Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

March & April Reading Trends + What’s Next!

I am going to stick with this every other month reading trend format! It’s quick and fun and tells me a lot!

Jan + Feb https://onereadingnurse.com/2022/03/02/jan-feb-reading-trends-whats-next/

March: 

  • 12 books ( about my average)
  • 11 adult, 1 Y.A. (Lol I broke up with YA)
  • 6 arcs/gifts, 6 Libby/KU
  • 6 fantasy, 4 thrillers, 1 sci-fi, one classic
  • Half were audio

– I am happy with this.  I knocked most of my arcs out and did a ton of mood reading. It gave me the freedom and concentration in April to knock out a bunch of books on my shelves!

April:

  • 15 books!!!!
  • 12 adult, 3 YA
  • 3 ARCs, 🌟🌟6 off my shelves🌟🌟, 6 Libby/KU
  • 6 fantasy, 5 sci-fi, and one each of a classic, a histfic, a memoir, and a thriller

Most of my April numbers came from my vacation at the end of the month. I had part of my back done and couldn’t move like all week so I got a ton of reading in!

Plus I am caught up on ARCs, reading what I want, and enjoying it so much more.  Books go faster when you’re enjoying them! I did a few book tours and brought back Sunday Brunch! Starting slowly but my interviews so far have been a huge success.


What’s next?

May is Wyrd & Wonder.  I am planning on slowing my reading intake down and enjoying some longer epic fantasy at my own pace. I have plenty of blog content written and ready to bridge the gaps. I’ll be doing a readalong of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, plan to knock out another Wheel of Time book, and finish binging the Jeff Wheeler series Harbinger.


I hope everyone else is enjoying their reading! Be ready for an epic month of May!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (Book Thoughts)

I group read Sorcery of Thorns finally and was able to chat about it finally.  I valued the group’s perspective and it helped me put my finger on how I felt about the book too.  P.S. I read 6 whole books off my shelves this month!!

This is a great YA fantasy that had lots of YA inconsistencies. I’m trying not to think about it too hard

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sorcery of Thorns
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Margaret Rogerson
  • Publisher & Release: Margaret K. McElderry Books – June 2019
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for YA Fantasy fans and books about books

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Alright so overall, without over thinking this, I enjoyed it for the most part as a YA fantasy.  It’s mostly fast paced with plenty of action, magic books, and demons who are the best characters.

It’s a magical gaslight era fantasy where books are living things with breakable hearts and women aren’t held in very high regard. Sorcery has a bad reputation, as do grimoires, and the main theme of the book is about uncovering the nature of things despite their appearances or what society says.  Knowledge is power – a great YA theme.

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The characters are… Ok.  Elisabeth is literally a strong, tall, hard to kill woman, and Rogerson avoided MarySue-ing her by not bringing other girls into the picture in comparison.  Her special traits ended up having a feasible explanation.

Nathaniel is supposed to be a typically dark, brooding man, but even in completely inappropriate situations (danger, levity, middle of a battle) he always seems flippant and ready to banter.  He did have some extremely serious moments but then would snap out of it real quick and I mean heck he just wasn’t believable 90% of the time.

The banter was funny though, like legitimately funny so it’s hard for me to layer this enjoyable comic dialogue over some of the scenes it was occurring during.  The dark scenes at night though – ok, ok, there were some good ones.

Now I’m joining everyone else who thought Silas saved the day entirely.  All my highlights were Silas related.  If for no other reason besides magic books, read the book for Silas.

P.S. hello we have another Garth Nix copycat.  Silas in cat form and Silas in general really reminded me of Mogget. Can anyone think of a white cat/demon/magic familiar before Mogget? I can’t for sure, but can name about 5 since!

I also didn’t love the sorcery magic but the demon to owner magic was cool, and, omg the books.  If you’re not reading for Silas, read for the books. Books and atmosphere.  Rogerson loves atmosphere and went over the line at times with purple prose, but sometimes I enjoyed it.

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Anyway – I did the positives first, now let me do the negatives. I docked a star because while it was super YA even in the most serious moments – or most of them anyway – the characters went from like two quick kisses, to clothes off, mad quick, in a gaslight fantasy era where I’m sure Elisabeth would have had reservations.

Gaslight – think stagecoaches and insane asylums and women being diagnosed as insane because they read books. Which then becomes SUPER INCONSISTENT because some of the library directors are women, as are lots of the apprentices and wardens and librarians.  Now we know the libraries aren’t cut off from social prejudice because they don’t like sorcerers, but they randomly allow women in while a huge point was made elsewhere that women were treated …. poorly.  It is the biggest plothole inconsistency ever.  Plus it’s apparently totally cool for Elisabeth to just live with Nathaniel and ignore all social norms, right lol.

Sooo I’m trying hard to stick with 4 stars and not overthink this because I did enjoy it while reading.  I didn’t love it but for a YA audience I think it’s a good bet

Categories
Science Fiction

Prison of Sleep by Tim Pratt (ARC Review, Book Tour)

Once again thank you so much to Angry Robot for introducing me to another great author and allowing me to participate in their online book tours!!

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Prison of Sleep is Tim Pratt’s followup to Doors of Sleep, review can be seen here.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, I think it’s a solid duology and would definitely recommend reading them for fans of the genre!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Prison of Sleep
  • Series: The Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 4/26/22
  • Length: 400 pages (p.s. what is it with Angry Robot and 400 pages?? Stay tuned while I continue to nag them on twitter for answers regarding this utmost mystery LOL)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of sci-fi adventures, the multiverse

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

After escaping the ruthless Lector, Zax Delatree has a new enemy to fight in the sequel to Doors of Sleep.

Every time Zaxony Delatree falls asleep he wakes up on a new world. His life has turned into an endless series of brief encounters. But at least he and Minna, the one companion who has found a way of travelling with him, are no longer pursued by the psychotic and vengeful Lector.

But now Zax has been joined once again by Ana, a companion he thought left behind long ago. Ana is one of the Sleepers, a group of fellow travellers between worlds. Ana tells Zax that he is unknowingly host to a parasitic alien that exists partly in his blood and partly between dimensions. The chemical that the alien secretes is what allows Zax to travel. Every time he does, however, the parasite grows, damaging the fabric of the Universes. Anas is desperate to recruit Zax to her cause and stop the alien.

But there are others who are using the parasite, such as the cult who serve the Prisoner – an entity trapped in the dimension between universes. Every world is like a bar in its prison. The cult want to collapse all the bars of the worlds and free their god. Can Zax, Minna, Ana and the other Sleepers band together and stop them?

I believe it is hard to talk about sequels without hinting at spoilers, so I will keep this review very broad and not spoil anything!

The Plot & Story: I definitely think that idea wise, Prison of Sleep was the more interesting of the two books.  We get the history of both the Cult of the Worm and of The Sleepers. While Zax’s storyline was equally interesting and engaging, Ana’s ended up being more of an info dump that unfortunately slowed the story down and also confused me relentlessly regarding the timelines. (I mentally confused Zax’s battle with the attack on Sleeperhold at first and contextually it was hard to s

I won’t spend a ton of time on world building, but as far as history goes and my understanding of the book’s multiverse – A+ by the end. This is one of the more interesting creation stories I have read – I just can’t discuss it for spoilers.

The Characters: Ana is the most prominent new character.  Her point of view is introduced and used to fill in our knowledge gaps as she tells of her travels, training, and experiences with the Sleepers.  That said, I just wasn’t as interested in her and her voice sounded a lot like Zax’s at times.

Zaveta was Zax’s new travelling partner and I liked her! She was funny without meaning to be, and occasionally when she meant to be.  Her warrior attributes were a good counterbalance to Zax’s unaggressive approach.

One thing was that Zax didn’t really get to be the hero in this one – I think I expected him to be the hero.  Don’t we always expect the MC’s to be the hero? ((Food for thought)). It didn’t affect my rating but struck me that he was more of the passive observer this time while dear, dear Minna and Vicki came back in a big way this time.

I also continued to like the chapter headlines as a summary of coming events!

Overall: This duology is good for fans of the multiverse, sci-fi adventures, and unconventional heroes.  There is plenty of recap incase anyone forgot important parts of book one, but this is not going to read as a standalone.  My main issue came with Ana’s POV and how she inadvertently confused my timelines – 100% on me. The book is out now for everyone interested!

Categories
Fantasy Literary Fiction

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire

As a huge fan of the entire THE WICKED YEARS franchise and everything in it, I finally started reading some of Maguire’s other books.  A Wild Winter Swan wins the award for most gorgeous naked cover ever, and I grabbed it a while back when I spotted a signed edition!

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This is a complicated fairytale retelling of “The Wild Swans” where the reader must choose how to interpret the magic in the story.  Is it a vaguely traumatized young girl making fantastical sense of her life events or something that actually happened?

Read to see what you think!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Wild Winter Swan
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Gregory Maguire
  • Publisher & Release: William Morrow, October 2020
  • Length: 230 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of retellings, magical realism, immigrant stories

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads: 

The New York Times bestselling author of Wicked turns his unconventional genius to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans,” transforming this classic tale into an Italian-American girl’s poignant coming-of-age story, set amid the magic of Christmas in 1960s New York.

Following her brother’s death and her mother’s emotional breakdown, Laura now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a lonely townhouse she shares with her old-world, strict, often querulous grandparents. But the arrangement may be temporary. The quiet, awkward teenager has been getting into trouble at home and has been expelled from her high school for throwing a record album at a popular girl who bullied her. When Christmas is over and the new year begins, Laura may find herself at boarding school in Montreal.

Nearly unmoored from reality through her panic and submerged grief, Laura is startled when a handsome swan boy with only one wing lands on her roof. Hiding him from her ever-bickering grandparents, Laura tries to build the swan boy a wing so he can fly home. But the task is too difficult to accomplish herself. Little does Laura know that her struggle to find help for her new friend parallels that of her grandparents, who are desperate for a distant relative’s financial aid to save the family store.

As he explores themes of class, isolation, family, and the dangerous yearning to be saved by a power greater than ourselves, Gregory Maguire conjures a haunting, beautiful tale of magical realism that illuminates one young woman’s heartbreak and hope as she begins the inevitable journey to adulthood.

I find myself surprised, but not shocked by the low overall rating for this one on Goodreads (3.3ish).

Laura is a teen who feels very alone and nonexistent. She is struggling to self narrate her own life. I personally interpreted the book as that she doesn’t know how to express herself and therefore narrated a fantasy to make her life more interesting and desirable. This is how she makes sense of the world and stays sane, or, she has a nervous breakdown and this is how she tells the story.

There was a bit of confusion for me as far as whether or not the story of Hans the Swan Boy actually occurred, or if I am correct on my above assumptions….  and I very well could be wrong but I think … Well – does it matter? This is why I love magical realism

I see what McGuire was going for and after chewing it over for a few days, I think I liked his execution even if I’m not fully believing the outcome of Laura getting through and making changes without any professional counseling.

ANYWAY- The part I really liked was the setting.  It felt like I was walking around Midtown with Laura and seeing the Christmas displays. I could feel the cold snow and hurried pedestrians. I liked the family time and how she had to mentally get to a certain point in her own story to relate to what her grandparents were going through and see them struggling as well

I liked the characters too, the grandparents were funny at times!  There are so many great sarcastic exchanges where I wanted to hi-5 or hug Nonna and Nonno for getting “the teenager thing” down so perfectly.  It was also interesting to see their immigration story and struggles.

Nonna gave this one speech about women and power and blind anger and pride and it was just wonderful. The messages of hope, faith and christmas miracles are always good too. The cook was funny too, and the cat 😂

This is a good book for the winter / Christmas holiday season but it’s s good read anytime. If you listen to the audio there is an author interview excerpt where he talks a bit about Wicked and answers some fan questions. Would recommend!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – featuring Chris Panatier!

As part of the Angry Robot Books tour for Stringers, I am entirely thrilled to chat with Chris Panatier on episode 21 of the Sunday Brunch Series!!

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I reviewed Stringers here, now let’s focus on the author!  There were some other recent interviews included in the tour (check them out!) so I went a little out there and asked about everyday heroes, short fiction, dog-goats, and so much more.

Here he is!


🥞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?

🎤Thanks for having me! I guess one fact is that I know how to glue on fake eyelashes

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🥞Do you or your main character have a favorite Brunch food?

🎤My favorite brunch food is probably eggs benedict or like a giant hash. Ben’s favorite brunch is anything he can cancel out later with healthier food. Patton’s favorite brunch is drugs.

🥞My two favorite character archetypes are “morally gray” and “irredeemable jerk”, therefore I loved the snarky bounty hunter Aptat.  Is there anything you would be able to share about the character?

🎤This is a great question! I’m so happy Aptat came along. I have found myself drawn to exploring characters who eschew moral codes and Aptat was a perfect way to play with the freedom one has when they feel no longer bound to an ethical framework. Even though Aptat is a self-described “bespoke” flesh construct and decidedly not human, they give us one perspective of how some might choose to behave in a lawless state of nature. Aptat loves to point out that moral codes only work so long as everyone is in on the plan—which they are not. And while these are all serious discussion points, I wanted Aptat to be fun. They love the Real Housewives of television fame, pop music, and dancing. And what Aptat lacks in morals, they make up for in blistering commentary—they are free-wheeling, with a come-what-may attitude which I thought to be a natural extension of their freedom from societal norms of conduct.

🥞 In both Stringers and The Phlebotomist your main human characters avoid tropes. They are everyday people thrust into bizarre situations where their heroic capacity is tested! Is this your preferred approach to character writing?

🎤 The funny thing about both books is that neither main character has to go through some transformation to become heroic. I think that both Willa Wallace and Ben Sullivan ended up taking actions that most people would take in the same circumstances. Does this mean that most people have heroic capacity? Maybe—if it’s for the right reasons. Willa and Ben are driven only by what motivates them and their actions stem from that. As for tropes? Tropes are tropes because they work, I guess. They’re compelling and interesting. The only tropes I tend to stay away from are those where an ordinary person transforms into an extraordinary one. I rarely find those arcs believable as I think human beings, at least, are who they are. Now, you may not know it until they are tested and it may surprise, but it’s only because they hadn’t been in that situation before that we hadn’t seen the “hero” potential.

🥞Do we want to know what your Google search history looked like during your research for Stringers??

🎤 No comment. But I will say, hypothetically, that the very first search might have been very similar to this: “bug that fucks itself in the head”.

🥞What is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far about Stringers?

🎤 The thing that has made me most happy is that people have seen the serious stories woven into Stringers amid all the jokes. There are some big emotional pieces to the book and I’m glad people are finding them and they are hitting. The most entertaining feedback has to be the love for Mr. Pickles. It’s just a jar of pickles. Totally inanimate. And yet it’s pickles 24/7. Not complaining at all, I love it.

🥞I know this is the Stringers tour but I’ve enjoyed tracking down and reading some of your short fiction!  Which stories would you point new readers to?

🎤 Oh that’s lovely! My short fiction is way different than my books. Two suggests. For those who enjoy longer, more fleshed out science fiction, I have one longish story about conflicting clans of octopuses trying to get home to their planet (yes octopuses are not from Earth, this is science) called “The Eighth Fathom” and it was published in Metaphorosis Magazine. A short one I love to this day is called “Angels of Purgatory” and it was published in The Molotov Cocktail Magazine and a winner of one of their flash contests. All my shorties are on my website here: https://chrispanatier.com/short-stories/ 

Will you share a picture of your dog-goat?

This is Gretel. Tell me that this animal isn’t at least part goat:

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🥞 A while back you were writing about a Sci-Fi Trilogy that you were working on, is there any chance of that ever coming to fruition? Do I dare ask what it was about?

🥞 I wonder if that was my very first project—it probably was. Like a lot of writers, I had Big Dreams™ for my first novel, but also a pretty realistic appreciation for what it would take to get published. Of course, that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about how huge it might, could, maybe, possibly get. After 80+ rejections from agents I recalibrated my expectations. Lolol. Anyway, it’s a portal fantasy/sci-fi tale about a girl trying to save her brother. I still love the core of the story and expect to return to it in the future.

🥞Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  Last 5 star read? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🥞I think all books get five stars because, look, you wrote a book. That said, I really have to recommend The Despicable Fantasies of Quentin Sergenov by Preston Fassel. That novella is fantastic. Ex-pro wrestler gets kicked out of the league for being gay, gets turned into a velociraptor and seeks revenge. Splatterpunk, but like, literary. For a series, I always recommend the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. Favorite literary character is a tie between Randy Marsh of Southpark (do cartoon scripts count as literature?) and Portia the spider from Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. 

🥞 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 for having me!


Meet the Author:

Chris Panatier lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, daughter, and a fluctuating herd of animals resembling dogs (one is almost certainly a goat). He writes short stories and novels, “plays” the drums, and draws album covers for metal bands. Chris’s debut novel, The Phlebotomist, was on the “Recommended Reading” list for Bram Stoker Award 2020. Plays himself on twitter @chrisjpanatier.

Check out the other book tour stops!

stringers online tour week 3

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

Hi book friends! I have had an absolutely phenomenal reading time in April, including finally starting the Harbinger series.

Look at that cover, do you even need any other incentive to pick up the series?

I flew through Storm Glass in about a day with a mix of reading and listening.  I like Wheeler’s books because they are entertaining and interesting while not being overly complicated, making for quick reads.

Read if:  regency England with a steampunk twist imposed on a fantasy setting of floating  estates sounds good!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Storm Glass
  • Series: Harbinger #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2018
  • Length: 367 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for clean fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

Both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn their worlds

So I finally got around to starting the Harbinger series, and I’m not disappointed at all. I always make a point of reading the author’s note of a book first, so I knew a little bit about what to expect including that Wheeler wanted to write a historical fiction but ended up imposing that setting into another fantastically built fantasy world.

Imagine the strictest social hierarchy, privilege versus poor, strict governesses, early discovery, factories, even zeppelins.  I think it was interesting that Wheeler started bringing technology and steampunk vibes into a book and one of the main themes is how the characters take new science and incorporate it into their world view. Is it Mystery (magic) or mystery (something yet to be discovered)?  I also liked how these themes are tied directly to the magic in the world.

I love the world building, the rich estates and gardens, waterfalls, and how they contrast with the dirt poor factory districts below teeming with sickness and poverty.

How can you beat a system designed to keep the poor poor, the rich in debt, and everyone except the tip-top of the Elite in check? Hmm

Cettie and Sera are both great protagonists and I can’t wait to follow them through the series. Each is a strong-willed young woman and for once I think that Wheeler actually made children (think around 12, preteen,) seem age appropriate.

Cettie came from the Fells, one of the poor factory districts, and is adopted into a rich floating family estate by a kind military leader. Sera is a princess (!!!A descendent of Maia and Collier about 200 years down the line!!!) who will eventually battle her father for the Empire.

There are whole bunch of Side characters that are worth mentioning too, including Cettie’s new adopted siblings and an estate keeper who is easily as evil as Umbrage!

The plot is quick moving, there is not much down time at all.  There are some hints that end up being obvious and I’m sure some obvious points will turn into surprises later on in the series.

This is also a series that ties into the Muirwood books, in that it takes place in the same world and Muirwood Abbey plus an Aldermaston have a cameo at the end.  I am excited to see more of this setting in the next book.  There is also a Kingfountain tie-in and a mention of a Bhiku, I believe from the Dryad-Born series. I think it’s wild to try to envision all these stories taking place in the same world.

One comment I want to make is to reply to a few people saying they feel that reading this series is like reading the Book of Mormon: …. Ack, I get it but I don’t feel it, yet at least.  Historically the human race makes sense of the world and each individual reality through stories, faith, folk tales, fantasy, but the point is: stories.  Even if part or much of the books is an allegory, the vibe I get is that the characters are deeply attuned to learning and some, like Cettie, are more in concert with the Mysteries (faith, magic, sentience, etc) than others.  I know Wheeler can get preachy (what do you expect from a pastor?) but as I said, I’m not feeling it here, simply a story making sense of the world’s history as he sees it, and I personally love the science and faith intertwining into the characters world view.

Long story short: magic, danger, excitement, propriety and society, learning, debt and tithes, more magic, found family to the max,  and willful young women ready to take on the hierarchy!

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Network Effect by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Hi friends! I normally don’t post every day but I am absolutely heck-bent on catching up with my book reviews. I’m almost there too!

One of the reasons that I read so many this month was due to the Murderbot novellas – shorter, quick, four “books” for the time investment of one.

That all said, I finally finished the full length novel and …. man I have mixed thoughts about the franchise. Not Network Effect, I LOVED Network Effect, but the franchise itself.  I expected the book to be something different but it started right near the end of Exit Strategy and kept the story going, although in a new direction.

This was a point where if I were a human (ick) I might have laughed. I decided to go with my first inclination and kill the shit out of some ass-faced hostiles instead – MB

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Network Effect
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries, #5
  • Author: Martha Wells 
  • Publisher & Release: TorDotCom, May 2020
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes yes yes all the yes

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction?

Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

“I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.”

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

The first thing I want to point out is that while this advertises as a standalone, I truly do not think it would read well as a standalone.  Yes there is some background given but the reader would miss the entire ART storyline, and so many others, if they were to read this first and I highly do not recommend it.  My verdict: read in publication order

…granted while I have been a key factor in certain clusterfucks of giant proportions…

-MB

Murderbot is back, Mensah is back, ART is back!! Side character wise though, this time we focus more on Mensah’s daughter Amena as well as Arada, Overse, Ratthi, and a new character Thiago.

I do enjoy that the other members of PreservationAux got some time in the spotlight! Ratthi kept the peace, Overse was the backbone, Arada was a rockstar, and Thiago was like the poor overprotective father figure along for the ride (who ended up being a huge player too).

Enough nonsense – the Murderbot + ART reunion was everything. EVERYTHING.  One more time for the people in the back: EVERYTHING!

The good thing about being a construct is that I can have a dramatic emotional breakdown while still running my background search

These two are the most dramatic AI’s ever, and I found it hilarious that Amena (the teenager) got in between and was so good at helping them navigate, as well as Ratthi.  When MB locked itself in the bathroom and a half hour later the other two came in – ha ha omg. The emotion was so real

Anyone who thinks machine intelligences don’t have emotions needs to be in this very uncomfortable room right now

– Ratthi

Besides the banter and characters, which is really everything, and the complex emotions and meditation on humanity of tbe bots, constructs, humans, and modified humans (😂)  the action really was quite good as well.

I never was bored reading, even if the plot got a bit convoluted toward the end and Wells lost me, just a bit.  The plot truly never turned into what I thought it would, and the blending of action and ethic was masterful.

I also liked the “3” storyline but you’ll have to read to find out about that one.  It did go to show that MB might not be the only not entirely evil SecUnit 

One more weird anomaly in this unending cycle of ‘whatthefuck’

-MB

Odds and ends: My biggest regret was that I missed the titular name drop in the book.  Usually the title ends up in a dramatic moment somewhere in the book.  There is also a little bit more actual science in this one, finally, but not much.  I felt like the first contact, alien remnant, virus, even medical suite action brought this a little more towards traditional sci-fi as well as how the humans interfaced with ART.

My recommendation: read the series, read the series, read the series – thru your local library or Libby or KU if possible

Categories
Historical Fiction Young Adult

The Silent Unseen by Amanda McCrina

Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for my free copy of The Silent Unseen in exchange for an honest review! I don’t remember entering this raffle. I also don’t regret the read, even if it ultimately fell flat for me

I am a terribly myopic history reader, so a book about WW2 era Ukraine + Poland + Russia was hard to put into context.  Apparently the Germans were mining the area for slave labor and worse, and once they left, the Russians were coming in to mop up the forces still fighting (Polish transplants vs native Ukrainians)?

This is the setting, with Maria and Kostya on two very different sides of what seem like the same page, yet having to work together. Both had villages ruined by war, dead family, and were fighting for whatever they had left.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  •  Title: The Silent Unseen
  • Author: Amanda McCrina
  • Publisher & Release: Farrar Strauss & Giroux (BYR) April, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Poland, July 1944. Sixteen-year-old Maria is making her way home after years of forced labor in Nazi Germany, only to find her village destroyed and her parents killed in a war between the Polish Resistance and Ukrainian nationalists. To Maria’s shock, the local Resistance unit is commanded by her older brother, Tomek—who she thought was dead. He is now a “Silent Unseen,” a special-operations agent with an audacious plan to resist a new and even more dangerous enemy sweeping in from the East.

When Tomek disappears, Maria is determined to find him, but the only person who might be able to help is a young Ukrainian prisoner and the last person Maria trusts—even as she feels a growing connection to him that she can’t resist.

Tightly woven, relentlessly intense, The Silent Unseen depicts an explosive entanglement of loyalty, lies, and love during wartime

I feel like this book is SUPER YA and missed it’s emotional impact due to the rushed and somewhat silly romance and ending. While I learned of some of the horrors (forced labor and murders and kidnappings and such) that happened, I had trouble with the broader historical context.

First let me say a few good things.  It was a quick read and the action (if not confusing at times) was constant.  I couldn’t keep the three resistance/military groups apart in my head very well without understanding their conflict and governmental reach.  It was an exciting plot though and I would like to know more about this area during the end of WW2.

Also I liked the characters.  Maria was brave and a little silly at times (like a teen) but I liked that she and Kostya showed both their strong and scared kid sides.  That made them feel like real people.

I wasn’t buying the romance though, not one bit, not at all. Even becoming friends would have been challenging for the two main characters, and meaningful, but they hadn’t even trusted each other before they started having feelings and it went from enemy to romance nearly instantaneously.

I also think the book wrapped up super quickly like it just glossed over the plot points towards the end, not explaining a lot.of things, and then ended. Maybe there’s meant to be a sequel but this ending was just silly to me and felt like it shrugged off the gravity of the rest of the novel.  That said though, the author probably did not want to leave YA readers feeling depressed afterwards so she gave all of the characters something to be hopeful about.

I didn’t dislike it but didn’t love it either. Would recommend for YA / WW2 readers who like YA romance elements.  The content (minus some violent acts and descriptions of violent acts) is appropriate for the age group and I think she left a lot of room for a sequel in Kostya’s storyline.

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Best Laid Plans – Wyrd and Wonder!

Hi everyone! If anyone hasn’t heard about Wyrd and Wonder yet, please check out this link for an intro! 

https://onemore.org/2022/03/05/wyrd-and-wonderful-plans/

Thank you to Timy @ Queen’s Book Asylum for sharing the link originally, I would never have known about it otherwise and definitely plan to participate as I am able!

Wyrd and Wonder looks like a great team of fantasy bloggers who have set up ALL this fun stuff for fantasy fans during the month of May. The event is in it’s fifth year now and I see prompts, bingo for fun, two read alongs, giveaways and a ton of other fun stuff!!

Personally I am most excited for the readalong of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, and the fantasy prompts.  I never really fit in anywhere in the SFF community (I’m too multi-genre to stay on twitter lists even) but love hanging around and reading/talking fantasy when I can!

Plus the theme has to do with wood and forests, and I have blogged about fantasy forests before so that’s extremely exciting to me.  I’ll definitely try to chat about some of my favorites like The Green Cloak, The Great Forest, forest loving characters, and the impact that forests can have on their (fantasy) world

Like the title says, though … I have turned into mostly a review blogger simply for lack of time! I’ll do my best to tackle a few prompts and follow the content!!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: featuring A.C. Cross!

Hellloooo everyone, Happy Easter! The Sunday Brunch Series is finally back after it’s ridiculously long hiatus.

Episode 20 features author A.C. Cross as part of the Escapist Book Tours (tour) for his newish book! Where Blood Runs Gold is a “weird western” – part Wild West, part Walking Dead, a very entertaining and quick read overall.

This was an especially impressive interview because I sent these questions to AC at approximately 0020 one night, and by 0045 I had this entire thing back in my email, zero edits required, good to go! He is a smart writer and I fully recommend reading tbe book

There is a giveaway happening during the book tour, so check that out in the links after the interview!!


🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤I fell off a building and slashed my leg open in college while trying to impress a girl. It sort of worked, but the scar and the story are the best things to come out of that.

🥞 We are all adults here, pitch us your book in #AITA format!

🎤’I (50sM, sheriff) rescued a girl (13F) from an abusive living situation, but my job is violent and I’m not emotionally available to take care of her. AITA?’

🥞What is your favorite Brunch food?

🎤 Can I say mimosas? Because if so, definitely mimosas. If not those, I am a sucker for both steak and eggs – steak medium rare, eggs over easy, white toast, and a beer – and Eggs Benedict, but that’s usually only if I expect that it’s going to be a heavy day. 

🥞 Seeing as this is an Easter Sunday interview, do you have any Easter plans?

🎤 This year is going to be a little different than years past. We would usually cook a turkey and full meal, go to church in the morning, hunt for Easter Eggs, and just relax. However, with my dad passing recently, it’s probably going to be a more subdued affair. That’s okay, though! New times need new traditions. Maybe I can find some rabbit to roast. The irony there would be funny, at least to me. 

🥞 Want to talk about your use of religion / fanaticism / cult appeal in the novel?

🎤 Sure! One of the things I’m kind of a sucker for in media – books, movies, games, etc. – is a cult or fanatics as villains. There’s just something so fascinating about how someone can twist and warp people and utilize them for his or her own purposes. The idea of charisma being so overwhelming that it drives sense from a person just digs into my brain like a splinter, in a way. What’s so fun about writing those kinds of groups is the amount of freedom you have in creating them! There’s no set form for how to write them. You can create entire universes in service of fleshing out those organizations. I mean, if you’re ever stuck in a story and don’t quite know where to go, throw in a cult side plot and watch things go off the rails in the best way possible.

🥞 What’s your favorite slang phrase that you used in WBRG?

🎤 I believe that ‘shit-kicking horsefuck’ , used by Merle in the first chapter, is my favorite. It’s so gloriously obscene. 

🥞 One of my favorite archetypes is the morally gray character, so I loved ErrolWhat do you think makes a good morally gray character (and what makes Thorpe a good one)?

🎤 I think that the best morally gray characters are ones that operate from a place of wanting to do good for the world. They truly want to make things better or help people. It’s just that, for whatever reasons, they have found or decided that the ends justify the means and that the end goal is more important than how it’s accomplished. Hanging a man from a beam in order to stop him from butchering families? Justified. Beating a child predator near to death? Justified. For the best morally gray characters, they see the world from a broader perspective than a typical hero. It doesn’t matter how they get the job done. If it’s done, it’s a success. Errol definitely has that mentality, at least in my mind. 

🥞 Care to explain your Twitter handle?

🎤 This one takes some explaining. When I was back in undergrad (2009 or thereabouts…I’m old, shut up), my group of friends had a guy named Dan in it. He’s an incredibly nice, sweet, giving guy and was great fun to tease lovingly because he would get flustered. One day, a few of us went out to lunch at a local Mexican place and the conversation somehow got around to how Dan needed to stick up for himself because he would, basically, do anything to be liked. He was there and protested, to which one of us (I think me) mentioned that we could probably get him to even eat cat food. This sparked an intense, hilarious discussion over the next fifteen minutes. We were winding down when Dan spoke up and said, and I quote “Okay…when I do this…” and nothing else he said mattered because he made a fatal mistake. See, he didn’t say ‘if’ he were to eat cat food, implying that there was a negotiation. He said ‘when‘, which basically flat out said he would be doing so.

From there, it was a long-running gag that, eventually, I turned into my first website. For a few years, I would write comedy articles and things like that on the site before life got in the way. I’ve locked the website down now because a lot of the content is more juvenile and mean-spirited than I would like now, but Dan Eats Cat Food became the Twitter handle and, at this point, I feel so attached to it that changing anything about it seems wrong. 

🥞 I believe we were promised an exclusive meme, related to your brand!

exclusivecrabmeme

You asked for this

{{Yes, yes I did 😂}}

🥞 What part of the WBRG idea came first? As in Western, horror, exploding corpses … What was the book’s backbone?

🎤 It’s kind of tough to say, to be honest! After playing through Red Dead Redemption 2, I was enamoured with the character of Arthur Morgan. He danced over the ‘gray hero’ line and back so many times. That gruff, violent man with a good heart? It spoke to me and I wanted to make someone like that. Once I had that, I wanted to do something different. Darker. I really love cosmic horror and unexplained stuff like that, so what if there was a world where things like that existed and it was just normal? Flesh-eating Dust, golden blood, monstrous things lurking in the wild? I love all of it. And the best part about that? There is a LOT more to the state of San Dios than is covered in WBRG. Part of why I love the Dishonored games is just how invested they are in building a world that exists outside the context of the story. The little snippets of information that you can learn that inform you about a world far bigger than you are experiencing in the game…delicious. I kinda love world-building, if you couldn’t tell!

🥞 What’s next for you?

🎤 That’s another good question. Technically speaking, I have over 50 ideas and counting waiting in my WIP pile. Realistically speaking, I have three. The first is a sequel to WBRG with a different character and it’s a reinterpretation of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. I am really excited about it. The second is a dark, bleak noir-style book that is violent and twisted and I love it. The third, and the one I’ve done the least with, starts as kind of an epistolary exploration of grief and loss before descending into, as always, an apocalyptic cult organization harvesting grief to feed a mountain god. 

I don’t write normal things, do I?

{{Normal is boring}}

🥞 What is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far for WBRG?

🎤 My favorite feedback was from my editor, Sarah, at a certain part in the book. She simply put in the comments: “You asshole.” I take that as a win.

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

🎤 I don’t know that I have one! I have so many books and know so many authors that it’s a tough question to even start with.

It’s not as well known as his Lot Lands series, but Jonathan French’s Autumn’s Fall series is absolutely fantastic. There’s also another series by a friend of mine named Ashley Wrigley called Mesopotamia//Tiamat that I just devour about once a year

This will sound strange, but Dwight from Sin City. He’s complicated, heroic, smart and dumb at the same time, and chivalrous. He just speaks to me.

🥞 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!

🎤 I’m so glad to be able to have this conversation! I love answering questions and letting people know more about me. Anyone and everyone is free to add me @daneatscatfood on Twitter or check out my website www.aaronccross.com for news and a few free short stories to peruse!

{{Once again, I shit you all not, he typed that in about 25 minutes with no prep}}


I hope you are all convinced by now to enter the giveaway!

Prize:  A Signed Paperback Copy of Where Blood Runs Gold!
Starts: April 14th, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: April 20th, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Enter here


Meet the Author!

A.C. Cross is a doctor, but not the kind that you want treating you for kidney stones or pneumonia or anything. That’d likely make your situation much worse.

He (currently) lives in the Great White North of the United States as a bearded, single man.

He’s a lover of words, many of which you have just read in this very book.

He’s an admitted scotch whisky and beer snob and his liver would not argue with him.

He has written four books now, including this one, but the other three (in the Roboverse) are funny and not nearly as sweary or violent.

You can find more about him as well as some neat little free stories at www.aaronccross.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/daneatscatfood
Author Site: http://www.aaronccross.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22062732.A_C_Cross