Category Archives: books/book review

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

I usually do this as two posts, but I’ll be honest, the last few months this blog hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. It’s just been a matter of life getting in the way, but the result is things like a compressed New Years Eve – New Years post. Be that as it may, let’s get on with discussing how it went in 2018 and what to expect in 2019.

I feel like there were two 2018s in my life; the first half, in which I read a ton and everything was normal, and the second half, where my family taught me to game and introduced me to the Xbox, so a chunk of my reading time became gaming time. Overall however, I read or listened to 207 books in 2018. I initially set that goal for 250, but reduced it to 200 when it became obvious I wasn’t reading as much as normal. So, I call this half-met. I reached my re-calibrated goal, but not the initial one. Plus, quite a few were short this year.

2018 Challenges

After the traditional December scramble to find a book by authors with names that start with Q, U and X, I successfully completed my Alphabet Challenge. I even got a good laugh out of the fact that when I reviewed the X author (Meg Xuemei X), I discovered that exactly one year earlier I’d read and reviewed a book by her. Last years last-minute X book.

I have several ongoing challenges on this blog, ones that I set and either let falter or just keep adding to, so they never end. The two I’m still actively working at are to read all the books I own (or borrow or buy) with characters of color on the cover and to read all the small physical books I own.

I’ve actually gone back and forwards on this first challenge. The original idea was to try and counteract the publishing dictum that books with characters of color on the cover don’t sell as well as other book. I can’t afford to buy tons of books, but I can read and review them. The hope being that each review might contribute to the decision to publish another such book. Sometimes I think the challenge is a good thing and other times I think I’m just being presumptuous, arrogant and performative, playing the ‘white hero,’ etc. This is especially true considering how long it’s taking me. I’ve come close to deleting it several times.

So far I’ve reminded myself that having a set challenge is a way to keep myself aware that it takes effort to see change and allowing myself to fall back into I don’t pay attention to who is on the cover (because I otherwise don’t) means I’m also not paying attention to who so often isn’t on covers and thereby represented. Eventually, I called it “ongoing,” but I still fear having a list makes it look like I’m seeking a cookie for “see how many I’ve read, what a good ally I am!” I’m going to keep at it, but I also might give in to the urge to delete the initial post too.

The second challenge has been an abysmal failure and continues to be. The original idea was to read all my small books to clear space on my shelves, which are lined two deep and still overflowing. I thought it would be quick. The problem became that I replaced the books as quickly as I read them* (and that several of them are niche and don’t hold overall, I’ll read it right now, appeal). So, though the stack has changed over time, there is still a stack on the corner of my desk, waiting to be read. I’ll keep chipping away at it.

Best of 2018

To close out 2018 I really should do a best of list. But man, I find these SO hard. I don’t gravitate towards ranking things I love, but rather just loving them all. But based on nothing more official than my own enjoyment and how well it’s stayed in my memory, my three favorite books of 2018 were:

I love the Murderbot series and recommend it to everyone. The books are short and punchy and funny and well worth the read, even if the series is getting a little serial-like as it goes on. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a book I only read because my bookclub chose it. I never would have picked it up otherwise. But I’m so glad I did. It was lovely. And Leviathan Wakes is one of those book I seem to see recommended by everyone, so I finally read it and saw why. Book two in the series is on my table right now, waiting to be read.

2019 Challenges

In the past I’ve set out several reading challenges for forthcoming years. But until I really come back online with my reading and blogging, I’m just going to do the general Goodreads challenge (with a goal of 200 books), this blog’s alphabet challenge (in which I read a book by an author for each letter of the alphabet), and continue my ongoing challenges (reading all my physical small books and reading more books with characters of color on the covers).

And that’s it. That’s the end of 2018 (Can you believe that year?) and what I’m aiming for in 2019. Surely it has to be better, right. I mean the world has to be less crazy, right? If not, I suppose I’ll bury myself in books and fantasy worlds instead.

Here’s to all of you. Have a wonderful 2019!

*Many of these are books I’ve won or been given. I just finished saying how I can’t afford to buy a lot of books.

Review of The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3), by Don Allmon

I received a copy of Don Allmon‘s The Burning Magus through Netgalley. I previously reviewed the first two books in the series, Apocalypse Alley and The Glamour Thieves.

Description from Goodreads:

JT was a perfectly happy orc building cars in the Arizona desert until his old friend and sometimes lover Austin showed up and talked him into one last crime. Now “one last crime” has snowballed. With a new team of thieves—a supersoldier, a hacker, a driver, a graffiti artist, and a seafaring wizard—JT and Austin are determined to free an artificial intelligence from the dungeon of the Burning Magus. 

For JT, this job is more than a prison break; it’s a do-over of The Job That Went Bad two years ago, the catastrophe in which JT lost his closest friend and then chose to abandon everything, even Austin. Maybe this time no one will die. Maybe this time JT can return to Arizona and bury his old life for good. 

Except Austin won’t be buried. After two years alone, Austin knows he wants JT—not just as a partner in crime, but as the lover he always should have been. Maybe this time they won’t make the same mistakes, especially when it comes to each other. 

Review:

I was disappointed in this book. It’s not that it’s bad, but rather that I loved the first one, liked the second one and found this one uninspired. It felt much more rushed. I thought it had too many characters, too much pointless sex and too little pay off. 

To elaborate, all the previous characters are here in this one, so the book felt unfocused. And though I have no problem with sex in my books, like and expect it even, the sex here is largely voyeuristic and too frequently not between the established couples. (So, it adds nothing to strengthen the bond we’re supposed to believe exists.) What’s more, some of it felt very much like the author went, “Oh, this is SO in right now. I better add it, even if it feels like an after-the-fact add and isn’t well stitched into the plot.” 

As to pay-off, (this is hard to address without spoilers) questions are presented and not answered, and I didn’t feel Allmon made any effort to lead the reader to decide on their own. Instead, the whole thing feels forgotten. A whole important character is introduced and not given any significant page-time (and it really was needed). And bad guys are defeated easily (even ones that took whole books to beat in the past) and simply fade away without fuss. 

All in all, I still like Allmon’s writing style. And I like this series. But, when compared with the previous books, The Burning Magus fell extremely flat for me.

Review of Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve


I borrowed an audio copy of Philip Reeve‘s Mortal Engines through the library.

Description from Goodreads:

London is a city on wheels – a future city like you’ve never known before. In the terrible aftermath of the Sixty Minute War, cities which survived the apocalypse became predators, chasing and feeding on smaller towns. Now London is hunting down its prey, getting ready to feed. But as the chase begins, Tom uncovers a secret – a secret full of deadly consequences. Soon he is plunged into a world of unkillable enemies, threatened by a weapon that will tear his life apart…

Review (with spoiler):

Ugh, a young, beautiful, innocent girl sacrifices herself for the sins of a man and all that can be saved are. The evil give up their dastardly ways, the vengeful forsake their life-long quest for revenge and the cowardly become brave. In her death she averts disaster and saves the masses. Welp, no one has ever seen that plot device before, surely. <<—sarcasm to the utmost. Nor have we seen lack of beauty equated with lack value or a boy shown as virtuous because he’s willing to look past a physical deformity. Nope, never ever have we seen this. <<—more contemptuous sarcasm. 

I thought the world was interesting and the writing engaging, but the rest of it was just dull as dishwater. It’s all been done before and I didn’t like it anymore here than anywhere else. I don’t intend to continue the series and, while I read the book in order to see the movie, I just don’t think I can be bothered after all. Barnaby Edwards did a fine job with the narration though.