Take A Peek Book Review: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.

My Thoughts:

The synopsis above doesn’t quite give the full picture, although it does hint at the craziness and unpredictability of Lagoon. In Lagoon, aliens land in the harbor of Lagos, Nigeria. We see the ensuing action unfold through the viewpoints of the main characters, as well as bystanders, lost children, preachers, prostitutes, and even spiders, bats, and a swordfish. The author’s descriptive, vibrant writing evokes the sounds, sights, and smells of Lagos, and immediately pulls the readers into the vibe of this chaotic city.

At the same time, the plot gets more and more complicated as the story moves forward, which is both an immersive experience and something of a headache. The powers of the aliens and the native gods come into play as they both make indelible changes to the lives of the humans in Lagos — but the interwoven plot points, the unusual magical and alien elements, and the strange experiences of the characters often are a real challenge when it comes to making sense of what’s happening.

Still, I really enjoyed getting to know the characters, seeing the social dynamics at play in Lagos both before and after the alien arrival, and experiencing the extreme oddness of certain scenes. Let’s put it this way — we have characters turning into sea creatures, and that’s not the weirdest thing that happens.

I’ve been wanting to read more of Nnedi Okarafor’s fiction ever since reading Binti earlier this year. She’s a remarkably gifted writer, and I think it’s pretty eye-opening for American readers to see contemporary science fiction set in Africa — quite unusual, and definitely a hugely positive addition to the genre!

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Lagoon
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: April 10, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: LibrarySave

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 8/14/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

My baby boy is 15 today! We’re heading out to do some family ziplining to celebrate – wheeeeeeee!

What did I read last week?

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig: Brilliant. My review is here.

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land: Thank you, Goodreads — I won this in a giveaway! My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books this week:

I love witty grammar books (such a nerd), and the other book is an ARC with a time travel theme. Fun!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

I’m flipping back and forth between two books right now — one sci-fi, one non-fiction:

  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Now playing via audiobook:

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson: A free download from Audible focusing on the unintended consequences of the spread of free porn. It’s pretty interesting — if I can just find time to listen, I’ll be done in about an hour.

Ongoing reads:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: My book group’s new classic read! We’re doing two chapters per week, starting today. I’m excited!

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Good Me, Bad Me

With many thanks to Goodreads — I won this in a giveaway!

HOW FAR DOES THE APPLE REALLY FALL FROM THE TREE?

Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

Good Me, Bad Me is an intense first-person visit inside the mind of a troubled teen. Milly is struggling to figure out who she really is: Can she live a normal life after 15 years with a psychopathic murderer for a mother? Does she truly have a shot at being good?

Milly’s story starts when she turns in her mother after the 9th in a long series of child murders. On the outside, her mother wears a kind and lovely public face, working at a women’s shelter, providing care and comfort to desperate women and their children. In reality, though, she’s an expert at gaining people’s trust, never letting them see below to the hellish, sadistic creature underneath. Milly (whose real name is Annie) has been living alone with her mother since age 4, when her father left and took her older brother with him. Since then, Milly has been both horribly abused and victimized herself, and forced to watch (and sometimes participate) as her mother abducted, tortured, and murdered young children.

Finally free, with her mother behind bars, Milly is taken in by a foster family. Her foster father Mike is also the psychologist who works with Milly to prepare her for her mother’s trial, where she’ll be the star witness, but the home life isn’t all rosy. Saskia, the mother, is a mentally unstable coke addict who’s physically present but emotionally absent. Most problematic for Milly is Phoebe, Mike and Saskia’s teen daughter, who emphatically does not want another foster kid in the house, resents the attention Milly absorbs, and sets out to bully and harass Milly at every turn, especially at school, away from her parents’ eyes.

We see everything from Milly’s point of view — and inside Milly’s head isn’t a very comfortable place to be.

Milly’s narrative of events is continuously peppered with 2nd person comments, as she maintains a one-way dialogue with her mother — the “you” who fills Milly’s thoughts and to whom Milly is constantly trying to justify herself. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, but the darkness keeps threatening to engulf her. We see her struggle to find a place for herself and be normal –but there are also lapses, incidents where Milly lets her inner demons take over as she engages in behaviors that are questionable, at best.

Like Milly, we never see the mother directly over the course of the book’s action. The closest Milly comes is when she testifies in her mother’s trial, during which she’s sheltered from viewing her mother by a screen. She knows she’s there, can sense her presence, but never actually sees her — and this holds true for the reader as well. Milly’s mother’s presence is a constant, even though we never see her directly. Between Milly’s inner dialogue with her mother and her nightmares about her, we feel her shadow over every scene.

I did have a few minor quibbles with the plot and the narrative. While we get enough information over the course of the book to get the basic idea of what Milly’s mother did over all those years and how Milly was victimized, we don’t see any of it directly. I’m not looking to wallow in the muck here, but there’s a bit of vagueness that started to irritate me after a while. A few more details would have been helpful about Milly’s earlier life — did none of her teachers over the years ever notice anything off about this poor abused child? Her scars may not have been visible, but surely some professional might have noticed her emotional damage?

I question too the lack of proper attention Milly received after her mother’s arrest. Mike represents a huge problem for me — he’s her foster parent, and is supposed to care for her, yet is also her court-sanctioned psychologist and is secretly writing a book about her. After all of the years of suffering, it would seem to me that Milly needs much more than she’s given, and the assumption that she can live a normal life with just weekly therapy seems terribly misguided. Without giving too much away, it’s clear that this is not a good foster placement for Milly, but if Mike is the only one providing her mental health care, there’s no way for the situation to improve.

When Milly gets into her inner monologues and dialogues, the writing becomes choppy and disjointed, reflecting her mental state. This is effective, but occasionally veers into Yoda territory: (“Committed, she is.” “Slice we do, a cut here, a snip there.”) Still, the sentence fragments that form Milly’s narration illustrate the way her thoughts push and pull at her constantly:

Your voice in my head. THAT’S MY GIRL, YOU SHOW THEM. THANKFUL NOW, YOU SHOULD BE, FOR THE LESSONS I TAUGHT YOU, ANNIE. Your praise, so rare, when it comes, rips through me like a bush fire swallowing houses and tress, and other teenage girls who are less strong, in its hot, hungry mouth. I meet their stares, the remnants of Izzy’s gum hanging off my chin. Thrown by my defiance, they are, I see it. Fleeting. The twitch around their succulent lips, eyes slightly wider. I shake my head, slow and deliberate. Izzy, the hungrier of the two, takes the bait.

The book builds to a climax that was not at all what I’d expected. It’s disturbing but makes sense, and left me with a huge sense of unease — which is a sign that this thriller accomplished what it set out to do.

Good Me, Bad Me is a tense, suspenseful read that I really couldn’t put down or get out of my thoughts. The inner life of a damaged soul is not a pleasant thing to see. Definitely check out this book if you like psychological depths and twists, but be prepared for sleepless nights.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Good Me, Bad Me
Author: Ali Land
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: September 5, 2017
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller
Source: Goodreads giveaway

Save

Book Review: How To Stop Time

I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

This feels like another one of those books where I want the entire review to consist of the following:

Amazing book. Read it.

Really, what more is there to say?

I have been in love with Matt Haig’s writing for a while now, ever since reading The Radleys, The Dead Fathers Club, and even more so since reading the spectacular The Humans. In How To Stop Time, the author shows once again the complexity of the human experience and the universality of a search for meaning.

In How To Stop Time, we meet main character Tom, who appears to be about 40-ish but is in actuality closer to 500. He’s one of a small group of people with a rare condition that slows the aging process — dramatically. They’re not immortal; they age normally up until puberty, and they will die of old age eventually. They can also die of injury just like anyone else, but meanwhile, Tom appears to age about one year for every 15 that he lives. A secret society of similarly afflicted people refers to themselves as albas, short for albatrosses (as the bird is supposedly long-lived) — and, unflatteringly, regular humans are simply mayflies, with lives so short by comparison that they’re barely worth paying attention to.

According to Hendrich, the organizer and enforcer of the albas, eight years is about the maximum someone like Tom can remain in any given identity and location before starting fresh. Otherwise, people start to notice, and gossip and odd looks can lead to severe consequences. Or at least, that’s been the governing truth for centuries. And there’s a certain logic to it. Tom was born in the late 1500s, and saw his own mother tried as a witch when neighbors realized that her teen-aged son remained unnaturally youthful while everyone around him aged normally.

Early on, Tom has his one and only experience with love as well. After leaving his childhood home after his mother’s cruel fate, he eventually falls in love with a lovely young woman named Rose. They eventually marry and have a child — but Tom is forced to leave after some years when once again, his eternal youth raises suspicion and threatens to bring disaster down upon his family.

Since then, Tom wanders the world, assuming fresh identities and homes every 8 – 10 years, but never truly allowing himself to connect or become a part of anything permanent. And while eternal (or long-lasting) youth might sound amazing to anyone dealing with grey hair and wrinkles, the fact is that for Tom, it’s an incredibly lonely life that seems to lack any sort of meaning.

Of course, on the plus side, he’s had  lot of years to learn, grow, and try new things. From being a simple lute player way back when, Tom has become a gifted musician skilled in many instruments, and his ability to impart history as a living, breathing concept is what makes him a fantastic high school teacher. He’s also rubbed elbows with a who’s who of famous folks over the centuries, from Shakespeare to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and can pull up those memories at a moment’s notice.

When Tom begins to connect with another teacher at the school, he has to confront the lonely existence he’s had and to make some decisions. Does he let this woman into his life? Can he be honest with her? What will Hendrich do if he finds out? How far will Hendrich go to make sure that the secrets of the albas remain secret?

How To Stop Time is truly fascinating. I loved the dilemmas presented by being a man out of time, someone who has lived everywhere yet fits in nowhere. Tom is a thoughtful and sympathetic character who keeps going for only one reason, which I won’t reveal here. He suffers physically and emotionally from the constant bombardment of memories from his centuries of life. You can’t help wanting him to be happy, even while acknowledging the huge barriers to that happiness.

The premise is so interesting and absorbing, and I couldn’t put the book down. At the same time, it’s Matt Haig’s extraordinary writing and use of language that makes this book truly soar. I was so caught up in reading that I didn’t stop to mark pages and passages of interest, which makes it hard right now to highlight quotes and give examples of why I loved this book so much.

I do have just one that I managed to find after the fact, and I’ll use it to wrap up this review. From a passage showing Tom’s inner thoughts — completely applicable to regular people with regular lifespans too:

And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without the fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battle would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve? How, in short, would I live?

Like I said:

Amazing book. Read it.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: How To Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication date: July 6, 2017
Length: 325 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction
Source: Purchased

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten book-based TV shows to check out

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. The broke & bookish folks are on break from TTT for the summer, but I thought I’d write a list of my own anyway.

This week, it’s all about TV. I’ve been watching A LOT of TV this year, mainly because (a) I finally broke down and signed up for Netflix and (b) I’ve gone on a few serious binges and became obsessed with certain shows *cough*Walking Dead*cough*.

Here are my top 10 shows based on books — most that I’ve already watched and love, plus a few on my to-watch list:

1) Outlander — based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. And if you’ve ever visited my blog before, you’ll know the depths of my love for these books and the TV series.

2) Games of Thrones, based on the books by George R. R. Martin

3) The Expanse, based on the series by James S. A. Corey

4) The Walking Dead, based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman

5) The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood

6) Big Little Lies, based on the book by Liane Moriarty

 

7) 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by Jay Asher

 

And three more that I haven’t seen yet, but want to:

8) Mr. Mercedes, based on the book by Stephen King. It starts tonight, but unfortunately not on a channel that I get. (DirectTV only, maybe?) I just read the book earlier this summer, and loved it. Would love to be able to see this!

9) 11/22/63, also by Stephen King. I missed this when it aired on Hulu, but I believe my library has the DVD set available to borrow.

 

10) The Leftovers, based on the book by Tom Perrotta. I watched the very first episode when it aired and just wasn’t hooked, but now that the series has ended, I keep hearing how amazing it was. I think I need to give it another try.

 

What book-to-TV adaptations do you love? Which do you recommend the most? I’m always looking for new shows to check out, so please share your thoughts!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 8/7/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

August already? How did that happen?

What did I read last week?

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey: Loved it! My review is here.

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn: Fascinating. My review is here.

In audiobooks:

I finished listening to The Golden Compass, and loved it. I’d decided to re-read the trilogy prior to the release of The Book of Dust in October, and thought I’d give the audio version a try. Philip Pullman narrates, along with a full cast for the various characters, and it was quite a good production. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the series as soon as the next volume becomes available at the library.

Pop culture goodness:

I randomly started watching The Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix and ended up watching all ten episodes over the weekend. It’s hilarious. Is something wrong with me?

I also thought I’d check out a couple of episodes of Will on TNT. Meh. I can’t decide if I like it, but I don’t hate it either. Maybe I’ll give it a bit more time.

Fresh Catch:

I bought one new book this week:

Ever since reading Binti, I seem to be collecting books by Nnedi Okorafor. This one caught my eye after I heard the news that it will be adapted for HBO, with George R. R. Martin as executive producer!

And hey, I won a giveaway! Thank you, Goodreads! I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig: Absolutely loving it. I have about 50 pages left — can’t wait to get home from work today so I can finish!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson: Probably a weird choice, right? It was a free download from Audible, and I’ve read some pieces by Jon Ronson before, so I thought it would be entertaining, at the very least. I’ve only just started — we shall see.

Ongoing reads:

My book group’s next classic read, Ivanhoe, starts next week!

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

A mysterious murder in a dystopian future leads a novice investigator to question what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.

Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them and are awarded symbolic banners to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory.  Enid of Haven is an Investigator, called on to mediate disputes and examine transgressions against the community. She’s young for the job and hasn’t yet handled a serious case. Now, though, a suspicious death requires her attention. The victim was an outcast, but might someone have taken dislike a step further and murdered him?  In a world defined by the disasters that happened a century before, the past is always present. But this investigation may reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for.

Bannerless is a unique and interesting approach to the dystopian genre. In fact, if you took away the references to “the Fall”, you might almost think you were reading a story of agrarian life in the Middle Ages. Let me explain…

In Bannerless, we follow main character Enid, a resident of the town of Haven whose occupation is investigator. Investigators are both detectives and enforcers, sent from settlement to settlement to look into complaints, solve problems, and if needed, impose sentences. Investigators tend to be feared — when these outsiders show up wearing their official brown tunics, it’s likely to end in repercussions either for individuals, households, or possibly the entire town.

Enid’s village lies among the geographic area known as the Coast Road, sets of smaller and larger settlements who interact for trading, messages, and resources. All follow the same general governing principles. The towns are primarily agrarian, and all members of a community have roles to play. Towns may only produce up to their quotas, so that resources are preserved for for the future. People form households to work together to show productivity, and if they prove that they can support more, they are awarded banners, which give them the right to have a child.

All in all, it sounds like a rather peaceful and healthy way to go about life. Community is all-important. People offer one another help when needed, and when help is provided, there’s a commitment made to repay expended resources when the recipient is able.

As I mentioned, if you didn’t know the setting, you might think this story takes place a few centuries ago. It has that old-fashioned, idyllic feel to it. But we do know that there was a Fall — and while the author doesn’t go into tremendous detail, it becomes clear that civilization fell over the course of years in which the world was devasted by epidemics, followed by substantial climate change that brought life-threatening changes in weather patterns. Enid’s adult life takes place about a century after the Fall, and she still remembers her Aunt Kath, who was the oldest member of Haven and the only one to remember the time before. From Kath, Enid learns about how life used to be, from silly details (like a yearning for plastic wrap) to issues around birth control and reproduction.

In terms of the plot of Bannerless, we follow two timelines in alternating chapters. We see Enid and her investigator partner Tomas, a member of her birth household, as they investigate a suspicious death in the nearby town of Pasadan. This in itself is shocking — while their investigations mainly focus on banner or quota violations, murder is pretty much unheard of. Meanwhile, in every other chapter, we follow the story of Enid from about 10 years earlier, when she followed her lover on his journeys from town to town, and along the way, learns much more about the communities, the ruins of cities, and her own calling.

What’s unusual about Bannerless, and what makes me hesitate to call it “dystopian”, is that the societal structure seems to work. There are no castes or debasing rules or the other types of harsh governance that seem to be the hallmark of the genre. Yes, the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, but the people seem to have worked out a system that makes sense for them. The rules about banners and birth control don’t strike me as autocratic or despotic; they go hand in hand with the focus on resources and quotas. The communities bear an awareness of the disasters that led to civilization’s downfall, and they’re determined to avoid the excesses that result in barren lands and starving children.

And while Enid and others occasionally yearn for the resources they’ve heard about through stories about life before the Fall (medical equipment and reliable lab tests, for example), they’ve found a way to manage and preserve what they have, to share and take communal responsibility for one another, and to sustain future generations by conserving current resources.

Yes, the breaking up of households who flout the rules may sound harsh, but there’s a lot of reasonableness too. Of all the various fictional scenarios of life post-disaster, the world of Bannerless sounds pretty okay to me.

The book itself is a quick, engaging read. Don’t expect explosions or intense battles or action scenes. The drama is all about the people, their interactions, and their motives — although this book does a great job of demonstrating how scary it can be to be caught out in the open when a storm is on the way.

According to the author’s page on Goodreads, she’s working on a sequel, and Bannerless is listed as the first in a series. I had no idea while I was reading the book that this would be an ongoing story, and Bannerless works perfectly well as a stand-alone. (I’m glad I didn’t know ahead of time; I tend to avoid starting new series, and I’d hate to think that I might have missed out on a good book because of my series-aversion!)

I’ve enjoyed other books and stories by Carrie Vaughn (although I haven’t read her Kitty Norville series, which seems to be her best-known work), and I will definitely read the 2nd book whenever it comes out.

Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of other books:
After the Golden Age
Martians Abroad
“Raisa Stepanova” (Dangerous Women anthology)

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Bannerless
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Mariner
Publication date: July 11, 2017
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased

Thursday Quotables: Abaddon’s Gate

quotation-marks4

Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse, #3) by James S. A. Corey
(released 2013)

There’s nothing like a great sci-fi adventure to make the reading hours fly by! While much of this book is action, action, and more action, the characters are also very well-developed, and their thoughts can be quite entertaining:

Holden was starting to feel like they were all monkeys playing with a microwave. Push a button, a light comes on inside, so it’s a light. Push a different button and stick your hand inside, it burns you, so it’s a weapon. Learn to open and close the door, it’s a place to hide things. Never grasping what it actually did, and maybe not even having the framework necessary to figure it out. No monkey ever reheated a frozen burrito.

Three books into the series, the crew is a family, and their banter is always a pleasure.

“We don’t want to get in a gunfight,” Holden warned Amos as they began moving again.

“Yeah,” Amos said. “But if we’re in one anyway, it’ll be nice to have guns.”

A note on Thursday Quotables: I more or less took the summer off from keeping up my weekly memes, and I’m not entirely back yet. Sorry for the unpredictability! I aim to do Thursday Quotables when I can this month, and then settle back into routine in September.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten random thoughts about reading, summer, and life in general

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. The broke & bookish folks are on break from TTT for the summer, but I thought I’d write a list of my own anyway.

I only had a brief vacation this summer, but even though short, it gave me time to think deep(ish) thoughts and come up with a few random realizations.

1) After allowing my IPhone to run through my music in A-Z order during long car drives, I came to three conclusions:

  • I haven’t updated my ITunes in a really long time.
  • I seem to have stopped listening to music about the same time that I started listening to audiobooks.
  • I have a disproportionate amount of Kate Bush songs on my phone.

2) Diet, shmiet. I will stop for ice cream every single day that I’m on vacation. My view seems to be that I’ve earned all the indulgences while I’m away from home.

  • Bonus points for obsessing over the local flavors. In Montana, it was huckleberry ice cream — day in, day out.

3) Different family members are different types of vacation reading buddies.

  • I just traveled with my husband. With him, we read before bed, and maybe if we have some lounging around on the porch time in the afternoon.
  • With my son, I fight for every moment of book time. His mantra seems to be “Mom! Stop reading and do something fun!” (*weeping in despair*)
  • With my daughter, it’s all books, all the time. Books go in the backpacks. Stopping for coffee? Read a book. Sitting by a pretty stream? Read a book. See a cute bookstore? By all means, go spend several hours browsing!

4) Luckily, my husband has had many years to accept how much reading I do. Because otherwise he’d find me incredibly rude.

  • My rule of thumb on airplanes? Sit down, fasten seatbelt, stick nose in book. Stay that way until landing.
  • I definitely don’t talk to people near me on planes. And sorry, even the husband barely gets an exception.

5) Have you seen the t-shirts that say “my brain has been replaced by Hamilton lyrics”? It’s so true. At least five times a day, I feel a line from a song dying to come out of my mouth… which can be especially annoying to my travel companions who are not at all familiar with the show.

6) Why does binge-watching start feeling like a chore? The fact that the entire season of a series is available at once makes me feel SO pressured to churn through it all without stopping. And it’s not necessary! The episodes will still be there if I take them one day at a time.

7) I read the news, I follow latest stories on all the social media outlets… and yet I really don’t want to talk about it for more than a few minutes a day. I think I’ve reached my saturation point. How many times can you say “what the hell?” in one day? In one hour? Honestly, I think I read and watch TV so much to hide from reality… needed now more than ever.

8) I know I’ve posted about this many times before, but seriously — I am so much happier as a reader once I let any sort of schedule or planning go. Once again, I requested a bunch of ARCs at the start of the year, and once again, I started feeling less and less happy as the months went by and I had to keep looking at publication dates to make sure I was staying on track.

  • Why do I do this to myself? I know that I hate reading on a schedule.
  • I’m also (again) swearing off ARCs. Bad formatting drives me bananas. And look, it’s not doing anyone any favors if I sit down to review a book I’m mad at because it can’t get its line breaks to make sense.
  • I’m so much happier when I don’t have a list to stick to. I love the freedom of picking up whatever catches my eye, suits my fancy, tickles my funny bone…

9) It’s been interesting having no group reads going on this summer. With Outlander Book Club, we usually have one classic read and one re-read of a Gabaldon book going at the same time, two chapters each per week, and those go on FOREVER. Well, the two most recent wrapped up in June, and I’ve been free as a bird ever since.

  • I do love our group reads! And I truly am looking forward to starting up again with a classic (Ivanhoe) in August, and the Lord John books in September.
  • But man, it’s been nice to have no obligations to anyone but myself!

10) And finally, back to the subject of binges… I love reading graphic novels, but I find they go in one ear and out the other (or I suppose that should be in one eye and out the other?) pretty much immediately.

  • I can remember overall story and character arcs, but details? I can’t seem to keep these straight for more than a day or two after I read them
  • I love the Saga series, but I end up having the re-read the previous edition each time I get the newest book… which means that I’m two behind by now.
  • I read all volumes of The Walking Dead trade paperback editions over the last couple of months, and I can tell you the big picture of what happened, but I seem to have lost the particulars within a week of finishing. No idea.
  • I read the very entertaining limited series We Stand on Guard in June, six issues right in a row. It was fun at the time, but I don’t think I could identify a single individual character at this point, just the overall plot and resolution.
  • Maybe this is why I still haven’t finished Locke & Key. I can’t read the final volume without going back and rereading the first five, and I just haven’t felt like it so far. Which sucks, because I love this series.
  • Why don’t these stories stick with me? Is it me? Is it the format? Is there something about the graphic novel approach that leaves me with memory gaps?
  • Please tell me it’s not just me and my silly brain.

Happy August to all! I hope you all enjoy these last weeks of summer.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Abaddon’s Gate

For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Holy moly, I love this series.

Abaddon’s Gate is the 3rd book in The Expanse series, which is the basis for the pretty awesome TV series on Syfy (season 3 expected in 2018). (Check out an earlier post of mine about the series, here.)

In book 3, a brand new set of circumstances has opened up for the people of our solar system — Earthers, Martians, and Belters — and what to do about these new circumstances plunges the crew of the Rocinante right back into insane levels of danger.

(I realize this review will likely be gobbledygook for anyone not familiar with the earlier books in the series. Sorry about that.)

Our fearless leader, James Holden, and his ragtag crew have been through all sorts of hell so far, and just when they’ve settled into a rather profitable business as a cargo ship, along comes trouble. The structures built by the protomolecule have opened up a portal of some sort beyond Uranus’s orbit (no jokes please — we’re all adults, right?), and the fleets of the three main powers have all assembled nearby the portal — called the Ring — to make sure no one gets an advantage over the others.

And of course, it’s Holden and the Rocinante who ends up hurtling through the Ring into what they call the Slow Zone — a space between, a still zone lined with thousands of gates to other worlds, some open, some closed. And here’s where the trouble really begins. Because none of the ships or their nations trust one another, they all end up going after Holden… and things go very, very badly.

Abaddon’s Gate is another big, huge book in a series composed of big, huge books. I’ll admit that the first third or so at times felt like a bit of a slog. Other than Holden and his crew, there are almost no familiar characters from the previous books, which means that the reader has a whole new set of complicated relationships, motivations, and power struggles to sort through. It feels overwhelming at first.

Trust me, it’s worth it. Once I got a bit further in, I was hooked. Some of the new characters blend in with others we’ve known — more soldiers, technicians, etc — but there are certainly some stellar, memorable new characters, among them the priest Anna and the heroic Belter officer Bull. The action is unrelenting, and it’s fascinating to see the unimagined dangers facing all the ships and humans as they enter a zone where the rules of physics as they know them no longer apply.

I highly recommend this series — books and TV — to anyone who loves a good space opera. It’s got outstanding characters, complex plotting, and mind-blowing world-building. What more could you want?

I can’t wait to start the 4th book, Cibola Burn.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse, #3)
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Length: 539 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased