Reading Round Up – May 2019

I feel like I didn’t read much this month, but that’s mostly because the first two weeks of the month were spent non-stop writing. With that in mind, I suppose I didn’t do half bad. Actually, now that I have it all gathered in one place, turns out I read quite a bit!

Title: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1)every heart a doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: I didn’t know anything about this series beyond the cover copy, so my expectations were basically non-existent. I really liked the characters, especially Jack and Christopher. I think it was a fun story that’s really inventive. Worth the afternoon to read it.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a fun, quick story that leaves you wanting more.

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2)down among the sticks and bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is the story of Jack and Jill and their time in the Moors! Yes! I loved it. I ached for the twins when they were forced into roles and thoughts that were never their own. I really enjoy how McGuire can narrate such mundane moments with fairytale words. It weaves a spell over the whole story and I desperately want to emulate it.
Recommend: If you liked the first one, absolutely! There’s even more to love in this one.

Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3)beneath a sugar sky
Author: Seanan McGuire
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This was my least favorite of the three so far. I wasn’t very attached to Sumi and I didn’t much care for her daughter. I also didn’t feel much for Cora either, even though we share a lot of similarities. But, Kade and Christopher are back and I LOVE them, so it worked out. The Wayward Children venture into Confection to bring Sumi back to life so that her daughter can be born and the world saved from the false Queen. A really interesting plot, but I found Confection really frustrating. Nonesense worlds are not for me.
Recommend: Yep. Still totally worth an afternoon to read, and makes you a little warm and fuzzy inside at parts.

Title: Deadpool: Secret Agent Deadpoolsecret agent deadpool
Author(s): Chris Hastings and Salva Espin
Format: Graphic Novel
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This comic book is absolutely ridiculous, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s basically Archer, but with Deadpool playing the title role after he mistakenly kills a secret agent and takes his place in the agency. The Merc with a Mouth gets to put his very specific set of skills to good use for once in this wild ride of a comic series.
Recommend: It’s Deadpool. If you like vulgarity, blood and gore, and absolutely insane plots, then you’re gonna love this volume.

Title: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)all systems red
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is another novella series that I knew nothing about before I dove into it. I just read the blurb that said “anti-social AI” and knew I should give it a try. Turns out, I too love Murderbot. I inhaled this novella and would happily read it again. The first person perspective is witty, casual, and hilarious. I laughed out loud frequently. The action sequences are incredibly well done and often awesome. Seriously, this is a great little book.
Recommend: Yes! I promise, if you don’t mind some F bombs here and there, you will love Murderbot too!

Title: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)artificial condition
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this, and the only reason it didn’t get five stars is because I thought it could have been longer and a little more fleshed out. I also felt that Murderbot’s quest to figure out what happened before it had its memory purged was over too quickly, though I liked that it wasn’t a neat resolution. I also loved ART and hope it makes a comeback soon.
Recommend: Yep. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one.

Title: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)rogue protocol
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I think this is the story where Murderbot really hits its stride. This was a gripping action story with way more emotion than I was prepared for. I still laughed a bunch, don’t you worry, but I also cried a little too. Yet again, it’s Murderbot’s connections with other AI that really standout, this time with Miki, a “pet robot” that surprises Murderbot with how deeply it cares for the people around it. And how much those people care for it.
Recommend: Absolutely. Even if you weren’t in love with Artificial Condition, give this one a shot because it’s a return to form.

Title: The Wicked + the Divine vol. 8wicdiv 8
Author(s): Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson
Format: Graphic Novel
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: While this isn’t a continuation of the story so far, it is a super fun collection of side stories and prequels that give a little more context for the world and story. There are some really funny spoofs included as well, such as the Scooby Doo AU (that’s “Alternate Universe”) that had me cackling in bed and waking my husband repeatedly.
Recommend: If you’ve read the rest of the series so far, you should absolutely read this.

Title: Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4)exit strategy
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Holy hell. This book was tense. Nonstop action throughout and a return to Dr. Mensah and her team. I loved every moment of this story, though my fingernails probably hated it since they were chewed to the point of bleeding I was so stressed. Also, yes, I did cry at the end.
Recommend: Yes. You have to read this book, and if you haven’t yet, please read this series!

Title: Evil Eyeevil eye
Author: Madhuri Shekar
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Harsh Nayyar, Annapurna Sriram, Bernard White, Nick Choski, and Rita Wolf
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This wasn’t on my radar at all but I was a little listless after finishing Murderbot and wanted to listen to something while I did chores. Since it was only a couple hours long I thought, why not? Turns out, this was a really impressive story I would have never tried without my Audible subscription. I loved the narrations, and though the story was a might predictable, I still really enjoyed it. The climax scene was incredibly intense to listen to and it definitely had me sweating.
Recommend: Yes! If you have an Audible subscription, this was one of the Audible Originals for May. I think you can still get it though. It’s only a couple hours long and totally worth it. It was a great way to power through some chores.

Title: “Splitskin”E. Catherine Tobler
Author: E. Catherine Tobler
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor: K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I won’t lie, I don’t think I understood half of what happened in this story, but it was so beautiful, so lyrical and poetic and utterly fascinating that I didn’t really care. I just wanted to languish in the language for a little bit longer. This is definitely one I would reread, in hopes of better comprehension and because the words were just that wonderful.
Recommend: Yes, but only if you can enjoy a story for the craft alone. I won’t guarantee that you like what it has to say, or even understand what it has to say. But if you likes words and how people string them together, you’ll like this story.

Title: “A Salt and Sterling Tongue”Emma Osborne
Author: Emma Osborne
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Uncanny Magazine, Issue 28
Format: Digital Publication
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I loved this story. It’s very poetic with a rhythm that hints to the sea. It’s a heartbreaking story, so be prepared for that, but it’s really quite beautiful too. I think it’s worth a re-read sometime soon.
Recommend: Yes. It’s a little bit longer than I normally like, but it shouldn’t take long to actually read. It’s worth every moment.

Title: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation”bogi takacs
Author: Bogi Takács
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story is wild. A lot happens very quickly and I was left wondering what the hell was going on. I felt disoriented through it, but I’m not sure that wasn’t the point. There’s a very steep learning curve and you have to trust the story to give you context as you go. But, I ultimately liked the world building and the magic/science used to power lightspeed jumps. It was an extremely intriguing blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy that I admittedly loved. The plot was a little vague, even as so much was happening. I was never very certain about what the point of it all was. I still liked it.
Recommend: Sure! If nothing else, take a chance on it and see what you think.

Title: “The Librarian’s Dilemma”E. Saxey
Author: E. Saxey
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: A very interesting story about a person who’s trying to modernize and digitize an academic library and encountering resistance from the head librarian. It’s shockingly pertinent to today’s slowly evolving libraries, but also asks a really important question: are there some writings that aren’t worth saving?
Recommend: Sure. If you have any experience with libraries I think this will be much more effective. I know I related to it because of that.

 

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Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #21

Whoops. Memorial Day got me all confused, I nearly forgot to post my Monday update! I’ve spent the entirety of my day snacking on the couch while I explored Ancient Egypt in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. So much relaxation!

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Start a new short story
  • Read Madhu’s pages
  • Finish reading Beneath a Sugar Sky

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog postsbeneath a sugar sky
    • Nope. Sorry about that.
  • Start a new short story
    • Yep! It’s coming along rather slowly at the moment.
  • Read Madhu’s pages
    • Yes!
  • Finish reading Beneath a Sugar Sky
    • Yarp, and then some!

Weekly Word Count: 465

Starting a new story is always a risky thing. Some come out the gate strong, knowing who and what they are. All they need is for me to sit down and devote the time to typing. Other stories are full of false starts and halfway there’s before the true tale unfolds and finally comes together. This new story is one of the latter kinds. It knows what it wants to be, I just have to keep trying until I get it right. I’m hoping slow and steady will do the trick.

I did a ton of reading last week. I finished Beneath a Sugar Sky, and read both All Systems Red and Artificial Condition. I even eked in the first 50 pages of Rogue Protocol. So, that’s part of why there was no second blog post: I was too busy reading! I also watched some nature documentaries, because nothing quite equals relaxation like David Attenborough’s voice.

There was also the matter of a very muddy, pleasantly tiring hike to Cape Falcon on Saturday and the fact that I worked six days last week. Looking back, I was surprisingly busy.

Aaaaand, this week is going to be more of the same.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 1k on In Great Need of Ghosts
  • Finish reading Murderbot books

This week is a busy one at work again, working another six days. Throw in a hike on Saturday and all the reading I want to get done before the end of the month and, well. It’s gonna be a busy damn week.

The good news is that I have a playlist built for the new story and like the most recent direction it’s headed. I think some of the previous work I have for it can even be incorporated, so that’s good! As long as my butt is in the chair, I should see some good progress on the story this week. Murderbot-novellas

I want to finish Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, read the newest Wic+Div, and read two short stories this week… I’m tired just thinking about it. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are my best bets for writing, with reading time happening before bed. And I have another hike this weekend, Marion Lake, which is up in the mountains and comes with its own falls. It promises to be chilly and gorgeous. Expect photos once again.

So, yeah. That’s the plan. Write, read, work, repeat. Sound good?

I’ll try to finally write that Post-First Draft post this week. I think I wrangled my thoughts into something like coherence. I guess we’ll find out!

Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #20

Hey Bloggos,

Last Week

  • Enjoy a week off

Weekly Word Count: 0

Last week felt long. Like, really really long. I had so. much. time! I played video games, went to see Snow Patrol, cleaned the house, played more video games. We beat Overcooked and started on the DLC. I tried to catch up on my reading. It was nice, but I was also very restless. I didn’t feel like I ever really relaxed, until I crossed over the Cascades and started my hiking weekend.

We started with a breakfast in Sisters then drove through Bend and to the Newberry Volcano National Monument, where we explored a Lava Tube Cave. I’d never been in a cave before, and having just read The Luminous Dead, I was understandably nervous. Turns out, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

If you ever have the opportunity to see a cave, you absolutely should. It was an amazing experience, an all new sensation for me that has left me feeling inspired and in awe.

After that was lunch in Bend at a restaurant called Spork, where I ate Lomo Saltado and could have died with joy. We’ve made Lomo Saltado in my house a few times and it’s definitely a household favorite and comfort food. But I’ve never had “real” Lomo Saltado. Turns out, ours is pretty dang close and it’s all delicious. Then we went to Prineville to meet our friend and get settled at her place for the night. We ordered pizza and watched the new What We Do in the Shadows tv show. what we do in the shadowsWe binged all eight episodes over the weekend and I am obsessed with it. I can’t wait to share it with Trevor. If you liked the movie, I’m here to tell you that the show is even better.

The next morning was the big day: The Painted Hills! It’s something I’ve always wanted to see, a natural wonder that I honestly forgot was in Oregon. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my passion for geology here, but I’m a bit of a rock nerd. And this weekend my rock nerd was a kid in a candy shop!painted hills 2

It was supposed to rain, but instead it was sunny and I was a dummy in a tank top getting a sweet, sweet sunburn. But I’m not even mad. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place; I’ll take a little pain for it.

We had lunch in one of the tiniest towns I’ve ever seen, called Mitchell, where there were three cafés, a feed store, a grocery story, and one brewery. It was adorable in a very dusty, hard-working, Old West kind of way. It reminded me of home and going to the feed store with my papa. It reminded me that I do have love in my heart for the desert. It made me want to take a hiking trip back home. Maybe next spring?

And then I came home last night and had a great evening in, playing games and making food with the husbando, preparing for the week ahead. Overall, it was a relaxing and productive week in its own right. I’m glad I made myself take a break.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Start a new short story
  • Read Madhu’s pages
  • Finish reading Beneath a Sugar Sky

I’m going into this week feeling a little lost at sea. I’m not sure where to start, but I do feel like I have the energy and focus to work on something. It’s just a matter of figuring out what that project will be. I have a couple ideas, but we’ll see where the week goes.

Madhu and I exchanged pages before I left for the weekend. She’s already read mine and replied, and since we have a Walk ‘n’ Talk™ scheduled for Thursday afternoon I need to read hers soon. beneath a sugar sky

I’m on track to finish Beneath a Sugar Sky either tonight or tomorrow and would really like to read All Systems Red before the week is out as well. We’ll see how that goes depending on how much time I spend writing this week. Since I want to revisit Exodus: Descent for revisions this summer, reading all these novellas will prove quite useful.

Submissions are still out. I’m beginning to hear the Jeopardy! theme whenever I have a quiet moment and the dread starts to build. I should hear back on at least one story either this week or the next. Fingers crossed.

I don’t have any book reviews primed for this week, mainly because I’m reading novellas and short stories right now. But, I do want to share my thoughts on the drafting process of this book, so might do a sort of recap talking about the experience. Either way, I’ll come back later this week with something to share.

Until then, Bloggarts,

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #19

It’s Monday, Blogland. And I really feel it today. The weekend was less restorative than it was just… catatonic. And now the sunshine is gone, replaced with cooler temps and clouds. All I want to do is sleep and play Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Is that so wrong?

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi rough draft

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish Tavi rough draft
    • YES. AFFIRMATIVE. INDEED. YARP. YAAAAAAS. YEP. BOY-HOWDY. I’VE BEEN SCREAMING (oops, still screaming) about it all weekend.

Weekly Word Count: 11,360

Inspired by the Write Here, Write Now event a couple weekends ago, on Friday I hosted a Write-a-thon in the Writer’s Discord I’m a member of. I wanted to finish the book on Friday, plus I’d set a goal — a deadline — and I was determined to keep it. With only a couple chapters to go, I figured that I might be able to eke it out.

I was correct. I wrote 5400+ words on Friday, which more or less melted my brain. I have no idea if what I wrote made sense, but it seemed to at the time. The last few chapters came very differently than the rest of the book, which will probably be a whole post of its own once I’ve sat on the realization that I finished my book’s rough draft a bit longer. There are thoughts swirling in my brain about the experience of writing this book over the last six months and I’ll want to write them all down somewhere. Might as well be here.

I also started another 500 word story for my patrons, but I’m not sold on it yet. It’s a rehashing of a very old scene I wrote for an exercise in a Creative Writing class. I can’t find the original scene, but I remember it pretty clearly. I want to readdress some of the themes and see if I can’t do it better now, eight years or so later.

I didn’t read much last week because I was writing so much. So that’s a bummer. But, I spent the weekend bingeing Assassin’s Creed, playing Overcooked with the husbando, and generally avoiding the world. Due to Mother’s Day festivities on Saturday, I did not go on my hike to Cape Falcon, which was disappointing. After Friday’s marathon I could have really used the peace and solitude of the coast.

What’s Next?

  • Enjoy a week off

I’m taking a mini-vacation y’all. No writing this week. No looking at the book, no deciding what to write next. I need to air out my brain and take a well deserved break. Tomorrow night is the Snow Patrol concert, Wednesday is the Willamette Writer’s meeting, Thursday night is Trivia, and then Friday-Sunday I’m out of town on a hiking trip!

I’ll be busy, but not with writing, which will make for a refreshing change of pace. Hopefully it’ll have me back in action for the week after when it’s time to write some short stories!

I’m still (slowly) making my way through the Wayward Children series, and have The Murderbot Diaries queued up for after that. I’m still reading short stories. I’m still doing all of these things, just letting my brain take a bit of a nap before we move on to the next project. And since I don’t have any reviews to share, and no writing news either, I probably won’t be back on the blog this week.

Next week you can expect lots of pictures from the hikes, and maybe even a few from the concert tomorrow.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – April 2019

What a busy reading month! Now that I’m back to just the one job, my productivity in all areas has greatly improved. At this rate, I might finally catch up with my 2019 reading goal!

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)a darker shade of magic audio cover
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Uh… I freaking loved it. Like, a lot. You should probably just do us all a favor and read my review so I don’t lapse into obsessive squealing right here and now.
Recommend: Hell yeah! I’m basically screaming about it to anyone who will listen to me. And to some who don’t. I’m just screaming, all right?

Title: The City in the Middle of the Nightcity in the middle of the night
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts: Anders is a very good writer. This book has received a lot of great press and did several things very successfully. That said, I did not like it for some very key reasons. Extremely flawed (unlikeable) characters and a meandering plot were a couple of them. For more details, both good and not so much, check out my review.
Recommend: Meh? It seems like mileage varies with this one. Some folks loved it, others really didn’t. Maybe read some reviews first?

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)a gathering of shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this one almost as much as the first one. This one had less of a sense of wonder, but there was so much more time with the characters and so much tension building up over the course of the book that I kept yelling at the audiobook when things happened. Lots and lots of squealing could be heard in my house. For more details, be sure to check out my full review.
Recommend: Oh my goodness yes!

Title: Trail of Lightning (Sixth World #1)trail of lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: An incredible first book in a new series. I love Urban Fantasy and this one did an awesome job of fitting in the genre while carving out a healthy circle of all new ideas and and style. I loved the breakneck quality of the plot and the dialogue was really natural; I could hear everyone. I can’t wait for the sequel! Don’t forget to read my review for full details.
Recommend: Absolutely! If you like Urban Fantasy at all, I’d mark it as required reading.

Title: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)a-conjuring-of-light
Author: V.E. Schwab
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: So many. So many thoughts. So many feelings. I loved every moment of this book, even as it tore my heart out and stomped it into the dirt. Kell really comes into his own in this book. Hell, so does everybody. Rhy, Alucard, Lila, even Holland. Everyone has to sacrifice something, and they come out stronger for it. This book was both a sprint and a marathon. Every chapter felt dashing, rushed, I read so quickly I’d have to reread it because I’d missed something. But the book kept going, relentless and tearing me to pieces even as it made me laugh. Get all the details in my review.
Recommend: Yes. A thousand times yes.

Title: The Light Brigadethe light brigade
Author: Kameron Hurley
Format: Hardback
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: This book is a trip. It hits hard, doesn’t pull any punches, and keeps coming at you. Aggressive is a good descriptor. I personally thought the themes could have been a little more subtle, but I think the frankness and in your face quality of the book more than make up for it. The plot is very compelling. I couldn’t put the book down. I had to keep reading because I HAD to know how everything came together. I don’t often find that Time Travel is well handled in fiction. I struggle with it in television and movies often, but this book blew me away with the unpredictability of any given moment. Read my review for more details.
Recommend: Totally. It’s a standalone, whirlwind ride that makes you think and doesn’t give you all the answers. What’s not to love?

Title: Elevationelevation
Author: Stephen King
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator(s): Stephen King
Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: I liked the concept, a man loses weight without manifesting any physical signs that he’s doing so, but the execution was… strange. It was oddly political, with an us vs. them theme of Liberals versus the rest of the conservative town. It hinged on a married couple, both women, who were shunned and reviled by the town, but whom the main character strove befriend. It felt very forced and not actually all that compelling. After Elevation there is a short story called “Laurie”, about a recently widowed retiree and the puppy his sister gave him, against his wishes. That was much better and I loved it.
Recommend: Not on audio. King’s narration isn’t very good (imo), and sadly “Laurie” isn’t included in the physical copy. Not sure I’d suggest this unless you’re an unwavering King fan.

Title: The Luminous Deadthe luminous dead
Author: Caitlin Starling
Format: Trade Paperback ARC
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Holy shit. This book scared me. I haven’t been scared by a book since I was in Junior High. Not since I read The Library Policeman by Stephen King when I was 14. Are you afraid of heights? Drowning? The Dark? Monsters? Ghosts? Losing your mind? Tight spaces? Because this book has all of those things. And the tension just ratchets up over and over and over, until you’re left as drained and exhausted as the characters. This book gave me nightmares of being hunted and seeing faces in the dark. That’s how GOOD it is. Get all the details in my full review!
Recommend: If you want to be creeped the hell out, hell yeah. It’s terrifyingly good.

Title: “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”N.K. Jemisin.jpg
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Collection: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?
Editor(s): N/A
Format: Digital Audio
Narrator: Robin Ray Eller
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: I listened to this driving to work with a migraine, so I didn’t absorb it as much as I’d like. It’s an interesting story, told in a first person, direct monologue, where the narrator is speaking or writing to a “Friend”. She tells of an alternate version of our world where a utopia actually exists and describes it in great detail. The narration actually reminded me a lot of a character from Anthem, Sentinel Brin. Their speech patterns were very similar. I should have expected the unconventional narrative choice, since Jemisin’s use of second person point of view in The Fifth Season is why I chose to read that book in the first place.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a pretty story that I’m sure hits heavier when you’re not barely conscious. It is a lot different than other things I’ve read of Jemisin, but not unpleasantly so.

Title: “What Maya Found There”Daniel Jose Older.jpeg
Author: Daniel José Older
Collection: A People’s Future of the United States
Editor(s): Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: A look at weaponized science in an age when science is vilified. I liked a lot about this story, particularly the character driven lens. There’s enough tech sprinkled in, enough implied body horror to keep me interested, but ultimately I didn’t find it as resonant as some of the other stories I’ve read from this collection.
Recommend: Sure. It’s a perfectly good story, and you might get more out of it than I did.

Title: “The Petals Abide”benjanun.jpeg
Author: Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Collection: Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction
Editor(s): K.M. Szpara
Format: Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Interesting. Blends SF elements with a Fantasy tone, about an AI(?) who sculpts organic people into other beings. There’s romance and longing, and really I can’t boil it down into anything more than feelings, than a sense of what was happening. Everything felt shrouded, like I never really saw it, but that was okay.
Recommend: Yes. It’s a very beautifully written story with an intriguing concept.

Title: “Kenneth: A User’s Manual”sam j. miller
Author: Sam J. Miller
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Strange Horizons, December 2014
Format: Live Reading
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: The story is exactly what it sounds like: A User’s Manual for a sculpted, gorgeous, ripped dancing machine. Kenneth is made for fun, but he’ll make you beg for it. The format is strange, intriguing in its lack of conventional plot, but no less effective for it. I like the story because it reminds me that stories can be told in all sorts of ways.
Recommend: Yes. At just over 1000 words, this story takes only a few minute to read and should get at least a few chuckles out of you. Cheeky is a good word to describe it.

Title: “Harvest”roanhorse
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Editor(s): Nisi Shawl
Format: Live Reading, Trade Paperback
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: Never fall in love with a deer woman. This story tells of the dangerous affair of one man(?) and the legendary Deer Woman who seeks vengeance for all the deaths of her family. The way this story balances the sensual and grotesque is really powerful and riveting. I wanted to hear more, even when I was blushing. I had to finish reading it once we got back home.
Recommend: Yes! This story really displays Roanhorse’s range. You get a strong sense of her prowess in this one.

Title: “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™”roanhorse 2.jpg
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Collection: N/A
Editor(s): N/A
Original Publication: Apex Magazine, August 2017
Format: Live Reading, Digital Publication
Goodreads Rating: N/A
Thoughts: This story shows a different set of Roanhorse’s strengths. She uses humor to tell an important story of identity that resonates no matter your particular circumstances. Set in Sedona, with plenty of regional nods that made me laugh out loud, I couldn’t get enough of this story. But by the end things get serious, and suddenly there’s a twist and damn if Rebecca Roanhorse isn’t a genius!
Recommend: Yes! This story was nominated for and won several awards for a reason. You have to give it a try!

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