Reading Round-up

This is just a post to give everyone an idea of what I’ve been reading this month, and my anticipated reading for the next couple months.

Like many people, I have a bunch of books in my virtual “to read” pile. There are so many good books and so little time to read them. One of my goals for 2017 is to make more time for books. There’s a lot of great TV and movies out right now, and its so easy to get home from work, plop down on the couch, and flick on the TV. Rather than saving reading for the weekend, I’d like to get more reading done during the week. Anyway, here are a few of the books in my “to read” pile, and what I am currently reading right now.

Currently Reading: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley (Book 2 of The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne). I raced through the first book in this series, The Emperor’s Blades. I haven’t read a good epic fantasy in awhile, and this one definitely filled the void. I may do a full review of the entire trilogy when I’m finished, but so far I am really enjoying this.

To Read (in no particular order):

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I’m late to the game on this one, but I’ve heard great things about it, so of course I will give it a try. It is about a slave named Cora, who, of course, uses the Underground Railroad, a network of people, places and things used by slaves escaping slavery in the American South. This novel won the National Book Award and was an Oprah Book Club pick, so of course, I must read it.
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin I have read her books before, most notably The Inheritance Trilogy, and really enjoyed it. I have not been able to connect with her other books, but after reading a sample of The Fifth Season, I definitely want to give it a try. This novel won the Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2016.
  3. The City by Stella Gemmell Stella Gemmell is the wife of the late author, David Gemmell. I read David Geemmell’s trilogy, Troy, and one of his other novels, The Lion of Macedon. You can read my review of The Lion of Macedon here. David Gemmell died before he could finish the final book in the Troy trilogy, so Stella completed the novel for him. I love Greek mythology and stories from ancient Greece and Rome, and The City takes place in a similar setting. What I have read of the sample has peaked my interest, so at some point this year I will give it  a try.
  4. The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams. I am so looking forward to this! I have already posted my thoughts on Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and The Heart of What Was Lost. Needless to say, book 2 in The Last King of Osten Ard is tops for me.
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read the sample and was hooked. This is, in part, the story of a Nigerian immigrant to America, and how she grapples with her values and ideals in a post 9/11 America. These are stories we don’t hear enough about, and I can’t wait to dive into this one. Again, I’m late to the party on this one, but at least I’m getting there!

There are more on my list, but this gives you an idea of what I’m diving into in the next few months. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff, so my list will only grow.

What’s on your list?

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti: Home is the sequel to need Okorafor’s previous Hugo and Nebula award winning novella, Binti. I’m going to keep this brief because I shared most of my feelings about the world, the main character, plot, etc. If you want my take on Binti, you can read it here.

The story takes place after the closing events of Binti. And as the title lets us know, Binti goes home. Binti’s experiences at the university have changed her, both emotionally and physically, but she feels compelled to go home for a rite of passage that is very important in her culture. She brings along her alien friend, Okwu. Of course, we have the inevitable conflicts with Binti and her family- she’s changed, and her family has a hard time understanding this new Binti. Through her rite of passage, Binti begins to discover more about herself, and her people.

Overall the story is a worthy successor to the story begun in Binti. The use of an African culture for this futuristic setting is refreshing and exciting. We are able to sidestep the usual tropes found in science fiction when its based on European or American norms. If you’re looking for something new and fresh, Binti and Binti:Home are an excellent place to start.

I fully realize that this doesn’t give you too much to go on, (I don’t want o spoil the plot!) but trust me, its worth the read.

Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad out of 5

 

The Man in The High Castle, S1 and S2

I didn’t post about this show last year, but I will give you the general run down. Its based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. In a nutshell, this is what the world could have been like if the Axis powers won World War II. The United States in divided into 3 territories: The east coast is controlled by Germany, and the west coast is controlled by Japan. Down the middle of the country, the Rockies, part of the Great Plains, is the neutral zone. Of course, this isn’t just straight alternate history. There are time traveling elements! You see, there are these films that very few people know about, that show a world like ours, where the Allied powers win. Of course, the bad guys want these films, because you don’t want the good guys seeing them and getting any ideas about starting a resistance movement or anything like that. (wink, wink).

So in Season 1, we get the set up. The story takes place in 1962. We figure out who the players are and how each part of the country is run. We get a little more insight into what’s going on in the rest of the world in season 2. In season 1 we meet Juliana, who’s sister is a part of this resistance movement that knows about the existence of the films, and is determined to use them to overthrow the Germans and the Japanese. Juliana is in San Fransisco. We also meet Joe, who is in New York City.  Juliana discovers the film, meets Joe, and that’s pretty much when the story takes off. There are many more characters involved of course, but to try to list all of them here would be information overload, but suffice to say, the interplay  between the characters, the two empires (Germany and Japan) is incredible. If you know your WWII history, then you know that the alliance between Japan and Germany was not an easy one, and that tension remains even after their victory. This is explored more in season 2.

I will say that the show really hits its stride in season 2. We are past the set up and exposition phase of Season 1, and we get to see more of the world created after WWII. There is so much attention to detail, that you find yourself looking for all the “easter eggs” and references to what technology and culture would have been like. In many ways it was more advanced, and in others it seems stagnated in the 1940s. I am not an expert in any way when it comes to WWII and this time period, but just as a fan of history in general, the whole thing is just riveting. In season 2, we get to spend more time with other characters and delve a little bit into their motivations. The world is also expanded, and we see more of what life was like beyond Joe and Juliana in the States. I feel like if I say too much more it will give away too much and will take away from some of the surprise revelations about the characters. Watching the show raises the question, for me at least, as to why some Americans appear to be whole heartedly accepting the superiority of both the Japanese and the Germans. In every oppressed society you always have people who will buy into the propaganda of the oppressor, but it just makes you want to know how they got there. I am aware of the times and the state of race relations, and due to their own prejudices that it may have been easier for some to get there, (at least in the German controlled eastern U.S.) but these were still foreign invaders. We start to see some of this in Season 2. And lets not forget, this is alternate history with a bit of science fiction thrown in. The existence of the films themselves speaks to the existence of time travel and alternate universes, and this is a major plot element in season 2. Be forewarned, it gets a bit timey-whimey, but its not hard to follow at all. I actually think it handles the concept of time travel and alternate universes in a very thoughtful way. At times it will break your heart.

As you can probably tell, I whole heartedly recommend this series! You can binge watch both seasons on Amazon Prime.

Lilypad rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad out of 5

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

Happy 2017!

As I mentioned in my Memory, Sorrow and Thorn post, this is a bridge novel between the last events of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (MST), and the beginning of the new trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard. More specifically, this book details the events between the end of To Green Angel  Tower (the third book in MST) and its epilogue. For those who don’t want MST spoiled, I will say that this book is clearly a set up for the new trilogy, and is probably a necessary read before you dive into The Last King of Osten Ard (LKOA).

SPOILERS FOR MEMORY, SORROW and THORN ahead!

After the Storm King was defeated, Duke Isgrimnur is tasked with destroying the remaining Norns, who were still terrorizing parts of Osten Ard. We get view points of Isgrimnur, a couple of common soldiers, and the Norns themselves. With the Norn point of view, we get to see more of their society and how it works. We see the conflicts that arise when the ultimate fate of their entire race is hangs in the balance.  What some of them propose to do is actually quite shocking, and seems to go against everything they believe, about themselves and about the world, but it makes for a fascinating dilemma. What would you do if you are facing the complete annihilation of your race? I became very invested in their story, and it’s pretty clear that what happens in the final battle between the Norns and the humans if Osten Ard will have ramifications for generations to come.

I was not as invested in the point of view of the common soldiers. While the change of perspective was good for pacing, the characters didn’t resonate with me. I tend to like fantasy that focuses more on the upper classes, royalty, etc. as opposed to the common folk. I get why its there, its just not as compelling to me.

There are certainly events in this book that are foreshadowing of events to come in LKOA, including some good old fashioned prophetic ramblings from immortal creatures!

The Heart of What Was Lost is a great throwback to the epic fantasy of the 90’s. When I first read MST, I was reading it along with The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, etc. which were clearly influenced by MST. Its nice to get back into high adventure, and a nice break from the graphic violence and long detailed depiction of battles that are depicted in the more “grim/dark” fantasy that is popular now.

This is absolutely a set up for the new trilogy. For fans of MST, this relatively short novel is a nice way to reacquaint yourself with the world of Osten Ard, and prepare you for the new adventure to come.

Lilypad Rating:LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad out of 5

The Shattered Sea Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

In the Shattered Sea trilogy, each book has a different protagonist, but they all appear in various capacities in all three books. The books in the series are:

Half of a King

Half the World 

Half a War

The protagonist in Half a King is Yarvi, the youngest son of the king and queen. He was born with a deformed hand, so, of course, he is seen as weak and not fit for the throne. After some tragic events he goes on a quest to find himself and to seek some revenge. We see him come to the beginning of his power by the end of the book, which leads us into the second book, Half the World.

In Half the World the protagonist is Thorn, the daughter of a warrior who gets herself into a fine mess, and goes on a sea voyage to the southern empire, where she helps her country secure help from a powerful empire. Yarvi makes some appearances here, and you get to see how far he has come since the last book.

Finally, we come to Half a War, where we have yet another protagonist, Skara. Skara is the princess without a kingdom, and she must make alliances to try to rebuild her kingdom, while also taking part in the war against the big bad of the series. Yarvi and Thorn are also in this book.

I have not read Joe Abercrombie’s other works, and I know that this one is definitely more YA than his First Law trilogy. I won’t say that I was disappointed- I liked the first book well enough. The pacing was good, and it was a nice page turning adventure. There’s not a lot of detail to the world, but there’s just enough to keep things interesting, and to provide the proper context for the action. If the rest of the series had kept Yarvi front and center, I would have liked it more. He was an interesting character with motivations that went beyond the “I must prove them wrong about my disability!”. He knew his limitations (personal and societal) so he went itnthe direction that he needed to go, and found a new, better path to power.

When we get to the second book, that’s when I had trouble. There was a big gap between my readings of the first and second books, so my memory was a little fuzzy, but the second book didn’t seem to move anything along as far as the plot goes. It was very much focused on developing the characters which is fine, but I found myself a bit lost. More than likely because I had forgotten a few things from the first book, but I didn’t have a firm grip on the plot. Lots of new characters, and mostly new places, were introduced, and I had trouble following who was who, and what country was on what side, and what the whole reason was for this mess in the first place. Even at the end, I still wasn’t absolutely sure what was going on. There was a long journey to the south to get an alliance but I couldn’t tell exactly what the good guys got out of it. And there was a very YA romance thrown in there too.

Then, there is Half a War. This started out much better, and I felt that we were finally getting back to the plot. Still more countries and places are introduced, and I found that I needed to just not get too bogged down in trying to figure out where everyone was and who was who. I had to just roll with it, so I did. The protagonist, Skara, was likable, although the princess who has to learn to be a queen of course is nothing new. There was a romance thrown in here too, but I liked that it didn’t end unrealistically, or with a convenient plot twist or reveal, like many others would have. There is a revelation that took me a bit by surprise, probably because I wasn’t able to remember any possible clues that came out in previous books, but I thought it was a nice twist. It kind of made the ending somewhat abrupt (and also made me wonder why they didn’t do what they did sooner), but it was ok. Not very much to go on with that, but, there it is.

Overall, I liked Half a King and Half a War, and could’ve done without Half the World.

Lilypad rating: LilyPadLilyPad1/2  Take it or Leave it

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

This is one of my favorite series of all time. I have apparently been under a rock, because I recently discovered that there will be a new trilogy set in Osten Ard, the world of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn! A “bridge” story will be published January 3, 2017 entitled The Heart of What Was Lost, which will cover the year between the end of the third book in MS&T and the beginning of the new trilogy. Thus, I have begun my re-read of Memory Sorrow and Thorn! Here are all the stats:

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams (www.tadwilliams.com)

  • The Dragonbone Chair
  • Stone of Farewell
  • To Green Angel Tower

The Heart of What Was Lost (publishing January 3, 2017)

The Last King of Osten Ard Trilogy

  • The Witchwood Crown (publishing June, 2017)
  • Empire of Grass
  • The Navigator’s Children

I won’t be posting updates on my re-read, but I will post my reviews of The Heart of What Was Lost and the Last King of Osten Ard Trilogy. Can’t wait! Is it 2017 yet?

The Fever Code by James Dashner

This is the second prequel in the Mazerunner series. It tells the story of the maze, and the role Thomas and Teresa played in its creation.
This is probably my main criticism of the book. Thomas and Teresa were these “super kids” who were chosen because they had the characteristics and talents necessary to help build the maze. But we only get a handful of scenes showing them helping to create a backdrop for the maze. Teresa has the vague job of doing technical computer stuff, and Thomas pretty much is just there on the ground helping her through their telepathic communication. Thomas talks about going to classes but we don’t know what he’s learning. He also goes through all kinds of tests and exercises, but what are these? What exactly is his contribution? Teresa seems to be the most important one here, which is fine, but why did they choose Thomas, other than the fact that he is immune from the virus, along with all the other kids?

Which brings me back to the maze. Why a maze? And what are they testing for? Once again, lots of vague references to testing their responses to certain stimuli and how they react or don’t react to the virus. There was a bit more explanation later on, but I still don’t have a grasp on the full program. It is very likely that I missed it, but I don’t think I did.

Perhaps the intent here was not to get bogged down in these kinds of details, but to simply stick to the main points with some description or detail added as needed. I tend to like a story that is a little more full. I don’t need to have every blade of grass or every motivation even, explained in excruciating detail, but I do like good, quality detail so that I know why characters are doing what they  are doing and why certain things are happening.

I won’t get too spoilery, but there were some character reveals that put the original trilogy in a different light. Teresa was already sketchy in the original trilogy, and the events at the end of this book make her even more sketchy. Revelations about  Jorge, Brenda and George were surprising, but I think those could’ve been left out. Teresa was enough!

SPOILERS




The fact that the kids all knew each other before hand but forgot everything when their memories were swiped before going into the maze was tragic, but I think the original trilogy showed the bonds between them, and the natural affinity they had for each other very well, so I don’t think this plotdevice was really needed. But then again, it would’ve been awkward to explain why all theses kids were in this facility for so long, and never interacted at all. I can see why it’s there, and it adds even more emotional baggage to Thomas’ relationship with Chuck. I’m still kinda “meh” on it though.

If you are a fan of the original series, I think this would be an enjoyable read that will give you some background information on the original trilogy, answer some questions, and will cause you to re-evaluate events and characters from the original series. I liked this one more than the first prequel, The Kill Order. Is it a must read? Not quite. However,  it was enjoyable for what it was, and does round out the series pretty well.

Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPad out of 5