The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1)

The Ruin of Kings

I wanted to write about this one because this is the fastest I have ever put down a book. I read the short introductory chapter and thought, okay, a prisoner telling their warden a story, great let’s go. But then I turned the page and the FOOTNOTES started. And I’m sorry fam, but if I’m going to read a book for fun, especially a fantasy novel, there is no faster way to get me to take that shit back to the library than to make it look like a research paper. Also it’s difficult to keep the flow of the reading going when I have to constantly eyeball back and forth from the action to the side info.

NOOOOOOOPE.

Conspiracy of Ravens (The Shadow #2)

Conspiracy of Ravens

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1)

The first book of this series Wake of Vultures was so fantastic that I knew I was going to continue with the series. Book 2 seems to have the book two blues. The Book Two Blues is when an author had all the time in the world to write the first book, query it, pitch it, and sell it, but then book 2 is under a heckin’ deadline and sometimes quality suffers because of it. That’s just how publishing rolls.

The beginning of this book feels a lot like the middle of the first book: Nettie Lonesome wandering through the desert, only this time she’s doing it as Rhett Hennessy and it soaring through the desert in her new gigantic bird form, eating dead things and scaring other predators off. She comes across a donkey/Irishman skinwalker who is searching for the Rangers to help with a problem back East, so they team up and travel to reunite with the Rangers. This mirrored her experience with Coyote Dan almost to a T, which made the first third of the book a little bit draggy and repetitive for me.

Luckily at about page 100 we’re off to the East to take on a crooked private railroad owner who employs a doctor who can cut off monster limbs to fuel the railroad’s progression, and then heal them back, something that Nettie/Rhett and others like her have never seen done. There is some dark magic afoot and Nettie, her friend Sam, Coyote Dan, his sister Winnifred, and Earl the donkey go to meet it and hopefully defeat it. The Shadow is pulled to trouble and her destiny once more.

But then we get sidetracked by other “monsters” that are different than the one we are actually setting out to deal with, and so you’ll be at about page 200 or so (out of 350!) before you even get to the main objective of the book – the railroad tycoon who experiments on monsters. It just got to be too much description and banter and not enough action so I decided to stop reading.

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On a side note, this series seems to be playing with the idea of what it means to be trans or maybe gender fluid and definitely bisexual. At the start of the series we see Nettie identifying as a woman who uses the guise of a man to survive and find purpose in a world that is not kind to women. But then, in this second book, she continues using the male name but then the pronoun changes, but she/he still views him/herself as a girl and wishes she was a man. It’s unclear though whether this wish is due to existing as a black/Native American woman or because psychologically Nettie is a man in a woman’s body.

This book was published in 2016, and so I’m not sure how it escaped the ‘woke af’ discussions that I am sure would have swarmed around it concerning trans/bisexual representation. The maleness Nettie puts on feels like a costume and not her real identity. She seems tired of being a woman (see: 10 pages straight on how she’s having her period out on the journey) and wants to escape into being a man, which is very different from gender fluidity or trans identity as we have come to understand it. Not that I fault Nettie for this instinct at all – if I was a woman in the Wild West I would want to try to pass as a man myself. It’s just an odd story to tell and to read. I came in with the understanding that it was a girl power type story – breaking boundaries and things like that. It is not that at all anymore, and I found myself frustrated with a story that was about this asshole dude and that I definitely didn’t sign up to read.

Between being bored and confused and disappointed, I just stopped reading and I’ll be skipping the rest of the series.

 

The Raven Tower

The Raven Tower

I want to be up front about the fact that I did not finish this book. When I don’t finish a book it’s for one of three reasons: (1) I’m bored, (2) I don’t care about the characters, or (3) It’s due back at the library and I can’t renew it. In this particular case my boredom was so strong as to make me reread the same page for five minutes without realizing it because my brain was entertaining me with other thoughts because the book was so boring.

The idea is interesting. There are many gods – big gods, little gods, strong gods, weak gods, traveling gods, stationary gods, gods that speak through animals, gods that communicate with stones, gods that have gone silent but are still terrifying – I got bored just making that list.

And you get endless descriptions of these gods and how they came to be since before the Ice Age. Oh and in between the descriptions of the evolution of gods we get glimpses of the story we are supposed to be interested in that takes place in the present, but it’s not told from the point of view of any of those characters. The narrator of the story is a god we are not familiar with, speaking to the aide to the prince we are supposed to be invested in, but she can’t hear it (or it might be a he, it’s implied that there are bindings which I assumed are being used to hide breasts). It speaks to her using “you” and I was not a big fan of this storytelling style. I can’t get into the head of a narrator I don’t even know.

We are introduced to a society that sacrifices a king called the Raven’s Lease to the raven god once a generation. The Lease’s heir takes over and speaks with the newly born god once it hatches from an egg until it dies, and the system repeats. But the Lease’s heir, to whom our MC is an aide, is away defending the borders when his father supposedly runs out on his responsibility to sacrifice himself, and his uncle steps into the Lease’s job in his place. When they return from war and find this, the current Raven speaks and says that there will be a reckoning for what has happened, but all they can do is wait for the new bird to hatch to hear what comes next.

This would be a pretty intense story if it wasn’t nested in pages and pages of history description. I got 30% of the way through this book, so it was interesting enough to hold me that far, but I got to the point where I was reading it out of some sense of obligation and not a spirit of enjoyment so I gave myself permission to stop. I have so many other books to read.

My Lovely Wife

Have you ever seen the show Dexter? It’s about a serial killer who hides in plain sight as a police forensics analyst and kills bad people to satisfy his psychological urges. I watched the first season and then none of the rest. It was so long ago that I remember deciding that the finale to that season was so good that I didn’t need to see more. An individual with a terrible tendency turned it into something “good” and I was 100% fine with that.

When I started reading My Lovely Wife it was the same kind of feeling. Millicent has a terrible past that her husband helps her…well… deal with. Their first murder is her sister who abused her as a child. The next is someone who worked with the sister who remembered the husband. It feels like what they are doing, while terrible, has a greater purpose.

Then the couple discovers they now have a hunger for murder. In the midst of low-paying service jobs and harried family life (they have two kids!!), they decide to continue doing this one thing together that makes them feel connected and in control when in so many areas of their life they are not. So the third murder is someone they choose via social media, and we enter the story as they are choosing the fourth.

This story put a hook in my mouth and I allowed myself to be led through the first 40% of the book. The suspense was killing me. Our narrator is the husband and he’s doing all this to impress his wife, but the wife seems way more into it than she should be and so I had some questions that I wanted answered. Since the book is told through the POV of the husband, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to get those answers until he got them, and he obviously wasn’t going to get them soon because he was kind of stupid and impulsive.

Suddenly my excitement and suspense turned to boredom as I watched this ineffectual jackass get bribed by his son, revive an actual serial killer which scares his daughter enough to bring a knife to school, and chase his wife around like a small puppy dog hoping to impress her at every turn. I wasn’t about to spend any more time with this guy than I had to, I don’t care how terrifying Millicent turned out to be. I set it down and won’t be going back.

Usually I say something like “I didn’t like it, but you might!” but for this one you might want to just skip it. I’m sure there are better thrillers out there than this.

Gingerbread

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi was provided to me as an eARC by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Publishing Group, via Edelweiss+ in return for an honest review. Gingerbread is scheduled to release for purchase on March 5, 2019.

I usually don’t review books of which I have experienced less than 30%. Most of the ARCs I am provided with come through to the Kindle, so I’m able to work to hit that threshold. With Gingerbread, I only made it to 9%, but I would like to explain why, and then encourage you to read it.

There are certain kinds of books that are not my cup of tea. Among these are the kinds of books that simply take you through the mundane workings of a suburban family’s day and try to show you the magic hidden within. I cannot stand that kind of stuff. Plus, it links to another kind of story I can’t stand, which is suburban politics or mommy wars. Examples of this are things like battles for PTA president or calling child protective services on someone as payback or HOA meeting pettiness. All of this kind of stuff just misses me, mostly because I think it’s so stupid and meaningless, but also because I can’t relate. If the protagonists own a home and have kids the book is already two circles out from my bulls eye. That’s not to say I won’t read a story about people who own homes or have kids – it’s the story that surrounds that setting that makes or breaks it.

Gingerbread is steeped in this “trying to belong in suburbia” kind of tale and I jut couldn’t get into it. The main character mom brings her famous gingerbread to a PTA meeting as gifts for the other moms and they just leave it there scattered among the chairs when they leave. I have no patience for that kind of cruelty.

Another kind of story that I won’t invest time in is one where someone clings to their family tradition even in the face of trauma or abuse or even just basic disrespect. Gingerbread represents past, present, and future for this family, and its presence in the story is a symbol of how this mom will carry her family’s legacy and traditions into the future in a strong way (spoiler, she’s not doing so hot).

I say all this to say that this simply wasn’t a book I would read because I wouldn’t enjoy it. That is not to say that it was poorly written, or that the story isn’t structured well – it was. If these kinds of stories are your cup of tea, you should absolutely pick up Gingerbread, because you won’t be in better storytelling hands than Helen Oyeyemi, who is at the top of the field for this kind of book.

Just because something isn’t for me doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just not for me. Look into the book, read the blurbs and the synopsis and a few reviews, and feel comfortable picking it up. I’m not shooing you away, I’m just letting you know that it wasn’t my cup of tea.

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We Cast A Shadow

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley as a digital review copy in advance of publication in return for an honest review. We Cast a Shadow is scheduled to release on 1-29-19.

Ah yes, we have reached the first “did not finish” book of the year. We Cast a Shadow follows a young, black lawyer as he attempts to climb the corporate ladder while navigating the inherent racism in the system. While I recognize that these books bring important truths into the world and allow black voices to be heard, if I’m reading fiction I cannot immerse myself in the evils that I am already drowning in every day in the real world.

The very first chapter describes a party in which the four black junior associates are being asked to be as stereotypically black as they can in order to earn a promotion. The narrator arrives at the party dressed as a normal lawyer, and discovers he must perform or be fired. The host offers him an African garb costume from her in-house museum-esque collection, and through a silly African dance and subsequent nudity when the costume falls off, he runs out of the house and into a promotion to the head of the diversity committee for community outreach. There’s so much there to unpack that I was completely stunned but also not surprised when I read the scene.

And that’s just his work life. At home he is married to a white woman and they have a biracial son with a birthmark that gets bigger every day; the blackness that he has given him that grows to overtake the whiteness. The father/narrator uses creams, bleaches, and is pursuing this promotion at work to be able to afford an operation to have his son’s birthmark removed. He seems to be the only adult involved that is concerned about it, and the son goes along because he loves his dad and doesn’t completely understand what the problem is.

I see all the symbolism here that is relevant to the struggles with race and society that black people face every day. The idea that a father would become nervous the darker his son became resonates with me in a world where unarmed black men are killed so often we don’t even see them on the news anymore. Where I decided that it was enough was when drugs and squalor entered into the story, and suddenly everything became a hallucination that the narrator had to describe life through to me, the reader. I just…I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to see this all presented in this way and be able to appreciate it. It is important to understand the difference between when something is not good and when something is not written for you.

We Cast a Shadow is well-written. The stories told present a plethora of black diasporic experience and struggle in a way that doesn’t preach, it shows you what it looks like in practice. I simply do not think that it was written for me, and that’s why I cringed my way through about 32% of it and then gave myself permission to put it down. Please do not see this review as a non-endorsement. This book is good and troubling. It was not boring and the story was very compelling. It just wasn’t for me.

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Kill the Farm Boy

Kill the Farm Boy

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #1)

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #2)

When I began reading this new release that I grabbed on a whim at the library, it was a really fun start. A nobody that cleans up dung on his family’s farm is chosen by an ugly, drunk pixie to be a Chosen One and he sets off with the goat that the same pixie gave the gift of speech to in order to exact revenge on the lord that killed his brother. There is an aspiring dark lord and even a large woman in a chain mail bikini – and it was when I reached this point that I remembered I had seen this before.

In the spring of this year (2018) I attempted to read the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, but put it down after the second book. I love the silliness, but in books like these it tends to get stuck on level 10 and never deviate, creating a situation where you get bored even though the setup is silly and bucking the tradition. There’s no give and take or normal versus silly – you just go from zero to sixty silliness per hour, the authors don’t let up on the gas, and it’s tiresome.

Sorry for the short review, but I didn’t read very much of the book and so I don’t want to mess with your opinion too much. If you like the Discworld books you will LOVE this novel. It’s just not for me. It’s too much and trying too hard all at once and my brain shuts down. But you might like it, so give it a try.