Best Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new top ten list and invite everyone to share their answers. This week we are looking at my top ten books I’ve read so far in 2015.

Best Books I've Read So Far In 2015 | bluchickenninja.com

1. The Humans by Matt Haig. This was the story of an alien coming to earth, the entire thing was the alien being confused by the strange things we humans do. Like wear clothes and have pets. It was really great, it really makes you think about life on earth.

2. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. I’ve read a number of books about mental illness and depression and this was the first one I found where I could really relate to the characters. Jasmine Warga did a really great job of portraying depression in a real way.

3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I really enjoyed this book, it’s a good solid fantasy novel. I know some people have commented on the length and while yes it is very long, the story moves on very quickly and there really wasn’t any extraneous plot in there.

4. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Half of this book is a mildly interesting YA novel and the other half is the story of the author spending a year in New York writing the novel. If you want a behind the scenes look at the publishing world this is the book for you.

5. Golden Son by Pierce Brown. I actually enjoyed this more than Red Rising. I think the best way I could describe it is Star Trek with Roman gods. Though admittedly very little of the story actually takes place in space.

6. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. This book was based on Amanda Palmer’s very famous TED talk where she showed how it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. I was really surprised by how it was also partly an autobiography. Though I should have expected that. I did also quite like the fact that you don’t need to be a fan of her music to enjoy this book. In fact if you have a blog or any sort of job where your income comes from fans I would definitely recommend you give this book a read.

7. A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This was really fantastic. Its partly the diary of a young Japanese girl and it’s partly about a Canadian author who finds the diary washed up on a beach.

8. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. This is one of the best science-fiction books I’ve read this year. I love how it mixes science and religion together. If you love sci-fi this is a must read.

9. The Three by Sarah Lotz. This was really interesting, its a thriller book but the entire story is told like it’s a non-fiction book. Its told through interviews and transcripts and recorded messages. It was really great. And I also didn’t find it at all scary which was good considering its supposed to be a horror novel.

10. The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s like Castaway but on Mars. With added potatoes. Its basically this:

Thanks for reading.
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Have you entered my Station Eleven giveaway?
Submissions must be in by tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5pm GMT.

A Trip On The Highland Rambler

Last weekend I took my dad on a steam trip from Stirling to Inverness. Or at least I was going to, he ended up coming down with the flu so obviously my mum and I went anyway. No point wasting the tickets. The steam engine on this particular trip was the 60136 Tornado, one of the newest trains (built by hand) in the UK. If you’ve ever seen that episode of Top Gear where they race a train to Scotland, it was that train.

I keep saying it but Scotland is really really pretty and the journey between Perth and Inverness through the Cairngorms has some seriously amazing scenery. Honestly at one point I was fully expecting to go round a corner and come across Hogwarts. If you ever get a chance to do this, or even just get a regular train to Inverness. You should do it. You won’t be disappointed.

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

A Trip On The Highland Rambler | bluchickenninja.com

Thanks for reading.
Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads.

Have you entered my Station Eleven giveaway?
Submissions must be in by 5pm (GMT) on Wednesday the 1st of July.

What I Read In June

What I Read In June | bluchickenninja.com

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman. So I originally picked this up because I was having OitnB season 3 withdrawal symptoms, but it turned out to be really good. I mean yes, it was interesting to see the similarities between the book and the show but I mostly enjoyed it because reading about life in a women’s prison was surprisingly fascinating. If anyone knows of more books like this could you please leave them in the comments.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei. I try and treat this blog like a job, simply because its good to have something to work on everyday what with my CFS stopping me from being able to actually work. This was really useful, in fact it could be really useful for anyone working from home or freelancing. Its a bunch of interviews from various freelancers who give you tips on how to spend your time more effectively and get more done. Though I wouldn’t say its so useful that its worth the full RRP, maybe try and see if you can get a second hand copy.

What I Reviewed In June

What I Read In June | bluchickenninja.comThe Versions of Us ~ Crashing Heaven ~ At The Water’s Edge
He Wanted The Moon ~ Station Eleven

Have you entered my Station Eleven giveaway?

Thanks for reading.
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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel + GIVEAWAY

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Rating: 5 \ 5 stars
Format: Trade paperback
Published: 10th September 2014
Book Depository | Goodreads

One snowy night in Toronto, famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilisation was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

This review may be slightly biased because I love this book. Like I really really love this book. Okay first thing is it’s a post apocalyptic novel. But it’s so believable. We don’t have any of this phone signals turning people into zombies, or aliens invading or nuclear detonations. It’s just a really really bad virus that kills almost everyone. I mean if Ebola or some other virus gets worse that could actually happen. It sort of did happen once with the Spanish Flu.

I love that it’s sci-fi but not really. Actually its barely sci-fi. This is the sort of book I would recommend for people who don’t like sci-fi. I mean yes a good part of the book is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s still not sci-fi. Apart from a new virus it really doesn’t have any new science in it. Its really more a story about a bunch of people living in a world with no electricity, no medicine, no internet, no anything basically.

But the one thing I love most about this book (and I may start rambling here) is that is has a reference to Star Trek Voyager. This is probably no secret but I am a huge Star Trek Voyager nerd. One thing that annoys me when any media makes a reference to Star Trek is that they forget there is more to Star Trek than James T Kirk. I mean there are five Star Trek television series (six if you include the animated series), not to mention the movies. And yet when there is any mention of Star Trek in pop culture you can bet it will be referencing The Original Series.

So the fact that Emily St John Mandel referenced ST: Voyager and not only that but it explains a huge part of the book. That one tiny line explains the entire reason why there is a shakespeare company travelling around North America and Canada. That was the moment I fell in love with this book.

In fact I love this book so much that I want to give away a copy of it to one of you. All you need to do to win is write a short story using this prompt: If you knew a world-killing viral infection was coming, how would you prepare?

Rules:

  • Story must be 11 sentences or under.
  • You must submit the story as a comment on this post.
  • Entries must be submitted by 5pm (GMT) on July 1st.
  • The winner will be picked by Joseph and myself.
  • The book will be sent out via Book Depository so you must ensure that Book Depository will ship to your country (check here).
  • Winner will be announced on July 2nd.

Good luck!
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On Storytelling in Video Games

Written by Joseph

On Storytelling in Video Games | bluchickenninja.com

I like to play video games. I play quite a few different genres, and I prefer science fiction and fantasy. But I have pretty much one rule for whether I’ll enjoy a game or not — it has to have a good story.

As a creative writer I suppose I have some kind of storylust, some instinctive need to seek out compelling tales. Some of my favourite video games are hugely story based; I love Dragon Age and Mass Effect. And one of my favourite genres is the ‘interactive story’ type of games, which have recently seen a surge in popularity. I’m talking about the choose-your-own adventure type of things here, like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead and DontNod’s Life is Strange. I find these games have more unique and gripping stories than many other traditional titles, and even the action often offers more excitement.

I bought Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us in the Steam summer sale the other day (oh, my poor wallet!) and I played it from start to finish today. It lacked some of the heart-wrenchery of The Walking Dead, but I was surprised by how fast my pulse raced during the action scenes. Many games have dialogue-based choices that affect the plot, but it’s rare to see a story where missing a punch can result in the entire story taking a new turn. I was pleased that the climax (minor spoilers here) was a battle of dialogue rather than fists (or in Bigby Wolf’s case, claws), and it’s so satisfying to win by crafting a brilliant argument when you know the whole plot might be for nothing if you lose.

With the rest of my day I played another game, one of my favourites ever, which reminded me why I love videogames as a storytelling medium almost as much as I love books. The Stanley Parable is a triumph of player choice in video games, highlighting the expectation — the ‘real story’ — and contrasting it with the player’s freedom to do whatever they please. The Narrator, fantastically acted by Kevan Brighting, narrates, berates and conflates Stanley’s story, sometimes playing omnipotent god, sometimes playing a crying, bumbling fool. The whole premise of the story is summed up in one of the first rooms you encounter. A blank room with two doors, the narrator says ‘Faced with two doors, Stanley went through the door on the left.’ The brilliance of this is that you of course have the choice to either do as he says, or disobey and take the right door.

And this is what I love about stories in games — you can explore metanarratives and branching stories in a way you could never do in text form. Games can have brilliant stories, but the player can stand still, letting their immortal character languish in some hellish purgatory. You can make a story where there isn’t one, or ignore the story that’s given to you. There’s a reason novels and text-stories remain popular, but I think we don’t give enough credit to new media forms of storytelling, especially when they can bring us so many innovative ways to tell our tales.

Thanks for reading
:)

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