Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Mini-Reviews: Just Finished And What’s Next

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So lately, I’ve gone through a few reading selections! One was an ARC, one was from the TBR, the rest happened because of the long sickness, and the fact that I simply didn’t have the energy to do much besides sit and read. (Yeah, I know, the tragedy.)

Anyway, onto the reviews…

The ARC: The Traveler by EB Dawson

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This is an interesting cross of sort of a spec-fic mystery and third world travel guide. (Yes, this works, trust me.) It was a bit slow to start, but definitely picked up the action about a third of the way in, and kept going. The world-building felt a little tricky early on, as it seemed we weren’t really given a concrete reason for Anissa’s disconnect to the society she lived in. Once we get to the “other world” (no spoilers, I promise), we definitely get a lot of established emotions and background and connections with other characters to propel the plot forward. There is a somewhat open ending, but I am aware a sequel is planned. If you like unique tales that don’t just tick the boxes of genre fiction, you might want to give this one a try! It’s a very clean writing style, little violence, no swearing or sexual references, totally appropriate for YA, but the subject matter may be more suited to adults.

The library-helping-me-through-my-sickness: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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I’m aware that there are many, very negative ratings for Thirteen Reasons Why. This was a novel that I’d decided never to read, based solely on the negative comments. But I saw it as a completely new selection to my local library (it’s a small town, this is a big deal), and went for it, after all. While I could definitely see some holes in the writing/plotting, and could understand why certain scenes upset some readers, overall there is a lot in this novel that’s very important to consider and discuss and mull over.

One, I don’t agree at all with anyone who felt that the book actually condones suicide and suggests it as a “solution”. I didn’t see that depicted at all. Nor the idea that the narration somehow supported Hannah’s method of making the tapes and sending them out to blame individuals for her death. Some of the characters were truly horrible people, and something had to be said or done; but Hannah’s logic was skewed because of her depression and whatever else was going on with her that they weren’t responsible for. Are they actually to blame for her decision to take her life? No, of course not. Just because she felt that way doesn’t make it true. And while I don’t agree with Hannah’s ultimate choice (it was a selfish, cowardly move — the really hard part is sticking around trying to make it get better), I can honestly sympathize with her in a way. As someone who was a suicidal teen myself (well, this remark will get some interesting reactions), I completely understand her anger, her lack of rationing, her confusion and denial and urge to self-destruct.

Suicide is such an important topic to address, and most people are not. Novels like this are a good step — even if you thought it addressed the topic in the wrong way!, because that gets a necessary conversation started.

Onto lighter things now…

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I am still in a hurry, but still don’t understand astrophysics. I’ve wanted Neil DeGrasse Tyson on TV, but in text, I had a hard time pinning down the explanations. It seems that Tyson has created an interesting breed of celebrity scientist, while maintaining the elite view of keeping science unfathomable to the general public. I’m really not sure how I feel about this book.

Reading it in the doctor’s office will give you major bonus points with the staff, though, as you’ll appear smart and deep. 10/10 for that.

The TBR conquer: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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And “conquer” is totally accurate — this book is a doorstop. (If you’re being attacked by a Wildling or an Other, just throw a copy at them — you’ll survive.) I was so surprised I managed to read it within 2 weeks. Towards the end, there were parts I really didn’t like, and characters that made me want to scream, but overall this was a compelling tale with an engaging writing style and a well-thought-out plot. I found it easy to connect the dots as I progressed, and for a novel of this length (most over 400 pages can’t seem to follow their own stories after 75%), that’s impressive.

What’s next: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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Since it’s next in the series, makes sense, right? There are a few other random holds kicking around my library requests list, but most likely this will be the one that shows up the quickest. (There are multiple copies in the system, thanks to the popularity of the show.)

Anyway, here’s my latest round-up. Hope you all are doing well, moths!

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Science fiction

On Historical Perspectives in Fantasy and Our Modern Expectations

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(Note: I have borrowed all of these images and have not a whit of claim to them.)

This is a discussion I’ve seen around the blogisphere a lot lately — why so much high fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction is sexist and prejudiced. I have several thoughts on the issue (and, necessary disclaimer, some of them might not be popular).

Well, for the first part, I can concretely say: Most high fantasy is based on approximately the 11th-17th centuries A.D. of this actual world, which was a very sexist and discriminatory time period. Sorry, not sorry, folks, it’s just the truth.

And in urban fantasy, generally it’s because the authors are reflecting the current state of affairs in our culture, and they have their reasons for doing so.

When it comes to science fiction — well, the first reason often applies, but also, until very recently, sci-fi was a genre dominated by white male authors (again, not suggesting anything, just stating a fact), so there was probably a sense of unwitting discrimination. (Meaning you have blinders on based on the society/culture you come from, and don’t realize you’re actually showing prejudice.)

Now, here’s what I think of people claiming so many of these series (some of them considered classics of the genre) are horrible and shouldn’t be read anymore in this “enlightened” era: That point of view is just wrong, and people need to stop pushing it.

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And, no, I am not defending any kind of discrimination. I am defending the accuracy of history. Whether we like it or not, there are lots of very not-nice things in humanity’s past. If we cover these things up and act like they never happened, we are in danger of repeating them.

If we remove conversations on biracial marriages, or disabled people having worth, from our fiction, then we’re denying the achievements we’ve made in these areas. If we declare none of our characters need to be chauvinist, then readers won’t understand the significance of what the heroines have overcome.

If we, as authors, want to portray a world without these damaging ways of thought (hoping that one day it will reflect reality), then please do. I do. But we also need to leave the door open for characters who don’t agree with our own POV, so that readers know what could be, and why it may be dangerous.

We have a responsibility to state the facts, even when we don’t like them.

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This probably won’t be a popular post, but I feel it’s a necessary one. (Refer to my previous posts on getting history right in entertainment to cement how strongly I feel about this issue.)

Part of the idea of society becoming more modern is that we become more tolerant of those who don’t share our opinions. There’s a huge, and vital, difference between not agreeing with someone else and believing they’re wrong, and literally attacking them to prove your philosophy is the more mature and civilized.

Guess which approach I hope wins out?

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movies, reading

How is it September?!: Mini-Reviews

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Why is it officially the ninth month of this year now?!?! Anyway, I know I’m not the only one feeling this sense of impending doom. All right, all right, that’s a bit extreme. But not really, when you consider that White Fang and Muffin are starting high school and preschool within 24 hours of each other. I’m dying here, folks…

Since lately I haven’t been up to much (rather than my head exploding over Volume 2 revisions), I figured I’d try something new — a quick recap of some of my most recent, current, and next reads. I’ve been really good about posting my thoughts on Goodreads, but not so much on here.

Here are two I read in August: A Matter of Temperance and Halayda.

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A Matter of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance is cute and fun. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the old radio shows, where relating a lot of the action relied on the narration, and there were scenes that were much more dialogue than prose. The only thing about this writing style meant sometimes it was a bit difficult to follow, but usually it was pretty easy to catch up and keep going.

The protagonists were SO stinkin’ adorable, I cannot even with how sweet they were together, and separately. Ichabod Temperance is an innocent old-fashioned country boy, and Miss Persephone Plumtart is a proper lady but absolutely no shrinking violet. In a steampunk Victorian England, they try to save each other and eventually the world from monsters that are a cross between Lovecraftian nightmares and giant insects. (And, yes, I did enjoy this!)

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Halayda by Sarah Delena White was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The world-building is very ambitious, and it’s a unique take on the worlds of faery and human meeting in a not-very-good way. However, I struggled with parts of it. The main protagonists, Sylvie and Taylan, seemed a bit self-absorbed and short-sighted, in my view — basically, the villain is getting ready to blow up the entire world, and they were more concerned with cementing their romantic relationship and avoiding their personal destinies until about 50 pages from the end. The secondary characters, Zad and Diza, were very likable and relatable, and I enjoyed reading about them.

There was plenty of action, and emotion, and a background history that was very interesting. But the exposition got rather lengthy in places, and there were subplots introduced that I didn’t get enough conclusion on. Overall, this is a different sort of fantasy tale, and worth trying. (White Fang will be reading it soon, and we’ll see what he thinks.)

Reading now…

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Believe it or not, I am currently reading A Game of Thrones. I must say, I am surprised that I’m liking it. I’ve seen a few episodes of the show, and didn’t care for it at all. The level of profanity — not just the violence, but the vile language and the base level of sexuality portrayed — really shocked me. Also shocking was when I found reviews saying the books weren’t as bad. So, I wanted to see for myself. And, yes, G.R.R. Martin’s original material is definitely for adults, and not a pretty story, but the text is 10 times less foul than the show. (Okay, off the soapbox…)

It’s very well-written; the characters are fleshed-out; the style of the prose reminds me more of the early 20th century than the Middle Ages it’s set in (which is great, because I can understand 90% of what’s going on without having a dictionary at my side). Some of the characters are completely horrid and deserve to get the sword. (I already have my own nominations.) But others are wonderful or cool, or an interesting gray area and I want to know more about them.

The only downside is each book in this series is loooooooong. I may very well be going on 50 before I finish it all.

Coming up next…

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Later this month, I will be part of the launch team for EB Dawson’s The Traveler, which releases in just a couple of weeks! I’m receiving an ARC of this indie author’s latest release, and am looking forward to this new story!

Oh, and one more thing — last night we watched Collateral Beauty, and everybody needs to see it. Bring the tissues. Actually, just build a fort of opened tissue boxes, and sit inside that.

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Fantasy fiction, reading, The Invisible Moth

September Giveaway!

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So, as we all know (and if you don’t know, then you aren’t worthwhile servants to the great moth, how dare you) (I’m kidding, I swear, don’t leave me) — the above happened. It looks wonderful, and the formatting was a breeze (for a sweet change!), and it is the same exciting and glorious story as the first edition, so everybody obtain and read it.

Ahem. Enough of the awkward self-promotion. (Sorry, my ASD side is showing…)

Anyway, I will be giving away a copy of the re-release, autographed, and with a free gift!

To enter, just do so in the comments section of this post until the 20th of September. I will select a winner before the 1st of October.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

community, reading

One Reader’s Confessions

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(These are being divulged in the secret hope that others will agree with me.)

I judge books by their covers. This is totally unfair, because a less-than-visually-stunning cover does not, for an instant, mean the story inside is underwhelming. Yet I don’t hesitate to put right back on the shelf a novel whose cover doesn’t make me want to run off to the Scottish Highlands with it.

There is no guilt about not finishing books. Even if it’s a selection that no less than 56 bloggers I know and 43 Goodreads acquaintances have recommended. If it’s simply not for me, I’ll let it go with a wave of good wishes and not a moment of regret.

If I really didn’t enjoy a book all my friends love, I won’t post a negative review of it. I don’t want people I care about to be aware of my disappointment and in turn be disappointed themselves. That would make my insides wibble-wobble.

Rarely, if ever, do I give authors a second chance. There are exceptions to this. But generally, if reading so-and-so’s work transformed me into a koala of temporary sadness/frustration, then I won’t attempt another title by them.

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Diversity fiction is not necessarily my thing. Do I appreciate movements like “own voices” and encourage diversity in writing? Completely. But depending on the specific novel, I’m pretty likely to give it a pass. Maybe it’s because I don’t have much tolerance for things like sexism/disability prejudice/religious elitism in certain cultures (and honestly, very little interest in developing this). And, quite frankly, I don’t like characters who are fixated on forcing their race/ethnicity down the readers’ throats.

Have I read diverse fiction? Of course. Have I found some great examples of it? Yes, indeed.

Do I get tired of trying to avoid the soapboxes? Yeah…

I won’t read negative reviews of books I love. Actually, probably a lot of you do this? Why spoil it for yourself, right?

I hold to a Judeo-Christian belief system, but don’t recommend Christian literature. Not entirely; I’ve gotten a lot out of non-fiction by Max Lucado and Joyce Meyer, and honestly enjoyed some Ted Dekker. But I find too much of the “Christian” market to be problematic in many ways.

Impulse library requesting is totally a thing. And this occasionally gets me into trouble. Like when several holds come in at once (you try lugging 8 or more hardbacks three-quarters of a mile, including up a hill, on foot, in the rain, without getting a little grumpy). And then I only have a maximum of 6 weeks (with renewals) to read them all.

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In order to finish a long book faster, I’ll skip some parts. For example, about 75 pages from the end of The Raven King, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and cut to the last chapter to find out if Gansey survived. (In my defense, after I learned the answer, I did go back and catch up on what I missed.)

Page count totals more than 400 pages? It and I shall never meet. Again, yes, there are exceptions, though they’re few and far between. Does this mean I may be missing out on some really great stories? Yupper. Do I mind that much? Not at all. Bring on the movie version. Sorry, folks, but I simply don’t have the time to sit down and slog through 650 pages of any (even an amazing) novel.

I’ve given up on classics. Not because all the classics are terrible. A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel have a permanent spot on my list of recommendations. It’s mostly the time issue; also, it’s a matter of personal taste. Too many classics either frustrate or bore the living daylights out of me.

Please, please, please don’t make me read anything that isn’t speculative fiction. This covers fantasy, sci-fi, sometimes dystopia, and even steampunk. See, that’s plenty of options! So I’m abandoning romance, mysteries, thrillers, most historical fiction, and even biographies — trust me, that still leaves me more than enough choices. And these are the genres I love — what’s the point in depriving me of that?

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community, reading, writing

The Fear of Missing Out: The Bookdragon Edition

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“The Fear Of Missing Out” is apparently a real thing. Nah, come on! Don’t we have more self-esteem than that?! Who cares if we haven’t heard of this band, or that actor, missed that TV show, skipped this movie, didn’t read that book…

Er, hang on a minute there.

Here are some very valid things bookdragons are concerned with when it comes to being afraid of missing bookish stuff:

All your friends loved this novel/series, but you just can’t get into it. Yes, it is totally okay to have a different opinion, even from the people you’re close to. But when you seem to be the only person in your life that doesn’t appreciate a certain trilogy or author, it can be a bit…almost lonely.

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You come across titles written by your favorite author(s) that you had no idea existed. This can come as a real shock to the senses. How can you even claim to be a fan? How is it possible that this knowledge escaped your attention? And how quickly can you catch up?

There’s a genre that you try and try and it just doesn’t mesh with you, and it’s on fire right now, so it’s taking over all the sales this year. That makes it more complicated for those of us who would like to find new titles not belonging to this genre of the moment. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to spend my meager book budget on releases that will simply test my patience and make me have buyers’ remorse.

You can’t afford merchandise based on your favorite series. Honestly, I don’t have to own throw pillows and tote bags and coffee mugs emblazoned with characters and dialog quotes and cover logos for every single novel I’ve ever enjoyed. But sometimes it would be nice to have just one or two.

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It’s really hard when you don’t like a book you were really, really hoping to like. Okay, compared to losing a job or finding out your car is totaled after that minor accident, it’s not that hard. But when you have a lot of emotional energy invested in a project — yes, even reading a novel — and it doesn’t pan out the way you had anticipated… Well, when you’re someone who thinks and analyzes and introspects a fair amount (hands up out there — be brave, only I can see you, I promise), this can be a big deal. (Trust me, it’s a big deal.)

Re-reading an old favorite can lead to the discovery that you no longer like it. This has actually happened to me in recent months. It was devastating. (You hush, yes, it was.) Now I don’t know what to do with those selections, their space on my shelves, how I might feel later if I actually got rid of them… The dilemma ensues.

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Sometimes publishers consider it necessary to release immediate sequels in a different size to the original, or to change the covers from country to country. This is very frustrating when you’re trying to get all the titles in a series to match because the universe will end if you do not. Or when you actually like the covers for a foreign nation better than the ones available in your own home town. Is it just me, or do we all agree that publishers need to take fans’ feelings more into account? Grrr…

Occasionally, an author that you love decides to write something that you just cannot stomach. Believe me, this is heartbreaking. Yeah, there are other types of tragedies in the world, like losing your phone or forgetting that coupon for Bath and Body Works until after you’ve left the mall. When you feel betrayed by one of your previously favorite authors, though, this ranks right up there.

(Has anybody seen the episode of “Spaced” where Simon Pegg burns all his Star Wars stuff after The Phantom Menace comes out? It’s like that.)

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humor, reading, Science fiction

The Genius That is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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It has recently come to my attention that there is a very serious problem within the book blogging community, and it is this: Not everyone has read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

This once-cult-classic is now a mainstream sci-fi classic, and successfully joined together sci-fi and comedy (which was what the author was attempting to do in the first place — in the 1970s, and you can’t tell me that wasn’t challenging).

My introduction to this series came from my previous life in England, and I have never stopped loving it since. I’ve read all of the 5 novels in the series (that “homage” by Eoin Colfer doesn’t count), listened to the old BBC radio show, watched the Hollywood movie (ehhh), and the original miniseries so many times that I still have parts of it memorized.

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Above is the printing that I own (yes, it is a first edition hardcover, and I am immensely proud of it). There have been several re-releases since the initial publication, and it even lives in some libraries. So, if you haven’t read it yet, you have no excuse to keep putting it off.

The fantastic thing about THHGTTG is that you don’t have to be a big sci-fi nerd (yes, I’m going to use that word) to understand the content. You don’t have to be an expert at astrophysics, spaceships, or alien planets. Not only is most of the science stuff confined to relevant portions of the text, but it’s also easily broken down by the dual narration of aliens needing to explain everything to Arthur Dent, the human, and the Guide itself.

And there’s so much humor, wit and banter, mixed in with light-hearted philosophical discussions, and plenty of tug-on-your-heartstrings moment, too. The only thing that might trip up first-time readers is the very British language (well, Adams was a born-and-bred Englishman), and the references to culture of the 1970s.

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But don’t let that stop you. Not for a minute.

It doesn’t even bother me that Adams makes subtle jabs at everything from organized religion to mega-corporations, social conformity to the fall of Imperialism. The man was entitled to his own opinions, for heaven’s sake (and personally, I feel it’s a really sad day when we can’t separate a few political disagreements from a wonderful story and just enjoy it for what it is).

(Anyway…)

And there are so many valuable nuggets ensconced in the pages of THHGTTG. Such as — You have to know where your towel is. DON’T PANIC. There is something inherently flawed about Thursdays. And most important: The meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.

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Yes, 42.

The real reason was (well, according to fan legend) that it seemed like the funniest number Adams could come up with at the time.

But also — why not 42? A major part of the series is the search for the Ultimate Question (the answer is 42, but nobody really knew what the question was). And to me this just so completely reflects our modern concerns and sensibilities on this issue, in a very endearing way.

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So, moths, you tell me — Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Do you plan to after being (so rightly) convinced by my excellent treatise? Is there still a place in this world for light-hearted, not-too-science-y fiction mashups?

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