Book Review: The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Rating:  ★★★★

This book took awhile for me to get into.  It’s very dense, and there is a lot of information and characters to sift through.  However, once I got into the flow of it, from about the halfway mark on, I very much enjoyed this.

The plot is rather difficult to explain without spoilers, so I’ll keep it simple.  We follow different perspectives of people living across a single land, in different positions of power and different kingdoms, as they are slowly invaded by a unified opposing force.

The world building here is very complex, if that’s your sort of thing.  There’s three distinct cultures, possibly four if we count the invading force.  They have their own hierarchies, their own customs and rituals, and their own ways of thinking.  One culture is a matriarchy, another a patriarchy, another governed by priests or priestesses. In one culture men are kept predominantly as slaves, and in another you may not touch anyone, even for a handshake, without first asking consent.  There’s a lot of nuance and it can be difficult to keep track of at first.

The characters too are very complex.  A lot of them fall into those shades of gray areas where they’re neither inherently good or bad, not really likable or unlikable.  I felt differently about some characters than my buddies did at any given moment.

Reviews on this one seem to be split, with some loving the way Hurley has subverted common fantasy tropes, and others frustrated with the story.  And I actually do understand the frustration with the story.  It’s very slow for most of the book, mostly character driven.  This first book feels very distinctly like the prelude to the rest of the story.  It doesn’t necessarily feel complete unless you’re willing to continue.  There are a lot of loose threads to clean up in future books.

I do think there are some technical issues with it.  What stands out most for me is the number of POV characters.  I think there were a lot of viewpoints included that didn’t need to be included because Hurley was trying to show us some other side to the story.  It felt like she was going for omniscient and just didn’t quite make it.  Aside from that- we are not given any clues as to which POV we are seeing most of the time.  It resulted in me doubling back several times after reading ahead to figure out who was speaking.

It won me over in the end though, and I’m excited to continue on to book two in December!

Links: GoodReads & Amazon

 

Book Review: The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald

The Menace From Farside by Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★

This is probably the most disappointing book in the Luna universe.  I’m not sorry I read it, because I do adore the world McDonald has created on the moon, but if you came here looking for more Cortas and McKenzies, you’re going to be disappointed.

Instead, The Menace from Farside introduces a new familial set up, ring marriages, and we follow the misadventure of a few young adults on a mission to capture a selfie with the first footprint left on the moon by Neil Armstrong, which they mutually agreed would be a perfect wedding gift for the newest couple to enter the ring marriage.

The main character in this story is Cariad Corcoran.  She’s envious of her new sister-by-marriage from Farside, Sidibe, who is tall and beautiful and brave.  While she was described as not immediately loathsome by some of the buddies I read this with, I also did not find her to be a likable character either.  She’s petty and tends to make bad choices.

The entire book is similar to one of the opening scenes in New Moon, the moon run with Lucasinho.  It also vaguely reminded me of scenes in Wolf Moon where Luna and Lucasinho are forced to cross the moon’s surface, without any of the tension that made those scenes so great.  I simply hadn’t been given the time to care about these characters the way I cared about Luna and Lucas.

I will say I loved the writing here.  The Luna books are written with a very distinct style and feel, cutting and cold and beautiful all at once, and that style continues in The Menace from Farside.  There were some passages beautiful enough that made me stop and re-read.

So, although it’s not my favorite entry, it’s decently priced and can be read in the span of a day.  If you decide to skip it, you aren’t missing anything.  The Menace from Farside released on November 12, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

 

Bookish gifts for the bibliophile in your life. Or you know, for yourself.

Happy turkey day friends!  Eat lots of food, watch lots of football, and take a nap.  Or do like I do and ignore your family and curl up in the corner with a good book.  That works too.

Anyway, with Thanksgiving upon us, in America our heads all turn to another major holiday: Christmas!  So I put together a list of gift ideas for all the book lovers in your life.

Candles – You don’t have to be a book lover to appreciate a good candle, but being a reader might help you appreciate these candles just a tad more than others.

Library Candle by Homesick

Old Books by Frostbeard

Bubbling Potions by From the Page

Vintage book purses – Which unfortunately don’t look big enough to hold another book, but are still really cool!

Great Gatsby purse by Kathleen Scranton

Harry Potter handbag by Bookarelli

The Hobbit handbag by Novel Creations

Posters – I thought this was a fun idea for readers across all age groups!  All these posters were found on the shopping site Uncommon Goods.

Shakespearean Insults Poster

100 Books Scratch Off Poster

Heroic Girls in Literature Poster

Book inspired Tea – Okay so I’m not a tea drinker- I’m a coffee drinker.  But I’m in the minority.  This could be a really fun and affordable option for the tea lovers in your life.

HG Wells Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Co.

Ketterdam Inspired Tea by The Simply Bookish

Mary Shelley Inspired Tea by Literary Tea Company

eReader Covers – Because who doesn’t want their ebook to look like a physical book!

Pride & Prejudice Kindle Case by KleverCase

Game of Thrones Case from SuperBook

Beauty and the Beast by ChickLitDesigns

Of course- you could just give your bookish friend what they really want, which is more books!

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Last Human by Zack Jordan

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

Title: The Last HumanThe Last Human by Zack Jordan

Author:  Zack Jordan

Publisher: Del Rey

Genre: Science Fiction

Length: 448 Pages

Release Date: March 24, 2020

Blurb: Sarya is the civilized galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.

Most days, Sarya doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy.

Most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth–that she’ll never know why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist. Or whether she really is–impossibly–the lone survivor of a species destroyed a millennium ago.

That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter and a miles-long kinetic projectile leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship–with the dubious assistance of a rebellious spacesuit, an android death enthusiast on his sixtieth lifetime, and a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands–Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth.

What if humanity’s death and her own existence are simply two moves in a demented cosmic game, one played out by vast alien intellects? Stranger still, what if these mad gods are offering Sarya a seat at their table–and a second chance for humanity?

Why I’m Excited For It: Really- just everything about that blurb speaks to me.  The whacky, off-beat and colorful cast, the sense of adventure, and mostly the sense of humor.  (Am I the only one reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?)  I mean an android death enthusiast?  This has to be a set up for many entertaining death scenes.  (I can laugh at that because he’s an android.. right?)

I also think this is a path not often chosen in Sci-Fi – humans being exterminated – which could lead to some very interesting revelations.

What about you?  Which new releases are you looking forward to?

PopSugar 2020 is here!

PopSugar hosts an annual reading challenge each year with 40 regular prompts and 10 labeled as “advanced”.  I took part in 2018, and completed 45 prompts.  In 2019, I was a little frustrated with the prompts, as many of them I simply didn’t care for.  I still cobbled a list together, and made it through 42 prompts, but didn’t really try in any meaningful way.

I’m much happier with the 2020 list- many prompts are specific while also leaving lots of room for interpretation!  I’m not planning my list as rigidly as I have in the past.  I’m torn because planning is most of the fun for me, but I also know I can hit a lot of these just in my regular reading throughout the year.

But I did want to point out a handful of my favorite prompts, and list a few options for each.

A book with a book on the cover:

Or What You Will by Jo Walton

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name:

If It Bleeds by StepHEN King

The Winter King by Bernard CORNwell

2312 by Kim Stanley ROBINson

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth BEAR

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanHORSE

A book recommend by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast or online book club:

Okay- so I actually have a shelf for blogger recommended books on GoodReads- but in looking at them, I’m having trouble remembering where all the recs came from (I’m sorry!).  So these are three I do remember, and if I left you out, I’m sorry!

Finder by Suzanne Palmer recommended by the Captain @ The Captain’s Quarters

The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards recommended by Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy

The Possession by Michael Rutger recommended by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek

A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Hammered by Elizabeth Bear

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

The God Game by Danny Tobey

Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

A western:

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Charmcaster by Sebastien De Castell

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

A book with an upside down image on the cover:

The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

The Returned by Jason Mott

A book by a WOC:

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

A book by or about a woman in STEM:

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell

Arrival by Ted Chiang

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Probability Moon by Nancy Kress

A book with a great first line:

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk – “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.”

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

A book set in Japan:

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

There are a few more prompts that I love- but feel better left to chance than to plan for.  Prompts I’m looking for help with are: a fiction or non fiction book about a world leader, a book with a made up language, a book with a pun in the title, and a book by or about a journalist.

Are you participating in the PopSugar 2020 reading challenge?  Do you have any favorite prompts?  Are there any your struggling with?

Book Review: Gamechanger by L.X. Beckett

Gamechanger L. X. Beckett

Rating:  ★★★

This turned out to be a frustrating read for me.  Mostly because I wanted so badly to love it, and because there were so many brilliant ideas.  Ultimately, I found it chaotic and unsatisfying.

We’re given all these awesome ideas- immediate and public social justice, a world that seems relatively free of judgement concerning race and gender, cool tech, small jobs and volunteer work on the fly, virtual assistant AI, gaming, world wide democracy, etc.  The world building in Gamechanger is almost as impressive as another personal favorite of mine: Too Like the Lightning.

But the plot has way too much going on, and none of it ever seems to come together into a cohesive story.  While I was trying to jot down some thoughts after finishing, I counted about nine separate plot lines, with only about four or five of them being tied together.  I think ultimately it was a book that just needed more planning and a tighter editing.

The conclusion is rushed and messy. I kept waiting for that Aha! Moment to pull all those separate plot lines together – but it never happened.  There never felt like a good reason to have all these separate stories being told together in the same book.  I wanted some clever reveal, the curtain drawn back, the wizard revealed.  Instead we’re left with some silly fairy tale “And they all lived happily ever after” nonsense with no real explanations given.

The world building was definitely my favorite part, but I also wanted to mention it is #ownvoices with queer representation.  If you think you’d like to give it a try, Gamechanger can be found on Goodreads or Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in Reading Habits

TTT-NEW

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

This week’s topic is Changes in Reading Habits.  This is a good personal one for me because my habits have actually changed a lot in the past few years, and sometimes it’s hard not to default back to them.  I attribute a lot of these changes to joining GoodReads a few years ago- which I do think, when taken advantage of, can help people reach their reading goals.

Trying New Authors – This is probably the biggest change for me in the past five years or so.  I used to find an author I really loved and just read everything they’d write until I was forced to find a new author.  While my reading stats are currently out of date- at last count 69% of the authors I’ve read this year have been new to me.  (In 2018 it was 65% new-to-me, and in 2017 it was 63% new-to-me, in 2016 I think this number would have ben 15-25%).

Reading more women – For some inexplicable reason I have a tendency to read more male authors.  It isn’t something I’ve done on purpose and I don’t even think I realized I was doing it until I started tracking my reading stats.  At my last count I was at 45% women, 52% men, and 3% non-binary.  This is up from 39% women and 61% men in 2017.

Listening to audiobooks – I’m not a good listener.  It’s just not one of my skills.  I finally started listening to audio books in 2018 and that accounted for 10% of my reading.  This year my tally is only 3%, but I also haven’t counted a lot of the short stories I’ve listened to from Amazon (or the book I’m currently listening to: The Strain!).

Reading Graphic Novels – For a long time, I sort of detested the idea of reading Graphic Novels.  It just doesn’t feel like reading to me.  Like it kind of defeated the purpose?  I still don’t read very many, but the ones I do pick up I love!


I DNF – Okay- so before GoodReads I DNF’d quite often.  But not really by choice?  Typically I’d lose interest and just set the book down one day and not pick it back up again.  This year I decided to choose to DNF because I’m not having the greatest reading year and I’m tired of slogging it through books I don’t like.

So those are the five big ones.  Habits I’m still working on: seeking out marginalized and #ownvoices authors, as well as to stop requesting so many ARCs.  I prefer to be able to mood read- and there’s nothing stopping me from picking up new books at the library if I really can’t wait.

Which of your reading habits have changed over time?

 

 

Book Review: After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

Rating:  ★★★★

After the Flood is set in a world where catastrophic flooding has left behind only mountain peaks as livable land.  Sometime during this flooding, a pregnant woman named Myra is forcibly separated from her daughter Row.  Seven years later, we follow the story of her and her second daughter Pearl as they chase down the only lead they have to Row’s whereabouts.

First- let me say that this book was not at all what I expected.  I thought it would lean more towards the literary rather than science fiction.  I wasn’t expecting a lot of action.  I wasn’t expecting such a fantastic story.

But I think within a single chapter I was proved wrong.  The story dug it’s hooks in me and didn’t let go.  Myra is a kick ass woman – the kind of strong female protagonist I always say I want more of.  She’s not perfect though.  In reading some other reviews after finishing, I saw her described as unlikeable.  A risk taker.  Someone who didn’t always have Pearl’s safety in mind.

Those reviewers aren’t wrong.  Myra doesn’t always make the best decisions for Pearl.  Her relationship with her remaining daughter is sometimes difficult to witness.  Pearl needs more attention then she is often given.  But at the same time, I often felt like I understood Myra.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a daughter out there in unknown  or dangerous circumstances and just giving up on her.  Pearl’s circumstances were known.  Myra’s imagination wasn’t running wild with a thousand horrible things Pearl might be enduring.

Anyway- mother/daughter relationships aside, the book was pretty exciting.  From naval battles to terrifying sea storms and shark attacks, my fingers just kept turning pages and I had a very hard time putting it down.  Some of the scenes might have been a little over-the-top in terms of believability, but I didn’t mind because I was having so much fun with it otherwise.

That being said- I did feel the middle of the book was a little more slow going than the some of the other parts.  Part of advancing the plot was Myra scheming to win people to her side, and she struggles a lot with the ethics and morality of what she does.  I think it was all important to her character building, but some of those parts did move a little slower than the rest of the book.

After the Flood is really dark.  It isn’t a feel good, heart warming story that’s going to make you feel all fuzzy inside.  Plan for it to do the opposite of that.  Still- I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author in the future.

After the Flood released on September 3, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I have been reading this book for like two months.  A variety of factors dragged it out that long, but part of it was the sheer effort it takes to read this.  It’s more than 700 pages long, and includes about 200 pages of appendices, and over 400 footnotes.  Some of those footnotes I skipped outright, because they were just lists of names or titles of books and movies, but most of them I read as they were given to me.

And then you have pages where the writing is sideways or upside down…. yeah.  So reading this was limited to time I wasn’t on mom or work duty, when I knew there would be no distractions.  Was it worth it in the end?  The truth is… I don’t know.

When this book was good, it was terrifying, and when it was bad, it was mind numbingly boring.  The story is like this: A man known as Zampano dies, leaving behind his scribblings about a film made by an award winning journalist named Will Navidson, who lived in a house that was larger on the inside than it was on the outside.  These scribblings are discovered by a man named Johnny Truant, who allows Zampano’s notes to consume him completely.

The result is an odd mashup of what feels like a dry non fictional analysis of a home made film, parts of “found footage” style storytelling regarding Navidson’s home, and Johnny Truant’s first person ravings about nothing that seems particularly related to anything else.

Is it possible I missed the point?  Yup.  Definitely possible.

I absolutely loved the found footage parts.  They were legitimately scary, and I don’t say that often.  If I had read only those parts, it would have easily been a five star book.

But those wonderfully terrifying parts were dragged down by Zampano’s analysis.  I mean… I don’t want to read an analysis of any documentary, why in the hell would I want to read a fictional analysis of a fictional documentary?  I didn’t.  It was chock full of names and videos and reference points, some fictional, some not, and it didn’t feel like it was adding much of anything to the story.  Sometimes these parts felt endless.

And then we have Johnny Truant.  I’m somewhat on the fence about Johnny.  For starters, he’s an unreliable narrator, and he tells the reader this very early on.  I wasn’t inclined to believe most of what he wrote, but at the same time, his slow descent into madness feels real.  He often goes off on tangents within the footnotes, that seemingly have nothing to do with anything else happening in the story, but also mirror Navidson’s and Zampano’s stories on a metaphorical level.  In the end, I’m simply not sure what they were meant to contribute.

I don’t regret reading this- because my curiosity would never have been satisfied otherwise, but I wish I’d had the good sense to skip the parts I wasn’t enjoying.  If, like me, you’re curious about this one, read the first couple chapters in their entirety to get a sense of the story and what’s being told, and then read only what you want out of it.  There isn’t any big reveal at the end connecting all the parts together.  The story is largely open to interpretation, ambiguous through and through.

If you do hope to read it, I would recommend only a hard copy of the book.  I think this would be near impossible to read or interpret in any other format.  House of Leaves can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

November: Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month!  I realize it’s also Sci-Fi month, and I would have loved to do a post dedicated just to Native American Science Fiction, but sadly I could only find a couple of authors, so I am broadening this to include Fantasy.

I do plan to read a couple books this month by Native American authors- and I wanted to share some of the ones on my TBR, and a couple books I’ve already read, in case anyone else is planning on checking out some Native American authors also.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse – This is the second book in Roanhorse’s Sixth World series.  I did struggle a bit with Trail of Lightning, there were some things I wanted explained a little better and the plot was more loose than I would have liked, but the world building and mythology were all really cool!  Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter in a post apocalyptic world.  I would like to continue the series some time.  I do suggest everyone check out Roanhorse’s short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience, which is one of the more brilliant works of short fiction I’ve read in the past couple years.

Love Beyond Body Space and Time by Hope Nicholson

Love Beyond Body, Space & Time Edited by Hope Nichols – This is an anthology about Native American two-spirit characters.  I will be honest and say I’m not sure if 100% of the stories are #ownvoices, but I believe at least one of them is.  It was put up for a couple of literary awards last year, which is how it made it on to my radar.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline – This has also been on my radar for a year or so.  It’s a YA novel set in a future world ravaged by climate change.  Everyone with the exception of Native Americans have lost the ability to dream, and their marrow holds the cure for the non-dreamers.  Now they are being hunted down and made into unwilling marrow donors.  I think I’ve been putting it off, because it sounds really dark, but it’s fairly highly rated on GoodReads, and has won several literary awards.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich – Another #ownvoices book about a world where babies are stillborn due to genetic deformities making them very large and difficult to birth.  The term the book used is “reverse evolution”.  We are shown the story of Cedar Hawk Songmaker as she is pregnant, and must hide it from the wider world, lest she be abducted and her (hopefully healthy) baby stolen.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good book for me, because the ending was largely ambiguous, which I dislike, but I wanted to share because it has the potential to be an excellent book for someone else.

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko – This is also #ownvoices!  I have no excuse for not having read it yet, since I actually do own this one.  This is a fantasy retelling of the history of Native American people told from the POV of Native people.

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones – Stephen Graham Jones has been popping up on my radar quite a bit with his upcoming release: The Only Good Indians (which looks amazing!).  In the meantime, I plan to read this novella about a boy haunted by the ghost of his father.

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Flight by Sherman Alexie – About a young boy of Native American heritage that is flung backward through time as he is about to commit an act of violence.  I am hoping to get to this sometime this month, along with a couple others mentioned above.

Are you planning on reading any of these?  Do you have any other Native American authors to recommend?