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 😂

What do you plan to read this weekend? Let me know in the comments! 💜

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 😇

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.

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 🙂

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!

Wheel of Time Reading Challenge 2021

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time has probably figured out that I am habitually awful at completing challenges or sticking to a TBR. Which is why it may surprise you that I have decided in 2021 to read the rest of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

I’m not going to reread The Eye of the World for this – I read it in 2019 and I feel like if I get confused I can figure it out via context clues and wiki summaries. That leaves the remaining 14 books in the series to complete – a whopping 11,149 pages.

That is a little intimidating, I’m not going to lie.

One of my goals over the last couple years has been to catch up on some classic fantasy and scifi series. I have read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, all of the Witcher except for Season of Storms, and now I’m about to start on the last book of the Realm of the Elderlings series from Robin Hobb. I have had a lot of fun researching more obscure older fantasy series like Elizabeth Lim’s Watchtower or J V Jones’ Book of Words series. I decided that since Wheel of Time has such a huge following in the fantasy community, and that there is an adaptation in the works, that I would dedicate myself to finishing it in 2021.

At first, I was like there is no way I can finish Wheel of Time this year. All the books are enormous, and I hear there’s a stretch of 3-4 books where basically nothing happens (“the slog”). But, while crunching numbers, I figured that if I read a minimum of 31 pages per day I could finish this series in 365 days. 31 pages is doable. It leaves me space to read other books, it isn’t a huge commitment, and if I fall asleep and don’t complete my daily allotment I can catch up the next day pretty easily (as long as I don’t try to catch up too many days at a time).

I’m writing this post in January 3rd, and at the moment I am on page 102 of The Great Hunt (book 2). I read 44 pages the first day, fell asleep after 9 pages the second day, then caught up on day 3. It’s early yet, but I’m doing okay so far. I’m hoping that if I keep at it for enough days in a row, I can make it into a habit. Wake up early, read a little WOT. Get in bed, read a little WOT.

Feel free to join in! Even if you’re starting from the beginning of book 1, that only adds 2 pages per day to complete the entire 15 book series in a year. Or, if you’ve already read the series, let me know what you thought of it in the comments. I’d love to know if you liked it, hated it, got bored halfway through book 6, whatever.

The Worst Books I Read in 2020

2020 is now over, and we can start to look forward to a better year in 2021! There’s a lot of work to do to get us there, but something about shedding the stigma of 2020 makes me more hopeful than ever.

One of the things that I would like to do is leave some of the worst books I’ve read behind me. Here are the top 5 worst books I read in 2020.

The number one worst book I read in 2020 is the only book that I gave 1 star on Goodreads. That book was Whiteout by Cambria Hebert. I honestly don’t really remember what this book was even about, and my review on GR is literally only the word “No.” If I remember right, it was short and neither of the characters had any sort of personality. I saw someone on GR describe this as “too short to really enjoy” and I think that is a good way to put it.

The second worst book I read in 2020 feels a little controversial, since so many people loved this book. I absolutely hated The Blacksmith Queen by G A Aiken. I gave this book 2 stars because I could see where other people would enjoy this book, but the voice of the heroine grated on my nerves. I don’t mind a foul-mouthed, sweary heroine (I, too, am a sweary lady) but something about her just made me grind my teeth. She wasn’t nice to anyone around her, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would like her much less become her love interest. Sorry to anyone who loved this book, but it just pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways.

Another book I didn’t care for in 2020 was Dear Mr. Black by Shanora Williams. This is a forbidden romance between a girl and the father of her best friend. Chloe is 12 when she meets her friend’s father, and she has an instant crush on him. They don’t sleep together until Chloe is in college, and every time before that is perfectly innocent. This is a forbidden romance, not a horror novel, so Mr. Black has no feelings about Chloe until she is grown. I like taboo romances when they are done well, and this book was okay but ultimately did not work for me. The pining on Chloe’s part came off as a little weird, and then when they did get together it just didn’t have much romantic chemistry. I need feels with my romance, not just straight boning. It didn’t even end with an HEA! Apparently, it’s a duet, but I just don’t care enough to pick up book 2.

I wrote a long review about how I didn’t like The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly earlier this year, and I stand by my ranty review. I thought it sounded like a premise I could really get into, but the execution was so convoluted and unnecessary that it just left me frustrated. I think this might have been one of the biggest disappointments of 2020 for me. So much potential with so little reward.

And finally, the last book on this list is The Sea Witch by Katee Robert. This will also probably scandalize some folks. Katee Robert is one of the most popular and most prolific romance novelists out there, and is a great follow on Twitter. I have liked books she’s written in the past, so I wanted to give this series a go. The earlier books in the series were less interesting to me, but a retelling of the Little Mermaid with an Ursula/Eric/Ariel triad was an interesting concept to me. I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but honestly the situation these characters find themselves in felt very contrived. I didn’t really like the way the characters constantly misunderstood one another. This is one of those books that could have been cleared up in 50 pages if they were just honest with one another and actually talked about their feelings.

I am happy to leave these 5 books back in 2020, and will gladly throw myself into the 5 star reads coming my way in 2021! Did you read any duds in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

🚀🚀 Space Opera September 2020 TBR 🚀🚀

I am so excited to participate in this readathon again! Last year was a blast, and it gave me an excuse to binge read space operas all month long. Please check out Thomas’ announcement video over on the SFF180 YouTube channel, as well as the original video from last year. There is a GoodReads group as well.

I have so many books stocked up for this readathon! Ever since Thomas announced that he would be repeating the readathon this year, I have been hoarding space operas. I’ve got a couple options for each prompt, so I probably won’t get to all the books mentioned here in September, but I plan to make a big dent in them.

Prompt #1: Read a space opera novella.

For this prompt, I have Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather, and Essex Colony by Lia Cooper to choose from. I’ve been meaning to read the last couple Murderbot books for forever, so that’s in the lead for now. I am very interested in Essex Colony, primarily because of the “ravening wolf-beast” in the book description.

Prompt #2a: Read two space operas by women.

A lot of the space operas I am interested in are by women, and some of the authors I own books by (in some cases, several books by) are Catherine Asaro, Linnea Sinclair, Jessie Mihalik, Martha Wells, and Kate Elliot. I own all of Sinclair’s books, and all of Asaro’s Skolian Empire books. I think I’ve got most of Mihalik’s books as well. Now would be a good time to dive into their books.

Prompt #2b: Read a space opera by a diverse author featuring a diverse protagonist and/or major characters.

I have been saving Salvaged by Madeleine Roux and Ardulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields for this prompt. I read Ardulum: First Don for last year’s SOS, so I am torn on whether to read the sequel, or to pick up something completely new.

Prompt #3: Read a space opera published before you were born.

This prompt was the hardest for me. I had to do some research on the best books from pre-1988, and so many of the ones listed are ones that I am not particularly interested in. I did find The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett, who wrote the first draft of the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back. I also thought about reading something in the Foundation series by Asimov, but I’m not super feeling it right now.

Prompt #4: Read a space opera 500 pages or longer.

Kate Elliot’s Unconquerable Sun has been recommended to me a lot recently, and it’s over 500 pages. If not this one, I have one more Linnea Sinclair book left to read that is just over 500 pages long (The Down Home Zombie Blues) and I really enjoyed Games of Command by her.

That is probably the messiest TBR ever posted on a blog, but there are just so many great space operas out there that I want to read. Let me know in the comments if you plan to participate this year and what you want to read if you are!

All My Pre-Orders for August

I didn’t realize I had so many books pre-ordered that come out in August until I wrote them all down in my calendar. There are a LOT of books I’m looking forward to that come out this month! Here are a few:

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, out August 4th.
>>> I loved Gideon the Ninth when it came out last year, and as soon as they announced the next book I pre-ordered it. It came in the mail a couple days ago and I’ve been staring at it ever since — despite the lack of colored edges 😦

The Hitman by Katrina Jackson, out August 8th.
>>> I read Beautiful & Dirty a couple months ago, and it introduced this Italian crime family. It was a brutal read, but somehow still very engaging. I’m hoping that continues as the series progresses.

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh, out August 18th.
>>> Another sequel that I’m looking forward to! Silver in the Wood had such a quiet and mysterious vibe, and it really appealed to the part of me that loves Florence and the Machine and The Amazing Devil. I’m going to have to reread Silver first, because it’s been a minute since I read it.

Better Than People by Roan Parrish, out August 25th.
>>> “Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people.” SAME. I love romances that involve animal-loving people — I mean, I work at a veterinary clinic. I love animals, everyone I know loves animals. I want my book characters to love animals, too!

The Sugared Game by KJ Charles, out August 26th.
>>> This is the second installment in Charles’ pulpy 1920s mlm romance, and this just reminds me that I need to read the first one ASAP.

The Nanny by Brandy Bush (aka Katrina Jackson), out August 28th.
>>> This is the kind of out-there trashy romance that I love to read. It is about a MMF triad where people assume the F is the nanny for the MM, so she decides to stake her claim by getting pregnant again. Messy, but compelling.

I love pre-ordering books by the authors I love. It helps them by adding numbers to their first week sales, which is what gets them more work later on. It also means I don’t have to remember to buy books when they come out — they just show up at my door or loaded onto my Kindle! Like magic!

What books have you pre-ordered? Let me know in the comments! ❤