TOP TEN TUESDAY: 10 Books I’d Buy if Given a Fully-Loaded Gift Card

Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is all about those books you’d buy immediately if someone gave you a massive gift card to your favorite book store. This is barely touching the tip of the iceberg, but the following are the ones I’d buy today!

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The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen: This has been featured on tables at work even before it won the Pulitzer, and I keep seeing it around Twitter and Goodreads, and because I try to read award-winners, this one’s on the list.

The Romantic Egoists – Matthew J. Bruccoli: I’m entirely fascinated by the Fitzgeralds’s lives and photographs of eras gone by are one of my favorite things, so why wouldn’t I want a photo scrapbook of their lives!? I also want it for research purposes.

My Best Friend’s Excorcism – Grady Hendrix: It’s set in the 80s, all of the chapter titles are 80s songs, and it was recently featured on a “What to Read After Stranger Things” list so yes, please, I need this in my life.

Penguin’s Little Black Classics: I have the box set of the first 80, but I’m a collector and a completionist, so I’d get the rest and this totally counts as one.

The Truth According to Us – Annie Barrows: Family secrets that a writer uncovers while on a project for the New Deal’s job in the Federal Writer’s Project? That sounds like something right up my alley. Plus I rarely see anything in historical fiction set in West Virginia.

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Amy Snow – Tracy Rees: Someone on Goodreads called this a mix between Dickens and suffragette, and it’s historical about the relationship between two women with letters and secrets. And it’s a debut novel that apparently won some search for the next big novel in the UK? I forget what it’s called, but all of it sounds interesting and I need it now.

The Dark Forest – Liu Cixin: I read the first of this trilogy for my science fiction book group (which got rescheduled and I couldn’t attend the rescheduled meeting), and I really enjoyed it. It’s Chinese sci/fi, and I really enjoyed reading about traditionally sci/fi topics and tropes from an entirely different perspective and history. I think the third is being released in hardcover later this year!

The Beast Within – Emile Zola: Honestly, this is just the first in the Pocket Penguins series Penguin’s released this year (and will be releasing in the weeks and months to come). I’ve already ordered one (oops), but this will probably be the next on my list of things to-buy (and the rest, like the Little Black Classics. Why must Penguin release all of the things I want??).

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Illustrated Edition) – J.K. Rowling: I don’t know why I don’t have this yet…

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo: So, I’ll admit, I’ve had the ARC of this for a long time. But I want the hardcover because the black edged pages are  so pretty. I also didn’t want to read this until I read the Grisha trilogy, and now that I’ve read the trilogy, I can give myself the go ahead on this, right?

What’s on your list?

BOOK REVIEW: Central Station, by Lavie Tidhar

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BOOK REVIEW: Central Station, by Lavie TidharTitle: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: May 10th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

Short story collections that contain stories that stand alone in their own right but intertwine with each other are my favorite sort of short story collections. This collection is a strong one as I found there wasn’t a single story that I felt dragged or didn’t quite mesh. The characters are so diverse, the setting is so foreign yet in some way instantly recognizable. Even though it’s set in a futurisitic, post-singularity Tel Aviv, the stories evoke a feeling as if it’s really a central station and that we’re all still connected here on this planet.

I loved the Jewish robots, the Strigoi named Carmel (she’s probably my favorite character. The idea of data vampirism is amazing), and all of the other vibrantly realized characters sprinkled throughout the stories.

This is a solid collection of science fiction stories that isn’t just about science fiction. It’s about what one must do and how one must survive in a universe that is often too unforgiving. It’s not a plot-heavy set of stories, but it’s one that will make you care at least a little bit about all of the characters between the covers.

If you enjoyed Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno and would enjoy something similar with a definite science fiction twist, I think you’ll enjoy this collection.

Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy!

BOOK REVIEW: Warp, by Lev Grossman

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BOOK REVIEW: Warp, by Lev GrossmanTitle: Warp: A Novel by Lev Grossman
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Published: September 20th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 192
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

I’ve actually not read Grossman’s Magicians trilogy even though it’s been on my TBR forever (because hello? Harry Potter-esque in college??), but when I saw this on Netgalley, I thought I’d give it a try.

The introduction is the best part, honestly. Grossman’s is overly critical of this first novel, and maybe rightly so. Warp is not terrible, but it’s not great. It’s got its moments, but it seems generally aimless. I don’t think I “got” it, but maybe there’s nothing to get. It reads a lot like many young white guys’ first books in which the nerdy guy gets his manic pixie dream girl. It’s not a trope I really like anymore now that I’ve been exposed to it over and over, and it doesn’t help that it’s still a hugely popular trope. I also didn’t quite get the double narrative? If it’s even that because most that second narrative is just quotes dropped in like a student trying to beef up an essay to meet a page requirement. It has a lot of potential, but it ultimately falls short.

Read it if you’re interested in how a writer’s craft evolves. Read the introduction at the very least (especially if you are in a bookshop this September and see it on the shelves). Perhaps avoid it if you’re not at all swayed by any of that.

Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy!

Little List of Reviews #2

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Little List of Reviews #2Title: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Published by Penguin
Published: September 6th 2001
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 249
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

It’s interesting to note that history and its aftermath all rest on a series of single actions. If something hadn’t gone the way it had, it could have catastrophic influence on everything else (which is why, sadly, time travel cannot really work). What would our lives be like if a certain president weren’t elected or if certain events hadn’t happened? How much different would our lives really be? Philip K. Dick’s take on what could have happened had the United States lost WWII is eerie and true enough to life that it’s like looking into another dimension (and at some point in the novel, one of the characters does cross between that world and “our” world). I wouldn’t necessarily call this “science fiction,” as the most science-y fiction-y aspect of it is that the Germans are going to the moon and there’s that slight shift between universes, but I find this sits more under the sub-genre of speculative fiction. Science fiction focuses heavily on the “what if,” and this book certainly asks that question. What if the Germans and the Japanese took over the United States? I found it engaging, nuanced, and surprisingly modern.

Little List of Reviews #2Title: Graft by Matt Hill
Published: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 448
Format: Mass Market
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Matt Hill’s Graft is certainly interesting. It’s set in a futuristic, dystopian Manchester, England, in which a car thief gets mixed up with a cyborg woman who’s had an extra arm and various other enhancements grafted onto her body. It’s touted as something that draws influence from The Fifth Element andThe Handmaid’s Tale, and I think that sort of fits. It certainly would appeal to fans of either or both. It’s visceral, it’s dirty, it’s dark both in content and in atmosphere. Having lived sort of near Manchester for a bit while doing my master’s degree, I can vouch for it being cloudy, a bit dingy in places, and certainly edgier than the pristine countrysides of England we’re used to seeing in various books and films. I enjoyed it, although I wish there was more development both in character and in setting. Compared to Atwood’s writing, this just seemed like a three-fourths formed thing. Still enjoyable, and it definitely comes recommended to those who like the darker, grittier side of science fiction!

The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s Cress

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The Keen Rapunzel, Marissa Meyer’s CressTitle: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published: February 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 550
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

 

I first read this book as an e-copy while studying in England, and I plowed through it in a day. I couldn’t bring myself to do much else. I love Rapunzel as a fairy tale. Cress embodies that role perfectly – innocent, yet intelligent and intuitive. She grows throughout the entire book in a way that I never found forced or false. Her budding relationship with Thorne is perfect too. They’re probably my favorite relationship in the series because Thorne (the charming scoundrel) learns to love Cress without being able to see her (and it’s a nice reference to the fairy tale itself with him being blinded after a fall).

One of the things I am really liking about this series is the way Marissa Meyer can add new characters to the plot and not have it feel like those additions are too much or too confusing. Each character adds their own flavor to the story and round it out nicely. On some occasions it does tend to drag out a little bit, which may be the only downside to multiple POVs, and that makes it for a weaker novel if you’re looking at it from a standalone perspective. I honestly cannot wait to see how everything is resolved in the last book!