Book Review: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser Jasper Fforde

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I’m being more kind with this book than my last couple. The chapter length was on the shorter side (this counts for a lot in my world) and while it wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat style thriller, the intrigue was enough to keep me engaged.

In the beginning, the reader is dumped into this bizarre world where humans hibernate and have winter coats and “bulk up” for winter. It takes a long time for all the pieces to come together and get the hang of it, but on the bright side, there aren’t many info dumps.

I loved all the humor. There were a couple parts that had me laughing out loud. The intrigue takes a while to pull the reader in, but otherwise it was a pretty quick and easy read.

It was a little predictable in terms of the whodunnit, but I think there were enough twists and turns added in to the journey to make it feel unpredictable. Thinking back on the plot, there were a couple plot threads that didn’t contribute much to the overall story, but they provided a little comic relief.

If I could change something about it I think I’d make the world building a little clearer. There’s talk about child bearing responsibilities- I would have liked to know more about why this was necessary? Winter is a killer, okay- but how many people are dying that they need to force child bearing duties upon people? I get that there is a higher rate of death among over winterers, but they don’t seem to number very high, and we aren’t given many stats about how many people aren’t surviving hibernation due to starvation (or lack of nutrition storage?). The given stats don’t add up to making this a necessary requirement.

I was also very unclear on the time line. The latest reference I found was to something in 2003, but some references go back to the 19th century. The technology didn’t seem super advanced, but some of it also wasn’t familiar.

This is a really fun book when you view it as a satire.  There’s a purveying attitude due to hibernation that people should be fat and lazy and eat incredibly high amounts of junk food.  There’s mention of a show called “Albion’s Got Talent” and gossip surrounding it often takes precedence over other, less important scandals.  Guns and other weapons are given silly names like “Bambi” and “Thumper”.  Then there’s Graer Brylls, ultimate tv-lazy man, and the Gronk.  The Gronk being the Gronk may be a coincedence, but as a life-long New Englander and unapologetic Patriots fan, everytime the Gronk was mentioned I was cracking up.  Who The Gronk ended up being made the whole joke even funnier.

There’s also the issue with Morphenox and big pharma.  I won’t delve too far into the issue, but I do think it’s an important one and I think Fforde delivered it very well.  So the satire added to the humor, but in all honesty, it’s the message this book delivers that I loved most.

The other thing I will say is that I think it would have made a fantastic horror novel. The setting was great. Sector 12 was creepy and eerie. The myths and legends about wintervolk added to the horror vibes, but it never went full throttle. Nothing about it is truly scary but it could have been, so it ended up feel like missed potential.

All in all, not a bad read. I might check out other work by Fforde in the future.

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Book Review: New Moon by Ian McDonald (Luna #1)

In honor of Moon Rising releasing this week, I just wanted to share a quick Throwback Thursday review of New Moon, the first book in the Luna series.  These are kind of weird for me to rate, because I gave both books in this series 4 stars, but the series as a whole would get 5 stars.

McDonald imagines a future for us in which gender is significantly more fluid, sexuality more open.  The characters, while often terrible and ruthless, shine vivid and bright and so very full of life.  There are tender moments of love, and heart wrenching moments of brutality.  I need more books like these.

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Rating:  ★★★★

Blurb from GoodReads:  “The Moon wants to kill you.

Maybe it will kill you when the per diem for your allotted food, water, and air runs out, just before you hit paydirt. Maybe it will kill you when you are trapped between the reigning corporations-the Five Dragons-in a foolish gamble against a futuristic feudal society. On the Moon, you must fight for every inch you want to gain. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon’s newest “dragon,” Adriana has wrested control of the Moon’s Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family’s new status. Now, in the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation-Corta Helio-confronted by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana’s five children must defend their mother’s empire from her many enemies… and each other.”

I keep seeing this described as Game of Thrones in space. I sort of get it? But I also don’t. It’s like Capone vs O’Banion in space. Except instead of bootlegging they’re fighting about Helium-3. They have dazzling parties and beautiful clothes. They’re wealthy. Their lives are always in danger.

We follow the story of the Cortas. A Brazilian family that heads up Corta Helio. They are the youngest member of the Five Dragons (in other words- the five leading families) and we witness their turf war with the Mckenzies. We are provided with an epic cast of characters. Primarily Cortas, though we do get one outsider viewpoint who is slowly brought into the family.

There’s action- but it’s a slow sort of action, a slow escalation of events. An assassin bug at a party. A runaway. An accident, etc. The last chapter is where it all ramps up and then it ends. A little disappointing but I was never really bored and found the book hard to put down.

Half the characters make your skin crawl. Rafa with his rage and ridiculous handball addiction and stupidity. Lucas with his raw ambition. Lucasinho and his endless sexcapades. Wagner is just effing weird- and I STILL don’t understand the werewolf thing. I kept expecting the author to go: oh yeah, he’s undergoing gene splicing or whatever. But nope. It seems he’s just adopted into a pack of random other wolf people, and randomly gets (or imagines) he has heightened abilities because of it.

There are a few characters I really enjoyed. Ariel Corta first and foremost. She’s very well written. Ambitious, cunning, independent. Adriana Corta- head of the family, also ambitious and intelligent. Marina and Carlinho were also very likeable.

The world building was well done. Everything is printed (clothes, weapons, furniture, food, etc.) There are four elements necessary to survival on the moon: air, carbon, data, and water. Every ounce of the four elements must be paid for. That’s right, you might be so broke you can’t afford to breathe. Then I guess you just die of poverty. There’s no law. Everything is negotiable via contracts.

I do feel like there were a few holes. Namely- if there is no “law” on the Moon, what is the point of trial by combat? Why bother when you can just go murder someone? I didn’t really get it. Supposedly Adriana loves coffee and is a super duper millionaire, but never bothers to have it imported until she’s very old. I’m not sure why. It seemed silly. I get not buying it all the time but not even as an indulgence once in awhile? Live without coffee… the horror.

Finally, the plot. I enjoyed the plot and the pacing overall but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t predictable. I didn’t see the end coming but I had the whodunnit pegged very early on.

Warning: The ending of this book is a major cliffhanger.  I would not pick it up until you are prepared to commit to all three books.  Will I continue with the series? You bet!

 

Book Review: The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan (The Black Iron Legacy #1)

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Rating:  ★★

Blurb from GoodReads: A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy. (The rest of the blurb can be read here.)

I think this will be one of the books that ended up disappointing me the most this year.  I was so ready for a grimdark Six of Crows, grittier, bloodier, more desperate.  As you can see my expectation of the book didn’t really line up with the blurb.  I add stuff to my TBR and pick it up weeks later without ever reading the blurb, which is why it wasn’t what I was expecting.

This was mildly disappointing, but I could have adjusted easily enough if I had been told a good story.  At the end of the day, that’s all I really care about, that I’m being entertained.

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Well no, Maximus.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t entertained.

I have so many issues I don’t even really know where to begin. I’m baffled this went to print this way. It feels unfinished- like a second draft with most of the proofreading errors taken out. I found multiple typos, inconsistencies in the way words were spelled, characters popping into scenes where they shouldn’t be. One time I think Rat was called Spar and then went right back to being Rat, and another one Miren popped up when he should have been Haden (even better Miren was all the way across town, and the scene he wasn’t supposed to be in was sandwiched between two other Miren scenes.  Imagine my confusion at him being in two places at once). This is not confusing because it’s complex, it’s confusing because it’s poorly edited. I actually had to stop at one point and double check that it wasn’t self published. I’ve read self-published books with fewer errors. Not sure what Orbit was thinking.

The plot was a cool concept poorly executed. For centuries across this steampunkish land, the gods have been battling each other- dragging Mortals down into their fights. Not sure why gods need mortals to fight for them, or even why they are fighting, but Guerdon’s gods are kept in check. Now someone wants to free them.

My issue with the execution is two fold. The first issue I have is that no one’s motivations make any sense. **SPOILERS** The alchemists want to melt down the Black Iron Gods (imprisoned in bells) and use them to make “god bombs” to stop the war and prevent them from coming back. Everyone agrees the Black Iron Gods are bad, yet everyone is also fighting the alchemists… why? I understand it will also kill the kept gods but as far as I can tell they aren’t doing a whole lot for anyone, and the kept gods end up dying anyway… wouldn’t it have been easier just to let the alchemists do it? Or to help them? **END SPOILERS**

The second part of my upset with the execution comes from the fact that this is largely a metaphysical tale. I say Godswar and you’re thinking a war of titanic proportions right? Buildings crumbling, swords flying, heroes and villains.

Wrong. Mostly it’s someone having an out of body experience and observing everything from a distance. It was incredibly boring. This is largely personal preference but I like the up close and personal battle scenes. There were none to be had. Aleena comes close with her more physical abilities and her sainthood and flaming sword, but a lot of the action scenes fade to black in some misguided attempt to build suspense into the plot. There isn’t any.

The book is so hung up in its own world building, in its pages upon pages of raptequine horses and Tallowmen and alchemical weapons that it forgot to describe the action. Don’t get me wrong- the world building was very cool. It had lots of fun elements that felt unique. But it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged and wanting more.

There are some really odd sex scenes thrown in that one of the MCs constantly thinks about afterwards, that destroyed her character in its entirety. They were bizarre and so out of left field any mention of them immediately withdrew me from the story. They detracted from the MCs character and took her from feeling whole to feeling flimsy. Especially when the partner is described as inexperienced and clumsy in the very first line of their hookup.  It was very painfully obvious at that point, that she had been written by a man.  If the two characters had been in love, it might have been acceptable.  If there had even been a few lines introducing their attraction for each other, it might have been acceptable.  The way it’s told here, I suspect will ring incredibly false to most women.

Rat’s character and Jere’s character largely feel useless. Characters were killed that pop backup in the epilogue, apparently alive and well. In the beginning there are references to ongoing riots that are never witnessed.

I thought it was supposed to be grimdark but it felt more like New Adult to me. Cari carries around a “knife” she barely uses.  When she does use it, it feels pretty lame.  Cari slashed at the grotesque monster tentacles with her knife.  What exactly were you expecting to come of that Cari?  You don’t kill god-monsters with a knife.  I just wanted it to be more.  If you’re going to write a sex scene- really write a sex scene.  If you’re going to make it bloody, make it gory.  I know I probably have unreasonable expectations when it comes to this, Constant Reader that I am, but when you sell me something as grimdark those are the expectations that come with it.

I feel bad writing this because I wanted to love it. If it had been edited properly and dropped 200 pages of world building and description and a couple POVs I might have… but for now I just don’t have many nice things to say about it and I can’t recommend it. Maybe an update from Orbit can fix the kindle version, but unfortunately for the hardback I guess it’s too late.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring 2019 TBR

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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 pretty straight forward.  I’m pulling most of these from a list of buddy reads I’ve already agreed to join.  I swore this year I wasn’t going to do this to myself… but my March reading is already behind and April is pretty much booked solid.  You see the trouble is I commit to buddy reads and then I find all this other great stuff to read along the way.  So while three or four buddy reads is totally reasonable in a month- I’ll probably end up reading twice that and cramming eight or nine reads into a month.  #INeedToPlanBetter.

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Moon Rising, Luna #3 by Ian McDonald – I am SO EXCITED for this book.  It releases today!!  Plus I learned that CBS has picked up the TV rights on it.  I’m not sure they can do it justice (probably not like HBO could anyway) but I’ll give it a try if it ever manifests.  I’m so in love with this world and all it’s drama.

Beowulf Seamus Heaney

Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translation – So this is super embarrassing to admit, lover of vikings that I am, but I’ve never read this.  And I need more classics on my roster this year because last year I read none.

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – If you aren’t familiar with this one, it’s a modern, suburban house wife, retelling of Beowulf.  To me there’s something contemporarily vicious about modern housewives and keeping up with the Joneses, so as odd as it sounds I think the setting will fit a Beowulf retelling perfectly.

Servant of the Underworld Aliette de Bodard

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard – I actually have no idea who Aliette de Bodard is, I just know her name keeps coming up everywhere.  Tenochtitlan, Aztecs, high priests and priestesses… No idea what it’s about, but I’m sold.

Time Was Ian McDonald

Time Was by Ian McDonald – I’m pretty convinced at this point that Ian McDonald is one of the more underrated science fiction authors out there right now.  Again- no idea what this one is about, but for some authors, it really doesn’t matter.  I’m hoping for a sweeping science fictional LGBT+ love story.  And that cover is gorgeous.

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Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – This book, along with Time Was (above) is nominated for the Phillip K. Dick award.  I fell in love with this book based on the title alone (you know, because 400 years in the future, I am totally a walking Alien Virus Love Disaster).  It’s a collection of short stories and looks like it will be pretty quick.

Wicked Saints Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan – Somehow I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC on this one (St. Martin’s Press has always been kind to me).  To be honest, early reviews have me a little nervous, but with a title like: Wicked Saints and a series called: Something Dark and Holy… what’s not to love?! (Please be good.)

City of Stairs Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – The number of books this man has on my TBR list is seriously out of control.  Everything he puts out I feel like I need to read and I’ve yet to actually read any of them.  Worse still- the omnibus for The Divine Cities was on sale for $2.99 a couple months back (a steal) so I own all three and still haven’t read them.  Spring 2019, it is time.

TheStand_SK

The Stand by Stephen King – I have to work really hard not to read Stephen King all the time.  Even on his worst days, he still offers me more than a lot of what I feel like I’ve been reading lately.  And I still have SO MANY of his books on my TBR.  Lately I’ve been wanting to read the stand, because I feel like it will be epic on the scale of Under the Dome.  (At least that’s what I’m hoping for.  Please don’t let me down.)

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C.L. Polk – I realize this is a bizarre follow up to The Stand, but reading The Wolf in the Whale last month, I was reminded that romance really is a favorite genre of mine, when it’s done well.  So I suppose it’s not a coincidence that both Time Was and Witchmark landed on my Spring TBR.  It’s nominated for the Lambda award and seems to have great reviews so I’m very excited for it.

That’s it!  I probably will end up reading ten totally different things, but I’m hopeful I’ll at least make it through the six buddy reads I have planned.  What about you?  What’s on your Spring TBR?

Book Review: Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, by Mary Shelley

I know this is a considered a classic, especially of the Science Fiction and Horror genre, so this review is probably not going to contribute much to your understanding of it, but I wanted to post it anyway because I do think it’s a book worth discussing.  Especially if it’s a classic you might have skipped!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Rating:  ★★★★

“…How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”

I wasn’t expecting much from Frankenstein. Not only have I not had the kind of patience classics sometimes require, but the story of Frankenstein is one so familiar I thought I might be bored.

I was wrong on both counts. While this certainly isn’t the most exciting or fast paced novel, it’s much shorter than most other classics I’ve read and there aren’t (m)any side plots to contend with. As for the story itself- turns out all I really knew was there was a mad scientist who brought to life a human like creature.

I love Shelley’s description and imagery. There were a couple places where she was describing Frankenstein waking up in the woods in spring and listening to the song birds, and another page where Victor was adrift on an ice float in the arctic and the waves tossed him about. It was both vivid and metaphoric.

I also appreciated the language Shelley used. It’s very concise for the times and I didn’t find myself re-reading overly long sentences to try and vaguely grasp their meaning.

“I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery…”

But most of what I enjoyed about this was that there are so many ways to interpret it. In the back of my book there was even a fascinating section about the many ways to read and interpret Frankenstein. Biographical, feminist, an exploration of the nature of man and his relationship to god… I find myself considering and reconsidering passages.

Particularly what resonated most with me was the nature of the relationship between Frankenstein and the creature.  It was perhaps a rather blunt way of discussing the nature of man’s relationship to God.  Frankenstein made him, but the creature becomes his master.  He blames all his misfortunes on Frankenstein and holds him responsible.  The ending in particular was fairly moving.  After having read the book, and conducting a little research on Shelley, it is worth noting that her husband was a suspected atheist, and I have to wonder if there isn’t a fair bit of scorn within the book for the way Shelley feels people interact with their creator.

All in all, a quick read that is well worth checking out.

“He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.”

Book Review: Golden State by Ben H. Winters

This is actually not one of my throwback Thursday posts.  I read Golden State a week or two ago and somehow never got around to posting the review.  (So I guess it’s a throwback to a fairly recently read book.)

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“Our desire to know the whole truth is what makes us human.  Our understanding that it can’t be known is what keeps us alive.”

Rating:  ★★★1/2

The blurb says this is “Minority Report meets Chinatown.” Never read either but I have seen Minority Report the movie. This is not Minority Report. I think it’s what would happen if you took 1984 and mashed it up with the nonsensical nature of Brave New World and threw in a little Fahrenheit 451.

In the Golden State, The Record is sacred. Everything that can be known and knowable must be recorded for The Record. If it is unknown and unknowable, it must be dismissed, avoided like the plague. In other words, it does not exist. So we have a City-state where absolutely everything is recorded, where some types of people can detect lies, visually or physically. These people go on to be Speculators, truth enforcers. Fiction of any sort is forbidden, books, actors, you name it. History before the Golden State is unknown and unknowable.

So here we have Laszlo Ratesic, age 54, Speculator. He is tasked with investigating the death of a man who fell off a roof. At first it seems pretty cut and dry, no anomalies to be detected. But his partner Paige, knows differently. She’s a hot shot Speculator. Better than everyone else since Laszlo’s brother Charlie was part of the force. And she finds anomalies that Laszlo missed. And so the mystery begins.

It took me until about halfway through the book to really begin enjoying it. Winters’s writing style lacks any sense of urgency. Or maybe it’s not his style but police procedural style. The clues are unraveling but in this case they don’t seem interconnected at all. It’s an anomaly here and an anomaly there but none of them seemed to add up to any one thing, so it was difficult to get excited about picking the book back up until we had the full picture which comes at about the 50/60% mark.

Winters does do a good job with characters. I love that he writes average joes. Nobody extraordinary with special talents. Just an average, middle aged guy, with an average job, divorced, just bumbling through life from food truck to diner to donut shop. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s so very human.

I do appreciate the message he conveys. That a world based solely on truth is a sorry way to live, but also that a world built entirely on fiction is no good either. I also liked the feel of the setup. How Arlo is writing a novel to tell us the events (novels as we know them, i.e. fiction, are strictly forbidden in the Golden State). I liked the little pauses for reflections and how it was written in a different font. It gave me the sense that I was reading a lost artifact of the Golden State.

My issue was the ending. It felt very rushed. The rest of the book was content to take it’s slow sweet time, stopping to consider hot dog trucks and greet strangers with random facts like “Limestone is a sedimentary rock.” The ending is crammed into like 20 pages and answers absolutely nothing. It’s less ambiguous than Future Home of the Living God, but still not satisfying.

Ha- I guess that’s the point isn’t it? The truth of this novel is unknown and unknowable. *slow clap* Well done Winters.

Sigh. I give up on this review. I really need to stop reading dystopians.

Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

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Rating:  ★★★

Friends!  I’m sorry I haven’t been posting this week.  I’ve been dealing with a sick child with a high fever.  I’m also having a terrible week as far as reading goes- not only am I not getting much of it done, I’m not enjoying what I’m reading.  It could be my mood or it could be that the books are really just not good.

I’m torn on which category The Raven Tower falls into.  I’ll go ahead and qualify this review right up front by letting you know that I did not read all of this book.  I read all of it up until about the 30% mark, and then I was so bored I flat out skipped all the parts told by The Strength and Patience of the Hill.  Maybe I didn’t give it a fair shake, but at the same time, if I’m that bored 30% in, it’s probably not a good sign.  It’s rare that I actively DNF a book.  So I’m giving it three stars and splitting my rating down the middle.    My review is much rantier than the typical three star book warrants.

Do you want to hear the story of a billion year old rock god that does nothing but sit on a hill and watch the world go by?

Well I sure didn’t.

There are two ways to get me to love a book.

1. Tell me a good story. Twists and turns, betrayals and deceptions, horror after horror. Tell me a good story. This is why I picked the book up. This is what I wanted.

2. If you aren’t going to give me a good story, you had better entertain me with some solid characters and funny banter.

If you can give me both- even better. I do on occasion like books with fantastical world building, or books that make me think, or books with a sweep me away romance, but if I picked the book up in the first place, it’s because I wanted one of the above.

The Raven Tower promises on the story and fails to deliver, and the characters were some of the worst I’ve read this year. No personality. No feeling between them. No connection to them. I mean- on the one hand they are flawed and feel human enough.. but just… ugh. Not even the villain here was evil enough to hate. At least make me hate that guy- make me eager for his demise, make me cheer him on to his death. It didn’t happen.

The interesting part of this book is the part that follows Mawat and Eolo. And there just wasn’t enough story there to support the book. I was skipping fifty page chunks to get past the rock god observing the way of humans and gods. Then I’d read a couple short chapters of the part I enjoyed and have to skip another fifty pages.

The ending felt rushed and abrupt. It all comes to this ecxiting climax in the Raven Tower and then it just ends. There’s no real conclusion. It doesn’t feel complete. It doesn’t even feel like an ambiguous open ending like those of VanderMeer and Erdrich. It’s like paying money to see a concert from your favorite band, impatiently watching a bunch of opening bands you’ve never heard of before, seeing your band come on stage, having them perform their most popular song ever, and walk off stage. Lights out. Go home. Nothing to see here folks. And you’re just sitting there stunned. Like, I paid money to see this?! And then you sit there for 20 minutes thinking it must be some sort of cruel joke. Until reality sets in and you leave with nothing but a bitter taste in your mouth.

Now- maybe I didn’t get it, because as I said, I skipped a lot. But I don’t feel like I didn’t get it. I don’t feel like I missed anything. Hell I wasn’t even confused. I felt more confusion over my beloved Terra Ignota series and I read them in their entirety.

I guess I should comment on the POV, because it seems to be a sticking point for some. The chapters of world history are told in first person and the interesting chapters are told in second person. This doesn’t actually bother me. I’m totally fine with second person and actually enjoy it when it’s done right. I don’t think Leckie used it to her full advantage though. I would have preferred that Eolo had no name. I would have preferred that his gender and sex were never referred to. I think it would have been a really interesting way to make the whole book significantly more personal. If you want the reader to be the protagonist- let them really be the protagonist. It’s not as if Eolo has all that much personality, just make them a blank slate. Let the reader impress their own identity entirely upon the protagonist. I just felt that second person POV was wasted here.

I guess what’s most disappointing about it, is that I know Leckie is capable of better. I know she’s capable of fantastical world building with complex societal issues. I know she’s capable of building sprawling galaxies full of vibrant life and colors. The Raven Tower feels incredibly small and narrow in its views. One town. One Tower. One guesthouse. A handful of characters. Vague mentions of competing nearby people. One character from another society who’s purpose in the story is never really explained and whose culture is never really explored.

Again- I didn’t read many of the parts told by the god. So maybe my issues are unfounded and I’m just an impatient ignoramus.. but honestly I doubt it. I have an idea of what those passages were about and I still don’t care enough to go read them.

So take this review with a heavy grain of salt. I can admit when I’m being a jerk. But honestly I’m sending this back to the library today and I’ll be hesitant to pick up anything else set in this world in the future.

Book Review: Necessity by Jo Walton

Hello friends!  I’m rounding out my last couple Throwback Thursday posts with a review of Necessity, the third book in Jo Walton’s Thessaly series.

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Rating:  ★★★★

This is a really beautifully told trilogy, and the trilogy I’m giving 5 stars. It starts sort of slowly and without much action in The Just City, but ends on a high note with what is known as The Last Debate. It gives the reader lots of philosophical questions to consider. The action in The Philosopher Kings increases overall, but there are still plenty of philosophical questions to chew on.

We end here, with Necessity, which gives us almost nothing philosophical to consider, yet provides us with plenty of laugh out loud entertainment and an excellent conclusion to the overall story.

We get to meet some new characters and we are reacquainted with some old ones. Apollo is our constant of course. Then we have Crocus, who finally gets to tell us his side of the story. I wasn’t head over heels in love with Crocus’s story, even though I adore him as a character, he just seemed disconnected from the action this go around. The same is true for our other POV character, Jason. He’s not a bad character, but he is a third party observer. He really has very little to do overall with the main plot lines of the book or the trilogy. I found myself questioning the choice to include them as POVs.

Lastly we have Marsilia, Simmea’s granddaughter. Her chapters were my favorite to read. The dynamics between her and her sister Thetis were very well done. Each having or being something the other sort of maybe desired but always ultimately loving to each other.

So what was it that held this back from being a 5 Star read? Well like I mentioned, I didn’t feel like two of the POVs were all that relevant. I wasn’t sure why we were being fed those stories. Crocus’s were sparse enough and gave enough insight to his part in the past two books that I didn’t mind their inclusion, but I really just felt like Jason was an odd choice. He even says at one point: I have no idea why I’m here. Well Jason, I don’t know either. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike him and I thought he was a well done character, but it was like he was included for the sake of having a narrator.

The second reason this wasn’t quite a 5 Star read was that the chapters are told “out of time”. We already know what’s happening or what to expect and then we cut to Marsilia who’s doing something with Hermes that earlier in the story seemed as if it was already done. It was just sort of confusing and jarring to follow.

Everything else I loved. The ending turned me into an ugly crying mess because these characters just grew on me so much through out the trilogy.

These are fantastic, quick books that I would highly recommend to fans of both fantasy and science fiction (as it started in what felt like fantasy and ended firmly in the science fiction department).

Book Review: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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Rating:  ★★

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Blurb (from GoodReads):

Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.

She thinks she knows who she is.

She is wrong.

Admittedly- I left out a lot of that blurb (you can read the whole blurb in the link above).  I only put in what I felt was actually relevant to the book.

This was a DNF for me. I made it to 70% and I didn’t even have the desire to skip to the end and see how it played out. I’m putting the content warnings up here in case you don’t want to read my spoiler laden review: suicide bombings, death of partners, abduction, references to a hive mind/cult, murder of children.

This is not what I expected it to be. In the full blurb, I saw space salvage and space pirates and expected a thrilling action filled plot. Maybe a cat and mouse game, maybe some subterfuge. Some twists and turns.

There are twists and turns, but they are not the kind you’re thinking. This is not an action driven plot. This is the character study of a woman who was raised in a cult (called clade in the book). Turn back now if you don’t want spoilers because I can’t explain why I’m not finishing this without them.

It’s five hundred pages of mostly inner monologue: Haimey suffering anxiety from past trauma, second guessing herself every step of the way, and auto-tuning her brain chemicals as a form of medical treatment. I mean- it’s by no means my kind of book no matter how you look at that, and I was bored to tears, but even that was not why I quit reading.

(Again, major spoilers ahead.) I quit reading because at some point the person holding Haimey convinces her to let her unblock memories that were “reconned,” (buried/blocked/written over). When Haimey remembers what actually happened she finds out her clade was basically a terrorist cult (I mean all cults are terrorists of a kind, but I’m referring specifically to the suicide bomber sort.)

When the full truth of Haimey’s identity is realized, she remembers that when the clade is caught, instead of allowing themselves to be separated and reconned themselves, they kill each other, and all the children.

That’s a hard pass for me. I’m sorry. It’s a hard pass for me in tv, in movies. I just don’t want to deal with it or think about it for any period of time.

I do have a lot of respect for Bear as an author, I think she is incredibly talented and imaginative. I liked her book Carnival for the society and world building. There was some cool tech and some hints of societal structure here, but none of it was straightforward enough to really grasp and analyze which is what I was hoping for.

I don’t think it was all pointless. There is probably a very interesting discussion to be had about the implications of medicating or the possibility of overmedicating as a way to avoid confrontation and coping with life. (And I am not passing judgement on any of this- you’d have to read it to understand what I mean.)

So- I’m giving it two stars even though I didn’t finish. I think for someone that isn’t bothered by what I’ve stated above and goes into it expecting a character study will have a field day with this novel. It just isn’t for me.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Saga Press for providing me with an eARC to review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Like to Switch Places With

 

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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 was super tough for me.  Most of my favorite characters don’t really lead happy lives- or otherwise live in a world that I would not be likely to survive.  So I didn’t quite make it to ten this week.  I tried to cycle in some fresh ones to talk about too since I feel like I end up mentioning the same handful of books over and over again when dealing with favorite anything.

Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I mean – romance goals, am I right? Aside from that, she’s smart, she’s witty, she’s outspoken, basically everything I want to be when I grow up.

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Gnomon, Gnomon by Nick Harkaway: He’s a shark god.  I think.  Life seems like it would be pretty good if you were a shark god.  At least if I switch places with Gnomon I don’t have to worry too much about dying a premature death.

Batman

Batman – Because flying and gadgets and mansions.

Trynne Kiskaddon, Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler: Trynne dual wields swords.  She’s fountain blessed.  She’s the leader of the Oath Maidens.  And she counts the Wizr Merlin among her friends.

Artemis Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara, Artemis by Andy Weir: I know Artemis was sort of divisive for fans of Weir’s other work, but I thought it was a fun, action packed read.  Mostly I’d switch places with Jazz because she lives on the moon.

Yennefer The Witcher 3

Yennefer, The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski:  Alright so I really don’t want to live in a world full of monsters like the ones found on The Continent (yes apparently that’s really its name).  But if I had to live there- I know I’d want all of Yenn’s cunning and sorcery skills to go with it.  Also, there’s something really, hopelessly romantic about Geralt’s last wish, and who doesn’t want to be the target of such affection?

The White Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory:  I don’t want to live all of Elizabeth Woodville’s life (because it’s so utterly tragic), but most of what comes before the death of King Edward seems like it would be pretty great.  They were called “The Enchanted Court”.  Who doesn’t want to be Queen of an enchanted court?

Lagertha in Vikings

Lagertha in Vikings: Switching places with Lagertha seems most likely to kill me, but talk about strong female protagonist.  She pretty much sets the bar.

What about you?  Who would you switch places with?  Leave me a link in the comments!