Thoughts of a nerdy feminist

My first and truest love is fantasy, but I dabble in just about any genre. Not everything I like is 100% perfect when examined through a feminist lens, but I am a firm believer that it's all right to like problematic things, as long as you can acknowledge what is problematic about it and not be a jerk about it.

I think this one was really overrated

Elantris - Brandon Sanderson
This is definitely my least favorite book by Brandon Sanderson. I'm probably not going to read any of the others in the series, nor recommend this to anybody. I will stick with the Stormlight Archive instead.

The premise was very interesting and the story was engaging enough to keep me interested, so I at least managed to finish reading it.

I didn't particularly like any of the characters, and that's a big problem for me. Raoden was one of those characters whose purpose seems to be to educate and be awesome, which reminds me too much of Richard Rahl, minus the Ayn Rand objectivism. Sarene was apparently very clever, or so the book kept telling me repeatedly. Also that she was so much better than other women, most of whom were silly little airheads. She was not like other girls, okay? The book will remind the reader of this over and over and over and over. Hrathen was difficult to get through. I rarely enjoy antagonist POVs, and Hrathen was not an exception. His story eventually went in a somewhat interesting direction, but for most of the book, I ran out of steam and temporarily lost interest every time I got to one of his chapters.

There is so much religion in this book. It's really about the characters' religion. Multiple monotheistic religions that the book makes a point to indicate are all based on the same thing. I'm sick to death of the monotheistic religious arguments in the real world, so I'm just not into having to put up with it as part of my escapism as well. This is something that I recognize many people will still enjoy just fine, though.

I feel pretty lukewarm on this whole series. I hope the next installment in the Stormlight Archive comes out soon.
 
 

 

Days of Blood & Starlight - Laini Taylor

I predicted that this book was going to be really heavy after the way the first one ended, and I was not disappointed. 

 

This book's focus was not so much on the love story between Karou and Akiva, but rather, the atrocities of the war between their peoples, and the parallels between them. The author does an excellent job of making this equivalent. Both peoples have leaders who would probably view Hitler as a font of ideas. Perhaps one could argue that they're too evil in that regard, but I think human history shows that such evil certainly exists and has throughout history.

 

I really liked the new characters that were introduced. I found Ziri charming, but the character who I really fell in love with was Liraz. I initially disliked her, but as the developed and her complexity became apparent, I found her totally captivating. I wanted to read more about her, and have found I really care about her. This makes me nervous, as a reader. I'm sorry to say, but I have bad luck with favorite characters, but I'll cross my fingers.

 

I still have the same issue with everybody being beautiful, like in the first book. There are a couple of spectacularly ugly exceptions, and those exceptions are also spectacularly evil as well. I really, really, desperately want to see a physically repulsive character who is also heroic and compassionate. I don't expect to find that in YA, for the most part.

 

I made it through this book very quickly. The story went in directions I really did not expect, and I can honestly say I have no idea what will happen in the next book, but I'm about to find out. After I look at some pictures of puppies to cheer myself up.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy) by Taylor, Laini (2012) Paperback - Laini Taylor

I found this book charming almost immediately as I began reading it, the author painting a beautiful picture of Prague, with a smart, likable main character whose life is filled with fantastic creatures known as Chimaera. I wanted to know more about them from the start. I really got into this quickly, and it made it difficult for me to be productive.

 

I liked the way the story unfolded to start, revealing details a little at a time. I was less interested in the love story than I was in learning Brimstone's secrets. I really wanted to know about Karou's origins, and when I finally did, they were tragic and compelling.

 

I appreciate her friendship with Zuzana. Not just because it's nice seeing close friendships portrayed between females, but I also really appreciate when supporting characters have their own lives and own interests. Zuzana is her own person, who is supportive of Karou without serving the sole purpose of being a cheerleader for the main character. 

 

Akiva, I'm less sure about. I generally disliked him at first, and even as he seemed to soften, I still wasn't really sure I could see him as much of a romantic figure, as a soldier who knows nothing but killing. How can a person as complex as Karou have anything in common with him? He's a tragic figure and more interesting than I initially gave him credit for as I was reading, at least. 

 

I'm less thrilled with everybody being ridiculously beautiful. Akiva's widow's peak is mentioned several times in the book, and I don't think that is a feature I have ever paid attention to on another person before. I guess it's something the author likes, though! Anyway, the impossibly beautiful true love just is a trope that seems overdone. It's forgivable, though, because Akiva at least grew on me.

 

Still, the most interesting character in here to me was Brimstone. I really wanted to see so much more of him. Mostly I felt his presence was there in glimpses, and it was never enough for me.

 

The story, ultimately, was a sad one, which wasn't unexpected with the things that were hinted at. I enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold, and I look forward to seeing what happens next, although I'm also worried that book two might be even more unhappy, so I'm bracing myself.

Reading progress update: I've read 65%.

Blood Song - Anthony  Ryan

I've heard nothing but rave reviews of this book, but I'm SO BORED. I want to finish this but I need a break. I fully intend to cheat on this book now. I found the beginning of the book engaging enough, although HOLY COMMA SPLICES BATMAN, I've never seen so many comma splices. Was this self published? If not, who edited this thing? I've been stuck guiltily trying to finish this thing for a while, and I need a break.

Another great installment

The Death of Dulgath - Michael J. Sullivan

I'm often wary of prequels for fear of contradictions, knowing certain things have to go a certain way, knowing certain characters must be safe, that sort of thing. Still, I really never get tired of Hadrian and Royce, and despite the many pitfalls that come with prequels, the author managed to give us a fairly new story with the two of them, with new insights into the characters and how they developed into the people they are when they're introduced in the beginning of the Riyria Revelations.

 

Royce's cynical, extreme curmudgeon perspective is something that I have trouble relating to, but at the same time, I love watching his views get challenged, and seeing him make connections and care about other people despite his cynicism. He's a complicated character, and I love that. I didn't see quite as much new ground where Hadrian was concerned, but he's still his likable self, so people who enjoy him won't be disappointed.

 

New characters were introduced that I found really compelling, particularly Lady Dulgath and Sherwood Stow. Both characters had a lot of depth that made them feel very human, and had some surprises in their stories.

 

The only thing I didn't enjoy here was the point of view of one of the villain characters. The character was just so irredeemably vile that I tended to set the book aside to do other activities whenever that person's chapters came up. If you're someone who enjoys villain perspectives, you'll probably like it just fine. It's just not something I personally enjoy. Thankfully, there wasn't too much of that character's perspective for me to read. It was still well worth it.

 

The story had mystery and surprise, great character development... really, everything I want and expect from this series.

Good on character development

The Blood Mirror - Brent Weeks

I know there are many people who take the time to reread an entire series in preparation for the next installment. I am not a person who has that kind of time on my hands, so I am extremely grateful to the author for including a synopsis of events in the previous books at the beginning of this one. It was incredibly helpful.

 

I failed to notice that this was not the last book in the series. I had a few moments of thinking, "Wow, there are still a lot of unresolved things to deal with," up until around 80%, at which point I suspected it was not going to be possible to resolve everything. Had I checked the author's web site, I'd have known this wasn't the last book, but there ya go.

 

There was excellent character development in this book. Karris and Teia were the people I was the most interested in. Teia's situation continues to feel so frustratingly impossible. Karris handling her new position and having to continue to deal with Andross Guile was always fascinating, although every scene involving Andross Guile has always been fascinating. He is one of the most complicated characters I've seen anywhere.

 

I was less thrilled with Kip. I appreciated the development of his relationship with Tisis, whom I have grown to like. I feel Kip is really beginning to grow up, which is a good thing. Still, a lot of his sections dragged, and I thought some of his issues with Tisis began to feel a little bit repetitive. Some of that probably could have been edited out.

 

I'm not sure how to feel about Gavin Guile's chapters. I became frustrated with his unchanging situation. The entire previous book he was a prisoner, and as readers know, having read the earlier books, that's where he goes in this book as well. There were a number of massive revelations in his chapters that changed everything. At least one is a little bit difficult to wrap my brain around, to the extent that it feels like a retcon. But maybe as I let it marinate more I can get it to work for me in my head.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this. There's a lot less action in this book for most of the characters (not zero, just less), but a great deal more character development. That is a good thing. Although the story is still incomplete, I enjoyed the journey thus far, so I'm still hooked.

SPOILER ALERT!

Loved it, with a few issues

Crosstalk - Connie Willis

I was really glad to read another humorous book from Connie Willis. It was just what I was in the mood for, lots of fun, a little bit absurd, with a cute love story. A lot of the feel in this book reminded me of Bellwether, in a good way. It was a lot of fun watching the story unfold and piecing things together as it became clearer what was going on and why.

 

A lot of her characters in her humorous books tend to be caricatures, which is good when you're in the mood for that, which I was. Almost every character in here is pretty meddlesome, no one really minds their own business and leaves people alone. People have overbearing family members will likely relate a lot to Briddey's struggles with her family.

 

Now to some of the things that frustrated me. I didn't feel Briddey ever really stood up for herself. It started becoming very annoying to me that she continually invented excuses, and any time a person overcame those excuses, she went along with what they wanted. She did a lot of just letting things happen to her. I really wanted her to just tell someone "no" at least once. Or to answer a personal question with, "None of your business." I never got this. Not once, and the fact that I didn't get it was immensely disappointing. This all made Briddey feel too wishy washy and passive to be particularly likable as a main character. She had her own opinions and wants, but she always let herself get persuaded and bullied into doing what everyone else wanted or thought she should do.

 

Let's get into more detail, here. This means spoilers. You got that? Spoilers.

 

Obviously I didn't like Trent. I wanted to see Briddey break up with Trent. I was inwardly begging her to do it, and it never happened. In the end, he broke up with her, and she pretended to be disappointed. A lot of the issues at the end of the book, I thought, could've been avoided by her her telling Trent she didn't want to be with him anymore, and that she wasn't going to do any of the tests he wanted to do. There was mention that her job was in jeopardy if she didn't do what he wanted, but it seemed like it was going to become a rather toxic workplace anyway, so deciding she needed to look for another job would've been a good idea, in my opinion.

 

The actual love interest in the story, C.B., was pretty easy to spot from the beginning. Trent hardly had any screen time in the first half of the book, always busy, constantly being interrupted, but a lot of time was spent on C.B. I liked him, but he was also guilty of telling Briddey what to do, if for somewhat better reasons that Trent had.

 

I enjoyed the way Briddey's feelings for C.B. changed and developed as the story progressed. What bothered me was the end. The two of them were finally preparing to talk about their feelings, despite constant annoying interruptions from Maeve that as a reader I did not find funny anymore. Finally, C.B. was the one to kiss Briddey. This was hugely disappointing. It was very important to me to see Briddey show some agency. I really needed her to make that first move. I guess in the end she is still not a strong character with her own agency.

 

I still enjoyed the book, and think anyone who likes Connie Willis is going to enjoy this.

Really impressed

The Obelisk Gate - N.K. Jemisin

This was another very heavy book to read, emotionally. Considering the main character's background, that's hard to avoid. Still, I was drawn in right away, no real lull from where the previous book left off.

 

I wondered what the author would do with the POVs, since she had such a unique approach to the previous book, which would not have worked for this one. Instead of what she did in The Fifth Season, the other characters were simply others who had been important but estranged from Essun.

 

This author really knows how to break the heart of a reader, writing some impressively poignant, gut-wrenching tragedy. It's not just that some characters die, although of course some do, but it's the way it happens. Some authors who specialize in shocking deaths, like George R.R. Martin, could really learn from Jemisin's storytelling style. Her deaths fit the story, are often foreshadowed, but still manage to be utterly devastating in unexpected ways.

 

One thing I had hoped to see, and was not disappointed, was more Guardians. They were just so creepy and mysterious. There's a lot more about Guardians in this installment, and I have to say, despite what I've learned, they're still creepy and somewhat mysterious.

 

I really feel for Essun. As someone with kids of my own, I don't want to let myself get too much into her mentality, because it's too horrifying to imagine the things she has been through, but I'm really attached to her, and I find myself also caring a great deal about the people she loves.

 

I've had a sense of dread as I've been reading, because I'm having trouble seeing how this can end well. I'm still hoping it will. I expect the last installment to be gripping, and really powerful.

Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch

Everyone I know who has read these books is pretty enamored with them. I picked it up as a break from some of the more depressing things I've been reading. These books are fun, but still not without depth and not without their own sorrow.

 

The writing style is very clever and generally pretty humorous. Peter Grant is an apprentice wizard, and I appreciate that he doesn't seem to be inexplicably more powerful than anyone in history, or anything silly like that, which tends to happen in so many books featuring characters with magical abilities. He's creative and smart, but none of this feels like cheating, on the part of the author.

 

I'd been worried about Leslie since book one, and this is where, if you haven't read book one, you should stop reading reviews for book two. I think what was done to her is being handled well, in a believable way. The main character cares for her, but he isn't perfect, and his feelings about what has happened to her are complicated. Definitely not perfect, but I'm glad about this.

 

There were portions of the book early on that moved a little slow for me at first, but that doesn't tend to be the case for most people, from what I hear. I may have just been distracted or not in the right mood for reading. Once things got going, I really enjoyed it, and I finished it quickly.

 

As for the mystery involved, I was suspicious about one of the characters, and I was right to be, although the full story wound up being much more complicated and tragic. I was nearly brought to tears over it, but the very end of the book gives us something intriguing and hopeful to look forward to.

Unconventional, brilliant, and heartbreaking

The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin, Robin Miles I loved the first line in here, "Let's start with the end of the world..." How many books do that? As first sentences go, it's definitely among my favorites. Unlike her other books, this really does not stand alone. That doesn't bother me, generally, but many people don't like that. The book does a lot of things differently, compared to more typical epic fantasy. There are three protagonists. One of these POVs is told from the second person perspective, something I am completely unused to outside of Choose Your Own Adventure books, which I haven't read since I was a child. It took some getting used to, but I did. The writing is beautiful, and I became engrossed in the story. It became an oddity for which I correctly assumed an explanation would eventually present itself. The one character being told from second person created a few concerns for me. I was more attached to one of the other characters. The character the narrator refers to as "you" was introduced as a woman whose child had just died. It was a bit heavy and I didn't want to let myself identify too strongly with her. Were the other two characters less important than the one being told from second person? Should I be less attached to them? How did this fit together? Why the disparity? You'll be glad to know that before the end of the book, it will be clear how each of these characters, all women of different ages, fit together in the story. The revelation was initially shocking, and then heartbreaking. I expect that, to an extent, from this author, but she has really outdone herself with this one. The world portrayed in this book is a very dark one. The society is outright dystopian, although I would not describe the novel itself in that way. It's still fantasy, although there may be more technology than one might expect; there was reference to electric lighting, but there are no cars or trains, and they don't seem to have guns. It's odd, and it's interesting. One of the things I've really enjoyed about this author is the way she portrays relationships, and non-traditional relationships and families. This is no exception there. The relationships are complicated and not the sort of thing you tend to see in most books, certainly not fantasy novels, and you rarely see on television; certainly not prime time. This was a beautifully written but tragic, heart-wrenching novel.

So conflicted

The City of Dreaming Books - Walter Moers, John Brownjohn

I had a true love/hate experience reading this book. Full disclosure, I have not read the other books in this series, and I probably won't. I read this for a book club with the understanding that the book could stand alone, and I suppose it did.

 

There were numerous times I almost quit. The first of them was when I realized the main character was an anthropomorphic dinosaur. I read fantasy; I love dragons and elves and wizards, but a dinosaur crossed a weirdness threshold for me. Still, I found some of the concepts within it clever enough to keep going.

 

I hit a wall with a great deal of exposition. The infodumping is strong in this book. I hate infordumping. I would start to find myself interested and motivated to read. Something entertaining or curious would be happening. Some piece of action or foreshadowing would grab my attention. And then, inevitably, more infodumping. Every time it happened, I almost quit.

 

The story in between all the exposition was good, though. It was very clever, and very different. I loved the booklings, and the catacombs. I loved the story about the Shadow King, and I loved the ending. I even teared up a little over it.

 

Ultimately I can't decide if I loved this book or hated it. I guess it was a little bit of both. 

 

That said, I will not be reading anything else by this author. His style is not for me.

Wow.

The Shadowed Sun - N.K. Jemisin

I dragged my feet on starting this book, because I felt pretty lukewarm toward its predecessor, The Killing Moon.  Once I finally started on this one, however, I just really wanted to know what was happening. 

 

This one is about so many things. I will talk about it as best I can without spoilers. There's a heavy theme of being a fish out of water, getting to know other cultures and unlearning some prejudices. The author is deeply talented at creating a setting and a complex, alien culture that makes sense to the reader and feels believable.  Thinking more deeply about right and wrong, and considering that the things that are right within one person's culture can be horrifying to an outsider. There is a lot about gender roles, exploring if a person can take on a role typically seen as belonging to the other gender, while maintaining one's on gender identity. 

 

There is a love story between two complicated, emotionally damaged characters who are still discovering their own needs and feelings. It also felt believable to me. There was melancholy in it, but this author does not seem to write typical happily ever after stories.

 

Another major theme in this book, I'd say the most important one, is coping with abuse, and trying to heal from it. Horrific abuse is alluded to in this story, involving a small child, and particularly sensitive readers may find it deeply upsetting. It isn't graphic, but it doesn't need to be to get across the sadness and horror.

 

I have not been so emotionally destroyed by the ending of a book since I gave up reading John Steinbeck. But unlike what turned me away from Steinbeck, not every outcome in this book is negative. There is a great deal of tragedy and sorrow, but there is also forgiveness, understanding, and hope.

 

 

 

Fascinating mythology

The Killing Moon - N.K. Jemisin

I loved the setting and the mythology in this book. The belief systems were so complex and something I found I could empathize with from both different perspectives that she portrayed. The entire religion surrounding the practice of euthanasia, and all the arguments surrounding that were very well-done.

 

The antagonist was very complex and human. I could understand their reasoning for the things they did, be frightened of them while still feeling moved by their loved ones. The book absolutely had one of the more compelling antagonists I've seen in a series.

 

The protagonists were not quite as interesting to me as the antagonist. I did not have the attachment to any of these characters that I did to the characters in the Inheritance trilogy. Ehiru was probably my favorite of them. I just never felt as attached to Sunandi or Nijiri. As a result, my reading of this book went fairly slowly. I went through the Inheritance trilogy really quickly, but this took me a long time. I had trouble getting sucked in, until near the end.

 

I enjoyed the ending, felt it was the right ending for the characters. it was sad in parts, although I cannot say it brought me to tears, which is something I've come to expect of this author. Still, I loved the setting and would love to read more about this world. 

Great start

Age of Myth: Book One of The Legends of the First Empire - Michael J. Sullivan

I wasn't sure at first, but readers who have read the Riyria Revelations series will recognize this as a very distant prequel to that series. Those who have not read those books can absolutely read this series on its own. It stands alone very well. However, I would recommend reading Riyria first if you have any interest in that. A major aspect of that series was piecing together the past, and this can ruin some of the surprises in that series if you read it first. So, read this second!

 

I really enjoyed this first book. It was a good introduction to the setting, which is vastly different than that of the series it is a prequel to. The different (and similar) ways of thinking between the Fhrey and the Rhunes (the humans) were fascinating. I got quickly interested in the story of Malcolm and Raithe, but I was most attached to Persephone and Suri. 

 

One thing that slowed me down in the story at first was Arion's perspective. The Fhrey rubbed me the wrong way, and so did Arion, although she was definitely the best of them. It took me out of the story and hurt my motivation initially, but I got more interested in her, too, as I continued on.

 

I am really looking forward to seeing where things go in future novels, with one fairly iconic character in particular, who I will avoid naming in order to avoid massive spoilers to fans of the author's other books. I don't know what to expect. Despite being a prequel series, this is so far back in history that if the story completely contradicts what is known from the other books, that wouldn't even surprise me. It's easy for history to get distorted over time, and I'm really curious to see if that's going to turn out to be the case.

 

If you enjoyed the Riyria Revelations, this book is a must. If you are interested in this author and don't know where to start, I would start with those first, and then come to this next.

I can't believe it took me so long to read these

The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus - N.K. Jemisin

People have been recommending this author for years, and I've heard nothing but good stuff about her. So, I felt I was not taking a huge risk by buying the omnibus version of this series, rather than just starting with the first book. I'll discuss these with minimal spoilers.

 

I have since heard some people had trouble getting into book one, but I did not. I was immediately intrigued by the setting, and especially the mythology of it. I right away wanted to know what was going to happen to Yeine as she became involved in a mess of political intrigue. Nahadoth, the god of darkness and chaos, was immediately compelling, and I couldn't get enough of him. There was more romance in this than I see in many other fantasy novels, other than Jacqueline Carey. I appreciated this because I enjoy a good love story, even though I'm don't tend to enjoy romance novels. There was no point in which I was bored with book one. The ending was not entirely unexpected, but I found it deeply satisfying.

 

Book two was from the point of view of Oree, a blind woman who can see magic. I missed Yeine a little bit, but at the same time I was glad she wasn't the main protagonist, because I liked seeing her story as relatively complete. I needed to adjust my mindset to accept Oree as my narrator, but once I did, I liked her a great deal. I initially had a little bit more difficulty getting very involved in the plot of the second book, because I couldn't figure out what it was. Oree seemed to meander from one crisis to another, like a leaf on the wind. But eventually things came together, and it came together as a beautiful and tragic love story that shook up the world the author had established. I cried at the end of this, and I've yet to meet anyone who has read this book who did not have the same response.

 

Book three was from the point of view of Sieh, the Trickster god. I had loved this character from the moment he came into book one, but I was a little bit unsure of how he would work as a narrator. I didn't need to worry, though. His story had a lot going on in it that didn't make sense at first, but came together beautifully in the end. There was a similar leaf in the wind sort of feeling to what I found in book two, but everything made sense with time. Again, there was a beautiful love story, and I cried even harder at the end of this one than I did after book two. 

 

And then I got to the book's glossary, covered in Sieh's graffiti, which was wonderful, much-needed levity. 

 

I loved this series, and I don't feel quite ready to move on to something else yet. I need a day or two to let my mind adjust so that I can move on to another setting and another story.

Reading progress update: I've read 27%.

The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus - N.K. Jemisin

I finished with Book One. It was wonderful, and now I don't feel emotionally ready to move on yet to book two.

Currently reading

Blood Song
Anthony Ryan
Progress: 65 %
Blackout
Connie Willis
Progress: 114/512 pages
The Well of Ascension
Brandon Sanderson
Progress: 58/590 pages