Book Review – Legion: Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson

Bloggos,

If it’s been awhile since you’ve read the first two novellas in this series, I recommend checking out my reviews for Legion and Legion: Skin Deep before delving into this one. I know I needed the refresher before I tucked into this book.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Image result for legion lies of the beholder

Stephen Leeds is back, and so are his aspects. Ivy, J.C., and Tobias are still front and center, but a few others come in to play over the course 105 page novella. Personal faves were Lua and Jenny, an all new aspect intent on harassing Stephen as she follows him and writes down every bit of his adventures. His own personal biographer, all in his head!

In this story, Leeds and Co., are on the hunt for the elusive Sandra, who recently texted Stephen a single word: Help. Leeds panics. Sandra hasn’t contacted him in years, and now she reaches out in apparent distress? His anxiety is through the roof, and Ivy and J.C.’s distrust of the situation does nothing to help. But that’s what Tobias is for.

To make matters worse, Leeds is losing control. Two of his aspects have disappeared, turning into Nightmares. Spectral/undead versions of themselves, intent on harming Leeds and his remaining aspects. Turns out, his personas can kill one another. And that’s a painful lesson to learn.

This lack of control only ups the stakes for Stephen. He has to find Sandra. She was the one that helped him gain control in the first place, maybe she can help him again. But as the hunt continues Leeds begins to question who and what is real, and whether the price of ‘normal’ is really worth it.

I have a lot of warm fuzzy feelings for this story. It’s the first Sanderson book I’ve read in quite a while, and it really reminded me why I love him so much. It also struck a resonant chord in me, because Legion is a very personal story for Sanderson and it really showed in this novella.

Leeds is a man with voices and characters in his head. People as real as the neighbors you wave to each morning or the barista who hands you your coffee when you’re running late to work.

And that’s how it feels to be an author. You create these people, often times without really meaning to, and they are suddenly vibrant and demanding and so much more real than you ever anticipated.

The end of this novella actually brought a tear to my eye. And while that’s not unheard of for Sanderson stories, I definitely wouldn’t say I expect to get emotional from his books. This was a bittersweet tear, a feeling wholly satisfied and melancholy.

It was beautiful.

I know Sanderson is widely admired for his giant works of fantasy. Books like Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, Elantris, and Warbreaker. And they are wonderful. I love them all. But man, I think he’s actually at his best when words are at a premium. All three Legion novellas were powerful in their own way, and let’s not forget the Hugo award-winning The Emperor’s Soul.

Legion: Lies of the Beholder is available in a few different formats. As a standalone e-book and in a hardbound collection of all three novellas called Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds. This is the copy I read courtesy of the library, and will eventually Image result for legion lies of the beholderpurchase, once we catch up from our expensive vacation. The cover art is phenomenal, and even better are the ink-blot chapter illustrations that change over the course of the series.

I was impressed with this book overall. Can you tell? I was impressed with the clever plot, and the depth of emotion Sanderson put into so few pages. I was impressed with the book design, both for the cover and the interior and would greatly recommend the series to fans of detective stories with a slight Sci-Fi spin.

I’m making good progress on War for the Oaks, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to review it next week. After that I’ve got a few more Urban Fantasy novels queued up, so we’ll see what strikes my fancy.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

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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 – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Blogland,

I went into reading this book with very mixed expectations. I’d heard multiple firsthand accounts of how brilliant it is, but actually knew absolutely nothing about it. I’ve never read anything by VanderMeer before, and all I knew about Borne was what I could glean from inside the jacket flap.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

borne

Rachel is a scavenger, eking out a living in the City for herself and her partner Wick. Tensions are high, with resources in the ruined city scarce and the giant, hyper-intelligent bear, Mord, wreaking havoc wherever he pleases. Wick and Rachel are distrustful lovers and partners, helping one another and keeping more than their fair share of secrets to boot.

One of those secrets is Borne, a sentient blob of biotech that grows and grows and grows. Rachel tries to raise him in secret, just another topic to avoid with Wick, but Borne quickly proves too curious and clever to be satisfied with Rachel’s small apartment.

With the secret out, Borne explores their domain of the Balcony Cliffs while Rachel and Wick let their secrets drive a wedge between them. When all the lizards have disappeared from their ruined halls, when all the small critters that scampered in the walls have vanished, and when raiders attack their home only to mysteriously abandon the Cliffs, Rachel refuses to entertain Wick’s accusation.

“Borne eats and eats,” says Wick. “But nothing comes out.”

And so begins the battle between Rachel and Wick about Borne. The decisions in which will shape the rest of their lives.

I have some pretty conflicted thoughts about this book. On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the story and the characters. Rachel, Wick, and Borne are delightfully complex and I often found myself disappointed in them as often as I was pleased. The world is developed extremely well, and I’d be happy to spend more time to learn about the City and the Company that deteriorated it so.

But…

VanderMeer’s writing was a struggle for me. Don’t misunderstand, it is beautiful. But it’s also strange. Just like the book itself. I had a hard time, not because the prose is overly Image result for borne vandermeercomplex or wordy, but because the sentence structures were often bizarre. There were entire paragraphs, large chunks of the page that were only a sentence or two. Those were immediately followed with sentence fragments and sentences that played with word order. You have to scavenge the story from the page. And while I can appreciate the mastery of craft behind such a novel, it frequently pulled me from the story, jarred me from the world, and allowed my mind to wander when all I really wanted was to know what happened to Rachel and her makeshift family.

 

See? I’m conflicted. It is a beautiful book. It’s a book that makes the reader work. And I’m not opposed to doing the work, but I felt that Borne could have balanced storytelling and readability a little bit better.

I can’t say if this is true for all of VanderMeer’s stories. I’ve only read Borne, and I’m only a third of the way through the Borne novella, The Strange Bird. So far, I don’t feel like it suffers as much from the jarring language as the novel did. Or maybe I’m just acclimated and notice it less. Either way, I’m struggling less so far. Which is a good thing.

I should be back this weekend to write up my review for The Strange Bird and probably to vent about how stressed I am about this trip. I’ll be fine once we’re on the plane, but each passing day my anxiety grows and grows. Just like Borne.

I need a beer.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 36

Bloggos!

This is my last full week before Germany! There is a ton to do this week, but before I can tear into that, we have to talk about last week.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1000 words on Sanctuary
  • Finish reading Borne
  • Read two short stories
  • Review Madhu’s query letter

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep. No book reviews, just some goals discussions and a general monologue.
  • Write 1000 words on Sanctuary
    • Ha. Ha. No. A whoppin’ 265 words written this week.
  • Finish reading Borne
    • No. But, I read a ton. I’m really close to finishing it.
  • Read two short stories
    • Yes! Three of them actually.
  • Review Madhu’s query letter
    • Yep. She’s probably not happy with me. I was pretty rough on that query, but it’s a crucial step in getting her novel published. We gotta get it right.

Weekly Word Count: 265

So, yeah. You can tell I didn’t get much done this week. I blogged, I read a bit, and I played Detroit: Become Human until I had to hide the game from myself in order to disentangle from the PS4. Thankfully the game is now out of my hands and off to the next lucky person who gets to play it.

In my reading I finally got around to Sam J. Miller’s Things with Beards and Calved, set in the same city as his amazing novel Blackfish City. I also read City of Ash by Paolo Bacigalupi, which is set in a post-climate change Phoenix so I found that pretty darn interesting.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish reading Borne and The Strange Birdthe strange bird
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary

As you can see, I’m striving to keep things simple this week. Because these are the official goals, but there is a mountain of unofficial tasks that have to happen before Tuesday. Such as:

  • Clean the entire house
  • Pack luggage
  • Stock up on dog treats (so sad poocher won’t be quite so sad)
  • Organize travel documents/foreign currency
  • Book shuttle to airport
  • Refill prescriptions
  • And probably a million other things I’m forgetting

(This is my anxiety trying to get out of control. I cope with list-making, so just bear with me.)

And I’m working more hours this week than I’ve worked in two years… Keep me in your thoughts, y’all. It’s gonna be one hell of a week.

I’ll be around this week with at least one book review, and then back on Monday for the goals summary and farewells before vacation.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

The Recap – August 2018

Blogland,

Holy Crow! It’s September! How? When did this happen? Last night, you say? Huh. I must have missed it seeing as I was distracted by all the screaming at androids these last few days. That’s a Detroit: Become Human reference, by the way. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum going forward.

August Goals

  • Submit The Steel Armada to Tim the Agent™
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Santa Sarita recordings
  • Keep reading!
  • Tumblr prompts
  • Write chapters 7+8 of Sanctuary

How’d I do?

  • Submit The Steel Armada to Tim the Agent™
    • Yes! Although it is now titled, Exodus: Descent. I sent it out on the sixteenth of August, just one day after my self-imposed deadline. Not too shabby.
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yes! This story was a trip to write, let me tell you. After four false starts, I finally found the right voice and perspective to write the story through. It has also since been renamed, That Which Illuminates Heaven.
  • Santa Sarita recordings
    • Nope. Thought about it last night, but I replayed Detroit: Become Human instead.
  • Keep reading!
    • Sure did! I read eight titles this month!
  • Tumblr prompts
    • Yep! I only have one left, and I need to do a little research to make sure I get the characters right.
  • Write chapters 7+8 of Sanctuary
    • Nope. I did get halfway done with chapter 7 though!

Total Word Count: 17,862

 

This month was very heavy in the first half. Lots of reading, editing, and then a week of really dedicated writing. This last week was a nice chance for me to relax and not feel guilty for indulging myself in hours and hours of Detroit: Become Human. Like, hours. I’m maybe learning some of the piano music from the soundtrack, which I’ve been told is the true litmus test for my obsession with something.

I have no regrets.

September Goals

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

This month’s goals are very very short, because we’ll be in Germany for twelve days at the end of the month. Also, I’m not feeling super motivated to do much of anything right now. I don’t want to cease all productivity, but I want to pump the brakes a little and reserve energy for October and November. Expect blog activity to be pretty thin this month.

Also, sorry for the delay in publishing this. I wrote half of it on the first, and then the holiday weekend got the best of me. So, here it is, better late than never. I’ll be back tomorrow to get the weekly goals summary out. Expect a similar theme of relaxed goals for the next few weeks.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

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

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 33

Blogland!

It’s been a rollercoaster week, mostly with some work drama that I am so over. But, writing is chugging along, slowly but surely. It’s hot and smoky here, so it’s a good excuse to stay indoors and get work done.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Foxglove Summerfoxglove summer
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
    • Yes! I almost backed out, and then I slammed that send button.
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yes? I started it over, but I think there are more changes to come.
  • Read Foxglove Summer
    • Nope. I’m really close though.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Of course! I always do.

Weekly Word Count: 2,616

This week had a few bursts of energy and productivity, and yet I felt like I just didn’t really accomplish all that much. There was a definite vibe of “taking a break”. I’d worked my butt off the week before getting Exodus into shape, and I think I needed a low key week to let my brain recuperate.

I have no idea what Tim’s turnaround time will be. Or if he’ll even respond. I imagine he will, because ignoring someone you requested materials from would be rude. Right? But, I’ve never really corresponded with an agent before, so what do I know? I’ve got Exodus out to him and a few reader/editor friends. I’ll wait for their feedback before I dive back in to really hone the novella into publication shape. Then I’ve got a list of markets that will accept novellas.

As if submitting short stories isn’t stressful enough.

I’ve reworked Ezra, moving it forward in time. I’ve got a couple thousand words down for it, but I think it needs to jump ahead again. It’s languishing, which is fine while I’m writing and learning these characters, but I need to tighten things up and get to the plot. I’ve got the characters, I have their struggles and dynamic with each other sorted. Now I need to throw them into the mess of this story and figure out what happens.

I think I’ll finish Foxglove Summer tonight, which is good because I need to read these graphic novels and novella as fast as I can. I am out of time.

I gave Madhu my feedback on her manuscript, which means there won’t be any pages to read this week. What a weird concept. No peer review? No line edits for The Audient Void? No novella to write or edit?

What the hell am I doing this week?

So, What’s Next?

  •  Publish 2 blog posts
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke rough draft
  • Finish reading Foxglove Summer
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita

That’s it. I really want to focus on finding the direction for this short story and hammering it out. If I could get it ready for submission before we leave for Germany I would be ecstatic.

I think I’ll finish Foxglove Summer as well as the Peter Grant graphic novels tonight. I’ve spent a really long time in this world and I am just about ready to move on. Just some graphic novels, a novella and one more novel to go. furthest station

I still have a handful of tumblr prompts (3 to be exact), so I’ll get some work on those done this week as well. And then record an episode of Santa Sarita. So, really, there’s not much going on this week, just a lot of time to sink into my writing.

Hopefully the weather will break soon. I’ve got a hankering for a chai latte and oversized sweaters. So if it could dip below 70 degrees sometime soon, that’d be nice.

I have the review for Foxglove Summer on deck, since it’s almost done, and then a Submission Update planned for later this week as well. I’ll be around, so keep an eye out.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ