Review: The House of Shattered Wings

The House of Shattered Wings
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #20 for 2017
#AWSFF Reading Challenge:
– Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel
– British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel
Personal Challenge Tasks:
– A book about a haunted building
– An award-winning book
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge Task: A book based on mythology
PopSugar Challenge Prompts (maximum 3):
– A book by a person of color
– A book based on mythology
– A book about an immigrant or refugee
Better World Books Prompts:
– A book set in a place you want to visit (Paris)
– A fantasy novel
– A book by a person of color
– A book by a female writer
Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge Prompts:
– A book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
– A fantasy novel
GenreLand – April: Thriller & Suspense
Possible Book Bingo Squares:
– A Book with an Award
– A Book with an LGBTQA Character
– A Book by an Author of Color
Follow the Clues: Trail 1, Clue 5

I liked this book quite a lot, yet at the same time, I don’t feel like I got to know it very well. There was all this lush and darkly beautiful world-building, but I got mere glimpses of it out of the corner of my eye as I followed along. To some extent, this is explained by the fact that most of the characters were also feeling their way in the darkness, trying to figure out just how they came to be where they were, but I did not feel a shared journey with any of them. I was constantly held at arm’s length.

Perhaps this is also because the tone of the book was very purposefully Parisian. It is elegant and chilly, with just enough whimsy to keep you from losing interest. De Bodard did a great job with the atmosphere, and most of the time her language was perfectly suited to the setting.

I am a sucker for mythological mashups, so this was right up my alley. I do wish the author had given us a bit more on Philippe’s background, though. I was also disappointed in the murder-mystery aspect of the story. It was there, and it was resolved, but it didn’t feel at all central to the story. Perhaps that is more of a marketing issue, though. There was enough here that I’m interested in reading the next book in the series, but I also can’t help but wonder if maybe I’d be happier with this author’s Obsidian and Blood series.

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Review: 2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries

2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries
2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries by Poudre River Public Library District
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I am a contributor to this collection, and my honorable mention poem appears on page 14. I hope you like it!

Book #19 for 2017
Personal Challenge Task: A book with a cat on the cover
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book with multiple authors
PopSugar Challenge Prompt: A book with multiple authors
Better World Books Challenge Task: A book of poetry
Read Harder Challenge Prompt: A book published by a micropress
Book Bingo Possible Squares:
– A book with multiple perspectives
– A book from the library
– A book with multiple authors

I was glad I could attend this year’s awards event. It really makes a difference when you can hear the poets recite their works, even when they have a visual component.

I don’t remember who actually won, but here are my top three picks in each division:
Adult:
“This Man, This Me” by Erik Rock
“The Other Eggs” by Morgan Taylor
“Phases of Our Dying Sun” by Erik Rock
Teen:
“Burning Ballet” by Emma Boice
“Before Dawn” by Gabrielle Nadig
“Glass” by Mariah Reis

This annual collection always boasts great variety and is nice if you’re looking for a quick read. It’s available for free download from the library’s website.

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Review: 2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries

2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries
2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest: Winning Entries by Poudre River Public Library District
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I am a contributor to this collection, and my honorable mention poem appears on page 14. I hope you like it!

Book #19 for 2017
Personal Challenge Task: A book with a cat on the cover
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book with multiple authors
PopSugar Challenge Prompt: A book with multiple authors
Better World Books Challenge Task: A book of poetry
Read Harder Challenge Prompt: A book published by a micropress
Book Bingo Possible Squares:
– A book with multiple perspectives
– A book from the library
– A book with multiple authors

I was glad I could attend this year’s awards event. It really makes a difference when you can hear the poets recite their works, even when they have a visual component.

I don’t remember who actually won, but here are my top three picks in each division:
Adult:
“This Man, This Me” by Erik Rock
“The Other Eggs” by Morgan Taylor
“Phases of Our Dying Sun” by Erik Rock
Teen:
“Burning Ballet” by Emma Boice
“Before Dawn” by Gabrielle Nadig
“Glass” by Mariah Reis

This annual collection always boasts great variety and is nice if you’re looking for a quick read. It’s available for free download from the library’s website.

View all my reviews

Review: The Color Purple

The Color Purple
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #18 for 2017
Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge Prompts:
– A book that has been banned or frequently challenged in the USA
– A classic by an author of color
– A book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
– A book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color
Book Bingo Possible Squares:
– A Book-to-Screen Adaptation
– A Book with an Award
– A Book with Multiple Perspectives
– A Banned Book
– A Book with an LGBTQA Character
– A Book with a Female Heroine
– A Book by an Author of Color
– A Book of Letters
Personal Reading Challenge Task: An award-winning book
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book of letters or about letters
Better World Books Challenge Prompts:
– A book with a color in the title
– A National Book Award winner
– A banned book
– A book by a person of color
– A book by a female writer
– A book that’s been adapted into a movie
PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Tasks (maximum 3):
– A book of letters
– A book by a person of color
– A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read (family saga)

This isn’t the sort of thing I normally get much out of, and I guess I’ve been reading a lot of unreliable narrators lately, because I kept expecting some weird twist ending, like Nettie was a ghost the entire time or something. (Spoiler: She’s not.) So yeah, the missing 5th star in the rating is totally on me; the book is fine, I recommend it, and I think it’s a damn shame that it gets pulled from high school curricula a lot. And I will just say that I was underwhelmed and occasionally offended by Spielberg’s film adaptation.

I’m not sure what to say about this book that hasn’t already been said a million times. It’s a moving story of African-American women (centered on Celie in particular) in the first half of the 20th century. It’s brutal and depressing, yet uplifting at times and often told with gentle humor. I really liked that part of the story followed Nettie to Africa and provided a unique perspective on the three-way clash of tribal culture, colonialism, and mission work. And throughout the book, Walker shows the broad spectrum of frenemyship and sisterhood that I think any woman can relate to.

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Review: Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises
Promises, Promises by L-J Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #17 for 2017; #1 for Humor Challenge; #7 for Mt TBR Challenge
PopSugar Challenge Prompts (3 max):
– A book involving travel
– A book involving a mythical creature
– A book with an eccentric character
Read Harder Challenge Prompts:
– A fantasy novel
– An LGBTQ+ romance novel
Possible Book Bingo Squares:
– A Book with an LGBTQA Character
– A Book with a Female Heroine
No Book Left Behind Challenge Task: A book club selection
Better World Books Challenge Prompts:
– A romance that takes place during travel
– A fantasy novel
– A book by a female writer
Personal Challenge Prompts:
– A book with a woman on the cover
– A book about a road trip
Habitica Challenge Task: A book involving a mythical creature

I did have a hard time getting into this book at first. It’s very tongue-in-cheek humor, extremely self-aware, much like in Heroics for Beginners, which requires a certain reading mindset to appreciate. Based on some other reviews, I think the first few chapters were also a little rougher than the rest of the book, perhaps due to the cramped introduction of so many characters. I had to force myself through the first 50 pages, and then I put it down for a long while.

But during that break from the book, I joined an all-female D&D group, and when I picked it back up, it was suddenly friggin’ hilarious. There may or may not be a connection between those two things. The humor was still reminiscent of Heroics, but Baker’s approach was far more consistent, even going so far as to poke fun at her own continuity notes, and her feminist slant provided a nice focus.

You do still need to approach this with a silly sense of humor, and if you aren’t familiar with fantasy and gaming tropes, you aren’t likely to get most of the jokes. But if that doesn’t faze you, I’d encourage you to give this book a try. There is no explicit sex, so this is a great read for somebody who wants to explore lesbian fiction without going straight to erotica.

My only real gripe is the font. All the way through the book, the characters were all lisping in my head, all due to that silly font.

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Review: Boudoirs to Brothels: The Intimate World of Wild West Women

Boudoirs to Brothels: The Intimate World of Wild West Women
Boudoirs to Brothels: The Intimate World of Wild West Women by Michael Rutter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #16 for 2017
GenreLand Challenge: Biography & Memoir
Personal Challenge Prompt: A book with a woman on the cover
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge Task: A book with a subtitle
PopSugar Challenge Prompts:
– A book with a subtitle
– A book with career advice (prostitution)

This book is an interesting and often unsettling look at the roles women were often forced into in the Old West. It examines a wide range of experiences and backgrounds and attitudes and also provides vivid descriptions of life in the Wild West at various socioeconomic levels. It really gave me a lot to think about for building characters as well as the world for my steampunk/weird west stories.

I purposely read this book slowly, trying to permit myself days between each profile, but some of them still ran together a bit in my head. This might be in part due to some of the women being friends and/or rivals. Many of the stories did stand apart, though, like those of Polly Bemis (the Chinese poker bride) and Dora B. Topham (Madam Belle London, who ran the Stockade in Salt Lake City).

I appreciated how clear Rutter was about his research and which aspects of the tales were documented (and how reliably so) as well as his willingness to repeat (with appropriate caveats) popular legends and even ghost stories. I did, however, find the structure of the book more textbookish than I like, with sidebars interrupting the flow of the women’s personal stories. And this certainly isn’t Rutter’s fault, but I was disturbed by how often the stories kept referring back to their famous menfolk. I’d love to see a female film director use this as the basis of a series of films that focus on the women in these histories.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in learning more about life in the Western US in the 19th and early 20th centuries or who is interested in sex work, human trafficking, and/or intimate partner violence. It contains many insights that apply yet today.

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Review: Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities
Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities by Chris Kluwe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #15 for 2017
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge Task: A book of any genre that addresses current events
Possible Book Bingo Squares:
– An Audiobook
– A Book Written by a Celebrity
PopSugar Challenge Prompts:
– An audiobook
– A book with a subtitle

I really, really wanted to like this book. The title made it sound like so much fun. And it seems that I do agree with the author about lots of things. However, this presentation left a lot to be desired. I felt like most of the book was stuff I could have written myself, just with far less swearing. I’m not exactly against swearing, mind you, but his claim that the swearing is necessary to reach the “on the fence” people just sounds lame and not particularly well thought out. It was like he was trying to preach to the choir, but instead he just yelled at the choir. That sort of thing mostly just pisses off the choir.

I also did not find that Kluwe had much of anything new or compelling to say about any of the topics. I kept thinking, “Well, yes, you have a point, but it is a point that has been made numerous times already.” And then some of his rants amounted to little more than, “Get off my lawn!” It was like listening to a younger, less experienced, more profane Andy Rooney. And I liked Andy Rooney, but he didn’t take himself quite so seriously.

Also, Kluwe can’t pronounce “nuclear” correctly.

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