Book Review – Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

It took me a really long time to read this book. It had nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with my tumultuous summer, which I should have planned for. I always have a tumultuous summer. There’s no escaping them, apparently.

But, once I finally focused and spent some time in these pages, I remembered why I refused to return the book to the library despite my lack of reading. If you haven’t read my review for This Savage Song, now would be a good time.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

our dark duet cover

After This Savage Song, Kate Harker fled her hometown of Verity, and left more than just her demons behind. She thought she left monsters, bad and good, but it turns out monster-hunting is a profession just about anywhere these days. She’s made some friends, computer nerds mostly, and together they are the Wardens, unofficial protectors of the city.

Meanwhile, back in Verity, August had very big, soulless shoes to fill. Leo may be gone, but he haunts August’s every step as the Sunai tries to be the leader, and monster, he was meant to be. It’s destroying him, but it’s the cost of success for the FTF. He’s determined to pay it.

But when a new kind of monster, one that feeds on violence and fear, climbs into Kate’s head and learns about the brutality of every day life in Verity, there’s only one course of action to take. Kate abandons her new life, risking the trip back into the city she left behind in order to warn August and help save Verity, even as it tries to kill them both.

What I loved:

  • The characters. I loved Kate and August in the first book and though there is a lot of tension between them in this book (which hurt to read) they were still utterly fantastic. I will love that violin wielding boy, forever and ever, amen.our dark duet cover 2.jpg
  • The stakes. The plot was a little slow to start, but once August and Kate got on the same page again it was nonstop. Lives are at stake, the city is at stake, and their relationship is at stake. It’s all so freaking good and pulls on every heartstring. Muah!
  • The writing. Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) is a FANTASTIC writer. I adored her Shade of Magic Series, which led me to this duology and I couldn’t be happier. She really flexed her writing muscle with these books and I was torn between speed reading to find out what happened next and pausing to appreciate the music that echoed off the page.

What I didn’t:

  • Um… That there’s only two of them? I don’t know. The ending was perfect and inevitable. It was a tiny bit predictable, but I think knowing how it HAD to end actually upped the emotional stakes. It was sad and beautiful and perfect. But it was still sad. So I guess I didn’t(?) like that.

I feel sort of rusty at these book reviews right now. I’m out of practice in so many aspects of my reading and writing life right now. But, it’s like riding a a bike, right? Writing a bike?

Something like that.

I have a ton of reading lined up for the rest of the fall, so expect to see some more regular book reviews from here on out.

See you then, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

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Book Review – The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

I’ve been a Veronica Mars fan for a long, long time. I first watched the show as a teenager, and fell in love with the scrappy, witty, tiny blonde Junior PI. And then I fell in love with Logan Echolls. That love has never died, well over a decade later. Back in 2014, that love led me to read this book, even though I hadn’t seen the movie.

I gave it a four-star rating then. Now, with the revival freshly released on Hulu, I rewatched the original series, got my hands on the movie, and reread the book!

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

vm thousand dollar tan line

This book takes place in 2014, about two months after the events of the movie. Veronica is back in Neptune, with her PI license renewed and running Mars Investigations while her father, Keith, heals from the car wreck that nearly killed. Logan is back on deployment with the Navy, somewhere in the Middle East.

It’s spring break and the streets of Neptune are flooded with Co-Eds partying their brains out. But when a girl goes missing, and Sheriff Lamb is unwilling to look into the matter, the Chamber of Commerce decides to hedge their bets with the only (reputable) private investigators in town. Veronica takes the case, vowing to find the girl and restore Neptune’s reputation as a spring break destination.

And just like that we’re plunged right back into the gritty and witty noir of the show at its peak.

What I loved:

  • The writing. This book reads exactly like an episode, or a mini-arc of episodes, from the original show. Veronica’s voice is clear and consistent. You hear her narration just like her voice overs from the series. The other characters are also well done, particularly Keith and Wallace.
  • The plot. It’s just twisty enough, giving you all the pieces, but putting them together in a way you just can’t quite manage on your own. This is something the show did super well, and the book keeps that tradition alive.
  • Pacing. The really tricky thing about mystery stories is how the information is parceled out while still keeping the story interesting. Placing your breadcrumbs in just the right place is critical to a successful mystery story. This book nails it. Plus, they’ve got the end of chapter cliff-hanger down to a science.
  • The world. Guys… I LOVE this show. I have loved this show for the better part of my life. My personal sense of humor and style were directly impacted by this series and it will forever have a special place in my heart. So, give me a solid noir story with these characters in this setting? I’m going to have a favorable opinion of it. There’s just no two ways about it.

What I didn’t love:

  • The writing. In this sense, I mean that the prose itself was really simple. The writing has one job, and that’s to tell this story. There’s no frills, no flourishes. It’s windowpane writing, words you’re meant to peer through and fall into the world. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I would have appreciated a little more depth.
  • Not NEARLY enough Logan. I recognize this is a purely fandom complaint and totally personal, but COME ON! We watch this show for like, three reasons, tops. And one of those reasons is Logan “Lovable Asshole” Echolls. Gimme MOAR!

So yeah. That’s it. This is a super fun, quick read. Perfect for a weekend getaway or some other sort of leisure time (read: unemployment). At just over 300 pages, it’s neither intimidating nor underwhelming. It’s the Goldilocks book of fangirling. If you liked the show and have watched the show, it’s the next logical step in your consumption of all things Veronica Mars.

annoy like the wind

I’ll be back on Monday to discuss goals I didn’t manage to share with y’all. I did update my whiteboard, and I am doing some work this week. I think I’m back in action. Maybe.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – June 2019

June was a tumultuous month for me. My reading, much like my writing, came and went. I was distracted and had trouble committing to much of anything. That being said, I read more than I thought I did! Hurray!

Title: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4)in an absent dream
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I had low expectations for this book, since I wasn’t overly fond of the third one, but I LOVED this book. It tells Lundy’s story, of how her door opened and her time in the Goblin Market. I found it to be a perfect blend of cynicism and whimsy that really captured my attention.
Recommend: Yes, though you’ll want to have read at least the first book, preferably all of them first.

Title: Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2)knight's shadow
Author: Sebastien De Castell
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Joe Jameson
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This story is much darker than the first, and let’s be real the first book had five days of torture and a weeklong Purge scenario. I really liked this book, but less for the actual plot and more because I love the Greatcoats (especially Kest and Brasti) and Joe Jameson’s narration is fantastic. I love listening to Falcio talk, which is fitting, seeing as he does so damn much of it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Yes. Just buckle up and prepare yourself for some discomfort and some irritation.

Title: Revenger (Revenger #1)revenger
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A – Did Not Finish
Thoughts: This book struggled from page one. I’m hesitant anytime I read a story with a teenage girl protagonist written by a middle-aged man, but I also like to give it a fair shot. I made it about 80 pages before I finally had to call it. The plot was slow to build, the characters were either unlikable or pretty cliched. There were a lot of cool concepts, but the writing and characters weren’t compelling enough to convince me to do the work to read it. When I have a TBR that’s literally overflowing I don’t have time for bad books. Sorry, not sorry.
Recommend: No.

Title: The October Man (Rivers of London 7.5)the october man
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I’m usually pretty ambivalent about the Rivers of London novellas, but this one was really good! It was fast paced, introduced all new and likable characters, and had a really intriguing plot. It also made me want to visit Trier really badly. I liked Tobias, although his narration wasn’t super different from Peter’s, just with a lot less humor and geekery.
Recommend: If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll like this installment.

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)this savage song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Format: Trade Paperback, Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book surprised me, which is silly since it’s by Victoria (aka V.E.) Schwab. She absolutely blew my mind with the Shades of Magic books, and after this book I think I’ll trust her with just about any book she wants to give me. Verity is a post-apocalyptic (sorta) version of the Midwest. In this world, literal monsters are born from violence. There’s the Corsai, made of shadows and teeth, the Malchai, which seem to be even creepier vampires, and the Sunai, which eat the souls of sinners with a song. It’s incredibly imaginative with wonderful characters yet again. I did give it four stars because it was a little slow to start and felt a little bit… tropey. Like, it very much felt like a typical YA book until about page 100. Not that that’s inherently bad, but it’s not my fave. Pretty much everything after that was spectacular though! Find out more in my full review!
Recommend: Yep! Treat it with patience until around page 100 though.

Title: “Where Monsters Dance”A. Merc Rustad
Author: A. Merc Rustad (now Merc Fenn Wolfmoor)
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story is… weird. In a really good way. An imaginary friend turns out not to be so imaginary, and the main character has to save them in a hidden dimension of benevolent monsters. I really liked the blend of reality and imagination.
Recommend: Yep. This is a visceral and whimsical tale well worth the read.

Title: “Be Not Unequally Yoked”Alexis A. Hunter
Author: Alexis A. Hunter
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I loved this story. It was so unbelievably up my alley. A young Amish man lives with a terrible secret: sometimes, he turns into a horse. The lines are blurring between him and the mare he becomes, until finally they are no longer separate identities. This story accomplishes so much. It’s a trans story, it’s a coming out story, it’s a first love story, it’s a story about religion and family and finding your place in a world you don’t really fit into. It does all of that with beauty and grace and ethereal quality that kept me hooked.
Recommend: Yes! I think there’s something here for just about anyone.

Title: “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad”molly tanzer
Author: Molly Tanzer
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I liked this. It’s more straightforward than a lot of the other stories in this collection, and it’s Weird Fiction, which I read a lot of. The plot was a little predictable, but I liked it nonetheless. A tale of body-snatching, dark rituals, and how fear and hate can have unexpected consequences.
Recommend: Sure! It was a fun story.

Title: “Kin, Painted”benjanun
Author: Penny Stirling
Format: Trade Paperback
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I had to take some time to really marinate on this story. It’s very quiet, with not much action at all. A nameless character struggles to find their “paint” in a family full of artists. The art in this story is more than expression, it is identity. What I really liked was that, while the character struggled and experimented, the family members never once judged or condemned. They support the main character and treat them with kindness and patience. I loved that. It was a lovely and hopeful note to end the collection on.
Recommend: Yes. Honestly, I recommend the entire collection.

 

Book Review – Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien de Castell

Bloggos,

You might not recall, but I listened to the first Greatcoats book back in December to help me through a pretty terrible migraine. You might want to read my review for Traitor’s Blade before you continue on with this one.

So, yeah. You might have noticed that I started reading Knight’s Shadow back in JANUARY. You might also have noticed how it went from my “Currently Reading” shelf on Goodreads to my “To Read” shelf, pretty quickly. Turns out, these books are audio or bust. I could NOT get into the story in a hard copy at all. I kept telling myself I’d get around to the series again, but months went by before I renewed my Audible subscription and found myself listening to Falcio’s story again.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

knight's shadow

This book picks up right where the last one left off. Falcio, still suffering from the Dashini poison, Kest, and Brasti are at the Tailor’s camp with her Greatcoats and Aline. It’s a peaceful momnet, but it’s the Greatcoats. Peace doesn’t last long with these three.

An ambush by Trin’s soldiers forces the Tailor’s hand, so she sends Falcio, Kest, and Brasti off to secure Ducal support for Aline’s bid for the throne. Because, you know, the Dukes just loooooove the King’s Greatcoats. And so starts the doomed adventure.

What I loved:

  • Characters!!! I love Falcio, even when he’s being a big dummy, which is the majority of the time in this book. I love Brasti, the Bastard, and all his snark and arrogance. And I LOVE Kest. He’s so loyal to Falcio, funny in his own understated way, and just generally talk, dark, and broody. I can’t help but love him. But, this book did a wonderful job of making like even more characters than before. Valiana really came into her own in this one, and Falcio’s wife, Aline has some on screen time to make me love her too.
  • The world. Tristia is a complex place with tons of political intrigue, which I love. We got to see more of the small towns and villages in this book, which was a nice change from all the time spent in Rijou in the last book.
  • The narration. Again. Joe Jameson does a wonderful job giving voices to such a large cast of characters and making me care about all of them. I rarely wonder who’s talking, and if I do it’s usually because it’s a new character. I’m pretty sure I’d give anything Jameson narrated a listen, because he’s that good.

What I didn’t love:

  • The plot? I mean, it was fine, but it was really predictable for the most part. I knew who was behind the assassination attempts pretty much immediately. Again, as in the first book, a lot of the story hinges on Falcio not understanding or realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.
  • ******SPOILERS*********SPOILERS************SPOILERS************SPOILERS
  • The rape sequence. It was bad enough hearing about what happened to Falcio’s wife in the first book. In this book, Falcio is tortured with magic and forced to relive the horrible moment as if a fly on the wall in the room in which it happened. It was awful, which I get is the point, but Trin is there and experiencing it with him and finding pleasure in it…. it was gratuitous and made me very uncomfortable. Which, again, is probably the point. My point is, IT WAS AWFUL AND UNCOMFORTABLE and I couldn’t skip over it because I listened to the audiobook. Listeners beware.
    *****END SPOILERS***END SPOILERS***END SPOILERS***END SPOILERS***

There’s more to love here than there isn’t. Kest and Brasti both have big story arcs and undergo a lot of growth. Falcio does too in his own way, I just hope he’ll be smarter in the next one. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if he weren’t touted as this brilliant strategist. The man with a plan. Brasti says time and again, “and he’s supposed to be the smart one!” I’m with you, Brasti. I’m with you. It’s largely why I gave the book a four star rating and not five. Just like with the first one, I found Falcio’s ignorance too convenient, or the plot twist not twisty enough to warrant the fifth star. Still, there are WAY worse books out there, and I still love these goofy, sad, hopeless boys. Especially Kest. Did I mention that?

scarlet ohara gif.gif
Replace the daggers with a bow, and this is basically Brasti.

I’ve got the third book, Saint’s Blood, queued up on Audible but I haven’t started listening to it yet. I finally gave up on Revenger and moved on to the new Rivers of London book, The October Man. I’ll probably finish it tonight. Then I’ll start something new, probably by V.E. Schwab since I have two of her books laying around waiting to be read.

So yeah. Lots of reading ahead. It hit 100º today, which is WAY too hot for this early in the season, so I expect I’ll be indoors even more than usual. Good thing I have all these books waiting to be read!

Talk at you soon, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Reading Round Up – May 2019

I feel like I didn’t read much this month, but that’s mostly because the first two weeks of the month were spent non-stop writing. With that in mind, I suppose I didn’t do half bad. Actually, now that I have it all gathered in one place, turns out I read quite a bit!

Title: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1)every heart a doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: I didn’t know anything about this series beyond the cover copy, so my expectations were basically non-existent. I really liked the characters, especially Jack and Christopher. I think it was a fun story that’s really inventive. Worth the afternoon to read it.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a fun, quick story that leaves you wanting more.

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2)down among the sticks and bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is the story of Jack and Jill and their time in the Moors! Yes! I loved it. I ached for the twins when they were forced into roles and thoughts that were never their own. I really enjoy how McGuire can narrate such mundane moments with fairytale words. It weaves a spell over the whole story and I desperately want to emulate it.
Recommend: If you liked the first one, absolutely! There’s even more to love in this one.

Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3)beneath a sugar sky
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This was my least favorite of the three so far. I wasn’t very attached to Sumi and I didn’t much care for her daughter. I also didn’t feel much for Cora either, even though we share a lot of similarities. But, Kade and Christopher are back and I LOVE them, so it worked out. The Wayward Children venture into Confection to bring Sumi back to life so that her daughter can be born and the world saved from the false Queen. A really interesting plot, but I found Confection really frustrating. Nonesense worlds are not for me.
Recommend: Yep. Still totally worth an afternoon to read, and makes you a little warm and fuzzy inside at parts.

Title: Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpoolsecret agent deadpool
Author(s): Chris Hastings and Salva Espin
Format: Graphic Novel
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This comic book is absolutely ridiculous, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s basically Archer, but with Deadpool playing the title role after he mistakenly kills a secret agent and takes his place in the agency. The Merc with a Mouth gets to put his very specific set of skills to good use for once in this wild ride of a comic series.
Recommend: It’s Deadpool. If you like vulgarity, blood and gore, and absolutely insane plots, then you’re gonna love this volume.

Title: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)all systems red
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is another novella series that I knew nothing about before I dove into it. I just read the blurb that said “anti-social AI” and knew I should give it a try. Turns out, I too love Murderbot. I inhaled this novella and would happily read it again. The first person perspective is witty, casual, and hilarious. I laughed out loud frequently. The action sequences are incredibly well done and often awesome. Seriously, this is a great little book.
Recommend: Yes! I promise, if you don’t mind some F bombs here and there, you will love Murderbot too!

Title: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)artificial condition
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this, and the only reason it didn’t get five stars is because I thought it could have been longer and a little more fleshed out. I also felt that Murderbot’s quest to figure out what happened before it had its memory purged was over too quickly, though I liked that it wasn’t a neat resolution. I also loved ART and hope it makes a comeback soon.
Recommend: Yep. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one.

Title: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)rogue protocol
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I think this is the story where Murderbot really hits its stride. This was a gripping action story with way more emotion than I was prepared for. I still laughed a bunch, don’t you worry, but I also cried a little too. Yet again, it’s Murderbot’s connections with other AI that really standout, this time with Miki, a “pet robot” that surprises Murderbot with how deeply it cares for the people around it. And how much those people care for it.
Recommend: Absolutely. Even if you weren’t in love with Artificial Condition, give this one a shot because it’s a return to form.

Title: The Wicked + the Divine vol. 8wicdiv 8
Author(s): Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson
Format: Graphic Novel
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: While this isn’t a continuation of the story so far, it is a super fun collection of side stories and prequels that give a little more context for the world and story. There are some really funny spoofs included as well, such as the Scooby Doo AU (that’s “Alternate Universe”) that had me cackling in bed and waking my husband repeatedly.
Recommend: If you’ve read the rest of the series so far, you should absolutely read this.

Title: Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4)exit strategy
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Holy hell. This book was tense. Nonstop action throughout and a return to Dr. Mensah and her team. I loved every moment of this story, though my fingernails probably hated it since they were chewed to the point of bleeding I was so stressed. Also, yes, I did cry at the end.
Recommend: Yes. You have to read this book, and if you haven’t yet, please read this series!

Title: Evil Eyeevil eye
Author: Madhuri Shekar
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Harsh Nayyar, Annapurna Sriram, Bernard White, Nick Choski, and Rita Wolf
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This wasn’t on my radar at all but I was a little listless after finishing Murderbot and wanted to listen to something while I did chores. Since it was only a couple hours long I thought, why not? Turns out, this was a really impressive story I would have never tried without my Audible subscription. I loved the narrations, and though the story was a might predictable, I still really enjoyed it. The climax scene was incredibly intense to listen to and it definitely had me sweating.
Recommend: Yes! If you have an Audible subscription, this was one of the Audible Originals for May. I think you can still get it though. It’s only a couple hours long and totally worth it. It was a great way to power through some chores.

Title: “Splitskin”E. Catherine Tobler
Author: E. Catherine Tobler
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor: K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I won’t lie, I don’t think I understood half of what happened in this story, but it was so beautiful, so lyrical and poetic and utterly fascinating that I didn’t really care. I just wanted to languish in the language for a little bit longer. This is definitely one I would reread, in hopes of better comprehension and because the words were just that wonderful.
Recommend: Yes, but only if you can enjoy a story for the craft alone. I won’t guarantee that you like what it has to say, or even understand what it has to say. But if you likes words and how people string them together, you’ll like this story.

Title: “A Salt and Sterling Tongue”Emma Osborne
Author: Emma Osborne
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Uncanny Magazine, Issue 28
Format: Digital Publication
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I loved this story. It’s very poetic with a rhythm that hints to the sea. It’s a heartbreaking story, so be prepared for that, but it’s really quite beautiful too. I think it’s worth a re-read sometime soon.
Recommend: Yes. It’s a little bit longer than I normally like, but it shouldn’t take long to actually read. It’s worth every moment.

Title: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation”bogi takacs
Author: Bogi Takács
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story is wild. A lot happens very quickly and I was left wondering what the hell was going on. I felt disoriented through it, but I’m not sure that wasn’t the point. There’s a very steep learning curve and you have to trust the story to give you context as you go. But, I ultimately liked the world building and the magic/science used to power lightspeed jumps. It was an extremely intriguing blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy that I admittedly loved. The plot was a little vague, even as so much was happening. I was never very certain about what the point of it all was. I still liked it.
Recommend: Sure! If nothing else, take a chance on it and see what you think.

Title: “The Librarian’s Dilemma”E. Saxey
Author: E. Saxey
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: A very interesting story about a person who’s trying to modernize and digitize an academic library and encountering resistance from the head librarian. It’s shockingly pertinent to today’s slowly evolving libraries, but also asks a really important question: are there some writings that aren’t worth saving?
Recommend: Sure. If you have any experience with libraries I think this will be much more effective. I know I related to it because of that.

 

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!

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