The Cover Made Me Read It: The Dream Protocol: Descent by Adara Quick

The soft, vintage tones. The flowy dress. The dramatic clockwork moth. The lovely font on the cover. I had to read this.

The premise: Diedre is a teen in a futuristic underground city where the caste system is all, sleep and dreams are manufactured by the elites, and anyone who turns 35 is eliminated from the system. In a dystopian world frantically obsessed with youth, Diedre’s best friend, Flynn, was born with a genetic condition that ages him prematurely. If anyone finds out, he’s as good as dead.

Impressions: I was looking for some Lana Del Rey summertime sadness with this – a touch of hipster, a bit of romantic subplot, a dash of dystopia.

Instead, and despite the incredibly clever world concept, the novel reads like a kind of morality tale, in which teen characters speak out against the system in eloquent, full sentences and rhetorical questions. Continue reading

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[Book Review] A sleepless night and a clever, clever book

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

28418764“I’m just gonna read 15 pages before bed.”

Famous last words, right? 275 words later, I’d polished off this clever fairy-tale and it was way past my bedtime.

Here’s the setup:  Maire lost her memory four years ago but managed to make a life for herself in a small town. Then she loses her bakery. Then her family. Then her freedom. As a slave to a deranged master, the only thing Maire has left is her mysterious ability to infuse her cooking with her magic. The ante goes way up as her new master forces her to use her magic for evil purposes.

Add in a winged spirit-creature and maybe-lover, lots of gingerbread, vicious marauders, escape attempts and cosmic creation.

With a bakery set-up (and the girly cover), I was expecting chic-flick lite – something whimsical and dramatic and funny. But the story was darker, deeper and more mature than I expected, certainly far from humorous. It moved between themes of compassion and forgiveness to real moments of bleakness despair. Everything that happens in fantasy adventure happened, but with a this is real life, and it’s not always pretty turn to it. It was an odd and clever combo of low fantasy grit and lovely fairy tale.

We follow resilient, strong-hearted Maire through her trials. It’s a spark of Cinderella minus prince, with a dash of amnesia, a sprinkling of abduction and torture, with a side helping of a strong current of importance-of-family. Think: a grittier Robin McKinley.

That said, in an odd way, things came both too hard to Maire, and too easy. What could have had simple answers, took the entirety of the book. When the book decided to be hard on Maire, it didn’t do things halfway.

The mystery kept me reading, but I figured a bunch of things out way ahead of the big reveal, so there wasn’t much to feed the mystery-guesser in me until the very, very end.

Overall, I’m of mixed opinion on the story. It’s a cool story that explores some pretty dark and deep places. But…Take all that together, give it a shake, and you get a canary rating that’s a bit mixed. I’d recommend this to anyone wanting traditional fantasy + romance lite + a smart, mature character with a Jane Eyre level of compassion in the face of suffering.

Canary rating:

(I enjoyed the read, but I probably wouldn’t pick up a sequel…)

Book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My year of Non Fiction

Canary friends! Remember when I posted about how great it would be to diversify my own reading, dip my toes into some non fiction, try some new stuff out?* The dip turned out to be an all inclusive two-year stay.

But I’m back now. Fantasy and sci-fi, here I come.

2015-2016 Books Read List:

 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Under and Alone by William Queen Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn Everything is Obvious by Duncan J. Watts The Immortal Game by David ShenkAll the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister Ghettoside by Jill Leovy Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny LawsonCathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty Animal Wise by Virginia Morell Being Mortal by Atul Gawande Pandemic by Sonia Shah The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami Rising Strong by Brené BrownThe Big Short by Michael Lewis I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling Bad Feminist by Roxane GayThe Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling Originals by Adam M. GrantWaste-Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders Spinster by Kate BolickDark Money by Jane Mayer Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari Never Broken by JewelSounds Like Me by Sara BareillesEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery America Again by Stephen Colbert Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss Kitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainDaring Greatly by Brené Brown Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson Yes Please by Amy Poehler You're Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day First Bite by Bee WilsonMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem A Brief History of Creation by Bill Mesler Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell Grain Brain by David PerlmutterDays of Rage by Bryan Burrough When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew  Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim Working Stiff by Judy Melinek Kill Chain by Andrew CockburnThe Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee Endurance by Alfred Lansing Surprise by Tania Luna Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey Moody Bitches by Julie HollandThe Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter Future Crimes by Marc GoodmanIt Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell Made to Stick by Chip Heath It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario The Powerhouse by Steve Levine Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill LeporeHow Google Works by Eric Schmidt Angry Optimist by Lisa Rogak Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo Switch by Chip Heath The $100 Startup by Chris GuillebeauBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel Drive by Daniel H. Pink Blink by Malcolm Gladwell Born to Run by Christopher McDougall How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters by Andrew Shaffer

 

*This is why I am not allowed to have reasonable sounding goals anymore. These things escalate quite quickly.

[ Pitch Slapped ] Dragons and the Perks of Being Straightforward

Let’s face it. The best stories are complex, convoluted little things. We love it when fantasy and sci fi attack the usual tropes from new angles and make the weirdest premises feel completely natural. That’s the wonder of it. But trying to put these ideas into a story’s blurb can be a real challenge. There’s barely enough space to write out the bare bones of plot – and that’s without that extra paragraph saying “Wait, wait, this makes sense and it’s actually really cool!” What to do?

But before we get into that, let’s see this week’s blurb from Amy Rareberth Mead’s dark epic fantasy novel, Dragon Marked: Continue reading

[Pitch Pecking] Is this on your to-read list? – Vote! –

First started by Madison Woods, here is the reader-feedback Pitch pecking series, “Vote for it”. Every week, we give out blog over to a 25-word elevator pitch sent in by authors. Readers of our blog have the opportunity to vote for whether the 25-word blurb makes them curious or not about the book. Would they buy it?

“Authors, what we’re measuring is reader interpretation. What does someone think of your book when they read your short blurb? Does it make them want to buy it or at least read further? Editors and publishers may look at these blurbs differently, but ultimately, they’re readers too.” (Madison Woods)

So what happens now? Read the pitch/blurb below and then vote if you think you’d be interested enough buy the book. Though the voting is anonymous, leave a comment and help the author get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t! Continue reading

Book Review: The two McCaffrey, and dragons in the sky

Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey

If I have a soft spot for a series, it’s the Dragonriders of Pern. After Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series in middle school, the Pern books were my first foray into Fantasy cum Science Fiction. Somewhere along the road, though, my attention drifted. McCaffrey began co-writing the books with her son, Todd McCaffrey, and I started seeing other novels. But when I saw the cover of Sky Dragons this June, I couldn’t resist. Sky Dragons is also the last Pern book written by the late Anne McCaffrey.

So. Eight books have gone by since I stopped reading. A lot has gone down. Dragonrider politics is a-broiling, time travel is glitchy, and there just aren’t enough dragons to keep the planet safe from the deadly falling space parasite called Thread. So the dragon riders jump back in time to the southern continent to raise dragon hatchlings so they can grow up in time to battle the deadly Thread when it begins to fall.

What should have been a simple and fool-proof plan becomes a Lost-style (well, not quite) struggle for survival. Xhinna, a rare female rider of a blue dragon is shoved into the role of leader, against all tradition. Supplies are running out.

The predatory creatures from the wilds are going after the eggs. It is no longer a question of training the next generation of dragonriders – the very survival of the new settlement  is at stake. Continue reading