Thoughts: Maresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles #1) by Maria Turtschaninoff

maresiMaresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles #1) by Maria Turtschaninoff

Highly Recommend!


Published by Amulet Books
Publication Date : January 3rd, 2016
Available as eBook & hardback – 265 Pages
Source : NetGalley (thank you!)

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Maresi, a thirteen-year-old novice there, arrived in the hunger winter and now lives a happy life in the Abbey, protected by the Mother and reveling in the vast library in the House of Knowledge, her favorite place. Into this idyllic existence comes Jai, a girl with a dark past. She has escaped her home after witnessing the killing of her beloved sister. Soon the dangers of the outside world follow Jai into the sacred space of the Abbey, and Maresi can no longer hide in books and words but must become one who acts.

Thoughts:
Coming of age novels are a super common type of book in fantasy, it’s almost the stand-by for YA and fantasy. Growing up and honestly most of my adult life that means the male character’s coming of age. Most fantasy, being real, is male driven. Male cast, patriarchal society, lots and lots of male romance, etc. That’s also been the default for a long time – and it is changing! Things are moving and shaking, it’s awesome and I love it. At this point though I haven’t read a fantasy novel so steeped in the female as this book and world was, and by all that’s holy I loved it. Loved it a lot, finally an amazing female coming of age (with no romance). I can guarantee it won’t be for everyone, it was a slower book for me – I took my time reading it because I wasn’t sure about the narrative style at first. It’s the recollection, the story of Maresi’s coming of age. She’s thirteen at the beginning of this novel and it tells the story of how a new girl on the island of the Red Abbey arrives and changes things – not only for the abbey but for Maresi.

      The world is my favorite part of this story. I want to live in this world, to live at the Red Abbey. Pick a fantasy world to live in – this would probably make my list. The island is a sanctuary for women and girls. It’s watched over by a coven of women all under the gaze of a very real and active goddess simply called the Mother. She is your traditional three aspect goddess, but the way in which she acts and affects these girls lives – subtle ways and bigger ways, was amazing. Outside of the island we get teasers of what life is like from the girls and women there. Maresi comes from a poor and cold place, Jai comes from a place where women are oppressed to a terrifying degree, it’s just like our world but this book gave it hope in the Abbey. And as a note to this, the cast of this book is with I believe two exceptions (of named characters) entirely female. There are some unnamed soldiers, but except for two men later in the book with names everyone is female.

       The story is probably the next strongest point. Though it seems to meander a lot at the beginning it pulled itself tight and together in the end. It goes from normal everyday life at the Abbey to wondering who is going to make it out alive. It does show us the vulnerability of women in some aspects and their strength in others. And trigger warning this for rape – but read the spoiler tag (or scroll down to the bottom of my blog post) if it’ll affect you, it is important. I won’t give away any heavy spoilers for where and why the ultimate confrontation comes from but it all ties into this idea of the female and oppression. The outline of the story was definitely one I’d seen before but never so well done.

       Maresi is our main character of course, and gives us the bulk of development. She goes from fairly naive girl to someone with strength and acceptance for what she is and has to do. I loved a lot of things about her and at times she drove me nuts – just like a thirteen year old does. I was genuinely sad where she was and excited where she was in the end. I really, really want to know more – I don’t if the sequel is a direct one or a companion, but I’d read an entire series about her (honestly I’d read an entire series set at the Abbey, which I think the next is, so I’m happy either way). The rest of our characters we got to know as much as Maresi did. They didn’t have as much of a development except maybe in Jai. I did end up loving all the maternal figures in the book since I was so invested in Maresi by the end I felt how she did about her teachers and peers.

       I really, really enjoyed this. Like wow – I want so much more in this setting, with these characters. This is the type of YA fantasy I want young women to read to help inspire them that fantasy of this type is for them, and hey they could write this too. I’m hands down buying my own copy of this (already preordered) and I’m prowling for the second book to pop up for a  galley or pre-order. I’d say this is on my list of must try for the new year.

START SPOILERS I’ll throw out there that there is an intense scene where someone steps forward and uses her body as a sacrifice to save her sisters. She is the sister that represents that aspect of the feminine, the love and nurturing side of the Mother. She doesn’t fight the rapes, instead points out that this is what she is trained for and these men will never have such an experience. She clearly doesn’t want to do it, and clearly some of the men don’t want to either but it happens. But she does it for her sisters, and it’s all off the page as while this is happening Maresi is running around doing her own ‘save the sisters’ thing. That portion was really, really rough for me but I loved her all the more for that action – END SPOILERS.

Initial Thoughts: Reading and Watching Miss Fisher/Phryne Fisher Mysteries

     I wasn’t planning on going to into depth on my recent read of Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood. I enjoyed the snot out of that little book – but I didn’t really feel like I had too much to say on it yet. I decided to hunt down the TV show with fingers crossed I could find it and I did! I can watch it in a few places, though I do have to pay for it, but after catching the first episode it’s super worth it. So I’m going to talk about the first book and first episode (and hopefully each consecutive one) to record my thoughts. Continue reading

November Reading Wrap up!

I did alright this past month! Not the best, all things considered, but I did get a lot of good books in. I also didn’t manage to shake the need for spooky books – so just heads up. I was clearly looking for horror that could be beaten when faced with what felt like unbeatable horror in real life. From election to health issues… it was a rough month. To the book roundup!
Continue reading

Thoughts on The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

FamilyPlotThe Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Highly Recommend!


Published by Tor Books
Publication Date : September 20th, 2016
Available as eBook & hardback – 365 Pages
Source : Library

Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he’s thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there’s the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery is just a fake, a Halloween prank, so the city gives the go-ahead, the bulldozer revs up, and it turns up human remains. Augusta says she doesn’t know whose body it is or how many others might be present and refuses to answer any more questions. Then she stops answering the phone.

But Dahlia’s concerns about the corpse and Augusta’s disappearance are overshadowed when she begins to realize that she and her crew are not alone, and they’re not welcome at the Withrow estate. They have no idea how much danger they’re in, but they’re starting to get an idea. On the crew’s third night in the house, a storm shuts down the only road to the property. The power goes out. Cell signals are iffy. There’s nowhere to go and no one Dahlia can call for help, even if anyone would believe that she and her crew are being stalked by a murderous phantom. Something at the Withrow mansion is angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. And it seems to be seeking permanent company.

The Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages-atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility to keep it fresh and interesting-from Cherie Priest, a modern master of supernatural fiction.

Thoughts:
      I’ve tried to read a lot of Cherie Priest’s work and in very few cases have I been able to finish them, and not because I’m not enjoying them! I put down Boneshaker only because of the awful light brown ink in the book (haven’t been able to afford the kindle copy yet), and I am still half way through Four and Twenty Blackbirds (that one was stopped by a week and half of migraines). The books I have finished by Cherie though I’ve really enjoyed. This and Maplecroft both hit it out of the park for me.

    Something Cherie does great in everything she has done, especially the ones I’ve read set in the South is capturing the feel of it. I’m a Tennessee girl, so I’m really picky about the books set here. I’ve DNF’d a great many book for throwing a ‘token southern’ character or setting in and putting every damn stereotype to them. We aren’t all rednecks and ignorant as much as people ask me that at my CURRENT JOB when I mention I’m in TN. I swear… but that’s a rant for another time. Cherie really presents you an authentic feel and presents the mountains as appropriately spooky.

      It is almost a checklist of your classic ghost story, but what really stood out were the characters. Even just the reason for them to be their, to take the house apart sales and pickings, was new. I, weirdly enough, enjoyed a lot of that aspect. The talking of what was good, what could be kept, and the little touches of house history that I feel like Priest when out of her way to find and introduce into the story. This was kept up by characters who sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I believed them all, and enjoyed the diversity in personality on all of them. It was also extremely refreshing to not have a romance, those are so often shoved in their unnecessarily. Instead our lead character is a strong single lead, and even responds to several situations with responses with maturity about that.

      The story also touches on the horror of what women, especially those in in the WWI era would have went through in certain situations (granted our example is a bit psychotic) and what would have happened to someone who behaved outside of the norm. I would read an entire book from Priest set in this era similar to this. Especially if that book featured Hazel. Sold already. That particular era, and the idea of Spiritualism really fascinates me, call it a picked up hobby thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and my love of Sherlock, but that’s definitely a buzzword for me

      Overall a short but excellent ghost story. It’s a fresh take on the standard horror story, I really recommend it if you’re tired of the same old haunted house stories.

Series Completed! The Last Policeman

   The Last Policeman Series by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman, Countdown City, World of Trouble

Recommended! Fast and Enthralling Mysteries

   I’m pretty bad at series, let’s all just accept that. I think this might be the only series I’ve started and finished this year? Ah well, I suppose that should go to show you how easy and fun a read they were! The series takes place over the few months before the world ends. Certainly a fun setup, huh!?

    Our main character, Hank Palace, is a detective working in the police force in these last days when he stumbles upon a murder during the course of an investigation. Initially the murder is pegged as ‘yet again’ another suicide. As can be expected, with the knowledge of the world’s ultimate end so close many people are taking a bit of faster route out seeing no point in sticking around. It’s a dim and depressing setting to put a story, but it works. Hank is the only one who sees the murder for what it is and even cares to investigate. The series spirals out from there, descending downwards as the world it’s set in, further into chaos and darkness.

     I enjoyed the shit out of all three books. I can’t pick a weaker book in fact, all three came across fairly strong. The characters were all believable for me, you’ll see some of the tropes you might expect in this setting but you also begin to see depth to them. The narrative is told in a disconnected manner that might through some people off so that’s something to keep in mind. For me that seemed to further enforce Hank’s mentality. He keeps going. The world is ending, it didn’t matter if it was 4 months out or 2 days, he kept going. Was it just stubbornness or something else? I have my opinions on that, but nothing I can safely discuss without spoiling it. I just really enjoyed it for that.

     I also felt the world too, after a certain point it almost feels ruined and empty – which again, I feel like would be the case. You see people struggling to hold on, hoping. You’ll also see people just flat out giving up. The world around Hank reflects that as he travels and works, continuing to be a policeman. It’s what he is, so it’s what he does. He’s the classic white knight and so he continues to be that white knight even in the darkest of times. The final book, of course the darkest of the three is where things get personal and harder hitting. We see our knight crumble just like the world around him. It’s all so well done.

    I really recommend this series for anyone. My only reservation is disconnected feeling to the stories, especially in the beginning, but it’s well worth that if you don’t mind it. They are also hella fast reads, I blew through each book in less than 4 hours each (though I tried super hard to make that last one stretch out). Great series, I’ll definitely put this on the reread list.

Thoughts and Review : Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

geekGeek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

Highly Recommend!


Published by Tor Books
Publication Date : May 31st, 2016
Available as eBook & Paperback – 285 Pages
Source : Purchased

A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley.

The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and elsewhere on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

Thoughts:
I tend to avoid any books recommended with the words ‘very angry’. I hate to say I can be delicate in what I consume but there it is. I bad anxiety, struggle with depression, so I try very hard to stay positive but weeding out what might make me one of those two things. I don’t know what possessed me to pick this up with that in thought but damn it was good.
I talked earlier this year about how much I loved Amanda Palmer’s biography (without knowing anything about her) and honestly I think this might take it’s place. I know I put it on my super speacial shelf in my reading room with the Amanda Palmer book and Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art book. Where Amanda’s book was for creative types this I would recommend for any woman who exists on the internet and has even the vaguest ideas of

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I tabbed and highlighted this so much

speculative fiction.
Kameron Hurley talks through her anger, her resentment, her struggles with the perceptions and the impact and actions of people on her. She talks about being fat, about being reliant on several shots (daily) to live her life, about writing, being queer, and why writing intelligently and aware is important. She admits to faults and to successes and at time challenges the SFF community. I gobbled it up like candy.
I have heard the writing can be a bit odd for people, she makes clever use of paragraph/page breaks for impact, but if you can handle this then DEFINITELY pick this up.  The one essay I had already read in this that’s available online, for free, We Have Always Fought is a great way to sample her writing and one of my favorite essays of all time. Read that to determine if she’ll work for you and if she will then this is one you want to order.

Thoughts and Review : Guardian by Joe Haldeman

guardianGuardian by Joe Haldeman

☆☆☆


Published by Open Road Media
Publication Date : September 27th, 2016
Available as eBook – 304 Pages
Source : NetGalley (Thank you!)

During the Alaskan gold rush, a woman pursues a destiny that will change the world in this alternate-history novel from a sci-fi legend.

In the tradition of Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land), multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Joe Haldeman set a new standard for military science fiction and hard sci-fi with The Forever War and his phenomenal Worlds series.  Now the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master dabbles brilliantly in alternate-history fiction with the world-altering adventures of a remarkable woman during the gold rush in late nineteenth-century Alaska.
 
Sent from her Georgia home to Philadelphia to escape the carnage of the Civil War, Rosa Coleman studied astronomy and mathematics, ultimately settling into a new life as the wife of a wealthy man and mother of young Daniel. But when she discovers an unforgiveable secret about her reprobate husband, Rosa takes the boy and flees to the West on a desperate escape that takes them from Dodge City to San Francisco one step ahead of the Pinkertons hired to bring them back home.
 
On the run in a strange and exhilarating new world, Rosa and Daniel find a haven where they might never be found: the wilds of Alaska among the dreamers drawn to its magnificent wilderness by the promise of gold. It is here that her spiritual guide first appears to Rosa in the form of a raven—an incarnation of the trickster god of Native American and Eskimo lore—suggesting that her destiny lies not in sparkling riches but in something far greater. This mystical harbinger has come from a distant, alien place, and will set her on an astonishing course . . .

Thoughts :
I’ve been sitting on this book for a while. I finished it almost a month ago unsure of how to review it, not even sure of my rating. It was definitely not what I was expecting, and I wasn’t sure if it was something I was happy having read. I eventually settled, after stewing on it for a while, on having enjoyed it. It was a.. soft book to me. Something subtle and cleverly sneaky in how it wraps around you. It’s about a woman’s journey to a momentary experience and less of how it affected her. Which was an odd turn on the head of the idea that a single magical moment/journey defines a lifetime. It’s almost the more realistic take on what would have happened to someone in her position experiencing something like she did.
For the bulk of the book we follow Rosa’s flight across America after discovering some truly horrifying things about her husband. She takes her son with her and eventually they end up in Alaska during the heat of the gold rush. Along the way she is nudged gently into certain directions by a raven, repeatedly showing up calling “No Gold”. I’m still not sure how or where that raven came from, perhaps I missed or perhaps it was that intentionally vague. The story is also formatted in a way that she is telling us what happened. It’s a written account she created based around her memories and diary entries.
There is a level of tension underneath the slow crawl of the story that keeps it moving, or did for me. The whole time I’m terrified, as Rosa is, that her husband will catch her. What will be the retribution that she suffers at his hands. All the while you’re soaking up the white and frequently noisy world of Alaska through Haldeman’s descriptions. My sister, a park ranger, was working in Alaska at the time of me reading this. I almost wanted to call her and ask, “Do you know anything about the gold rush in Alaska? Can we talk about this book I’m reading?” (I didn’t, of course because she doesn’t enjoy reading as I do and frankly would have found me insane, but the urge was there).
Ultimately it feels like that story your grandmother or the old lady that visits her tells a little bit of every time you see them. You can’t stop wondering about, going over what happened in your mind. How did action A lead her to action B? What else did her actions affect? Where did she go, and holy hell can I learn more about that please?
I’m definitely interested in more of Haldeman’s work. This was almost a tease of his writing I feel, it rang a lot like Arthur C. Clarke to me so I’m definitely on board with finally picking up The Forever War from him. Might be worth picking up if you enjoy the older style of science fiction or if you enjoyed Marie Brennan’s Memoirs of Lady Trent, and am okay with a slower more atmospheric tale.