Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed || Star Wars Book Review

Alphabet Squadron, by Alexander Freed and narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, was the first book I picked up in my foray into the new Star Wars canon books. I know a lot of fans have their own “best place” to start, whether that be in chronological order or publication order. I decided to go with the time period of the Star Wars universe I was most interested in instead and went with books set post-original trilogy.

So, I think I’ll start with the biggest successes in this book, which would have to be the production. This had the most seamless audio storytelling with both voice acting and sound effects I’ve ever experienced (coming from someone who’s listened to 400+ at this point). It reminded me of the Booktrack option that I tried out last year and did not like. That one aimed to add background noise and music to immerse listeners, but it really fell down when you sped up the narration. This production though, managed to do that exact thing so well. I was able to listen at my normal comfortable speed, and all the music choices still made sense, the blaster sound effects and the like all added to the story without being warped by the change. Extremely well done, Random House Audio! 💫

Besides the production, this story of a ragtag group of pilots on a mission to stop nefarious forces was really captivating and you got a full picture of what was happening right after the “fall” of the Empire.

But on the flip side, I felt that everything was so fast-paced that sometimes it was hard to grasp how momentous some of the events were. Several times during my listen I had to start a section over, like “wait, you’re injured now?” I think the quick-shifting POVs were mostly to blame for this. Which brings me to my main criticism: I think this story would’ve been better served with fewer POVs. At the beginning, we’re dumped in with a lot of exposition mixed with a flyby introduction of everyone involved, that it became a slog to get into. Once the story got going about a third of the way in, I was able to enjoy it more and the characters and action sequences were finally able to shine to their full potential.

All in all I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 nerfherders

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie || Book Review

“𝕎𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕞𝕒𝕟 𝕜𝕟𝕠𝕨𝕚𝕟𝕘𝕝𝕪 𝕜𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕤 𝕒𝕟𝕠𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣, 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪 𝕔𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕚𝕥 𝕞𝕦𝕣𝕕𝕖𝕣! 𝕎𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕤𝕠𝕔𝕚𝕖𝕥𝕪 𝕔𝕒𝕦𝕤𝕖𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕕𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕙𝕤 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕠𝕦𝕤𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕤, 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕪 𝕤𝕙𝕣𝕦𝕘 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕔𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕚𝕥 𝕒 𝕗𝕒𝕔𝕥 𝕠𝕗 𝕝𝕚𝕗𝕖”

Lord grimdark, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a while since I posted a fantasy review, and boy did I decide to come back with a good one.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie is the latest book in his First Law series, the beginning of The Age of Madness trilogy. Let me start off by saying, even if I make this book sound as amazing as it is, you have to at least start with the original trilogy, if not all the standalone novels too (which I did skip). But I’ll try to keep this mostly spoiler free.

This book picks up 30 years after the Last Argument of Kings, and we’re seeing the next generation pick up the mantle as they deal with problems both old (war, money, power) and new (industry, class revolt). While society had “progressed” with its technology, evil is still evil, the poor will still suffer, and power still corrupts.

But not once in my reading did the suffering and bloodshed seem gratuitous. That’s Abercrombie’s skill. Sure, you might disagree about the conclusion’s he’s made about the nature of humanity, but at least he’s consistent. If you have hope, it will be crushed. If a character doesn’t look out for themselves, they’ll be worse for wear.

“𝙵𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚢 𝚑𝚘𝚠, 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚖𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚔𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚘𝚖, 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗.”

Which brings me to the characters — you need a bright light to get you through a story that can at times get bleak. I feel hook line and sinker for these characters, both ones connected to the ones we are familiar with in the original books and those new. Without spoilers, I’ll just say the apples didn’t fall very far from the familial trees with these new kids. And it’s honestly refreshing to say my two favorite characters were the women, Savine and Rikke. It’s not every fantasy book where you can have female characters each with their own personalities and struggles and motivations that are completely separate from how they relate to the men in their lives. I Stan Savine so much, and can’t wait for more from her in the future books.

And it’s with these great characters (Orso and Clover included, to not neglect the fellas) that I’m able to push through this grim tale, because it’s the humor they bring to the table to that makes this fantasy (without much magic) such an enjoyable read.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kay Howard | Mini book review

I judged a book by its cover, and unfortunately got exactly what was coming to me, if not what I was expecting.

An Unkindness of Magicians follows a competition among the underground magicians of New York City. This time around the competition that determines which house rules the Unseen World has come years early, and it comes at a time when magic starts going wrong. The power is fading. And we follow multiple magicians as they compete, some trying to maintain control and others who want to see the status quo crumble.

This sounds like an EPIC story right? A mix of the deadly consequences in the Triwizard Tournament of Harry Potter, the intrigue of the game in The Night Circus, and the magical atmosphere of the Element Games in A Gathering of Shadows. But boy did it not deliver.

This story suffered in terms of pacing, in terms of writing style and in terms of development. There’s nothing wrong with dropping readers in the middle of a story and expecting them to learn the stakes and about the world as you go along. But there is something wrong when a reader walks away from what was supposed to be the resolution of the main conflict and thinking “That’s it? That SENTENCE is what we get on this battle?”

There was a lot of potential here. The bits of the world that the author actually developed were fascinating and original. I really loved the dark nature of some of the characters and the secret of what was happening to the magic. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that the plot was completely surface level. It felt like a story pitch to an editor rather than a final product. I so wish this story was put in the hands of a better writer.

So goodbye, beautiful book. You will soon be rehomed to the nearest Little Free Library.

What was the last book that you were disappointed by?

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler | Mini book review

I would say what characterizes my read of Kindred the most is the looming threat. This historical fiction (with fantasy elements) starts with its main character Dana having lost her arm. You don’t know how, other than the fact it happened “the last time she went home.” But quickly, once the main story gets underway, that looming threat of disfigurement is replaced with the bigger threat: life as a Black woman in the Antebellum South. That looming threat provides a great tension that really pushes you through the rest of the story.

Octavia Butler manages to explore a lot of themes through the fear of these threats, both big and small. She looks at mixed-race relationship dynamics, and how they both view this old world in different ways based on their lived experiences (both in race and gender). She looks at Dana’s guilt: for being able to escape, for feeling compassion for her slave-owning ancestor, for not being able to help everyone. These were all really interesting things to explore through the lens of a modern (to 1976) Black woman.

The one aspect I haven’t settled my feelings on yet is the style and whether it completely worked for me. The straightforward writing style made for a quick moving plot. Every time something terrible would happen, there was no lingering over its existence — the story simply moved on (because in the Antebellum South, you had to). You feel the trauma of the story through its ramifications on the plot. I think that part works. But at times that same matter-of-factness felt like a distancing from the characters and an unsubtle play on the themes.

I’ve read that, while this was among her first novels, her style holds throughout the rest of her work. So it’ll be interesting to see how she adapts it to work in the context of telling longer and more imaginative stories in her later sci-fi series.

Overall, I enjoyed my reading of Kindred (as much as you can enjoy such a dark story) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and I’m glad I finally started on Octavia Butler’s work. I think my next will likely be Parable of the Sower before moving on to Lilith’s Brood. Have you read any other Octavia E. Butler books? I’d love to know your favorites!

Friday reads | Footnotes No. 1

I was feeling the Friday afternoon slump at work today, so I snuck in some audio while waiting for my next meeting 🤫

What are you reading this weekend? I’m hoping to finish The Prey of Gods, which is a sci-fi/fantasy story set in a future South Africa that I’m really enjoying so far. You follow a bunch of different characters from a young girl coming into new abilities, a delightfully ruthless demi goddess trying to reclaim power, and several characters who experience a new hallucinogen sweeping the country. I’m eager to see how all of these storylines come together!

PS: I’m trying out a new posting format. Sometimes I find that posting during the week can be stressful to manage with work etc., so I thought quick thoughts and photos would be a great way to connect with you all more often. Let me know what you think! Like it/hate it/that’s what Bookstagram is for/ anything at all!

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”