Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish

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

1. Maximum Ride by James Patterson: Honestly 1/3 of this list could comprise series by James Patterson but I'm limiting myself to one. One of the first reviews I ever posted on this blog was actually of the last Maximum Ride book I ever read (back when I did more of a book-talk-y style and there were spoilers) (it is terrible). It was also weirdly popular though like I think it's the most views I've ever gotten on a review... which is kind of sad now that I think about it. ANYWAY. I actually got all the way to the second-to-last book before finally accepting that these books were leading nowhere I was interested in going and that I didn't actually get anything out of reading them. Looking back even the early books weren't great, but they definitely got worse once the series past it's logical endpoint (book 3, or at very most book 5).

2. Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa: this is kind of a weird one because I WILL occasionally go back and reread bits and pieces of the first 4 books in the series, I really like a lot of the concept that Kagawa was working with... I just have no interest in the new characters in the next arc(s?)

3. Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire: I've only read Every Heart a Doorway and I think it was... mostly just not what I was hoping it would be, in a lot of ways. I didn't love the writing style and, while I did like the idea, I wasn't crazy about this particular take on it. There were a couple personal buttons that it pushed that were more "me" things than things that were necessarily bad about the book itself too.

4. Razorland by Ann Aguirre: I read the first trilogy for this and I think I mostly just... found my enjoyment declining as the series continued on. Coupled with my disastrous attempt at reading Mortal Danger, when the second leg of the Razorland series was announced I'd lost interest in both the story and Ann Aguirre's writing style.

5. Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab: Probably the weirdest addition to this list. I really enjoyed This Savage Song but I spoiled myself on a couple big things in Our Dark Duet and then automatically went "if I don't read it then it didn't happen" because that's logical. Also I know this is a duology but... it fits in all other respects.

6. The 100 by Kass Morgan: I really enjoyed reading the first book but I just wasn't able to recapture that feeling when I tried to pick up the second... and I watched some of the show as well and now my wires are all crossed and I can't totally recall what happened in which and it's a whole mess.

7. The Diviners by Libba Bray: I want to love it I want to love it I want to... but I just don't.

8. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan: Possibly a little bit entirely because I audiobooked the first two books and there doesn't seem to be an audiobook available for the third. Also as a side note I dislike the covers of these books SO MUCH that I didn't want to put it in the graphic but.

9. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: I have done my due diligence with this one. I read the first book and the second book and most of the third one (twice. I tried to get through A Court of Wings and Ruin twice) but I just... don't get the appeal, I guess. I think I'll just rely on friends whom this series does work for to give me a rundown of what Nesta is up to in all the consecutive books that's really what I need to know.

10. The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson: I didn't mind Steelheart but as the story continued my interested waned. I've not had much luck with my forays into Brandon Sanderson's work although, granted, I haven't read Mistborn yet, which I've been repeatedly told is his best so we shall see...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach (Summer TBR)

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

I... don't really have specific beach reads, by genre or anything, so this is more of just a TBR list.

1. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: I recently went through Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey series and really enjoyed how well she wrote in a historical context, and integrated magic into regency society. This one sounds even more up my alley- space travel! Historical ladies in STEM! Historical ladies in STEM doing SPACE THINGS.

2. Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine (The Great Library #4): I've been a fan of The Great Library series since reading the first book. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this for review and I've been waiting for closer to the release date to actually read it. 

3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: I've owned this since it came out... and I still haven't read it. It isn't that I don't want to it's just that... I haven't. I am looking forward to picking it up, though!

4. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang: I feel like this list has a lot more adult speculative fiction on this list than would be representative of my usual reading habits, but perhaps I'm branching out.

5. Binti by Nnedi Okoraror: This is another one that I've had for a while and am looking forward to picking up. I've been in a sci-fi mood lately and I've also heard really fantastic things about the audiobook of this one. 

6. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley: I don't know too much about this one but the cover is stunning and it comes highly recommended so I snagged it at the library.

7. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson: I have had this novella for an embarrassingly long time and still haven't read it. 

8. City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty: I've got the audiobook on hold right now but I might see if the physical copy will take less time for me to get my hands on because it sounds great.

9. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman: It's pretty and I've heard really good things about it.

10. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: if you say the words "Pride and Prejudice retelling/twist" I am there. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: Trail of Lightning

Title: Trail of Lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Series: The Sixth World
Volume: 1
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, fantasy
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Fantasy
eGalley received through NetGalley

Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has experienced a rebirth since rapidly rising seas drowned much of the continent. Beings of legend now walk in this new world, and not all of them are content to leave the humans be. Maggie Hoskie is a supernaturally gifted monster hunter, starkly aware that, talented as she is, she has less at her disposal than her mentor, a legendary hero who abandoned her without offering a reason. When Maggie is enlisted to try to save a young girl from a monster, what she uncovers threatens more than just a few lives, and- accompanied by her jury-rigged old truck and an unconventional Medicine Man (in training)- Maggie sets out to stop it. 

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A dominantly character-driven (and action-filled) journey through a post-climate-apocalypse world haunted by supernatural monsters and immortals.

Review: I do love a good climate apocalypse. This is a bit more of a supernatural climate apocalypse (or at least: this climate apocalypse blurs the lines between "humans messed with the natural world and feedback loops led to the climate apocalypse" and "humans messed with the natural world and the natural world messed back"). My mental map of the United States, especially the Southern states, is a little bit disgraceful (and even more disgraceful when it comes to my awareness of the extent of traditional Indigenous territories... most of the territory maps I've studied are more Northern). (Which is my long winded way of saying that I am familiar with neither the traditions and beliefs of the Diné, nor where in America Albuquerque is located. I had to do a bit of Googling.)

Maggie joins the ranks of so many main characters before her in that her life is just constantly being interrupted by supernatural beings who want something from her and like to meddle. Seriously the immortals in this book are... hmm... entitled and creepily involved in Maggie's personal life, like, back off. It's bad enough that you keep sending her off on random quests and things, please let her have her own personal life, maintain professional boundaries, or whatever. MYOB, Ancient Immortal Powers, M.Y.O.B

Maggie is kind of the withdrawn, jaded, hit-first-ask-questions-later hero type. Honestly she's one of the best examples of the trope I've seen in YA/NA- partly, I think, because so often in the fantasy literature I'm familiar with, this role is almost exclusively both a) given to male characters and b) played off as something totally appealing and cool and a good thing to be. Trail of Lighting gives us Maggie, a character fits this trope, but lets us see that she's a person who is struggling, she's scared a lot of the time, she's still trying to come to terms with her power, and that she's had her faith (in people, in her abilities, in the world) badly shaken (if not totally shattered) on multiple occasions. She's faced a lot of trauma that she's still struggling to process, and she's got her walls up. Basically I really appreciate how this particular trope is fleshed out and given new dimension in Maggie as a character. It isn't necessarily that the trope is deconstructed on Maggie, although I'd love to see it continue to work it's way there, but it's certainly more believable on her. I hope you realise that I'm restraining myself from writing an essay about her character. You came here for a review, not an essay. (Or possibly you came here for pizza and are confused and disappointed to find just words. I don't pretend to know your business). 

Kai was a more difficult character for me to fully wrap my head around, possibly because, unlike Maggie, I didn't spend the entire book seeing from his point of view. By the time I was about halfway though I did kind of feel like yelling "Maggie he's hiding something I don't know what it's something and I know you've got more than enough of your own crap going on but please ask him about it because I just know it's going to come back and bite us later" and I was. Not wrong. So that did add a bit of frustration to the reading experience. That aside his dynamic with Maggie was otherwise interesting because- with her taking the stoic warrior role who has Seen Some Things- he winds up in a role that makes him seem more open by comparison. He also provides knowledge and insight that we wouldn't otherwise have had (sometimes literally: he's better with seeing into the supernatural world that Maggie is during at least one confrontation), and his abilities remain a bit mysterious... His relationship with Maggie proceeded kind of in fits and starts just because of who they both were as people and also because of the situation they were in, and it didn't really feel unrealistic, which I appreciated.

With these two as the lead characters, it did kind of stand out when many of the supporting characters didn't feel nearly as developed or authentic. There were some that felt real despite having spent little time with, and others that just... somehow didn't. Some felt mostly just like... concepts of a character (the one character we know is on-page stated LGBT+ felt a bit trope-y, for example... not so much that there aren't people in the community with the traits he has but more that he hadn't been... fleshed out enough around them?) This might be because they're slated for further fleshing out in successive books, given that we're certainly not done with all of them. Neizghání was a strange case in that I struggled to find... justification for any of his actions beyond ~vague supernatural reasons~ and "being a genuinely terrible person who DOES NOT know our heroine as well as he thinks he does" felt kind of mystifying, partly because... there just isn't that much else to him? Like I get that people think of him as a hero because he's fought monsters but he's awful to Maggie. Like. Abusive awful? Never meet your heroes, I guess. The contrast between her memories of him and him when we meet him is staggering.

I feel like I'm beginning to ramble so I've just got to say: when Maggie stood on top of the truck in the book I was super excited because. COVER IMAGE! IN THE BOOK! (I get excited about weird things, possibly.)

The plot itself does kind of feel like a standard quest in a lot of ways: supernatural being shows up, assigns the hero a task, hero tries to accomplish said task while getting sidetracked. Combined with another sort of quest: hero discovers horrible thing, hero must investigate. The plot in a lot of ways felt like it took a back seat to the characters. It wasn't that I was uninterested in the plot, I was just more interested in Maggie's journey. The plot itself acted as a vessel for that, as well as to draw attention to the history of the Diné and the effects of colonialism- there was a line that I swear I highlighted but that isn't showing up in my eARC that essentially just says that, for the Diné the rising water wasn't the apocalypse-that had happened a long time before, which was an impactful and meaningful line- and. Okay. Also the plot was a vessel for some pretty cool monster-fighting scenes. The only thing about the plot that did bother me a little was it kind of felt like there was a cliffhanger at the end just for the sake of there being a cliffhanger? 

Overall this novel was an intriguing peak into Diné lore, a quest rich in action and meddling supernatural beings, and, above all, a character driven journey. I really enjoyed reading it and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes next. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

May 2018 Mini-Reviews (a.k.a.The Space Opera Edition)

Okay so (during Bout of Books) I read entirely space operas. Sometimes you've got to have a theme, I guess. Sometimes your TBR is just really betraying of your preferences. These are things that just happen occasionally. 

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

This is such a quiet story. It's the story of a series of stories, more or less, all of which concern the crew of the wormhole-creating ship Wayfarer. The main character is ostensibly Rosemary, but the story focuses on all members of the crew and their day-to-day trials. The reader, along with the characters, explores a galaxy full of alien species with vastly different biological and social arrangements.

In a lot of ways, this is exactly up my alley for a sci-fi or space opera. I like my sci-fis on the optimistic side, and this book features people traversing differences, sharing experiences, and doing their best to solve problems- even problems like being boarded by gun-toting hostiles- through diplomacy and negotiation. And I liked that component a lot, because I'm predictable all-get-out. This is a book that uses speculative fiction the way I like it used- to hold a mirror up to humanity and attempt to see it in different lights; as well as to poke some more complex topics with a stick and explore them. I'm also a big fan of found family as a trope and the crew of the Wayfarer definitely qualifies as that.

I have mixed feelings about the overreaching plot of this one. I remain uncertain as to whether or not a novel about distances being bridged ending with the acknowledgement that, sometimes, a distance can't be bridged is antithetical or not. In the end, I don't think it is- some distances can't be bridged- especially not if all parties aren't willing to try.

Anyway clearly I really liked this book and it made me be very philosophical which, again, is how I like my speculative fiction. (I like being a bit philosophical about things because I'm a dork. That's pretty much the entire reason.) I feel like this is less a book I want to review and more one I want to talk about at length on very specific, sometimes spoiler-y, points. So that might be a thing I do.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

The indirect sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, this novel maintains the quiet, contemplative theme, this time with more AIs! I like a good AI story. This one felt a little slower for me, although I actually tore through it a lot faster (due in part to it being the book was reading on the last day of the Bout of Books read-a-thon). I still quite enjoyed it though.

Both of these books were good and contained so many elements that I like, and I did like really like the reading experience. They just somehow didn't work the mysterious alchemy that transforms a book that I like and recognise that I like into a book that's is UTTERLY MY FAVOURITE. I think that's more me than the book, though, and it was overall quite good.

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

This was an interesting one because it's such an exercise in suspension of disbelief. It imagines outer space as something truly different from what we now know space to be. This is one girl's journey through space-as-would-be-imagined-by-a-contemporary-of-Jules-Verne, with heavy shades of Jane Austen. The space between planets is traversed by flying ships. This first book in a planned trilogy introduces the reader to Arabella Ashby, regency lady raised on a Martian homestead and removed to Earth in the face of her mother's fears that Arabella is growing up far too wild and unladylike for polite society. After her father's unexpected death, a homesick Arabella finds herself marooned on Earth, betrayed by a cousin who is after the family fortune- with Arabella's brother (still on Mars) the only barrier. So naturally Arabella dresses up as a boy, signs up as cabin boy on the quickest Mars-bound ship she can, and sets of to beat the treacherous cousin there.

I had a fun reading this one, it was a pretty novel concept for me. So I really enjoyed the visuals of the story (flying ships! That moved between planets! Regency aesthetics!), and I quite liked the character of Arabella. There were bits that felt really period-accurate (despite the space-travel). The gender politics, weird thing where any person from India an English person met outside India was secretly royalty (seriously this just seems to be a thing with a certain sort of novel written in the 19th-20th century), and the blithe approach the English took to colonising another planet that already HAD inhabitants- which we know they took to just showing up in other countries and acting like they owned the place in our less inter-planetary world (although they seem to have treated the martians slightly better on the whole than the English treated people Indigenous to the countries they colonized here on Earth... which is a sad statement given how the English treat the Martians in this book... I'm digressing. Colonial politics is not for a mini-review, Kelly). Anyway. It felt like it was something that could have been written at the time, albeit with some decidedly more modern quirks in writing style and characterisation. I'm hoping to get my hands on the sequel soon (the library where I work has it so... soon... hopefully).