Words and Wordsmiths || The List Review

Initial Thoughts:

This seems to be leading up to an overall big picture story, which means sequels. Yay. (Make note I also groaned.) It was a simple, middle grade read about a dystopia pulling from Biblical and Bradburyan (that’s totally a word now…) inspiration, and I did love the concept of a wordsmith collecting and protecting words.


THE LIST

by Patricia Forde
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, August 2017
Children’s science fiction, dystopian
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

The Word According to Noa

I think at some point people compared this book to a children’s version of 1984 and The Giver. Okay, it sort of is, and I sort of see it. I thought the better analogy might have been Fahrenheit 451 meets The Bible and they both walk into a bar called 1984. Though for children.

Erm.

In the end, the comparisons are all really just trying to say that the world is screwed up, and instead of making it better, some jerk at the top makes things much worse, and the poor people at the bottom have to make do or rise up.

Which is really how the book starts. As readers, we are introduced to Letta, an apprentice wordsmith in Ark. As wordsmiths, Benjamin and Letta are tasked locating and storing words from the outside world. Their main directive, however, is to provide words to the people of Ark, though provision is allowed to only a sanction of 500 words. List-speak is the appropriate form of conversation between people, and with 500 meager words, you can only imagine how that is going to turn out. I mean, abstract ideas don’t even come into play here. I don’t think could survive this world…

Freedom. Music. Feelings. Were they things they could live without?

So yeah, how does Letta, a wordsmith–or better yet, anyone–survive without words, with only just a List?

The book itself is a quick read and follows a story after the events of an ecological disaster. There’s a lot of worldbuilding involved, with inspiration being pulled from the Bible of all places. The Melting–which sounds like the worst-case scenario of global warming–has caused the world to overflood, destroying buildings and cities like nobody’s business. Amidst this disaster comes John Noa, who builds a city called Ark (like the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark, if you didn’t pick up on it already), and saves many inhabitants from the apocalyptic disaster. He does, however, impose unreasonable rules for living in the area. And, throughout the story, it is clear how much he hates words (even though he likes speaking them, the hypocrite).

It’s easy to see where this is going, and as a children’s book, you expect it to go in the direction it does. Letta is a girl who grows up in the shadow of Ark, and does not question John Noa’s rules until her mentor goes missing. From there, she meet cutes a rebel artist/musician/Desecrator boy (which is kind of adorable, heh) and nurses him to a point where he owes a great debt to her. Then she meets a couple other hippie Desecrators and suddenly she is finding that the world is so much more than the safety and wordlessness of Ark.

She had been in awe of John Noa before, looked up to him as the man who had saved the planet. She had grown up on stories of his great valor, his clever thinking, his vision. Now she knew that none of that was real. John Noa was a bully. That thought made her brave. He might be a very clever bully, but he was still a bully.

So she rebels, too.

From what I read, the book seems to gear itself to a sequel, though one can read this as a standalone if you’re okay with how things are resolved (which, come to think of it, I’m not. Not really). There’s still the matter of Letta’s parentage as well as the question of what happens to Ark. There’s still a lot of words to be found and collected and shared. There’s still a lot of obnoxious gavvers that need boots up their rear ends–hem hem. And then of course there’s also the matter of Marlo. But I suppose that’s another story for another day.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! It was a good, fun read, and definitely a welcome one amidst my pile of YA literature, haha.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Pirates, Mermaids, Monsters, Oh My! || Monstress, Vol. 2 Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Can this get any more EPIC? The answer is YES. There are pirates and animalistic Arcanics (THERE’S A SHARK GIRL WHAT) and old gods that eerily remind me of Alucard’s crazy demon form in Hellsing. And lawd, when’s the next set coming out because MORE PLS.


MONSTRESS, VOL. 2: THE BLOOD

by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2017
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

The Eisner-nominated MONSTRESS is back! Maika, Kippa, and Ren journey to Thyria in search of answers to her past… and discover a new, terrible, threat. Collects MONSTRESS #7-12.

I don’t think I’ve fallen so hard and so fast over a comics series than I had with Monstress, and honestly, it’s largely to do with the two amazing women who’ve brought this story to life on the illustrated medium. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are mistresses of their craft, and together they managed to convey a wonderful story of a powerful girl in a world still reeling from the previous war and yet gearing for a new one.

The story follows after Volume 1 (Issues 1-6) and picks up the pace, sending Maika, Kippa, and Ren south to Thyria, Maika’s hometown. There, Maika regroups and enlists the help of pirates to ferry her further south, to the Cape of Bones, a place where Moriko Halfwolf had once traveled. To gain more information of the monster inside her, Maika follows her mother’s footsteps–and obsession with the legendary Shaman Princess–south, encountering dangers along the way, as well as a deeper understanding of how to control the Monstrum within.

As can normally be found in most first volumes, the first six issues of Monstress dealt with throwing as much information our way as possible. While Liu and Takeda managed to convey the information in creative ways (including a little professor-student talking panel every issue for the heavier worldbuilding aspects), most of the first volume was truly introductory. Yes, the second volume also deals with the addition of new characters, but by this point, we are familiar with a bit of the world and there’s less explaining to do. So for the most part, we can sit back and enjoy the story.

Well, sort of.

Then Liu comes around and throws us for a loop and we start to devour the next bits of fantastical element thrown our way. In this case, the sea Arcanics.

Yes, we saw the awesomeness of the Fox Queen and the Monkey King and by that point we are unsurprised by the group of “nekomancers” littering the pages (I mean, Ren is one of them…). But a motherfrelling Arcanic shark? Mermaids and sirens and bone-chilling sea creatures of doom? Hell yes!

Not to mention dapper ex-pirate lions and tigers, who, by the way, are friggin’ AWESOME.

I don’t know how they’re not super-hot in those outfits, I would be if I was sporting that much fur in my body. That said, CAN I GET THEIR CLOTHES? I’d so wear the shmat out of them.

And, because we needed more badass females, throw in a female captain in the mix.

Of course, the issues don’t just deal with Maika’s story, though hers takes center stage for the most part. Characters introduced in the previous issues–such as the Cumaea and the Dawn and Dusk Courts–recur in the next several issues, and while Maika’s journey is largely one of self-discovery, we have several other characters mobilized to find her. Chief among them is the Sword of the East, who is revealed to be Maika’s sole living relative, an aunt who had been unaware of her presence. The Cumaea is still after Maika’s Monstrum, while others seek to destroy her.

It’s no wonder Maika broods all the time. Shes’ got a shitton of people coming after her, and to add cherry to her fantastic life, the ravenous monster inside her is getting stronger and stronger, almost to the brink of being out of control.

And yet, she still has that sass that made me love her in the beginning issues.

The second volume is chock-full of action, and more of the story is revealed to the reader, including a back story of the old gods that used to live in the known world. If you thought the first volume was epic, the second one blows it out of the water. Hem hem.

And honestly, those issue cover illustrations.

I cannot gush enough about this volume of Monstress. I highly recommend it, for story, for female badassery, for a world that’s a mix of everything I love about fantasy/scifi worldbuilding. Now I feel like the Monstrum, because this series is making me insatiable. I want more please!

5 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #11 of the Graphic Novels/Manga Reading Challenge and #4 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.


Have you read this series? What did you think?

Clockwork Carabao

At some point in February (or was it March?), before the craziness began and I was thrown into a den of psychotic little Voldemorts, I had a story in mind that I wanted to send out. It had gone through several revisions, at least three of which changed the entire story itself. I had gone from writing about a girl who’d watched a mechanical bird fall from the sky to a girl’s first time siphoning gases from a volcano. I admit, both are still viable ideas to work with, and more than likely I’d probably get back to them at some point.

But it turns out I was having a bit more fun with Hati and her rather engineer-y mind. And besides, who wouldn’t want to tinker around with a mechanical carabao?

Fast forward a couple months later and here I am, sitting and writing about the anthology my short story is going to be in!

Corie and Sean Weaver at Dreaming Robot Press have been superstars, and after three years of having published the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, they’re at it again! Next year, the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is set to be released, with my short story “Clockwork Carabao” as part of the fantastic list of children’s science fiction stories. It may not be my first time having been published by DRP, and certainly not my first time writing about my steampunk sandbox, but it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to see my work in print.

And I swear the covers keep getting better and better!

About the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide:

“When I was a child, the school library had a Girls’ Section, which included fairy tales, and a Boys’ Section, which included all the science fiction. Things have changed, of course, but not enough. There is a strong need for science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, aimed at girls, especially in the middle grades. This anthology is an important contribution to the effort to fill that need, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”~ Nancy Kress, winner of six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award

We’ve got another great collection of 24 stories from amazing authors, ranging from Nebula and Hugo winners to relative newcomers to the field. Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here.

Help us make the fourth collection of the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide a reality.

To participate in the Kickstarter, click hereAny donation helps. We are so close to our goal!

Party up in hurr.

On top of that, to help promote the Kickstarter, we’re having a YEAG author party! Feel free to hop onto the discussion on Facebook. I will definitely be there tonight, June 29 from 6-9 pm EST, posting a few things about life, the universe, and everything. (But really, I’ll probably be doing random posts about writing and steampunk and science fiction video games…)

Click the image to go to the author party page on Facebook!

Come find me on June 29 from 6 to 9 pm EST! I’ll try to be interesting. Key word “try.” (Or, you can just say hello by leaving a message on one of my posts and I’ll have all sorts of warm fuzzies for having your support :D).

Here’s a sneak peek to my short story, “Clockwork Carabao”!

The mechanical carabao was the strangest contraption Hati had ever seen.

By that point in time, she’d already seen much more than a normal young girl with regards to mechanical animals. She’d even made a few of them herself and had been proud of the prize she’d won at the Junior Mechanicking Competition back at floating Rizal. The prize invention, a mechanical kitten that was also used as a pill dispenser, which her father and mother found quite charming, sat at home—a strange, metallic centerpiece on their large dining table.

And yet this carabao was something new.

– “Clockwork Carabao” by Marilag Angway

I wonder what my engineering friends would think of a mechanical carabao…

Review: The Velocipede Races

Initial Thoughts:

This was actually more entertaining than I thought, though admittedly the story dragged in parts. Still worth the read though! And I mean…why wouldn’t it be when it has a woman shattering glass ceilings?


THE VELOCIPEDE RACES

by Emily June Street
Elly Blue Publishing, April 2016
Science fiction, steampunk
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

Emmeline Escot knows that she was born to ride in Seren’s cutthroat velocipede races. The only problem: She’s female in a world where women lead tightly laced lives. Emmeline watches her twin brother gain success as a professional racing jockey while her own life grows increasingly narrow. Ever more stifled by rules, corsets, and her upcoming marriage of convenience to a brusque stranger, Emmy rebels—with stunning consequences. Can her dream to race survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?

I totally picked this book up because I can never resist a good ole “girl dresses up as boy, girl shows the world she can play with other boys” trope. In The Velocipede Races, the trope is no different, and yes, in that sense, it is pretty damn predictable.

But, I mean, friggin’ velocipedes, man. VELOCIPEDES.

For those not familiar, velocipedes are contraptions best associated with Victorian era innovation. It’s essentially a bike, though I do believe the wheels are bigger at the front and smaller at the back, so there’s a bit more of a balancing skill that goes along with riding the velo as well. In any case, it’s a contraption that many Serenians in the book enjoy to ride and watch.

Well, many male Serenians anyway.

Heaven forbid if females were interested in racing velos or anything. That would be scandalous in Serenian society, especially when the particular female is riesen (noble). And, in Emmeline’s case, it’s exactly that, because she’s that athletic riesen woman who’d do anything to take to the wheel of a velo and race her heart out. Only, the only thing she’s expected to do is marry some rich man while her twin brother undergoes the proper training to become a velo racer.

We know where things can go from there. Oh, yes, she’s got a twin brother who looks enough like her. Oh, yes, Emmeline is going to take advantage of that, and no matter how many times Gabriel has dissuaded her from trying to sneak out and practice alongside him, she does it anyway. Even after she is thrown into a reluctant marriage, Emmeline still finds a way.

And then things slowly go downhill from there.

In all honesty, much of this story has been told before, over and over again. And yet, I still find it charming to read, because how can I not love a woman who has a passion that goes beyond societal expectations? (As someone whose field of study is still largely male-dominated, I can totally relate). How can I not love a woman who knows exactly what she wants from life and husband be damned if he tried to stop her.

So yeah, I liked Emmeline. Very much. Even in her single-minded zeal towards velo racing and her almost ignoring anything else in society. I say almost because by the end, she does find another love, one she finds highly unexpected.

That said, I thought the story was paced too slow at times, and too fast at others. The velocipede races themselves were meticulously described, and yet, there were “blink and you miss it” moments that forced me to stop halfway into the description of a race to only go back and repeat the segment again. I suppose it’s styled like an actual race, which is kind of cool in that way, but read weirdly for me.

I also didn’t really feel like any of the other characters stood out. Gabriel was a close second in terms of most development, personality-wise, but there wasn’t really much time to develop him, considering he often disappeared to do his own thing while Emmeline was left to her own devices. Even the other secondary characters show up in a scene and then disappear so quickly that I couldn’t really form an opinion about them. (Except Eddings. Eddings was just a cocky little chauvinistic shite.)

I was a little disappointed that Everett was often written out of the picture half the time, with Emmeline stating that he’s “busy with work.” I mean, honestly, he was an intriguing character, a strange, self-made man in a society he barely acknowledges as his own. From the beginning, he’s seen as a mysterious personality, and his thoughts about Emmy are often hidden under inscrutable stares and coarse, blunt language. It made for an awkward romance at times, and I really did want more out of that relationship.

All that said, I found the book charming. Serenian society and its surrounding world is fashioned after Victorian England, and I’m sure if Victorian England had developed through the ages fast enough, it would have velocipede races, too. I’m sure the suffragettes would have tried their best to applaud anyone who has shattered the glass ceiling, which Emmeline was bound to do with her velocipede passion. And that’s really where the book shined the most, within the description of Emmeline’s love for velo races.

3 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #2 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

A Hierarchy of Sixth Senses || The Bone Season Review

boneseason-review

Initial Response: 

Hngrrsrrdhhhggghgh. Okay, Ms. Shannon. You win. I laughed and rolled my eyes and everything, but that didn’t seem to stop me from going “WAIT NO. DON’T STOP THE STORY NOW.” Damn this series.

THE BONE SEASON

by Samantha Shannon
Bloomsbury, August 2013
YA science fiction, fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

boneseasonThe year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

First let me tell you about how I had avoided this book for a good few years because reasons.

A) It was overhyped. I’d heard about this book from so many sources, yet when I started browsing the reviews, there were some pretty scathing reviews that practically tore the material apart. Not that this would have stopped me from reading anything (critics should never really be the deciding matter if the book itself interests you), but it certainly gave me pause, because hype-fail, you guys.

B) I wasn’t really feeling like reading another UK-based book. At the time, I’d already read the first book of Shades of LondonThe Friday Society, several of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and The Golden Compass, which practically was a book based in Oxford. Not to mention the television shows I’ve been following that’s based in the UK. So as an Anglophile, I was pretty Anglo-tired.

THAT SAID, I saw this on one of my TBTBSantee’s wishlists, and decided if I was going to read at least one book that I’d send to my TBTBSantee, it was going to be The Bone Season.

This was a good decision on my part.

What I Loved

clairvoyance

The order of unnaturalness. The first thing I saw when I opened the book was a two-page categorization of voyants. Look at all those fancy names for divining! There were so many “mancies” that I was slightly surprised “somnomancer” wasn’t on the list. I mean, it makes absolute sense to be able to tap into the aether through the process of sleeping and dreaming, right? If there’s a dreamwalker, there has to be a dreamgiver. THERE HAS TO BE.

(Oh boy, did I just call a part of the plot? I’m letting y’all know that I totally did.)

But seriously, you guys. I love it when magical systems are charted out. I appreciate how much work authors put into doing it, and let me tell you right now, it’s a general bitch to do. I should know, I’ve tried it many times, and for the most part, I’m still trying. Is hard work.

The key was in the door when I arrived. I turned it and stepped quietly onto the flagstones.

Not quietly enough. The second I crossed the threshold, my keeper was on his feet. His eyes blazed.

“Where have you been?”

I kept a tenuous mental guard up. “Outside.”

“You were told to return here if the siren sounded.”

“I thought you meant to Magdalen, not this exact room. You should be more specific.”

Paige, you sassy Irish girl, you. Never mind that Paige has been enslaved, put under the scrutiny of super-powered non-human entities, and given the limited option of dancing to the Rephaim’s grueling, tortuous tune or dying gruesomely in the hands of the Emim. She still has time to be insolent to her own effing keeper. I mean, how much more sassy can you get?

“I’m sure the angels are sorry.”

“They despise her.”

“You don’t say.”

“I do.” He was clearly amused by my disdain. “We have only been speaking for two minutes, Paige. Try not to waste all your sarcasm in one breath.”

I wanted to kill him. As it happened, I couldn’t.

The fact that Warden can sass back is just as fantastic. Actually, Warden reminds me of a few characters I ended up liking at the end of the story, albeit he keeps the feisty female a captive in his home. Don’t be surprised that this pretty Rephaim man with yellow eyes (OH COME ON, GUYS. YOU KNOW I LIKE GOLDEN-EYED MALES) turns out to be a not-so-evil-guy.

Welcome to No Man’s Land. Your test is simple, return to Sheol I in as little time as possible. You have no food, no water, and no map. Use your gift. Trust your instincts.

And do me this honor: survive the night. I’m sure you would rather not be rescued.

Good luck.

Alright, okay, maybe that was pretty diabolical on his part. But considering the other Rephaim, Warden’s the best support system Paige can have in Sheol I. (Not to mention, at least he’s not a jackass like Jax…).

Anyway, if I was going to put Arcturus Mesarthim in my boy-crushometer (I really should have one of those…just saying), I’d put him somewhere above Sarkan from Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and a great deal below Valek from Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study.

Very little hijinks happens. But it so happens, yes it do. Honestly, Warden’s interactions with Paige are some of my favorite dialogues in the book, so again, don’t be surprised if hijinks happen. Don’t, however, hold your breath, because for the most part, the book doesn’t focus on any romance. Most of it was pretty subtle up until a certain point, where the way was made pretty clear who Paige was holding a candle for. I thought this was a good move. I liked that the romance doesn’t overpower the rest of the book, and that it gradually got built up to a somewhat steamy, um, okay, so no explosions just yet. But I’m expecting one in the later books, yes I am!

“The mind of an amaurotic is like water…But a clairvoyant mind is more like oil, richer in every way. And like oil and water, they can never truly mix…”

Something occurred to me. “If voyant minds are like oil”–I weighed my words–“what are your minds like?”…

“Fire.”

IF THAT IS NOT INDICATION OF HIJINKS, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. *cough*

Love/Hate Relationships

“We all know their false names.”

“And what might those be?”

“The White Binder, the Red Vision, the Black Diamond, the Pale Dreamer, the Martyred Muse, the Chained Fury, and the Silent Bell.”

The Seven Seals and Jaxon Hall. I admit, I didn’t see the particular appeal of being a part of this crew. I know the gangs are pretty much where clairvoyants go to hide from the government, but I always thought Jax took his mime-lording too far. Paige has this hero-worship complex with Jax–and in some ways, with Nick–that I wasn’t a big fan of. I hope at some point she eventually does make a break from the gang, though I will say that I’m fascinated by what each of the Seven Seals can do. The little that I’d seen in the book piqued my interest in that matter. And I will say this about Jax, he does have a flair about him.

What I Didn’t Like

A lot of the story revolves around two things: Paige’s involvement with the Seven Seals and her present situation in Sheol I. There’s a lot of back-and-forth from present and past in the narrative, and I admit at times it got cumbersome. There was already too much information being thrown at the reader, so I could have done with a little less of that and more of the actual plot.

Overall info-dumping and worldbuilding. Occasionally I did feel that Paige was unnecessarily “derped” out for the benefit of the reader. The first few chapters certainly lent to that belief, because there was just so much information being thrown in. There was the whole mess with the Scion conglomeration, then there was the deal with the voyants and oxygen bars and mime-lords. That was just the first few chapters, too, because soon after, BAM, we get hit with even more terms and politics, what with the Rephaim and Emim and Sheol I being thrown into the picture.

That silly glossary. On top of that, there were several words used for the same type of voyant that were explained within the parameters of the novel, so I didn’t see why there was a need for a list at the back. I’ve never been a big fan of glossaries at the end of the books; I rarely turn to them to look up a word, considering this just distracts me from the story. Then, of course, none of the terms for the different types of voyants are defined in the back, which I thought would have been the more important appendix to have. Personally, I thought it was much more important to know what the hell an extispicist or a macharomancer is than to know what a Buzzer or dollymop was (I swear dollymop was used only once and somehow it made its way to the back of the book…WHY?!).

4 out of 5 cookies! I will have to pick up the next book, though I do understand this is to be a seven-book series. I’m still not sure why, unless Ms. Shannon is going to drag out the conflict and romance (oh god, I really hope not…I really, really hope not).

This book counts as #1 for the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge and #1 for the Food and Fiction Reading Challenge (which I will make a separate post about once I actually put pictures up…the snowstorm I got this weekend kind of made it impossible to go out and get ingredients, lol!).


boneseason-lissrymore

Have you read this book? What did you think?