Books on a Budget

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t have a lot of disposable income.  It can be an issue when you’re reading 100+ books a year.  I know a lot of us, as bloggers receive free copies for review, but if you’re just starting out as a book blogger and still trying to establish your presence as a reviewer, reading can quickly become an expensive pastime.

Over the years I’ve become pretty adept at finding deals on books!  It can take a lot of effort and patience, if like me, your TBR hangs out in the 700 range, but it’s usually easy to maintain once you’ve put it together.

eReaderIQ

eReaderIQ

A lot of fellow readers I know utilize eReaderIQ.  It’s pretty easy to use, and there are two ways to use it.  The simplest way is to check it daily for price drops.  You can put limits on minimum or maximum prices,  search by percentage off, and sort by genre.  The second way to use it, is to make an account, add books to a watch list, and get an email notification when a book you want has reached a certain price.  You can also add authors to a watch list, and get a notification any time one of their books drops in price.

Advantages:  It’s nice to receive email notifications, and once your watch list is all set, you don’t have to do anything else unless you add or remove books from that list.  Another thing I love is looking at the price watch history.  You can see the lowest price point the book has ever been offered at, and their algorithms will make recommendations to purchase or wait based on the frequency and current price point of the sale.

Disadvantages: It only pings books about once a day (and some Kindle deals are known to drop for only a few hours.  If you have an author you love who also has a common sounding name (Stephen King, Mark Lawrence) eReaderIQ doesn’t seem to differentiate between THE Stephen King and that other guy who also happens to be named Stephen King.

Tor.com Free eBook of the Month

Tor.Com Free eBook

This is one of my favorite offerings from one of my favorite publishers.  Simply sign up here, and receive an email notification whenever a new book becomes available for download. (Their new one is available for download right now!)

Advantages:  It’s totally free, no review required, you get an email notification, and don’t even have to set a password.  It is available as a Kindle download and a PDF file I believe.

Disadvantages: You don’t get a choice.  Often times the book is being offered for free because there is a sequel coming up Tor would like to encourage you to purchase.  Additionally, for a few months I made the mistake of trying to send the books to myself via my phone.  Now those books are only on my phone (and I really am not keen on reading them there).  And since Kindle has no record of a purchase, I can’t even utilize the Content and Devices feature to transfer them to another device.  Hardwiring my phone to computer doesn’t make a difference either.

GoodReads Giveaways

GoodReads Giveaways

I have pretty good luck with GoodReads Giveaways.  I won six last year.  Which is admittedly, a very small fraction of my reading, but it still always brightens my day when I wake up to get one of those emails.  I do think the fact that I have been reviewing regularly on GoodReads for three years factors into this.  I know that reviewing your giveaway wins on GoodReads factors in.  The good news is, I don’t think that anyone really polices what you write in terms of your review, so simply putting a little blurb in there like: I won this and I am so excited to read it!  Sort of tricks the system into believing you’ve reviewed it.

Disadvantages: Winning is random and not guaranteed.  The offerings are not always what you are looking for.  Reviews are expected and I haven’t found GoodReads to be incredibly forgiving in terms of timeline.  I’m a mood reader, so I’ve sometimes made the mistake of entering giveaways with no real intention of reading the book soon after receiving it.  Not reviewing the book has definitely led to not winning for long periods of time.

BookishFirst

BookishFirst Giveaways

This is another giveaways type site.  You can sign up here and check out all the rules.  The way it works is, you read a sample, and give it a first impression review.  When you complete your first impression, you can check a box saying whether you’d like to be entered into the raffle to win a physical ARC of the book, and I believe they have since added an option to receive a kindle version.

Advantages: There’s no real barrier to entry.  You don’t have to meet certain stat requirements for your blog or follower count.  Anyone who is willing to review the book can give it a try.  Out of the 4 raffles I entered, I won 3, so success rate is pretty high, as I think this site is less widely known than some of the others. (Disclaimer: I have not entered one of these raffles since 2018.)

Disadvantages: It’s still randomized and there’s no guarantee of winning.  You’re still expected to get your review up in a timely manner.  There aren’t always a lot of options.  (This week they appear to only have two books on raffle.)  Sometimes the samples are large and reading the first impression can be time consuming, and annoying because it’s done on a computer.

Amazon Wishlists

Amazon Wishlist

This is my current preferred method for tracking ebook deals.  Most of my GoodReads TBR is on an Amazon Wishlist.  I check it every morning, sort the prices low to high, and see what prices dropped that day.

Advantages: There are a good many price drops that are not always advertised on the Kindle Daily or Monthly Deals page.  Hunting through eReaderIQ can sometimes be laborious, and there is no guarantee they’ve caught the price drop yet.  The wishlist is in real time. Furthermore, you’re only looking at the prices of books you actually want to read. I sign up for all the deals emails, BookBub, BookPerk, The Portalist… but I don’t often look at them because I don’t need to be tempted by something simply because the price is low.  I’d rather pay full price for a good book than a dollar or two for a bad one.  The Amazon Wishlist cuts out the temptation.  If a book made it there, it’s because I know I want to read it.

Disadvantages: Maintaining and adding to this list (or taking the item away if you’ve changed your mind) can be time consuming.  Mine is in need of updating and I’m loathing the idea.  It’s very easy for this wishlist to grow out of control.

Other sources: These are mostly email newsletters I receive letting me know about various sales happening on eBooks.  I tend to have the best luck with BookRiot, it sends a daily digest and info about giveaways (though I’ve never won one of those) and BookBub is okay.  The Portliest focuses on a lot of the classics.  Book Perk is sponsored by Harper Collins, but Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House both publish similar newsletters for their own books.

BookBub

Book Perk

The Portalist

BookRiot Deals

I couldn’t not give a shout out to my local library who has or can acquire just about anything my SFF loving heart could desire.  And a special, special thank you to all you local used bookshop owners, for feeding my reading addiction.

How about you?  What’s your method for saving money on books?

Book Review: A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

Rating:  ★★★

This is a story about what happens after the “end of the world”. We follow four characters and their intertwining stories: Moira (or MoJo) an ex pop star trying to escape her past and stay hidden from her father, Rob, a widower figuring out how to move on with life after the tragic passing of his wife, Krista, a woman trying to make something of herself and forget her terrible childhood, and Sunny, Rob’s daughter, a kid growing up in a post apocalyptic world.

The story started fairly strong. I liked all the characters. They seemed fully fleshed out. They were mostly likable. They had their own wants and needs and desires. Their stories and the way they intersected was interesting, even if a little mundane (think wedding planning, parent teacher conferences, etc.).

Here’s the thing. When a book says “post apocalyptic” I’m expecting there to be much less civilization present. The world building didn’t make a lot of sense to me for a post apocalyptic story. Most of the Earth’s population was wiped out by a flu virus (think 1 billion left alive out of 7 billion). Some people have gathered in the cities and are trying to rebuild. They still have internet, cell phone service, and apparently french fries and cheeseburgers. Most people suffer from what they call “PASD” or, “Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder”. They go to group meetings for support. They hire bounty hunters to find their loved ones.

Some pockets of people reject that way of life and go out to start a new way of life centered around farming. Others apparently remain as bandits and gangs in the deserted lands between the cities. The world just seemed too populated to really be considered “post apocalyptic”. Was the flu a major disaster? Sure. But nothing about the world really felt like it ended. Things in post apocalyptic life in the metro centers seem mostly normal. There is still flight travel and buses and customs checks and such. I guess in the end I just didn’t buy into the world building.

It was really driven home when one random character states the metro(s) of New England are still struggling due to winter storms while Minneapolis was doing alright. Minneapolis gets more snow then much of New England. South of New Hampshire and Vermont (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut) winter is actually pretty mild. Where I’m from, it’s rare that snow lasts more than a week. New England just isn’t that fragile. I realize this is one tiny line in the whole book, and yeah, sometimes southern New England has a brutal winter, but as a whole it felt overwhelmingly under researched.

Another example (warning, spoilers ahead) is when the government decides that Sunny would be better off without her dad because her dad, who holds a job and raises her alone and yeah, is grieving, but otherwise okay, is “unstable”.  And in order to rebuild society, family units need to be stable.

You know what will screw up a kid real fast? Being ripped from a loving home. Again, I just don’t buy it. Whatever Rob did was done out of love. He was not abusive. He did not abuse alcohol or drugs. He was providing. Taking a seven year old away from her only family is about the quickest way I can think of to destabilize them. Sure, government workers are sometimes incompetent, but in this book none of it rang true. (Aside from the very obvious, why doesn’t Rob just pack up with Sunny and move?!)

The nature of this story is more sappy sweet than I like, and for it to work there are a lot of conveniences built in. I did read through it fairly quickly, and it could be entertaining if you are willing not to look too closely at it. People will likely compare this to Station Eleven, and those comparisons aren’t entirely inaccurate, but unfortunately, A Beginning at the End is simply not as well done.

A Beginning at the End releases on January 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who provided an ARC for review.

Reading Challenge: 20 in ’20

I love me a reading challenge.  I rarely finish them but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying.  And sometimes they do help motivate me.

I’m borrowing this challenge from the Captain at The Captain’s Quarters.  I’m using it to help me catch up on books and authors I should have already read a very, very long time ago.  I listed the number of ratings each book has on GoodReads after the title and author.  I thought it would be fun to see how many others have read them before me.  Spoiler: Eight of them have more than 100,000 ratings, and all but one have more than 10,000 ratings.

Simpsons Shame

These are books that seem destined (or maybe already are) considered to be classics of the genre.  Books that for some reason or other I keep putting off.  Maybe the blurb doesn’t speak to me the way I want it to or I already attempted them multiple times (I’m looking at you The Name of the Wind) and just never finished, but didn’t dislike enough to officially DNF.

11-22-63 Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King : 386,635 – This is the oldest book on my TBR.  I own it.  It was one of the first I added to GoodReads back in 2015.  I think it’s the time travel that’s putting me off.  I realized a couple years ago time travel and all it’s wonderfully mind bending paradoxes sort of puts me off.

The Name of the Wind Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss : 642,245 – I’ve started listening to this multiple times.  I even made it like halfway through on a road trip to Ohio once.  It’s just so long.  Also- I’m putting it back on Rothfuss since there’s no third book in sight.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Spakowski Witcher 3

Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski : 62,301 – I was reading these before the show was a thing.  Right after I sank like 500 hours into the very wonderful Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game.  I don’t know why I keep putting it off.  I was excited for this too since it’s the first full length novel set in the Witcherverse.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson : 83,654 – This one is just intimidating because of it’s length.  And the fact that it’s hard science fiction.  Which always goes over my head.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells : 45,161 – There’s a lot of Murderbot love circulating out there.  But I heard that Murderbot likes to watch TV (who doesn’t?) and I became a little concerned it wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be.  My expectations have been reset, which is a good thing, but also caused me to drag my feet in picking it up.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The Winter King (The Warlord Chronicles #1) by Bernard Cornwell : 34,056 – I don’t even have a good reason for not having read this one.  Favorite author.  Favorite subject.  Good reviews.  It was actually pretty hard to find (I wanted to purchase it and no bookstore ever seemed to have it).  I did finally track down a copy, I just need to make the time.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey : 142,112 – Why are there so many books in this series?  The thought of reading all nine is a little daunting, but I know this is well loved by several readers I trust.  And hey- maybe by the time I finish the series will be complete.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson 1

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson : 82,296 – I’ve heard this book comes with a steep learning curve, which is why I’ve put it off for so long. But now that I’m thinking of it, the same could be and has been said of two of my other favorites: Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit.  So who knows.  Maybe it’ll be a surprise favorite.

The Shining and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King : 1,027,773  & 165,444 – I wanted to read both before seeing the new Doctor Sleep movie (and maybe The Shining).  I’ve started The Shining at least twice that I remember.  It’s just so darn slow.  But it’s hard to feel like a real Stephen King fan when I haven’t read it.  So.  2020 will be the year.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky : 43,448 – I started this during a bad reading slump and just never finished.  Not because it wasn’t good, I got further with this than I did any other book during that reading slump.  But somehow it’s always harder to go back to something you’ve started previously.  Anyway- this book gets lots of love in my virtual book club so it’s becoming a priority.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.jpg

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood : 207,217 – Here’s a super shameful secret.  I’ve never read a single thing Margaret Atwood.  A lot of it has to do with her attitude toward genre fiction and her insistence that she doesn’t write it.  It just feels really disrespectful to her readers, not to mention seriously out of touch.  Anyway- I don’t have much interest in The Handmaid’s Tale though I would like to check it out someday so I’m going with this one.

Malice by John Gwynne

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1) by John Gwynne : 13,583 – After coming to the sad conclusion the Abercrombie is not quite what I’m looking for, I’m hoping Gwynne will fill the void.

Brian McLellan Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #1) by Brian McClellan : 9,573 – Military Fantasy.  I realize it’s not something that everyone gets excited about, but when the action scenes are written well I think it’s probably one of my favorite subgenres.  I have high hopes for this.

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb : 212,259 – She has written so much that I think I really just didn’t know where to start with Hobb.  This might not be the best place, but I already own it, so…

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson : 255,777 – I’ve never read Sanderson.  And honestly just the blurb has me cringing away in fear.  But it has all these awards and a super high rating and like everyone has read it except me… So I’m obligated, right?

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow #1) by Anthony Ryan : 66,267 – Ryan has been on my radar a long time.  I finally read something by him last year, A Pilgrimage of Swords.  It was a quick novella and not necessarily one of my favorites, but it was because I wanted more of what I’d read.  Hoping this scratches that itch.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin : 46,482 – This series isn’t nearly as popular as Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, but I tried The Fifth Season and it just didn’t grab me the way I wanted it to.  I think the abused children sucked a lot of the joy out of it for me.  But I do like her style and I think this one might be more my speed.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi : 30,774 – Nope.  Haven’t read Scalzi either.  This is likely to be a group read for February, so I might as well read him in a group setting and see what all the fuss is about.

The Word For World Is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin

The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle #5) by Ursula K. Le Guin : 14,121 – I actually have read Le Guin before.  I wasn’t a huge fan of A Wizard of Earthsea – but it was a middle grade book and I don’t have a great history with YA or children’s books anyway, so I’m willing to give her another shot.  Especially knowing how well loved she is.  I picked this one to continue with because I love a good forest setting.

And there it is!  My 20 in ’20.  I’m really excited for some of these and feeling pretty hesitant on others, but either way, I hope to be more educated in my two favorite genres come 2021.  Many thanks again to the Captain for letting me tag along with my own Ports for Plunder.

Have you read any of these?  Are there any super popular books out there you haven’t read yet?

Book Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

The Better Liar is about a woman, Leslie, who inherits a large sum of money from her father. In order to collect her half of the insurance, she must appear before the lawyer with her sister Robin. It takes Leslie three months to track Robin down, and by the time she arrives at her sisters apartment, her sister has OD’d and died. On her way back to Albuquerque, Leslie chances across a woman (Mary) who looks a lot like her sister, and hatches a plan to collect her inheritance anyway, using Mary as a double.

We read this story from three points of view, Leslie, Mary, and Robin’s ghost. All three women are liars. The reader is never sure at any given moment which of them to trust. The lies here aren’t necessarily outrageous, jaw-dropping lies. Calling them lies might even be a stretch- some of them are more like secrets or half truths. While they never made me stop to question what the heck was going on, the whole novel manages to be suspenseful. A lot of it was because I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the big reveal.

When we finally get to that point, it was a pretty awesome moment. Some readers may guess it, but I sure didn’t. This is a low-key sort of suspense. I was never bored and I read the book in just three sittings, always compelled to keep turning the pages, but I think it was more about the characters than the plot, which is not usually what I expect in a suspense novel. At its heart- this is a novel about both sisterhood and motherhood, and I think Jones did well with portayals of both.

The writing and structure were wonderful. The chapters were quick and the overall length was just what it needed to be.  I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think there is a lot of suspension of disbelief needed for the plot to work. I can’t say why that’s needed without spoiling a lot of important plot points, so I’ll just leave it at that. I can see it being a sticking point for some readers.

Anyway- I really enjoyed this debut effort by Tanen Jones and I’ll look forward to more of her work in the future.  The Better Liar releases on January 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who sent an ARC in exchange for review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Upcoming Releases for 2020

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.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (expected May 5, 2020) – This is the next novel in the Holly Gibney series.  I haven’t even really read the blurb- but like all new Stephen King books, I’m super excited for it.

9781984805997_GirlandStars_FCO_mech.indd

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence (expected April 21, 2020) – Ugh – This year is going to be my year to catch up on all things Mark Lawrence.  I might even reread Prince of Thorns.  I’m super excited for this one, even if I likely won’t get to it right away.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (expect May 19, 2020) – This prequel feels like it is finally my chance to join in with everyone’s love for The Hunger Games.  I never read the books because I loved the movie so much.  I’m sure this book will get a movie too, but I plan to read the book first this time.

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass (expected February 4, 2020) – This is the sequel to last year’s An Illusion of Thieves.  I loved that one and I’m confident I’ll love this one too.

Eden by Tim Lebbon

Eden by Tim Lebbon (expected April 7, 2020) – I’d tell you what this is about but I stopped reading after it said eco-thriller.  It made me think of another favorite author, Michael Crichton.

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell (expected May 5, 2020) – This book is set in a world where magic is paid for in memories.  I’m both curious and hesitant about this one.  I can see it being really fantastic, but I can also see the premise setting the book up for trouble. Are there armies of people who remember nothing?  How does that work?  Is magic used sparingly?  I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (expected March 24, 2020) – This novel is based on a short story that was included in Jemisin’s How Long Til Black Future Month? which released last year.  While I wasn’t sure I quite liked that particular story, I loved the concept and I’m hopeful that with a full length novel she can answer some of the questions I had about it.

 

These last three I’ve all mentioned in previous posts, which I’ve linked to below in case you missed them or would like to check them out again.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso (expected February 18, 2020)

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey (expected April 14, 2020)

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (expected May 19, 2020)

What are your most anticipated releases for the first half of the year?  Leave me a link below so I can check them out!

Year in Review: 2019 Wrap Up

Hello friends!  It’s good to be back after a small hiatus.  Honestly I didn’t mean to disappear from the blogosphere but between the chaos of Christmas with a small child in the house and family visiting from out of state, I simply haven’t had time for blogging or even reading.

But they’re back home now and I’m excited to get back to some semblance of normalcy, even if that means vacation is pretty much over.  So before we get much into 2020 I figured I’d start with some stats for 2019!

Books Read: 122

Novels: 78

Novellas: 10

Graphic Novels: 8

Short Fiction: 20

DNF: 6

Pages Read: 36,000 – ish.  I wasn’t counting my short fiction reads for quite awhile.  GoodReads is factoring in all my DNFs.  This is my best guess.  *shrugs*

Genres Read: (Not including graphic novels and short stories, of which they were mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy.)

Science Fiction: 35 (37%)

Fantasy: 34 (36%)

Thriller: 8 (9%)

Horror: 7 (8%)

Historical Fiction: 6 (6%)

Classics: 2 (2%)

Western: 1 (1%)

Mystery: 1 (1%)

Authors Read: (An extra author has been factored in since one book was cowritten.)

Women: 51 (42%)

Men: 68 (55%)

Queer / Non-Binary: 4  (3%)

Top Reads: I gave 7 books a 4.5 star rating and up in 2019.

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky – I went for the Vikings I stayed for the love story.  I know it wasn’t for everyone, but it still stands out as one of my top five for the year.

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – A contemporary retelling of Beowulf with a despicable female lead.  Pretty much my favorite kind of book.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee – A crazy military science fantasy with lots of terms I don’t understand and a sociopathic ghost for a main character.  Don’t overthink it.  Just go with it.

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade – I know not all my blogging buddies loved this as much as I did- but the humor just hit all the right notes for me and I loved feeling like I don’t know how it’s all going to end.

Inland by Tea Obreht – A Western that subverts all tropes and expectations.  I blame the camel.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I loved this- part coming of age, part romance, a little adventure, and all so very relevant.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia – Tuesday was that rare character that I could see a little of myself in.  I loved her friends and the Boston setting and treasure hunt aspect of the book too.

As an added bonus I just realized that all my favorite reads this year were written by women!  Which will be great motivation for me to read more of them next year.

Biggest Disappointments: These aren’t necessarily the books I rated the lowest this year, but books I had high hopes for and just didn’t live up to my too high expectations.

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald – It’s only because I love McDonald and his Luna series so much that I was so disappointed with this.  It’s hard to say how I would have felt about it without having those expectations in the first place.

The Blade Itself and A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – There are a lot of “Fantasy Greats” I have yet to read, Sanderson, Rothfuss (well, lets just say I’ve never finished a Rothfuss book), Pratchett, Hobb… the list goes on.  Of all those, I honestly expected to love Abercrombie the most.  His name has become synonymous with the term grimdark.  I was expecting Mark Lawrence meets Vikings and instead I got… something else.  #SorryNotSorry #ItsNotMeItsYou

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – Much like McDonald above, I expect a lot out of VanderMeer.  Unfortunately I wasn’t aware he decided to take it in a whole new direction with Dead Astronauts, and it just didn’t work for me.

The Stand by Stephen King – It’s a sad year when even my favorite author can’t cheer me up.  King, despite being my favorite, has always been hit or miss.  It’s bound to happen when an author publishes 2+ books a year.  I wanted to love this like I loved Under the Dome, but ultimately the villain was kind of silly and the horror was a little lacking.

Most Read Authors:

Brian K. Vaughan – I read 6 books from the Saga series.  I’m not sure Vaughan really counts since they’re graphic novels and relatively easy to read, but I also didn’t want to leave him out because I love his stuff!

Ian McDonald – I read his two new novellas, The Menace from Farside and Time Was, as well as the final book in the Luna series, Moon Rising.

Stephen King – Always makes it onto my most read list, just because he has so much backlog.  I read The Institute, Pet Sematary, and The Stand.

For the rest of these authors I read two books each.

Most Popular Post:

The Need by Helen Phillips

The Need by Helen Phillips – As much as I’d like to pretend it’s my super awesome writing skills people are reading in this post, mostly they are just here to ask about the ending of this book.  It’s cool.  I even updated my review with a spoilery interpretation of the ending in response.  Someone even kindly thanked me for it even though my interpretation sucks and doesn’t explain anything at all.

My Personal Favorite Post:

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Top Ten Tuesday: My First Ten Reviews – In which I re-reviewed the first ten books I reviewed in gifs.

Ugh.  I think that’s it.  I’m tired of stats.  The best thing about 2019 was all the wonderful new bookish friends I’ve made.  The blog turned one back in August and I totally forgot to celebrate.  Oh well.  I wouldn’t be here at all if I hadn’t met all of you and my year was better for it.  I’m looking forward to all our bookish adventures together in 2020!

How was your 2019?

Book Review: Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Rating:  ★★★★

This book is so weird.  I mean that in the best way possible.  I don’t even know how to go about describing it, because it’s just that weird.  Witchy healer does witchy things?  Witchy healer starts an affair with a guy who might not be so upstanding himself and chaos ensues?  Is she good?  Is she not so good?  No one knows.  Certainly not this reader.

It’s like this: Ada starts out seeming like a perfectly sweet, innocent young girl, with some peculiar abilities.  She cures illnesses, which she learned to do from her father.  A man named Samson from the village begins an affair with her.  Her father is not enthused.  Neither, it seems, is his sister.  Throughout this affair, we begin catching glimpses into something darker lurking beneath the surface.  Maybe Ada is not so innocent as she seems.  Maybe Samson’s not either.  Maybe it’s both of them.  Maybe it’s everyone else.  I’m still not sure.

But I think that’s what makes it interesting.  I’ve put off writing this review for probably two weeks now because I still don’t know how I feel about it except to say that I mostly enjoyed it.  The writing is strong and the pages breeze by.  The plot is meandering- not always my favorite- but I think it works here because it’s only 200 or so pages long to begin with.

The magic is confounding, and not too in your face.  It seems like a subtle but necessary element.  If you’re squeamish (like myself), I’m just giving you a heads up, this book is no picnic.  The way the healing is done… it gets graphic.

I read Imaginary Friend not too long ago, and complained that literary horror wasn’t something I wanted to revisit.  Well, I feel like I did accidentally revisit it here, and apparently it does work in small doses.

The ending is ambiguous- we’re left to draw our own conclusions about everything that takes place in those last few pages.  It annoyed me upon finishing, but it’s also the reason I’ve found this so haunting.

Follow Me To Ground releases on January 21, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the digital ARC.

Book Review: The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep by Chana Porter

Rating:  ★★★★

The Seep is an interesting little book.  It’s about a transgender woman going through a painful… um.. divorce?  Aliens invade every aspect of Earth life, connecting us all to each other, making us all high on love.  They’re in the water.  They’re in your food.  They can make you into anything you ever wanted to be.

This was a fairly unique story.  I loved the idea of benevolent aliens who’ve come to “help.”  It’s not really an idea I come across often.  The word invasion typically has a negative connotation.  The Seep usher in a new era in which people can live forever.  Don’t like your face?  Change it!  Don’t want to adult?  Become a child!  Want to be happy all the time?  It’s cool- have this drink spiked with Seep!

Which is where I think the social commentary comes in.  The Seep, despite their insistence that they are only there to help, they only want what’s best for the planet, they only want you to be happy- aren’t really giving you much of a choice in the matter.  On the surface they bring utopia, but beneath it all, they are colonizing Earth in their image.  Sound familiar?

It definitely has a surreal, dreamlike sort of quality to it.  I wasn’t sure how much in-book-time was supposed to be passing.  Sometimes it felt like years, others only months.  There are some weird moments that will have you scratching your head, a bear cooking soup, a woman eating fish and crying about it because she can feel their pain as she eats them.  A friendly face missing the way their fingers turned neon orange when eating Cheetos.

I did become a little frustrated with the protagonist, Trina, at times.  Due to her divorce she spends a lot of time wallowing in self pity and drinking her sorrows away.  She wasn’t the kind of person I’d want to hang out with in real life and she’s not the kind of character I enjoy reading about.  (For reference, I had a similar complaint about The Girl on the Train).

Luckily the book is short, it’s easy to read, and kept me interested until the end, even if I didn’t always understand what was going on.  There were things that I would have loved to know more about if Porter ever wrote a full length novel set in this world.

The Seep releases on January 21, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for sending an advanced copy for review.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter 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.

This week’s topic is my Winter TBR, which is pretty self explanatory.  As of right now the plan is to be buried by ARCs in January, but I also have a few buddy reads scheduled.  Send all the positive luck, wishes, thoughts and karma my way.  I’m going to need it!

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes – I read Beukes’s Shining Girls earlier this year and didn’t love it.  But a few of my regular buddy reading friends offered this one up and I couldn’t say no.  I’ve just started the first few pages, but I’m loving it so far!

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee The Machineries of Empire

Raven Stratagem (Machineries of the Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee – I can count what I’m currently reading in my TBR right?  I have to.  Because the number of books I haven’t started yet is terrifying.  Anyway- enjoying it, but some of the magic from Ninefox Gambit isn’t quite there.

Empire Ascendant Worldbreaker Saga 2 by Kameron Hurley

Empire Ascendant (The Worldbreaker Saga #2) by Kameron Hurley – Also planned buddy reads!  I’m super excited for these even if The Mirror Empire was a slow start for me.  At the end of book one, we were given a glimpse of a character than I’m really, really hoping we can get to know a little better.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen – I’m hoping to get to this after Zoo City and before January.  (Fingers crossed my friends!)  I’m looking forward to it!  Some trusted readers weren’t too excited about Chen’s last book, but I’m hoping his sophomore effort will be a little more polished.

The God Game by Danny Tobey

The God Game by Danny Tobey – Like a darker version of Ready Player One, minus the 80s trivia, I’m super excited for this one too!  (Though if I’m being honest, I’m dreading the length…)

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones – I’m going to need this to break up the SFF heavy beginning of January.  I’m hoping for super twisty turny thriller I can read in a day because I can’t put it down.

Followers by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo – This is going to be my PopSugar prompt: Book with a Pink Cover.  Because it’s really just about the only pink cover I’ve got on my TBR.  I’m super excited for it regardless.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – I am thrilled about this one!  In addition to being excited about reading Mandel’s backlist, I’m excited to read her new one too.  She’s got a meandering sort of style, but her characters are so full of life I can’t complain.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley – First – I’m in love with this cover.  Second.  I’m so happy to get back to Thaniel and Mori and their pet mechanical octopus, Katsu.  Early reviews report good things and I can’t wait to see where Pulley goes with it.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso – Looking at this cover reminds me of this:

Maybe It's Maybelline Lagertha

Please, please, please.  Let it live up to that.  I feel like I’ve been waiting too long to find a fictional female book character as bad ass as Lagertha.

This covers, like most of it.  Right?!  Be strong blogger buddies.  I know I’m not the only one with an overwhelming January ahead.

What have you got on your TBR this winter?

Book Review: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

This is my first experience with Stephen Graham Jones, and I’m really sort of sorry for it. I wish I had started reading his work sooner.   Mapping the Interior is a story about a boy who is being haunted by the ghost of his father.  It’s a quick story, and the plot really is that straightforward.  It can be read in just a couple hours.

The prose is easy to read but also had a really strong sense of voice, which I loved.  It held a rhythm and cadence that felt unique to Jones.  This is a horror story, and it’s a slow burn, at least as far as a novella can be slow.  At first, the ghost just seems like a benevolent spirit, watching over his sons, but after a dangerous encounter with the neighbor’s dogs, we know that’s not quite what’s happening. (Content Warnings: violence against animals.)

The ending snuck up on me, and I wasn’t at all prepared for it.  It’s disturbing, not necessarily scary.  There are a couple flashes of horror between the beginning and the end, but it wasn’t anything that felt so horrific I couldn’t hand it off to a friend to read.  But then the ending came and I had to put the book down, and stop, and digest, and think about it, and think about it some more.  My initial reaction was that I didn’t like the ending at all.  It was a little ambiguous.  It makes you think twice about our heroic protagonist.  It seems to renege on the initial conclusions we’ve drawn.

If you’re wondering why I was raving about Jones all last week, it’s because this book stuck with me long after I had set it down.  It may be with me for awhile yet.  I’ve been putting off this review because I’m still not 100% sure how I felt about it.

If I had one critique, it’s that Mapping the Interior often felt literary: metaphorical and symbolic and allegorical.  But I was never quite able to grasp the meaning or the message behind it all.

Mapping the Interior can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good horror story now and then.