Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Talk: My love-hate relationship with Neil Gaiman

Let me start off this post with a universal truth: Neil Gaiman is freaking brilliant, and his imagination is unparalleled.

There, now that that's out of the way, we can talk a little bit about why I have such a love-hate relationship with his books and stories. 

Some of his books are truly some of the most gorgeously written books I have ever read. They're so rich and full of fantastical creatures that I would never have been able to think of my own head; even cliche creatures like fairies and princes and every-day-nobodies all have some sort of endearing or terrifying twist that makes them seem fresh and new no matter how many times you've read that kind of story before. Stardust and Neverwhere are two of my favorite Neil Gaiman books, and Neverwhere is one of my favorite  books, period.

I also really liked the hilarious Anansi Boys, and I don't know if "liked" is the right word for how 3rd grade me felt about Coraline when our teacher read it out loud to us in class, but it definitely terrified me in the best way possible. I also adored Good Omens but my favorite parts were definitely the Terry Pratchett parts so I'm not sure that counts :)

And then there's the Neil Gaiman books I want to love but I just can't. I definitely appreciate American Gods. The concept is so interesting and brilliantly thought out. I've read it once, and it was quite an experience...it creeped the hell out of me but I really wanted to power through because I knew there would be a good payoff at the end. And there was! I tried re-reading it with Jessie over the past couple of weeks, and neither of us could make ourselves keep reading. 

Most of the time I can't wait to keep reading a book that I'm in the middle of, and I read books to keep myself sane when I'm studying for midterms or working on a really intense project. Somehow every time I thought of taking a break and reading American Gods, my brain flipped a switch and decided, Nope, let's just keep working. The book is just so creepy and makes your stomach roil and it's just not the kind of dark place I want to spend my time in.

Ocean at the End of the Lane was also a miss for me, but that one was mostly because I was bored and I just didn't get it. I can appreciate why so many other people love it, but I feel like maybe I'm too young to appreciate the nostalgia of childhood as much as some other readers because most of the time I feel like my childhood wasn't actually that far away. 

And then there's the Snow white retelling. One of my friends showed me a short story they read for a class (Snow, Glass, Apples), and I was really excited to read Snow White from the perspective of the villain. What I got was a dark, disturbing story that involved everything from necrophilia and pedophilia to incest. Also I think Snow White was supposed to be a vampire. It was TERRIFYING. Sometimes it scares me that Neil Gaiman's imagination goes into such dark places, because how disturbed do you have to be to come up with such disturbing images? But then I remember this is the same guy who wrote Neverwhere and Stardust, which both have their disturbing moments but are generally happy fairy tales.

I guess the books I have enjoyed have been on the lighter side of Neil Gaiman's terrifying imagination. Still, there's something to be said that even though I have loved and hated an almost equal number of books by him, if I ever see a new Neil Gaiman book, I'll probably read it. I don't really know what that says about me haha

Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with an author's books before? How do you feel about some of these Gaiman stories?

blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: His Majesty's Dragon

28876Title: His Majesty's Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire. 

Temeraire is so cool! Laurence...not so much.

I first heard of Naomi Novik a couple of years ago, and I put His Majesty's Dragon on my TBR pile. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get to it for a long time. Once I read (and loved) Uprooted last year, though, I just had to read her Temeraire series! HMD isn't quite as lushly written as Uprooted, but then again it isn't a fairy tale. They are just such different books that I'm not going to try and compare them.

HMD starts out with a ship captain, Will Laurence, trying to capture the treasure onboard a French ship. It turns out that treasure is an unhatched dragon egg, and Captain Laurence feels sorry for the unlucky fellow who will have to give up his respectable service in his Majesty's navy to go join the less well-respected Aerial corps. No prizes for guessing that Laurence himself is the one who has to leave his ship and his crew to go train a dragon.

I really loved how this book re-imagined the Napoleonic wars. It just makes so much sense that crews would fly dragons around to bomb other areas and wreak havoc on their enemies. It's almost like having your own intelligent fighter plane! But the dragons in this book are hardly treated like possessions. All of the dragons share a special bond and mutual respect with their handlers, except a select few. I really enjoyed getting to see how close the riders were with their dragons and among themselves.

This is above all a book about friendship, and Temeraire stole my heart. He's so inquisitive and intelligent, and intensely loyal. When Laurence tries to tell him that sometimes he'll have to make choices he doesn't want to in order to follow the king's orders, Temeraire refuses to obey anything that goes against his own heart. I'm excited to see how Temeraire grows and matures throughout the future books.

I wasn't a huge fan of Will Laurence. He was not only really, really dull, he also had so many annoying stereotypes in his head. For example, he tells a young girl in the corps that she can't go into town on her own at night because of "unsavory activities" that might befall her. I understand safety is an issue for young women in this particular historical context, but when the young woman is perfectly capable of handling herself, why be so condescending? Laurence is constantly making judgments about other people who aren't as rich or noble as him, who aren't as disciplined and courageous as him, who aren't manly men like him. It was pretty tiresome. He does grow more open-minded as the story progresses, so that was good.

There isn't much of a plot to this book; it's mostly just getting to know all the characters. There are some battles and a conspiracy or two, but don't expect nonstop action when you pick this up. I would definitely recommend it though, if only to experience a fictional friendship like no other!

 blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A-Z challenge update 1

It's been a couple of months since I updated my A-Z challenge, so here's how I've been doing! I've made quite a bit of progress without consciously trying to read certain letters, and I even managed to knock out a particularly difficult one (Q)! I'm just a little under halfway through, which is great because I still have 2/3 of the year to get to the other half :D

If anyone has recommendations for books that start with E, J, U, V, Y, or Z, please let me know!

A: And I Darken by Kiersten White (2/26)
B: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (2/8)
C: Court of Thieves by Kate Elliott (1/12)
D: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (4/3)
G: A Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1/22)
H: His Majesty's Dragon (3/30)
I: The Immortal Heights (1/5)
M: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (3/21)
O: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (3/12)
Q: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that cannot stop talking by Susan Cain (3/27)
R: Rook by Sharon Cameron (3/7)
S: Shadows of Self (1/3)
T: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights (1/31)

blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman
Genre: Science fiction, romance, young adult

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.
The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy. 

I'm not very impressed :/

I'll admit that when I first heard about this book, I was a little skeptical when I saw that flowing green dress on the cover. Flowing dresses on sci-fi book covers never ends well for me, but then I saw that almost everyone I knew who read this book ended up loving it, so I decided to give it a shot. Then there were alllll the reviews about how original this book was, how much science there was, how it was a survival story with a romance on the side instead of the other way around.


I think Emily May's review sums it up quite nicely: This is a romance novel, with a mysterious science fiction plot that only serves to progress their romance. There was hardly any worldbuilding, and most of the hazardous situations involved in the "survival on an alien planet" plot thread felt contrived (Oh, it's freezing, let's cuddle together for warmth because we're both beautiful people who don't have feelings for one another, nope!). I kept waiting for something actually terrifying to happen, or for the stakes to get raised, but they didn't until the very, very end and at that point I didn't care anymore.

Neither of the characters really captured my imagination or stole my heart. I couldn't care less about spoiled, selfish Lilac. Oh boo, you're the untouchable daughter of the richest man in the galaxy and all your friends are after your money and wealth, the horror. I did appreciate that she had some tricks up her sleeve (go women engineers!) but I just didn't like her. I didn't like Tarver either. His character was built around so many stereotypes and we were supposed to root for him despite his close-minded and stubborn attitude. I just couldn't get past the cardboard characters enough to care about what happened to them.

The "big stakes" reveal at the end was interesting, but I felt like the solution was too easy. There should have been way more consequences considering the nature of what they were dealing with. That just about sealed my opinion about this book: it's a romance novel pretending to be science fiction. Some people may really enjoy that, but that's the kind of book that's just not for me.

blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

TTT: Top Ten Recent Five Star Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: My Recent Top Ten Five Star Books

Not all of these are strictly 5 stars (some are 4.5) but they're all books I've read recently and would definitely recommend! I didn't want to go back further than December so I only have 8:


This is book 2 of the Farseer Trilogy. Robin Hobb writes slower plotted fantasy novels compared to most other series, but her characters are all so real and I end up having way more intense emotions than with most other fantasy books. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans!

This one is just so beautifully written and gorgeous but also terrifying and gory...it's one of the best retellings I've ever read! Plus Phantom of the Opera is just awesome source material.
This one isn't published yet, but it's fantastic. I loved the politics and the manipulations, but I also loved how broken and vengeful Lada is. She's not typical princess, that's for sure.
I just posted my full review of this, so you can read more about it there, but this book is absolutely brilliant and terrifying and heart-warming. All at once.

It's a Sanderson book. Need I say more? (What is with book 3s in series and being absolutely MINDBLOWING)

One of my favorite series endings. I adore Iolanthe and Titus, and Kashkari and all the rest :)

Another excellent series ending to an absolutely amazing series. Cyborg cinderella, a fierce Red riding hood, a coder/hacker genius Rapunzel, and a slightly deranged but earnest Snow White. This series is great.

If you like steampunk, you'll love this! Even if you don't like steampunk, I'm sure the characters will win you over

blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Scorpion Rules

11516221Title: The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Genre: Science fiction, young adult

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?
Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

There are a lot of science fiction books, especially YA science fiction books, that claim to be unique or thrilling or captivating or gorgeously written. Sometimes all of those descriptors are true, but usually I'm left raising my eyebrows at an over-enthusiastic publicist. Thankfully, this book really is extraordinarily unique, well-written, and thrilling. It's not at all what I was expecting, and I've never read anything else quite like it. I absolutely loved this book!

The Scorpion Rules takes place in a future where an AI has taken over the world and keeps messy human politics under control by holding the children of world leaders as hostages. When any political unit decides to declare war against another, the children of both parties are sacrificed. It's brutal, but effective; then again, sometimes the life of one person, however precious, may not be worth as much as the safety or well-being of a nation. The whole thing is one big mind game, one massive game of chicken with huge stakes. It's terrifying, but so brilliantly thought-through.

Most of the story takes place in the idyllic area where the child hostages are kept. They tend to goats, they harvest food from their garden, they read books, they crush apples to get juice...things aren't so bad. Until the apple crusher starts being used for things beside apples.

I hope that image is enough to pique your interest, because the entire first half really has nothing going on in terms of action or any real stakes. An event occurs right in the middle of the book that suddenly escalates the intensity and twists the story into directions I never anticipated. It was just so epic!

Besides the political manipulations and mind games, the book also gives you a lot to chew on with the AI element. Are cyborgs and AIs more machine or more human? Once human, always human? Who is really the brutal one here, the AIs or the humans? There's also some interesting commentary about the role of media in war and politics.

I haven't even begun talking about the characters, but I'll just leave you with the fact that the women are fierce as hell, the quiet characters have more to them than you'd expect at first glance, and the romance isn't what you'd expect based on the blurb but it's perfect for this story.

This book isn't afraid to deliver on its threats. This isn't a book where anyone really escapes unscathed, and it certainly doesn't have a nice, neat happy ending. I loved that about this book, but I can see how that isn't for everyone. I highly recommend this book if any of what I said sounds interesting to you!

 blog signature photo 4bf1c374-231a-40b6-8756-317f9308721c_zpsf45cae08.jpg
Follow on Bloglovin
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...