Reading Round Up – April 2019

What a busy reading month! Now that I’m back to just the one job, my productivity in all areas has greatly improved. At this rate, I might finally catch up with my 2019 reading goal!

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)a darker shade of magic audio cover
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Uh… I freaking loved it. Like, a lot. You should probably just do us all a favor and read my review so I don’t lapse into obsessive squealing right here and now.
Recommend: Hell yeah! I’m basically screaming about it to anyone who will listen to me. And to some who don’t. I’m just screaming, all right?

Title: The City in the Middle of the Nightcity in the middle of the night
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts: Anders is a very good writer. This book has received a lot of great press and did several things very successfully. That said, I did not like it for some very key reasons. Extremely flawed (unlikeable) characters and a meandering plot were a couple of them. For more details, both good and not so much, check out my review.
Recommend: Meh? It seems like mileage varies with this one. Some folks loved it, others really didn’t. Maybe read some reviews first?

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)a gathering of shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this one almost as much as the first one. This one had less of a sense of wonder, but there was so much more time with the characters and so much tension building up over the course of the book that I kept yelling at the audiobook when things happened. Lots and lots of squealing could be heard in my house. For more details, be sure to check out my full review.
Recommend: Oh my goodness yes!

Title: Trail of Lightning (Sixth World #1)trail of lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: An incredible first book in a new series. I love Urban Fantasy and this one did an awesome job of fitting in the genre while carving out a healthy circle of all new ideas and and style. I loved the breakneck quality of the plot and the dialogue was really natural; I could hear everyone. I can’t wait for the sequel! Don’t forget to read my review for full details.
Recommend: Absolutely! If you like Urban Fantasy at all, I’d mark it as required reading.

Title: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)a-conjuring-of-light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: So many. So many thoughts. So many feelings. I loved every moment of this book, even as it tore my heart out and stomped it into the dirt. Kell really comes into his own in this book. Hell, so does everybody. Rhy, Alucard, Lila, even Holland. Everyone has to sacrifice something, and they come out stronger for it. This book was both a sprint and a marathon. Every chapter felt dashing, rushed, I read so quickly I’d have to reread it because I’d missed something. But the book kept going, relentless and tearing me to pieces even as it made me laugh. Get all the details in my review.
Recommend: Yes. A thousand times yes.

Title: The Light Brigadethe light brigade
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book is a trip. It hits hard, doesn’t pull any punches, and keeps coming at you. Aggressive is a good descriptor. I personally thought the themes could have been a little more subtle, but I think the frankness and in your face quality of the book more than make up for it. The plot is very compelling. I couldn’t put the book down. I had to keep reading because I HAD to know how everything came together. I don’t often find that Time Travel is well handled in fiction. I struggle with it in television and movies often, but this book blew me away with the unpredictability of any given moment. Read my review for more details.
Recommend: Totally. It’s a standalone, whirlwind ride that makes you think and doesn’t give you all the answers. What’s not to love?

Title: Elevationelevation
Author: Stephen King
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Stephen King
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I liked the concept, a man loses weight without manifesting any physical signs that he’s doing so, but the execution was… strange. It was oddly political, with an us vs. them theme of Liberals versus the rest of the conservative town. It hinged on a married couple, both women, who were shunned and reviled by the town, but whom the main character strove befriend. It felt very forced and not actually all that compelling. After Elevation there is a short story called “Laurie”, about a recently widowed retiree and the puppy his sister gave him, against his wishes. That was much better and I loved it.
Recommend: Not on audio. King’s narration isn’t very good (imo), and sadly “Laurie” isn’t included in the physical copy. Not sure I’d suggest this unless you’re an unwavering King fan.

Title: The Luminous Deadthe luminous dead
Author: Caitlin Starling
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Holy shit. This book scared me. I haven’t been scared by a book since I was in Junior High. Not since I read The Library Policeman by Stephen King when I was 14. Are you afraid of heights? Drowning? The Dark? Monsters? Ghosts? Losing your mind? Tight spaces? Because this book has all of those things. And the tension just ratchets up over and over and over, until you’re left as drained and exhausted as the characters. This book gave me nightmares of being hunted and seeing faces in the dark. That’s how GOOD it is. Get all the details in my full review!
Recommend: If you want to be creeped the hell out, hell yeah. It’s terrifyingly good.

Title: “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”N.K. Jemisin.jpg
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Collection: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?
Editor(s): N/A
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Robin Ray Eller
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I listened to this driving to work with a migraine, so I didn’t absorb it as much as I’d like. It’s an interesting story, told in a first person, direct monologue, where the narrator is speaking or writing to a “Friend”. She tells of an alternate version of our world where a utopia actually exists and describes it in great detail. The narration actually reminded me a lot of a character from Anthem, Sentinel Brin. Their speech patterns were very similar. I should have expected the unconventional narrative choice, since Jemisin’s use of second person point of view in The Fifth Season is why I chose to read that book in the first place.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a pretty story that I’m sure hits heavier when you’re not barely conscious. It is a lot different than other things I’ve read of Jemisin, but not unpleasantly so.

Title: “What Maya Found There”Daniel Jose Older.jpeg
Author: Daniel José Older
Collection: A People’s Future of the United States
Editor(s): Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: A look at weaponized science in an age when science is vilified. I liked a lot about this story, particularly the character driven lens. There’s enough tech sprinkled in, enough implied body horror to keep me interested, but ultimately I didn’t find it as resonant as some of the other stories I’ve read from this collection.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a perfectly good story, and you might get more out of it than I did.

Title: “The Petals Abide”benjanun.jpeg
Author: Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Interesting. Blends SF elements with a Fantasy tone, about an AI(?) who sculpts organic people into other beings. There’s romance and longing, and really I can’t boil it down into anything more than feelings, than a sense of what was happening. Everything felt shrouded, like I never really saw it, but that was okay.
Recommend: Yes. It’s a very beautifully written story with an intriguing concept.

Title: “Kenneth: A User’s Manual”sam j. miller
Author: Sam J. Miller
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Strange Horizons, December 2014
Format: Live Reading
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: The story is exactly what it sounds like: A User’s Manual for a sculpted, gorgeous, ripped dancing machine. Kenneth is made for fun, but he’ll make you beg for it. The format is strange, intriguing in its lack of conventional plot, but no less effective for it. I like the story because it reminds me that stories can be told in all sorts of ways.
Recommend: Yes. At just over 1000 words, this story takes only a few minute to read and should get at least a few chuckles out of you. Cheeky is a good word to describe it.

Title: “Harvest”roanhorse
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Editor(s): Nisi Shawl
Format: Live Reading, Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Never fall in love with a deer woman. This story tells of the dangerous affair of one man(?) and the legendary Deer Woman who seeks vengeance for all the deaths of her family. The way this story balances the sensual and grotesque is really powerful and riveting. I wanted to hear more, even when I was blushing. I had to finish reading it once we got back home.
Recommend: Yes! This story really displays Roanhorse’s range. You get a strong sense of her prowess in this one.

Title: “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™”roanhorse 2.jpg
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Apex Magazine, August 2017
Format: Live Reading, Digital Publication
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story shows a different set of Roanhorse’s strengths. She uses humor to tell an important story of identity that resonates no matter your particular circumstances. Set in Sedona, with plenty of regional nods that made me laugh out loud, I couldn’t get enough of this story. But by the end things get serious, and suddenly there’s a twist and damn if Rebecca Roanhorse isn’t a genius!
Recommend: Yes! This story was nominated for and won several awards for a reason. You have to give it a try!

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Book Review – The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Holy Schnikes, Blogland, this book was intense. If you follow me on twitter you might have seen a tweet where I thanked the author for scaring the shit out of me. I can’t remember the last time a book scared me so good. Well, I can, it was just fifteen years ago when I read Stephen King’s The Library Policeman my freshman year of high school. That story still gives me the heebies, and I suspect The Luminous Dead will keep me spooked well into middle age.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

the luminous dead

Gyre Price lied on her resume. She lied in her interview. She oversold her caving experience because she really needed the money from this job, plus, she knows she’s good enough to do it right. But as she climbs deeper and deeper into the cave, her lies become the least of her worries. Because Em, her handler, has told more than her fair share of lies, and the cave has secrets to divulge to them both. If Gyre manages to survive the trip.

What I loved:

  • The narration. It’s an extremely close third person narrative, so much so that, in my memory I often think it’s first person. That’s impressive. That’s how close I felt to Gyre as I read. I also think the narrow third person allowed the tension and horror elements to really shine. When I read a first person point of view I often wonder, “is this narrator reliable?” I rarely wonder that in a third person point of view. So, when things start to get spooky in this book, I didn’t doubt their reality. Not until Gyre started to doubt herself.
  • The tension! This book is tense from page one and it impossibly ratchets up with every single page. Any sense of calm is always thoroughly shattered, and the book makes you question EVERYTHING. Multiple times while I was reading I said, “WTF is going on?” Not because of any weakness or lack of clarity in the writing, but because the events were so frequently mind-blowing. And terrifying. Did I mention terrifying?
  • The horror. Here’s the thing. As an editor of a Weird Fiction mag, I read a lot of horror stories. The best ones scare you, not with a monster, but with the possibility of a monster. They terrify you with the unseen, or the partially seen. The shadow at the edges of your vision that you just know is some evil force about to jump out and kill you. But when you look, nothing’s there. The best horror (in my opinion) is played out in the mind, not in the scene. This book is a freaking masterclass in psychological horror. Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 11.05.31 AM
  • But, that doesn’t mean the monsters aren’t real! There’s a creature called a tunneler, which reminds me of a Thresher Maw from Mass Effect, but that lives and eats through cave systems. Basically, a giant worm of mass destruction. There are also ghosts, and whether they’re real or not I’ll leave up to you to decide.
  • Basically, if you’re afraid of something, it’s in this book. Body Horror? Yep. Tight spaces? Check. Monsters? Ghosts? The dark? Drowning? Yep, yep yep yep. I was literally sweating and my heart pounded during some scenes. There were moments when I had to take a break, put the book down and drink some water before I could pick it back up.
  • There’s also a solid Science Fiction element, with the characters living on a different planet than Earth, and Gyre’s fancy biosuit/mech thing made by Em. The science makes sense without bogging down the story, which is always a plus.

What I didn’t love:

  • ******SPOILER************SPOILER*********SPOILER************SPOILER*****There’s a romance? Kind of? I don’t dislike it for existing and I think it is actually handled well, acknowledging the work that will have to be done to establish trust, but I wasn’t sold that it was really necessary. And it felt sort of inevitable, as if it was the natural outcome of the events of the book and I’m not sure I agreed. It did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all, however.
    ******END SPOILER************END SPOILER************END SPOILER******
  • The characters were difficult for me to like. It took a long time for me to get attached to either of them, with the story pulling me along much more than the characters for probably the first half of the book. This is probably intentional, since both leads are lying liars who lied, and it does make their development that much more satisfying over the course of the book. But, it slowed me down initially.
  • Having nightmares after staying up past midnight to finish this book. Okay, that’s a lie. I LOVED that this book scared me enough to literally give me nightmares, even if the dreams themselves were unwanted.

caitlin starlingBasically, I found a new author to eagerly await books from, and I even got the chance to meet her at the SFWA event the other week! She’s awesome and local, and this is her first book so you should absolutely buy it if you want to be kept awake at night and have nightmares.

I look forward to her future horror stories, future nightmares, and hopefully future readings!

I’ll be back later this week to finally share my April Reading Recap. Expect silence after that while I scramble to finish my manuscript over the weekend. I’m so close, Bloggos. So, so close. Send me your best wishes and snacks. I’m gonna need ALL the snacks.

Until then,

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #18

Last week was a blur. I had so many social activities, writing activities, and spent so much time with my fingers to keyboard that I can’t really remember the details of the week beyond “I wrote lots.”

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1000 words/day on Tavi

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1000 words/day on Tavi
    • Oh my goodness yes. We’re getting really close to calling this one done, Bloggos. Like, really really close.

Weekly Word Count: 10,613

Image result for final countdown gif

Where do I start? I upped my word count goal to 1k/day because I NEED to get this book done before the week of the 13th. I wasn’t confident that I could meet that goal, not at all. But, not only is it good to get used to writing to a deadline, but I don’t want to think about my book (especially the ending) when I should be enjoying my celebrations. Snow Patrol and a hiking trip in the same week. I CANNOT be mulling over a book that week.

Don’t know if you noticed, but I met and exceeded my goal. A big part of that was the Write Here, Write Now event on Saturday, where I spent almost four hours writing. It was a great day and I fully intend to go again next year.

My reading slowed down a little this week, probably because I spent so much time writing. But I still read Every Heart a Doorway and should finish the sequel Down Among the Sticks and Bones this week.

I also launched my Patreon this week! As you may know, Patreon is increasing their rates starting tomorrow, and I’d been sitting on my page doubting whether I should launch it or not. This change was reason enough to go live, and I’m having fun planning my first round of rewards. I’m sharing a lot of free writing advice there as well as a Newsletter and Original Fiction, so you should take a look.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi rough draft

That’s it folks. That’s all I want to do this week. Write a book review for The Luminous Dead, share my reading recap, and finish this book. I’ll have to write another 7k words or more to make it happen, and I don’t have a writing event this weekend, so it’s going to be a near thing. Please send me all your motivation and discipline.

I’m going on a hike this weekend, to Cape Falcon, so expect photos and the usual complaints. I also have a Walk ‘n’ Talk with Madhu. It’d be amazing if the book were done by then, but it’s highly unlikely. Which is for the best, since endings are tricky and I’ll probably need to talk through it a bit to nail it down.

Luckily there are no pressing social activities this week so ought to be able to hunker down and get this book finished!

Wish me luck, Bloggarts.

I’ll be around this week with a book review and the reading recap for April, so keep an eye out for those.

Until then,

 

BZ

 

Book Review – The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

I won’t lie, Bloggos, I went into this book with pretty much zero expectations. I’d never read Hurley before, hadn’t even read the copy on the back of the book before I tucked into it. All I knew was that it was Science Fiction, people were raving about it on twitter, and that I really liked the cover. It reminds me of the armor in Mass Effect, and any book where I can envision Commander Shepard as the protag is bound to get my attention.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

the light brigade

The Light Brigade takes place in the somewhat distant future, after climate change as led to wars that completely restructured the world powers. Instead of governments there are corporations that own great swathes of the planet, and just like corporations today, they are greedy, sending their soldiers to fight one another endlessly. Citizenship is hard to come by, often bought and paid for by joining a Corporation’s military corps. If you survive the experience.

The main character, Dietz, who remains of unspecified gender until the end of the book, joins Tene-Silvia Corp in what was once Brazil, in the hopes of getting Citizenship. And exacting revenge on the humans of Mars for obliterating two-thirds of São Paulo in an event known as the Blink.

But the Corps isn’t anything like what they thought. Bloody, sure. Grim, yes. Brutal, absolutely. But it becomes clear early on that the travel technology the Corp uses, very similar to the teleportation in Star Trek (Beam me up, Scotty!) is affecting Dietz much differently than the way it does everyone else. Dietz begins to question their Corp, their past, and their future as they unravel the truth of the Blink and the war between the Corporations and Mars.

The really cool thing about going into this book utterly unfamiliar with it, is that I had a very similar reaction to the book’s events as the main character. There’s a huge WTF moment in the early pages of this book and it was made even better by sharing it with the protagonist.

What I loved:

  • The narration. Dietz is written as a badass through and through, but they aren’t without feeling. I made a gender assumption in the first half of the book, but realized that I had never once read a pronoun or descriptor that told me if Dietz was a man or woman, or whether they identified as either. After my moment of realization, I also realized that it didn’t matter in the least. That was intentional and I think it was incredibly well done.
  • The gore, which isn’t something I can say very often. In film I can’t stand gore or body horror of any kind, but in fiction I’m much more willing to take on the labor of imagining physical atrocity. There is no shortage of that in this book, but I never once felt that it was gratuitous. While there were times when I was grossed out, I never thought that the moment didn’t need to be in the book or that a description was superfluous. That’s a really fine balance to maintain and Hurley did it exceedingly well.
  • The characters. There are quite a few people to keep track of, and I did confuse a couple of them early on, but honestly, with how that book plays out, it actually added to the immersion of the story. Dietz story is a complex and weaving one, and getting a couple people mixed up is just par for the course. But, once I did know who everyone was, I loved them. Particularly Tanaka, Jones, and the narrator. We learned a lot about Dietz through how they saw, described and interacted with the others in their squad.
  • ******SPOILER*******  ******SPOILER******  ******SPOILER******
    • I normally don’t dig time travel in books. It either confuses me, or it’s simply too unbelievable to work for me. It’s a personal failing more than anything, but this book did an amazing job handling such a complex and intimidating subject. It felt real, mostly because of Dietz’s confusion and their struggle to make sense of everything as they continued forward as best they could. I was really impressed.

******END SPOILER******  ******END SPOILER******  ******END SPOILER******

What I didn’t love:

  • The ending? Kinda. Things to get wrapped up and there is resolution and hope by the end. But it is sort of vague and left up to the reader to decide what the ending means for the story as a whole. It’s hard to explain without spoiling the whole book, which I won’t do here.
  • The book very obviously is anti-corporation, which is great. So am I. I think Hurley did a great job exploring what a future Earth ruled by six major corporations would look like. I have no complaints there. I guess I felt like the message was sort of heavy handed. It wasn’t the book that led me to anti-corporation sentiments, but that the book is pure anti-corporation sentiments. Does that make sense? The way the themes were expressed in the book didn’t give me, the reader, the chance to discover the themes organically. They were there from the beginning, never hiding, and never giving me a chance to try and interpret them otherwise. I don’t even think this is actually a bad thing. It tracks for the sort of character Dietz is, and honestly was refreshing. But it was also a little alienating. I’m still stewing it over and it’s been more than a week since I finished the book. That means it’s probably a good thing, now that I think about it.
Image result for the light brigade book
The artwork is just insanely good.

So, as you can see, there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. And even the things I didn’t like weren’t actually bad enough for me to ding the book’s rating at all. It’s a super compelling story that had me flipping pages faster than I could really read them, I had to keep telling myself to slow down or else I’d get really confused.

This book has led me to add Hurley’s other books to my TBR. She’s a powerhouse and I want to read as much of her work as I can. According to reviews I’ve read, The Stars are Legion should be on the top of my pile soon.

I won’t be back on this weekend, barring any sort of news that requires sharing. So until Monday, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggarts,

This book. This whole series. My goodness. If you haven’t had the chance to read my reviews for the first two books, now would be a good time to do that.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

acol hardback

This book picks up directly after the end of A Gathering of Shadows, and lemme tell ya, shit has hit the fan. Each POV gets an “intro” chapter of sorts and each of them ends in a cliffhanger that made me bite my nails and yell at the book. In this book all the major players get POV chapters; Kell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, Holland, and Osaron. The first thirty pages of the book is at a breakneck speed where stakes are high and my heart pounded in my chest with fear for all my favorite characters.

So, yeah. Nearly killing all of your characters is one way to start the last book in a series. I’ve been taught over the years that the first chapter sets the tone for your book, that whatever happens in chapter one is what your readers will expect from the rest of the book. As a reader I’m not sure I agree with that, since I’ve read plenty of books that were fast-paced and gripping for the first ten pages or so and then slows down and sets the stage afterward.

But Schwab doesn’t do that here. The stakes are high through this whole book, which is no small feat when you consider that it’s 624 pages long. Red London is under attack by Osaron, the entity Holland brought back from Black London, and it will take sacrifices from everyone to defeat him.

What I loved:

  • The characters. This should be a big “duh” after the reviews I wrote for the series so far. I love them all. Even the side characters that don’t seem all that important. Tieren, Lenos, Hastra, Maxim and Emira. I love them all even as they break my heart over and over again. But of course, it comes back to the main players time and again. I adore Kell and Lila, Rhy and Alucard, and even Holland by the end of the book.
  • The relationships, because that’s what this book is really about. Kell’s relationships a conjuring of light alternatewith Lila, Rhy, Alucard, and his parents. Rhy’s relationships with his parents, Kell, and Alucard. Alucard’s relationships with Rhy, his family (which we see more of in this book), his crew, and with Lila. Lila’s relationships with Kell, Alucard, the crew, Barron, and Calla. We even see more of Holland’s past and the people in his life before the Danes stole everything from him. I think that’s what makes this series so successful for me. I’m a very character-driven, emotional writer. So is Schwab, so her books resonate with me.
  • The magic remains some of the coolest shit I’ve seen in fiction lately. There are rules but there’s still a sense that even the characters don’t know all of them. That there is more to learn, more to the world and powers and the people that simply hasn’t been discovered. And that’s really freaking cool.
  • I loved that, despite all the heartache (and there’s a lot of it) Schwab still managed to give us a satisfying, happy-ish ending. I cried a bunch through this book, and the ending was no exception. But she was able to wrap it up in a way that was satisfying and right. That’s no easy task with any story, let alone one I cherished as much as this.

After all that, was there anything that I didn’t like?

a-conjuring-of-light

Not really. I didn’t like that I couldn’t get my hands on the audiobook, which is more a matter of me being too cheap to buy the thing on Audible than anything else. The audiobook has a 6+ month hold through my library, which I’ve kept because I’m going to listen to it and enjoy it (read: cry) all over again. I had to read the book, which I thought would slow me down, but it really didn’t. I devoured it all the same.

I didn’t like that it ended. How’s that for criticism? How dare you stop writing about these amazing people? HOW DARE?

But, you want to know some good news? A Shades of Magic television show is currently in production, and V.E. Schwab seems pretty involved with (and excited by) the process so far. I try to keep my expectations low for adaptations of books, because they so rarely hold a candle to the source material, and this one’s gonna be tough for me. I will have very high standards, which means I will probably hate it.

I’m still gonna watch the shit out of it though, because I am desperate for any and all Kell content. Seriously, it is taking all of my discipline not to shelve my TBR and drown myself in Kell/Lila fanfic. I even found a playlist on Spotify that I CANNOT stop listening to. That’s where I’m at with my obsession right now.

I’d say send help, but I don’t even want it. I’m happy right where I am.

I won’t have another review this week, but I’ll be back on Friday to talk about the SFWA Reading Series event in Portland Thursday night. I’ll be hanging out, drinking beer, and listening to Rebecca Roanhorse and Sam J. Miller read and talk about their books. I am so excited that I’m sure I’ll have a bunch to talk about after the fact.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review – A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Blogland.

How do I even start? What can I say about this book that I didn’t already say about the first one? Oh, this is a good opportunity for you to read that review before you go on with this one, by the way. It’ll prepare you for all the squealing ahead.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

a gathering of shadows

Kell and Lila are back and getting into all kinds of trouble again. Lila’s settled in nicely to life at sea, but becoming part of a crew comes with emotional ties she’s not sure she wants, or can even handle. The charming captain, Alucard Emery, has become her particular friend, and that’s something she’s really not familiar with. Friends.

Meanwhile, back in Red London, Kell’s dealing with the fallout of his mistakes in the first book. The King and Queen have stopped calling him son, have stopped treating him like family and have more or less grounded him. He cannot go anywhere without a pair of guards watching over him. And Rhy’s suffering a similar fate. After his (near) death at the hands of Astrid Dane he’s also got a pair of guards, but it’s the new connection between himself and Kell that has them both feeling claustrophobic.

They can feel each other’s heartbeats, their emotions, even feel one another’s pain. And with both of the Princes agitated and cooped up, they make some… questionable choices. For instance, the country is hosting the Essen Tasch (Element Games), the Arnes equivalent of Magical Olympics. And Rhy is in charge of planning and hosting the event, so naturally, he goads Kell into donning a disguise and competing. Illegally.

Alucard is also entered in the games, so his ship returns to London, and Lila Bard gets a very bad idea. She picks a competitor not so different in build than her, kidnaps him, and takes his place in the competition. Because, oh yeah, Lila’s been working on her magic, and she ain’t half bad.

Meanwhile, in White London, something dangerous is growing. A new threat, that wants nothing more than to spread between worlds in its desire for more.

What I loved:

  • MORE KELL AND LILA!!!!! I love these dummies. I love all their hangups and their trauma and their smiles. I don’t know what else I can say except I love them very much and would read about them until I die.
  • Rhy gets POV chapters!!!! The prince get a lot more screen time in this book, and he becomes much more developed because of it.Image result for castlevania alucard gif
  • Alucard mother-effin’ Emery. I did not need yet another character to love, but Schwab doesn’t care. She gave me Alucard anyway. He’s a jerk, but a very lovable one. Think the “Lovable Rogue” trope and you’ll picture Alucard. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll picture Adrian “Alucard” Tepes from Castlevania and love him even more. Also, Kell hates him and anytime they’re in scene together I cackle.
  • The pace is slower, which I actually enjoyed. It made the building tension slow but in a teasing sort of way. Just when I’d get comfortable with the shenanigans of the Essen Tasch, the narrative would check in with White London and remind me of all the looming bad news. Plus, the slower pace allowed for a ton of character interactions which led to me screaming and squealing and laughing way too much.
  • The narration! Michael Kramer, who does an awesome job narrating most of Brandon Sanderson’s books, narrates Kell’s chapters, and his wife Kate Reading narrates Lila’s. They do a phenomenal job. I can’t imagine anyone reading for them again.

What I didn’t love:

  • The King and Queen. They’re the real dummies in this book, even if I get where they were coming from. Half of the stuff in this book wouldn’t have happened if they had just loved Kell instead of bear a grudge toward him. But, it was believable that they’d treat him with distrust after everything he did.
  • That there is a SIX MONTH wait for this audiobooks and the next through the library’s digital collection. I absolutely cannot wait that long, so I’m reading the last book instead of listening.

Image result for crying gifI can’t think of anything else I didn’t like. I loved this book, almost as much as the first one. I think, the stakes felt lower in this book, but by the end they definitely were not. I cried. Not that it takes much to make me cry, but man, Kell’s last few chapters of this book are… tough.

I’ve inhaled this series, staying up late to read, finding any excuse to listen to the books, like folding laundry and doing dishes. I haven’t been this utterly enchanted by a series in a very long time, and I’m already lamenting the end. I can tell the book hangover on this series is going to be baaaaaaaad.

I’m off on another hike this weekend and the writing is going very well already this week, so don’t expect to hear from me until Monday. You know the drill.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggos! Bloggo bloggo bloggos!

I tucked this book away on my TBR what seems like forever ago and I wasted so. much. time! Thank goodness(?) for that migraine*, else I may have never prioritized it, and would have totally missed out on a new favorite.

*Not really. Migraines are the literal worst and I would not wish them on anyone. They are debilitating and awful and if you get them I am with you and we should get help, ASAP. There are no upsides to migraines, no matter how hard I try to tell myself otherwise.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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This book. You guys. I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, the world(s), the magic(s), the freaking plot! There’s a rivalmance! (For non-fanfic folks, that means rivals become romantic interests over the course of the story).

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Steven Crossley, while I was down and out with a really bad migraine. This book made me laugh and smile when I was otherwise trying not to cry or even worse, puke. This book made a really painful couple of days manageable, or at the very least helped me get through them.

What I loved:

  • Every single character. There’s Kell, a powerful and rare type of magician called the Antari, who is far more dashing than he realizes and I am madly in love with him. Lila, a starving cut-purse who steals from Kell, and inadvertently stumbles into a really dangerous adventure with him. I love Rhy, the suave Prince and Kell’s brother by all but blood. I even liked Holland, the Antari from an alternate tyrannical London, who spends much of his time as the book’s bad guy, even if it’s against his will. His king and queen, the twins Astrid and Athos, are absolutely terrifying and I LOVED it. They were creepy in all the best ways and presented a very real and original threat.
  • The worlds. The book takes place across three different Londons. Grey London, where Lila is from, where magic has dwindled away to almost nothing; AKA our London, pre-industrial revolution. Then there’s Red London, Kell’s London, where magic is in balance with the world and almost everyone has some sort of talent. And then there’s White London, Holland’s London, where everything is cold and dying, where life is a constant power struggle and nothing comes easy. And of course, the fallen Black London, consumed by a magical plague 300 years ago, and not really in this book.
  • The magic! There’s basic elemental magic that most folks have some ability with at least one. There’s Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Metal, and Bone. Some people can wield two or even three of the Elements, but anything more than that is exceedingly rare. Unless you’re an Antari. They can bend all the Elements to their will, AND use Blood Magic, which actually has verbal commands and requires the Antari activate the command with their blood. White London also has some tricky Runes and Seals, but those are illegal in Red London because they bind people against their will, etc.a darker shade of magic audio cover

So yeah, there’s a lot going on in this book and I enjoyed all of it. Like, literally every second. I already intend to read the books over again once I’m done with the series (and manage to find time to sneak in a reread), because I love them that much.

What I didn’t love:

  • Um… the narration? It definitely wasn’t bad, but it was kind of stuffy. Kell sounded too bored, or too impersonal a lot of the time and his magic commands were super dramatic, to the point I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. I liked Crossley’s interpretations of Lila, however. The bad guys had either German or Eastern European accents which felt a little… cliched.
  • That I couldn’t get the second book on the Libby app right away (the hold list is an estimated SIX MONTHS!) so I had to sign up for Audible, again.
  • That I waited so long to try this series! What was I thinking! Why didn’t someone tell me!

Okay, seriously now, all frothing aside, this book obviously ticked every box for me. I have a theory as to why. It felt like fanfic and I mean that in the best possible way. It was FUN. It hit the beats of fanfic, where there’s banter and intrigue and while Schwab does it so skillfully you don’t even notice, she melds all these cutesy moments into the book and makes them matter. Things were predictable, but in a satisfying way. Characters said and did things I wanted them to, and when they did? It was better than I imagined.a darker shade of magic alternate

Perfect. This book was perfect for me, and probably perfect for me at this point in my life. It was the exact book I needed and wanted. It’s been a long time since I had a new favorite series, and I forgot how intoxicating that feeling is. I am currently over the moon with feelings for this series. So, yeah, this is my fangirly, foaming at the mouth review. Whatever that’s worth to you.

Expect more of the same this month because my queued reading is insane! I’m already halfway through A Gathering of Shadows, I’ve started Trail of Lightning, and behind those is A Conjuring of Light and Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. It’s going to be a book review heavy month here at the blog and it’s about damn time.

Barring any news submissions-wise, you won’t hear from me until Monday, when I’m back with the weekly update. Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ