Friday, December 14, 2018

Most Disappointing Books of 2018

It's that time of year! I usually save my end of year posts for a bit later in December, but since I don't plan (🤞) to read any more disappointing books before the end of the year, I figured I might as well go ahead and share my most disappointing reads of the year. While putting together this post, I was pleasantly surprised to see how few books I rated low. I'm not sure if I'm just an easy rater, easy to please, or I'm just generally pretty good at picking books I like, but regardless of why I'm glad I didn't have too many disliked books to add to this list.

As a general disclaimer, my opinions are mine alone and I am in no way judging you if you loved one of the books on this list. I don't even necessarily hate or dislike a lot of these books, it's just that I had higher expectation for them and they ended up really falling flat for me. Also, these are in no particular order. So, let's dive in!

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
I loved one of Malerman's other books, Bird Box, so when I heard this was coming out I was really intrigued by the premise, but sadly it did not work for me. The plot itself was incredibly forced and could have been resolved much quicker than it was--in fact, I think I might've liked this more if it were a novella. Even then, there was just something missing from this book, which is a shame since it had such great potential.. (Review)

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff
Man, it's almost painful to include this one. I was beyond excited to read this book. I love the Nevernight series and I love The Illuminae Files so I thought this would be awesome. Unfortunately, it ended up being a chore to get through. Most of the characters were not developed well for me, the action was a bit too nonstop with not enough character development or time to develop the plot, and it was hard to keep up with the random slang and world-building. Kristoff's trademark sass and imagination was there, but that's about it. I'm not even sure if I want to continue with this series, but I will probably see what reviews are like and decide next year. (Review)

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside is not a bad book by any means, so this one was definitely just my own problem with the book. Foundryside is actually one of the most popular books of fantasy this year it seems, and I completely understand why. It's inventive, fast-paced, exciting.... and it just didn't click with me. There was too much info-dumping, too much repetition, and the characters were not interesting. This book was also a couple hundred pages too long--cut out a couple of the endless cat-and-mouse chase scenes, and maybe things would've been a little bit better. Maybe. (Review)

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


Suicide ClubSuicide Club by Rachel Heng
This is another one that I really wanted to love. This had such a cool premise! A world where certain people have the potential to live forever if they do things right, some major dystopian elements at play, etc.... and it was executed so poorly. I hardly know where the plot was and the characters were so lackluster. I was more interested in the characters we didn't get to see as much. This whole thing was a disappointment. (Review)



Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
I love Viking books, so this was high on my anticipated lists. Unfortunately, pretty much nothing happens in this book, including a lack of character development, plot, and my interest. It was predictable, the pacing was really inconsistent, and I kind of hated the protagonist. So many people seemed to have loved this one and I wish I was one of them, but I guess I'm not. (Review)


Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg
Another one with potential that fell flat. This was a collection of short fairy tale reimaginings that seemed like they would be on the darker, feminist side. I really liked one or two of these (the one that was a Little Mermaid retelling was my favorite!) I liked what Ortberg was trying to do, which was subvert a lot of gender roles and include some trans, gender neutral, etc. figures into these stories. My problem was that it just wasn't executed all that well and ended up actually being a bit confusing to read, and some stories just missed the mark entirely for me. That being said, I appreciate that Ortberg, who has since transitioned from Mallory to Daniel, was able to incorporate some diverse elements from personal experiences. I just wish I enjoyed these stories more.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Most of my disappointments have been books that had potential and failed to execute it, and Red Clocks is no exception. It feels like so many books have this really neat idea, but then the author decides to focus on some really random, uninteresting character plot line that I don't care about. I want to see more about the world, how things happened, etc. It has a very 'literary' prose style which I normally enjoy, but in this case it felt like it was trying too hard and I just couldn't get into it. It seems like another one that was really popular with most people, so I guess it's just me. (Review)


Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


The Darkest Part of the Forest by [Black, Holly]The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
I love The Cruel Prince, so I decided to finally pick up some of Holly Black's other books, starting with this one... and it was not what I expected. I honestly don't have a lot to say about this book because it was just so mediocre and uninteresting to me. The characters had that very 'generic stereotypical YA' feel and the story was a bit unbelievable at times. I'm still looking forward to The Wicked King, though!


Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Beast Within, The: A Tale of Beauty's Prince (Villains Book 2) by [Valentino, Serena]The Beast Within by Serena Valentino
This was a Beauty and the Beast-inspired story told from the Beast's point of view, part of a Disney Villains series that Serena Valentino is writing. I read Fairest of All, about the Wickd Queen from Snow White, and found it pretty decent, nothing spectacular but certainly enjoyable, so I looked forward to this one. I have no idea what happened, but honestly, this was really bad. The characters were almost pointless they were so flat and everything dragged on too long before the real meat of the story ever appeared in the last few chapters. I'm might check out one more book in this Villains series because I enjoy these types of stories, but I'll probably be pretty hesitant about it if I do choose to.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your biggest book disappointments this year?


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review: The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The Sea Was a Fair Master
The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
Self-published, 2018
Ebook. 83 pages.

About The Sea Was a Fair Master:

"'The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him. 

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love. 

For the sea was a fair master."

I've only recently started reading more flash fiction, and with each collection of stories I read, the more I seem to enjoy it! The Sea Was a Fair Master is an exceptionally dark collection of flash fiction, which, as you might expect, I was immediately drawn to and loved. 

Each story is, of course, very short, but that doesn't take anything away from the intensity, the setup, or the twists in each one. A few twists here and there were somewhat predictable, but I didn't really mind at all because I still enjoyed reading the build-up that Demmer created. I'm also incredibly impressed by how much style and distinct voice Demmer was able to fill into such short bursts of fiction, and it really leaves me wanting to read more and see what else he has up his sleeve.

There's  a little bit of everything in this book, from crime, horror, science fiction, some fantasy--if you like variety, you'll love it. Some stories start off seemingly innocent, some throw you right into knowing that something is wrong, and that versatility is something that I really liked about Demmer's style. I can't go into too much depth about the individual stories, but a few standouts for me were:

"On the Seventh Day": This is the first story and it set the tone for the rest of the collection perfectly.

"The Sea Was a Fair Master": Being stationed in the middle of the ocean can get boring, so some men partake in an...unusual... hobby to pass the time.

"Sea Ate Nine": A story with unexpected twists the entire way through-- I was surprised by the ending, but I also loved it.

"Trashcan Sam": A dark take on the hobbies of garbage collectors... This one was a delight.

"Like a Spanish Guitar": A couple decides to take a nice picnic near a lake... and it becomes completely unexpected, yet brilliantly executed.

Overall, I've given The Sea Was a Fair Master 4.25 stars. If the idea of some short, twisty, and dark flash fiction appeals to you or intrigues, then pick this one up! I believe it's only $2.99 for the ebook right now, so you can't go wrong there.


*I received a copy of The Sea Was a Fair Master courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer & The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
 Publication Date: January 15th, 2019
Page Street Kids
400 pages
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository 


Echo NorthFrom Goodreads: 

"
Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart after her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an offer: for her to come and live with him for a year. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. 

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, Echo discovers centuries-old secrets, a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up—otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever."
This week I've ended up with a double dose of middle grade for my CWW and I'm not mad about it at all. I love that this one sounds a bit folktale-esque and I'm curious to see what the writing style will be like.


             and...


The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019
Bloomsbury Children's Books
320 pages
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository 


From Goodreads: 

"
Catherine Doyle's stunning middle-grade debut, an evocative tale of ancient magic, bravery, and family bonds. 

When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet. 

Once in a generation, the island chooses a new Storm Keeper – someone to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn's grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise. 

Fionn's ancestral home has been waiting for him. But, deep underground, someone else has been waiting, too. As the battle rages over who will become the island's next champion, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war."
It sounds magical, exciting, imaginative--what else do I want in a fun fantasy middle grade?

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

     

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

First Chapter Tuesday: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami & Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller


First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach. This is meme in which bloggers share the first chapter of a book that they are currently reading or thinking about reading soon. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Vicki's blog, or simply check it out to find more new books to read!

For this week's First Chapter Tuesday I thought I would share some intros from two books that I've just started reading!

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
trans. Philip Gabriel, Ted Goossen
Killing Commendatore 

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE
"Today when I awoke from a nap the faceless man was there before me. He was seated on the chair across from the sofa I’d been sleeping on, staring straight at me with a pair of imaginary eyes in a face that wasn’t. 
The man was tall, and he was dressed the same as when I had seen him last. His face-that-wasn’t-a-face was half hidden by a wide-brimmed black hat, and he had on a long, equally dark coat. 

“I came here so you could draw my portrait,” the faceless man said, after he’d made sure I was fully awake. His voice was low, toneless, flat. “You promised you would. You remember?”

CHAPTER 1: IF THE SURFACE IS FOGGED UP 

From May until early the following year, I lived on top of a mountain near the entrance to a narrow valley. Deep in the valley it rained constantly in the summer, but outside the valley it was usually sunny. This was due to the southwest wind that blew off the ocean. Moist clouds carried by the wind entered the valley, bringing rain as they made their way up the slopes. The house was built right on the boundary line, so often it would be sunny out in front while heavy rain fell in back. At first I found this disconcerting, but as I got used to it, it came to seem natural."


Since this book has a prologue as well, I decided to do as I usually do and include a snippet of both that and the first chapter.
I've been looking for to reading Killing Commendatore since it was release in Japan two (?) years ago and the wait has felt endless. It was published in English as of a few months ago and I'm finally finding the time to sink into this one. I'm already loving it and can't wait to keep going.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
 

Excerpt:

"PEOPLE WOULD SAY 

People would say she came to Qaanaaq in a skiff towed by a killer whale harnessed to the front like a horse. In these stories, which grew astonishingly elaborate in the days and weeks after her arrival, the polar bear paced beside her on the flat bloody deck of the boat. 

Her face was clenched and angry. She wore battle armor built from thick scavenged plastic. At her feet, in heaps, were the kind of weird weapons and machines that refugee-camp ingenuity had been producing; strange tools fashioned from the wreckage of Manhattan or Mumbai. Her fingers twitched along the walrus-ivory handle of her blade. She had come to do something horrific in Qaanaaq, and she could not wait to start. 

You have heard these stories. You may even have told them. Stories are valuable here. They are what we brought when we came here; they are what cannot be taken away from us."

Goodreads
I've had this on my TBR for way too long. I finally have my hands on a copy and hope to actually get this read before the end of the year!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

What do you think? Would you keep reading these books? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 


*Excerpts are taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton


The Queens of Innis Lear
The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton 
Tor, 2018
Hardcover. 575 pages.

About The Queens of Innis Lear:

"'A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood. 

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes. 

The king's three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm's only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted. 

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided."

The Queens of Innis Lear is a fantasy reimagining of the classic Shakespeare play "King Lear." I'm not overly familiar with the story of King Lear myself--I've read it, but it was so long ago that I hardly remember a thing. Before jumping into this one I checked out some reviews to see if it was necessary to know the play, and most said that said knowing the general plot points of the play is helpful in fully enjoying this book, but not necessary, so I opted to read it without a refresher and I had no issues whatsoever. I'm sure I missed out on some King Lear-related subtleties, but I had no problem enjoying this book or following along with the story.

The most prominent thing about this book is the prose itself, which is beautiful, elegant, and extensive in style. This makes for a rather dense read that really forced me to slow down and appreciate the writing as much as the story itself. Personally, I really liked the prose and thought it made for a gorgeous story. This style isn't everyone's preference, though, and I think this is partially what caused a lot of people to give this book a lower rating; if you don't mind some drawn out and descriptive prose, however, then I implore you to give this one a shot.

Another shining part of this book is the cast of characters. I am floored by how deftly Gratton created these well-developed, fully fleshed out characters that are all strong and and powerful in their own way, none of which ever felt stereotypical or cliche'd. The three sisters that prove the main focus of the plot are Gaela, Reagan, and Elia. These three women are phenomenal and each have their own unique form of power that is expressed in very different ways and effects, but still holds its own at the end of the day.

Elia is the youngest and has stayed by her father's side while her other two sisters have essentially divorced themselves from him. Outwardly, she could be seen as the weakest of the bunch, the most sensitive and 'gentle,' but this would not be an accurate description of her as the story goes on. Elia has a quiet strength that erupts from her only when necessary. Reagan is described as being the 'manipulator,' and that is completely accurate. She is sly and rather devious, but always maintains a sense of authenticity that makes her shine with vibrancy. Reagan is someone that I would always want on my side, but at the same time I'm not sure I'd fully trust her. Lastly is Gaela, the eldest and also the most physically powerful. She is the warrior of the three and is constantly training and ready for any battle. She does not want to be shackled by the 'limitations' of regular women, such a giving birth and dealing with menstruation, so she makes sure these are not issues for her. Even though each sister does things that are good, bad, and everything in between, I still felt myself drawn to them and completely invested in following their every action.

There's a lot more that I can say about the other characters in this book as well, such as King Lear himself, Ban the Fox, Rory, Morimaros, and others, but in order to not make this review endlessly long I'll simply say that they are just as carefully and intricately crafted as the three sisters. If strong, well-written characters, then this is definitely a book to keep on your radar. The way Gratton weaves each character into the other's story line and gives them such meaningful roles in this story is fascinating.

The setting often takes place in a forest or forest-surrounded area, which adds to the darkly beautiful tone of the book. There is always a deeper meaning to things that are said and the events of this book were very obviously created with great care. It's apparent that Gratton knew what she was doing when writing this book and planned out every last action to make everything stand out wonderfully, and it certainly paid off.

Overall, I've given The Queens of Innis Lear 4.5 stars! If you have a little patience and are looking dive into a beautifully told story with lush scenery and fully developed characters, then you couldn't find a better book than this one.


Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Friday Face-Off: A Hero

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.

I felt that it was time to join in another Friday Face-Off, so here we go!

This week's topic is:
‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

For this week's topic, I thought I'd go with The Witcher, aka Geralt of Rivia. So Geralt sort of stretches the line between hero and antihero, but for this topic I thought he would make for a good cover hero. He has quite a presence and does regularly battle fantastical beasts and the like, so it works. I chose to go with The Last Wish as the book to feature, since it is often the place most recommended as a starting point to the series (it's where I started as well!) and features Geralt in a variety of short stories battling different creatures.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski


  The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)
2007 Gollancz || 2008 Orbit || 2008 Gollancz

  Il guardiano degli innocenti (La saga di Geralt di Rivia, #1)Последнее желание (Ведьмак, #1)Ultima dorință (The Witcher, #1)
Italian Edition || Russian Edition || Romanian Edition

  ÐŸÐ¾ÑÐ»ÐµÐ´Ð½ÐµÐµ желание (Ведьмак, #1)Poslednja Želja (Saga o VeÅ¡cu, #1)Le Dernier VÅ“u (Sorceleur #1)
Russian Edition #2 || Serbian Edition || French Edition

El último deseo (The Witcher #1)Ostatnie życzenie (Wiedźmin, #1)
Spanish Edition || Polish Edition



My choice(s):
Последнее желание (Ведьмак, #1)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)El último deseo (The Witcher #1)

I had a hard time deciding for this one! In general, I like the 2008 Gollancz edition the best even though it has a person on the cover, which I don't usually love. That being said, I thought Russian edition (left) really fit this topic the best and showcased Geralt in a very heroic manner, and the Spanish edition was just as strong with those heroic vibes. 


Which covers do you like best?

Buy it! Amazon | Book Depository


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