Book Haul – April 2018

Book-Haul-April-2018

The Top 5 Wednesday prompt came a little late this week and I didn’t feel sufficiently prepared, so I’m just going to do a post on my April book haul! April was a mix of buys, giveaway wins, and ARCs. I’m moderately proud of myself for listening to my wallet for once and only buying 7 books.

And I just realized how perfect it is that Dust and Light is covered with dust and washed in light in this photo. Also, please excuse the plant matter on the bottom.

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BOUGHT:

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Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor 2) by Mark Lawrence
        →
Review here
Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer
        → Review here
The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura 5) by Martha Wells
        →
I don’t know why I keep buying more books in this series when I still haven’t read a single one yet.
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente
The Force by Don Winslow
        → Fun fact: I found out about this book because Hideo Kojima–game dev and besties with Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelson–was talking about it on Twitter.
Dust and Light (The Sanctuary Duet 1) by Carol Berg
A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger 1) by Gemma Files

GIFTS, GIVEAWAY WINS, ARCs:

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The Terror by Dan Simmons
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
The Rig by Roger Levy
   → A thousand thank you to Titan Books for sending me a finished copy of this!

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Let me know if you see anything that catches your eye or ones that you think I should read immediately!

 

April Wrap Up – Books, Games, and Ninja TED

I finally got around to doing a monthly wrap-up. I read 10 books (and short stories) this month, which wasn’t as many as I’d hoped, but still not too shabby!

Novels and Graphic Novels:

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  • From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris (5/10): This was a bit of a disappointment. I couldn’t connect with the characters and the setting was more historical fiction than alt-history/fantasy, which . Review here.
  • Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence (7/10): Though I had problems with Nona’s character in this sequel to Red Sister, it was still an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing how things will conclude in Holy Sister. Review here.
  • The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards: Review to come…
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer (9.5/10): I absolutely loved it. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are complex, and the worldbuilding is fascinating. Review here.

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  • The Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais (4/10): This was a weird, weird graphic novel. I was expecting something similar to Over the Garden Wall, but that wasn’t at all the case. Though the artstyle is nice, the plot is just absolutely nonsensical.
  • This I Know by Eldonna Edwards (3/10): A big resounding NOPE. It started out with a lot of promise and then just took a nosedive. Review here.
  • Algeria is Beautiful like America by Olivia Burton (7/10): This was the first autobiographical graphic novel I’ve ever read and I actually quite enjoyed it! It
  • Dragonoak by Sam Farren (8/10): An f/f fantasy romance featuring a necromancer and a knight. It’s chock full of diversity, the worldbuilding is interesting and fun, and the romance was just so sweet.

Novellas and Short Stories:

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  • All Systems Red (Murderbot 1) by Martha Wells (7.5/10): This was a fun read. Murderbot should be relatable to anyone who is an introvert and/or has social anxiety.
  • Ground Floor, Second Room to the Left by Chris Srantopoulos (6.5/10): An atmospheric horror short story that had some interesting moments but ended a little prematurely.

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Games:

For the past week and a half, I’ve been thoroughly obsessed with this obscure little indie game called God of War. I’m not even halfway through and it’s already shaping out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played. It’s a fun, glorious romp through Norse mythology, but it’s also an incredibly personal tale of parenthood and the legacy that we pass on to our children. The relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus is utterly compelling and played out by the two actors to perfection. I’m very excited about finishing it but also scared about finishing it.

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Ninja TED:

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So I went to my fourth annual NinjaTED on April 11, hosted by the one and only Amanda Palmer, who is one of the most brilliant and passionate artists I know and also happens to be married to Neil Gaiman (I honestly don’t know which of the couple I’m more jealous of). What is Ninja TED, you ask? The whole thing started out in 2014 at the last minute (you can read more about its inception here) and it’s a way for Amanda to bring the TED people to the plebians of Vancouver who can’t afford to shell out $6000 for the actual thing. And to help out the local food bank in the process. It’s since become one of my favourite annual events.

We get performances from various musicians, poets, dancers, scientists, and magicians. A glorified talent show for nerds, basically–with more swearing and casual talks about genitals. This years roster included Adam Savage, Sarah Kay, Maria Popova, Neil Gaiman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a surprise last-minute Riz Ahmed (cue screaming), and more. (If you’re interested, you can watch the recorded Facebook stream of the whole show here.)

And I just about fell out of my chair when Neil and Joseph Gordon-Levitt started performing the Morpheus vs. Chronozon scene from Sandman vol. 1.

For those who are unfamiliar, Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams and Chronozon is a demon of Hell. Chronozon has possession of Morpheus’ helm and so they both decide on  a little game. If Morpheus wins, he gets his helm back; if Chronozon wins, Morpheus becomes a slave to Hell. The game? One person says “I am ____” and the other person has to counter it with another thing. For example, Chronozon says, “I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed,” and Dream’s response is, “I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy footed.”

They go back and forth, with no one having the advantage of the other, until Chronozon smugly comes up with his trump card: “I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything, the end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything.”

To which Dream answers: “I am hope.”

And wins.

And I think that’s an appropriate ending to a monthly wrap-up.

Here’s to books and hope.

 

Review: Fire Dance – Beautiful and Etched with Heartrending Loneliness

Fire Dance

Title: Fire Dance
Author: Ilana C. Myer
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Genre(s): Fantasy
Page Count: 368 (hardback)
Goodreads

Rating: 9.5/10

 

 

 

 

That, he believed, was the essence of what it meant to be a poet. Not to work magic. Rather it was to see, and weave verse from, life’s manifold truths. Even if they hurt.
They nearly always did.

This book is a triumph. A masterwork of character and prose that wind through your soul like the final trembling notes of a song. Myer’s debut, Last Song Before Night, was brimstone and fire and icy winds and music that rumbled low through your body. Fire Dance plays out like a haunting ballad that recounts a yearning for a time and place long lost and bone-deep loneliness.

There is honestly no one who writes quite like Ilana Myer. The genius of her writing isn’t in the way her individual sentences are constructed (though they are very lovely); you won’t find many quotable one-liners in her books. It’s the way the sentences combine together to evoke emotions in you. Her words just have so much sadness running through them. But there’s also music. And poetry. And the inviolate truths of life and all the wonder and beauty that’s wrought from them. I feel the same way reading her stories as I do listening to Damien Rice songs. Like my soul has been gently lifted and carried off on a journey.

While Fire Dance is marked as a standalone, I highly recommend reading it after Last Song Before Night, because half of the main cast are characters from the first book and much of their past rear their heads in this one. The story is split between Eivar, a country of poetry and music, and their neighbouring ally, Kahishi, which is a land of magicians and prophecies divined from the stars. Lin Amaristoth, Court Poet and Seer (which is pretty much the highest recognition you can get as a poet in Eivar), travels to Kahishi to aid their court against the mysterious Fire Dancers. While Lin mires herself in politics and intrigue, three other characters are caught up in strange magical matters at the Academy (a school for aspiring poets) in Eivar.

The contrast between lush and vibrant Kahishi and the grey austerity of the Academy is utterly fascinating. Myer has a talent for dragging out the best that a setting has to offer, and her descriptions of the major landmarks within Majdara, the capital city of Kahishi, left me breathless with wonder:

Lin’s gaze was drawn up, to the walkways that ran alongside the walls in three levels, accessible by staircases of porphyry and gold. The walls that were entirely glass, clear as air, so that along the walkways burned countless stars.
All this overseen by an arched ceiling like a second sky, adorned with stars and spheres. Against a backdrop of black crystal, jewels made the constellations.

Myer cites Robin Hobb as a major inspiration, and this is readily apparent in her writing because she writes some of the best layered characters in fantasy. You try to peel away at them throughout the course of the story and find there’s yet still more…and more. Morever she is fantastic at writing tortured characters. And I say that, from the bottom of my heart, as a compliment. All her characters have gaping holes. Hunger desperate to be filled with something–friendship, love, recognition, power. The specifics of their hunger may be different, but they all seem to share a common root: loneliness. And often times we see that loneliness twists into something uglier. Sharper.

Like jealousy.

Resentment.

Despair.

They are a symphony of warring longings and pains, and it’s this internal struggle that keeps you so completely–helplessly–enthralled, more so than any strange magical happenings or political intrigues.

The only thing that prevents me from giving it a perfect score is the ending, where the story halts just a bit too prematurely for my liking. The book definitely feels like a Part One of a larger story, and while the main storyline is wrapped up, there are still many questions newly posed or left unanswered.

Reading Fire Dance is like eating chicken noodle soup and watching the ending of Brokeback Mountain at the same. It will heal your soul and simultaneously break it.

So please go check it out.

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And as a little bonus, I leave you with two songs! One that captures the rousing cry of Last Song Before Night (I must have listened to this at least a dozen times while reading the book):

And one that captures the heartaching melancholy of Fire Dance: