Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

GEMINA

Gemina - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

This series is just crazy banana-pants fun. There are so many things in this book that I should hate – the spoiled princess + tattooed bad boy trope, the really unlikely romance under really unlikely circumstances, the horrifying creepy crawly brain-sucking alien thingies – but it all works together so brilliantly, so beautifully, that I want to wax as poetic as AIDAN the purple prose-spouting seed of Skynet. I am sooooooo glad I waited until all three books were out before I started reading this series. If it turns out book three is not the end, I will probably sprain something by shriek-sobbing in glee-despair.

ILLUMINAE

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

A whoooooole bunch of people have reviewed this book in depth, and I don’t think I have much to say that hasn’t been covered already, so I’ll be brief.

 

Illuminae is sort of like Firefly/Serenity had a baby with the slow space chase from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and left it to be raised by The Martian. It’s kind of brilliant. I mostly loved it. I had to take points off for some stylistic choices I found questionable. The incident reports read like entries in a military sci-fi short story contest, and the AI’s inner monologue reads like a naval-gazing white dude bucking for a Pulitzer in literature. I found it a tad annoying after a while. But these were minor glitches in an otherwise engrossing page-turner. I am so glad I already own the rest of the series.

 

On to book two!

The Dinosaur Lords

The Dinosaur Lords: A Novel - Victor Milán

According to George R.R. Martin, this book is “like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.” If that’s really the case and not something Martin pulled out of the air without reading the book, maybe I should take A Song of Ice and Fire off my TBR.

 

Milán’s verbose writing style grated on me. Nearly six hundred pages and I feel like nothing much happened. The big battles I was hoping for were few in number and over in the blink of an eye. There was so much boring, repetitive politicking. I probably should have thrown in the towel early on, but I wanted to give it every chance to do justice to that fantastic premise. But damn, was it ever a struggle. If Jurassic Park moved this slowly, Hammond wouldn’t get around to inviting Grant, Sattler, and Malcom to the island until book two.

 

Meh. All of my favorite characters were dinosaurs. I could take or leave the humans (mostly leave). The best thing about this book is the cover art.

The Lie Tree

The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

After the awesomeness that was Cuckoo Song, I was fully expecting to love The Lie Tree. I did not. I hyped myself up, and set myself up for disappointment. Not bitter disappointment. More a general listless deflated feeling. Woe is me.

 

The story is interesting and the writing is good. Hardinge is definitely still bucking for that Queen of Metaphor title (for good or ill this time), and the characters are all delightfully horrid. There are reflections on Victorian feminism and classism and Darwinism vs Creationism and plenty of other food for thought. And at the core of the plot is a decent murder mystery with a supernatural element, which is usually right up my alley. So why am I deflated?

 

This . . . book . . . is . . . so . . . sloooooooooooooow.

 

A third of the book goes by before the death alluded to in the description finally happens. Even then it takes a few chapters for the pace to pick up and the interesting stuff to start. By now we’re at the 150-page mark in a 410-page book, and it still plods in places. Taking all the pros and cons together, it was just okay and it bored me into putting it down several times. My current win/loss record with Frances Hardinge books is 1:1. I’ve got more in the bookcase, so hopefully my record improves.

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

There was something magical about an island – the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world – an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.

Oh, Dame Agatha, you foreshadowing minx!

 

This was a re-read (re-re-re-re-re-read, more like). I don’t feel the need to review this one in depth, but I will say this: If you read this book and liked it, read it again. Come for the mystery, stay for the masterful psychological manipulation that becomes apparent only when you know who the killer is. It’s a mind trip, y’all.

Life with a Non-Bookworm

Hubby: How are you going with those Jim Henson books?

 

Me: I finished them.

 

Hubby: What? ALL of them?

 

Me: Yeah. All three.

 

Hubby: Holy crap, you need a hobby!

 

Me:

 

Hubby: . . . Oh. I guess that is a hobby. Never mind.

Between Us

Between Us - Clare Atkins

This book. I have feelings. They’re conflicting.

 

On the one hand, this book is well-written. The three POV characters all have distinct voices. The mix of prose and verse is interesting and is used quite cleverly, in my opinion. It tackles important issues like racism and the deplorable state of immigration in Australia. It’s sad, it’s poignant, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s relevant, it’s disturbing, it’s thought-provoking.

 

And it made me really, really uncomfortable.

 

Anahita is a great character. She’s smart. She’s a rebel. She loves loud, ugly music and science. She’s got undiagnosed PTSD and dreams of the simple freedoms people take for granted.

 

Jono is a great character. He’s dealing with his parents’ divorce, depression, and his casually racist friends who call him Nip because he’s half Vietnamese and they thought he was Japanese and racial slurs make such endearing nicknames.

 

Kenny is a great character. He’s a legal immigrant from Vietnam who tries his best to fit in and be Aussie enough to gain acceptance. He’s working a job he hates to provide for Jono, and it’s killing his soul and bringing out the very worst in him.

 

That all sounds pretty compelling, right? And it is!

 

On the other hand . . .

 

*sigh*

 

Something really bothered me about it.

 

Between Us seeks to confront the Australian attitude toward and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and the inhumanity of the detention centers, and that’s a good thing—it needs confronting—but it does so at the heavy expense of Anahita, who has to experience a metric ton of messed-up shite in order to convey the author’s message. It’s obvious Atkins did a ton of research and approached the character with a great deal of care and sensitivity, and Ana does feel like a fully-realized character, but I can’t help feeling this is yet another well-meaning book that exploits the pain of marginalized people to raise awareness and teach a lesson. Would I feel differently if Atkins was an Iranian Muslim? Yeah, probably. As a Vietnamese-Australian, she brought Jono and Kenny to life in a way that someone without her cultural background probably could not. Their stories were hers to tell. I’m not sure Anahita’s was. And therein lies the root of my conflict.

Endymion Spring

Endymion Spring - Matthew Skelton

I think I bought this off a bargain book table sometime around 2007. I’d never heard of it or the author before or since. I’d say it’s more Middle Grade than YA, though it’s a bit slow and uneventful for a MG audience. Blake, the main character, is bland and not at all memorable. His little sister, nicknamed Duck (I actually can’t remember if anyone ever says her real name) is less bland and unmemorable, but she’s also kind of (really) insufferable. Oxford and the Bodleian Library make for an interesting setting, and the parts of the story set in the 1400s make a decent short story by themselves, but the novel as a whole is unremarkable. The writing isn’t bad (brief, random, sudden POV shifts notwithstanding), and it’s mildly entertaining. It’s a quick, easy read, but not one I can recommend with any amount of enthusiasm.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer - Leigh Bardugo

What if Wonder Woman’s first foray into the mortal realm had nothing to do with Steve Trevor? What if she was an untested teenager, the weakest of the Amazons, struggling to prove herself? And what if you didn’t even miss good ol’ Steve because the focus on empowerment and positive female relationships enduring really big hardships was so lovely and refreshing? IT WOULD BE FREAKING AMAZING, THAT’S WHAT.

 

The story takes place in unspecified modern times (based on the level of technology). By chance or fate, Diana crosses paths with Alia, an unwitting walking apocalypse, and sets out to stop the war Alia’s mere existence is going to cause. There’s action aplenty, social issues, growing pains, poignant self-discovery, meddling gods, man-made monsters, the obligatory Diana-in-a-fancy-dress scene, a teensy bit of romance, and a whole lot of kickassery. All of that (and more!) added together = a really good time. I could blame insomnia for last night’s lack of sleep, but in reality I had a serious case of just-one-more-chapter-itis that persisted straight through the final chapter.

 

If you’re worried about jumping in with insufficient Wonder Woman/DC knowledge, don’t be. I had no idea what to expect from this novel going in. I’ve never picked up a Wonder Woman comic and my knowledge of the character is gleaned from the Linda Carter TV series, various animated productions, and the DC cinematic universe. But my quasi-ignorance wasn’t an issue, as this book seems largely independent from all past and current iterations of the character. Some of her backstory matches up with some of the comics, but you don’t have to have read every (or any) WW issue and crossover to get what’s going on.

 

If you are a fan of the comics, I have no idea if Bardugo’s take on the character will float your boat, but it floated mine all the way to Themyscira. (I was turned away at the boundary, though, on account of being a whiny, non-badass mortal who didn’t die in battle calling on the name of a goddess. Alas.)

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: The Novelization - Jim Henson;A.C.H. Smith

Full disclosure: At least one full star of my rating is because this was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid and my nostalgic love for it in all forms is strong. If I make an attempt to be objective, I have to admit that the book is a tad on the dry side, and some of the descriptions seem out of place and serve little purpose. Aside from that, the story benefits a great deal from being told in novel form.

 

You know that bone-dry “Jen is the chosen one” expositional voice-over at the start of the movie? Not here! Those confusing rituals of the Skeksis and Mystics (actually called urRu and never referred to as Mystics in the book)? Explained! All that Skeksis political positioning following the death of the emperor? Also explained in greater detail with a clear delineation of factions! I don’t know how many people care about Skeksis politics, but all of that palace intrigue in the movie makes a hell of a lot more sense to me now, so I’m glad it’s covered. My next viewing of the movie will be enhanced as a result of reading the book.

 

This hardcover includes the extensive editorial notes Jim Henson sent Smith after reading the novel’s first draft. While interesting, this section is super dry. Don’t go in unless you’re well hydrated. Also included are a bunch of Brian Froud’s conceptual sketches strewn randomly throughout the book instead of all together at the back in a civilized appendix. Someone in the layout department at Archaia thinks interrupting the story with sketches of usually unrelated subjects is a great idea, apparently.

 

In closing: Fizzgig Forever. ♥

 

Jim Henson's Labyrinth

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Novelization - A.C.H. Smith, Brian Froud, Jim Henson

I think this is one of those “if you love the movie, you’ll love the book” things. In fact, I don’t think I’d recommend reading the book without seeing the movie first. Several times. A.C.H. Smith tries his damnedest (and does pretty well), but some things about Labyrinth just defy description in print. You’re better off going into this with as much visual reference as possible.

 

As someone who has seen Labyrinth many, many times, I found the book to be an enjoyable if somewhat fickle companion. On the one hand, it gives you interesting insight into things like why Sarah starts out as such an annoying, overwrought drama llama. On the other hand, it also does things like drag out the nightmarish Firey scene for nearly two whole chapters. (Ugh! I freaking hate the Firey scene! *shudder*)

 

This hardcover edition also includes some delightful concept art by Brian Froud and pre-production notes scanned straight from one of Jim Henson’s notebooks. They make for an interesting look into the minds of two creative geniuses. Did you know Jim Henson had messy handwriting? He totally did. I feel better about my own barely legible scribbling now.

Rebel Rising

Star Wars: Rebel Rising - Beth Revis, Lucasfilm Ltd

A super short review because I haven’t got much to say:

 

I don’t know if anyone was really clamoring for a YA novel about Jyn Erso’s life in the years between Saw Gerrera rescuing her from Lah’mu and the Rebels breaking her out of prison on Wobani, but we got one anyway. It was entertaining (I enjoyed it a lot more than my last book by Revis, that’s for sure), but it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t feel like I got much more out of this than Freed already gave me in the Rogue One novelization.

Railhead

Railhead - Philip Reeve

Once upon a time in the 80’s I saw an anime movie on TV called Galaxy Express 999: Can You Love Like a Mother? It was episodes 51-52 of a 100+ episode series which I’d never seen. It was devoid of context and badly dubbed, but there was a boy on a train traveling through space and I was entranced. I never went looking for the whole series and had mostly forgotten about it until I started seeing reviews for Railhead pop up a couple of years ago. Sentient trains traveling through space? A young street thief caught in a galactic conflict beyond his comprehension? Intrigue and action and complex morality? Yes! cried my inner 80’s child. Sign. Me. Up.

 

Boy, am I glad I listened to her!

 

Railhead is absolutely full of interesting, flawed characters and has an intriguing, twisty plot, but it’s the freaking brilliant world building that really shines.

 

There were things that lived in the deep data: unregistered phishing nets, spam-sharks that would hack your mind and fill your dreams with adverts, half-mad military programmes left over from long-ago wars.

 

I can’t even articulate how much I love the future universe Reeve created, so I’m not going to try. The book does stand alone, but I’m super bummed there’s no sequel. [Edit: THERE ARE SEQUELS! I AM FULL OF JOY!] I want to ride the rails, making friends with the trains and listening to them sing while alien landscapes flash by.

 

I want to be a railhead.

City of Glass

City of Glass  - Cassandra Clare

This third installment in Cassandra Clare’s Ode to Harry Potter was not quite as fun to hate as the second. I blame the faux incest romantic angst, which was dialed up to unbearable levels. At least there were some decent plot twists and character development. Also, this is the book in which everybody and their werewolf calls Clary out on all her crap, Clary included, and it is glorious! There was a little bit of that in book two, but there was more here. A large percentage of Clary’s character growth came through other characters telling her how horrible she is and her realizing they weren’t kidding, and I was all for it.

 

I do believe Clare’s writing has improved with each book, which gives me hope for her current endeavors, but I don’t think I’ll put any effort into acquiring more of her books. I am never more fully aware that YA books aren’t written for me than when I’m reading books like this. Not that teen me would have appreciated it much more than adult me. I never had more than two or three romantic bones in my body (and The Last Unicorn shattered one of them permanently—oh! sweet agony!), and I’ve always gotten irritated when the characters keep putting the world-saving on hold to be angstily in love.

 

I still haaaaaaaaate Jace and Clary and want them to go jump in Lake Lyn, and I need to take a break and do some priority-examining before I pick up book four. This one ended in a nice stopping-place. That’s enough fun-to-hate reading for now.

City of Ashes

City of Ashes  - Cassandra Clare

I’m not going to review City of Ashes indepth because this was basically a gleeful hate-read. Long story short: I acquired four books in this series before learning much about it. I read the first book back in 2014 and thought it was terrible but mildly entertaining, and after my last read I was in the mood to hate on something.

 

So here we are.

 

I hate Clary. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaate Jace. I don’t like Simon. Or Isabelle. Or Alex. I want to like Magnus, but he’s doing the whole centuries-old-pedophile-dating-a-mortal-teenager thing and he is not making it easy for me. I hate the derivative cliché-fest that is Clare’s fanfic origins shining through. And I hate, hate, HATE the whole incestuous romance angle. After the first book, I was 100% sure it would come out later that Jace and Clary are not siblings. After reading this book, I am 1000% sure that particular “twist” is forthcoming. But for now they think they are siblings, and it’s gross.

 

But gosh darn it, the story isn’t terrible, even if it is derivative, and it’s fun to hate. So much fun, in fact, that I think I’ll move straight on to hating book three!

 

@.@

On a whim, I turned to Google to see if the last two books in a series I've been side-eyeing were ever published. The answer is no, and the likely reason is that one of the co-authors is awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

 

 

I can't even process this. My gast is utterly flabbered. I don't know why I'm sharing this. Maybe so other gasts can be equally flabbered and I won't be alone in my flabbergastedness. So, yeah. This is a thing that happened. Huh.

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