Book Review – Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book sideswiped me. I like to think of myself as pretty up to date on SFF publishing. I check the Locus website for upcoming publications. I read articles about the most anticipated releases of the year. I follow burgeoning authors on twitter. I use all of this information to recommend purchases at the library, helping to do some legwork for our Fiction Selector, since she’s in charge of developing the entire collection (over 500,000 circulating materials).

But, with all of that, I still managed to miss the announcements and hype for Trail of Lightning before it was published. In fact, I didn’t hear about it until a couple months after it was out and there were murmurs of its pending awards nominations. Even then, I didn’t get it added to my TBR for another couple months, and only just now finally made time to read it.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

trail of lightning

Y’all. Buds. This book? This book is relentless. The main character, Maggie, is at once familiar and incredibly original. She’s a badass, through and through, but she’s also dealing with a lot of trauma and doesn’t know how to cope. I love her in all her stubborn glory. It’s rare for me to read an Urban Fantasy, which this loosely qualifies as, and read female characters that aren’t sexualized. Even female POV books tend to do this, and I’ve yet to figure out why. But, Maggie? Sure, Maggie’s sexy but not just for sexy’s sake. She feels real. Important. She can be sexy, but it isn’t her only trait. She’s not defined by it.

I loved that.

There’s also a huge world to explore and a ton of secondary characters I want to know more about. Basically, all my basic requirements for a binge-worthy Urban Fantasy series were there, and then some. For instance, this book is set after what’s known as the Big Water, aka post-climate change. The world is redrawn into the protected zone of Dinétah (land of the People, basically) and not. And while Dinétah is relatively safe from the carnage of unchecked climate change, there’s still plenty that’s gone wrong within the walls.

Also, this book balances the macabre and humor very, very well. Plus, the pacing is out of control. I mentioned in my Goodreads review that this book grabs you and doesn’t let go. Now, a lot of reviews say that about books, but rarely do I actually feel like a book dragged me through the mud with it, in a good way of course, and left me out of breath by the end.

Other great things about this book:

  • Really cool magic linked to the family clans of the book’s Indigenous People, particularly the Navajo in this book.
  • Navajo mythology! Coyote, as in the Trickster, is in this book and it is incredibly cool. It’s really wonderful to see non-European mythology in an Urban Fantasy(ish) book. As much as I love different takes on Faerie Courts and Vampires, I could really get behind some more variety in Fantasy fiction.
  • Characters! So many wonderful ones. Maggie, of course, Grandpa Tah, his grandson Kai, Grace and her three badass kids. Oh man. So many. Roanhorse does a wonderful job of fleshing them all out while maintaining her, terse, stacatto prose.
  • Speaking of which. I LOVED the prose of this book. There were so many sentence fragments, and it felt so natural that I often didn’t realize it until my editor brain pumped the breaks and made me reread some lines. Think about it. People don’t speak in complete sentences. We don’t. But so frequently we write in them that we can forget how to use them in a first person narrative. but Rebecca Roanhorse sure as hell knows how to wield a sentence fragment, which only makes her longer, more complex sentences stand out and carry that much more weight. *chef’s kiss*
  • It’s an incredibly quick read. At under 300 pages, told at breakneck speed, you could conceivably rad this book in a day. I read it in four.
  • Um. The cover art? Did you see it? It’s freaking gorgeous! I can’t look away from Maggie, except I want to look at all the other details too! The truck, the lightning, Kai and his spiky hair and cigarette. The subtle metallic shimmer of the gold background. I love it all. Image result for pitter patter gif

So, yeah. What are you waiting for? Go read this book! Plus, this is the perfect time because the sequel, Storm of Locusts, comes out NEXT WEEK! Whaaaaaat?

See, now you have no excuse not to read this book! So what are you waiting for?

I’ll be back later this week to scream at you about the second Shades of Magic book. Barring any other news (fingers crossed) you won’t hear from me until then. Have a good middle of the week, Blogland.

 

BZ

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Reading Round Up – March 2019

Blogland,

March was another weird month for reading, which is making me think 2019 might just be a weird year for reading. Normally there’d be a lot more book reviews by now and a much higher number on my Goodreads tracker. I don’t think I’ve ever started the year this far behind! But, where there’s a will and all that…

Title: The Black God’s Drumsblack god's drums
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Format: Paperback Novella
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a wildly inventive book with an amazing narration that demanded my attention. In just over 100 pages, there’s an incredible amount of world building and character development. I loved everything about this story and will be on the lookout for more stories from Djèlí Clark.
Recommend: YES! This was an amazing little standalone story, perfect for an afternoon of riveting escapism.

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fearbig magic
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Gilbert
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I think there are definitely some gems in this book, but they require some digging and I wasn’t fond of what they’re buried in. Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that she’s a little mystical in her thoughts and processes. I… am not. So, take that with a grain of salt.
Recommend: Eh. If you’ve got nothing better going on and want to read someone’s very specific thoughts and feelings on the creative process, why not?

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyguernsey
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: A fun and surprisingly light read for a book that centers around the aftermath of World War II. I watched the Netflix movie adaptation and loved it, and while the book was just different enough they are very similar. I would even say the movie is better, which I almost never say. For more thoughts, check out my review here.
Recommend: Sure! It’s a sweet read, perfect for vacation or any low-priority reading.

Title: Red Rising: The Sons of Aressons of ares
Author: Pierce Brown and Rik Hoskin
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Bloody and gory and brutal in all the best Red Rising ways. I was never a big fan of Fitchner’s, although I changed my tune a bit toward the end of the series. But, I do love Sevro, and this is as much his origin story as it is the Sons of Ares’.
Recommend: Yep, as long as you’ve at least read the original Red Rising Trilogy, otherwise this is allllll kinds of spoiler-y.

Now that I’m back to just the one job my reading should be back to its speedy-self. I’m starting with Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, hope to finish Putting the Science in Fiction after that, and then start Trail of Lightning. You see? I’m booked!

I’ll be back on Monday with the usual Goals Summary. Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #12

Blogland,

This was a pretty uneventful week, which is exactly what I wanted after the week of travel.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Clean the office

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
    • Nope. There was progress, but not half so much as there should have been.
  • Clean the office
    • Yes! I did this right after posting last week’s Goals Summary and it has been so wonderful to have my space tidy and… clear? It was spiritually freeing to have my room back in shape.

Weekly Word Count: 1,479

So, yeah… about this week. I honestly am not sure what happened. I just didn’t find much time. I didn’t make time. My free time was spent making delicious dinners with my husband, reading short stories, and watching Jeopardy. And… it was pretty nice.

The Walk ‘n’ Talk on Thursday was a long one, as expected, but we discussed a lot of great stuff and I think Madhu is very close to querying and getting her story out in the world. Trev and I went to video game trivia and came in 4th, just the two of us, so that was pretty neat. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the David Barker signing like I’d hoped to because by Friday I was pretty worn out.

I have a tiny bit of news in regards to submissions. My newest short story “That Which Illuminates Heaven” has been sent on to the final round of consideration at a very well-respected Professional Market! While this is insanely exciting news, it also means I’ll be waiting even longer to hear back about it, so my nervous energy has ratcheted up accordingly.

Image may contain: text
This was a great email to wake up to Friday morning!

But, the best news I have is that I finally made the decision to quit my second job! This week is my last week working at Starbucks, which means next week is going to have a lot more free time to get work done.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Keep reading!

And that’s it. I’m working something like 47 hours this week and I just don’t think it’s reasonable to expect more from myself than blogging and writing. I’ll be reading a short story a day still, and if I’m focused I’ll hopefully finish reading The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. city in the middle of the night

But, that’s it for this week. Focus, get work done at a steady pace, and prepare to bust ass in April.

I’ll be around this week with a bonus Craft Discussion, and maybe a book review if my book just grabs me and refuses to let go. Next week will be a busy one on the blog with the usual weekly update, the monthly recap, and the reading round up.

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Hey Blogland,

As promised, I’m back and ready to talk about this book. Bear with me though because I am super sleepy and wiped out after an almost 2 hour Walk ‘n’ Talk with Madhu.

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

guernsey

In an unusual turn of events, I became aware of this book after my husband suggested we watch the Netflix adaptation for Valentine’s Day. This was strange for two reasons. One, I watched a movie. I’m really not a big movie person and have to be cajoled to sit for longer than 30-minute intervals. I just don’t have the attention span for most films. Two, I watched a movie knowing it had been adapted from a book I HAD NOT READ. I am eternally vetoing Trevor’s movie suggestions because “I want to read the book first”. But this time he plied me with steak (NY Strip cooked to perfection) and baked potatoes and salad.  I was too hungry to argue, and I have to admit, the trailer had me intrigued.

Well, I liked the film so much that I immediately put the book on hold at the library, and took it with me on our trip to Cincinnati. I figured it would be the perfect vacation read. Entertaining, fluffy (Fanfic speak for zero drama, pure domestic bliss), and since I already knew the plot, easy to put down when it came time to adventure in a new place.

Turns out, there was enough the movie left out to keep me hungrily flipping pages as I read letter after letter from a wide and lovable cast. Guernsey is entirely Epistolary, which was really fun to read. I think the last Epistolary novel I read was Frankenstein in college, and it was a bit more labor-intensive than this. I do think the book actually

dawsey gif
I mean, look at him.

benefited from my having watched the movie, because I already knew and could see all of these characters as I read their letters. Particularly Sidney and Isola. Well, and Dawsey of course.

 

But, you’ll notice that the book only got 4 stars. And here’s why:

I don’t think the book would have been half so successful if I hadn’t seen the movie first. I think it would have been a bit boring. And I didn’t like that Markham turned out to be a bit of a jerk after all, when in the film he wasn’t. I didn’t like the fact that Juliet felt jealous of a freaking HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR because she thought Dawsey liked her. And even though Juliet acknowledged how messed up that was, it still felt gross.

I think the book was all right, but that the Netflix movie took what was there and vastly improved on it. I just wish the whole storyline about Isola’s Grandma and Oscar Wilde had made into the film. Though, I understand why it didn’t, since it literally served no purpose other than to be entertaining.

So, yeah. A fun read, worth an afternoon or two if you want a story that makes you smile and lets you turn your brain off for a bit. If you’d rather reserve your reading time for more challenging or thought-provoking things, I’d say just watch the movie. Which I never, ever say.

guernsey

I could go on forever about the movie. It’s become an instant favorite, and hit a lot of the same beats as the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (which I adore). Apparently I’m a sucker for a quality period romance, particularly if it’s a slow burn. They’re both movies that thrive on subtlety, where glances and small touches convey more than the dialogue and I CANNOT GET ENOUGH.

And, it turns out, all of that is super hard to convey in a series of letters. Maybe that’s why the book fell a little flat for me.

 

See y’all on Monday.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #11

Hey Bloggos,

With less than half a week to get anything done, I had some low expectations which is probably why the whiteboard was in the black by Sunday night.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi chapter 14
  • Catch up on short stories

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep! Due to last week’s travel there were a bit closer together than usual, but both the Goals Summary and my thoughts on our trip are up now.
  • Finish Tavi chapter 14
    • Yes! I think I wrote that last bit in somewhat of a stupor because I don’t really remember doing it, but it’s done and the next chapter is underway.
  • Catch up on short stories
    • Yarp. I mean, I still have to read two short stories today and tomorrow, but I’m on track and reading consistently, which is the whole point.

Weekly Word Count: 1,170

I don’t have a whole lot to talk about last week, since the work week didn’t really start for me until Friday. My weekend was filled with chores, writing, and reading. We made dinners and watched movies and I binged a nature documentary on Saturday. That was about it.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Clean the office

Okay, that last one is a weird one. I don’t normally put household chores on my list of weekly goals, but this one is related to my writing and it’s been bugging me for forever so it’s time to prioritize it. It’s not even all that bad, but things need tidying and organizing, and the floors could do with a sweep. So onto the list it goes.

I’ve been doing pretty good about writing this month. I’d like to catch up for all the missed writing days during vacation, but I’m not going to burden myself with the added workload either. Every word over 500 in a day just adds up. Maybe it’ll be enough. Maybe not. We’ll know on the 31st. (I just did the math, which is always suspect for me; I need to write 719 words a day from here on out to meet my goal for the month, which is doable. But still, I’m not going to push for it, I’ll get close regardless.)

The blog should be fairly active this week. I’ve got the book review for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to write this week and I might write up a little something else if I find myself with some extra time. half in light half in shadows

I have a Walk ‘n’ Talk scheduled with Madhu on Thursday, and then it’s trivia night with Video Games as the theme, so yeah. I’ll be going to that. Friday night is “An Evening with David Barker” which I feel I ought to go to, since I’m on the masthead for his chapbook Half in Light, Half in Shadow, which he’ll be signing at the event. Plus, David’s a great guy and deserves all the support. So, if you’re in the Salem area on Friday night, you should come say hi!

And all of a sudden my week looks pretty busy. Damn. I guess that means it’s time to get to work!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #10

Blogland. I have so much to share with you about Cincinnati that it requires a blog post unto itself. Keep an eye out for that sometime this weekend. In the meantime, there’s work to discuss.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write Tavi Chapter 14
  • Have a great time on vacation!

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write Tavi Chapter 14
    • No. But I got a good chunk of quality work in before we left town.
  • Have a great time on vacation
    • Yes? It was a mixed-bag thanks to a migraine the first two days and a doozy of a trek home, but I still managed to relax and have some fun.

Weekly Word Count: 3,566

Last week did see a return to some productive writing sessions. I’d hoped to get even more writing and reading done on vacation, and while no writing happened, I did start and finish The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society between plane rides. Be on the lookout for that review, either this weekend or early next week.Paperback The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Book

This trip also brought a halt to my Short Story a Day challenge, so I’ll be reading two a day for the next five days in order to catch up. Follow me on twitter for real time updates and micro-reviews, or check the What I’m Reading page for an updated list.

I maybe started a new short story. Maybe. I mean, I did, but I haven’t finished it and I’m not planning to any time soon. It’s nice to know I have another one in the wings though, for when Tavi is done. Which should still be sometime in May.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi chapter 14
  • Catch up on short stories

This week is basically over, so I need to keep the goals simple. So, lots of reading and a bit of writing are it for me as I try to get back into the swing of things. I’ve got my next book queued up, Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night. I am very excited because this book has received a ton of positive press from authors I love, but I have almost zero knowledge about it or the author. Another adventure awaits!

I’ll be pretty active around here this weekend and next week, so expect to hear from me.

Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

 

Reading Round Up – February 2019

Blogland,

I really liked last month’s Round Up. It was  nice to write up smaller thoughts and impressions of books I’d read, and it really streamlines my search for “what the heck I read last month” when I’m writing other posts or want to look at my reading to look for book recommendations at the library. Useful and convenient? Yes, please!

Title: Rivers of London vol. 4: Black Mould
black mould.jpgAuthor: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a fun side story in the Rivers of London universe, following Peter and Guleed as they chase down a sentient, malicious, magical mold (mould if you’re British). What I really like about all of the graphic novels is that they give side characters a chance to shine. Guleed, Molly, and even Toby the Terrier get their time in the spotlight. The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 star rating is because they tend to be so fluffy. This are fun spin-offs and nothing more. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Recommend: Absolutely, for fans of the novels.

Title: Rivers of London vol. 5: Cry Foxcry fox.jpg
Author: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Another good installment, although this one bummed me out a little. The character Renard was introduced in one of the later novels of the series, and I found his true neutral personality to be very intriguing. but in this story, Renard firmly plants himself in the realm of the baddies. *sigh* But, this was another example of side characters getting their time to shine. This issue featured Abigail and Guleed as unwilling players in a modern-day version of The Most Dangerous Game.
Recommend: Absolutely, if you liked the novels.

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killeri'll be gone in the dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Gabra Zackman, Gillian Flynn – Introduction, Patton Oswalt – Afterword
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Oh my god, where do I even start with this book? I loved everything about it. The prose, the narration, the details. McNamara did an amazing job of not shying away from the horror the Golden State Killer wrought across California, but painting it in an incredibly human light. She focused on the victims and how it felt to be one, or to know one, or to fear you might become one. She also did an incredible job of humanizing herself without making the book about her. She acknowledged the insanity of her obsession and the toll it had on her life and her relationships, without coming across as whiny or unaware of her own privilege. She was thoughtful and that showed in her narrative. The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing this book to life for me, and her voice could be so soft and quiet, and then so gravelly and terrifying. Her range astounded me. I even liked the introduction, afterword, and extras included at the end. A really wonderful book if you have even the slightest interest in true crime or serial killers.
Recommend: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Title: Firefly: Big Damn Herobig damn hero
Author: James Lovegrove (original idea by Nancy Holder)
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts:
 You know I hate giving low reviews, but this was an underwhelming and trope-filled adventure through the ‘Verse. There’s better fanfic available for free on the internet. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Nah. There are better media tie-ins out there. Or better yet, just go back and watch the show. If you really have a hankering, you could always find some high quality fanfic to scratch that itch.

Title: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) 
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardbacklies sleeping
My Goodreads Rating:
5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Aaronovitch is a really consistent author. I have a great time reading the Rivers of London series no matter which installment is currently in my hands. This latest novel is no exception. It was a little slow to start, but that is likely more my fault than the book’s. This book really picked up in the second half and even brought me to tears once. It’s at once fun, harrowing, and emotional. I really enjoyed my time with it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend:
Yep! But you’ll need to read all the others first. Oh no… more books to read!

Not too shabby for the shortest month of the year, and one with a major video game release. I’ll count this as a win, for sure. In March I’m reading a short story a day on top of my normal reading, so keep an eye on the What I’m Reading page for updates!

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ