Update 2: Winter Bookish Bingo

We’re almost through with Winter Bookish Bingo, so I thought I’d post another quick update on how I’m doing. Find my last update here. Bookish Bingo is hosted by Bekka at Pretty Deadly Blog.

Categories with a snowflake are ones that I’ve read for so far. The books read since the last update are listed below!

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Sequel: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Own Voices: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

GR Choice Nominee: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Blue Cover: The Djinn Falls in Love

Cover Buy: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Set Abroad: Giant Days Vol 1.

So, no new bingos since my last update, but still a fair amount of reading got done! I have a few categories left, but I don’t think I’ll be filling out any more squares. I’m currently reading The Silmarillion and Edgar and Lucy – neither of which fit into any of these categories. They’re both quite long as well so it remains to be seen if I’ll have time to read anything else before February comes to an end.

Are you participating in Winter Bookish Bingo? How are you doing so far? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking Forward: Big Titles

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There has been some cool book news recently, so I thought I would link it up in case you hadn’t heard of these yet. It’s certainly going to be an exciting year for readers, and it’s only just beginning! Here are some big titles I’m really anticipating.

On May 4th, Beren and Lúthien will be found at a bookstore near you. When I first heard about this, I assumed that it would be a complete narrative with new material from Tolkien’s notes. Understandably, I was pretty thrilled. While that isn’t quite what this book will contain, it’s close enough that I’ll pick up a copy anyway.

From the publisher:

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In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

I’m currently reading The Silmarillion, so I may try a complete read of Middle-Earth titles before I tackle this new book.

Next!

If you haven’t heard about The Book of Dust – well, I’m about to fix that.

Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials was an absolute dream of a trilogy. Kid me read my copies until they were ragged, and as an adult I gained even more insight when I went back for a re-read. If you haven’t yet explored worlds with Lyra and Pantalaimon, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of The Golden Compass and dive in. (But disregard the terrible film of the same title. Please.)

For those of you who read and enjoyed HDM – rejoice! On October 19th of this year, the first of The Book of Dust trilogy will be released.

From Pullman’s website:

So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an equel. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise, and characters they’ve met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy (a boy we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention) who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.

I will definitely be doing a His Dark Materials re-read later in the year to prepare for this release! It will be really cool to see an older Lyra, and learn more about Dust as well.

Are you looking forward to these new releases? Will you be pre-ordering, or biding your time for a library copy? What other 2017 releases are you waiting for? Let me know in the comments below!

FFF: Author Appreciation How-to

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Hello folks, and welcome back to another Fanfic Feature Friday! So, I’m going to be recommending some great stories at the end of the feature. First, I want to talk a little bit about showing appreciation for fanfiction authors.

Though it’s true (for the most part) that fanfiction authors can’t receive financial compensation for their work, there are other ways to make your appreciation known if you’ve enjoyed their stories.

The most basic of these is to ‘like’ their story. If you have an account on fanfiction.net, you’re able to ‘favourite’ stories. Each time you do this, the author is sent an alert notifying them that you’ve done so. If you read stories on Archive of Our Own, you’re able to give a story ‘kudos’ whether or not you have an account. Again, the author is sent a notification about it.

As a fanfiction author myself, I can tell you that every time I get that notification it brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. (Cheesy, but no less true for it.)

You can also ‘follow’ or ‘bookmark’ a story or author to receive updates on their new posts.

An even more satisfying feeling as a fanfiction author is when someone leaves a comment or review on your story. A favourite is great, but it’s even better when accompanied by some kind words. Tell an author what you liked about their story: the humour, the characterizations, the plot, the world building. Tell them you’ve never seen that character pairing but will now seek it out because of their story. Tell them their writing is captivating, or that you just couldn’t stop reading.

There’s really something frustrating about people liking your work, but never knowing why they like your work. So drop a few comments here and there and help an author out. Boost their self-confidence.

There are also more ways to show appreciation if you’ve loved a story so much that those things don’t seem like enough. (Most of these are easily accomplished and planned for on Archive of Our Own, which has features to enable all of them.)

You could write a gift fic for a favourite author of yours. Writing about their favourite fandom or pairing and presenting it as a gift to them.

You could make some fanart of their story to present to them if you’re artistically inclined.

With their permission, you could even write fanfiction of their fanfiction, or inspired by their fanfiction. I cannot stress enough to ask permission to do this first. But if they accept, what you’re doing is telling them that you loved their story just as much as the original work is based on – after all, fanfiction is a labour of love, and imitation is a great form of flattery.

If you’re into sound and accessibility (and have the permission of the author) you could record the story being read or acted aloud to made a ‘podfic’. Yay for audiobooks!

If you’re fluent in several languages, (and have the permission of the author) you could ask to translate their work into another language, to make it accessible for more people worldwide.

There are so many things you can do to show your appreciation for the people who write stories out of love for them, and who rarely ask for anything in return.

With that in mind, the fics I’m recommending today are those that I feel have gone sadly under-appreciated and deserve a little love.

Harry Potter: Icarus by MarbleGlove (Novella Length, AU)

Some successes are only measured in how long you last before falling. Hermione writes a letter and begins a relationship.

Loyalty by anamia (Short, Canon-Compliant)

“Helga knows without even having to look with her inner eye that they will break apart, that the ties that bind them will thin and fray and snap. She does not ask to see when; half the talent of a Seer is knowing which questions are better left unasked.”

Close To The Dragon’s Fire by lordhellebore (Short, Canon-Compliant)

The first time Neville visits his parents at S. Mungo’s – from Alice’s perspective.

Samaria: La Folia by Kit (Short, Canon-Compliant)

In the 19 years since they first called the lightning, not much has changed. Rachel and Gabriel sing a duet.

Teen Wolf: automatic by seventhswan (Short, AU)

Pop quiz: show me how you’d kill me.


That’s all for this week! Let me know if you check out any of these, or previous recommendations – and be sure to show the authors some love. If you have any questions or recommendations of your own, let me know in the comments below!

The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories

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Anthologies are tricky things. You may miraculously jive with all of the authors contained within, and find that their myriad of voices washes over you like a cool breeze. You may pick and choose your favourites, skimming some tales and immersing yourself deeply in others. Even still, you may find that none of the voices are ones you’d care to hear, and regret the whole experience entirely.

When I saw this title on NetGalley, I admit that I requested it solely for the story by Nnedi Okorafor. I thought that if she had a story here, then that would act as a quality barometer and I would surely love the others as well.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

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The Djinn Falls in Love is a collection of stories about – you guessed it – Djinn. More widely known to the western world as genies, most people unfamiliar with their origins associate them with Disney’s Aladdin; a rather gregarious blue entity who lives in a lamp and grants wishes.

Well, I don’t think I have to tell you that Disney often grossly misrepresents things from other cultures.

I rarely quote book summaries in my reviews, but in this case I think it really says it best.

“Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends. Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn.

And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places.”

My interest was undeniably piqued by that fantastic description of this anthology, and of the Djinn. I tucked into this book with relish, and found that I wasn’t as wowed as I expected to be. Perhaps my expectations were simply too high, considering that most of these authors were award winners.

For the most part my reaction to this collection was ‘meh’. I wasn’t able to engage with most of these stories emotionally, and that’s a huge part of enjoyment for me. Sometimes it was the characters, sometimes the writing style, and sometimes there just wasn’t a satisfying payoff by the end of the tale.

Still, there were a few stories that I really enjoyed. Those were: History (Nnedi Okorafor), The Congregation (Kamila Shamsie), Black Powder (Maria Dahvana Headley), The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice (E.J. Swift), Bring Your Own Spoon (Saad Z. Hossain), and The Spite House (Kirsty Logan).

Apart from those stories I found this book to be more of a slog than I anticipated. It got to the point where I would be reluctant to pick it up because I knew I’d have to read through many stories I wasn’t into to get to one that I would enjoy. Still, an anthology is always going to be a mixed bag, so I knew what I was getting into.

I don’t regret reading this, though had I not been required to write a review I probably would have skimmed most of this instead of reading.

I would recommend it those who already enjoy one or many of the authors contained within, or those who are supremely curious about Djinn.

Are you anticipating the release of this anthology? Let me know in the comments below!

Ruin and Rising

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So, I’ve finished reading the Grisha Trilogy.

I’m so sad it’s over.

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If you remember my reviews of the first two books, then you already know that I loved them. This final book didn’t disappoint me in any way.

The first book was a sunny dream of opportunity and happiness compared to this book. It basically tore out my heart and ate it. Terrible things continuously happened with no seeming end in sight.

My heart broke continuously for Ravka, for Alina and Mal, for Nikolai, and even for the Darkling. The beauty of Bardugo’s writing was that she made me care about everyone she introduced me to. I felt for the Stag and the Whip in the previous books, and for the unnamed peasants that are killed to prove a point. It’s a mark of skill that she’s able to make her reader care for even the most reprehensible character: the Darkling.

We learn more of him in this book. It humanizes him to an almost uncomfortable degree. How could a man, even one with such power, come to such an end? Well, you’ll damn well find out.

The reader sees more of Genya, Baghra, and Nikolai, which I was very happy with. Character development was at an all-time high, bringing out new facets of Zoya and Sergei, Tolya and Tamar, and characters we didn’t see much of in the previous books. More is learned of Baghra’s past – and man did I read those parts breathlessly.

The cult of Sankta Alina is rather strongly featured and is interesting – as are Alina’s feelings about it. Ravka is broken, at war with itself while trying to keep outside forces at bay as well. Alina must dig deeper than she thinks herself capable of to try and salvage something of her country and its people.

I found the development of Alina’s character to be very satisfying. In any other character, the self-doubt and constant questioning of motives would be annoying – but here, they simply weren’t. As I mentioned in previous reviews, Alina’s voice seemed so real to me that I couldn’t find her a nuisance, or foolish. In any case, I thought choices were very realistic for someone put in so many impossible situations. Even to the end, she isn’t perfect – never the Sankta that the Apparat wished for. While I always suspected she would come to a tragic end, the way that Bardugo handled it was absolutely flawless.

I find myself at a loss to discuss just why exactly I loved this book so much. I spoke about it to someone when I finished it, and there was a lot of hand flailing and eye-widening to get my point across.

Was the plot well paced? Yes. Was it unpredictable? Yes. Were the characters interesting? Yes. Was the world-building on point? Yes. Was the ending satisfying? Yes.

Plenty of books have those factors and I don’t love them.

Really, it all boils down to this: I felt so much.

I laughed with Alina, and cried with her. I felt her confusion, her conflict, her desire. I felt sympathy for the Darkling and for Baghra, and Mal, and Nikolai. I wished fervently with Baghra (and Alina) that the Darkling could be redeemed. I felt Alina’s stricken pity and understanding as Morozova’s legacy is revealed – and her pain as it was truly understood.

Any books that can make me feel so deeply with and about their characters deserve my love.

Ruin and Rising was, in my opinion, an excellent ending to a fantastic series. While I’m sad to be finished, I’m incredibly pleased that Bardugo has written another series in the same world. Sadly not in Ravka, but you can’t have everything. Even still, her short stories (available on Tor.com) give even more insight into the culture of Ravka for those left wanting more.

I can’t wait to pick up Six of Crows, but I think I should have a cool-down period first.

Have you read the Grisha Trilogy? Did you love it, hate it, or not really care either way? What other books made you feel deeply with and for their characters? Let me know in the comments below!

Giant Days: Volume One

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In rediscovering my love for the library, I’ve been trying to attend library programming that I think I’ll enjoy. To that end, a friend and I headed to a ‘book tasting’ at a local branch to discover new titles we might find intriguing.

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We both picked up the first volume of Giant Days, as it was slim and seemed like a fun choice.

It centers around three young women, Susan, Esther, and Daisy, who have just started at university and become friends in the process.

Daisy was homeschooled, and is quite naïve to the ways of the world. Esther is pale and lovely, and perhaps too interesting for her own good. Susan is the narrator, and in her own words is the common sense silo of the group – though she is perhaps more jaded than she lets on.

I found this to be a fast and enjoyable read. At times laugh-out-loud funny, it is the exact kind of mood lightening story that I needed at the time. This was predominantly a story of friendship. The girls tackle issues that come and go in uni: getting sick, making bets, finding love, avoiding old flames, drugs, and navigating the confusing tangle of academics and feelings.

The reader follows the girls as they learn what it is to live in the wider world. Actions have consequences, and while they’re generally funny in this book, Susan’s choices especially come back to eat at her a little more seriously.

The side characters McGraw, Ed, and Nadia were great as well. Just enough about them was said to make them interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing them in future volumes.

The art was colorful and perfectly captured vivid facial and body expressions. The panels were laid out in a simple narrative fashion that suited the story.

The antics and depiction of the main characters will keep you entertained throughout this volume, and have you looking forward to the next one.

A solid choice for a fun read.

Have you read Giant Days? What was the last fun read you picked up? Let me know in the comments below!

FFF: Story Recommendations (2)

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Welcome back to Fanfic Feature Friday! I’m bringing you more recommendations this week, both short and long.

The Hobbit: Child of Earth and Sky by ? (AU, Novel Length)

Certain events in Bilbo’s life were always destined to come to pass, but the will of Belladonna Took is not to be trifled with, and her choice may yet change the lives of many.

This is the story of how Bilbo became the kin of the Eagles of Manwë, and all that happened after.

A story in which Bilbo is tough, the Eagles are funny and fierce, and canon is twisted just enough to be seen with new eyes. Bilbo/Thorin

An Eye For Quality by Linelen (AU, Novel Length)

Fíli lived his life by an old dwarven proverb: when a fool drops a treasure, a wise man picks it up (it sounded better in the original khuzdul).

Bella Baggins never quite fit in the Shire. Perhaps she was made for the mountains, instead.

Features female!Bilbo, good characterizations, and happy endings for all.

Star Wars: Tomorrow (there’ll be more of us) by dimircharmer

“FN-2187 was real, right?” She sounds very young again. “Please tell me he was real.”

“I’m real,” said Finn, who was on his first patrol since his back healed. “And my name’s Finn now.”

Her eyes widened. “You have a name?

Or: The resistance is starting to get stormtrooper defectors. Finn helps them out.

This is the fic that made me look for Force Awakens fics.

Defiance: These things without names by CherryIce (AU, Short)

The air on Earth tastes strange, sits lightly upon Stahma’s tongue but heavily upon her skin, atmospheric pressure and gravity greater than her home. Alak’s feet are pressed so much more firmly to the ground than were hers, as a child.

I adore this story. I wish it was so much longer than it is – or that the author wrote more about the alien cultures from Defiance.

Harry Potter: Harriet Potter Is by setepenre_set (AU, Short)

There are stories with snakes that bite and say {you knew what I was when you picked me up} but this isn’t one of them. This is the kind of story where the abandoned child walks in the jungle beneath the branches full of hissing things and tells them {we be of one blood ye and I}.

 A female!Harry story, in which she chooses Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. Beautifully written.

That’s all for this week. Take a gander and let me (and the authors) know what you think!

Do you have any fic recommendations? Any fandom requests? Any questions about fanfic? Let me know in the comments below.