Review: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow #2)

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I was initially unsure whether I should read this book. I enjoyed The Sparrow very much (despite its flaws), but there were some…mixed opinions on the sequel and whether it completes the story or ruins it. Unfortunately, I think I have to side with the latter – perhaps not ruins, precisely, but doesn’t add much and is inferior in more or less every way. And the ending actively made me angry. Read the first book and stop there, it stands alone just fine.

We meant well, she thought, looking up at a sky piled with cumulus clouds turning amethyst and indigo above the clearing. No one was deliberately evil. We all did the best we could. Even so, what a mess we made of everything…

The Sparrow was not perfect, but it was whole. I can’t say as much for Children of God. This is, as you can probably tell, going to be a bit of a rant.

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Review: To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

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ARC received from the publisher (Harper Voyager) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

And Becky Chambers has done it again. I know that’s a cliché line to use in a review, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats. This is the exact kind of thought-provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci-fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.

However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this: don’t expect another Wayfarers. Expect discussion of the ethics of space exploration. Expect your mind to be blown, perhaps. But heartwarming, character-focused…forget it.

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Review: The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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Spoilers in this review are marked like this: [spoiler] (highlight to reveal). If this doesn’t work for you, proceed with care.

Okay, first off: I went into this book with no great expectations. I picked it up on impulse, in a random kindle sale, intending to save it as light reading for the first time I go to the beach, whenever that will be. I knew I was probably the wrong audience and that there were likely to be things that’d piss me off, but whatever. Give me historical fiction about fencing and 19th century Spain. No need to be quality, just quick and readable.

Well, today the day has come. And turns out that yes, it pretty much lived up to those expectations – entertaining with a shit plot and more than a bit cliché. Which I was luckily more amused than irritated by.

Still, I would not recommend it.

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July 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

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July has been an interesting, unusual, out-of-character month. I don’t go on binges, I don’t read novellas unless forced to for a reading challenge, and I have never been interested in Westerns until the end of this June. Yet I have:

  1. Read or attempted to read 6 westerns
  2. Read 8 novellas
  3. Binge-read a series that’s part of a subgenre I normally avoid (Urban Fantasy)
  4. DNFd 4 books

I think I only read one book that wasn’t on a theme. Unfortunately, all of this has two side effects: I have completely neglected the Bingo challenge and generally wrote fewer reviews, as I plan to merge Weird Westerns and LGBTQ+ novellas in two more comprehensive posts (soon!).

As far as non-review posts go, I did a Top 5: Weird Literary Fantasy list.

  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (reread): The first book on my journey through the Weird West. It stands up to a reread very well, and I loved that it tackles the racism and sexism of the era…but I completely forgot how much sexual violence is there 😬
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins: I was enticed by the cover and the premise (books made out of memories! Romance!), but even though I did enjoy it, I’m not happy at the number of abandoned plot threads and the abruptness of the ending.
  • Unsouled by Will Wight (DNF): Very much not for me, but may appeal those looking for books about magic systems and protagonists growing more powerful.
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson: Literary novella, fantastic. I wasn’t quite sure of it right until the end, but as all the pieces clicked into place…wow.
  • Territory by Emma Bull: Weird Western slice of life. Sadly, another book that suffers from abruptly abandoning plot threads. And it felt….bland. Oh well.
  • A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (DNF): The writing style was good and the worldbuilding interesting and one of the protagonists was the fun kind of trigger-happy sociopathic prick, but the homophobia/racism/transphobia of the world were just too much. Uncomfortable and unfun.
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages: Another wonderful novella, this one depicting the queer women’s subculture of 1940s San Francisco. The magic is almost incidental, but it doesn’t matter. It’s great.
  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: Not the typical Western, perhaps, but I haven’t encountered a book that’d be as much of a pageturner in a mortal age. I’d read it in one sitting if it wasn’t nearing 3 am…
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (reread): This time in paperback. Still as good as the first time.
  • The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (DNF): A cross of Weird Western and New Weird, more interesting in theory than in practice. Nothing outrageously wrong with it, I was just…bored.
  • Los Nefilim series by T. Frohock: Yes, the whole thing – three novellas and the novel. One after the other. And I don’t even normally read UF! The worldbuilding and the characters are A+ and I could not stop. Features a rarity: an established couple. To be precise, a gay established couple with a kid.
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson: What the fuck. It’s not often that the book confuses the everloving daylights out of me to that extent, but what the fuck. And the ending just confused me further.
  • Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox (reread): Reread it to reset my brain after Sorcerer of the Wildeeps broke it. Still good, still don’t like graphic sex scenes.
  • Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord (ARC, DNF 12%): Decided to pull the plug after a month or two of not picking it up. No specific reason. If you want Reneissance-inspired worlds, family rivalries, and political scheming it may be worth a try.
  • Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett: Basically post-colonial, f/f Shakespeare fanfiction telling the story of Miranda after the end of The Tempest. Excellent, and super adorable.

Currently reading:

  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (12%): I’m leading a bookclub in August, so I have to finish it quick. So far, I’m enjoying it very much.
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (40%): It’s so long!
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (48%): See above. Damn chonkers.

Books read this year: 40 (+ 11 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 9/25 (36%)

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

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I won’t lie, the cover was the main factor in my decision to read it. Of course I found the premise interesting too, and the positive reviews helped, but look at it. Besides, the promise of romance with magic based on books…how could I not?

“Memories,” she said, at last. “Not people, Emmett. We take memories and bind them. Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm. That’s all books are.”

Did it live up to it? Well, that depends.

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Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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ARC received from the publisher (Del Rey) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I won’t lie, it was the cover that made me request the ARC (look at it!). 1920s Mexico is not a setting I’ve seen before either, I’m a sucker for mythological fantasy…in short, I was intrigued. And I can now safely say I did not regret it – if you like the idea of it too, it’s definitely worth a read.

Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the position of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams.

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Top 5: Weird Literary Fantasy

As every reader, I definitely have a type. Or rather, a few types, and weird literary fantasy is one of them. It could be best described as the “I have no idea what the fuck did I just read, but whoa 😮” subgenre of fantasy – weird, experimental, often trippy, gorgeously written, and in a way also fun.

The books below have five things in common, aside from genre:

  • They’re all pure 5-star reads as far as I’m concerned.
  • If you read and liked one, it’s highly possible you’ll like the others (same for dislike!).
  • The prose in all of them is firmly on the stained glass rather than windowpane side, but modern – there’s little I dislike as much as flowery ultraviolet archaic prose.
  • They all do something strange and new and experimental – whether in content, structure, or both – and are lighter on plot and less approachable than most SFF.
  • All work as standalones!

So, let’s go!

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