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

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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

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