Morgan’s Reads: January Edition
This month I’ve revised my manuscript’s timeline and first chapter, edited it, and sent my new chapter to a new critique partner. I’ve blogged, vlogged, and entered twitter contests.
When you want to be a writer, they tell you that you also need to read. Fortunately for most of us, we were readers first!
I have no willpower when it comes to books, once I start, I’m driven onward, always seeking to know, “What Happens Next”. I’m not one of those people who can read a book at bedtime, setting it down when the clock strikes 11 pm. I’m not a quitter. I read until I’m done, then check kindle to see if the sequel’s out yet.
So, between my writing and my need for sleep, I went far too long without reading.
Last year, I joined GoodReads and aimed to read 2 books a month. To make sure I actually got sleep, I instituted a rule that I couldn’t start a new book after 8 pm. Since I read about 100 pages an hour, that means I’m not tooo late for bed.
This year, I’m off to a good start, even if I’m completely neglecting my looming to-read pile. I’ve already read 4 books — well, 3 and a novella.
Confession: My favorite authors and/or series that I’m already well invested in get skipped to the front of the pile, in lieu of those marvelous books that have patiently waited their turn. Because if I start something new, I might not stop til I’ve read everything they’ve ever written.
Seanan McGuire mostly writes fantasy, generally stuff I’d call ‘urban fantasy’. Most of the stuff I’ve read by her take mythological tales and creatures and play ‘what if’ in a modern setting. What if mythological monsters were real and hiding around us? What if the fae still stole babies and played with mortals?
I haven’t read a thing by her I didn’t love, so I saw she had a series, “Indexing” that I hadn’t read yet and tossed it up on my holiday wish list. And got the first 2 books.
Genre: Urban Fantasy – Aimed at an adult audience, but not explicit. Teens would enjoy.
Fairy tales trying to follow the script and force people to act out the stories we all know and love is starting to become a trope. (Even to someone like me who adores fairy tales retellings). But, McGuire’s Henry(etta) (a Snow White in remission) and Sloan (an averted evil step-sister) won me over. They’re part of a team for ATI Management Bureau, who work to keep fairy tales from manifesting in our world, along with all the collateral damage they usually bring. Henry’s the team lead and a bit impulsive, but saving lives isn’t for the meek.
The novel’s initial serial nature (it was published as a series, before being turned into a book) is evident with every chapter. Especially the first 2/3rds of the novel, each chapter could easily stand alone as a short story. As the story builds and the over-arching narrative starts to come to fruition, the chapters begin to become more reliant upon the previous.
The novel was well-paced, with diverse secondary characters who were relatively well-rounded. Indexing ended with a satisfying climax that opened up more possibilities and complexities for the next episode.
5 Stars: If urban fantasy and retellings are your jam, you’ll love Indexing.
Note: Sequel to Indexing, above.
Genre: Urban Fantasy – Aimed at an adult audience, but not explicit. Teens would enjoy
Less episodic than the first novel, Indexing: Reflections gave us a lot more Sloan–and who doesn’t find villains, especially reformed ones, more fascinating than princesses? But, we also got to travel with Henry as she explored her Ur-myth, the truth behind her tale: red blood on white snow.
In Indexing: Reflections, we learn Sloane’s backstory. Her backstory suited the novel and the set-up but was somehow felt a little… lacking. Although, it could very well be because I found Sloan TOO sympathetic and wanted to fix her story.
All in all, a satisfying sequel, but didn’t quite measure up to the first. I’d read another sequel in a heartbeat though.
Beneath the Sugar Sky
Technically a novella, Beneath the Sugar Sky is the 3rd installment in McGuire’s ‘Wayward Children’ series, featuring children who have returned home from faerie lands… and want nothing more than to return.
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy – Not listed as YA, but could easily be considered as such.
Earlier: The first book in this series was mostly set in this world, as a murder mystery. The second story was mostly the backstory of the twin girls, Jack and Jill, and their return to a faerie realm that feels like a cross between Dracula and Frankenstein.
In this one, the daughter of the girl murdered in the first book comes to our world to find her mother, before she’s rewritten out of existence. It’s hard to exist when your mother was wrongly killed before you were born.
Beneath the Sugar Sky is a romp through the different faery realms, with the expected sacrifices (albeit offered on more generous terms than one might expect). From the rational and dark, to the whimsical yet (internally) logical realms, we see the characters in worlds where they fit in far better (or far worse) than they do in reality. This is a series about finding your way back to that place where you truly belong–no matter what it looks like.
Cora, the main character, is new in this book and she goes along with the mission. As a new student, her lack of connection to the other characters translated somewhat to me. I processed the new worlds with her, but we were trying to bring back a character she’d never met, so the urgency was somewhat lost to me. The final world was one in which Cora couldn’t relate, one that seemed intent on mocking Cora, which made the world less real to me. Although, that may have been the intent?
The “boss fight” was reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, or at least the version of the Queen that exists in my head.
Overall? A good tale, but I wanted more.
4 Stars: A solid addition to the series, but a bit less urgency.
Now, for something completely different. A romance novel!
Sherrilyn Kenyon was the first real romance writer I got into, back when I worked in the coffee shop portion of a Borders (I’m dating myself a bit with that reference…). I’d read a few here and there, but this wasn’t the historical romance of my grandma or the Christian romance I’d borrowed out of curiosity from my church’s little reading room. Her stuff was modern, gritty, and played with mythology – another type of retelling!
These days, Kenyon’s led me down a new path and I’m well into her Science-Fiction Romance Series, “The League” (which has had several publishers and sub-series, so numbering gets tricky). Looking at my kindle last week, I spotted one I’d already bought but didn’t remember reading. I opened it to confirm if I’d read it or not… and then it was 1 am.
Born of Legend
Genre: Romance (Science Fiction) – Recommended to mature audiences for violence, abuse, and some explicit scenes.
Earlier: In a space-faring setting, assassins consider themselves the moral compass, keeping the politicians in check. But corruption spreads. In the series, most of the male characters are being hunted by authorities, either rightly or wrongly, after some sort of betrayal and abuse. Most of the female characters are just trying to get by and do their jobs–deadly or not–and get drawn into the male lead’s troubles. (Or vice versa, the woman aren’t all legally clean…)
Born of Legend is book 11 or 9 (depends on how you count) of the “The League” and features “Dagger”, the street name of an Andarian royal I loved to hate, back before he was disinherited. Dagger believes he is damned, but when he earns the chance at a new life by saving a boy, he works hard to fit in and earn redemption for his sins. Preferably, without any recognition.
Born of Legend was everything I’ve come to expect from “The League”: space travel, strong female characters, and tortured males.
The biggest downside I had was I couldn’t keep track of all the characters! As book 11 in a romance series, we’ve got 22 people in different couples, plus their families and those we’re setting up for the next romances. And the timeline overlaps with about 3 other books, so those events were mentioned in the background.
I liked Dagger’s redemption. The resolution with those characters I already knew and loved, who’d been SERIOUSLY wronged by Dagger, rang true for me, giving me an ending I could enjoy and respect.
4 stars: If you’re already reading the series, I wouldn’t skip this one.
That’s it for January! Maybe next time I get a chance to read, I’ll look at my backlog instead of the shiny new books.
What have you been reading?
I recently finished reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, a very unique little novella, and just completed Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which was good but mostly what I’ve come to expect from the author. Currently working on The Witchwood Crown, Tad Williams official return to his lauded Osten Ard setting with the series “The Last King of Osten Ard”.
On a side note, this is more reading in two weeks than I’ve done in probably three years. This year seems to have been designated as “return to fiction because reality is too painful”.
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Plus, it sounds like a decent touch of:
a- You love reading
b- these are favorite authors/worlds?
A little from Column A and a little from Column B. I’ve read pretty much everything Joe Hill has put out since I first found his second novel, Horns (which I feel is still his best work to date). I like Patrick Rothfuss’ writing style and vision, but I also admire him as a person for the charity work he does with Worldbuilders and Heifer International. Tad Williams’ series Memory Sorrow and Thorn is one of my all time favorite trilogies and a big part of that is the Osten Ard setting; although I’ve liked many of his other works I’ve read (The War of the Flowers and the Shadowmarch series), I’ve long awaited to return to Osten Ard.
Ultimately, I love a good story regardless what form it takes, be it movie, tv show, music video game or prose…but novels were my first love and it feels good to come back to them after so long away, distracted by other things.
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