Fantasy

The Ruin of Angels – Max Gladstone

4.5 Stars

Welcome to this sixth, and final, part 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.

The Ruin of Angels is book six in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the sixth book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

 

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Cover from Goodreads

 

Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

The God Wars destroyed the city of Alikand. Now, a century and a half and a great many construction contracts later, Agdel Lex rises in its place. Dead deities litter the surrounding desert, streets shift when people aren’t looking, a squidlike tower dominates the skyline, and the foreign Iskari Rectification Authority keeps strict order in this once-independent city―while treasure seekers, criminals, combat librarians, nightmare artists, angels, demons, dispossessed knights, grad students, and other fools gather in its ever-changing alleys, hungry for the next big score.

Priestess/investment banker Kai Pohala (last seen in Full Fathom Five) hits town to corner Agdel Lex’s burgeoning nightmare startup scene, and to visit her estranged sister Ley. But Kai finds Ley desperate at the center of a shadowy, and rapidly unravelling, business deal. When Ley ends up on the run, wanted for a crime she most definitely committed, Kai races to track her sister down before the Authority finds her first. But Ley has her own plans, involving her ex-girlfriend, a daring heist into the god-haunted desert, and, perhaps, freedom for an occupied city. Because Alikand might not be completely dead―and some people want to finish the job.

Before my reread of the series, I’d claimed that The Ruin of Angels was my favorite of the series, but Four Roads Cross has claimed that title, now that I’ve reread the whole series, putting The Ruin of Angels in second place.

The Ruin of Angels is a very different book from the first five Craft books. Max Gladstone has described it as the first of the second phase of the series, which hopefully means more books to come, though none have been announced.

It’s a very personal book, and ultimately a book about the nature of cities, which can feel like two separate things, until we circle back to the idea that a city is different to different people. A city can mean and be different things to different communities, and there is no one face a city wears. There is no one vision of a city, and to impose a singular vision of a city on all of its citizens is to deny those residents citizenship.

It’s also a fast-paced, nail-biting heist. The ultimate prize is knowledge, libraries and freedom, stolen right out from under the reality of one city, and one authority’s noses. The heist element is fun and frustrating at turns.

It’s also a story about relationships and how those who love us the most can also hurt us the deepest and that good intentions don’t always matter when the result is pain.

Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.

Continue reading “The Ruin of Angels – Max Gladstone”

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Fantasy

The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin

5 stars

This review is very late, and I apologize for that. I’ve been sitting on it for about two months now, because I’m struggling to encompass how impressed I am.

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Cover from Goodreads

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

In The Obelisk Gate we continue to see familiar faces from The Fifth SeasonAlabaster and Essun and follow along as the end of the world draws near. There’s so much wrapped up in this series.

This is where the series starts to get weird – and I mean that in a good way. Exactly like The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate is told from the perspective of an unseen narrator, speaking to Essun, in the past tense, though we don’t know why. This narrator tells us Essun’s story, Alabaster’s story, Nassun’s story. The narrator jumps from perspective to perspective, and interestingly, guiding us through how we’re supposed to feel.

I find it an incredibly interesting way to experience a story. “You’re angry. You’re angry because it’s not fair, and because she’s your daughter and should be with you.” That’s not a direct quote, but it captures what I mean. Jemisin chooses to be explicit with the readers about how characters feel, their inner thoughts and motivations, their reactions. It’s incredibly immersive and once I got used to it, I found that I loved it. It’s such a complex way of telling the story, and I felt so connected to the characters.

And, oh, what characters they are. Each character has a rich backstory, so thoroughly imagined. Jemisin is a master at her art.

The Obelisk Gate is a middle book, starting where The Fifth Season left off, and setting up for The Stone Sky but it doesn’t feel unfinished. There are so many threads left hanging, but Jemisin has told the story so masterfully that I felt confident that The Stone Sky would pick them up, weave them together and finish the tapestry of the story as if there had never been a break.

The Obelisk Gate deserves all of the accolades and awards that have been heaped upon it.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the incredible Robin Miles. Miles’s narration adds an amazing layer to the already wonderful story. Her use of tone and pauses and pacing enhances the experience to such an extent that I recommend the audiobooks over the print book any day.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

Science Fiction · Uncategorized

Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee

5 Stars

Revenant Gun is the stunning end to Yoon Ha Lee’s incredible Machineries of Empire trilogy.

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Cover from Goodreads

When Shuos Jedao wakes up for the first time, several things go wrong. His few memories tell him that he’s a seventeen-year-old cadet–but his body belongs to a man decades older. Hexarch Nirai Kujen orders Jedao to reconquer the fractured hexarchate on his behalf even though Jedao has no memory of ever being a soldier, let alone a general. Surely a knack for video games doesn’t qualify you to take charge of an army?

Soon Jedao learns the situation is even worse. The Kel soldiers under his command may be compelled to obey him, but they hate him thanks to a massacre he can’t remember committing. Kujen’s friendliness can’t hide the fact that he’s a tyrant. And what’s worse, Jedao and Kujen are being hunted by an enemy who knows more about Jedao and his crimes than he does himself…

Just as in the first two books, we’re kept guessing until the end. How is Jedao going to pull this off? What is Cheris up to? Who is the real villain in all of this?

I love that even after two books, I didn’t see half of the twists coming! So many moving parts, so many opportunities for betrayal and backstabbing! So many Jedaos! I was biting my nails throughout the story, unable to stop turning the pages.

Not only does the plot continue to be amazing, the characters are so incredibly fleshed out. Jedao continues to be a really conflicting and conflicted character with a lot of nuances. He’s a mass murderer, among other things, but I couldn’t help but hope for redemption and happiness for him. He’s a fascinating character.

Cheris is equally fascinating, balancing her own personality with remnants of Jedao in her head. I’d have liked to spend more time with her throughout the story.

We also get POV sections from other characters, Inneser, Brezan, Kujen, Hemiola and Mikodez, all of which have rich inner landscapes and backstories. None of the characters ever felt thin. I love that the servitor Hemiola remixes dramas when it is bored.

Revenant Gun wouldn’t be the amazing space opera that it is without incredible battles and high stakes, and oh did Yoon Ha Lee deliver. The stakes are so very high and the battles are so very tense. Revenant Gun is a delightfully balanced story with a satisfying end.

Revenant Gun is on sale now at all your favorite retailers*.

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

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 

Anthology · Urban Fantasy

Brief Cases – Jim Butcher

4 stars

Happy release day for Brief Cases, the first book in the Dresden Files to be released in what feels like eons. Brief Cases is just what I needed to tide me over until Peace Talks, which should hopefully release next year. (I’m basing this off of what Butcher told the audience at his panel at Emerald City ComiCon earlier this year.)

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Cover from Goodreads

 

An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

The collection includes:

*  “Curses”, from THE NAKED CITY, edited by Ellen Datlow
*  “AAAA Wizardry”, from the Dresden Files RPG
*  “Even Hand”, from DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P. N. Elrod
*  “B is for Bigfoot”, from UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT
*  “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, from BLOOD LITE 3: AFTERTASTE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
*  “Bigfoot on Campus”, from HEX APPEAL, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
*  “Bombshells”, from DANGEROUS WOMEN, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
*  “Jury Duty”, from UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman
*  “Cold Case”, from SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
*  “Day One”, from UNFETTERED II, edited by Shawn Speakman
*  “A Fistful of Warlocks”, from STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop
*  “Zoo Day” – brand-new novella, original to this collection

I love that Butcher explores other characters lives and problems through his short stories, in ways that he can’t in the main books. Butters’ first mission is a perfect example of something that really wouldn’t fit into the main books but gives us a wonderful look into Butters’ mind and fears and what motivates him. I find this kind of worldbuilding so fascinating.

I was also delighted to see the three Bigfoot stories collected here as well. I adore Harry’s take on Bigfoot and really enjoyed them when I hunted them down previously.

Molly’s stories always kind of break my heart, but “Cold Case” really takes the cake.

The star of Brief Cases is the final novelette, featuring Harry, Maggie and Mouse at the zoo. It’s a sweet story that gives us a layered view of a situation, and reminds us that we’re all fighting our own battles at any given time, even in something so casual as a visit to the zoo.

Brief Cases is an absolute must-buy if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files.

Thank you to Ace, Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Blog Housekeeping · That Reading Life

May Challenge Progress Report!

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Mayday, Mayday! May’s gone away! Where did the year go? We’re already halfway through? How am I doing on my 2018 Reading Challenges?

My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is 175 books, and so far I’ve completed 84/175. GR tells me I’m 12 books ahead of schedule. That lead feels so good! If it continues, I might have to bump up my goal!

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 8/16 prompts, so I’m right on track for halfway done. (If you participate, there are discounts for completion!)

  • A Graphic Novel – Paper Girls Vol. 1
  • A Book Written by an Author of Color – Markswoman
  • A Book With a Green Cover – The Book of Life
  • A Book Written by an Author From A Different Country – The Illuminae Files
  • A Book With a Color in the Title – The Black Tides of Heaven (no review yet)
  • A Book That’s Been on Your TBR for Over a Year – A Conjuring of Light (No review yet)
  • A Book About a Topic That Makes You Uncomfortable – Anger is a Gift
  • A Book Set in a Non-English Speaking Country – Bookburners

On the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, no new progress this month. 5/24, still a little behind. I need to start actively looking for books to meet the different criteria.

  • A Book About Nature – Our Native Bees
  • The First in a New To You YA or Middle-Grade Series – Markswoman
  • A Comic Written or Illustrated by a Person of Color – Paper Girls Vol. 2
  • A Sci-fi Novel With a Female Protagonist by a Female Author – The Tea Master and the Detective
  • A Book With A Cover You Hate – Lustlocked
  • A One Sitting Book – A Court of Frost and Starlight

I’ve made more progress for Popsugar’s Reading Challenge. 17/47, a bit behind. I need to start actively looking for books to meet the different criteria.

  • A Book About a Villain or Antihero – Godsgrave
  • A Book With An Animal in the Title – Our Native Bees
  • A Book by a Female Author Who Uses a Male Pseudonym – The Silkworm
  • A Book by an Author of a Different Ethnicity Than You – Markswoman
  • A Book You Borrowed or Were Given as a Gift – Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
  • A Book by a Local Author – Tricks for Free
  • A Book That’s Published in 2018 – Tempests & Slaughter 
  • A Book You Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn’t Get To – Strange Practice
  • A Book By Two Authors – The Tangled Lands
  • A Book with a Time of Day in the Title – An Artificial Night
  • A Book with an LGBTQ+ Protagonist – In Other Lands
  • A Book with a Weather Element in the Title – Daughters of the Storm (review coming soon!)
  • A Book with an Animal in the Title – Sparrow Hill Road
  • A Book With Characters Who Are Twins – The Diminished
  • A Book With an Ugly Cover – Lustlocked
  • An Allegory – Last First Snow
  • A Book About A Problem Facing Society Today – Anger is a Gift

I am also participating in my local library’s 10 To Read challenge and made no progress this month. 4/10

  • A Young Adult Book – Godsgrave
  • A Book Set in a Place You’ve Never Been – Tricks for Free
  • A Book About Food – Acid Trip
  • A Biography
  • A Banned Book
  • A Book by a Native American Author – Trail of Lightning
  • A Book Recommended by KCLS Staff
  • A Book in Translation
  • A Book That’s Been Made Into A Movie or TV Show

I did my fifth buddy read of The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone with my blogging buddy Marzie. Check out the discussion posts of Four Roads Cross. Look for our reviews and discussion posts of book six, Ruin of Angels later this month!

The Hugo nominees were announced last month, and I’ve started to chip away at the reading. Voting opened last month and is open through the end of July. The list of nominees is here.

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • Best Novel
    • Raven Stratagem
  • Best Novella
    • Down Among The Sticks and Bones
    • The Black Tides of Heaven
  • Best Novelette
    • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water”
  • Best Short Story
    • Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience TM
  • Best Graphic Story
    • Bitch Planet, Vol 2: President Bitch
    • Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood
  • 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
      • All of it, even the short stories
    • The Memoirs of Lady Trent
      • A Natural History of Dragons
      • Voyage of the Basilisk
      • In the Labyrinth of Drakes
    • The Books of the Raksura
      • The Cloud Roads
      • The Serpent Sea
      • The Siren Depths
  • Best YA (Not A Hugo)
    • In Other Lands

I…..still have a LOT of reading ahead of me.

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 1-6 and will be tackling book 7, Chimes at Midnight on June 3.

What have you been reading this month?

Fantasy · YA

Moonlight and Midtown – Christina Bauer

3 stars

Moonlight and Midtown is a fluffy novella, filling the space between the first novel of the Fairytales of the Magicorum series which came out last year, and the second novel which comes out later in 2018.

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After battling werewolves and evil aunties, Bryar Rose is ready to enjoy her new life. No more crazy aunties. Her curse is toast. And Bry’s new man, Knox, is literally a dream come true. Best of all, Bry will soon attend a regular high school. Forget those sketchy tutors! To get ready, Bry is dedicating the rest of her summer to some serious back-to-school shopping with her best friend, Elle. It’s a blast, except for one thing:

Mysterious strangers are following Bry across Manhattan.

All these stalkers have oddly familiar scents and an uncanny ability to slip into the shadows whenever Bry tries to confront them. Even worse, their presence is making Knox act crazy with a capital C.

But Bry’s having none of it. Enough of her life has already been ruined by secrets. With Elle’s help, Bry plans to confront these strangers, find out what they want, and send them packing. Trouble is, the truth about their identity won’t be so easy to manage, especially when Bry finds out how these stalkers could change her future with Knox…and not for the better.

Just as much fluffy fun as Wolves and RosesMoonlight and Midtown sees Bryar trying to navigate through the new-to-her world of the Magicorum. She’s always been on the fringes of that world, but now she’s neck deep and in desperate need of clothes that won’t be destroyed when she shifts.

All Bry wants to do is meet her new classmates without being forced to literally wear a potato sack.

Moonlight and Midtown is a fun whirl through the world of the Magicorum and just the refresher I needed as I look forward to Shifters and Glyphs later this year.

Moonlight and Midtown is available now!

Thank you to Monster House Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Science Fiction · YA

Lifel1k3 – Jay Kristoff

4 Stars

Happy Book Birthday to Lifel1k3! This wonderful ride of a book hit shelves in the US today.

Point of order: When reading a book Jay Kristoff is involved in, do not get complacent. Just when you think you see where the story is going, be prepared to be proven wrong. Repeatedly.

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Cover from Goodreadss
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Australian cover from Goodreads

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

Well, it’s exactly what it says right there on the tin. The Australian tin, that is.

It’s Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-Men, with a little bit of Blade Runner cheering from the sidelines.

That’s a pretty accurate description of the whole book, complete with guns a-blazing car chases through the irradiated desert. It’s a frantic story that grabs you by the hand as it’s running away from explosions and kind of throws story at you while it’s on the move. Just, as I said before, don’t get complacent.

Jay Kristoff is a snake. He lulls you into a false sense of security and then while the sirens are blaring, explosions in the background and the whole team is running for their lives, he’s gonna pull the rug out from under you. Not once, not twice, but over and over again. Lifel1k3 is full of moments when just as I’ve fallen into the rhythm of the story I’m tripped up by a twist in the plot.

Jay is the King of the Plot Twist.

The main cast is comprised of loveable misfits.

  • Eve who just wants to make enough to buy her Grandpa’s meds
  • Lemon Fresh, Eve’s bestest and greatest ally, sweet cinnamon roll, important
  • Cricket, the sassiest logika I ever did see
  • Grandpa, sage old wise-ass
  • Kaiser, who’s a good puppy!?
  • Ezekiel, capital T TROUBLE and the trigger for all their woes (OR IS HE?!)

Over the course of the book, Kristoff raises many questions, and I dearly hope he answers them in the next book. The core question of Lifel1k3 is one that Asimov first raised when he outlined the three laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Are robotics and by extension, Artificial Intelligence, ethical? Many a science fiction writer has played with the ramifications of these laws, and how they might play out should robots gain true intelligence. In Lifel1k3, Kristoff takes us through another interesting interrogation of the ethical dilemma of those who would create robotic life. Under all the fluff and flair, buried beneath the frantic energy and bubble-gumption is a story with an interesting ethical quandary in the center. What does it mean to be alive?

Lifel1k3 hit shelves today in the US and is available now from all your favorite retailers.

Thank you to Random House Children’s/Knopf Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review.