Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book Review: Never Caught

TITLE: Never Caught: The Washington's Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge
AUTHOR: Erica Armstrong Dunbar
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
PUBLISHED: February 7th, 2017
GENRE: History
PREMISE: A non-fiction book that looks into the slave Ona Judge, who ran away from George and Martha Washington.
MY REVIEW: I wanted to read this one almost as soon as I heard about it. Most people do not go into the fact that the founding fathers owned slaves. In fact, some people go out of their way to ignore it. Or try to paint it in a rosy "well, they treated them with kindness so it was like...okay!" light. Look at all the ways people try to romanticize Jefferson having sex with his slaves (or in some cases, outright say it didn't happen because that doesn't fit their world view of Jefferson).
For the most part, I did like this one a lot. Unfortunately...it didn't go enough into Ona Judge's story. I think the author just didn't have enough solid information. Half of the stuff about Ona is in fact, speculation on the author's part. Logical speculation, sure. She does present all the facts she has and show you how she comes to her conclusions...but ultimately....it's speculation.
The far more interesting thing to me here was the deep look into pre-Civil War attitudes about slavery. I really wish the book had actually been more about this, because that a) had solid information and b) was just more interesting because it is a thing that most people just don't go into. It was nice having a book that did not wax poetic about George Washington for a change. Sorry guys, he was flawed. All the founding fathers were flawed. Yes, they did great things. But they were also human beings with many faults. I personally would love a book that focused on the founding fathers and their views on slavery because there is a bit in this book that goes into it a little and it's pretty fascinating (and also disturbing sometimes when you consider the mental gymnastics some of them had to have done to justify their views).
WHO SHOULD READ: those interested in american history
MY RATING: Four out of Five looks at things people don't often talk about

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

So You've Finally: Got caught up on Game of Thrones

So you've finally got caught up on Game of Thrones. You've read all of the Song of Ice and Fire books and you've realized you probably have quite a long wait before you get new content from both the show and the books. Well, here are some things that I think GoT fans might be interested in reading next:

You're curious about reading more from George R. R. Martin

Dreamsongs series by George R. R. Martin

Martin has written a ton of short stories. Some in the Game of Thrones universe, some not. Dreamsongs collects a whole bunch of those short stories into one collection. So far there are three books.







You loved the warrior women in the series and kind of wished the series focused only on them:

The Conqueror's Saga by Kiersten White

If you want more women fighting and taking names, I recommend this alternate history series where Vlad the Impaler was actually a female. It's as awesome as it sounds.







You. Want. Dragons.

Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

Looking for a long dragon series to sink your teeth into? I recommend this alternate history series where dragons were involved in the Napoleon wars. Have not personally read this myself, but I've heard great things and it sounds perfect for dragon fans.






More dark fantasy please:

First Law series by Joe Abercrombie

If you want your fantasy to be grimdark, this is definitely one to go too.









You like Jon Snow, okay?:

Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

From the looks of things, all Robin Hobb's books will be good for Game of Thrones fans. But if you're particularly invested in Jon Snow, this trilogy looks like it'll do the trick.







You're in it for Tyrion:

Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch

I have not personally read this series yet (look, I have a huge TBR list okay?) but from the sound of things, Tyrion would get on well with the characters of these books.







You just want another fantasy epic to sink your teeth into while you wait for more Game of Thrones:

The Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan

From the sound of things this series has all the plots and twists of Game of Thrones and also has that really long story thing going on.








As much as you liked Game of Thrones, you would have liked a) more women, and b) more humor:

Rat Queens graphic novel series by Kurtis J. Wiebe

If you want more snark and humor with your fantasy as well as more awesome women, I recommend this comic series from Image about a group of female mercenaries in a fantasy world.








Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls

TITLE: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls
AUTHOR: Lauren Karcz
CATEGORY: YA
PUBLISHED: July 25th, 2017
GENRE: Magical Realism
PREMISE: A girl deals with difficulty in her life while meeting a mysterious artist who helps her and others with their creativity...
MY REVIEW: I know what you all are thinking: you keep saying you don't like magical realism....but you keep picking them up???? I don't know either guys, it's a thing with me. This genre disappoints me over and over again, but they make their plots sound so interesting and so I think "hmm...well maybe this one will be good!" because for every nine magical realism books I hate, there's one I actually don't mind. So...I keep picking them up despite getting burned over and over again. It's an issue, I know that.
This one had all the usual problems I have with magical realism: slow plot, nothing much going on, great idea for magical bit but not much of an explanation for how magical bit is going on. But, it also had beautiful writing and meaningful character development. So...I'm torn on this one. At least with this one there was a bit of a point to it.
I think whether you like this will just depend on personal taste. I didn't mind this one, but also didn't completely love it.
WHO SHOULD READ: magical realism fans, contemporary fans, artists
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five unfinished portraits

Book Review: Etched in Bone

TITLE: Etched in Bone
Book 5 in the Others series
AUTHOR: Anne Bishop
CATEGORY: Adult
PUBLISHED: March 7th, 2017
GENRE: Urban Fantasy/Alternate History
PREMISE: Things in the Others series finally come to a head...
MY REVIEW: Have you ever had a series give great build-up only to get to the end and go "really? That's it?"? Well, that is sadly me with The Others series. It pains me to say this too, because I really loved this series.
The first problem is: this book is really slow. I know, I've said that with all the books. But with this one....that slowness was doubled down on to the point that when I got to the ending, I was a little confused and didn't realize I had read the ending. Turns out, I actually haven't. See, now there's going to be new books in this series, but it's going to deal with new characters. I suspect this was a last minute decision and that caused this last book to suffer because the author had to change things. I might read the new book next year, I might not. We'll see how I feel next year.
So yeah...I don't know guys. I still like this series. I recommend it for all who like in depth world-building and don't mind slow-burn plots. Emphasis on slow. But this last book....yeah, I kind of get the feeling that author didn't really know what she wanted to do with it and the book suffered from an anti-climatic ending as a result.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of the first four books, Anne Bishop fans, fantasy readers who don't mind slow plots
RATING FOR THIS BOOK: Three and a half out of Five disappointed sad sighs
RATING FOR SERIES (I'm counting the first five books as their own series #don'tcare): Four out of Five

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Book Review: Proxy

TITLE: Proxy
Book 1 in a series
AUTHOR: Alex London
PUBLISHED: 2013
CATEGORY: YA
GENRE: Dystopian
PREMISE: Two boys from different sides get caught up in a rebellion in a dystopian future.
MY REVIEW: This is one of those books that has been on my radar for awhile, it just has taken me awhile to get to it. Look, there are a lot of books I want to read okay? My TBR list would make you weep from the sheer size of it.
For the most part, this is pretty typical dystopian stuff. Once again, I notice it talks about class issues and privilege better then Sandcastle Empire did. I know, I know, one day I will stop ranting about that book. But today will not be that day. One thing that really sets it apart from other dystopians is the dynamic between Knox and Syd. There are definite inspirations drawn from The Whipping Boy here and it works rather well.
This is not a unique book by any means, but it is interesting, has a solid plot and issues that it brings up and talks about fairly well. Looks like the author has another book coming next year that looks interesting and there is a sequel to this book. I look forward to eventually reading both.
WHO SHOULD READ: those looking for LGBT dystopian books, fans of The Whipping Boy and Feed, Dystopian fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five interesting dystopian societies

Friday, November 10, 2017

Author Review: Rebecca Solnit

TITLES OF BOOKS: Hope in the Dark
Men Explain Things To Me
The Mother of All Questions
AUTHOR: Rebecca Solnit
PUBLISHED: 2004, 2014, 2017
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Essays, Articles, Feminism
PREMISE: In three of her books, Solnit discusses various issues surrounding politics, feminism, and activism.
MY REVIEW: Over the past few months I've been reading through these three books by Rebecca Solnit. For those who have no idea who Solnit is, you probably know or have used a term she coined: Mansplaining. That term is credited to her essay Men Explain Things to Me. She's also a frequent columnist on many websites, including LitHub.
I specifically want to talk about Men Explain Things to Me though, because mansplaining has been a thing getting a lot of flack lately around the internet. Mostly from men, but not always. First, I'd like to point out, Solnit herself is not altogether pleased by how much the term has been overused. She says as much in some endnotes after the Men Explain Things to Me essay. So maybe put your misandry claims away, okay? Second, I think people frankly deliberately misunderstand what the term means. No, it does not mean men can't explain stuff ever. If a woman actually asks for your opinion and you are actually educated and know a thing or two about the subject, go ahead and talk about it! We won't care. Because that's not mansplaining.
Mansplaining is a man making the assumption that a woman can't possibly know this one brilliant thing they know and so proceed to condescendingly explain the thing to us. Yes, sometimes females do this to people too (geeks of all shapes and forms tend to do this to new fans I've discovered and guys, seriously, cut it out). But it is not quite at the same rate as men do it to women. I see you men going "well wait, then how do I know if I'm mansplaining or not?" It's very simple: did the woman ask for your opinion and do you actually know a thing or two about the subject? No to both or one of those questions? You are probably mansplaining. Stop.
Men Explain Things to Me is probably the best of all the essays. But there are a whole lot of really good ones. Hope in the Dark is also incredibly interesting to read at times because it features essays written during the Bush years and it's like a peek back in time to what was going on then. I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that it's been over a decade some some of the early Bush years.
WHO SHOULD READ: feminists, those interested in social justice issues or politics
MY RATING FOR ALL OF THE BOOKS: Four out of Five satisfied nods

Monday, November 6, 2017

2 in 1 Poetry Books Review

So I read two poetry books this past month. I know, who am I? But I am going to be doing poetry as the genre I'm focusing on next year and I thought I'd get an early taste of it by knocking off some recent poetry releases off the TBR list. Here they are:

TITLE: The Princess Saves Herself in This One
AUTHOR: Amanda Lovelace
CATEGORY: Poetry
PUBLISHED: 2016
SOME THOUGHTS: I liked this one. As I often say with these things: I am not a poetry expert. I haven't even taken a class in it. I can't tell you what is good style and what is bad style and whatnot. All I can do right now is let you know if I liked it or not. I liked this one.
MY RATING: Three and a half I liked it shrugs



TITLE: There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce
AUTHOR: Morgan Parker
CATEGORY: Poetry
PUBLISHED: February 14th, 2017
SOME THOUGHTS: Again I liked this. Again...not sure if it is actually good or not. But I can tell you there's some poems in here that really struck a cord with me.
MY RATING: Four out of Five cleverly titled poems

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Book Review: Like Water For Chocolate

TITLE: Like Water for Chocolate
AUTHOR: Laura Esquivel
CATEGORY: Adult
PUBLISHED: 1989 (1992 in the US)
GENRE: Romance, Magical Realism I guess...
PREMISE: A woman deals with not being able to be with the man she loves...
MY REVIEW: This book....I just don't really know what to make of it. This is one of those books that people absolutely love. Unfortunately, it just was very much a case of not for me.
First: it's magical realism and all the frustrations that come with that genre for me. It's slow and tedious. The author clearly wanted me to feel sorry for the main character, because of all the stuff she piled on her. But...all I kept thinking was why didn't she tell her mother to go jump in the river? The whole "you only have to take care of me and you can't marry!" thing made absolutely no logical sense. That I think is what ultimately hindered the book for me. Throughout it I kept waiting for someone to go "hey, you know this is seriously messed up, right?" but no one did. Like...really? As for the love interest....I kept getting told by fans of this book how super romantic he was...I frankly did not see it. He wasn't quite as bad as the guy from Love in the Time of Cholera (don't get me started on that nonsense) but he still wasn't great.
So yeah...maybe if you're super romantic this one is for you. Me....I just kept going "but this makes no sense!" during the entire book, so that hindered the experience of it for me. The writing is pretty, I'll give the author that. Apparently there was all this symbolism in it that was great, according to literature snobs (those apparently went over my head during my boredom). If you want your happy ending, you get it. I just...could not with this one. Oh magical realism, why can't I get you?????!!!!!
WHO SHOULD READ: Super romantic fans not bothered by ridiculous premises, magical realism fans
MY RATING: Three out of  Five not for me feelings

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Notable Releases: 10/29-11/4

Apologies for not having one of these up last week. There just wasn't time in the schedule to do one. Some awesome books from last week I suggest checking out are: We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union, The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman, Dear Martin by Nic Stone and many more.

But here are this past week's releases that are definitely on my radar:

MG/YA

 Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Oneybuchi

I don't have much high expectations for this one (reviews so far have been rather low), but I'm still giving it a shot because I'm a sucker that way.








Tortall: A Spy's Guide by Tamora Pierce

Once upon a time, Pierce promised us Tortall fans a guide to Tortall. It's been like over five years since that promise, but we're finally getting it! Also finally getting that Numair book. I still wish it was the Tris in magic school book that was mentioned instead (Tris is my favorite), but I'll take what I can get.






Adult Fiction

The Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Historical Fiction novel from Isabel Allende. I can pretty much guarantee you'll hear about this come next year's book awards selection time.

Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu

Are you pumped for The Last Jedi? Same. To tide you over till then, here's a book going into what Luke got up too before Rey tracked him down.








Non-Fiction

Dorothy Brooke and the Fight to Save Cairo's Last War Horses by Grant Hayter-Menzies

Never heard of this lady, but this promises stubborn lady and horses. I'm in.








Graphic Novels/Manga

Two-Face: A Celebration of 75 Years
Very DC Universe Rebirth Holiday TP
Vampirella: The Dynamite Years Omnibus Vol. 1
Walking Dead Omnibus Vol. 7 HC
Generation X Vol. 1: Natural Selection
Mortal Instruments Vol. 1 GN

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mini-Review Catch-Up Number 2

One of these again. I really do need to get better about this. I apologize.

TITLE: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
AUTHOR: Mackenzie Lee
CATEGORY: YA
PUBLISHED: June 27th, 2017
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasyish
QUICK TAKE: Absolutely adored this one. It's a fun romp through historical Europe with a cast you pretty much fall in love with from the get go. There's apparently going to be another book focusing on Feliciy and I for one cannot wait. One of my favorites of the year for sure.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of My Lady Jane, those looking for fun LGBTQA books
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five happy sighs

TITLE: All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to be Complete Strangers
AUTHOR: Alana Massey
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
PUBLISHED: February 7th, 2017
GENRE: Essays
QUICK TAKE: Fun essay collection covering a variety of pop culture topics. There are even a few literary analysis essays in here. Including one that managed to put into words just how sexist the Virgin Suicides book is and why so much of that plot was just not okay.
WHO SHOULD READ: Essay fans, if you like opinion articles about pop culture
MY RATING: Four out of Five satisfied nods

TITLE: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Book 3 in the PS I Love You Trilogy
AUTHOR: Jenny Han
CATEGORY: YA
PUBLISHED: May 2nd, 2017
GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
QUICK TAKE: Okay ending that ultimately...I kind of felt wasn't very necessary. It didn't solve any lingering plots that were left over or anything like that. Basically all it did was tell you things like yes, her dad gets remarried, you find out what college she's going too, that sort of thing. It ended things for sure...it was enjoyable. It was just ultimately...kind of pointless which pains me to say, because I adored the first two books.
WHO SHOULD READ: Super fans of the first two Lara Jean books, everyone else...it's no big deal if you miss this.
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five shrugs
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Four out of Five