Fantasy · Horror · Science Fiction

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire Buddy Read Part 2

Middlegame is the latest release by Seanan McGuire and is absolutely amazing. You need to read it. That is all. That is my whole review. READ IT.

Cover from Goodreads

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

Below, is part two of my buddy read and discussion with Marzie’s Reads, and friend of the blog Janelle. ****THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS. If you have not read Middlegame, stop, go read it, and then come back. THERE ARE ALL OF THE SPOILERS BELOW.****** You can read Part One here.

Alex: Jumping back into the story, I really liked the cat that wouldn’t die, Old Bill. He was a great little flavor. And I really liked how we saw Roger and Dodger at different points in their lives.

Janelle: Yes! The cat!

Marzie: That was awesome with the cat, yes. It’s interesting about Roger and Dodger. You know our two oldest kids are twins. They’ve had periods of time where they’ve barely spoken for a year or more (because of fights) and then they just mysteriously reconnect. That reconnection she wrote between them, again and again, felt so real to me based on what I see with our kids.

Alex:I think people will like hearing that – I saw some questions on GR about the twin representation, and whether or not it was going to be any good.  Speaking of which, did anyone notice the lack of representation in this book? Seanan is so good about that usually, that it kind of bothered me that the only rep I saw was Smita, who took their blood. Everyone else was kind of white, straight, and cis.

Janelle: I did notice that, actually.

Marzie: I thought it was a little weird, really, for her. Yes and Smita, the only POC, got Erin-ed. Yikes.

Alex: The absence was jarring, since Seanan is usually so good at making that seamless and feel like we’re in a real place with real people.

Marzie: It has to be very deliberate. But it did feel odd. Seanan never does anything by chance with her craft, so she must have had reasons for writing it without a lot of diversity.

Alex: I can’t imagine what reason she’d have for writing such a homogenous book as this. Other than she expected a lot of people would die, and didn’t want to be accused of killing all the rep off?

Marzie: And as it is, she did kill Smita.

Janelle: I’d really like to mention that the way they chose to terrify Roger into not contacting Dodger felt real enough to be heartbreaking. I felt like it happens to so many children. Not on such a high level, but I think most of us reading this have had moments of being gaslit by adults. It felt very abusive. It was one of the more real, horrific moments in the story for me.

Alex: Oh god, yes. I felt for him so deeply then. It was one of the times I cried while reading. I was crushed when Dodger didn’t seem to understand his reasons. That feeling of unfairness that you made a decision with good reasons, good intentions, but you still hurt people and your intentions don’t get you a pass was just seeping off the page.

Marzie: I had to take a break there the first time I read it. It felt like a perfect example of manipulating a child to me, after all my years doing child welfare stuff. So awful and so very real. The way adults can manipulate children with fear of losing their family is searing.

Janelle: Exactly. “If you tell what I do to you, your whole family will be taken away from you.”

Marzie: It was pretty much that, yes, and again made me think of organized religions that have abuse problems with children. That kind of power is frightening and so easily can become abusive. But as much as I cried for Roger, I felt much worse for Dodger who had no idea of what happened. Roger had his family but Dodger lost her line to the world in a way.

Janelle: I felt for both of them. It was crushing.

Marzie: So I’m really curious to see if this book has changed Seanan as a writer. Like, can she write just Seanan or just Mira in the same way now?

Janelle: I guess we’ll find out with The Unkindest Tide.

Alex: Or maybe sooner, with the Shadow of Spindrift House.

Marzie: Yes, and I was so struck by the Spindrift chapter title in Middlegame. It’s not a common word and even if there was no connection, it has me thinking that this book has percolated through both her author personas.

Alex: I totally missed that! On another note, if you could have the powers of Language or the powers of Math, which would you choose?

Janelle: God. Tough question. I’ve always felt a kinship with language, but feel so stupid about math. Part of me wants to choose math so I could see it. Intellectually, I understand how beautiful a proof can be, but I don’t get it.

Marzie: I’d choose math because it IS as language to me. It’s a universal language like music.

Alex: I am all about the language. The right language can solve so many problems. I would like to just be able to tell the universe how to be.

Marzie: But the right language is math! Trust me. Aliens speak math.

Alex: But math describes how the universe IS. I want to tell it what it SHOULD be instead. And Roger is a polyglot by the end, speaking all the languages he wants. Why should alien languages be any different?

Marzie: But human languages describe what is and what can be just as math does. And Dodger creates things with math that Roger cannot. Like more time. Math allowed her to manipulate reality in a way Roger cannot.

Alex: I am not arguing that math isn’t a language. If we follow that logic, then language powers include math powers and then you get cake and eating it too and that is beyond the point of this very silly question. 😛

Marzie: It’s not a silly question! It was certainly important to separate the two to James Reed, for instance, so….

Alex: It is because I asked it in a silly spirit 😉

Janelle: I choose math. I made my choice. When do I get to become Dodger? Isn’t that what you were offering?

Marzie: Sigh. Now Alex will just have to tell us how to remake the world and time.

Alex: *cackles* there is that. What is a gun without a trigger but a state of frustration?

Marzie: Seriously there were times reading this when I realized that I have felt like a cuckoo at times. Within my family, I mean. Maybe we are all Cuckoos.

Alex: Seanan has a serious Cuckoo theme going on right now. In the X-Men, in Middlegame, in InCryptid. She does tend to interrogate the same subjects over and over and over for a while.

Marzie: It’s a rich trope to mine!

Janelle: Now I’m picturing Seanan shining a light in some poor trope’s eyes, demanding it tell her EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. “I know you’ve still got more for me. I can do this all night.”

Alex: I mean she kinda did that in Indexing. A few times.

Marzie: Janelle that cracks me up! But yes, Alex, it’s like this is a culmination of a lot of things she’s explored in other books or comics.

Alex: It’s part of what makes Middlegame feel so familiar, and yet be still groundbreaking. If you had handed me this book blind and without context or cover and didn’t tell me who wrote it I still would have been able to tell you it was Seanan. I might have guessed Mira first, but I’d have known it was her. It’s *SO* her.

Janelle: I feel like I would’ve known her as well. The voice is more sophisticated, but it’s still her.

Marzie: Well, I’d have known from that Vixy quote, but yes, it’s unmistakably hers. So any other thoughts than, “please ma’am, some more?”

Alex: I want to shove this book into people’s hands. It’s not like Wayward where I feel that it should be required reading for every human, but it’s very good and I think people will really enjoy it once they pick it up. It’s definitely in my top 5 Seanan/Mira books.

Marzie: It’s very thought-provoking stuff to me. I really hope it’s widely read, too. I honestly think it’s one of the best things she’s written and I hold the Newsflesh books and the Wayward books in pretty darn high regard.

Janelle: There’s just so much in it. From child abuse, to sibling relationships, to love of language and math… there is a lot to process in it, and it’s told so engagingly that I think it really ought to find a wide audience.

Marzie: I have to mention that I have such love for the way she wrote Dodger and her mathematical abilities. That passage where she solves the Monroe problem and then turns around and is later suicidal because she can’t solve herself, her situation, her role. Just wow. We’re seeing so many great stories about women in science and math right now, and Dodger, even though she’s an alchemical construct, is one of these.

Alex: So are we all talked out for right now?

Marzie: Yes, because I’m busy downloading the audiobook. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to listen to it. But Janelle, thanks so much for discussing the book with us!

Janelle: Thank you, Marzie! Any idea if you two want to do another buddy read with me again?

Marzie: I’d love to, Janelle.Alex: I am open to another buddy read, too, depending on what we choose.

Fantasy · Graphic Novel

Blog Tour: The Dysasters by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast

Dysasters Graphic 2

THE DYSASTERS

By P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Published by Wednesday Books

On Sale: February 26, 2019

Available in Hardcover, eBook, and Audio

Casts_The Dysasters.jpgP.C. and Kristin Cast, the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of the House of Night phenomenon, return to the scene with The Dysasters—the first action-packed novel in a new paranormal fantasy series.

Adoptive daughter of a gifted scientist, Foster Stewart doesn’t live a “normal” life, (not that she’d want to). But controlling cloud formations and seeing airwaves aren’t things most eighteen year olds can do.

Small town star quarterback and quintessential dreamy boy next door, Tate “Nighthawk” Taylor has never thought much about his extra abilities. Sure, his night vision comes in handy during games, but who wouldn’t want that extra edge?

From the moment Foster and Tate collide, their worlds spiral and a deadly tornado forces them to work together, fully awakening their not-so-natural ability – the power to control air.

As they each deal with the tragic loss of loved ones, they’re caught by another devastating blow – they are the first in a group of teens genetically manipulated before birth to bond with the elements, and worse… they’re being hunted.

Now, Foster and Tate must fight to control their abilities as they learn of their past, how they came to be, who’s following them, and what tomorrow will bring… more DYSASTERS?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

#1 New York Times & #1 USA Today bestselling author P.C. Cast was born in the Midwest, and, after her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Booksellers’ Best, and many, many more. Ms. Cast is an experienced teacher and talented speaker who lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.

Kristin Cast is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author who teams with her mother to write the wildly successful House of Night series. She has editorial credits, a thriving t-shirt line, and a passion for all things paranormal. When away from her writing desk, Kristin loves going on adventures with her friends, family, and significant other, playing with her dogs (Grace Kelly and Hobbs the Tiny Dragon), and is currently obsessed with her baby.

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dysasters-P-C-Cast/dp/1250141044

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Dysasters-Audiobook/B076XQ72M5

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dysasters-p-c-cast/1127202690?#/

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Dysasters/P-C-Cast/9781250141040

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/P_C_Cast_The_Dysasters?id=dfQ4DwAAQBAJ

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/cy/book/the-dysasters/id1300201444

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250141040

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-dysasters

SWEEPSTAKES

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 20 hardcover copies!  Winners will be selected at random.

https://read.macmillan.com/promo/thedysastersblogtoursweepstakes

Abbreviated Rules: No purchase necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia or Canada (excluding Quebec) who are age 13 years of age or older. Entry period begins at 12:00 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, February 24, 2019 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://read.macmillan.com/promo/thedysastersblogtoursweepstakes. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, 175 5th Ave 10010.

Check back next month for my review! 

 

Science Fiction

The City in the Middle of the Night – Charlie Jane Anders *GIVEAWAY*

4 Stars

The City in the Middle of the Night is an ambitious science fiction novel from All the Birds in the Sky author Charlie Jane Anders.

37534907.jpg“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

The City in the Middle of the Night is a deft examination of power, rebellion, love, grief and finding your place in things.

Sophie is quiet, self-sacrificing and hard working. She’s dealt a hard hand of cards and she does her best to make the right plays. She is eternally hopeful, eking out the best life she can in any situation she’s in. The gentlest soul surprises everyone.

Mouth just wants to know how she fits into things, and to keep moving. She’s chasing her past in hopes of giving her future meaning, all the while she’s trying to survive as the last of her kind.

Bianca is a study in power, and all the ways that power is never what it’s expected to be.

The crocodiles are a fascinating element in the story, grotesque, gentle, communal and kind and everything humanity can never hope to be.

The City in the Middle of the Night is not an intense read, moving at a nice jog throughout. Anders has paced the novel impeccably, with no parts dragging unnecessarily. It’s not a fast-paced page-turner either. I found myself putting the book down frequently so I could mull over what had just happened, but then eagerly picking it back up again to keep going.

The City in the Middle of the Night also shows how much Anders has grown as a writer. I hated her earlier novel, All the Birds in the Sky. I found the writing to be almost condescending and couldn’t finish. But The City in the Middle of the Night strikes the right chord, and Anders’ skill as a writer has matured beautifully.

The City in the Middle of the Night is on shelves now!

Now, the giveaway!

I am giving away my ARC copy of The City in the Middle of the Night! To enter, follow this blog and leave a comment on this post by Friday, March 1 at 11:59am, making sure to include your email address in the email field so I can contact the winner. Comments must answer the following question: what book are you most looking forward to in 2019? 

This contest is only open to residents of the US or Canada.

Thank you to Tor for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Science Fiction · YA

Binti: The Complete Trilogy – Nnedi Okorafor

4 stars

Nnedi Okorafor has spun a fantastical world in her Binti novellas, one that is full of wonder and an incredible desire for peaceful solutions.

40382407.jpgIn her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.

But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.

There is more to the history of the Medusae–and their war with the Khoush–than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.

The world Okorafor has built is so carefully crafted. I love that space travel is done via giant shrimp ships and that Oomza Uni is a planet sized school that has just about seen it all. I love that rationality and reason have an effect, and that emotions and tradition are still sometimes impervious to the former.

Binti is an interesting character, she’s not violent, more of a pacifist than anything, but absolutely not a coward. Binti is constantly being torn in half. She is constantly stuck in the middle of two sided battles. Between her desires and those of her people, the Himba; between the Koush and Medusae; between violence and peace; between Earth and space; between two tribes; between duty and learning. Binti wants to do what is right, and she is finding that the path is not an easy one. But, Binti is both resourceful and a Master Harmonizer, one who brings harmony. She will have to be prepared to sacrifice everything in the end.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy is on shelves now!

Thank you to DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy

Sisters of the Fire – Kim Wilkins

4 stars

Kim Wilkins’ Blood and Gold series is the sweeping epic fantasy series that I’ve been looking for. Book two, Sisters of the Fire is packed full of strong, courageous ladies taking control of their futures.

39904181Four years have passed since the five royal sisters—daughters of the king—worked together to restore their father to health and to the throne while fracturing the bonds among themselves almost irreparably. Only Bluebell remains at home, dutifully serving as heir to her father’s kingdom. Rose has been cast aside by her former husband and hides in exile with her aunt, separated forever from her beloved daughter, Rowan. Ash wanders the distant wastes with her teacher, learning magic and hunting dragons, determined that the dread fate she has foreseen for herself and her loved ones never comes to pass. Ivy rules over a prosperous seaport, married to an aged husband she hates yet finding delight in her two young sons and a handsome captain of the guard. And as for Willow, she hides the most dangerous secret of all—one that could destroy all that the sisters once sought to save.

In Sisters of the Fire we follow the daughters of the Storm King Bluebell, Willow, Ash, Rose, Ivy and his granddaughter Rowan as they lead their separate lives woven together by fate, circumstance and political plot. Much like Game of Thrones, there are sections from the point of view of each of the leading ladies, and even a few side characters – all woven together by complex political machinations. Unlike Game of Thrones, it’s not unbearably depressing. Sisters of the Fire certainly has dire situations and epic battles, but has a decidedly more hopeful tone than the bleak GoT.

Plots and conspiracies abound in Sisters of the Fire and the book is an absolute page-turner. Each of the sisters (and Rowan) is very different and have very different motivations and desires for their lives. They’re well fleshed out, and engaging characters, written to frustrate and delight. Bluebell and Ash are my favorite sisters, and it’s difficult not to adore Rowan as well.

This sweeping epic isn’t without its flaws however. With five adult women leading the show, you’d think that at least one of them might be queer, but no. Alas this book is very, very straight. I also found some of the pieces that should have been twists as somewhat predictable. Especially later in the book, it felt like Wilkins was just a little too heavy handed with her hints so by the time some of the twists came about, I had already seen them coming.

Sisters of the Fire is on shelves now.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Science Fiction

Here and Now and Then – Mike Chen

3.5 stars

Here And Now And Then is a sweet story about the lengths a father will go to to save his daughter.

To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…36630924

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in I.T., trying to keep the spark in his marriage, and struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142 where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

The trouble with time-travel books is that they always ask me to suspend some kind of belief, because the story always hinges on some sort of absurd premise that is somehow less believable than fairies. In Here and Now and Then the premise is that a time-traveler’s brain can only handle one era at a time. But that just doesn’t work for me. The human brain is super malleable and has the capacity and flexibility to remember lots of things about lots of time periods and living it makes it even more possible. Because of this, I bounced off of some of what makes up the central premise of the story.

That all being said, I otherwise really enjoyed Here and Now and Then quite a lot. Kin’s struggle to reconnect with his life in the future after living for 18 years in the past and his desire to stay connected to his life in the past felt real. His desperation to stay connected to his daughter and save her from forces beyond her reckoning leaked off the page. My heart broke for him over and over.

Here and Now and Then is very character driven, and the side characters are all engaging and fleshed out, with their own lives, desires and fears.

This book is so full of little twists and is thoughtfully woven together, which makes it a bit of a challenge to review, since even characters are spoilers!

I’ll just say this, if you love stories driven by love for family and are looking for a great new read and want a bit of time traveling chaos added to the mix, Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen is your book.

Also, Mike’s a super nice guy. I met him at a discussion at WorldCon last August and he was awesome. Here and Now and Then is his debut, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Thank  you to Mira Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Middle Grade · Science Fiction

Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee

4.5 stars

Dragon Pearl is an amazing #ownvoices Middle Grade Korean-inspired space opera. I’ve been reading more middle grade novels lately, as adult and YA authors I love branch out into the age range. I am a big fan of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire space opera trilogy for adults. They’re very complex and well-crafted novels so I jumped at the opportunity to read something written for a younger audience.

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To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

Dragon Pearl is a fun space opera for the  middle-grade audience. Min’s decisions are the decisions of youth and she quickly finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for. But she perseveres and finds her way.

The writing and pacing are a little simpler and slower than in an adult or YA novel, which makes sense for the MG audience, but the book still moves at a pretty quick clip. Min accomplishes a lot in a pretty short span of time. She’s cunning like a fox (hah) and that cleverness and her sheer determination to see everything to the end serve her well.

I really love what the Rick Riordan Presents publishing group has been doing, actively publishing #ownvoices MG stories, exposing kids to a wide range of new stories and cultures.

Thank you to Yoon Ha Lee for providing me with an ARC.