Saturday, August 29, 2020

Review: Legendborn

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for approving an ARC copy of this for me!

This comes out on September the 15th, so check it out if you are interested!


I had a *lot* of fun reading this book and I recommend that people give it a shot :D

I will be honest and say that at first this book got off to a rough start for me, mostly because we’re thrown right into the story with a grieving Bree and we’re learning at the same time that she does. An author has to be careful to introduce this the right way, and there were times when I was a bit confused as to what was going on or trying to wrap my head around things.

However in spite of this rocky beginning, the book really builds upon itself and constructs a fascinating world that’s based on famous legends but brings its own unique twist to it. What I really loved about this book is that this take is truly interesting on its own merit, it’s not just relying on the strength of the legend to carry the book and capture our attention and keep it. Retellings abound in fantasy and I love it when we get one that is well constructed and the author truly has their own voice and breathes new life into it. The familiar is there, but so is new stuff to be intrigued by!

Bree as a character is someone who I could instantly sympathize with. She’s lost her mother and she has so much rage and pain inside her, and a desire to do something that will somehow make up for her mother’s death. This sometimes means that her choices aren’t the best, but they’re still understandable and relatable. She's human and she's a teenager who has lost her mother, who happens to be dealing with some pretty crazy and weird stuff going on. She has her faults but she is also strong in a lot of ways and well rounded, which I really enjoyed.

This book also takes racism by the horns and I appreciated that. It’s not the forefront of the story but it is woven through it because it reflects how things actually are here and now for girls like Bree and POC in general. There may be all sorts of supernatural things in this book but she still lives in our world, and deals with our reality. And oh, I loved how strong Bree was and how she didn’t take shit from anyone. She’s not afraid to speak up for herself, and that bravery extends from calling out racist behaviour to fighting off creatures trying to kill her.

Some of the other characters fell a lot short for me (the best friend is kind of shitty, and we have the usual trope of 'all the guys are gorgeous', but nothing too bad. The cast is diverse and I'm looking forward to learning more!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review: Educated

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I find it so difficult when non-fiction that's an autobiography doesn't really connect with me, because it's someone's story, you know?

I didn't dislike this book, I think it's just a case of me expecting it to hit harder than it did for me, personally. I also feel that this book is more-so a tale of an escape from physical and mental abuse than it is about Tara's escape or her 'education' as a child.

I think the novel would have benefited from more about her continuing education after she left home, too, because the ending seemed rather abrupt, but perhaps the nature of Tara's own story itself - that there is no satisfactory ending, no wrapping endings up. It just is, without the neatness that we instinctively want and expect.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Review: The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a fun read!

First of all, it starts off with a startling and intriguing first line, and the beginning of it does a good job at drawing you in with the action keeping you turning the pages.

This is a good way to do it, because after the breathlessness of the first bit, it does slow down just a tad, but not enough that my interest lagged. Alternative history can be tricky because it can be difficult to make it compelling and not just leave the reader going 'no, this doesn't make sense', but I didn't really find myself struggling to believe the historical events and how things were taking place.

I struggled a little bit with the acceptance presented in the books, both in terms of Elma's relationship with her husband on a feminist slant, and also the look at racial relations at the time. I *so* appreciate the feminist take and the attempt to make Elma a character who was more aware of the wrongs at the time - I'm just not sure how believable it is, and I can see how it might bother some people. To me it doesn't really tarnish the overall thrust or accomplishment of the book, but I'm just one person.

I would have liked to see more development of some of the background characters other than the antagonist, but by and large Elena is interesting enough and the plot fascinating enough that I was willing to overlook this. The book did remind me a little of a couple of disaster movies, but given the unique take presented here, it makes for some intriguing evaluations of the 'happy ending' presented in some and how accurate they were.

The thing that I liked most about this book, though, is that it's *smart*. It's about smart women and smart men working really hard to save our planet, and I really enjoyed that! I'm eager to pick up the next one.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

July Recap!

Hello August!! insane is that? I'm not sure I'm ready for it to be August, to be honest. This year seems to be both flying by and dragging, and whole years seem to pass in the span of a month with everything that happens. Our world is pretty crazy right now and over the last month I really turned to books as a sanctuary and distraction.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means that I did the following:

1. Finished 'Blueprint for Armageddon', Dan Carlin's awesome series on WWI.
2. Read two short stories
3. Read sixteen(!) books

The two short stories I read were Juice Like Wounds  by Seanan McGuire, and The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark.

I'll just quickly note here that 'The Golden Road' shouldn't really be in this picture. 'IT' I also finished yesterday, so I'm not counting it (ha) in July.

Highlights of the month were The Library Of The Unwritten by A. J Hackwith, The Monster Of Florence by Douglas Preston, The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben and Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. So fantasy, non-fiction, mystery and non-fiction. A nice mix, I'd say!

Overall it was a pretty strong month, I'd say, if also fairly eclectic.

Going into August, I'm hoping to read more fantasy novels, though currently I'm reading The Outsider by Stephen King and well, not so sure that counts! But there's still a lot of August left.

I hope all of you had a great reading month in July and hope you have great books ahead of you for August!

Review: IT by Stephen King

ItIt by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.

I remember reading this years ago, as a teenager, and occasionally I've thought of it - IT - again.

Of course, in part that's because Pennywise has become embedded in society's subconscious, in a way - a lot of people's fear of clowns would trace back to this book, I'm sure.

I decided to listen to the audiobook for this one because it was so highly rated, and I can see why. Derry really comes *alive* in listening to this, in a way that I don't think it would have had I just reread it plainly. Steven Weber did an absolutely phenomenal job and really added to the experience.

For me, this book really transcended the 'horror' genre. It's not 'just' horror, and I don't say that to denigrate horror, as it's one of my favourite genres and I think so much can be done within it. King has obviously built a work of art within the horror genre, here, but he's also done more than that. I say that because it really encompassed so much more than that. 'IT' is an examination of bullying, of 1950's American society, of racism and sexism and domestic violence, of relationships, of what it's like to grow up with parental abuse that isn't physical but is abuse nonetheless. And the monsters on these pages aren't always 'IT' - instead they're people just like you and me, people with evil within them.

'IT' is a book that is downright horrifying at times and creepy, but also - for me - incredibly moving, too. Towards the end I found myself on the verge of tears, because the book isn't just about horror and gore and that terror that wakes you in the middle of the night in sweaty and tangled bedsheets, it's also about friendship and bravery and love, a very powerful love. It's about the magic of childhood and why all of us love those movies so much, movies like Stand By Me and Now and Then and so many others. There's power in the magic of childhood, the memories that have a soft haze over them.

This probably would have been a five star book for me if not for the one scene towards the end. Even on a reread as an adult I'm not quite sure why King included it, though 'desire' seems to be a very important theme for him in this book. I have a ton of respect for King, but it still doesn't really work for me and detracted a bit from the story arc, imo. Perhaps he intended it to be a scene where Beverly reclaims her power and agency, but it still felt unnecessary.

All the same, this book has lodged itself on the list of favourites, for me. I can tell because there's part of me that wants to start reading it all over again.

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