Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Sword of Shannara


It is so very tempting to do this review entirely in gifs from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: Also A Trilogy Despite Being A Shorter Book, however: I will be the bigger person and actually include words. And to tell the basest truth: this wasn't as terrible as it seems. I finished it, didn't I? I am intrigued about further entries in the series because 1) people pretty much agree that the books get a lot better and 2) he ran out of LOTR to retell by at the end of this book, so hopefully books two and three (and beyond) are more original. Please accept my assurances that this is not an attack on the author at all, and that I mostly enjoyed reading this book, if only because it was mind-candy of the high-fantasy order. Yum.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet is a book about many wonderful topics: friendship, family, games ... but it is going to make you hungry.

I mean it. Grab some pastries for nibbling as you devour this fantastic book, because you will crave some sort of sticky-sweetly-carby deliciousness.

So. Before The Gauntlet launched it was riding high on my to-read list but I had no idea (no idea!) that the author, Karuna Riazi, and the lovely Kaye @gildedspine were the same person! Kaye is a truly lovely person and a fantastic voice in the community, so to have a whole book from her was a rare and delicious treat.


Monday, August 21, 2017

ARC August: Warcross



I have deleted several introductions to this review. It is Sunday night, and I am tired, and I burned my finger on some molten pizza sauce so typing this is slightly painful. So:

I liked this; I did not love it. BUT! Many, many, many teens out there will go completely gaga for this. AND THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)

2017 has been the year of the Wildly Amazing Novella for me. So far, I've fallen in love with Seanan McGuire's Every Heart A Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Stones, Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth, and now Martha Wells' All Systems Red. Thankfully they are all the first in their own series, which means I get to read more delightfulness in these universes relatively soon!

I hadn't really heard about All Systems Red in the way I had Gailey and McGuire's works (viz Twitter), but I saw it on the shelf at work one day and I knew it had to come home with me because of one simple, delightful word: "murderbot." I mean, how can you resist a book about murderbots???

Thursday, August 17, 2017

ARC August: Thornhill

Drat.

Thornhill held so much dark and creepy promise. I was hoping for a shivery Gothic story told à la Hugo Cabret--half in pictures, and half in prose. However, to split the narrative like that, both parts must be stellar, and sadly, the prose in this one lacks oomph and reads a bit like an adult's idea of a teen girl's journal. And the story itself? I was underwhelmed.



The illustrations tell the story of Ella, a modern teen who moves into an apartment block that faces an old school for orphaned girls: Thornhill. It's a terrible place with scandal up the yazoo, but no one has the guts to tear it down. Looking into the Thornhill lot, she sees a garden, and sneaks past the barbed wire and no trespassing signs to poke around a bit. A mysterious figure leads her deeper into the grounds where Ella finds a doll's head. She restores it, and more dolls appear. Since that isn't creepy or suspicious at all, she keeps trying to connect with the person who is leaving her these gifts.

Meanwhile, the prose narrative tells of a girl named Mary who lived in the orphanage in the 1980s. She has "selective mutism" and was emotionally traumatized by another student/orphan who has just recently been returned by her adoptive family. Various scenes of Mary's wallowing in misery and being tormented by Jane and the Mean Girls of 1982 follow. This is obviously going to end badly, and it does.

But how does it end?

No, really, I am befuddled. It really seemed like Mary was going to light Jane on fire in the cellar (yes, that escalated quickly), but then Jane escapes and tricks Mary yet again, so ... Mary hangs herself? I think??? But then thirty years later she sets Thornhill on fire for real once Ella is inside so that she and Ella can be postmortem BFFs. It's all very vague, and I think the jumping from no fire in 1982 to the drawings of a fire raging throughout Thornhill just causes confusion.

I'm not a huge fan of the artistic style, either. Ella's head is unnaturally flat on the top, like an elephant sat on it for a while when it was still malleable. The girls resemble very small, haggard, overworked housewives (possibly intentional to indicate their difficult lives et cetera, but rather disconcerting). And everything looks so clean. The lines are so clean. I wanted something messy and grungy and hopeless.

And therein lies the crux of the matter: Thornhill was not what I wanted nor what I needed this book to be. I've read only positive reviews so far, and obviously it's pleasing to others. But the art and the story didn't mesh well for me, and the actual prose felt a bit labored. This was not a win for me, but it might be for you, especially if you like creepy dolls. The cover is very nice, in any case.

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Down Among The Sticks and Bones

A week ago, I tried to write a blog post about how reading didn't help me. I was in despair, suffering from that vicious cycle of obsession that torments my brain. I was convinced I was unhealthy, unattractive, unlikeable--all the "un"s, really. Curled up on my bed, my body hurt as much as my heart, because depression and anxiety make you physically ill to match the illness in your head. And I couldn't bring myself to pick up a book because I told myself that I was beyond saving. I was doomed to be unhappy, so why bother trying to banish the darkness with a story?

Now, I regret that I didn't make myself read. Much like doing something you are afraid of to overcome the fear, doing something you've convinced yourself won't succeed probably will help. Tonight, angry, not at myself, but at the world and the people in it, the people who spend all of their time and energy on hating other human beings, I had to get away. Vile rhetoric glared at me everywhere I looked, cold and completely insane. I grabbed Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the companion book to Every Heart A Doorway, and I fled.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ararat

It's never a good sign when I can call the big plot twist of a book after 40 pages. I had seen a lot of good reviews for Ararat and at first blush, it looked like it would tick all my reading boxes when it comes to adult thrillers/horror: stuck on a mountain, winter storm, ancient mystery, evil creature. That is tailor-made for me. Plus, comparisons to At the Mountains of Madness gave me hope that this would be a horror story with the punch of Lovecraft's original without all the wonky prose.

Alas. Any appeal that Ararat may have held was smothered by one-note characters, a very silly bad guy, and the general senselessness of the plot.

The cover is really cool, though.
That's it. Kinda false advertising, I guess.

*Warning: Spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk.*

(But please proceed!)


Thursday, August 10, 2017

ARC August: Hunted

Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I remember going to see in theaters. I cried so hard when Beast died. SO HARD. My little 4 year old heart was broken. And then, well, I felt kind of disappointed in the way he looked as a human. As a child, my favorite was The Little Mermaid, but now, I think I can safely say that Beauty and the Beast has overtaken Ariel (or Awiel, as I said as a child, with my inability to pronounce "r" properly. I sounded like a lisping Baba Wawa.)

And of all retellings, my favorites have always been those based on Beauty and the Beast (Sleeping Beauty pulls a distant second). However, it's such a popular story to retell that it threatens to devolve into a trite love story. Thus, with much trepidation, I approached Meagan Spooner's Hunted. To my great surprise and delight, this book turned out to be excellent.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ARC August!

Being in a different part of the country affects how I feel about August in rather dramatic fashion. Since I now live in a climate that is not the ninth circle of Dante's Hell (freezing cold, whipped by the wings of Lucifer, if you don't feel like reading the whole poem), I don't feel like this is my last chance to wear shorts or go swimming or enjoy being outside. And so what used to be a month of mourning and dirges (slight exaggeration) is now just like any other month. Wackadoodle but also pretty amazing.

All of that rambling means that I'm approaching this year's ARC August with less trepidation and more indulgence. I'm not making a specific list of BOOKS I NEED TO READ THIS AUGUST, partially because since I'm not a teen librarian in name anymore, I don't have as many physical ARCs, and partially because just eh. I will be tagging my ARC reviews with #ARCAugust and I'll try to make it to the chats!