Monday, February 21, 2022

[GUEST POST] My Top 5 Favorite SFF Books of 2021 by Savannah Cordova

 


2021 was a big year for bookworms and writers alike; while readers had time to sit down and get stuck into our reading lists, authors were hunkering down with their editors and publishers to finalize and release their books to the world — and we’re so thankful they did!

 

Many of the great heroes of the past year have been published in the science fiction and fantasy genres — no surprises there. After all, these categories offer the reader unparalleled opportunities for both escapism and introspection. What better than being able to see fragments of yourself across countless different worlds and characters? The catch is, even with all the time in the world, it’s hard to know where to begin your reading. That’s why I’ve compiled my top five sci-fi and fantasy books from 2021 that I definitely recommend you add to your reading list this year. And, don’t worry if you’d rather listen, each of the following novels also has a highly-reviewed audiobook available to download!

1.  Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro


Given Kazuo Ishiguro’s bestseller status (his previous novels including Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, both of which received the Booker Prize), it’s unsurprising that his latest novel Klara and the Sun was an instant hit on the reading lists of sci-fi and literary fiction fans alike in 2021. Similarly to his previous novels, Ishiguro takes his time building up to the plot, but there’s absolutely no turning back once the suspense begins to unfold.

The novel follows Klara, an ‘Artificial Friend’, born to look after whichever human purchases her. Through the loveable protagonist’s detailed and tender observations of the world around her, it becomes clear that she is insightful, and noble far beyond what her mechanical inner workings might suggest. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Klara, who doesn’t quite understand the human world she’s living in, as she sits on her store shelf observing the world around her. She hopes one day she’ll be picked as a Friend by a human; but, when her wishes are granted, she soon comes to realize that the promises of humans are never quite what they seem. In fact, humans themselves aren’t all she thought they’d crack up to be. Intrigued yet? I certainly was, and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in seeing the potential fallout of our rapidly advancing society through the eyes of a unique (and unforgettable) narrator.

2.  Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr


Following the success of his previously best-selling novel All The Light We Cannot See in 2014, Antony Doerr released another prize-winning knockout in 2021: Cloud Cuckoo Land — a story spanning centuries, through the eyes of various characters, all of whom are connected by one book.

The name of this book in question? You guessed it, it’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, (as written by the fictional Antonious Diogenes in around the first century B.C., not Doerr himself). The fictional book follows a shepherd named Aethon, as he seeks a mythical city in the sky which — surprise! — is also named Cloud Cuckoo Land.

What follows is an intriguing string of intrinsically connected, yet separate, tales of various characters and how their lives have been affected by this book — for better or worse. We see stories about a young girl growing up within the walls of historic Constantinople; a village boy living on the outskirts with his cherished pet Oxen; and an eighty year-old living with a life-or-death secret in 1940s Idaho. There are plenty more unique characters, though to try to list them all would be a disservice to the surprises, twists, and turns in this novel — instead, I recommend you pick the book up and experience it first-hand.

3.  The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna


If you like intriguing YA fiction with actually interesting female protagonists, then this is the one for you. The Gilded Ones is the first in what’s intended to become The Deathless Trilogy, and author Namina Forna certainly knows how to introduce a trilogy! The book follows sixteen-year old Deka as she’s torn between her desperation to fit in with her village and a chance to start afresh and gain acceptance elsewhere.

 

Following a coming-of-age ceremony that sheds light on the taboo golden color of her blood which drives her apart from the rest of her village, Deka knows the consequences are worse than death should she stay. Luckily, when a mysterious woman comes before her, our protagonist is offered a way out — but only if she agrees to join and fight somebody else’s war as part of an army of girls just like her. Of course, there isn’t much of a choice between unavoidable death and fighting to stay alive. The real intrigue comes when Deka discovers secrets beyond the walls that she can barely comprehend — will she get to the bottom of them?

 

See why The Gilded Ones made every book bloggers 2021 reading list, and why we’re all excited for the next of the series to be released in 2022! 

4.  The Shadow of the Gods, by John Gwynne


Established fantasy fiction series are well-loved (with The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time and The Witcher all respectively getting new TV series recently) but the spotlight seldom turns to newer releases — until now. Jon Gwynne’s high fantasy, Norse-inspired, world known as VigriΓ° instantly captured the hearts of both long-standing fantasy fans and readers new to the genre alike.

In a world suffering from the fallout of a war between gods, where jarls vie for power, monsters stalk the forests and roads, and the fallen gods still roam the land. You’ll experience everything from the eyes of the most unexpected characters:  a mother-turned-warrior on the hunt to take revenge on her son’s kidnappers, a former slave and farmer also out for revenge, and a nobleman’s daughter seeking renown for her battle prowess. As you might imagine, the novel delivers high levels of tension — but, impressively, Gwynne’s attention to worldbuilding also provides adequate respite in between. This definitely isn’t a book to miss out on!

5.  The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers


For fans of contemporary science fiction, it might not come as a surprise to see Becky Chambers on this list. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the fourth installation in Chambers’s Wayfarers sci-fi series — but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump right in. While each book in the series is set in the same universe,  they follow a different cast of characters and explore different places.

Chambers focuses on her characters — their development, interactions, psychology — above plot. This novel follows five characters from different alien species, including a character from an earlier book in the series, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Following their chance meeting in a space station, we learn they are all notably different from what their appearances might make us presume. They befriend each other, talk, eat, laugh, and maybe even cry. So, if you fancy an emotional and spellbinding journey through space, I can’t recommend this novel enough.

So, now you know my top five favorite books from the past year, is there anything new you’ll be adding to your reading list? Or, perhaps you feel inspired to begin your own SFF manuscript — either way, I hope that I’ve helped you choose from the overwhelming lists of excellent fiction published in 2021; and, if you’re new to these genres, I hope I’ve helped you find a new literary love. Either way, happy reading!

 

 

Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world's best editors, designers, and other publishing professionals.


Saturday, February 19, 2022

[ANALYZING SONIC THE HEDGEHOG COMICS] Sonic the Hedgehog: Issue 4 (IDW Comics)

 




Title: Sonic the Hedgehog

Issue: #4

Writer: Ian Flynn

Artist: Evan Stanley

Series: IDW

Previously Reviewed: Issue 1 |  Issue 2 |  Issue 3


So, after reading the first three issues and getting introduced to Sonic's core friends (Tails, Amy and Knuckles), I was curious about what other characters we will be introduced to in this series next.  Lo and behold, I didn't expect to be introduced to a new character and an old character in the same issue!  But before we go into my thoughts on this issue, here's a brief summary of this issue.




The issue begins like the previous three issues where Sonic heads to another village and discovers some badniks invading the town.  Once Sonic arrives at the town, he meets up with an energetic lemur named Tangle, who is busy taking down the badniks herself.  Sonic and Tangle immediately become friends and they continue fighting off the badniks, until a mysterious character drops in and it's none other than Blaze the Cat herself!  So, Sonic, Tangle and Blaze continue to fight against the badniks overtaking the city.




Now, I'm going to be honest here: I don't know much about Blaze the Cat as a character since I never played the "Sonic Rush" games where she was introduced and it's been a while since I last played "Sonic 06," where she did show up.  But, I loved the fact that this issue did reintroduce Blaze the Cat into the Sonic canon since she hadn't been used that much in the games as of late (which is a shame) and it was great seeing her fight alongside Sonic and Tangle.  I also liked the fact that Sonic is so familiar with Blaze as I loved the scene where he's like "Oh yeah!  HEY BLAZE!" even though Blaze is a princess of her dimension and yet, she's so close to Sonic at this point.  I especially loved Tangle's reaction to Blaze showing up as she's shown as being that new girl who's seeing two people who are well acquainted with each other interacting with each other and she's like, "Ummm...where do I fit in all this?"  But then, she becomes fast friends with Blaze like she becomes fast friends with Sonic.



Now, let's talk about the new character in this issue, Tangle herself.  OH MY GOODNESS!  I never thought that I would love a new character that was made exclusive for the comic books!  Ian Flynn did such a fantastic job at portraying Tangle's character as Tangle is shown as being highly energetic and friendly towards everyone she meets, and I love that aspect of her character.  Even though the other characters like Tails, Cream and Sonic himself are very friendly characters themselves, it's nice seeing another nice character join the cast.  And of course, I just love Tangle's overall design as she wears a cool looking sports outfit, and she has a unique ability where she uses her tail as a weapon.  Also, I just loved Evan Stanley's artwork for this issue!  I think Evan Stanley and Adam Bryce Thomas are my two most favorite artists for this series so far!  Evan Stanley does such a fantastic job at giving these characters such humorous yet energetic facial expressions and it's always such a treat looking at these hilarious facial expressions from these characters!




The only problem that I have with this issue is that I wished that they developed Blaze's character a bit more.  We don't know exactly where Blaze was during "Sonic Forces" and I would like to know where she was the whole time.  Also, as someone who is not that familiar with Blaze's character, I would have liked to learn more about Blaze's home world and how she met Sonic in the first place. Again, I never played the "Sonic Rush" games, so I'm a bit new to Blaze as a character.


Overall, I give this issue a rating of:


Even though I would have liked to learn more about Blaze's character, I had a lot of fun with this issue!  Tangle was such an awesome new addition to the cast and I can't wait to see more of her in future issues!  Looking forward to checking out the next issue soon!



Sunday, February 13, 2022

[ANALYZING SONIC THE HEDGEHOG COMICS] Sonic the Hedgehog: Issue 3 (IDW Comics)

 




Title: Sonic the Hedgehog

Issue: #3

Writer: Ian Flynn

Artist: Jennifer Hernandez

Series: IDW

Previously Reviewed: Issue 1 |  Issue 2


So, now that we are introduced to Amy and Tails, here's the issue where we are finally introduced to Knuckles the Echidna; you know, that red Echidna who happens to be one of Sonic's rivals (or former rival, depending on how you look at it)? Well, I must say that I was quite excited to check out this issue, especially since Knuckles is in this issue!  But, before we go into my thoughts about this issue, here's a brief summary of the issue.




The issue begins with Sonic the Hedgehog rushing over to a new town and it was there that he meets up with Knuckles the Echidna, who is busy smashing up some robots.  It turns out that Knuckles is still the leader of the Resistance, but he's clearly not enjoying the job.  But at the same time, Sonic and Knuckles discovers that the town that they came to has been taken over by two skunk mercenaries named Rough and Tumble and the skunk brothers also have a supply of Wispons to help them keep control over the city.  It's up to Sonic and Knuckles to stop these skunk brothers!



So, when I saw Knuckles come into this issue, I was really happy!  Knuckles is one of my all-time favorite characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, alongside Tails, and I always wanted to see how he would be portrayed in the IDW comics.  So far, I'm really liking Knuckles' characterization in this series as he does have a tough exterior, like he does in most interpretations of his character; but he also respects Sonic enough to work with him and will always do the right thing in the end.  Also, I'm just glad that Knuckles is not portrayed as being unintelligent in this series like he has been portrayed lately in the games (or at least in the Sonic Boom games).  I always had an issue whenever Knuckles was being portrayed as unintelligent because the Knuckles that I grew up with was pretty cunning in his actions, even though he can be pretty gullible at times.  Heck, there was a brief moment in this issue where Sonic was laughing at the Skunk Brothers and made a joke about them and Knuckles took what the Skunk Brothers were saying seriously.  This is another aspect of Knuckles that I appreciate because there are times where Knuckles doesn't have the best social skills in some games and there are times where he doesn't get the joke that the other characters would tell.  That scene actually reminded me of myself as I tend to get a bit confused whenever people are joking about something.  Like I would go like, "Are you actually joking or are you being serious?"  Anyway, I really liked Sonic and Knuckles' relationship with each other in this issue.  Even though they've been rivals for many years, they are still pretty friendly with each other and I just loved seeing how close Sonic and Knuckles have become with each other over the years.



The story in this issue was pretty fun!  While it's the typical "Sonic and Friends fight off the bad guys" plot, it was fun seeing Sonic and Knuckles fight together against the newest foes, Rough and Tumble.  Also, it was interesting seeing the Wisps make an appearance in this issue (even though as of this post, I still haven't played "Sonic Colors" yet and I'm not too familiar with their characters or their abilities).


One of the problems that I have with this issue is Rough and Tumble themselves.  While they are new villains created for this series, I felt that they were pretty generic villains compared to some villains like Metal Sonic or even Snively as they were portrayed as just being mere bullies that Sonic and Knuckles could easily take down. Another problem that I had with this issue was the artwork.  I felt that the artwork in this issue was a bit weak compared to the artwork in the previous two issues and it just felt too out of place in this series.


Overall, I give this issue a rating of:




Even though the artwork was a bit weak and the main antagonists in this issue, Rough and Tumble, weren't that interesting as characters, I still enjoyed this issue!  I just loved seeing Sonic and Knuckles fighting alongside each other again and it was great seeing Knuckles be portrayed in a better light in this series so far.   Now, it's time to get to the next issue, where we are introduced to the newest character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Tangle the Lemur!




Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Sunday Post Meme (201)

Hey everybody! I am participating in a book meme called the Sunday Post which is being hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer! The goal of this meme is to share news you have  on various books and things you’ve read or received and also talk about what is coming up for your blog! Book hauls can include library books, yard sale finds, arcs and bought books and you can share these finds with other book bloggers!


Hey everyone! Friday was my birthday and I'm just so happy that I'm able to live another day in this dangerous world that we are living in right now.

Ummm...anyway...to get over that melodrama, I had a wonderful birthday yesterday!  Me and my family went to Red Lobster to celebrate the special occasion and I got a lot of awesome gifts as well!  Some of the gifts I got were a Natsu from "Fairy Tail" funko pop (because I love me some funko pops), a cute little Tails figure where he holds a gaming control, the Suicide Squad and Shang-Chi movies and a selfie stand for my cellphone!  Man, I sure had a wonderful birthday!





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One Word: BIRTHDAY!!!






(DVD)

* I was kind of late in watching "Jungle Cruise," but I honestly had a lot of fun with this movie!  Dwayne Johnson was fantastic in this movie and I loved the way that the movie had a nice balance between action and humor!




(NETFLIX)

* I found this movie to be really cute and funny, even though there were some cringe moments, especially with Isabela and her lively friends.




(TUBI)

* I really enjoyed this movie!  I was surprised by the twist in the film and how this became a very dark take on "Home Alone."


 

What do you celebrate on your birthday?








*So, here are some good things that happened to me recently!



* My birthday happened last week and I had a wonderful time!  We had a nice meal at Red Lobster and I got a lot of awesome gifts like some movies that I've wanted to get since last year and a new stand for my cell phone!





☆ It Starts at Midnight posted her Monthly Minutes at Midnight: January 2022



Well, that's the Sunday News for today and I will have more news for the various books I've read in the near future!



Posted on Sunday, February 6, 2022



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