Book Review – Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Hey Bloggos,

I wasn’t able to finish reading Skyward before the book was due back to the library. The thing about Sanderson books is that they’re very popular, and holds abound. And if there are holds, you can’t renew. So, instead of accruing fines on a book I intended to buy anyway, I just went and bought the dumb thing. Which, it turns out, was a sound decision.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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So, here’s the thing. I’ve been slowing down on my mad dash of consuming Sanderson content lately. I don’t know. I think that last signing I went to (for Oathbringer) really turned me off to his books, through no fault of his own. There’s just such a cultish fervor surrounding Sanderson and his books, and I am definitely guilty of such behavior. So, I took a step back. I still haven’t read Oathbringer. And I wasn’t even all that excited to read Skyward.

That is, until I actually got a few pages into it.

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This book reminded me why so many readers love Brandon’s books. Why I love Brandon’s books. It’s full of amazing characters, hilarious dialogue, and a plot that absolutely held me captive. I loved Spensa and the world she lives in, which I should have expected; Sanderson does world-building better than just about anybody else in the genre right now.

Spensa is the sixteen year old girl who just passed her pilot’s exam. But it doesn’t matter, because the Defiant Defense Force has zero interest in letting her fly. You see, Spensa, aka Spin, is the daughter of the DDF’s only coward. Her father abandoned his Flight during the Battle of Alta, and was subsequently shot down for his cowardice. Spensa has trained and studied her whole life to get into the DDF and prove them wrong about her dad, but Admiral Ironsides won’t give her the chance. They sabotaged Spensa’s test, and suggested she take a job elsewhere.

That is, until Captain Cobb, callsign: Mongrel, accepts Spensa into his classroom. It’s her one chance at redemption and she refuses to let it pass her by, no matter how difficult the Admiral makes her life.

Spensa is allowed to take her Flight class, and nothing else. She can’t join her Flight in the mess hall, she can’t bunk in the academy, and she can’t use the learning resources beyond her classroom. So, she lives in a cave she found by chance, sleeping in the cockpit of a crashed ancient starfighter.

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In her spare time, because why not, she repairs the ship in hopes that she’ll be able to fly it when she graduates, since Ironsides is unlikely to let her fly no matter how well she does in her training. And, naturally, she’s out to find out the truth about her father, and what really happened that day at the Battle of Alta.

I’m not going to go into more details from here, because it would be spoiler-y and I really don’t want to ruin this book for anyone. There were quite a few zigs and zags that I didn’t anticipate and really enjoyed. I would prefer to preserve those for readers.

Know that this book did make me tear up a couple of times, and made me cheer out loud at least twice. My husband laughed at me as I read the last fifty or so pages on the couch, because I was yelling at the book quite a bit. In true Sanderson fashion, things do not end how I thought they would.

Thank goodness this is the first of a planned four book series, with the next book set to release in Fall 2019. I do not want to wait long to spend more time with Spensa and her Flight, callsign: Skyward.

I’m still reading Lies Sleeping. I’m having difficulty adjusting to my utter lack of free time lately. That and Red Dead Redemption 2 and a renewed fervor for all things Dragon Age is really putting a damper on my reading. But, it’s less than 300 pages and due back on Tuesday.

I’ll get it done.

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant #6) by Ben Aaronovitch

Blogland,

This is my first post written in the new WordPress editor. If you have tried it already and have any hints or suggestions, please let me know, because this is a trip. I think I like it. Image result for uncertain gifIt’s very clean, with less clutter to distract the eye. But that means I have to relearn how to navigate a system I’ve used religiously for like… seven years.

A/N: 108 words into the new editor and I already had to revert back to the Classic Editor. The new format handles content in blocks, which doesn’t really allow me to embed gifs and pictures the way I like to. Or at least, I wasn’t able to figure out how to do in a timely fashion. I’ll keep poking at it for awhile and see if I like it. As of this moment, it’s getting a thumbs down from me.

Additional A/N: Turns out, reverting back to the Classic Editor part way through royally screws with the formatting. I was unable to resolve it no matter how much I tried until I went back into the new editor and manually fixed every single error. I officially hate this “update” and I doubt I will be using it in the future.

After bouncing around the entire library consortium, I finally got my hands on the only copy of The Hanging Tree available in the whole Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service. It’s been a very popular book.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Peter Grant and company are back at it, this time investigating what seems to be a routine drug overdose. Except, the deceased shows evidence of thaumaturgical degradation (aka her brain was a bit gooey from exposure to magic). And, Lady Tyburn’s daughter was at the scene.

As if that isn’t a big enough pain in Peter’s backside, there’s a member of the demi-monde, known unironically as Reynard Fossman (etymologically speaking, Fox Foxman), has come to the Folly to offer Nightingale something he can’t refuse: Newton’s Third Scientific text, the Principia Chemica.

Alchemy. It was rumored that the genius had worked out the laws that governed transmutation and the like, but that the text was lost to mankind. Until Reynard waltzes in and tries to sell it to the highest bidder. Because, why would he only offer it to Nightingale?

And guess who else has his metaphorical eye on the prize? Yep! None other than the dastardly Faceless Man himself.

Which, it’s about stinking time! My biggest gripe about the last Peter Grant story I read was that there wasn’t enough substance in regards to the Faceless Man and Lesley. I wanted MORE! Well, this book delivered, let me tell you.

All the things I’ve come to expect from a Peter Grant book remained true for this one. Fantastic dialogue that begs to be read aloud, a wide and dynamic cast of characters, an intricate and compelling plot told in a voice that is self-deprecating, fun, and clever as hell.

All that being said, it took me longer to read than I would have expected, mainly because I’ve just been too tired to stay up and read lately. Which, as I’ve discussed, is really shit timing. Every book under the sun seems to have a release date this month, and here I am too swamped and too sleepy to do a darn thing about it.

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One of those November releases is the next book in this series, the long anticipated Lies Sleeping. But, DO NOT read the synopsis for this book before you’ve read The Hanging Tree, otherwise you’re in for a giant spoiler.

I found that out the hard way while I conducted research to recommend the library purchase a copy of the newest book in the series. Whoops!

Also, my library doesn’t own any of the Peter Grant books, but several of the smaller libraries in our consortium own copies. But, none of them had purchased Lies Sleeping yet. Two weeks before the book is out and no one had bought it yet?Not acceptable. So, I recommended the purchase, and now I’m first in line on the hold list.

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So, in summary, this book was another solid entry in the Peter Grant series and the perfect book to read just a week or so before the newest installment is released here in the US. It’s nice to be caught up.

I’ve got a slew of books queued up for the rest of the year, which I mentioned in yesterday’s goals summary post. I’ll be a busy reading bee all the way through the new year.

Just the way I like it.

I’ll see you all again on Monday, maybe sooner if I have something to talk about. But we have a friendsgiving celebration on Saturday, so don’t expect much from me the rest of this week.

Until later, Bloggos.

BZ

Book Review – Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) by Seanan McGuire

Blogland,

The last half of this book went much faster than I expected, and I am so happy to bring this review to you this week.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

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October Daye is more than she seems. Half Daoine Sidhe, half human she’s what’s known as a Changeling. She can cast simple illusions, which is a good thing since she can’t really pass for human with pointed ears and violet eyes. But, while her fae nature makes blending in difficult, her human blood makes her a second-class citizen in Faerie. As if keeping her nature a secret from her husband and child isn’t enough, there’s a lot of prejudice against changelings by the pure-blooded fae that Toby has to contend with.

She does this by remaining faithful and boundlessly loyal to her Liege Lord, Sylvester Torquill. He’s the only pure-blood she’s met that she actually likes, and she refuses to fall into the flighty stereotype of changelings by abandoning him. That is until his less than honorable brother curses her to life as a koi fish.

For FOURTEEN YEARS.

She returns to herself in 2009 only to find that the world has changed and her family has long considered her dead. Now she has to pick up the pieces of a life everyone thought was over and learn who she is in a whole new millennium.

I struggled with the first half of this book. Mainly because it picks up six months after she wakes up and is back in her body. We don’t see her try and reconnect with her family, we don’t see her navigating those first awkward, and shocking moments when she discovers she was a fish for fourteen years. We just see her as angry and reclusive, trying to avoid Faerie as much as possible.

It was alienating because it was such a hard shift from who Toby was in the prologue. She was a loving spouse, devoted mother, and incredibly loyal knight to the Torquills. But when we see her again she is so shut off and so angry that I had a really hard time liking her. She was a bit of a bitch, to be honest, and though she has good reasons, they aren’t made apparent until much later in the book.

But, I really liked the side characters (particularly Tybalt, the King of Cats) and the politics of the Faerie court were fascinating. It was enough to keep me invested in the story and willing to open the book time and again.

By the end I was much happier with the book, and actually enjoyed October as a character quite a bit. I definitely plan to read the next book, though I wouldn’t call myself a fan just yet. I’ll reserve that judgement for further reading.

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This is another urban fantasy novel that seems to thrive on the strength of its side characters. Dresden didn’t start out that way, but has definitely relied more and more on its broad cast to keep readers engaged as the series has gone on. The Peter Grant books have a large cast, but I think Peter is still a good narrator and main character; he’s holding his own. The October Daye books might end up being the opposite of The Dresden Files in that the side characters carry the story early in the series, but Toby warms up and becomes stronger as the novels progress.

I hope that’s the case. I want to love this series. Right now I’m happy with it, but not in love.

Next in my reading list is The Hanging Tree, the sixth Peter Grant book. Just in time for the new book’s release in November! After that is Hounded by Kevin Hearne, which I’m excited for since it’s set in Tempe, Arizona. Then I’ll look into reading the next book in the October Daye series. And that’s if I don’t get sidetracked by some other book. I think Sanderson has a new YA releasing in November, so I’m sure I’ll sneak that in somewhere before the new year.

I’ll be back on Monday for the usual goals discussion, but you probably won’t hear from me again before that. I’ve got social engagements tonight and tomorrow that will keep me pretty busy.

Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Book Review – War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Blogland,

First stop on my Urban Fantasy tour is the book that’s credited with spearheading the genre. The War for the Oaks won the Locus Magazine award for Best First Novel in 1988, and I can definitely see why.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

war for the oaks

Eddi McCandry is sick of her boyfriend and frontman Stuart. He’s a mess. Too drunk to play his parts, and too busy pissing off bar managers to get their shitty band another gig. So she leaves the band, and him, taking the drummer with her.

Breaking up is hard to do, so it was already a rough night. But a terrifying encounter with fairy tale creatures on the midnight streets of Minneapolis leaves Eddi caught up in a war she knew nothing about.

The Seelie Court has selected her to be their bound mortal. With her on the battlefield the Fae will be rendered mortal, and their wounds will be deadly. And she will be a target, no matter her opinions on the matter. So, the Seelie Court sends a literal guard dog.

The Phouka is a Fae who looks like Prince by day and can turn to a dog at will. He’s a trickster, adorable, witty as all get out, and posted up at Eddi’s apartment until further notice to protect her from their enemies, the Unseelie Court.

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He’s silver-tongued and devious. She’s stubborn and pissed off. Hilarity ensues.

I was worried about this book holding up over the years. Released in 1987, it’s older than I am, and you can definitely tell. The lack of cell phones really stood out to me, because there were a few situations Eddi found herself in that only happened because she couldn’t contact someone unless she was home or used a payphone. There was a slightly racially insensitive moment in which Eddi “pulls at the corners of her eyes to see what she’d look like if she were Chinese” that was mostly jarring because why did that line make it through editing? And dear lord the clothes.

Yes. This book lives solidly in the 80s. But, it was no less engrossing because of it. I loved every minute with this story and felt that the setting development of Minneapolis was very well done. Dialogue was solid throughout, and though the ending was a little cliched, it probably wasn’t in 1987.

I also appreciate that The War for the Oaks isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t. It’s a fun, pretty indulgent, fairy tale come to life. It set the expectations of Urban Fantasy pretty high when it comes to entertainment value, but kept the literary pretensions out of the mix. Sometimes, you really need to turn your brain off and just have a good time. This book is very good at that.

It was also nice to see a different take on the Fae. I’ve only really experienced them through the Dresden novels, and while they’re very similar, I don’t think Jim Butcher has ever featured a Phouka. Also, the Fae aren’t as malignant in this book as they often are in Butcher’s series.

Now I’m seeing another view of the Fae as I read the first October Daye novel, Rosemary and Rue. Goodreads has recommended this book to me for years, probably because of all the Dresden books in my “Read” list. We’ll see how it goes.

I don’t think I’ll be back this week. I’ve got the next two days off and they are going to be busy with catching up on my weekly goals and house chores. Then it’s the Hozier concert on Saturday night!

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If ever there was a Fae among us, it would be Andrew Hozier-Byrne. I can’t wait to be thoroughly enchanted by him once again.

Until next week, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – Legion: Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson

Bloggos,

If it’s been awhile since you’ve read the first two novellas in this series, I recommend checking out my reviews for Legion and Legion: Skin Deep before delving into this one. I know I needed the refresher before I tucked into this book.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Stephen Leeds is back, and so are his aspects. Ivy, J.C., and Tobias are still front and center, but a few others come in to play over the course 105 page novella. Personal faves were Lua and Jenny, an all new aspect intent on harassing Stephen as she follows him and writes down every bit of his adventures. His own personal biographer, all in his head!

In this story, Leeds and Co., are on the hunt for the elusive Sandra, who recently texted Stephen a single word: Help. Leeds panics. Sandra hasn’t contacted him in years, and now she reaches out in apparent distress? His anxiety is through the roof, and Ivy and J.C.’s distrust of the situation does nothing to help. But that’s what Tobias is for.

To make matters worse, Leeds is losing control. Two of his aspects have disappeared, turning into Nightmares. Spectral/undead versions of themselves, intent on harming Leeds and his remaining aspects. Turns out, his personas can kill one another. And that’s a painful lesson to learn.

This lack of control only ups the stakes for Stephen. He has to find Sandra. She was the one that helped him gain control in the first place, maybe she can help him again. But as the hunt continues Leeds begins to question who and what is real, and whether the price of ‘normal’ is really worth it.

I have a lot of warm fuzzy feelings for this story. It’s the first Sanderson book I’ve read in quite a while, and it really reminded me why I love him so much. It also struck a resonant chord in me, because Legion is a very personal story for Sanderson and it really showed in this novella.

Leeds is a man with voices and characters in his head. People as real as the neighbors you wave to each morning or the barista who hands you your coffee when you’re running late to work.

And that’s how it feels to be an author. You create these people, often times without really meaning to, and they are suddenly vibrant and demanding and so much more real than you ever anticipated.

The end of this novella actually brought a tear to my eye. And while that’s not unheard of for Sanderson stories, I definitely wouldn’t say I expect to get emotional from his books. This was a bittersweet tear, a feeling wholly satisfied and melancholy.

It was beautiful.

I know Sanderson is widely admired for his giant works of fantasy. Books like Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, Elantris, and Warbreaker. And they are wonderful. I love them all. But man, I think he’s actually at his best when words are at a premium. All three Legion novellas were powerful in their own way, and let’s not forget the Hugo award-winning The Emperor’s Soul.

Legion: Lies of the Beholder is available in a few different formats. As a standalone e-book and in a hardbound collection of all three novellas called Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds. This is the copy I read courtesy of the library, and will eventually Image result for legion lies of the beholderpurchase, once we catch up from our expensive vacation. The cover art is phenomenal, and even better are the ink-blot chapter illustrations that change over the course of the series.

I was impressed with this book overall. Can you tell? I was impressed with the clever plot, and the depth of emotion Sanderson put into so few pages. I was impressed with the book design, both for the cover and the interior and would greatly recommend the series to fans of detective stories with a slight Sci-Fi spin.

I’m making good progress on War for the Oaks, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to review it next week. After that I’ve got a few more Urban Fantasy novels queued up, so we’ll see what strikes my fancy.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review – The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

Hey Bloggos,

The Strange Bird is a short and bittersweet, and entirely dependent on Borne. You’ll understand little if you haven’t read VanderMeer’s novel set in the same world (you can read my review of Borne here).

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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This novella is very meandering. You’re meant to take it slow and absorb the Strange Bird’s observations on life beyond her laboratory. She relishes her freedom, but it is a lonely existence, because the other animals know that she isn’t quite natural. She was created in a lab, with biotech from birds, humans, and even squids. She was an experiment, and as civilization failed, she escaped into the wild.

Her journey, though slow, is purposeful. She has a homing beacon, demanding she fly in a very particular direction, and since she doesn’t have any other desires, she follows it.

Of course, she encounters several obstacles along the way. A lonely old man whose guilt has leeched at his mind. A cannibal, whose interest in the bird lies no further than selling her. And the Magician, who takes her and reforges her into the invisibility cloak we see used in Borne.

It’s this part of the story that requires that you read the novel. If you haven’t, you won’t understand who the Magician is and why her cloak is important. You won’t feel the mounting anticipation as you know what comes next, as you realize who the Strange Bird is about to encounter.

And you won’t enjoy the emotions and relief in seeing and hearing Rachel in Wick in the aftermath. You’ll miss out on a lot of nuance if you haven’t read Borne. But, the ending will still strike home. It is soft and sweet and rife with resignation. It isn’t what the Strange Bird wanted, but it is more than she thought she would ever have.

It is enough. And you learn what the story is really about, underneath all the layers of language and exploration, and the Strange Bird’s life of suffering.

I was surprised at how much this book affected me. I cried at the end, just a little, and felt satisfied, much more so than I did at the end of Borne.  I think the novella could be reread, that I could actually glean more by spending more time in the language, whereas I felt the prose in Borne was a barrier to understanding.

The Strange Bird snuck up on me, in a delightful, heartbreaking way. If you read Borne, and enjoyed it even a little, I recommend giving the novella a try.

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In my usual fashion, I am on to the next book, The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis. I’m only 44 pages in and it is already much different than I anticipated and not much like my typical reads at all. But, this is my vacation read so I’m taking a chance on it!

I’ll be back on Monday for the usual Goals Summary, and then it’s off to Germany!

 

BZ

Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Blogland,

I went into reading this book with very mixed expectations. I’d heard multiple firsthand accounts of how brilliant it is, but actually knew absolutely nothing about it. I’ve never read anything by VanderMeer before, and all I knew about Borne was what I could glean from inside the jacket flap.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Rachel is a scavenger, eking out a living in the City for herself and her partner Wick. Tensions are high, with resources in the ruined city scarce and the giant, hyper-intelligent bear, Mord, wreaking havoc wherever he pleases. Wick and Rachel are distrustful lovers and partners, helping one another and keeping more than their fair share of secrets to boot.

One of those secrets is Borne, a sentient blob of biotech that grows and grows and grows. Rachel tries to raise him in secret, just another topic to avoid with Wick, but Borne quickly proves too curious and clever to be satisfied with Rachel’s small apartment.

With the secret out, Borne explores their domain of the Balcony Cliffs while Rachel and Wick let their secrets drive a wedge between them. When all the lizards have disappeared from their ruined halls, when all the small critters that scampered in the walls have vanished, and when raiders attack their home only to mysteriously abandon the Cliffs, Rachel refuses to entertain Wick’s accusation.

“Borne eats and eats,” says Wick. “But nothing comes out.”

And so begins the battle between Rachel and Wick about Borne. The decisions in which will shape the rest of their lives.

I have some pretty conflicted thoughts about this book. On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the story and the characters. Rachel, Wick, and Borne are delightfully complex and I often found myself disappointed in them as often as I was pleased. The world is developed extremely well, and I’d be happy to spend more time to learn about the City and the Company that deteriorated it so.

But…

VanderMeer’s writing was a struggle for me. Don’t misunderstand, it is beautiful. But it’s also strange. Just like the book itself. I had a hard time, not because the prose is overly Image result for borne vandermeercomplex or wordy, but because the sentence structures were often bizarre. There were entire paragraphs, large chunks of the page that were only a sentence or two. Those were immediately followed with sentence fragments and sentences that played with word order. You have to scavenge the story from the page. And while I can appreciate the mastery of craft behind such a novel, it frequently pulled me from the story, jarred me from the world, and allowed my mind to wander when all I really wanted was to know what happened to Rachel and her makeshift family.

 

See? I’m conflicted. It is a beautiful book. It’s a book that makes the reader work. And I’m not opposed to doing the work, but I felt that Borne could have balanced storytelling and readability a little bit better.

I can’t say if this is true for all of VanderMeer’s stories. I’ve only read Borne, and I’m only a third of the way through the Borne novella, The Strange Bird. So far, I don’t feel like it suffers as much from the jarring language as the novel did. Or maybe I’m just acclimated and notice it less. Either way, I’m struggling less so far. Which is a good thing.

I should be back this weekend to write up my review for The Strange Bird and probably to vent about how stressed I am about this trip. I’ll be fine once we’re on the plane, but each passing day my anxiety grows and grows. Just like Borne.

I need a beer.

 

BZ