Red Clocks by Leni Zumas | Book Review

2018 has been the year of feminist dystopians, and I’ve finally read the last one that was on my physical TBR for the year (that I had been meaning to get to since February!)

Red Clocks follows three women and one teen girl in the near future after a “personhood amendment” is passed in the US, barring everything from abortion, artificial insemination and single-parent adoption. We follow The Biographer, The Mender, The Wife and The Daughter as they all deal with life under this change and slowly the connections they all have to each other is revealed.

I’ll say at the top that this book won’t be for everyone. The style especially takes a while to get used to and even then it’s still strange in its combination of lyrical language and stark/choppy structure. But for me, that style brought such a power to book that, once I got the swing of things, I was completely hooked.

You could feel the desperation, you could feel the contempt and the anger. In the end these “placeholders” (naming the point of view chapters after the women’s role in society) were fully realized people. I could relate to the wife who’s life I’ve never lived; I could relate to the mender even though I’ve never been called a witch.

And unlike some of the other books in this same vein I’ve read this year, it’s a dystopian that is explained in a way that you could easily see happening. Some say modern comparisons to the Handmaid’s Tale are exaggerations — but this book? This is a couple of short steps away from reality.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with my feminist dystopian reads of the year (Future Home of the Living God; The Power; Vox; The Handmaid’s Tale; The Book of Joan; The End We Start From; Red Clocks), and I already have more on my list for next year. But what are your recommendations?

Severance by Ling Ma | Book Review

When was the last time you read a book and it just stuck with you for days afterward?

I finished Severance Wednesday night and despite my attempts to get into my next book, I keep going back to Severance.

This was a surprise. When I picked it as my Book of the Month, I only knew the briefest of synopses and wasn’t expecting much out of it. And now, three days later and I hadn’t posted my review because I was still ruminating. . 
Severance is a strange little book that manages to be several books at once successfully. It’s an anti capitalist satire. It’s a Chinese-American immigrant story. And it’s an apocalyptic zombie story.

You follow Candace Chen in a split timeline, in the past as she rides out the civilization-ending pandemic in her corporate office building in NYC and in the present as she travels with a small band of fellow survivors.

Author Ling Ma’s examination of capitalistic culture is biting, but what really hooked me was how she explored modern “stuck in a rut” lives and the pitfalls in nostalgia. She’s not the first to make the zombie/office worker comparison but her iteration was so bleak and discomforting (especially for someone like me who experiences deja vu almost daily and finds “comfort” in predictability). And I found Candace to be one of the most relatable unlikable characters I’ve read in a long time.

I’ll spare you all many more details than that because I highly recommend going in mostly blind like I did. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Ling Ma in the future and will move this to the “to be reread” stack.

The end of the year approaches | WWW Wednesday reading wrap-up (Dec. 5)

It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below! 

What are you currently reading?

So, from last week I’m still reading The Terrible, the poetry/prose memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward. I’m still enjoying it (things got even darker/bleaker/more “terrible” of course), just taking a while because it’s a physical read I don’t make time for.

I started Rosewater by Tade Thompson, a science-fiction book set in Nigeria after an alien biome pops up and started displaying healing powers and people developed new abilities. I really loved the chunk I listened to, but I’m listening on Scribd (so no due date) so I needed to switch to some library checkouts….

Which leads me to The Likeness by Tana French. It is the second in her Dublin Murder Squad series. I’m enjoying it, just not as much as I was at this point in the first book. It’s giving me The Secret History vibes (even though I haven’t read that). The audio expires in a few days, so that’s my priority for the rest of the week.

What did you recently finish reading?

At the end of last week I was striving to finish off Nonfiction November strong, so I powered through finishing 3 books in one night…

Becoming by Michelle Obama (★★★★☆)

I finished up Becoming by Michelle Obama first. I really enjoyed this. The parts before Barack became president were my favorite, especially when she talked about her family and her starting a family with Barack. The story started to drag a bit for the White House years, but mostly because Barack’s life understandably overshadowed her own. I did like the little behind the scenes snippets she added to these sections however, like her interactions with Queen Elizabeth etc. A great memoir that for the most part avoided the political memoir tropes. 

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (★★★★★) 

This essay collection/little book packs a punch. Vivek detailed her struggles coming out as trans and tackled the gender biases she saw perpetuated by both those in power and the implicit biases some don’t realize they’re perpetuating. The choice to tell some sections through second person point of view I think was especially impactful, so it could be that she was addressing anyone about their harmful behavior, not just the person in her life. 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (★★★★★)

I’m super late to the game of this classic essay collection. It was incredibly powerful and has unfortunately stood the test of time with its messages. I look forward to reading The Fire This Time collection to see how black writers today adapt Baldwin’s message.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (★★★★☆)

I’d heard mostly good things about this book before picking it up for myself, and thankfully agree with the good parts (and fell of the good side of some pro-con reviews). This was a really fun and imaginative fantasy quest story, with crotchety old mercenaries getting the band back together one last time to save one of their daughters. The humor in this will definitely turn some people off, but I enjoyed it. My only gripe with this story is the lack of stakes. Every time our crew came up against something that should be incredibly dangerous or hindering, they manage to make it through. Oh you’re diseased? Here’s a cure. Oh you’re wounded? You’ll sleep it off. By the end, all tension from the final battle was gone for me. I’ll still be continuing with the series, as I’m especially eager to see the women take over the story in the sequel.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (★★★★★)

This was one of my 5-star predictions and it didn’t disappoint! I’m not that big into contemporary anymore, but this is the kind of YA contemporary story I can get behind. A powerful look at xenophobia and checking your bias mixed with a realistic but also lovely first-love story AND a girl finding her passion. Pick this up!

Planetfall by Emma Newman (★★★☆☆)

And to round out the week, I get to a very underwhelming read. I think I should blame the marketing team for selling me a story that the book didn’t deliver on. What it sold me on was an epic mystery set on an alien planet when a stranger shows up to dig up old secrets. What I got was a slow burn character study with a rushed ending. I could not find myself interested in continuing for the first 70% of this book. After that the character study actually got really interesting, but then the plot started forcing itself on the story again, so the examination of anxiety and mental health got pushed aside by explosions and survival. It all came together to be a completely frenetic story for me. I won’t be continuing this series.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I most want to continue listening to Rosewater, but because I’m me, I have a ton of books out from the library I should probably get to, next up being The Sun Does Shine, a nonfiction by a man who got off Death Row after serving 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. And my next buddy read is my next in the Wheel of Time series, which I won’t enjoy but I’m so close to finishing the series now (and so close to when Brandon Sanderson takes over)!

Bonus Round

What I’ve acquired: I’m thinking about canceling my Book of the Month subscription after I’m out of credits (I haven’t been liking the selection recently), so I picked Severance as my December book, which is supposed to be a good satire, and went through the backlist to use up another credit. I read and liked Hunger last month so I decided to pick up a physical copy so I could mark my favorite passages.

And that’s a wrap! What was your favorite read of the week? Are you feeling the end-of-year pressure to get to all the books?

What I’ve read so far in November | Weekly Reading Wrap Up

Hello, everyone! As I’ve said in the last few posts, my job had been crazy dealing with the election (I worked from 5 am to 1 am Tuesday, then back to work again at 6), so I missed WWW Wednesday. But I’ve still been reading a ton so I didn’t think it was a good idea to just combine weeks, so here’s what I’ve read so far in November. Continue reading “What I’ve read so far in November | Weekly Reading Wrap Up”

Weekly Wrap-up (A Belated WWW Wednesday)

It’s WWW Wednesday, a tag hosted on Taking on a World of Words It’s easy to do, just answer the three questions below! Work is crazy busy and stressful right now and will be until after the election, so apologies in advance that my posting is going to get more erratic for a few weeks.

Continue reading “Weekly Wrap-up (A Belated WWW Wednesday)”

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor | Book Rant

Book: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Release Date: Oct. 2, 2018

Synopsis

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Timesbestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
 

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: Steve West

Length: ~16 hours

Listening speed: 1.5x

Rating: (★★★):

Review

(TL;DR: Unpopular opinion, I think it was messy fan-service that I was extremely disappointed by)

If you follow me on Goodreads or Instagram, you’ll know just how much of a struggle reading this book was. I started it first thing on Monday and it just could not make it through. That never happens to me. This is going to be all unpopular opinions so please take all of the following criticisms with a grain of salt. I wanted to like this and I’m glad you did/will if you’ve read it. But here are my issues:

It started off really rough. The first chapter introduced all new characters, and it’s unclear from the beginning when it’s supposed to have taken place. So from the start, I couldn’t really jump right back into the story from the cliffhanger like I wanted to. Wehn we finally got back to Lazlo and company, the narrative/perspectives seemed to have changed style from the first book/I just don’t remember it clearly enough. With everyone talking in the same scenes, it was really jarring when the perspectives would change. You’d be in Lazlo’s head but then all of a sudden you’d be hearing about Minya’s motivations, then in Sirai’s. It was a lot of messy back and forth rather than neat sections focused on one person. This didn’t really continue for the rest of the book, but it’s what made the beginning so slow because I had to keep restarting to keep the story straight.

Now I don’t want to give spoilers for any of rest, so I’ll talk more broadly. My main problem is this felt like poorly done fan service. Laini Taylor knew everyone was expecting a lot out of this sequel. We needed backstory, we need resolution, we needed more Lazlo-Sirai personal time. We got all that, and it was too much. This felt like 3 books shoved into one. The backstory takes over the plot and expands the world in a way that doesn’t fit the book.

We could’ve had a quieter, more streamlined plot that dealt with characters we already knew and really examined everyone’s motivations rather than introducing all these new plot lines/crazy explanations/weird tonal shifts/and obvious set up for followup books. The development we got of Minya’s morally-gray character was excellent, so why in the world did we need an extra enemy to deal with?

I’ve seen rave reviews saying “Forget all your expectations, because this book will deliver all of that and so much more.” But to me, that feels, lazy (?) in a way? If your readers couldn’t have possibly known what would be in the second book, that doesn’t mean it was an excellent twist. It means you were missing the foundations and foreshadowing you needed in the first book.