Brother’s Ruin

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Sometimes I’ll search NetGalley for the names of authors I’ve read for something new and familiar at once. I recently came across Emma Newman’s new novella, Brother’s Ruin, and I decided to give it a shot.

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The last thing I read of Newman’s was Planetfall, a sci-fi that was a character focus on someone with a rather debilitating mental illness. With that experience, I was expecting this new novel, though in a different genre, to also be quite character focused.

Arguably, it was. And that was the problem.

Set in a Victorian London which prizes magic and others magic users, I was expecting stronger world-building. As it is, the reader is thrown right into the thick of it with it and I rather felt as if I had started reading at the second chapter, having missed some information. Plus, the synopsis of the book is actually quite misleading.

For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

Totally not what’s going on. I understand not wanting to spoil the events of the book, but they’ve completely manufactured motivations there that don’t exist in the text itself.

The bulk of what bothered me is that I didn’t care at all for Charlotte past the opening sequence with the baker. Considering the narrative was so focused on her, it clearly became an issue. Though this was a short read, I wasn’t compelled at all to keep reading. Charlotte is the only character that’s really fleshed out, and she makes stupid choices. She takes it upon herself to take responsibility for other people’s errors without even discussing things with them.

She does it, of course, because she cares about them.

Because going behind someone’s back to solve their problems in secret is definitely what you should do when you love someone. Also, lying to the man you want to marry is acceptable. Of course.

This was a fast-paced story that I think I would have enjoyed better had it been novel-length and had time to really explore more of the world and the side characters.

As it is, I’m keen to pass – on fluttery feelings for a stranger, side characters who make dumb decisions, and a main character that looks like she’s going to be a magical prodigy. How many tropes can you fit into less than 200 pages?

It’s not likely that I’ll give the second volume a chance, but I won’t give up on reading Newman’s other work.

Have you read Brother’s Ruin? Any of Emma Newman’s other work? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

T5W: Publishers That Fill My Shelves

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It’s been ages since I’ve participated in a Top 5 Wednesday, and this week’s topic is a cool one. Top 5 Wednesday is a book meme created by Gingerreadslainey, and hosted here if you’re interested in participating!

This week we were urged to check out what we have on our shelves in order to determine our favourite publishers.

Determining favourite publishers is also insanely difficult because when I looked them up, they’re all basically imprints of the ‘Big Five’ – publishing companies that have a huge monopoly on the market. So figuring out how to divide this list was ridiculous. All the different imprints are essentially divided by genre so I didn’t learn anything about my preferences that I didn’t already know. I like fantasy, sci-fi, YA, and the occasional historical fiction or classic.

So with that disclaimer, here are the publishers I seem to have the most of.

1)HarperCollins

Largely because of my love of YA, my shelves are filled with HarperTeen and HarperCollins titles. They tend to stick with easily readable books in quartets or trilogies that all seem to sell very well – including some classics. Some of my favourites are the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing series, and my beautiful Chronicles of Narnia boxset.

2)Simon & Schuster

Another high-scoring publisher on my shelf purely due to YA titles, I have quite a few Simon Pulse books. Again, easily digestible titles, these tend to have eye-catching covers. According to their website they publish books “with a focus on high-concept commercial fiction”. Favourites include Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, the Night World series, and The Nine Lives of Chloe King.

3)ChiZine Publications

The first (and only) publisher on the list not an imprint of the ‘Big Five’, this is a local Toronto enterprise that publishes some weird and wonderful stuff. Deliberately publishing the dark and the strange, their tagline ‘Embrace the Odd’ is apt for each of their titles that I’ve read. Some of my favourites are Katja from the Punk Band, The Inner City, and Chasing the Dragon.

4)Ace

Next on the list is Ace, who are now an imprint of Penguin Random House. They’re a science fiction/fantasy publisher that has put out very influential books since their inception, such as Phillip K. Dick, the Dune series, and Robert Heinlein. My favourites include the Sookie Stackhouse books, and Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books.

5)Tor Books

Last, but certainly not least, is Tor. Now owned by one of the ‘Big Five’, Holtzbrinck, Tor is known for publishing science fiction and fantasy, and also for their excellent online sci-fi magazine Tor.com. It’s virtually impossible to look at a shelf containing those genres and not find a book published by Tor. Some of my favourite authors they publish include Charles De Lint, Jeff VanderMeer, and Catherynne M. Valente.

While those were the publishers and imprints that held the most of the books that I currently own, I found it impossible not to notice that lots of smaller imprints and independent publishers had a few titles on my shelves as well. It’s virtually impossible to escape the ‘Big Five’, nor will I seek to do so as I think that quality reading material can be found pretty much everywhere if you’re willing to look.

What were your top 5 publishers? Are there smaller presses or imprints that you’d like to recommend? Please so in the comments below!