The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin

Well, I can’t believe it’s come to this. I so dearly loved The Fifth Season. It was the best book I’d read in years. The Obelisk Gate was ALSO pretty frigging good– they both have five star ratings from me. Regrettably…. I did not finish The Stone Sky. I read The Obelisk Gate in five days or something over Christmas last year, and started The Stone Sky shortly after in January. Well, it’s Christmas again. After picking this book up multiple times, putting it down, forcing myself to pick it back up, putting it down again (etc), I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never make it past page 159, and that’s ok.

To be quite frank with you all, this book is boring as shit. At the 1/3 mark, we’d walked through the woods, walked down some roads, walked toward a desert, chatted, and had flash backs. Not only do I LOATHE flashbacks normally, but when they are super boring intricately detailed flashbacks about obscure metaphysical theories, then I DOUBLE LOATHE them. Anyway I have to be honest, I read a summary online about the rest of this book since I was SO torn on giving up on it (I tried for a WHOLE YEAR!!!!!), and even reading the summary was super boring??? The summary (past where I had gotten so far in the book) was 2 paragraphs and one full paragraph was detailing flashbacks… COME ON!

Suffice it to say if you are like me and can’t stand slow-paced books, this isn’t the one for you. It was chock full of infodumps via conversation and flashback. If you are REALLY a true lover of worldbuilding who doesn’t mind a lack of action, and you enjoyed the first two, hit this book up. If you can’t stand being bored until your eyes rot out of your skull, read the summary.

We are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchison

We Are the Ants was brought to my attention because it sits at the intersection of two of my great loves: gay stuff and aliens. Henry Denton has been getting abducted since he was 13 years old. Suddenly the aliens switch things up and offer him a choice: The world is gonna end, but if he pushes a big red button he can save it. Problem: his boyfriend hanged himself last year, he gets bullied at school, his life sucks and he’s not so sure the world is worth saving.

Truth be told this book is pretty light on the aliens. They’re really just part of the premise, but I wouldn’t even call this book a sci-fi. It’s a high school drama with some aliens backdrop. Normally I wouldn’t have touched it if I realized that, but having come out of the other side… I really liked it? I pretty much devoured it in 2 days. Henry is a delight of a narrator, his emotional problems didn’t piss me off because they were believable and legit, and the occasional alien appearance probably soothed me a little when the drama got too much.

The characters are what makes this book wonderful. Henry, Diego, Audrey, his family, I loved ALL of them. Zooey is a presh lil’ angel. Folks even the high school bully had me rooting for him at times (I’ll be honest, I think Hutchinson did Marcus dirty toward the end and disservices his character by kinda making him too evil?). The author has a way of turning characters into stories. In particular, Henry’s grandmother Nana, who has Alzheimer’s, has a really beautiful journey for readers to follow.

This book also has chapter breaks/filler chapters. Y’all know I usually hate those. In this case, it’s different scenarios of how the world could end and I LOVED THEM. There were times they had me laughing out loud! This book has really surprised me. I never would have expected to get such joy from teen angst, and yet here we are. I rate this book: cat surprised by its own reflection but delighted to make a new friend in it.

Boy Robot, Simon Curtis

I gave this book a 3/5 on goodreads because I DNF it and I don’t believe I can really give a true “rating” for a book I didn’t finish. Giving it an “average” rating seems fair, as I strongly suspect if I pushed through to the end that I would give it a 1/5 but still it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. I made it about 50% through this book.

Boy Robot has a decent premise; there’s robot children whose powers manifest at age 18 and shadowy government conspiracies about using them as weapons. Some scary branch of gov’t hunts down those robots who are living free in the world. Supposedly it has some LGBT representation. I could probably guess which characters that applies to but at my 50% mark saw nothing definitive.

This book suffers from the same issues several other books that border YA/Adult fiction written by men suffer from: rape is added for seemingly nothing other than shock factor and has no bearing on the plot, but readers are just supposed to blink past it. What is the point of the rape scenes in this book? To show me the people working for the EVIL GOVT ORGANIZATION are bad? Yeah dude. I fucking know they’re bad. You didn’t need to throw in a rape for me to figure that out. If characters aren’t being raped they’re otherwise being tortured, abused by their parents, etc., etc. It’s not that I have an issue with these things in a book. It’s just that it’s exhausting to read constantly. The book is steeped in this never-ending, unavoidable cloud of negativity because everything is bad and awful and it’s like… I shouldn’t feel emotionally drained trying to slog through all the BS in this book. Can’t I just like… enjoy the book?

On top of that this book makes heavy use of flashbacks/filler chapters which anyone who reads my reviews know I find unbearably dull. Like, I’ve spent maybe 6 chapters with the main character and it feels like a billion others with random people I don’t know and won’t ever be important again. On top of that, like nobody’s got names so I can’t even frigging tell if I’ve read a chapter in this person’s POV before. All in all, pretty much impossible to read. Hugely disappointing, especially because I was gonna use this book for my AI square on fantasy bingo, but it is what it is.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a novel in possession of a YA plot, must be in want of a Chosen One. Unfortunately for Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, Simon is like, the Worst Chosen One Ever. This is good news for us readers though because it makes for a really hilarious and entertaining book.

So Carry On can kinda be summed up as gay Harry Potter if Harry was actually pretty crap at being a wizard and Harry/Draco was a thing outside the world of fanfiction. The fact that it’s a HP spoof doesn’t take away from the novel though. Some spoofs you can’t read without constantly thinking of the original, but despite the obvious similarities in setup, I found it very easy to immerse myself in this world and not constantly be thinking of how X or Y thing relates to the source text. There were only two real exceptions. There’s at least one character who is basically just a HP character with her name changed (but since it’s Hermione who is one of the best HP characters it is nice to spend more time with her). Some of the plot twists were a little predictable, not so much because they were unoriginal as because I could kind of figure out exactly which Harry Potter tropes were going to be subverted. Still, I really liked the story that evolved and I wouldn’t have wanted the plot to go a less predictable way because I appreciated the message that came out of it.

The relationships (platonic, romantic, and familial) and characterizations in this novel were beautifully done. Simon is definitely a teenage boy, but even when he was doing stupid teenage boy stuff it felt very honest and justifiable. I didn’t have the usual YA reading experience of being like “OH, MY, GOD, I know you’re a teenager but you can’t be THAT stupid!!” I genuinely got where Simon was coming from and appreciated the ride watching him grow along the way, which I think is indicative of masterful writing. The romance was cute and ultimately believable since I can totally buy that two teenage boys would actually be that dense in their romantic approach to one another.

Really enjoyable read for people who like easy, quirky YA fantasy and good LGBTQ+ rep! I rate this book sunbathing kitten slowly moving across the floor to stay in the light through the window because that’s what I was for the bulk of the afternoon refusing to put this book down.

Interested? Find Carry On on Amazon.

 

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne was fun to review. I am a lover of urban fantasy so I’ve been familiar with Kevin Hearne for his super long Iron Druid series. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Iron Druid. It felt like a less interesting Dresden Files.  Anyways, given my previous lack of interest for Hearne’s most famous work I was a bit leery of A Plague of Giants but I shouldn’t have worried cuz it was a-maaaaazing.

The basic premise is that a bard is telling a city of refugees after a bloody war the story of how they got there, all the key players who contributed to them overcoming not one, but two invasions by giants from across the sea. The bard tells his story through several people who played key roles in the war, so there are several POV’s. Usually the problem I have with multiple POV’s is that there is always one character who is much more interesting than the rest. Abbi quickly grew to be that character even though he was a very boring pacifist at first. Fortunately all of the characters were interesting in different ways so you weren’t like “UGH, a Cersei chapter”; you wanted to read them all. I also love that the cast was diverse and it wasn’t just all young hot straight warriors. There are scholars, merchants, stoneshapers, warriors, bards, warlords and viceroys among the POV characters. I was most excited to read about Abbi, a boy on the cusp of a huge discovery, and Nel, because she is Nel and she is amazing.

The magic system in A Plague of Giants is basically that there people can receive kennings or blessings which grant magical powers. To get them, seekers go to a place where they believe the god is testing them. There’s a good chance of catching death, but if you don’t die you can get some sweet powers. The first kenning, mastery of fire, can be gained from jumping into lava pools. The second kenning you get by throwing yourself into an underwater tunnel/cave, if you don’t drown, congrats you’re blessed. Throw yourself off a cliff to get air blessed, etc.  Surrender yourself to the roots of a tree which will either eat you or bless you.  Within each  kenning there is specialities, some better suited for war and some better suited for building/healing/transportation/what have you. Within the water kenning for example, you can be a hygienist, who can purify water, detect and cure infections and diseases; a “rapid”, who can manipulate water and swim extremely quickly by becoming part of the water, or a tidal mariner- super strong warriors who can manipulate water and possesses great destructive power.

Each blessing site is in a different country, and their societies have been shaped around these different kennings. This was reflected in the choice of language of the PoV characters and was a nice touch. The writing is great- moves fast, describes enough, each character felt unique. The POV characters all mostly drift together into two groups around two major events which shaped the “victory” of the war, but there are rumblings that a civil war may be happening and that the plague of giants might not be totally eradicated. This sets you up perfectly for another book, which I can’t wait to read because I really want to read more about the way Hearne imagines the magic system operating. Altogether, I give this book the highest possible rating.  This is another book that made my poor cats orphans.

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Check out A Plague of Giants on Amazon.

A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab

Another awesome book from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic universe, A Gathering of Shadows follows Kell and Lila through the progress of an international tournament that pits magician against magician. I feel a little less in love with this book as I was with the first of the trilogy, but this is normal for sequels.

 

On the one hand, this book introduced a host of new characters to fall in love with—ALUCARD!!! Be still my beating heart!!!—and gave us a more in-depth look at characters like Prince Rhy, who in the last novel felt like he wasn’t fleshed out enough and who in this book was a Precious BB Will Defend With My Life. Even getting to see old characters who only made brief appearances in the last book was nice, like the mask lady who dotes on Lila because she thinks Kell is banging her. On the other hand, we are still stuck with the insufferable Lila Bard as one of our mains. I think I came around to tolerating her a little toward the end, but I’m kind of thinking that’s just because she had one of her brief moments of likability during the final act and the book ended before the illusion was shattered.
One thing that was AWESOME about this book was the Kell+Rhy dynamic. The whole tragically-n-magically-bound-soulmates thing is a trope that really Gets Me Going (I endured pretty much the entire mortal instruments series for the brief Jace+Alec scenes we got and have rabidly followed the show. Plz, if u know of any tragic/magic soulmate bond novels, hmu. Platonic/romantic/whatever). I love the dynamic of being stuck together because you love each other but hating each other for it. Plus the whole suffering each other’s pain thing is next level angst which is what I feed on. I am now about 1000x more eager to read the next one because I have to know what becomes of the soul bond—this is actually the #1 thing I care about going into book 3.

 

The pacing of this book is a little wonky, unfortunately. Kell and Lila are focussed mostly on character-building and this tournament that Rhy is planning, and aren’t really involved in the “plot” that continues from book 1 at all, which mostly takes place in White London + Black London with a few brief allusions to it during Kell’s chapters. Throughout the book are chapters that focus on the evil/magic building in White London which in theory should be interesting but really aren’t because it takes us away from the characters we spend the bulk of our time, well… caring about. One thing that is exciting about the plot-driven part of this book is that one of the characters from White London we thought was dead, and one that I thought died way too soon without enough page time, comes back in this book.

 

This installment actually ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I expected given the slow pacing of the second half, and OH YEAH I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT WE HAVE A MAIN SAME GENDER COUPLE NOW WHICH MADE IT EVEN BETTER!!! Final rating: 4 twitchy whiskers out of 5.

If you’re thinking you also need this book in your life, check it out here (Amazon link)

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin

HOT DOG!!!!!!!! DO YOU LIKE POST-APOCALYPTIC TALES, MAGIC, LGBTQ+ REP, SHADOWY GOVERNMENT ORGS, POLYAMORY, AND FUCKING ROCK MONSTERS!?? THEN BUDDY THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU!!!!!!!

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin is, without a doubt, the best book I have read in a really long time. This book is incredible. It’s one of those books you rent from the library but then you have to go out and buy just because you need to PAY THE AUTHOR RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY.

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I have so much gushing to do I honestly don’t know where to start. I’m just gonna break it down into easy-to-organize sections or else I’m gonna word vomit all over this review.

Tell me more…

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee

I’ll be honest, this is not my usual genre. This book was recommended to me as a BISEXUAL TIME TRAVEL BOOK so obviously I immediately rushed to buy it in the first available format I could. Tragically, this is in actuality a bisexual HISTORICAL FICTION book, which is really nothing like bisexual time travel, a fact that resulted in much sadness and tears.

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I also made the quite frankly massive mistake of starting this as an audiobook (like I said, I leapt at the first available format), and was thoroughly convinced by chapter 2 that this book SUCKED. I am so very glad I eventually gave up on my 10 bucks or whatever it was I sank into that audiobook and just got the ebook from the library. Buddy, lemme tell you: this book… DOESN’T suck. At all.

Continue reading “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee”