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:

April-books3

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:

April-books1

  • 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:

All Systems Redground floor

  • 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.

Atreus1

Ninja TED:

amanda
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.

 

Grey Sister – A Case of Arrested Development

Grey Ssiter


Title:
Grey Sister (Second Book of the Ancestor)
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: ACE
Release Date: April 3th, 2018
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Page Count: 432
Goodreads

Rating: 7.0/10

 

 

I’m probably going to get booed and pelted with virtual tomatoes by every Grey Sister fan (read: everyone) for this review, so I’ve donned my tactical wetsuit and preemptively stationed myself behind a bunch of barrels.

Okay.

*Deep breath*

I didn’t like Grey Sister as much as Red Sister.

*Dodges a tomato*

In fact, I think this is my least favourite Lawrence book.

*Ducks as the world turns into a hellscape of flying vegetables that are technically fruits*

Wa–Wait until I explain!

Grey Sister starts out two years after the ending of Red Sister and sees Nona inducted into Mystic Class. Nothing much has changed at the Convent of Sweet Mercy–Nona has the same friends, same classes, and the same teachers–except for two things: a new nemesis in the form of a girl called Joeli Namsis, and Keot. Keot is a devil that had transferred itself from Raymond Tacis to Nona at the conclusion of their battle in Book 1. He’s been living inside Nona for the past two years and has often spurred Nona into wild bursts of anger. So it’s been a chore for Nona to learn to keep him under control.

All this we know because we are told so in the first 50ish pages. Just casually mentioned like a recap, except it’s all new information to the reader.

They had seen her rages, back before she started to master Keot, and those hadn’t been pretty scenes. Fortunately Zole had suffered the worst of them, mostly out on the sands of Blade Hall, and had never complained…probably because she usually won the fight.

The ending of Red Sister was such a monumental and traumatic event and a pivotal crossroads for character development, and the addition of Keot makes it doubly so. So we should have been there with Nona for the aftermath. We should have walked alongside her during those two years of trying to readjust to school life while harbouring a devil inside her. That kind of crucial character journey shouldn’t have been reduced to a couple of throwaway remarks. It’s such a huge missed opportunity.

What I’ve noticed about Mark Lawrence is that he’s very good at writing protagonists that have one or two defining characteristics. Jorg is serious and somewhat sociopathic. Jalan is fearful and lazy. And Nona is very loyal but also kind of bloodthirsty. He’s good at plucking adjectives from the dictionary and molding them into human shapes. While this leads to characters that sometimes feel like RPG companions than real human beings, they’re fun and interesting to read about. Most of all, though, he’s good at developing them within the boundaries of those one or two characteristics. For example, Jalan at the end of The Liar’s Key is still just as afraid as Jalan in Prince of Fools, but there is additional depth to his fear–it’s no longer just a matter of him being a coward.

Nona didn’t get any such development in this book. It would have been interesting to see her love and loyalty for her friends being tested by the rage that Keot inflames, but we don’t get anything like that. Lawrence tells us that she’s changed, from wild rages to relative calm, but we’ve never seen her in that first state so Book 2 Nona ends up feeling more or less the same as Book 1 Nona. She still loves her friends and would still rush off into battle for them. And while those are likeable qualities, that can’t be all that a person is from childhood to teenagehood.

This sense of arrested development also extends to the side characters, Ara especially. One of my favourite things about Red Sister was Nona’s relationship with her schoolmates–like how Ara grew from rival to best friend. In Grey Sister, their interactions feel very shallow and we don’t even see much of Ara.

All this makes it sound like I hated the book, but I really didn’t. I still like the writing style–Lawrence moves from taut action sequences to florid ruminations with enviable ease. I also love the additional insight into Abess Glass and Kettle. Glass has become my favourite character in the book. She’s a spider through and through and I find her way of viewing the world as a chessboard fascinating. Her POVs are cerebral in a way that Nona’s can’t be and I love that.

The plot is a better-balanced mix of school and world-encompassing stuff than Red Sister. The first half is Nona and co. exploring the immediate area of the Abby and butting heads with Joeli and her cronies, which is fun stuff–especially the Shade Trial. The second half brings Sherzal and the nobility into the mix and also expands on the shipheart lore.

And apropos of nothing, I have a massive crush on the U.S. cover–mostly because Nona reminds me of Lorde (I can’t be the only one who thinks that).

All in all, this was a somewhat disappointing sequel to a book that was one of my favourites of 2017. Grey Sister widens of the scope of the world while stunting the growth of its major characters.

*Vaults over barrels, somersaults, and poses with flourish*

Now you may commence pelting.

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Jokesters

“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 topic is: favourite jokesters, pranksters, and funny characters.

This was a hard one. I had trouble remembering any comic-relief/jokey characters in books, let alone ones that I actually liked. The funny ones rarely stick in my mind compared to the broody, serious ones, unless their humour is some sort of well-crafted veneer hiding a mournful or sociopathic interior (which probably says a lot about me). So this is going to be a mishmash of books, film/tv, and comics.

1) Locke Lamora – The Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora
I mean, every one of the Gentleman Bastards can fit into this category–you’d have a hard time eking out a living in a decrepit crime-den like Camorr without some sense of humour–but Scott Lynch saves some of his funniest lines and scenes for the star of the show.

 

 


“Know something? I’d lay even odds that between the people following us and the people hunting us, we’ve become this city’s principle means of employment. Tal Verrar’s entire economy is now based on
fucking with us.”

 

 

2) Jalan Kendeth (The Red Queen’s War trilogy by Mark Lawrence)

The Prince of Fools
Jalan is who I imagine most of us would (realistically) be if we were thrown into a fantasy world full of monsters and magic–a big resounding “NOPE” and “Fuck this.” He’s the most unlikely hero, a self-professed “coward” who rarely taking things seriously. He’s also hilarious and one of the most entertaining narrators I’ve come across.

 


“Every fortune-teller I ever met was a faker. First thing you should do to a soothsayer is poke them in the eye and say, ‘Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

 

3) Sette Frummagem – Unsounded webcomic

Sette is the protagonist of Unsounded, an epic fantasy webcomic created by Ashley Cope. As the daughter of a crime lord, she’s already well versed in the art of lies, tricks, and thievery, and her antics drive her companion, Duane, absolutely insane. Cheeky, mouthy, and utterly hilarious, she’s become one of my all-time favourite female characters.

Sette 1

Comic by Ashley Cope

 

4) Jonathan Carnahan – The Mummy films

Okay, so pretty much everyone in the first two movies is hilarious, even the bad guys, but Evie’s bumbling brother Jonathan takes the cake. Primarily because of this scene:

 

5) Jim Halpert – The Office (U.S)

And, of course, the King of Pranks himself. Jim Halpert effectively has two job titles: Paper Salesman and Perpetual Nagging Thorn on Dwight Shrute’s Side. The pranks he pulls on his deskmate make for some of the best parts of The Office, and I could watch compilation videos of them all day.

Jim Halpert Dwight
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And there you have it! Feel free to tell me some of your favourites!

 

To-Read Pile: April 2018

April-2018-TBR-Banner

April is probably the biggest month for new releases that I’m actually interested in reading (at least until fall). I know I won’t be able to get through all of them, and writing up a schedule with an expectation to follow it is just asking for trouble. But hey, having goals is good and conducive to a healthy and productive lifestyle! Or something.

New Releases (Definite Yes):
April-2018-TBR

  • Grey Sister (Second Book of the Ancestor) by Mark Lawrence:
    I’d planned on reading this in March but couldn’t make the time. Red Sister is probably my favourite Lawrence book thus far and I have high hopes for the sequel.
  • Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer:
    A standalone that is also a followup to Ilana Myer’s brilliant debut Last Song Before Night, which has become one of my favourite books in recent years. It’s my most anticipated release this month (narrowly edging out Grey Sister) and I can’t wait to see that gorgeous cover in person.
  • From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle 1) by Cass Morris:
    A political intrigue set in alternate-Rome with mages duking it out for control of the city. It’s a melding of two of my favourite genres–fantasy and historical–so I can’t possibly say no.
  • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente:
    I mean, the premise is Eurovision in space. I’m expecting something fun and crazy.
  • This I Know by Eldonna Edwards:
    Another mesh of historical and fantasy. Set in the 60’s, it stars an eleven year-old clairvoyant girl named Grace living in a small town that is full of secrets. It sounds like a heartwarming coming-of-age story and the world could always use more of those.
  • Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert:
    A YA contemporary featuring asian-american LGBTQ teens, which there aren’t enough of, so I’m definitely nabbing this one. 

 

New Releases (Tentative Yes):
Dread NationWhite Rabbit

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland:
    Historical fiction with zombies feat a bi poc protagonist. Enough said.
  • White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig:
    It’s one of the only mysteries on my list, and it’s a queer one, so I’m gonna try hard to squeeze it in somewhere.

Old Releases:
Dream ThievesThe Last of the Wine

  • The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2) Maggie Stiefvater:
    [furious whispering] I will get through this series by the end of summer. I will get through this series by the end of summer.
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault


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I’m hoping to get through more of the new releases, but we’ll see how it goes.

Happy April, everyone!

 

Most Anticipated Scifi & Fantasy: Feb-April 2018

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2018 has some incredible books coming out, and since I can’t narrow the list down to a reasonable number (and since you don’t want to spend days scrolling through a blog post), I’m dividing them into chunks! Three months per genre, starting with Scifi and Fantasy. And yes, I’m lumping them into one.

FEBRUARY

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

The Armored Saint
First of a trilogy, The Armored Saint is Myke Cole’s first foray into epic fantasy. I haven’t had a chance to read his Shadow Ops series, but I’ve heard many good things about it, so I figure this would be a good introduction to his writing.

The story features Heloise, a young village girl fighting oppression in a land of machines and magic. It sounds dark, gritty, and the themes are right up alley.

Releases February 20th

MARCH

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

This YA fantasy debut has been receiving early accolatdes left and right, and no wonder. The cover is phenomenal, the worldbuilding sounds complex, and it’s already been nabbed by Fox for movie development. It’s yet another story revolving around oppression and revolution.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Releases March 6th

Imposter Syndrome by Mishell Baker

Imposter Syndrome
Borderlines, the first book in The Arcadia Project series, is one of my favourite urban fantasy books and it introduced me to Millie Roper, who is, hands down, my favourite urban fantasy protagonist ever. Mishell Baker draws from her own experiences and seamlessly incorporates Millie’s BPD and disability into the story without letting it define her character. She’s clever, funny, and when she fucks up, she really fucks up.

I can’t wait to read more of her.

Releases March 13th

Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick

Master AssassinsIt’s been blurbed by Pat Rothfuss and given a rave review by Mark Lawrence–what more can I say? The generic title belies a summary that’s chock full of excitement and teases a dark adventure in a non-medieval setting. Most importantly, it promises something that I want to see more of in epic fantasy: sibling relationships. Plus, the cover features a saber cat and a lady whose arm appears to be on fire, which is always a cool combination.

Releases March 20th

 

Torn by Rowenna Miller

Torn
The first of the Unraveled Kingdom Series, Torn proposes a protagonist with a unique talent: magical dressmaking. I’m always on the lookout for fantasy stories that feature women in traditionally “domestic” roles, so this caught my eye immediately. Plus, it seems to have a bit of everything I love: revolutions, political intrigue, fancy balls, and romance.

Releases March 20th

 

Anna Undreaming by Thomas Welsh

Anna UndreamingAnna Undreaming is the first of the Metiks Fade trilogy. It’s an urban fantasy with a super fascinating premise–artists who can literally create new realities.

[Anna] finds herself hunted by Dreamers—artists, both good and evil, who construct new worlds—within a complex community that threatens to undermine reality itself. When Anna learns that she’s an Undreamer with powers she cannot yet comprehend, she must travel through their strange and treacherous creations to discover that there’s as much beauty in life as there is darkness. As her existence spirals into wonder and danger, Anna must look deep within herself and face the horrors of her own past, to save her old world as well as her new one.

Releases March 20th

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

The Queens of INnis Lear
Three Queens. One crown. All out war.

Tessa Gratton’s adult debut is a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear with a feminist bent.

I’m very interested to see what changes, if any, are made to the original plot, and how the fantasy elements are woven in.

Releases March 27th

 

APRIL

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Grey Ssiter

I swear Mark Lawrence gets better with every book he writes. Red Sister was his best one yet, full of intricate magics, violence, and exploration of female relationships, all woven with lush prose.

If he continues on in this trend, I have no doubt Grey Sister will be my new favourite Lawrence book.

Releases April 3rd

 

 

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente

Space Opera

Catherynne Valente has a talent for weaving magic and poetry into the strangest concepts. And Space Opera looks to be the strangest of them all:

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix—part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.

It’s basically Eurovision in space. And I am not missing that for anything.

Releases April 3rd

Fire Dance by Ilana C. Meyer

Fire Dance
I sound like a broken record at this point, BUT JUST LOOK AT THIS COVER. It’s probably my favourite of the batch, which says a lot. Ilana Meyer’s debut, Last Song Before Night, was one of my top ten reads of 2015, and if this book is anything like the first, the quality of the cover will be a direct reflection of the content. Meyer has a deft hand for character development and atmospheric worldbuilding, and Fire Dance looks to continue Lin’s tale from where the first left off.

Though it’s technically a standalone, I highly recommend reading the first beforehand.

Releases April 10th

 From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris

From Unseen Fire.jpg

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

There are three more paragraphs to the summary, and I get stupidly excited every time I read through them. Set to be the first in the Aven Cycle, From Unseen Fire is a mesh of alternate history and fantasy that I needed yesterday.

Releases April 17th

Time Was by Ian McDonald

Time Was

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

Yet another blend of history and SFF, I’m intrigued by the unique concept and its potential to break my heart in two.

Releases April 24th