Friday, August 7, 2020

The Friday Face-Off: Action

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme 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. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:

This was another fun topic! I immediately had more than a few covers spring to mind when I saw this week's topic, so I've just decided to share a myriad of different action-heavy covers because I couldn't decide on one!

We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)Master Assassins (The Fire Sacraments, #1)The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands, #1)
2018 Self-Published Edition | 2018 Talos Hardcover | 2015 Self-Published Edition

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)The Hod King (The Books of Babel, #3)A Cavern of Black Ice (Sword of Shadows, #1)
2017 Tor Hardcover | 2019 Orbit Paperback | 2005 Tor Mass Market

Spinning SilverThe Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)
2018 Del Rey Hardcover | 2007 Tor Hardcover | 2017 Little, Brown Hardcover

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5)The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)
1990 Tor Hardcover | 2008 Orbit Paperback | 2017 Del Rey Hardcover

My choice(s):

We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands, #1)
I'm a sucker for some dramatic scenes, and I think the original self-published cover for We Ride the Storm  is one of the most dramatic and exciting covers out there (though the new Orbit one is stunning also!). I love the art style and how well the speed of the running horse is portrayed, as well as how you can really just feel the intensity and drive of the rider. I also love the entire layout of The Girl in the Tower's cover, it's very subtle yet still conveys a lot. And, of course, the original cover for The Grey Bastards always stands out to me for what a statement it makes, as well as how much it looks like a photo taken in the middle of the action.

What cover(s) do you like the most!?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Mini-Review: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Hardcover. 411 pages

About Afterlandt:

"Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues -- but a world run by women isn't always a better place.

Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole's own ruthless sister, Billie -- all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won't be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home. 

To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that's all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step . . . even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer. 

A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own -- and perfect for our times."

Afterland was another one of those futuristic books set post-major event--in this case, a pandemic--that had such an interesting premise, but ultimately fell a bit flat in execution and the plot lines it chose to follow. I'm not really in the mood for a pandemic-focused novel myself, but since this took place mostly after the major events of the pandemic took place, and the fact that it mostly targeted men made it feel separate enough that I could actually enjoy this book!

Likes: The premise! What would society look like if all (or most) of the men were gone? A lot of places do have a more patriarchal society, so how would the power shift? What about all of the male-dominated fields, such as construction, law enforcement, engineering, etc.--are there enough women to take up all of the jobs around the country and world now? Although Beukes didn't go into these questions quite as in-depth as I might've liked, I still really enjoyed the aspects that she did explore and I think her depiction of the desperation, motivation, complacency, and other emotions that the women left experience was well done. The reproductive component of a world without men was another interesting topic that I felt Beukes did explore more as well, and I appreciated the detail she put into the possible solutions that might be explored.

Dislikes: There was not nearly as much focus on what the world is like post-major loss of men as I would have liked, and I feel like this really made the story suffer. The plot seemed to focus too heavily on minor plot points and situations that just didn't feel like they added much to the story. I wanted to hear more about the circumstances of all the characters we meet and how they are navigating in this world, not the weird injuries that the "bad guy" characters were struggling with and their conflicts between one another. Part of me does get that showcasing those tensions and issues is meant to be reflective of what life is now like and how chaotic things are, but it just felt frustrating and seemed as though the more predominate and interesting plot lines were being ignored. I was also curious about how gender identity and trans identity topics would be handled in this world, which Beukes didn't touch on as much. And on a quick last note, there's a weird religious part that pops up a little after halfway through was extremely tiresome for me; it felt like something I've seen in other books, and it also just took away even more from everything else happening.

Overall, I've given Afterland 2.75 stars. It had some really great ideas to play with and I enjoyed seeing how everything played out, but unfortunately there were too many other weird aspects that took away a lot from my reading experience.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling, Burning Roses by S.L. Huang

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 spotlights are: 

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
Publication: September 22nd, 2020
Katherine Tegen Books
Hardcover. 416 pages.

"In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. 

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops. 

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms. 

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New."
I'm always hyped for more Garth Nix (even though I still haven't read his most recent previous release...)! Plus, as a lefty I'm rather intrigued by the whole 'left-handed' deal in the title. ;)

Yellow Jessamine
Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling
Publication: September 5th, 2020
Neon Hemlock Press
Paperback. 135 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository

"Powerful shipping magnate Evelyn Perdanu lives a tight, contained life, holding herself at a distance from all who would get close to her. Her family is dead, her country is dying, and when something foul comes to the city of Delphinium, the brittle, perilous existence she's built for herself is strained to breaking. 

When one of her ships arrives in dock, she counts herself lucky that it made it through the military blockades slowly strangling her city. But one by one, the crew fall ill with a mysterious sickness: an intense light in their eyes and obsessive behavior, followed by a catatonic stupor. Even as Evelyn works to exonerate her company of bringing plague into her besieged capital city, more and more cases develop, and the afflicted all share one singular obsession: her. 

Panicked and paranoid, she retreats to her estate, which rests on a foundation of secrets: the deaths of her family, the poisons and cures that hasten the dissolution of the remaining upper classes, and a rebel soldier, incapacitated and held hostage in a desperate bid for information. But the afflicted are closing in on her, and bringing the attention of the law with them. Evelyn must unearth her connection to the spreading illness, and fast, before it takes root inside her home and destroys all that she has built."
This sounds like such a unique premise and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this!

Burning Roses
Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
Publication: September 29th, 2020
Paperback. 240 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

"A gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, for fans of Zen Cho and JY Yang. 

When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality."
Is this cover not gorgeous!? I love the Red Riding Hood inspiration and the fact that our two main protagonists seem to be middle-aged!

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Colors in the Title

This week's topic is:   Books With Colors in the Title

This week's topic was so easy it was almost hard! There are a lot of books I've read that have colors in their title, so I decided to try to pick one and just go in rainbow order as best as possible, then just added in some extra colors at the end. I also tried to pick books that I don't talk about that often here on the blog rather than just pick ones I've mentioned over and over (such as The Crimson Petal and the White or A Cavern of Black Ice) and I have to say this was pretty fun to put together this week! Take a look:

Red Queen (The Chronicles of Alice, #2)A Clockwork Orange
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other StoriesGreenglass House (Greenglass House #1)
The BlueBlackwing (Raven's Mark #1)
Wolf in White VanShades of Grey (Shades of Grey, #1)
Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)

Have you read any of these books? What are some books you can think of with colors in the title?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Review: Olive the Lionheart by Brad Ricca

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey to the Heart of Africa
Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Africa by Brad Ricca
St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 11th, 2020
Hardcover. 400 pages

About Olive the Lionheart:

"In 1910, Olive MacLeod, a thirty-year-old, redheaded Scottish aristocrat, received word that her fiancĂ©, the famous naturalist Boyd Alexander, was missing in Africa.  

So she went to find him.  

Olive the Lionheart is the thrilling true story of her astonishing journey. In jungles, swamps, cities, and deserts, Olive and her two companions, the Talbots, come face-to-face with cobras and crocodiles, wise native chiefs, a murderous leopard cult, a haunted forest, and even two adorable lion cubs that she adopts as her own. Making her way in a pair of ill-fitting boots, Olive awakens to the many forces around her, from shadowy colonial powers to an invisible Islamic warlord who may hold the key to Boyd's disappearance. As these secrets begin to unravel, all of Olive's assumptions prove wrong and she is forced to confront the darkest, most shocking secret of all: why she really came to Africa in the first place.  

Drawing on Olive's own letters and secret diaries, Olive the Lionheart is a love story that defies all boundaries, set against the backdrop of a beautiful, unconquerable Africa."

Olive the Lionheart tells the rather remarkable journey of Olive MacLeod as she journeys into Africa on an expedition after receiving news that her fiance, Boyd Alexander, was killed while on his own expedition there. 

I'm a big fan of adventure stories that are full of exploration and learning about new cultures, so this book resonated with my almost immediately. It's important to keep in mind that this story takes place during the heavily colonial period of Africa, which basically means that just about all of our sources from Olive and those around her are told from the colonial perspective (a vast amount of "othering" is present in this story). It's not hard to remember this since those views can be rather strong and not entirely respectful of various African cultures that they meet and interact with, but I still think that Ricca presented the different places and peoples that Olive meets in such a way that I was able to appreciate them more. It also allows for the reader to both acknowledge the ways in which people acted and were treated at the period, while still allowing for us to acknowledge Olive's own independent acts and accomplishments.

Olive is an incredibly surprising person, and I found so many of her choices and attitudes entirely unpredictable, which I really think made for an incredible journey, as well as sparked my interest in learning more about her even after finishing this book (which is always a sign of a good book to me when it sparks interest in other things!). Many of the sources that Ricca uses for Olive are from her own diary entries and letters sent back and forth between her and Boyd, which I think really allowed me to get to know Olive and her personality through her writing style and ways of interpreting and recounting the different things she experienced. Ricca also shares many of Boyd's letters and diary entries, and together I think both allowed for a rather clear picture to be drawn about both their relationship and how they interacted with the new-to-them lands of Africa. 

Some highlights from this story include some frightening and awe-inspiring encounters with animals, peoples from different Africa tribes, and the many adventures had while simply traveling through unknown lands in a country foreign to those traveling together. I also found the interactions with the colonial government and government figures of particular interest, as I've never really had a chance to explore more about how they actually worked and the relationships that were developed in relation to them.  

Olive's story is a rich one, full of incredible experiences and unbelievable adventures, and I think Ricca performed a rather impressive feat in bringing all of his research and sources on Olive and everything associated with her journey together into one comprehensive book. The caveat with this is that I found his particular method for telling this story a bit disjointed and altogether confusing overall. The timeline itself seems to switch around in ways that don't entirely make sense to me and I found myself losing the main thread of the story at times as I tried to piece things together and figure out where different events fit in on the timeline of events in both Olive and Boyd's journeys. Ricca is a strong storyteller with great narrative flow, but unfortunately I found it lost some of its charm as a result of his chosen format for relaying the events. 

Overall, I've given Olive the Lionheart four stars. I've really been debating what to give it between three and four stars because the formatting around the timeline really did frustrate me at times, but at the end of the day I also really enjoyed this adventure and learning more about Olive and all of her accomplishments. Because of that, I decided to rate this one more heavily on the enjoyment factor and am leaving it at four, at least for now! If you like following people on their new adventures in places other than our own, then you should definitely check out Olive the Lionheart

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Month in Review: July 2020

Well, happy August everyone! I hope your month of July was relaxing and/or not exceedingly stressful! I'm not really sure how high we're aiming these days in terms of experiences, but I still hope you all are doing well. :) 

In personal news--my husband and I officially moved into out new place in July. It's been a big adjustment, but we're finally settling in, we've finally unpacked all the boxes (the most relieving feeling of all!), and now it's just getting acquainted with the place. It's still so nice to be back in SoCal. I've never lived in an apartment setup quite like this one, so it's been very weird living somewhere where you have to pass through multiple doors and gates and hallways just to get outside! Not a huge fan, but hey, at least it feels safe and I get to experience something new. :) I also wrapped up my last week of summer classes last week and don't start the fall semester until August 17th, so I have about two more weeks of relative freedom from school! Maybe I'll get more reading and blogging in (she says hopefully)?

In reading news... As you can probably tell, my reading has been a bit all over the place in terms of genre, but I think I'm finally hitting back into a groove overall and I couldn't be more grateful for the fact that I read fifteen books this month! (!!) A few of these books were carried over from previous months that I finally finished, but it still counts. A few highlights from this past month were The Cold Vanish, Dark Horses, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, and The Rightful Queen!

How have you guys been?? COVID has been spiking in a lot of places, or at least it has where I am, so I hope you're all staying safe. It's been a really weird summer and I'm curious how everyone has been hanging in there!

And lastly, how was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know, I'd love to chat about any and all the books!

# books read: 15

Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)The Vanished QueenAxiom's EndThe Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America's Wildlands
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh 
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback

The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America's Wildlands by Jon Billman 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Dark HorsesAfterlandThe Wife Between UsThe Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Afterland by Lauren Beukes 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Source: Owned (Gift) | Format: Hardcover

The Glass OceanAcharnians/Lysistrata/CloudsThe Rightful Queen (Paths of Lantistyne, #2)The Boleyn Inheritance (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #10)
The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren White, & Lauren Willig 
Source: Borrowed | Format: Hardcover

Acharnians/Lysistrata/Clouds by Aristophanes 
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback

The Rightful Queen by Isabelle Steiger
Source: Publisher | Format: ARC

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
Source: Borrowed | Format: Hardcover

The ExilesWitchyUniverse of Two

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback

Universe of Two by Stephen Kiernan
Source: Publisher | Format: ARC

The Only Good IndiansGirl, Serpent, ThornThe Sin in the Steel (The Fall of the Gods, #1)Chronicles of a Nuclear World First Post-Apocalyptic Journal: “ Under the Ground”CrossingsThe Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America's WildlandsEmpire of WildAxiom's EndThe Rightful Queen (Paths of Lantistyne, #2)
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones 
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 
The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan 
Chronicles of a Nuclear World: First Apocalyptic Journal "Under the Ground" by Radislav Borr 
Crossings by Alex Landragin 
The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America's Wildlands by Jon Billman 
Empire of Wild by Cheri Dimaline 
Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis 
The Rightful Queen by Isabelle Steiger 

(other than reviews)

The Friday Face-Off:
Holding an Object

Have you read any of these? What books did you read this month? I hope you all had a great month-- comment below and let me know!