Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Quotes

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints Emily Duncan

Rating:  ★★★

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

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Stand by Stephen King

TheStand_SK

Rating:  ★★1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That was an act of pure human fuckery.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht

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

Title: The Monster of Elendhaven

By: Jennifer Giesbrecht

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Published by: Tor

Length: 160 pages

 

Description: The Monster of Elendhaven is a dark fantasy, a twisted tale of revenge set in an original world as oily and real as Jack the Ripper’s London. After a thing with no name washes up on the docks, empty, alone, and unable to die, he becomes obsessed with a frail young man who can twist minds with magic. Together, they launch a plan so dark and cruel that readers will find themselves cheering for blood, and for these avengers to consummate their horrible passion for each other. But the pair are being hunted by officials from the south, intent on saving the world from the horrors mages can unleash.

Why I’m excited for it:  Villains.  They are some of my favorite characters in fiction.  Whether you love to hate them or hate to love them, a good villain will always have you feeling some type of way.  Any time a book is written from a villain’s POV, I’m there for it.  Top it off with two villains and a queer romance?  Sold.

The setting, being equated to Jack the Ripper’s London, immediately caught my eye.  It evokes that feeling of being a dark, gritty, mysterious and maybe magical place.  Maybe a lawless city where secrets are traded in back alleys and certain doors only open to those who know where to knock.

The genre.  It’s currently shelved on GoodReads as Fantasy first, Horror second.  I’m hoping it’s as dark as it promises to be.  The tagline on the cover, from none other than Joe Hill states A Monster of Elendhaven is “A black tide of perversity, violence, and lush writing.”  I’m trusting him not to let me down!

A Monster of Elendhaven can be preordered from Amazon here.

Top Ten Tuesday: My First Ten Reviews

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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 was an interesting trip down memory lane for me.  Apparently 2016 was the year of the kindle freebie and bad romance.  On the upside- I realized my reviews have come pretty far!  I’ve gotten better at discussing elements I liked or didn’t like without necessarily talking about plot (although I still do that sometimes).  I’m significantly more aware of spoilers and content warnings and try to leave information that is actually helpful to others whether it’s positive or negative.

Most of these books are not relevant to my blog, so instead of talking about them I’m linking to their GoodReads page and reviewing them in stars and gifs.

The Warrior’s Wife by Denise Domning – Feb 27, 2015 – 3 stars

November 9 by Colleen Hoover – January 1, 2016 – 4 stars

Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James – May 1, 2016 – 1 star

The King’s Curse by Phillippa Gregory – May 7, 2016 – 3 stars

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – May 15, 2016 – 5 stars

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – May 16, 2016 – 3 stars

Burns So Bad by Anne Marsh – May 26, 2016 – 2 stars

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs – June 6, 2016 – 4 stars

Ash by Jason Brant – June 7, 2016 – 4 stars

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King – June 9, 2016 – 4 stars

What about you?  Which ten books did you review first?  Leave a link in the comments below!

Recommended Reading From Favorite Authors

While I’m working my way through the 1,400 page monstrosity that is The Stand, I figured I’d post some recommended reading from people who should know what a great read really looks like.  I’ve pulled these recommendations mostly from Google, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll make a few GoodReads shelves to keep them around.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.jpg

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, recommended by Stephen King.  The only book I’ve read by Patchett is Bel Canto, but it was a 5 star read for me.  This is a dark sounding tale set in the Amazon, and I already know Patchett has the talent to play with my emotions, so I’m looking forward to checking this out.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, recommended by Mark Lawrence.  I follow Lawrence on GoodReads.  He’s sometimes active in the SFF book club I enjoy reading with, and in general he just seems like a cool, down-to-earth guy.  When I looked up what he recommended from his reads last year, his best book of 2018 was The Hod King.  Since it’s book three, I figured I should probably start with book one, which he also recommends.  He says: “Don’t read this book because you like mine. It’s not like mine. It is, however, excellent.”  No worries Mark.  I trust you.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett.jpg

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, recommended by Bernard Cornwell.  Looking up Cornwell’s recommended reading list was surprising, though in retrospect I suppose it shouldn’t have been.  I was expecting to find some great historical fiction on the list, and instead I found a lot of historical, military non-fiction, with a handful of others.  Terry Pratchett happened to be one of the authors he mentioned, so it seems like a good reason to finally give Discworld a go.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, recommended by Sebastien de Castell.  I stole this rec from Castell’s author page/books list in GoodReads.  I was originally going to give it to The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, but in that review he states that Code Name Verity “was one of [his] favourite books of the past ten years,” so I changed it to this.

The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, recommended by Jo Walton.  My first experience with Le Guin wasn’t great.  I read A Wizard of EarthSea, and was just bored senseless.  There were a few great scenes, but the storytelling seemed passive, and the amount of words dedicated to describing scenery was unnecessary.  On the one hand, I probably picked the wrong place to start.  Wizards and magic aren’t my favorite subjects.  On the other hand, I know Le Guin was a socially conscious author, and I really want to love her stuff.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, recommended by Megan Whalen Turner.  Turner is an author I probably don’t mention enough on this blog- but I really adore her Queen’s Thief series.  She has a recommended reading list on her blog of older books, since book stores seem to always be pushing the newest stuff.  The Eagle of the Ninth was on there, and as soon as I read the description I couldn’t believe that I’d not only never read it before, but I’ve never even heard of it before.  Needless to say I’ll be checking it out soon.  Missing Roman legions?  Sign me up!

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, recommended by Mary Robinette Kowal.  Every time I blog, I’m reminded at least once what a shitty SFF book blogger I am.  Between this, Discworld, and The Dispossessed, I am clearly a failure.  Anyway- Kowal’s not the only one that recommends this (in fact, it comes so highly recommended that it’s been sitting on my dusty bookshelf for at least two years).  Maybe 2019 will finally be the year.

This was pretty surprising for me!  I got contemporary fiction from a horror author, historical fiction from fantasy authors, fantasy from historical fiction authors… If I had to pull a lesson from all this it would definitely be that I need to do better at diversifying my reading.  What about your favorite authors?  Do any of them have good recommendations?

 

The Mystery Blogger Award

Mystery Blogger Award

This is my first time getting to do one of these posts- thank you to Bailey @ The Book Stack for the nomination!  Stop by and say hello if you haven’t connected with her yet.

What’s the Mystery Blogger Award?

It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma

The Rules

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Me

  • MTV is my uber-guilty pleasure.  Seriously- when people badmouth reality TV, I will be the first to tell you it’s all scripted trash, but, I also can’t. stop. watching.  I’m currently watching the 74th Annual Hunger Games The Challenge: War of the Worlds (and missing Johnny Bananas and CT terribly, but good riddance to Bear).
  • I once attended Johnson & Wales University for Equestrian Business Management.  I lived on a farm in Ohio- my aunt’s, not a random farm- the year prior and practiced dressage on a horse named Goober.  He was a gorgeous half-arabian gelding, and definitely a Goober.  Sometimes I feel bad I dropped out, but other times I feel like I dodged a bullet.  No idea what I was expecting to do with that degree.
  • At least once I day, I feel the need to arm myself with a tinfoil hat.  Okay, I don’t really wear a tinfoil hat, but seriously…  Google Home and Alexa are pretty much my worst nightmares (I’m still waiting for SK to write this story).

Alexa meme

Bailey’s Questions

What book have you been wanting to read, but keep putting off?

SO MANY!  I have 138 books on my “owned-but-haven’t-read” shelf in GoodReads.  Most notable on the list: Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell, War of the Wolf, also by Bernard Cornwell, and 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  All favorite authors.  Definitely afraid of expecting too much.

Do you dog-ear your pages and write in your books, or do you try to keep them pristine?

It depends on the book honestly.  If I bought it new in hardcover, or got it from the library I try to keep it pristine.  If I bought it used (which are my favorite kinds, because it feels like sharing the love between readers) dog eared pages are okay.  Writing in a book is a huge no-no for me regardless.  Feels like blasphemy.  (I’m cringing thinking about it right now.)

What do you do when you find yourself in a reading slump?

This actually happened to me not too long ago.  (Look at the November/December months on my blog- really not a lot going on.)  First, I read like the opening five chapters of everything I own.  Briefly considered re-reading a favorite (and didn’t), did change genres entirely, changed format (audio vs. ebook, etc.), and finally just settled on reading shorter fiction for most of January.  Tor’s free short fiction newsletter helped a lot, so did N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ’til Black Future Month?, graphic novels, etc.  Also buddy reads!  Because FOMO.

We all know the book is almost always better, but what movie adaptation did you really like?

I have a lot of these too!  I love movies almost as much as I love books.  Favorites include (in no particular order): JURASSIC PARK (but not The Lost World, that was a shitty adaptation), The Green Mile, Gone Girl was brilliant in all the ways, Keira Knightley’s Pride & Prejudice (though this one really isn’t as good as the book), The Gunslinger *ducks rotten tomatoes* (I’m sorry but the movie was great compared to the monotony of that first book, plus Idris Elba *drools*), The Hunger Games (I actually haven’t read this book *ducks more rotten tomatoes* but I love the movie!).

(Bonus funny question) Would you rather fight a 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

I mean- I’m probably a goner either way, but I’m a horse lover, and horses are pretty delicate already, so I gotta go with the horse-sized duck.

My Questions

  • What’s one book everyone else seemed to love except you?  What didn’t you love about it?
  • What’s one classic book you’re embarrassed to admit never having read? Alternatively, are there any books you’re embarrassed to have read?
  • Do you set yearly reading goals?  What are they and do you meet those goals?
  • If you could add one book to every high school English curriculum, what would it be and why?
  • (Bonus question) Cersei Lannister, Sauron, Cthulhu, Pennywise, Professor Moriarty, Prince Jorg Ancrath, The Shrike, The Joker, and Darth Vader team up to form a EVIL alliance.  Who is the hero to defeat them all?

I Nominate:

Acqua @ Acquadimore Books | Paul @ Paul’s Picks | Monika @ Lauregalie Book Reviews  | Alice @ The Realm of Books | Jocelyn @ A Little Nerd Told Me | Tammy @ Books, Bones, & Buffy | Aaron @ Swords & Spectres | Drew @ The Tattoed Book GeekKat @ Here There Be Dragons | The Dacian She-Wolf | Nadine @ Nad’s Book Nook | Imyril @ One MoreOn My Bookshelf

If I didn’t nominate you, but you’d like to participate, please consider yourself nominated!  Drop me a note below and I’ll add you to the links above!  And I know some of you blog a lot harder than me, so also no pressure to participate!

Book Review: The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

Rating:  ★★★★1/2

“The world isn’t large enough for heroes and monsters at once. There’s too much danger of confusion between the two categories.”

I finished this book a week ago, and I have been delaying writing the review, because honestly, there’s no way I can do it justice.  The Mere Wife is a contemporary retelling of Beowulf.  Not only does it move at an exciting pace, while also containing lots of twists and turns, it’s largely allegorical, and gives the reader a lot to think about in just three hundred short pages.

I’m going to start by saying, generally, contemporary settings and times are not my thing.  I read for escapism.  I prefer fantastical places, settings, events, characters, etc.  I picked it up mostly because people who have far better bookish taste than me were interested in a buddy read, but also because I think there’s something incredibly vicious about modern day suburban life: competing with the Joneses, whose grass is greener, that sort of thing.

It was even better than I had hoped.  The dedication reads: “For anonymous and all the stories she told.”  I knew right from the beginning I was in for a treat, something sharp and cutting and unapologetic.  Moving onto the prologue, Headley opens with:

“Say it.  The beginning and the end at once.  I’m face down in a truck bed, getting ready to be dead.”

This is one of the best prologues I have ever read.  This book starts with a bang, hooks its claws in you and refuses to let go until the end.

One of our MCs, Willa Herot, is savage in such a way that I couldn’t wait to see what she would do next.  Her character and her thoughts are incredibly loathsome, and yet, she’s also really sympathetic.  Her life has never been her own.  She’s expected, as the wife of a doctor, to be pretty and perfect, meet all the standards everyone has set for her, and hold up her husband all the while.  Not to complain at his shortcomings, only work on improving her own.

“You don’t really own anything. Nothing is yours forever, not your body, not your youth, not even your mind.”

Dana Mills is our second MC.  She’s a veteran, and she suffers from PTSD.  She’s Gren’s mother, and all she wants is to see her son grow up safe.  Dana acts as a catch all stand in for most of the oppressed peoples of the world.  She’s incredibly sympathetic, and arguably the hero of our story.  Her chapters are heartbreaking, and filled with bone chilling statements, and observations of the world we live in.

“The world has teeth and claws, and my baby thinks he can walk in it.  Hotel balconies and back rooms, speeches given in public, children marching, fists up, nothing to shield their hearts from bullets.  They shoot, walk away, let him bleed…My son becomes a place where the sidewalk is stained.”

Headley takes these two women, who couldn’t be more different, and somehow manages to give them common ground.  She does the same with Dylan and Grendel.  The lines between everything, hero and monster, haves and have nots, become blurred.

My favorite chapters are the Greek Chorus chapters.  Sometimes they are told from the POV of the mothers of Herot Hall, sometimes hounds, sometimes ghosts.  They are written in first person plural and invoke a sense of war, marching forward, collectively, against any threat.  Every single chorus chapter absolutely blew me away.

“Do you think sixty-five-year-old women don’t go to war? We are always at war. Our husbands spent their lives in comfortable chairs. Have we ever sat in comfortable chairs? No. Yoga balls, haunches tensed.”

It was an empowering read for women, no matter your background, and I loved every glorious moment.  But Headley manages to comment on many issues.  Race and racism.  Oppression.  Politics.  War.  Hero worship.  Feminism.  The 1%.  It’s a book that has something for everyone, carefully dissecting and picking apart everyday modern life.

“The famous ones kept going, video, photo, headlines, and here they still are, running countries, pressing buttons, standing in offices, insisting all the money in the world belongs to them, pushing secrets through votes, starving the bottom so the top can feast.”

My only real complaint about the book, was the ending.  A lot of things weren’t quite clear to me about the end.  It felt very rushed.  I had a lot of questions.  In a book that’s only 300 pages long, I felt like there was plenty of time to dig a little deeper into the details.  It’s also the end chapters that deviate the most from the Beowulf storyline itself, where everything prior to that had been pretty much on point.  The ending is the only reason it wasn’t quite a five star read for me.

I highly recommend this both as a thought provoking, literary read, and for readers who just want to be entertained.

I do have content warnings- but I hate to leave plot spoilers in my reviews- so if you need them, please comment below so I can let you know.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I’m just going to be honest and say that I have no idea what a rainy day read is.  Like- on a rainy day do you, for some reason, read something different than you would read on any other day?  Like- “Oh, I’m really enjoying this lovely space opera, but it’s raining out so let me pick up Pride & Prejudice instead.”

Okay, moving on.  If I had to guess I’d go with something comforting- easy to digest, familiar.  And comforting to me basically means lots of Stephen King.

Cujo by Stephen King

Cujo by Stephen King – Since we’re being honest, I am absolutely never going to read this book again.  I’ll never see the film.  It completely ruined the movie Beethoven for me.  It’s one of King’s more tragic works.  But some of the images in this book, and the story itself, have stuck with me for so long, as good books should.  Read at your own risk.

The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Dead Zone by Stephen King – This is what King would look like if he wrote for PG-13 crowds.  It gives off more of an eerie/creepy vibe than a horror vibe.  It’s an entertaining book, and I’m happy to say that I loved the show too.

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Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King – Another one that I think falls on the PG-13 side of things for King.  More eerie than scary.  Honestly I think this is one of his better works and I don’t think it gets enough attention.  Maybe because the gore level was so turned down?

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Mr. Mercedes (and the whole Bill Hodges trilogy) by Stephen King – True story: the day I finished this book I walked out of my house and saw that exact same smiley face that appears on this book jacket, painted on my neighbor’s address sign.  I had never seen it there before, and at the time my neighbors really sucked.  It seemed like a sign I should move.  Lucky for my lazy ass, they moved first.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King – Confession time: I don’t think I ever actually finished this book.  It contains a story you may or may not know called “Survivor Type”.  It’s legitimately horrifying.  Stephen King has said: “As far as short stories are concerned, I like the grisly ones the best. However the story “Survivor Type” goes a little bit too far, even for me.”  He’s not lying.  I’m pretty sure I read that one, put the book down for good, and let it haunt me for years.  It still haunts me, actually.  At least sixteen years after the fact.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – Like father like son, as the saying goes.  NOS4A2 captures all of the things I love about King’s work, the nostalgia, the simplicity, the theme of good vs. evil.  If I had to compare it to something I’d compare it to IT, but I enjoyed this a lot more, because I actually read all of this the first time I tried it, while my record with IT stands at about 50% still unread.  Also- I’m pretty thrilled for the AMC series, which filmed right here in Rhode Island, and airs on June 2, 2019.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Strange Weather by Joe Hill – One of the things that stuck out to me about this story collection, was how very modern and relevant it all felt. Reading this was what really helped me distinguish Hill from his dear old dad.  His story, “Loaded,” was brilliant and something I think everyone should read.

Locke & Key (starts with Welcome to Lovecraft) by Joe Hill – I know a lot of people either love graphic novels or hate them.  I’m somewhere in between?  I won’t turn my nose up at them but I’m pretty picky about what I’ll read.  Locke & Key snuck under my guard because it was Joe Hill, and I’m so glad it did.  These are probably some of the most literary graphic novels out there. I was absolutely attached to these characters, and there were a few times in this series where I sobbed like a baby.

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The Green Mile by Stephen King – So this is the book that originally sparked my love for King, and it’s largely because of the movie.  The movie is one of the few that manages to do a King book justice, somehow.  I have a harder time both reading the book and watching the movie now that I’m older, because they both reduce me to a blubbering mess (it’s the damn mouse, I’m telling you).  When people ask me where to start with King (or even if they don’t) I usually recommend that they read one of his classics and one newer book, and this is the ‘newer’ book I recommend.  It’s less gory than his other works and more relatable.  (You know, for all us immortals with circus mouse friends).

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Under the Dome by Stephen King – What I’m about to say is blasphemy to many, but Under the Dome is not only my favorite King book, it’s my favorite book ever.  I’ve read it three times, usually in the span of two days because I can’t put it down.  I’ve purchased it twice and need to purchase it again (because the others, unfortunately, met their ends as a result of being loved too hard).

I know a lot of you are probably wondering where all the classic King novels are, and the truth is, I probably haven’t read them.  It isn’t for lack of trying.  I’ve attempted IT like, eight times in two or three different formats.  I’ve attempted The Shining three or four times.  I’ve never attempted Carrie, it just doesn’t appeal to me. I blame it on what others call “the slow burn”.  The slow burn is not my thing (I’m looking at you, Gunslinger).  I’ll conquer them someday (I’m reading The Stand now!) but I haven’t yet.

What about you?  What are your favorite rainy day reads?  Leave me a link below because clearly, I need to diversify.

 

Book Review: Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating:  ★★★★

Release Date: May 28th, 2019

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 105 pages

I absolutely loved this novella from the moment I picked it up to the moment I put it down. It starts out very light. The protagonist is a funny guy. He’s lost on an alien artifact humans have been calling “the Crypts.”

The story is told in two timelines, present and past. The past timeline outlines how he came to be lost in the Crypts and tells us a little about the state of the world before he left earth. In the present, he’s wandering the Crypts encountering all manner of alien life.

The writing was very good. I enjoyed the stream of consciousness style here, and that isn’t always my thing. Tchaikovsky employed it very well. This was a context in which it made sense, and it was easy to follow. Another note about the writing, the present timeline is written in present tense. I know for some readers that can be an issue, but I enjoyed it and thought it brought an added level of excitement to the story.

The pace, initially, is ambling. There are a few exciting things happening, but what drew me in was the humor. Gary Rendell is just a guy you want to hang out with. There are some definite elements of horror, but they were balanced well with the humor. As we near the end the tone becomes darker and darker. Nothing is what it seems.

I have a feeling some of the science in this science fiction has no foundation in reality (disclaimer, I know nothing about physics), but there were several fun little nods to biology. Rendell comments on the way the various aliens are formed and how and why they might have developed that way and I thought it was a nice way to flesh out the MC. There were also a few nods to human psychology, and those passages were some of my favorites.

Overall I thought it was inventive and creative. I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy elements of horror with their science fiction or fans of Tchaikovsky’s other work.

Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris for providing me with an eARC to review.

Walking to Aldebaran can be found on GoodReads and preordered on Amazon.