May Wrap-Up and June Reading Plans

Well May was a MUCH better reading months than April, I managed to catch up on some review books and I read a couple of very good books which is always great!

Books Read

  • Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wending ★★★ 1/2
  • Five Stories High edited by Jonathan Oliver ★★★★
  • Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee ★★★★★
  • Special Purposes by Gavin G. Smith ★★★1/2
  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire ★★★1/2
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead ★★★★★
  • Faller by Will McIntosh ★★★
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ★★
  • The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu ★★★1/2

I will be reviewing Faller shortly so I won’t talk about it here but I do want to say a few things about the books I didn’t manage to review this month because of a lack of time.

Empire’s End by Chuck Wending was a very nice conclusion to the Aftermath trilogy and I would recommend it to any Star Wars fan since it does offer a few explanations on what actually happened between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s not a mindblowing trilogy but it’s fun and some of the characters are very interesting (like Sinjir for example).

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day  by Seanan McGuire was a very well written little novella that offered a really interesting discussion on grief and death and that I enjoyed quite a bit. My only issue with it is that McGuire (like with Every Heart a Doorway) turned the story into a mystery and I feel like it wasn’t necessary at all. However, I would still highly recommend this one!

However, I wouldn’t really recommend An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, it is better for me not to review this book because in my opinion it is just bad. I only gave it two stars because I found it so bad that it became funny, for me this book has almost no plot, the characters are complete Mary Sues and I don’t particulalry enjoy reading about love triangles… I might have enjoyed this one when I was 13 years old because of how cheesy it is but, even then, I think I would have rolled my eyes quite a bit. If I am looking for a very light and cheesy read at some point, I might actually pick up the sequel because why the heck not? It’s fun but if you are looking for a good YA fantasy, I wouldn’t recommend this one.

Last but not least, I finally, finally finished The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, it took me 4 months to read the first half and 3 days to read the other one. It’s a very good book but because it took me so much time to read, I didn’t like it as much as I would have in other conditions. I wished it had been 200 pages shorter by Liu’s writing style is great and the setting is very refreshing and interesting!

DNF

18176332

I read the first quarter of this short story collection that I picked up on a whim and… I just couldn’t do it, the writing is lyrical to the point it’s almost impossible to understand and I couldn’t see the point of any stories. It was just too odd for me, I’m sure some people would enjoy this but it’s just not for me.

Currently Reading & TBR

I am trying not to read too many books at the same time for once so I can actually focus on them! I am currently reading A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall that I received for review but since I am only a few pages in I can’t say much about it. I would like to pick up A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows and The City & The City by China Miéville but we’ll see if I am in the mood for them after reading Udall’s book.

 

How was your month? Do you have any favorite reads? Mine sure are Raven Stratagem and The Underground Railroad! Hope you had a great month of May! 🙂

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #1

The 2017 Clarke Award has been announced at the beginning of May and, like I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist which shouldn’t be too hard since I already read some of the shortlisted books!

If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:

  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman
  • A Close and Common Orbit by Beckie Chambers
  • Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

My goal is to read the shortlist before July 27th when the winner will be announced. I read Central Station and Ninefox Gambit last year and I would like to re-read them for this project though I don’t know if I’ll have the time to re-read Ninefox Gambit (since I already read it twice before I even knew it was going to be shortlisted!).

Anyway, enough rambles, let’s review The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead!


30555488

Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Length: 306 pages

Format: eBook

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: August 2nd 2016

 

 

Publisher’s description

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
     In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

 

Book Review

When I first saw the 2017 Clarke Shortlist, I was very suprised to see The Underground Raiload on it. This historical-fiction book just won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and since its popular release, it only heard great things about it. I have been meaning to pick up this book for a while now, expecting to read it as as historical fiction book and here I am, reviewing it as a speculative fiction work.

It’s true that if you read the synopsis, you might be surprised that this book is shortlisted for a SF prize; it features no aliens, spaceships or AIs. It’s sole “speculative traits” are that in this book the Underground Railroad is a litteral railroad that can safely transport slaves from States to States and that Whitehead plays a bit with time. Is it enough to be nominated for a SF award ? I’d say it’s just depend on your definition of speculative fiction. Is it reading about aliens, space battles and cyborgs or is to see how humans confronted to new, original situations or concerns can actually deal with them?

For some people, Star Trek is a geeky, cheesy and way to old TV shows about pointed-earred people with odd eyebrows dealing with aliens, but, for me, it’s about people coming together trying to solve problems and discover new things. It’s about humans and how society could be. That’s SF for me.

So, with this definition in mind, why not consider The Underground Railroad SF ?

 

The Underground Railroad opens on the Randall plantations in Georgia where being a slave means being constantely aggressed, beaten, raped for no reasons other than the color of your skin. The first part might be the most shocking part for some, Colson Whitehead write torture, agression and castration scenes in a detached, almost causal way, showing us that, at the time, those weren’t shocking for people: it was just part of their reality.

For some people, it might be too much to handle, I have seen reviews were people said the writing didn’t work for them because they couldn’t relate to the characters because of the very detached tone and attitude of the characters. How can they just stand there doing nothing? I read this kind of statement in many reviews, for a lot of people , Cora, the main character is “hard to like”, “keeping them at bay” etc… In a way, I can see that but for me, it’s done on purpose, it’s not that she doesn’t care, it’s just that she can’t. Else how could you live in a world like that?

The Underground is brutal, messy and doesn’t hold back, even when you wished it did. It’s hard but you can’t stop reading, it shows you humanity as its worst, and, more, it shows us people trying to survive, as bystanders, slavers or slaves.

The majority of the book is focused on Cora as she flees with Caesar, another slave, from States to States, trading a kind of slavery against another, as she experiences the horror of being black in a country that’s scared of you and that is trying to make you as quiet as possible while slowly pushing you over the edge. However, we also get chapters from other perspectives like the perspective of the slaver who pursues Cora, a medicine student, a woman who helps Cora and her reasoning behind it.

We follow Cora as she perpetualy escape through the USA but also through time. Indeed, if I understood the book correctly, it doesn’t exactly follows the course of history and attempts to show the different ways in which black people were discriminated throughout history. For example, when Cora reaches South Carolina she realizes that, if “on paper” she is not a slave anymore, she is still treated like one by white people that want to use her. Indeed, doctors try to sterilize her against her consent because it is the only way they find to control the growth of the black population in their State.

 

The Underground Railroad is not a pleasant book but it is an important one because it is very relevant to our own society . I have seen a few people comparing this book to Arcadia by Iain Pears, a book that was shortlisted last year. I think their only shared trait is that Iain Pears is also a literary fiction writer but except that, don’t expect both books to be similar, they are extremely different in what they are trying to achieve.

I finished this book almost two weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about it, I am glad it has been shortlisted because it pushed me to finally read it and, as much as it is a very subtle speculative fiction book, I do think it deserves the spot. So far, I have read half of the shortlist, Ninefox Gambit, Central Station and obviously this book and I am impressed. (I would have loved to see Europe in Winter in it but we can’t all get what we want…)

Anyway, have you read The Underground Railroad? Do you think it’s a SF book and that it “deserves” to be shortlisted for one of the biggest award of the genre?

 

 

Book Review: Special Purposes by Gavin G. Smith

30753496

Genre: Military SF, Zombie Book

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 224 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

 

Publisher’s description

At the height of the Cold War, a Russian special forces team target New York with a horrifying new virus.

Vadim Scorlenski is the sergeant in charge of an elite Spetznaz squad at the height of the Cold War. Sent by the Politburo on a training exercise to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Scorlenski and his men discover too late that the practice ‘weapon’ they’re carrying – an exotic chemical agent – is all too real. Betrayed by their allies and cut down by the American police, they go to their deaths…

…and awaken to a scene of turmoil. New York City has been overwhelmed by a horde of the walking dead, a plague that even now is spreading across the globe. Somehow holding onto their identities where all others have become mindless monsters, Scorlenski and his squad set out to return to Russia, to take revenge for what has been done to them.

Book Review

Since I visibly can’t read blurbs correctly (I really hate spoilers), I didn’t really expect this book to be a zombie book. Let’s just say that I was a bit suprised when, as the first chapter open, Vadim, the quiet yet very bloody Russian Force squad’s leader, wakes up, with blood all over him and meat in his mouth and, it might be worth mentionning, feeling quite dead.

This book was an unexpected surprise, the kind you don’t know you need until you have it on your hands and the only thing you are thinking is “where has this been all my life?”. Reading this after mid-term exams was the perfect time, it was an engrossing read, I read this book in about two sittings and it never felt boring or repetitive.

Special Purposes is bloody, gory and fun.

However, I wouldn’t  recommend Special Purposes just for the blood, I mean, it is entertaining but what really made this book works for me was the characters, the writing and the setting. It wasn’t just action scenes after action scenes, the characters and their internal struggles were my favorite aspect of the book. Smith makes his characters humans in small things. Vadim is a perfect example of that, his constant struggle to remain as human as he can, his regrets for the things he had to for his country, his feelings for his squad reallymanaged to fully flesh him out. For me this book was more than “just another zombie book” because it did have some interesting discussions about things humans could do at their best, or at their worst.

The book has some incoherences that prevented me from rating it more highly but still, I would really recommend this, it’s fun yes, but you are not going to lose brain cells reading it.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

30691976

Genre: Space Opera, Military SF

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 400 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: June 13th 2017

 

 

Publisher’s description

War. Heresy. Madness.

Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.

Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.

The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev – or Brezan – trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?

 

Book Review

It hasn’t even been a year since Ninefox Gambit came out and I already read it twice. The first installment in Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire is brilliant, full of amazing ideas, original worldbuilding and gorgeous writing. It was even better as a re-read and let’s just say that I was extremely eager to get my hands on its sequel Raven Stratagem.

I am easily disappointed by sequels, usually I tend to enjoy first books more because they are the most surprising, you discover the world, the characters, the plot, everything feel way more original and new because you are introduced to something original. So, as much as I was anticipating Raven Stratagem, I was a bit scared. Well, I had absolutely no reasons to be since it was freakin’ awesome. Yoon Ha Lee perfectly managed to build on what he created with Ninefox Gambit, it never felt like a filler-book at all, it was captivating read and if I hadn’t been reading this slowly on purpose to savor everything, I could easily have devoured this in a few days.

If you haven’t picked up Ninefox Gambit yet, please do! If you read the first book and found it a bit too confusing, I would still highly recommend picking up the sequel since, I personally found it less complicated than the first book. Indeed since the world has already been presented to us in the first book and, even if some new elements are introduced, it is not as overwhelming and several things thatwere a bit complicated in Ninefox Gambit are explained a bit more in the sequel.

 

Spoilers for Ninefox Gambit

Shuos Jedao, the now resurrected mass-murderer,  is in control of Kel Cheris’s body. His aim? Destroying the Hexarchate, the oppressive system that detained him for centuries and tried to turn him into a gentle puppet.

As the book opens, Jedao takes control of General Khiruev’s fleet to fight off the Hafn who are threatening the existence of the Hexargate. But what really are his intentions? Does he really want to defend the system he tried to destroyed centures ago or is it another scheme?

This book is fascinating in so many ways. First of all, as much as I missed Cheris and Jedao’s interactions, the new characters introduced were a real treat and seeing them interfere with Jedao was priceless. I especially enjoyed the fact that we get the chance to see much more of Shuos Mikodez who appeared only briefly in Ninefox Gambit. For some reasons, this character reminds me a lot of Varys, the Spider, in Game of Thrones.

In Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee teaches us a lot more about the Hexarchate and the way it actually work. If you don’t like politics-heavy novels, this series is not for you, it’s not as heavy with politics as Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer but Raven Stratagem definitely has its share of political intrigues. I could say the same for space battles though, I usually don’t like battle scene in books, I don’t mind a few of them but, after a while, I grow bored easily. However, I never felt bored while reading any of the battle scenes,  they are so unusual, everything being based on maths that it trying to imagine how the battle actually enfolds is both complex, mindblowing and far from boring!

I also appreciated Yoon Ha Lee discussion on genders, it was already fascinating in the first book since Cheris and Jedao were both sharing the same body but it was even more so interesting in Raven Stratagem. Indeed, Jedao is now habiting Cheris body and it seems to upset several characters. The way they viewed Cheris’s body as “not Jedao” and Jedao as a “body-thief” was very interesting especially if we take in consideration that Yoon Ha Lee is himself a transgender man. I am sure that when I’ll re-read Raven Stratagem, I will see even more interesting themes and discussions. Those books are so layered that re-reading them is always a pleasure because you can discover so much more of what they offer.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, I love those books, I am extremely glad that Ninefox Gambit was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke, I haven’t read all of the books nominated (I will!) but at least for now, I truly hope that it will win! I am sure that the Machineries of Empire will be a cult series and that it will inspire people for years.

Highly recommended. I read this book as an ARC kindly provided by Solaris through Netgalley but I preordered a copy as soon as I finished it. It is definitely something that I will re-read again and again and push in the hands of many.

Five stars. Obviously.

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Five Stories High edited by Jonathan Oliver

27276113

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 320 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: December 6th 2016

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

One house, five hauntings, five chilling stories.

Five Stories High is a collection of five novellas each set in the same house – Irongrove Lodge. This five storey Georgian mansion, once a grand detached property, has now been split into five apartments.  This is a building with history, the very bricks and grounds imbued with the pasts of those who have walked these corridors, lived in these rooms.

Five extraordinary writers open the doors, revealing ghosts both past and present in a collection that promises to be as intriguing as it is terrifying.

 

Book Review

Five Stories High is an anthology edited by Jonathan Oliver that features five horror novellas written by five different authors all set in the same house, a huge mansion called Irongrove Lodge. The stories are loosely linked together by interludes written by Jonathan Oliver. However, since it took me several weeks to read this, I didn’t really pay attention to the interludes and I read the stories as standalones.

I am not a huge horror fan, I don’t especially like horror movies but oddly, I like horror short stories quite a bit and I would like to read more of them so when I saw that Solaris was coming out with this anthology, I was very intrigued. I was especially looking forward reading Tade Thompson and Nina Allan’s stories.

As usual with anthologies, not every single story is going to work for you but, as anthologies go, this one was very strong. Two of the stories were outstanding, one was really good and the other two were interesting enough to be worth a read. My two favorite were Gnaw by Tade Thompson and Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz and I would highly recommend this anthology for those two alone.

 

Individual Reviews

 

Maggots by Nina Allan 4*

Willy Randle is a happy young man raised by a loving family, he has a wonderful and caring girlfriend, he is studying at university. He’s promised to a great future.. until the day his aunt, Claire, vanishes for a few instants. When she comes back, Willy is persuaded that something is wrong with her somehow, but he’s the only one who seems to see it. He then starts a quest to find who or what his aunt really is.

It was fascinating little story, extremely well paced and hard to put down. It felt very different from The Harlequin, another novella written by Nina Allan that I read and reviewed last year, the writing was as good but the tone was completely different. It was slow paced but it never was boring, on the contrary. Subtle and eerie, it is definitely one of the best novella I read this year.

 

Priest’s Hole by K.J. Parker 3*

Following a character who can shapeshift and whose work is to pretend to be other people providing them with alibi when they need them, this story was my least favorite of the collection. Mind you, I wasn’t expecting much from it after reading two other novellas by Parker and I think that I enjoyed this novella the most out of his other works.

Parker is just “not my style”, I find that all his main characters tend to look the same and I am not necesseraly a fan of his writing style. I find it a bit all over the place and his pacing is definitely odd to say the least. Also I think the plot of this story was reminisent of  The Last Witness in the sense that both main characters seems to loose their own identity toward the end. If you enjoyed The Last Witness, Priest’s Hole is going to a good read, if you didn’t well, don’t go into this story expecting a lot from it.

 

Gnaw by Tade Thompson 5*

Tara and Larry decide to buy and move in the house of their dream, Irongrove Lodge, with their two children. However, they soon realize that something really weird is happening in their house and that they might not be the only ones living here.

Sounds like déjà-vu ? However, what could have been a “I read that a hundred times before” story was so very well done that it really managed to grab my attention. Tade Thompson is a terrific writer, the writing, the pacing and the characters were on point. The relationships between all the family members felt real and I could identify with all the characters, including the “bad guys” which is pretty rare for me with this genre. This story is definitely one of the highlights of this collection.

 

The Best Story I Can Manage Under the Circumstances by Robert Shearman 3*

I don’t even know how to explain this one actually because it is pretty messed up. I will just say that it begins with a woman giving birth to a head.

Do I really need to say more? This story is insane, maybe a bit too much for me but at least, I can’t say that I ever read a similar story before. However, it didn’t grab me as much as the other stories and it is probably because it is a bit all over the place pacing-wise. I would still recommend it because as I said, it surprised me quite a bit, it’s the first time I read a Shearman story, but I definitely want to read other things by him now.

 

Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz 5*

This story has a very interesting structure because it is told from the perspective of many side characters and it is mainly following the aftermath of a crime committed in Irongrove Lodge. Malika and Robin just moved there when Robin started to get a bit too obsessed with it, so much so in fact, that it just got under his skin. Literally.

Another great story, I read this one very quickly because I really wanted to know what was going to happen next and, even if, in a way it was very predictable, the execution was so good that I didn’t mind at all!

 

So overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the collection, even if the stories were all set in the same place, they were all very different form one another and I definitely think that it is worth a read even if you don’t usually read horror stories! 🙂

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

April Wrap-Up and May Reading Plans

This is going to be quick since I only read three books.. Yes three! It was the least productive reading month I had in years so that’s why I have been a bit absent from the Internet for the last couple of weeks. The good thing is, even if I wasn’t very productive the three things that I read I enjoyed A LOT so there is that!

Books Read

  • In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park ★★★★★
  • Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey ★★★★
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee [REREAD] ★★★★★

As you can see, two five stars rating and a four, April was good month for me!

29776980

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park is a nonfiction book, more precisely, it is a memoir of Yeonmi’s escape from North Korea and it was mindblowing. I almost never read nonfiction but I’m so glad I picked this up, it’s a hard read but it is fascinating and it made realize a lot of things about my own life. I know I sound extremely cheesy saying that but I mean it, I have always been fascinated by North Korea and how people lived there and reading Yeonmi’s story was hard but eye-opening and I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone!

 

23197305

Cibola Burn was good book to read after In Order to Live because of how different it is. I liked it a lot more than Abaddon’s Gate that I found a bit boring and had a hard time concentrating on (mind you, it could have been because I was listening to it) and it reminded me why I liked this series so much. The characters, the world and the adventures are really good and when you read an Expanse book, it feels like you are reading a blockbuster. The Expanse is not my favorite SF series but it is fun as hell and I really like it for that. (And also, Avasarala and Bobby!!)

27276118Speaking of my favorite SF series, I decided to re-read Ninefox Gambit because I just received an ARC of its sequel, Raven Stratagen (my thanks to Solaris I am sooo excited!), and I really wanted to experience the first book again. I am so glad I did because even though I found Ninefox Gambit amazing the first time around it was even better the second time. Indeed, this time I wasn’t confused during the first part of the book because I already knew how Yoon Ha Lee’s world worked. Yes this is not a book for everyone, I saw a bunch of mixed reviews lately saying that this was too complicated and the world made no sense. It is complex, true, but it is damn clever and I personally think that the world make sense as long as you don’t try to assimilate it to our own. Anyway, enough fangirling, as you can obviously see, I love this and it is a book that I will revisit many times in the future!

 

Currently Reading & TBR

I am basically currently reading the same things I was currently reading at the same time last month: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, Five Stories High edited by Jonathan Oliver and Empire’s End by Chuck Wending.

Since my reading schedule is all over the place, I don’t have a TBR but I would very much like to read Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee but we shall see if that’s actually going to happen!

 

Hope you had a good reading months! What were your favorite reads this April ?

Mini Reviews: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson & The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Let’s talk about books that everyone seems to adore, books that are considered masterpieces in their respective genre and that I didn’t enjoy at all.

Since I seem to have unpopular opinions about them, I figured it would be interesting to review and to discuss them with you to see why you enjoyed those books more (or not) than me, since those are very popular books, I think it will be interesting to see the different opinions!

 

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★

820689

Offred, our narrator and main protagonist, is a handmaid. Her mission is to bear children for rich people  and if cannot do that, she will be sent in slave camp. The story takes place in a dystopian American society, The Republic of Gilead, where women are looked down upon and in some cases, are turned into sex slaves.

I was expecting a lot from this book since it is considered to be one of the best dystopian books out there. I did found some parts extremeley interesting, for example, I was fascinated by the fact that the political regime that turned the USA into a a very oppressive society was very young but that it did everything to make iself appears old and so, legitimate. In this aspect, it reminded me a lot of fascist Germany, indeed the Nazis were inspired by the Roman Empire (their symbol and constructions for example) because that was a way to show that their regime was in the continuity of something very old which was a way to help people forget how the society worked before them.

I found Offred’s flashbacks fascinating because they allowed us to see how everything changed and how people just let everything happened to them because it was easier for them. Those sections were poignant however, I couldn’t relate to Offred and her life as a handmaid at all. Her narration felt incredibly distant and I couldn’t feel anything for her even when what she was in the middle of what should have been horrifying to me. I was bored while reading and toward the end, I found myself skimming large chunks of this novel.

I feel like this story should have grab me more, maybe it would have if I had read it sooner, I might have read and seen too many things similar to this but infortunately, even if had interesting things to say, I wasn’t blown away or particularly interested by what was happening at all.

I might give the TV show a chance to see if seeing Offred and the other characters going through all this things will have more impact on me that the novel.

 

 

  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★

23197269

I tried to read this book once before back in 2016 and I just couldn’t do it, I tried again in March and I finally succeeded in finishing it. It was one of my most anticipated releases back in 2015 and since it had been called “the best SF book of 2015” numerous times by people whose bookish opinions I trust deeply (like the guys at The Coode Street Podcast), I was pretty certain I was going to like it. Well, ugh…

If you don’t know what this books is about, it follows a generationship’s journey to Aurora, an Earth-like planet that could sustain life. We follow the crew of the ship when the ship is near Aurora and how they deal with some unexpected issues. If this book hadn’t been an essay on “Why we shouldn’t attempt to colonize another planet because it is going to end up all wrong”, I think I would have liked this very much.

Objectively, it is brilliant. KSR did an amazing research work, everything was detailed and explained and for an amateur of hard SF, this book is a candy. I liked the technical bits quite a lot, the narration was really interesting (especially how it evolved) and the pacing was good. So, as I said, objectively, I can see why people admire this work so much.

Subjectively, I freakin’ disliked this. I am not the most optimistic person on Earth at all, I think we humans are selfish and that we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. However, I still have a part of me that loves SF stories where humans managed to colonize planets, encounters aliens and be at peace. I love watching Star Trek episodes and seeing humans exploring different worlds. It might be unachievable but still, a girl can hope. So, having someone repeatedly and scientifically destroying my dream isn’t what I like to read for leisure.

Overall, KSR’s message was fairly clear, we should take care of our planet instead of trying to find another one. I get that and I agree but still, reading about all the struggle of the people on the ship was hard, depressing as hell and just an awful lot of “not fun”.

 

Have you read those books? What did you think of them?

 

 

March Wrap-Up and April Reading Plans

I don’t know about you but I feel like this year is flying by, I mean, is it really April already?

I’ve read many interesting books this month, I really don’t have any favorite one but, they almost all had some elements or discussions that interested me quite a bit. I didn’t have a lot of free times to read so hopefully, I’ll have more in April because, as always, I want to read ALL the books.

Books Read

  • Miniatures by John Scalzi ★★★1/2
  • Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald ★★★1/2
  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson ★★
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab ★★★
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★
  • Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer ★★

DNF

31159864

I did not finish Kokoro by Keith Yatsuhashi, I read the first book, Koijiki last August and even though it definitely had some flaws, I quite liked the world Yastuhashi created. However, I couldn’t bring myself to finish Kokora, it was a bit all over the place and it was pretty confusing. I felt like all the characters were the same and when I realized I was forcing myself to read the book, I decided to put it down. I’m sure some people would enjoy this series, it has some cool elements (the world, the unusual magic and Japanese mythology) but infortunetely, I just don’t think it’s for me. I always feel bad when I don’t finish books I was sent for reviews but I prefer that to forcing myself to read. For me reading is something I do to relax and I don’t want to feel any pressure to read anything, especially because if I had read this up until the end, I would have probably hated it which isn’t really fair since it’s just not for me.

Currently Reading & TBR

I am currently reading five books because apparently, I wanted to start everything at the end of March. I am still reading The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, it took me two months to read 50% but it doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying the book, it’s very good but I’m still taking ages to read it because I always read other books at the same time. I also started In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, Aftermath by Chuck Wending, Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey and Five Stories High, an anthology edited by Jonathan Oliver.

I will probably review Abanddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn at the same since I am reading them pretty closely, I am really trying to catch up on this series! I will also do a review of Aurora one day because I have very conflicted feelings on this book and I think I need to put them out there!

 

I hope you had a great month!

Top 5 Wednesday: Top SFF Books on Your TBR

118368

Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here


 

I haven’t done a T5W in a while but this topic was right up my alley ! In case you don’t know about The Booktube SFF Awards, it is an SFF award organised by the Booktube SFF community, they are currently doing readalongs of the different nominees and you can find more about the award here.

So here are some SFF books that I really want to read! 🙂

 

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

17333324

 

I know I am probably going to adore this book, I mean it is about AIs, ships and it is supposed to be a very interesting discussion on gender and conciousness. This series have been recommended to me multiple times and I have the whole trilogy on my ereader, I just need to read it now.

 

 

  • A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows

30688856

I read and loved An Accident of Stars last year, a fantastic portal fantsay books with great female characters, it was one of my favorite book of the year and I was lucky to receive an ARC of the sequel recently. If it’s near as good as the first, it will be an awesome read, it’s a book that I really need sooner rather than later!

 

 

  • The City & the City by China Miéville

 

4703581

 

I’ve read This Census-Taker, his very odd novella published last year, and, even though I can’t say that I really understood it, it was still fascinating and very atmospheric and I want to try his works and The City and the City sounds like a good place to start!

 

 

 

  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

28220647

The sequel to Too Like The Lightning is waiting on my ereader and while I want to read it badly, I think that it would probably be better for me to read the first book again because I don’t remember most of the evnts that took place in the first book and I don’t want to be too confused since a lot of things happened! By the way, I just saw that Too Like the Lightning is a Hugo finalist and I am so happy about that, I am probably going to do a post discussing the finalists in the different categories!

 

  • Making Wolf by Tade Thompson

25074040

 

I really don’t know what this book is about, I just know that Thompson wrote it so it is probably going to be excellent. I read Rosewater in January and so far, it is still my only five stars rating of 2017, I also read Gnaws last week, a horror novella part of the Five Stories High anthology and it was also excellent. His writing style is on point and so far, the three works of his that I read were all very different and really good so I hope it is also going to be the case of Making Wolf!

 

What about you ? 😀

Book Review: The Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

28220696

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Length: 416 pages

Format: eBook

Rating: 2 stars

Publication Date: September 1st 2015

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death’s return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

 

Book Review

Following a young female musician in a world where music and poetry is reserved to men, The Last Song Before Night transports us in a world where, centuries ago, music used to be a dangerously powerful magic. In order to protect the world from evil musicians, music was stripped down of its power and it is now strictly regulated by the Court Poet. The only way to free magic is to find the Path which might be the only way to put an end to the blood plague that has returned to Eivar.

For its lenght and considering that it is a standalone story, this book has a big cast of characters. Kimbralin Asamaroth, who is now calling herself Lin after running away from her mad brother to make a name for herself as a musician is for me the main charactrer of this story and I liked her parts the most. We follow other characters including Darien and Marlen, two Academy students who wants to enter a contest that might allow them to win what they have wanted for so long, for Darien, the hand of the woman he loves, and for Marlen, the pretigious title of Court Poet. Darien’s lover Rianna, the daughter of the most powerful merchant in the realm is also a recurring characters but eventhough all the characters had pretty much the same amount of “page time”, Lin felt the most developped.

I wished I wasn’t so disappointed by this book especially because it started out pretty great. Myer’s prose felt lush and beautiful until it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t awful, however, it came so close to be a great book that the fact that it wasn’t just made it worse. It had all the elements to be excellent, a magic system based on music, Seers, an epic quest and it was extremely readable, even if I didn’t end up liking it a lot, I wans’t bored at all while reading. The descriptions at the beginning of the book managed to create a unique atmosphere and well drawns setting and I loved the book up until the middle part where I realized it had several flaws that I really dislike when I see them in books.

First of all, the characters all felt like one and the same. They all had the same basic personalities, all the characters were abused one way or another during their childhood and they all had had problems with their relatives.  I felt like they were only variation of the same characters, especially if we only look at the female characters, once you get past their physical appeareance and minor character traits Lin, Rianna and Marilla, the three main female characters look completely alike. It was easy to see what characters Myer likes to write about. All the female characters were hurt in their childhood, they all were trying to be more that what they were born into, they were all trying to help every male characters around them suceed even if it means sacrificing themselves and also, they were all falling in love with every man they talked to more than two times.

Moreover, Myer has a tendency to over explained things a lot. All the things that could have been subtle were repeated over and over again to the point it made some dialogues extremely awkward because it felt like the characters were just repeating things over during two pages. I really dislike it when an author thinks I am to dumb to understand what they are trying to do. Repeating things isn’t helping, it’s just lazy writing.

Also, this felt very tropey, what could have been a very original tale was just a very standart quest story where you could basically find every standart characters, the hero, the mentor, the evil guy and his minions, a path to take to save the world and side characters that are only there to help the main character suceed.

Finally, the pacing was off, the ending was completely rushed and predictable and, the more we read, the less we actually read about music, all the charcatres kept mentionning how much they loved music and poetry but we never really saw any which was frustrating since it is basically the whole premise of the world…

With more editing and diverse characters, this could have worked for me. It was a fast read and it had good elements but at the end it just fell flat and I can’t really recommend this one to anyone. If the premise sounds good to you, go for it, I just hope that you won’t be as disappointed as I was..