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

Book Review – The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

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

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

the light brigade

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

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

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

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

What I loved:

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

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

What I didn’t love:

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

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

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

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

 

BZ

 

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

Bloggarts,

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

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

acol hardback

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

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

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

What I loved:

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

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

a-conjuring-of-light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #16

This last week was a blur. I’m trying to think of what all I did, and honestly I can’t tell you much. The weekend was full with hiking, family get-togethers, and yard work in the decent weather. We also watched a couple movies and spent the holiday relaxing together, a rare occurrence these days.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Finish reading A Conjuring of Light

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep! Including two book reviews.
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
    • YES! Writing went very very well this week. a-conjuring-of-light
  • Finish reading A Conjuring of Light
    • …yes. I am so sad because of it. What the hell do I do now?

Weekly Word Count: 4,980

I think it’s safe to say that the novel is officially in the third act and things are rolling downhill and gathering steam. Every time I sat down to write I wrote almost double of what I’d hoped to. I’d exceeded my word count goal by one hundred words by Saturday, and so rewarded myself with a writing-free Sunday. I also wrote about 1300 words hammering out a 500 word story for PodCastle’s Flash Fiction Contest. It was a real challenge, which was the point, but I’m pretty proud of what I came up with. I’ll have more details about this over the summer, once voting on the stories begins.

Book reviews for both Trail of Lightning and A Gathering of Shadows are out now, so check those out!

Thursday was a four mile Walk ‘n’ Talk with Madhu, where we mostly commiserated over waiting to hear about submissions. After that, since it was such a lovely day, I found a patio, had a beer and some french fries, and got some good writing time in.

I went on a lovely hike this weekend at Opal Creek, one of Oregon’s most popular hikes. It was a cool and misty morning that broke into a gorgeous day. The water was gushing with fresh snowmelt, the roar of the river never-ending. We packed a lunch of tuna salad, hard-boiled eggs, dolmas, cheesy bread, and dried coconut and apple chips. The picnic at the middle of the hike is always my favorite part.

And then Sunday was a chill day, watching movies, making good food, and enjoying the peace and quiet. I finished reading A Conjuring of Light last night, I cried a good deal, and then moped in bed because what else could I do? I have a serious case of book hangover right now.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Finish reading The Light Brigade

This straightforward approach has worked the rest of the month, so why not keep it going? I’ve got the review for A Conjuring Light to post this week, and will probably have another post later in the week as well. Writing continues to progress at a steady pace, so I’m confident that I’ll make my goal for the week. I’m working a little bit less this week too, so I have more time for writing.

the light brigadeI’ll also have some more time for reading, which is good because I haven’t even started The Light Brigade yet! It’s not too long, and all the press and reviews I’ve seen about it promise a fast-paced and gripping story. So, I should be able to finish it this week. I’m slowly, but surely, catching up to my reading goal.

This week is a busy one otherwise. I’m going to Portland on Thursday for the SFWA’s Reading series, where both Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning) and Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City) will be reading and speaking! I am so stupid excited for this event and Trevor’s even going to come with me!

Then Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day. Each year The Book Bin does a big daylong celebration with panels and authors, and usually ends the day with a release party for the newest issue of The Audient Void. This year is no exception, with issue #7 final proofs returned to Obadiah today. So, if you want to come down, support a local bookstore, and grab your issue, hot off the press! If you don’t live near Salem, you should still visit your local indie Bookstore and give them some love.

No hikes for the next couple of weeks, there’s just too much going on. So I’ll be home or at writing/book events, getting work done. That’s the plan. I’ll see you soon with a review, Bloggos.

Until then,

 

BZ

 

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

Blogland.

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

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

a gathering of shadows

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

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

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

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

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

What I loved:

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

What I didn’t love:

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

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

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

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

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Book Review – 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

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