Top 5 Wednesday – Books I’ve Removed From My TBR | Mini Update

I’m back from my unannounced mini-hiatus! I’ve been mentally-exhausted for the past week and a half due to health issues and a fiasco involving a missing passport, so I just stepped away and did everything but read and blog, including tennis-watching, nature-trailing, art-drawing…er, dark-short-story-writing. All of which helped quite a bit! So take breaks when you need to, folks.

The site is also going through a mid-life crisis right now, so I apologize for any erratic changes that may or may not hurt your eyes.

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“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme is: Books You’ve Removed From Your TBR

I don’t remove books–especially SFF books–from my TBR often; I hoard them like a greedy little dragon-in-training. But when I do, it’s usually for one (or more) of three reasons:

1) I read reviews that pointed out how some of the themes in the book were handled very, very problematically.

2) The author turned out to be a Milkshake Duck–someone whose work is attractive but has the moral compass of an evil honey badger. I’m currently writing a post on the idea of separating a writer’s work from the writer and I’ll discuss it in further detail then.

3) The book is a part of a series that I’ve fallen out of love with.

Let’s get cracking.

1. Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lady of Avalon

Imagine being fifteen and discovering a female-centric retelling of the King Arthur legend–one that reimagines Morgan le Fay as a complex, sympathetic character. Imagine falling headlong in love.

Then imagine finding out five years later that your teenage idol had had sexually abused her daughter for nearly a decade. I’m not the only one who threw away their copy of The Mists of Avalon at the news, and my journey through the Avalon series came to a stop right before Lady of Avalon. I just can’t, in all good conscience, read a series of novels that champions feminine strength while knowing the author’s actions were a complete antithesis of those themes.

 

2. Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle 4) by Christopher Paolini
Inheritance

I was obsessed with Paolini’s Inheritance series back in middle school. I named MMO characters after his characters. I had debates over it with a classmate throughout the entirety of lunch. Then years later, Brisingr dropped and I thought it was…okay. Several more years later, I picked up Eragon again to prepare myself for Inheritance, and I found myself unable to finish it. I think it was a combination of me being exposed to er, better-written fantasy books and a shifting of tastes, but whatever the reason, I was suddenly seeing flaws everywhere in the story. So Inheritance currently resides alongside Breaking Dawn and the Mortal Instruments books in the graveyard of series I never got to finish. Sorry, Chris.

 

3. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood was a case of me expecting something completely from what the book actually turned out to be. The blurb sold it as a portal fantasy of sorts, but then I found out that most of the story was set in the contemporary world. Which is fine–just not what I had in mind. I’ve also heard complaints about the terrible treatment of a PoC character, so this one’s a pass for me.

 

4. Ship It by Britta Lundin
Ship It

This is a case of Number 1, where I’d been eagerly waiting to get my hands on a story that explores fandoms and all they entail–fanfics, comic cons, shipping–and queerness to boot. But apparently Ship It explores all the wrong, toxic avenues of fandom culture, including shipping of real-life people and ambushing creators to try to get what you want. I don’t need to see that in fiction; I have Tumblr for that.

 

5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
When I’d first heard of Thirteen Reasons Why, it was getting showered with critical acclaims, and I got rather curious. But my personal experiences since then combined with all that I’ve heard of the book and TV show from people have considerably soured my interest.

The idea of a story about someone who lists out all the reasons that led to them committing suicide feels exploitative. Cold. Gilded in angst and profundity to attract awards while doing nothing to address suicide and depression in a respectful or meaningful way. I’m pretty sure I’ll find the book triggering and angering, neither of which I’m keen on experiencing anytime soon.

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And on that cheery note, let’s here from you!

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Review: Annex (The Violet Wars 1) – Kids VS Aliens

Annex

Author: Rich Larson
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: July 24th, 2018
Genre(s) and Themes: Sci-Fi, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 368 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 7.0/10

 

 

 
Annex bucks my recent trend of reading books that have strong beginnings and lackluster endings, because I struggled hard with the beginning of this one. The book presents a city that’s been overrun by aliens. The adults have been captured and turned into non-violent, still-breathing zombies, and the children are being rounded up and experimented on. In the midst of this chaos, we follow the lives of a surviving group of children known as the “Lost Boys” who are led by a teen named Wyatt.

I came into the book expecting a sprawling alien invasion epic set on Earth a la Independence Day, except starring children. The reality, however, was rather different. Let’s count the ways, shall we?

  1. The story gives you zero introduction to the invasion situation.

From the beginning, I felt like I was thrown into the middle of a story that was already ongoing and my brain was a whirlwind of questions. Who are these aliens? What have they done with the adults? Is the whole world completely destroyed? Why are they experimenting on children? The book just gives you a coy wink and a smile in lieu of answers, and this drove me crazy.

2. The first half of the book is more like a Peter Pan/Lord of the Flies mashup against an alien invasion backdrop. 

I don’t know why it took me nearly half the book to figure this out considering the kids literally call themselves the “Lost Boys.” There’s a lot of focus on the dynamics within this little makeshift family, especially between Wyatt and the two main characters, and much of the beginning is just a recounting of their daily lives as they dodge and fight aliens. The scope is very narrow– because these children know very little about the aliens, we know very little about the aliens.

Once I’d finally made peace with these two points, things started to get a lot more enjoyable. And there is a lot to enjoy in this story. Lawson does action scenes very well-dynamic and exciting–and his descriptions of alien-related creations are fiendishly creepy and imaginative. I especially loved the “othermothers”–creatures made by the aliens to resemble the kids’ mothers, if their mothers had metal insect legs. They gave me heavy Bioshock vibes–kind of like a mix of splicers and Big Sisters.

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The characters are a colourful bunch. We have Bo, an eleven-year old boy who recently escaped from the warehouse where the aliens are performing experiments on kids. Unfortunately, he was my least favourite of the cast as I found him lacking in personality and far, far too old for his age. Then there’s Violet, a fifteen year-old trans girl who’s grappling with the fact that she’s free to be whoever she wants for the first time in her life but still mourning the loss of her parents. Her desire for acceptance and love is is something you can’t not empathize with, and her sassy attitude quickly won me over. There’s also Wyatt, leader of the Lost Boys and a Machiavellian rendition of Peter Pan. He’s charming, manipulative, despicable, campy–sometimes all at once–and wholly entertaining. Larson’s eye for snappy dialogue really brings him to life.

Then around the halfway mark, we meet Gloom the saboteur alien, who is hands-down the best character in the book and one of the more interesting side characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this year. Picture slender man in a bowler hat with a facial expression that just looks off. Picture slender man in a bowler hat with the ability to shapeshift. Picture a shape-shifting slender man in a bowler hat with an unintentionally dry sense of humour and an overall endearing personality. That’s Gloom in a nutshell. Is he as awesome as he sounds? You bet. He’s a precious blend of creepy and lovable and he steals pretty much every scene that he’s in.

All in all, Annex turned out to be a fun, fast-paced story that’s very contained and at times claustrophobic. It just took me some time to get settled into it.

~

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

July Plans – Sci-Fi, Gerblins, and Discworld

One day–one day–I will do a monthly TBR post right at the start of said month and angels will weep in joy (and flood the world and usher in a post-apocalypse). But alas, today is not that day.

These are the books that I will 100% get to by the end of this month, either because I have to or because I really, really want to. I’m on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately and that seems to be carrying into July, as there are 3 on this list! (Fantasy purist teenage-me would be flabbergasted)

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Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers:
Currently reading through this one and I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s like a cross of Mass Effect and a cozy soap opera, and I can see why people call the series “hopepunk.” It’s my first experience with a Chambers’ novel and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (Illustrated by Rovina Cai):
Moby Dick but flipped upside-down, with whales hunting a mythical man. I just finished it the other day and it’s weird but it works. And I just adore Ness’ stories in general. If the guy announces one day that he wants to write an Austen-esque anthropomorphic animal erotica, I’ll just nod and say, “When can I preorder?”

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Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky:
A high fantasy novel that I know very little about (the blurb is rather vague), but I liked Tchaikovsky’s previous books and I’ve heard good things about this one from Susy, so I’m looking forward to diving into it.

Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio:
I’ve been craving a large, sprawling scifi epic and this looks to hit all the marks. It’s been compared to The Name of the Wind and from what little I’ve seen, the prose is just my kind of flowery.

Temper by Nicky Drayden:
Drayden’s debut Prey of Gods was a fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and Temper looks to continue that trend, albeit in a slightly darker direction. It features twin brothers, jealousy, and a whole lot of demons. Very exciting.

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Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras

The Adventure Zone: Here there Be Gerblins

It probably says a lot about me that my two most anticipated reads of this month are a 72-page video game tie-in novelette and a comic book adaptation of a D&D podcast. Dragon Age and The Adventure Zone are two of my favourite things in the world and it is fairly ridiculous how excited I am for these books.

DISCWORD READ-A-THON

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For those who have missed the original announcement post, Nicole and I are launching our Discworld Readathon this month, starting with The Colour of Magic! Each month we’ll read through one book in the Discworld series and post our reviews on the last Monday. You can join in for any month and stop at any time.

It’s my first official foray into the Discworld universe and I’m very excited to get to know all the characters whom I’ve heard so many great things about.

If you haven’t yet signed up for July and would like to join in, leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our list!

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What are you most looking forward to reading this month?

June 2018 Wrap-Up

So today is supposed to be a Diversity Spotlight Thursday post day (say that five times), but it’s been a stupefyingly busy week, what with Canada Day weekend and work stuff, which led to me completely losing track of time.

Confession time: I write the majority of my posts the day before they’re to be published, sometimes just hours before (*cough* like this one). So if I just happen to forget that tomorrow is a Wednesday and not a Monday or a Tuesday, then my entire weekly “schedule” is going to be out of wack–which is exactly what happened. This past week I was living in my own universe where I had my own days of the week and 5 PM was a perfectly fine bedtime, so things have been just a tad discombobulating.

So don’t do what I do, kids. Plan your week. It’ll save you heaps of future agony.

Right, enough of my mess of a brain. Onto today’s post! June was a slumpy month but I did somehow manage to knock off 9 books:

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June-1
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton: (9.0/10)
A speculative-contemporary YA that came out of nowhere and blew me away. Heartwarming and hilarious, it’s a story about overcoming grief and finding your footing in a confusing, often-times hostile, world. I called it a “love letter to life and humanity” in my review and I can’t reiterate that enough. Review here.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd: (8.5/10)
A post-apocalyptic fantasy story that sketches out a world where people are losing their shadows, and with the loss of their shadows, they also lose their memories. It’s poignant, magical, and the worldbuilding is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a post-apocalypse story. I’ll never look at my shadow the same way ever again. Review here.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: (7.0/10)
A fun urban fantasy also set in a post-apocalyptic world, but with worldbuilding that revolves around Native American lore. I loved the main character but had issues with the villain and the plotting. Review here.

June-2
Annex by Rich Larson:
This book was not at all what I was expecting, but it turned out to be pretty enjoyable in the end. Think Independence Day but featuring children and trans rep. Review to come.

➽  A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelly York and Rowan Altwood: (7.5/10)
A historical paranormal story set in an all-boy’s school where the teachers harbour secrets and spirits of dead students walk the halls at night. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and creepy and the romance between the two main characters was rather quite sweet.

➽  Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke: (8.0/10)
Sequel to Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed, Curved Horizon is a F/F scifi that’s got some of best portrayals of mental illness I’ve read in a romance novel. It’s angsty, it’s sweet, and while the scifi aspect gets pushed back in favour of character interactions, I can’t complain because the latter is done so well.

June-3

➽  Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones: (8.0/10)
A F/F historical fantasy story filled with court intrigue, mysteries, and complex worldbuilding. It’s like a Jane Austen story but more queer and fantastical–highly enjoyable stuff.

➽  Death of a Clone by Alex Thomson: (6.5/10)
An Agatha Christie-esque whodunit set in space featuring clones. It’s nothing mindblowing and is somewhat lacking in the worldbuilding and character department, but it’s not a half-bad mystery and I quite liked the narrative voice. Review here.


➽  The Wonderling by Mira Bartok: (5.0/10)
A middle-grade book about a young humanoid fox who escapes an orphanage to discover the world beyond. The illustrations are lovely but I found the main character very passive and two-dimensional. Also, there are scenes of young animals getting beaten by the headmistress of the orphanage, which was distressing even to me, so I’m not sure how appropriate it is for children.
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TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year
LGBTQ+ Books (Sans Cis M/M Relationships)
Summer Reads

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT THURSDAY

Royalty 👑
Pirates ☠️
Historical Fiction

INTERVIEWS

Interview with K.D. Edwards, Author of The Last Sun, Plus an Infomercial

TAGS/AWARDS

The Mystery Blogger Award

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Discworld Readathon 🐢🧙‍♀️✨

A reminder that Nicole and I are starting our Discworld Readathon THIS MONTH with The Colour of Magic! For those who are joining in, reviews are to be posted on July 23rd. For those who wish to join in, leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our list! (And by “we” I mean Nicole, because as I’ve heartily explained above, I shouldn’t be trusted with keeping track of anything more taxing than which socks I’ll be wearing the next morning.)

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Happy reading! And feel free to tell me how your month went!

Review: Death of a Clone – Agatha Christie Meets Orphan Black (Sort of)

Death of a Clone

Title: Death of a Clone
Author: Alex Thomson
Publisher: Abaddon
Release Date: July 10th, 2018
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Mystery
Page Count: 272 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 6.5/10

 

 

 

Death of A Clone is set in a future where Earth has been depleted of metals and cloning has become viable. So teams of clones, supervised by Overseers, are sent out to various asteroids where they will mine, separate, and catalogue all the required metals. Our protagonist Leila, is one such clone, and she’s been working out on Mizushima-00109 (nicknamed “Hell”) alongside her brothers and sisters (who are also clones). Life is more or less routine for this little makeshift-family, until one day a clone is found murdered in a mine shaft. Now Leila is determined to put all her amateur detective skills to use and nail the culprit.

This was a solid, fast-paced, uncomplicated whodunit set in space. The story gives you very little preamble and throws you right into the thick of things, which was a nice change of pace from some of the long-winded books I’ve been reading recently.

Leila’s character is reminiscent Veronica Mars with her quirky sense of humour and “I’m going to solve this and none of you can stop me” attitude. Her narration is easy and enjoyable and I found her obsession with Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories quite charming.

I did, however, find the worldbuilding and secondary characters rather shallow. With the former, I would have appreciated some more in-depth exploration into the situation back on Earth and how these clones came to be made. There’s also quite a bit of infodumping at the end where the villain goes through their typical “Now I shall reveal my masterplan” monologue, and the big reveal itself is a little abrupt and underwhelming.

Your enjoyment of this book really depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. Are you looking for a scifi that dives deep into the meaning of identity and the ethics of using cloned individuals as labourers? Yeah, you won’t find that here.

Are you looking for a quick novel-form of Clue set in outer space?

Well then, by golly, you got it!

~
Review copy provided by Netgalley and Abaddon

 

Review: The Book of M – Beauty at the End of the World

The Book of M

Title: The Book of M
Author: Peng Shepherd
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Genre(s): Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy
Page Count: 496 (hardcover)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

 

Post-apocalyptic books and I have somewhat grown apart in the last few years. These days, if I want my daily dose of doom and gloom, I just pop open Twitter; I don’t exactly find myself reaching for it in fiction. And in most of these stories, you’re presented with a dichotomy: you get a setting that’s bleak and grim and fraught with danger; and you get small glimpses of hope and beauty in the actions of the characters who are trying to survive it. The latter–however small or brief it may be–is what keeps the story from getting too unbearable. But these days, for me, those tiny rays of hope just aren’t enough to dispel the misery of the setting.

Peng Shepherd, however, does something with the genre I haven’t seen before, and that’s inject magic and wonder into a post-apocalyptic world.

The Book of M presents a near future where people’s shadows have begun to disappear. And with the loss of their shadows, they begin to forget. And as they forget, the world changes. Literally. You’ve forgotten that your house is supposed to have a front door? Well, now it’s gone. You’ve forgotten that animals aren‘t supposed to be able to converse with humans? Oh look, a talking bird. It’s almost like something out of a children’s fairytale–“And one day, some of the shadows decided they longer wished to be attached to the humans. And so they tugged and tugged and out they popped free, ready to have adventures of their own!”

What I love is that this is a world that’s being destroyed not by zombies or nuclear warfare, but by memories. And there’s such beauty in the way that the world is breaking. It’s in the winged deer that our characters encounter. It’s in the malformed cities and altered landscapes. It’s in the notion that our memories are so powerful, the loss of them shifts the very fabric of our universe. As the characters’ situations become more and more dire, the magical aspect becomes more and more frequent and potent, and some of the last scenes in the book are ones straight out of high fantasy. It’s spellbinding stuff.

But there’s also horror to the story. Because I think there are few things more frightening than having the world we know slowly scrubbed away until all that’s left is a vague suggestion of an outline. And what happens when you forget a specific detail of a loved one’s face? What happens when you forget that your sister had actually survived that terrible car crash all those years ago? Shepherd takes the real-life terror of Alzheimer’s and gives it an extra set of fangs, wings, and the ability to breathe fire. The result is as chilling as it is fascinating.

As we follow the point-of-view of four characters–Ory, his wife Max, Naz, and a mysterious man known as “The One Who Gathers”–in their journey across this changed America, we encounter many strange and frightening things, from cults and scavengers to a moving lake. The characters are all complex and diverse, and while I have mixed feelings about the direction that some of their relationships took, their interactions are, for the most part, quite compelling. Really, my biggest criticism is the sheer number of travel sequences, which I don’t particularly enjoy in any genre.

In the end, The Book of M is a haunting story that explores the power of memories and human connections that I recommend to both lovers and haters of post-apocalyptic fiction. It iterates the idea that we are, all of us, sums of all the people whose lives we have touched–the names and faces that etch onto our minds and form the foundation of our selves.

And it asks: what are you willing to sacrifice to hold onto them?

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Royalty | 3 Days, 3 Quotes [Day 3]

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

Today we’re donning all the crowns, the jewels, the unwieldy layers of fabric, and exploring some diverse books that feature royalty! This was a hard one, but it was either royalty or diverse pilots (you’ll see why in the second half of the post).

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The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Captive Prince was the first “royal” book that popped to mind, but that one has issues regarding sexual violence, so instead I’m picking the next diverse yet controversial book that immediately popped to mind (because I hate making things easy for myself, apparently), which is The Tiger’s Daughter. There are those who absolutely hated the representation of Asian culture in this book (Japan and Mongolia in particular), others who loved it, and others who didn’t much care. It’s a matter of inspiration vs. appropriation, and while I do think the worldbuilding is lazy in some respects, I don’t believe it portrays East Asian countries in a disrespectful or malicious manner.

So with that immediate digression…

The Tiger’s Daughter is an epistolary novel that follows the lives of Shefali, a child of the nomadic Qorin tribe, and Shizuka, the future empress of Hokkaro–two young girls whose fates were entwined from birth. The prose is breathtaking and the romance between the two characters is beautifully drawn out. The second book is coming out this October and I’m quite eager to get my hands on it.

A-book-on-my-tbrThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a standalone graphic novel that stars a prince who loves wearing dresses and his best friend who loves making those dresses. It seems like a sweet story reminiscent of the Princess Jellyfish manga series, and it’s been getting heaps of praises, so I very much look forward to checking it out.

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

 
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

~
This book doesn’t have a royal protagonist, but it’s set in a royal environment and has a king as a major character, so I figure it’s close enough. The premise reminds me a little of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy (except more queer and Asian), and I find the “forbidden romance” aspect rather intriguing.

Releases November 6th, 2018

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This is Day 3 of the 3 Days, 3 Quotes, for which I was tagged by Alyssa from Serendipitous Reads!

The Rules

1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

For this last day, I’d like to feature a quote from my favourite littlest prince of all time:

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is my favourite children’s book and one of my favourite books of all time. It’s one of those stories that sinks its claws into you and refuses to let go, becoming more and more meaningful as you grow older.

It also comes with a rather romantic and tragic backstory (or afterstory, rather). The Little Prince opens up with an aviator crashed on a desert, and Saint-Exupéry himself just also happened to be a pilot (he’d inserted his experience with his own near-fatal crash into the story). He’d flew with the Allies during World War 2, until one day, during one mission, he vanished without a trace.

A partial wreckage of his plane has since been found, but I like to believe that he flew himself all the way to Asteroid B-612 to be with the Little Prince. I hope that wherever he is, he managed to find some measure of peace and comfort as I found in his story.

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Today I tag: You! Everyone! If you wish to be tagged, consider yourself tagged!

Top 5 Wednesday – Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme is: Books you want to read before the end of the year, which I’m interpreting as,already-released books I want to read before the end of the year.”

 

1. Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive 3) by Brandon Sanderson

Oathbringer

I’ve been debating whether or not I should reread the first two Stormlight books before starting this one, and this debate has been raging in my brain for roughly…oh, eight months? So I figure I should just swat myself over the head at some point and make a decision. Plus my friend’s been wailing at me every other week, “I just I found this Oathbringer thing I need to show you but I can’t because you haven’t read it yet,” and I should probably put him out of his misery.

2. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious

I wasn’t a fan of Schwab’s Shades of Magic books, so I’ve been somewhat avoiding this one. But then the other day I read Meghan‘s awesome review where she breaks down the anti-hero qualities of the characters and now I’m thoroughly intrigued. Despicable characters that make you love them despite and because of their despicable ways? Hell yes.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I’ve been living under a rock for the last year and a half apparently, because I still have yet to pick this one up. I’ll read it before the movie drops. Maybe.

4. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault

The Last of the Wine

Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy serves as one of the best examples of what historical fiction can and should be–well-researched and informative, but still brimming with imagination. I’m fairly sure she was a time traveler of some sort, because no modern person be able to describe an ancient culture with that much confidence and intimate detail.

The Last of the Wine is another very Greek, very queer Renault classic and I’m very excited.

5. The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

The Book of Dust

When I was in middle school, The Dark Materials series rocked the foundation of my world. I wrote Pullman a long gushing (possibly incoherent) letter on how much I loved the books and received a written version of “Mr. Pullman can’t come to the phone right now as he’s busy with movie deals and being a superstar author. But he sure does appreciate all your calls!” And I didn’t even care because, holy shit, the letter had his signature on it.

So why oh why have I not read The Book of Dust yet? It’s hard feeling to describe but the phrase “paralyzed with anticipation” comes to mind. This book was a long time coming and I both dread and crave what lies inside (if that makes any kind of sense). Basically, it’s another case of me needing to kick myself into making a decision.

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And that’s it for me! Have you read any of these? And what books are you looking to get to before the end of the year?

Review: The Rig – Black Mirror But With Less Rampant Cynicism

The Rig

Title: The Rig
Author: Roger Levy
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: May 8th, 2018
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Page Count: 617 pages
Goodreads

Rating: 6.5/10

 

 

 

 

The Rig is one of those books that I know a lot people will love for its sheer originality and exploration of complex themes, but just didn’t really work for me. It’s also one of those books that make me think, “Am I an idiot and/or need a degree in philosophy to enjoy this, or is the author just not presenting their themes very effectively”?

The first 100 pages is rampant with imagination (the first chapter alone deserves an award for being so damn memorable). Picture a future where humanity has ruined Earth to the point of no return. They decide set out to a whole new solar system, filled with hope and determined to do thing right this time. But these new planets aren’t the safe haven they’d dreamed of; each comes with its own share of problems–lethal diseases and infections on top of social conflict. So as technology evolves (at least in some respects), human lifespan becomes halved. And while health care is in constant development, it’s not enough to save everyone. So how do the doctors decide who gets first priority?

Enter AfterLife–a kind of a social networking site that allows its subscribers a second chance at life. When you find yourself on the brink of death, and the morticians/doctors find out that you have an implant in your brain called a “neurid”, your body gets frozen and your “data” uploaded onto AfterLife. At this point, the people in the System get to access the sordid details of your entire life and vote whether or not you deserve a “resurrection.” These people get a chance to play God, in a society that’s largely devoid of any faith, and this idea fits beautifully with the theme of religion that runs throughout the entire story. If you loved those futuristic episodes of Black Mirror that deal with social media, you’ll probably enjoy what this book initially offers.

And in this early part of the book, Levy juggles 3 vastly different plotlines with compelling ease–coming-of-age, murder mystery, and a man working in an underwater structure called a “rig”. The ideas are complex, the scope large, and the characters fascinating. I don’t often come across aneurotypical characters in SFF, so it was nice to see an autistic protagonist portrayed with humanity.

My problem with the story is that as you move away from this “honeymoon” phase–filled with new and exciting wonders–it begins to resemble a dry documentary. We get the rundown of gang wars, psychopathic characters doing psychopathic things, and the mystery of the rigs, which should have been engrossing, but I just felt rather disconnected from it all. A deeper exploration of the characters’ relationships would have helped; considering Alef and Pellenhorc’s friendship is at the heart of this story,we never really get beyond what was established in those first chapters. Then there’s the matter of the Rig itself being a metaphor for God, which I appreciated but wasn’t wholly impressed with.

“Appreciate” more or less sums up my feelings on this book. I appreciate what it tries to do and I appreciate that it exists. And I hesitantly recommend it to those who enjoy their sci-fi with a side of social and philosophical commentary.

~
Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Pirates Ahoy!| 3 Days, 3 Quotes [Day 2]

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

And this week’s topic is pirates! ☠️

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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The sequel to Scott Lynch’s incredibly addictive, high-octane fantasy heist debut, Red Seas Under Red Skies follows the misadventures of our beloved conmen Lock Lamora and Jean Tannen, as they end up butting heads with pirates. The captain of the pirates in question is a middle-aged black woman who also happens to be a mother, which is one of the most badass things ever. While it’s got more structural issues than the first, the entertainment value is still through the roof and I find myself rereading it time and time again.

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The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while now, because a plot that revolves around a monster-raising girl getting kidnapped by a pirate queen sounds fun, if a little romance novel-esque. I’ve heard great and not-so-great things about it, so I’m looking forward to finding out what the fuss is for myself.

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Compass Rose by Anna Burke

In the year 2513, the only thing higher than the seas is what’s at stake for those who sail them.
Rose was born facing due north, with an inherent perception of cardinal points flowing through her veins. Her uncanny sense of direction earns her a coveted place among the Archipelago Fleet elite, but it also attracts the attention of Admiral Comita, who sends her on a secret mission deep into pirate territory. Accompanied by a ragtag crew of mercenaries and under the command of Miranda, a captain as bloodthirsty as she is alluring, Rose discovers the hard way that even the best sense of direction won’t be enough to keep her alive if she can’t learn to navigate something far more dangerous than the turbulent seas. Aboard the mercenary ship, Man o’ War, Rose learns quickly that trusting the wrong person can get you killed―and Miranda’s crew have no intention of making things easy for her―especially Miranda’s trusted first mate, Orca, who is as stubborn as she is brutal.

Yet another book where the protagonist falls for a ruthless captain! I first saw it featured on one of Anna’s posts, and the combination of the words “2513” and “seas” and “mercenary” made me positively light-headed with excitement. Because if there’s one thing I love more than maritime mercenaries and pirates, it’s futuristic maritime mercenaries and pirates.

Releases July 10th

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For the second part of the post, we have Day 2 of 3 Days, 3 Quotes, for which I was tagged by Alyssa from Serendipitous Reads.

The Rules

1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
3. Nominate three new bloggers each day

“Uh, Kathy, it says right there in the rules that you have to post the quotes consecutively. You haven’t posted one in fi–”

Now onto today’s quote! (From a book that also features pirates!)

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I can’t not do a quotes tag without including one from my favourite author of all time. And this one is rather timely considering how much of an unabashed dumpster fire the world is right now. One of the central themes of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books is how the small actions of ordinary people can snowball into extraordinary, world-shaking events. And this quote is a loud call for such action. It’s disconcertingly easy to resign to weariness and think, “I can’t change anything,” but these books remind me that every step made, however small or shaky, is a step forward. And those steps add up to a lot.

(And I most definitely did not pick pirates as this week’s Diversity Thursday theme just so I could use this quote. Not at all.)

Today I tag:
– Justine from Milkz Bookshelf
– Alexia from The Bookworm Daydreamer
– Bibi from Bibi’s Book Blog