The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 1: Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend + Giveaway

This Sunday, July 9th marks my eighth blogoversary! And based on the results of this recent poll, this year’s celebration is going to be… giveaways! (Many thanks to everyone who voted, btw!) This is perfect, because blogoversaries aren’t just a time of virtual cake, confetti, and fireworks. They’re also a great opportunity to thank readers for their friendship and support, no matter how long they’ve been following you. So, consider this week’s and next week’s posts my gift to you guys. (*bows in gratitude*)

For this first giveaway, I wanted to do something bookish, but something different from the usual “favorite reads or authors of all time” theme. Then I read these recent Top 10 Tuesday posts by Sarah J. Higbee and The Bibliosanctum, and a lightbulb turned on. So, here are Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend, along with links to my reviews at Goodreads. At the end you’ll find a Rafflecopter link and instructions for how the giveaway will work. Sounds like a plan, yes? 😀

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (YA Science Fiction)

I think all I need to say about why The Abyss Surrounds Us is unique are two words: SEA MONSTERS. But that’s not fair to the book or to you, right? 😉

Emily Skrutskie’s debut novel follows Cas, a teenage Reckoner trainer, as she’s kidnapped by sea pirates during her first solo mission in the Pacific. (Reckoners are the previously mentioned genetically engineered sea monsters.) It’s action-packed and eye-opening, with glimpses into the gritty and morally conflicted world of piracy, a complex f/f romance between Cas and one of her captors, and a sensitive yet honest look at Stockholm syndrome. The worldbuilding is neat, too. Think of a futuristic Earth reshaped by global warming and greatly expanded oceans. And did I mention SEA MONSTERS?? Seriously, Cas’s monster Bao was my favorite thing about the whole book.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Contemporary Fantasy)

This Neil Gaiman classic poses the question, “When immigrants arrived in America, what happened to the religions and deities they brought with them?” The answer is a dark, gritty, sprawling voyage across the modern-day U.S. and the clash between the gods of old and humanity’s evolved “ideals.” And it’s not exactly Percy Jackson for adults. American Gods is often gruesome, provocative, and terrifying. Yet at the same time, it’s breathtaking, cerebral, and utterly absorbing. Gaiman’s modern-day incarnations of deities from Norse, Slavic, Egyptian, Gaelic, and other cultures and ancient religions are not just spot-on – they’re also complex as living, breathing human beings. Maybe it’s no wonder that American Gods has been adapted for TV. There’s no other book out there quite like it.

Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin (Science Fiction Short Story Collection)

Imagine walking into an airport, bypassing the usual crowds and lines at ticket counters and luggage screenings… and being able to travel to other planets. This is the premise of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Changing Planes, a collection of short stories and vignettes that showcases the depth and brilliance of a master speculative fiction author’s worldbuilding. Think of it as a science fiction travelogue. Each story is devoted to a different planet (or “plane”) and explores its history, landscapes, culture, and people / creatures in first-hand accounts by the fictional narrator or stories she’s heard from fellow travelers. This was actually my first science fiction read by UKLG, and it’s still one of my favorite books by her. It’s so imaginative, richly detailed, and insightful about humanity in general; and since it’s not as well-known as her novels, it’s a fantastic choice for this list.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy)

Neither geological events nor people with earth-oriented “magical” powers are necessarily new ideas in fantasy literature. But what if earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other catastrophes were the norm? And what if the people who protect the land by preventing such disasters – or can destroy it by creating such events – are shunned by their “power-less” peers? N.K. Jemisin marries both ideas in the Hugo award-winning The Fifth Season, a haunting and intricately woven story of betrayal, heartache, and survival in a doomed world. And those aren’t the only reasons why this book is both outstanding and special. The use of second-person narration for one POV character, inventive fantastical elements such as stone-eaters and floating obelisks, the prevailing sense of oppression and constant threat of apocalypse, the complex mysteries that gradually unfold and then suckerpunch you once you realize the complete picture they’ve painted… I still can’t describe how stunned I was when I finished this book. “Slack-jawed” might even be a better word than “stunned.”

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee (YA Steampunk / Alternate History)

I tend to prefer original stories over retellings, unless something about the retelling’s inspiration or the new spin it offers snares my attention. That was the case with Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing, a tribute to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that’s set in an alternate 19th century Switzerland. Of course the book’s origins (I did mention Frankenstein, yes?) and steampunk details (mechanics help survivors of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars using clockwork and mechanical limbs) ought to grab a speculative or historical fiction fan’s attention. But what’s so refreshing about This Monstrous Thing is its central relationship. Sure, there’s a love story, but it takes a backseat to the tension between two brothers: one who’s alive and torn between ambition and family, and the other forever changed by being brought back from the dead.

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith (Fantasy / Science Fiction)

Here’s a book (and a series) that seems to have slipped under the radar of many SF&F readers. Karina Sumner-Smith’s Radiant transports you to a futuristic world of floating Towers where the magical wealthy reside and a crumbling, impoverished city below. Add in ghosts, night-walkers, aircars, and you have a dangerous, breathtaking setting that’s impossible to define genre-wise yet beckoning you to visit its every corner. The story told in Radiant is fascinating as well. In fact, its focal relationship is similar to that in This Monstrous Thing, with two girls – one alive, the other a ghost whose “owner” hasn’t died yet – protecting one another as they’re hunted by rival Towers and trying to survive their treacherous environment. It’s an exhilarating tale of friendship, trust, and belonging, with no romance whatsoever. And while I enjoy a good love story, Radiant is a great example of when it’s not necessary.

Sabriel by Garth Nix (YA Dark Fantasy)

When Sabriel’s father goes missing, Sabriel must do more than rescue him. She must also prepare herself for the moment she’ll have to replace him as the Old Kingdom’s Abhorsen, a necromancer who protects the living by ushering passed-on souls to the realm of Death and ensuring they stay there. And so begins Sabriel, the first novel of Garth Nix’s beloved Old Kingdom series. Like several other choices on this list, this book immediately stands out for its worldbuilding. The enduring presence of gore crows, corrupted re-animated souls, and other Dead spirits and creatures injects a vein of horror into Sabriel and its sequels. Necromancy isn’t the only type of magic in the Old Kingdom, either; and the Free and Charter Magic system is just as complex and original as the other. What I enjoyed most about Sabriel, though, is that it’s a coming-of-age story. Sabriel’s father is her only mentor, which means her quest to save him might be the only time Sabriel can put his limited teachings to practice – and then try to figure out the rest along the way.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Post-Apocalyptic Literary Fiction)

Imagine a not-so-distant future where 99% of Earth’s population has died from an epidemic, and where air travel, electricity, antibiotics, or communication via phone or Internet cease to exist. It’s not so far-fetched, and that’s what makes Emily St. John Mandel’s quietly thoughtful and beautifully written Station Eleven so haunting. Instead of reimagining our world with new government structures and flashes of technology like bestselling dystopian novels have, Station Eleven takes an already-known threat and uses it to bring civilization to a standstill. Or does it? Because as the story moves back and forth in time, readers learn how survivors have adapted since the epidemic and how the relationships, passions, and choices of a person’s past can greatly influence the future of others. I actually finished Station Eleven during my flight home from Iceland this past April, and a chill ran down my spine when I realized the irony of reading this book in that very setting.

Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley (YA Steampunk / Mystery)

steeplejack-cover

Like Radiant, A.J. Hartley’s Steeplejack isn’t as well-known as some of the other books on this list. But with a single-sentence premise of “YA South African-inspired steampunk murder mystery,” it has more than earned its spot here. This exciting, tightly paced story follows Ang, a young female steeplejack who’s hired to investigate the connections between her apprentice’s murder and the disappearance of one of the city’s most prized artifacts. The plot twists and turns just as a good mystery should; it kept me guessing right up to the shocking climax, and it proves to be an intellectual and emotional challenge for Ang. The worldbuilding in Steeplejack, which is an alternate 19th century South Africa with steampunk technology, is also stellar. With its layers of history, sharply defined social structure, and savanna setting (complete with real-life animals you’d find in Africa’s wilderness), it’s equally realistic and breathtaking. And, the unfolding racial and cultural tensions draw parallels to our own world that make this book too relevant to be ignored.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Steampunk Fantasy)

stormdancer-coverDo you like gryphons? Or airships and other steampunk inventions?  Or dystopian societies where a rebellion threatens to overthrow an oppressive government? Or fictional worlds inspired by Japanese culture and mythology? Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, the first book in his Lotus War Trilogy, features ALL OF THOSE THINGS. And that’s not all. By taking the steampunk route, Kristoff illustrates a violent, industrialized country choked by pollution and plagued with illness. This really is a world where every character – not just the protagonist Yukiko, or the great thunder-tiger Buruu – has so much to lose if the rebellion fails. Plus, the bond that blossoms between Yukiko and Buruu is as heartrending and believable as any real-life human-animal relationship, but with added complexity that fits its genre and mature audience.

INTL Giveaway: Win One of These 10 Books via The Book Depository

If any of these books piqued your interest, then you’re in luck! One (1) reader will win their book of choice from my 10 Unique Reads list above via The Book Depository. (Click here to see if your country is on that list.)

This giveaway is international (i.e., open to all countries that TBD ships to) and ends at midnight Eastern time on Thursday, July 20th. Click on the link below to access the Rafflecopter widget, then follow the instructions to earn points for comments, social media, etc. Also, let me know which book you’d like to win in your comment on this post. (You may want to list second and third choices, too, in case your first choice isn’t available.) The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email and claim their prize.

EDIT – July 20, 2017: The giveaway has ended, and congrats to Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum! She has won a copy of This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee.

What are some of the most unique books you’ve read? Have you read any of the books that are featured in this post?

49 thoughts on “The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 1: Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend + Giveaway

  1. Congratulations on eight years, Sara! That is so incredible. And you came up with such a fun way to celebrate too!
    I haven’t read any of these books yet, so there’s so many to choose from. I think The Fifth Season, Radiant, and Station Eleven sound the most interesting to me. And what is this post-apocalyptic literary fiction? I usually think of genre fiction and literary fiction resting in different worlds, so that’s kind of a neat combination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mandie! 🙂

      The Fifth Season, Radiant, and Station Eleven are all great choices. Though I’d probably say that for any of the books listed here, wouldn’t I? *lol*

      And yes, Station Eleven definitely straddles the line between literary and speculative. It’s beautifully written and driven more by characters than by plot, and yet it so realistically imagines what could happen if our world was struck by a pandemic. It’s not meant to be scary, but the believability of it all sent chills down my spine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kristina! 🙂 To be honest, I’m glad that giveaways was the top choice in the poll. It means that readers can benefit from the blogoversary in some way – and I think I prefer it that way. Readers are a big part of a blog’s success, and giveaways can offer bloggers a chance to show their gratitude and appreciation for their audience.

      Do any of the above books grab your interest?

      Like

  2. What a lovely list of books, Sara – congratulations on your 8th anniversary. And many thanks for the name-check and link – how kind of you:)). While I do know a number of the books on your list – there are also an interesting number that I don’t… The Abyss That Surrounds Us, Radiant and Steeplejack all look really good – I’m hoping to have another go at Station Eleven sometime this summer.

    In the meantime, Sara – have another wonderful 8 years. I, for one, will look forward to your output and wish you all the very best in your new writing project – you are a talented author with interesting things to say:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah. 🙂 And you’re welcome! Your post was a great inspiration for the “theme” for the giveaway. I really wanted to do something different than the “all-time favorite books” theme I’ve done in the past. So putting together this list was refreshing.

      I actually think you’d like Radiant a lot, though the other two are also great choices. But I’d particularly love to know your thoughts on its worldbuilding if you get to read it. It’s such a unique of familiar elements, stirred together to make a dangerous and foreboding yet darkly beautiful place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy blogoversary Sara! This is a fantastic list. I may have to do one of these myself someday. And I’m happy to say I’ve read several of these. One book I haven’t read but I’m kicking myself for not reading is American Gods. One of these days…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tammy! And ohhhhhh yes, make time for American Gods when you can. It’s such a weird and fascinating and frightening book – not in a horror sort of way, but some parts are definitely not for young readers.

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  4. Happy blog birthday, Sara! The “unique books” list was one of my favorite Top Ten Tuesdays to do because of all the possibilities! I honestly struggled to choose just ten because pretty much every book is unique in their own individual way. I think Radiant would have definitely made it if I had more slots, for one, lol! I still really want to check out This Monstrous Thing and Station Eleven!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy 8th Birthday! I think I’d like to read The Abyss Surrounds Us, a different kind of pirate story, fun. This Monstrous Thing is interesting too.
    Thanks, Sara.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Zezee! 🙂

      I think you’d find Steeplejack interesting. Its fictional world features the climate, landscapes, and wildlife you’d find there (or, what I imagine we’d find there, since I’ve never been to South Africa myself). The racial and cultural tensions in Bar-Selehm also remind me of the bits I’d read about South Africa’s history (i.e., mid-to-late 20th century apartheid), along with being very relevant to today’s social climate.

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  6. Wow, I can’t believe you’re completing 8 years of blogging today. Happy blogoversary to my all-time favourite blog! ❤ Your blog has grown and changed so much over the period I’ve been reading it and you deserve all the rewards you get for the work you’ve put in to maintain it. 🙂

    This list featured some books I already knew from following you here and on Goodreads, but also some I had never heard of. They all seem extremely interesting from your descriptions. I’ll probably get to them all at some point in time. 😂

    I’m especially keen to read Steeplejack, Station Eleven and This Monstrous Thing. The concepts seem really out there or are way too compelling to pass them on without adding them to my TBR. Thanks for the recommendations! 🙂 I would love to do this over on my book blog because I feel my answer could easily stretch to a huge list. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww, thank you, Nandini. (*hugs*) And yeah, 8 years is a long time. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve prepared to tackle your #FirstBlogRevisited tag (which I’m hoping to get to in August). Because when I checked to see what my first post was, I realized not only how much this blog has changed since that first post, but how much I’ve grown as a writer and blogger, too.

      Hahahaha, well, I would say that ALL of the books would be great reading choices. But I think the three you highlighted would definitely be up your alley. I’d also love to know your thoughts on Radiant if you get a chance to read that one.

      “I would love to do this over on my book blog because I feel my answer could easily stretch to a huge list.”

      And I would love to see that list, if you decide to write it. 😉

      Btw I think you might be interested in one of the giveaways that’s launching tomorrow. I know that The Book Depository doesn’t ship everywhere, and I feel bad that not everyone can participate in the giveaway because of it. So I’m doing something else that will (hopefully) be truly inclusive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, you’re the sweetest for trying to include people from countries TBD doesn’t ship to. 😊 Excited for it! I’m glad you got a chance to visit your first blog post and reflect on the growth of your blog in the light of completing eight years of blogging. I’m looking forward to that post! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • 🙂 It’s only fair, IMO. I know people love giveaways (and so do I, tbh), and even though TBD makes it so easy to send books to other countries, it’s a bummer that it doesn’t include every country. So I knew I wanted to include a non-bookish giveaway that’s still relevant to the things discussed on this blog. But as for what that giveaway is… You’ll have to wait until tomorrow. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations with the 8th blogoversary, that is impressive.

    1.Sabriel by Garth Nix
    2.The Abyss Surrounds Us bby Emily Skrutskie
    3. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 2: The Writerly Wisdom Giveaways | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

    • The “American Gods” show is pretty faithful to the book, and expands on some of the characters and conflicts as well. So if you’d prefer to have the book spoiled for you, then definitely read the book first. I hope you enjoy it – or, rather, both the book and the show! 🙂

      Like

  9. Happy Bloggoversary Sara! 😀 I just realized that we actually share a bloggoversary! Craziness! Ohhhh lots of good picks! If I won I would do Station Eleven or The Monstrous Thing. ^ ^ Thanks for the giveaway!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tori! I realized the same thing when I was reading your blogoversary post, too. 😉

      Knowing your reading tastes, I think you’d like This Monstrous Thing a lot. Station Eleven is a great choice too, though. 🙂

      Like

  10. Congrats on 8 years! I’m sitting at 1.5 years, so 8 years is seriously impressive! 😀
    If I was lucky enough to win, I’d love to win Stormdancer. A second choice would be Sabriel 😀
    Rafflecopter name: Megan S.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi !! Happy bloganniversary !!! 8 years.. It’s a lot O_O !!! Congrats !
    I’d love to get Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff or This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee as a second choice

    Liked by 1 person

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