Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: About 1178 pages. (This isn't the edition I read and I can't seem to find that copy.)

2. Inheritence by Christopher Paolini: 849 pages. I remember just. Powering through this one. It took me two days I think?

3. Winter by Marissa Meyer: 827 pages. This one never looks as long as it is because the paper is different, thinner than the other books in the series.

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling: 800 pages. Every time I go through a reread, it hits me how long this is.

5. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini: 748 pages. My copy of this book is very battered from my reading of it.

6. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare: 725 pages.

7. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare: 720 pages. These books just keep getting longer.

8. Eldest by Christopher Paolini: 704 pages.

9. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare: 701 pages.

10. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas: 693 pages. I'm far enough into this series that I'm sure I'll finish it, although it isn't necessarily one of my favourites, I'm invested enough.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Review: Strange Grace

Title: Strange Grace
Author: Tessa Gratton
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Goodreads        Chapters        IndieBound

eARC received through NetGalley

The town of Three Graces is blessed- sicknesses pass overnight, crops aren't struck by blight, people only ever die of old age. Except for the saints. Once ever seven years, the village sends one young man in as a sacrifice to the devil in the forest, in return for their good fortune. 

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: an engaging and excellently atmospheric with vivid characters and you should pick it up if you're in any way appealed to by creepy little towns, sinister forests, and/or polyamorous witchy teens.

Review: The real surprise with this book was the fact that this book is third person present-tense and I didn't automatically drop it after the first sentence. It usually feels forced and uncomfortable for me to read from that particular narrative viewpoint, but it really worked here! It made things a little bit creepy and frantic which suited really well.

One of the strongest parts of this book for me was the atmosphere. Creepy little towns! I'm always here for creepy little towns. (Seriously, it's a weakness. If I deliberately move to a house that's cursed and then get eaten by the trees or something, you will know exactly at which threshold to lay the blame. Mine. Which will be the threshold of the cursed and sinister house.) And this was an A+ creepy little town. It's got shades of The Lottery in that most of those living there have accepted that every seven years, someone may have to die in order to preserve the supernatural good fortune they experience. To be sainted, to go into the woods to fight the devil that lives in the forest is an honour-while not everyone in the town fully believes this, most do- enough to make anyone who doesn't something of an outcast.

Which brings us to the main characters! One of whom is very much an outcast, one of whom is very much NOT an outcast, and one of whom is very much both at the same time. (Which is fitting given that this is kind of a dominant theme of the story... belonging and not belonging.) Rhun is going to be the saint, and everyone knows it. He can make anyone smile, he's good with people, he's happy in his place, and any part of him that might not fit that role is kept very much a secret. Mairwen is sure of her place in the town- daughter of the Grace witch, soon to be a fully fledged witch in her own right, ignoring the constant call of the forest. Arthur has been on the outside for a long time, prickly and unfriendly, trying to fit himself into a role that is the opposite of the one he was raised in. 

While all three went through engaging journeys (both separately and together), I personally found Arthur's the most engaging, partly because it isn't one that I've seen all that often. While to a degree all of the arcs in this book are grounded in identity, I think it's most notable in Arthur's arc- going from being raised as a girl (because his mother was one of the few who did not believe sainthood to be an honour, and only boys could be saints)' to making himself harsh and miserable rejecting all of that once the town found out, forcing himself into a hypermasculine mold; to eventually finding a place that works for him which is ultimately a lot more true that now he's been forcing himself to be (and much less bounded by the binarily defined roles for either gender within the story). I think there's a lot of be said about this character through the scope of how societies construct gender, both broadly and for individuals, and I really liked how that played into his character arc. (I think your mileage may vary with this one- I really liked it but it might depend on your personal relationship with and experiences with gender essentialism. I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this!) 

All three of the main characters are all working through their relationships with themselves, and with each other, as well as with other people. Watching their triad shift and change throughout the book as all three of them went through some pretty significant development as individuals. 

The plot itself is unusual in that it's a pretty straight-forward plot in the broadstrokes, masked by the fact that, partway though, the half of the story is told in flashback, horror movie style. (I think. I don't generally watch horror movies.) It's a little messy and really compelling for the design of the story itself. This is one of those books that's really pulled along by the characters, with multiple points of view: all three main characters, and then several snapshots from others (Mairwen's best friend gets enough point of view chapters to maybe be considered a forth main character, really.) It's kind of organised chaos, with lots of characters and actually a pretty straightforward plot, and lots of points of view, and everyone is kissing each other (um. I wish there was more asking first in some of the kisses...) 

Long story short this book did make me think. It creates a vivid, dark, and unusual world that's just a little bit (okay maybe a bit more than a little bit...) creepy. It isn't so much a coming-of-age story as a story of becoming, and the story layout suits both the tone and the plot really well (much to my third-person-present-tense loathing surprise and delight). The characters were unique and I'm glad I got a chance to experience their journeys.

Random related song recommendation that reminds me of this book or that this book reminds me of:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Top Ten Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Vicious by V. E. Schwab: I did actually start this once but I never had time to finish it... I'll probably give it another go at some point soon.

2. The Poison Eaters by Holly Black: I've been on a Holly Black kick recently and this sounds appealing so at some point I'll probably try to find a copy.

3. The Unfinished Tales by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien: next on the Tolkien reading list, I think. That or The Fall of Gondolin because I really like Gondolin and also Idril.

4. Lament by Maggie Stiefvater: I don't know if I'll read this once or not, I know that the story is in a perpetually unfinished duology and that might not be a satisfying read.

5. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel: Frankenstien retelling from before Frankenstien retellings were cool. (Or at least. This is the first one that I heard about.)

6. Now I Rise by Kiersten White: I know, I know. I thought I was putting it off until Bright We Burn came out, but now it's out and I have no excuse.

7. Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: I know what happens (because I spoiled myself like the wise person I am) and it's easier to be in denial without reading the book. I may pick it up at some point.

8. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones: I'm really excited to get back into this world. I think I might re-read Howl's Moving Castle again first just because I REALLY like Howl's Moving Castle.

9. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers: Recently out in Canada. I shelved this at the library where I worked and... didn't borrow it because things were so busy.

10. Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff: look I'm always sold on androids and AIs and robots and space. I'm a simple person with simple tastes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee: Gentleman's Guide was one of my favourite reads last year and Felicity was a really important character to me.

2. West by Edith Pattou: East has a sequel coming out! Rose and her chronically-in-need-of-rescue husband return!

3. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor: Strange the Dreamer was really lovely and talk about a cliffhanger!

4. Chainbreaker by Tara Sim: I keep forgetting to get around to this one, so I figured I'd put it here in hopes that I will remember to read it.

5. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: I was super excited about this, and then I bought it, and now it is just hanging out on my shelf.

6. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman: I still haven't read this! I borrowed if from the library but had to return it before picking it up.

7. Jade City by Fonda Lee: I've seen this around a bit and it sounds really interesting!

8. The Alchemists of the Loom by Elise Kova: Okay this is 90% because the cover is pretty and the concept is cool. Also the audiobooks is available from my library.


10. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: Another library book that had to be returned before I read it. It's becoming a bad habit with me...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top Ten Hidden Gems

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Disclaimer: I don't actually know how hidden these are but I do want people to come talk to me about them. It's possible I was just going through one of my "living under a rock" phases (they happen periodically) when these were being hyped.

1. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel: Okay I know this one is hyped in Canada and is also a decade old but. I WANT EVERYONE TO READ IT. Kenneth Oppel has a talent for crafting flawed characters who you still root for and also. This is the best integration of a steampunk-y concept into a story that I've personally read. It doesn't feel forced at all. It's part of a trilogy and also it's on Book Outlet (in the nice cover! This book has gone through a series of... less than ideal covers but this 10th anniversary cover is stunning.)

2. Dark Life by Kat Falls: Underwater society in a post-extreme sea level rise world! I just really enjoy this for a lot of reasons. It's a climate-change sci fi that isn't completely bleak, it's an adventure that really feels like an adventure, and the world feels unique. 

3. The Alchemyst by Michael Scott: Well. Technically this whole series. In a way one of the most bizarre concepts I've read, and definitely one of the most gigantic casts. Stunning covers! Alchemy! Scented magic! Time travel! Joan of Arc! There's a lot going on in these.

4. East be Edith Pattou: just the familiar story of a girl going to rescue her husband (who is a bear) (long story) from an evil queen. (Not seriously it's a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon which is a Scandinavian folktale. It's like Beauty and the Beast but better. And almost nothing like that. This has troll queens and dangerous journeys and magical boots.) AND IT'S GETTING A SEQUEL, because sometimes when you're an intrepid folktale heroine, your weird folktale husband just can't stay out of trouble. I've posted the old cover here but the repackaging is lovely too. 

5. The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer: This one isn't so much underrated as... lesser known? While Artemis Fowl definitely takes the cake for my favourite work from this author, I really liked The Supernaturalist as well. (Where is my sequel?)

6. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine: More the later books than this one but. Let's start with the beginning of the series.

7. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: post-climate wars world being held hostage by an AI with a strange and terrible sense of humour and the nuclear codes.

8. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: This is a recent release that I read and really enjoyed, and I'd love the hear about more people reading it!

9. In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan: Halfway between portal fantasy and portal fantasy parody this one plays with genres. And has a grumpy pacifist main character. It's great.

10. A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee: I feel like there are always a lot of Canadian authors on my hidden gems lists. I guess I just really like Canadian authors? 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Series Review: Modern Faerie Tales

Tithe by Holly Black
Goodreads        Chapters        IndieBound

This one I partly picked up because a few of the characters make a cameo in The Cruel Prince and it reminded me that I still hadn't read it... Overall it is very much what is says on the package, very much a faerie tale feeling. Holly Black's writing has definitely gotten more nuanced since this one came out. It was nice to get more background on the world (which this book does provide, along with Ironside). Reading through all of Holly Black's stuff really does give the impression that her faerie world is either constantly in a state of chaos or undergoing a period of VERY EXTREME chaos for the past couple decades...

I think the main function of this book for me was to give me more of a foundation in Holly Black's fae world, but I did also enjoy it on it's own merit although it wasn't quite as nuanced as her more recent books.

Valiant by Holly Black
Goodreads        Chapters        IndieBound

This one was definitely my least favourite of the Modern Faerie Tales companion novels, less due to any sort of writing flaw than simply because the content was much less up my alley than the other two. (Some of it is, in fact, content that I generally tend to avoid with my personal reading, just because I don't really find them to be terribly edifying topics... but anyway.)

The real strength of this one was seeing the urban fae taken to the next level, and also establishes more of the world and the nature of the fae. (Including half-fae, and how the exiled fae survive (or don't) in the big city.)

Ironside by Holly Black
Goodreads        Chapters        IndieBound

This was my favourite of the three! This one was definitely in terms of plot. It also felt like the characters were more settled, which also made the story more enjoyable. Ironside brings together the casts of Tithe and Valiant (definitely more strongly focused on the cast of Tithe, which I found more compelling overall, so that worked out okay for me).

The plot itself was more complex and engaging, and this book was all the more enjoyable for it. I've overall quite enjoyed reading these three books (if only in part so I could read Ironside and fully understand what was going on, in the case of Valiant... not that Valiant was necessarily bad, just not as much my thing as the other two books). It was interesting to see what had stayed the same and what had developed in Holly Black's writing style, and I think it'll be useful for continuing with Folk of the Air

 Related Reviews:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Top Ten Rereads I Revert to When in a Reading Slump

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

In a way, I have never really been in a reading slump, but in another way, I am usually in a reading slump. Because I reread CONSTANTLY. Not always the whole book but at least part of it.

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I don't usually reread ALL of the series but. Bits and pieces.

2. The Matt Cruse trilogy by Kenneth Oppel: These are kind of comfort reads to me, and are naturally something I fall back on when I'm not really in a particular reading mood.

3. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: as of now it's a standalone and it's wonderfully compelling, so it's a good between-new-books read.

4. Fire by Kristen Cashore: Graceling may have been a formative experience but Fire is a read I fall back on a lot. Currently a friend has my copy and I'm a little bit bereft.

5. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: This current moment is one of the first times since reading the book for the first time that I'm not in the process of a reread.

6. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater: specifically the audiobook of The Raven Boys, which I actually own a copy of, rendering it one of my fall-back audiobooks

7. In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan: I keep catching myself pulling this one off the shelf just whenever.

8. The Winner's trilogy by Marie Rutkoski: Okay so I don't generally pick up The Winner's Crime because the FRUSTRATION IS REAL but still. (It isn't that I neccesarily think Crime is a bad book it's just... it is intended to be frustrating, I think, and it succeeds.)

9. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo: if I am ready to get TOTALLY PULLED IN to a reread, I'll pick these up because I know I'll wind up accidentally rereading the whole duology.

10. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: another one that I just find myself picking up and skimming from time to time.