August 2018 Wrap Up – It’s Not You, Scifi, It’s Me…But It’s Also Kind of You

So mental-health wise, life has been a veritable mess from July to August. After a trip to the emergency room, days of yelling and apologizing, and talking to from doctors, things are now marginally better. I’ve been throwing myself into art which has been helping quite a bit. And while it feels like I’m creeping along a tightrope and one breeze at the wrong time can push me over again, I’m hoping things will continue to move in a positive direction. Also, to the beautiful, wonderful people who messaged me with words of encouragement and support, I can barely express how thankful I am. ❤

Well, enough of that–onto the books! I read (or tried to read) 12 books this month which is a little surprising, all things considered. Of those 12, four were scifi and I didn’t much like any them, so I’m going to try to take a small break from the genre.

⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 👻= Paranormal; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQIAP+

The Brilliant

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➽ The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T Anderson and Eugene Yelchin ⚔️:
I didn’t really know what to expect from this book going in, but holy hell, I had such a great time with it. It’s labelled YA but it’s got the same wit and dark humour found in Pratchett’s writing. So Discworld lovers, this one’s for you. Review to come.

➽ The Dust Feast (Hollow Folk 3) by Gregory Ashe 👻🔍🌈:
I’m saving the big, sappy words for the review so for now I’ll just just say that the Hollow Folk books killed me, resurrected me, and then ascended me to the heavens. Read this paranormal/mystery/thriller series and you too can experience being Jesus. Novella Review to come.

 

The Great

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➽ I Can’t Date Jesus – Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put my Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux 🌈:

I Can’t Date Jesus is an amazing collection of personal essays where Michael Arceneaux–a journalist whose articles have been published in pretty much every media outlet–talks about his struggles with intimacy, the complicated relationship he has with religion and family, and his general experience of being a gay black man in America. It’s hilarious, raw, opinionated, and wonderfully intimate–almost like you’re having a discussion with an old friend. And Arceneaux’s dating woes make me feel infinitely better about mine because at least I can say that no one’s ever brought bedbugs and/or fleas into my bed.

A must-read for everyone, LGBTQIAP+ or not.

➽ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by the McElroys and Carey Pietsch ⚔️: (8/10)
The graphic novel adaptation of The Adventure Zone podcast. Unsurprisingly, I loved it. Review here.

➽ Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman 🌺🌈:
A YA contemporary with beautiful, honest portrayal of grief and sisterhood. Review to come.

 

THE (Kind of) GOOD

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➽ The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bèrubè👻🌈: (7/10)
A paranormal YA that’s been called Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity. I wasn’t too impressed with the paranormal plot, but the main character and her mental health struggles were done very well. Review here.

➽ When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer🌺:
A YA contemporary that explores schizophrenia, which I don’t come across too often, and the ethics of keeping animals in zoos versus circuses. Again, while I loved the mental health aspect, the plot left me wanting more. Review to come.

➽ Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North🗝️⚔️:
A fun choose-your-own adventure novel that lets you navigate the story of Romeo and Juliet as either Romeo or Juliet. It’s got robots! And weightlifting! And kissing! And lots and lots of ways to die! I was never a huge fan of the original story (two teens insta-falling in love wasn’t really my thing), so I didn’t enjoy this as much as North’s other choose-your-own adventure book, To Be Or Not To Be, which tackles Hamlet. It’s still a lot of fun, though.

 

THE OKAY

In the Present Tense➽ In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack 🚀🌈: (6.5/10)
A near-future time travel story with a ton of diversity–mental health rep, PoCs, LGBTQIAP+. I loved the time travel stuff but the actions of the characters were baffling to say the least. Review here.

The Bad and DNF

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➽ Temper by Nicky Drayden 🚀⚔️: DNF 40%

I loved Nicky’s debut, The Prey of Gods, and while I appreciate the strangeness and the sheer imagination of Temper, it wasn’t really something I could enjoy so soon after my brain short-circuiting on me. There’s a lot to the worldbuilding and I just couldn’t keep up. I’ll give it another shot sometime this month.

➽ Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio 🚀: DNF 20%

As I wrote on Goodreads, if a bunch of Ivy League classics majors got very high one night and decided they would write an epic space opera, Empire of Silence is probably what you’d get. But like, less fun.

I’ve seen this book compared with Name of the Wind, mostly because of the flowery prose. But to me, while the narration in NoTW sounds like the voice of someone who’s in love with language, music, and just art in general, the narrator for Empire of Silence feels more like someone who’s in love with the sound of their own voice–verbosity without the empathy. Plus the story drags. A lot. I’m guessing it picks up at some point but I didn’t want to have to slog through 450 more pages to find out.

➽ Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack 🚀🌈: (3.5/10)

The sequel to In the Present Tense. In my review I called it a “bad soap opera envisioned by aliens” and that more or less sums it up. Review here.

 

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TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

➽ Topics I’d Like to See Explored More in Fantasy
➽ Book List for a Class on Developmental Psychology

REVIEWS

➽ Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
➽ And the Ocean was Our Sky by Patrick Ness
➽ In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack
➽ The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bèrubè
➽ Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack
➽ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

TAGS

➽ The Weather in Books Tag

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And that’s it from me! How did your month go?

Review: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – The Best (and the only) D&D Graphic Novel I’ve Read

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Title: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
Author: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Carey Pietsch (Artist)
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: July 17th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s):
Graphic Novel, Fantasy, D&D
Page Count: 256 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

I tried to not make this a review about The Adventure Zone The Podcast because you can 100% read this comic as a standalone, but I’ll just say this: if you’ve never listened to TAZ before, I highly, highly recommend that you give a couple of episodes a try. Even if you’re someone who’s like, “D&D what? Fantasy who?” I have converted non-gamers and fantasy naysayers into worshipers of this podcast. My friend, whose only knowledge of RPGs came from what she saw on The Big Bang Theory, is now a fanatic. The McElroys will do that to you.

It will fill your life with giggles, rainbow dust, and baby penguins. In fact, here’s a baby penguin imploring you to please, oh pretty please, go check out TAZ:

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C’mon. How can you deny that face?

And if you’re thinking, “But I already watch/listen to Critical Role! I don’t need another D&D podcast in my life. That’d be cheating!”–trust me, TAZ is an entirely different beast. So think of it as loving your significant other but also loving your dog. Nothing wrong with that! (…Right?)

  • Podcast HERE
  • Full transcripts of the episodes HERE

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First, let’s introduce our main cast and crew:

Taako
Meet Taako (pronounced “taco”), an elf wizard played by Justin McElroy. He used to star in a cooking show called “Sizzle It Up with Taako”, but it ended in a bit of a disaster, so he’s now stuck being a full-time adventurer. (He’s also super queer but we don’t find that out in this first arc)

Pietsch’s early sketches of Taako showed him to be white in skin tone, but due to backlash from the fandom, he’s been changed to…blue. Which is fair.

 

Magnus

 
Here’s Magnus Burnsides! Played by Travis McElroy! He’s a human figher who lives by the motto of “act first, think later,” with his catchphrase being “Magnus rushes in!” He’s proficient in many things including animals and vehicles. (And wolf-throwing, apparently)

 

 

 

 

Merrle

 

Merle Hitower Highchurch, a dwarf cleric played by Clint McElroy (father of these goofballs). He carries around an Extreme Teen Bible to help educate the modern youth on the good word of his god Pan. His favourite go-to spell is “Zone of Truth” (which makes everyone in the immediate area tell the truth).

 

 

And finally we have Griffin McElroy as the illustrious Dungeon Master.

Our heroes’ tale starts out with an offer from Merle’s cousin, Gundren Rockseeker, who claims that he has “the last job [they’ll] ever need to take.” Which sounds, well, pretty awesome!

…And a little too good to be true.

The trio soon find themselves neck deep in a cave full of goblins (“gerblins”), tangled up in goblin gang politics, uncovering a mysterious artifact, and having some nice tea with an enemy.

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I can only imagine the sheer head-splitting frustration that comes with trying to adapt an audio-only improv media, so kudos to the McElroys and Carey Pietsch for pulling it off.

The art is perfect. It’s cute and dynamic and everything from the characters’ facial expressions to the scenery is done with a lot of care and detail. We get the iconic moments from the podcast plus some new scenes that will delight both the veterans and the newcomers.

The story itself is goofy, action-packed, and super charming (and filled with swears, so probably not something you want to be reading to your kids). This first arc is kind of your standard fantasy adventure, but it lays down the foundation for the rest of the campaign story, where the really crazy and exciting stuff happens.

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Despite me yelling at you to go listen to TAZ, I’m aware that not everyone can access them, so I’m happy this comic provides a way for more people to get acquainted with these beloved, idiot characters and the start of an adventure that’s stuffed to the brim with imagination, gut-splitting humour, and a lot of heart.

So buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a wild ride.

The Weather in Books Tag

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I saw Lisa from Way Too Fantasy do this tag and it looked like a fun one! I have no idea who its creator is, so if anyone knows, drop me a note!

And speaking of weather, we’ve finally gone from Fire, Smoke, and Lung Cancer to rain–sweet, glorious rain–so that’s something! My sincerest condolences to those who lost their homes in a fire this summer. And an equally sincere F-U to a certain leader of a country who claims that Canadian lumber has been the cause of U.S. fires. Because global warming isn’t a thing, apparently, and neither is thinking. So–

*Furious cutting gestures from my imaginary assistant who’s hoisting up a sign that says ‘NO POLITICAL RANTS’*

…So yeah, tags! Fun, stress-free, non-political tags. That are about books.

Let’s get to it! 😀

 

☀️ Sunshine:  A Book That Made You Smile

The Adventure ZoneI don’t know what it says about me that this one took me the longest to come up with (a lie–I’m pretty sure I know what what says about me). The McElroys never fail to make me smile and laugh and there is a lot to smile and laugh about in their graphic novel adaptation of The Adventure Zone podcast. Even though I already know the story, I had a blast reading through it. The art is super charming and adorable and captures the humour of the “story” perfectly. I’ll definitely do a review on it sometime in the near future…Hopefully. *Glumly eyes my pile of unfinished reviews*

 

🌧️ Rain:  A Book You Couldn’t Put Down

Lies of Locke

I’m finding it harder to pull all-nighters with books as I get older, but Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards series is one I have no trouble doing it with. The combination of fun, eclectic characters, brilliant worldbuilding, and the best banter makes The Lies of Locke Lamora as addicting as any drug.

 

🌬️ Wind:  A Book That Blew You Away

Baru

There are a lot of books that fit the bill, but I’ll choose this one since its sequel isn’t too far away.

I dislike economics with a passion. I hated learning about it (in the one elective class I took in undergrad) and I hate reading about it fiction. The Traitor Baru Cormorant not only made me like the economics aspect of the story, it made me invested (excuse the pun) in it, it made me chomping at the bits to know more. That’s sorcery. Pure and simple. And I would just like to know what blood sacrifices Seth Dickinson is making to which god, because I could really use some of that magic myself.

 

☁️ Hurricane:  A Tragic Book

At swim, two boys

There are books that make me cry, and then there are books that make me sob until I’m hobbling around in a state of complete exhaustion. Guess which category this belongs to?

Reading At Swim, Two Boys was like being pummeled by a rock slide and then flattened with a sledgehammer for good measure. And the funny thing is, most of the story isn’t tragic. Set in Ireland against a WW1 backdrop, it’s a tale of hope, friendship, and love, complete with beautiful characterization, heartaching prose, and quite a bit of humour. There’s nothing to suggest–Well, okay, maybe the “WW1” bit.

Anyhow, the book is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction and/or LGBTQIAP+ fiction. Just arm yourself with alcohol/chocolate/comfort food and a bucket beforehand.

 

❄️ Blizzard:  A Book You Had High Expectations For

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I could write a dissertation on the sheer brilliance of the first three books in this series and then write an equally long paper on how disappointed I was with this fourth and final book. The Monstrumologist series is a 19th century gothic horror story that follows the lives of an orphaned boy named Will Henry and his ward, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man dedicated to the science of monsters. It’s gruesome, the writing is drop-dead gorgeous, and the characters are drawn with exquisite complexity.

So I expected much of the same for Book 4. Instead, I got the last season of a TV show that knows it’s getting cancelled so it tries to wrap everything up while also adding in new stuff because hell, we’re getting canned anyway, might as well be experimental.

The series is still one of my favourites of all time and I’ve listened to the audiobooks more times than I can count. I just, uh, pretend this last one doesn’t exist.

 

🌪️ Tornado:  A Book You Didn’t Like At First But Ended Up Loving

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I had a bit of a hard time with this one because I can usually decide in the first 1/4 of a book whether or not I’m going to love the rest. Then I gave myself a smack and went, “Oh, duh!” Right. So this book. I bought it when I was 15 with what measly allowance money I had and got my first taste of buyer’s remorse within the first couple of chapters–“Is this even a contemporary?”; “Wha–are these kids fighting in a war?”; “What the HELL is going on???” I side-eyed the Printz award committee. Hard. I wondered if refunding it after already having read a part of it was an ethical thing to do. I didn’t think it was, so I gritted my teeth and read on. Best. Decision. Ever.

There are so many elements that make On the Jellicoe Road such a masterpiece, but at the core of it is the friendship. The book has, by far, one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I’ve encountered in any genre. The kind that seeps into your heart and takes permanent root.

And it’s a book I even recommend to fantasy-only readers because Melina Marchetta has a gift for taking something as ordinary as a small rural town and turning it into an otherworldly place.

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I TAG:

Dorine
Jennifer
Norrie
Paige

And anyone else who wants to do it! ❤

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?