Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

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This magic land was all wrong. In the books, you had to destroy an evil piece of jewelry or defeat an evil-though-sexy witch or wizard. In the books, people did not hide documents and steal land and try to cheat dwarves and dryads.

I don’t even know how to begin reviewing this book. It can be best summed up as “I shouldn’t have liked it, but I did.” I’m not usually a fan of satire (which In Other Lands edges into at times) or unsubtle books, and asshole protagonists can be hit or miss, but man, this one pushed all the right buttons for me. I picked it up because Sharade of The Fantasy Inn recommended it for its humour and quotability, and I was not prepared for the assault on my feelings it launched in the process.

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Reread: Vita Nostra by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko

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There were plenty of people loved by someone, the ones who carried a seashell, a button, or a black and white photograph in their pockets; no one had been saved by memories, no one had been protected by words and pledges, and those loved greatly by others died too.

I have a bit of a history with Vita Nostra. I don’t know if I first heard of it in a rec thread or found it myself after reading The Scar, but I first read it in 2015, when the translation was ebook-only and more or less self-published. I picked it for during a long car ride…and devoured it in one sitting. And nobody has seemed to have heard of it. I continued wanting to yell about it when it became unavailable, and when it was finally rereleased, of course I went for the hardcover. Then finally, in September, I got the chance to lead a bookclub and the circle was complete.

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Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers #3)

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From the ground, we stand. From our ships, we live. By the stars, we hope.

I’ve been saving this book for when I’d need a pick-me-up. After a very stressful August and an important exam seemed like the perfect time to crack it open. Initially, I was a bit surprised – it starts with a big tragedy and a lot of death. But then it settles in and it’s exactly the kind of optimistic, thoughtful, quiet sci-fi I wanted.

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Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Station Eleven is the best book I regret ever picking up. It’s absolutely brilliant…and there lies the problem. The vision of the apocalypse, the characters, people’s reactions – it all felt too real. Visceral, human, and deeply, deeply sad. It got under my skin to the point I wondered whether I should stop reading. I’m unused to books hitting me as hard as this. I think the last one was The Unwomanly Face of War, but that was nonfiction, and well over a year ago.

Some of them took turns trying to sleep in the moving caravans, others walking and walking until their thoughts burned out one by one like dying stars and they fell into a fugue state wherein all that mattered or had ever existed were these trees, this road, the counterpoint rhythms of human footsteps and horses’ hooves, moonlight turning to darkness and then the summer morning, caravans rippling like apparitions in the heat, and now the Symphony was scattered here and there by the roadside in a state of semi-collapse while they waited for dinner to be ready.

But at the point it was already too late; if it’s going to stick in my mind like a painful splinter no matter what, I might as well finish. So I did. I went into the book largely blind, knowing only it was postapocalyptic, literary, and slice of life, and I think it may have been for the better, so if this was enough to convince you, stop reading here.

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Review: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle L. Gomez

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I first heard of The Gilda Stories from a Tor article a friend linked. I don’t usually read vampire books as I don’t like vampires as a trope very much (or urban fantasy as a subgenre), but it’s one of this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo squares and the concept seemed interesting enough.

“Each time I thought taking a stand, fighting a war would bring the solution to the demons that haunted us. Each time I thought slavery or fanaticism could be banished from the earth with a law or a battle. Each time I’ve been wrong.”

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Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

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Sourdough is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the year. Reading it felt downright therapeutic. If you have read any of Becky Chambers’ books you probably know the exact same feeling – there will be tears, but there will be joy, too. So much joy. It brought me some solace after a rather hellish week.

I explained the process by which living sourdough starter gave the bread its texture and flavor. Garrett’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “It was … alive,” he said softly. Wonderingly. He, like me, had never before considered where bread came from, or why it looked the way it did. This was us, our time and place: we could wrestle sophisticated robots into submission, but were confounded by the most basic processes of life.

Also, it made me really, really hungry.

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Review: Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox

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Every once in a while, I get a mad compulsion to read a book. I hear of something, and it won’t give me peace until I go and read it – and without a fail, those books prove to be my favourites. So it was with The Name of the Wind all those years ago, or The Curse of Chalion, or more recently The Gray House. And so it is here.  Outside of my usual wheelhouse or no, I had to have it and yet again my instinct has proven correct. I wanted to yell about it from the rooftops before I was halfway through. I finished it in less than a day. It satisfied the craving for more Witchmark left beyond perfectly.

“Of course I could have turned them out into the fields, to laugh and cry like that with no roof to shield them. Maybe in another world, that would be best, but…” Archie got up stiffly, muscles aching from holding Rufus against the trunk of the apple tree the night before. “Not in this one. In this world, love needs shelter. And as long as the rectory’s standing, I’m going to provide it.”

If you’re looking for extremely well-written, atmospheric m/m romance with a slight fantasy twist this is very likely a book for you.

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