Book Review Roundup

Hey Folks! This is a quick review of the books I read in March and April. No lilypad ratings here, just a quick blurb!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was definitely a break from my usual sci fi/fantasy reads. Its the story of a family in Shaker Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) and the drama that ensues when a free spirited artist and her teenage daughter move into a rental home owned by a prominent Shaker Heights family. There’s secrets, lies, interracial adoptions, and more! I really wanted to read the book because of the interracial adoption angle, but the story is less about that and more about the examination of a dysfunctional family. Since that’s not really my thing, the story, while interesting, didn’t seem to have a resolution. I think I need a concrete problem or issue that needs to be solved by the end. Even something as straightforward as a “will the couple break up or stay together?”. I understand why the book has received the accolades it has. It was very well written, just not what I was expecting.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

I was disappointed by this book. It kept showing up in my Amazon recommendations, so I caved in and gave it a try. I also got the audiobook to help me get through it. It just never clicked for me. It was definitely a break from the medieval fantasy and dystopian stories that I usually enjoy, and that’s a good thing. I could never really connect with the main character, and I wasn’t able to invest in the world. Maybe the stakes were not high enough, I’m not sure. I read it and promptly forgot about it. I wouldn’t say it was bad, it just wasn’t engrossing. Not very helpful, I know, but my overall feeling was…meh.

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

This is the 8th and penultimate novel in The Expanse. I really enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had re-read Persepolis Rising, which is book 7. The action starts right up, without much review or exposition about what went down before. I gradually remembered stuff, but re-reading really would have helped. Plus, as usual with The Expanse, I was so caught up in the plot and the characters that I love, that I probably read it too fast! I highly recommend the series as a whole. I also recommend the Amazon Prime TV show, The Expanse, which is based on the book series. You can watch all three season in preparation for season 4, which is due later this year.

A Time of Blood by John Gwynne

This is the second book in the trilogy, Of Blood and Bone. I liked this one more than the first book, A Time of Dread. There were a few more callbacks to the events in the original series, The Faithful and the Fallen. You don’t need to have read The Faithful and the Fallen to enjoy this series, but its nice to get the real stories behind the legends. If you enjoyed the first series, definitely get your hands on this one. Now the long wait for the conclusion!

So that brings you up to date. The next book on my list is Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams. The book comes out on Tuesday, May 7th. Its the second book in The Last King of Osten Ard series. This new series takes place roughly 30 years after the end of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Can’t wait!

Happy Reading!

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2019 Expectations!

Its been awhile but I’m back. Happy New Year! I feel like January was just an extension of 2018, so the new year is really kicking off in February!

There are lots of new releases coming in 2019. Here are some of the ones I am most looking forward to (in no particular order):

  1. Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian (February 5)
  2. Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons (February 5)
  3. Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey ( March 26)
  4. Empire of Grass by Tad Williams (May 7)
  5. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (June 4)
  6. Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan (July 9)
  7. Winds of Winter by George R. R.  Martin (??) Yes, I know this is unlikely, but it always goes on the list. 🙂

There are some other books that I’d like to read this year. Here are few that I didn’t get to last year, or when they were first released, but I’d like to add to my list for 2019. Again, in no particular order:

  1. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jessamyn Ward
  2. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  3. City of Bones by Martha Wells

I finished A Time of Dread by John Gwynne a few days ago. This is a trilogy that takes place about 100 years after events at the end of The Faithful and the Fallen Series. It took me a little bit to remember the events and characters of Faithful and the Fallen, but once I re-oriented myself, I found myself deeply emerged in the world all over again. The characters from the first series are long dead of course, but we do get glimpses of what happened to them, and how those events have shaped the world today. Definitely recommend it . Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad

I am currently reading King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist. It has been a long time since I’ve read anything from Mr. Feist. I happened to see this on an Amazon recommendation list, and I was excited to dive back into his works. I am enjoying it so far. The world building is almost too detailed. That is quite a bit of info dumping in these early chapters, but I’m invested enough at this early stage to keep going.

What’s on your list for 2019?

 

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

This book was phenomenal.

I usually don’t start off a review this way, but I couldn’t help it. I just finished it a few minutes ago, and I can already tell that its a book that will stick with me for a long time.

This is the story of a generation ship that has been traveling through space for a few hundred years, fleeing a planet (presumably Earth), that has become uninhabitable. Whether it was a man made catastrophe or not, is not really clear. Needless to say, they are traveling to the promised land, i.e. “Heaven”. Or at least this society’s version of it. The ship is divided between classes, with the upper classes on the higher decks, middle class (merchants, skilled tradesmen, etc.) occupying the middle desks, and of course the lower classes (slaves, servants, etc.) on the lowest decks. Class is very much determined by race and skin color, with the darker skinned people as the slave class, and the lighter skinned and white people are the upper classes. The story is told from the point of view of Aster, who is somewhat of an outcast among her own dark skinned people. She is extremely intelligent, and socially awkward. She’s not quite sure how to relate to people, and doesn’t always respond the way people think she should.  Aster’s mother, who died shortly after childbirth, left behind a series of journals with a hidden message. Of course, if Aster and her friends can decipher the message, it could change this society forever.

There is so much going on, that its hard to really talk about it without getting deep into the plot. I will say that this novel explores many themes around religion, class, gender and race in a very fluid, realistic way. Its not only the struggle to change society, but the struggle an individual has to freely express themselves, and to openly explore what it means to be a person. To have other humans beings to see as being… alive.

As a protagonist, we see Aster, and the trouble she has with dealing with the world around her. As much as she struggles, she still maintains this strong sense of self. She knows how others perceive her, she knows who she is and she accepts it. She has no intention of changing, and this is what makes her so strong, and so admirable. At times she can be exasperating, because you want her to make different decisions, but you still root for her.

Her relationships with Giselle, Theo and Ainy Melusine are rich, deep, and well developed, even in such a short book. These supporting characters each have their time to shine, and it just provides a deeper look into this society that has been built up on this ship, over hundreds of years.

And what a society this is. There is a strict class system that has developed that is clearly based on religion. How and why does a society that is technologically advanced enough to construct a generation spaceship of this magnitude, that can last for hundreds of years, maintain a culture that is based on subjugating and enslaving an entire race of people? This is, at its most basic, a slave culture on a spaceship. Throw in issues with gender expression and identity, which are quite modern, to your more traditional expressions of gender roles, and you have a culture/society that is bound to fall apart.

I am not doing justice to this book, so I’ll just end here and say, read this book!

Lilypad Rating:LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad out of 5

Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Persepolis Rising is Book 7 in The Expanse series. Considering  where Babylon’s Ashes left off, I was anticipating a story focusing on a civil war. I was wrong! We jump ahead 30 years, and what we actually get are the long term consequences and effects  of the events of Babylon’s Ashes, rather than the immediate aftermath . Its an interesting way to go, and I have to say I was skeptical at first, but I came to appreciate skipping over the details of rebuilding, and focusing on the results, which is much more interesting.

As always in this series, with each new book we are introduced to new characters and perspectives. There’s a new empire in town, and its more powerful than anything Earth, Mars and the Belt have ever seen. This empire has a cult of personality built up inside of it, and getting the perspective of someone who has fully bought into it let’s us see how the concept of a benevolent dictator can be so enticing. Humanity must be brought together under one strong rule, but at what cost? Of course, Holden, Naomi, Bobbie, Alex and Amos are right in the middle of the struggle.

With a 30 year gap, we see a Rocinante crew that is on the cusp of big changes. They’ve been through the war, its aftermath, and now they are just beginning to settle into new phases of their lives. But we can’t have that, now can we? Once again, they are caught in the center of intergalactic conflict. In many ways they approach their situation the same way they always have, but now they have different priorities, different roles, and different expectations. They have all grown, but at their core, its the same characters we’ve come to know.

There are two more books planned in the series. This is a good starting point for the last arc of the story. It has a great setup for all the players, without feeling like its a set up. By the end, I was definitely prepared for the final showdown of the series.

Lilypad Rating:LilyPadLilyPadLilyPadLilyPad

 

2018 Reading Goals

Happy New Year!

New year, fresh start for reading. I’ve never  had any specific goals for reading, other than to read more. This year, I’ve decided to actually be more specific, and deliberate with my reading. In 2017 I exceeded my Goodreads goal, but it was a struggle at times. Part of the problem was that I was distracted by all the great television. Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO and everything else, it was, and still is, very easy to just plop down in front of the TV and binge a show. I’d like to change that, and plop down on the the couch and binge a book! There aren’t too many sows that I need or want to watch live, so there’s no reason why I can’t make reading my default, and fit TV in between those times when I’m not reading. So, here’s my plan for 2018:

  1. Goodreads Goal: 25 books
  2. At least 30 minutes to an hour each day reading. The TV will not be on, no other distractions. This can be a designated time before bed or right after work.
  3. Expand beyond traditional sci fi and fantasy. Maybe more young adult, urban fantasy, contemporary fiction, historical fiction etc. Expand those horizons! Its not like I’ve never read literary fiction before, so why not add that back into the rotation?
  4. Re-read Favorites. When in a rut, pull out an old favorite. I won’t necessarily finish the book, but use it as a time filler while deciding on a new book. It keeps up the habit of daily reading. And its always nice to re-visit old favorites!
  5. Second Chances. Be willing to give some books a second chance. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, but sometimes you just need to give it a go again, because it may turn out to be a new favorite.

We’ll see how this goes! What are your reading goals for 2018?

The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois

Let’s be real. The reason I picked up this anthology was because of the George R. R. Martin short story called The Sons of the Dragon. There were other authors that I was familiar with, but I read it for A Song of Ice and Fire purposes. And, yes, the story was great. The history of the Targaryens is completely fascinating to me, and its my favorite part of Westerosi history. This particular story is a tale of the sons of Aegon the Conqueror himself, Maegor the Cruel and Aenys I. The power struggle between them really sets the stage for the kind of kingdom Westeros would become. Not essential reading of course, but any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire would really enjoy this.

I did manage to read other stories in this anthology. I wanted to branch out and try some authors I hadn’t read before, including Elizabeth Bear, CJ Cherryh and Cecelia Holland. Daniel Abraham, and Robin Hobb are authors that I have read before, but haven’t gone back to in awhile.

I will highlight those stories. I’m not going to go into great detail about plot, but I will give my very brief impressions of the story and whether I would read something else by that author.

Her Father’s Sword by Robin Hobb- This story sees the brief appearance of a familiar character to fans of Robin Hobb- FitzChivalry Farseer. I have only read the Farseer Trilogy (actually, it may have only been the first book), but it was so long ago that I don’t remember much of the plot. It’s clear though that this story definitely ties in to one of the series that FitzChivalry appears in. Fans would get more out of his appearance than a casual reader like me. Needless to say, the story was enjoyable, with a memorable villain, great action and drama. I’ll definitely consider picking up the Farseer Trilogy.

The King’s Evil by Elizabeth Bear- This one was a bit weird to me. I really couldn’t get attached to the characters. The world building felt like it belonged to a much bigger story, and maybe it does. The big thing that turned me off was the use of a modern weapon. I wasn’t expecting it, and it felt out of place. But honestly, at that point, I had pretty much checked out of the story. I don’t like mixing my swords with modern stuff. I would still like to give the author’s other books a try. Leave some recommendations!

The Mocking Tower by Daniel Abraham- I really liked this one. It was the one story that I wanted to see expended into a full length novel. I would definitely like to get the full story on how the realm descended into the civil war it finds itself in now. This story gives an overview of it, but I’d really like to read it as it plays out. I want to know how we got to the events of this short story, and what happens afterwards. Great story. I’m reading the Expanse which is written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, under the pen name James S.A. Corey. Love that series. There are two other series by Abraham, that I have tried to start but couldn’t get into. I may give those a try. The first series is The Long Price Quartet and the other one is called The Dagger and The Coin.

The Sword Tyraste by Cecelia Holland- I had never heard of this author, and I do like some historical fantasies, so I gave it a try. Norse mythology and stories about Norse cultures are not always my cup of tea, but I found this story to be intriguing. I t caught my attention quickly, and I wanted to see where it ended. And its the ending that I found lacking. Its not really a cliff hanger, it just ends after a fight, and gives two sentences about the main character and thats it. Its hard to describe it here without spoiling it, but yeah, this one left me scratching my head.

These were the stories that stood out to me, and the ones I read first. The other ones were not necessarily genres that I like, so I skipped those for now.

Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPad1/2 out of 5

 

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

This was my second attempt at reading this book. I picked it up not long after it was first published, because I have read previous books by N.K. Jemisin (The Inheritance Trilogy, The Deamblood Duology). I really liked The Inheritance Trilogy, but I couldn’t finish the first book of The Dreamblood Duology. So, I was skeptical about The Fifth Season. I had read the sample, and decided it wasn’t really for me. As time went by, and the book racked up all kinds of praise and awards, so I decided to give it another try. I can definitely see why it has received the praise and awards that it has. For me, I liked it. Mostly. Well, maybe more than mostly. I’m still a bit unsettled in my opinion.

Its hard to talk about the book without spoiling it, so this will be a pretty brief review. There are three points of view (POV)- Damaya, Syenite, and Essun. Essun’s POV is told in the second person narrative, which is what put me off the first time I tried to read this book. I don’t like second person narratives,  (although you don’t see them very often) and I will reluctantly read first person narratives. I think the story of Essun was told beautifully, but I found myself more interested in the stories of Damaya and Syenite, which are told in the third person. That’s my own bias clouding my judgment, of course. The story as a whole was compelling enough for me to want to get to the end, so I did. And I’m glad I did.

The story takes places in what seems to be Earth in the far future. There is one supercontinent referred to as the Stillness. There are different castes, and everyone belongs to a caste. The orogenes are those who can manipulate the earth and weather around them by taking in the earth’s energy. The orogenes are feared and reviled. Some are killed on sight, others are kidnapped or sold by their families to the Fulcrum, which trains and controls the orogenes. So of course, our protagonists are all orogenes.

Essun is on the search for her husband, who killed their son and kidnapped their daughter. Damaya is a child who is discovered to be an orogene, and is sold to the Fulcrum by her family. Syenite is an orogene at the Fulcrum. The best part of the book is discovering how the stories of these three women relate. This is also a story of being “other”- and being controlled, ridiculed and denied your humanity because of it.

I did have a hard time relating to the world. There is not a lot of exposition, so you are left to discover the world on your own though the actions and dialogue of the characters. I like a little more exposition that what is offered here, but I do realize that too much exposition can become clunky and can take you out of the story. By the end I knew enough to get what was going on, but I wish I had more background. This wouldn’t make sense from Essun’s POV since its in the second person, but I think Syenite’s POV could have been the place to add that.

I didn’t really take to the magic system. I may be more of a traditionalist when it comes to magic, but I appreciate the uniqueness of the system here, and how it fits into this world. The world has had such catastrophic natural events, and continues to go through devastating natural disasters every hundred years or so. It makes sense that any magic within this world would be tied to the earth.

This review is a little all over the place, because I’m a little all over the place with this book! However, I will read the second book in the series, The Obelisk Gate, to see if I can get more settled in the world. I definitely would recommend giving the book a try. It is written beautifully, as I would expect from N.K. Jemisin.

Lilypad Rating: LilyPadLilyPadLilyPad