Blogmas 2019 | Day 12

The Most Surprising Book

I wish I could choose … but that would be like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. It’s tie between An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns; and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I went into each of these books expecting them to be average … and wound up with pretty much the most magical reading experiences ever.


Honourable Mentions:


Blogmas is hosted by Sophie @ Beware of the Reader. Check out the official details here!

TBR | Down the Hole #23

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Books #115: The Life of Pi

4214Synopsis: Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thoughts: OK. So, there was this one time where I accidentally stalked Yann Martel all across Saskatoon …

Decision: KEEP


Book #116: The Magicians

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Synopsis: Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

Thoughts: Oh, tough call. On one hand, there’s now a TV series … on the other, the book is sitting on my shelf at home …

Decision: KEEP


Book #117: Mistborn: The Final Empire

68428. sy475 Synopsis: In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more? In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

Thoughts: This one’s been highly-rated by a bunch of my real-life friends!

Decision: KEEP


Book #118: A Wizard of Earthsea

13642Synopsis: Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth. Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

Thoughts: I tried reading this book years and years ago, but didn’t enjoy Le Guin’s writing style. I think I should give it another shot — simply because it’s one of those classic fantasy texts … this is why we have 50-page DNF rules.

Decision: KEEP


Book #119: A Modern Witch

10790376Synopsis: Can you live 28 years without discovering you’re a witch? — Lauren is downtown Chicago’s youngest elite realtor. She’s also a witch. She must be – the fetching spell for Witches’ Chat isn’t supposed to make mistakes. So says the woman who coded the spell, at least. — The tall, dark, and handsome guy sent to assess her is a witch too (and no, that doesn’t end the way you might think). What he finds in Lauren will change lives, mess with a perfectly good career, and require lots of ice cream therapy.

Thoughts: The construct itself seems interesting, but it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a plot.

Decision: GO


Down the TBR Hole is a bookish meme created by Lia @Lost In A Story. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books. If you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

 

Review | A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Review

43204703._sy475_I’m a strong believer that books find us at a particular time for a particular reason …

I’ve been trying to read this book for six months. I’ve DNF’d four times, thanks to interruptions, competing books, or finding the story meh … Meh to the point where I turned down a $5 hardcover bargain book when I was visiting Mosaic Books last month.

And then — lo and behold — I’m flipping through my library’s e-book archive last week and notice that it’s currently available.

“What the heck,” I think. “Might as well give it another try.”

I don’t even read e-books. I hate reading on a screen … but, after the super-heavy Ru and Split Tooth, — and the rather-underwhelming Great and Terrible Beauty — I needed a change.

See? Fate!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, with a modern-world-hopping-fantasy twist. Harper’s life is far from ideal: her mom is dying of cancer, her dad is AWOL, and her brother is an enforcer for a local gang. Things only gets worse after being kidnapped and brought to the magical land of Emberfall. There she meets Crown Prince Rhen, who is under a curse and has been living in self-imposed isolation. Harper’s arrival coincides with a rise in international tensions, and pretty soon both are racing to save the kingdom against invaders.

This book was a ton of fun … but, more than that, it was a great example of what happens when you match character development with a well-paced fantasy plot. I couldn’t help falling in love with the three mains: their personalities, their motives, their relationships, and just how gosh darn good they were.

Things I liked:

Harper. Harper is one of the reasons I DNF’d this book over the summer. I found her character grating and overly tough, and felt that her diagnosis (cerebral palsy) was pretty shameless pandering. After pushing past the page 75-ish point, she really started to grow on me. She’s a strong, caring, and determined character — something that we should all aspire to be.

Rhen and Grey. Alright. Don’t get me wrong. Rhen and Grey engage in some highly inappropriate behaviour …

Repeat after me, kids: “Kidnapping is wrong.”

… but, that aside, these two are utter cinnamon buns. Grey’s dry humour and sense of loyalty is brilliant. Rhen’s gentleness, patience, and deep love for his people is touching. Plus, Rhen is totally Bradley James …

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The Monster. Kemmerer’s monster was a wonderful interpretation of the Beast — and is ridiculously heartbreaking on so many levels. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of it. I hope – I really really really really hope! – that it reappears in later books.

Things I disliked:

The Girl Hate. Harper is the oh-so-special one in a world full of ditzes and brainless/superficial women. The not-like-other-girls trope is so boring, and paints such an unpleasant view of women in general. And, really, it was hammered home so many times that I just grew irritated.

The Little Inconsistencies. There’s a few nit-picky details that seemed out of place as I read … like the fact that the guards never seem to sleep; a lady being permitted to travel without a chaperone; or that Harper’s brother — despite being dirt poor thanks to the loan sharks — was able to buy a new phone.

Favourite Quote:

The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.


The Details:

  • The Book: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Published: 2019, Bloomsbury
  • My Copy: VIRL
  • Read date: December 8, 2019
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • You should read this if you like A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • Avoid this if you dislike … “my lady”

Blogmas 2019 | Day 11

The Most Predictable Book

A book with absolutely no surprises? The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte. The book is exactly what it’s marketed as — a book about dinosaurs — and was pretty average in all other areas. The writing good enough but not remarkable. The narrative engaging by not captivating. The information was educational but not paradigm-breaking.

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Honourable Mentions:


Blogmas is hosted by Sophie @ Beware of the Reader. Check out the official details here!

Blogmas 2019 | Day 10

Best Science Fiction

Today’s award is partly by default, as I really don’t read a lot of sci-fi … but, if I didn’t think this book 100% deserved it, I would’ve withheld the award. (Because, y’know, an personal blog award totally has the same standard of excellence as The Nobel Prize or the Giller.) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a wonderfully thoughtful piece of speculative fiction — filled with interesting characters, quiet prose, and interesting ideas. I’ve recommended it to a small ton of people since reading it in August.

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Blogmas is hosted by Sophie @ Beware of the Reader. Check out the official details here!

Review | Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Review

40044460._sy475_Two experimental novels in one month? Give me an award.

(No. Really.)

Unlike Ru, Split Tooth was entirely of my own doing. I’ve followed Tanya Tagaq as an musician — an Inuit throat singer — for a little while, and have seen her live twice. In recent years, she’s become known as a social commentator and First Nations advocate, and delivered the 2018 Massey Lectures.

Split Tooth is Tagaq’s first novel … a coming-of-age story of an Inuit girl, blending together themes of life in the far north — including alcoholism, violence, and sexual abuse — alongside a shamanic awakening. Nature and the spirit become part of the girl … and she becomes part of them.

I listened to Split Tooth as an audiobook, which had its ups and downs. Tagaq herself narrates, which brings an extra layer of depth and emotion — with the added unexpected bonus of some throat singing intervals. However, she has a very soft, whispy, and monotonous voice that is hard to follow. You reallllly have to stop, listen, and give it your all.

… that said, I don’t think you could have pulled off this auidobook with any other narrator. Split Tooth is not a fun read – nor is it meant to be. It’s brutal, unapologetic, visceral, and deeply disturbing.

I’m glad I read this book, but I have no desire to re-read it. I have a copy on my shelf, and — in an effort to curate my personal library — am not certain whether it should stay there. My uncle’s wife is really into this sort of fiction, and Christmas is coming …

Things I liked:

The Imagery. yesss … it’s freaky and disturbing. But, if you’re able to dissociate yourself a from the subject of the text, this is a beautiful and super creative work.

Things I disliked:

Style Over Substance. Even though the subject matter is different, Split Tooth is structurally quite similar to Ru: both adopt a vignette structure and both suffer from the same fatal flaw … in trying to make every word sound deep and meaningful and poetic, they lose the story. Perhaps, really, this comes down to a poor decision on the publishing house / editor: cut the text by 50%, and market it as “spoken poetry” rather than “a novel”.

The Voice. The narrator of this book is supposed to be 11-years-old … but, I didn’t believe it for an instant. Eleven-year-olds don’t talk like this. Not in the least.

Favourite Quote:

We are product of the immense torque that propels this universe. We are not individuals but a great accumulation of all that lived before.


The Details:

  • The Book: Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
  • Published: 2018, Viking
  • My Copy: Personal copy / VPL
  • Read date: December 8-12, 2019
  • Rating: ★★☆☆☆
  • You should read this if you … liked Ru
  • Avoid this if you dislike … “Something awoke in me. An ancient memory. A true memory … when flesh is eaten live, you glean the spirit with the energy. That is why wild predators are so strong.”

Blogmas 2019 | Day 9

Favourite Series Read This Year

I’m going to make today’s prompt a little bit tougher: “The best series I read in its entirety this year” … because I have far too many excellent series on the go at the moment.

Today’s award goes out to A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas … for not only being engaging and fun and bursting with great characters / complicated relationships, but also for:

  • Being my constant companion when I’m stuck cleaning data
  • Being my bat-attack prevention strategy
  • Inspiring me to exercise on a quasi-regular basis
  • Ensuring I never get past the third date, because nobody meets my what-I-want-in-a-partner criteria. (Hint: it starts with “R” and rhymes with “-hys”)

… and, lastly, swoon-worthy lines like:

“I heard every word between you. I knew you could take care of yourself, and yet …” He went back to his pie, swallowing a bite before continuing. “And yet I found myself deciding that if you took his hand, I would find a way to live with it. It would be your choice.”
.
I sipped from my wine. “And if he had grabbed me?”
.
There was nothing but uncompromising will in his eyes. “Then I would have torn apart the world to get you back.”
I totally admit to being a shameless romantic.

Honourable Mentions:


Blogmas is hosted by Sophie @ Beware of the Reader. Check out the official details here!