Throwback Thursday: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

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

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Rating:  ★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

Rating:  ★★★★

“Death decayed into history decayed into poolside anecdote.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books added to my TBR

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

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Rating:  ★★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rating:  ★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I meant to read in 2018

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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.

Here’s a post that could go on forever.  I like to buy and collect books.  It’s just what I do.  I have a shelf on GoodReads dedicated specifically to reminding me about books I own and should read.  The saddest part is hardly any of them are spontaneous purchases.  They are books I legitimately want to read.  I picked the top 10 based on books I meant to plug in for my still unfinished PopSugar 2018 challenge.

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10. Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – This was my “Book set in the decade you were born” prompt.  I want to read this.  I sort of want to read the whole Pendergast series.  They all sound like a lot of fun.  Plus I loved the movie.  I really don’t know why I haven’t read it.

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9. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – This was my “Book with an ugly cover” prompt.  It’s not really that the cover is that ugly, just sort of plain.  I love Joe Hill.  I love the premise.  No reason for not having started it.

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8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King – This was supposed to be my “Book about time travel” and instead I plugged in Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays.  It’s the oldest book on my TBR.  I’ve owned it for years.  I looked at a couple of “Best of Stephen King” lists the other day and this was on most of them.  I think the length is intimidating me.

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7. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett – Okay so this was actually listed in my Around the Year in 52 books challenge for the prompt “A book that scares or intimidates you”.  It looks like I ended up changing it to State of Fear by Michael Crichton, which took me like 6 or 7 weeks to read.  I love Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series but I’ve been nervous to try anything else by him, like nothing else will ever live up to those books (they probably won’t).

6. Golden Son and Morning Star by Pierce Brown – THESE BOOKS.  I read Red Rising and loved it.  Seriously- I was over the moon crazy about it.  I immediately went out and purchased Morning Star, but was disappointed to find I had to order Golden Son because it was out of stock.  By the time I received it, I was already reading something else and I just never got back to them.  They’ve been on my list for TWO YEARS.  They were originally slated for “Past GoodReads Choice Awards Winner” and “Next book in a series you started” which I replaced with Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Necessity by Jo Walton.  No regrets about what I actually read, but man I would like to get these off my list.

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5. Leviathan Wakes by James Corey – I *think* this was my original “Book set on another planet” prompt, but I ended up plugging Provenance by Ann Leckie in instead.  This book and series comes so highly recommended.  No idea why I haven’t picked it up.

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4. Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks – I actually can’t remember what I had this plugged for.  I just know that I really, really wanted to read it last year.  I bought it in 2017, planned to read it with a group this past December, and then the dreaded reading slump hit.

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3. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson – This was plugged for my “book with your favorite color in the title”.  Red isn’t really my favorite color.  I don’t really have a favorite.  Blue and purple are probably more accurate than red, but I needed an excuse to plug this in somewhere and it had a color in the title. I ended up plugging The Black God’s Drums instead, and had no regrets about that either.

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2. The Once and Future King by T.H.White – Another one I’ve owned for two years, had on two/three different lists for two years, planned multiple group reads for it.  I’m supposed to be reading this right now actually.  I wish I was joking.  I haven’t even read the first line.  Le sigh.

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1. The War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell – This was supposed to be: “Book with an animal in the title”.  I’ve been waiting for it for over a year.  I might not actually ever read it.  I’m too scared Uhtred will die and life will become meaningless.  Should I read it and stop before the end?  I don’t know.

Other stuff I have no excuse for not having read yet:  IT by Stephen King, Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence… and the list goes on.

What about you?  What haven’t you read yet?  Leave me a link below and I’ll come check out your list!

Throwback Thursday: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

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Rating:  ★★★★★

Two Thursday’s ago I lazily posted a review of one of my favorite books, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. This series really is a favorite for me and I’ve been thinking about them a lot as I wait for the release of book four.  I’m also eagerly anticipating a series re-read prior to release, but I need a release date first.  In the meantime, here is my review of book two, Seven Surrenders:

This was a group read with a few of my SFF book club buddies as a follow up to Too Like the Lightning. I think I was able to glean a lot more from it as a group read and it was interesting to see everyone’s different perspectives and take aways on it. If you’re considering this book, and have the opportunity to buddy read it- I highly recommend reading it that way!

I know the first book was very polarizing in that readers either enjoyed it or DNF’d or just didn’t like it at all. I think if you made it through the end of the first book, you owe it to yourself to finish with Seven Surrenders. I really think they should have been sold as one huge Sci-Fi epic. I get why the publishers did it, but I think a lot of readers will miss out on at least the plot related answers we were asking after in book one. Too Like the Lightning does not feel complete without Seven Surrenders. This is part of a four book series overall, but I can tell you that Seven Surrenders does not end on the huge cliff hanger type ending we were given in Book 1.

I don’t have any words to say that could do this book justice. There are too many topics covered. Religion. Individuality. Gender equality. Gender’s purpose in society: whether it is completely learned or innate. Utopia. How society achieves Utopia: what it looks like for humanity as a whole. Morality. Whether a people’s desire for justice and truth, a right to know, to not hide behind closed doors and propaganda, should be first before the safety of the rest of humanity. The greater good and the nature of goodness. Stagnancy vs. Progress. The nature of man. The nature of (G)od.

I don’t mean to say that the author is offering answers to all of these questions, more like, she is imposing these questions to the reader. There are so many complex shades of gray in this story. They are important questions to be asked, and I have to wonder, if as Mycroft would say, Providence hasn’t meant for these books to be released at this time. “Why now?” When Trump rules the USA, firing everyone who doesn’t agree with him. Using his twitter accounts as his own personal form of propaganda. Calling any news channel who dares question him #FakeNews.

This is not an easy novel to digest and I think it will require multiple readings. It will be one of those books that you pick up something different from every time you read it. It is complex and intricate and we often aren’t given the whole picture. People’s motives are unclear and sometimes don’t always make much sense in the context we receive them.

Aside from all the serious things happening, the world building was excellent. There are so many complexities to this society and I still have questions about it. I’m not sure what the difference is between blacklaws and graylaws etc. I don’t understand the nature or purpose of all the Hives. Or precisely how bashes are formed. I’m not sure why The Anonymous is so important and what precisely their contributions are to society.

But most of what I love about these books is the characters. I’m still strangely attached to Mycroft. I’m attached to Sniper. I’m attached to Mother Kosala and Papadelias and Ganymede and am fascinated by all their strange interpersonal relationships. The plot is twisting and turning and once again, whenever you think you have something pegged, another bomb is dropped, another layer peeled away and everything shifts. It’s like trying to solve a rubiks cube. For every shift of one square into place, another face of the cube has changed.

Overall- a fascinating and thought provoking read.

Any other Terra Ignota fans out there?  Let me know if you can recommend me something similar!

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me 2018 Authors

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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.

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10. Elizabeth Bear – In 2018 I read my first Elizabeth Bear book.  She’s a fairly prolific author, dabbling in both sci-fi and fantasy, and every book description I have read of her’s sound incredibly original and creative.  The book I read was Carnival (review here).  Carnival was pretty complex and very confusing at times, but I really loved the world building and I’m looking forward to reading more from her.

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9. Nick Harkaway – I read Harkaway’s Gnomon last year and I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I will say that I think Harkaway is really, truly, incredibly brilliant.  He does not spoon feed his readers.  It’s sink or swim.  But Gnomon puts a very different feel on the tried and true dystopian genre.  It felt a lot like a 1984 retelling wrapped up in a murder mystery plot.  I am both excited and dreading reading another book from this author. (Review for Gnomon here.)

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8. Pat Barker – I’d never heard of Pat Barker until I heard about The Silence of the Girls.  This book, though it wasn’t quite a five star read, has haunted me the past few months. I can’t get it out of my head, and I feel like that’s the true marker of a great book, one that stays with you.  I do hope I can check out some of Barker’s other work.  Unfortunately, I might be waiting a while because so far all I’ve really seen from her is WWI fiction, and that’s a period of time I tend to avoid when reading.

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7.  P. Djeli Clark – I read the novella The Black God’s Drums in the fall, and absolutely fell in love with the characters, the world building, and the setting.  Clark is releasing a new novella in February called The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.  I would love to see what he can do with a full length novel.

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6.  John Kessel – Kessel is the author of The Moon and the Other which I read last spring.  I think this would make an excellent book club read because there was just so much to dissect and discuss.  I am planning to read Frankenstein this year (for the first time!) and it looks like he has written a Frankenstein retelling called Pride and Prometheus.  I hope I get a chance to check it out (especially since Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorites.

5. Nnedi Okorafor – I read Okorafor’s Akata Witch last year and I think it was a great way to be introduced to her.  The content wasn’t too dark (and I understand that her adult novels feature some trigger heavy content) and yet the novel didn’t feel too young for me to enjoy.  The world building was phenomenal and the characters likable.  I have added Akata Warrior to my TBR and also went on to read Lagoon last year and enjoyed that one also.

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4.  Madeline Miller – My review of Circe is fairly recent so I won’t rehash all the details, but I did love Miller’s writing, will heartily recommend her, and definitely be reading her other work.

3. Mary Robinette Kowal – One of my favorite reads of the year was Kowal’s The Calculating Stars.  It’s a science fiction story that I think could be enjoyed by almost everyone.  Although I didn’t enjoy The Fated Sky as much, I’m still eagerly looking forward to reading more about The Lady Astronaut of Mars.

2. Ian McDonald – Two of my favorite reads last year were written by Ian McDonald: New Moon and Wolf Moon.  I rated them both four stars, but I’d give the series as a whole five stars.  (Don’t ask I’m strange.)  The series is so incredibly epic, with a huge cast of characters, political intrigue, sexual and racial diversity, I recommend it to everyone I can.  Book three is due out this year and I can’t wait!

1. Jo Walton – She is the only new-to-me author with three books on my read list.  I read her Thessaly series this year and devoured all three of them within a month.  It’s a genre bender, containing aspects of mythology, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction and philosophy.  I’ve been nervous to try some of her other work because I’m not sure anything else could live up to the expectations set by this series, but I’ll get there. (Reviews for books one, two and three.)

Honorable mentions (in no particular order) to: Malka Ann Older, Carrie Vaughn, Brian K. Vaughan, Jeff VanderMeer, Ann Leckie, Mira Grant/Seanan Mcguire, and Susanna Kearsley, whose work was also outstanding.

What about you?  Who made your list? Leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to come check them out!

The Time of the Wolf by James Wilde

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Rating:  ★★★

This is a historical fiction retelling of Hereward, a hero of medieval England during the time of William the Bastard.

It’s a good story told in a poorly constructed novel. I have so many problems with it and yet I read it through to the end, even though it took two weeks, so I’m giving it three stars.

My first issue is Hereward himself. It’s clear the author adores him as a historical figure, but that’s a lot of the problem. He’s almost never referred to as anything other than “warrior”. We are shown time and again that he is a warrior, but I didn’t need to also be told he was a warrior in every other sentence. I was beat senselessly over the head with this information.  It felt like the author didn’t trust his readers to see that Hereward was a warrior so he felt the need to keep reminding us.  My enjoyment of this novel would have improved ten fold if 90% of the instances of the word warrior had been removed.

There are a lot of scenes that are laughably ludicrous. The first that comes to mind is the scene where Hereward fights naked in the snow. He uses his clothing to tie a man up to a tree or a rock or something. Apparently this task requires literally all of his clothes. Then he slowly, silently kills four or five men lurking around the area. While it’s snowing.

Just… why? It’s so stupid. What did he need to be naked for? Magic in some rope. That would have been more believable. I’m supposed to believe a naked man is a deadly killer and not shivering violently in the snow? There’s another scene where he rises naked out of an icy pool of blood that’s constantly referred to. That was more believable but I felt like it was put in for “awe” value rather than serving any real purpose.

Then there’s Alric. His only real purpose in the novel is to remind you what a bad ass Hereward is and how his soul needs saving. *eye roll*

Then there’s the actual plot of the novel. It sort of starts out as a strong revenge plot, but the revenge portion is artificially resolved 50% in, SPOILER: because Hereward just decides to walk away from it. Umm.. okay.  We still follow what’s going on with the characters Hereward wants revenge on, so it feels like he’ll be back to take it some day.

But then 75% in, the revenge plot resolves itself, without Hereward even being present, and you are forced to wonder why you’re still reading. It was a very odd place to end. So everything that happens to Hereward while the plot resolves itself is basically filler, and then the conclusion comes and you feel like you’re ready to stop reading or pick up the next book, but Hereward has to be roped back into it somehow so it continues. Furthermore his motivations for doing what he does makes literally no sense.

The writing was decent, but Holy Similes Batman! The beginning of the book is absolutely loaded with them. Like every other sentence. I found myself re-reading overly flowery and overly complex sentences just to try and figure out what the author was trying to say.

So the beginning of the book I didn’t love because of Hereward’s hero worship, and the end I didn’t love because of the bad plot structure. But the action was good and I did like some of the characters, Acha, Vadir and Judith were great. Redwald is probably the best characterized. He felt more real than any of them and his motivations make the most sense even if they are a little simple.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will continue the series. I will probably check out a few other books written about this time period before I decide.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases

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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 top ten Tuesday is about my most anticipated upcoming releases.  I don’t know if I’ll make it to 10 for only the first half of 2019, but I’ll put up as many as I can.

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10. The Lost Puzzler by Eyal Kless; release date: January 8, 2019 – As of right now I’m a little on the fence about this one.  There aren’t many reviews out for it yet, and it’s being published by HarperVoyager.  Why it isn’t more highly publicized is kind of a red flag to me.  But it seems like a nice blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and I love puzzles.  So I’ll keep an eye on it for a bit.  (Also- that cover is gorgeous!)  Blurb can be found here.

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9. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse; release date: April 23, 2019 – This is a sequel to last year’s Trail of Lightning (review here).  I felt pretty lukewarm about Trail of Lightning.  It had a lot of issues.  The romance in particular was not good.  (And just so we are clear, I actually like the romance genre even though I don’t read it often.  I only ask that it be done well.)

But what I loved was the Native American cultural elements Roanhorse worked into her story.  The sad truth is, there aren’t enough Native American voices in fantasy or science fiction today and those aspects of the book were so good, I think I am willing to give Storm of Locusts a shot.

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8. The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling; release date: April 2, 2019 – Soo.. Everyone who knows me knows I love to gush about Jurassic Park, Godzilla, The Meg, Anaconda… for better or worse, I love me a good a monster movie.  I don’t care how bad or corny the actors are.  I don’t care if it stars Jason Statham or a couple of Baywatch extras… I really don’t.  Give me lots of teeth and some blood and gore and I’m there.  I don’t even know if there are monsters in this book, but the cover looks sinister enough that I’m willing to give it a go.

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7. Golden State by Ben H. Winters; release date: January 22, 2019 – Mr. Winters has a pretty dedicated and loyal fan base out there.  I’ve only read his The Last Policeman (review here) but I fully intend to finish the series.  Fellow SFF lovers always seem to speak very highly of it.  I think what’s put me off for so long is that I already know how it ends (right?!).  So when I saw this new release from Winters, I was pretty stoked.  I do like his writing and it featured this tagline: A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.  I was sold at Minority Report.  I feel like The Minority Report was the sequel to 1984 I never knew I needed.  So if what I get here is an modern, more high tech Minority Report, I’ll be a very happy girl.

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6. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine; release date: March 26, 2019 – I actually won this one in a GoodReads Giveaway but I haven’t received it yet.  Condensed blurb from GoodReads:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor…has died…Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court….Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.

A political science fiction murder mystery?  Sign me up!  I discovered over the past couple years that political science fiction really is one of my favorite sub-genres.  The one thing that makes me nervous about this book and blurb, is the crazy names!  Authors why do you do this to your readers?  Please don’t take away from the awesomeness of your book by baffling me with your names.  Is it ma-hit? Ma-heet? Z-Mare?  Z-Mar-EE? Is the goddamn Z silent?  Cut me a break here!  I really hope there is a pronunciation guide because I will not be pleased if I have to pause and try to sound out this name every time I read it.

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5.  Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear; release date: March 2019 – Elizabeth Bear is a surprisingly prolific author, and she has a ton of novels on my TBR because everything she writes sounds crazy inventive and original to me.  To date I’ve only read her Carnival, but I thought overall it was pretty fantastic (review here).  Here is the blurb:

Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.  She thinks she knows who she is.  She is wrong.

A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates…and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information…Authorities prove corrupt…To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever.

Ancient alien technologies, space pirates, corrupt authorities, and deep, dark personal secrets?  Yes Please!  The best part is, I already have an ARC.  I’m trying to hold off on reading it so that my review coincides with the release date, but it will be a tough wait.

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4.  The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie; release date: February 26, 2019 – For the most part I really enjoy Ann Leckie.  Ancillary Sword was a little disappointing to me, so I haven’t actually gotten to Ancillary Mercy yet, but I enjoyed both Ancillary Justice and Provenance, so I’m excited to see what she can do in the realm of fantasy.  The blurb is pretty long, and Leckie is pretty well known, so I’ll just link to the blurb here if you haven’t heard of this one yet.

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3.  The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky; release date: January 29, 2019 – I am SO SO SO excited for this one.  First of all- if you’ve been following along you’ll likely have noticed that I’ve worked a mention of vikings into every post possible.  I love everything about viking history and norse mythology.  I honestly can’t get enough of it.  So when I read this tagline: The heroic journey of an Inuit shaman and a Viking warrior in an epic tale of survival, love, and clashing gods in the frozen Arctic of 1000 AD.  I honestly might have squealed out loud.  This might even be something I pick up on release day. (For full blurb or to preorder- check it out here.)

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2.  Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James; release date: February 5, 2019 – Own voices fantasy!!  I heard about this one from buddies over in the Sci-fi Fantasy book club.  Generally speaking, this club is on point when it comes to new releases and recommendations.  Granted- I don’t think any of them have read it yet, but they’ve never steered me wrong before and I’ve picked up quite a few things I would never have read otherwise based on their picks and recs (Too Like the Lightning comes to mind).  Here is a condensed blurb:

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

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1. Moon Rising by Ian McDonald; release date: March 19, 2019 – This is my number one most anticipated release.  Seriously, if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, New Moon and Wolf Moon, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIVES?

Haha- just kidding (not really though, go get them).  First of all, Ian McDonald writes a really diverse cast.  Race, sexuality, he leaves nothing out.  Secondly, I described the plot of the first book as Capone vs. O’Banion ON THE MOON.  Instead of bootleg alcohol the turf war is over Helium-3.  Most of the characters are wonderfully gray.  The world building is absolutely superb, and the plot is intense.  I wouldn’t even mind a re-read of the first two books prior to release.  Assuming I can find the time.

And there it is!  I think I made it through all 10.  What about you?  What are your most anticipated releases?