Throwback Thursday: The Moon and the Other by John Kessel

tmato_jk

Rating:  ★★★★★

Following my Top Ten Tuesday I was reminded of Mira & Carey from The Moon and the Other.  This was up there as one of my favorite reads last year.  It reminds me a lot of Too Like the Lightning.  It asks a lot of philosophical questions, which makes it a great book for discussion.  I hope you’ll check it out!

4.5 stars rounded up to 5. I’ve been dying to get my hands on this since I first heard about it. The size of it kept putting me off because I already felt so far behind on my reading. Though the chapters were long they were broken up by interesting little tidbits- media clips, news reports, interviews, poems, etc. So it’s six hundred pages, but they go by quick.

This is a political science fiction novel set on the moon.  It took until about chapter 5 for me to really become invested in the novel. I was enjoying one story line more than the other but after they fused together I found myself enjoying both equally.

This is ultimately about a single matriarchal colony in a sea of many patriarchal colonies struggling to persist. The patriarchies are calling for reform. Their own citizens are calling for reform. The Board of Matrons fear the reform will bring a return to the violence they once suffered on Earth as a result of male dominance (the book’s justifications- not mine).

There is an ongoing exploration of the differences between men and women, how they lead, how they feel, how they perceive, how they react to others, but also a recognition of differences between individuals regardless of sex. There is an examination of masculinity, what it means, how to define it, it’s effects on men, etc.. Kessel also explores oppression within society and it’s many different forms (and proposes some forms that perhaps you’ve not even thought of). I’m sure there are other themes that I’m missing entirely (some of the other reviews I saw definitely pulled more from it than I did) but these were the ones that struck a chord with me.

Beyond that, we also have a really beautiful and tragic story, perhaps almost Shakespearean or operatic in nature. The characters were flawed and very human feeling. None of them are really heroes and none of them are really villains- they’re just people. The relationships between them were full of ups and downs and highs and lows.

So even if you aren’t interested in the more philosophical questions posed by the book- it’s definitely worth reading for the story alone.

 

Advertisements

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

TGB_JF

Rating:  ★★★1/2

This book was the 2016 winner of Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  Supposedly- it has the highest score of any self published fantasy to enter the contest (and the book eventually scored a major publishing deal). The easiest way to sum it up is to imagine if Sons of Anarchy was a fantasy told by half-orcs who rode literal hogs.  The language is filthy.  (Lawrence said: “[This is] the filthiest fantasy book [he’s] read.”  That’s pretty high praise coming from him I’d imagine but he’s not wrong.)  There is cussing, dick jokes, fart jokes, sex talk galore.  So if this is not your thing, turn away now.

It is a lot of fun. I can’t fault any of the book for not being fun. The characters, the banter, the action, the language, all of it was fun. I absolutely adored the Jackal and Oats bromance that was going on. Loved old War-boar and Kal’huun. Truly I found something to like about all of them, and that’s pretty rare.

However, I had a lot of issues with this book. First- it is outrageously wordy. I can’t believe that when this was picked up by Penguin/Random House they let it go to print with this many words. It’s over written to the point of being confusing. I had to re-read stuff. In a book like this- which I took lightly and to be pure, mindless entertainment, confusion and re-reading should just not be a thing. I skimmed 90% of a fight scene because it went on for, I kid you not, eight pages. A single fight scene. Between just two half-orcs. You want to write a battle scene that goes on for eight pages?  Knock yourself out.  A single fight scene?  Yeah, no.  I skipped right to the end.  To show what I mean about the wordiness (and I am just opening to a random page here, this is the second sentence):

“Beneath the sunrise, the crumbling buildings composed a carcass, a decrepit pilgrim dead of thirst within reach of water.” (I’m still not sure what this means or why it was necessary.)

ONE SENTENCE LATER:
“The bridge was an ancient construction, yet stood sound while the surrounding buildings of Hisparthan architects slowly fell to rubble, shaming the genius of their Imperial forebears.”  (This is not confusing, there are just too many words.  I could have done without everything that came after rubble.)

Have you ever seen that episode of Friends, where Ross teaches Joey how to use a thesaurus? And the sentence: “They are warm, nice people with big hearts” becomes: “They are humid, prepossessing homo sapiens with oversized aortic pumps.” This entire book reminds me of that scene. With EXTRA FUCKING WORDS.

I just can’t.

So the writing was a huge issue for me. Aside from that- the info dumps. Lord have mercy the fucking info dumps. Chapters and chapters of them.

Listen- I love when an author thinks that much about their world. Really I do. Because it is important. I just don’t want them to tell me about it. I want them to write it all down somewhere, store it in their heads, and then write the book. That way it all comes out naturally, in small unfolding details.

Can I tell you about the orc incursion? Well can I tell you about it again? Oh wait, I told you the wrong version. Let me tell you a third time.   (There was lots of eye-rolling happening on my end whenever the orc incursion came up.)

My third issue came from the plot. I honestly had no idea what it was until the book was mostly done. First I thought it was one thing- then that particular climax came halfway through. It took about 75% for me to have some idea of where the book was headed and to finally be able to cheer the characters on. Everything up until that point felt like a bunch of unrelated events all strung together that our main character was investigating for no reason at all.

Now I know I’ve been pretty harsh. So I’m going to end by saying again that in the end I did have fun.  I’m not sure I liked the ending- but I might check out book two. I’m hoping the presence of a professional editor from the beginning will fix a lot of the issues I had with The Grey Bastards.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite couples!

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I am so excited for this week’s topic.  The only thing better than one awesome character is two characters with chemistry.  Fair warning- I went way beyond ten with this, and they aren’t all romantic couples.

 

15. Eric & Jenny from S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams – I didn’t love S.  The meat of the book (Ship of Theseus) was boring and didn’t make a lot of sense.  It was only saved by Jenny and Eric and their notes all over the margins.  It’s a slow burn sort of romance and took some time to build.  I love this couple because they fell in love over a book!

14. Thaniel & Mori from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley – I love these two because you’re never quite sure where they stand with each other.  It’s a will they/won’t they, but if you love nothing else about this book, you’ll be dying for a Happily Ever After by the end.

13. Claire & Jamie from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Ugh.  These two.  Listen- Outlander is a phenomenal book, and I absolutely love how much Jamie loves Claire.  I included them despite the fact that I only ever read the first book through to completion. Why are they so damn long?  (And no I haven’t watched the show.)

12. Caris & Merethin from World Without End by Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth series are some of my favorite historical fiction books of all time, and World Without End  remains my favorite of the trilogy.  If you aren’t ugly crying by the time Caris’s face is revealed on the angel overlooking Kingsbridge, there’s something wrong with you.

11. Eugenides & Irene from The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – This is some of the best YA Fantasy Fiction out there.  I’ll admit that when Eugenides revealed his love for Irene, it came as a little bit of a shock, but I really just wanted him to be happy.  I love that Turner left so much to the imagination about their relationship.

 

10. Anita Blake & Jean Claude from the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton – I know Hamilton drove this series into the dirt after all of 8 books or so.  Honestly I don’t care.  Of all her lovers- Jean Claude remains as one of the ones who loved her first, loved her best, and loved her most.

9. Ken & Mishima from Infomocracy/Null States by Malka Ann Older – This was another slowly, but lovingly built romance.  The best part?  Aside from an odd scene where Mishima physically attacks Ken, it seemed like a totally normal relationship.  No over the top expectations, no premature confessions of love, no waiting until they were ready to get married for sex.  Honestly- they are probably one of the realest couples I’ve seen portrayed in literature.

8. Mira & Carey from The Moon and the Other by John Kessel – Mira and Carey are interesting because their relationship is already somewhat established by the time we join in on their story.  Also- this book will rip your guts out, douse them in kerosene and light them on fire.  It’s that good.

7. Falcio val Mond & Ethalia from The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell – There are better romantic couples on this list- but in these books Ethalia was badly needed.  Poor Falcio just doesn’t ever seem to catch a break, so his stolen moments with Ethalia always put a smile on my face.

6. Apollo & Simmea from Thessaly by Jo Walton – (MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS SERIES) I don’t even know how to label these two.  I think they are platonic friends officially.  But I think Simmea tends more towards romantic love for all of book one, and Apollo completely loses his shit when he loses Simmea.  This is far and away the most complex couple on this list.

 

5. Uhtred & Gisla from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – (You didn’t honestly think we’d get through this list without Uhtred making an appearance did you?  Brace yourselves- he’s got two more spots on this list.)  I loved when Uhtred and Gisla were together.  She was like the voice of reason in his life.  The only person he genuinely listened to, and one only woman he sleeps with that he seems to truly respect.  This was not a HEA and it ripped my heart out.

4. Elizabeth Bennett & Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yes it’s terribly cliched.  No I won’t take them off.  It doesn’t require more explanation than that, does it?

3. Kaz Brekker & Inej Ghafa from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – If I’m being honest- the entire SoC crew and their significant others belong up here.  None of the relationships in this book suffered needless angst and I feel like that’s pretty rare in a YA novel.

2. Elma & Nathaniel York from The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Instead of explaining this one I’ll leave you with this very short story available free on Tor.com.  You’re welcome. https://www.tor.com/2018/07/02/read-mary-robinette-kowals-the-lady-astronaut-of-mars/

1. Mac & Barrons from the Darkfever series by Karen Marie Moning – No- I don’t care that Barrons suffered a total character assassination in the past couple books.  I don’t care that Moning has run out of ways to pit them against each other.  They remain my favorite book couple of all time, and when I thought about my list they were the first two to come to mind.

But I promised more than romantic couples right?  So here we go:

My favorite frenemies:

 

4. Ballister Blackheart & Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – From the moment I first saw these two on the same page I was shipping them.

3. Dolores Claiborne & Vera Donovan from Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King – This probably takes second place as one of the more complex relationships on this list.  They love-hate each other, but they have each other’s backs.  Stephen King sort of killed it (okay he actually killed it).

2. Jorg & Rikey from Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – I don’t know if the term frenemies actually applies to these two, but poor little Rikey sure can’t catch a break from Jorg.

1. Uhtred & Alfred from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – I told you he’d be back.  These two are honestly one of the most entertaining pairs I’ve ever read in literature.  They need each other, but they hate each other, but they love each other.

But wait!  There’s more!

My favorite bromances:

 

4. Geralt & Dandelion from The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski – These two.  There’s nothing I love more than Dandelion getting into trouble and Geralt coming to save his ass.

3. Jackal & Oats from The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – That moment when Oats shows up at the Betrayer Moon to fight the centaurs but really it’s just to see Jackal?  Perfection.

2. Kest & Brasti & Falcio from The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell – This is probably the penultimate bromance.  These guys are literally the three musketeers… rewritten.  And their banter is the highlight of all the books.

1. Uhtred & Finan from the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell – Uhtred and Finan to me are like the book version of Ragnar and Floki.  It’s pretty obvious there’s nothing Finan wouldn’t do for his pal, and I’m happy Cornwell had the good sense to keep him around for more than a single book.

Whew- sorry that was long.  Book couples are one of my favorite things.  But you know what’s painfully, sorely, obviously missing from this list?  Female friendships. (Sistermances- is that a thing? Can we make it a thing?)  If you have one on your list please link to it so I can check it out!

 

Throwback Thursday: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’m sorry  I’m giving you one of my old reviews when I haven’t given you a new one yet this week.  I do have some new ones coming though (and I’m super excited to share them with you!) I just have to finish reading the books first.

Last Throwback Thursday I reviewed Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, and while nothing would please me more than to share the reviews of the other three books I think they start to get spoilery and include information from the first book.  If you’d like to read them, you can check out my GoodReads reviews here: (Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne).

This week, I’ve been in a grimdark sort of mood, so it seemed only fitting that I share my review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns.  I am planning on reading King of Thorns sometime this year so it makes sense.

PoT_ML

Rating:  ★★★★★

So on to the review. I’m giving it 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. This is not going to be a book for everyone. It just isn’t. The protagonist, is a murderous, traitorous, self serving, evil genius. Nothing is sacred to Jorg but vengeance and victory. Vengeance and victory can come at any cost, and Jorg is willing to pay that price. Loyalty and brotherhood are meaningless to him.

I am okay with this. As to what that says for my own mental state, well, let’s not look at that too closely. The thing is, a character like Jorg is just so damn rare. You’ll cringe every time he throws someone off a cliff. Or knifes a brother for looking at him the wrong way. He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He’s a bastard. If you’re like me, you’ll be rooting for him in the end.

Because his father, the real villain of the story, is somehow worse. I think. Minor spoiler: I don’t know if Jorg would ever stab his own son. Maybe he would. Maybe they are equally evil. For now, the father is worse.

The writing was excellent. This is a story about murder and the destruction of kingdoms and a rise to power and Lawrence makes it poetic somehow. Jorg’s inner monologue is fascinating. He’s evil and he knows it, but he still questions it on occasion. Sometimes he questions if he’s evil enough. Sometimes he mourns the loss of his childhood. Sometimes he seems perfectly happy to be rid of his innocence.

The plot is very action driven, with plenty of blood, gore and battle to go around. The action is also extremely well written, never a dull moment. Jorg always has an ace up his sleeve or a pawn to sacrifice.

There are some plot holes that I’m not sure how to fill. I’m hoping they are explained in later series. Namely, why this marauding band of brothers follows around a fourteen year old boy. It has nothing to do with his Princedom (excepting Makin- maybe). Of what I’ve seen of Jorg in this book I just didn’t get it. I understood a little why the one called the Nuban followed Jorg. And maybe it’s as simple as the brothers were sheep who needed a wolf to lead them. I don’t know. Little Rikey’s situation certainly isn’t explainable.

All in all it was great. I am SO excited to read the next in the series and check out some of Lawrence’s other series as well. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes dark fantasy and doesn’t mind a less than respectable protagonist.

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming releases that haven’t convinced me yet

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week topic is new releases that you aren’t sure you should add to your TBR.  I have a whole shelf of these books on GoodReads called “Read Me Maybe”.  It’s an exclusive shelf so they really don’t go onto my TBR, but I also have some I haven’t even bothered to add to that.  The thing is- although I’m a book blogger, I really don’t have the time or the patience to be a guinea pig.  I prefer to read stuff at least one of my GoodReads buddies has already read, so I can gauge whether or not a book is worth the time to invest.  I don’t want to go around DNFing every 3 star book that comes my way but I’d prefer to read 4 and 5 star books… so… yeah.

shadowblade-anna-kashina

Shadowblade by Anna Kashina – A fantasy about a sword wielding woman who must assume the identity of a lost princess because… reasons.  Here’s the thing- I love dark, gritty fantasy with kick-ass women.  But the lost princess/switch places trope has been done so many times.  Furthermore- I can’t list you a single book that used that trope that I’d read again (or even recommend).

DB_KT

Dahlia Black by Keith Thomas – Described as “World War Z” meets “The Southern Reach”, this an oral history of the Pulse, the alien code that hacked human DNA.  First- I didn’t love the Southern Reach trilogy, but I have a lot of respect for VanderMeer as a writer. He writes really bizarre science fiction and finds a way to make it sound literary.  So if you’re going to compare yourself to him, you have some big shoes to fill.  Second, I didn’t really like World War Z.  I listened to the full cast audio, which was great.  But the celebrity appearances and only a handful of those chapters had me really excited.  Most of them were boring.  You already know the ending- if they are telling you how they survived the zombie apocalypse- they survived didn’t they?  I’m worried Dahlia Black will be the same way.

TSC_KJ

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson – This one I can tell you is probably most definitely not going on my TBR.  In 2017, long before I started this blog, I went through a really bad year of YA fantasy novels, and it sort of soured me on the genre (age group?).  Let me first say- that I don’t think all YA is bad.  Most of those novels were a solid three stars (please refer back to paragraph two). Sebastien de Castell writes the Shadowblack series which I love.  SJ Kincaid wrote The Diabolic and The Empress, and I will totally read book three when it is released.  I added The Storm Crow because the idea seemed pretty fresh, but I’m still pretty skeptical.

TF_JR

The Farm by Joanne Ramos – Would you like to live in total luxury for nine months?  Would you like to get rich quick?  All you have to do, is agree to go to the Farm, which you cannot leave and know that everything you do is being monitored and watched while you produce the perfect baby for uber-rich clients.  It sounds like a modern twist on The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’m totally sold on the hook, but also concerned that the contemporary setting will totally bore me.

sol_rr

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse – This is the sequel to last year’s Trail of Lightning (review here). To sum it up- Trail of Lightning wasn’t bad, but it had some issues, plot threads that went nowhere, a romance with a quintessential bad boy… But- Roanhorse’s world was imaginative and new.  I’ve since read her short story, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” and was really impressed.  When I finished I remembered thinking, how in the hell did the same author write Trail of Lightning?  Now that I know she can do better, I’m leaning much closer to giving book two a shot.

WotW_TL

Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller – This is another YA novel that has me on the fence. Warrior-girl has her coming-of-age trial sabotaged and is exiled to the wild.  I kept seeing the term Vikings stamped everywhere in relation to this book so it was an instant add.  Then I saw something from the author making very clear that it was “Vikings inspired”.  Which to me is saying she took her characters, made them warlike and gave them axes (i.e. not vikings anything).  So I moved it from my TBR to Read-me-maybe.  Also- thank you to the author for clarifying.

TROT_B

The Redemption of Time by Baoshu – This is a “fan-written” tie in to Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem.  Which is really sort of cool?  I loved The Three Body Problem.  I loved it’s weirdness, I loved it’s humor, I loved the suspense.  I didn’t love the next two entries in the series: The Dark Forest and Death’s End.  They were too long.  They were not humorous.  Death’s End in particular was incredibly sexist.  And in the end I felt like they didn’t have a point and I just sort of wanted the time I spent reading them back.  Needless to say- I’m a little skeptical here.  I am curious if this new author will manage to bring back some of the things I loved about The Three Body Problem.

I didn’t quite make it up to ten this week.  I haven’t done a great job keeping track of the up-and-coming beyond January/February.  Leave a link below with your list so I can come check it out!  Maybe you’ve got something on yours that I didn’t know I was dying to read.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

It’s official. I’ve run out of Terra Ignota books to throw at you.  So I’m going with another cherished and favorite series- The Greatcoats!  Have you read them yet?  My hope in starting Throwback Thursday was to bring some love to some under-appreciated series.  Admittedly- The Greatcoats has about twice as many ratings, but still I feel like it’s not enough.

tb_sdc

Rating:  ★★★★

What a great book. I absolutely loved the three main characters, Brasti, Kest and Falcio (though I think Kest was my favorite) and the banter between them. It reminded me a lot of the game Dragon Age and I could just picture the “party” wondering around on their mission to find the King’s Charoites sniping at each other and kicking ass.

I loved the way the story unfolded. Falcio val Mond, the leader of the group and the Greatcoats (the King’s magistrates), has been trying his best to fulfill the mission his King, Paelis, gave him five years ago. The twist? Nobody knows what exactly the King’s Charoites are. The mission was given to him right before Falcio stood aside and allowed the treacherous dukes to murder the king who he loved. Now the land is ruled by the nobility, there is no king, and the Greatcoats have been disbanded and labeled traitors.

This story is told in both a present timeline, and flashbacks to the past. We learn how Falcio and his group came together, how the Greatcoats were reassembled by King Paelis, and how they were disbanded again. The flashbacks felt really natural and were inserted at appropriate times in the story. This kept them interesting and they never once felt like long boring bouts of complicated backstory. I enjoyed reading those parts as much as I enjoyed reading about what was happening in the present.

I did feel like the middle of the story was a bit slower than the rest. The action was ridiculously non stop, to the point where Falcio hasn’t slept in like 48 hours straight, at least. It was almost comedic how many fights he left only to stumble into another one. The action is told well and is in no way boring, and Falcio has enough tricks up his sleeve to keep it interesting, I just felt that the magic of the book was truly in the world building and the banter between characters. So when Falcio is on his own protecting Aline from the horrors of blood week, I was just kind of reading along hoping for him to get back on the road.

The ending was fantastic and I did not see the twist coming. Looking back there was some subtle foreshadowing but other than Feltock I loved how everyone’s story ended. Even though this book is part of a series it has a definite conclusion (with no massive cliffhangers).

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys snarky characters and gritty fantasy!

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Rating:  ★★★★

“Death decayed into history decayed into poolside anecdote.”

I received this for free as part of Tor.com’s free ebook of the month club. I wasn’t terribly excited about it when I saw it. But free is free and it was quick so I took a chance, and I’m so glad I did!

First- content warnings, because this isn’t an easy book to stomach: animal abuse and torture, graphic depictions of radiation poisoning.

I started this and admittedly had no idea what was going on. I thought it was pretty weird the story was being told by an elephant (humans have their parts, but it starts with the elephant). I didn’t really understand elephant culture other at first- there was a learning curve. What I eventually worked out was that elephants are a matriarchal society and stories, kept “orally”, are sacred. By 50% or so I adjusted to the elephant POV and that was where the story took off for me. To be honest- I also didn’t know much about the Radium Girls. I had heard of them, but I have no idea why or what they did. I think that was half the point.

I’ve read a few friend reviews and I think the beauty in this story is that it seems everyone took something different from it. For me, I felt it was about the power of story in our lives, how truth can be manipulated, twisted, and bent, how truth can be buried. How the treatment of one story can mean the “characters” fade into obscurity or sky rocket into fame. How that story will affect future generations.

“No matter what you did, forty or fifty or a hundred years passed and everything became a narrative to be toyed with, masters of media alchemy splitting the truth’s nucleus into a ricocheting cascade reaction of diverging alternate realities.”

I found this particular message very powerful and so, so relevant, but there were also snippets of other messages I found really moving. The power of corporate America. Business and commerce rule all. Anyone will turn a blind eye to anything so long as there is food on the table. I think it would make for a fantastic read with friends or clubs because discussion really could be endless here.

Aside from that the voice and the writing here were superb. We have three pretty distinct voices, Regan, a Radium Girl, a poor southern farm girl with little education, Furmother, the most clever of all elephant mothers, and Kat, the scientist who wants to “help” and sees value in truth. I highlighted so many things in this tiny book. The tone and setting were dark and grim, yet she managed to maintain a note of dry (and admittedly dark) humor through out.

I only deducted a star because as I mentioned above- the book was really hard to read. I don’t really have triggers, but I certainly find some things more difficult to read than others, animal abuse and slow death are two of those things for me.

All in all- the book can be read in a day and I highly recommend taking the time. It’s well worth it. Thanks to Tor.com for putting it on my shelf.

“…Her execution will amount to nothing more than a pitiful sentence in a history book swollen tick-tight with so many injustices the poisoning of a factory full of girls and the mean public death of a small god don’t even register as particularly noteworthy.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books added to my TBR

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Okay – so this post is going up super late tonight.  I didn’t have time to write it in advance this weekend, but I really wanted the chance to talk about something new because I feel like I do such a good job of beating everyone over the head with my favorite books.  These aren’t in order of favorites or anything- just the order they were added to my TBR.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick – Alison comes across an old painting in an antique shop.  She’s told it’s of Anne Boleyn, but Alison knows it’s Mary Seymour.  The daughter of Katherine Parr and Henry VIII who went missing in 1557…it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.  As soon as I read the description I was pretty much sold. It seems like it’s a little bit fantasy, a little bit mystery, a little historical fiction.  I love genre benders like this, and I love anything tied to Henry VIII’s reign.  The dude was bat shit crazy and 450 years later- crazy kings bring me crazy joy.

God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga #1) by Eric Schumacher – This is a viking saga set during the making of England.  The fact that it’s vikings was enough to sell me- throw in a 4.17 rating on GoodReads and the current 99 cent price point, and I guess I’m pretty well sold.

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin – This is one I’m actually less sure about then the others.  I added it because I saw a rave review somewhere and because it sounds pretty fascinating in terms of what it does with language, but the truth is it’s a 30+ year old book and that makes me hesitate.  The gist of it is: women are property again (a la Atwood) and when they are past child bearing age without children they must retire to the barren house.  Linguists are necessary to keep the interstellar economy afloat and Nazareth is the most talented linguist of all, but all she wants to do is retire to the barren house.  When she gets there, she discovers a revolution is brewing using an entirely new language the barren women have created.

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – This is one a collection of short fiction nominated for the Phillip K. Dick award this year.  I’ve been enjoying shorter fiction ever since this terrible reading slump hit and with a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster how could I say no?

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – As embarrassing as this is to admit, I’ve never read a single book by Sanderson, and I know he’s one of giants of modern fantasy fiction. I picked this one mostly because I liked the cover and because it was YA so I figured it would be a little easier to digest.

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon – My first love is and always will be, horror.  Ghost stories, monster stories, supernatural anything- I love it.  This is a book about a couple who buys a house, and discovers it has a violent and tragic past.  As the wife sources materials for her new home, she becomes obsessed with the lives of the Breckenridge women who occupied the home before.  It’s due to release April 30th, 2019.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan – This is a grim dark fantasy that I’ve seen getting rave reviews by book bloggers left and right.  From GoodReads: “When three thieves – an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man – are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy…”  A thieves guild and three thieves that are an orphan a ghoul and a cursed man?  I don’t even need to read the rest of the blurb.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – This is another book I’m not too sure about.  I added it on a whim after it was nominated for SciFi Fantasy’s Book Club monthly read.  “Historians” (read: time travelers) investigate major historical events in contemporary time from the Cretaceous period to World War I.  I’m not sure what the actual plot is but the hook seems interesting. (Please let there be dinosaurs.)

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – I really enjoyed last year’s The Silence of the Girls and Circe.  And while I didn’t love The Lost Queen, I do love the idea of giving women a voice in time periods and stories that are usually otherwise voiced by men.  Shadow on the Crown is centered on Emma of Normandy, wife of King Athelred of England in 1002.  Courtly drama, romance, viking invasions, and (hopefully) historically accurate (as possible) events could make for a truly fantastic story.

ttwpotb_mm

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung – This book was the winner of Mark Lawrence’s first self published fantasy blog off in 2015.  I’ve only read one of his books- but I’m crazy in love with Mark Lawrence as an author, (for many reasons besides his wicked writing skills) so I added it for just that reason.  I’m told it contains plenty of gruesome violence, but between the spunky title and the purple watercolor cover, I’m getting more of a YA vibe.  Either way- I’m excited to read this and check out some of the other winners of Mark’s blog off.

What about you?  What have you recently added?  Link to your TTT below so I can check it out- I’m always looking to add more!

Throwback Thursday: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

TWtB_AP

Rating:  ★★★★★

I mean you all knew where Thursday was headed right?  Next Thursday I’ll post a new old review from another series, but honestly only because book four in Terra Ignota hasn’t been released yet. (Also- spoilers ahead for books one and two if you haven’t read them yet…)

Ockham Prospero Saneer pleads Terra Ignota, I did the deed, but I do not myself know whether it was a crime. This sets the tone for the entire book. (As an aside- it really is a fascinating question all by itself.)

One of the issues readers had with Too Like the Lightning, was it’s cliffhanger ending. I’m happy to report that this does not feel like half a book. The wait for Perhaps the Stars will still be long and torturous, but I intend to fill that time with back to back re-reads prior to release (this is still true… come on release date!).

These books are, in their own special way, an art form. These pages are filled with quirky stylistic choices, narrative breaks taken to address the reader (you) who carries an ongoing dialogue both with the narrator, and ghosts of the narrators past and upbringing (primarily, philosopher Thomas Hobbes). Dual columns of text side by side are meant to tell you that multiple conversations are happening at the same time within the text. While MASON speaks, people around him object and these texts are given to you in tandem. Different sets of parenthetical are meant to indicate different languages. I’m sure this has been obvious to some of my fellow readers, but yes, I can be dense, and yes, it has taken me three books to crack the code.

We continue our philosophical search for meaning through the eyes of the Alien, God of Another Universe, filtered through the eyes of a serial killer and a genius, Mycroft Canner. This was an interesting examination of Mycroft. We see a glimpse of Mycroft before this chronicle started. We spy him for a brief moment in that time between his capture and his judgement. His own story, a mirror image of the larger story at hand.

We move away now from examinations of gender and utopia, to the meaning and purpose of war. Perhaps to the purpose of god and religion and its purpose within society. How does a peaceful society take those first few steps to war? Is war necessary to progress? How does society balance the rights of an individual against the greater good? What right does a government have to defend itself or its people against other governments and people? Is this a right we as citizens consent to? Or do we happily ignore it and pretend that peace and the right to live are god granted things that no government can take away regardless of that governments cause?

This may be the last book I have time to read and review this year (in 2017) and with everything happening within my own government I suppose it couldn’t have been more timely. It is highly relevant and highly recommended, and one of the few books I am already looking forward to re-reading because I know just how many things I must have missed.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

blackfuturemonth-header

Rating:  ★★★★

In November I hit a really, really bad reading slump.  It was a combination of things, work, stress, other hobbies catching my interest (I waited eight years for Red Dead Redemption 2- I earned some game time), and of course, the holidays.   But now I’m finding it super hard to get back in the habit of reading.

I was worried a short story collection was going to be too easy to pick up and put back down (and therefore walk away from) but I shouldn’t have.  This is a truly beautiful collection of stories and I am so grateful to have read it.  (And it only took me five days- progress!) If you are a fan of Jemisin’s, or if you’ve ever been interested but haven’t taken the plunge, this is a must read.

I was iffy about The Fifth Season.  I didn’t see what people loved so much about it.  I was upset at the treatment of children in the book.  But so many people love The Broken Earth trilogy, that my feelings toward it made me question if I’d read it wrong.  The jury is still out, but I’ll definitely give it another chance.

First, I want to say that Jemisin’s creativity and skill as an author really shine in this book.  There are some running themes, but every story felt unique and different.  The characters felt distinct.  The book starts with a phenomenal and heartfelt introduction about the struggles she faced as a beginning author, so if you tend to skip intros, don’t, this one is quick and well worth reading.

It opens with: “The Ones Who Stay And Fight”, she says is a response to a LeGuin story (Omelas?). I had not read LeGuin’s story and so I don’t think I understood this one very well, and I’m having a hard time recalling any details about it now. “The City Born Great” comes next. It was a little more on the abstract side and as a story I just didn’t love it. The writing was phenomenal though.

“Red Dirt Witch” stands out as being one of my absolute favorites. Following the first two stories it really showcased her versatility as a writer because it definitely had a folk tale type feel as opposed to the frenetic, urban feel of the prior story. The ending was killer.

“L’Alchemista” was another favorite. It’s about food and love of food, and felt very rustic. It also made me super nostalgic for my mom’s cooking. Aside from that it was just really fun. “The Effluent Engine” comes next, and while an excellent story, it reminded me a lot of “The Black Gods Drums”. Nothing wrong with that- I loved the TBGD, but it maybe felt a little too familiar and I was left wanting a little something more.

“Cloud Dragon Skies” delves a little into the sci-fi realm, but the world in it evoked a lot of the same feeling that I got from reading “The Fifth Season”, an overarching threat of doom, grim tone, etc. I enjoyed this one and especially the ending. “The Trojan Girl” is also more sci-fi than fantasy, but also one of her more abstract pieces. I liked the overall message, but wasn’t crazy about the story itself. “Valedictorian” is another SF/dystopian piece that definitely has a haunting message.

“The Storyteller’s Replacement” I actually can’t recall very well, but I remember thinking that I thought it made for a good interlude in the book, which makes me think it wasn’t a very strictly structured short story. “The Brides of Heaven” is about a group of women who land on a planet that seems to be killing all the males. It’s an open ended story (which aren’t my favorite) but in this case, because the time investment wasn’t significant, I was okay with it. The feelings it evokes are definitely sort of eerie and spooky and it will stick with me for awhile.

“The Evaluators” I loved. Jemisin mentioned in the intro she enjoyed writing short stories because it gave her an opportunity to experiment and I think this piece is one of those. It’s told through a series of memos/logs and was precisely the kind of sci-fi/horror story that I love. “Walking Awake” also ventures into horror (content warnings for child trauma/violence) and wasn’t a favorite for me although again, I loved the message.

“The Elevator Dancer” is a quick story that almost felt like it could have been a spin off of Orwell’s 1984. I liked this a lot more than I liked 1984.

We shift gears back to fantasy with “Cuisine des Memoires” and it stands out as another favorite in the book. Kind of a love letter to the power food can have in our lives (or at least in our memories). I kind of also got the message that food is one of the oldest ways in the world to show you care for someone. Whether just by sharing it or by putting your heart on a plate.

“Stone Hunger” is a prelude to The Fifth Season that I actually enjoyed a lot more than the book itself. I sort of wish I’d read it first because I think I would have appreciated what came next much more.

“On the Banks of the River Lex” was very reminiscent of Gaiman’s American Gods and not in a bad way. I absolutely love the concept and love the way she portrayed Death. “The Narcomancer” was just meh for me, but I liked the ending.

“Henosis” is another experimental story told non-linearly that worked really well in short story format. The ending is another ambiguous one but I liked the format enough not to care. It also draws some interesting conclusions about celebrity in America.

“Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows” is a sci-fi story with a super original concept that I thoroughly enjoyed (the title is a hint). “The You Train” is another abstract piece but again I loved the message. The Nike slogan “Just Do It” comes to mind, and I also found it super relatable because if I didn’t have a child at home, I think I’d board The You Train myself.

“Non-Zero Probabilities” was about exactly that, non-zero probabilities. It was definitely interesting, but coming at the end of so many other fantastic stories, not a standout to me. We close with “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters”. This was a favorite, and one of the only stories that made me really care about the characters. It’s about some (fictional) odd happenings during and after Hurricane Katrina, and while that storm and it’s destruction were no joke, I found the story itself really hopeful, and the overall tone fairly light (probably gross misunderstandings on my part).

I think each story had something to offer and all of them were well worth reading. Jemisin is a master at evoking tone and feeling with her writing.  Even in the stories I didn’t love, she still managed to make me feel something, and I think that’s especially difficult to do in short stories.