March 2020 Wrap-Up

March started out a crappy year for reading. Spring Break happens mid-March, which means EVERY class decides the week prior to Spring Break it’s time for another exam. Which is not conducive to reading. And then the quarantine announcements came and suddenly studying looked much less appealing and books and alcohol much more.

The end of March also means the end of the r/Fantasy Book Bingo Challenge, which, until the beginning of the month, I had completed about half of. And so came the creative shuffling of squares (read:  ‘yeah I think the book I read almost a year ago had a vampire character probably?’ and the like) and the speed-reading of a shit-ton of novellas. With 23 hours to go, I did manage to finish it and you can read about my full bingo card here!

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r/Fantasy 2019 Bingo Wrap-up

The /r/Fantasy Bingo is a yearly Bingo hosted on the /r/Fantasy subreddit, created by Lisa from WayTooFantasy. Like the name implies, this is a 25-square book-themed Bingo with each square holding a different challenge. Each author can only be used once and only one square can be a re-read. The challenge runs from 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020. An empty card can be found here.

As an extra challenge, almost every square comes with a ‘hard mode’ challenge. These can be anything from ‘don’t read XX’ book to ‘read a book with <50 ratings on GR’. In the card below, squares that complete hard mode are denoted in yellow.

I completed 2018’s card fairly easily, so I didn’t think 2019 would be much different. By mid-June, I was in a pretty good spot, with 9/25 squares filled. And then I hit the biggest reading slump of my life, didn’t touch another book till January, read about a book/per month. So, thank the gods for this quarantine because I would not have had time otherwise? I read 9 books in about a week in a half get this card finished, but alas, I have succeeded! Also novellas. Novellas carried my ass.

Below, you’ll find mini-reviews for each book read and links to full reviews if available. I do plan on writing full reviews for all but the Code Geass light novel and possibly Artemis Fowl.Read More »

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

36686547Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…

****

Review:

de Bodard delights again in a perhaps the oddest retelling of Sherlock Holmes I’ve yet to encounter. The Tea Master and the Detective was both a fun and trippy reading experience.Read More »

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker

44774415. sy475 A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

****

Review:

I ADORED this comic. Nova and Tam are freaking adorable, the art is here is super cute, and just the overall story is very fun and sweet. This book first crossed my radar for its Chinese American rep (see, the title), and I was delighted to see the wealth of diversity in this book. Nova is hard-of-hearing while Tam is non-binary. There’s also Nova grandmothers, who are the sweetest yet extremely badass goddamn people in the entire world. Also Nova’s a witch and Tam’s a werewolf. Amazing. I loved the development of Nova and Tam’s relationship throughout the story. Yeah. This was just extremely adorable. If you’re looking for something cute and fluffy to read while the world is burning, this is the book. Overall, I rate this book a 4/5.Read More »

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918. sy475

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

****

Review:

Another one of the ‘novella that’s been sitting in my Kindle forever and I’m finally pulling it out for a bingo card’ books, I found Binti thoroughly enjoyable. Binti, a brilliant if impulsive 16-year-old is the first of her people to leave her planet and attend the famed Oomza University. On the way, her ship gets attacked by some sapient…tentacle monster(?). Still not totally sure what the Meduse are but their tentacle-y description is very cool. Maybe they’re jellyfish?

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The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

49963594. sx318 sy475 Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular ‘Raise’ AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.

Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master’s dream for the shop.

When Clara stops by Sal’s shop for lunch, she doesn’t expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…

****

Review:

The Cybernetic Tea Shop was one of the first books that showed up on my radar when I began hunting for ace-rep. It has proceeded to sit on Kindle shelf for two years before a last-minute bingo rush meant the shorter the book, the better. There’s a lot to like in this novella. The characters are cute, their interactions are cute, tea is lovely, and also robots. And the ace rep very clearly present, along with an adorable f/f human/AI relationship that I wasn’t expecting going in. All positives. However, in the thirty minutes it took me to finish, I learned that I absolutely cannot stand the Slice of Life genre. Nothing happened. I was bored. And that’s entirely on me. For readers who enjoy any of the aspects listed above, I’m sure you’ll love this novella. It just wasn’t for me. Overall, I rate this book a 4/5 because not liking Slice of Life is my fault, not the book’s.

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Ninth Step Station by Malka Ann Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen

42416669. sy475 A local cop. A US Peacekeeper. A divided Tokyo.

Years of disaster and conflict have left Tokyo split between great powers.

In the city of drone-enforced borders, bodymod black markets, and desperate resistance movements, US peacekeeper Emma Higashi is assigned to partner with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda.

Together, they must race to solve a series of murders that test their relationship and threaten to overturn the balance of global power. And amid the chaos, they each need to decide what they are willing to do for peace.

****

Review:

My second serial from Serial Box and I absolutely loved it! Ninth Step Station starts from the traditional police drama ‘”You’re getting a new partner.” “I don’t need a partner.” “Too bad you’re getting one anyway.”‘ scenario, and absolutely kills it. Emma and Miyako have amazing chemistry together and the two of them together (rocky relationship and all), really hold the story together. The culture clash between the two (Emma being the brash American and Miyako the more tempered Japanese) gets thoroughly explored and I loved how fleshed out each character became. Side characters like the other officers and officials at Ninth Step Station, officers Waverly and Santiago on the American side, and the various politicians get nicely fleshed out as well.

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A Quarantine TBR

The US is recommending social distancing for the foreseeable future and my university has moved to online classes (with Senior Design and another robotics class basically crippled), so… books? Featuring my desperate last-ditch attempt to complete the /r/Fantasy 2019 bingo and books that have been sitting on my shelves for too damn long


The Black Tides of Heaven – JY Yang

For the ‘SFF Novel Featuring Twins’ square. I’ve had this one sitting in my Kindle library for a while and it certainly seems interesting.

33099588Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

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The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

42201962Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

***

Review:

The Deep tells a harrowing tale of a society of mermaids, the Wajinru, and centers around their Historian, Yetu. Because of the trauma of their origin, the Wajinru are forgetful creatures, unaware of their past and history. One member of their society is designated to keep the memories of their people, retell those memories when the mermaids start feeling existential.

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This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

36516585._sx318_Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

*****

Review:

As a blogger, you occasionally come across a book where, upon completion, you think to yourself: I have no idea how to review this. This is How You Lose the Time War is one of those books. How do I review a book who’s plot I barely managed to follow, who’s prose both captivated and confused me, and who’s world-building confused the everloving fuck out of me? Well, I suppose I’ll start with the basics.Read More »