Friday, August 28, 2015

GB Readalong: Depression is a Bastard


Sorry this post is kind of late! Life was super crazy this week and I hardly had time to breathe, so this is an exhausted, emotional me trying to write a blog post that I think is really important.

I read this wonderful blog post on Relentless Reading about how Scott Lynch grappled with his depression and managed to finish his book. That book was The Republic of Thieves, and there is a lot about it that I understand a lot better now that I have more context for it.

How has your depression manifested in your books?
I like to think that since I’m now a member of that tribe, I’m a little more cognizant about how I portray mental illness. But the depression isn’t reflected in it per se, everything else I frickin’ went through during those years is in that book, though.Republic turned into a different book from what I started. That was the divorce. One of the most helpful things my mom said was that a divorce is like death. It’s like a third person in your life dies. And when I pulled myself back together and started writing again, I realized the story I was telling was not the one I started.I’d been with my wife for 12 years. She was my life and I thought I was going to be with her forever. And that was how I structured the book, I then got divorced and discovered that the happy ending does not come without a lot of work.So the Locke of the later version of Republic is a wiser individual. He’s a guy who has a romantic obsession and learns to deal with it in a fair fashion to the other person involved. The key line that he says to Sabitha in the book is “I understand that the fervor of a desire is irrelevant to its justice.”I acknowledge that you are another person, that you have needs — that you are not just another prize for me to win. I want you as badly as I did before, so tell me how to proceed and I will listen to you.That’s not the book that I set out to write in 2008. It adjusted my views on romance and the inevitability of puppy love lasting forever. I don’t think I’m more cynical, just more realistic and I think I have a more mature view.
When I first read The Republic of Thieves, I was infuriated by how fickle Sabetha was. She'd lead Locke on, then say no, "I choose not to be charmed" and then waltz away, leaving Locke dejected like a kicked puppy.

Now that I'm an older and wiser reader, and especially now that I have the context for Locke and Sabetha's relationship, I really like how Lynch chose to portray it. We're so used to fairy tale romances: you love someone, they may not like you at first but then they come around, everyone lives happily ever after. But sometimes real life doesn't work like that. Sometimes you really have to work at a relationship, and your feelings can be really freaking complicated.

When Locke tells Sabetha that he'll respect her decision either way, even though he wants more than anything for her to love him, you know he's growing up. This isn't the child who fixated on her red hair or who fantasized about her for years in her absence. This is a young man who realizes that Sabetha is a person and that their love isn't inevitable (just because you're the main character of a series doesn't mean you get a fairy tale romance. Interesting lesson, that :) ).

I also really appreciate how transparent Lynch has been about dealing with his depression and how that affects his books. Publicly announcing your depression is really hard, because there is so much stigma associated with mental illness. Lynch is unflinchingly honest about how depression has affected him and made it hard for him to get his books done by the deadlines. After all, when you have days when it's hard to find the will to live, how can you expect to find the will to write a book? This is why it took six years between Red Seas and Republic of Thieves, and it's also why Thorn of Emberlain is being released later than expected.

I had a period of depression during my freshman year of college. I felt intensely alone even when I was surrounded by my friends, I'd wake up crying and not know why I was sad, I couldn't concentrate in class or enjoy any of the things that usually cheered me up. It was really hard for me to deal with, because loneliness is something I have always been anxious about and in my first year away from home it really hit hard. Thankfully I found ways of dealing with it, largely thanks to a friend who also had experienced depression. I think the key for me was knowing that I wasn't alone.

What I experienced is probably not even a fraction of what Lynch is dealing with, and my respect for him grows tremendously when I think of how useless I was when I was dealing with depression. There was no way I would be creating anything as remotely entertaining or complex as The Gentleman Bastards series.

So yes, I'm disappointed that I'll have to wait even longer to see Locke and Jean again, but I would much rather wait for Scott Lynch to create the best story he can than force him to crank out a book by a deadline. I wish him the best of luck in conquering his demons and I'm looking forward to seeing Jean and Locke again.

After all, good things are worth waiting for, aren't they?


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train



22557272Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery, psychological thriller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


I really don't know what all the hype is about.

This is a good psychological thriller/mystery, but it doesn't stand out to me as amazing. It's not compulsively readable and addicting like Gone Girl, it's not as subtly creepy as Before I Go to Sleep, and the characters aren't as well developed as In the Woods. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, but I definitely wasn't blown away.

The titular girl on the train is decidedly unlikeable: Rachel is a compulsive liar and an alcoholic, with memory problems to boot. You spend most of the book watching bad decision after bad decision...she's a terribly unreliable narrator, and you're left to ponder what lies she is telling herself and what lies other people are feeding her. How much of her behavior is unhealthy obsession, and how much does she play the role of concerned citizen? Will helping someone else find their happily-ever-after help Rachel come to terms with the wreck of her own life?

Rachel's not the only deranged character in the novel. I don't want to spoil anything, but I enjoyed the other perspectives because they really hit home how people can appear to be perfectly happy and whole while hiding disturbing secrets.

I would recommend this book, but I would say don't let the hype raise your expectations too high!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 61: Worldbuilding 101



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten books on my syllabus for Worldbuilding 101

These are books with fantastic and intricately detailed worlds that have blown me away with their uniqueness, implications, or just plain awesomeness!


 7235533

No surprises here! Sanderson is a master of worldbuilding, and Roshar is no exception. Everything about it, from the spren to the politics to the gender roles to the magical creatures, has been carefully crafted to create one incredible world.
 20646731

This world blows me away with its complexity, not because of a crazy magic system  or magical creatures, but because of all the different cultures and their unique take on gender. Plus, parallel universes. Sold.
 Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage, #1)

I'll admit I thought this world was kind of cluttered at first because it had so much going on (powder mages, elementals, gods, manipulative false priests...) but this world is just plain awesome. I mean, magic in the time of gunpowder and guillotines. Awesomeness.
 Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)

Technically, the world in this series is our world just far in the future. But it's so believable that a mega-corporation is going to make us want to be young again in exchange for fighting in intergalactic wars. Okay, so maybe I'm not so convincing, but Scalzi definitely is!
 6319969

Considering the organ shortage and the number of wards of the state/"troublesome" kids we have, it's not really so crazy to imagine a world where teenagers are "unwound" and allowed to live "in a divided state" after being donated in pieces to other people in need. Thoroughly creepy and chilling, and what's even worse is that Shusterman includes real news articles that show us that we aren't as far away from this future as we might think. The world become increasingly complex and plausible as the series goes on, and I found it utterly terrifying.
 6597651

Speaking of terrifying, this book takes place in a future where climate change has flooded most of the world and very few plants survive. People are desperate for food, and the search for genetically modified seeds that can still grow in the wasteland of earth is intense. But plants aren't the only things being genetically modified...

As intricate as this world is, it's the characters I remember. Definitely worth a read.
 18490629

This book is really cool because it's portal fantasy and the fantasy world is an archipelago with a bunch of warring city-states. It's fun to see modern technology collide with the magical world, especially with our curious biologist protagonist. The politics of Stormwrack were really interesting, as is the magic system and the way the fantasy world intersects with the real world.
 234225

The world in this book is simply epic, and it's crazy how much the world influences the culture and implications of people's actions here. Mind-blowingly awesome!
 7649989

I may not be the biggest fan of this series, but I have to admit it's a very rich fantasy world with a very intriguing mythology. I'm not a fan of the characters in this book, but the worldbuilding is incredible!
 22544764

This is one of those books where the world is a character all on its own. Everything about this book is gorgeous and I cannot recommend it enough!

What are some of your favorite fantasy and sci-fi worlds?

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Monday, August 24, 2015

GB Readalong: Week 13




It's the last week of The Gentleman Bastards read-along!
The Giveaway winner will be announced at the bottom of this post :)

If you're just joining in, check out the intro post for the schedule and other details!

What we're reading this week

Republic of Thieves | Finish the book!

Recap from last week

Flashbacks: Boulidazi is appeased, Sabetha reveals the dangers of having red hair, Jean learns some tricks from Jenora, Locke takes on the role of Aurin. When Locke and Sabetha spend the night together, Boulidazi decides to find Jenora, with disastrous results. The Gentleman Bastards take charge and try and salvage the situation!

Present Day: Locke and Jean make their way back to Karthain, more political scheming, and more devious tricks between Locke and Sabetha on their dates. Patience makes THE BIG REVEAL (finally!). Meanwhile, mysterious Bondsmagi are plotting...something...

Observations/Theories/Questions


What do you mean Locke is actually a reincarnated bondsmagi??!?

Okay, second time around, I still don't know if I want to believe what Patience said or not. But more on that in the Food for Thought section!

The flashbacks were really intense this week too! The last thing you're expecting is a murder cover-up in the middle of all the preparations for the play, but that's exactly what happens. this series terrifies me sometimes because nothing is off limits: we've already lost some beloved characters, and now apparently being alive doesn't guarantee being sane or whole.

Food for thought:
  • The Big Reveal: I would like to have spent a whole discussion post on this, but there is something else really important I want to talk about in this week's discussion post, so this discussion will be right here.

    First of all, do you think what Patience says about Locke's past is true? It uncannily explains so much about his past, like why he can't remember anything before the Thiefmaker found him and how he survived the Catchfire plague. She also magically knows his secret name, the one he's only told Jean: But then again, Patience is a queen of manipulation and may just be messing with Locke and Sabetha to make Sabetha leave him. It's no secret that Patience and The Falconer had a rough relationship, but what kind of mother wouldn't want some form of revenge on the guy who gave her son a fate "worse than death"?

    Other reasons I have doubts about Patience's story: she mentions that Locke still has a hidden name that no one knows but himself. Yet, the creature from the deep in Red Seas speaks everyone's hidden name, but that creature also says "Lamor Acanthus" and not Locke's truly hidden name. That may be because Locke has lost his original hidden name by being reborn, but why would the creature call Locke by that name instead of his bondsmagi name if the creature knows people's true names? Also, Patience mentions that she is the one Locke remembers instead of his mother, but what would make her so special to the Bondsmagi that he remembres her after losing all his other memories?Well, I guess he didn't lose his memory of his wife's red hair, but his wife was the whole reason he started all the black magic nonsense. I can't see how Patience has that strong of a tie to him.

    But what if it really is true? Does knowing more about Locke's past change who he is now? I can't imagine Locke ever going back to torturing hundreds of innocents in order to find the secret to being reborn, even if that was what he did in a past life. The Locke we know has no memories of any of this, so he hasn't subconsciously been acting like his past self. Even if it's all true and Locke finally knows who he was, I don't think it changes who Locke is now. To quote from Patrick Ness, "We are the choices we make" and the Locke we know would never make those horrible choices (I hope).

    Thoughts?

Giveaway winner!


The winner of the Thorn of Emberlain Giveaway is Ashley! Congratulations, and hopefully we get an official release date on the book soon :)

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

GB Readalong: The baby Gentleman Bastards




One of my favorite things about this book is getting to know the Gentleman bastards as children and as they grow older. Obviously, I love that the flashbacks let me see Calo, Galdo, and Chains again, but I also love how they shed so much light on who the Gentleman Bastards are today.

The Thorn of Camorr

"The Rose of the Marrows, they'll say...."
"Are we all going to need stupid nicknames, then?" said Calo. "We could be...the Shrubs of the North."
"The Weeds of Vintila," said Galdo.
"And if you're a rose," said Caldo, "Lock's going to need something as well."
"He can be a tulip..."
"...Nah, if she's the rose, he can he her thorn. The Thorn of Camorr! Now that's got some shine to it!"
"That's the dumbest f---ing thing I've ever heard," said Locke.


Sabetha “Rose of the Marrows” and Locke “Thorn of Camorr”

Isn't it great how the fabled Thorn of Camorr actually originated as a bunch of Sanza nonsense? Locke's reaction is priceless, considering how we know things turn out. It's interesting to think about what changed to make Locke so proud to be called the Thorn. Maybe once Sabetha left, he still wanted to cling to some part of the past where they were still linked. Or maybe keeping the name was one big "eff you" to Sabetha after she left, showing her how good the Gentleman Bastards can be without her. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it and the name is nothing but the product of good old Sanza rumors.

In any case, I love that the name that is spoken in hushed whispers and becomes the stuff of legends has such mundane origins. Clearly the Sanzas are great at cooking up a story when they set their minds to it!

The Day Chains Blew Up

"you are not ordinary. You can pass for servants, farmers, merchants, nobles; you have the  poise and manners for any station. If I hadn't let you grow so callow, you might realize what an unprecedented personal freedom you all possess...I'll be damned before I'll let you forget what a gift you've been given in one another" p248, UK paperback of Republic of Thieves
Father Chains is really a saint. Not only does he raise a bunch of unruly kids who are convinced they're the cleverest creatures to ever walk the earth, he does it well. I must say, even if his methods are rather...unconventional, Chains does a fantastic job of licking the Bastards into shape when they need it.

The Gentleman Bastards have had an eventful childhood, to say the least, but Chains is right: until this point, they have never had to fully rely on one another. Sure, they stand up for each other against the other gangs and pull odd jobs, but they don't fully trust each other or believe in what they can do. It's fitting that they have to leave Camorr to find themselves and their trust in one another; it's a remarkably true, if cliche, statement that we don't realize what we have until it's lost. Without Chains to guide them and keep them from tearing at each others' throats, the Gentleman Bastards have to...well, grow up.

I thought it was interesting that Chains said he'd given them "unprecedented personal freedom" and then followed it with telling them that they were gifts to each other. It seems counter-intuitive that they only way you'd have total freedom is by leaning on other people, but it kind of makes sense. Together, the Gentleman Bastards can do anything they set their minds to: freedom.  If only they realized how lucky they really were!

It's kind of sad that Sabetha later dismisses Chain's upbringing as instilling weakness in all of them. She says Chains weakened them by giving them a streak of kindness and mercy. I can see how she might wish she were more cut-throat, considering the ruthlessness of most of the other Right People, but how dare she think of her kindness as a weakness? It's part of the freedom that Chains talked about, and the ability to trust and lean on other people. Now that Sabetha has left the Gentleman Bastards, maybe she feels like it's weakness to rely on anyone, but the fact that she calls her innate moral compass a liability still makes me so angry!

The Awkward Teenage Years, and Growing Up


I really like that the flashbacks of this book are full of the Gentleman Bastards' awkward teenage years. Usually in fantasy stories, the main characters are either teenagers that need to grow up instantly when thrown into horrific circumstances or world-weary adults that have traumatic pasts or troubling futures. There's not much room for just normal growing up when you are off on life-endangering magical quests and epic scale wars.

One of the things I love about this series is that the main characters are all just normal people*. No one is a "Chosen One" or has magical powers (outside of the Bondsmagi), and all the characters have time to enjoy life and play pranks on each other and be stupid angsty teenagers. There's nothing romanticized about any of this; we see the hormones raging (Locke's dreams, Sabetha's temper...) and  we see how absurd it is that the Sanza twins are trying their hardest to create their own individual identities. We empathize with the characters because we have/had our own insecurities growing up and we know how things that seem so stupid in retrospect can seem absolutely life-altering, but we don't actually think they're being reasonable.

I think that's one of the hardest things for an author to pull off: showing a character being angsty and stupid without making the reader think you're condoning that behavior. This comes into play with adult Locke as well, but more on that later. I think it's really hard to create the difference between what a character thinks about a situation and how the author wants you to perceive the situation, but Scott Lynch does it really well! I'm mostly think of YA paranormals and contemporaries, where angsty teenagers seem to be the norm and stupid/stalkerish/violent behavior is often portrayed as something attractive. In those cases, the angsty hormonal teenager makes some questionable decisions but we're supposed to root for them anyway and not think too hard about how unhealthy or ridiculous things are.

I guess what I'm trying (and probably failing to say) is that I like that Scott Lynch isn't afraid to take his characters down a peg. We have grown to love the Gentleman Bastards, but we can still see that they are flawed and perfectly human. We see adult Jean yelling at Locke about wanting to die when they're adults, and then a few pages later an ashamed Locke apologizing. These are characters who are always growing up, and it's great because it brings to mind this gem of a quote:



*Okay fine, debatable, but we can discuss next week!

What are your thoughts on the younger Gentleman Bastards? Do you sympathize or do you think they're just being stupid? Do you enjoy watching the characters grow up, with awkward phases in all their glory?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: Fool's Quest


23157777Title: Fool's Quest
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
After nearly killing his oldest friend, the Fool, and finding his daughter stolen away by those who were once targeting the Fool, FitzChivarly Farseer is out for blood. And who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained and deadly former royal assassin? Fitz might have let his skills go fallow over his years of peace, but such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten. And nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose… 


This was a lot more enjoyable than the first book in the series! It's probably because I finally read a few older books and know what's happening and because a lot more stuff happened in book 2 while book 1 was just set-up.

Fool's Quest picks up immediately after the events of Fool's Assassin. The Fool is deathly ill after Fitz' overreaction and Bee faces dangers she could never have imagined. This book is so emotional, and it really makes up for the lack of plot in book one. The first book was all about getting to know all the characters, and now that crazy things are happening to them, it's twice as emotional because you are invested in all of them. Even Shun and Lant, who I really didn't like in book 1, tugged at my heartstrings as they had to deal with the insanity that life threw their way. There were even a few new characters that I suddenly became very invested in, and I cannot wait to see how Ash's story in particular plays out. Every character grows up tremendously in this book and takes on unexpected roles, Fitz most of all.

I don't want to spoil things, but I will say that the one scene that actually moved me to tears was a happy scene and not a sad one. Although this book is dark and terrifying at times, there are plenty of warm fuzzies to get you through it as well.

I also really like how Robin Hobb blends the lines between gender and identity. We have the ambiguous Fool, a prophecied Son who is not necessarily a boy at all, more than one cross-dressing character, and a lot of men and women in non-traditional roles. No one is limited in their personality or identity because of traditional gender roles or stereotypes. If anything Robin Hobb just creates strong characters without any real emphasis on gendered behavior. Unlike most fantasy narratives, which say something along the lines of "This one is a man. A manly man. A manly man with muscles who all the ladies fawn over", Hobb just says "This is Fitz. Here is his story." and lets you fill in his personality through his actions instead of through preconceived expectations and stereotypes.

Robin Hobb is a master storyteller and I am so glad I have over a dozen more of her books to get through as I make my way through the past trilogies. I never want this series to end!

*A free e-copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Monday, August 17, 2015

GB Readalong: Week 12




The Republic of Thieves read-along continues! Also, don't forget about the Thorn of Emberlain Giveaway**!

If you're just joining in, check out the intro post for the schedule and other details!

What we're reading this week

Republic of Thieves | Part III Ch8-9 and interludes

Recap from last week

Flashbacks: The Gentleman Bastards travel to Espara and find out Moncraine is in jail. They con him out of jail but now have to keep the favor of the kind-of-sleazy Boulidazi. Rehearsals for THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES begin, with varying success for the bastards. Locke and Sabetha have a heart-to-heart that ends with Sabetha exploding and Boulidazi holding Locke at knife-point.


Present Day: More political manipulation and tricks between the Deep Roots and Black Iris parties. Locke finally meets Sabetha after 5 years apart, and the encounter ends with Locke and Jean on a boat heading far far away from Karthain. The pair manage to escape and get back to Karthain using more good old fashioned cons.

Observations/Theories/Questions


 This book is a lot more fun the second time around. The first time, I was expecting more cons and an Amazing Sabetha and I was kind of disappointed that this book was full of quibbling and a not-so-Amazing Sabetha.


Now that I'm reading it again, I can see how Sabetha is almost like a real person, and that my disappointment was because I was buying into Locke's idealized fantasy of her. Obviously no real person ever lives up to someone's romanticized fantasies! I'm also enjoying all the political tricks and back-and-forth more now that I know I shouldn't be expecting dramatic heists and cons.


Although there is still some dramatic stuff to look forward to, if the covers are any indication ;)

Food for thought:
  • A tiny bit more about Locke's past:

    "I don't remember my own [parents]...I don't remember where I was  born, or the Catchfire plague, or how I surveved it, or anything that I did before the Thiefmaker bought me from the city watch!" (p309, UK edition)

    This will be important very, very soon :D Can't wait to discuss this stuff , but I think it's part of the chapters for the week after this one.
  • More creatures from the deep: When Locke and Jean fall head-first into the ocean on their escape from Sabetha's ship, they notice strange and menacing underwater lights. Locke says something about hating the Eldren and everything they left behind; if these strange creatures are the Eldren's doing, then perhaps that ominous sea monster from RSURS is also leftover from the Eldren's shenanigans. Or maybe these creatures are the Eldren, who retreated into the ocean a la Atlantis! Yeah, crazy theory, I know, but Scott Lynch promised a lot more to the world so I don't think it's impossible.
  • Tongue in cheek romance: Sabetha's passionate outcry of "I don't want to be loved because it's inevitable" is hilarious, because it's such a cliche that the two main characters of a book will inevitably fall in love (especially in YA. If there's a male main character and a female main character [because LGBTQ stories have yet to become mainstream], no matter where they stand at the beginning of the novel, chances are they're going to be swooning and making out by the end). You, Sabetha, are in a book, and Locke loves you, therefore it is inevitable that you'll love him back by the end. Right?

    But by pointing out the cliche, Scott Lynch frees himself from having to follow it. We readers become aware of our expectations of the story, and now we have to revise them because Lynch makes no promises. In fact, we've already had Jean, Calo, and Galdo talk about how unhealthy Locke's "love"/obsession with Sabetha and her red hair is, so I'm not even sure we're supposed to want this romance to play out with a big happily ever after.
  • Remember, spoilery discussions can go here.

Giveaway (One more week)!

**Just so you're aware, the release date has been pushed to 2016! The giveaway is still on, you'll just have to wait a bit longer than originally anticipated to actually get your book/pre-order. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Joint review: UnSouled and Undivided

UnSouled (Unwind, #3)
Title: UnSouled 

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: science fiction, young adult, dystopian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they’re not just running away from something. This time, they’re running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.
Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.
With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively—and everyone will be changed.

17950614Title: UnDivided
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: science fiction, young adult, dystopia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.
Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future.
But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

Unwind is still the book that moved me and horrified me the most, but UnDivided is a close second! What an intense, fitting ending to a very thought-provoking series. I read these two books almost back-to-back, so I'm almost reviewing them as one book.

I'm extra partial to this series because as a bioengineer, it's my job to make sure we have ways to get new "parts" without ever needing to unwind people. Yet a lot of the (real life!) news articles and links were chilling to the core and serve as a reminder of how fine the line between saving lives and destroying them actually is.

I've grown up on Neal Shusterman books, and I don't think they'll ever get old. Sure, this series isn't as brutal or cynical as many adult dystopian novels (Paolo Bacigalupi, your books kill me sometimes but I love them anyway!), but it is still just as thought-provoking and terrifying in a quieter way. It's not all blood and guts (except when it is...and in this book...eep), it's a lot more psychological. How would you feel if your hands had the muscle memory to play a song you've never heard of? How would you deal with staring at half your face on someone else? Could you live with yourself if you decided your child was better off in pieces than whole? It's not so hard to imagine the circumstances that push people into staying silent in horrific situations.

As this series has progressed, there have been more and more POVs introduced. I liked getting to know all the characters because it gave me more perspectives and more people to root for (or hate, as it were). I did feel like book 4 was pushing it in terms of POV characters, because I always had to wait a long time before I heard from each set of characters again, but I did enjoy all of their perspectives and I didn't think any of them were boring or unnecessary.

Go read this series. Even if you don't make it through four books, Unwind is a must! And if you do want to continue, well, this is an end worth getting to.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

GB Readalong: The Many Faces of Sabetha Belacros






Now that we've finally met Sabetha, we get to open a whole new world of fan art >:)

It seems like people are either "Love her" or "hate her", and it's a lot of fun to see all the different interpretations of our mysterious gentle-lady bastard.

The mysterious sultry gaze Sabetha

 
by Camila Vielmond (left) and Crimson Cobwebs (right)

This is the version of Sabetha I associate with Locke's heartbroken fantasies and memories. Locke has made it no secret that his favorite thing about her is that red hair, and look at how prominent it is in every picture of her! This is my least favorite facet of her, because she's hardly a person. This is the mysterious, shadowy force in the background before we get to see her in the flesh in The Republic of Thieves.

The Badass Who Can Outdo Locke


vylla-art:

Sabetha Belacoros for Lisa!


We have already seen baby Sabetha kick ass and out-con Locke at Coin Kisser's row. It is going to be so much fun watching her take on Locke and Jean as adults! Sabetha pulls out all the stops, and doesn't let her confusing feelings get in the way of a job well done. This girl is FIERCE.


Angry Sabetha


I think this is part of next week's chapters, but this quote was too good to pass up:

Well… damn. You’re obviously in a mood.”“Am I?” There was danger in her tone. “Am I really? Why should that be exceptional? A boy may be as disagreeable as he pleases, but when a girl refuses to crap sunshine on command the world mutters darkly about her moods.

 Yes, Sabetha isn't all sunshine and daisies, and to be honest I hated how stormy and confused she was when I first read Republic of Thieves (MAKE UP YOUR GODS-DAMNED MIND ALREADY, WOMAN!). But now, being a whole year older and wiser, I appreciate how unapologetic she is about her feeling angry or hurt. She doesn't just cry and make a fuss and be a typical emotional female, she articulates what's bothering her to Locke's face and expects him to be enough of a human being to treat her like a human being too. Her trademark temper is now one of my favorite things about her!

What sides of Sabetha have you seen? Do you love her or hate her? Mixed feelings?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Lair of Dreams


16060716Title: Lair of Dreams
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...
Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer? 

Not as bone chillingly creepy as book 1, but still plenty of fun!

My favorite thing about The Diviners wasn't the world, although combining the Roaring Twenties with the occult and supernatural was definitely a big plus. My favorite thing was how we got to know so many different characters so well, and how they were all from completely different walks of life. Each of the characters had a distinct personality, complete with hopes and fears and dreams. It's rare that multiple MCs are all fully fleshed out, but Libba Bray is outstanding at making a huge cast of characters feel real and relatable.

All the characters I loved in The Diviners have to deal with the scars of book 1. Evie decides to throw herself into the superficial world of being a radio starlet, while Jerico continues to struggle with his secrets alone. Sam is hell-bent on finding out his mother's secrets, Theta is busy trying to keep Henry safe, and Memphis continues to fight to keep his little brother safe. Henry loses himself further and further in a dream world, but he's not the only one who can walk in dreams.

I really liked the addition of Chinatown to the mix, because it brought even more historical authenticity and diversity to an already quite diverse cast of characters without it feeling forced. I don't know if it's because I grew up in a predominantly Asian neighborhood, but I could relate a lot to Ling and her overbearing parents. I also appreciated how racism of every kind was acknowledged in this book, from the sidelong glances at a black young man holding hands with a white girl to the humiliating taunts and stereotypes associated with whole neighborhoods to racial violence. Libba Bray certainly doesn't shy away from portraying the ugly side of the world!

One of the best parts of this series is that it reminds you that no matter what you're struggling with or how lonely and lost you feel, you're never alone. The Diviners may all have supernatural powers of some kind, but at their heart they are just a bunch of young people trying to make their way in a rather unforgiving wide world. Their friendships and changing relationships were a treat to read about, and it made me even more thankful for the lovely friends in my own life! I am a sucker for books that feature strong friendships, and this book had that in buckets.

I really enjoyed this historical fiction/mystery/fantasy book and I can't wait for more!

*An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Monday, August 10, 2015

GB Readalong: Week 11




The Republic of Thieves read-along continues! Also, don't forget about the Thorn of Emberlain Giveaway**!

If you're just joining in, check out the intro post for the schedule and other details!

What we're reading this week

Republic of Thieves | Interludes after Ch5-end of Part II

Recap from last week

Flashbacks: Locke, Sabetha, and the rest of the Gentleman Bastards attend a ceremony to swear their allegiance to the Crooked Warden. When Sabetha and Locke step up to become priests, only Locke is chosen, leaving Sabetha...bitter to say the least. Chains orders the Gentleman Bastards to take on an acting job in Espara.


Present Day: Patience conducts a super intense healing on Locke, and we learn more about the decision to allow Falconer to take on the Camorr job. It turns out Sabetha is leading the opposing party in the coming elections, Election plotting begins!

Observations/Theories/Questions

The interludes this week were a real punch in the feels! It's bittersweet seeing Nazca again, but it's even worse seeing Calo and Galdo taking their oath together ("We figure the Crooked Warden wouldn't have it any other way": TEARS) because we know that they really do experience everything together...even death.


Food for thought:
  • Evil Bug: When Locke is healing he encounters a darker version of Bug who holds Locke responsible for his death. Jean is convinced that it's just Locke's imagination but Locke thinks otherwise. I can't imagine that Bug is so vengeful, but it's definitely disturbing to see someone pulling Locke down (it's not hard to imagine that what Bug says isn't so far from the truth. Your sins are written on your eyes.)
  • Mixed-feelings Sabetha: We also start to see Sabetha toying with Locke. On first read-through I hated how she never committed either way about her feelings for Locke, and I really hated how she turned Locke into a kicked-around-puppy who was willing to do anything to keep her happy. WHERE DID YOUR SPINE GO, LOCKE?

    On second readthrough, I'm still a little annoyed with Sabetha, but I can see why she has such conflicting feelings about Locke. She isn't just playing around with Locke because she enjoys being the standoff-ish mysterious love interest, she actually doesn't know what to think because she likes Locke's charm but hates how he has taken away the things she really wanted...like being a priest of the Crooked Warden.
  • Remember, spoilery discussions can go here.

Giveaway!

**Just so you're aware, the release date has been pushed to 2016! The giveaway is still on, you'll just have to wait a bit longer than originally anticipated to actually get your book/pre-order. 

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