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Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle #3)

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Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle #3) Nghi Vo, 2022 Premise: Cleric Chih and Almost Brilliant travel into the riverlands, where the people tell tales while legends walk the roads.  I wasn't sure, at first, whether I liked this third novella as much as the first two in this series. I ended up reading it a second time, and while I still don't love it quite as wholeheartedly, it is a great book. This one is more about how stories are retold and twisted. The other characters Chih travels with either inspired great tales long ago or will inspire them in the future, but the stories that are told are far from reality and overlap in unexpected ways. At the same time, the stories still have value, both in themselves and in what each says about the teller. There's a lot to investigate and unravel here if you have a mind to. There's adventure and horror on the road as well as quiet moments for the characters, each of whom is fascinating.  The world gets more complicate

The Calculating Stars (The Lady Astronaut, #1)

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The Calculating Stars (The Lady Astronaut, #1) Mary Robinette Kowal, 2018 Hugo winner - 2019 Premise: Elma York is a brilliant mathematician and a skilled pilot. But it's 1958, and the powers that be aren't ready for women to become astronauts until the space race becomes necessary for survival. Oh, how to talk about this book? The beginning is brilliant and the ending is brilliant, but some of the parts in the middle gave me anxiety. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it just made it a bit harder to read. Elma herself has severe anxiety from past traumas after years of trying to exist (attend college, serve in the military, etc.) around men as a smart, strong-willed woman. And I ached for her even as, from my position in the future, I was sometimes frustrated with her too. In this case, that just means she was realistically written. The writing is compelling, the historical research thorough, and the characters wonderful. Elma and her husband (also a rocket scientist) hav

Dragons of Deceit (Dragonlance Destinies: Volume 1)

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Dragons of Deceit (Dragonlance Destinies: Volume 1) Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, 2022 Premise: YEAH BABY, LET'S RELIVE THE '90S! Sooooo, of course I read this. ( This is me, after all .) And it's bad. It's kind of a bad book. That I found terribly amusing. I'll gleefully admit to skimming through much of the first half. Destina (really, that's her name) is a dumb character and I hate her entire deal. I thought about quitting the book entirely, but once I realized what the plot was probably going to involve, I had to keep going.  Because this might (this is book 1 of a new series, so it ends on a cliffhanger) end up as a rare SECOND in-universe reboot/retcon. Which undoes the need for the first. And that's hilarious. You see, back in the day there was Dragonlance and for 10 years lots of books were set in the world written by lots of different people. And then MW/TH broke it. Changed the world to be entirely different/darker/dumber. Sure, whatever, you wr

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, Book 3)

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The Stone Sky N. K. Jemisin, 2017 Hugo winner - 2018 Premise: With the full history of the orogenes and the Earth revealed, Essun and her daughter each have the power to save the world, or to destroy it.  Powerful and beautiful and sad and hopeful. Yup, the end of this trilogy brings it together and brings it home.  We return to a triple narrative in this. First, Essun's story of survival without access to her full power (as using her power is now destroying her body and she needs to survive to finish the plan) and her attempts at reconnecting with the fractured community around her before she tries to change the world. Second, her daughter Nassun's story of trauma and how an abused child hated by her society might use unimaginable power. Third, the new story thread is Hoa's, flashing back eons to the creation of the stone eaters and the destructive Seasons, and the history of racism and genocide they are rooted in. The deadly geologic upheavals are in some ways just the ab

The Book Eaters

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The Book Eaters Sunyi Dean, 2022 Premise: Devon grew up only knowing the secret world of the book eaters, but to protect her son she'll find a way to revolt against her family, no matter who she has to sacrifice. This book came strongly recommended, and I enjoyed it, but I definitely didn't love it. The book eaters (and mind eaters) made for a unique spin on vampires; Devon's struggles and anguish about her role in the restrictive, sexist book eater world were vividly depicted. The multiple twists were fine, although I didn't buy into most of the red herrings, which meant I only pushed through to get to the next twist without feeling the intended tension. I don't know. I liked it fine, but something about the style or the characters didn't completely click for me. It's pretty gross at times, and extremely morally grey. It's about motherhood and monsters, and what you're willing to do for your child. It's very well written, but I just didn't f

Pickets and Dead Men

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Pickets and Dead Men Bree Lowen, 2009 Premise: A memoir of being a climbing ranger on Mount Rainier. This was a prominent recommendation in a comment thread about books about mountaineering and women, and I definitely see why. It's a series of funny, frightening, visceral vignettes. As you read, you definitely understand why it was a life-altering experience, even if the author performed this job for just three summers.  Be warned, it is a little gross at times, and the author also chooses to highlight some moments of callous or posturing behavior that she felt at the time was necessary to hold her own in a testosterone-heavy field. The balance between action and personal reflection felt authentic for the job and the setting.  The job includes exciting rescues, but also body retrieval, assisting the wounded and lost, and the daily effort not to become one of the wounded or lost on the mountain. I have no aspirations to summit Rainier (although props to friends who've done it!),

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, Book 2)

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The Obelisk Gate N.K. Jemisin, 2016 Hugo winner - 2017 Premise: sequel to The Fifth Season . Essun tries to figure out her next steps and we find out what happened to her daughter Nassun. It's been a while since I read the first book in this series, so there was a period of adjustment while I remembered the characters and the world. I think this is a worthy successor, but not as undeniably brilliant as the first book was. There are more shenanigans around narration (who is the voice of the text and why) in this book, which I found interesting, but not as interesting or emotionally compelling as the core narrative conceit in the first book.  It's probably important to note that I also read the first book while I was pregnant but not yet a parent. The violent deaths of both of Essun's young sons are revisited in this book, and I found myself keeping more emotional distance from the characters for my own mental health. This was a good read, but it does have a few flaws common