Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Thankful Not to Live In

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie--Books I'm Thankful Not to Live In

I've done a 'bookish things I'm thankful for' post for the past two years, so I decided to switch it up. I thought about doing one about bookish feasts, but apparently I've also already done that. Instead, I decided to talk about some books that make me endlessly thankful to be living in the world that I do. It's not that our world is perfect (hah!), but it's safe to say that it could be worse. I tried to choose some that I haven't seen too often in posts like these, and it ended up being pretty fun looking through my books and deciding which sounded most horrible. So here are some books I'm thankful to not be a character in!

19841984 by George Orwell
I thought I'd start this list off with a rather obvious choice. The surveillance in 1984 sounds pretty terrifying and the entire world is one that I'd very much like to avoid. We may already have a lot of surveillance, but the level in 1984 is something I'm glad we don't have (yet?).
About: "Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent - even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . ."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

MunmunMunmun by Jesse Andrews
The class divisions in this society are a bit too literal--the richer you are, the bigger your physical size, etc.--and life as a littlepoor (or even any of the other smaller sizes) sounds horrifying and dangerous. I have a feeling I wouldn't be rich in this world either, so I'm thankful that although our society does have some class divides, they aren't quite so literal.
About: "In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
I've gone back and forth on this one because I love the fact that the Library of Alexandria still exists, but the way that information is withheld from people, how strict things are in general, and the prevalence of burners are all some turn-offs for me. And the biggest problem: you can't own your own books! I can't even imagine. If we did away with all thsoe things and just had a world with the Library of Alexandria still in existence, then I'm in!
About: "Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Suicide ClubSuicide Club by Rachel Heng
This world sounds exhausting and mentally unhealthy. I don't want to live forever and I don't want to worry about preserving myself so carefully that I can live forever. If I want to eat 'unhealthy' food, I'm going to. Even though I didn't love this book, I still found myself completely opposed to this world and thinking about it occasionally.
About: "Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancĂ© who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

84K84K by Claire North
A world where all you have to do is pay a fine if you commit a crime is not a world that I want to live in. It'd be madness and completely terrifying; anyone can do anything if they have enough money--want to murder someone? just add up the cost!--and I just think it sounds like chaos. This book was an interesting concept to read, but to experience? Nope!
About: "What if your life were defined by a number? 

What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime? 

Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab 
I don't like monsters. I don't want to live in this world with literal scary monsters running around trying to kill me. We have enough monsters in our own world, we don't need actual monsters.
About: "There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

SmokeSmoke by Dan Vyleta
In this world, you basically smoke and get soot and ashes on you every time you 'sin' or do something wrong. I try to always be a good person, sure, but I'm sure as hell not perfect and I don't need that broadcast to everyone all the time, especially since the more you 'smoke,' the worse off in society you'll be. I'll pass!
About: "England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

VoxVox by Christina Dalcher
Women get one hundred words a day to speak and are pretty much 100% controlled, strictly forbidden from learning to read or working, among other things. I'm ridiculously thankful to not live there.
About: "On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her. This is just the beginning. Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Here's another one I'm mixed on. Technically it'd be nice to live in a world where disease and death are eradicated, and it is true that death can come at any time for any of us, but... I still think I'd pass. It's mainly because of all the corruption amongst the higher-ups that scares me a bit too much, and I feel like no matter what you do, corruption will probably pop up somewhere. There are some pros and cons to this one, which would actually be really interesting to discuss in more detail.
About: "Thou shalt kill. A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
This is a super bleak post-apocalyptic world that sounds horrible and I really don't know what else to add. It'd be hard to find something to live for if you were on your own.
About: "The Road is the profoundly moving story fo a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation."

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What are some of the longest books you've ever read?

Planning to purchase a book or two? Consider purchasing on Book Depository through my affiliate link! Book Depository has worldwide free shipping and millions of titles to choose from.

I am also an Amazon affiliate, so if you'd prefer to shop through Amazon, just click the banner on the upper right hand side of my blog! (above the 'Follow by email' box, you may need to pause adblock to see it!)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

*Empire of Sand is now available!*

Empire of Sand
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Orbit, 2018
Paperback. 496 pages.

About Empire of Sand:

"A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy. 

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. 

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…'"

Empire of Sand is a Mughal India-inspired fantasy debut that combines beautiful worldbuilding, a highly riveting culture, and a varied cast of characters that left me hanging onto every word. I had been eagerly anticipating the chance to read this book for quite a while, so when I received a copy from Orbit I was thrilled, and I was not disappointed in the slightest--this book was amazing. It was right about the time when I realized that I was subconsciously reading this book slowly because I didn't want it to end that I knew this would be a winner for me. 

One of the biggest things that set this book apart from others for me was the main protagonist, Mehr, who is probably one of the best characters I've read in a while. Mehr is strong. She is not strong in the cliche'd 'strong female protagonist' way, but she is strong because she has conviction, she fully believes in her culture, and she will not bend to things that go against her morals or that treat people poorly. Because of this, I was constantly impressed with her decisions and how she decided to move forward with her life, something that I don't often find myself doing in books. Mehr has had a privileged life in some ways, such as growing up in a palace-like place and being the son of a governor, but what I liked about her was that she was very much aware of her privileged lifestyle and did not allow that to be ignored even thought she also had many struggles because the people in her land have such disdain for the magic in her blood and what she stands for. Mehr is resilient, always finding hope in places where others, such as another wonderful character in this named Amun, can see none.

The world itself was something else that I really liked about this book, and the only complaint that I have is that there wasn't more of it. I hope that in future books we are given the opportunity to explore more of this world and visit new places because the foundation laid for this world is incredibly intriguing. I love the dessert setting, the South Asian influence, and the general ruling structure of the world--one mortal emperor and one godlike ruler--and I look forward to seeing how the balance is shifted and dealt with in the next book.

This is a book that definitely moves at a slower pace than your usual high action fantasy, but that somehow still creates a story  that felt packed with engaging scenes and a plot that I desperately wanted to know more about. The pacing starts out strong with an introduction to Mehr and the basic setup of the world, and from there it continues on at a very solid pace, slowly building up anticipation for what would happen next. I can see where some might say the middle of the book felt a bit slow, but I found that the it provided an abundance of input in the way of character development and more political and magical development. Suri's writing itself is also beautiful; it's simple but elegant in its reading and I found this book impossibly easy to sink into every time I picked the book up.

One last area that I thought was exceptionally well done was with the religion and culture of the world. In particular, I loved learning about the Amrithi culture and the rites that Mehr and Amun performed; the dancing element was so beautiful to read and I found myself almost falling into the movements in my head while I read them. Everything about both this culture and the rest of the world felt so rich and full of thoughtfulness that I can tell Suri really put a great deal of effort and care into her development of it.

Overall, I have given Empire of Sand five stars! I couldn't help but fall in love with the world and the characters and I am anxiously awaiting the next installment. 

*I received a copy of Empire of Sand courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Friday, November 16, 2018

Standalone Speculative Fiction Recommendations

The speculative fiction umbrella, which includes fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc.. is an area full of great books, but a lot of them tend to be in some sort of series. Standalones seems few and far between in fantasy sometimes and since I'm always seeing people looking for some good standalones, I thought I'd put together a small sample of some great standalones! I had to really weed this list down so it wasn't too long, but perhaps I'll make a 'Part 2' at some point with more. Also, I'd like to note that these are all books that, to the extent of my knowledge, are currently seen as standalones. With that, let's dive in!

The Book of Lost Things Miranda and Caliban Space Opera Spinning Silver

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: If you like dark fairy tale themes and settings or some portal fantasy, then The Book of Lost Things might be right up your alley. If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you might also be wondering, "Can you make one list without mentioning this book!?" And the answer is no, no I cannot.
Amazon | Book Depository

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey: This is more in the low fantasy realm, but it's still a deeply magic literary fantasy by the master author of the Kushiel's Dart series that I love. I really enjoyed this "The Tempest"-inspired retelling and thought it was beautifully written.
Amazon | Book Depository

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente: Here's a sci-fi book that really has no other way to be described than as extremely crazy, but also ridiculously fun. Valente basically wrote this book off of the main idea of "Eurovision in space," and if that doesn't tell you what to expect, nothing will.
Amazon | Book Depository

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: You've probably seen Spinning Silver at least somewhere in the book world lately, but that's for a good reason. It's a beautiful, expertly written fantasy following three young women from different areas of life, but who all struggle with similar themes.
Amazon | Book Depository

Tiger Lily Munmun The Glass Town Game The Changeling

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: I read this book a few years ago, but I still think about it fondly and look forward to a re-read one day. This is a Peter Pan-inspired retelling narrated by Tinkerbell herself. It's beautiful, imaginative, a little heartbreaking, and something that I always like to recommend to people.
Amazon | Book Depository

Munmun by Jesse Andrews: Have you ever wondered what the world might look like if people's physical size reflected their wealth and status in society? Munmun takes that idea and runs with it! This was a surprisingly heartbreaking story that follows a young boy named Warner who wants nothing more than to increase his and his family's way of life, but ends up on quite the rollercoaster of an adventure.
Amazon | Book Depository

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente: This is a middle grade portal type fantasy in which the Bronte children, Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell, are whisked away into a world in which a game they made up is brought to life--and they're now living in it. As one can expect from Valente's writing, this story is ridiculously imaginative and has something new to explore with every page, from the whimsical to the more serious.
Amazon | Book Depository

The Changeling by Victor Lavalle: This is a contemporary fantasy that reads sort of like a modern day dark New York fairy tale. The main character, Apollo, is an antiquarian book dealer whose life is turned upside down when his wife begins have difficulties after the birth of their son. This is definitely a weird one with a few loose endings, but it's also captivating.
Amazon | Book Depository

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor, #1) Under the Skin Gather the Daughters

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman: Who doesn't enjoy some humorous fantasy about the end of the world? Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are unstoppable forces that combined their genius into one exceptional and entertaining novel. Plus, it's currently in the process of being adapted into a TV mini-series set to release next year!
Amazon | Book Depository

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: Political fantasy at its finest, The Goblin Emperor will have you continuously turning pages. There are some steampunk elements in here as well that really contribute to some fantastic world-building. If you like court intrigue, this is for you.
Amazon | Book Depository

Under the Skin by Michel Faber: If someone asked me, "what's one of the weirdest fantasy books you've ever read?" this would be one of my top answers. I don't even know how to describe the plot of this book, but suffice to say it's a contemporary low fantasy that is certainly thought-provoking. It was also made into a movie apparently, though I've not seen and don't really plan to, so I can't attest to how well it holds up the book.
Amazon | Book Depository

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed: I couldn't make a speculative fiction book complete with a dystopian-esque story in it. I'm not sure that I would completely classify this as dystopian since it is mainly focused on cult-like group that live on an isolated island, but it sure feels that way. Plus, if I recall there are small hints that there was some great disaster in the rest of the world. Daughters in this society are essentially "wives-in-training" and there are strict breeding rules, limited knowledge, and so many more crazy things in place. It's definitely worth a read.
Amazon | Book Depository

The Graveyard Book Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook The Witches of New York The Gray House

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This book about a boy named Nobody who grows up in a graveyard feels like a classic to me by this point in my life. There's something really endearing about the idea of a huge family of ghosts raising a toddler and doing their best to protect and educate him.
Amazon | Book Depository

Lost Boy by Christina Henry: I'm a sucker for Peter Pan-inspired stories (if you couldn't already tell) and this one focuses on Captain Hook himself (before he becomes the 'Captain' part) and takes a much darker turn than the story of Peter Pan. This has been one of my favorite 'origin stories' of Captain Hook and I was really impressed by where Henry took the story. I'd also recommend Lisa Jensen's Alias Hook if you like Captain Hook stories.
Amazon | Book Depository

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay: This is a historical/magical realism-type of fantasy about three young women working in a tea and sympathy shop. It's magical and full of so much interesting detail that really made me love entering this world each time I picked it up. There are a lot of things going on throughout this book, but McKay incorporates them well which makes for a great standalone.
Amazon | Book Depository

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan: Another weird one that I'm not entirely sure how to describe. I think it's best summed up from this excerpt from the synopsis: "an astounding tale of how what others understand as liabilities can be leveraged into strengths." It's a fantasy that's worth checking out.
Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What fantasy standalones do you love?