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 Power by Naomi Alderman

While some who aren't used to reading sci-fi or fantasy may dismiss the premise, Naomi Alderman is working at the core of what science fiction is supposed to do; she is taking this story and using it as a mirror, showing us something in ourselves that we can't see in the normal sort of mirror, showing us something in the world that we're too accustomed to the normal world to see.

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Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Like everything else by Octavia Butler that I've ever read, this book is simultaneously masterful, eye-opening, and disturbing. On one hand we have Anyanwu, an immortal, black, female protagonist who places strong values on family--both found and blood--community, and humanity. On the other hand we have Doro, the male immortal who lives by killing, who brings communities of different people together to breed both prey and companions for him, and his domination over Anyanwu through threats to her children. It's uncomfortable, but real, to see a strong, competent, powerful woman have to submit to a monstrous man to stay alive and protect her family.

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Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Like Annihilation before it, Borne is a slow book, a rich book. It's intense, it demands that you take your time with it, because every word has been painstakingly chosen and put together to create not only meaning, but feeling that runs deep, and an intuitive understanding that runs even deeper. Every instant that you spend reading it is worth it and more, though.

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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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Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

A friend of mine observed that I don't do things by halves after watching me add every single piece of fiction in the Expanse universe to by To-Read list after finishing both seasons of the TV show and getting about 70% of the way through Leviathan Wakes. The truth is, I do some thing by halves; there are series of books that I enjoy, but that I've been dragging my heels on for years for one reason or another. I let goals go half-completed, and even more often I abandon TV shows mid-season if they haven't sufficiently hooked me. But The Expanse is not one of those things.

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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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Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Oh man does this book have a lot going on. Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer is the second book in her Terra Ignota series. It is beautifully written, and imagines a futuristic world that is as close to a realistic utopia as I have seen so far, a world that I would choose to live in in a heartbeat--and then shows us it's rotten core, the ways in which we didn't really outgrow our issues with religion, gender, sex, power, and war, lets it tear itself apart in front of our eyes. 

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All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha wells is a short, snappy read with great characters, plenty of action, and an entirely compelling main character. Now let me get to the important part: I love Murderbot. Murderbot is a security robot/biological hybrid rented out by a crappy company to a scientific research expedition as part of the terms of insuring the expedition. It calls itself Murderbot.

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Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

If you want the story of why Leia Organa left the senate of the New Republic to found the Resistance, and how she first found out about the threat of the First Order, this is the book for you. I read this book over the New Years long weekend while also moving for the second time in a couple of months, and it was just the kind of book that I needed in that scenario; a world and characters that I was already comfortable and invested in and competent writing that didn't ask too much of the reader.

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