Jenny Moyer – Flashfall

You know how some books take a while got get going? How a boring or difficult beginning can be hard to read but then the pay-off makes it all worthwile? This is the opposite kind of book. Here, the beginning was the best part, and then it all falls into pieces and gets worse and worse. This will be a rather long review.

flashfallFLASHFALL
by Jenny Moyer

Published by: Henry Holt and Co., 2016
Hardback: 342 pages
Series: Flashfall #1
My rating: 3,5/10

First sentence: Caves make good hiding places.

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.
But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

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Orion and Dram are best friends and cavers. They live in Outpost 5 and their job is to go into a cave and mine for cirium, a substance that is used by Congress in the protected city of Alara for a protective barrier against the flash curtain. If that sounds convoluted and clichéd, that’s because it is. Don’t expect any of this to make sense. However, good-natured as I am, I decided to just roll with it and enjoy the story on a different level.

Orion, our protagonist, is your typical YA heroine, and she is also quite obviously in love with her best friend Dram. They make a kick-ass team and their trips into Cave Nine were thrilling to read. If the author had stuck with that idea and run with it, this could have been a great YA book. But Jenny Moyer apparently didn’t know how to spread out her ideas (or other people’s ideas) and threw in everything and the kitchen sink, without regard for the plot or world building. While the beginning of the book is well-paced, introducing the progatonists and some side characters, there came a point where everything went to shit.

For conflict, Orion has to get into trouble, and I am totally okay with that because that’s what makes great stories. But her and Dram get transported, imprisoned, escape, get imprisoned again, sent somewhere else, escape to a new place, come back, get caught again – so many times and in such quick succession that any dangerous situation feels utterly ridiculous after a while. There also isn’t any sense of real danger because they conveniently get saved by some poor schmuck sacrificing themselves for them.

This actually bothered me a lot. At first, side characters who got some introduction blindly sacrifice themselves for these two teenagers without any hint of their motives. Later, the author just didn’t care anymore and randomly introduced new characters only to kill them off a few pages later so Orion can survive. In some cases, the sacrifice is relatable, but I got the feeling that the author wanted Orion so very much to be Katniss, with the same level of fame and respect from a rebellion that doesn’t even exist in Flashfall. But Orion is really not that special and, much more importantly, her story isn’t broadcast across the nation so nobody knows that she’s sort of uprising. All she does is break a sign. Why should random people – ones she’s only just met – blindly walk into death for her? And the amount of times that happens is just mind-boggling. It’s cheap and it’s bad writing and it weakens the entire story.

Another aspect that showed bad plotting was how convenient things were. Not just character deaths but other things as well. Like a side character is introduced only to give one vital piece of information to Orion and then never be mentioned again (or die in the next chapter). The same goes for tricky situations. They get out of them so easily and so quickly. Every plan immediately works, and if it doesn’t, just throw a side character into their death. Either way, the action scenes rarely took more than a page or two which gave the whole story a weird sense of time passing.

What makes things worse is the terrible world building. Where do I start? Oh, I know, let’s start with the map. I love maps in books because they usually give you a bit of additional information for the story and help you navigate an invented world in your mind while you’re reading. Not so in Flashfall. If anything, the map made things even harder to understand. To be fair, if all the artist had to go on was the descriptions in the book, there really wasn’t anthing to be done. Look here (click to biggify):

I wasn’t the only person who had trouble with this map or the descriptions in the book. Because the working of this world is never really explained, I tried to piece it together myself. But none of it made any sense! The flash curtain is apparently this radioactive wall of fog that kills regular humans, called Normals. Subpars, like Orion and Dram, can withstand the radiaton. They live in Outpost 5, I’m assuming that dividing line is the flash curtain – and the privileged Normals live in the city of Alara protected by that weird dome-like wall thingy. At least I think that’s what it is. However, there are also Normals living in Orion’s outpost – WTF? Why don’t they get sick? What is even the point of having them there if they can’t go down into the caves to mine for cirium? Oh yeah, and cirium is needed constantly for that protection dome/wall… I have no idea why. If there’s already a wall why would they need more cirium? As it turns out, the rich people are evil (who could have seen that coming?) and use cirium for other stuff as well. No spoilers although, trust me, you wouldn’t mind anyway.

As I mentioned before, Orion and Dram “visit” lots of other places as well, some Outposts, some cordons, although the main difference seems to be the vicinity to the flash curtain. The vague and really cheap explanations as to why people are in the cordons at all didn’t help with the world building either. It appears the elite is also really stupid if their secret evil plan is doing what they’re doing. To make things more confusing, we later find out a bit more about Alara and its inhabitants. Like that they have drones and helicopters. Which don’t go with the set-up of the world AT ALL. Everything is jarring, nothing fits together, even distances don’t make sense. The speed at which Orion travels between cordons makes it feel like distances on the map aren’t very far apart. But that doesn’t go with the descriptions of the caves’ vastness.

Very little thought went into the world building. The most effort was probably put into substitute curse words which also don’t make sense. People curse with “fire” or “flash me” – at least “flash me” goes with the general world. The flash curtain is a menace, a danger, so using it as a curse is fine. But why would anybody curse with “fire” ? Fire doesn’t have special meaning in this story, it’s not like fires have to be avoided at all costs because cirium is super flammable or anything. I have no idea where it comes from and it threw me out of the story every time it came up.

But the saddest part was the plot. As I said, it started off so well. I didn’t expect a great work of literature here, just some fun adventure with a romance thrown in or something.  And at the start, the book really showed potential. We see Dram and Orion in action doing their job and being damn good at it, we meet their families and friends, the way they live. They go into cave nine, meet some dangers and get out of them by themselves and by being a great team. However, that seems to have been the only consistent idea the author had, because once the world gets opened up and she tries to show us the bigger picture, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is no plan. The world makes no sense, Orion’s fame makes no sense, the mindless idiots dying for her make no sense. Throw in some magical people – Conjurors – who can manipulate the elements, throw in weird sub-societies in different outposts and cordons, incredibly convenient hints for the protagonists to find, really lame plot twists and a story that, in terms of character development and world building leaves you exactly where you started and you’ve got a hot mess named Flashfall.

In the end, I have more questions than answers. What even is the flash curtain? Why is it a straight line on the map? Why do Normals live with Subpars in the outposts if Normals aren’t resistent to the radiation? Why would anyone work for the protected elite in the first place? How does the world at large work? Why is there magic, why are the powerful people trying to stop Conjurers from using it? Why would they not let scientists work on a cure or a protection against radiation sickness? None of it makes sense. What’s even the point of having outposts and cordons, especially if some of them seem designed only to kill people in ridiculous ways? Why would a city even be built that close to the Flash curtain if it’s such a straight, nicely contained line? Why has Orion never seen the sky? If everything’s so full of clouds and radiation, how do the Normals even survive? What the hell is any of this about???

The ending isn’t really any better. Things work out super-conveniently for Orion again and we get an incredibly cheese last scene but there wasn’t even an attempt to make readers want to read the next book in the series. I can only assume that the many favorable reviews were written by people who still have hope that it gets better, that all those questions are answered in the sequels. I do not have that hope and I feel no need at all to continue torturing myself with a series that is so self-indulgent, so unfocused, and by an author who so clearly doesn’t have a plan.

For a well-executed romance and the nice beginning I’m giving this a handful of points. For starting well and leaving me angry, it’s not a big handful.

MY RATING: 3,5/10 – Bad

P.S.: If anyone has read this and can explain any of the things that were unclear to me, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I am genuinely interested if it was just me being an idiot while reading.

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#DiverseAThon Sign-Up Post and TBR

I am so sad that the DA readathon is over because I loved its focus on diverse books and how all my book choices ended up being fantastic reads. So I’m signing right up to the next readathon which is also about diverse books.

The #DiverseAThon lasts for one week – starting on 22nd January – and while I know I won’t be able to read a lot during a work week, I think aiming for three books is doable. And to make it a little more challenging for myself, I’m going to pick three books that all feature a different type of diversity: one book by an Author of Color, one book featuring LGBTQ characters, and one book featuring an autistic character and written by an author with autism.

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My Diverse-a-thon TBR

Helen Oyeyemi – What is Not Yours is Not Yours

I adore Oyeyemi’s writing but so far I’ve only read two of her novels, never any of her short fiction. This short story collection sounds like just my cup of tea and, since I know I love the author’s style, I believe I’m in for a treat.

Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).

Oyeyemi’s creative vision and storytelling are effervescent, wise, and insightful, and her tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation? What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours captivates as it explores the many possible answers.

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Molly Tanzer – Vermilion

The description to this book is so filled with buzzwords that I’ve been wanting to read it since it came out. A gunslinging heroine, the Weird West, ghosts, and (according to some reviews I read), a diverse cast of characters. What’s not to love?

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The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp

Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong.

When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it’s the right thing to do, and she’s the only one willing to do it.

On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive…

From British Fantasy Award nominee Molly Tanzer comes debut novel Vermilion, a spirited weird Western adventure that puts the punk back into steampunk.

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Corinne Duyvis – On the Edge of Gone

Now this is a big book! It’s a bit daunting to bit this on a readathon TBR but I’ve been wanting to read one of Duyvis’s books for a while now. The author was diagnosed with autism at a young age and this book also features an autistic character. I’m very curious to read it, so although her second novel (Otherbound) is shorter, I’m going with this one.

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January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

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I am very much looking forward to the #DiverseAThon, especially since there will be Twitter chats and loads of recommendations. And it’s not like you can ever have too many books.

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#DAreadathon Wrap-Up and Points

The DA Readathon is officially over and I have collected all my points as well as some thoughts about the experience.

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The short of it is: I loved everything about this challenge. As a readathon, it was casual enough, it lasted two weeks, and there was very little pressure (unless you count my personal ambition to collect lots of house points for Ravenclaw). My favorite part  was probably the reading prompts which corresponded with spells from the Harry Potter universe, and the fact that this readathon encouraged people to read diverse books.  Not only were these prompts accompanied by lovely graphics, they also give the readathon a bit of structure. They also helped me choose books. If your TBR is as big as mine, picking a handful of books can be quite overwhelming. Most of all, though, every book I read because of this readathon, has been fantastic and I’m so glad I participated.

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First of all, let’s see how many House points I’ve collected for Ravenclaw:

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Points for pages read:  101

  • Kissing the Witch: 228
  • Labyrinth Lost: 336
  • Six of Crows: 285
  • Borderline: 168

As you get one point for every 10 pages read, I added the “left-over” pages up until I reached another 10.
So for Kissing the Witch, I get 22 points, plus 8 left-over pages. For Labyrinth Lost I got 33 points, plus 6 pages. Those 6 added to the 8 pages from Kissing the Witch make 14 pages which got me another point (and 4 left-over pages). And so on. I hope I interpreted the rules correctly here. Otherwise, somebody let me know, please.

Points for books finished:  10

  • Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch
  • Zoraida Córdova – Labyrinth Lost

Points for reviews posted: 10

Points for social media: 5

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Now to the books I’ve read, started and didn’t get to:

I finished two books and reviewed both of them. They were both fantastic reads by new-to-me authors.

Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch is a short story collection which retells well-known fairy tales, but with a lesbian twist. The connections between the stories may not have made a lot of sense but the stories themselves were wonderful, sometimes dark reads.

Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost was just lovely all around. Lacking a bit in characterisation, the book had great world building, a bisexual protagonist, an intriguing magic system, and a wonderful depiction of family! I really loved it and can’t wait for the sequel.

I almost finished two more books. These are very, very different reads, but I fell in love with them equally.

I don’t think I need to say much about Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows as everybody except for me seems to have read it. I’m in the last third of that book and by now, I know this thieving crew well enough to be quite emotionally invested.

Mishell Baker’s Borderline, on the other hand, is something I usually wouldn’t read. It’s Urban Fantasy set in Hollywood, featuring a disabled, mentally ill protagonist who tried to kill herself. If I hadn’t read a ton of great reviews, I would have said that’s a bit much for one book. But it works beautifully. Millie’s Borderline Personality Disorder is always there, but it never gets “in the way” of the plot, if you know what I mean. This is not an “issue book” like they made you read in school. It’s a great mystery with an unusual Urban Fantasy world – in that I haven’t met any werewolves yet – and the protagonist’s voice is so wonderful, it’s hard to put the book down. I read about half of that book during the readathon.

Unfortunately, because work left me too tired to read on most days, here are the books I didn’t get to. But I am determined to just continue reading them as if the readathon was still going on, I just won’t award myself any House points. 🙂

  • Madeline Miller – Song of Achilles
    This book tells the love story between Achilles and Patroclus and I hear tissues are needed for reading this.
  • Nicola Griffith – Hild
    A historical fantasy featuring a kick-ass heroine? Sign me up. Also, I heard this is a slow, more character-driven book and while some people don’t like those, it’s totally my thing.
  • Siliva Moreno-Garcia – Signal to Noise
    I am so looking forward to this story, set in 80ies Mexico City. I heard it’s magical realism and there’s lots of music (thus the cover), and that sounds like it could be amazing!

Thanks to Read at Midnight for the amazing challenge. I hope you will host this readathon (or a similar one) again next year!

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Zoraida Córdova – Labyrinth Lost

So far, the #DAreadathon has brought me nothing but joy. My second read not only introduced me to a writer whose work I will definitely follow but also to a wonderful story set in a different sort of Brooklyn. Although Alejandra’s story is told, the world offers much more room for other characters’ tales. And I can’t wait to read those too.

labyrinth-lostLABYRINTH LOST
by Zoraida Córdova

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire, 2016
Ebook: 336 pages
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

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Alex lives with her mother and her two sisters in a Brooklyn unlike the one you know. The entire family are brujas with magical powers that differ for every family member. Little Rose has a sort of sight, Lula, the eldest sister, can heal people, and Alex… well, Alex is The Chosen One. Except she really, really, really doesn’t want to be. In order to escape her powers, to get rid of them, she does something dangerous and, naturally, it backfires.

What follows is essentially an adventure story in the underworld, filled with strange and magical creatures, dangers untold and hardships unnumbered (see what I did there?). Alex only has the mysterious and kind of annoying Nova for company and while he is good-looking and saves her life occasionally, he remains surrounded by secrets.

There are so many little things to love about Labyrinth Lost. The world-building was fantastic, not only in Los Lagos, the underworld, but also the bits about brujos and brujas living in Brooklyn circa now. The author doesn’t spend too much time talking about the gods and mythology, but just the right amount to give readers a feeling for what Alex has grown up believing, what kinds of magic work and how brujas live, their rituals and relationships. As a heading for each chapter, there is a little excerpt – usually a line from a poem – of the Book of Cantos, and athough you could completely ignore those and still read the main story, they are a lovely addition to the world building of this novel.

I also loved how certain words were in Spanish, although the map sort of threw me. Bone Valle was hard to get used to – I always wanted it to be either Bone Valley or Valle de Huesos or something. The mix of Spanish and English in one name or title didn’t sit well with my brain (it wants things to be organised and orderly, although I rarely give in to that urge in real life), but I adored that the gods’ names were all Spanish, that Alex’s full name is Alejandra, which her sisters sometimes shorten to Ale. Oh yeah, I should mention, even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish, the pronunciation of some words is explained within the text. Zoraida Córdova found a totally simple, yet elegant solution to that problem. Look how she does it (emphasis by me):

“This is what we do, Ale.” Ah-ley. My family nickname.

See? It’s so simple, the author does it several times throughout the book, and it works. There are no lengthy explanations, the readers aren’t left completely alone with a name whose pronunciation they might be uncertain about… I love it. It’s a tiny little thing but I love it. And that’s basically what makes this book so charming. An accumulation of tiny little things that all add up to something great.

Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Córdo

If I take one feeling away from this book, it’s a sense of family and belonging. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling that I totally wanted to hold on to. So… a little side-note, because I want to: I have loved the movie Labyrinth since I was a little baby. This is very likely the reason I jump on any movie, book, music album, or what-have-you with the word “labyrinth” in the title. Labyrinth Lost is very much like that old Bowie movie (oh, David Bowie :() in that it’s essentially about family. While Sarah, in the movie, in my opinion acts mostly because of guilt (sending your baby brother to the Goblin King is pretty harsh and will get you into SO much trouble), Alex in Labyrinth Lost acts more selflessly. Sure, she is also powered by her guilt because the whole mess is her fault and her family are suffering because of her. But she also really loves them and it is shown, over and over, throughout the book, how strong the bond between these family members is.

So, yay for family love. For still loving each other even if one of you makes a terrible mistake that almost gets everyone else killed. Not-so-yay for the obvious Nova story, but another sort-of yay for the friendship between Alex and Rishi. Rishi is the character you just have to love, even if you don’t want to. She is too wonderful and adorable and quirky to dislike. I think she was under-used as a character in the second half of the book but, hey, this is only the first book in a series. So I’m keeping my hopes up for more Rishi in the next volume.

Lastly, I have to talk about the characters. We mostly spend time with Alex, Nova, and Rishi and although they all have distinct personalities (and I adore Rishi), they felt a little superficial. Like each of them got three characteristics and that was the basis for all their actions. Alex did grow during her journey, and I actually liked Nova as a character, but there is definitely room for improvement. As for the side characters, I was surprised by how clearly Lula and Rose, Alex’s sisters, stood out in my brain. Those two, although we see very little of them, felt like real people, especially Lula. So I’m also hoping really hard for more about them in future novels.

Another huge brownie point goes to the author for (1) making her protagonist bisexual, and (2) for making the love triangle bearable and the conclusion satisfying. The romance was very understated and felt so natural… I am so not used to this in a YA book.

So although the story itself and the journey Alex takes is by no means original, Labyrinth Lost had so many small things going for it that I didn’t mind. The creatures the protagonists meet in Los Lagos feel almost like train stations they have to pass to get to the end boss, their adventures feel quite episodic. But none of that matters when I look at the bigger picture and at the insane amount of happiness and hope this book left me with. A book that you can close with a smile on your face and happy thoughts in your brain – that’s a great book if you ask me!

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

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Second opinions:

 

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Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch

Because of the Dumbledore’s Army readathon, my first book of the year was a fantastic and diverse read. I chose this book first because it’s short and I needed to start 2017 with a feeling of success. So, yay, for reading my first book on the first day of the year. And double-yay for it being a great read!

kissing the witchKISSING THE WITCH
by Emma Donoghue

Published by: Harper Collins, 1997
Ebook: 228 pages
Short story collection
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Till she came it was all cold.

Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances–sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed. Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother; Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror; Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire.
Acclaimed writer Emma Donoghue spins new tales out of old in a magical web of thirteen interconnected stories about power and transformation and choosing one’s own path in the world. In these fairy tales, women young and old tell their own stories of love and hate, honor and revenge, passion and deception. Using the intricate patterns and oral rhythms of traditional fairy tales, Emma Donoghue wraps age-old characters in a dazzling new skin.

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Twisted fairy tales are nothing new, not even genderbent ones, so it takes a bit more to impress me. Emma Donoghue doesn’t stray too far off the path in her versions of the most famous and well-known fairy tales. She revisits Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Rumpelstilstkin, and many more. The plot doesn’t change all that and the main hook appears to be that almost all fairy tale couples end up to be two women. Whether it’s Cinderella who falls for her fairy godmother or Beauty who discovers what is really behind Beast’s mask, if there is romance, it’s between women.

But that’s not what I found so amazing (although it is wonderfully refreshing). It wasn’t even the plot or the way Donoghue tells her stories that I found extraordinary. Even the structure of this collection is a fairly obvious one. At the end of each tale, the protagonist asks another character about their tale. They tell it and at the end of their tale, they, in turn, ask a character they met about their story. And so it goes on and on until the end of the collection. This has been done many times before and it has been done with fairy tales as well, but despite that, the structure drew my attention to something amazing.

We all know fairy tales are terrible to women and children. You can either be a beautiful but vapid princess, a fairy (godmother), or a villainous, jealous, evil female antagonist. And either way, horrible things will happen to you in a fairy tale. But what I had never noticed until now is how many fairy tales, especially Donoghue’s versions, have exactly two important female characters, the two who really carry the story, never mind the prince. Without the godmother, Cinderella would never make it to the ball. Without the witch, the little mermaid would just have to live without her prince. Without the jealous mother, Snow White would have grown up like a normal child. And since each story in Emma Donoghue’s collection invariably ends with one woman asking another about her story, it becomes obvious that every fairy tale has at least two female characters who do meaningful stuff. I loved that and I am going to pay closer attention when I read my next fairy tale retellings.

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What I didn’t like so much is how carelessly these connections between tales were made. You must remember that we meet each story teller in somebody else’s story first. So the horse in The Goose Girl apparently used to be Rapunzel – which is totally fine if you use some handwavium to explain that away (I mean, come on! Different species! Yet the damn horse only tells the Rapunzel story, not how it went from woman to horse… that’s a tale I’d gladly read any day.) but Emma Donoghue never does and never even bothers to mention the gaps between fairy tales. The little “connections” between these tales may sound nice enough and be useful as a sort of bridge between single stories but they make no sense whatsoever. And that makes them feel gimmicky and cheap.

But I never intended to read this collection as one larger story. I had no trouble enjoying every tale on its own merits, and these merits are pretty good. Donoghue writes beautifully and changes tone according to the tale told and who is telling it. As with any collection, I liked certain tales better than others, but I definitely enjoyed the variety. Sometimes we see things from the princess’ point of view, sometimes the villain’s. This is neither the most beautifully written I’ve ever read, nor the most original, nor the one with the cleverest twists. But I absolutely enjoyed every page of this collection and how it puts women front and center and allows them to take back the stories which have treated them so terribly.

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good

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#DAReadAThon

Hello, New Year! It’s nice to meet you. Let me welcome you by collecting lots of House Points for Ravenclaw during the Dumbledore’s Army Read-A-Thon (hosted by Read at Midnight).

Here’s my challenge ID card:

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I particularly look forward to this read-a-thon because it promotes diverse books, it lasts for two whole weeks, and it gives us Potter nerds a chance to show our House pride. I have prepared a list of books to tackle for the challenge – each of them is matched with a spell from the Potter universe. More details about the books I chose to read, what spell they correspond with, and how I like them, below.

Let the reading begin!

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da-readathon-points

There are several ways to collect House points, the most obvious one of which is reading! Per 10 pages read, you gain your house 1 point and if you finish a book, that’s an additional 5 points. A review for the DA Readathon gets you another 5 points. But you can also collect points on social media by tweeting about current reads or giving book recommendations. The same goes for Instagram photos of your TBR or current #DAReadathon book.

Points for pages read:  101

  • Kissing the Witch: 228
  • Labyrinth Lost: 336
  • Six of Crows: 285
  • Borderline: 168

Points for books finished:  10

  • Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch
  • Zoraida Córdova – Labyrinth Lost

Points for reviews posted: 10

Points for social media: 5

POINTS EARNED FOR RAVENCLAW: 126

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dareadathon-expecto-patronum

My first book has been chosen and it is Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue. This means I’m starting my Dumbledore’s Army readathon with the Patronus charm.

This book retells all the most famous fairy tales with a lesbian twist. Because I have loved fairy tales for as long as I can think, I consider this topic one of personal significance. I’ve never read anything by Emma Donoghue before but, so far, I really like what she’s done with the Grimms’ tales.

kissing the witch

Each short story ends with one character asking a second one about how they came to be where they are. And then they tell their story. In that story, they, in turn, ask someone else about their past, and so it goes on and on. I already have some issues with how everything fits together (because it doesn’t) but the stories themselves are lovely! Sometimes, we read about the princesses, sometimes the villains, but the story, although familiar, is never quite what you’d expect.

January 1st: Because this is rather a short book, I managed to finish it on the first day of the readathon. I hope I’ll have a review up by next week. On to my next spell…

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dareadthon-lumos

My Lumos book is Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova and I cannot wait to get started. A lot of people had this book on their readathon TBR, so I guess we’ll all be sort of buddy reading it, which makes this even more fun.

labyrinth-lost

What convinced me to read this book next was the gorgeous cover and the fantastic map at the beginning. It looks dark and creepy and just like my kind of (under?)world – I just couldn’t resist. At 336 pages, this will take me a bit longer than my first book but I am super motivated to read all 7 books for the readathon.

January 2nd: Okay, so I totally love this! After only one chapter, I already feel at home in this family of brujas. The sisters are adorable and just like sisters should be. Fighting over favorite clothes, who gets to use the bathroom first, but a loving family nonetheless. I cannot wait to find out everything that’s going on here.

January 5th: I couldn’t read very much these last days because work is… well, work. It makes me fall asleep as soon as I see my bed. No time for reading. But tomorrow is a holiday so I’ll have the entire long weekend to catch up. Labyrinth Lost continues to be wonderful. In fact, it’s getting better and better. I love Alejandra, the protagonist (and her family!), and I also really, really enjoy the potential love interests. I see two characters with potential, either of them may become a romantic partner, or neither of them. But the not knowing makes this  a highly refreshing book.

Evening: Aaaaand I’m home from work and have officially started my weekend. I am starting to seriously love this book even though I only read a few pages on the train today.

January 8th: So, I’m almost done with this book (still loving it) but I didn’t have a lot of time to read any other DA readathon books. On the upside, I finally went to see Rogue One on Saturday and it was much better than I expected. Plus, I still have to finish reading Flashfall, which I started very late last year and which, although very exciting at first, has kind of run out of steam by now.
However, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a review of Labyrinth Lost up next week and hopefully finish the rest of my readathon books.

January 10th: I finished this book yesterday and although I saw one part of the ending coming, I loved it to bits. The feeling of family, the warmth of friendship, and watching Alex come of age was just beautiful. My review is now online!

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dareadathon-stupefy

 

I also couldn’t resist any longer and started Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I picked it because of the hype surrounding the duology and again, just two chapters in, I am so hooked I want to just stay home all week and read this book!

six-of-crows

January 2nd: I had only ever read the first Grisha book by Leigh Bardugo before but if Six of Crows continues to be as good as its first chapters, I believe I’ve been missing out. Holy shit, how can I like both Inej and Kaz so much after one short encounter?

January 5th: As much as I adore Labyrinth Lost, I think it’s time to switch it up a bit and continue this amazeballs book! I still don’t know what the plot is really going to be about but I adore the characters so far.

January 11th: This is so much fun. Kaz is gathering a crew for his big job and you’d think the introduction of each character would be boring but it’s not. Bardugo uses the time for world-building as well as showing us who these guys are. I already have trouble picking a favorite (I was just introduced to Matthias) but I adore the names used in this novel. Ketterdam, the Barrel, the Dregs… names and places aren’t just words here – they have meaning and they paint pictures in your head. So even if you don’t get a description of the Dregs, you still get the idea that it’s not a nice place, that it’s a dark underbelly sort of area of the city. Just because of its name. Well done, Leigh Bardugo!

January 14th: OMG, there is so much going on here! While I am excited to see how the group will get the job done, what I find infinitely more interesting is the relationships between the members of the group. First of all – Nina and Inej, the only two girls, are friends. I love it. I love how effortlessy normal they are, how they are nice to each other, care about each other. I just hope they don’t become part of a love triangle, but  so far I trust Leigh Bardugo.
Nina and Matthias also have a… weird thing going on. These two are totally in love, I am sure of it even though it was never stated. But he also wants to kill her? And she got him sent to prison? Talk about baggage. I finally have reading time, and it’s wonderful to dive into this world for an hour or two without interruptions.

January 15th: I’ve read more than half of this book but I don’t think I can finish it in time. Plus, during a Twitter chat, somebody massively spoiled part of the story and now I’m reading certain chapters thinking about nothing else but that spoiler. It’s like a big cloud of doom hanging over the book. However, the book is still fun, and I hope that spoiled one wasn’t the only twist that’s coming up.

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da-readathon-expelliarmus

Because I can’t ever read just one book at a time, I had to start with my next Hogwarts spell right after finishing the last book and while still reading Six of Crows. Because that book is so immersive, I wanted something with a completely different world and tone, where I couldn’t possible mix up the stories in my brain. And here it is:

borderline

From what I’ve heard of this novel – and I have only heard good things – the protagonist has a failed suicide attempt in her past, lost both legs, and has Borderline Personality Disorder. If that doesn’t sound intriguing, I don’t know what does. And after reading the first few pages, I am already in love with the voice. Plus, I read about disabled characters so rarely, it’s about time to expand my horizons. Let’s get our Expelliarmus on, right?

January 11th: I read the first few chapters before bed yesterday and I am so surprised. Urban Fantasy is usually not my thing, because I just can’t read about another snarky, yet super sexy and capable, fighting machine heroine anymore who solves crimes with werewolves and vampires. But this? This is awesome! I can safely say I have never read about a character like Millie and although we have nothing in common, I love reading about her.

January 14th: This is a fantastic book! I only wish I’d had more energy during the last few days to actually read. Now that the weekend is finally here, I’ll need to get my butt in gear and catch up a little. I love Millie’s narration, I find the world fascinating, but I was so exhausted after work every day of the week that I only read a chapter or two before bed.

As much as this is a page-turner, I’ve been spending most of my time with Six of Crows, so I only read about a third of Borderline. Another book I won’t be able to finish during the readathon. But not only do I look forward to reading the rest of it, I am already eyeing the sequel which will come out this year.

January 15th: I’m a bit confused about the rules of the readathon. If today is still included in the challenge, I might just have a shot at finishing another book. Wish me luck!

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Sarah Porter – Vassa in the Night

I am so glad that one of the last books I read in 2016 was this weird, atmospheric modern twist on Russian fairy tales. It’s by no means a perfect book but I fell in love with Sarah Porter’s ideas and the way she incorporates fairy tale elements into a world sort of like our own, just more magical.

vassa in the nightVASSA IN THE NIGHT
by Sarah Porter

Published by: Tor Teen, 2016
Hardcover: 296 pages
Standalone
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: When Night looked down, it saw its own eyes staring back at it.

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

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The nights have gotten weird in Brooklyn. Vassa and her two stepsisters all know something is up, that the nights feel too long, that although they seem to drag on forever, time itself doesn’t slow down. But something is definitely not right. When Vassa storms out on a dare and walks straight into the local BY’s – a 24 hour convenience store whose parking lot is surrounded by heads on spikes (yeah, I know), that’s when things get going.

I loved every aspect of this story. In the prelude, we learn that something happened to Night, which explains the strange way nights behave for our protagonist. In the first chapter, we meet Vassa, a wonderfully practical girl, and her doll friend, Erg. This is where I started figuring out that this was going to be a weird book. Talking dolls, a supermarket whose owner beheads shoplifters, and nobody really batting an eye? When Vassa arrives at BY’s which is also supported on huge chicken legs, the connection to the Russian folktale couldn’t be clearer. BY stands, in this case, for Babs Yagg, the old and scary owner. And because Vassa isn’t all that careful, she gets herself into a big mess and has to work for Babs for three nights… however long those last.

While I marvelled at the originality of the plot and the way Sarah Porter mixes folktale and modern Brooklyn. But there is also a lot going on under the surface. Vassa’s relationship to her doll Erg was as touching as it was strange, and until the end, I was never sure what exactly Erg was or why she was there, such a clearly magical object in Vassa’s otherwise magic-free life. As we get to know Vassa more, it also becomes clear that her family situation isn’t exactly easy. Sure, the stepsisters aren’t as bad as Cinderella’s but their family is still a broken one.

I wish I could tell you all the other little things and ideas that made this book so much fun for me, but at the same time, I want you to be as surprised as I was. Well, one thing I’ll tell you is how refreshing it was not to have some forced romance pushed onto a story that doesn’t need one. Vassa is a teenage girl and she does show interest in certain characters, but there is no relationship drama because – come on! – Vassa has no time for that shit. She has to save her neighborhood, maybe even the world, and trying to survive leaves little time for flirting or putting on fancy clothes. I LOVED THAT!

vassa-in-the-night-chapter-header

A lot of reviews I’ve read complain about the book not making sense or the plot being too crazy. I didn’t have that impression at all. In fact, there is a beautiful internal logic to everything, although, sure, dreamwalking and speaking to dolls while working the night shift in a chicken-legged convenience store can be construed as slightly insane. And I concede that certain side characters didn’t really have a place in the story. I loved Picnic and Pangolin, I adored the swans, but like many others, I thought this would have been a better story if Bea was never mentioned. But her presence also didn’t do a lot of harm, so you know.

The one thing that I believe still hasn’t reached its potential is Porter’s language. There are already moments of greatness in Vassa in the Night, stuff you’d want to hang on your wall as an inspirational quote, but then there are also passages that weren’t impressive, just pure worksmanship. The words get the meaning across, but there’s nothing extra to them. The only reason I mention this is because I think Sarah Porter is the kind of writer who gets better with every book.  If you hadn’t guessed, I will be keeping an eye out for any new books from this author because although it wasn’t perfect, this book completely took me out of my world and into another and it’s playing with fairy tales. What more can a girl ask for, really?

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good!

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Best of 2016 – My favorite books of the year

One more week, then this miserable year will be over. I think 2016 has been tough on many people and a fresh start is much needed. At least when it comes to books, however, my year wasn’t that bad. I discovered a new author that I will probably love forever, I finally read one of Brandon Sanderson’s gigantic Stormlight Archive books, I finished a few book series I was reading, and I learned (yet again) that not all YA fiction that is hyped and marketed to death actually ends up being bad.

Here are my top books of 2016

(in no particular order)

It’s interesting that I read most of these books during the first half of the year. In summer, I took a break from reading and the second half of 2016 was pretty stressful so, again, I cut back on reading time. I’m also surprised that most of my favorite books of the year have either orange or blue-ish covers…

My happiest discovery of the year is easily C.S.E. Cooney. The woman is a genius with words and I have fall in love with her fiction hard.

Honorable author mentions must also include T. Kingfisher, Ursula Vernon’s pseudonym under which she writes retold fairy tales. I expected something cute and fluffy but was served a surprisingly dark, yet incredibly charming version of Bluebeard in her book The Seventh Bride.

I read a few series ending books, all of which managed to nail the ending to their story. Cat Valente’s Fairyland was the hardes to part with (to nobody’s surprise) but I also shed a tear or two when I closed The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Plus many, many tears while reading Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown. None of these books was perfect on its own but as they each had the tough job of ending a beloved series, they did a phenomenal job. I left all of these series satisfied, although with a major book hangover.

2016 was an excellent year for new books and I am still very much behind on reading sequels to books I loved and other new publications. But I fully intend to use the last week of the year (incidentally a week off work, muahahaha) for catching up. If you want to help me prioritize, let me know the one book published in 2016 you think I should read!

Happy Holidays everyone!

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books of 2017 I’m Looking Forward To

Here’s a great topic for Top Ten Tuesday which I totally missed so I’m doing it now, on a Friday, because I’m rebellious like that. Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. 2016 has been such a busy year for great new releases, even better than 2015 And I am SO. VERY. BEHIND. on reading all of those new books. However, I already have a list of stuff I’m looking forward to next year. Here are my top ten:

Top Ten 2017 Releases I’m Looking Forward To

In order to spare you my incessant gushing about Cat Valente, I have split this list into sections. You can skip whichever one you want to avoid.

Part I: The Valentes

Catherynne M. Valente – The Lords of Glass Town

The Brontës as children, stepping into their made-up portal fantasy? Written by Cat Valente?! GIMME GIMME GIMME! The book doesn’t have a cover yet (I’m sure it will be epic) but here’s what little Goodreads says about the plot:

The Lords of Glass Town follows Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne Brontë as they discover a portal into Glass Town, a Narnia-like fantasy world of their own creation.

Catherynne M. Valente – Matryoshka

Unlike The Lords of Glass Town, I’m not sure this will actually be published in 2017. If it is, I’ll be the first to pounce on it and in this case, I’ll probably need the UK and US edition to go with my UK and US editions of Deathless.

The Deathless companion novel is a retelling of Ivan and the Firebird set during the children’s evacuation of Leningrad.

Catherynne M. Valente – The Spindle of Necessity

Valente said recently on Twitter that this third of her Prester John books would be Kickstarted next year. I still haven’t read the second book in the trilogy, but come on. Like I’m going to miss out on that. Plus, if it’s on Kickstarter, there may be some awesome extra swag to go with the book. Cat Valente is the one author I’ll gladly throw all my money at. No regrets.

Catherynne M. Valente – The Refrigerator Monologues

refrigerator-monologuesCat Valente has been busy writing, it appears, with four books coming out in a single year. This happens to be the perfect amount of Valente books per annum, if you ask me, and she could totally keep doing that forever and ever. AND this book is illustrated, so yay!

The lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. A ferocious riff on women in superhero comics.
From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.
In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as her fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share.

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Part II: The Obvious Choices

Scott Lynch – The Thorn of Emberlain

thorn of emberlainNo idea if this will come out in 2017. It’s been pushed back several times and I’ll have to re-read The Republic of Thieves anyway. But despite my fading memories of a terrible reveal and new cliffhanger, I will look forward to this until it is finally in my hands.

With 50,000 copies sold of The Republic of Thieves and with praise from the likes of Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin the saga of the Gentleman Bastard has become a favourite and key part of the fantasy landscape. And now Locke Lamora, thief, con-man, pirate, political deceiver must become a soldier.
A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames.
And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

Nnedi Okorafor – Binti: Home

binti-homeI adored Okorafor’s Tor.com novella, Binti, and I cannot wait for the sequel. Although Binti told a full story, the world is wide open for more and I am so glad Okorafor decided to share more of it with her readers. The cover is gorgeous again.

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she left her family to pursue her dream.
And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.
But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.
After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

Caitlín R. Kiernan – Agents of Dreamland

agents-of-dreamlandThe description actualyl doesn’t sound like my thing but it is a new Caitlín R. Kiernan novel and it’s sure to be weird and creepy and wonderful.

A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.
In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible—the Children of the Next Level—and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.
A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.
And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.

Susan Dennard – Windwitch

windwitchHere’s an unexpected one. I didn’t think I’d come to like Truthwitch as much as I did. It had flaws, sure, but overall, the fun aspect was stronger and I find myself eagerly awaiting the sequel.

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In this follow-up to New York Times bestselling Truthwitch, a shadow man haunts the Nubrevnan streets, leaving corpses in his wake—and then raising those corpses from the dead. Windwitch continues the tale of Merik—cunning privateer, prince, and windwitch.

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Part IV: The Not-So-Obvious Choices

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

Ibear-and-the-nightingalef you read the synopsis, you’ll know why I want this. It has all my buzzwords right there. Fairy tales, Russian ones at that, a wild, willful girl – I need this!

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

S. Jae-Jones – Wintersong

wintersongThis is a Labyrinth retelling/sequel/spinoff!!! I was worried for a long time because this could go so very, very wrong. However, a handful of early reviews are up (by authors and trusted people) and they all sound quite positive. This appears to be less YA-tropey than expected so I’m all in.

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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Part V: Non-Fiction

Jo Walton – An Informal History of the Hugos

informal-history-of-the-hugosI feel like I’ve read a dozen informal histories of the Hugos during the last three years and their accompanying Hugo disasters. But next year I’ll actually be attending WordCon for the first time, so more Hugo writing is welcome. Plus, I love Jo Walton’s non-fiction.

The Hugo Awards, named after pioneer science-fiction publisher Hugo Gernsback, and voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society, have been given out since 1953. They are widely considered the most prestigious award in science fiction.
Between 2010 and 2013, Jo Walton wrote a series of posts for Tor.com, surveying the Hugo finalists and winners from the award’s inception up to the year 2000. Her contention was that each year’s full set of finalists generally tells a meaningful story about the state of science fiction at that time.
Walton’s cheerfully opinionated and vastly well-informed posts provoked valuable conversation among the field’s historians. Now these posts, lightly revised, have been gathered into this book, along with a small selection of the comments posted by SF luminaries such as Rich Horton, Gardner Dozois, and the late David G. Hartwell.
Engaged, passionate, and consistently entertaining, this is a book for the many who enjoyed Walton’s previous collection of writing from Tor.com, the Locus Award-winning What Makes This Book So Great.

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Between starting this post and finishing it, I have accumulated a whole new list of books to look forward to in 2017. I believe it’s going to be a good year for SFF.

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Let’s start 2017 with a Read-a-thon – #DAReadAThon Sign-Up Post

I haven’t posted very much lately because all my time is taken up by catching up on all those unread books and, you know, the usual Christmas madness. And while I am pretty sure I’ll have to admit defeat by the end of the month (so many challenges unfinished), I intend to start the new year with a bang and read-a-thon right into 2017!

When I found this awesome challenge hosted by Aentee at Read at Midnight I knew I had to join.

The Dumbledore’s Army Read-a-Thon

Here’s what you need to know:

  • it runs from January 1st through January 15th 2017
  • it gives you great prompts on how to choose your books (more on that below)
    • the prompts are inspired by Harry Potter spells, which is so awesome!
  • it promotes the reading of diverse books
  • you can collect points for your Hogwarts house!!! (gamification works on me, I guess)
    • you get points for reading and for interacting with others on social media

And here’s my official sign-up card and a list of books I’m going to read for the seven prompts.

dina da-readathon

Choosing the books was super difficult because I want to read All The Things but I think I’ve got a pretty good lineup here. In case you’re participating and still looking for a good book to read, I added descriptions from Goodreads.dareadathon-stupefy

I think it’s safe to say that Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows has taken the internet by storm. When people wouldn’t stop posting about it and its sequel, I knew I had to have those books. The duology is sitting on my shelf, looking all pretty, and eagerly awaiting January. As far as I know, it features characters suffering from PTSD.

six-of-crows

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

da-readathon-protego

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by a Mexicon author or set in Mexico and Siliva Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise has been on my radar ever since it came out. Mexico City, music, the 80ies! What’s not to look forward to? Plus, look at that new cover with its incredible Stranger Things vibe… it’s the font, I know, but it totally makes me want to pick it up right now and read it.

A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City.
Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?

da-readathon-expelliarmus

The marginalised group that I almost never read about is characters with disabilities. I thought about two different books to choose for this prompt (Corinne Duyvis – On the Edge of Gone and Mishell Baker – Borderline) but in the end, I am going with Borderline because my gut tells me to and because I really meant to read this book in 2016 and never got around to it.

borderline

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.
For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.
No pressure.

da-readathon-reducto

My initial idea was to finally read something by Kameron Hurley but then I decided to go with another book that I’ve owned since it was published and that I desperately want to read. So my pick is Hild by Nicola Griffith.

hild

A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild.
Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.
Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.
Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.

dareadathon-impedimenta

This prompt is screaming for Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, a book telling the love story between Achilles and Patroclus. I bought this when it was new but even though the book is pretty slim, I always felt a little daunted. Now it’s time to finally read it.

song-of-achilles

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

dareadathon-expecto-patronum

Whew! This is a hard one. Since I don’t want to get too personal here, I chose a book that encompasses my childhood and there is nothing that screams “Dina’s childhood” more than fairy tales. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know about my slight obsession with this type of story. Finding a fairy tale retelling that also features diverse characters is a always worth a little victory dance. To mix things up, I’m going for a story collection instead of a novel: Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch

kissing the witch

Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances–sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed. Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother; Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror; Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire. Acclaimed writer Emma Donoghue spins new tales out of old in a magical web of thirteen interconnected stories about power and transformation and choosing one’s own path in the world. In these fairy tales, women young and old tell their own stories of love and hate, honor and revenge, passion and deception. Using the intricate patterns and oral rhythms of traditional fairy tales, Emma Donoghue wraps age-old characters in a dazzling new skin.

dareadthon-lumos

I browsed through other participants’ TBRs for this challenge to find recommendations for books I haven’t thought of myself, and I came across this post. Isabella is going to read Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova and now, so am I. Thanks for helping me pick my last book for the read-a-thon. I am super excited to start reading.

labyrinth-lost

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

I can’t wait to get started and dive into all these wonderful books. And if I can win some house points for Ravenclaw in the process, that makes it all the better.

What about you? Are you going to participate? If yes, what house are you reading for. I’ve seen some Slytherin and Hufflepuff sign-ups so far as well as a few fellow Ravenclaws, but surprisingly no Gryffindors yet.

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