This Song Reminds Me of a Book

Hat tip to Lynette Noni for today’s fun blog post in honor of World Book Day!  I love books. I also love Disney, because I’m nothing if not a really tall child masquerading as a responsible adult. So here goes, Disney songs plus books!

1. A Whole New World: What is your favorite newest fantasy series?

Oh wow, seriously, The Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley. Only the first book is out so far, I believe, but it. Was. Amazing. It’s the first epic fantasy I’ve read in a long time, so it took me a while longer than usual to get in the right mindset for reading it, but I’m so glad I worked through it. It’s a beautifully written book with masterfully crafted, gender-bending characters that made me wish all fantasies were like this one. I can’t say enough good about it. It does feature graphic violence, vulgar language, and sex, so if those are things you don’t enjoy reading, you may want to pass on this one. Also, if names and geography aren’t your strong suits, consider reading this with a notebook handy.

2. Part of Your World: What book world would you like to live in?

Oh dear Lord, the Chronicles of Narnia. Hands. Freaking. Down. Sure, the endless winter in Wardrobe was a downer, but it got sorted. And of course there are ups and downs, but who doesn’t want to be royalty with a giant, talking lion and a faun as your best friends?

3. Let It Go: What book or series do you wish everyone would stop talking about?

Well this is super easy. Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m not even linking to its Goodreads page, because I don’t want anyone else to read this. I read a bit of it, whatever I could flip through on Amazon’s Look Inside preview. Aside from the writing being weak, the entire plot really serves to dismiss and excuse abusive behaviors and encourage the idea that if you really love someone, you can change them. But you can’t. And stalking isn’t love. Controlling someone isn’t love. Tracking your partner’s phone isn’t love. Those things are abuse. And yes, I have been in two abusive relationships, so it’s easier now for me to spot one from a distance. That admission may shock some family and friends, but I’m tired of not talking about it to keep people from being uncomfortable. The largest problem I have — and there are so many to choose from — is that ultimately, women in Ana’s shoes in the real world usually end up in shelters or morgues. It’s not okay to make people think that’s what love can look like.

4. When You Wish Upon a Star: What book or series do you wish you could have more of?

This is a tough one, because I’d like to say my favorite series like Harry Potter or Hunger Games, but I honestly think those series ended where they should have, and adding more material feels like it would somehow lessen the weight of what came in the end. So, I think here I’ll have to say the Age of Steam series from Devon Monk. I love the three books I’ve read so far, but the third really seemed to end on an inappropriate cliffhanger, and I haven’t heard anything definitive about a fourth book in the works. It would be nice to get a fourth installment, because there were so many questions that just weren’t really answered by the third.

5. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: What is the longest book you’ve ever read?

So far, The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. It’s the first book in the Worldbreaker Saga and it’s 535 pages, if you include the completely necessary glossary at the back. It took me probably a month to get through because it’s incredibly dense, but it was worth the work.

6. Hakuna Matata: What book could you read over and over without a care in the world?

Oh man, there are so many. The Chronicles of Narnia series; Fahrenheit 451; The Hunger Games series; The Night Circus; and probably dozens more. Once I find a good book, I keep coming back to it like an old friend.

7. A Spoonful of Sugar: What couple has the sweetest relationship?

I would say Celia and Marco in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. The way the relationship develops is, in a way, both fantastic and realistic. Its resolution in the end is heartbreakingly beautiful and it left me feeling conflicted in the best of ways. But there was another relationship among performers, one buried deep within the book, that is worth reading the entire novel for. It wasn’t the focus, and it wasn’t main characters. But it was elegant, gut-wrenching, and revealed an undercurrent that made the book seem more about real people than any other device did.

8. You’ve Got a Friend in Me: Who are the best “best friends?”

Oh goodness. I’m not sure I read lots of books with “best friends” in them. This one took me the longest to answer, by far, but I think I’ll have to go with Cedar Hunt and Rose Small in Devon Monk’s Age of Steam series. They work together well, support one another, and even through their disagreements they make decisions in the best interest of one another. For the most part. I do have several problems with the series overall, especially in Monk’s development — or lack thereof — of Rose through the series, but as I said, I hope there are more books to come that will address those points, though I’m not optimistic on that front.

9. Zero to Hero: What character wasn’t expected to be a hero?

Steven de Selby in Trent Jameison’s Death Works trilogy. I suppose he never really is a hero, but more of an anti-hero in many regards. He doesn’t seem to even want to be the hero, at least not through the first book. But the trilogy follows his development as a character, as a person, and as a hero in spectacular fashion, and he certainly goes from a bumbling, eyeroll-inducing goof into a powerful, impressive, and not-too-arrogant-but-close hero. I was tempted to list this book in my answers for #10 as well, but thankfully there are more books in the series and I’m hoping to get my hands on them soon and hopefully find out the end wasn’t really what I think it was.

10. You’ll Be in My Heart: What character’s death made you cry the most?

There are three that I can immediately think of. The first is the death of David in Percival Everett’s Wounded. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Westerns and this novel takes everything I love about a Western and turns it on its head. David’s death destroyed me, and I spent the better part of that book sobbing. It’s an excellent and fairly short read but full of trigger warnings for racism, homophobia, and graphic violence.

The second is the death of Prim in Mockingjay. Her death haunts me still, and not just for the implications it holds for Katniss’ life, but also for what it says about Gale and the effects of war on the human mind and its ideals. It’s heartbreaking to see how far Katniss and Gale have fallen apart and how wrecked Gale is by the events around him. Of course, Gale made his choices, just as Katniss made hers, but this choice — and its consequences — in particular speaks volumes about both characters without ever saying a word about either.

And the third is in The Fault in Our Stars. The book was really doomed to sadness from the start, but it was a beautiful story that I ended up loving more than I thought I would. Even knowing what was coming didn’t fully prepare me for the painful loss in the book. But isn’t that always the way?

It may not be World Book Day anymore, but what books do these Disney songs remind you of? Reblog and complete this post on your own blog and hit me with a linkback in the comments. I’d love to read your responses! 

Advertisements

Book Review Time: Cold Copper (Age of Steam #3), by Devon Monk

Cold Copper cover

Even more stunning cover art by Cliff Nielsen

I have mixed feelings about this book. By that I mean I basically loved it, I have a few minor sads about it, and I sincerely hope it isn’t the last in the series.

Before you continue reading, you really need to do a couple things. First, read Dead Iron. Then read Tin Swift. Then (or instead of doing that) you can go here and here and read my reviews of them, respectively. Then read Cold Copper. You aren’t going to want to read this without knowing everything that’s happened.

Spoilers abound.

Continue reading

Book Review Time: Tin Swift (Age of Steam #2), Devon Monk

Tin Swift

More stunning cover art from Cliff Nielsen

If you haven’t read Dead Iron yet, let me preface all this by saying you absolutely should. No bones about it. Also, feel free to check out my review of it, posted here last month. Last time there was a lot of rambling beforehand, but this time I’m just gonna jump right into it. Ready?

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Continue reading

Book Review Time: Dead Iron (Age of Steam #1), Devon Monk

Dead Iron cover

Stunning cover art by the disgustingly talented Cliff Nielsen

Okay, I promised y’all a book review and a book review is what you’re gonna get!

(FYI, I post quick and dirty book reviews on my page over at Goodreads. Those entries are springboards for longer reviews which may contain spoilers, which I will post here. If you want a quick look at my thoughts immediately—or very soon, at least—after reading a book, spoiler- and summary-free, always check my Goodreads reviews first.)

#

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t branch out of my comfort zone very often. I don’t read books by people I’ve never heard of unless someone I know says, “hey, you’d really dig this book. Why don’t you check it out?” I’ll also admit that while Devon Monk has quite a few other novels under her belt, I’d never heard of her. Which initially made me sad, because I like to support female authors. Now, of course, it just gives me a reason to sing her praises for the Age of Steam series.

Like I said, I don’t branch out a lot. But what I do know is if you want me to read a book, any book about anything at all, tell me it’s a Western. I’ll read a Western until the spine breaks and the pages fall out, and then I’ll tape it carefully back together or hold each page individually if I have to. (Have actually done that. One of my Westerns is a first edition from the early 1900s and it is literally falling apart. Books are meant to be read, guys.) I. Love. Westerns. My great-grandfather (a.k.a. Very Best Friend in the Whole Wide World) loved them, introduced me to them, and my love for the genre has spiraled out of control ever since. In fact, in my entire reading life I’ve only met one Western I didn’t like. I still finished it.

Dead Iron is a Western. But just in case I might decide to overlook it, to think “I don’t know her, what if I spend $15 and it sucks, omg, I can’t take the pressure,” this book decides to also be steampunk. And also paranormal.

O ok can I have 6 copies please

(I kind of have a thing for steampunk/Victorian lit)

(I basically love everything with words)

(and also parentheticals)

After all that digressing, it’s time for some reviewing. Spoilers ahoy!

#

The cover art is indeed the main character, so, mrowr, helloooo nurse. He’s Cedar Hunt, a university teacher from Back East (oh please could he get any hotter?) who is also an out-of-control werewolf, thanks to a mysterious curse from a Pawnee god. He may or may not have murdered his also-cursed brother. He’s arrived in Hallelujah, Oregon, ahead of a fancy railroad mogul with some sinister ulterior motives. I love the word ‘sinister’.

The novel is entirely set in and around this tiny town, with a cast of characters including a young female deviser with an unknown past, a widowed witch looking to avenge her husband, a blacksmith whose son goes missing, a trio of brothers with an unusually strong connection to the land, and a Strange henchman who isn’t as much man as machine.

While the novel is a bit of a slow burn at the beginning, it’s anything but boring. It does border on overly technical in places, where Monk pauses to describe the town’s steam clock, for example. And while you may not be able to power through these sections, they’re certainly worth savoring, because that clock gives a bit of insight on sleepy old Hallelujah. And I think the slow burn is partly due to the decision to use alternating third person perspective, in which each chapter shifts to a new focal character. Due to chapters that are fairly short on average, it can sometimes be jarring, especially in a marathon read, but overall it doesn’t pull you out of the narrative. It can, however, give the impression that perhaps Cedar isn’t the main character after all.

And the world-building. Wow. While there isn’t a chapter devoted to its point of view, the land, as in all good Westerns, is very much a driving force and a character of its own in this novel. Dead Iron may be set in the US, but keep in mind this is Steam Age America. Nothing is familiar and yet everything is. I was completely transported to this place where ladies wear bonnets and petticoats, people ride horses and pull wagons, and yet there are machines crafted from gears and powered by steam to perform every function in life—and every function to end it. Even the paranormal and horror elements didn’t feel out of place, and it’s typically very easy to end my suspension of disbelief. Sorry, but I’m a nitpick.

Before I realized this was part of a series, I was a little disappointed in the lack of backstory on both Rose and Cedar. But never fear! There are two more books for all that. (Coincidentally, two more reviews coming soon! Ha.) I love the character development Monk executes here, though. Even without backstory, and in some places because it’s missing, Rose and Cedar are full characters with clear goals, fears, and conflicts of their own. And speaking of conflicts, the sexual tension between Cedar and the widowed witch Mae is fascinating. It’s frustrating (see what I did there?) but believable; after all, she’s very recently widowed. But don’t expect that to stop you from trying to will them into getting together. Overall, though, I think Monk treats all the characters with a fair amount of development, detailed yet appropriately concise. I especially love seeing strong female characters who aren’t as emotional as either brick walls or newborns and aren’t advanced through the story via a graphic rape scene. (Seriously though, that’s a cop-out move.)

It’s not often I run across a book I simply can’t stand to put down. In fact, I think the last time that happened was The Hunger Games series. But Dead Iron changed that. Over and over I heard myself say things like, “I’ll eat in a minute, only five more pages,” only to finish those and sneakily begin the next chapter. “Sorry, babe, this chapter’s longer than I thought. Ten more pages?”

#

I plan to round up every review with a few quick stats regarding things that are important to me. Here they are:

World-building: 5/5 (Detailed, plausible settings; environment conducive to plot/characters/etc)
Character development: 4/5 (Characters with strengths and weaknesses, observable growth/change)
Storyline: 5/5 (Here, I consider time shifts, main plot vs secondaries, believability, etc)
Style: 5/5 (For this I think about stylistic choices like imagery, diction, POV, etc)

Overall: 5/5

Bechdel test: PASS

I was not solicited or paid for this review. I bought the book with my own money, read it on my own time, loved it with my own heart, and raved about it of my own accord. You should do the same.