Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: Heart of Thorns

Heart of Thorns Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Heart of Thorns is a book that in some ways reads like a checklist of all the things we want in YA fantasy fiction these days. We have a heroine coming into her powers, a guy who is sometimes insightful and mellow with the heroine, a couple of dark villains, sister love in the face of mother loss, a father who loves his daughters, gay characters, bisexual characters, differently abled characters. There's so much going on and yet, as a fair number of reviewers have mentioned, the tropes are strong with this one, Reader. We can begin with the "unwilling bride," move quickly to "oh my, I have powers I never knew about," then progress to the "well, actually, the prince is more than he seems," and so on. While the occasional witty banter between the protagonist, Mia, and her intended, Quin, is fun overall this novel is built upon a foundation of common plot devices, while trying to build something new. I'm not sure I feel it worked, but the last 15% of the book did go to unexpected places.

Among the things I loved in this book is its use of Welsh, a language that always seems to make magic more magical for me. The book is set in the kindgom of Glas Ddir, Green Blue in Welsh. Mia was raised to hunt Gwyrach (literal translation from the Welsh is "awful"), women possessed of magic powerful enough to heal or kill with simple touch. Unfortunately, she finds out that she is a Gwyrach. And to make matters worse she finds this out when she is being pressed into marrying into the ruling family that believes in killing Gwyrach no matter how young. And not killing them... quickly. Women must wear gloves so they cannot lay hands on anyone (especially male anyones). Mia plans to escape with her younger sister Angelyne rather than marry Prince Quin but her plans go awry when someone tries to murder him and in trying to save him, she discovers she a Gwyrach. Quin notices this point, too. But Quin is an okay, standup guy. He's not going to let a little thing like his wife being a demonic witch bother him. In short order the pair escape, connect with the Dujia (what the magic-wielding Gwyrach are really called), Mia starts training and valuing her magic, including the fact that she can hear truths versus lies, and Quin enjoys himself while expressing concern that Mia doesn't really show good judgment at times. Along the way the real party behind the recent anti-royalty movement problems in Glas Ddir is revealed. I like Mia and Quin, the two central characters, though not necessarily as a couple. As for Mia and her sister Angie, I love stories with nurturing sister love and this one stands that relationship on end and spins it until you're not sure you know either sister, which in its way is an accomplishment. We arrive at an ending which manages to be a sort of a cliffhanger that leaves the reader wanting more yet satisfied with the epilogue of the book, no mean feat.

I wish this book had steered further away from various tropes. Barton has come up with an underlying story that could be rather original, but it is garbed in common storylines. I would still pick up the second book in the series to see where Barton plans to go with Mia, Angie and Quin.

I received a Digital Review Copy from Katherine Tegen Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review: Sea Witch

Sea Witch Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
My rating: 3.5ish of 5 stars

3.5ish Stars

This novel gives us the story of how the Sea Witch in the Andersen tale of The Little Mermaid came to be. However, be forewarned that there is very little Little Mermaid in this story, for mermaid fans. This book is a hard one for me to rate. There are things I greatly enjoyed about the story but other aspects, including in pacing and plot structure, that I struggled with.

First I'll look at what I enjoyed. Henning has done a great job, no doubt thanks to careful research, in capturing some aspects of Nordic sea-faring culture. She has also given us a historically accurate picture of post-Reformation Denmark, when they really used to burn witches, especially during the reign of Christian IV, and the Skt Hans Aften celebrations on June 23 that commemorate those wonderful times by burning ragdoll witches. Read more here. That said, I felt that the character development, which took up about the first 80% of the book, was uneven, and some of the plot was unconvincing and oddly paced.

I was troubled from the outset by the relationship between a royal heir and his "best friend," a fisherman's daughter, as even being something that was permissible in this era. (Yes, I know, this is a story based on part of a fairy tale, and therefore requires suspension of belief, but what can I say? If you're doing research to make this story historically grounded in Danish intolerance of witchcraft then intolerance due to social class is absolutely fair play.) Even the fact that the heir to the throne's best friend was a female was a tough sell. While I felt the character backstory for the protagonist Evie and her friend Anna was thin but plausible as a motivation for Evie being willing to take such risks for Annemette, some of Evie's other relationships, principally with Iker, seemed thinly built. While I felt Evie liked Iker "because, handsome prince who likes me" I was unsure, in fact to the very end (Spoiler*) why Iker liked Evie. Was it to torment his cousin Nik? Because she was prettier than all the other pretty brunettes? Other aspects of Evie's relationships puzzled me. Even her relationship with her Tante Hansa just felt thin, as did that with her father. Because of Tante Hansa's being a witch, you would think her role in Evie's life would be focused on teaching her. Why is Evie so very unschooled in magic (almost dangerously so, frankly)? Is this Tante Hansa's caution or Evie's preference/fear? Does the trauma of her mother's death plague her? Doesn't this leave her at risk of accidental magic? And why aren't villagers more unsettled by Evie's going about and touching their boats with stones? Is she always able to cast these protections unobserved? Then there is the magic itself, which also felt poorly developed at times. The way spells were cast felt thinly sketched, relying on chanting a few times in old Norse and unexplained use of magical objects like gemstones that a fisherman's daughter seemed unlikely to possess.

My other complaint was the novel's pacing, which I see some reviewers have also commented on. From my perspective, especially since this is Henning's debut novel, is that this is mostly an editorial issue. Stronger editorial direction might have brought more action central to the story earlier in the book. The use of flashbacks as a plot device (well-emphasized to readers with italicized font usage) didn't work to create a sense of momentum.

I still enjoyed aspects of this book, as I stated above, and will be curious to see where Sarah Henning's eyes turn next. Her development of historical underpinnings is well done and makes her an author to follow.

*Until he abruptly turned on her....

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Katherine Tegen Books via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Review: Planting Native to Attract Birds to Your Yard

Planting Native to Attract Birds to Your Yard Planting Native to Attract Birds to Your Yard by Sharon Sorenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Earlier this year I reviewed a thoughtful book The Birds at My Table by Darryl Jones. It asked hard questions about what we offer birds by feeding them at feeders. Sorenson asks equally hard questions about the environmental cost of producing seed feed for birds, in lieu of providing a native plant environment that seasonally provides a greater nutritional variety and greater benefits for birds and humans who enjoy them. Early on in the book, she asks you to think about packaged sunflower seeds, as any bird lover knows, a great favorite of wild birds. She points out the environmental costs of production, packaging, and shipping, but also asks the bird-loving reader to look deeper at the entire process from the start. Sunflower seeds are produced in vast monoculture fields. Readers of another of my recently reviewed books, Endangered and Disappearing Birds of the Midwest, should consider the fate of Prairie-Chickens and Meadowlarks when the prairies are planted with sunflowers. Are the seeds cultivated here grown in fields that have been sprayed with herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides? Do these chemicals affect the seeds produced, exposing the birds to these agents? Where does the field runoff go? Into a fresh water supply, affecting all the wildlife in the region? When it comes down to it, the tough question is: are our natural resources being damaged for artificially feeding birds? What would the alternative be? The best alternative is to enrich the native plant population, returning birds to a diet that better resembles nature. Sorenson gives you key insights into how to enrich your yard and make it a more natural haven for all birds, not just the ones that might have shown up at your feeder, who are often only a small fraction of birds actually in your yard.

It's important to note that this book is focused on the Eastern and Central US regions and doesn't contemplate plants native to the West or the Far North. I did find discussion of perennial plants and trees that still could thrive in the Seacoast area of New England, however. This book is a serious examination of native plants and trees benefitting birds and is not a quick read. For the serious birder, however, it is a goldmine. Sorenson will teach you how to map your yard, and then pick plants, trees, and vines that work well seasonally to support your local bird population. She also recommends water features that will provide a source of fresh water for your birds. For anyone who loves birds, this is a useful book. Even if you do not live in the targeted region, there are strategies to be learned here.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Stackpole Books via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Endangered and Disappearing Birds of the Midwest

Endangered and Disappearing Birds of the Midwest Endangered and Disappearing Birds of the Midwest by Matt Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Birds are vital members of our ecosystem and they are increasingly endangered by climate changes, habitat destruction, changing agricultural practices, loss of native plants that are vital food sources, environmental toxins, the presence of tall buildings with reflective glass, and a host of other factors, including simple human interaction. Why should we care? Birds serve a vital role in our ecosystem, from controlling pests that destroy agriculture, providing pollination, to simple enjoyment. This book seeks to promote awareness of the steep declines of bird populations in the Midwest along with explaining some of the possible reasons for these declines.

The population losses cataloged in Williams's book are simply stunning. Some birds, like the Greater Prairie-chicken, a bird in only moderate decline, have disappeared entirely from some Midwestern states. Habitat loss, with only 1% of the prairie habitat of the species remaining in the Midwest, has contributed to the decline of the species. Sadly other birds, like the exquisite Wood Thrush, have been in steeper decline, largely due to nesting preferences that include unfragmented forests with trees at least fifty feet in height. Increased fragmentation of forested areas has resulted in the nesting Wood Thrushes being more vulnerable to parasitic species of birds, like the Cowbird, seizing their nests. The beautiful grassland Eastern Meadowlark is in even steeper population decline, with almost 90% of the population lost since the mid-1960's, likely due to changes in agricultural practices.

This book is a wakeup call about sources of declining bird populations and the pressures on them. The declines reported in the book are truly disheartening. Although I live in the East, I plan on sharing this book with a friend in Michigan, in the hopes that she can help raise awareness for promoting bird-friendly environments and questioning rural overdevelopment.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Indiana University Press in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Lost Words

The Lost Words The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This jewel of a book contains words, poems and prose paired with exquisite watercolor images of plants and animals whose existences are all but disappearing from the vocabulary of children who never encounter them in their daily lives. Part of this is because of the urban lifestyle of many families and part of it is because, sadly, many of these flora and fauna are becoming increasingly endangered due to climate issues and habitat destruction. From acorns to heather, adders to otters, and larks to starlings, artist Jackie Morris's images give life to Macfarlane's chosen words of animal and plant life.

This is a beautiful book to offer a child. All children should know the cautious delight of brambles or how to recognize a fern or a kingfisher. It is equally lovely as a coffee table book, to remind us of what we mustn't lose in our world.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Anansi Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Future is Blue

The Future is Blue The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me, reading Cat Valente's work has always been a wonderous submersion into language, one in which she allows you to revel in lush, excited prose and then socks you a punch with some point she wished to make that is poignant or powerful and, while not unexpected, she always catches you slightly off-guard. This is a collection of short stories largely dedicated to that experience. A gathering of some of her recent shorter work packaged in a stunning hardcover with a beautiful cover illustration by Galen Dara and paper of a quality that you are drawn to touch. This is the first collection of Cat Valente's short work in about five years if I have my dates right. I previously bought another volume of her collected stories from SubPress, The Bread We Eat in Dreams and love that book still.

I have not read all of the stories in this collection as of yet. A few have been published previously on Cat's blog. The short story that gives this book its title, The Future is Blue is a searing story of a post-apocalyptic future in which oceans have overtaken land and the central character Tetley struggles to survive in Garbagetown. Down and Out in R'lyeh is set in a Lovecraftian world unlike any you've seen (trust me on this one) and, as an aside, slyly takes a slap at racism with the author's characteristic humor, ("A goatsnake, a Yith, and a Ghast walk into a bar. Stop me if you've heard this one.") while a dead and dreaming Cthulhu is 0ff-center stage during all the action. The rumor is that humans (gasp) are afoot. The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, The Luminescence of Debauchery gives us a central character who makes wonderous glass eyes but in secret makes a paired eye that allows him to see the lives of his clients. The Beasts Who fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still is a short story that Cat wrote right after the 2016 election. It was, and remains, a cathartic metaphor for resistance. The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild is a longer story that is a synesthetic death adventure.

Three stories in this collection have never been printed before. Major Tom, Two and Two is Seven, and the novelette Flame, Pearl, Mother, Autumn, Virgin, Sword, Kiss, Blood, Heart, and Grave can only be found in this volume.

I'm looking forward to wending my way through this collection, savoring it. This is another beautiful volume from Subterranean Press and Cat Valente.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from SubPress via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I also received my hardcover copy a full week early. Yay!

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: Nightbooks

Nightbooks Nightbooks by J.A. White
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

This book for middle graders has its strong points, including a child central character who loves to read and especially to write. It also shows a collaborative friendship develop out of adversity between the protagonist, Alex, the young writer, Yasmin, a girl stranded in the same magical apartment by an evil witch, and Lenore, a very interesting cat. Alex was captured by the witch and kept to tell his stories, because the witch perceives "darkness" in his heart. Alas, the witch, while clever, approaches elementary-grade chapter-reader trope status.

Being marketed as a spin on Scheherazade spinning the tales of A Thousand Nights and One Night and the Brothers Grimm's Hansel and Gretel, Nightbooks is a cautionary tale about going out late at night, especially without telling your parents, and about young people writing ghost or horror stories. After all, if you write dark things, grownups might think you are dark inside and you'll have to work overtime convincing them that you're being brave in battling dark things and emerging undefeated. You'll have to explain you're just a nice kid who likes monsters.

While there are things that charm about the story, I had hoped for a bit more depth. Even some middle-graders may feel the whiff of a deus ex machina resolution to Alex, Yasmin and Lenore's plight.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from the Katherine Tegen Imprint via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few

Record of a Spaceborn Few Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"From the Beginning
We Have Wandered
To This Day, We Wander Still
But for All Our Travels
We Are Not Lost
We Fly With Courage
 And Will, Undying"

The depth of my love for Becky Chambers' novels cannot be overstated. Her books are simply a joy to read. Imagine a world in which you have Space Opera with joy, with reflective personal exploration, and in which species find more in common than in difference with one another. I'm sure a lot of people think that this is sugar-coated sci-fi but through gentle and quiet exploration, Chambers has created a simply glorious trilogy of standalone books, with characters you can love and worlds that fascinate. This is a space opera series where the biggest battles are often internal and deal with the question of what one offers the Universe.

What Record of a Spaceborn Few offers us is a quintet of characters, alternating between their intertwined lives in the Exodan Fleet. On the one hand, their stories seem simple and yet on the other, their stories are everything about the Fleet you want or need to know. Eyas, Isabel, Kip, Sawyer, and Tessa (Ashby's sister) are marvelous, richly drawn characters, and the secondary characters are equally fine. The quiet wonder of a simple chapter, like one in which Isabel and her wife Tamsin (in her seventies!) go for a wild space joyride, rekindling old memories and watching the stars illuminate the world around them will stay with me always. That's just a taste of the magic of this book.

I hope that this isn't the conclusion to the Wayfarer series but is rather another installment in the Universe of Becky Chamber's imaginative world. I haven't had nearly enough yet.

I received a Digital Review Copy from HarperVoyager and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Blogaversary, Day 5

This Giveaway is now closed.

For this last giveaway, we celebrate the magic of books. This is your chance to win a Harry Potter Alliance mug with their favorite quote, "Books Turn Muggles Into Wizards."

Enter below by commenting and telling me what Hogwarts House you belong to. Be sure to follow Marzie's Reads on Facebook because that's where I'll be announcing the winner and how you'll contact me so that I can send you your mug!

For extra entries, follow Marzie's Reads on Twitter and comment on the Tweet about this blog post. For an extra entry still, retweet that Tweet.

This giveaway is open until Saturday, July 21st at Noon EDT.

Thanks for helping me grow this blog and for sharing a love of books. I hope the year ahead is filled with lots of great books and plenty of time to savor them!

P.S. I'm a Ravenclaw.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: The Expert System's Brother

The Expert System's Brother The Expert System's Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

This is my first foray into Tchaikovsky's work. A friend whose opinion I value and whose taste is similar to mine enthusiastically recommended Tchaikovsky's Chidlren of Time to me the other day, so I jumped at the chance for the ARC of this book, which actually released on Tuesday, as an entry into his writing.

The Expert System's Brother gives us a view into a distant future of a civilization that once had sophisticated technology running everything and serving everyone. Some sort of cultural collapse has occurred resulting in the return to a combined agrarian and hunter-gatherer lifestyle formation of many small enclaves of people living together in villages. Villages are centered around trees and have three central figures in roles of power, an Architect, a Doctor and a Lawgiver. These roles are chosen by wasps, called Electors, who live in a hive community in a large tree that forms the center of the village. Once a person is chosen they become possessed by a ghost with information and decision-making skills that seem to follow a rubric. Cohesiveness in a village is brought mysterious means and when a person displays behaviors that are not useful (violence, for example) to the community they undergo Severance, a process in which they are painted with a substance that sinks into them to the bones and which strips away some sort of protection that allowed them both to be recognized as part of their village's community but also their ability to digest and benefit from food.

Our protagonist, a young man by the name of Handry, became lightly painted with Severance due to an accident at age thirteen. His twin sister Melory protects him within the community until the Electors select her to fill a vacant position in their village. Handry is eventually forced to leave for his, and her, safety. Over the course of the novella, he discovers that the communities that he (and all) humans are living in a kind of construct. Just what kind I'll leave for the reader to find out.

This was an interesting novella. I'm not sure the story fully worked for me, as I feel that the author was trying to put too many elements into the revelations of Handry's world without fully exploring any of them. Focusing more on one or two elements of the world would have worked better for the brief novella format, in my opinion. As it is, I feel like the implications of this type of world and those who lead in it are left unexplored. Exploration of the fallow machine and human dynamic, focused on the ghost in the machine dualism, would have been fascinating enough for me.

The cover art by Raphael Lacoste is stunning.

I'll look forward to reading more of Tchaikovsky's work.

I received a paperback ARC copy of this book.

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Blogaversary, Day Four: Seanan McGuire Ghostroads Books!

(50's Diner background image by Mirjam Herman)

This Giveaway Is Closed!

Anyone who follows my blog or knows me personally knows I'm a great fan of Seanan McGuire's (Mira Grant's) writing. She's a writer so prolific that it's hard to keep up with her output, yet she's a writer with a great imagination, producing multiple series simultaneously with totally different worlds and diverse, complex characters I love. Because she's so popular, she's recently been the victim of piracy, in which someone put an ARC of her most recent book (just released Tuesday), The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, up on a piracy site less than two weeks before the book was to be released, potentially impacting her sales. (Sales are what get you contracts for more books because publishers are mighty pragmatic people.)

I've been following Seanan's work since 2009, when my friend Diana pressed a copy of Rosemary and Rue, the first book in the October Daye series, into my hands and said that this was a writer that she knew I'd love. She was so right! And I loved Seanan's journey as a person and writer, too. I was so happy for her when she was able to quit her day job and write full time. I know how much it means to her that she's been able to make a living as a writer. You can sit in her living room and she'll tell you all about how challenging it is. From supporting your family and pets to paying your mortgage to paying for your healthcare to trying to predict what your income tax situation will be, based on income that can vary wildly from year to year. Piracy threatens all that. It threatens financial security for all writers. (If you have any doubts about that, read about Maggie Stiefvater's little experiment here in an article in The Guardian, or if you're on Tumblr you can read her post about piracy here.)

Even though I usually buy copies of her work on pixel or in audio (some of the rarer stuff I've bought on paper), after hearing about the piracy I was determined to buy paper copies of her Ghostroads books about Rose Marshall, the new edition of Sparrow Hill Road and her new book The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, as well. Like many of her fans trying to counter piracy losses, I figure that adds to her sales figures for the new book. And I'm offering them to the lucky winner of this giveaway!

Sparrow Hill Road and The Girl in the Green Silk Gown are about a hitchhiking ghost, Rose Marshall, whose story borders on the edges of McGuire's Hugo Award finalist InCryptid series. Rose appears occasionally in the InCryptid series, as does a kinda-sorta friend of Rose's, Mary Dunlavy. Rose is a great character who has been to, um, hell and back. /snickers/ This is a great set of books and I hope her publisher knows that we want more. You can find my reviews of the books here and here.

To enter this giveaway, comment below. This giveaway is open to those in the USA and Canada. If you reside outside those two countries but you would still like to enter, please let me know in your comment that you are willing to pay all postage above US$6.50 to receive these books. You should be following Marzie's Reads on Facebook because that's where I'll be announcing the winner and how you will send me your address information.

For extra entries, follow Marzie's Reads on Twitter and comment on the Tweet about this blog post. For an extra entry still, retweet that Tweet.

This giveaway is open until Friday, July 20th at 11:59 pm EDT.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blogaversary Week, Day Three!

A good fraction of my readership is still very fond of reading in paper. And so many of the authors I love are obsessed with paper and good old-fashioned fountain pens! So today's giveaway is for my paper readers!

This is a trio of items that will ship to you from Amazon. They include a flexible LED booklight that can also act as a bookmark (a Marzie's Reads favorite and must-have item for reading those paper ARCs late at night without disturbing my poor husband), a Pilot MR Retro Fountain Pen, and a Minimalism Art Notebook for writing with that shiny pen. You can choose between Turquoise Blue or Black for the three items. (If you see another color in the Pilot MR Retro line that you're dying to have instead, just let me know if you win.) Here's what these items look like in Turquoise:

and for the gents, here's the gray/black example:

To enter, comment below and tell me the name of a current writer who talks about using fountain* pens. There are quite a few actually, and googling it to find one is fine. You'll be amazed that some pretty prolific writers start their drafts with pen and paper. Please also give me your reference for the writer writing with fountain pens. (A link to an Instagram photo, a quote, a tweet about breaking down in Singapore and spending a lot of money on pen and ink, for example. This is your gift to me for my Blogaversary because I love to follow writers who write with fountain pens!) There are quite a few less well-known writers who do. Don't worry if you see that the writer you chose has been listed by someone else, but don't cheat, either, because then you're cheating yourself out of the fun of finding out.

If you want an extra entry, follow Marzie's Reads on Twitter and then comment, saying hi or something, on my Tweet about this post. Get yet another entry if you retweet my tweet. You can find the link to the Marzie's Reads' Twitter account over in the sidebar. →

For your entry to be valid you must be following Marzie's Reads on Facebook, because that's how you're going to contact me about your details for this prize.

This giveaway is valid from July 18 at 12 Noon EDT to July 19 at Noon EDT.

*I emphasize fountain pen because I know half of you will probably tell me George R. R. Martin must be writing The Winds of Winter by hand on bad paper and with a scratchy nib to boot, but it looks like he uses a rollerball to me. LOL

Okay, really I'm kidding. GRRM says he writes in Wordstar so I'm assuming that's an old IBM 286 or 386 he's using.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: Ice

Ice Ice by Anna Kavan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot bear to give a resounding 5-star rating to a book that made me so acutely unhappy and uncomfortable.

Ice is a searing novel in the slipstream genre, at that interface between fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. It is told from a first-person perspective by an unreliable male narrator struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter in which ice is overtaking the planet. The narrator is obsessed with a thin, nameless woman called a "girl," who is described by him largely in terms of her being a victim who continually suffers further victimization. With her shimmering white-blond hair and fragile features, the narrator becomes obsessed with her and he imagines both rescuing her but also seemingly furthering her abuse, which has an overtly sexual tone. It is obvious to the reader that his prior interest her was spurned and yet he doggedly persists, telling himself that he will safeguard her.

Like a fever dream of humanity's horrors, the reader aware of Anna Kavan's (pen name) own troubled history wonders whether this nameless (thus, objectified) woman, who seems rather like a sex-toy bargaining chip, represents a painful facet of the writer's own life. The narrator's dreams or hallucinations revolve around scenarios in which he attempts (always unsuccessfully) to rescue the woman from horrifying circumstances, having an eerie effect. He cannot view her existence other than through the filter of her suffering and his being her savior, except he can never manage to save her. When they finally interact, their manner with one another is so different from the man's imaginings as to make you think him quite unbalanced, obsessive and stalker-like. His sense of entitlement to her is part of what captures my interest though, as something very much part of our present-day real world where men still feel entitled to a woman or her body. Meanwhile, her lack of aegis, her powerlessness to resist one man or another, to the very end of the world, is heartbreaking. It is all, if you'll forgive the comment, chilling.

Not a book I could recommend lightly, readers.

What should I read for my August Classic, readers? Help me decide!

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Review: Deep Roots

Deep Roots Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I continue to be fascinated by Ruthanna Emrys' work reshaping the Lovecraft legacy. This book struck a different cord than did Winter Tide. While Winter Tide was character driven, the broadened world in Deep Roots took longer to engage me emotionally. A book that in large part challenges the reader to consider "otherness" and its benefits and risks, it is certainly a timely topic. I'll post a longer review when I find the time, post-Hugo reading, to listen to the book again on audio. In the interim, this book was a fascinating exploration in the era of resurgent fascism, encampment, and how we treat others who do not look like us.

I received a paperback ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Blogaversary Week, Day Two!

So here we are at day two of Blogaversary week and I was thinking of a bit of a scavenger hunt. But it's a hunt for something specific to YOU, reader.

I have a keywords topic search on my blog's sidebar. It looks like this:

For today's giveaway, I want you to find your favorite genre, click on it, look through the books that pop up and then tell me which book in that genre that I've reviewed in the past year that you'd want to win. Comment with that book title below, here on the blog, and I'll select a winner randomly. That winner will either get a paper or Kindle copy of the book, good for up to $20 on my purchasing the book from Amazon or Book Depository. That's right, I'll buy the winner the book they want most of those I've reviewed!

Hurry on Down! This giveaway closes in 24 hours from the time the post goes up! If you want an extra entry, follow Marzie's Reads on Twitter and then comment on my Tweet about this post. Get yet another entry if you retweet it. You can find the link to the Marzie's Reads' Twitter account over in the sidebar. →

Winning entry must be following Marzie's Reads on Facebook because that's how you'll contact me to give me your details.

Winner will be selected on Wednesday, July 18, after 9 AM EDT.

Books that have not been reviewed are entries that will be discarded.

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's Blogaversary Week! And it's only a few weeks late!

You know you've been reading up a storm when you don't even remember your own blogaversary!  But we're going to make up for it, readers!!! Every day this week we'll be celebrating with a giveaway! Today we're starting with a giveaway that will be active until the end of the week, that trusted and true favorite, the Amazon Gift Card!

Your entries will be via Rafflecopter and all entries will be verified by moi on Friday.  So join me in celebrating one year of this blog!

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter to enter the contest and get extra entries.

This giveaway starts today at Noon EDT and will end on Friday, Noon EDT. Good luck, readers!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Review: The Romanov Empress

The Romanov Empress The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars

This engaging historical novel about the life of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, neé Princess Dagmar of Denmark, evocatively captures the last seven decades of the Russian Romanov dynasty. Dagmar, who went by the nickname Minnie, came from relatively humble beginnings in life, a strong contrast to the life she led when she married Tsarevich Alexander Alexandrovich. Prior to the Russian Revolution, she had been one of the wealthiest women in the world. Minnie, or more formally Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, was born into an impoverished royal-blooded family in Denmark. One of six children, when her family was raised to rule in Denmark she saw the entire family's fortunes change in less than a decade, as she and her siblings married into or were appointed to powerful royal houses of Europe. Closest to her sister Alix, who married Bertie, Prince of Wales and son of Queen Victoria, and related to most of the great royal houses of Europe, Minnie lived a truly incredible life. During the course of her life in Russia, she saw the country descend into disaster and revolution.

Fiercely loyal and a family person, Minnie endured considerable personal loss, beginning with the untimely death of her beloved fiancé Tsarevich Nixa, to whom she was happily engaged, prior to marrying his younger brother, Grand Duke Alexander, who later became Tsar Alexander III. Minnie went on to raise five children to adulthood, including her firstborn son, the ill-fated Nicholas II. With her powerful charisma and socially adept nature, Minnie had helped smooth over some of the problems of the revisionist reign of her husband Tsar Alexander III, a conservative leader who reversed a number of liberal reforms of his predecessor-father. His death after only thirteen years as tsar placed Nicholas II at the head of the Romanov trainwreck. While he initially took his mother's advice in the early years of his reign, he eventually supplanted her with his somewhat unstable wife Alexandra as his chief advisor, spelling disaster for the Romanov line. Minnie lived to see all of her sons (her son George Alexandrovich died in a vehicle accident in 1899, and her remaining sons Tsar Nicholas II and Grand Duke Misha Alexandrovich who were cruelly murdered by the Bolsheviks), along with her grandchildren from Nicholas die before her, her own exile into penury, and a country she had loved for fifty years descend into the chaos of revolution.

The story of Maria Feodorovna is truly epic in its scope. While I had some trouble with the early parts of the book dealing with royals marrying for love versus duty (honestly, wasn't it way more duty than love for women marrying into these Royal European families?), the story of the last Romanovs is so gripping that you get swept away by Minnie's amazing and ultimately tragic life. This was a stirring and well-researched novel.

By the way, I do have to say that looking at photos of Dagmar and Nixa (left) versus Dagmar and Sasha (right), you can't help but feel that there was great reciprocity and fondness between the former star-crossed pair. Her sadness over Nixa's loss is captured poignantly in this novel. Still, a year and a half later, her family had her packed off to St. Petersburg to marry his brother Sasha. Duty called.

Dagmar and Tsarevich Nixa   Dagmar and Tsarevich Sasha

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from NetGalley and Ballantine Books, as well as a paper review copy, in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Willa of the Wood

Willa of the Wood Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Disney Hyperion and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reader, they had me at river otters.

Willa of the Wood is the engaging story of a young girl possessed of forest magic. Like so much of what Robert Beatty has given us in the past, this heroine is a source of hope and inspiration, set in an atmosphere of mystery, wonder, and strife. This is a book for children growing up in our present day, a novel in which children are encouraged to question social order and norms and come to their own conclusions about what is good and right and fair. Is hatred of others or of the different ever the right path? Willa learns to question this thought. A wonderful children's story with a sense of suspense, this was a delightful read. Plus, OTTERS!

I can heartily recommend this book.

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Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Naomi Novik's Uprooted was one of the most impressive (and lauded) fantasy books of 2015, giving readers an adaptation of Polish folktale Agnieszka Piece of Sky. Spinning Silver is a follow-up adaptation of multiple Slavic mythologies and a Grimm Brothers fairytale, and it tackles the difficult story/mythos of the Jewish moneylender, as well. Novik has spun a complicated tale with these narrative threads an I'm sure the fact that it is a less facile read than Uprooted is going to leave some readers disappointed. For me, however, this was a brave and wonderful story.

The premise of the story is that Miryem, daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, is forced to take over her father's business due to her father's mild-mannered ways and his tepid nature. Miryem's Jewish family lives in the mythical Lithvas, an environment of usually reserved anti-semitism (there were moments in this story in which I just gasped, let me tell you), enduring increasingly hard winters. A fairy road of sorts, attributed to the icy Staryks, frequently appears nearby their home. The Staryks are greatly feared, as they are very strong, possessive of their lands and animals, and have been known to kill mortals trespassing on their lands. A second and third principal character in the story are Wanda, a local girl pressed into service in order to pay off her father's debts with Miryem's family, and Irina, daughter of a minor Duke, living in the nearby town of Vysnia. (Vysnia is where Miryem's grandfather, a banker who is still is still sadly termed a Jewish moneylender by the locals, lives.) These three women's lives will intersect as the story reaches its climax.

Novik opens this book with a pragmatic retelling of the story of the Brothers Grimm's Rumplestiltskin/Rumpelstilzchen from the viewpoint of Miryem. From her perspective, it's just the usual tale of people trying to get out of paying their debts. Miryem is embittered about her father's ineffectual business acumen and she takes over the business when she is tired of going cold and hungry and sees her mother's health suffering because of her father's inability to recover the money he has loaned. She is bold and brave and clever, and in a way turns silver into gold by careful investment, keeping careful records, accepting trade for loan repayment. Once she is on a more solid financial footing, she becomes entrepreneurial, paying for good workmanship and coming up with good ideas for selling goods. These abilities don't go unnoticed. Villagers grow resentful that they are no longer dealing with a patsy moneylender, and the King of the Staryks grows intrigued by her business acumen after noting the family's change in fortune. Other beneficiaries of Miryem's good business sense include Wanda and her brothers, who enjoy good meals and a modest income they fail to report to their cruel and abusive drunkard of a father. Working for Miryem is literally a lifesaver for Wanda as working off her father's debt means she cant be sold off as a bride for a few goats and some bottles of liquor to some husband who will just abuse and batter her, working and birthing her to death like her own mother. She wants her own work and to delay marrying. Miryem and her family provide an environment in which she can see her own potential. Miryem generously trains her to keep the books and her mother dotes on Wanda and her brothers kindly, in thanks for the great help they provide in their work.

Irina's story begins when the King of the Staryk leaves a small leather pouch with silver for Miryem with an implicit task of turning silver to gold. She does this by traveling to Vysnia and having Isaac, a silversmith, make a ring of the fairy silver. They then sell it to the Duke, Irina's father, netting a profit. Irina, from the very beginning, is mesmerized by the silver. The King of the Staryk leaves increasingly large sums of silver for Miryem to change into gold as Isaac makes an expensive fairy silver necklace and a crown for Miryem, selling those to the Duke in turn. (The Duke wants to lure the beautiful but cruel young tsar, Mirnatius into wedding his daughter.) Eventually, Irina wears all three and finds they create a powerful glamour and an ability to cross into the land of the Staryk via a classic fairy roads mechanism of entering a mirror or mirror-like reflection. (We eventually will find out why this works for Irina.) Upon completion of these three transformations of fairy silver into profitable gold, the King of the Staryk takes Miryem as his fairy bride and I do mean he takes her, stealing her away in the world of the Staryk. And this is where the story gets complicated.

As soon as Irina marries the cruel young tsar we see that he is possessed by a ravenous and fiery demon. Miryem, meanwhile, is dealing with an ice fairy "husband" who kidnapped her, hasn't even properly married her, and is clearly repelled by her human and mortal nature. He refuses to give her either his name or her freedom. He sets her many seemingly impossible tasks and is horrified and puzzled that she can always complete them. In the cool and white Staryk world, just her touch is enough to turn Staryk silver into gold. The dynamic between these two Slavic kings is that of fire and ice, and while eventually the reader will be rewarded with the name of Mirnatius' demon (SPOILER: the Slavic black god, Chernobog), Miryem's Staryk King's name will remain a mystery to the reader unless you are an aficionado of Russian mythology. (I'll give you the name of this mythological figure below in a spoilered PS) Given that we have fire and ice, you can already predict confrontation between these two powerful men.

One of my only reservations about this novel is the aforementioned complicated narrative may seem too convoluted to some readers. However, this book gives us three marvelous, resilient female characters who are perhaps ultimately more powerful than the men in the story. I loved the exposition on the Jewish moneylender mythos and Miryem's cleverness, loyalty, and success. Wanda's resilience and strength and Irina's insight and bravery, complete the tale of three brave women succeeding against steep odds considering their world's unpleasant gender constraints on women's roles. This is a wonderful Young Adult fantasy.

P.S. (SPOILER: Readers curious about the name of the King of the Staryk can look into the story of the Slavic Frost King, Morozko, who is also a central figure in Katherine Arden's Winternight trilogy.)

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from NetGalley and Macmillan/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rose Marshall, a ghost in the Seanan McGuire's InCryptid world (2017 Hugo Best Series finalist) was first introduced to readers as a character in the serialized Sparrow Hill Road stories, featured on Jennifer Brozek's semiprozine The Edge of Propinquity, back in 2010. In 2014 McGuire adapted the Rose Marshall short stories into the book Sparrow Hill Road and the book was recently re-released (paperback ONLY*) with a snazzy new cover and some additional material (primarily the Pretty Little Dead Girl filk songs). While I loved Sparrow Hill Road there has been a bit of criticism that its episodic nature didn't feel quite like a novel. (I didn't care, mind you. On reading it again, I was so interested in how Rose's stories interface with the InCryptid world.) But now... welcome to your fully cohesive and exciting Rose Marshall novel: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown!

As readers of any edition of Sparrow Hill Road will recall, Rose Marshall died when she was driven off the road by Bobby Cross, an evil actor who made a bargain with the Crossroads for eternal youth. (All he has to do is fuel his car with the souls of people he's caused to die! Forever.) Rose has been trying to avoid Bobby for about the past six decades and has already recently escaped one of his plots. Sadly, you could say he's hung up on Rose, in a murderous stalker kind of way. If you thought Rose was done with Bobby after Apple, Queen of the Routewitches put Rose under her protection, you'd be dead wrong. /cough/ This time Bobby has outdone himself; he manages to undo the Persephone protection Rose received from Apple and from there the whole situation rapidly goes to hell in a handbasket. The extent of Bobby's plot is wide and deep. So very deep. It will take Rose all the way into the mythological underworld to undo what Bobby has done to her. With the help of Apple, Emma (her beán sidhe friend), Gary (her car-spirit boyfriend) a snarky dullahan named Pippa, and, in the first of many surprises, Professor Laura Moorhead, Rose aims to put things right. It might take divine intervention to fix things, though.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown broadens Rose's story but also gives us more details about the world of routewitches, and puzzling simultaneously alive and dead beings. Melding her own ghost folklore and Greek mythology, Seanan McGuire has written a fun novel, set mostly in the InCryptid world. The rest of the time? Well, be sure to pick some asphodels while you visit.

*If you can't swing the new edition in paperback you can still find the lyrics to these songs on Seanan's website, here.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from DAW via the First to Read program.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Review: The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favorite Mary Robinette Kowal novel and the bar is set pretty darn high considering her prior work.

In this rousing alternate history of the space program, we follow Elma Wexler York, the protagonist of her 2014 Hugo award-winning novelette, The Lady Astronaut of Mars, back in the early days of the post-Meteor Era space program. The opening chapters of the book deal with an event hinted at in one of her prior short stories, We Interrupt this Broadcast, in which an asteroid punches through the earth's atmosphere, surviving to become a meteorite that will obliterate Washington DC. The Calculating Stars opens with this cataclysmic event, in which most of the Eastern US is devastated and the resultant magnitude of water vapor sets off a series of climate issues that promise to make the planet uninhabitable within a century. There is plenty of snazzy science (fiction) in this book but Kowal manages to capture the labor and tedium of the day to day work of scientists and engineers who move innovation forward out of necessity. Just as in the real-life stories in Hidden Figures she also depicts the frustrating sexism and racism endured by highly educated women working for NASA (or in this case (NACA) in the 1950's and 60's. Some of the scenes will make your blood boil. (Female astronaut trainees forced to wear bikinis for pool training rather than the bulky flight suits the male trainees wear was probably the most flagrant example.)

I loved the original Elma novelette but this prequel novel has made me enjoy the character more fully. A Ph.D. physicist and mathematician, Elma was also a WASP pilot during World War II. Here we grow to see her as a multidimensional and vulnerable person, dealing with the anxiety of the loss of her parents and grandmother in the meteorite event, and more media and public attention than she ever desired as she works to forward the space program that will help get the human race off a planet on the brink of disaster. She is a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend as well as a scientist and pilot. More than anything, Elma wants to be an astronaut and has since childhood. She is undeterred by the obstacles of a NACA and military that clearly don't want women on board, and a commanding officer who despises her. Her grit and tenacity were wonderful to read.

Embodying the concept of "Nevertheless, she persisted" in all the best ways, this book is a wonderful fictional encouragement to aspiring young adults seeking their dreams while making it clear that they have to be prepared in order to build them. The Calculating Stars releases today, July 3. Its sequel, The Fated Sky, releases in August and I can't wait to read it!

I received a paperback Advance Reading Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

The Craft Sequence Buddy Read and Review of Book Six: The Ruin of Angels

It seems impossible that our six months long Buddy Read of The Craft Sequence is drawing to an end. The sixth book offers a lot of succor though, being the longest and most complex in the series! Here's my review:

The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ruin of Angels is the most recent entry in The Craft Sequence and it feels different in tone from the previous five books. Longer and more complex, I feel like the Sequence has entered Act 2. The topic Gladstone is tackling here deals with history and competing cultures. While I was reading it, I was reminded of a great historic city like Jerusalem, where you have Temple Mount with the ruins of the First and Second Temples and Al-Aqsa. With issues of religion, language and basic culture, the delicate balance and occasional outright hatred between two cultures superseding one another are captured in a similar-feeling tone in Agdel Lex and Alikand, the former built on, literally, the ruin of angels. 

I was frustrated in this book by one of the central characters, Kai Pohala's younger sister Ley. You can check out my thoughts in the Buddy Read discussion of this book below.  My frustrations were outweighed by my enjoyment of the rest of the book, in particular, the presence of Issa, who we first met in Full Fathom Five and of course, Kai and Tara. Izza has matured and evolved. New characters Zeddig, Gal and Raymet were rich and unique. Each woman has their own unique code of honor. Gladstone has also introduced an intriguing and charismatic new male character, Jax, who I think we will see again in future books. He ominously warns of forthcoming global disaster, due to climate and resource issues. Isaak, a male friend of Izza's from her earlier life in Agdel Lex, was a character with a lot of pathos. 

All in all, a book I loved. My real question is, it's been almost a year since this book was published. When will we be graced with more Craft Sequence?!

So let's get down to Alex, Jenni and I, discussing this great entry in the series. You can read Part 1 of the Discussion over at Alex's blog here.


Temple Mount, Architectural Digest

Alex, Jenni and Marzie's Discussion of The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone, Part 2.

Part 1 is here.

Marzie: So you know I won’t get very far without mentioning Elayne, who is painfully absent in this book. But wasn’t the scene where Tara thinks of Elayne, as she struggles to save Alikand, a great echo of Elayne’s actions in Last First Snow?

Alex: Yes, that definitely had the echo of Elayne there, without feeling like a complete knockoff.

Marzie: I loved that moment.

Alex: What did you think of Jax? He was an interesting character and struck me very much as an Elon Musk sort.

Marzie: I didn’t… trust him. Not sure I do even now. I wonder if Jax is a character we will see in future books?

Jenni: Well, I would imagine so. He was the one to raise the specter of planetary destruction and the metaphor for climate change, so if that is as real a threat in Max’s world as it is in ours, and Jax is as committed to solving the threat as he seemed, then I would fully expect to see him again.

Alex: And he had gobs of money and such chariiiiiisma. He was one of only two male characters to really DO much in the book too. Along with Isaak.

Marzie: Charisma and wanting Kai to work for him, yes. I wonder how far Max envisions the series ahead in terms of planetary destruction. Tough to write in combo with the worlds he’s created which he made me love. Isaak! Poor Isaak! I felt so bad for him when Issa had to lie to him. It was like she was tricking a puppy to get it to the vet or something.

Jenni: I doubt Kai will be working for Jax, but they might work together again as allies.

Marzie: Definitely. I think Kai is too smart to work for him.

Jenni: How about Izza going full Blue Lady Avatar?? The woman who ate the Wastes.

Marzie:  I LOVED seeing Issa come into her own in this book. She has evolved so much as a character and is so loyal and a good friend.

Alex: THAT was the ultimate heist in this book. The Blue Lady stole all the power she could need to go from a weak goddess in the shadows to full-blown BADASS.

Marzie: To me, Issa is a counterpoint to the Deathless Kings (and Queens, presumably). She has become imbued with the Blue Lady’s magic and power and she is being transformed by it, but differently from Craftworkers.

Alex: We’ve seen that before, with Temoc, transformed as an Eagle Knight, though Izza’s transformation appears less painful and intentional than the scarification ceremony that Temoc went through.

Marzie: Maybe the Blue Lady is a better, gentler goddess. And Izza reflects her demeanor. But Temoc’s life has, in some ways, been harder than Izza’s. I hope she retains her sensibility and sense of humanity. I really like Izza.

Alex: Which I find mildly hilarious, seeing as she’s the scion of the god of thieves and street kids, since that’s such a hard life.

Marzie: Honor among thieves? Because Issa is honorable. Actually, I loved that many of these women had their own unique code and sense of honor in this book.

Jenni: Even if Gal’s made me want to scream!

Marzie: Gal was… puzzling in her way. That scene where she decides she’s breaking out after all reminded me of that scene in the movie Serenity (the Firefly film sequel) when Kaylee deciding she’s “going to live!” through the Reaver attack so she can survive to make out with Simon Tam. LOL

Jenni: Oh, Gal’s code, as Raymet says, is extremely simple. I loved that deciding that Raymet was her lady allowed her to utilize a legalistic loophole. Overly lawfully good characters tend to be rules lawyers if they’re going to survive.

Marzie: That seemed like a mighty convenient loophole but I liked it. I really don’t think Gal wants to die at all, frankly.

Jenni: Oh, I’m sure she doesn’t want to die. But what she wants has almost nothing to do with it. I might just possibly know someone with a code like this in real life… <grinds teeth>

Alex: I don’t think Gal wants to die either. I think she is going through the motions of following orders, and she may have wanted to die when she first got to Agdel Lex/Alikand, but once she met Raymet, changed her mind about how hard she was going to try to follow those orders.

Jenni: I don’t even think she’s going through the motions. She threw herself headfirst into the most dangerous thing she could do in Agdel Lex/Alikand. It’s just that she’s such a badass that nothing comes even close to killing her.

Marzie: I think she actually enjoys delving. She was punished for doing the moral thing and now she’s really enjoying doing something dangerous and illegal because she’s so damn good at it.

Jenni: I think she enjoys delving because it’s throwing herself in the path of danger. She was practically beatific when she got to take on all those Wreckers in the Wastes. Like, “Finally! A real fight!”

Alex: Well, I mean, what rational person wouldn’t feel great whaling on a Wrecker? /shudders/

Jenni: I think a lot of rational people would be afraid when they’re badly outnumbered and facing defeat. She said flat-out that she hoped that the Wreckers would finally be the ones to kill her.

Marzie: I think Gal felt it was an opportunity for great glory!

Jenni: Gal’s not a glory hound. You don’t run with an illegal organization that operates in the shadows if you’re after glory and fame, lol.

Alex: Not fame, just glory. Her kind of glory doesn’t make sense to anyone not from Camlaan anyway.

Marzie: I meant it in in that sense, yeah. Her glorious refusal to submit, to fight on against all odds. Yes, Seriously Camlaanders are NUTS.

Jenni: I wonder if we’re going to go there in a future story?

Alex: I really hope so! I want to visit alllllll the places. Except for Iskar. I’ve had enough of the Iskari.

Jenni: (Bleck!) Iskar? Ehno. That was a particularly disturbing metaphor for how we’re all drugged into insensible conformity by the intellectual diet of modern life.

Marzie: I would not enjoy more Iskari subplot, either. It would be cool to go to Camlaan, though, and this is another of the many questions I have for Max. Where do you think we’ll go next, Max? We have to see if he will be at WorldCon and would have time to be interviewed or if he would do email Q&A if he doesn’t have time there.

Alex: You know, going back to the characters, I kind of loved Fontaine, and her literally drugging her Squid Lord insensible in order to facilitate everything. That was particularly clever.

Marzie: I loved that bit with Fontaine, too, and I loved it when Kai finally understood what Fontaine was doing because she had been so repelled by the drug use at that point. That moment was her epiphany. That subplot was interesting, in a creepy sort of way. Drug your overlord! Ugh, those squids! Like something out of Aliens!

Jenni: Reminded me of an early episode of Buffy - Bad Eggs, I think it was called? Season 2. (And I suppose I just dated myself with THAT pop culture reference, lol)

Marzie: Oooh! I think I remember it, though not the title.

Alex: Nah, Buffy hit the millennials too. I watched a TON of it growing up, and then again in college.

Jenni: Why do you hurt me deep inside, Alex? LMAO You watched reruns growing up. Ouch.

Marzie: Listen, I watched the original Dark Shadows, people. And I was very angry that my parents wouldn’t let me see the movies in the theater.

Alex: The what now?

Jenni: Lol, what she said. Dark Shadows?

Marzie: How can you not know about Dark Shadows? Seriously, you guys?

Alex: Is that the terrible movie that was about vampires and had Johnny Depp in it? YES IT WAS OMG

Marzie:  No, not that! The original was a TV serial in the 1960’s and 70’s about vampires and ghosts and was absolutely formative of my love of vampires and ghosts and all things that go bump in the night, and just like the movie The Three Lives of Thomasina was with love of animals. I loved how creepy and campy Dark Shadows was.

Alex: Well, we don’t want to digress too much, you guys…

Marzie: So I wonder how long we will have to wait to see more Craft Sequence? I think Empress of Forever is a totally different universe.

Alex: It is! It’s a SPACE OPERA!

Marzie: I’m excited! But I do want more Craft Sequence. I need more Elayne, more Kai and more Tara and Issa. Just…. More!

Alex: Me too, and from his comment on Goodreads, I believe he intends for there to be more. It just depends on Tor.Com

Marzie: But how old was that comment. I think I remember that from like one or two years ago?

Alex: Not super recent, but I believe he’s repeated that on Twitter recently, as well. The ball’s in Tor.com’s court.

Marzie: We will just have to ask him. We should tweet about it to Tor.com. As Seanan McGuire says, you need to tell publishers you want more of a series.

Jenni: That’s true.

Marzie: Any final thoughts about Ruin?

Alex: On my first readthrough, Ruin of Angels became my favorite of the series, but now, having reread the series, I’m dropping it to #2. Four Roads Cross is my new #1.

Jenni: This book was certainly a departure in texture and plot from the previous entries in the series.

Marzie: This book definitely feels like the opening of Act 2 in the Sequence. And I’d place it as tied for second. Probably. Maybe I’m still in love with Full Fathom Five and Four Parts Dead. And you know, I missed Shale! I kept wondering if he would show up.

Jenni: I missed several characters from Alt Colomb. Abelard, for one.

Alex: Yes, I really need my Tara+Shale ship to come to harbor.

Marzie: I love the Tara and Shale dynamic, too. But you know, I do kind of wonder what’s up with those “idealists” at Two Serpents. We haven’t seen Caleb in such a long time.

Jenni: I wonder what Shale will make of Tara apparently having gone part metal-skinned, or something? Did anyone else note the brief reference to that at the end of the book?

Marzie: Yes, I wondered about that. It’s an interesting development that might intrigue Shale.

Alex: Yes, and I thought it interesting that arms transforming seems to be a common thing in fantasy, after expending amazing amounts of power.*

Marzie: You know, I just checked and Max’s comment on Goodreads about 10-13 books in The Craft Sequence and it was actually last fall!? Definitely made after the publication of Ruin. I hope that’s true. I’m impatient for more. I’m down for asking Tor.com!

Alex: All we can do is speculate and email Tor.com.

Marzie: And ask we shall! Jenni, thanks for reading with us! This is an awesome Buddy group and I hope that we can reconvene later this summer for reading Naomi Alderman’s The Power.

Jenni: Thanks for having me! Looking forward to it!

*Two to one, Alex is referring to The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin!

Our Buddy Read for August 2018:

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