Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sci-Fi month: Science fiction from around the world

We talk about how the fantasy genre is dominated by European-inspired medieval castles and knights and princesses, but I think we take it for granted that most of the science fiction genre is very Euro-centric and focused on the western world. Although science fiction is growing to be more inclusive and include people of color, a lot of the times the setting and culture is still very much a reflection of America or Europe. I have found a few gems that are inspired by other cultures, though, and I wanted to share them! I'll also have some honorable mentions for the books that include characters of multiple cultures even if the overall setting is still western.

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin's Fifth season draws a lot of its cultural inspiration from Africa. Skin tones of people vary from dark brown to alabaster, but the majority of the characters are people of color. The villages in this book are described in such a way that the village of my great grandparents in India came to mind, instead of the usual quaint European village tucked away in the hills complete with a milk maid and a baker. This book sort of straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, but I like to think of it as science fiction because it seems like it could be a future version of our own world after some sort of post-apocalyptic natural disaster. The non-linear story telling is a treat, and putting the puzzle pieces together makes this book very rewarding!

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

If you haven't heard of Cinder, you've been living under a rock! Cinder mostly takes place in New Beijing, a futuristic re-imagining of the capital of the Asian Commonwealth. Besides being an awesome and entertaining story featuring a cyborg mechanic and an evil alien queen, it has a lot of little cultural details and flourishes that make the reading experience even more immersive.

3. The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
This book was a lot of fun, featuring a half-Indian main character and set in a futuristic version of India. It's so rare to see India represented in science fiction, since people usually associate India with ancient palaces and magic, not futuristic technology. 

4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of my favorite books, but I don't think I could survive reading it a second time! This book is brutal and dark, and you can't help but feel devastated when bad things inevitably happen to the characters you've come to love. This book is set in Thailand, and genetic engineering/bioengineering is a huge focus, but it's definitely more about the characters and the state of humanity in crisis than anything else.

5. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Feudal Japan, but steampunk! If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what to tell you. Rest assured that this book is full of blood and magic and pain, incredible friends, family with complicated relationships, and manipulative bastards.

Honorable mentions
1. Partials by Dan Wells

Set in post-apocalyptic America, but for once the survivors actually represent the cultural and ethnic diversity of our country!

2. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
When the moon breaks apart and people panic, the whole world is involved in the effort to save humanity. Thankfully that's reflected in the diversity of the cast, although later on in the book society becomes mostly Russian and English-speaking. Let's be real, take a hint from Firefly...we all know it would actually be Chinese and English!

That's all for now, I really wish I could share more with you but it's so hard to find non-western science fiction!! If you have any recommendations that I missed, please let me know :)
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Monday, November 6, 2017

Sci-fi month: A Newbie's Guide to Graphic Novels

I'm pretty new to the graphic novel/comic book scene. I was never a comic book collector when I was a kid, and I was just so overwhelmed about figuring out where to start that I didn't get into graphic novels until last year!

One of the things that make graphic novels harder to break into is how interconnected a lot of different series are. Especially with DC and Marvel superhero comics, there are so many cross-overs and reincarnations and references to past volumes and events happening in other series. I still haven't quite figured all of that out yet (like I said, I'm still new!) but I have found other comics that are more newbie friendly!

Here are my recommendations for standalone graphic novels and entrypoint series without a lot of cross-overs! I've enjoyed them all and I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much.

I absolutely love this series! I have only read the first volume so far, but I am really excited to keep reading. It has amazing art and lots of incredible characters and worlds, and best of all you don't need any prior knowledge of the universe to get started!
This was the first graphic novel I ever read, and it definitely lived up to the hype. It's such an incredible story, with a lot of morally ambiguous characters and superheroes that may not be as "heroic" as we'd like to think. Plus it's a standalone, so it's a great place to start.
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The Flash: Rebirth #1
I wanted to read the Flash comics since I really enjoy the TV show. The latest DC Rebirth universe was a little confusing without having read anything previously, but I thought it was a pretty good place to start. You just have to read DC Universe Rebirth #1 before The Flash: Rebirth volume, which wasn't too bad! A more comprehensive guide to the DC Rebirth universe here
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One of my friends recommended Bone to me, and the premise sounded kind of silly. Little creatures made of bones having adventures in the woods? Um..
But the story is actually really intricate and intriguing. Things get intense really quickly, but there's always a good mix of humor and what's-happening-I-can't-put-this-book-down. Featuring some badass ladies and adorable bone-creatures, this story was a lot of fun!
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Paper Girls
Disclaimer: I haven't actually read this one yet, but it's by the same writer as Saga (Brian Vaughan) so I'm positive it will be just as amazing. Like Saga, it's a series that doesn't tie into any others, so it's great for newbies.
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Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel was a great entry-point into the Marvel universe for me. I'd only seen the Marvel movies and a couple of TV shows, but never read any comics. Ms. Marvel ties into a few other series like Spiderman and X-men, but it isn't too confusing for a newbie reader because Kamala Khan is figuring everything out too!
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Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, so naturally I wanted to check out his comic series once I'd read most of his novels. Sandman is really dark, but it's full of the same sort of creativity and imagination that makes Gaiman's novels so good! I haven't read all 10 yet, but I hear they tell an incredible overarching story. It's a little confusing to figure out the order of the volumes, so I would recommend looking at this post for more information on the different spin-off series and reading order.
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V for Vendetta
This is one of my favorite movies, and I wanted to check out the source material (especially since it's written by Alan Moore, the same brilliant mind behind Watchmen). It was different from the movie for sure, but absolutely worth a read!
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Saturday, November 4, 2017

I'm back..for RR Sci Fi Month!

It's been a while, but here I am!

Grad school has been really intense, and I've had so many panic attacks/super anxious days because I've been so stressed and overwhelmed while I adjusted, so blogging took a backseat. Despite the mental health challenges, I am really glad I'm here, I'm learning so much, and I've made really great friends! I just set up a blog post reminder alarm on my phone so every week I get a nudge to put something up :) Honestly half the reason I haven't posted in over a month is because I was so overwhelmed with school and research that I just completely forgot about setting aside time for blogging.

I'm really excited about #RRSciFiMonth though, so here I am! I'm gonna try and keep commitment low and have 1 sci-fi post per week so I don't add to my stress level, but if I get really excited and have more ideas I'll put them up! I really want to do a buzzfeed-style quiz, we'll see if I have time to put one together :)

Here are a few post ideas I have right now:

1) A Newbie's guide to getting into graphic novels
2) Marvel VS DC: my favorite superhero TV shows
3) Recs for Non-Western Sci-Fi
4) Awesome Sci-fi podcasts

and if I get my act together, hopefully some sci-fi reviews sprinkled in throughout the month as well :D
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: Now I Rise

22817331Title: Now I Rise
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Historical fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.
After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

I never found the era of Constantinople and the rise of the Ottoman Empire to be particularly interesting, so I am honestly amazed by how much this story made me want to find out more about this time period in history. As in the first book, the three main characters are very compelling, with even more complicated and tangled personal and political relationships. I loved seeing how people reacted when their personal and political loyalties were in conflict, it makes for very interesting insight into what is most important to that character.

The first book was mainly Lada's story, but this one seems to focus more on Radu. Lada has left Mehmet on her quest to reclaim Wallachia, but things aren't as straightforward for an ambitious woman compared to a man with the same goals. I loved how Lada's lust for power and drive to be a leader in her own right were portrayed; she's flawed and proud and sometimes naive, but she is also fearless and will not step down because she doesn't meet men's expectations of who a woman should be. I also loved that she had more interactions with other women in this book.

Radu's story stole the show for me! He is still confronting his feelings about Mehmet and weighing them against his political usefulness. Radu has to make a lot of hard choices, and without Lada to help him out, he really comes into his own as a leader. He does have Nazira though, and she is easily one of my favorite characters in this series. She is intelligent, compassionate, and incredibly courageous. She is an invaluable asset to Radu, but she's also just such a lovely person and I was rooting for her happy ending the entire time. The second half of the book, which puts Radu and Nazira in an entirely new environment, was so emotionally painful! I didn't know who to root for, and it felt like no matter how things turned out, I would be really upset.

I was so captivated by the rich world and intriguing, flawed characters and their messy relationships in book 1, and I was worried that the second book wouldn't have too much more to add. I was sorely mistaken, and I really enjoyed seeing all the new layers to our characters and their political machinations. This book raised the stakes immensely without feeling like a "middle book", but I cannot wait to see how things play out in book 3!

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kerrytown Book Festival

I moved to Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago for grad school, and it's so different here compared to LA (where I've lived for the last 5 years). Everything is so much quieter in Ann Arbor...well, except the freight trains that insist on honking as they go past. I like that it's a smaller town, and obviously because it's such a college town there are plenty of coffee shops and bookstores :)

Last weekend was the annual Kerrytown book festival, which I found out about quite on accident as I walked down Main street. It was a really cute little festival, with about 50 booths ranging from indie bookstores to stationary/journal booths to art prints to bookish swag. I guess that's actually quite a bit, but having been to the LA Times Festival of Books in the spring, this one seemed tiny by comparison!


I got some awesome bookish magnets and bookmarks, and business cards from people who make bookish stuff. One of the business cards was stylized as a library due date slip, which I thought was really cute! They did not pay me to publicize them or anything, I just thought their card + stuff was really cute:

Also saw some cute art prints of the Star Wars ladies ("May the FIERCE be with you", online here) which I almost bought but didn't because broke grad student + I'd already bought some other stuff at the fair.

The one book I bought at the fair was the first volume of Saga from an indie comic book shop. I asked for comic recommendations and the guy just handed me Saga and said he hasn't met anyone who didn't love it (spoiler alert, I loved it). He also recommended Habibi, which I got from the library later on because it was super gorgeous but I just couldn't afford it at the moment.

All in all, a few hours well spent at the book festival! I'm hoping to make it out to some author events too. Literati cafe has Jeffrey Eugenides and Celeste Ng coming out later this month, and I've liked but not loved their books. I think it would still be cool to hear them talk about what makes them tick though! We'll see how much of my life research + homework eats up.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SFF Reading Challenge: Update 4

I think I'm doing pretty well on the reading challenge, I have 6 books and 4 1/2 months left. The manga and the novella will probably be quick, so as long as the books I'm planning on reading are available at the library, I'm golden! (Watch me still struggle to finish the last few books in December LOL)

I've read 3 more books for the challenge since my last update. I finally read Library of Fates, a book I've been meaning to read for ages! I also read Foundation, a book that I read in middle school and completely forgot about. And Persepolis, a comic book I've wanted to read for years but could never find at the library until this month. All three books were awesome!

I also finally planned all the books I'm going to read for the rest of the challenge. I was really excited about getting approved for 27 Hours on NetGalley because that was one of my crowdsourced twitter recommendations for a book with an Ace/Aro character. The only other book I've read with an Ace character is Quicksilver (featuring Tori), and I'm always looking to broaden my perspectives and support authors who bring diversity in their books. The other planned books are in gray below.

Purple books are ones I've finished since the last update, black books are ones I finished earlier this year, and the ones in gray are books I'm planning on reading for the challenge. 

1) Fairy tale retelling: Miranda and Caliban by  Jacqueline Carey - A retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest

2) Historical Fantasy: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear - an alternate history/fantasy based on Mongolia in the time of Genghis Khan

3) NPR top 100 books: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

4) non-British Steampunk: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - Russian/Scandinavian steampunk? 

5) Crossed with another genre: The City & The City by China Mieville - a police procedural mystery story that's also sort of sci-fi

6) Manga: Either Death Note or Ghost in the Shell, whichever one is at the library when I go next :)

7) Comic book: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

8) Urban Fantasy: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

9) A classic: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

10) Superheroes: Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

12) Sci-fi western: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

13) earth-based sci-fi: Station Eleven by  Emily St. John Mandel - a beautiful post-apocalyptic story about how people find their humanity after the end of the world

14) A Sci-fi with aliens: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel - ALIEN ROBOTS EVEN BETTER

15) Non-White culture fantasy: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

16) POC MCs: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - multiple POC main characters, including Moira, Doc, and Ivy. Extra glad that Asian POCs were featured!

17) LGBTQIA+ MC: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Greta is bisexual, and some supporting characters are queer as well)

18) Ace/Aro character: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

19) POC author: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - loved this anthology!

20) M/M Romance: A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab - Rhys and Alucard are THE OTP

21) F/F Romance: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley - it would be spoilery to say who ;)

22) Pub 2016: Empire of Storms by SJ Maas - another epic love-hate installment of the Throne of Glass series haha

24) Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

#TRQ final update

The Reading Quest ends tonight! I don't think I'll be binge-reading anything before the night is out, so I figured I would put up my final stats now!

So I ended up at Level 5 with 200 XP! I also had 330 HP by the end of the challenge. I finished the Mage quest, just like I planned, but I only finished 1 book of the Knight quest. I did read a couple of books for side quests though. Here's a list of all the books I completed for the challenge:

One word title: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Contains Magic: Flame in the Mist by Renee Adieh
Mythology: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
First Book in a series: Persepolis (part 1) by Marjane Satrapi
Different World: ACOWAR by SJ Maas

Verb in title: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Respawn (previously DNF) - The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Animal Companion (animal in title) - The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
Mini-Game (poetry/graphic novel) - The Complete Works of Maya Angelou
Open - Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

I'm pretty happy with how I did for this challenge. I normally would have been able to squeeze another book or two in, but moving across the country and starting grad school kind of threw a wrench in my normal reading habits LOL

I had a lot of fun with this challenge, though, and it really pushed me to finally read those books by POC that have been on my TBR forever. Now I have an even bigger list of books by marginalized authors or featuring POC/LGBTQIA characters, so I'm excited to get to those!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TTT: Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Were Totally Worth It

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's theme: Top Ten Books I struggled with but were totally worth it in the end

Foundation – Isaac Asimov
This story takes place over a century, and it's more like a short story for every era. I always have a hard time connecting with characters immediately, so it was hard to keep re-setting every 50 or so pages, but overall it was an awesome story!

 Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
I haven't re-read to confirm, but this is perhaps the only Sanderson book I dislike. It was really slow and angsty, but the ending was INCREDIBLY MINDBLOWING and book 3 made it more than worth it.
The Queen of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner
It took me until I re-read this book to fall in love with it, the first time I just found it dull. But that's just because I was being a lazy reader and not paying attention to the subtle threads MWT was weaving together :)

The Tiger's Daughter - K Arsenault Rivera
I love the structure of this book in retrospect, but at first the fact that most of the book is in the form of letters addressed to "you" really threw me off. I eventually got used to it, and loved the story and characters.

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
I had to read the first 50 pages twice before I figured out what was even going on, but this book was so worth the effort! Definitely made me think about my assumptions about gender, but also it was just a really cool, non-linear sci-fi story.

This Savage Song - VE Schwab
I really have no idea why it was so hard for me to get into this book, but the voices of the characters in my head were too whiny. So after reading the first 50 pages three times, I picked up the audiobook, and promptly loved the characters and their incredible journey.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
There wasn't anything particularly difficult to get through with this book besides its incredible length. At around 1200 pages, it was a workout just to hold the book open! But this was a highly entertaining classic by an author whose work I really enjoy.

Empire of Storms - SJ Maas
For about 80% of this book, I was rolling my eyes. I honestly just wanted to read about Dorian and Manon, forget Aelin and the rest. And then somehow SJ Maas managed to make all that go out the window with an incredibly emotional final 100ish pages. I was really excited to see the epic scope of the series grow and see how many plot lines converged at last.
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An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir
I freaking hate Laia. She's so powerless and whiney and gorgeous but doesn't think so and just ugh. But the world was captivating and the other characters (especially in book 2) made it more than worth putting up with Laia.
Image result for jonathan strange and mr norrell 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
I really struggled with the slow pace of this book, especially with the incredible amount of footnotes. Once the second half of the story picked up, though, I was hooked. This book was magical and captivating, and watching the BBC mini-series has cemented it as one of my favorite fantasy books.

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