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The Secret Books of Venus by Tanith Lee

 

All four books are set in Paradys, an imaginary city based on real life Paris, France. The Book of the Dead has vampires and cross-dressing. The Book of the Beast is my favorite (and if you only read one book in this series, you’ll want to read this one). This book follows demon possession in an old family of Paradys. The demon is awakened in a victim when they have sex for the first time and the demon can be passed to a new victim via sex. Our protagonist happens upon this curse by accident and… gets possessed! Can he be saved? Or will he die passing the demon on to a new victim? The Book of the Dead is a collection of tragic short stories. This one tends to be most readers least favorite and I think that’s because not everyone prefers short stories in general and not all short stories are created equal. I enjoyed a good portion of them but I have to agree that this is my least favorite in the series. The Book of the Mad is kind of hard to summarize. There are two dimensions of Paradys connected by a maze of ice. One dimension is deliberately crazy and the other dimension has crazy people but it isn’t really socially acceptable. At the center is this mysterious uncle who built the ice maze.

This series has some fantastical elements but it is mostly in the gothic horror genre. I recommend this series if you like (or are just in the mood for) the darker, lyrical side of character driven literature.

The Silver Metal Lover & Metallic Love by Tanith Lee

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The Silver Metal Lover focuses on Jane, a spoiled little rich girl with a domineering mother. Jane is lonely. She has friends but she doesn’t feel close to them. Her mother is her only family and they have a complicated relationship. She also lives in a house that floats above the city.

One day she meets Silver, the robot minstrel. She becomes obsessed with him. As the story progresses she has to decide if she is really in love with a robot and whether or not he can actually love her in return.

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I can’t say too much about Metallic Love or I will spoil The Silver Metal Lover. There is a different protagonist, Loren. She grows up in the opposite situation from Jane. She’s an orphan and lives in the slums. Her personality is also different. Loren is independent, sassy. Personally, Jane was easier for me to sympathize with but Loren’s perspective was more entertaining.

I recommend this duology to people who like thought-provoking romance and would like to add science fiction to their lives.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

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I’ll try not to spoil anything for the first book, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but proceed with caution if you haven’t read that one yet.

Sidra is an AI programmed to handle running a space vessel and taking care of a crew but she’s been put into a mechanical body that passes for human. This is illegal.

Jane is a young girl working in a factory with multiple other girls who are named in batches and all of them are closely supervised by robots.

Sidra’s narrative is happening in the present and Jane’s narrative is set well before the present.

The Wayfarer isn’t part of either narrative. The two characters being focused on appeared in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but weren’t main characters.

I did like Jane’s narrative more because Sidra spends a lot of time adjusting to being in a body and not liking it. I didn’t feel like that narrative took off until the third part of the book. Jane’s narrative is about how she lives in the factory and then what she does after an accident occurs and a hole is blown through one of the walls. That story felt a lot more dynamic and compelling.

I will admit, I cried twice and I was shocked that I had that reaction but I did because I did get very attached to these characters and their relationships meant a lot to me.

But I did miss the crew of the Wayfarer.

I do recommend this book if you’ve read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet because there is a lot of heart and humor to be found here but don’t expect it to be a continuation of the Wayfarer’s journey.

Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

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Biting the Sun is set in the future. Most of the land is an inhospitable desert except for a few cities carefully maintained, mostly, by robots. The heroine of this tale is living like a regular teenager. She’s dying to change bodies, has a robot pet that falls on her at regular intervals, gets married by the hour to have sex in floating bubbles… that sort of thing. But she isn’t really satisfied with that existence and she tries a bunch of new things seeking a purpose in life. Unfortunately, she spectacularly fails each time.

This book discusses the concepts of gender and love, even the nature of the human soul. Everything is so crazy in this futuristic world and yet it was easy for me to connect with the main character because she’s trying to figure things out and there isn’t an easy answer. It gave me a lot to think about and there were times when I wanted to cry but it also made me laugh out loud.

I highly recommend this for fans of sci-fi (or if you want to add more sci-fi to your life that isn’t dystopian). This book makes you think, as good sci-fi should, but it’s also entertaining and tends more to the positive side of human existence (without ignoring the bad).

Retro Reread #4: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

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The first time I read this, I was in elementary school and my mom was going through her collection of old books and she told me to read this one and if I liked it, I could keep it. The most emotional connection I made was with Hannah, Kit, and Prudence’s friendship. Hannah is lonely and has been regularly persecuted for being a Quaker and then she is regularly accused of being a witch. Kit has lost her grandfather and her home and has come to this harsh new place. Prudence has been badly treated by her mom and her dad doesn’t have a spine. They are all a bit different than the people around them but together they are able to be themselves and find comfort. Prudence becomes a lot stronger and happier.

The second time I read it, I did it for school. I got even more out of it then because we were discussing things as a class. That reading did focus more on how Hannah Tupper and Kit were treated especially amidst the accusations of witchcraft. Both of their lives are saved because there are people willing to stand up for what is right. That court scene still gets me in the feels.

Speaking of feels: I do like the romances in this book. I was totally rooting for Kit and Nat. I think they are fabulous individually and together. But Mercy and John’s romance grabbed at my heartstrings the most. That dramatic scene in winter between them gets me every single time.

Status: still one of my favorites. I loved it as an elementary school kid and it’s lost none of its power even though I’m reading it as an adult this time.

Nine Susanna Kearsley Books Ranked

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I’ve read most of the books Susanna Kearsley has written because the first one I read was not enjoyable and a bunch of people said that one wasn’t as good and I should try something else by her and so I did and really liked the second book I tried. Then I treated this as an unofficial challenge. I needed to read most of her books and gain a better perspective on this writer’s work. So here I am ranking what I read.

Best: firebird sk The Firebird

This is one of the dual narrative books. We get the present day narrative with two people who have paranormal abilities. She can see the past of an object by holding it. After holding a firebird statue she goes on a quest to find out the whole story. I loved both the past and present narratives. They were both strong stories and worked really well in tandem. The only downside to this book is: you have to read The Winter Sea first because the past narrative of that one is continued in this one. Luckily for me I accidentally read The Winter Sea before The Firebird. 

51gMZ3KRoML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_ The Winter Sea

This was the second book I read by her and I loved it. I was motivated to read the other books she wrote after I read this one. This is also a dual narrative book and I did slightly prefer the past narrative but I did still strongly relate to the writer in the present narrative who was inspired by the ruins of a castle. This is also my most recommended book because people tend to grab The Firebird off the shelf and I feel compelled to tell them that they should read this one first or they won’t get the full emotional impact (or they’ll just be confused).

a-desperate-fortune-9781451673838_hr A Desperate Fortune

This is also a dual narrative. There were aspects of the past and present that I liked but other elements that weren’t quite working for me; however, they were not enough to upset me. I was a big fan of the fairy tales in the past narrative and I also really liked the two romantic leads in both narratives. And we get a glimpse of the past leads in The Firebird in this past narrative and it made me happy.

wp85b8fcca_05_06 The Rose Garden

This is the only book I’ve read by her where the main character physically time travels rather than reading a journal (A Desperate Fortune), reliving an ancestor’s memories (The Winter Sea), or sensing the past via paranormal ability (The Firebird). The leading man in the past was a pretty fabulous romantic lead. His conversations with the leading time travelling lady were my favorite bits. I also liked a modern woman learning how to do basic things in the past. I appreciated that detail. But this plot dragged. It wasn’t compelling until the very end. I could put this down for weeks and not pick it up. It wasn’t a chore to read but it still took me forever to get through it.

shadowyhorsessk The Shadowy Horses

The leading man in the present narrative of The Firebird is in this one but he’s a kid. You don’t have to read this one before The Firebird but the events in this one do come first. The Shadowy Horses doesn’t have a dual past and present narrative. We have the kid seeing a Roman sentinel and an old rich man convinced that this ghost is guarding a huge potential archaeological breakthrough. So he hires a team. There is a slow burn romance in this one that I really enjoyed. But there was a lot here that felt a little anticlimactic.

5166LIpxLmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ The Splendour Falls

This one is also not a dual narrative. It is more of a murder mystery with historical elements and a little bit of romance. I really liked the setting and the characters and I liked the plot more than a lot of other reviewers but it isn’t as strong as the previous books on this list.

51yWoCsMDiL Season of Storms

This is mostly about a production of a play that has never been performed before. The romance was a little lackluster and the ending was a little awkward but the familial relationships were compelling and I really liked the leading lady. This one is also not really a dual narrative but there are a couple snippets of what the playwright was thinking while he wrote this play for Celia, the woman he loved who mysteriously disappears before the play could be performed.

mariana Mariana

I liked most of this. I massively disliked the ending. There were two big things, one in the past narrative and the other in the present, that I had big issues with but they are massive spoilers so I will leave it at that.

Worst: 51m+UrMokQL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ Named of the Dragon

This was the first book by Susanna Kearsley that I read and my list of issues with it is rather long and does include spoilers. This book angered me on multiple occasions. Highlights: it all felt massively melodramatic and the main romances didn’t feel right.

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector

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This was my pick for the Read Harder task “set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.” I chose Lispector because I’d never heard of her, wanted to know more, and to my knowledge I haven’t read a book set in Brazil or by a Brazilian author.

It is hard to explain my reaction to this book. It is about an author who creates a character and then watches this character live and die. I found it moving and disturbing.

It also reminded me of Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami in style (clipped yet profound) as well as subject matter (different types of writers) but A Breath of Life does not go further than the relationship between this author and his creation, Angela. Yet it is all so complex and strange.

Put simply, I adored it but it isn’t for everyone.

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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Ava tried to escape her family in Paris but her twin sister Zelda’s death brings her back to her childhood home and memories. Zelda has left behind a complicated game for Ava to play and it is entirely possible that Zelda is not really dead.

I was surprised that I liked this but I did. All the characters are dysfunctional and alcoholics. No one is innocent here. And yet there are pieces of Zelda and Ava that I still managed to sympathize with. I also couldn’t look away from all the drama unfolding.

So I recommend this to those who like character driven stories where the characters are not very likable.

3 Mini Meh Book Reviews

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I finished these three within the past few days and I felt a little “meh” when I read the last pages. So I’m lumping them all together in this post!

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I read the first book, Rebel of the Sands, last year and liked it so I wanted to see where the story went in this one.

I won’t say too much because Traitor to the Throne is the second book in this series but basically the main characters spend a lot of time in various prisons.

The prose is at the same level as the first one. There are some awkward sentences on every page but they didn’t stop me from continuing to read. I just skipped over the annoying phrases.

The plot was a little repetitive and it seemed to suffer from the second book syndrome. There is one important event that basically sets up the third book. The rest felt superfluous.

But I do still want to read the third book. I still care about Jin and Amani enough to see how their story wraps up.

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Burial Rites is based on true events, in Iceland!

Agnes was the last person publicly beheaded in Iceland, this is about the days in between her trial and execution.

The prose was magnificent and the subject matter was interesting.

But it was pretty bleak.

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The Queen of Blood gave me Uprooted (by Naomi Novik) and the Black Jewels Series (by Anne Bishop) vibes.

There’s a lot of blood, nature spirits are attacking humans, and there’s only one queen who has the power to protect everyone.

This is a special snowflake story (although the author kind of tries to trick us at first).

I don’t really mind the special snowflake trope if I like the character but I wasn’t really into Daleina.

The prose was okay. Of these three, it is in the middle. It didn’t wow me but it wasn’t annoying.

The plot dragged a little but that’s because we find out about a villainous character right away but the main characters can’t do anything about it until the very end in a big blowout battle thing.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Mini Meg Cabot Book Reviews

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Boy Meets Girl versus Every Boy’s Got One!

Of the two I liked Boy Meets Girl better.

This isn’t really a sequel to The Boy Next Door but some of the characters from that book appear and Amy Jenkins of Human Resources gets a bigger role. Basically, you don’t have to read The Boy Next Door first to understand what’s going on in Boy Meets Girl.

Kate Mackenzie is a relatively new member of human resources when Amy Jenkins makes her fire Ida Lopez (a very popular employee who makes and serves dessert) because she denies Amy’s boyfriend a slice of pie. Chaos and hilarity ensue.

Every Boy’s Got One is about a couple who elopes to Italy because their families don’t approve and they take their two best friends along. They dislike each other on sight but they have to work together to help their friends get married. Sparks definitely fly.

I liked the romance in Boy Meets Girl. It was funny and relatable. The romance in Every Boy’s Got One resolved a little too quickly. I didn’t think there was adequate time for either of them to change their minds about the other one. Both were really funny though.