Home & Garden · Nonfiction

Our Native Bees – Paige Embry

5 stars

There’s so much more to the story than honey bees. In the last few years, at least for me, bees have been in the news more and more frequently. Bees dying! We’re all going to starve! No one knows how to stop colony collapse! Mites, fungus, and disease – oh my! And then, on the edges, I started hearing about mason bees. And then leafcutter bees. And then suddenly I owned a house, and keeping bees was suddenly something I could explore for more than just curiosity’s sake.

 

bees
Cover image from Goodreads

 

Our Native Bees by Paige Embry is a thoughtful introduction to some of the 4,000 bees native to the United States. Embry’s wry sense of humor and storytelling keeps this book from being a dry textbook recounting of bee facts and instead is an engaging book that will endear our tiny neighbors to anyone with a passing interest in our most efficient pollinators.

Embry’s book is full of anecdotes of bee hunting adventures and stunning photographs. From likely-extinct Franklin’s bumblebee to blue orchard bees, and even the ubiquitous European honey bee, Embry profiles the different species in such a way that I can’t help but want to install a mason bee house in my backyard as soon as the weather is appropriate.

In a wondrous turn of luck, Embry lives in Seattle, where I also live, so her personal beekeeping anecdotes are applicable directly to me, and where I live. In her section about blue orchard bees (also called mason bees), Embry references Crown Bees, a company based in Woodinville Washington, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and a company I’m already familiar with. Crown Bees is the company that kicked off my interest in mason and leafcutter bees, and where I intend to purchase my cocoons and supplies from this spring.

Along with profiling the different bees, Embry also outlines the many challenges facing our bees – natural and manmade.

A fascinating read for gardeners and bee enthusiasts alike, Our Native Bees is on sale February 7 from Timber Press.

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

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Fantasy · YA

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

5 stars

Oh, Readers that was good. Godsgrave is the second novel in Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight Chronicle and I just can’t wait for the third and final book to be released. I’m so mad that I have to wait for the next one.

 

Godsgrave
Cover from Goodreads

 

As in the first novel, Nevernight, Kristoff employs a dual storytelling structure, weaving past and present together, but Kristoff is a master of suspense and twists. I certainly didn’t see half of this book coming. Twist after surprising twist. Even when I thought I knew where things were going because of the dual storylines, I was surprised again and again.

Mia murders her way through any obstacle between her and her ultimate goal of retribution against the men who murdered her family – though something more is going on around her. The body count is high, and the pages bloody, but oh, the adventure is good. Mia isn’t a hero (or is she?) but it’s sure fun to follow her as she slits throats and takes no names as she climbs over literal mountains of bodies toward her goal. She might think she’s the spider at the center of the web, but others are pulling strings that she’s still unaware of.

Despite the violence and high body count, Kristoff finds room for raw vulnerability, emotional connection and even a little romance. An LGBTQ romance even! (And boy does Kristoff write some sexy scenes. I did a little face fanning here and there.)

The Nevernight Chronicle is a fully rounded dark fantasy like nothing else I’ve read.

Please, Jay Kristoff, WRITE BOOK THREE ALREADY!

 

 

Anthology · Fantasy · Science Fiction

Robots Vs. Fairies – Navah Wolfe & Dominik Parisien

4.5 stars

Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe edited and collected one of my favorite anthologies to date, The Starlit Wood so when I saw they were releasing another anthology together I just couldn’t wait – especially once I saw the title: Robots vs Fairies. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is gonna be goood!” and oh, was I right. Many of the stories are poignant and thoughtful. Many of them left me with things to sit and mentally chew on, as all the best do.

 

robots
Cover from Goodreads

 

Read on for brief reviews of individual stories. Or, go pick up a copy for yourself! Robots Vs. Fairies hit shelves January 9.

“Build me a Wonderland” by Seanan McGuire

Ahhhh this was such a great story to start off this anthology with! Fairies AND robots all mashed into one fantastic read. Seanan’s writing definitely shines in Build Me A Wonderland. Tightly written, I don’t feel like I need more of the story – I got exactly the right amount. A really strong beginning to this anthology.

“Quality Time” by Ken Liu

In “Quality Time” Ken Liu takes the time to explore the pitfalls of Silicon Valley’s philosophy that technology can solve anything. How does solving one problem create other problems? Can you take a solution too far? I enjoyed Liu’s exploration of these questions and the world he built.

“Murmured Under the Moon” by Tim Pratt

I really liked the concept of this story, but had a real problem with the dialog. It came across as stilted and amateurish, which is surprising from an author as published as Pratt. I love stories of libraries, and enjoyed Pratt’s story, aside from the strange dialog.

“The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto” by Annalee Newitz

An interesting exploration of moderate vs extreme points of view on social injustice, through the lens of robotics and Pinnocchio. Thought provoking.

“Bread and Milk and Salt” by Sarah Gailey

Dark and bloody, as I understand is typical of Gailey’s writing. The ending, while disturbing was satisfying. “Be careful what you wish for” goes both ways.

“Ironheart” by Jonathan Maberry

At its heart, Ironheart is heartbreaking take on how badly we fail our veterans in the U.S. Mix in some robotic magic and you’ve got a moving story with heart. There were definitely tears in my eyes.

“Just Another Love Song” by Kat Howard

Yes, yes and yes. What a story. Play Regina Spektor’s “Love Song” on repeat while you read this one.

“Sound and Fury” Mary Robinette Kowal

A fun space adventure containing one giant robot and much eyerolling. The eyerolling was not on my part. I really enjoyed the exhausted snark of the crew.

“The Bookcase Expedition” by Jeffrey Ford

I enjoyed it, but Ford himself admits it’s not really a fairy story in his author’s note following the story. I struggled to keep my attention on this one.

“Work Shadow/Shadow Work” by Madeline Ashby

I really enjoyed this one. When robots are sufficiently advanced to be called AI, what separates them from humans – do they have souls? Does it matter?

“Second to the Left, and Straight on” by Jim C. Hines

As you might be able to tell, Hines’ story is a take on the classic Peter Pan story, but in wonderful Hines fashion he twists the familiar tale into something new. A heartwrenching, stunning story.

“The Buried Giants” by Lavie Tidhar

This one was a bit weird. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I got Truman Show vibes from parts of it.

“Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind from the Era of Humans for the First Time” by John Scalzi

Hilarious! I literally laughed out loud at the end. That’s all I need to say.

“Ostentation of Peacocks” by Delilah S. Dawson/Lila Bowen

Somehow, I’ve never imagined a fairy western before, but after reading this, I’m surprised there aren’t more of them, but now I want more.

“All the Time We’ve Left to Spend” by Alyssa Wong

Heartbreaking and kind of disturbing in a gorgeous way. Celebrity replica robots but not one the way you expect.

“Adriftica” by Maria Dahvana Headley

A retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream mashed up with rock and roll. A really fun retelling.

“To A Cloven Pine” by Max Gladstone

A chaotic, robotic reimagination of The Tempest that is going to haunt me for days. Magical, even though Max is on Team Robot.

“A Fall Counts Anywhere” by Catherynne M. Valente

Literally Robots vs Fairies in a bloody deathmatch! The introduction to this story was too long, and capslock can be hard to read for such long chunks. Unfortunately, Valente managed to make even a deathmatch boring. A really weak ending to an otherwise fantastic anthology.

I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

That Reading Life

Reading Challenges for 2018!

In an effort to round out my reading and tackle my TBR, I’m participating in a number of reading challenges for 2018.

First, I’m hosting the Literary (&) Lacquers Reading Bingo, over in the Literary Lacquers facebook fan group. This reading bingo will run all year long. Once a month, within the group, I’ll post a check-in thread.

Literary Lacquers 2018 Reading Bingo.jpg

I hit my 2017 Goodreads Challenge goal of 150, so I’ve set my Goodreads Challenge to 175 books in 2018, 25 books more than I read in 2017.

I’m also participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge and Popsugar’s Reading Challenge. I tried to do both of those last year, and only made it through a little over half of each, so this year I’m hoping to actually finish one, if not both.

In addition to these reading challenges, look for the first post in my buddy read of The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone with Marzie’s Reads and Wishful Thinking coming later this month! We’ere starting with Three Parts Dead, the third book chronologically, but first of the series to be published. We’re reading one book in the series each month – feel free to join in!

Finally, it’s not exactly an official “challenge” but I’m once again participating in the nominations and voting for the Hugo Awards, so I will be challenged to read as many of the nominated works as I possibly can.

Are you doing any reading challenges in 2018?

That Reading Life

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Readers!

2017 has come and gone, and it has been one of the busiest, craziest years on record for me. I started off the year with my husband undergoing some serious eye surgery, met an internet friend in real life, found myself in the surprising situation of buying a house, moving, adopting a kitten, drowning in yard work, and among so many other things – starting this little blog.

Thanks for being here with me, Readers! As 2018 kicks off, I’m looking forward to even more reading with you!

I like to start the year off by setting a few goals for myself. In 2018, I’m planning to:

  • Beat my 2017 Goodreads goal of 150 books and hit 175.
  • Complete the Literary (&) Lacquers book bingo I’m hosting.
  • Knock out at least 15 books on my TBR list from before 2018.
  • Keep up with the buddy read of The Craft Sequence I’m doing with Marzie’s Reads and WishfulThinking129. (Starting this month!)
  • Blog more regularly.
  • Host additional giveaways!

Do you have any reading #goals for 2018? Share them in the comments!

Fantasy

The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

2.5 Stars

The Hazel Wood is a standalone dark portal fantasy by Melissa Albert. The book has a *gorgeous* cover that I couldn’t resist!

 

hazel wood
Cover image from Goodreads

 

The synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

I love portal fantasies, and I love retellings of Alice in Wonderland. I love dark fantasy, and stories that mash together things that are familiar and produce something surprising and fresh with them.

Based on the synopsis from Goodreads/the publisher and all those things that I love, I should have loved The Hazel Wood. Instead, I finished the book and thought to myself “Thank god that’s over now.”

I have mixed feelings about the book. On the one hand, I liked some of the relationships in the book. Alice and her step-sister Audrey, Alice and her mother – those were interesting, flawed relationships. On the other hand, The Hazel Wood felt like a manic-pixie-dreamgirl version of the synopsis. It was both dark and fluffy, with no real emotional impact and predictable even with some hidden surprises along the way.

I was hoping for another Uprooted or something that made me feel like the Wayward Children series does – but instead, I just felt disappointed.

The Hazel Wood hits shelves January 30, 2018.

I received an eARC of The Hazel Wood from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · historical fiction

Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness

4 Stars

Shadow of Night is the second book in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy and finally loses the Twilight vibes from the first novel.

 

shadow of night
Cover from Goodreads

 

Setting the novel in 1590 in Tudor London, and largely focusing the narrative on witches helped Shadow of Night shake off the modern shackles of the sparkly, obsessive, stalkerish Edward Cullen and give Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop their own space in the genre.

Shadow of Night is a strong second novel, and avoids “middle story syndrome.” Too many novels or movies in the middle of a trilogy fail to actually accomplish anything in the book. There’s often a lot of running about while making no real progress toward the story’s end goal. That is not the case here. While Ashmole 782 still holds its’ mysteries, Diana and Matthew accomplish a great deal in Tudor England and Europe.

As with the first novel, I listened to Shadow of Night as an audiobook read by Jennifer Ikeda, and once again her narration was spot on. Ikeda’s inflection and voices are just lovely, and I fully plan to listen to the trilogy’s third book instead of reading it.