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?

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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?

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?

Mini Reviews: As You Wish, Starship Troopers

A few minis here! I will admit, neither book was in my comfort zone, though to be fair, the memoir was at least about a fantasy book and movie (The Princess Bride), which made it a more understandable choice. The only reason I picked up Starship Troopers in the first place was that it was an audiobook and it held an interest because of the movie based on the book (not that the movie was one of my favorite things ever, but it did become a cult classic). In any case, I’ve at least read some non-fiction this year!

princessbride

starshiptroopers

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Giant. Alien. Robots. || Sleeping Giants Review

sleepinggiants-review

Initial Thoughts: 

The Reapers are coming! The Reapers are coming! Honestly, I spent most of the audiobook wanting to play Mass Effect, wondering if this is the type of situation humanity underwent after finding the first ME station. Because if so, then I have a pretty good idea what comes next. AND I WANT IT NOW.

SLEEPING GIANTS

by Sylvain Neuvel
Del Rey, April 2016
Science fiction
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

sleepinggiantsA girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

First Contact

I’m pretty sure I’ve had this book on my mental TBR ever since it came out, actually, though I didn’t think it had been published only this year. For some reason I thought I’d heard about this book even before 2016, though I suppose it could also have been because I saw it in NetGalley or something.

In any case, I found this on my library’s Overdrive database and decided to listen to it in audiobook format. I think it may have been a better choice to do so, because the voice actors gave the interviews and journal entries a bit more personality than had I just been reading transcripts. Not that the writing in Sleeping Giants was colorless otherwise, but I can see it get potentially boring when most of the narration is conveyed through dialogue (honestly, it was all “telling” and not “showing”), some of which were pretty clunky when it got to the science-y parts. Personally, I wasn’t too bored, but I love science and math and a great deal of speculative fiction, so this book was certainly a lovely marriage of all three (I guess this makes it a love triangle, haha).

A girl falls into a giant glowing blue hand. Years later, she becomes a physicist who researches said giant glowing blue hand. Eventually, she declares that perhaps the hand isn’t man-made after all, and that it came from SPACE. And did I mention the giant glowing blue hand is only part of a giant glowing blue alien robot?!

CHYEAHBOI.

CHYEAHBOI.

For those who are not familiar with the form of Sleeping Giants, the story is largely told in epistolary format. It follows the accounts of a group of people working on a project as devised by some unnamed interviewer (who I’m just going to call Mr. Robot Man because why the hell not). Their mission: to gather, study, put together, and work the mysterious alien pieces found all over the world. Through news article clippings, Mr. Robot Man interviews, and personal logs, the reader gets a piecemeal view of the overall story. The files take several jumps in between, but combined they’re enough to tell the story Neuvel wanted to convey.

Which brings me to the character list and how very few of them there are.

It was hard to like some of them, even harder to dislike others. Mr. Robot Man himself retains enough of a mystery that one never really knows who he is other than how strongly he feels about “The Project” at hand. He also has a dry sense of humor, which kind of gets kudos from me. His soliloquys did get annoying, though, so I’m often on the fence with him. That said, he was probably my favorite male character in the books. Well, I suppose Mr. Kung Pao Chicken was a hoot and a half as well (do you see what happens when I have to assign unnamed characters nicknames?!).

As for the females…well. The book certainly took full use of certain archetypes. Dr. Rose Franklin is your female Oppenheimer, with a mind that certainly runs away to crevices even some brilliant minds of her ilk are not capable of seeing. She is sympathetic and down-to-earth despite the fact that her theories of the giant robot pieces point her space-ward. Then you have Kara Resnik, the hot shot jock girl pilot who’s got a mean mouth and quite the attitude problem. (And honestly, every time I get to her interviews/accounts, I just see and hear Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica…and oh, lookie here, her name in the show is Kara, too!).

I mean, COME ON. How could you not think otherwise?!

I mean, COME ON. How could you not think otherwise?!

Characters aside, some of the story did go into a standstill in the latter half of the book. I’m all for the interview format and thensome, but at some point a love triangle took over the middle part of the book, and it drove me absolutely nuts. I was almost compelled to skip the interviews because I felt like the triangle was added there to make more complications that really weren’t necessary.  I mean, honestly, there’s a whole portion of the plot where two guys pretty much go out of their way to make stupid mistakes to impress one girl who’s–let’s be honest here–probably only using them for sex anyway. I just…ugh, that was pretty  much my only complaint. Bring in more science and less love triangles, I say!

Overall, though, I did enjoy Sleeping Giants. The ending was pretty cliffhangery, so I will definitely have to pick up the next book to see what happens next. It made me think about Mass Effect, which is practically my favorite game EVER. To be honest, I started imagining Sleeping Giants as a sort of prologue type of story for when humans eventually make first contact with its alien neighbors. (Hah, again, ME thoughts went wild there. “First Contact”, tee hee!).

4 out of 5 cookies!


sleepinggiants-alyssa

Have YOU read this book? What did you think?