Weekly Ramble One: Change in Format, and a Vacation

I didn't like devoting this blog entirely to book reviews, and I also didn't like posting the reviews separately since they're so very short, so I'm going to try out a little change in format. I'm going to start doing a weekly check-in post here on the blog; it'll update you on what I've been up to, how my writing is going, and what books I've reviewed in the past week.

I lost a couple of writing days this week to a short vacation that my partner and I took to Chicago. I did some writing on the plane out, but as per usual, didn't manage to get any writing done while I was in Chicago, or on the way back. I could make excuses about how I was tired and busy and there wasn't time but lets be honest, my current project is "fun" until I get to start the second draft of my novel (start date: November 1). I finished the first draft of a novel this year. It's well within my rights to take a couple of days off and really enjoy being back in Chicago, my favorite city in the world. So there.

Anyway, we got back on Tuesday and while I did a little bit of writing on Wednesday, I didn't really feel like I got back into the swing of things until Thursday. This "short project" is really starting to stretch as I get deeper and deeper into the details of the world, but I really do hope to keep it at novella length. Fingers crossed, folks. I added 2,699 to the current project's word count this week, for a total wordcount of 12,332. Here's hoping I can wrap it up before 40,000! (But seriously, though, Ursula and Ariel haven't even met yet, what am I doing, HELP.)

Something else I've been thinking about: do I want keep the names Ursula and Ariel? In the Andersen original they're just "The Sea Witch" and "The Little Mermaid" so really I could name them whatever I want, and I do want to make it clear that this is not Disney's The Little Mermaid. It probably would be smart to change their names.

In any case, here are the books I reviewed this week (Not the books I read this week, because I'm suuuuuper behind on book reviews. I'm trying to do a review a weekday until I'm caught up.):

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

One of the best books I've ever read, and more than deserving of the Hugo that it received. N.K. Jemisin is a genius writer, and tackles both big themes and unique POV shifts while making the book seem like it was easy to write, and I can guarantee it was not, even though it may be easy to read--easy in that it's easy to understand, not easy emotionally. Every book in this series has hit me right in the feels, and messed me up a ton. If you've read the other books in this series, you know what you're in for; if you haven't yet, you absolutely should, because you're missing out.

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

This book was not my thing, but I can't fault the book. It is well-written with some well-thought-out, if slightly predictable, worldbuilding, and some less predictable (and much more interesting) moral questions regarding genetic engineering and sports. I have to admit that I skimmed the fight scenes; I tend to lose interest during action scenes in movies too, so pure action just really isn't my thing. Plus the predictable (again) love story did nothing for me. Again, though, heterosexual love stories haven't been doing it for me recently. Sue me.

To be honest, this book was a little too predictable and safe for my taste. I can't fault it, though, because that's a me thing, not a this book thing. If boxing in space with genetic engineering & late teenage romance sounds fun to you, give it a shot. It's well-written and good fun. If you've been spoiled and hunger for something a little stranger like me, pass this one by.

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger

I have a couple of friends who have been on my to read something by Gail Garriger for a while now, and having read Romancing the Inventor, I can say without a doubt that they were right, this was exactly to my taste. I read this in a single day while on vacation, and it was possibly the perfect vacation book for me. Sweet and short and super queer, with an adorable little happy ending to wrap it up. I'll definitely be saving Gail Carriger for the next time I need something relaxing and sweet.

The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang is one of the two standalone introductions to their Tensorate series. Both it and The Red Threads of fortune can be read independent of each other, but run parallel to each other. It's a fascinating construction for the start of a series, but I can't speak to how well it works yet, because so far I've only read one of the two books. Sorry guys!

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

How does one sit down and review Ursula K. LeGuin? Honestly, I'm skeptical that I can do it, but I'll try. You don't sit down after reading one of her books for the first time and think about all the ways it could have been better. You even have a hard time sorting out the things you love, because it was all just so good.

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Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This book was an absolute delight to read. It's short, it's sweet, and it's got just the right amount of darkness mixed in with the sweetness to make is something more. The characters are all a little broken, all children that went on adventures in worlds that were perfectly suited to them and then came back to the normal, everyday, world changed. Now they yearn for worlds that they can't get back to, whether that's because they aren't welcome anymore, or because the door back simply refuses to open.

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Miranda and Caliban by Jaqueline Carey

I've never read The Tempest, and maybe I should have before reading this book. I might have appreciated it more. Carey, as always, delivers beautiful prose, and that's the reason that I will keep reading Carey's books for as long as she keeps publishing them. Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a miss for me when it comes to the romance and the story, mostly because of the narrative's treatment of Caliban, which made me increasingly uncomfortable.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Oh man did I ever luck into a run of good books last week. First The Steerswoman, then Exit West, and now The Bear and the Nightingale. It's weeks like last week that make me thankful beyond belief that I'm alive and have so many new, exciting, and surprising books to read. I went into The Bear and the Nightingale with zero expectations, and couldn't have been more pleased with the Russian-flavored fantasy that I found.

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The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

I've learned not to skip over books in my to-read queue because the books that don't draw my attention, the books that I'm tempted to skip, that I put off because they're not well known and no one I know personally is talking about them, are often the books that take me by surprise and present me with something unique and wonderful that I never knew that I wanted until I opened the book. The Steerswoman is one of those books.

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The Young Queens by Kendare Blake

I enjoyed the other installments in Kendare Blake's *Three Dark Crowns* series enough to preorder this novella, and I can't say that I regret that I spent the money. This was an interesting little installment in the story of the three queens, and a nice amount of background that fleshed out and clarified a couple of things that the first two books revealed but didn't get into in great depth.

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The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

There are some series where I worry whether or not the second book will measure up to the wonder and majesty of the first book. *The Obelisk Gate* was never one of those books. *The Fifth Season* was so good, so interesting, and so engrossing, and Jemisin's mastery of her craft was so obvious that it never crossed my mind to worry about whether or not Jemisin could keep it up. I'm glad to say that she did not let me down in any way.

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In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan is the fourth book in Brennan's The Memoirs of Lady Trent series, and it is, in my opinion, the best one that I've read so far. Much as life gets better as you get older and get to know both yourself and the world around you a little better (and you give less of a fuck about what anyone else thinks of you), the Lady Trent books only improve as Isabella grows and becomes more sure of herself and less willing to put up with a world that consistently devalues her work and opinions because of her gender.

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Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Warning: this review contains spoilers. 

I know that I have a lot of friends who love this series of books, and several of them have assured me that the third and final book is better than this second book, and that I will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did the second book. For that reason, and that reason alone, I will get around to reading the third book in this series. Eventually. If you're one of those people that loved this book, despite its flaws, you should probably leave now, with those assurances.

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Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

I remember reading *Shades of Milk and Honey*, the first book in this series, on my honeymoon in Ireland. I found it charming, and with its premise of illusion-based magic in an Austen-like setting, it was exactly the right sort of book to read in a charming bed-and-breakfast in Galway, or for one memorable night, in an actual castle that had been converted to a hotel. I liked the book well enough, and figured that I'd come back to the series at some point. One thing led to another, and, well, it's been at least four years since my honeymoon, and I'm only just getting back to book two.

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Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Oh boy is this book an *experience*. I mean that both in the best possible way, and in the way that warns you that this book is more interested in being a sensory experience and than anything action-heavy or plot driven. The writing in this book is luxurious - so luxurious, at times, that what is actually happening gets lost in whatever our current viewpoint character (and there are a lot of them) is currently feels or experiencing.

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