The Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012

heart-bookHi everyone!  I thought that since you all have heard so much about my own personal goals and favorite reads of 2012, it was about time that you heard from the rest of the staff.  I’ve asked them to send me their top reads of 2012, and I’ve posted them below.  I think it’s interesting to see what different readers choose as their favorites, and it’s always a great springboard for opening a discussion too!  So, without further adieu, here’s the Reflections of a Book Addict staff favorites of 2012!

Todd:

  1. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  2. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  3. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  4. A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  5. H10N1 by M.R. Cornelius
  6. Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman
  7. The Sounding by Carrie Salo

Adam:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  3. Pantheons by E.J. Dabel
  4. Albino by E.J. Dabel
  5. Deal With the Devil by J. Gunnar Grey

Christine:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Issues 1-6 of Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  4. The Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
  5. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  6. Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Jess:

  1. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
  2. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  3. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton

What do you think?  Leave us a comment below!

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Todd’s Review of The Shattered Vine (Vineart War #3) by Laura Anne Gilman

After a long and intriguing journey, Laura Anne Gilman finally brings the Vineart saga to a close in her third novel in the series, The Shattered Vine.  After the climactic end to the second book in the series, Weight of Stone, which involved Jerzy narrowly saving the lives of his friends from a magical sea serpent, I could not wait to get started on what I hoped was just as exciting of a finish to this Vineart war.  Just as I predicted, Gilman did not disappoint, and this trilogy will go down as one of my favorite fantasy series that I’ve read in a long time.

We begin the novel proper by rejoining Jerzy, Mahult, Ao, and Kanïm as they arrive home to the Berengia after fighting a terrible battle against the far-reaching magic of an evil vine mage of a far away land that is not included in the Lands Vin.  This man, along with Ximen, the leader of the people in this barren land, aim to enact revenge against those in the Lands Vin for what they feel was a banishment of their people by those in power seven generations ago.  The power of the vine-mage is immense, as he uses mass sacrifices in order to gain the power necessary to decant spells that cross huge distances and wreak havoc on all those in the Lands Vin.  The Lands are in disarray, as the Washers and Collegium decide to persuade Vinearts to join forces with land lords, although it is in direct opposition to Sin Washer’s command.  The outlook looks bleak, but there is one person who can stand in the path of this menace.  Jerzy.  His powers have been steadily increasing since his inception as a Vineart with the death of Master Malech.  Although his quiet magic has been increasing to such a point that he is not sure as to whether it will consume him or not, he feels the elements of all the grapes he has encountered on his long journey, mixing and building on one another to make a magic that knows no boundaries.  Will Jerzy be able to find the strength (and magic) within him to take on Ximen and the vine mage?  Will his friends be able to help him or will they be struck down in the battle?

I must admit, I think I like Gilman’s writing style even more than the actual plot in this work.  Yes, it is the climactic end to a great series, but the way in which Gilman frames Jerzy’s dramatic battle to get where he is now is just an amazing piece of work.  She is quite the epic writer, and the amazing way in which she pulls all of the far-flung plot pieces together for one last hurrah is quite amazing.  The way in which she develops her characters is fantastic, with a lot more focus on the plot’s effects on the characters instead of simply moving the plot along.  This character-centric focus makes all of her books in this series different from your typical sci-fi fare, and is a really refreshing and enjoyable approach.  I enjoyed seeing the fruits of Jerzy’s labors in becoming a powerful Vineart, and I liked how Ao, Mahult, and Kanïm all complemented him in different ways, giving him the strength to fight Ximen and the vine mage.  The only complaint I had with the novel was its abrupt ending, but this may be a set up for future works or additional insights into the world of the Lands Vin in the future (I’ve found out that Gilman launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to write a novella that takes place a few hundred years before this series and references Bradhai, the famous Vineart that banished the seas of serpents!  Check it out here.)  Again, a wonderful work by Gilman that definitely made me happy that I was able to travel with Jerzy and company through this amazing story.

4 out of 5 stars

The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman
Gallery Books (2011)
Hardcover 352 pages
ISBN: 9781439101483

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!

Read-A-Thon Hour 17

Hello there sleepy Read-A-Thon-ers.  We’re up to hour 17, and we’re chugging along just as strongly as ever.  This hour’s challenge is to post picture of yourself along with your current read.  It comes to us from One Literature Nut, and is a great way to keep us awake and motivated!  Along with this post you’ll see my submission, hopefully it’s not too scary. It’s called The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman.

Anyway, now that Hitchfest is over, it’s back to the Read-A-Thon full force.  Sorry for the blurriness of the picture!  Good luck!

See you later!

Todd’s Review of Weight of Stone (Vineart War #2) by Laura Anne Gilman

Once again we are thrust into the Lands Vin in the second installment of Larua Anne Gilman’s Vineart War series, Weight of Stone (see my review of the first novel, Flesh and Firehere).  The likeable Jerzy, protagonist and Vineart apprentice of the House of Malech, is back again to fight the distant forces of evil that threaten the very livelihood that keep the Lands Vin together: the magic of the Vinearts and their spellwines.  Excited to continue this fantastic story of sci-fi/fantasy, I dove in to Weight of Stone with high expectations.

We first encounter Jerzy as a fugitive from justice, as he is accused of being apostate (breaking the command of Sin Washer by using Vineart magic improperly).  The penalty of such an offense is death, but he had been daringly rescued by his friends Ao and Mahault before he could be tried and executed.  Now on the open sea and on the run from the Washers, who hope to capture him and bring him up against charges of being apostate, Jerzy is thrown into completely unfamiliar surroundings with only Ao and Mahault to turn to.  Fortunately for them, they are discovered (inadvertently with the help of Jerzy’s quiet magic) by Kainam, former heir to Atakus, the great trading port of the Lands Vin.  He too has felt the evil that seems to be lurking and growing stronger by the moment, and chose to leave and discover its origin rather than hide as those on his island home have done.  Now that their group is four strong, Jerzy finds new courage and eventually comes back to the Berengia, and to Master Malech.  Unfortunately, not all is well, and we are introduced to the source of “the Taint” in this novel.  A cast-off people with a leader known as Ximen and a Vine-Mage (yes, they are not all destroyed!) hash out a living in a far away land known as the Abandoned Land.  While most of the inhabitants of this community are ignorant of the plans, both Ximen and the Vine-Mage have plans that threaten the very safety of the entire Lands Vin.  Can Jerzy and Master Malech stop them?  Will his new-found friends be able to assist him in his ultimate goal?

Gilman really knows how to pull me in to a novel.  After slowly building suspense throughout the first half of the work (with a couple of action sequences thrown in for good measure), she really lets it go on the second half.  Once Jerzy was back at the Berengia and working with Master Malech again, the conflict with the Taint really started to heat up.  She does such a great job fleshing out these characters, especially Jerzy, so that you can’t help but become really attached to them.  Her character development is phenomenal, and I’ve always thought that this is a key part of storytelling.  Good development means more interest in the characters, which leads to more interest in the plot line, which makes the entire book more enjoyable.  As such, I couldn’t help but be shocked and dismayed at the loss of a major character later on in the novel (of course I won’t tell you who it is, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!).  This added an emotional depth to the work that I didn’t see coming at all.  It made Jerzy’s purpose that more important, and his goal that much more urgent.  After this book we truly know what we’re up against, and it will be an all out battle in the third book to bring the evil forces of the Vine-Mage and Ximen to a close.  I truly cannot wait to dive into the third installment, The Shattered Vine, and I can only hope that Gilman makes it just as exciting and captivating as this work has been.

5 out of 5 Stars

Weight of Stone by Laura Anne Gilman
Pocket Books (2011)
Paperback 480 pages
ISBN: 9781451611670

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me my review copy!

Todd’s Review of Flesh and Fire (Vineart War #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and there are certain themes that are typically prevalent in the storyline of a good fantasy .  I thought I had seen all of them, but that was before I read Flesh and Fire, the first novel in the Vineart War series by Laura Anne Gilman.  This particular novel centers around wine.  Not just any wine, but magical wine!

Once, in the Vin Lands there were men of great influence known as prince-mages.  They were given almost unlimited power in the way of spellwines, which they used to further their own interests and battle each other for land and wealth.  Seeking to restore the balance of power in mortals, a demigod known as Sin Washer came down to earth to break the bonds between prince-mages and the wines, replacing them with secondary wines that were less potent, but still powerful nonetheless.  Many years later, these  wines are closely guarded and kept by the Vinearts, whose job it is to use the magic within the wines and within themselves to use the wines for good.  Master Vineart Malech has been tending grapes and crafting spellwines for years, honing his craft and bettering the lives of those within his lands.  However, something mysterious and evil is brewing in the Vin Lands.  Although the ways of the Vinearts typically keep them from interfering with the lives of those around them and keeping to their own vineyards, Master Malech senses that something is amiss and works silently to combat it.  A young slave in his vineyard named Jerzy seems to have the inherent qualities of a Vineart, but Master Malech will need more than an ordinary Vineart to combat this rising threat.  Not only this, but Jerzy must learn the ways of the craft in less time than ever before.  Will Jerzy be able to learn this complex craft and help his master in time?  Will Malech discover the source of the disturbance that has shaken the confidence of his fellow Vinearts and instilled fear in the land?

I think the greatest part about this book is that it’s part of a trilogy!  Gilman has created an awesome world of mystery and tradition that pulled me in from the beginning.  I can’t wait to read the next two books!  But anyway, on to the amazing parts of this novel.  The fact that she took the time to create such a detailed plot that took Jerzy from lowly slave (who even had lost his identity so much so that he had trouble remembering his name!) to a Vineart wise beyond his years is testament to her passion for writing.  It’s a coming of age story, a story of magical history, and a story of an epic battle in the making.  Master Malech crafts Jerzy as a woodworker takes a rough block of wood and turns it into a masterpiece.  The potential that he sees in Jerzy pays off as he uses him as an extension of himself in the far lands away from his own in order to gather information and gain allies in the coming battle.  As the reader I became invested in Jerzy’s story, and I rooted for him the entire time.  He is an extremely likeable character, and made the story that much more enjoyable.  If the other two books that Gilman has written are anything like Flesh and Fire, I’m sure to be in for a treat!

5 out of 5 stars

Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman
Pocket Books (2010)
Paperback 496 pages
ISBN: 9781439191545

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy!