My DNF and Review of Gutshot by Amelia Gray

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I really tried with this book; I swore I was going to finish it even though I’d taken almost zero interest in the first 80 pages I read. Last night I skipped around to a few more stories because I felt guilty about the very idea that I was going to DNF it. You can’t just quit a book!

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But where’s my integrity? I’ve been talking about DNFing and reading other blog posts about DNFing books. At the end of the day I think we all agree there’s not enough time to spend it reading a book you don’t like when we all also agree that there’s too many books to read every single one you could ever want! So there I was reading a book that was like plugging my nose to avoid tasting what I’m eating. I just wanted to hurry up and get through it and call it read.

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If I had one hundred or so pages left to go in that book but I was barely interested 80 pages in, why? That’s one hundred pages I could be into the next book such as The Honours or The Voyage of the Basilisk. At least the latter I know I’m going to like a little bit because I’ve liked the first two in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. And The Honours, well I know there’s a story there, it sounds interesting, and I like the author’s podcast. Do I really want to keep reading a collection of stories that has me saying

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This might as well be my review but no, I’m going to follow the format I’ve used on other books and give you my Goodreads review.

Info from Goodreads:

(My DNF & review of Gutshot follows)

A searing new collection from the inimitable Amelia Gray

A woman creeps through the ductwork of a quiet home. A medical procedure reveals an object of worship. A carnivorous reptile divides and cauterizes a town. Amelia Gray’s curio cabinet expands in Gutshot, where isolation and coupling are pushed to their dark and outrageous edges. These singular stories live and breathe on their own, pulsating with energy and humanness and a glorious sense of humor. Hers are stories that you will read and reread—raw gems that burrow into your brain, reminders of just how strange and beautiful our world is. These collected stories come to us like a vivisected body, the whole that is all the more elegant and breathtaking for exploring its most grotesque and intimate lightless viscera.

Paperback, 209 pagesPublished April 14th 2015 by Fsg Originals (first published March 3rd 2015)

My DNF & Review of Gutshot by Amelia Gray

1/5 stars (sorry, not sorry)

I don’t know if it’s fair to leave a rating for a book I didn’t finish but then again this is a testament to how I feel about this book and what I’d rate it, so I did.

The reason I DNFed this book is because it wasn’t interesting to me. I gave it a chance, for real, I read almost half the book. Let me tell you it is very difficult for me to just quit a book. Given how small it is I was determined to read it in its entirety but then I came across a story that was extra graphic and violent. It turned me off completely. I’m not skittish about violence but this felt like it was just violent to be violent. I’m sure there was a deeper meaning but it wasn’t worth spending anymore time on it, even though I read the story to the end to see if it was worth it after all. Nope. The stories I did read in addition to that one weren’t anymore interesting. So many of them were pointless. At the end of the story I’d sit there thinking, did I miss something or was that not a story at all? I got tired of wondering about the rest of the story between the lines, I couldn’t get into the story on the lines.

I get stories having a deeper meaning and subtle nuances but they have to be interesting to start. Sure there were pieces here and there that made me decide to keep reading. I thought this was going to be my cup of tea but turns out it’s not. And I’ve decided not to be afraid to DNF books that I’m just not connecting to at all. Why when there are so many I will enjoy at least half the time? 

I like weird stories but I want there to be a story, some meat on the bone and these stories were just bone IMHO, like broken bones. Reading the blurb again I feel a little cheated because that makes the book sound really interesting. It turned out to be like a movie trailer in which all the good parts are in the trailer.

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Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know what you thought, feel free to share your thoughts even if you disagree. I love discussion!

CLICK HERE to check out my other reviews.

And visit my 2019 TBR to see what’s piquing my interest. You’ll find what I’ve read so far this year, what I’m currently reading, and what I plan to read. How do our TBRs compare?

March Plans

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First week of March is over already? Oh dear, I guess my hopes that time would slow down now that we’re almost out of winter won’t be realized. Bummer. That said, March as we all know is home to the spring equinox, and spring is the kick off to lots of activities. Yard work, house work (remodels, repairs, flips, rentals), exercise (sure this is a year long thing but ya know, gotta get ready for summer), bonfires, BBQs, outdoor adventures, gardening perhaps. So so much to do with those long days.

All this activity means sitting around reading will be a bit more difficult. However, it’s not impossible especially when reading is kind of a priority, although writing is a greater priority. (Beware writers, reading is an excellent EXCUSE not to write. Lol.) This is one reason it’s a great idea to lay out some March plans. I’ll be creating a lot of plans for a lot of different things but not sharing them all here. What I will share here, right here right now, are my reading and writing plans for March.

While browsing the world of Book Bloggers I found an interesting post, well two, about book blog post ideas. It’s a collaboration between two book bloggers, one posts 10 ideas then links to the other who shares another 15. Interesting post and really cool idea and execution of a collaboration. You can find these lists at Elated Books by El and 10 more from Maggie at Dreaming of Guatemala. I’m mentioning this now because as you might know I already have a 2019 TBR page. However, what I’ve not done is told you guys what I’m about to read and why. I just listed all the books I’m so far planning (read: hoping) to read in 2019.

Their list inspired me be more interactive with my TBR. This means my March plans will include specific books, the order I will read them, why I have them in the first place, why I’m reading them now, and if applicable how I heard of the book. This way you know in advance what I’ll be talking about and maybe you can read along with me. It might be difficult for me to make these March plans, as I like to choose the books I read spontaneously. But I’ve been planning my reads in advance more often. With so many books to read it helps to have some kind of method for choosing.

What am I talking about? Well for example, I finished Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker earlier this year. Last year I started the series with Borderline. Having finished Phantom Pains rather quickly (for me) I thought it best to start Impostor Syndrome sooner than later so my connection to the story would be current. It was nice to have read #2 & 3 closer together than #1 & 2.

Also, I read Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons quite a while ago. I shelved it on Goodreads back in 2015 and apparently never wrote a review. Eh… of course I enjoyed it, I’m going to read book 3 this month! I read The Tropic of Serpents (Lady Trent #2) last month. Just like with The Arcadia Project, I want to read #3 closer to having read the last one. This is a great segue into my March plans for reading!

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March Plans for Reading

At present I’m reading three books; Gutshot by Amelia Gray (a collection of short stories), Everfair by Nisi Shawl (alternate history/historical fantasy/steampunk novel), and My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel (non-fiction). The first two I will finish by the end of this weekend. The non-fiction I will finish in the next two weeks (that’s the deadline I’m going to give myself).

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I have been reading Everfair for quite some time now. To be honest I’ve come really close to DNFing it. Nisi Shawl is clearly a talented writer however I’m not a fan of her style of writing and I’m leaning towards the idea that I’m also not a fan of this genre. I’m more than 3/4 of the way through this book and I still can’t get into it, it’s like there’s no solid story to grab hold of even though this is an alternate telling of history, so there’s a real life story under there!

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Gutshot is my first collection of short stories in a long time. While I would like to read more collections than I do now this one isn’t turning out to be my cup of tea or coffee. In my most humble opinion, there’s not a lot of meat on the bones of these stories. I’m sure they’re the type to read in between the lines with deeper meanings and all but that’s not the type of story I want to read. I’ll go to poetry for that. It’s a short book so DNFing isn’t necessary, I’ll see it all the way through.

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No need to go into my feelings about My Age of Anxiety now, it’s a non-fiction so it’s going to take me a little longer and I’m not even halfway through. Instead let’s go back to March plans for reading!

After I finish the first two, the fiction books, I will start on The Honours by Tim Clare in Kindle format and The Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan in paperback format. So I will start these on the 10th or 11th if not a little sooner.

The Honours by Tim Clare

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The Honours is written by the podcaster Tim Clare. I’ve been listening to him using the app Podcast Addict for a little under a year now. I do enjoy his eccentric nature though some of his rants get a little long. That said he has a new book coming out in May, The Ice House, a sort of sequel to The Honours. He’s hoping to get enough pre-orders to make it on a best seller list. I haven’t read The Honours already because I’m not entirely sure it’s my kind of story but it’s good to support fellow writers you enjoy if you can. So I’m going to give his book a shot and now so if I do enjoy his writing I can pre-order The Ice House.

The Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan

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The Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in this series and seeing as I liked the first two naturally I’m going to go ahead and continue reading this series. I don’t recall how I found this series and this author in the first place. It was probably a random find for me, meaning no one suggested it to me, just sounded interesting. I also plan to read more books by Marie Brennan.

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If I finish these two fiction books before the end of March then I will start on The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor. Here’s some fun irony… I can’t remember exactly how I found this book, either from an Amazon recommendation or just a random. But I have had it for some time. Fast forward to the present. Browsing Book Outlet for something interesting I found Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Ordered it. Got it. Read it (click the link above to read my review) and loved it. That led me to look for more work by the author. Naturally I added the Binti sequels to my TBR (probably will make my April plans for reading) but I also saw other books that looked interesting. This book stood out, I knew I’d seen it before but where? I then looked around for how best to get the book.

Don’t you know I forgot I already had it? Yup. Yup. Guilty. But it kept nagging at me that I was aware of the book prior to reading Binti. So here I’ve read Binti, became a fan of Nnedi, while sitting in a stack of books in my dining room was The Book of Phoenix waiting for me. My dining room table is tall, think bar stool tall with storage underneath, part of the reason I chose it. Naturally books dominate this storage. So a couple weeks ago I was sweeping and bent down to fill the dust pan. This particular sweeping event had me facing some of the books under the table and BAM! Hey I know that book! The Book of the Phoenix is now out and visible and stands out even more due to this series of events. Strange right?

Okay this post is super long, they won’t all be but since March plans are my first in this “series” it’s naturally a little longer. But there you have it, hit me up if you plan to read any of these or if you have (do not leave me spoilers!). Stay posted for reviews and thoughts on the books I finish and updates for when I start the new ones.

Check out my 2019 TBR to see what else I want to read this year. If there’s something you’re dying to read or hear about let me know because you never know, I might push it up my list just for you. 😉

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My Review of Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review of Phantom Pains follows.)

Four months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project after losing her partner Teo to the lethal magic of an Unseelie fey countess. Now, on what’s meant to be a last visit to the scene of the crime, Millie and her former boss, Caryl, encounter what seems to be Teo’s tormented ghost. One problem: according to Caryl, ghosts don’t exist.

Millie has a new life, a stressful new job, and no time to get pulled back into the Project’s chaos, but she agrees to tell agents from the Project’s National Headquarters her side of the ghost story. During her visit, an agent is gruesomely murdered in a way only Caryl could have accomplished. Millie knows Caryl is innocent, but the only chance she has to save her from the Project’s severe, off-the-books justice is to uncover the mystery behind incorporeal fey known as wraiths. Why has the centuries-old Project never heard of them? And how do you fight an enemy that is only seen when it wants to be seen? Millie must answer these questions not just to save Caryl, but to foil an insidious, arcane terrorist plot that would leave two worlds in ruins.

Paperback, 406 pagesPublished March 21st 2017 by Saga Press

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My Review of Phantom Pains:

5/5 stars

Four months after the last book took place we’re back with Millie Roper, the unlikely and oh so imperfect hero from last time. While no longer working for the Arcadia Project they need her, and she needs them, to help tie up some loose ends. But loose ends they are not! Arcadia and the Arcadia Project have found themselves in turmoil and faced with a new mystery. Millie has to help her friend who’s facing exile, help her boss to keep her job, and help herself get through every day challenges. In this book we meet a whole host of new characters that stand out in a number of ways, the head of the Arcadia Project, Arcadia royalty, monsters, and more Echos!

This book was great, I have no trouble giving it five stars. I really appreciate that Mishell Baker uses short chapters, it makes for an easier read, IMHO. This story is fast-paced and full of new information about this strange world of fantasy. I’m impressed by Mrs. Baker’s imagination and her expression of it. There are some great twists and turns in this book. A very entertaining read no doubt. Pay attention because there’s a lot of details at times but interesting nonetheless.

I also appreciate Baker’s diverse cast of characters. You know she’s word painting this world with a realistic brush. It’s not often that you find a main character who suffers from mental illness, is a double-amputee, and is a woman. Baker teaches and shows us another world in a number of ways and makes it easier to get lost in the story. 

I recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of adult fantasy and diverse characters. This is not your usual cast of characters or fantasy novel so it’s a must read. If you haven’t read the first in this series, Borderline, do start there. This could be read as a stand alone, perhaps, but best playing its part in the series. I will be reading Book #3 very soon, which was published in 2018. 🙂 😀

Thanks for reading my review of Phantom Pains. As I write this I’ve already read and review the third book in this series, Impostor Syndrome. I’ll also be putting up my review of the first book Borderline, from May 2018.

And I have more Reviews!

Have you read any of this series or perhaps you plan to? Tell me what you think. Or maybe you’re a fan of fantasy or all things Fae. Whatever the case I’m game to talk. 😀

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For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

And don’t forget to check out my 2019 TBR, promise you’ll find something interesting to read there! Soon I’m going to put up a sort of reading schedule, let’s call it a monthly TBR so you know what to expect. Stay tuned for March plans (maybe when YOU read this they’ll be a link there for you to follow).

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Do You DNF?

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This post is happening because I’m in the midst of whether or not to DNF? Do you DNF? It’s not really grammatically correct to ask do you “do not finish” or “did not finish”, but that’s the beauty of language and this age of everyone loves acronyms. LOL. But really, do you DNF? I don’t.

I’m not against it, I mean I’ve done it a few times, on purpose. (If I didn’t do it on purpose I don’t count it unless I pick up the book (so to speak) and say yeah I’m not going to read you after all.) It’s hard for me to give up on a book, even if I’m not enjoying it. That really doesn’t make sense, do I really have time to read something I don’t like? After all, there are literally tens of thousands of books, plus, to be discovered by my brain and yours. There are 196 books on my Goodreads want-to-read shelf, and I promise you that list will grow because that list doesn’t include every sequel or installment in series I’ve found and have yet to learn I like.

If I find a new author and I like their work then I’m going to see what else they’ve written. I’m probably going to follow them if I like them a lot. So in the case of Patricia McKillip, I have a lot of back reading to do. No I don’t read every book by every author I enjoy but it’s possible that I could (in theory). Every year hundreds, thousands of new books are published, many are debuts. That means more authors and series to add to my list. Unless I learn how to read a book a day, it’s safe to say I’ll never get to every book I might want to read out there.

So it is I keep asking myself, do you DNF? AHHHHHH! It’s so hard! Even after everything I just said about all the books out there, when I’m reading a book I feel like I HAVE to finish it. There’s a stain in my mind when I see those books I said OMG I can’t do this. What if it got better after I quit? But what if it never did? What if the ending kind of makes it worth it? Then just read the ending. But where exactly is the ending?

My great aunt and I had lunch the other day and we talked about this DNF. Do you DNF my dear aunt? Her answer wasn’t yes or no, but in summary it was yes. She will flip forward a dozen or so pages and if it gets better, great, if it doesn’t she skips to the end and reads the ending. At the very least, you gotta know how it ends right? She agreed, why spend time reading something you don’t like?

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DNF Lists

When I searched Goodreads’ lists for “DNF” I got 15 results, not all relevant. The top of the list was “The Most Begun ‘Read But Unfinished’ (Initiated) Book Ever” with 2,334 books in the list. The list was created in July 2008, has 653 likes, and 12,383 people voted on the list. The description states that this list is not about books being bad, just really difficult to finish. The book at the top of the list is Catch 22 #1 by Joseph Heller. Next is The Lord of the Rings series. There’s Ulysses, Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, Dracula, The Catcher in the Rye, A Brief History of Time, 1984, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Interview with the Vampire (love that movie), Eat Pray Love, The Great Gatsby, The Origin of Species, and I’m skipping a lot of books on the first page. Little Women, The Time Traveler’s Wife (another great movie), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (my dad read this to us when I was kid before bed we’d gather and listen), American Gods, Gulliver’s Travels, and book number #100 on this first page is The Red Badge of Courage.

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There are 24 pages total. Granted this spans 10 1/2 years of people voting and adding books, I’m leaning towards surprise there’s not more! Perhaps I don’t understand the severity of 24 pages of about 100 books… On page 24 we find Portrait of a Killer – Jack the Ripper, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants #1, The Hate You Give (strange as it has a 4.55 star average rating, though I haven’t read or seen it), The Lost City of Z, To the Ends of the Earth, and so many more as I only picked out some titles that sounded familiar to me. While I’m more than curious to scan over some of the other pages, I do not have the time. Do you DNF any of these?

Another list is titled “Books Not On My Shelves That I’ve Started But Could Not/Did Not Finish”. Their description is ” Books not gripping enough or interesting enough to be worth finishing–or adding to a DNF shelf.” There are 68 books and 30 voters, started April 2012. Not so many here especially given almost seven years. The first is On the Road by Jack Kerouac, the second is Catch 22 (again), and the last is Inside Outside by Philip Jose Farmer.

There’s a “DNF” list, “Sorry Couldn’t Finish Reading”, “Books We DNFed In 2015”, “Books you have abandoned this year in 2018”, “Books I Decided Not to Finish”, “Books We DNFed in 2016”, “First Half Good, Last Half Disappointing/Bad”, and many more. A lot of these don’t have many voters, the first list I mentioned was the only one that passed 1,000 books or 1,000 voters.

DNF Posts

Then of course there are plenty of blog posts dedicated to DNFed books and the topic of DNF. One blogger, at Sophie’s Corner, writes how she has a hard time DNFing books. It seems we all come back to the fact that there is so little time and so much to do. She created a list of criteria she’s going to use going forward. One such set of criteria I haven’t considered is triggers and explicit content. Do you DNF books for these reasons? I would but I haven’t picked up a lot of books trigger me in this way. I’ve read some gruesome books and taken interest in them but most of the time I don’t read a lot of that. I don’t read horror. But if I happened to pick up something and the blurb didn’t forewarn me so-to-speak but the story bothered me, I think that this is quick reason to DNF.

Book Steff is another blogger who finds it difficult to DNF books. I’m finding more and more that it’s common for people to find this difficult to do. She has a 100 page limit before she’ll DNF a book, more if it’s a chunkster as they call books 450 pages or more in the bookish world. (Of course it could be 500 plus pages depending who you talk to.) She emphasizes that you should allow yourself to put a book down that just doesn’t fit you. Don’t be ashamed. Interesting angle…

The biggest reason I even think about DNFing a book is because I can’t get into it, I just don’t care what happens in this story or to the characters. The reason I even finish those books is because I can’t stand to not finish a book. But it does frustrate me to get to the end of a book and never forge any connection with the characters or the story. If I’m halfway through a book and I still feel like I’m reading something for school, something assigned to me, I get anxious and pick up another book. I will seriously read other books but come to that one again and again reading pages just because I feel I have to and hope I don’t regret it.

While I’ve not run into a lot of books like this – I’ve found some blurbs and reading samples – I will absolutely DNF a book with loads of spelling mistakes (lack of editing) and overall unprofessional writing. If the story reads like seven year old wrote it but an adult did, I’m not going there. Now we’re into a whole other topic…back to do you DNF…

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I could go on, there’s much more, so many more bloggers and lists and reasons for DNFing. Maybe we’ll revisit this in the future, but for now I’m going to leave this here. So what do you say, should we create some DNF criteria this year? What do you DNF & why? Or why is it hard for you to DNF?

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project #3) by Mishell Baker

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Info From Goodreads:

(My review of Impostor Syndrome follows)

In the third book of the Nebula Award–nominated Arcadia Project series, which New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire called “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted,” Millie Roper has to pull off two impossible heists—with the fate of the worlds in the balance.

Three months ago, a rift between agents in London and Los Angeles tore the Arcadia Project apart. With both fey Courts split down the middle—half supporting London, half LA—London is putting the pieces in place to quash the resistance. But due to an alarming backslide in her mental health, new LA agent Mille Roper is in no condition to fight.

When London’s opening shot is to frame Millie’s partner, Tjuan, for attempted homicide, Millie has no choice but to hide him and try to clear his name. Her investigation will take her across the pond to the heart of Arcadia at the mysterious and impenetrable White Rose palace. The key to Tjuan’s freedom—and to the success of the revolution—is locked in a vault under the fey Queen’s watchful eye. It’s up to Millie to plan and lead a heist that will shape the future of two worlds—all while pretending that she knows exactly what she’s doing…

Paperback, 480 pagesPublished March 13th 2018 by Saga Press

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome:

4.5/5 stars

This was tricky for me to rate. I really enjoyed this whole series and wonder if there will be a fourth installment. While this was a great installment it didn’t wow me the same way the second did. So I gave it five stars since you can’t leave half stars but 4.5 is what I really give it.

Mishell Baker is a great writer. Her imagination and creative direction impress me, I look forward to discovering more of her work. Hopefully we’ll see more of this cast of characters. That said, I thought this book could have been a lot shorter. As with the previous two this was a busy, active book, which makes for an entertaining read. However a lot of time was spent on relationships, too much time IMHO.

Other than that this was another fun read I could read it relatively fast, for me that’s saying a lot. It was full of the usual cast of characters in addition to some cool new ones. I enjoyed getting to know them all more. Great twists and turns and the system and workings of the magic in this world do not get old. I really appreciate the beings she’s created in this world and how they vary. Her characters are real and dynamic, human and otherwise. I appreciate that her main character, Millie, is a double amputee finding her way through Borderline Personality Disorder. She’s not a character you see every day but this story is proof that we need more real life characters. She is an unlikely hero but a good one nonetheless.

Of course I recommend this book, I recommend this series! Definitely start from the beginning. 😉 

Thanks for reading my review of Impostor Syndrome. I’ve got more reviews, click here!

For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

Check out what else I’m reading or planning to, 2019 TBR.

Have you read this or other Mishell Baker books? Please share your thoughts, I love comments!

Embarrassed to Read Fiction

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone about reading. They mentioned that they don’t read much. Fine, no problem, my partner isn’t much of a reader either. I said, it’s one of those “to each their own” kind of things. When she does read she says she prefers biographies, true stories. For a moment my little anxiety brain felt a spark of embarrassment. Am I embarrassed to read fiction? We’re both adults right? She reads true stories, I read fiction. I mean, I read non-fiction too. However, I read more fiction than non-fiction. I mean if you’re a writer you have to read, so even my fiction is for my writing. But still, AM i embarrassed to read fiction? What’s that say about me?

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I shook those thoughts away and shared my thinking, not the entire split-second conversation with myself but the gist of it. In my late 20s I didn’t read fiction for about 5 years. I felt that it was a waste of time. If I’m going to be reading than I should be reading informational stuff or research or news or you know, real life. And if I’m doing anything with fiction it should be me writing my novel (I was working on a different novel/idea back then). That was my protest against reading fiction. Boy am I glad I grew up, and came out of it.

Fiction is not a children’s game. Much like acting is not for children or less serious people. We don’t chide each other for watching movies do we? Do you ridicule someone for going to see a play? Do you laugh at them when they say they have a favorite fictional show on TV? No. Okay depends, but that’s another story. My partner might not read fiction but he sure as heck watches it. Reading fiction is simply a different method of delivery.

Sure it takes a lot more time than watching it; I watched the show “You” on Netflix and will not be reading it, what for, I already watched it? That’s not a slight at anyone who reads and watches shows or movies, again, to each their own. But reading something provides you the opportunity to explore and go on an adventure with someone else inside your own mind. Yes it’s their story, their imagination but I see it like implanting their imagination into yours; they’re driving the car, taking you down their story-road. You’re still putting in work to see and digest what they’re showing you, imagining the characters, the setting, the actions. It’s you tasting their recipe and deciding if you like it. You connect with someone else’s mind behind the scenes and on your own time.

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Reading fiction also gives you perspective into a lot of ‘what’ifs’. The book Binti is science-fiction. She leaves her family and her home land, something that no one else has done, to go to a prestigious university set far away on another planet. Sarah Beth Durst’s Queens of Renthia series is set in a made up world with vicious spirits that will tear you to shreds should the queen lose control of them. Girls are chosen because of their affinity for spirits to study and train to be a possible heir to the queen should she fall. It’s a story of hope and beating the odds when you don’t think you’re as good as everyone else and yet you know that you have something to offer, even if you don’t yet know where you fit. Both stories are based around themes we experience in non-fiction life.

Sometimes stories don’t have any obvious message. If you read murder mysteries you might not get some charming message to appreciate yourself, but I bet you’ll open your eyes a little wider at night when you’re walking through a dark parking lot. But who’s to say a story has to have a life-altering message? Don’t we just like stories because they play with our imagination? Don’t we think it’s awesome that animals play? Reading is a form of play, whether you see it like that or not is up to you. But it is.

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Even though I might tell you sheepishly that the book I’m reading is a fantasy novel I will remind myself that I am not afraid to let my imagination live and play in this world. I will not harness it from interacting with the arts and entertainment of this world or the next. Of course we should have some kind of filter, there’s a lot of entertainment out there that’s not worth a fly’s spit, if that’s a thing.

Oh and by the way, I was getting my tire fixed when I told grown man at the counter that I would wait in the lobby with my book. He asked what I was reading. Huh? Oh, yeah it’s a fantasy novel. Turns out he likes fantasy. (Yes skeptics my brain goes their too, maybe he just said that to appease me the lady in front of him. Maybe. Maybe not.) He was interested in the series I was reading, Borderline by Mishell Baker. I at the time was reading book two, Phantom Pains, and I’m now reading book 3, Impostor Syndrome (which I’ll finish this weekend). You never know. Sorry to stereotype the guy behind the counter and be surprised he was interested but, isn’t that what we’re talking about? Should a grown man be embarrassed to read fiction?

My Challenge to You: Are you embarrassed to read fiction?

Next time you go somewhere, if you’re reading a physical book, bring it with you. Don’t put it in a bag, carry it in your hand or make it visible. Maybe no one will bother, go somewhere where there aren’t already loads of people reading books. Or heck if there are lots of readers, what are they reading? Maybe someone will notice your book. Or if you don’t have a physical book at the moment, get one. Engage someone you see with a physical book that looks interesting to you. Or if you’re a chatty bloke like me, refer to your book. Make a scene or story out of you and your PHYSICAL book. Have fun with it, be polite and respectful of course, but have fun. Then tell me about it. 😀 Are you embarrassed to read fiction?

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Review of The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

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From Goodreads:

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, in which she lost her husband, the widowed Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the savage, war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell – where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Published February 17th 2015 by Tor Books (first published March 4th 2014)

My Review

4/5 stars

It’s been a while since I read the first in this series so I couldn’t remember just what I was in for or wasn’t. At times I wished the story itself would pick up and I really wanted to read more about dragons than anything else. All in all though this book ended really well, so if you’re feeling a little dissatisfied, hold on I think you’ll appreciate finishing it.

This book is not a bad book, it’s written well, simply put it’s just not your average story. Imagine dragons are real but they haven’t been well studied, if much at all. Now go back in time, let’s say like early 1900s, and imagine a woman scientist, naturalist whose life revolves around dragons. She’s a young woman, in her 20s, with a young son this time around. She’s very likable, an adventurer who doesn’t always make the best choices, and she’s dedicated to dragons, their well being, and her study of them. While she’s always pushing the boundaries she has to live within the restrictions of a world that doesn’t encourage women in science (she had to publish her work under her husband’s name) let alone trousers. This is a story about her adventures and studies so it’s not always exciting but IMHO it’s very interesting. Reading it I felt like I could very well be reading a real memoir, it was fun to imagine and helped me get through the slower parts of the story. And it’s not even that this is a slow story by any means, every chapter is full of a new development, I’m just pouting because I wanted more dragon time. That said the people of the Green Hell, the swamp of Mouleen, are themselves quite interesting. I think it’s fair to say this story has a long lead up to a great conclusion.

If you want to read about a world with dragons from a natural history perspective, that includes all aspects of such expeditions to study them, then you’ll really enjoy this. There’s a lot more than dragons going on here and they’re not the same dragons you read about in all the other fantasy stories you’ve come across. Again, think real world dragons. One of the best parts, I think, is that this is a world with dragons across the globe in all kinds of environments. There’s different species of dragons, not just the one kind like we’re used to hearing about. Most other stories treat dragons like there’s only ever one kind of dragon. That is not the case here.

I’ll be starting the next The Voyage of the Basilisk sooner than later because I’d like to stay in the vein of this kind of writing, this book ended with an excerpt from the next, and I already have it in my possession. 😀 Check my 2019 TBR for Voyage of the Basilisk and more!

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For more of my reviews CLICK HERE!

Adventures in a Bookish World

On Goodreads you can sign up for the annual reading challenge and create your personal goal. Last year I didn’t read as much as I would have liked so this year I set my goal low, 20 books. So far I’ve read five! That’s awesome if you ask me. 😀 Now I have to admit two of those I started at the end of 2018 and finished in 2019, so they count but they’re right on the line. At this rate I’m going to kick butt. I just finished “Semiosis” by Sue Burke, great book, I gave it 5/5 stars. I do recommend it. Book two is expected out this year so we’ll see.

At present I’m reading three books. One non-fiction, “My Age of Anxiety”, a steampunk novel, “Everfair”, and “The Five Times I Met Myself”, just started it yesterday. I have a page for my 2019 TBR, CLICK HERE. The list is and will be subject to change, that I can promise you. I’m excited to see where they take me, non-fiction and fiction alike. I’m excited what this reading will do for my writing, for me, heck for you and the blog.

Where do you find your books? Podcasts, websites, magazines, newspapers, friends, family, the bookstore? How do you pick them? How do you prefer to read, physical or electronic? Or perhaps both? Who are your favorites? Why? What kind of books are you looking for? What are you willing to give a shot to? Wondering about fantasy? Want some science-fiction? What tickles your fancy?

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I find books ALL OVER THE PLACE. For real, everywhere. I like to visit book stores. I love books, the way they feel, look, and smell. Some of my most fond memories from school involve books, namely the Book Fair. OH MY GOD I loved book fair. A beautiful way into the bookish world. They bring their shelves on wheels in to school and fill up the library with loads of new books. Just looking at them I got excited. I knew then that reading and books were an unstoppable love. Stories are infinite. The variety astounded me. I was especially fascinated seeing series. How could I ever get through them all? Come back in a few weeks for my post about the books I read as a kid, many I got from these book fairs.

Book Stores

Of course book stores are like Christmas while Book Fair was an event. Bookstores are an all the time bookish world. Places where all the world can go and take their pick, much like the library. So how do you pick them? Do you go to the bookstore only when you have a specific book in mind, or particular author? Or are you like me and you’ll go just to find something? I mean of course I go in search of a target book or author, but I think I’ve gone more and found books at random. I’ve definitely picked books from their titles and/or covers. Read the blurb or back matter and make your selection. That leads to pulling out books around the other ones you’ve found. Or turning to the shelf behind you. Do you ever smell books in the store? Yup. (Hand raised.)

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Other People

Sometimes I get recommendations from people for books though most books I find myself. Perhaps you have a certain person who’s always giving recommendations? I like to exchange ideas with people and make some notes wherever I can from their suggestions. The funny thing about recommendations is that there are SO MANY books I find it near impossible to even take book suggestions. I always find something interesting so I don’t always like getting books that are widely popular. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t read them; I’m a fan of Jodi Picoult and she’s a widely read author. Maybe if you read in the same circles you always take suggestions from your friends? I don’t know, tell me about it, how do you do it?

Podcasts & BookTube

My newest methods for finding books, over the last year or so, is through podcasts and sometimes BookTube. I have found a number of books and authors through the people I follow. BookTube is kind of controversial. It appears there’s a lot of drama behind the scenes with a lot of people getting paid to read and review books. No one should be surprised that people make videos about the books they’ve read in hopes they’ll get loads of followers and maybe make some money. Some people do, but what then of integrity?

Eh, another day… but wait! I have thanks to a BookTuber I found Book Outlet. Great source for bargain books. (Follow this link to the left and I’ll get some points for referring people. Thank you! And no that’s not WHY I’m referring you there, I really do like shopping at Book Outlet. I just got a new shipment, nine books for $42!) I’m all for buying local but if you can save some money on some books, why not? You see, Book Outlet gets overstock or damaged books from bookstores and other suppliers. This allows them to reduce the prices significantly. They don’t have every book you can think of, their selection is limited. So, my strategy? Find what books you can on Book Outlet and the rest you get from book stores. ;D Simple!

The podcasts I follow are all writing and/or reading related, always trying to keep writing on my mind. “Life Inside My Mind”, a collection of personal essays by 31 authors, I heard of through the podcast “Writing Excuses”. Podcasts are a great source for books. Almost all the ones I listen to are centered around some kind of interview with an author. It’s great to hear the author in their own words (as if their writing isn’t their own!) their background, the background of their story and their writing career, their thoughts on writing, their process, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You can check out the podcasts I listen to by clicking here.

Goodreads

Of course there’s Goodreads, a great big community of readers. Goodreads is its own bookish world. There are innumerable ways to connect with other readers, authors, and books on there. You could just post books on your shelves, leave ratings and reviews, browse recommendations. Or you could link up with like-minded people, follow authors, ask them questions. Then there’s groups, oh Lord there are groups! I’m not a big group person though I’ve joined some. This year I’ve joined some great reading challenges. Should be fun. Groups are an interesting place to see just how much we do or do not have in common. One more testament to just how many books there are out there. I’ll post more on Goodreads later this spring.

And to think I’ve not even mentioned the free books I’ve gotten through Amazon. They used to offer you one free a month, granted from four pre-selected books. Now they offer two I think it is of early reader copies, again from pre-selected books. I’ve only read a couple of the free ones I’ve chosen and I have to be honest, I don’t know who selects them or how but they need a new job…enough said, though I may elaborate at a later time.

Libraries

To think I haven’t mentioned libraries. Oh dear…admittedly I don’t go to the library much. Not because I don’t like to or I’ve got anything against library books, I just don’t. But libraries are fabulous. They are the epicenter to our bookish world at large! They’re way more dangerous than bookstores because you have to buy books to leave the store with them and that means emptying out your wallet if you love books like I do. Whereas once you’re all signed up and happy with your library card it’s all you and the books. When I go to the library I kind of lose my mind, completely awestruck. I just want to walk around and look at all the books. That said, I am not so good at returning things…that is a problem. But we’ll make a trip to the library soon and share my adventure here. 😉

This has been a taste of life in my bookish world. Be sure to come back soon as I’ll be adding a new post every week. Don’t forget to check out my TBR list and let me know if you’re planning to read any of them. Or maybe you plan to read a book by the same authors? Do you have other means for finding books? I’d love to hear how you find yourself in a bookish world. For now happy writing, reading, and exploring. And should you be so lucky to be in the frigid cold, stay warm and safe. Protect those you love.