I have been a long-time fan of Alison Green’s Ask A Manager blog, where she dishes out practical advice for workplace questions all week long. The letters she answers range from the mundane to the absolutely absurd and hard-to-believe. I am so excited about her new book, where she distills years worth of advice into a handy workplace manual that will be useful for new grads and seasoned professionals alike.
The great thing about Alison’s advice is that she empowers readers by giving them scripts, and suggestions on how to approach scary conversations about raises, promotions and asking your manager to step in when your coworker is cutting you out of important conversations.
The scenarios Alison addresses in her book are real scenarios, sent in by letter writers asking for advice on how to handle specific challenges they are facing in the workplace. Dedicated readers of the blog might recognize a story or two, and a lot of the advice will feel familiar, but many of the letters included are new content, never seen on the AAM blog. Alison has distilled years of her best advice into an easy to access guide.
I can personally attest to drawing confidence from Alison’s posts on how to ask for a promotion. Her scripts and framing were so crucial to my approach, which was successful.
Alison’s advice is useful for anyone with a reasonable boss. As Alison herself notes – an unreasonable person won’t be reasoned with. The scripts and advice Alison shared aren’t magic bullets, but they are wonderful tools for anyone in a workplace to have at hand.
Ask A Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work is on sale tomorrow, May 1! You can be sure I am purchasing a copy to gift to my about-to-graduate-from-college little sister.
I received an eARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Welcome to part four of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.
Last First Snow is book four in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the first book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.
Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:
Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation—especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.
As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace—or failing that, to save as many people as they can.
Last First Snow
Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman on their US tour celebrating the release of Obsidio, the third and final book in the Illuminae Files. They graciously posed for a photo with my husband and me.
The Illuminae Files follows different sets of teens as their stories intersect while they flee from a Bei-Tech invasion force. Each book builds on the previous. The first book, Illuminae features Kady, Ezra and AIDAN. Gemina adds Nik, Ella and Hannah, and in Obsidio Asha and Rhys get added to the mix. Lots and lots and lots of people die in inventive and horrific ways.
The stories themselves are fun, fairly quick reads. They’re full of action, emotion and are easy to get swept away by. All three stories include some kind of time-clock that helps raise the tension of the book so it’s easy to want to flip pages at lightning speed. The stories aren’t particularly fresh. They’re somewhat tropey and read like classic YA sometimes. There’s a little diversity (Ella! Asha!), but the books are painfully straight. What makes them fresh and has garnered the books a dedicated fanbase is the format.
The books are formatted to tell the stories via chat messages, emails, transcripts of videos and audio files, diary entries and pictures. The books themselves are massively thick, around 600 pages each, but they aren’t long stories; it’s easy to blow through one in a night. The format makes a regular sized story take MANY more pages to tell. Even the audiobooks are produced in such a way that they convey the story with additional layers. But the Illuminae Files are a visual experience.
And that’s part of my problem with them.
The books themselves are beautiful, and obviously took a TON of work to put together. At the book signing Jay said he spent a lot of time involved in the layout, and in Gemina one of the designers actually shot a book to make one of the visual effects as realistic as possible. That being said, they sacrificed a lot of readability in the design of these books. They’re printed in black and white, so there’s often shades of gray overlapping with more grey. Grey text on grey and black text on black is very challenging to read. Some of the pages feature text in swirly lines that force you to turn the book this way and that to read it or have light text superimposed over maps or drawings. I don’t have visual impairments and found the book challenging to read. My visually impaired husband would have found them IMPOSSIBLE to read.
I am all for books as artistic objects, and I admire the hard work and dedication to creating these books the way they are. But when that hard work forgets that these are books and need to be legible I find myself frustrated. They took something and made it beautiful and exclusive. People with moderate visual impairments are actively excluded from the experience.
That being said, I enjoyed the series and if you’re looking for an emotional rollercoaster ride, check out the Illuminae Files.
Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We recently discussed Book #5, One Salt Sea, which happens to be one of my favorite Toby books.
October “Toby” Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.
Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.
In One Salt Sea, we meet Dianda Lorden, one of my favorite side-characters of the series ever. She is a riot, even when we don’t see her at her finest moments in this book.
If you’ve read the series through, on rereading One Salt Sea you’ll find lots of little breadcrumbs leading us forward and tying the overarching plots of the series to One Salt Sea. Those little details that show us as readers just how intricately Seanan plotted this series. The foreshadowing is both heartbreaking and delicious, once you know what you’re looking at.
One Salt Sea proves to have one of the most controversial deaths in the series as well. I won’t tell you who, but it’s a character that I loved and enjoyed, that many fans of the series shrug at me. “I never really liked x anyway.” I still cry every time I read the scene.
One Salt Sea has consistently landed in my top 5 Toby books list. Some of my favorite scenes and lines come from One Salt Sea, even as some of the most heartbreaking parts of the series are also in here. It’s a book with a lot of emotional punch and feels like the tide being sucked out from the beach just before a tsunami. There is no calm before the storm.
Come back late next month for a review of Ashes of Honor, book #6 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion for that book Sunday, May 13!)
If you’re looking for a Viking-inspired story with a bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe, with a lot of axe throwing and battles, Sky in the Deep is the story for you.
OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
Sky in the Deep was a fun read if a bit predictable (the synopsis gave a lot away). I enjoyed the read, but I am only giving 3.5 stars because nothing about the book blew me away. It was a solid, enjoyable read.
The book is set in a Viking-feeling settlement of Aska just as they go to battle with the enemies of their god, the Riki. Eelyn is a warrior for her clan, and raring for battle. Throughout the book she’s feisty and angry. She flip-flops between desolation and rage when she is in the Riki village and never quite feels like her emotions make sense.
She never seems to be able to care for herself. She’s either injured and making it worse by making herself fight despite serious injury or she’s flailing about forcing Iri or Fiske to come to her rescue against their own people. Why they didn’t just kick her down the mountain I don’t know. Fiske didn’t seem to have much personality, so despite knowing that it was coming, I didn’t really understand why Eelyn fell for him.
Despite those pitfalls, Young’s writing was evocative and full of beautiful imagery, vivid during battle sequences – which is something to keep in mind if you’re not a fan of gore.
Adrienne Young’s debut YA novel Sky in the Deep is a standalone, but Young has a “companion” novel planned for 2019. I’ll definitely be checking that out when it hits shelves. Young is a writer to watch.
Lately, it seems like I’ve been accidentally gravitating toward books that have an element of “reverse-sexism” in them. In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan with her gender flip in Elven society and now, The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller, his debut novel. Let me tell you, I was blown away.
The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art.
Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.
When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.
Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
The Philosopher’s Flight was an unexpected hit for me. I had been told it was good by a friend and added it to my library holds list. It came in and sat on my nightstand as I passed it by to read other things. Until two days before it was due back at the library, and I couldn’t renew the book. I finally sat down to read it and I am regretting my tardiness.
I loved everything about this book, except for one little thing. I just don’t understand why sigilry is called empirical philosophy. Something like “applied theoretical physics” would have made more sense to me. Calling it philosophy just never clicked for me, and kind of turned me off from the book at first. Philosophy evokes this sense of the guys at my college who were philosophy majors and absolutely insufferable. However, that is not the case here and that small nitpick aside, I LOVE LOVE LOVED this book.
Robert Weekes is such an earnest man. His mother is his hero and he wants nothing more in the world than to join the US Sigilry Corps and fly Rescue and Evacuation in the wars. But, he’s a man. So there’s no way he can keep up with the women. It’s women’s work and he should be content to stay home and keep house.
This is where that delicious reverse sexism element comes into play. Robert faces challenges that are easy for women to relate to. They’re challenges that women have faced in society time and time again – and continue to face even now. An additional element to this is the Trenchers. They were an interesting foil to the Sigilrists. They read like religious anti-abortion activists, feeling a lot like today’s Men’s Rights Activists.
The Philosopher’s Flight doesn’t shy away from including other elements of the political atmosphere of the time. The people of color in the book still face racism and discrimination but in a twist, the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement and sigilrist’s rights movement seem to be working intersectionally, if not in unison, at least with some cooperation.
This book was just so well written and fleshed out so beautifully. I am already tapping my foot with impatience for the next book in the series, which is slated for June 2019.
Fans of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study series will find a lot to love in Rosemarked. There are a lot of similarities between the two series – poison, political intrigue, tribal culture pitted against Roman-style culture – but enough different to keep Rosemarked from feeling like nothing more than a new iteration on an already used idea.
A healer who cannot be healed . . .
When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.
A soldier shattered by war . . .
Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.
Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.
In addition to themes of rebellion and loyalty, Rosemarked also explores identity and what makes a person. Is a person their personality, or their experiences? How do our experiences shape our personalities, our desires and our paths? It’s a complex concept to tackle, and Rosemarked handles the topic with care and thought, making for surprisingly deep moments in the book.
There’s also an admiration and acknowledgment of what quiet strength looks like. Zivah doesn’t want to take her condition lying down. She’s determined to fight to the end in the only way she knows how, and through her actions, she demonstrates what quiet strength means in the face of layers of danger and intrigue.
Rosemarked was an interesting read, but it didn’t blow me away or feel particularly groundbreaking or fresh. 3.5 stars because I liked it well enough.
I’m not sure what exactly I expected from Kaitlyn Sage Patterson’s debut YA novel The Diminished, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone.
A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him.
When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what’s left of her life in peace.
As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.
Between when I first heard about The Diminished and the time I actually sat down to read it, I had completely forgotten the synopsis. The only thing I could remember was that it had something to do with twins.
I found a delightful book with heart. Both Bo and Vi are complex characters. Bo is in line for the throne and takes his job seriously. He believes himself to be a servant of the people. He is motivated by what he thinks will best serve his country. Vi has lived in the Anchorite temple her whole life leading a very different life. She is motivated by a desire to have some kind of say in her own future, even if it means changing one pair of confines for another.
Full of rebellion, conspiracies, and power plays, The Diminished is a fantastic read. Patterson’s accessible writing style flows beautifully across the page and I found that I didn’t want to put the book down. I did knock off half a star because there were some predictable tropes at play, but they didn’t take much away from the book.
The Diminished is also full of casual representation. There are characters of color and more than one queer relationship fully confirmed, not just alluded to, on the page.
The Diminished hit shelves earlier this month on April 10, 2018 and I can’t waiiiiiiiit for the sequel to come out next year.
I received an eARC from NetGalley and HarlequinTEEN in exchange for my honest review.
Oh, this is so late. I’m sorry. I’m still making progress on my 2018 Reading Challenges! Now that March has left us, let’s see what I accomplished this month!
My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is 175 books, and so far I’ve completed 45/175. GR tells me I’m 2 books ahead of schedule. Woohoo! We’ll see how long that lead lasts for.
Next, let’s check in on the Literary (&) Lacquers Reading Bingo, over in the Literary Lacquers facebook fan group. So far I’ve checked off 3/16 prompts. (If you participate, there are discounts for completion!)
A Graphic Novel – Paper Girls Vol. 1
A Book Written by an Author From a Different Country – Markswoman
I also added my local library’s 10 To Read challenge and have made no progress this month. 3/10
A Young Adult Book – Godsgrave
A Book Set in a Place You’ve Never Been – Tricks for Free
A Book About Food – Acid Trip
I did my third buddy read of The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone with my blogging buddy Marzie. Check out the discussion posts of Full Fathom Five. Part one was over at Marzie’s Reads and part two was on my blog here. Look for our reviews and discussion posts of book four, Last First Snow later this month!
The Hugo nominees were announced over Easter weekend so I will be starting to hit that reading hard soon. If you missed the announcement, the list of nominees is here. I’ve read some of the nominees already.
Here’s what I’ve read so far:
Best Novella: Down Among The Sticks and Bones
Best Short Story: Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience TM
Best Graphic Story: Bitch Planet, Vol 2: President Bitch; Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood; Paper Girls, Vol 3
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Thor: Ragnarok; Wonderwoman
Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form: The Good Place, Michael’s Gambit; The Good Place, The Trolley Problem
Best Series: InCryptid, The Memoirs of Lady Trent (minus the final book.)
Best YA (Not A Hugo): In Other Lands
I…..have a LOT of reading ahead of me. From this list, I’ve read maaaaaaybe 10% of nominated works.
In addition to all that, I am hosting an 11-book Read Along of the entire October Daye series as we prepare for book #12 Night and Silence to release in September. Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook (which I help admin), we’re discussing one book every three weeks. We’ve made it through books 1-4, and will be tackling book 5, One Salt Sea on April 22.
Space Opera is the kind of book you’d get if you threw Eurovision, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a book of adjectives in a blender and pulsed it around a bit.
IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING
A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented-something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.
Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix – part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.
This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny – they must sing.
A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London – Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes – have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.
Let me preface this review. I have never read anything by Cat Valente before, other than a short story here and there when included in an anthology.
That being said, I felt like the writing got in the way of the story. Valente constructs sentences that are 90% adjective and 10% content. A full half of this book is adjectives. Space Opera is an absolute avalanche of adjectives. It was fairly overwhelming and I often found myself having to reread sentences, skipping the endless stream of adjectives, in order to find The Point of the sentence. A friend told me this is how Valente writes. She just loves words. That may be true, but the nonstop barrage of descriptors was overwhelming and distracting and took away from the overall story. The lists of adjectives did add a frantic energy to the story, but after a few pages of this, it was Too Much. Too many descriptions, too much fluff, and not enough actual content. Very often I found myself frustrated because Would She Just Get To The Point Of This Sentence Already.
Additionally, parts of the book were told in a parallel story structure where Valente would start a chapter with a description of something on another planet at another time that had little actual relevance to the plot. The book felt super episodic, but not in a good way.
Those frustrations aside (and if you like that kind of thing) Space Opera was a fun ride. All the glitter and pomp of a Galactic Eurovision and all of the ridiculousness of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy birthed a book as silly, sparkly, absurd and sweet as you’d expect from that kind of combination. Decibel and Oort are lovely, heartfelt characters that are just the kind of introspective you’d expect from former British rockstars. They’re charming, even when they’re not trying to be and I found myself rooting for them, even without the extra pressure of them being responsible for the survival of all of humanity. I loved that the alien species were varied and inventive and were all distinct from one another and from humanity.
I also enjoyed the exploration of what it means to be sentient. It’s something that we as a species wrestle with more and more frequently as we discover just how intelligent dolphins, elephants and other species truly are. At what point is something sentient? Where is the line between intelligence and actual, true sentience?
Space Opera hits shelves April 10, 2018 and you should definitely check it out if you’re looking for something fun to read.
I received an eARC from Saga Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.