Required Reading – The Raves: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve got a post on the RRFS blog today for the series we’re doing, talking about classic books we love. Come on over to see me flail about Pride and Prejudice!

The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time because of the 2005 movie. It was one of the classics I’d missed during high school, and I’d never bothered to pick it up because I figured it would be similar to Wuthering Heights (which, by all accounts, sounded like something that would drive me crazy to try and read) or Rebecca (which was good, but depressing).

However, I watched the movie because it had been nominated for an Oscar and I was trying to watch all the Oscar-nominated movies before the awards were given out. And I was stunned by how much I loved it. The next time I was at the used bookstore, I found a copy of Pride and Prejudice, and I immediately picked it up.

And I’m glad I did, because it made Jane Austen one of my favorite writers.

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Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

jsmnIt might have taken me seven months (March-September 2016), but I finally finished one of the longest books I’ve ever read. The paperback version was more than 1000 pages, a veritable brick of a book to take with me when I went out. I read it in bits and pieces, 5 pages here, 10 pages there. During a road trip in May I got through a whopping 40% of it.

Honestly, by the time I was about halfway through, finishing was as much a point of pride as it was to see how the story would wrap up.

I am speaking, of course, of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

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Quickie Book Reviews: M/M and Historical Romance!

I’ve been burning through a lot of books this past month (I’m currently in the midst of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I am LOVING), so here are a few quick reviews of some of the books I’ve been reading! There’s a contemporary m/m romance, a science fiction m/m romance, and a historical m/f romance. All links are Amazon links, but they’re not affiliate links.

thebonesofyouThe Bones of You by Laura Stone

The Bones of You is a pleasant reconciliation story about Oliver, a grad student finishing up his master’s degree in Cambridge, unexpectedly reconnecting with his high school boyfriend, Seth, who has gone on to make it big on Broadway.

It’s been five years since they broke up, and when they run into each other again, it’s pretty clear their feelings haven’t gone away. But the same things that broke them up are still issues, and the big question is whether Oliver and Seth will be able to make it work.

It was very, very sweet, though I was never terribly worried about whether Oliver and Seth would figure their shit out. They just worked too well together not to.

My favorite character, though, was Big Mike, Seth’s gigantic motorcycle-riding father. He was so genuinely kind and loving and proud of his son that it brought tears to my eyes. My favorite scene in the whole novel was the New Year’s party at his house.

There wasn’t much conflict, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I did wish it had been a little harder to figure out how things would shake out at the end. You just knew everything was going to be all right. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable story.

thestarhostThe Star Host by F.T. Lukens

The Star Host is a fast-paced science fiction story that reminded me of Firefly at times. Ren is a duster, someone who was born on a planet, even though he dreams of seeing the stars. Those dreams are dashed pretty quickly when he, and several of the other teenagers and children in his village, are conscripted into service for the villainous baron, who’s trying his level best to take over the entire planet.

It’s while he’s in captivity that Ren meets Asher, a drifter who’s been held captive for over a year, and they realize they’ll have to get out together to thwart the baron’s plans.

I thoroughly enjoyed the worldbuilding in this story and the legends of the star hosts (people who have special powers granted by the stars), and I really liked Ren dealing with his newfound powers. His relationship with Asher starts out antagonistic before they each come to rely on the other, and I liked how believably it was built. Even though there is a romance between them, it’s not really as large a part of the story as the “stop the baron” plot, and that worked very well for me.

I really loved it once they got off the planet and started hopping between space stations. I wished we could have seen more of how the larger universe was set up, because what we did see was really cool. I’m really, really looking forward to the rest of the series.

thedukeandiThe Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is one of the mainstays of historical romance, and I’ve heard so much about her Bridgerton series–of which this is the first–that I was very much looking forward to The Duke and I. Ultimately, despite the witty writing and hijinks that made me laugh out loud at times, the book had some issues that made it difficult for me to totally enjoy.

The biggest of these was the head-hopping, the way she drifted between Simon’s and Daphne’s viewpoints in such a way that it made it difficult for me to remember whose head I was in. I can’t count the number of times I had to go back and reread, trying to identify where the switch happened. And while I liked Simon and Daphne together overall, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the resolution of their relationship for a number of reasons.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the overprotective older brothers in Anthony, Benedict, and Colin, although thankfully they did get told off numerous times by both Daphne and her mother.

However, I can see why people enjoy the Bridgerton family; their family dinners and outings were hilarious and I really did like the messy, loving family dynamic between all of them. When the older brothers WEREN’T being overprotective nitwits, I really liked them as well.

So it was good, but I don’t think I’ll go hunting up the rest of the Bridgerton series just yet.

What have you all been reading lately? Any books I should add to my list?

Book Revew: Redshirts by John Scalzi

redshirtsRecently Eris and I were talking about dealbreakers, things that ruin a story for us and make us drop a book. One of the things she mentioned was pointless death being something that made her run for the hills.

Appropriate, I suppose, that right before that conversation I had started reading Redshirts, a book wherein the “pointless” deaths are actually the entire point of the plot.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology, a “redshirt” is “a stock character in fiction who dies soon after being introduced. The term originates from the original Star Trek (NBC, 1966–69) television series in which the red-shirted security personnel frequently die during episodes. Redshirt deaths are often used to dramatize the potential peril that the main characters face.” (thanks, Wikipedia!)

It is almost impossible to talk about this book without spoiling the hell out of it, because so much of what makes it work is essentially a giant plot spoiler. However, I will do my best, because Redshirts is one of the funniest, most entertaining science fiction books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

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Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

theghostbrideThe Ghost Bride was something of an impulse purchase. It was featured in a books-on-sale newsletter I get, and I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket. So a novel set in late 19th-century Malaysia, about an old Chinese custom so rarely performed that few people even knew it was a thing? This was 100% up my alley.

And I’m glad, because it was a wonderful story, with some lovely description and an absolutely fascinating setting, well worth reading.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

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Book Review – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

the-100-thousand-kingdomsI first heard about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms on the Writing Excuses podcast, when the crew was talking about magic systems. They mentioned that the magic system in the book didn’t have a lot of explicit rules (at least, not to the level that Brandon Sanderson does in his novels), but that it was okay because the story didn’t need it.

So, when it went on sale for 99 cents, I snapped it up. I’m glad I did, because this book was amazing, and I have been gushing about it to literally EVERYONE who has asked “So, read any good books lately?”

Yeine is the leader of Darre, a small, matriarchal kingdom in the north. After her mother’s death, she’s summoned to Sky, the capital of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, where she’s named as heir to the throne.

The problem is, two other heirs have already been named, which, as Yeine herself puts it, makes her “two heirs too many.” But the battle for the throne is not the only battle going on in this duplicitous city, and unbeknownst to her, Yeine is about to play a much larger part in both than she ever suspects.

Yeine is easily the best thing about the book. I loved her voice, I loved the way she told her story, I loved how completely and utterly out of her depth she was and how she still managed to fight her way through. Her talents are not, at first glance, well-suited to the deeply political situation in Sky, but by God, Yeine learns fast and makes the most of what she has. She screws up, but she doesn’t shy away from fixing her mistakes, and she’s willing to go to great lengths to protect the land and people that she loves so much.

Fantasy novels aren’t often told solely in first person (and if they are, it’s usually a mixture of first and third), but The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is entirely from Yeine’s point of view and it works wonderfully.

It’s woven with an art that shows you she’s jumping back and forth in time, interspersed with interesting asides and digressions, but it never gets dull and it’s never confusing. It’s so well-written that you just want to swim in it and roll around in the words.

I also loved the mythology of the world. We get a lot of stories about the gods’ history and the way the world came into being, how everything got to the way it is now. And it’s not just worldbuilding added for flavor; it’s all important, vital pieces of a puzzle that we need in order to understand what’s happening in the story.

There’s a very strong theme of love and family running through the novel: how you can love someone and hate them in equal measure, love someone and still betray them, how even families that have been broken can still be mended.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a rich, lovely fantasy novel that, on the one hand, I want to gush about for ages. On the other hand, half the fun of the book is the discovery, learning things as Yeine does, and I don’t want to rob anybody of that joy. If you’re looking for a new fantasy novel, pick this one up as soon as you can. It’s so, so worth the read.