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

skyward

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.

Image result for skyward m-bot

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.

Image result for skyward m-bot

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 – 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

rosemary and rue

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.

Image result for october daye

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

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 42

Hey Bloggos,

This week was a bit of a blur. I worked over 40 hours this week and went to see Hozier on Saturday night. It was amazing, everything I’d hoped and dreamed it to be, and I’m still sort of floating along in an daze whenever one of his songs shuffles on in my Spotify playlists. But, now it’s time to come back to earth and get back to work.

Photo credit: fireeh.tumblr.com

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Research, round 2
  • Read Rosemary and Rue

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
    • Yep! I got some really great feedback from Madhu on it already, and look forward to taking the next steps in this story’s journey to publication.
  • Research, round 2
    • Yes. Though, I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to.
  • Read Rosemary and Rue
    • Yes? I didn’t finish it, but I made some solid progress this week, reading about 100 pages.

Weekly Word Count: 0

Writing that my word count for the week was zero never feels good. But writing was not on the list of goals this week. I’ll make up for it in November.

That Which Illuminates Heaven is going well. I’ve got some changes to make to the first page, and maybe some more streamlining in the first five pages, then I’ll do a polishing draft to make sure each word is perfect. Then it’ll be time to send it out and see what happens. That’ll be three stories out at the same time, so thank goodness for The Submission Grinder helping me keep everything straight.

Research is going a bit slower than I anticipated, but there’s a lot more to wade through than I expected, so that’s why. I’ve moved on from angels to the devil and I’m getting some good info and ideas as I do. Next up will be fallen angels and Catholicism, and some more setting resources. And before you know it, research time will be over and writing time will be here.

I didn’t read Rosemary and Rue as much this week as I really wanted to. I’d say it’s my limited schedule that’s to blame, but honestly, this book just hasn’t grabbed me yet. I rosemary and ruewant it to! I’m intrigued. But I’m not interested. I have to remind myself to pick it up and give it a shot, and once I do I’m happy enough to keep reading. It’s just picking it up in the first place that’s proving difficult.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Edit The Charlatan and the Coinshot
  • Research and outline NaNo project
  • Read A.V. submissions
  • Finish reading Rosemary and Rue

Another busy week with little to no writing. I’d like to get That Which Illuminates Heaven “finished” before NaNoWrimo starts, so that I don’t have any lingering projects looming in my mind when I’m supposed to be writing.

Also, November marks a year since I started writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project, my Mass Effect: Andromeda/Mistborn Era 2 crossover fanfic The Charlatan and the Coinshot. And that means I can finally talk about this giant collaboration project my lovely friend Kit and I have been working on this past year! The story will go live on the 1st, with updates every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of the year. 16f84a70-8aac-4b1c-8a3d-58061c8b2146 (1)

There’s still a lot of research I want to do before NaNo kicks off, so I’ve put even more books on hold at the library in hopes that I’ll be able to squeeze in some quality study time before all my time is devoted to writing.

I put out a post about The Audient Void‘s call for submissions last week, and you guys did not delay! In our first four days of accepting submissions we’ve received over 75 short stories and poems! So now I’ve got an inbox full of stories to consider, and I couldn’t be happier! I love reading your guys’ work.

And of course, there’s the Urban Fantasy novels to read. Rosemary and Rue is going slowly, but not so slowly that I’m willing to give up. Reading just might have to slow down for the time being to make way for the other projects going on right now. I’m four books ahead of schedule to meet my reading goal for the year, so I’m comfortable taking a breather in this regard for now. There will still be reading and reviews, so don’t worry! They’ll just be a bit slower to show up than normal.

If I can finish Rosemary and Rue this week, you’ll see me again here at the blog. If not, next week has a lot of posts planned thanks to the end of the month and the start of National Novel Writing Month.

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.

prince phouka

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!

hozier.jpg

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

The Recap – September 2018

Bloggos,

Everyone call Green Day because September is ending! I’m back from vacation and pleased to find Oregon well on its way into fall. The leaves are falling, pumpkins beg for carving, and the weather is wonderfully dreary. A very nice change from Munich’s humidity and warmth. There’s a lot from my vacation to talk about, but I’ll get into that more tomorrow. Today, we talk about:

September Goals

  • Tumblr prompts
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary
  • Keep reading!
  • Continue short story submissions

How’d I Do?

  • Tumblr prompts
    • No… I didn’t get that research done that I needed to, so this prompt moves on into October.
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary
    • Hahaha nope! I wrote like… a paragraph?
  • Keep reading!
    • Yes. I read four titles this month, with two book reviews, and a handful of short stories.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yes! I received another rejection while on vacation and just sent The Cost of Rain off to the next place.

Total Word Count: 265

Well. I knew September would be incredibly unproductive, I just didn’t imagine it would be that bad. Like… zoinks Scoob, that’s really bad. But, I planned for this. I planned for a lax September and an editing/research heavy October because November is National Novel Writing Month! I won last year, and I aim on doing it again. The difference this time is that this project isn’t fanfic, the plot isn’t preordained and the world doesn’t already exist (well, it’s an Urban Fantasy, so yes, actually it does, but you get my point!). This year it’s going to take a lot more work to get to that 50k mark, and then a few more months of dedicated effort to finish it off.

But I’m excited for this story. I’m ready to do the research and spend the time outlining so that I at least have some idea of where the hell this novel is headed. That way, when I get stuck, I have some kind of map to help guide me out.

October Goals

  • Tumblr prompt
  • Edit That Which Illuminates Heaven
  • Research/Outline for NaNo project
  • Keep reading!
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary

This is going to be an ambitious month. July and August were busy months with very high output for me, but September saw a decrease in all reading and writing. I want to spend October really revving back up so I can put my best writerly foot forward for NaNoWriMo and to get back into the swing of things.

I hate to admit it, but I think I’m going to shelve The Mechanical. I like it, but it’s a slow book, with a very atmospheric narrative style that is the exact opposite of what I need to read right now. So, instead, I’m going to focus on Urban Fantasy novels for the month of October, starting with Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks.

I’m always open to recommendations, so please let me know if there’s any Urban Fantasy out there that I absolutely must read! I’ve read all the Dresden Files books, all but the most recent Peter Grant book (it’s on hold at the library), and have the first books of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, and Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police series on hold at the library.

Please tell me what I’m missing!

So that’s October! Probably another low word count month as I edit, research, and read my butt off in preparation for NaNoWriMo! I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about last week and share a bunch of pictures from my vacation in Germany, and then it’s back to the grindstone. Don’t expect any book reviews this week, since I’ll be starting fresh this month with a new book, but hopefully I can get a few out later this month.

Talk soon, 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

the strange bird

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.

Image result for the mechanical tregillis

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 – The Furthest Station (Peter Grant #5.5) by Ben Aaronovitch

Hey Bloggos,

Just a quick post today. This novella takes place between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree, so I made a point to get it through the Interlibrary Loan program at my public library before I crack open the last book.

Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars

furthest station

In a city as old as London, Peter Grant and the other members of the Falcon unit (aka, the branch of the Metropolitan Police that deals with “weird shit”) have come to expect their fair share of ghosts. But when there are multiple sightings along a particular line of the underground the Folly takes notice and sends their best: Peter Grant and his 14 year old cousin, Abigail.

Since these ghosts keep manifesting on train cars, we also see the return of Jaget Kumar, the BTP (British Transport Police) equivalent of The Folly, unit of one. Lucky for me, I really liked Jaget in his debut in Whispers Under Ground, and I was happy to see him make a reappearance.

So, Peter, his cousin, Jaget, and Nightingale all swoop in to try and figure out what these ghosts are all about and why they’re just now manifesting. It doesn’t take long for the team to discern that the ghosts are trying to send a message, and that a “Princess” is in danger, held captive in a “dungeon”.

Peter is the one to make the leap from ghostly poetry to kidnapped woman in the suburb of Chesham, and the hunt begins!

This novella was a ton of fun. Beverly Brook makes an appearance along with a River God toddler, as does Toby the magic-sniffing dog, and there’s plenty of light-heartedness and humor. I think that’s why I gave it such a low rating. After Foxglove Summer, I need more answers about Lesley and the Faceless Man. I wasn’t ready to read light-hearted.

It’s probably my fault for reading it in between, but that’s the timeline of the story! And, I understand that meaty, series-wide storylines are unlikely to get much focus in a novella since novella readership is typically much lower than novels. I get it.

But I ultimately felt a bit underwhelmed by this story. It was too topical. Too… fluffy. I wanted more. So, three stars it is.

My reading slowed down a little this week because I finally got my hands on Detroit: Become Human! I loved it, by the way, and will probably waste a lot of time playing it and exploring all the different possible scenarios. borne

 

I’m ingesting Borne in leaps and bounds, just few and far between. I’m also reading a lot of short stories right now to do some research for when we get back from Germany and it’s time to edit That Which Illuminates Heaven.

I don’t know if I’ll have a book review for next week. It’s a holiday weekend and my best friend is in town from Iowa. But, maybe later in the week? Hopefully?

I hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend! I’ll be around tomorrow for the monthly recap, and then again on Monday for the usual weekly goals summary.

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ