What I’ve Been Reading

The theme for this summary of superb reads is definitely sustainability. I’ve returned to some favourite authors, hoping for something good, and got it. I tried a few new authors only to end up adding several new books to my mountainous TBR.  

 

41-y28l0FWL._SY346_The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Reread. I actually had little to no memory of the story, which is a bit disturbing. The same thing happened with The Fountains of Paradise (Clarke), which I vaguely remembered the beginning of, but not much else. Anyway, this time I listened to the audio, and as always, I got a lot more out of the book.  

The Lathe of Heaven is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Le Guin. It’s thoughtful and easy to follow with a protagonist who at first feels as if he’s plot flotsam, but who proves worthy by the end. I enjoyed the character growth and the overall comment on society. 

The end in this instance wasn’t quite what I expected, which might be why I didn’t rate the book higher back in ‘o8. Or it could be that sometimes I have a hard time reading concept books myself and do better with the audio version. 

51y-cj9gfmL._SY346_The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North 

My Goodreads review for this one reads: Wonderful. 

Thanks, past me.  

To elaborate, this is my new favourite Claire North. I’d read Touch previously and adored the difference of it. Harry August is similar in that it’s very different and very worthwhile.  

Basically, the story covers the first fifteen lives of the apparently immortal being, Harry August. As you’d expect, much of the book is about the how and why of Harry’s perennial existence, and the effect it has on him, others like him, and the world in general. The mechanics of Harry’s continual rebirth, and how those like him communicate across the ages, are fascinating to read. But what makes this book stand out, aside from Harry’s voice, and Harry, himself, is the other layer. The friendship that ties the book together from beginning to end. Strip away all the “other” and this is the story of what friendship can mean, especially to those who have lifetimes in which to develop it.  

41x2OHpDTFLFoundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett 

Simply put, Foundryside is a fantastic book. Super easy to read and engaging from the very first page. It was funnier than I thought it would be, often in a sly sort of way. More gruesome in parts, too. And sweet. And super thoughtful. Very clever. So, basically, fantastic.  

I often find it difficult to connect with female characters but had no such issues here. I also liked the slight twist on usual tropes and the inclusion of queer characters. Science fiction and fantasy are becoming a lot more representative of the world we live in, regardless of whether the book is set here or not. To me, that’s important.  

I previously enjoyed the Divine Cities and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series. 

51RmQtqarcLThe Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg 

I would happily shelve this next to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe That could be the sum total of my review if you’ve read Aristotle and Dante. And it’s very high praise.

For the uninitiated, The Music of What Happens has the same blend of painful youth, life lessons, and friendship. The book speaks to all youth, and the struggle with identity, whether sexual, racial or just being a human being. 

I loved the food truck adventures and was hungry pretty much the whole time I listened (this was another audiobook read). I laughed and I cried (thankfully I was alone on the creek trail at this point). All the stars from me. 

If you’re not reading Bill Konigsberg yet, start with my favourite, Openly Straight, and work your way here!

41H4AwUU-GLThe Huntress by Kate Quinn 

Amazing. One of the most engrossing and fascinating books I’ve ever read. I was glued to the page and fully invested.  

I really didn’t know much about the book going in, except that at some point, I’d added it to my library hold list. When it turned up, I sort of shrugged and dove in, hoping for the best… and became instantly enthralled.  

I loved the adventure, the humour, and the love stories, but mostly, I enjoyed reading about Nina’s journey west, from The Old Man to Boston. She’s an absolutely brilliant character! I’m definitely inspired to look for more from Kate Quinn. 

51BnjDRpZGL._SY346_Fool’s Errand (Tawny Man #1) by Robin Hobb 

Another one-word Goodreads review: Wonderful. 

Honestly, sometimes you don’t need more, particularly with an author as prolific as Robin Hobb… and when you’re talking about the first book in the third trilogy of a series that began the year before you graduated high school. (In other words, a long, long time.) 

Because it had been a while since I set foot in this universe, it did take me a little while to catch up, which is why I appreciated the slower beginning to this book. The first part is quiet and might not sweep a new reader in quite as quickly as Assassin’s Apprentice. It had the feel of the author also returning to this world and remembering with the reader why it’s so beloved.  

What I really appreciated was the slow and gentle rebuilding of the friendship between Fitz and the Fool. I also just loved the story, Fitz’s development and our introduction to new, obviously important characters.  

51mLOnwH+DLThe Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne 

I had to wait for a day (to finish crying) before I wrote this review and during that time, I kept thinking back over certain passages and tearing up. I couldn’t settle into another book.  

While reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies (which is pretty much the best title ever), I often thought the more tragic and coincidental aspects of the story might be a little too tragic and coincidental. But by the time I had reached the latter parts of the book, and then the end, I couldn’t imagine Cyril’s story being told any other way.

The events of his life snip corners away from Cyril’s character in an irretrievable way. He’s such a sad figure by the end. They also unflinchingly expose the awfully fallible society within which he was raised. Anything gentler wouldn’t have worked as well, nor allowed the high points and humour to have shined quite as brightly as they did.

This book is funny. Surprisingly so. Horribly so. I laughed despite myself more than once. It’s also very, very sad, and I cried a lot. Unabashedly at times. I also wept after I had finished, while thinking back, and while describing some of the moments to others. 

A wonderful story, magnificently told. I’d ordered a paper copy for the keeper shelf within minutes of finishing and bookmarked several of John Boyne’s other books. Now to find the time to read them! 

51upSSshYeL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_A Chip and a Chair (Seven of Spades #5) by Cordelia Kingsbridge 

As with the rest of the series, A Chip and a Chair is superbly written. The relationship between Dom and Levi survives the watertight test (just) and just as importantly, both characters come to terms with themselves. This is something that’s missing from a lot of romance novels (in all subgenres). I’m all for happy ever afters, but to me, the relationship of a character to themselves is always just as important.  

So, without spoilers, my guess for who the killer might be was spot on—but I did wonder from time to time (book to book) if I might be wrong. The author throws in a few expert twists and really had me believing a certain other character might be the Seven of Spades. It worked, and had the added bonus of being a very uncomfortable realization.  

Las Vegas is a city I’m extremely familiar with due to almost yearly visits with family over the past two decades and it was kind of shocking to bear witness to events in the final book.  

I waited for the last book to be published before reading the final three in one marathon session, which is unusual for me. I can usually spread a series out over a year or more. But the suspense is high and the need to stop the killer as well as see Dom and Levi set straight is pretty compulsive.  

Can’t wait to see where Cordelia Kingsbridge takes us next. 

51OfLvwqLkL._SY346_Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess 

I picked this one up because of the cover. It’s so energetic and matches the rhythm of the book perfectly. Swing is one of the titles offered by the free summer reading program Sync, audiobooks for teens. The program runs for fourteen weeks with two new offerings every week. Click through for more information. 

Swing is the story of Noah, who has a lot of feelings and isn’t sure what to do with them, and the advice given to him by his best friend Walt, who takes on the name Swing to better further his own ambitions. The book is a combination of lyrics, poetry, and story. 

The highlight of Swing is the narration of author Kwame Alexander. There are many moments where the story takes on a performance note, and the words become poetry.  

That ending, though… 

What I’ve Been Reading!

The good, the great, and the even better.

I always read a lot outside of the books I pick for particular challenges, and my reading challenge updates always ramble on into what I’ve been writing as well. It could be worse, I could ramble on about all the movies and TV shows I’ve seen as well… 😀

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

When We Were Orphans

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro devastated me–so much so, that I hesitated to pick up When We Were Orphans for about five years. I didn’t want to spend another two weeks sniveling into my hankie and generally embarrassing myself.

While the narrative voice of When We Were Orphans is familiar, the story is very different. It’s still emotionally charged, and the revelations are…sad. No other word for it. What really struck me, will stick with me, though, is Christopher’s naivete. A good portion of the story is recollections from his childhood and even as he pokes through his memories, his view of them is clouded by what he thought and perceived as a child.

This makes Christopher a somewhat unreliable narrator, which is a hallmark of Ishiguro’s fiction. His truths are coloured by his emotions and ambitions, and while he can be self-deprecating, just as often he’s simply human. It’s in these moments the novel shines. I envy Ishiguro’s ability to write this way, to offer these imperfect memories, and to build the story of a man whose life is shaped by just such.


Way of the Wolf (Vampire Earth #1)Way of the Wolf
by E.E. Knight has a really cool setting. I picked it up because it’s post apocalyptic and the idea of alien vampires intrigued me. The actual story is much more interesting. There is a system of gates that connect parallel universes. It takes an incredible amount of power to open and use these gates, and to maintain the longevity of the beings who are using them. So, the Kurians are lifesforce vampires rather than bloodsuckers, but have absolutely no problems with draining a human of just about everything that makes them tick. Yeah, there’s some gruesome stuff here.

The Kurians are the new overlords of Earth, hence the subtitle: Vampire Earth. Humanity is either subjugated or living in small pockets of rebellion. One of these rebellious factions has access to gifts from another alien species that is like the Kurians, but not evil. They teach the Way of the Wolf, Cat and Bear to humans who have the mental and physical stamina to adapt.

The story starts out slowly with an extended introduction to David Valentine and his world. I didn’t mind the pace, though, as I found the world fascinating and David is easy to like. The plot really picks up at the two thirds mark with the last quarter of the book passing in a blur. I will be reading on. I already have the next two books on the shelf.

Random Favourites

Seeing as I didn’t read a lot from my challenge list over the last few months, here are a couple of random reviews of books I really enjoyed:

BlinkBlink by Rick R. Reed

It’s been a long time since I read past my bedtime – which is, admittedly, early. But I’m old, and that’s one of the things that drew me to this book, the age of the characters in the second part. There is not enough romantic fiction about older couples. The other thing that drew me to this book was the premise. The thirty second love affair, as Andy puts it. Who hasn’t met the eyes of a stranger and wondered ‘what if’?

I enjoyed the elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in this book as much as I did the actual story of Andy and Carlos. I loved the pushmi-pullyu reference. It was apt in the beginning and throughout the ebb and flow of the guys’ lives. More, I loved that Andy and Carlos had to take such a journey before reconnecting, and that that was the focus of the story.

Finally, the afterword: I already knew the facts as I’d discovered this book through a blog tour where Rick Reed shared his inspiration for Blink. And that story was the reason I picked this one up. 🙂

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Long, but ultimately worth it. The world building is phenomenal.

I listened to City of Stairs on audio and it was one of those rare treats. New SF and Fantasy titles don’t show up on the library’s list very often. It’s even more rare for a book on my wishlist to show up, so I fell all over this one–and then listened obsessively for days until it was done.

I loved the world. If I hadn’t listened on audio, I might have been tempted to skim some of the description, history and world building because there is a lot. Most of it’s relevant and it didn’t really feel like the author showing off all his research, particularly as it’s Shara’s business to know all of this stuff.  I really enjoyed Shara as a point of view character. I also enjoyed the glimpses we had of others. My favourite? Sigrud. And I did not begrudge a single minute of his history. His story was worth a novel all it’s own, and adds so much depth and substance to this book.

A highly recommended read!

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My Goodreads review:

Holy @#$%. Just…WOW. This book really crept up on me, and then refused to let go. Feeling kinda wrecked.

Excellent. Deserves all the stars.

Really, there’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling the magic of this book, except to tell you to keep going. It starts out a little slow and the plot is quite obscure, but OMG, the ending. I cried–and I can’t even really tell you why. But, like Never Let Me Go, I carried this story next to my soul for weeks afterward and I can still feel the wrench of emotion. I really, really hope M.R. Carey writes another novel. Soon.


Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy
by L.A. Meyer

This was an Audible daily deal and I bought it with the intention of passing it to my daughter. Then I saw a couple of reviews and decided to try it for myself. I ADORED this book. Not only was Jacky’s voice absolutely charming, but the narrator did a wonderful job of bringing her to life, accent and all. The story is equally engaging, being the tale of an orphan who goes to sea pretending to be a ship’s boy. As she matures, it becomes more and more difficult for her to hide her gender, leading to many sweet and not so sweet moments. Meyer perfectly captures adolescence and I loved the boys. I also really loved the inside look at life aboard one of the King’s ships and the excitement of chasing pirates, neither of which was diluted or dumbed down for a younger audience.

If I pick up the sequel, it will definitely be on audio!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Writing

I’ve had three books published since my last update. I blogged about each one, but I’m going to show them off again here as they represent a lot of hard work. Covers link to the relevant posts.

   OutintheBlueLG   WDCover500

In addition, Jenn and I finalized Skip Trace (Book three of Chaos Station), as in it’s fully edited, copy edited and proofread. It’s due out in October. We’re hoping to put out a short story between now and then. We’ve also finished the first draft of Inversion Point (Book four of Chaos Station). I think this one was the hardest yet to write. We’ve learned so much writing the first three, through simply writing a series and being edited so competently (and thoroughly) by our editor at Carina Press. So we put a lot into constructing book four. That leaves one more for this series–Phase Shift–which we’ll begin writing over the summer.

So far, the series is getting really great reviews. We’re hoping readers will enjoy the ride all the way to the end with us.