Fantasy Favorites

Another list I’ve put together for this holiday season to recommend books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This list is a handful of fantasy books I’ve enjoyed and will likely re-read at a later time. Some of these are obvious/popular stories you may have already read, but they deserve a spot on this list for those who have either not heard of the or have been putting of finally reading them. Again, I’ve already recommended many of these books so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

The Stormcaller

This book is the first of five in a series by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three and remember enjoying them but failed to read the subsequent books as they released. I need to re-read them and finish the series.

The Eyes of God

John Marco’s trilogy that starts with The Eyes of God was a favorite of mine a long time ago. A fourth novel has since come out that I haven’t read so I may revisit the originals and read the new installment.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

This title may be V. E. Schwab’s masterpiece.

The Magician

The beginning of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, this initiates a four-book saga that extends further with subsequent books. I read a few beyond the core four books and it is a fun time.

Howl’s Moving Castle

A great story by Diana Wynne Jones that differs a bit from the movie it inspired made by Studio Ghibli. It has two companion novels (not quite sequels) that are also great reads.

The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan’s 15 book series begins with The Eye of the World and is a journey in itself quite worth the time if you love fantasy.

The Lord of the Rings

The classic that has inspired much that has followed, The Lord of the Rings is well worth the read despite the incredible movie adaptations. This year premiered The Rings of Power as well which delves into the events prior to what takes place in the original trilogy. I enjoyed the first season and am excited to see what comes next.

The Name of the Wind

Yes, fans of this trilogy are still awaiting volume three which we can only hope will be released next year, but the first two books are incredible and I am sure the third will be worth the wait. I recommend this for those interested but it may be worth waiting until you can binge the entire story.

Harry Potter

A series that influenced many of my generation and many outside my generation.

The Rings of Power

LOTR_The_Rings_of_Power_logoNow that the first season of The Rings of Power has ended, I wanted to talk about it. First, I absolutely loved it and look forward to the continuation of this series. Naturally there are those out there bashing the series for simple or idiotic reasons, but I am a fan and hope others are too.

Granted, I am a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and have read some of the supplemental materials used for the creation of this series (primarily The Silmarillion and the appendices). My knowledge therefore made the show much more enjoyable for me due to several reasons. I picked up on a lot of smaller details that other viewers may have missed but which only enriched my own viewing since they were really little “easter eggs” alluding to other events/characters. I was also able to predict certain surprises in the show due to some of these allusions and foreknowledge, although that did not diminish my enjoyment.

The production value is insanely good, similar to Peter Jackson’s original trilogy, leaving each episode feeling like a mini-movie (especially as they were on average 70 minutes). There was mystery and intrigue throughout as we were introduced to a familiar world but in an entirely new era. The Rings of Power takes place thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Therefore, we see some familiar locations and only a few familiar characters, most notably elves who live forever, but we are getting entirely new stories. A few even tie directly to the events of The Lord of the Rings.

Let’s begin at the beginning, but before we start I do want to put a Spoiler Warning here as I will discuss a few items that would be considered spoilers for those who have not seen the entirety of the first season. I don’t want to write forever, although I could, so I’ll keep my thoughts concise. Continue reading

Five Star Books

I thought it would be interesting to go through the books I’ve given a five-star rating. I use Goodreads mainly to encourage and track my goal of reading at least 50 books a year, so it is just a way to encourage myself to keep reading and not fall into a slump. Reading is relaxing and restorative for me, and sometimes I need to remind myself that it relieves stress and read regularly to keep myself balanced.

When going through my list of books I’ve given five stars to on Goodreads, I was surprised at how many made the cut. I typically follow the rating system of three stars means I liked it, four stars means I really liked it, and five stars means I loved it. I think I’ve given one two star rating, and I have never given a one star rating. This is because I often won’t finish a book I don’t like and I always look at a book objectively and won’t let one bad thing ruin the entire work. I also rate the book right after finishing so my feelings about it are fresh, which I hope gives a more accurate rating about how I felt about the book.

Anyway, here is the list of books I’ve given five stars to throughout my use of Goodreads. Some of these are representative of a series, so I may love the series as a whole while not necessarily giving all individual books five stars.

Howl’s Moving Castle was my introduction to the work of Diana Wynne Jones. It remains my favorite Studio Ghibli film and is a great novel I look forward to reading to my children.

Magician is the first book of The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist. I first read this in high school and loved it. I only read the primary saga and a few books that followed, so I have not read the entirety of the (I believe) still growing series.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the start of the John Carter of Mars series. I read the initial trilogy after seeing the 2012 movie that I enjoyed despite it being considered a failure. The movie doubled as a celebration of 100 years since the first book was published. It also was the only reason I learned about the books. There are 11 in total and I read book four and part of five but failed to remain interested at the time. Overall, it is a great, earlier scifi series that influenced much of the scifi that became popular later on.

On Writing is a much loved book about the craft of writing, but it also gives an autobiographical insight into Stephen King. I haven’t read this one in a while, so I may need to return to it and read it with more experienced eyes. I will likely enjoy it that much more.

The Queen’s Gambit is a more recent read. Written by Walter Tevis and turned into a mini-series by Netflix (how I first discovered it), I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was adapted extremely well.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is the only series I wrote a corresponding series of posts about. I essentially wrote about each book as I read it, all 15 in the series, and discussed what surprised me and what I predicted would come next. It is a great series for fans of fantasy. I did give two of the 15 books five stars.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve been a huge fan of this series since I first read these books when I was quite young. I’ve only read the series two or three times and it has been a long time since my last readthrough. I’ve been meaning to re-read it.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I read this well after the big craze when the movie came out. I picked it up at the annual book sale of our local library. It was surprisingly good. I have yet to see the movie though.

Our Story Begins is a collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff whom I admire as a writer. He is able to create such intimately human moments in his stories that exemplifies the art itself.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This book I first discovered by the trailer for the movie. The trailer intrigued me so I read the book which allowed me to better understand and appreciate the movie when it came out. A lot of people were confused by the movie which is understandable given how it intertwines several storylines across a vast timeline. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupery is a fantastic little book that I came to as an adult. I’m curious if I would have loved it as a child but I think I appreciate it more as an adult.

The Name of the Wind is the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the sequel A Wise Man’s Fear. The third, and I believe final, book of the series is rumored to be released this year. Pat read the prologue of The Doors of Stone for a charity event earlier this year so it may very well be released later this year or early next year. I also gave the peripheral novella five stars as well. Titled A Slow Regard for Silent Things, the novella is a week in the life of the character Auri from the series. I think this may be the only series that has five stars from me for each book (the three mentioned here).

Harry Potter is a series I grew up with and have enjoyed for a long time. I haven’t read the series in quite some time, but ironically my least favorite book when I was younger turned out to be one of my favorite movie in the series. This series was one that I can vividly remember getting the next book the day it released. I gave a few books in this series five stars.

The Stranger by Albert Camus was a novel I read in college and enjoyed more than I thought I would. It was my first reading of Camus. I need to read more of his work but have only read one other book, The Myth of Sisyphus. 

Dune by Frank Herbert has become a favorite of mine. I have only read this first book in the series but I loved it as a standalone novel. The recent film adaptation was great and I look forward to “Part 2” which I think is releasing next year.

Triple Zero by Karen Traviss is the second book of the Republic Commando series of the Star Wars universe. I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was younger and this series was my favorite. There was a Republic Commando video game I also really liked. The story focuses on a few squads of clone commandos and delves into what these clones lives were like. They were mentally 10 years old in 20-year-old bodies and created to fight a galactic war. There is a lot of cool things in this series aside from it being part of the Star Wars universe.

Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I enjoyed this trilogy and the second book was my favorite.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a great book. The film adaptation was great and understandably changed quite a bit of the story while keeping the overall main story thread the same. I read Ready Player Two when it was released and enjoyed it also, but not as much as this first book.

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series by Hiromu Arakawa. I first encountered this series as the anime adaptation and was swept up into the lives of the Elric brothers. I read the series this year and the “redo” of the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is a faithful adaptation to the series and is fantastic. This story is incredible overall and will always get five stars from me.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins was a happy surprise for me when I read it last year. I consider this book a hidden treasure since I haven’t come across many people discussing it.

Norse Mythology with this being Neil Gaiman’s retelling of several Norse myths. I am a fan of mythologies and the Norse myths are my favorite. It is an added bonus that Neil wrote a version and narrated it himself. Definitely worth a listen/read.

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is a manga series I first encountered via the anime adaptation as well. There is a lot I enjoyed in the series that was omitted in the adaptation and overall I have a fascination with the series despite some shortcomings. It almost didn’t make this list but it is one of those series that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Network Effect is a novel that is part of The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I enjoy this series immensely for many reasons. This novel ironically is a “side quest” of the series which is currently comprised of five novellas. Murderbot is a great character and the universe they inhabit is both chilling yet hopeful for humans.

Art Matters is a little book by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Chris Riddell. This little book is a great, quick read about why art is important and that we should “make good art” if we feel so inclined. I recommend giving this a read (should only take an hour at the most) just to get the message and inspiration that pours from this tiny volume.

That is my list of books I’ve given five stars to as of this date. Many I have not read in some time but I think I would still enjoy them if/when I give them a re-read. Perhaps some of these may become favorites of yours if they aren’t already. Perhaps you disliked several on this list that I enjoyed which is absolutely valid as reading is subjective. Regardless, I hope you find something fun to read.

Happy Reading.

The Sandman

Sandman and the Endless

Sandman and the Endless by Jim Lee & Jeremy Roberts

I have to admit that The Sandman was an interesting journey to say the least. I haven’t read many comics (despite knowing many comic characters and stories [no, not just Marvel ones]), but it is a unique medium that is worth looking into if you have been hesitant to do so. Of course, there are tons of stories within the medium and you simply need to find one you are interested in. I decided to begin Sandman for various reasons: I’ve heard friends talk about it, I’ve seen it show up several times in circles of interest, and one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote it. Granted, a comic is a product of much collaboration and creation and each contributor deserves their due. Some contributors changed throughout the series, but here are those who created the first issue titled “Sleep of the Just”: Neil Gaiman (writer), Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg (artists), Todd Klein (letters), Daniel Vozzo (colors), Art Young (assistant editor), and Karen Berger (editor).

I acquired the Omnibus Editions Continue reading

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverIt has been over a month since my last recommendation. This is partly due to my reading slump and other demands on my time, but today I am recommending a story that is one I consider top-tier. This is the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. I first discovered this story via the anime adaptation which has two versions (which I will discuss shortly), but first let’s begin with a quick blurb to see if this is the type of story you are interested in.

“In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Their journey to restore their bodies through the power of the Philosopher’s Stone begins here.”

That was taken from the back of volume one of the deluxe edition. There are 18 volumes included in the deluxe edition and 27 in the original version (the deluxe editions combine the 27 into 18 hardcover volumes).

I hope this caught your interest, because as I stated above, this story is incredible. The Elric brothers are alchemists. Alchemy, for a simple explanation, could be equated to magic. The entire system centers on the Law of Equivalent Exchange. For example, by using the right alchemical formula, an alchemist could change water into hydrogen by removing the oxygen. The correct materials are present. They can change the chemical and/or physical makeup of things with alchemy but only if the materials are present. Alchemy cannot therefore create something from nothing. Except perhaps with the Philosopher’s Stone.

Though I recently read the manga series for the first time, I did watch the 2003 adaptation Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2009 adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The reason two versions exist isn’t simply that the latter is a remake. The first was adapted while the manga was still being written and the show went on past the published material and thus took creative liberties to conclude the series resulting is quite a few differences from the source material. The 2009 adaptation is more accurate as the series had been completed and it therefore stayed true to the source material. This is perhaps why I believe it to be the better version.

What I like about this series is the blend of comedy, drama, ethics, morality, and the questions of what it means to be human and what is the value of a human life. It covers topics such as genocide, so this series does delve into some heavy areas and there are some impactful moments, one of which stands out as a forever “too soon” reference within the fandom. If you’ve read or watched this series, then you likely know what I am referring to.

The series is rich with interesting characters both good and bad. I would even dare to call it timeless due to the nature of the worldbuilding and the fact it centers on those questions that humanity will always be considering despite the fact no concrete answer will ever be possible.

If you’ve never heard of this series, then I hope you look into it either by reading or watching. I of course recommend print format but also the 2009 adaptation if you want to watch it. Both versions are currently available on Netflix. In the spirit of Equivalent Exchange. I thank you for reading my post and I hope you got something from it that you find as valuable as the time spent reading it.

Happy Reading.