Review: Ender’s Shadow

Okay, so, I’m back on the Ender train.

You might remember that last year, I FINALLY read the rest of the Ender Saga after loving Ender’s Game for years.  One of my best friends has been raving about the Shadow Saga, and then my new boss couldn’t believe I’d never read them.

So, this is me succumbing to peer pressure (but also doing exactly what I want to do because I love all things Ender…)51v2dtbLePL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Ender’s Shadow takes place at the same time and covers many of the same events as Ender’s Game but from Bean’s perspective.  I was a bit skeptical that it would be boring, and I’m here to admit that I was very wrong.

Orson Scott Card does a great job of showing the reader the events from Ender’s Game from a different angle.  We get to know many of the beloved (and not-loved-at-all) characters a bit more: Petra, Alai, Carn, Bonzo, Colonel Graff, and of course, Bean.  We get more backstory on many of the decisions made at Battle School, which interested me a ton, and we get to see where Bean comes from and what contributes to many of his peculiarities.

What occurred in Ender’s Shadow changed the way I thought about the events and characters in the other books, so much so that it almost made me uncomfortable.  I found myself wondering if people were who I’d originally thought they were – was Ender wrong about them or was Bean?  It reminded me of when you have an opinion about a person and then someone you know/trust has a COMPLETELY different view of them.  A bit disconcerting.

The one criticism I have about Ender’s Shadow is that it often had long paragraphs of description about events – there was less dialogue and action than Ender’s Game, and it read more like Speaker for the Dead or Xenocide.  Not a bad thing, I guess.  Just different.

My friend and my boss weren’t wrong – Ender’s Shadow is a great addition to this series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Shadow of the Hegemon!

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Review: Barrayar

Surprise, surprise.  My first book post-Summer Reading is a Vorkosigan.

But y’all: I missed these characters while I was away (reading amazing things, don’t get me wrong).  So I happily found my way back to them quickly.

Barrayar picks up shortly after Shards of Honor left off and follows… Ugh SPOILERS.  If you’re worried about spoilers for parts of the Vorkosigan saga, get out now.  I’ll keep ‘em to a minimum, but I can’t keep this review completely free of spoilers for parts of the series.  Particularly Shards.

 

I’ll wait while you make your decision…

 

 

 

 

Okay.  Since you’re still here, I’m assuming you’re okay with having at least minor details spoiled for you.

6089607._UY200_Now, where was I?  Right.  Barrayar picks up shortly after Shards of Honor and follows Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan through figuring out marriage, figuring out pregnancy, and figuring out Aral’s new position in the Barrayaran government.  This work is typical Bujold in all the best ways: mystery, sabotage, politics, emotion, and humor, all wrapped up in a highly accessible piece of science fiction.

We get to see more of Cordelia, which is amazing.  Such a great, intense, well-rounded character.  I’m excited to jump back to where I was in the timeline and read Brothers in Arms soon.  Hopefully she makes an appearance in that (and/or the subsequent books) because now that I know more about her character, older Cordelia’s actions and thoughts have so much more depth to them.

Oh, and Aral… I never thought he was swoon-worthy until these earlier books.  But he is.  He SO is.

Ivan, Elena, Gregor, and Miles all make appearances, and we get more background on their families – most of which are sad.  But while reading, it helped to know how things turned out… just one benefit of prequels, I guess.

And in true Lois Bujold fashion, Barrayar explores ethical questions and moral dilemmas.  That’s one of my favorite parts to Bujold’s writing – she weaves magnificent characters, engaging plots, fantastic worlds, and thought-provoking scenarios together seamlessly and somehow manages to keep her work short-ish (for SF).  She’s amazing.

You could jump into the Vorkosigan saga anywhere, really, but I wouldn’t recommend Barrayar as your first.  Maybe Shards of Honor or The Warrior’s ApprenticeThe Warrior’s Apprentice.  But regardless of where you jump in: do it.  So good.

Summer Reading 2017: Wrap-Up

Sadly, Summer Reading 2017 has come to an end.  This year’s theme was for my reading list was books by people of color – and I’m so glad it was.

I chose the summer’s theme this spring after realizing that I’d gone on quite the streak of only reading books by white women.  This was by no means intentional – I was bingeing the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, as well as reading Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 books.  But just because it wasn’t intentional doesn’t mean it was a good thing.

So I decided to only read books written by people of color for 3 months.  And friends: I found some real gems.

I can’t tell you about every single one of them – you can check out past reviews for that.  But here are the top two books I read each month (which started in July… because I was a bit behind… because life and work and life).

July

The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemisin

  • Maybe this cheating, but I don’t care.  I make the rules for this wrap-up, and I say it’s good.  These two books are AMAZING.  They’re engrossing and challenging and beautiful and heart-breaking.

 

August

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

  • Nnedi Okorafor writes in ways I’ve never experienced before.  Her settings are magical, she pushes the envelope, and she dives right in to hard topics.  The world of Who Fears Death was captivating.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

  • This sequel to The Three-Body Problem wouldn’t let me go.  I liked book one of the trilogy just fine, but the questions that book 2 raises are haunting.  This trilogy (which I haven’t finished yet… almost there!) is epic science fiction like I’ve never read before.

 

September

The Stone Sky by N.K Jemisin

  • Are you surprised?  Such a great finale to the trilogy.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

  • This memoir was so moving, so powerful, and so needed.  Goodness.

 

There were plenty of other books that I read that were great, but these six took the Summer Reading cake.

There were also many books on the list that I didn’t get to, and they’ve happily been transferred to my overall To Be Read list.  Be looking for these reviews (and more) coming soon!

  • Death’s End by Cixin Liu
  • The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • Nostalgia by N.G Vassanji
  • Santa Biblia by Justo Gonzalez

Review: The Stone Sky

Well, y’all, this is my final Summer Read – a few months late, but I didn’t start till the end of July.  So there.

It seems completely fitting that I started Summer Reading 2017 with book 1 of the Broken Earth trilogy and ended with book 3.  Oh my, has this series changed me.

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(As per most of my series reviews, I’ll keep this short and vague, so as to be as spoiler-free as possible.  If you’d all just got read The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate like you should, I wouldn’t have to do this..)

The Stone Sky doesn’t answer every question that The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate raised.  Oh, sure, it answers some of them.  But in N.K Jemisin’s mastery, she left us wondering about so many things (in the best way).

The Stone Sky doesn’t bring redemption to every travesty in the pages of the previous two books.  How could it?

The Stone Sky does give absolutely captivating background on certain characters and events – particularly one character with whom I’ve become a bit obsessed.  I love them even more now.  It deepens the world and the plot, complicating some things and making others so much clearer.

The Stone Sky made me ugly cry.  I know, I know – many books have done so.  But there were so many moments of absolute heartbreak.  Bof.

The Stone Sky continues pushing the envelope and asking hard questions just like its two predecessors.  Goodness.  I wasn’t sure how Jemisin could keep going and keep pushing and keep challenging.  But she did.

Friends, The Stone Sky by N.K Jemisin is phenomenal.  Seriously, I can’t find another word for it.  This is a beautiful conclusion to a mind-blowing and heart-wrenching series.  So good and so worth the hours you;ll spend not sleeping because you can’t put it down.  For real.

Go find a copy of The Fifth Season and get started.

Review: Hunger

Hey again!

It’s been longer than I wanted since my last post, and today is the last day of Summer Reading 2017.  I know, I know: summer’s been over for a while now, but I got a late start so I’m getting my full 3 months worth.  I have this review and one more to share with you from my Summer reads, and of course, I’m planning a Summer Reading 2017 wrap-up.  Probably not till I get back from vacation in a week, though.

Anyway.

I was on the wait list for this book for a LONG time.  I was maybe number 600 in line?  Thankfully, my county library got a lot of copies, though, or else I’d still be waiting months from now.

41FYiL+A40L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Hunger by Roxane Gay is an incredibly powerful and insightful work.  This memoir of (her) body tells of the origins of her disordered eating and how that journey has looked throughout her life.  Gay shares many anecdotes of her experiences as a bigger woman.  She opens up about so many of her insecurities and beliefs about herself, coupled with things that others have said to her or done to her because of her size.  She’s honest about her struggles, her shame, and her victories.

The topic of body image is one that has become more prevalent the past few years, with many seeking better ways to have conversations about size, health, self-image, etc.  Gay affirms some of that but calls bullshit on so much of it that hasn’t been done well.  This is so necessary; this is so true.

As with her other works, Roxane Gay doesn’t pull any punches.  She is raw, truth-telling, and vulnerable.  I so appreciate her talent and her honesty.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who’s struggled with their weight/size/health/looks/self-esteem.  I strongly recommend this book to anyone who HASN’T because it so necessary to realize the struggle that this is for so many people – including me.

Review: The Dark Forest

Hi, blog friends.

Summer Reading 2017 has brought me to the sequel of The Three-Body Problem, which I liked just fine.  But friends: The Dark Forest was phenomenal.

(Per usual for reviews of sequels, I’ll try to keep the spoilers for book one to a minimum.)

dark forestThe Dark Forest starts out a bit slow, but that’s really the only negative thing I have to say about this book.  Once I got past the first 50 pages – which were beautifully written, mind you – I couldn’t put it down.

Most of the events in book two take place 200 years after the first book in the trilogy, and goodness, Cixin Liu has quite the imagination.  It was fun to read his thoughts on where humans and Earth might be some day given certain events and certain limitations due to those events – see, I’m trying really hard to not spoil Three-Body.  Just go read it.

In The Dark Forest, we get to see a few of the characters from Three-Body – some of my favorites in fact.  Liu uses these characters to explore so many different aspects of human nature.  He puts them into situations that push, pull, and strain them, and what he comes up with is amazing.

The whole idea of the Wallfacer Project is highly intriguing, and Liu uses it (plus the Wallbreakers, of course) to take the reader on a while ride through psychological manipulation and ethical dilemmas.

This book is sprawling and immense; it’s epic science fiction, with the scope of epic fantasy and the fascination of hard SF.

If you haven’t read The Three-Body Problem, go do that so you can read The Dark Forest.  And from what I’ve heard, Death’s End is quite the conclusion to this awesome series.

 

Summer Reading 2017 is coming to a close, but here are the reviews you can be looking forward to in the next two weeks:

  • The Stone Sky by N.K Jemisin
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Death’s End by Cixin Liu

Review: Difficult Women

Hi there.  It’s me again, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since this is my blog…

Summer Reading 2017 is coming to a close soon – just a few more weeks.  If you remember, I got a late start this year, but that just means that Summer Reading lasts till the end of September.  I’m not mad.

My most recent summer read was Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.  I’ll keep my review for this one brief – not because it wasn’t good, mind you.

This collection of short stories moved me in so many ways.  They broke my heart, madeimages me angry, made me cry, and disturbed me.

The stories in this book reflected so many different types of women in so many different types of situations.  Women were empowered, and women were broken.  Women were weak, and women were strong.  Women got happy endings, and women didn’t.

Roxane Gay doesn’t skirt around difficult topics and experiences, but she dives right in.  She writes about sex and love, doubt and faith, abuse and intimacy.  She writes sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers, and friends.  Her writing is raw and lyrical, and she tells the truth.  She really tells the truth.

My favorites: “Water, All Its Weight”, “North Country”, and “I am a Knife”.