March Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

It’s that time again! March wrap-up! I feel like I read a little bit less this month than I did in February. Mostly that is attributed to some really great video games coming out this month that totally had me distracted (I am looking at you, Sea of Thieves…). Still, I managed to finish 9 books!

I started A Time of Dread and The Girls in the Picture in February but finished them in March. I enjoyed A Time a Dread about as much as I did John Gwynne’s first series; that is to say, I liked it but didn’t love it like many other people seem to.

We also got to read The Court of Broken Knives this month and really loved it! While it had many of the same elements that other fantasy books have, the prose was so different that it brought something wholly new to the genre.

I was incredibly excited to read Arm of the Sphinx! I should have read this last year after reading Senlin Ascends but as I couldn’t get a physical copy until the Orbit release this month, I waited. And now I have wait for The Hod King and I don’t want to.

Obsidio came out the same day as Arm of the Sphinx so that made that week really interesting as I tried to juggle both books that I was really looking forward to! In short, Obsidio was a great ending to The Illuminae Files, even if I thought the very end was a little bit too much sunshine and rainbows compared to other things that happened throughout the series.

On the Book Geeks Uncompromised podcast, we also had the opportunity to interview author James Maxwell. I read the first book in his Shifting Tides series, Golden Age. This was an interesting fantasy series in an Ancient Greek-esque setting. I liked a lot of the world and the descriptions of some of the cities were beautiful.

The last book that I finished was Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I originally read this about 10 years ago but several of my Goodreads friends have been reading it so I needed to do a re-read. I also never read any of Robin Hobb’s other books so I figured this was a good place to start!

I just finished Ready Player One today. I have mentioned before that I started this before and DNF’d about 10% in but with the movie coming out and seeing how much everyone raves about it, we are giving it another shot for review on the podcast. I did like it more the further I got in but I still have problems with it. I am looking forward to the movie because I think some of the scenes will translate beautifully and I am hoping that maybe some of the things that I wasn’t crazy about will be smoothed out in the adaptation. Check out the podcast next Monday for a full review!

For a non-fiction read, I also read The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley. I felt like it got a little bit side-tracked at times and was a little bit of a “read my books!” by the author but, seeing as this was her book, I guess that is somewhat to be expected. I loved the overall messages though and do recommend this to anyone that wants a deeper look at feminism and its history in geek and nerd culture.

Well that was what my month looked like! I am putting together my April TBR still but I am really looking forward to it! Going to do another buddy read on a classic and Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence comes out in a few days so that is enough to have me eager!

What all did you read in March? Let me know below!

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)

77197“Utter loneliness was planted in me then, and sent its deep roots down into me.”

Author: Robin Hobb
Category: High Fantasy
Pages: 448
Publication Date: March 1st, 1996

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In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

For those that haven’t had the fortune of coming across this, the band Within Temptation actually have a song about this series called Hand of Sorrow. Definitely check it out!

Fitz was born the bastard of Prince Chivalry, the firstborn son in line for the throne. At 6 years old, Fitz’s mother decides that she can no longer care for him and so he is deposited in the care of whatever soldier happens to be on guard duty.

The story itself is very slow-going. It basically just follows Fitz as he grows up at Buckkeep largely in the care of a man that once worked for Prince Chivalry. Through Fitz’s eyes, the reader gets a sense of the world that this story takes place in, the magic system, and who the main players are. Honestly, in some ways, this book was more an elaborate setup in world-building than an actual story. Most of it was setup for the future books in the trilogy.

That said, this works for this book though because it spent a lot of time exploring several concepts.

First of which is the idea of naming.

The royalty in this country are named after different traits. Fitz mentions that it isn’t known whether being given a certain name actually sets that person’s character or whether the person becomes that trait subconsciously. This is an interesting take on the nature v. nurture discussion.

A prime example is Fitz. When he is first asked what his name is when he is dropped off at 6 years old, he responds only “Boy.” The man that ends up taking care of him, Burrich, starts calling him Fitz and it sort of sticks. Some other characters made a comment about only Burrich would do that or something to that effect so I had to look up what Fitz means. Apparently it is a really old French word (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong!) meaning “son of…”

So even though he is called Fitz he still has no name and, in the tradition of naming those of royal blood, therefore no character trait attributed to him.

What does this mean for the character though? Does it mean he is a blank slate? Or is he…nothing?

I would actually love to have a discussion with others that have finished the series on this! Fitz is an intensely lonely person, the nature of his birth disconnecting him from so many people that he otherwise would have been close to. He is intelligent but not exceptionally so.

Continuing the tradition of naming, I felt that Shrewd and Regal were both worth being mentioned.

Shrewd, the current King, is exactly what his name suggests. The connotations for the name are somewhat negative but he isn’t a bad person. He doesn’t dance around people’s feelings and what is or is not morally acceptable but he is not a bad person.

King Shrewd’s youngest son is Regal. This name was intended to inspire a sense of the royalty that he is but the character is also just as pretentious as his name.

The continuing message among all of these is that no one person is ever just one thing. 

The story also had a lot to say on the topic of what leadership is or should be and how loyalty is earned. There was a ton of commentary on the responsibility of royals and what it looks like when someone (Regal, Galen, I am looking at you two…) disregards that responsibility and only wants to be “special” and also what the burden of leadership is supposed to be. And as for loyalty, I loved the message that all it takes sometimes is a kind word to inspire devotion.

Dani’s 2¢

Although this is not one of those stories that is jam-packed with action or that introduces some insanely original world-building, there is a subtle aspect to the quality of the writing and Fitz’s personal story that pulled me in. I actually read this series about 10 years ago and while I was surprised by how much I did remember of it, I had forgotten most. Coming back to it as a more experienced reader, I enjoyed this book more than I did originally. High recommended.

Rating:

9-loved it!

Greg’s Thoughts

This one was interesting. I enjoyed the magic and the mystery behind it. I enjoyed the story. The political intrigue that was brewing could be exciting. Seeing this world through Fitz’s eyes gave a cool perspective on leadership and that there is more than one way to be a leader.

My only criticism I have is that due to the writing style, things could be days forwarded through or glossed over. And example is with a character death early on in the book. At the start of a chapter it simply says, “The day I heard this person died…” and just moves on. There were some dramatic moments that do happen later on due to this event, but these typenof situations feel skipped at certain times.

Very fun read though, and I am looking for ward to the rest of the series.

Rating:

9-loved it!

 

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Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel #2)

35959733“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.” 

Author: Josiah Bancroft
Category: Fantasy, Steampunk
Pages: 398
Publication Date: March, 13th, 2018 (Orbit)

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In Arm of the Sphinx we return to the adventures of Thomas Senlin and his quest to find his missing wife. It has now been just at a year since they were separated and Senlin is hanging on to the barest thread of clues to discover what has happened to her.

Senlin Ascends was my number 1 favorite book that I read last year and is probably in my top 5 books of all time, I loved it so much. So I had pretty high expectations going into Arm of the Sphinx, book 2 of The Books of Babel.

For the most part, those expectations were met. Long story short, I don’t think this second installment is quite as good as the first but it still a damn good book.

Thomas Senlin has changed so much from the start of the series. For his character, this book was less focused on continuing to transform him and more explore in what ways he changed over the course of the first book.

He is no longer a village schoolteacher. After everything he has been through, the world of a small village just may be too small for him. So who is he now? Is he a captain, a leader? Is he a friend? Is he even a good husband?

Towards the end of Senlin Ascends, Senlin himself reflected that his wife, Marya, was becoming more of a concept than an actual person in his mind from the time that they had spent together. This book I felt continued that. This story is no longer about finding Marya. It is just about Thomas Senlin.

I am so looking forward to the end of this series and seeing who exactly he is after everything is said and done, after everything that he has gone through and everything that is yet in store for him.

But I did say that I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first. The reason for that is simply that I didn’t have the same sense of wonder as I did while reading the first book. I was mesmerized by the Tower and what it held in store. While the plot got infinitely more complex in this story, I just didn’t feel the same sense of awe.

With this book, we start to understand a little bit more about the Tower and its origins and some of the politics that go inside it. It should be no surprise that the Tower has a bit of a terrible history and a future that isn’t looking so good either.

Like I said, I was not quite as enchanted with this book as I was with its predecessor, but I think that has something to do with Senlin himself having become disenchanted. What he once saw as a shining pillar of civilization he now realizes both more mundane and more sinister than he ever anticipated and he is trying to figure out exactly what it has made him.

At the time of writing this, the expected publication date for The Hod King is this coming September and there are still so many mysteries in the Tower that I am very excited to see where they go!

Rating:

8-really liked it

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Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3)

24909347“You know better than anyone what I am. Every story needs its monster, Kady. But this story will end soon.”

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Category: YA, Science Fiction
Pages: 615
Series: The Illuminae Files #3
Publication Date: March 13th, 2018

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Check here for the podcast discussion over the entire series (spoiler free)!

After months of grueling space travel aboard a damaged ship, the survivors aboard the Hypatia have finally made it to Heimdall waystation. Only to find not the salvation they were looking for but survivors of another part of BeiTech’s attack. Their only hope now is to return Kerenza IV, the place it all began, and hope that there is something there that will allow them to save themselves.

This was an amazing, emotional roller coaster of a book. The star of this whole show has got to be the AI that lost his mind, AIDAN.

“I am not good.
Nor am I evil.
I am no hero.
Nor am I villain…
I
AM
AIDAN”

AIDAN is creepy, weird, awkward, and dark. Ultimately, he wants what he is programmed to do: to see that the fleet survives. But the things that he does to that end are horrible…but it is difficult to argue the necessity of his choices. A point which he brings up many times: he will be evil so that others do not have to be.

Honestly, probably the only thing that we particularly were not crazy about with this book was that the ending was not quite as bittersweet as the tone of the rest of the series would indicate. It was a little bit too much sunshine and rainbows. It sounds a little weird to be advocating for more character death but the distinct lack of it combined with some of the fake-outs in the series just didn’t mesh well with some of the things that did happen. It was a little too neat for the characters.

Being a YA fantasy series, there are kids 17-20 years old that end up in leadership positions among adults which is kind of a trope-y thing for the genre. That said, it was something that was addressed and even became a point of conflict in the story. Several of the adults that were not familiar with Kady G. and Gang were very not happy with being bossed around by a bunch of kids and this was something that had to be resolved, albeit a little messily.

Dani’s 2¢

I especially appreciated that the age of the characters was something that was not just supposed to be accepted by the reader. It was questioned by the characters and therefore as a reader I was able to better accept their position as well.

I have said before that I absolutely love this epistolary mode of storytelling. I loved the chat logs, the journal entries, the hand-drawn comics, the transcriptions. The sparse-ness of some of the details and focus on the characters seems to really draw me in and immerse me even more in the story that’s being told.

Though I do wish the end had been more emotional to match the rest of the story, I absolutely loved the series and I think that this is probably my favorite of the series.

Rating:

9-loved it!

Greg’s Thoughts

This was another great ending to another great sci-fi series. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this series. The way the story was told, the characters, and just AIDEN! He is a character i should dislike for the choices he makes. But even when he did some terrible thigns, I still felt for him and was routing for him.

This form of storytelling does not need to be used all the time. Bit this time it was done so well that in hope to see more from these authors. Like we said above, the ending was a little to beat but overall I loved this book, and this series.

Rating:

9-loved it!

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Book Blogger Insider Tag

Book Blogger Insider Tag

Happy Friday!

It has been a while since I have done one of these tags and I keep seeing this one around so, although I was not specifically tagged by anyone, I decided to join in the fun. Also I’m  halfway through several books but not completely done with any so you know…no reviews right this minute… I’m a slacker. :P

Rules
Answer the questions below
Credit the creator: Jamie from A Little Slice of Jamie
Tag at least 5 people
Have fun!

Where do you typically write your blog posts?

At my computer desk. I know you can write a WordPress blog via the mobile app but…yeah I don’t think I could do that.

How long does it generally take you to write a book review?

It really depends on the book. I have gotten better about this because I used to just stare at the screen waiting for the right words to come to me to get the damn thing started. Now I just start typing the first things that came to mind and go back and fill in beginnings and endings and just generally clean it up after I’ve got everything out. So maybe 30 minutes to an hour on average.

When did you start your book blog?

April 2016. And the podcast launched the following November!

What is the worst thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

I don’t know if there is anything particularly that I don’t like about blogging per se but one of the more stressful parts for me is making sure to have content even when I am in a little bit of a reading slump. Those usually don’t last long and probably aren’t even noticeable really because I make sure to read at least the book we will be reviewing on the podcast but it gets to the point sometimes where it seems like a chore rather than for pleasure. That usually goes away with an especially good book though!

What is the best thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

This is probably the single most used answer, but definitely getting to know other readers. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life that even enjoy reading as much as I do and some of those don’t even enjoy the same genres that I do a lot of the time so it is great getting to fangirl (just a little bit!) with people that like the same books that I do.

What blog post have you had the most fun writing so far?

So I feel a little bit bad about this one because it was actually a negative review but it was the review for the second Black Jewels trilogy book by Anne Bishop. I hated that book soooo much and I wrote it when we were just starting to blog and I was so frustrated with it that I just didn’t hold back. It was full of snark and bitchiness and the whole nine yards.

I have absolutely come across some books that are now some of my Top 5 books of all time and I love writing reviews for those. Those reviews do tend to be harder for me write though because I can’t get my emotions for those under control long enough to really express why I loved it.

What is your favourite type of blog post to write?

I don’t do them often enough, but I really do enjoy these tags. I also love reading tags because they are a great way to get to know another blogger beyond just reviews.

When do you typically write?

When I have time and am thinking about it! So usually not long before I want it to be published.

Do you review every book you read?

The vast majority of them, yes. There are a few that I have left out though. Those are usually non-fiction though and I find those harder to review.

How do you write your book reviews? With a cup of coffee or tea? With Netflix? Cuddled with your fur baby?

If Netflix is on, I can’t focus. There is often times a cup of tea involved though. Sometimes a snack because for some reason I think if I am sitting still, I need to be munching on something.

When do you write your book reviews? Right after finishing the book? Two weeks after finishing the book?

I try to do it soon after finishing a book but sometimes it is a few days. When it is a blog review for a book that we have reviewed on the podcast, I will sometimes write the review while I am editing the podcast so I can go over exactly what we said, maybe some points that were made during the show that I didn’t have written down.

How often do you post?

I go for at least twice a week. That is pretty much the limit as to how many books I can read in one week so it is only ever more if I have a TBR/wrap up to post or one of these tags.

Who is getting tagged!

Bethan May

James Tivendale at you and i books

 

The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1)

32469783“We killed people, in order that others may live. We soaked the city in blood, to make it clean. It’s for the best. One day people will see that.”

Author: Anna Smith Spark
Category: Grimdark, Fantasy
Pages: 470
Seris: Empires of Dust #1

Don’t miss our podcast discussion over this book!

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Okay, so lots of emotions on this one.

First off, the most commented thing on with this book is easily the writing style. It is different. It is very stylized and in a way that isn’t seen much in the fantasy genre. Probably the perfect example of this is a quote that seems to be used frequently in reviews:

“…Imagine saying that to Gulius’s family: he was killed fighting a dragon. He was killed fighting a dragon. A dragon killed him. A dragon.”

The prose can be repetitive, especially in the action sequences. It read more like a sort of stream of consciousness at times rather than a description of events. It was kind of strange at first but it added a level of immersion to getting inside a characters mind and emotions as they ran high.

The first 10-15% of the book does this sort of stylized prose most heavily and then as the story gets going it evens out some.

As for the story itself, it follows 4 POV characters: Marith, Thalia, Orhan, and Tobias.

It’s hard to get into their characterizations without too many spoiler details but for the most part, they are all very complex creatures.

Marith, who could arguably be the main character, is kind of like a combination between Jorg Ancrath from the Broken Empire series and Logen Ninefingers from The First Law Trilogy. He can be a huge pompous, violent asshole in his own right, but there is obviously supernatural going on with him as well that drives these impulses even further. As a reader, his character is interesting to delve into because I waffled between feeling sorry for him and kind of hating him.

Thalia is the High Priestess of a religion that requires human sacrifices, occasionally even children, to keep the cycle of life and death in motion. It is believed that if the sacrifices stop, the living will be unable to die and no more life will come into being (via birth it is assumed but I don’t think it specifically stated).

She has lived her life in the Great Temple and so her knowledge of the world around her is purely academic. When she finds herself out in real world, she is almost childlike. She is constantly in wonder of what she is seeing and experiencing and is drawn like a moth to a flame to Marith.

The story itself is not far off from the Goodreads description. However, the plot described there kind of reaches a climax at about the halfway point of the book (no spoilers about what happens with it though!). There are some very far-reaching consequences, most directly for Orhan.

The plotlines with Marith and Tobias though seemed to wander a little bit after this point. There was a constant question of “where exactly is this going” in my mind, like their plot lost some of its cohesion. It went into a kind of wait and see mode as things began to develop.

Dani’s 2¢

That loss of some of the story’s cohesion is honestly the only negative thing that I had about this book. Of all the things that I enjoyed though ,there are probably two things that I absolutely loved the most.

One, was Orhan. He is the most “normal” character I think in that he isn’t violent by nature, he is knowledgeable about the world, and he genuinely wants to protect the Empire. But this desire to protect leads him down a twisty turn-y path that leads to him making some very difficult decisions.

Two, I loved Thalia’s interactions and relationship with Marith. Not in a “shipping” kind of way because what is between them is incredibly unhealthy…but that unhealthiness is kind of why I am fascinated by it.

Thalia has this innocence about her despite her intelligence and wisdom so she knows on some level that something is wrong with Marith but at the same time she is too naive to separate herself. I absolutely cannot wait to see more of this relationship and where it goes…especially with the last Thalia chapter!

Rating:
8-really liked it

Greg’s Thoughts

 

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Sigil Independent: An Interview with M.D. Presley!

A few podcast episodes ago, we discussed a group of self-published authors that are coming together to form Sigil Independent. Founding member M.D. Presley (he claims no relation to Elvis) was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about what Sigil Independent is and what readers and self-published authors alike can expect from them.

What is Sigil Independent?

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We call ourselves a guild mainly because it sounds cool, but upon doing a bit more research into guilds, we’re missing some of the most basic aspects like paying dues and being controlled by the organization (although we do have a very extensive induction ritual). So, in effect, we’re more of a collective of similar self-published fantasy authors who have come together to pool our resources and… ugh, I sound so corporate marketing
department here… brand. Although we’re all self-published authors, we believe we operate on the same level of quality as traditionally published authors.

So our brand (ugh, the word still tastes bitter in my mouth) is the highest quality self-published fantasy you can find. Everything is professionally done, and we think when audiences encounter our work they’ll recognize that fact. So the guild/ collective/ Sigil is really a sort of seal of approval: If you’ve read one of our members’ work, you can know our other 40+ books are of equal quality and feel free to check them all out without fear of getting burned.

00e01f_452ab9d778cf44cd962c89a10d83182f_mv2What led to the creating of Sigil? Was there a particular event or discussion that lead to its creation?

I joke that Sigil came together because I was in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off bracket of death over at Fantasy Book Critic against Benedict Patrick and eventual finalist Alec Hutson, so I recruited them rather than face a foregone defeat, but the seeds of Sigil go a little further back than that. D. E. Olesen and I met on some fantasy forums a few years back and found that we could pool our promotional efforts on a long-term basis. Most of the other authors in Sigil know each other since we all sort of run in the same online circles, and many have done short term promotions together in the past. Sigil was just the next logical step.

Because, and a lot of authors need to realize this, self-publishing is not a zero-sum game: Just because someone else wins doesn’t mean I lose. Traditionally published authors have a distinct advantage because they have a team working with them for each release. Sigil is our attempt to create that same sort of team while maintaining our independence.

How many authors are involved right now?

We have ten awesome authors (well, nine and myself), all of which were at least semi-finalists in SPFBO: Dyrk Ashton, Ben Galley, Rob Hayes, Alec Hutson, Michael McClung, D. E. Olesen, Benedict Patrick, M. D. Presley (me), M. L. Spencer, and Phil Tucker.

Plus, if you’re really in the know, you might find our 11 th unofficial member in Meatzo the Meatzarian.

SIGIL SAMPLER COVERWhat is the Sigil Sampler?

A great way to both put together a free 500+ page book and skirt Amazon’s rules on how much you can give away. Essentially, it’s a sample from each of our 10 authors of approximately the first 10% of their books. For free, much in the same way heroin dealers give away the first hit…because we know once you sample our
wares you’ll be hooked for life.

But, to add a bit more sugar to the already-formidable recipe, we added a Choose Your Own Adventure into the prologue that, after a few choices, will drop you right on the doorstep of the book we think will most likely align with your personal tastes.

The whole Choose Your Own Adventure to pick a book to read is absolutely genius. How did that come about?

The idea of a questionnaire/ quiz to connect readers with the book they’d most likely enjoy was already live on the site (though the site wasn’t yet live) and was born from those Facebook quizzes that inundate us daily. But as we were putting the sampler together the idea of order suddenly sprang up. Many people never read anthologies all the way through, which meant that whoever was at the front of the sampler would have an unfair advantage over the authors towards the back. To be fair, we drew names out of a hat (literally) for the order, but we still wanted to level the playing field somewhat. But to do that we’d need a book that people didn’t read in linear order.

So, like Reese’s two great tastes that taste great together, we combined the ideas of a quiz and non-linear order into the prologue, which quickly morphed from another quiz to the CYOA. Because, deep in our hearts, we’re all nerds here.

00e01f_9040f5610c8c423cac84823172efbc45_mv2What are the ultimate goals for Sigil Independent?

World domination, plain and simple. But until that fateful day, we’ll be content with applying a lot of traditional publishing best practices to our own books. Most of these things will remain behind the scenes, but hopefully the results will be obvious to anyone who reads any of our books.

We’d also like to burnish off some of that stigma that clings to us self-published authors so audiences won’t automatically dismiss a book out of hand simply because it didn’t go the traditional route.

And, you know, selling a few books along the way wouldn’t hurt either.

If a reader wanted to keep updated on what’s going on with Sigil Independent, what should they do?

You can always hit us up on the Facebook at sigilindependent or on Twitter @sigilindie.

Please also visit our site www.sigilindependent.com, where there are all sorts of free downloads to accompany the protagonist quiz. And, if you dig a little deeper, there’s a few hidden goodies you might unearth…

Thanks again to M.D. Presley for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure you check them out and try out their Sampler Book!