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
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

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
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
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson (Book Thoughts)

I won a copy of Mother May I  in a Bookstagram giveaway when it was first published and finally got around to reading it! Coincidentally the paperback just released and there is a book tour going on so definitely check that out if you’re interested!

This is a terrifying domestic suspense novel in which a baby is abducted, and then a battle of which female character is the craziest ensues.  That’s my one sentence summary anyway 😂

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mother May I
  • Author: Joshilyn Jackson
  • Publisher & Release: William Morris, April 2021
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of that domestic suspense / thriller genre!

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

The New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Never Have I Ever returns with an even more addictive novel of domestic suspense in which a mother must decide how far she is willing to go to protect her child and the life she loves—an unforgettable tale of power, privilege, lies, revenge, and the choices we make, ones that transform our lives in unforeseen ways.

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected that fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of.

Until the day she awakens and sees someone peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

The trophy wife of a rich lawyer, Bree decides to follow the kidnapper’s demands instead of going to the police. When she discovers that the kidnapper is also a mother, things get both weird and more interesting as we learn why the old woman would want to harm a innocent child.  Who is she really targeting?

Through stories and flashbacks we learn about Bree, her husband, their history and family.  There are a few sultry parts with mild adult content.

Seeing as the backstory related to the plot and didn’t slow things down too much, I didn’t hate it.

The book also raises an interesting debate about sexual assault and power in the context of race and class, and the influence of money and privilege in general. A poor girl with no resources might be derailed, while the rich male students involved aren’t so much as chastised. So, does one event (in which the girl initiated it and brought the drugs) make the men criminals? Do they deserve to be persecuted in the future?  I have mixed thoughts on these situations, like wtf is the girl thinking vs wtf are any of them thinking. Jackson definitely succeeded in provoking thought around these different characters from different backgrounds and I found it quite interesting

I also think Jackson provided a rare accurate description of a resuscitation effort and the violence of the encounter, right down to pretty much how the person’s body looks. This is something that most authors gloss over but I loved how it added a measure of finality to the sequence of events.

Character wise … I definitely liked pretty much all of the side characters (Marshal, Gabriela,0 the kids, Marshal again), more than Bree and Trey.  There were a lot of complicated feelings going around in the book and to emphasize how I feel about Trey, I was pretty satisfied by the ending of the book.

I guessed parts of the outcome but not all!

Definitely one to check out if you like thrillers, suspense, morality, family drama, moms in momma bear mode

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

I was bummed out by Rogue Protocol, but Exit Strategy was my favorite of the novellas so far!

Murderbot is finally going to confront both enemies and friends, taking on GrayCris to rescue Dr. Mensah and hopefully bring those fuckers down!  MB has interpreted messages that imply Mensah is being held for ransom while the PreservationAux team stalls until she can be retrieved or rescued

Enter one planetary sized standoff between GrayCris, the Corporation (MB’s original owners), and one more private company hired to bring down Murderbot

It would have been hilarious if I wasn’t about to die. Ok, it was still a little hilarious

It’s gonna need a heck of an exit strategy 😉

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exit Strategy
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries – #4
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: Tordotcom, October 2018
  • Length: 163 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ since I could read on Libby.  I 100% think the publisher should be ashamed for splitting one book up into 4 novellas and charging so much!

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?

This final novella in the original series was fast paced and action packed from start to finish.  The security standoff on the corporate planet was crazy. I was as surprised as Murderbot to see a corporation gunship there!

With the evidence against Graycris out, they were desperate and somehow thought they could kidnap Mensah and end up not destroyed.

I think this one had the best action scenes too by far.

I was having an emotion, and I hate that.

What we really have to focus on is Murderbot itself!  It was definitely afraid/awkward to face Mensah and the team after leaving.  MB had to pull on all it’s human experiences so far to navigate that reunion show. It was nice to see all the original side characters again too!

You can hug me if you need to

Also I did enjoy the planet itself, Wells created a lot of cool imagery with businesses fighting for consumer attention and of course, all the hacking.  Alll the hacking.  The hacking is way too easy but fun to read anyway.

So the plan wasn’t a clusterfuck, it was just circling the clusterfuck target zone, getting ready to come in for a landing

I think the last thing to note is that as much ad MB tends to act like a human, this one reminds us of it’s background and we got a glimpse of how it communicated and behaved as a SecUnit construct.  I liked watching it interact with the company ship because it drove home how the Units interact and process information and we see how far it’s come since

You don’t know what I am

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my read of The Murderbot Diaries, I finished Rogue Protocol!  Murderbot experiences an emotion (the horror..) and gets one step closer to helping Dr. Mensah and the PreservationAux team.  It encounters an annoying pet robot, truly pretends to be a human, and of course all things go to complete shit during a rescue mission.

My least favorite of the three so far but a solid installment

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Rogue Protocol
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries, #3
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: Tordotcom, August 2018
  • Length: 150 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ everyone should at least try the series

Here’s the synopsis (from Am*zon):

Rogue Protocol is the third entry in Martha Wells’s Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Murderbot Diaries.

Starring a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure, though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk.

Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?

Sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

Rogue Protocol is another quick, exciting installment in the series, but my least favorite of the three so far. I liked how Murderbot has to really, really fall in with humans and then have to compare that new freedom with it’s complex feelings of the life of Miki, the “pet robot”.

Everything was annoying right now and I had no idea why – MB

First s*xbots then Miki, I’m probably reading into it too much but I feel like Wells is making some PC statement about how various entities fit into societies and can end up being more than they appear.   I did like Miki though, she gives MB another type of human + bot partnership context and reminds us how even the simplest bots can be pretty bad ass.

Anyway, Murderbot is off to an abandoned terraforming site to gather incriminating evidence about GrayCris and it’s illegal alien biofarming exploits for.”strange synthetics”. I liked how MB had to improvise and really get those people out of a hard situation alive. We see how corrupted GrayCris is and also learn that Dr Mensah is captured, which sets up the next book.

I know in the telling it sounds like I was on top of this situation but really, I was still just thinking, Oh shit oh shit oh shit – MB7

I just didn’t care about the new set of human characters.  There were too many names thrown out with no relevance to the story, which got confusing quick.  The plot and rescue and banter were up to par, the snark was still there, just soo many people. The end confused me too – I think Abene would have helped but MB decided to just sneak away 😳

My biggest gripe, as with many readers, is this is clearly one book chopped into four parts. And yet they’re charging full book price even for the electronic version of each novella. I will just hold out until they come up on Libby, thanks

“I am at eighty-six percent functional capacity.” It held up its arm stump. “It’s only a flesh wound.” – Miki

I approve of the Monty Python nod!

Anyway, I definitely recommend that pretty much anybody that likes action fiction and snark should at least try the series!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Paranormal

Where Blood Runs Gold by A.C. Cross (Book Review)

I was telling Red, my chestnut mare, about this book and specifically how A.C. Cross called a Chestnut horse a sweetheart, and the other horse a Cee-U-Next-Tuesday! We had a good laugh over this as we all know how Chestnut mares are the true evils of the horse world

Joking aside, mostly, Where Blood Runs Gold is (to me) a unique book that I am pegging as the Wild West meets The Walking Dead. I’m a bit at a loss of how to describe or categorize the book because I’ve never read a fantasy/western before!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Where Blood Runs Gold
  • Series: N/A (room for a sequel)
  • Author: A.C. Cross
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, January 2022
  • Length: 494 pages (fast read)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I would if it sounds up your alley, for 18+ readers

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon!

Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined. In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.

The author spins the legend of Sherriff Errol Thorpe, aka The Judge, as he fights gangs, robbers, sin, corruption, his own demons, and a greater evil too.  There are stories offered in flashback format that I love, as they help build the man’s life and legend.

Gettin’ damn near tired out of bein’ told when I can or can’t die. I’ll die when I’m damn well ready {Sheriff}

The sheriff is a good example of a morally gray character. He 100% does what he thinks is right and sometimes gets carried away while bringing the pain. Watching him wrestle with his strict code and trying not to be soft made him memorable too. He has had a tough life and I liked him a lot by the end.  The young girl he rescues and a lady that sort of becomes his partner seem realistic and create some good banter, although my favorite side character was an easily exasperated captain of the army named Josie

Language wise, the slang and dialect are consistent, smart, and to quote the author – “gloriously profane” at times.

It’s dark as a crow’s dick out here

Or my personal favorite –

Great green fucks on a hill, son

I say smart because Cross consistently writes language and dialect that is realistic to the old West, without breaking character at all, and I found that consistency impressive. One note on the editing too – I read this as a Kindle Unlimited and was very happily surprised to find only one typo in the entire novel. This is an extremely well presented indie work

Where westerns don’t tend to world build a lot, he makes up for that in atmosphere, setting and tone

Here’s where I docked the star: I wanted a little more from the “big picture” side of things. How did the entire world fit together? It seemed to be civil war era (brief mentions of Union and Confederate) but that never really played into the plot. There also wasn’t a history of the big bad evil given, it just kind of appeared and then the book ended without explaining what it was (or how it got into that cave)?

The horror elements aren’t too bad but I am solidly recommending this book for 18+ readers.

If you like Westerns, adventure, weird, legends and stories, check this one out! The book is out now!

DON’T MISS THE SUNDAY BRUNCH REBOOT ON 4/17, FEATURING A.C. CROSS!!

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Book Thoughts)

Up next in my Murderbot reread is Artificial Condition!  I definitely liked this much more than the first book. The characters and action are both better developed and the banter is absolutely next level.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Artificial Condition
  • Series: The Murderbot Diaries, #2
  • Author: Martha Wells
  • Publisher & Release: Tordotcom, May 2018
  • Length: 160 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes, especially the audio!

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

Artificial Condition is the follow-up to Martha Wells’s Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times bestselling All Systems Red

It has a dark past―one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

First off, you definitely want to know what the A stands for but I’m not going to tell you 😂

“Fear is an artificial condition”

The plot: Murderbot is on a journey to find answers about it’s past. Was it responsible for all those humans deaths years before? Did the event even happen? Reluctantly teaming up with A.R.T (😂😂), a large research transport that just happens to have armaments, Murderbot does it’s best to pass as human and investigate the planet on which it’s defining moment occurred.

Yes, the giant transport bot is going to help the construct SecUnit pretend to be human. This will go well.

I think this plot was much more interesting than what happened in All Systems Red. 

With a new group of suicidally stupid humans to protect (oh, Murderbot…), It once again proves to be a decent security guide as It keeps three younger scientists relatively safe after their precious data was stolen.

With more hacking, badassery, and snark, the book hard to put down

The Characters: The best part was the banter between A.R.T. and Murderbot.  I could not stop laughing. Highly recommend the audiobook for this banter – Kevin R. Free is fantastic and the A.R.T. voice added SO much to the experience

Yeah well, fuck you too, I thought, and initiated a shutdown sequence

I was rooting for them so hard LOL

I think it also helped to have a face and motivation on the antagonist, the one who stole the scientists’ data and would kill to keep it.

Now that Murderbot has tasted agency and enjoys being treated as a human, ish, I think it is asking itself the hard questions about humanity (with the annoying prodding of A.R.T.) and that added a dimension to the character

The sci in the sci-fi: is super light, once again this reads more like an adventure than a Sci-Fi.  There is a little more explanation of bot versus construct and a funny ish scene in a med bay that tells a bit more about Murderbot’s physiology.

A few oddities: I docked half a star because I think Wells’ SJW pushing, reads too much like typos in this particular instance.  There was a “unique” family structure from one planet and one character identified as “te” – I thought it was a typo and ended up confused.  One of those things just thrown in that felt forced and odd. Gotta hold up that Nebula award though, right?? My one objection to the series is what these novellas cost in ebook form – therefore I am taking my time and reading these as my Libby holds come through!  This actually seems to be a common comment among Amazon reviews so I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking WHEW 10$ for a novella is – $$$

In closing – definitely check out Murderbot if you love snark, banter, action, AI ethics, and more snark

Sometimes people do things to you that you can’t do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on

-MB in a rare moment of true wisdom