May 2018 Reading Recap

I read SUCH GOOD THINGS THIS MONTH. I love them all.

I’m now done with The Books of the Raksura series so everything is sad in my life now.

The only reread was The Two Towers.

Crazy facts: I only read ONE comic this month, and I listened to an audiobook! Boom accomplishment.

 

Short Stories/Novellas

Dance, Princes, Dance! by Tansy Rayner Roberts (4/5 stars)

Pet by C.S. Pacat (5/5 stars)

Stories of the Raksura Volume 1 by Martha Wells (4/5 stars)

Stories of the Raksura Volume 2 by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

 

Novels

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (no rating)

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances by Courtney Milan, Rose Lerner, and Alyssa Cole (3/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Whiskerella by Ursula Vernon (5/5 stars)

Steel Blues by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham (4/5 stars)

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5 stars)

 

Nonfiction

A Little History of Dragons by Joyce Hargreaves (4/5 stars)

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (3/5 stars)

 

Graphic Novels/Comics

The Unbeatable Squirrel: I’ve Been Waiting for a Squirrel Like You by Ryan North (4/5 stars)

Audiobooks

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (5/5 stars)

Advertisements

April 2018 Reading Recap

So I went on a bit of a trip this past month, and so I’m behind on my recaps, blogging, etc. But like…I was kind of busy in London, Dublin, and Italy. I read quite a bit before I left on my trip, though, so without further ado, here’s what I read last month!

Comparatively, I read a lot of Tai Nehisi-Coates. I really enjoy reading him: I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think. Also his Black Panther comics are good storytelling!

My favorite reads were by Patricia McKillip and Martha Wells (all fantasy novels, so I’m staying on brand).

Fiction

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip (5/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

And I Darken by Kiersten White (5/5 stars)

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

The Harbors of the Sun by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

Persuasion by Jane Austen (5/5 stars)

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (4/5 stars)

Graphic Novels/Comics

The Wicked and the Divine: Imperial Phase II by Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (4/5 stars)

Afar by Leila del Luca (4/5 stars)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Who Run the World? Squirrels by Ryan North (5/5 stars)

Poe Dameron: Legend Lost by Charles Soule (3/5 stars)

Ms. Marvel: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson (5/5 stars)

Black Panther and the Crew: We Are the Streets by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet book 2 by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

Nonfiction

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian (4/5 stars)

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Looking Forward

Here are my top 10 books I am excited to read that are being released in the first half of 2017 (whew that’s a mouthful).

26869762
The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis: sometime in 2017. Filed under: Dragons, Burgis, Be Still My Heart

27235873
Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig: January 17. Filed under: I Want A Star War, Found Families

29772863
Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer: January 31. Filed under: Robot Girls, Sassiest Girl Not-Alive

28763240
At The Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson: February 7. Filed under: SDH My Son, Terrifying Realities

29939230
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab: February 21. Filed under: Cool Magic Systems, I Hope Kell Dies In This One, Holland For The Iron Throne

30145666.jpg
The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan: May 2. Filed under: Final Form, Grabby Hands

32708664
Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien: May 4. Filed under: Luthien is the Real MVP, Your Love Is My Drug

31145148
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich: May 16. Filed under: Say What Now, Sign Me Up 

8306741
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner: May 16. Filed under: Incomprehensible Screaming, Myth Retellings, Moral Thieves

31140332.jpg
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn: April 11. Filed under: Ruthless Alien Geniuses, Outmaneuver Me Any Day
What’s on your TBR for 2017?

Top 10 Tuesday: Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes Dragons

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic was “Top Ten Books to Read If Your Book Club Likes____.” I chose dragons, as is right and proper.

200

 

  1.  Beowulf by Anonymous: Read this book if you like dragons with possessiveness problems, epic poetry, monsters, monster-hunters, and dragon hoards.
  2. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik: Read this book if you like dragon-riding, lots of man-dragon Friendship, man-man Friendship, man-woman Friendship, Napoleonic wars, alternate history, and a high variety of dragon species of all sizes
  3. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan: Read this book if you like Victorian-ish fiction with dragons, realistic dragons, realistic dragon behavior, science, dragon science, lady scientists, and mysteries.
  4. How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell: Read this book if you like middle-grade, dumb jokes, funny jokes, grouchy tiny dragons, grouchy giant dragons, friendship in the face of bullies, friendship in the face of dragons, and daddy issues.
  5. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Read this if you like lots of magic, mystery, espionage, and dragons who can live in human skins. PS this is a beautiful book, please read it.
  6. Traitor’s Moon by Lynn Flewelling: Read this book if you like dragon-bites in uncomfortable areas, lots of prophecies and portents, backstabbings, boys being bros and bros being boys, and dragons of various sizes.
  7. The Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkien: Read this book if you like life-ruining dragons, dragons that eat happiness for a light appetizer and joy for breakfast, cursed heroes, badass moms, cursed besties, and a high body-count.
  8. Tehanu by Ursula LeGuin: Read this book if you like survivors, dragons in human skin, quiet love stories, adopted family stories, and comeuppance.
  9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente: Read this if you don’t know the difference between a wyvern and a dragon, or if you know and love them both.
  10. Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn: Read this if you like space dragons, thieves, boy and dragon Friendship, and symbionts.

giphy-26

Space Fairytales: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

winter is coming.png

I recently finished Winter, which is the fourth and final book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. The Lunar Chronicles is a YA series that retells some basic fairytales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White) but on a futuristic Earth. I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern to science fiction I love: there has to be a depth and mythology to it for me to really get invested in everything going on (another example is Star Wars), unless there’s a killer cast of characters. This one happens to have both: all of the folklore and timelessness of the fairytales combined with some really engaging characters.

That isn’t to say this series doesn’t have flaws – because it is definitely a hot mess at times; some of it is really innovative and well-structured and other parts have weak storytelling and no followthrough. The style of the series is very cinematic, which is both a strength and a weakness; – a lot of the sub-plots and character arcs are formulaic or at the least predictable, but it is very easy to visualize everything and everyone, and the drama and suspense works very well.

The world-building incorporates an interesting mix of science and technology (especially on the side of the Earthens) and the more “magical” abilities of the Lunars (the population who colonized the moon) who can control or manipulate people’s minds, to a point. In some cases, technology can protect a person from the Lunars’ powers, or vice versa. There are also plenty of spaceships of different makes and models – I really appreciate specificity with tech in my scifi. There’s also space-poison and space-antidotes.

Cinderella, aka “Linh Cinder,” is a cyborg and the importance of this fact and how often it is worked into the story is really great and interesting. Cinder, who is also a very skilled mechanic, is constantly faced with her humanity or lack of it, and trying to figure out where the line is between her computer abilities and her own abilities and humanity. I love it. It was especially cool to see in Winter when some of Cinder’s systems are shorted out because of some Unfortunate Events. She has to reorient herself because she can’t rely on her computer systems, and she has to acknowledge that while they don’t define her, they are a huge part of her and an asset to her skills. Most of the characters in the series, at least initially, judge her because of her cyborg identity, which introduces some interesting racial commentary (Earths and Lunars don’t generally judge each other based on their skin color, only on whether they’re a cyborg or from Earth or Luna).

Then you’ve got the Lunars and their powers. Most Lunars have the ability to manipulate others’ “bioelectricity;” I have no idea how this is supposed to work scientifically because it seems like magic to me. They can sense lifeforces from some distance away, take hold of a person’s mind and force them to do anything, even kill someone or themselves. The Lunars are heavily villainized; the only ones who we see as “good” are either Lunars who aren’t skilled with manipulating people, or who choose not to use their powers (and go crazy). They’ve got magic powers, they’re born with them, and almost all of them use their powers for evil? Why? I would have been interested to see some Lunar characters who used their powers for good (for instance, using their sensitivity to find lost or injured people). We also had one throwaway moment where a character realizes that a Lunar woman is actually using their “glamour” to disguise the fact that they’re a man, but there is no further explanation of that fascinating skill. The fact that they call their bioelectricity manipulation “glamours” is very evocative of Faerie/the Fair Folk, which leads us into fantasy once again.

There are androids, which I am always pleased to meet in science fiction. We meet two very important androids in the first book Cinder, but one of them is used as a plot device and then tossed aside, while the other, Cinder’s android Iko, becomes our only stand-in for the androids as a whole, and she is supposedly very different from other androids because she has a Personality and possibly a Soul. I guess androids in general are soulless and boring? Despite this, Iko became a very dear character to me over the course of the story, and continued the theme of exploring what makes someone human. Cinder and Iko, who are considered by most of the population to be “inhuman” in different ways, are constantly emphasized to be the most humane characters in the story. Or at least more humane than Lunars, according to the story.

The story also features more than one princess (as expected in space-fairytales), although only one is locked up in her space-tower. The story takes itself very seriously, and sometimes it comes across as over-dramatic and overblown because of that. Then again, when you’re dealing with space-fae, cyborgs, space-werewolves (DID I TALK ABOUT THE SPACE-WEREWOLVES YET? THEY’RE GREAT), a little drama can be expected.

[This post was written as part of my participation in the 2016 Scifi Experience.]

 

Bahnreads: The 2016 Scifi Experience

I’m going to participate in the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings (can we take a moment to appreciate that blog name?). It’s a two-month event from December 1 to January 31 to discover or rediscover the awesomeness of science fiction and hang out with other people who are doing the same thing.

2016scifiexp400
where are the space ships

I’ll be blogging my reviews/reactions on here, and tweeting @bahnree.

Below are my goals….in SPACE!

Books:
Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston
Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold
Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Leguin
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Dragon and Liberator by Timothy Zahn
Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn

Movies:
The Right Stuff
Interstellar
After Earth
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Gravity (this is a rewatch)

Shows:
Stargate: SG-1 (whichever episodes I feel like watching)

Comics:
ODY-C by Matt Fraction (whichever issues I get my hands on)

Review: HAMMERED by Elizabeth Bear

185638Hammered is set in the near future of an alternate Earth, where the U.S. is very weak and Canada and China are the competing powers. The Canadian government is working on a super-secret project (of course) and are trying to recruit their best and brightest.

Jenny Casey is supposedly retired from active military service, and is doing her best to live a quiet life in a small town with her gangster friends. However, she’s an extremely valuable piece of military hardware, as much of her body has been replaced with prosthetics, mechanical parts, and computer hardware. Jenny’s best friend, Gabe Castaign, and a scientist convicted of treason, are entangled in the project as well, which has something to do with a rogue artificial intelligence nick-named Richard Fenyman.

The world-building is top-notch, as usual for Bear (I am a fan but seriously. World-building). The world is pretty bleak, and I really question whether it’s not just going to all end in tears, but the denseness of the writing is really rewarding if you pay attention. The science and tech were all really interesting, believable, and necessary to the story (which, you know, is always nice when that happen in scifi (I mean, what?)). Another characteristic of Bear that shows up in this novel is the use of red herrings. Several characters and ominous hints are dropped, that might pay off later in the story but are probably just trying to lead our heroes astray. It’s used effectively here and I like it, but can be a lot to keep track of.

Speaking of which, Hammered begins slowly and continues so. You read that right, my primary complaint is ONCE AGAIN THE PACING. I realize this is the first in the trilogy, and this is also the main reason I am beginning to loathe trilogies. The first book is all emotional build-up and the slow unveiling of the conflict and various revelations. There is a lot going on in this story, between all of the back-story for the AI projects and for Jenny (told via flashbacks), Richard’s shenanigans, the murder mystery in Hartford, Jenny’s health, the SEKKRET PROJECT, and Leah’s adventures in cyberspace. But for all that, it still crawls along for most of the first half. The fastest moving section of the story was the quest to find out who murdered a cop in Hartford and whether it’s connected to a bunch of tainted drugs on the street. It was interesting how this black and white, “hunt for evil” sort of plot contrasted with how Jenny has to deal with the grayer areas by herself (with mixed results for everyone, really). I wasn’t convinced, however, that the Hartford sub-plot was essential to the overall story.

Trilogies, man. They’ll kill me. I just want to kick them in the face and tell them to be a standalone novel.

The characters in Hammered are very complex. Bear likes breaking her characters down to their most basic parts and seeing what they choose to do after that, and she definitely does that with Jenny here, as well as the gangster Razorface (He has metal teeth. It’s great.), and Elspeth, the brilliant AI scientist. I really love them, as well as Gabe and Gabe’s daughter Leah, who is a believable thirteen-year-old, which made me very happy: few things make me angrier in a book than badly-written children or teenagers.

Jenny herself, our intrepid heroine, is kind of a downer, but she has so many reasons to be a downer that you can’t really blame her. Except that you can because she’s determined to be a downer always, and you want to hug and slap her sometimes, which is probably how Gabe feels. She’s like one of those brooding heroes from gothic romances; they obsess over their troubles which are pretty extreme but you want them to just focus on happy things.

PS: I love Richard and I want more sassy-AI always.

I’m going to finish reading this trilogy, but maybe not immediately; it requires a lot of emotional stamina.