Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Talk: BLOOD AND GUTS



I'm really squeamish.

When I was five years old, I'd get freaked out every time I saw a movie with people getting shot (goddamn those 90s action flicks!). All the blood blooming on people's shirts just sent me into hysterics. My dad decided to lighten the blow by telling me all that red stuff was just ketchup. I promptly proceeded to hysterically scream, "IT'S JUST KETCHUP IT'S JUST KETCHUP WAAAAAAH"


I haven't improved much since, but I've discovered something new this week. When one of the surgeons I worked with asked me if I wanted to watch an operation, I said sure! I was a little nervous about all the blood, and the surgeon kept warning me that if I needed to step out, it was totally fine. Apparently even tough men have been known go weak in the knees when they see the blood involved in heart surgery.

But I was totally fine! There really was a lot of blood, but somehow seeing a bunch of surgeons and nurses fixing someone's insides didn't freak me out. In fact, I thought it was kind of cool! So why do violent movies still freak me out?

I figured it out. I'm not scared of blood, I'm scared of the intent. A surgery is about helping people, so I wasn't bothered. On the scale of movie and book violence, I am most okay with machine gun violence or something along those lines that has to do with war or protecting yourself. I absolutely cannot be in the same room as a torture scene (I loved the first few episodes of Scandal and then I got to a torture scene and I was like nope! Not watching this anymore!). The difference is that in one case, you're using violence because you want to defend someone or protect something. In the other, you want to cause as much pain and suffering as possible.


So that's why I can't watch Game of Thrones. Reading torture scenes is bad enough. I often skim them or try really hard not to imagine the gory details. I can sometimes appreciate that the scene exists, because I see how it's necessary for the plot/character development/grittiness, but I can do without the nightmares, thank you very much.

Despite being squeamish, I have read and enjoyed plenty of books with a lot of blood and guts. I think I'll continue to pass on those watching those torture scenes though...

Are you squeamish, or are you excited about getting to see the gritty side of things? 

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: The Hollow City


The Hollow CityTitle: The Hollow City
Author: Dan Wells
Genre: Mystery, psychological thriller, science fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Dan Wells won instant acclaim for his three-novel debut about the adventures of John Wayne Cleaver, a heroic young man who is a potential serial killer. All who read the trilogy were struck by the distinctive and believable voice Wells created for John.
Now he returns with another innovative thriller told in a very different, equally unique voice. A voice that comes to us from the  realm of madness.
Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do if some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?
Who can you trust if you can't even trust yourself? The Hollow City is a mesmerizing journey into madness, where the greatest enemy of all is your own mind.


Before this book, I'd read and loved Dan Wells' Partials series. I really like how steeped in actual science his science-fiction is, and I could tell he did a lot of research putting together the world of that series. I was really curious about how he would deal with a more "realistic" setting and take on the mystery genre, and I wasn't disappointed!

Michael is an unreliable narrator if there ever was one. He thinks there are crazy alien creatures who track him and manipulate him with electronic objects. His doctors call it paranoia and schizophrenia, but what if Michael is telling the truth?

It's really difficult to pull apart the hallucinations and the crazy truth. The whole book is a mindgame, and I really enjoyed it. I honestly didn't know what to believe during the first half of the book, and just when I thought I had things figured out, everything would get muddled again.

I was a little disappointed with the ending. Forgive the play on the title, but the end left me feeling hollow. I felt like there weren't enough clues to justify the end, and the final scene was more bitter than sweet. Still, I definitely enjoyed the book overall and I will be reading more of Dan Wells' books.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 60: Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

This theme is so much fun! I'm a little sad that I can't come up with 10 off the top of my head though. Here are the characters I did come up with!


 

Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief! This girl is fearless and doesn't let the persecution of Nazi Germany keep her from reading books that she wants to read.
 

Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series: her two big splurges are always pretty clothes and more books than she can carry!
 

Jean and Ezri from Red Seas Under Red Skies: They began to fall in love when they started quoting novels to each other. Awwwwwwww :)
 

Hermione Granger, of course! I don't think this one needs any explanation ;)
 

Matilda from the Roald Dahl book. I loved this one as a kid!
 

Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. 
 

Will Herondale from the Infernal Devices series. I loved how Will and Tessa bonded over their love of books!


Okay, so Devi from Name of the Wind doesn't exactly read books for fun, but she has a huge library and will do anything to get her hands on more knowledge.

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GB readalong: Week 9




The Republic of Thieves read-along begins today!

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

This is going to be a shorter post than usual, because I haven't had time to put together a nice long one and I already covered my thoughts on the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies last week. Anyways...

What we're reading this week

Republic of Thieves | Prologue, Ch1-2 (and interludes between Ch2 and 3)

Recap from last week

Zamira is double crossed by one of her own and Ezri sacrifices herself in the melee that ensues, Jean is heartbroken and swears revenge; Locke and Jean get the better of Stragos, rob Requin's office, an then discover the paintings were fake. Oh, and only Jean has been cured of the latent poison.

Observations/Theories/Questions

Is it just me, or did the end of that book move at a break-neck pace? Just when you think everything is going smoothly, we run into twist after twist and betrayal and subterfuge. It was INTENSE!




We also got to one of my favorite quotes in the series this week:
“ I want to hug you. And I want to tear your gods-damned head off. Both at once."
"Ah," said Locke. "Near as I can tell, that’s the definition of 'family' right there.” 

I can't think of a better way to sum up the Gentleman bastard relationship. They get in each other's hair and drive each other crazy sometimes but in the end they're family and nothing is going to keep them apart, not even latent poisons with no known antidote!

Food for thought:

  • Merrain's tattoo: We still don't know who Merrain works for, but now we have the clue that she has a dark tattoo on her arm. Did I miss any earlier references to groups with tattooed members? Does anyone have guesses about who she works for?
  • Cheating death: Both Jean and Locke seem determined to die for the other. It's both endearing and tragic to see Jean's rage at being given the antidote. For all their flaws, you can't say the Gentleman Bastards aren't loyal! Since there's a book 3 and even a book 4, I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say Locke will find a way out of this. The question is at what price, and is that price worth it in the end? We'll see...
  • The fake paintings: How do you feel about the paintings being fake? All the effort, wasted! But maybe the Gentleman Bastards had it coming, what with their general arrogance about being cleverer than anyone else? Do you think they deserved a big break? I don't think they would have been satisfied with living a quiet life as rich minor nobles, especially after spending their entire lives trying to take the nobles down a peg or two. I don't think it would have been too long before they started conning again. Although I must admit, I would have loved to see the cons they could pull with even more resources and the friendship of the nobles!

    Remember, spoilery discussions can go here.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

GB Readalong: About that Happily Ever After...



If you haven't finished Red Seas Under Red Skies yet, well, spoiler alert!

There's a certain expectation when it comes to a story about a con. The roguish main characters start off with a scene showing off their amazing abilities, we learn a bit more of  their backstory and personal demons as they plot to pull a job, stuff hits the fan and everything that can go wrong does go wrong...but against all odds, our MCs manage to make the heist happen and escape in more or less one piece.


Speaking of pulling heists...

Well, about that...

In Red Seas Under Red Skies, there's no room for happy endings.

 In the last 10% of the book, not only does Jean lose the love of his life, Locke is still dying of Stragos' latent poison, and after all their effort and scheming to keep two very intimidating masters happy, Locke and Jean find out that the gods-damned paintings were fake.

I suppose the only silver lining is that Locke did indeed get to sack Salon Corbeau and Zamira got her revenge on Stragos, but these pale in comparison to the doom hanging over Locke and Jean's heads. How is one going to live without the other, and even if they both do make it out of this alive, how the hell are they supposed to get back on their feet? Spend another 3 years planning a new con that will make them filthy rich?

But let's be real: did you really expect Locke and Jean to buy themselves a noble title and settle down in some fancy house overlooking a vineyard?

I think Scott Lynch does a masterful job of playing with your expectations. You generally expect your heroes to succeed in the end, even if they lose something along the way. That's not the case here. You expect Locke and Jean to never doubt one another and always have each other's backs, but there was more than one instance where they feared the other one had betrayed them (that prologue crossbow scene...phew! Not to mention trying to get the other one to drink the antidote). I usually expect the bad guy to take the fall at the end (I mean, look at what happened to Raza!) but Requin basically gets out of this situation unscathed. If anything, Requin has an even better position now that the archon is gone and the Priori have taken over.

But even with everything stacked against them, I still am solidly convinced that Locke and Jean will find a way to not only survive, but make the most out of their lives. Their friendship anchors this series, and if anything happens to one of them in later books I will probably cry tears of blood. No matter what insanity comes their way, they manage to find a way through, even if it isn't exactly as planned. It's one thing to be beaten down again and again, and quite another to keep your sense of humor and stand right back up.

I'm looking forward to more not-so-happy endings, because Jean and Locke deserve better than a neat little "Happily Ever After."

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Black-Eyed Susans


23746004Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin
Genre: Mystery, psychological thriller, adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.


As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

I really like psychological mysteries because I find it fascinating how our own minds can play tricks on us. I love books with unreliable narrators, and Tessa is definitely one of those. She's manipulative and withholds the truth about her past from everyone, even distorting her own memories.

When Tessa was 16, she was kidnapped and left to die in a pile of other kidnapped and murdered girls. Together, all of thsoe girls were known as the Black-Eyed Susans, and years later the alledged murderer is arrested and on death row.

But what if the real killer is still at large?

This book is really twisted, especially since the main character refuses to try and unearth her memories of a traumatic incident. She hides from the truth because she doesn't want to deal with the guilt of having the wrong man executed, and she also doesn't want to relive her trauma. Tessa has therapists and psychologists, but she's a masterful manipulator. She tells people what she wants them to hear, and makes up stories instead of revealing the truth.

I really enjoyed trying to separate the stories from the truth and figuring out the mystery. I thought the ending was pretty unpredictable. Although I can't say there was enough foreshadowing to make me go "aha, that makes sense now!", I thought the mystery ended well.

I definitely recommend this book for people who like unreliable narrators and psychological mysteries!

*A free copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 59: Diversity



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters

This week's theme is a bit of a reminder kick to start writing those DiverSFFy posts again! I have definitely been reading diverse fantasy and science fiction, but I haven't been spot-lighting them as much as I should. This post should tide you over for diverse SFF recs until I get around to writing full posts!


Gender-bending and Gender Fluid characters

20646731  2986865
 21418013 19288321

Racially/Ethnically Diverse characters

The Water Knife Partials (The Partials Sequence, #1)
9275658 6597651

LGBTQ spectrum characters
Ash More Than This The Rest of Us Just Live Here

And these don't even include my list of feminist fantasy books! Keep an eye out for more recs in the future :)


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GB Readalong: Week 8




Red Seas Under Red Skies continues...

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

What we're reading this week

Red Seas Under Red Skies | Chapters 13-Epilogue

Recap from last week

Jabril and the rest figure out that Locke and Jean are frauds, and toss them overboard. The two get picked up by The Poison Orchid and are reunited with their crew as scrub watch on Captain Zamira Drakasha's ship. Jean and Ezri Delmastro hit it off, Locke warms up to the pirate life, and Zamira gets on board with the plan to get back at Stragos. 

Observations/Theories/Questions

THE PIRATES ARE FINALLY HERE!


I adore Captain Drakasha and Lieutenant Delmastro, because not only are they fierce and independent women, they are exceptionally intimidating pirates and fiends! It's a lot of fun to see the dynamic between Locke and Drakasha, because they both are used to getting their own way and being the one in charge; it's great to see how their respect for each other deepens as they get to know what they can do.

Jean and Ezri are one of my favorite bookish couples, and it makes me so happy that it's their love of books that brings them together. Their witty banter was hilarious (and lack thereof...the barrel speech was beyond terrible, but still funny!).


They're even already on a freaking ship!

 I also really liked that Jean got a bit of the spotlight in this book, at least more than in book 1. We see his life and thougths outside of being Locke's best friend and partner in crime, which was really nice.

Also Locke and his daily ritual of "nope, I'm not getting attached to you. Not at all." with Regal was adorable!


Fan art from The Lonely Light
Food for thought:

  • The Alchemical resin cardsJust when you get all caught up in the high seas and the pirates, Scott Lynch pulls you back to the world of gambling and cons. It's interesting to see the kinds of magical and alchemical tools that make up a part of this world. Sure, they're expensive and hard to get, but just the fact that it occurred to someone to make something that turns into cement when you spill alcohol on it...imagine the possibilities for Verrari drinking games!

    It never ceases to amaze me how Locke and Jean mastermind their cons and pull out all the stops to take something really random and make it work. I have completely forgotten what these cards are used for, but it's fun to think of how they fit in with the con.
  • "I have a life outside your gods-damned shadow": This line really stood out to me. Up until now it seems like Jean has always been there for Locke but we hardly get to see his life outside of Locke's cons. Jean pulls Locke out of his misery at the beginning of the book, the two plan to take on the Sinspire, they both are forced to do Stragos' bidding...it's almost an all or nothing deal. For the first time, Jean has something that he doesn't have to share with Locke and something all of his own: his relationship with Ezri.

    I like that Locke felt jealous at first, because I wouldn't expect anything less from him considering his dependence on Jean and his own history with romantic relationships. I also really liked how Scott Lynch wrote their awkward apology the next day. The bromance is strong!
  • Parlor Passage: We get to meet the Brass Sea version of sirens: instead of luring people into the deep with songs, this monster speaks into your head and tells you how lovely it would be to jump into the cool water...

    This freaks me out because for me, voices in your head are a lot more sinister than a giant squid trying to eat you alive. And what do you think of the creature knowing Locke's real name? What kind of creature would have the power to identify people's essences, and how old or powerful would it have to be to do that?

    Zamira says it's never been as bad as this time around. Is that because the creature itself is getting stronger, or is it reacting to Locke? (I say Locke in reference to the end of Republic of Thieves). Remember, spoilery discussions can go here.

How are you enjoying the high seas? Is Stragos going to find out that he bit off more than he could chew once he gets his pirate uprising? Will Jean and Locke still be able to con Requin like they planned?


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