Categories
Fiction General Fiction Thrillers

Two (2-Star) ARCs and Authors Know We Can’t Unsee Things, Right?

I feel like I should talk about these books a little bit since they were sent as ARCs but honestly I just want to scrub them out of my mind and not talk about them anymore, so here is a brief summary of my rationales.

I was trying to (see the post’s main image) use a pretty tree to downplay how much I really did not like either of these arcs, my apologies to the publishers

How do you handle your rating system? I don’t have many 2 star reads, 1 is my DNF and 3 is my so-so/average/neutral rating… and that gray zone in the middle that is my 2 star rating, is hard.

The Outside is by an Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson, that I have enjoyed before. Sent from Minotaur Books via NetGalley. The translation is releasing in America in June 2022. I love Nordic noir. That said, Outside was repetitive, I guessed most of the twists right away, it wasn’t really thrilling, and the end left the characters in a weird predicament with more questions left than answered. I also think some of the phrasing was lost in translation. Maybe the movie will be better? This was a quick read with short chapters and alternating points of view, but at no point was I truly interested or invested.

The GoodReads rating is exceptionally low as well so I am not alone, it stands somewhere around a 3.2 right now

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Elsewhere was sent as an early physical copy from Celadon Books. While I loved Alex Schaitkin’s first book, Saint X, this one left me constantly either bored or grossed out. The mysticism worked in her first book but here, as a fantasy reader, I wanted that big question answered: what was the affliction? It was just too perverse as well, which was her intention but I’m 100% not here for that content. I cant unsee some of the things Vera and Peter did and I’m trying not to barf, like, wtf is this adding to the story?  The book had some good parts though and I felt like it was winding up to really reveal the mystery of the affliction, then it fell terribly flat by not giving us the big reveal but making things even weirder.

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Both of these books earn 2🌟 as I finished them, but can’t in good faith recommend them

Thanks again to the publishers for the advanced copies ❤

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Wyrd & Wonder Read-A-Long: The Summer Tree (week two)

I was going to keep adding all the questions to the same post but ack, my life is way too complicated as it is and a new post is easier! That said, these posts are exclusively for the readalong so turn back now to avoid spoilers!

The questions for week two, chapters roughly 6-8 , of the readalong are provided by Nils and some of the fine folks over at https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/posts/ !

Here was week 1


1) There was a little confusion last week on whether chapter six was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

I firmly believe that it takes two to tango.  If the princess was down for a roll in the hay, and it seemed like she was, fine and so be it. It’s probably an advantageous political match if nothing else

I have more pressing questions like – how did they know about each other if the worlds are kept apart so much that no one has visited in 1000 years? How the hell are the physical letters even getting across, it’s not like carrier pigeons would know where to go… Someone explain this to me lol

2)We’re a sizable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

The pacing is definitely getting quicker and the story more interesting. What threw me off is the chapter lengths and how they went from like 10 pages on average to 40 or 50 each. I found that jarring.

3) Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

I am worried about ALL the mages! It seems like each one has their own individual agenda and I’m wondering which one (or for who) Ysanne’s helper is working for.

Loren almost rode his horse to death, and for what? What is his game? Metran actually had me cracking up because both old men are pretending to be a lot more creaky and senile than they are. I wondered if Ailell and Metran are onto each other in the way that “it takes a faker to know one”

4) Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings thus far?

The children’s game freaked me out a bit, I am super curious to know what The Longest Road is! I also am curious as to why Jaelle could sense a prophecy or power being fulfilled but not discern it’s meaning.  If I were her I think I would have struck a peace with Ysanne to find out what had occurred.

I love all the prophecy though, it’ll be fun to see how much is fulfilled and where it all fits into “the tapestry”

5) Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

Absolutely not, 100% absolutely not.  I’m not overtly Catholic but suicide is a huge no-no.  I don’t even see any good reason why Paul wants to die so badly, I get that his ex died but whatever else he is grieving for needs to be addressed because right now I just consider him depressed and mentally unbalanced

6) There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

The first fight mentioned was interesting because it brought out the Galadan / Matram storyline, and seems to be sucking the entire kingdom into war.

That said, the fight between the canines was a lot more moving. Paul has to hang on for 3 days and nights to fulfill the prophecy and The Companion bought him the time to do so.

Why doesn’t Galadan want the sacrifice fulfilled, what is coming? What happens to him when Mörnir comes?

7) There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories? Revisitors, do you recall if you had any opinions on this before?

I think Dave is hiding in a linen closet and watching everything, waiting for the time to jump out and save everyone.  Either that or he is joined up with the king’s other son (who I think we briefly met at the end of chapter 7), because wouldn’t that be ironic

Any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a good read still but these longer chapters are hard for my attention span.  I also wish that GGK would stop throwing random names and items and events out with explanations.  It’s a lot to keep track of and with more questions than answers I am so afraid I’m going to miss something important

Categories
Fantasy

Iron Garland by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

It looks like Wyrd & Wonder month is turning into a binge of the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler.  They are quick reads thankfully because I am dying to jump into Deadhouse Gates because yes, Malazan is life now LOL.

Iron Garland is the first book I have blogged this month that is eligible for the Wyrd & Wonder bingo board, so…. I am using it for the prompt “Don’t leave the path”.  While it’s not in a woodland connotation, the first reason is that the world of Lockhaven and high society is so strict in societal norms for women that a single misstep in a dance, a single breach of propriety, crossing the wrong person, any small thing can derail a woman’s prospects. Stay on that path! The second “path” is that of the Mastons. There is a very different set of beliefs and guidelines for Mastons (think like religious norms with divine guidance) that also set a strict path for these people.  While the Knowing won’t abandon people for making mistakes and learning from them, it gets harder and harder to get back on the right path after straying due to the way society and debt is structured, plus the influence of the Myriad ones.

Now that I’ve talked about the prompt, let’s briefly talk about the book! Spoiler free of course. My reviews for the series so far are linked at the bottom!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Iron Garland
  • Series: Harbinger #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – November 2018
  • Length: 353 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 absolutely keep the series going

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

For three years, Sera Fitzempress has been a pawn in a gilded prison—the floating manor of Pavenham Sky. Disgraced and exiled from society, she has been isolated from the downtrodden she’s determined to liberate. But although Sera may seem subservient on the outside, the stubborn princess has only become emboldened.

Now in charge of her family’s estate, Cettie Pratt has grown into an independent young woman, although she continues to be tested by the high society of the clouds. Advancing in the magic of the Mysteries, Cettie is also a useful tool of defense during turbulent times. However, as more of Cettie’s mysterious past comes to light, her greatest challenge may be a reckless stranger with a dark secret.

The fog of war is drawing in, and with it comes a startling new enemy who may unravel secrets that both women would prefer stay hidden. But their secrets may be the only way to stop the coming darkness…

Ok I know I didn’t love Mirror Gate so much but Wheeler brings all the stops out in Iron Garland.

Wheeler assumes now that we are familiar enough with both the Harbinger and Kingfountain worlds to drop all pretenses and world building fluff and tell the story.

Sera absolutely shines in this one.  It is the growth and power I have been waiting for from her! Three years have passed since she was figuratively imprisoned at Pavenham Sky, and as much as we hate to admit it, Lady Corinne gave her the tools she needed to succeed at court.  I was thrilled to see Sera at Kingfountain and I think Prince Trevon will be interesting going forward as well.

One exciting thing is that Wheeler tells us something about an old Kingfountain legend – the Maid of Donremy – that I won’t share for spoiler alerts but it brings the entire war of hard feelings into perspective and raises a lot of thoughts too.

Cettie is powerful as well in this novel and I am both happy and sad for her.  I think we all knew by now that Cettie was to be the Harbinger, that’s not a spoiler, and it was joyful to see her stand up to her adopted siblings and come into her own as Keeper of Fog Willows.  Towards the end though, was she losing her mind? It is entirely out of character for Cettie to ignore a prized possession going missing and someone clearly meddling with her business items.  There is absolutely no way she wouldn’t have confronted anyone about this or pursued it until she had answers, I just don’t believe it.

Action wise – the book opens with a ghastly murder, contains the end of a war, a hunt for a Fear Liath, and some absolutely stunning duplicity towards the end.  The cliffhanger is as equally alarming as the beginning and the book hardly slows down in between. This is what I expect from Wheeler, nothing less at this point!

Lastly I should mention the new residents of Gimmerton Sough, the manor next to Fog Willows – I can’t say too much but the foreshadowing throughout the early part of the novel is obvious and real. You don’t know exactly what the foreshadowing is pointing to but you know to be very, very alert for issues and when they start popping up, oh my 😭 I am so worried for my Fitzroy siblings that I’m going to start Prism Cloud today

Can you think of any books where characters must stay on a literal or figurative path??


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – Featuring R.W.W. Greene

Hello friends and Robots! First off Happy Mother’s Day if this applies to you in any way shape or form!

For episode 22 of the Sunday Brunch Series I am honored to be kicking off the Angry Robot Books Mercury Rising tour with author R.W.W. Greene! Mercury Rising releases this coming Tuesday the 10th!

Let’s jump right into the interview, then I’ll share book and author info at the end!

Also do 100% be sure to check out this stunning lineup of content through the rest of the tour!

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🥞 Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
 
🎤First, thanks so much for inviting me to brunch. Interesting fact … Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t swim. Is that interesting or pathetic?
 
 
🥞I think it’s awesome that you listed breakfast as a possible interview question! This was meant to be 😂 what’s your favorite brunch food?
🎤Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day — whatever time of the day I choose to have it — and this big plate of eggs and homefries sets the mood just right. I will be accompanying it with nigh-infinite cups of black coffee and maybe a sliver of that quiche.
🥞 One of my favorite topics is morally gray characters and you nailed it with Brooklyn in Mercury Rising.  What do you think makes a good morally gray character?

🎤When the Color Wheel of Our Lives spins, it blurs into grayness. We might be blue or orange at certain points, but the average is that cloudy gray. You’re a good person. Okay, would you steal if you were starving? If your kids were starving? Do you ever drive faster than the speed limit? Ethics come from the outside. Morals are interior, and like everything else inside us, they’re slippery. We tend to resolve the cognitive dissonance of our own immoral actions pretty quickly. It’s just one puppy. Everybody does it. I’m a good person, and I pee in the shower, so obviously, to be a good person, you must pee in the shower, too.

I think the trick is to make the character as real as possible, and realize that real is really messy.

🥞Each of your books takes a big issue (as in pollution or climate change or war or etc) and gives the readers a big *hey this is happening* message – is this the thought that starts your book ideas? Is there an issue that’s particularly near and dear to you?

🎤My stories usually start with character and situation. For “The Light Years,” I had some version of Adem and his arranged marriage. For ‘Twenty-Five,’ I had Julie being left behind on Earth. For ‘Mercury,’ I had Brooklyn and his need to just make it through the day and get back to his apartment.

The ‘hey this is happening’ stuff comes in because everything is happening all the time, and it keeps happening over and over. We’re drowning in the rhymes and resonances of all the things we’ve (the Big We) ever seen or done. I suppose I’m most attuned to things that will affect the future. Which, I guess, is everything.

I don’t sleep all that well, and I take pills for anxiety. I wonder why

🥞You were a part of a “swearing in SFF” panel at Quarancon! Can you share your general thoughts on foul language & slang in SFF?

🎤Swearing is interesting because we lose vocabulary as the arc of history bends toward justice. I don’t hear origins as expletives nearly as much as I used to. Being a bastard isn’t the curse it once was. As the meaning of ‘bitch’ changes and evolves, being a ‘son of a bitch’ ain’t so bad. Slut-shaming is slowly giving way to sex-positivity. As we become more secular, there are fewer gods to blaspheme.

Most of what we’re left with is body parts and bodily functions. And fuck, which is  the Swiss-Army knife of swear words.

What would a wood elf find profane? ‘You slayer of trees! Culler of conifers! Maple mauler! Fucking asshole!”

A William Gibson cyberpunk-cowboy: “Cube! (from ‘cubicle’) Drug-cutting corpie! You dirty little dataport! Virus licker! Fucking asshole!

🥞Is there more to come in the Mercury Rising universe? {I loved the open ending but also want more Brooklyn}

🎤 There is. Angry Robot and I have contracted for a second book in what is meant to be a trilogy. You’ll see book two in early summer of 2023. If all goes well, the third book should come out summerish 2024, either from Angry Robot (fingers crossed) or self-published.

{{I’m on board, ESPECIALLY IF AR FINALLY EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 400. I should start asking the authors}}

🥞After three books now and multiple short stories, what is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far?

🎤One short-story reviewer pronounced me a ‘middle-aged writer,” which while true, hurt. A dude on Goodreads recently gave ‘Twenty-Five to Life’ one star because he didn’t like who I dedicated the book to. One gent out on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote and said ‘The Light Years’ helped him come to terms with his father, which is cool but completely unplanned.

Probably the most useful feedback I’ve received is ‘Don’t read the reviews!” I don’t always listen.

🥞Random Sci-fi question: With the conference coming in May, any thoughts on the Nebula nominees this year?

🎤My secret shame — not so secret now — is that I often don’t get to the Nebula nominees until they are on the final ballot. I read a lot, easily three or four books a week, but much of it is not in-genre and the stuff that is doesn’t always show up on awards lists. After the ballot is released, I usually go on an all-Nebula reading spree so I can cast an informed vote.

There are so many books being published, I have no idea how anyone keeps up, and that’s not including all the novellas, novelettes, and short stories. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

{{True fact, I’ve succumbed to mood reading and pretty much anything from AR}}

🥞Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🎤My favorite SFF author is currently a three-way tie among William Gibson (always), Becky Chambers, and Seanan McGuire. Gary Shteyngart is orbiting this triumvirate waiting for one of them to die or retire.

I’ve recommended Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’ more times than I can remember. Series … maybe the ‘Emberverse’ stuff by S.M. Stirling.

Character … Henry Palace in Ben Winter’s ‘Last Policeman’ series. Or Trixe Belden. If you push me, Trixie beats Henry all the way.

🥞Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤Thanks so much for having me. The company was excellent and the quiche divine. Have a lovely day!


There you have it!

If you want to see my early Mercury Rising review, click here!

Author Bio:

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire USA writer with an MA in Fine Arts, which he exorcises in dive bars and coffee shops. He is a frequent panelist at the Boskone Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Boston, and his work has been in Stupefying Stories, Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, and Jersey Devil Press, among others. Greene is a past board member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He keeps bees, collects typewriters, and lives with writer/artist spouse Brenda and two cats

Book Blurb:
Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Atomic Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders. Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated.
So, rot away in prison or sign up to defend the planet from the assholes who dropped a meteorite on Cleveland?  Brooklyn crosses his fingers and picks  the Earth Orbital Forces. A few years in the trenches and then — assuming he survives — he’ll get his life back, right? Unfortunately, the universe has other plans, and Brooklyn is launched into a story about saving humanity, finding family, and growing as a person — while coping with high-stakes space battles, mystery science experiments and finding out the real enemies aren’t the tentacled monsters on the recruitment poster.

Unless they are.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Mirror Gate by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I saved my Mirror Gate review to fall on the Wyrd & Wonder prompt 5-Star Fantasy! It wouldn’t be a fantasy reading month if I didn’t finish and feature at least one book by Wheeler. See my review links for prior books in the series at the end!

While I didn’t give Mirror Gate 5 stars (sorry but I already read Muirwood) – I can constantly rely on Jeff Wheeler for clean, wholesome fantasy that keeps me absorbed from cover to cover. More often than not his books breeze 5 stars for me. 

**One last note before talking about the book – holy cow did anyone see the release day numbers for Druid?? It slammed #1 in both epic and historical fantasy for both book and Kindle form!! Wheeler’s fans were READY for it!**

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mirror Gate
  • Series: Harbinger #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, August 2018
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to this world colliding series

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler continues his wondrous Harbinger series in which two young women unite as two worlds approach the brink of war…

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world.

Mirror Gate jumps about 4 years into the future after Storm Glass left off. Cettie and Sera are about to take the test at Muirwood Abbey, but dark machinations are working against them.  There was more action and excitement in this book than the first one!

With the Emperor now dead, Sera’s father will scheme up literally anything to get her out of his way to the throne. Unfortunately the odds are against her as war also brews with Kingfountain(!) and she just doesn’t have the experience needed to step into office yet

“I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you, Mr. Skrelling,” she said. “I think it for the best if you depart and compose your feelings”

– Cettie

I love Cettie. She brought back a lot of old Muirwood memories including the cruciger orb, kestrals, the myriad ones, and even a kishion. While it was nice to revisit this lore, my gut told me to dock a star for rehashing old ideas instead of bringing in new ones, regardless of how it all ties together.

I liked seeing Cettie & Sera and think the page time recapping Muirwood lore would have been better spent showing their growing relationship or time at the Abbey, vs catapulting them 4 years ahead to BFF status.

There’s a new character named Juliana who was just amazing! She is utterly fierce and added a lot to the plot, action, and banter

“Hang the Aldermaston!” Juliana barked. Doctor Redd covered his eyes, shaking his head worriedly.

One thing I especially liked was how Wheeler brought back an idea that @niseam_stories also wrote extensively on – that bizarre, harmful, misleading thoughts may either come from outside influence or our mind trying to play ticks. We should be wary and critical of those thoughts. 

The mind could only think of one thing at a time, and she had every right to control what those thoughts would be

Wheeler is big on thoughts influencing actions.

One thing I didn’t like was in one of the Aldermaston’s lectures, Wheeler got lost in the theology and dropped a few phrases like ‘second life’ that needed explanation. Also while the colliding world theme was cool, it was kind of hard to see Kingfountain as a conquering nation of zealots, with submarines? How long after Trynne’s storyline did this occur?

Overall: betrayal, political machinations galore, more betrayal, more intrigue, and all of the above is exactly what I love about these books. I picked it apart but really immensely enjoy this world. 

The end left the characters in interesting places and I am extremely excited to read the next book in the series. War is beginning, Sera is trapped, and Cettie is learning how deep found family truly runs.

Kate Rudd is an amazing narrator too, I hope she keeps narrating all of Wheeler’s books!

The Harbinger Series

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Read-a-long Questions)

***Tree wolf image by chic2view (Wyrd & Wonder 2022)! Please do not alter the image & credit the artist ❤***


I am so glad to be reading The Summer Tree with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong! My favorite discussion format is a few chapters a week with questions, so this is perfect

I’ll be uploading my weekly discussion question responses to this thread!


Week One – Questions hosted by Imyril! Do check out her blog for tons of great fantasy content!

1) How are you reading along with us? Is this a first time or a reread? Show us your book cover!

I am reading via a paperback and this is my first time reading.  I have read Mists of Arbonne by GGK. Honestly if I had just read the synopsis of The Summer Tree I think I would have never picked it up since the blurb is borderline corny!

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2) The prose style is as distinctive as calling the prologue an overture. How are you finding it?

I don’t dislike the prose but he has the weirdest way of naming characters. Paul! Schafer! Paul Schafer! In 3 paragraphs GGK can call Paul 4 different names and it drives me nuts since there’s only one Paul. He does it with Dave Martyniuk too – there’s only one Dave and the scattered use of last names is just grating on me.for some reason

Some of his similes are a bit weird too – did anyone else catch the part at the end of chapter six where the lake was immediately sexualized and then that whole scene was allegoric to the loss of innocence? GGK makes some “interesting” stylistic choices

All in all, it is quick reading and easy to first prose

3) Each visitor gets a moment to define them before they arrive in Fionavar. What are your first impressions of our travellers? Any you particularly like / dislike?

I just don’t think it was enough! In that sequence GGK barely touches on the women while introducing parts of what motivates the men.  I’ve already got Paul picked out as the sacrificial lamb but I have no thoughts on the others yet, except that they seem inconsistent.

Kim is a cutout that clearly has some type of Seer abilities, and while Jennifer kept saying she was frightened she was able to face down the Prince with claws at the ready.

That said – I’m down for fantasy that focuses more on story than characters

4) …and what do you make of the characters & politics of Paras Derval?

This is only to the end of chapter 6 – I am curious as to what end game they are playing! We finally learned of the conflict and curse in Fionavar, but the politics and alliances are still fairly undefined.

I might be the only one but the characters seem like cardboard cutouts right now.   Loren – mage. Gorlaes – bad guy. Metran – doddering old mage. Ysanne – mysterious sorceress. Jaelle – angry priestess. Diarmuid – rakish Prince playing his own political game.

The king is the only one I thing has layers so far!

5) The obvious question: would you accept Loren’s invitation? Given the reception from Diarmuid and Gorlaes, would you regret it?

Back in college I would have gone in a second, no questions asked like get me out of here!  Now I have too much adult stuff going on, animals to care for and such.  I would have been ok with the reception of the prince sneaking me alcohol 😂

6) How/Do you judge Loren for keeping so many secrets from the visitors?

I don’t judge him – yet – it’s too hard to know what the visitors role will be at this point.  Obviously there is a lot going on and while  some of it is starting to become clear, we don’t really know what Loren’s endgame is yet.  I think if he had told them any more they would have balked too

7) There is a lot of worldbuilding so far! Intriguing or overwhelming? Anything standing out for you? And as always: any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a bit overwhelming, but at this point I have read enough epic fantasy to just absorb what I can and let the rest wash over me as part of the reading experience.

The part sticking out to me is the Legend of The Summer Tree and the hanging kings for sure, I love when magic and rulers/kings are tied to the land

Categories
Science Fiction

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Well – I have completed my Murderbot read through and have no regrets. There are more stories coming in the MB franchise – I am not sure when or if I will read them, but I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Hate to end on a sour note but by and by far Fugitive Telemetry was my least favorite of all the stories for multiple reasons. I’ll be brief!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fugitive Telemetry
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries #6 (chronologically it’s 4.5)
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom, April 2021
  • Length: 172 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 if you decide to read it, do so between Exit Strategy and Network Effect

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


My thoughts

I got off to a bad and confused start with this one because I thought it would have taken place after Network Effect. I was expecting something wildly different and was excited to see if MB took ART’s job offer.

All I wanted to do was watch media and not exist. I said, “You know I don’t like fun”

That said, Fugitive Telemetry falls chronologically as book number 4.5, after  Murderbot brought Mensah home and apparently took some contracts with Preservation Security before it went on the survey with Amena and Art and co.

I do only plan to read future installments if the storyline picks back up after Network Effect

So what’s this one about? It was like one of those locked door type who dunit mysteries, with the main conflict being Murderbot trying to fit in on Preservation as a SecUnit without scaring anyone.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall, for fuck’s sake

Favorite side character this time…. Goes to Pin-Lee of all people!

Pin-Lee had promised, “Don’t worry, I’ll preserve your right to wander off like an asshole anytime you like.” (I said, “It takes one to know one”)

The mystery was interesting enough but I didn’t love the new side characters, and the culprit just did not make sense to me at all.  I honestly don’t know what the heck happened, 20 or 40 years or whatever seems like a long time for a program to lie dormant and what, just wait there incase there were fugitives? Who ever even set it off? I am so confused.

Also the action was a lot weaker and I wasn’t feeling the banter as much either, although the food particles bits were funny. Murderbot  really hates when humans touch everything and leave their food trash lying around.

Trying to get humans not to touch dangerous things was a full-time job

3 stars for this one and I feel like that is generous but it did explore my favorite sci-fi theme, which is where AI fits into society ethically

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Enchanted Woods in Fantasy Books 🌟🌳

I wanted to make today’s Wyrd & Wonder prompt into a blog post! I absolutely love when forests in fantasy take on a personality of their own and influence the book.

There are far too many to list, so I am going to just talk about a few of my favorites and the general influence of forest in Fantasy!

My main feature was the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain.  No surprise there, the author has crafted my favorite fantasy series around magically intuitive horses and not one, but three forests! A former Park Ranger, she published Green Rider while being stationed at Acadia, and had prior ranger postings before that! Her love for the outdoors and forestry is evident in every novel.  

The Green Cloak is not an inherently magical forest but holds many magic secrets.  I think a good fantastical forest minimally offers protection, sustenance, and industry, all of which the Green Cloak definitely does. 

Even a nonmagical forest can take on a persona of it’s own and become a character in itself!

The Green Rider series also features two opposing forests, the Eltwood and Blackveil.  One is beautiful, magical, and offers trees which hold the sleeping Elts for thousands of years if needed while they sleep.  The other was an Eltwood that became twisted by dark magic and now holds poison, traps, terrible creatures, and sinister twisted sleepers.  

*Shudder.*  Kristen Britain can be found on both Instagram and TikTok and I highly recommend following her for glimpses at the woods that so influence her beautifully crafted Green Cloak.

 


My next honorable mention is Clariel.  

“A passion thwarted will often go astray….”

So you may ask – what passion did Clariel have?? The forest!! Clariel wanted nothing more than to become a Ranger in the Great Forest, which she loved, explored, hunted, and sought refuge in.  Unfortunately her family was ambitious and her mother may have been in line for the throne, so when they moved to Belisaere she was forced to join and become a proper member of society. Oh did it chafe and was it heartbreaking to read.

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While a solid sci-fi read, I have to mention the cinematically portrayed “Poe Forest” in the indie book In the Orbit of Sirens. It breaches the fantasy line with living, walking tree creatures and white trunked trees with red leaves and floating sparks. One can’t deny the influence of various jungles and forests in this work!


Running out of phone battery aahhh ok you get two more: 

Even the cover of Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst screams ENCHANTED WOOD!  The ginormous trees house upwards of 20 families and truly provide shelter, sustenance, community, protection, and so much more.  This list couldn’t possibly go without this book ❤

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There is one more – one of my favorite recent novels, where tree roots serve as paths and legends surround the Wolf under the Willow … The Chaos Cycle duology by A.J. Vrana!  These trees provide a path, a meeting point, survival, shelter, a marker in a dreamscape where all else could be hopelessly lost

What additional ways can you think of that forests influence fantasy and fiction?? I may come up with a part two for this post because my mind is teeming with more magical forests 🌲🌳🌟

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

Indie Bookstore Day 2022 – Book Haul & Random Notes

April 30th was Independent Bookstore day!  I was really happy to see the other Rochester Bookstagrammers and book lovers out in force.   I actually only went to two stores and one market because holy cow, BOOKS ARE GETTING EXPENSIVE!! 

As a note, there are probably… I’m going to guess at least 10 indie bookstores in the greater Rochester area – some had cupcakes, games, totes etc, I went to my local and also favorite one to support!

So – let’s talk about my Indie Bookstore Day haul!

The closest indie bookstore to me is Liftbridge Books, and I love them dearly as people and it’s an amazing Brockport staple. They have new books and a huge used section too.  That said – their used books are expensive ,and a lot more than I would normally pay for used books, so I shopped sparingly

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I could absolutely not resist the bookmark.  One of my best tips for affordable books is to buy used if you can find good deals.  Liftbridge was also nice enough to order the regular bookstagrammer crew tshirts!

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My favorite indie bookstore, Bookends, is a long ish drive away but he has great prices and may be closing this year 😭. Down in Henrietta, he was offering buy-2-get-1 and he is normally willing to deal as well so I just had to drive down.

My favorite part of the day was sitting on the floor chatting with this random lady. I had surrounded myself with a spread out pile of gorgeous Darrell K. Sweet designs and was admiring them, I just want to amass a collection of his hardcovers honestly 😂 then we started talking about fantasy and that was that lol.

(Fun fact – I actually first saw Sweet’s artwork at a frontier museum and was shocked when I learned that he also did fantasy images)!

Here is my Bookends haul – I completed my WoT collection, most in hardcover now!

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Those are both 1/1 hardcovers not like they’re hugely collectable but it was a cool note.

Also found a copy of The Summer Tree, which is convenient because I needed it for the Wyrd & Wonder readalong!

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Then I found not one, but two signed L.E Modesitt books plus one other I didn’t have😭

Like I said, omg just give me all the covers designed by Sweet.  I’m going to try to flesh out my Saga of Recluce collection apparently too

Last but certainly not least, there is a bookish candlemaker in Buffalo that was in town for an artisan market, and it was super nice to meet her finally after a year or two of bookstagram banter!

I finally own a skull candle lol! Definitely check out The Smell of Fear on Instagram or etsy for bookish candles.  Apparently you can click on the thumbnails to enlarge, and now I know!

Long story short – it was a fun day. I am happy to see so many readers in the Roc community.  It was good to run into some other Bookstagrammers. If anyone wants a list of all of our local bookstores, I do have that available! I wish I had time and money to see more!

(P.S. I have been planning a post on obtaining affordable books, I’m just not there yet)

Do you have any favorite indie bookstores?

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction

Struggling Through the Classics: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

Well – my dad is going to scoff at this one but I was so flabbergasted at Zorba the Greek for having retained popularity that I actually did some extensive research on what the heck I was supposed to be getting out of the book.

The main ideas that I originally took away were 1) Crete is pretty 2)the author really didn’t like women at all 3) the narrator learns how to live a little 4) EXISTENTIALISM, yay, and 5) I did pick up on the Apollo vs Dionysus ideology because that’s not an entirely uncommon theme in Greek writing.

So – my gut reaction though is that I just did not care for this at all.  They were such dicks to the widows and I can’t figure out how a 65 year old survived for so long with absolutely zero impulse control 😂

That said – ok, let’s break it down and I’ll share what I really didn’t understand, what I learned, and what my ultimate takeaways were

Bookish Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Zorba the Greek
  • Translator: Peter Bien
  • Published: 2014 translation through Simon & Schuster, originally 1946
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: I am coming in neutral but honestly. *throws hands up* I’m a terrible Greek apparently

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A stunning new translation of the classic book—and basis for the beloved Oscar-winning film—brings the clarity and beauty of Kazantzakis’s language and story alive.

First published in 1946, Zorba the Greek, is, on one hand, the story of a Greek working man named Zorba, a passionate lover of life, the unnamed narrator who he accompanies to Crete to work in a lignite mine, and the men and women of the town where they settle. On the other hand it is the story of God and man, The Devil and the Saints; the struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life and it is about love, courage and faith.

Zorba has been acclaimed as one of the truly memorable creations of literature—a character created on a huge scale in the tradition of Falstaff and Sancho Panza. His years have not dimmed the gusto and amazement with which he responds to all life offers him, whether he is working in the mine, confronting mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the tales of his life or making love to avoid sin. Zorba’s life is rich with all the joys and sorrows that living brings and his example awakens in the narrator an understanding of the true meaning of humanity. This is one of the greatest life-affirming novels of our time.

Part of the modern literary canon, Zorba the Greek, has achieved widespread international acclaim and recognition. This new edition translated, directly from Kazantzakis’s Greek original, is a more faithful rendition of his original language, ideas, and story, and presents Zorba as the author meant him to be

I think the most informative part was Peter Bien’s forward.  I’ve never thought about what Greece was doing during the world wars, but apparently Kazantzakis was living on a beach starving and then his wife showed up? Ok.  I don’t know, I can’t imagine this setting except that he was envisioning a better time with plentiful food and lively company

The book confused me from the get go which was a bad start.   I couldn’t figure out that the friend at the start was Stavrandakis, not Zorba, and eventually I Googled and was like “ooohhh”.  It’s hard because the author never named the friend at first, or the narrator ever.

Zorba was the YES GO LIVE AND DO THINGS person, while the narrator was intellectual, stuck on books, and trying to write one.  I never understood his Buddhist fascination but I think he was trying to write a book or dissertation on it, and was mentally freed afterwards.  Zorba was a more visceral person and brought the narrator out of that intellectual/mental prison he was in.

The book took on the theme of extremes, and the end was to try to find a happy medium between living EVERY moment and self limiting.

The scenery and descriptions were my favorite part – I was too young in Greece to really remember it but the descriptions put me right back on a beach in Crete.  The setting and also atmosphere of hospitality just felt so real it made me truly want to go back.

Zorba loved food, women, music, dance, except he was like the ultimate example of objectifying women, and they killed that poor widow for what, rejecting a man? Holy cow, mixed feelings.  The aging process was so different between Zorba and “Bouboulina” that I picked graceful aging out as a theme.

I had to research what else because my intuitions stopped there.  The Buddhism part – the narrator was removing himself from material things but trying to find a deeper meaning … and Zorba was all about material things.  Again, finding balance

Freedom was another big theme that I missed.  Zorba just wanted to be free to live the way he wanted – finding new experiences and seeing where the wind, his nose, and his d!ck led him – I saw that part but didn’t connect it to the larger ideology.  The narrator wanted to find his freedom and Zorba was definitely instrumental in bringing that out

Nietzsche – I am not even going here.  I’m not a philosopher and have little to zero knowledge in this area so I’ll rephrase what I said above – EXISTENTIALISM, yay

…… That’s the summary of the academics that I remember.  There is a lot of joy throughout the book and my main takeaway was to find the beauty and awe in small things.  Don’t rush things, enjoy, and be open to new people and experiences. I definitely remember the Greek hospitality too which shows up constantly.

All in all – I would read it if you want to read the classics, but be ready for all the philosophical elements and (even for me who is bothered by like absolutely nothing) infuriating treatment of women.  The movie is quite good though