Book Review: Saga Vol. 4 – Vol. 6

I am not in a reading slump.  If I just keep telling myself it will be true right?  It’s a little difficult to blog about books if you haven’t read anything in two weeks.  However, over the weekend I did force myself to sit down and read the three graphic novels I think I’ve had checked out from the library for, I kid you not, nine weeks.

Rating:  ★★★★

I’ve reviewed a lot of books, and I like to think I leave decent, well-rounded reviews.  However, for whatever reason, it doesn’t translate well to Graphic Novels.  I think because there is less to comment on?

For anyone unfamiliar with this series, Saga is about two people who fell in love while they were at war against each other.  Everyone with a stake in the war wants them dead because it would be bad for people to know that there’s a chance that maybe they could all get along.  To top it off the couple gets pregnant.

I won’t spoil too much about the plot- it’s an interstellar adventure with some very tense moments.  I do think these last three volumes were significantly darker than the first three.  We see the deaths of some characters that I managed to get pretty attached to, and some of the characters arcs take hard turns into the darker side of things.

Along the way we are introduced to a few new characters here and there.  Some of which I enjoyed and others less so.  The representation Vaughan includes is pretty thorough.  There are characters of color and plenty of LGBTQ rep.

Fiona Staples is the artist and her work is amazing.  I love the way she uses color, and it’s always a treat when there is a full panel drawing or concept included.

I did have to wonder a little bit, with Hazel starting kindergarten and all, why the governments are still looking for them.  It seemed to me Alana, Marko, and Hazel would have fallen to the wayside what with the war going on and all.

One of my complaints about some of the previous volumes was that Marko talks in his own language which I’m pretty sure is made up.  That trend continued here.  I still don’t understand those panels, I’m not sure what they contributed, and I’m not sure why they were included.  There’s no other explanation of what might be going on.

All in all it’s a small complaint, and Saga is very much worth checking out.  I’m excited to see where these stories go in the next few volumes.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Movies I Wish Were Actually Books

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.

Hello friends.  I don’t want to call it a reading slump- but life has been so busy I’m definitely on a little bit of a reading hiatus (I’m sorry!).  Trust me- I’d rather be reading.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is Page To Screen freebie, and I’m going to do it in reverse, because most of you could probably guess which books I want turned into movies.

Prison Break

Prison Break: I loved this show when it aired.  I’m a sucker for characters who are geniuses, and Michael definitely fits that bill.  I’m not entirely sure it would work well in a novel, but I’d give it a shot.

The Departed

The Departed: I love anything that comes out of, or is set in, Boston.  Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg are two of those things, and anytime they get to act with their full, glorious, Boston accents, I’m pretty happy.  Also- this movie will fuck with you.  Dirty cops, good cops, gangsters… nothing is what it seems.  If someone could turn this into a thriller style book and nail it, I’d read the shit out of it.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams:  This is like the ultimate American movie, baseball, corn farming, and Iowa.  It spawned some of my favorite movie lines: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!” and has enough emotion and mystery that I think it could make a wonderful book.

Pitch Black

Pitch Black:  Laugh all you want, but I love this movie.  In case you haven’t seen it, Vin Diesel plays a convicted serial killer.  When the interstellar bounty hunters who arrested him crash land on a planet full of blood thirsty monsters, he becomes their only hope for survival.  If someone could please turn this into a Crichton style horror/sci-fi thriller, I’m going to read it.  I don’t think it even has to be that good.

Justified: This is probably one of my favorite TV shows of all time, and I’ve never actually watched the last season (I couldn’t watch knowing it would be over, it was just so unfair).  Raylan Gibbons is a US Marshall, returned to his hometown to put the smackdown on a bunch of old timey crime families.  Boyd is perhaps one of the greatest shades of gray characters ever written- and I’d read a novel just about him (but including Raylan would also be A-OK).

The Last of Us

The Last of Us: If you aren’t a gamer, then I’m sad for you, because I think The Last of Us has one of the greatest gaming narratives ever written.  It’s tragic, emotional and thrilling.  For 10-13 hours you play as Joel or Ellie.  When you get to the end, you’re punched dead in the face with the realization that Joel is not a good guy, and also, he is  terribly human.  I thought about that ending for days afterwards, and all these years later, with TLOU2 on the way, I’m still not sure how I feel about it… Which is why I think it would make a great book.

Arthur Morgan Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption:  I love Arthur Morgan, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a book about John Marston either.  I’ve added Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West to my TBR this year, but I’m reasonably sure it won’t be the same.

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300: Before you get all righteous on me and tell me that this is based on a graphic novel- hold your horses, I know that.  I also know that the visuals were carried out exceptionally well, so it’s hard to imagine this being translated into a strictly novel format and working, but I don’t care, I want it anyway.  Someone could make it good.  I have faith.

Lagertha Vikings

Vikings: I feel like I haven’t mentioned this show in a couple months.. so here it goes again.  I want a Vikings novel told from Lagertha’s POV.  I want a woman warrior who claws her way out of the trenches and shows up every man that ever tried to take advantage of her.  It’s okay if it has romance- but I’d really rather it didn’t have a HEA or get all mushy.  I do not want Sky in the Deep (which IMO, tried too hard and came up way short).  Lagertha’s story is not a happy one- and that’s what made it so compelling.

Gladiator

Gladiator: Guess who else didn’t have a happy ending?  Poor Maximus.  Someone write a book on this guy.  Side note- can anyone recommend something similar?

That’s it!  I think.  If you have any good books to recommend that reminded you of some of these movies/shows/games, I’d love to hear them!  What’s in your T10T post for the week?

Book Review: Time Was by Ian McDonald

I’m in the process of job hunting right now, and life has been super hectic, so forgive me for not being present.  I’ve done almost no reading this week.  I’m still trying to keep up with all of your blogs though so forgive me if I miss a post or two!

Time Was Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★

From GoodReads: A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers…[Then] Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their disparate timelines overlap.

Time Was is a quick little novella.  I feel that the blurb is really misleading though, and the actual blurb on GoodReads contains a spoiler, so I’ve left it out here.  While this is in part Tom and Ben’s story, it’s actually more about a bookseller, Emmett, who stumbles onto their secret and becomes obsessed with finding them.

Much less exciting right?  The buddies I was reading this with all agreed- we wanted more about Tom and Ben!  The romance was lovely, but it was maybe 25% of the whole book.

The writing was sharp, concise, and atmospheric, as is typical of McDonald.  He’s very good at forcing you to read between the lines, so at times I became a little lost.  Especially the opening, which talks about digging around in a dumpster in LeBoutins for books, because I was still under the impression we were in WWII… and some of the POV/setting shifts weren’t incredibly obvious to me in those first couple chapters.

Both the buddies I read with guessed the ending (I did not) and were disappointed with that.  There’s also the time travel aspect, which was not explained at all, highly unscientific, and left a lot of us confused.

In the end, the writing was great, and romance was wonderful, but we were all left wanting more.  We had questions we wanted answered, and were sometimes bored with the main narrative.  If you’re interested in reading McDonald, while this won’t take too much of your time, I’d still recommend starting with New Moon.  I appreciate McDonald’s versatility, but this didn’t feel like a great representation of his ability.

Time Was can be purchased on Amazon here.

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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.

Ninth House Alex Stern 1 by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ninth House

Series: Alex Stern

By: Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 480

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Blurb from GoodReads: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Why I’m excited for it: Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are two of my favorite books.  I devoured them both in just a couple days.  I loved the characters, their banter was witty and fun, the plot was action packed, the pacing was perfect, the world was gritty, and the cast was diverse.  When I later tried to read the Grisha trilogy, I was less enthralled.  Maybe if I had read them first, I would have liked them more, but at the time they felt fairly generic.

From Leigh’s tumblr page book announcement: “I should mention that [Ninth House] is adult, not YA and will be published as such. It goes some very dark places and it is meant to disturb.”  Being an adult novel won’t make it inherently better, but I feel like Bardugo excels with dark and gritty.  If she’s going full adult I’m super excited to see what she can do with it.

I’ve also seen the words thriller, supernatural, and occult kicked around in relation to Ninth House, and there’s no better place to do that than New England!  It does seem like a vast departure from her usual fare, but I’m hoping that’s a good thing.  I can’t wait to see what she’ll do with it.

What about you?  What new releases are you excited for?

Book Review: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Rating:  ★★★★

Friday Black is a debut collection of short fiction from Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.  Some of the stories are what I’d classify as literary fiction, but many of them are also speculative.  His writing is flawless, and the stories pull no punches.  It’s dark, bold, and incredibly relevant.  Adjei-Brenyah’s stories largely explore race and systemic racism, consumerism, and the violence entrenched in our culture.

Having worked a few Black Friday’s myself, when I saw the book I knew I had to read it.  This is satire at its finest, but it’s sad because all of the stories hold so much truth.  This book is quick, and could probably be read in a day, but I found myself putting it down between stories to think on them.

“Emmanuel started learning the basics of his Blackness before he knew how to do long division: smiling when angry, whispering when he wanted to yell.”

“The Finkelstein 5” is the title of the first story.  It’s explosive, and was an excellent opener.  It hooks you in from the start.  The MC, Emmanuel, talks about how one of the first things his father taught him was to dial down his blackness by adjusting his clothes, his mannerisms, his language.  Meanwhile, a white man is on trial for the brutal murder of five black children, and the world waits to see whether he is found guilty or innocent.  What’s so terrifying about this story, is how many times we’ve already seen it in the news.  I won’t spoil it any further, but it’s a story I think everyone should read. 5/5 stars

“Things My Mother Said” is super short but absolutely beautiful.  He manages to get his point across in a page and a half.  Read it, then call your mother and tell her you love her. Another 5 star read.

“Back then, everyone was a liar.”

“The Era” was interesting.  In a dystopian world, people no longer have feelings.  Those with feelings have to take drugs to stop having feelings in order not to “cloud their truth” with emotion.  You can call your teacher a fat slob and he’ll shrug it off.  Telling the truth is highly encouraged.  Overall, I enjoyed it. 4/5 stars

“Lark Steet” was my least favorite story in the book.  It’s about abortion.  I’m not sure what the author was arguing for/against here.  I felt icky after I read it and I had to put the book down for a day or two after that.  2/5 stars

“Nothing is more boring than a happy ending.”

“The Hospital Where” was a good one.  It employed magical realism instead of straight up fantasy.  It was weird and wonderful all at once.  At times it felt like being stuck in a surrealist painting.  I interpreted it as an allegory for the impact of writing and the writing process, but it also felt like a love letter to writing. 4/5 stars

“Zimmer Land” is about a theme park where people can act out their most violent fantasies and pretend they are heroes.  I was reminded a lot of Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience.”  I thought Adjei-Brenyah’s story started stronger but I think Roanhorse’s finished stronger (to be fair, that would have been a difficult ending to beat).  4/5 stars

I’ve seen somebody step on someone else to get the jeans on a Black Friday…How did you decide to step on a human being to get a pair of jeans?”*

“Friday Black” the story for which the book is named, made me laugh.  Not because it’s funny- really it’s not.  It made me laugh because I find the whole Black Friday business pretty disgusting, and I’d rather laugh than cry.  I’ve been on the front lines of that battle.  At 1:00 AM.  Because some retail genius somewhere thought Christmas shopping at 1:00 AM seemed totally reasonable. 5/5 stars

“The Lion & the Spider” incorporates a tale of Anansi the spider alongside the tale of a boy who’s father has gone missing.  It took me right up until the end to see what either had to do with the other, but I absolutely loved the ending, so I won’t spoil it.  This was one of the more hopeful stories in the book. 5/5 stars

“He brings the comb to his head.  Yes.  Each strand of hair will shine, slick and erect.  The mane of a battle-ready soldier.  Oh, he will look good for the annihilation.”

“Light Spitter” is a story about a school shooting that also employs magical realism.  I’m a little undecided on where I stand with this one.  I was less moved by this story than others, but I enjoyed the themes and metaphors here more than some of the other stories.  3/5 stars

“How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” is another retail themed story. I believe it is a continuation of Friday Black.  I did enjoy it- but I think it’s more because I liked the Ice King’s character than anything else.  Themes in this story pertain to consumerism, but it fell a little short of the first piece. 4/5 stars

“In retail, if you don’t wanna be a Lucy, you gotta find ways to make the bleak a little better.”

“In Retail” is another retail story, following the same character.  I adored this one too.  It talks about how sometimes, there can be good days in retail.  In retail, most customers won’t appreciate you, but sometimes you get one who is truly grateful.  It was probably the most relatable story of the bunch for me.  It also included a funny tidbit about a Spanish teacher that made me laugh out loud.  4/5 stars

“Through the Flash” returns to the science fiction side of things.  People live the same day over and over again.  They can do different things each day, but no matter what happens, when they wake up, it’s the same day.  I fell in love with Ama’s character, and I thought it was a good way to close out the book. 4/5 stars

Overall, it’s a dark collection that’s been balanced with dark humor.  I very much enjoyed it and I’ll definitely be checking out Adjei-Brenyah’s future work.  I’d love to see what he could do with a full length novel.  Friday Black can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

*Quote from the author, borrowed from a NY Times article about the book written by Alexandra Alter (link here).  Check it out- it was awesome!

Content warnings:  I’m just going to go with a blanket statement here and say that if you need them, this probably isn’t the book for you.

 

 

Month in Review: April 2019

April was a pretty good month for me I think.  I feel accomplished having tackled not one but two behemoth novels that accounted for over 2,000 pages of reading alone.  I found some new favorites and authors to look out for in Sylvain Neuvel and Maria Dahvana Headley.  To top it off- I added another notch to my classics belt with Beowulf!

Can I start with some stats?  Is that allowed?

Books read: 9 for April, 32 for the year

Pages read: 3,925 out of 10,597 (So 37% of my reading was done in April alone… interesting.)

Average rating: 3.61

Female Authors: 3 out of 15 for the year (Booo! My goal this year is to read more women than men.  For some reason I gravitate more towards male authors. It’s a bad habit and I’m trying to break it.)

Favorite Read:

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

Review here.  I gave this book 4.5 stars, but if I’m being honest, it deserves 5.  I was a little thrown by the ending at the time, but this book has stuck with me.  Weeks later I find myself still thinking about it, and wondering how I can convince my mother to read it.

Longest read:

TheStand_SK

Review here.  This is probably the longest book I’ve ever read at 1,345 pages.  The Priory of the Orange Tree was a close second at 848 pages.  I feel like I’ve lost a part of my soul having to say that it was also my lowest rated read.

Shortest Read:

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

Review here.  The Test clocks in at a mere 112 pages and is absolutely worth the two hours it takes to read it. It was a close second for highest rated, and really only lost out because The Mere Wife effected me so much more.

Series Completed:

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Luna by Ian McDonald, review here.  I’m sad it’s over- I could spend another 3, 5 or 10 books with these characters. On the bright side, in the bottomless depths of the Edelweiss catalogues, I’ve discovered a novella expected to release this fall set in this world.  Once they’ve got a cover up it’s headed straight for Can’t Wait Wednesday.

Other reads completed this month:

ARCs approved:

I’m super excited for Atmosphaera Incognita by Neal Stephenson.  It will actually be the first time I’ve read him, and while it may not be the best place to start, I’m happy I won’t feel obligated to finish a thousand page novel if I don’t end up being a fan.

A Hero Born is actually a wish I had granted.  I was super excited about it because I’m always looking for a good translated and foreign favorite novel, but I’ve seen some less-than-stellar reviews on this particular translation.  Lucky me it’s not due out until fall so I won’t feel too bad about procrastinating.

GoodReads Giveaway Won:

Ninth Step Station by Malka Older Fran Wilde Jacqueline Koyanagi Curtis Chen

I’m SO excited I won the giveaway for Ninth Step Station.  Not long after I downloaded my kindle copy, the kind folks at Serial Box sent me a redemption code to get the audio to go with it.  I’ve never tried Serial Box before but I hear it is full cast audio, and one of the authors, Malka Older, I know is super talented.  I can’t wait to get started!

Looking ahead…

Currently reading:

Just to assure myself I really do like Under the Dome and that my reading tastes haven’t changed drastically, I’m re-reading it so I can later do a compare-contrast (and finally put up a review).  It’s long but it’s going quick and only 10% I’m fairly certain it isn’t my taste that’s changed.

Friday Black was put on my radar by the Newburyport Literary Festival, which happened to be the same day as the Providence one.  I was combing their list of authors trying to determine which festival I would enjoy more and Adjei-Brenyah was one author I’d never heard of before but that I was sort of sorry I would miss out on.  This is a collection of short stories, many of which happen to be speculative fiction.  It’s definitely interesting so far, and his stories are very thought provoking.

Planned reads for May:

And I guess that’s it!  *If you don’t hear from me, send help. I’m already behind!*

Providence Book Festival

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 6.40.05 PM

Renaissance Hotel Providence Book Fesitval

The small city of Providence, RI held it’s first book festival this weekend, presented by LiteraryArts RI (LARI).  It was staged at the very beautiful Renaissance Hotel.  I have never been to a book festival or ComicCon so I was unsure what to expect.

 

The list of authors and guest speakers was released fairly late.  If it had been released earlier I might have been better prepared.  They did, amazingly, have a couple of speculative fiction authors there, M.T. Anderson, author of Feed, was a keynote speaker (on opening night I think), as well as Lara Elena Donnelly, author of Amberlough, which was nominated for the Nebula in 2017.  While I did see Lara signing books and sitting in on some of the panels, generally looking humble and way too cool to ever talk to me (though I’m confident she would have, and done it graciously), I was too shy to approach her myself because I hadn’t read her book yet.  (Please Providence Book Festival- release your author lists earlier next year.  Also- please let there be a next year!)  There were also a couple of pretty recognizable YA Fantasy authors present, among them Julie Dao, promoting her Rise of the Empress series, starting with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.

 

image6

I did get to see Theodora Goss reading her newest book, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, sequel to The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.  I found Ms. Goss absolutely enchanting in the way she read.  I don’t know if she narrates her own audiobooks, but if she does, go with audio!  Her passion and enthusiasm for her work was infectious, and definitely encouraged me to move The Strange Case farther up my TBR.

Again- I would have loved to say hello- but I felt weird.  (Don’t ask- I’m the most socially awkward human being you’ve never met.)  For future reference- do you guys have tips for this situation?  Have you said hello to an author you recognize but whose book you haven’t read yet?

Anyway- I attended as more than a blogger and reader, but as an aspiring writer myself.  I listened to two panels where debut authors were given an opportunity to speak about their paths to publication.  The first panel, moderated by Vanessa Lillie, a local author whose book Little Voices is being published by Thomas & Mercer this fall, was a definite  highlight.  I could have listened to them banter about publishing all day.

 

Vanessa Lillie Little Voices William Dameron The Lie Susan Bernhard Winter Loon James Charlesworth The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill

From left to right: James Charlesworth, Susan Bernhard, William Dameron, Vanessa Lillie)

In case any of you are also aspiring authors, the big message they delivered was not to give up, keep editing your work, keep revising your query letter.  You do not need a huge social media presence or previous publication history to get published.  Susan mentioned that it was only after 99 rejections, that she finally found an agent.  She was burnt out on rejection and sent that last query letter, the winning one, on a whim. (Okay, she actually equated it to wanting a punch in the face, but you get the point.)

The second panel I listened to was more of an open discussion format, with a separate group of four authors answering audience 

Abby Fabiaschi I Liked My Life Maura Roosevelt Baby of the Family Marlene Adelstein Sophie Last Seen Molly Dektar The Ash Family

From left to right: Molly Dektar, Abby Fabiaschi, Maura Roosevelt, Marlene Adelstein

questions.  It was an all female panel ranging in experience from freshly graduated with an MFA to well established freelance editor.  These ladies had some fantastic advice as well, but the point that particularly resonated with me, stated by Maura Roosevelt, author of Baby of the Family, was that authors have to be cooperative and collaborative.  They all felt strongly that their novels had been changed for the better by their respective agents and editors.  

Takeaways for first time festival goers:  If time allows, be prepared by reading a few books by some of the speakers!  My biggest regret was that I felt like it would be rude of me to approach an author whose book I hadn’t read.  I would have liked to ask Ms. Donnelly in particular what she thought of Tor or what it was like to work with them since I’m such a big fan of their books.

Plan for the panels you want to attend, and research their locations if possible.  The Renaissance, while gorgeous, was not a great location for the size of this festival.  It was spread across three floors, so I found myself spending a lot of time on the elevator.  For one 40 minute block I found I hadn’t planned what I wanted to see, and later regretted what I saw (not that it was bad, none of them were, I just felt I would have benefitted more from a different speaker).

Finally- be prepared for people to try and sell you stuff.  Maybe that seems self explanatory, but I actually really wasn’t prepared for that.  I went in with a writer’s mindset.  I was there for information, with no intention of buying anything.  I did not expect to have tables of authors pitching their books to me.  And hey- hustlers gotta hustle.  No harm done.  I just wished I’d been better prepared.

Overall- I thought it was a great festival.  I learned a lot, but most of all, it motivated me to really put the passion back into my work as I wade through tedious line by line revisions and rewrites for a book I’ve probably read a hundred times.

How about you?  Have you attended a book festival before?  Do you have any pro-tips to share with me?

I am not being paid to promote any authors mentioned here, but I wanted to direct you to the GoodReads page for each of the fabulous panel authors I mentioned above. Their books really do sound excellent, and I think at least a few of you might find them interesting.

James Charlesworth, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill:  Described by Charlesworth as: four siblings plot to kill their jerk dad after he becomes fabulously wealthy.  As described by GoodReads: “a literary suspense novel about the decline and consequence of patriarchal society. It is also an intricate family saga of aspiration and betrayal.”

William Dameron, The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing Coming Out: I’ll also throw a shout out to his fabulous essay (that landed him this publishing deal) “After 264 Haircuts, A Marriage Ends“.  From GoodReads: “A candid memoir of denial, stolen identities, betrayal, faking it, and coming out.”

Susan Bernhard, Winter Loon: From GoodReads: “A haunting debut novel about family and sacrifice, Winter Loon reminds us of how great a burden the past can be, the toll it exacts, and the freedom that comes from letting it go.”

Vanessa Lillie, Little Voices: Quote from the agent, Victoria Sanders: “a new mother suffering from postpartum psychosis while reeling from the brutal murder of a close friend.”  The “Little Voices” in her head are helping her to solve the mystery.

Molly Dektar, The Ash Family: From GoodReads: “When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.”

Abby Fabiaschi, I Liked My Life: As described by Abby, a wife and mother commits suicide, and leaves her teenage daughter trying to put together the why of it.  She assured us that, despite the dark premise, it’s got plenty of dark humor to break it up.

Maura Roosevelt, Baby of the Family:  My take on the book: Wealthy father dies, leaving all of his fortune to his youngest son.  Siblings who can’t adult are brought together by his death.  From GoodReads: “Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets–how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart.”

Marlene Adelstein, Sophie Last Seen:  From GoodReads: “Six years ago, ten-year-old Sophie Albright disappeared from a shopping mall. Her mother, Jesse, is left in a self-destructive limbo..With help from…a private detective on the trail of another missing girl, Jesse may finally get some closure, one way or the other.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Quotes

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.

First I’ll apologize, because I am hastily throwing this together in the early hours of the morning not having gotten enough sleep last night.  I think this week’s topic is supposed to be “inspiring” quotes- but I’m not sure how many of those I have laying around so I’m just going with general favorites, and hopefully I can give the spotlight to some books I don’t discuss as frequently.

“I may have to eat you, you unfortunate young macaroon.” -China Mieville, Kraken

“…but politicians run all the big scams. Government’s the thief of all time. That’s why it tries so hard to catch thieves—it doesn’t like the competition.” – Jeff VanderMeer, Acceptance

“In my experience men are curiously blind to aggression in women. They’re the warriors, with their helmets and armour, their swords and spears, and they don’t seem to see our battles—or they prefer not to. Perhaps if they realized we’re not the gentle creatures they take us for their own peace of mind would be disturbed?” -Pat Barker, The Silence of the Girls

:”I call death onto those who don’t know a child when they see a child. Men who think they made the world out of clay and turned it into their safe place, men who think a woman wouldn’t flip the universe over and flatten them beneath it. I have enough bullets for all of them.” -Maria Dahvana Headley, The Mere Wife

“I think there is no person, myself aside, so hated by the ambitious of this world as Bryar Kosala, since those who fight viciously to grasp the reins of power cannot forgive the fact that she could rise so high and still be nice.” – Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning

“They say: only exceptional people can cross the borders. The truth is: anyone can cross, everyone has it in them. But only exceptional people can bear to look it in the eye.” -Naomi Alderman, The Power

“The operating theory—lacking any other credible explanation—was terrorism. The president had disappeared to a secure location but had responded with the full force of his Twitter account. He posted: “OUR ENEMIES DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY STARTED! PAYBACK IS A BITCH!!! #Denver #Colorado #America!!” The vice president had promised to pray as hard as he could for the survivors and the dead; he pledged to stay on his knees all day and all night long. It was reassuring to know our national leaders were using all the resources at their disposal to help the desperate: social media and Jesus.” -Joe Hill, Strange Weather

“What if he killed millions? I can guarantee you such a person would not be considered a murderer. Indeed, such a person may not even be thought to have broken any law. If you don’t believe me, just study history! Anyone who has killed millions is deemed a ‘great’ man, a hero.” -Cixin Liu, Death’s End

“Money is life. Poverty kills.” -Nick Harkaway, Gnomon

“Some places, though, were very strict about recompense and fairness. Very serious about resource management, and they considered music to be a resource like any other. Wouldn’t want anyone to get more than they’d earned, because that was what doomed the old world.” -Carrie Vaughn, Bannerless

That’s it!  Leave me a link to your Top Ten Tuesday below so I can marvel at all your fabulous quotes.

Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints Emily Duncan

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb from GoodReads: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

What you see is what you get with this blurb.  The plot is very straightforward. A war has been going on between Tranavia and Kalyazin for what seems like forever.  It’s a religious war.  Tranavia is full of blood mage “heretics” while Kalyazin remains true to the gods and has one single cleric (god-blessed mage?) to help them.  Now a ragtag group of teens has decided to put a stop to it all by assassinating the King of Tranavia.

The book started out relatively good.  It was a little simplistic for my tastes but after spending all that time with The Stand it was a decent follow up read.  The characters  did feel a little flat to me.  There wasn’t anything about them that popped off the page.  On the plus side, there was some diverse representation in there.  It wasn’t explored too deeply, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing.  I’m happy to see it being normalized.

There are two different magic systems.  One for Kalyazin, where a mage’s ability is divine and god-granted.  Nadya must ask the gods’s permission to use their power and they can either grant or deny it.  Most clerics can only speak with one god, but Nadya speaks to all of them.

The other magic system is for Tranavia, where some people choose to become blood mages.  This magic system was very odd to me.  I just couldn’t envision it working in any practical way.  The blood mages have special razors that won’t scar sewn into their coats so they can cut themselves quickly and easily.  They are also holding a spell book which is written by, I don’t know, someone who is not the mage using it.  Then they tear out the page and soak it in blood and crumple it or stick it to a wall.

So here’s where the confusion comes in.  How does one cut themselves with a razor sewn into their sleeve while holding a book in the heat of a battle or duel?  I feel like by the time all that has been accomplished, someone’s probably already stuck a sword in them.   It’s not that it was terribly complicated, it just would have required so much concentration and coordination I couldn’t imagine it being practical in a duel or war.  Given that the blood needs to touch the page I couldn’t work out the logistics of it, and had to pause and think about it anytime it was mentioned, which took me out of the story.

Towards the end, the book fell apart a little bit.  I often felt like I was missing parts of the conversation or character’s thought processes.  I was confused and it involved a lot of flipping back and forth and re-reading trying to figure out what was going on.  Sometimes it felt like characters were removed from the present moment to stop and have little side conversations while other really important stuff was happening, which messed with the sense of place.  I would scratch my head and go: “Where are we right now?”

The romance was kind of silly.  Nadya loves Malachiasz (I’ve probably spelled this wrong).  She often says things like: “I know he’s lying but I love him anyway.”  And I get it- that describes plenty of relationships that exist in the world.  However, you can’t also be presenting that character as a “Strong Female Protagonist” and have her saying stuff like this.  Maybe my idea of the strong female protagonist is narrow, but I personally can’t relate to it, and it makes my eye twitch.  The romantic scenes were also very redundant (lots of fingers in hair) and I ended up skimming a lot of them.

My final complaint is about the character growth.  Nadya shows none and therefore the message of the book was pretty murky.  This is labeled as “Something Dark and Holy #1”, so it’s very much possible that her growth is being saved for later books, which is fine.  Basically, in a book about religious war where two enemy characters are coming together to fix a problem, I expect each of them to gain a little understanding of the other side, and their belief systems to change a little bit.  In Nadya’s case, we make it all the way to the end with her believing that the Tranavians are heretics and need to go back to worshipping the gods as Kalyazin does.

I really hope that is not where this story is headed because that’s an incredibly problematic message.

All in all- if you don’t look too deeply at it, it’s not a bad read.  It’s quick and has some entertaining moments.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily Duncan can be found on GoodReads here, or ordered on Amazon here.

Thank you to Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press and Edelweiss for the ARC.

Book Review: The Stand by Stephen King

TheStand_SK

Rating:  ★★1/2

“In America even scummy douchebags like you should be able to catch a cold.”

M-O-O-N, that spells unpopular opinion. I do have oh so many of those. Laws, yes.

I don’t want to write this review. Really I don’t. I don’t want to say that this is far and away my least favorite King book ever. I don’t want to tell you that the Satan versus God war was total bullshit, or that King does much better when he writes general Good Vs. Evil stories.

I don’t want to tell you that Randall Flagg is totally lame. That Brady Hartsfield would bend Flagg over his knee and give him a fucking spanking and send him off to his room without supper.

“To be polite, she sipped a little more of the dreadful Kool-Aid.”

But I have to say these things you see, because The Stand is 1,400 pages of boredom. I did not drink the dreadful Kool-Aid.

I have been thinking long and hard about this. Pretty much ever since the book started. (That was on April 15. Laws, yes, almost two weeks ago.) And I can’t precisely articulate what exactly it is that I find so boring about it.

“That was the whole world, after all, nothing but thoughts and plots.”

Maybe because so much time was spent on the opening, on the beginning of the flu. Was the flu horrifying? Yeah, in a “Oh God what if this happened for real?” sort of way… Could King have done more with it? Why, Laws yes, I think he could have. I would have liked to see the panic overtake the cities, the mass exodus, the cars crashing, the people stomping each other into the dirt and turning ugly in a fight for survival, the panic power of a single sneeze in a crowded room.

King, your Constant Reader knows you are capable of this. Instead I was given passing references to the military blocking off roads and shooting people down, a code name for a super secret evil government plan that didn’t seem like it ever manifested. It was all hinted at. I don’t like you when you’re subtle Steve. I much prefer when you take all the ugly people are capable of and slap me across the face with it. That’s just the kind of girl I am. Maybe I’ve got a little R.F. on my shoulder.

“But no one knows how long five minutes is in the dark; it might be fair to say that, in the dark, five minutes does not exist.”

But that’s not all. I was more than a little annoyed at the hints of brilliance, being reminded of what was to come. I saw the beginnings of Cujo in there, The Kid trapped in a hot car surrounded by evil wolves. I might have glimpsed pieces of Dreamcatcher. The beginnings of Under the Dome, little ideas sprinkled all around.  All these quotes I’ve included?  I highlighted 30 others, and will cherish them all.  But a 1,400 page book has to be more than a string of good quotes.  Maybe it’s a matter of not aging well, I don’t know. Might I have liked this if I had read it 30 years ago, when it was first released? Yeah, maybe. As it stands, I was disappointed, and maybe that isn’t fair, but it is what it is.

All my favorite things about King’s work are there. The characters being real people, average Joes and Janes. The underdogs. The minute details, the Baby, Can You Dig Your Man’s? The pure nostalgia of his work. And somehow they didn’t come together in a way that made me love any of it. Did I love Glen? Sure. Nick? Sure. Tom Cullen? Yes. Kojak? You can bet on it. But Larry, Stu, Ralph, Joe, Lucy, Abagail? I really didn’t care. They were, to quote the book, No Great Loss.

“The flu didn’t just leave survivor types, why the hell should it?”

I think my problem, in the end, was the distance between the good and the evil here. There’s something wildly impersonal about this story. Randall Flagg wants to be evil just for the sake of being evil. Brady Hartsfield is the same, but he’s not afraid to do his own dirty work. In fact, he wouldn’t have it any other way. Mind-fucking people into being bad for you just doesn’t carry the same weight as Brady throttling a car into a crowd of people in need, just because he can. Just because he wants the world to suffer with him.

There were some high points. That chapter that glimpses the second wave? The non-survivor types the world left behind? Absolute gold. As far as I’m concerned, it was the best chapter in the book. That, was what I wanted more of. If we’re going to use third person omnipotent, we should be using it for exactly this. The Kid? From what I understand, he wasn’t in the original, which baffles me, because he too, was one of the highlights. Like a Junior Rennie with his brain fully intact.

“That was an act of pure human fuckery.”

There were consistency/continuity errors. The ending was hugely unsatisfying. Many character ARCs are never given legitimate conclusions.  I now understand why people thought King couldn’t write women.  At one point Stu offers to get Frannie a washing machine.  A washing machine, for when the electricity comes back on so she won’t have to break her back doing all the laundry.  And what does she do?  She throws her arms around him and kisses him.  Uh-uh.  Not in my house Stu Redman.  You better get yourself a goddamn washing machine or you better find a fucking time machine and travel back to 1958.

Beyond all that, it was incredibly messy for a King book.  There were the bizarre alternating timelines spliced into the middle, sudden in their appearance and just as sudden in their disappearance.

“After all, the only practical compensation for having a nightmare is waking up and realizing it was all just a dream.”

The foreshadowing and the supernatural didn’t jive with the ending we were given. Minor spoiler: at first it seems like the people who are immune to the flu are the ones who dream, and people who aren’t regular dreamers, die.  Kojak, one of the world’s only surviving dogs, is a dreamer.  Later, it’s explained that children who are the product of two immune parents are also immune.  Well which of these is the determining survivor factor, genetics or dreams?  I’ll accept either answer but I won’t accept both.  Either the dreams make them safe or they don’t.  If it’s not the dreams, those shouldn’t have been happening until after the plague had done its work.  If it’s genetics, then in theory wouldn’t any survivors also have to have surviving family members?  The whole premise fell apart because the book couldn’t decide if it wanted to be fantasy or science fiction.

I just can’t express it any clearer than to say I was disappointed. When society caves in on itself, and King writes books about it, I expect the worst of his characters. I expect there to be Johnny-do-good types with questionable pasts. I expect there to be charming, cunning, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who mostly win, until they don’t. Instead I got a world full of mostly decent people who do bad things with one oddly levitating demon pulling their strings.

“‘The Lord is my shepherd,” he recited softly. “I shall not want for nothing. He makes me lie down in the green pastures. He greases up my head with oil. He gives me kung-fu in the face of my enemies. Amen.'”

God bless Tom Cullen, Laws yes.  That’s all I have to say about that.

In case you don’t trust me (why the hell should you? wtf do I know?) The Stand can be found on GoodReads here, and Amazon here.