Little List of Reviews #8

Welcome to another little list of reviews! I have a little backlog of reviews that I’ve been wanting to post, mostly for me since these are ones that I bought myself (and one free arc from my old job). They’ve been sitting as empty drafts since like… May, maybe, and it’s time to get those written and move on so I can write about other things!

Little List of Reviews #8Title: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library #1
Published by Roc
Published: June 14th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 341
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...   Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.   London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.   Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...

FEATURING BONUS MATERIAL: including an interview with the author, a legend from the Library, and more!

Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library is the first in a series of books that involves libraries, special books, and dragon-shifters. I loved the world-building and desperately wanted to become a Librarian while reading it, and this novel serves its purpose as a set-up for everything else because it was a lot more telling and description than it was character-development and depth. That doesn’t deter me from wanting to continue the rest of the series (and I’ve got most of them, as far as I can recall), so I’m looking forward to seeing where the adventure goes next. I’m a little weird about steampunk as a genre because it can get confusing in its setup, depth, and exploration, but I thought Cogman’s delivery and worldbuilding led to in-book plausibility and created a solid foundation.

Little List of Reviews #8Title: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Series: The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1
Published by DAW
Published: December 31st 2012
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 367
Format: Mass Market
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year's most acclaimed debuts: Throne of the Crescent Moon, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of The Arabian Nights

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. But these killings are only the earliest signs of a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn the great city of Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

Saladin Ahmed’s The Crescent Moon is one of the most engrossing fantasies I’ve read in a long time. The second I picked it up and started reading it, I fell in love with the atmosphere, the language, and the story. It sank deep into my soul, and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it since I read it. I felt like I was right there in that world, standing just off to the side as everything unfolded. It features a ghul hunter, a magnificent shapeshifter, and a holy warrior dervish, and each of these characters felt so refreshing and real that I forgot sometimes that this was pure fiction and not based off of something that had once happened once upon a time. But perhaps it did… If you’re looking for something incredible and breathtaking, pick this one up. I do hope one day he’ll continue on with the series, but this also functions as a completely perfect standalone.

Little List of Reviews #8Title: Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Published: May 7th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 350
Format: ARC
Source: Work
Goodreads

alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here

The universe began as an enormous breath being held.

From the acclaimed author of Stories of Your Life and Others — the basis for the Academy Award-nominated film Arrival — comes a ground-breaking new collection of short fiction: nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories. These are tales that tackle some of humanity's oldest questions along with new quandaries only Ted Chiang could imagine.

In "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In "Exhalation", an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.

Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic — revelatory.

Contents:- The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate (2007)- Exhalation (2008)- What's Expected of Us (2005)- The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010)- Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny (2011)- The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling (2013)- The Great Silence (2015)- Omphalos (2018)- Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom (2018)

I can’t sing enough praises about Ted Chiang’s writing. He’s one of my all time favorites, and I was so excited to see his newest collection of stories on the arc shelf at my old job. These are mostly reprints, I believe, but each one is fantastic. There are very few writers who can like… make me straight up cry with the magic, scope, and depth of their writing, but this is a collection you’ll not want to miss.

BOOK REVIEW: Savage Appetites, by Rachel Monroe

BOOK REVIEW: Savage Appetites, by Rachel MonroeTitle: Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe
Published by Scribner
Published: August 20th 2019
Genres: Cultural Studies
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

A provocative and original investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes—Detective, Victim, Attorney, Killer—to four true stories about women driven by obsession.

In this illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession, Rachel Monroe interrogates the appeal of true crime through four narratives of fixation. In the 1940s, a bored heiress began creating dollhouse crime scenes depicting murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. Known as the “Mother of Forensic Science,” she revolutionized the field of what was then called legal medicine. In the aftermath of the Manson Family murders, a young woman moved into Sharon Tate’s guesthouse and, over the next two decades, entwined herself with the Tate family. In the mid-nineties, a landscape architect in Brooklyn fell in love with a convicted murderer, the supposed ringleader of the West Memphis Three, through an intense series of letters. After they married, she devoted her life to getting him freed from death row. And in 2015, a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom for the Columbine killers planned a mass shooting of her own.

Each woman, Monroe argues, represents and identifies with a particular archetype that provides an entryway into true crime. Through these four cases, she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. In a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.

Rachel Monroe’s Savage Appetites explores the cultural phenomenon of true crime and how women tend to be drawn to the “genre” even though women are more likely to be victims in true crime “stories.” This was an examination of our society’s fascination with true crime and how that fascination has grown over the years through four case studies. In Savage Appetites, Monroe takes those fascinations of women with true crime and separates them into four general archetypes – detective, victim, attorney, killer.

Through each of these archetypes, Monroe combines thorough research with her own anecdotes to explore what exactly it is that makes true crime so fascinating not only for women but for all of us. While her writing flowed easily and I enjoyed learning what she tied in with her archetypes, I felt that it all fell flat because some of the attitudes were a little negatively skewed toward the women featured in the archetypes. It’s uncomfortable to read unnecessary criticism against women in a book about women, but because I’m not well-read in true crime, maybe that’s something delved into a little more? I’m not sure. For me, when someone is offering cultural insight and criticism, I do want there to be more about what we as a society could do to be better or how it ultimately affects our society to be so interested in an ultimately violent “genre.” What happens when true crime begins being viewed as fiction rather than something that happened to real people? Do we become more desensitized to the violence because we’re beginning to assume it’s fiction and therefore can’t happen to us?

Even though true crime has certainly morphed into a genre, I was hoping for more in Savage Appetites about the implications of calling true crime a genre and ultimately why we’re becoming more and more fascinated with true crime. One more chapter tying the four archetypes together and exploring a result or conclusion would have made me like this a little bit more!

Thank you to Scribner for sending me a complimentary copy to review. All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Three Flames, by Alan Lightman

BOOK REVIEW: Three Flames, by Alan LightmanTitle: Three Flames by Alan Lightman
Published by Counterpoint LLC
Published: September 3rd 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 205
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

From the international bestselling author of Einstein’s Dreams comes a deeply compelling story about the lives of a Cambodian family—set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge—to 2015.

The stories of one Cambodian family are intricately braided together in Alan Lightman’s haunting Three Flames, his first work of fiction in six years.

Three Flames portrays the struggles of a Cambodian farming family against the extreme patriarchal attitudes of their society and the cruel and dictatorial father, set against a rural community that is slowly being exposed to the modern world and its values. A mother must fight against memories of her father’s death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and her powerful desire for revenge. A daughter is married off at sixteen to a wandering husband and his domineering aunt; another daughter is sent to the city to work in the factories to settle her father’s gambling debt. A son dreams of marrying the most beautiful girl of the village and escaping the life of a farmer. And the youngest daughter bravely challenges her father so she can stay in school and strive for a better future.

A vivid story of revenge and forgiveness, of a culture smothering the dreams of freedom, and of tradition against courage, Three Flames grows directly from Lightman’s work as the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance a new generation of female leaders in Cambodia and all of Southeast Asia.

Alan Lightman’s Three Flames follows the story of a Cambodian family throughout the years told through interwoven chapters from each family member’s point of view. I love family stories that are told throughout the decades, illuminating the secret pains and joys each member of the family harbors. Even though it’s a short book, I found myself thoroughly engaged and involved with the story, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s easy to read in a single sitting or two, and the lives of the characters and the struggles they faced will stick with you and make you think as they did for me.

Three Flames explores the costs and consequences of living in a deeply patriarchal society and the affects that has on both men and women and the roles each are expected to perform. It’s difficult sometimes to reconcile that some of this story is set in the last decade because I, as a white woman living in America, am incredibly privileged and have many more freedoms than the women have in Cambodia today. Lightman’s work and passion with his foundation to assist women in Cambodia shines in this novel, giving a voice to people that many may not have heard about or thought of without having read this. It’s a reminder to us all that oppression against women and others thought of as “lesser” still exists to such extremes (and what we might call outdated ways) today.

Lightman’s use of language and theme is precise, rich, compassionate, and fitting for a novel that delves into difficult realities. It’s well worth looking into, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.

Many thanks to Counterpoint LLC for sending me a complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Me in the Future, by Kameron Hurley

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Me in the Future, by Kameron HurleyTitle: Meet Me in the Future: Stories by Kameron Hurley
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: August 20th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

“One of the best story collections of the past few years.” —Booklist, starred review“16 hard-edged pieces that gleam like gems in a mosaic.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review“Kameron Hurley is a badass.” —Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

When renegade author Kameron Hurley (The Light Brigade; The Stars Are Legion) takes you to the future, be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, it will be dangerous, frequently brutal, and often devastating. But it’s also savagely funny, deliriously strange, and absolutely brimming with adventure.

In these edgy, unexpected tales, a body-hopping mercenary avenges his pet elephant, and an orphan falls in love with a sentient starship. Fighters ally to power a reality-bending engine, and a swamp-dwelling introvert tries to save the world—from her plague-casting former wife.

So come meet Kameron Hurley in the future. The version she's created here is weirder—and far more hopeful—than you could ever imagine.

Any time I can get my hands on new Kameron Hurley, I’m all over it. Ever since I read The Stars are Legion, Hurley has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her view of the world in which we live is calculating, messy, and true, and the stories she writes hit me right in the feels and make me want to help lead the revolution.

What I’ve liked most about Hurley’s writing is that her women are allowed to be messy, morally grey, and emotional without feeling like these women are losing their “worth” or “humanity” for being any of those things. The themes of war and resistance she explores in her stories are heavy, unrelenting, and often gruesome, but there always manages to be some threads of hope winding their ways through the stories. War is central to the story in the sense that it informs the trajectory of the characters. War has either happened, is happening, or will happen, but it’s the individual themselves who really tend to make a difference in the grand scheme of war’s grandiose effects.

The stories that I enjoyed the most were “Elephants and Corpses,” “When We Fall,” and “The Corpse Archives;” but all of them were so good, and I couldn’t wait to read the next one. Her introduction is sublime in exploring what drives her to write the stories she writes as well, so don’t skip that. Sometimes I feel as if it’s very rare for a single author’s collection of stories to be so cohesive and yet so diverse, but Kameron Hurley knocks it out of the park with this one.

Whether or not you’ve read Hurley before, if you’re a sci-fi reader and want to read something that will leave you thinking about the what-ifs, definitely check this out.

Thank you to Tachyon Pub for a digital review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted, by Janna MacGregor

BOOK REVIEW: Rogue Most Wanted, by Janna MacGregorTitle: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor
Series: The Cavensham Heiresses #5
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: June 25th 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 371
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

There’s one creed all Cavensham men subscribe to: they fall in love completely and decidedly. But what happens when the woman you fall in love with swears she'll only marry you as a last resort? Rogue Most Wanted is the next book in the sparkling, romantic Cavensham Heiress series by Janna MacGregor.

SHE NEEDS TO MARRY SOMEONE

Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…

IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO BE HIM

Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all…

When I started reading Rogue Most Wanted, I hadn’t realized it was the fifth in the series, but I ultimately think that it didn’t detract too much from the story. Once I got near the end, I realized that a lot of the other characters and couples mentioned in the book were probably from previous works in the series and my Goodreads perusal proved me right. Anyway, MacGregor’s Rogue Most Wanted continues my adventure in historical romance, and this one fell a little more flat for me than the others. I didn’t feel as if Will was much of a rogue. That little bit of his history in the frame chapter that may have proved otherwise didn’t seem to carry to the present. He was a total romantic through and through, even as much as he fought it.

The second half dragged a bit more for me than the first, and it felt as if some of the plot devices were being forced to work rather than them feeling effortless in the course of the narrative, like the extended family member who tried to lay claim to the title. He just seemed to show up when it was convenient for the storyline rather than to actually cause some mischief. The consistent misuse of the word “jilted” bothered me. I know the standard meaning of the word is to abruptly leave someone, but for all I’ve been familiar with the word, it’s been associated with someone literally in the act of getting married being suddenly left at the altar with no explanation necessary. Will’s previous lover that scorned him has a better feeling in the context of the story. But that’s just me being picky over semantics.

What I did love about this book was that all of the women were strong, independent, and real. They had depth to them, even the side characters, which was palpable and believable. It showcased the struggle of women having a place in a man’s world, possessing land and title, and what it meant to be a woman who possessed such things. I also liked that it showed the deeply personal struggle one undertakes when caring for someone with dementia. It’s never easy watching someone you love fall into disarray and no longer know themselves or anyone else around them.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Paperbacks and Netgalley for a complimentary e-ARC to read and review!