Month in Review: November 2019

November was a hit or miss month for me.  I started strong and really enjoyed most of what I read earlier in the month, but got bogged down in the middle with some slower paced books.

I had a lot of fun with SciFi month!  A quick thank you to imyril at One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for hosting it!  I’m hoping to be better prepared for it next year and maybe participate in some of the read alongs.

Books read: 9 for October, 95 for the year

DNF: NONE!

SciFi Read: 5

Pages read: 3,792 out of 32,379

Average rating: 3.56

Female Authors: 2 out of 41 for the year

Favorite Read:

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee The Machineries of Empire

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee – Unfortunately I didn’t get the review up in time for SciFi Month, but I finally read it and loved it to bits!

Other Reads Completed:

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Mirror Empire (The Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley

Gamechanger by L.X. Beckett

The Menace from Farside (Luna) by Ian McDonald

A Little Hatred (Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

ARCs Received:

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

The God Game by Danny Tobey

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

eGalleys Approved:

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Last Human by Zack Jordan

The Broken Heavens (The Worldbreaker Saga #3) by Kameron Hurley

Other Highlights:

Book Review: The Dead Girls Club

PopSugar 2020 is Here!

Native American Heritage Month

Bookish Gifts for the Bibliophile in your Life. Or you know, for yourself.

Top Ten Tuesday: SciFi Month and Fall Covers

Coming Up:  I still have a few reads I didn’t quite finish in November, and a couple in series I’m working on.

Raven Stratagem (Machineries of the Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

The Blade Itself (First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk

How was your November?  Have you got anything special planned for December?

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter Reads

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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’s theme is holiday reads, and while I’m sure I could dig you up some Speculative Fiction that happens during holidays (NOS4A2 anyone?) I personally don’t have that many that I know of on my list.  With a two hour delay this morning, and the first real snow of the season falling over New England, I went for books with a winter setting instead.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – This is a favorite from my childhood, and is probably overdue for a re-read.  But I swear the landscape and setting are so well written, you feel the cold when reading.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – This is a Russian fairytale retelling, set in a remote Russian village far in the north, often described as atmospheric by the group I read it with

Early Riser Jasper Fforde

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde – This is a kooky tale about humans who hibernate and a weird urban myth call the Gronk.  There were a few parts that made me chuckle, if you Fforde’s humor is your thing.

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky – This was one of my favorite books of the year – and it definitely fits the winter them, being set in Canada, as far north as the Arctic Circle.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – While this book is less about the wintry setting than others, most of it definitely takes place in the freezing cold! Enough to set my teeth a chattering.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – When I was doing my research for this post, this book popped up repeatedly.  And since the planet’s name is actually Winter, it would be silly to leave it out.

Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather

Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather – A techno-thriller in which a freak blizzard buries New York in snow and cuts them off from the rest of the world. Described as a techno-thriller, I am curious to find out how the blizzard plays into it.

Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton – A researcher and astronomer in the Arctic is seemingly abandoned when his radio communication falls silent.  Meanwhile a team of astronauts still in space wonder if they will ever get home after their communications fall silent.  This one seems to have mixed reviews on GoodReads- what do you all think?

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice – An #ownvoices book set in the Yukon on an Anishinaabe reservation.  When the grid crashes, panic sets in as supplies run low, and survivors begin trickling in from nearby communities.

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson – This book is set in the Canadian Yukon after the fall of mankind due to nuclear war and disease.  Other readers have described the setting as “almost a character itself” which is something I love!

I’ll tell you what I was looking for and couldn’t find- post-apocalyptic, Earth is in eternal winter, book about the survivors.  You know, like The Road, with more people.  Does anyone have anything like that?  Which books made your Top Ten Tuesday?

 

 

Book Review: Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Dead Astronauts Borne 2 Jeff VanderMeer

Rating:  ★★

I have a very self deprecating sense of humor.  But trust me when I say: it’s no joke that I am neither intelligent enough or creative enough or abstract-thinking enough to appreciate this book.  I don’t want to trash it completely- because I can appreciate this for the literary experiment that it is.  I just don’t know that it’s a literary experiment that works.

VanderMeer can string words together on a page better than most, but hot damn, this was a total slog for me.  It took me longer than I care to admit, to realize this is a non-linear story, and on top of it’s non-linearness it’s also very repetitive in parts.  We explore many different realities and alternative timelines in separate parts, never coming together to add up to anything.

I think this is supposed to be the story of Charlie X, the rise and fall of the Company introduced in Borne.  But if I’m being honest, I don’t remember Charlie X all that well from Borne, and I didn’t think anything about the Company that was revealed really contributed any additional understanding.  I guess the questions I cared about, like what happened to humanity and what was the purpose of the Company, weren’t explored enough in any detail to make me care.

We also don’t get to spend enough time with any of the many characters to grow to care about them.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies again.  Blue fox sneaks in and says some clever foxy stuff.  I just don’t know what the point was.  Maybe for some there doesn’t need to be a point.  For me- there needs to be a point.

If, like me, you were hoping for more of Borne, if you were hoping for an origin story to the villain (villain being the company or the sorceress), I think this is safe to skip.  If you’re looking for something to bend your brain and make you work for it, by all means, pick this up.  The writing is beautiful.  Unfortunately that’s the only thing to leave an impression on me.

Dead Astronauts releases on December 3, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who sent me an eARC in exchange for a review.

Book Review: The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Rating:  ★★★★

This book took awhile for me to get into.  It’s very dense, and there is a lot of information and characters to sift through.  However, once I got into the flow of it, from about the halfway mark on, I very much enjoyed this.

The plot is rather difficult to explain without spoilers, so I’ll keep it simple.  We follow different perspectives of people living across a single land, in different positions of power and different kingdoms, as they are slowly invaded by a unified opposing force.

The world building here is very complex, if that’s your sort of thing.  There’s three distinct cultures, possibly four if we count the invading force.  They have their own hierarchies, their own customs and rituals, and their own ways of thinking.  One culture is a matriarchy, another a patriarchy, another governed by priests or priestesses. In one culture men are kept predominantly as slaves, and in another you may not touch anyone, even for a handshake, without first asking consent.  There’s a lot of nuance and it can be difficult to keep track of at first.

The characters too are very complex.  A lot of them fall into those shades of gray areas where they’re neither inherently good or bad, not really likable or unlikable.  I felt differently about some characters than my buddies did at any given moment.

Reviews on this one seem to be split, with some loving the way Hurley has subverted common fantasy tropes, and others frustrated with the story.  And I actually do understand the frustration with the story.  It’s very slow for most of the book, mostly character driven.  This first book feels very distinctly like the prelude to the rest of the story.  It doesn’t necessarily feel complete unless you’re willing to continue.  There are a lot of loose threads to clean up in future books.

I do think there are some technical issues with it.  What stands out most for me is the number of POV characters.  I think there were a lot of viewpoints included that didn’t need to be included because Hurley was trying to show us some other side to the story.  It felt like she was going for omniscient and just didn’t quite make it.  Aside from that- we are not given any clues as to which POV we are seeing most of the time.  It resulted in me doubling back several times after reading ahead to figure out who was speaking.

It won me over in the end though, and I’m excited to continue on to book two in December!

Links: GoodReads & Amazon

 

Book Review: The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald

The Menace From Farside by Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★

This is probably the most disappointing book in the Luna universe.  I’m not sorry I read it, because I do adore the world McDonald has created on the moon, but if you came here looking for more Cortas and McKenzies, you’re going to be disappointed.

Instead, The Menace from Farside introduces a new familial set up, ring marriages, and we follow the misadventure of a few young adults on a mission to capture a selfie with the first footprint left on the moon by Neil Armstrong, which they mutually agreed would be a perfect wedding gift for the newest couple to enter the ring marriage.

The main character in this story is Cariad Corcoran.  She’s envious of her new sister-by-marriage from Farside, Sidibe, who is tall and beautiful and brave.  While she was described as not immediately loathsome by some of the buddies I read this with, I also did not find her to be a likable character either.  She’s petty and tends to make bad choices.

The entire book is similar to one of the opening scenes in New Moon, the moon run with Lucasinho.  It also vaguely reminded me of scenes in Wolf Moon where Luna and Lucasinho are forced to cross the moon’s surface, without any of the tension that made those scenes so great.  I simply hadn’t been given the time to care about these characters the way I cared about Luna and Lucas.

I will say I loved the writing here.  The Luna books are written with a very distinct style and feel, cutting and cold and beautiful all at once, and that style continues in The Menace from Farside.  There were some passages beautiful enough that made me stop and re-read.

So, although it’s not my favorite entry, it’s decently priced and can be read in the span of a day.  If you decide to skip it, you aren’t missing anything.  The Menace from Farside released on November 12, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

 

Bookish gifts for the bibliophile in your life. Or you know, for yourself.

Happy turkey day friends!  Eat lots of food, watch lots of football, and take a nap.  Or do like I do and ignore your family and curl up in the corner with a good book.  That works too.

Anyway, with Thanksgiving upon us, in America our heads all turn to another major holiday: Christmas!  So I put together a list of gift ideas for all the book lovers in your life.

Candles – You don’t have to be a book lover to appreciate a good candle, but being a reader might help you appreciate these candles just a tad more than others.

Library Candle by Homesick

Old Books by Frostbeard

Bubbling Potions by From the Page

Vintage book purses – Which unfortunately don’t look big enough to hold another book, but are still really cool!

Great Gatsby purse by Kathleen Scranton

Harry Potter handbag by Bookarelli

The Hobbit handbag by Novel Creations

Posters – I thought this was a fun idea for readers across all age groups!  All these posters were found on the shopping site Uncommon Goods.

Shakespearean Insults Poster

100 Books Scratch Off Poster

Heroic Girls in Literature Poster

Book inspired Tea – Okay so I’m not a tea drinker- I’m a coffee drinker.  But I’m in the minority.  This could be a really fun and affordable option for the tea lovers in your life.

HG Wells Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Co.

Ketterdam Inspired Tea by The Simply Bookish

Mary Shelley Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Company

eReader Covers – Because who doesn’t want their ebook to look like a physical book!

Pride & Prejudice Kindle Case by KleverCase

Game of Thrones Case from SuperBook

Beauty and the Beast by ChickLitDesigns

Of course- you could just give your bookish friend what they really want, which is more books!

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Last Human by Zack Jordan

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Last HumanThe Last Human by Zack Jordan

Author:  Zack Jordan

Publisher: Del Rey

Genre: Science Fiction

Length: 448 Pages

Release Date: March 24, 2020

Blurb: Sarya is the civilized galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.

Most days, Sarya doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy.

Most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth–that she’ll never know why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist. Or whether she really is–impossibly–the lone survivor of a species destroyed a millennium ago.

That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter and a miles-long kinetic projectile leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship–with the dubious assistance of a rebellious spacesuit, an android death enthusiast on his sixtieth lifetime, and a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands–Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth.

What if humanity’s death and her own existence are simply two moves in a demented cosmic game, one played out by vast alien intellects? Stranger still, what if these mad gods are offering Sarya a seat at their table–and a second chance for humanity?

Why I’m Excited For It: Really- just everything about that blurb speaks to me.  The whacky, off-beat and colorful cast, the sense of adventure, and mostly the sense of humor.  (Am I the only one reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?)  I mean an android death enthusiast?  This has to be a set up for many entertaining death scenes.  (I can laugh at that because he’s an android.. right?)

I also think this is a path not often chosen in Sci-Fi – humans being exterminated – which could lead to some very interesting revelations.

What about you?  Which new releases are you looking forward to?

PopSugar 2020 is here!

PopSugar hosts an annual reading challenge each year with 40 regular prompts and 10 labeled as “advanced”.  I took part in 2018, and completed 45 prompts.  In 2019, I was a little frustrated with the prompts, as many of them I simply didn’t care for.  I still cobbled a list together, and made it through 42 prompts, but didn’t really try in any meaningful way.

I’m much happier with the 2020 list- many prompts are specific while also leaving lots of room for interpretation!  I’m not planning my list as rigidly as I have in the past.  I’m torn because planning is most of the fun for me, but I also know I can hit a lot of these just in my regular reading throughout the year.

But I did want to point out a handful of my favorite prompts, and list a few options for each.

A book with a book on the cover:

Or What You Will by Jo Walton

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name:

If It Bleeds by StepHEN King

The Winter King by Bernard CORNwell

2312 by Kim Stanley ROBINson

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth BEAR

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanHORSE

A book recommend by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast or online book club:

Okay- so I actually have a shelf for blogger recommended books on GoodReads- but in looking at them, I’m having trouble remembering where all the recs came from (I’m sorry!).  So these are three I do remember, and if I left you out, I’m sorry!

Finder by Suzanne Palmer recommended by the Captain @ The Captain’s Quarters

The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards recommended by Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy

The Possession by Michael Rutger recommended by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek

A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Hammered by Elizabeth Bear

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

A western:

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Charmcaster by Sebastien De Castell

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

A book with an upside down image on the cover:

The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

The Returned by Jason Mott

A book by a WOC:

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

A book by or about a woman in STEM:

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell

Arrival by Ted Chiang

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Probability Moon by Nancy Kress

A book with a great first line:

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk – “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.”

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

A book set in Japan:

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

There are a few more prompts that I love- but feel better left to chance than to plan for.  Prompts I’m looking for help with are: a fiction or non fiction book about a world leader, a book with a made up language, a book with a pun in the title, and a book by or about a journalist.

Are you participating in the PopSugar 2020 reading challenge?  Do you have any favorite prompts?  Are there any your struggling with?

Book Review: Gamechanger by L.X. Beckett

Gamechanger L. X. Beckett

Rating:  ★★★

This turned out to be a frustrating read for me.  Mostly because I wanted so badly to love it, and because there were so many brilliant ideas.  Ultimately, I found it chaotic and unsatisfying.

We’re given all these awesome ideas- immediate and public social justice, a world that seems relatively free of judgement concerning race and gender, cool tech, small jobs and volunteer work on the fly, virtual assistant AI, gaming, world wide democracy, etc.  The world building in Gamechanger is almost as impressive as another personal favorite of mine: Too Like the Lightning.

But the plot has way too much going on, and none of it ever seems to come together into a cohesive story.  While I was trying to jot down some thoughts after finishing, I counted about nine separate plot lines, with only about four or five of them being tied together.  I think ultimately it was a book that just needed more planning and a tighter editing.

The conclusion is rushed and messy. I kept waiting for that Aha! Moment to pull all those separate plot lines together – but it never happened.  There never felt like a good reason to have all these separate stories being told together in the same book.  I wanted some clever reveal, the curtain drawn back, the wizard revealed.  Instead we’re left with some silly fairy tale “And they all lived happily ever after” nonsense with no real explanations given.

The world building was definitely my favorite part, but I also wanted to mention it is #ownvoices with queer representation.  If you think you’d like to give it a try, Gamechanger can be found on Goodreads or Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in Reading Habits

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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’s topic is Changes in Reading Habits.  This is a good personal one for me because my habits have actually changed a lot in the past few years, and sometimes it’s hard not to default back to them.  I attribute a lot of these changes to joining GoodReads a few years ago- which I do think, when taken advantage of, can help people reach their reading goals.

Trying New Authors – This is probably the biggest change for me in the past five years or so.  I used to find an author I really loved and just read everything they’d write until I was forced to find a new author.  While my reading stats are currently out of date- at last count 69% of the authors I’ve read this year have been new to me.  (In 2018 it was 65% new-to-me, and in 2017 it was 63% new-to-me, in 2016 I think this number would have ben 15-25%).

Reading more women – For some inexplicable reason I have a tendency to read more male authors.  It isn’t something I’ve done on purpose and I don’t even think I realized I was doing it until I started tracking my reading stats.  At my last count I was at 45% women, 52% men, and 3% non-binary.  This is up from 39% women and 61% men in 2017.

Listening to audiobooks – I’m not a good listener.  It’s just not one of my skills.  I finally started listening to audio books in 2018 and that accounted for 10% of my reading.  This year my tally is only 3%, but I also haven’t counted a lot of the short stories I’ve listened to from Amazon (or the book I’m currently listening to: The Strain!).

Reading Graphic Novels – For a long time, I sort of detested the idea of reading Graphic Novels.  It just doesn’t feel like reading to me.  Like it kind of defeated the purpose?  I still don’t read very many, but the ones I do pick up I love!


I DNF – Okay- so before GoodReads I DNF’d quite often.  But not really by choice?  Typically I’d lose interest and just set the book down one day and not pick it back up again.  This year I decided to choose to DNF because I’m not having the greatest reading year and I’m tired of slogging it through books I don’t like.

So those are the five big ones.  Habits I’m still working on: seeking out marginalized and #ownvoices authors, as well as to stop requesting so many ARCs.  I prefer to be able to mood read- and there’s nothing stopping me from picking up new books at the library if I really can’t wait.

Which of your reading habits have changed over time?