Weekend Reads for June 4-6

text header "Weekend Reads" over stock photo of an open book

The week is almost over, and after the week I had I plan to relax as much as I can this weekend! I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t work a job where I get the whole weekend off. The only day I am guaranteed to be off is on Sunday, so that is my Read and Relax day.

This weekend, I want to make some progress with The Dragon Reborn (I say this every week but this week I mean it). I also plan to continue to listen to Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey. I have finally started reading the Expanse series, after the first 3 books have been sitting on my shelves gathering dust for about 5 years now.

I was very excited to see my preorder of For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten come in, and if I get the time I will be diving head-first into it. I have been waiting for so long for it to finally come out, and since I follow the author on Twitter I kept seeing posts about it and reviews about it, and I have been chomping at the bit to get to it. AHHH, I’m so excited to get to this one!!

If that isn’t enough to cram into one weekend, I also want to read a couple more of the comics that are finalists for the Hugo. I still need to read the graphic novel adaptation of Parable of the Sower and the first 5 volumes of Monstress. Then I will be done with this category and can move on to finishing the novellas and novels.

I think I have a busy weekend ahead of me ๐Ÿ˜‚

What do you plan to read this weekend? Let me know in the comments! ๐Ÿ’œ

Mass Market Monday

Welcome to Mass Market Monday, where I highlight mass market paperback covers that I either love or loathe!

Mass markets always get the short end of the stick from the book community, but I’ve loved them since I was a wee baby reader, reading all the 5.99 MM paperbacks on the SFF shelves from the Books-A-Million in the mall.

Get a load of this vintage beauty!

The cover of Nova by Samuel R Delaney, featuring a floating naked woman wearing a sheet, a man with a robot arm, and a space ship

Is this not the most cheesy scifi cover? Vintage covers went hard on the weird and the overly-sexual, which is very apparent here. The way she just floats in space wearing nothing but a sheet! And his robot arm! It’s very Lego-Man chic.

Planets. A nebula. A very rotund space ship. This cover is so amazing, and I hope the cover artist (uncredited) is living his or her best life.

Weekend Reads 5/21-5/23

It’s the weekend again! I haven’t done a weekend reads post in a while, and I’m excited to bring them back.

I’m going to be listening to the last couple hours of The Burning God by R. F. Kuang, the third book in the Poppy War trilogy. I’m enjoying it so far, but Kuang seems to like to torture her characters so listening to these books is a careful balance of trying to not become too attached to any characters. I’ll tell you now – if anything (permanent) happens to Kitay, I’m rioting!

I’ve also been reading The Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. I’m not all that far in, but the worldbuilding I’ve seen so far has been very interesting. I’ve heard it ends in a pretty gnarly cliffhanger, but it’s on the shortlist for the Hugo Awards so I gotta do it. I’m sure it will all be fine and I won’t be angry about it at all ๐Ÿ˜‡

I also want to work on reading the comics up for the Hugo, so I’m going to read the first 2 volumes of DIE by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans and possibly the first 2 volumes of Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward.

Is anyone else reading for the Hugos? Or are you all waiting until the voter packets are sent out?

I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend and reading some amazing books!!

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Race the Sands is a standalone fantasy novel set in a world where everyone is reincarnated after death, whether it is as an animal, insect, or a horrifying monster. People spend their lives having their auras read to determine if they are on the right path, and the worst thing that can happen to someone is that they are reborn as a kehok, an unnatural monster from the desert.

Of course, humans are still humans, so they have found a way to use those kehoks to supply entertainment for the masses. Some brave few will take their chances and ride these murderous beasts on a race track to seek fame and fortune. A former kehok rider, Tamra, is now a down-on-her-luck trainer who really needs a win in order to pay her daughter’s school fees — or they will take her away forever. Raia is running from her awful family and needs to find a safe place for herself, and maybe being a kehok rider will the the change she needs.

The country is in turmoil after the death of the Emperor and the Emperor-to-Be cannot be crowned until the reincarnated former Emperor is found. Without a proper Emperor, there can be no treaties and no new public works, and the economy is stalling. With the high intensity of the races combined with the high anxiety of the masses, the whole situation is ready to explode.

I really enjoyed the world-building created in this book — the whole society is bound up in reincarnation, and everyone is obsessed with making sure they are reincarnated as something good. The very hint of a rumor that your soul is unclean can be your ruin, and of course it leads to discrimination. The plot is pretty well-crafted once it starts to unfold. A lot of fantasy novels nowadays are multi-volume, highly plotted, twisty stories where the author tries to get in as much shock-and-awe as we can take, but this standalone is a pretty straight-forward fantasy romp and I appreciated that a lot.

I think if you enjoy the straightforward language in Brandon Sanderson’s novels, you will enjoy Race the Sands.

April is the Slumpiest Month

Monthly Reading Wrap Up

April was an absolutely awful reading month for me. Just terrible. Almost everything I managed to read was on audio because I just couldn’t focus on text. As of writing this post (April 28), I’ve finished 9 books and I’m about halfway done with number 10.

I know that is still a lot of books, and I’ve read a couple chunky ones this month as well. It shouldn’t make me feel lazy to have only read 9 books this month, but it’s hard not to get in the mindset that a real reader reads every day and finishes 20+ books each month. Even just looking at my TBR pile makes me feel guilty about not reading, which puts me further into a slump.

For the month of May, I am going to work on not feeling guilty about not reading as much. I will read what I want when I want, and if I am not feeling the book I will put it down. A DNF is not a failure; it is my mind telling me I want to read something different.

Quantum Shadows by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

This book took me so long to read. So long to read.

I started it before it came out. I got a copy from Netgalley and was interested in it because I’d never read Modesitt before and wanted to see if he was an author I could get into. A standalone seemed like a good place to start.

The summary was what really drew me in:

On a world called Heaven, the ten major religions of mankind each have its own land governed by a capital city and ruled by a Hegemon. That Hegemon may be a god, or a prophet of a god. Smaller religions have their own towns or villages of belief.

Corvyn, known as the Shadow of the Raven, contains the collective memory of humanityโ€™s Falls from Grace. With this knowledge comes enormous power.

When unknown power burns a mysterious black image into the holy place of each House of the Decalivre, Corvyn must discover what entity could possibly have that much power. The stakes are nothing less than another Fall, and if he doesn’t stop it, mankind will not rise from the ashes.

This book dragged so much. Corvyn starts off his journey to find out who is burning symbols into sacred relics, and we get a step-by-step account. The first half is him on his little bike traveling to another village or city, checking in to an inn, asking where to get the best food, him going to to eat food with detailed descriptions of said food, him going to the nearest religious building, him seeing the symbol burned into a relic, him being chased out, him getting back on his little bike, and on we go again.

So tedious.

The second half gets little more action, and we get more information on who is doing this. Honestly, by thing I got to the part about who and why this was happening, I didn’t much care anymore. In order to finish this book, I had to switch to audio and even then I caught myself zoning out.

As Corvyn goes from village to village, Modesitt peppers in little references to each religion and I’m sure it’s super interesting to someone with a wide knowledge of world religions, but a lot of it just flew over my head. While I was reading on Kindle, I would use the Wiki feature to get the connections, but once I switched to audio I just let the references slide on past. I’m sure I only got half of what he was trying to convey.

It came across very “I took a comparative religions class and wanted to shove as many references as possible into a book” to me, and that took away from my overall enjoyment.

I rated this book 2.5 stars on Goodreads, but the more I think about it the more I want to knock that half star off. If you like extreme detail and books where you have to take the time to look up references, this is for you.. If you’re looking for a simple read, maybe skip this one.

Wheel of Time Challenge update

Back In January, I posted a challenge for myself to entire Wheel of Time series in 2021. I had already read The Eye of the World, so I only had the remaining 14 books (13 + New Spring).

Well, so far I’m largely failing. I’ve finished the second book, The Great Hunt, and have started The Dragon Reborn. If I had stuck with my original reading plan, I would be about halfway done with Book 6 by now. The first quarter of this year got really bogged down and I dropped a lot of balls. My reading and my blog were both casualties.

But I’m back at it — I’ve added to my daily reading goal and have been making some progress at last. I should be catching up soon and then will be back on track.

I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far. Rand gets on my nerves quite a bit – I find him very whiny and I’m not a huge fan of how every woman he meets immediately falls in love with him. The first couple chapters stuck to a close 3rd person POV of my favorite character so far: Perrin. He’s not as whiny, he’s a lorge boy, and he talks to wolves. What’s not to love?

Give me a book with Nynaeve, Perrin, and Loial and I’d be happy. Maybe add in Thom, too.

The Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona is a series of 9 novellas set about 200 years before the events of The Curse of Chalion (my review here) in her World of the Five Gods. It follows young Lord Penric kin Jurald, who accidentally acquires a demon who he names Desdemona, and because he shares his body with a demon he has the ability to perform chaos magic. Over the course of 9 novellas, Penric goes from a 19-year-old baby sorcerer trying to navigate his new powers to a full-fledged sorcerer, learned member of the Bastard’s Order, and reluctant healer.

Bujold plays to her strengths in this series by creating extremely enjoyable characters and very twisty political and philosophical plots. Penric reminded me a lot of Miles from her Vorkosigan saga, in that he is very knowledgeable, ready with a quip, and prone to rambly, almost manic behavior. What makes Penric unique is the addition of the 200-year-old demon who shares his body and who keeps him more down to earth. Despite being a chaos demon, Desdemona has a more practical, calming influence of Penric.

Desdemona herself is an interesting character to look at. Demons in this world start as an Elemental and attach themselves to a host. When that host dies, the demon will jump to the nearest viable living being. Desdemona in particular has possessed 12 hosts previous to Penric — 10 women, a mare, and a lioness. This give Desdemona a more “female” feeling, despite demons being genderless. Early on in the series, Penric describes it as being like having 10 older sisters living in his head.

I have read the original trilogy in the World of the Five Gods, and you get a good idea of the world from them, but Penric and Desdemona delves much more deeply into the Quintarian religion the underpins this world, and since Penric travels quite a bit in his office as Learned Sorcerer we see a much wider range of the world as a whole. When I was reading The Curse of Chalion, I did not realize how much wider this world was. It focused mainly on Chalion, Ibra, and Darthaca. While reading this series of novellas, it opened up the world beyond that small peninsula. The Weald was introduced in The Hallowed Hunt, but it is fully fleshed out in Penric and Desdemona, and more countries are introduced as Penric moves around.

I liked how Bujold digs deeper into the workings of the Bastard’s Order and a little into the Mother’s Order as Penric learns about his sorcerer’s powers and how it can aid in healing. Penric’s struggles with his inability to save every patient and his ultimate reluctance to even use his healing powers added a depth to him that made for a much more well-rounded character. There is off-page mention of a suicide attempt, but nothing too detailed and it happens in-between books.

I listened to this series on audio, and it was extremely entertaining. I definitely recommend listening to this series if you have access to the audiobooks (most of the series is on Hoopla if your library has it).

Overall, this series is very fun with a great balance of humor, mystery, and romance. If I had to rate this series, I would give it 4.5 stars.

5 Hyped Books That Fell Flat For Me

One of the best things about being on the Internet is that it is so much easier to get book recommendations from a lot of different sources and people. I love when the book community comes together in their love of one book in particular, because it feels more like a shared experience.

Except

Sometimes that book that everyone is raving about just doesn’t work for me. I’ve read the Book du Jour and wondered why it seems like I’m the only one who didn’t enjoy it. Then I jump on the petty-wagon and seek out 1- and 2-star reviews to find my people and wallow in shared community.

Here are a couple from the past few years that just didn’t do it for me.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I know that this is supposed to be the classic feminist book that riffs on the Wife in the Attic trope from Jane Eyre. I know that Jane Eyre was problematic and Mr. Rochester is supposed to be the worst. I know. But I loved Jane Eyre, and I liked how the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester progressed up until the whole wife reveal. Bronte definitely made some…choices…in the last half of that book. I didn’t find Wide Sargasso Sea particularly interesting or ground-breaking. I didn’t really enjoy the writing style, either. I was mostly just very underwhelmed by this book. I can see its merit as a book, but just didn’t enjoy it. Mostly, I was just bored.

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

I really, really, really, did not enjoy this book. I’ve seen so many positive reviews of it, but it didn’t do it for me at all. The idea of 5 families controlling the moon, like a network of moon mafia families, was such an interesting idea to me. The concept was A+ but the execution was an F for me. The writing was not great and the story was just kind of okay. I pushed through because there was a aromantic character that I wanted to follow, but then smack in the middle of this book was a very voyeuristic sex scene with that character that felt so slimy and gross to me. I have never skipped forward in an audiobook before, but I did for this one. That scene took a book I was mostly meh about and plummeted it down the crap shoot.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

I don’t remember much about this book, but even when reading it I had very little idea of what it was about. It’s one of those atmospheric books that is written to where the reader is supposed to infer what’s going on. So many people love this book and talk about how beautifully it’s written, but it flew so far above my head that I just didn’t connect with it at all.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I might get kicked off the Internet for this one. When this book came out, it was praised up, down, and sideways. Everyone was reading this book and everyone was gushing about it. And yeah, it was a good book, but the hype had me expecting so much more than what I got. It had an interesting premise and was well-written, but beyond that it was just…okay.

The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but for this series to be so popular it is not all that well-written. Actually, that might not be true – it might just be the translation that falls flat. The characters are amazing and I loved getting to know them. The story was meh – the concept of the conjunction of the spheres is super interesting, and the integration of the pogroms against the elves and other magical creatures gives it a very Polish twist. The plot with Ciri and the prophecy was…uh, interesting? Also a little gross. Especially when it comes to the men she deals with along the way. ESPECIALLY when dealing with Emperor Emyr. I was so grossed out when that came up in the last book. Also the ending of the last book was so out of nowhere. There are parts of this series that I liked, but when taken overall it just was fine. Just okay. Could have been so much better.

Do you agree with any of these? Let me know in the comments. Do you disagree with me? Roast me in the comments! All opinions accepted ๐Ÿ™‚

The Best Books I Read in 2020

Whew, 2021 is off to an…interesting start. I hope you are all keeping safe wherever you are. I’ve spent the last several days doomscrolling on Twitter and falling behind in my WOT challenge (already failing…typical me TBH).

Let’s all look away from the garbage fire that is the news, and explore which books I loved this year.

I rated 28 books on Goodreads as 5 stars, which is way more than I was expecting when I pulled up my stats. Looking back at those books, there are a couple that stand out above the others.

No one will be surprised that 6 of those books were by Lois McMaster Bujold. What surprised me about this was that I marked all 4 books in the Sharing Knife series as 5 stars, and thinking back, yeah all of them deserved that rating. When do we ever encounter a series where all the books are perfect? I loved that series so much, and it is now one of my favorite series of all time.

Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other still sits very high on the best books I read last year. The jived very well with the humor, and the story was so compelling. The dual POV was used to such an amazing effect, and it continually messed with my head. Since both of the characters start out as incredibly bitter to one another, and blaming each other for not supporting the other, each time the POV changed it made my brain record-scratch. I would be on her side, then on his, then back to hers – until they finally started to come back together, communicate, and put effort into supporting each other. A superb romance.

Rivers Solomon’s The Deep was probably the most lyrical book I read last year. The audiobook was so well done – read by Daveed Diggs, who was such a great choice. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I had read it in print. There was just something special about listening to this book.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen made my top books because it resonated with me more than any other book about asexuality ever has. I was not expecting to connect with this book so much. The first chapter made me tear up on my drive to work, just because it spoke so closely to my own experience with being asexual. If there was anything that could cement the principle that everyone deserves to see themselves in books, it was this book for me. It’s one thing to know it intellectually, but another to experience the emotional connection first-hand.

2020 was the year that I finally finished Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper. I started this book when it first came out in 2018, but it was while I was in a major slump. I put it aside, until the audiobook went on sale this past summer. I am so glad I picked up the audio! I think this book should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. This is one of the most compelling books on intersectional feminism I have read.

It’s nice to look back and find good things from 2020. What books did you love last year? Let me know in the comments!