The Book of the Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick | Blabber

The Book of Dead Days (Book of Dead Days, #1)The Book of the Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
YA Fantasy
Read Dec 26 2020 – Feb 16 2021
Published 2003
273 pages
Spoiler-free blabber

Unfortunately this book wasn’t for me.

I picked this book up after owning it for probably twelve years. I purchased it back then on a recommendation from a friend, as it’s one of her favorite books (sorry, friend!) This past Christmas, I decided to finally read it, picking up on the 26th, the first day of ‘The Dead Days’ in the book, which are the days between Christmas and New Years, thinking it’d be a ‘festive’ way to end the year.

Well, the book I was supposed to finish it five days took me a month and a half, and honestly with my final opinion of it, in retrospect that doesn’t shock me.

This book follows a boy named Boy and the wizard he works for named Valerian. Valerian did something dumb in his youth and sold his soul in a deal, and at the end of the Dead Days, whatever the thing is is coming to collect. The premise sounded good, so I was interested upon starting the book.

Unfortunately that was one of only two things I liked about this book. I’ll start with the other positive thing though: I really liked the tone. The author was able to creative this muted, dreary, slightly disenchanted tone that matches the day after Christmas perfectly. It felt like all the build and up magic we get during December just disappears overnight, and this book really nailed that. I started reading this during those days obviously, but even after in January and February, the tone held up, and I still felt like it was right after Christmas. So points for that.

But otherwise, this book was a bit of a let down. I started reading and quickly realized that Valerian, the one whose soul is at risk, is a jackass. Now I have nothing against unlikable characters, but he treats Boy, the one person who’s trying to help him, like shit the entire book. I was told upon noticing Valerian was a jerk, that he’d grow on me over time or that he got better. Well, no. He was an ass up until the end, and it made the plot feel meaningless to me. I didn’t care if he died or not and I didn’t see why Boy was so loyal the whole time. Honestly Boy started grating on my nerves after a while as a result. He had no agency and felt very flat. The blind loyalty to someone who treated him in such a way was astonishing and felt very unrealistic. His thoughts didn’t even stray. I can understand being stuck in a situation you can’t escape from – I get that – but even his thoughts didn’t suggest that he anything but loyal, even while acknowledging his master was a jerk. It really rubbed me the wrong way.

The only character I liked in the book was Willow, who was similar to Boy in situation but actually displayed some agency. She questioned and challenged Valerian’s behavior more than once, and Boy basically reacted by saying ‘augh stop don’t do that’ and Valerian was like ‘why aren’t you more like Boy, mindless just obeying me?’. Like Boy was such a formulaic character that it was even known to the other characters how flat he was. At first I thought Boy was this way for a reason and would go through huge character growth and get some self-respect by the end of his character arc, buuuuut nope. It was frustrating.

The book also set up a bunch of questions that were hinted at throughout the book, and during the ‘big reveal’ at the end they were ‘revealed’…. but not really. We never actually got any answers to any of the questions Boy brought up throughout the story, despite Valerian saying over and over he’d answer them. I get the Valerian probably didn’t know, but setting it up this way created a promise and didn’t give a payoff. It felt very lack-luster, and the book ended without feeling complete. I know there’s a sequel and there’s a chance the questions will be answered, but the ‘fake’ way the reveal happened towards the end was obviously used as just a plot point to get the main character to do what the plot needed him to do, and it felt very forced.

Speaking of the ending, man was it rushed. The climax of the book I swear happened with five pages left in the thing and then it happened and that was it. No wind down, no nothing afterward. Basically the characters were like ‘wow huh that happened’ and then the end. It was very jarring and unsatisfying. I want to try to give it a break because it’s YA fiction but honestly I feel like that’s an insult to YA fiction, as I’ve read some excellent YA fiction. The premise had promise, but I feel the delivery fell really, really flat.

So yeah overall I liked very little about this book. But I was interested in it enough to finish it, so that’s something.

Perhaps this book will be for you, as I know my friend and a lot of people really like it, but it was not for me.

2 stars

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin | Blabber

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Book 1 of the Broken Earth trilogy
Published 2015
468 pages
Spoiler-free blabber

Just like I said in my blabber of Foundryside posted the other day, I was very late to this train, and very mad at myself for waiting so long. I buddy read this with my irl friend, and we both adored it (and are both neck deep into book two at this point).

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this book before.

I’ve read a lot of fantasy during my thirty years of being a human, and have experienced more of it through video games and tv and movies and whatnot, but this world is definitely a unique one.

Sloppy synopsis:

This book is set in a world that keeps ending, and it follows the characters trying to live in it. There are three main points of view in the story, each located at a different place on this continent riddled with earthquakes and volcanoes and other apocalypsey kinds of things, and it tells the story of their lives.

In this world are creatures who eat stone, giant obelisks that hang out in the sky – forgotten relics of civilizations past, and people who can sense the earth moving under their feet. All three perspectives are such people. When earthquakes happen, they can quell them with their abilities, or make them worse.

The story sets up an interesting social hierarchy, placing these earth-sensers, orogenies, in a lower tier of people. They’re valuable, as they can stop an earthquake from demolishing a great city, but they’re also seen as less than. Between them, the stone eaters, the people who can’t sense the earth, and the Guardians – a group of people whose task it is to monitor the orogenies, a political undercurrent is created and fuels a large part of the story, on top of all the world-ending catastrophies.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the social commentary this book provided. It touched on humanity, on respect given and received, and what happens when that isn’t balanced. The narrative from all three perspectives touched on this in different ways, each one interacting with an aspect of this established social hierarchy. I found it interesting and compelling.

The writing as well, was very readable. This was another one that I read my target number of buddy read pages each week in one sitting. I just couldn’t put the thing down. The first chapter opens in a jarring way: the world is yet again ending again outside – screams and earthquakes can be felt and heard, but the pov character is inside her house, and her world is already ending in a different fashion. Her son lays dead in her arms, murdered by his father, who has fled with their daughter.

That’s how the book opens, with that scene of many worlds ending at the same time.

And honestly it made me fall in love with the book right away. The pov is written from second person, which makes the scene all the more jarring and the more captivating. The narratives from the other perspectives were just as submersive. As the story progressed and we found out more about orogenies, the social system, and the geographical instabilities of the world, the more I was completely enraptured.

The back of the book has an appendix in it as well, as the narrative mentions multiple previous world-ended events in passing. It was fascinating reading about all of them. Each apocalypse is called a Fifth Season. And really, what sounds more interesting than an apocalypse known in the history books as ‘The Season of the Teeth’?

This book was just so fascinating. The stone eaters were neat, the orogenies were neat, how people lived on the land was neat. The social dynamics that evolved due to the constant barrage from the earth was neat. It was all just so neat.

The characters themselves, while I wouldn’t always call them ‘likeable’ were very believable. I don’t think the main characters were written to be entirely good or evil, but were written to be human – there were all sorts of gray decisions these characters made, either motivated through personal desire or through necessity. The back drop of a chaotic planet only made the potentially powerful decisions that more necessary.

So overall, this book was awesome. So awesome that I’ve run out and grabbed the next two in the series and plan on reading them right away (already in the second!) My buddy reader and I both loved this book, easy five stars. My expectations for this one were a bit high, considering it won a Hugo when it came out (and then so did its sequel the next year and then so did its sequel the year after that, which is unprecedented) and I gotta say, it totally lives up to the hype. This is a fantastic book.

5 stars

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett | Blabber

Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy #1)Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennet
Book 1 of the Founders Trilogy
512 pages
Published 2018
Spoiler-free blabber

I am very late to this train. When this book first came out two (three?!?) years ago, I remember seeing it on the favorites lists of a lot of people. The premise of it did pique my interest at the time, but I felt no need to immediately pick it up.

Why did I do myself dirty like that?

Last month, I picked this up as part of a buddy read with Meredith @Allboutthembooksandstuff, a friend of mine that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I gotta tell ya, we both ended up absolutely adoring this book. I’m a bit mad that I waited so long to jump on the hype train.

Sloppy synopsis:

This book in set in a city ruled over by four merchant houses, each of whom have their territory walled off within the city limits. Anyone who doesn’t belong to one of the houses lives in the Commons, the area between the walls. The main character Sancia lives there, not belonging to any merchant house, nor to anybody else in particular. The narrative opens on her sneaking into a building to steal an item she’s been hired to steal. She doesn’t know what it is or what it does, she just knows that the buyer is willing to pay a lot of money. And right away, we’re introduced to the magic system, which I think is one of the coolest parts about this book: scriving.

Scriving is magic system based on written sigils that are carved into objects to change their reality. The sigils range from simple to mind-bogglingly complex. For instance, a sigil could be written on a carriage to make it think it’s always on a slope, therefore should be moving because it’s only natural to move downhill. And boom, you get a carriage that moves on its own, without the need for horses to pull it. Sancia herself has been altered by sigils – a metal plate in her skull, inscribed with the things, allow her to know objects. All she needs to do is touch them, and she learns their makes, their histories, and their weak points. Perfect skills for a thief, who needs to know if there are people standing on the floors in the next room.

So the story starts from there, with Sancia stealing this object and having to deal with the resulting consequences. The narrative introduces a cast of characters ranging from human to beyond.

My thoughts:

My favorite thing about this book was the humor. A character is introduced very shortly into the beginning that Sancia is able to use her scrived brain to communicate with, and their banter is so amusing. The character himself is sassy and quick-witted. Sancia too has a wry sense of humor about most things that happen throughout the story. I laughed out loud multiple times throughout the book. I really love it when a serious plot is interwoven with light-hearted-ness and the author here pulled it off perfectly.

Most characters I feel were developed pretty well, namely Sancia, Orso, and Clef. Orso is a scriving master, and his job is to carve sigils into items for the merchant house to which he belongs. Clef is well, a character that I can’t tell you about without it being a spoiler. But I feel that his character development throughout the book is really good. There were a couple characters I felt were a bit flat, and I’m hoping they get more development in book two. There was also a bit of a romance between two of the characters, and I’m not sure how I feel about how it was executed. I ship the characters mind you, but I feel the progression of the romance was a bit rushed. It’s a minor plot point though so I’m not super concerned about it, nor did my iffy feelings of it influence how I felt about the book as a whole.

The plot in itself was really interesting to me. In the synopsis I mentioned Sancia stealing an item without knowing what it was. The theft of it gets interwoven into a larger conflict, and involves ancient civilizations and carving new realities and beings that probably shouldn’t exist but do. I really love how vast the world felt, even though the entire book takes place within the confines of one city. It dove a bit into philosophy and ethics as well, touching on subjects like human experimentation, whether or not humans should be able to change the reality of the world, what happens when they do, and what is considered ‘ethical’ during wartime vs peace time. The various characters have different opinions on it obviously, and the topics are handled in a way that feel realistic.

The pacing as well was great. At no point did the story lag. I never felt like I was trudging along. Most of the time, I read the entire section of book I was to read each week for the buddy read in one sitting. It was really hard to actually put the book down and wait until the day we could talk about what we’d read so far.

Overall, I really loved this book, and I know Meredith did as well. It gets a definite five stars from me. Easy peasy. We plan on picking up book two in a couple months, and then we’ll pine, waiting until book three is released.

But yeah if you’ve been on the fence about picking this one up, definitely do it.

5 stars

Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb | Blabber

Renegade's Magic (Soldier Son, #3)Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb
Book 3 of the Soldier Son trilogy
691 pages
Spoiler-free blabber of this book
Spoilers for books 1 and 2
Blabber for book 1
Blabber for book 2

I have complicated feelings about this one.

This is the third and final book in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy and… unfortunately my least favorite of the three. Don’t get me wrong, I did like this book. I just didn’t love it like I was really hoping to.

This is the last novel that Robin Hobb has published that I had yet to read, so I was hoping to go out with a bang. I’m not sure if my desire for this affected my enjoyment of the book or not, honestly.

As per usual, I read this with Zezee @Zezeewithbooks, and we both ended up having similar ‘ehhhh’ feelings throughout.

So this book picks up directly after the second one ends. Nevare has now used magic to the extent that he’s essentially lost himself to it. Soldier’s Boy has taken over control of his body and for the majority of this book, Nevare is trapped inside, helplessly witnessing the actions that this alter-ego is taking while using it. Because Nevare can’t actually do anything and because the book is solely from his point of view, the narration becomes very, very passive. Large parts of it are him watching his body move around and lamenting in his horror and frustration at not being able to do anything about it. 

And I gotta tell ya, it got irritating after a while. I mean, the situation was realistic, at least in the world of the story. What else did Nevare have to do aside from lament? He was trapped! But like… the narration decision I wasn’t a huge fan of. There was all this stuff going on – machinations of Soldier’s Boy and the Specks, things with Epiny and Spink, all sorts of stuff – but the narration didn’t touch nearly enough on that because Nevare was the only POV and had limited visibility of it all. Usually I like single POV stories but I feel like it was a flaw in this novel. I get why it was done, mind you, but it really created an irksome and boring chunk of the book, at least for me.

Luckily though I still liked Nevare as a character, even though he was being annoying. I’m not sure Zezee did as much, which I think meant I enjoyed the story a tad more (though if I’m wrong, correct me friend :p) Nevare really grew on me as a character, because his development from book one to three was awesome. In the beginning, he was essentially a stick in the mud, and expected everything to be given to him as his birth right. By the end, he had become a worldly, compassionate human, able to see things from others points of view to the point where he realized his peoples’ way of life might not be the “right” way or the “only” way. Aside from his unfortunate situation and lamenting of it in book three, his character arc was pretty great.

Another thing I liked about this book was how it handled “good” and “bad”. The two nations in the book, the Gernians and the Specks, are at odds with each other. The Gernians want to build a road to the sea, straight through the Speck’s territory. The Specks don’t want this because building the road would mean chopping down their ancestor trees – huge, sentient things where the spirits of their dead reside. The conflict comes because the Gernians don’t understand the spiritual importance of these trees, and the Specks don’t understand the Gernian’s need for new trade. So neither side is “bad”, really. They both have good goals – save their nations – but they cannot understand the other, therefore each thinks the other is the antagonist. Nevare is smack in the middle by book three. Especially with Soldier’s Boy spending more and more time in Speck territory, Nevare is able to pick up these nuances and contemplate each side’s point of view. I think this was handled really, really well and when Nevare was lamenting about this particular topic, it made for some interesting reading.

We also got some of the side characters back, though not nearly as many as I had hoped. Spink and Epiny in particular played a large part in this novel, which I think was great. I said it last time too but their relationship is just wonderful. They’re so open and trusting with each other, and they understand each other without really having to explain themselves. Their situation during this book was affected a lot by Soldier Boy’s doings, and it caused a bit of conflict between them and Nevare. I really liked that communication was big in this though: there was no ‘but let me explain’ and then walking away. Epiny basically always demanded a thorough explanation every time something happened that caused a conflict, and it held her, Spink and Nevare together like glue, and I really loved her for it.

Some side characters though we didn’t get to see again. Namely I was hoping to see Gord, a character from book 1. In book 1, he was Nevare’s classmate and was bullied mercilessly for his weight. Initially Nevare thought poorly of him for his size but grew to respect him for his character. Gord got a good bit of development too when he was present in the narrative, and then the plot took a turn and he basically disappeared. In retrospect, I see that Gord as a character was set up to be a parallel: he was fat and Nevare respected him less for it, and then the magic took over Nevare and he got fat and people also lost respect for him. Gord was essentially a plot device and it left me feeling salty. I get that the message was ‘people are more than their bodies and should be treated as such’ but still, I wanted Gord to come back. I wanted comradery between Gord and Nevare. I wanted it!

I want a full book about Gord, dammit.

As for the ending, I think it was pretty satisfying. No spoilers, mind you, but I do believe that aside from the characters from book one that are basically never mentioned again, the story wraps up well and most of the plot lines are brought to a close. It was a good ending and left me feeling complete. Because of that, my enjoyment of the book bumped up a bit. The book itself definitely dragged at times, but the way it finished off made up for it (a bit).  I’m not gonna say anything else on it other than ‘I definitely liked it’.

So yeah, this was my final Robin Hobb book, at least until she publishes something else (please?!?!?!) Despite me not loving this book, she’s definitely my favorite author, basically ever. And now that I’ve completed her books I feel a void in my heart, and I need to reread everything lickity split. I wonder if I would reread this book in a few years if I would enjoy it more? It’ll be interesting to see.

Rating: 3.75 stars



Forest Mage by Robin Hobb | Blabber

Forest Mage (Soldier Son, #2)Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
Book 2 of the Soldier Son trilogy
718 pages
Spoiler-free blabber for this book
Spoilers for book 1

This book was such a roller coaster.

Two months ago, I wrote a blabber about Shaman’s Crossing, which is the first book in this series. That book, I gave a full five stars to after some retrospection. My impulse was a 4.25, but when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I bumped it to a 5. It’s still there and I’m happy with that rating. My thoughts of that book honestly are… pretty simple compared to this one. This book made me feel so much more.

So first of all, as per usual, I buddy-read this with Zezee @Zezeewithbooks, and we both ended up having some pretty complex emotions about this thing.

This book picks up pretty quickly after the first book ends. From my perception, there might have been a few days or maybe a week or so between them, but the scene is more or less the same as it was at the end of the first book: The academy has just gotten through a wave of the Speck plague and is in recovery. One of my favorite things about book one was the academy aspect. I really liked the dialogue on how political alliance among the old and new nobles infiltrated into how the students at the academy treated each other. So at the beginning of this book, with the plague having wiped out many people on both sides, those alliances have kind of crumbled, and a ‘we must stick together’ mindset has set in, especially among those at the academy, if not those holding political positions.

What I wasn’t expecting though, was the plot to veer away from that setting so quickly, away from the academy and in a totally different direction. First thing, is Nevare is affected by the plague in a different way than everyone else. Instead of wasting away to a skeleton of himself, he gains weight. A lot of it. This happens pretty early on and is also hinted at towards the end of the first book. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, but it becomes a central plot point and acts as a catalyst for a lot of the things that happen to Nevare further along in the book.

And I gotta tell ya, people in this book are mean to him. Like, horrendously so. He’s ridiculed by friends and family both, and society as a whole comes to see him as less. During this emotional torture, some additional things happen to Nevare that honestly border on torture porn. And at the time of reading it, it seems senseless, because he’s so passive in reacting to it. At this point in the book, both me and Zezee honestly weren’t having a great time. It was difficult to read, because Nevare, who honestly was a bit of a jerk in book one, really gets the short end of the stick, and I came to really feel for the guy. His jerky habits definitely lessen, though occasionally you can see little hints that he’s still working through his personal issues regarding them. I really liked that about this book: as passive as Nevare was, his characterization is really consistent. He grows and develops as a character, but he does so believably.

As the book progressed, we got a broader picture as to why everything was happening, and it made all the depressing things that happened make more sense, at least to the point where it no longer felt like the author was torturing the characters for no reason.

Speaking of the progression, I really liked the pacing in this. At no point did the book drag, and the speed at which we received information about the new location Nevare was in and all the unseen forces at play made for a compelling read. I really like how the magic evolved and how Nevare became more and more entwined with it.

I think my one complaint about the book that was sustained throughout the thing was the abrupt change in cast. All of the characters introduced and developed during the academy part of the book basically disappeared once Nevare ended up elsewhere. I mean, all new characters were introduced and developed but man I liked the ones we had, wah. I’m hoping they come back in book three! The few characters that did stick around, I really liked. Spink and Epiny – I love their relationship and their utter trust and honesty with each other. They’re so wholesome, communicative and healthy and it’s just such a breath of fresh air. Meaning…. I’m very worried about them come book three, as Robin Hobb tends not to let anyone have a completely happy ending. Auugh.

So overall plot-wise, while this book was definitely depressing to read, it advanced in a way that made sense for the lore set up in the world, and I overall enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the character development, particularly in Nevare, and I really liked the pacing.

With the way that book two ended, I feel like book three could take another 180 in regard to the plot, just like this book did compared to the first. I honestly can’t even guess as to where it’s gonna go or how it’s gonna end, but man I am ready for it.

4.25 stars

Thoughts on Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon Episode 1

Yashahime can be found on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Youtube

Happy October 3rd, Yashahime release day!

Spoilers for Inuyasha and Yashahime episode 1

Back when this sequel was announced in May, I made a post about it, basically detailing my waffling on how I felt about it. Since that post, I’ve come to mostly look forward to it. So I’ve been counting down the days, lemme tell you. So here are my thoughts, now that I’ve watched episode one:

Weirdly, the biggest emotions I’m feeling right now are dread mixed with sadness. The first episode isn’t sad at all, mind you. On the contrary, it’s got some good comedy in it and I really liked it, but I just have a feeling something bad is going to happen.

So this episode opens on Towa sitting in a feudal lord’s castle, being grilled about where she came from. It flashes from there back and forth to shortly after Kagome returns to the feudal era. A lot of the episode is actually spent there, and we see them fighting the Root Head demon from the trailer. It was really nice to see all the characters again – the whole main cast pretty much. It’s immediately noticeable that everyone has grown and matured. Things that would have been a dramatic argument in the original show were discussed calmly three years later in this sequel. It was just so nice to see the character growth.

I was expecting this episode to set up the main plot for the series, but I suppose it’ll take more than twenty minutes of show time to do that: other than flashing forward to Towa, Setsuna and Moroha together, it hasn’t (yet) explained how it got to that point. That is why I feel so much dread.

From the trailer to the movie posters, there are two people in particular who haven’t made an appearance while Towa, Setsuna and Moroha are doing their thing: Kagome and Rin. Both of them, while in the episode during the fight with the Root Head demon, haven’t been hinted at at all during the later time setting. It’s… unsettling.

Mind you, we only saw the three girls during the later time period, so it’s not guaranteed any of the other characters will be later in the show, but the lack of them being featured on the posters and images and stuff makes me worry.

So the Root Head demon – it’s obvious while ‘defeated’ in the first episode isn’t actually so. And honestly, the set up for how it got there was pretty nice. It wasn’t just ‘it showed up one day’, but actually had a reason that made sense why it was there and why it was in Kaede’s village in particular. So as said, this Root Head demon I don’t think is quite done, and I feel like it’s going to be the catalyst for… whatever happens for all the characters.

I don’t like it. It makes me feel so nervous, augh.

As mentioned earlier, this episode has some good comedy. Moroha is definitely Inuyasha and Kagome’s daughter, to put it plainly. She’s such a great combination of them that it’s hilarious just to see her being herself. Setsuna you can tell is a bit stoic like her father, which is also funny in its own way. Towa’s interactions with the feudal lord are pretty funny. Towa, unlike Kagome in the original series, is actually concerned about preserving the timeline. Her facial expressions when being confronted with a book brought back from modern time is great, and so is the one when she sees Kagome’s old bicycle seat, which was found in a river.

That part honestly made me gasp a bit, and lends to my worry about Kagome: why was her bike seat in a river? It looked old, and like it had been there for a while. It showed that clip, and I went ‘oh no. Oh no, this is gonna make me sad, isn’t it’.

We don’t get to find out what happened in episode one though, they’re gonna make us wait. It’s gonna be tortuous and it’s gonna make me cry. It’s gonna, it’s gonna.

So overall: I really enjoyed this episode. They set up some good hooks for future plot points, and I really liked the back-and-forth setting way of telling what’s happened so far. The episode was definitely worth the wait, and I am excited (I also dread) to see more.

If you watched this, do tell me your thoughts. As far as I know, none of my friends are watching so I have nobody to talk about it with.


Reamde by Neal Stephenson | Blabber

ReamdeReamde by Neal Stephenson
Thriller/Science fiction
1044 pages
Read June 20-Aug 23, 2020
Spoiler-free blabber

I can’t say I’ve read a 1000 page book and been entertained the whole time before.

But for some reason, obviously to the credit of the author, this book, which comes in at 1044 pages, kept me interested the whole way through. At no point did it lag, nor did the pacing slow down, for me at least.

Neal Stephenson’s Reamde is definitely a thriller, and while it’s also classified as science fiction, I’d say barely just, if you squint. It involves a video game that doesn’t exist, but otherwise, it seems very current-technology-era, maybe even a bit dated from it being written in 2011. So don’t be scared off by the categorization of ‘science fiction’ if that’s not something you typically read.

This books follows a small set of main characters – a middle aged draft-dodger who’s become wealthy and successful by inventing the video game mentioned above, his adopted, computer-wizard niece from Eritrea, some Russian mafia guys, some Chinese hackers, some British government agents, and some middle-eastern terrorists. I gotta tell ya, this plot is all over the place, but it just flows so well.

The beginnings of it at least, start when a computer virus – Reamde – made by the Chinese hackers ransom locks some files wanted by the Russian mafia while inside a resort owned by the video game creator. And it just goes from there. Honestly I can’t even begin to go farther into the plot because it really just goes everywhere.

So plot-wise, for being a 1000 pages, it was pretty fast-paced. As said, it didn’t lag or anything, and while it did definitely get a bit convoluted, at no point did it cross into jump the shark territory. The continuity and segues into new plot points were really good and kept me coming back.

The thing I did have a problem with, the thing that kept me from loving this book, was the vocabulary. Like… when I first started reading this book, I thought it was written in the 80s, going by the language the author was using. There were dated, offensive terms for black people, for homosexual people, and for special needs people that haven’t been used in a way that was ‘accepted’ in normal society for a loooong time. Like, they were sprinkled throughout the book, spoken by characters as if they were normal, characters not written to be racist or homophobic or anything like that. They were also in the narration itself at times. So I was reading this and I thought, ‘this is probably an old book, product of its time’. But nope, it was published in 2011. So like.. while I really liked the story, the vocabulary really made me hate it at the same time. I don’t know if the author feels that the terms are ‘normal’, or maybe this was originally drafted in the 80s or what, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I have no idea how it got passed the editor, to be honest.

The thing that confused me the most about the weird vocabulary was it was combined with a very diverse cast of characters, all of whom were fleshed out and fairly well developed. It was just a weird dichotomy, seeing a really nice cast combined with the rocky vocabulary. I don’t know. It was… bizarre. I don’t remember this vocabulary being in other books I’ve read by Stephenson, so I have no idea what was going on.

So yeah overall: really neat, windy plot, good characters, great pacing. Vocabulary? Don’t pick this up if you don’t wanna be subjected to it. It can definitely be offensive.

3.75 stars


Pestilence by Laura Thalassa | Blabber

Pestilence (The Four Horsemen, #1)Pestilence by Laura Thalassa
Read July 21-24, 2020
381 pages
Spoilery blabber

So, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it, either. It’s also been weirdly on my mind since I finished it, enough so that it’s compelling me to write a review a month later. So props to it, it’s stuck in my brain.

Pestilence is a biblical apocalyptic romance novel, set during the reign of the four horsemen. Pestilence, shown on the cover, arrives with his brothers and begins spreading, well, pestilence. And I gotta tell ya, I need to point out its inaccuracies right away: In the book everyone is taking care to avoid getting sick. Obviously now we have a real life example to show that hey no, people are stupid. (I kid – it’s not a negative to the book at all. If anything, the writer is just trying to portray ideal humans, which I respect.)


The plot of the book starts when Sara, the main character, tries to kill him to save humanity, fully expecting to die in the process. Only she doesn’t and she doesn’t. Pestilence, instead of killing her, takes her prisoner and boom, romance.

Again, I kid. One thing I did like about this was how long it took for the romance to develop. It was slow, it wasn’t ‘I know you hate me but I’ma jump your bones anyways’ or anything like that. Honestly though I think it should have been slower. Like across several books. There is the whole moral ‘he’s committing genocide’ thing which would usually be a deal breaker, but apparently the romance happened because ‘he felt bad about it’. I mean, I could see it happening eventually, but I feel like it needed a lot more nuance.

And that’s my main issue with this book, was this plot line where Sara was trying to convince him to stop killing humanity and he wouldn’t because reasons. I’ll get to this more later, as it culminates at the end of the book in a way I really didn’t care for.

But for overall plot, this book was entertaining enough if you focused on the romance, but a bit slow otherwise as far as ‘progression of the apocalypse’ goes. It felt a bit stagnant at times, broken apart only by romance scenes. I mean I get this is the point of the book – the romance – so I’m not judging too harshly here, but I guess with this huge premise set up to put the romance in, I wanted a bit more depth.

Characters: I rather liked Sara, for the most part. I do think she let her guard down around Pestilence too quickly though. Like I said I feel like the romance should have taken longer to develop, especially with the premise. Pestilence was alright. He was the stereotypical ‘beautiful born yesterday man meat’. He wasn’t a bad character per say, he just didn’t have too much to him.

So with the above, my overall enjoyment of this book was about a three stars. Like I enjoyed it, didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It was very middle of the road for me.

Until the ending, which is what dropped the book down in rating for me.

As mentioned above, spoilers.

The ending was very anti-climatic. I mentioned earlier the plot line where Sara was trying to convince Pestilence to stop killing humanity. Well, that was true – she was constantly trying to get him to stop (but also banging him so really, her words held no sway for a while).

The main reason he wouldn’t from what he said was that he was divinely ordained to do it, or whatever his words were. Long story short it was ‘I cannot stop as it is divine will’. Which to me, implied something bad would happen if he disobeyed. The book repeated this reasoning over and over and over again, and created a sense of unease, because let’s be real this is a romance and I knew eventually he’d drop it, and with this foreboding, I felt like something big was gonna go down. As the book progressed, he did admit feeling bad about killing humanity but that was all the remorse he ever showed.

Here’s the kicker: Eventually, Sara was like ‘eff it, he’s really not gonna stop’ and tries to leave him, because she, after 300-odd pages, realizes she’s not gonna change him. He follows her and basically locks her up so she stops running away. I had to stop and think about this section for a bit, because bam, sudden abusive plot line out of nowhere. Like what?

So Sara just broods in her captivity for a few chapters and eventually Pestilence lets her out because he’s still not happy, because she’s still mad at him for killing humanity (shocker). And then he’s like ‘I’ve decided to stop killing humanity, don’t worry’.

And that’s it. No divine retribution. No big biblical climax because one of the four horsemen decided to just stop his mission. No interference. No consequences to Pestilence for stopping killing humanity. Nothing.

And then they live happily ever after for ten years until the hook for book two shows up.

I mean.

I mean.

If he could have stopped this whole time with no consequence, why didn’t Sara call him out on that? She basically is like ‘sweet’ and just rolls with it. She doesn’t strike me as a dumb character, nor is she written like one. But for some reason, she doesn’t seem to notice or care that there was seemingly nothing stopping him from not killing people earlier. That this ‘divine mission’ was just him being stubborn, and not the threat of a righteous strike-down, as heavily hinted in the book earlier.

It just left a sour taste in my mouth, is all.

And it dropped my enjoyment of this book from ‘I liked it’ to ‘I didn’t quite like it’. Still didn’t hate it, mind you. But that ending was like a wet paper bag with an old sandwich in it.

2.5 stars


Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb | Blabber


Shaman's Crossing (Soldier Son, #1)Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb
Book 1 of the Solider Son trilogy
577 pages
Spoiler-free blabber

After finishing Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings world I was left pining for it. For the characters, the world, the plot, the sheer depth of it all. After letting it sit for a bit, I picked this up, hoping it would fill the void. And I gotta say, I think it has.

Shaman’s Crossing is not an Elderlings book, first off, and it doesn’t pretend to be one. It starts from the ground up, crafting an all new world, characters, magic systems, and political strife. Shaman’s Crossing is a wholly different book, but to me, I could still see the Robin Hobb-y-ness of it all, and I quickly became smitten with the thing.

This book follows Nevare, a second son of a second son, destined to  a soldier, as he grows and learns that the world around him is not what he had anticipated. The story begins with Nevare as a child, where he lives with his father, a soldier-turned-lord, on the frontier of quote unquote “civilized” society and the unclaimed lands, populated with magical people known as the Plainsmen. Nevare as a child is innocent to the existing prejudices and political pressure existing in his world. He gets hints of it here and there but being a child, he’s not fully comprehending what he’s seeing. As the reader, you can fully grasp what’s going on while Nevare cannot, and it creates a sense of unease.

As the book continues, Nevare grows older, and social roles are cemented into his head. The social system in this book is very patriarchal, and Nevare just flows along with it. At first, once he was grown, I found him frustrating with how ingrained this patriarchy was in his head. Robin Hobb being Robin Hobb though obviously wasn’t gonna let that lie: she’s the queen of character development after all.

Nevare finds himself placed in a military academy and immediately his mental schemas of how the world works and who fills what roles are challenged. He finds himself constantly realizing that yes, he’s a bit of a dick, and no, people don’t fit into these stereotypical boxes like he thought they did. With every chapter, Nevare’s expectations of the world crack just a bit more, and it was really great seeing him mentally process all of the new interactions and people he met that didn’t quite fit in his interpretation of his country.

The magic system(s?) too, are really cool. Shamanic in origin, they deal with spirits, spirit worlds and how they can entwine the physical realm, influence it, and even force it to change. Robin Hobb blended the metaphysical with the physical in a way that was enthralling, and tied it in with the social norms of the world so well.

It plays on one’s reluctance to admit to anything supernatural, it plays with established religion versus spiritualism, it plays with feelings of religious doubt, it plays with seeing proof before one’s very eyes and still not wanting to admit that one is wrong.

It plays with people’s reaction to the inevitable, when they see it happening and choose to ignore or disbelieve it. Funny how fiction imitates life.

For a first book in a brand new series, it touches on a lot: prejudice and racism, sexism, patriarchy, fatphobia, colonialism, occultism, spiritualism, bullying, classism, and a lot more.

The story as well is compelling. It was as rich as a Robin Hobb book normally is, and was just as inviting. Even though I mentioned I had frustrations with the main character, I also cared about him too. As the plot played out, I found myself worrying for him, even when I wasn’t actively reading the book. The side characters were well put together, and each brought something new and unique into Nevare’s world.

Originally I rated this books a 4.25. And honestly I’ve been sitting on this rating for a while, thinking about whether or not it was the right call. I buddy read this with Zezee @Zezeewithbooks, and she gave it a full 5 I believe. I finished this book probably last month or so, and having sat with it and thought on it, and having found myself being brought back to it over and over again across the past few weeks, I think I agree with her, actually. This book was definitely a five stars. The initial experience was great, but the after-effects, the way it stuck in my mind, made it even better.

I’m starting the second one here imminently, and wanted to get my thoughts out before they melded together with this next book’s. So here we are, and once again, Robin Hobb has swept me off my feet.

5 stars

Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits by Waco Ioka, vols 1 & 2 | Blabber

Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, Vol. 1 (Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, #1)Kakuriyo vols 1 and 2 by Waco Ioka
Manga – Fantasy
200 pages each
Read May 22, 2020
Spoiler-free blabber

Kakuriyo was a whimsical get-away. 

Honestly I picked this up knowing nothing about it. I saw it on sale on Rightstuf and decided to grab the first couple volumes. Turns out, it was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This manga follows a young Japanese woman named Aoi Tsubaki, who inherited her grandfather’s ability to see spirits – creatures from Japanese legend. Yokai, ogres, kappas, you name it. Whenever she sees them, she gives them food to ward them off, as spirits tend to eat humans once they realize they’ve been seen. So in addition to the Japanese folklore aspect, you get almost a food-romance theme as well. And by ‘food-romance’ I mean that food is glorified in this book. Even simple meals are made to seem like they’d be delicious.

The plot picks up when Aoi sees a masked yokai, lamenting his hunger. She gives him her lunch, but when she goes to walk away, the yokai grabs her and transports her to Kakuriyo: the spirit world, where it turns out he runs an inn for spirits and suddenly demands that she marry him to pay a debt incurred by her grandfather. Her reaction to that is basically ‘lol yeah right’. And the story goes from there.

Obviously I’m not too far into the series – there are five or six books out so far, and I’m only covering the first two here, but these two have definitely made me a fan. As I said before, this series is whimsical, and it really reminded me of Spirited Away, but in a darker, more gritty kind of way. I wouldn’t call this a horror, it’s nowhere near, but it definitely gives you glimpses and sharp reminders that Aoi is not among humans, and sometimes she forgets that. Every time she starts to get comfortable, she says or does something and a yokai’s face just changes, or she’s suddenly thrown into a dangerous situation. It’s unnerving, as the yokai are written in a highly human way. It kind of lulls you into a false sense of security, and then they distinctly act inhuman, and it throws you off. I loved it.

I have a feeling that this will eventually turn into a romance. It’s being published by Shojo Beat after all, but that’s not too present in the first two volumes, at least. As I mentioned above, the yokai wants her to be his bride but she’s not having it, and insists on working off her debt at the inn instead. But I can see the beginning inklings that this’ll turn into a romance, and I can totally see it.

Another thing that I wasn’t expecting was how funny this was. I laughed out loud multiple times throughout the two volumes. Aoi trying to center herself in this new world caused a few entertaining situations, and the Odanna, the spirit who brought her there, causes a few himself. He’s quiet and reserved and seems indifferent, but occasionally he’ll say something that just throws Aoi off-kilter in a hilarious way. I really enjoyed it.

So overall I really enjoyed this. I liked the characters, the plot was entertaining, and I really loved the world. Again, it just had this… unworldly feel to it, and I thought it was great. I’m definitely going to catch up on this one as soon as I’m able.

4 and 4.5 stars, respectively