Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Top Ten Books I Am Going to Read By The End of This Year, I Swear

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

This one is just going to be my kind of... wrap-up TBR for the year, mostly for when I finally have time to read after finishing exams. I'm hoping I'll get through all of them but... that is ambitious to say the least.

1. The Girl King by Mimi Yu: I've got a review to do for this one and the release date is coming up. I'm aiming to pick it up before the end of the year.

2. Now I Rise by Kiersten White: I read and really liked And I Darken quite a while ago and then just... didn't read the next book. Now that the rest of the trilogy is very much out I really need to get on finishing the trilogy.

3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: I know, I know. I NEED to stop putting it off, it's just now I'm intimidated.

4. For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig: I hadn't realised that Heidi Heilig had another book out! I've gotten a copy out of the library so I'll hopefully be getting to it soon.

5. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor: I'm debating going with the audiobook for this one, but I'm not sure yet.

6. Cambrian Ocean World by John Foster: I'm working my way through this one right now. Non-fiction always takes me a little longer, but I'm quite enjoying this one so far.

7. The Calculating Stars by Marie Robinette Kowal: I bought the paperback and then just... didn't read it.

8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman: This one I got on sale and then I just haven't been in the mood to read it, but I really should read it.

9. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore: I ordered this one, and then the copy I ordered got lost and then months later I managed to get a copy.

10. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley: I borrowed this one from the library so... I should be reading it soon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Five Frosty Reads (and Five Comfort Reads)

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

In putting this together I've learned that I have barely more winter books than I have summer books. I just read wildly, apparently. (I do have some autumn books but... not so much winter ones.)

1. East by Edith Pattou: East of the Sun, West of the Moon re-telling. (Which I really like. I just really like East of the Sun, West of the Moon in general, but this is my favourite retelling so far...)

2. Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel: okay fine, they've mostly cold because they're so far up in the sky but it still counts. Also I will take any excuse to push this one because. It's one of my favourite trilogies ever. Airships! Creatures! Vivid characters!

3. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident: salt about the movie aside, I still really, really like these books.

4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: not my favourite of the series but Sinner is so incredibly summer that it 1000% wouldn't have fit at all.

5. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal: also not the first book in a series. It's set in 1819, which has been referred to as the Year without Summer because... it didn't really have a summer. (Thanks, volcaoes). This series seamlessly blends magic into regency-era England.

6. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: most of this one does actually take place in the winter, but it's also just a really nice book to curl up with.

7. Fire by Kristin Cashore: wow we really need to get an updated, non-whitewashed cover, huh? Bitterblue probably suited the theme better in terms of wintery-ness but. Fire is my favourite.

8. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: mostly because I'm looking forward to rereading this one before picking up Muse of Nightmares, but also because I find the beginning where Lazlo is just... doing research... very relaxing to read?

9. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills: a contemporary? On my list? It's more likely than you think. (Or it is, at least, when it's Emma Mills.) It's a FRIENDSHIP BOOK.

10. Lockwood and co. by Jonathan Stroud: okay so content-wise there is nothing particularly relaxing about these books, but the audiobooks are just one of my comfort reads now for some reason.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: On A Sunbeam

Title: On a Sunbeam
Author: Tillie Walden
Genre: speculative fiction, space fantasy
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Goodreads        Chapters        IndieBound
eARC recieved through NetGalley

When, after leaving private school, Mia signs onto a small, rag-tag crew that repairs ancient structures on different planets she doesn't expect to find a family. Nor does she expect a chance to see Grace, the love she lost in school, again. 

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A quiet space-fantasy with beautiful illustration but a lack of engaging characters.

Review: I'm not much of a graphic novel reader, as a general rule of thumb, but the synopsis of this one caught my attention, and I love the cover. It was kind of an impulse-request when I saw it on NetGalley and I was a bit surprised when I was approved for an ARC. (In my defense, I was approved for it two days before the release, which is why the review wasn't on my usual schedule. Less in my defense, it still shouldn't have taken me as long as I did to get to it.)

I find myself without that much to say, though, which is part of why this review has taken me longer to write than I had been expecting. 

On a Sunbeam is a space fantasy (I hesitate to call it science fiction given the lack of science included in it), and as a story is in a similar vein to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which is to say that the themes are dominantly character-based, and about relationships. It's a love and friendship and found-family story primarily, quiet in a way that really reminds me of Becky Chambers' work. On a Sunbeam is a quiet story, where not much happens in terms of big action scenes. It is also non-chronological. The timeline set in Mia's present follows her and the crew she's been hired on with after finishing with school, the other timeline tells the story of Mia in school, meeting and falling in love with- and then losing- Grace. 

The point of view isn't entirely consistent either. The majority of the storytelling centers around Mia, but the rest of the crew, as well as Grace and her family get screen time apart from Mia as well. If there is graphic novel equivalent to telling a story in third-person omniscient, I think that's what this is. 

There was, however, something frustratingly unmemorable about the story, which hindered my ability to really get into it. I kept finding myself having to remind myself of the names of the characters, and just didn't find myself really relating to any of the characters on an emotional level. Everything happening with them was... just happening. I didn't really feel much of anything in response to any of it. I think, in a way, this story came up against the limits of it's page count and medium- there just wasn't enough time to convincingly develop the characters and the relationships when seeing them all from the outside, and, as the story is primarily driven by the characters and their relationships, that made it difficult for me to feel anything beyond a sort of neutral enjoyment. 

That said, I can see it being a very comforting story? It's quiet and I really do like the themes. Also there are some really beautiful spreads in this book from a visual standpoint. The worldbuilding is mainly done visually, with the aesthetic being almost Ghibli-esque. There clearly isn't a grounding in science, despite the space setting but then- there doesn't need to be. It isn't that kind of a story, and it isn't trying to be. Instead it's beautifully illustrated fish-ships and alien landscapes, conveyed with simple pallets that vary throughout the book and help differentiate past from present. The landscapes and world art were kind of my favourite part, actually, the work really is striking on that front. (The character design, at least for me, occasionally made it a struggle to tell characters apart at a glance.)

Overall, this read was enjoyable for me, if not memorable in terms of story or character. The strongest component was that I was always looking forward to seeing the world Tillie Walden illustrated! I like, as a concept, the themes of found family, and the queer love stories (and that the story included a non-binary person!), even if I found that the characters in execution didn't really resonate with me. I'm left with the feeling of wishing that this story had been everything to me that it was trying to be, but also the sense that it might work for someone else.

Also you can check out On a Sunbeam, as a webcomic here, if you want a better sense of the story! As I said, although there were parts of it that weren't for me, the illustration is often very beautiful and I think the story might be something that would work really well for some people.

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...