up to his culture’s expectations, and neither of his parents let him forget this.

A man swings the scythe and the ax, his father had said. A man pulls the oar and makes fast the knot. Most of all a man holds the shield. A man holds the line. A man stands by his shoulder-man. What kind of man can do none of these things?

I didn’t ask for half a hand, Yarvi had said, trapped where he so often found himself, on the barren ground between shame and fury.

I didn’t ask for half a son.

His mother isn’t much better in the beginning.  She has nothing but scorn for her disabled child, but considering their culture, his parents’ behavior makes perfect sense.  It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather is a product of the harsh climate and culture they live in, which could be overlooked through the lens of presentism. This is not to say that Yarvi deserves his plight.  He doesn’t.  No one does whether from ancient history or far flung future; however, his misery fits into that zeitgeist, and his reaction to the emotional abuse and gaslighting is timeless.

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The State of the Writer: 7/16/17

<–The State of the Writer: 7/9/17          The State of the Writer: 7/23/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 266,620
Prior Word Count: 266,387
Word Difference: +233
Status: Editing
Progress: Chapter 10 revisions

No use lying about what I’m doing.  I’m currently in a revision phase for this chapter right now.  I decided to change up a scene, and that’s what I’ve been working on for the past week or so.  The story is filled with highlights and breaks.  It’s a mess D:  Well, at least to my sensibilities it is.  I’ll patch it up and put it back together, though I’ve been having a hell of a time, well, finding the time.  I need to prioritize my editing instead of trying to wedge it in at the end of the day.  The good thing is I have pretty much everything in my notes.  It’s just a matter of putting it together.

Quote: “General?”

“Yes, little one?”  He kept his voice gentle.  “Is everything well, my Aeris?”

She shuddered at that, and her naked toes curled into thick, lustrous carpet.  Lifting her hands, she looked up at him, and the sight tore the threads of his heart.  “I-I…”  I ask him for so much.  Silver locks spilled on black garb.  He was so tall the Cetra’s neck ached already from staring up.  Summer eyes flutter, and Aeris swayed hard before his immense strength closed around.  His embrace sealed her tight in his full protection, and the tiny Cetra sobbed.  

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The State of the Writer: 7/9/17

<–The State of the Writer: 7/2/17          The State of the Writer: 7/16/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 266,387
Prior Word Count: 266,754
Word Difference: -367
Status: Editing
Progress: 3rd edit of Chapter 10

I’m so close to completing the third edit.  If I have time I”ll do it tonight.  I decided to keep the graphic nightmare, and in fact I made it “worse” (warnings galore).  I’ve also been in a note writing frenzy, which means I can’t stop taking down potential scenes, most of which won’t find their way into the story, but I always write down every idea, since you never know what you can pull from there.  There are two that I might incorporate in later or earlier chapters.  I am definitely planning on updating earlier chapters, but that’s obviously going to take some time.

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The State of the Writer: 7/2/17

<–The State of the Writer: 6/25/17          The State of the Writer: 7/9/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 266,754
Prior Word Count: 267,254
Word Difference: -500
Status: Editing
Progress: 3rd edit of Chapter 10

It amazes me how the smallest change to a story can have a momentous effect, and I’m not even talking about tweaking a plot point.  Deciding what Sephiroth was going to do with his coat in one scene means I have to make sure the text following abides by that decision.  When he was wrapping it around Aeris, that means the cuffs of his shirt are more accessible, but if he’s wearing the coat, she’s probably not going to be able to unbutton them, unless the stick out past his coat, which they don’t because the coat covers his wrists.  One little change and you have to ensure that what follows reflects that.

I was too tired for two nights in a row, so I wasn’t even able to work on it, but when I finally sat down to edit, I realized it wasn’t going to be quite as difficult as I suspected.  There are parts of the scene where she has her hands on his black shirt, and I initially thought “How the hell am I going to change all of that??  I need to rethink the entire scene D:” Then I remembered that he could just unbutton his coat and everything would be much easier *headdesk*  This is why you don’t edit tired or drunk.

Unfortunately, since I’ve made significant changes this time around, and I may make more since I’m also rethinking the nightmare scene I wrote later in the chapter, I’m going to have to do a 4th edit.  Usually though, by the time I get to that point, it’s just a read-through so long as everything flows properly.  Let us hope.

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The State of the Writer: 6/25/17

<–The State of the Writer: 6/18/17          The State of the Writer: 7/2/17–>

A weekly post updated every Sunday discussing my current writing projects and where I stand with them.  This will include any and all work(s) in progress (WIP) be they creative writing, essays/analyses, or reviews of any type.

Project: Story
The Broken Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Type: Fanfiction (FFVII) Novel
Current Word Count: 267,254
Prior Word Count: 267,565
Word Difference: -311
Status: Editing
Progress: 3rd edit of Chapter 10

When I finished the second edit, I realized I didn’t like the pacing of the chapter.  Something was off.  It was too long, too drawn out, too…something.  I created an outline as I’d said I was planning last week in order to organize my thoughts and figure out what the chapter is supposed to accomplish.  I won’t know how much it’s helped until I reedit and reorg then do yet another edit afterwards.

Right now I’m at a part that I need to change, and it’s amazing how something so simple as Sephiroth not taking off his coat can be complicated in writing.  You have to make sure the text following takes that into account, and anything you miss could cause confusion or give away the fact that extensive changes were done.  Even though we all know writers spend a great deal of their time editing, that being evident in the text breaks the illusion necessary to suspend disbelief.

Quote: I always wear a coat with lining whenever we go anywhere.  In case you grow cold or are tired or frightened, I can just wrap you in this.”

Project: Book Review
Title: Silent Child
Author: Sarah A. Denzil
Status: Drafting

I’m deciding whether or not I’m going to do this review like I did the one for The Light of the Fireflies, where I split it into two parts.  The first is the spoiler free review, and the second is where I have to spoil it to talk about specific points.  I may be able to say what I need without doing the latter, but I’ll figure that out for sure when I have time to work on it again.

Project: Book Reviews
Title: Various
Status: Planning

I’m still five reviews behind even though I’ve completed or started two since my last weekly update.  Saga: Volumes 4-6, A Court of Mist and Fury, and Half a King.

What are you currently working on?  Is it a creative writing project, essay, review, or something else?  Have you just started something new or are you wrapping up a long term project?

<–The State of the Writer: 6/18/17          The State of the Writer: 7/2/17–>



The State of the Reader: 6/21/17

<–The State of the Reader: 6/14/17          The State of the Reader: 6/28/17–>

A weekly post updated every Wednesday detailing my current reading projects and where I am with them in addition to what new titles I’ve added to my to-read list.  Title links go to Goodreads to make it easier for interested parties to add any books that might strike their fancy.  I attempt to use the covers for the edition I’m reading, and I’ll mention if this is not the case.  If you have a Goodreads account feel free to friend me!  I’d love to see what you’re reading and/or planning to read.

Samples Read This Week

  1. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey: Kept – I’ve only read one book that involved Mercedes Lackey, and it was a collaboration with Piers Anthony, If I Pay Thee Not in GoldThis held my interest enough to give it a try.
  2. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco: Kept (RWTR) – This is currently one of the many books with giveaway contests on Goodreads.  I doubt I’ll win, but I’d buy I plan to buy it eventually anyway.  It’s so beautifully written with such a dark premise.
  3. Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene: Passed – This comes off as overly religious and preachy.  I love religious symbolism, but this book seems like it’s going to have some judgmental moral at the end of it as to why the town is shrouded in darkness, and I just have no interest.
  4. The Young Elites by Marie Lu: Kept (RWTR) – I saw this book in Target a few months ago, but didn’t make the purchase because I wasn’t sure.  I regret not doing so.  The beginning is haunting as the main character Adelina overhears her father literally sell her to a merchant in order to pay off his debts, because no other man would want her due to the ravages of the “blood fever.”
  5. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Green: Passed – The beginning is very confusing and jumbled.  I’m guessing the author wants to introduce the premise of what it feels like to “jump” into the minds of other species, but that’s already enough of an odd concept that obfuscating it even more makes the narrative damn near impossible to follow.  I was hoping for something akin to how GRRM describes warging in ASOIAF, but the beginning of this book is unfortunately a convoluted mess.  The blurb sounds really interesting, and I hate to pass on it, but it really lost me at the start.
  6. The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer: Kept (RWTR) – I’m surprised by this one.  I thought I was going to pass on it and didn’t consider it would wind up on my really-want-to-read list, but the way the people of this fantastic version of Venice are subjugating and abusing mythical creatures such as mermaids and stone lions calls for a great reckoning.
  7. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: Kept (RWTR) – This book was fascinating from the start.  Set in the Gold Rush Era, the main character is a girl who can sense gold, yet her family is still struggling.  Her father has some kind of ailment, and her parents don’t seem as overjoyed with her ability as you’d think.  I’m guessing because if anyone knows about it, they’d try to exploit her, and this seems to be the catalyst of the story.
  8. A Thread in the Tangle by Sabrina Flynn: Kept – I think if I hadn’t added the last two books to my really-want-to-read list I would’ve added this one, too.  Sometimes I reconsider and do that later, if a story stays with me, because this one is introduces some fantastic dynamics.  The one character (who appears to be more than human) is clearly not afraid of the emperor, and he seems to care far more about the monarch’s daughter than her father does (what is the title for an emperor’s daughter anyway?  I guess you could still use princess), seeing as the emperor is threatening to lock a four year old in the dungeon until she can be sold.  WTF.
  9. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender: Kept (RWTR) – This book is a dream to someone who loves both magical realism and angels.  The main character may not be one for true, but having the wings of a bird is close enough for me.  The  language is lush and beautiful, and this is firmly on my to-buy-next shelf.  I could’ve purchased it on Kindle, but this is one of the novels I want to own a physical copy of.

Books Purchased This Week: 5

Title: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
Author: David Eagleman
Date Added: May 7, 2017
Date Purchased: June 17, 2017

Media: Paperback
Price: $16.00
Retailer: Barnes & Noble

Title: Tigana
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Date Added: February 9, 2016
Date Purchased: June 17, 2017

Media: Paperback
Price: $22.00
Retailer: Barnes & Noble

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