Top 5 Wednesday: Gateway Drugs Books to Your Favorite Genre

topThe usual spiel: Top 5 Wednesday can be found on Goodreads and is currently hosted by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes.

My favourite genera is no secret: fantasy.  And this list is likely going to be my top 5 favourite books, but they got me into reading and have stood the test of time, so I think it fits. 

1. Anything Tamora Pierce – great fantasy reads that are easy to start with and get into.  They are generally low fantasy which is arguably easier to start with than high fantasy. 

2. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – same as above.  

3. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – good for younger readers, this is a very interesting, funny and easy to get into read.  

4. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner – another book for younger readers that will get them hooked.

5. Green Rider by Kristen Britain – great book to transition from YA to Adult books as it’s an adult fantasy book that is very similar to YA books.  

Other goodies: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Naming by Alison Croggan and Eon by Allison Goodman

Glass series by Maria V Snyder, part 3: Spoilery discussion

thoughtsThis post contains spoilers for the entire Glass Series.  If you don’t like spoilers this post is not likely for you.  However, I think this post contains some important topics that need to be discussed.  It’s up to you.

DISCLAIMER: This post will discuss triggering content including rape, kidnapping and torture.  If you are triggered by this sort of content I won’t be offended if you stop reading and would recommend that you don’t read this series.

I have mentioned that I didn’t like the end of book three in this series but I was glad to have read this book anyway and I will stand by this.  None of these books were innocent in avoiding these themes.

There are two main topics I want to discuss: the over abundant use of kidnapping within this series (and other works by Snyder) and Opal’s choice of Devlan as a life partner.

Over abundant use of kidnapping

I have read six books by Maria V Sndyer.  In all 6 of them the main character, and often times side characters, were kidnapped during the course of the book.  Every. Single. Book.  Not only this, but often times it occurred more then once during the course of the book.  I thought that the last book in the series was going to do away with this trope, but alas in the last quarter of the book it happened again.

Additionally, the large majority of the kidnappings the victim is the main character and thus a woman.  This mixed with the fact that there is a lot of torture that comes hand-in-hand with the kidnapping and threats of rape or off-page rape, these books have a lot of violence against woman in them.  It’s not to say that there isn’t violence against man, just that it occurs much less frequently in Snyder’s works.  Also the narrative never does anything to make it seem as if this is an ok thing to do, however the mere over abundance of violence against woman that is not matched with violence against men has a desensitisation effect that is not good.  It is partially due to the nature of the book, having a female main character that needs to go through the struggles.  However, that is really not a good enough excuse for the amount of kidnapping and violence that occurs.

It’s to the point where it’s lazy writing.  If the only way you can move the plot forward is using kidnapping and/or other types of violence against woman, it’s lazy.  Flex those brain muscles and think of some other way to push the plot! 

Devlen as marriage material

Here is the rough scenario for those that don’t know.  In the Study series Opal, who is about 14, is kidnapped (what a surprise!) and tortured by a man in a mask in order to get her to do something for the allies of the torturer (against the main character of the Study series).  

Masked man guy is revealed in the first book to be Devlen, a swordsman and magician that is also addicted to blood magic who tries to kidnap Opal, now 20, for her blood.  In the second book he switches souls with her love interest Ulrick to successfully kidnap her for her blood.  But not before he seduces her as Ulrick and they sleep together multiple times.  At the end of the second book Opal ‘steals’ Devlen’s magic in such a way that it is gone forever, thus removing the addiction of blood magic.  In the third book, Devlen is ‘suddenly’ in love with Opal (there is a bit of a build up to this, but it’s creepy and basically built on the fact that she withstood more torture then your average person and thus he respects her for that, yeah, I know, gross) and free from the addiction of blood magic, he tries to make amends with his past.  At the very end of the third book after Devlen helps with the final conflict, Opal marries him. 

That’s the messy cliffnotes version of his character.  Now, I honestly liked Devlan as a character.  He had an interesting story and an interesting role to play in Opal’s story.  I also understand the role he’s meant to play in the story: forgiveness,  overcoming your past, being able to and open to change, making amends, etc.  

However, I do have several problems with Opal ultimately choosing Devlen as a life partner and ultimately found the entire thing vile, gross, creepy and disgusting (etc).  It’s the reason why Spy Glass dropped from a 4 star to a 2 star read.  I was also even considering dropping it lower. 

The other men that were possibilities are Kade, a Stormdancer magician, who was not the right choice for Opal as they didn’t have too much in common and wanted different things, and Ulrick, another one-trick glass magician who had a lot in common with Opal but always wanted more, was too restless and had a weird protectiveness about Opal that I didn’t like.  

So essentially I thought none of the available options were good for her, but least of all Devlen.  

First of all, they have a long, storied history of abuse and violence.  In the end Opal forgave Devlen and all of his misdeeds.  However, the list of misdeeds just against her person is so large I don’t understand how she could end up loving him.  Forgive him, perhaps, as he did have character growth and development, but not love him.  There was torture, kidnapping, lies, and even rape.  Is that the type of person you want to commit to?  As Jilly on Goodreads succinctly said:

“If you happen to get kidnapped and abused by a heroin addict when you are 14 yrs old, and then run into him when you are 20, only to have him abuse you again. Then, he kicks his heroin addiction, yet still abuses you just a couple of more times, only to later reveal that he didn’t enjoy it as much because he now loves you. That’s totally fine. You should totally marry that guy because he’s sorry.”

All of Devlen’s faults were blamed on the addiction of blood magic, and since Opal took away his magic and addiction, all was fine.  Even the Soulsearcher, a person who can read souls which tell no lies, was brought around to assure Opal she had looked at Devlen and found him to be sorry.  I guess it’s nice we have assurances, but I think that hill is too much of a mountain to climb.  

Secondly, Opal was raped by Devlen.  Now there is some contention here about that description for what happened between them and Opal through the narrative has said it was not rape since she consented to sex.  However, I will present this in defence of my claim: Opal agreed to have sex with Ulrick, but ended up having sex with Devlen in Ulrick’s body.  She consented to Ulrick not to Devlen and in this way it is rape.  In real life if someone consents to sex but only with the condition that condoms are used and the other person does not use one, that is rape because the conditions for consent are not met.  If someone agreed/consented to have sex with Twin #1 but actually had sex with Twin #2 pretending to be Twin #1, that is rape.  

Sure the narrative of the story tried to downplay and justify the situation, but in the end it was rape. 

As I said, I understand why his character exists in the story, I liked the role he had to play and the themes he brought to the story, I didn’t like how Opal picked him.  But she did pick him.  She. Did.  He didn’t force her to, though there was some ‘I’ll wait for you’s said.  For that I am grateful that Opal had the agency in that part of the relationship and I did like the person Devlen became in the end, if still a bit sceptical because it was a big change in a short time.  If I ignore the everything he did in the first two books of the series and just think about the character he was in the third book (where there was no abuse present in their relationship) I would actually like the two of them together.  I can’t reconcile the past with the present, though, and perhaps that makes me less of a person then Opal. 

 

Glass Series by Maria V Snyder, Part 2: Spoiler-free review

In Part Two of my review of the Glass Series by Maria V Snyder, I discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the series, without spoilers!  If you want to know the premise of this series, you can find a quick overview of it in Part One of my review. 

I bought Storm Glass over a year ago, intent on reading it quickly so that I could move onto the second half of the Study series.  At the time I didn’t realize who the main character was going to be only that it was recommended to read before the second part of the Study series to avoid spoilers.  Thus I knew it took place in the same world.  That isn’t to say I was only reading it for that sake, as Maria V Snyder is an excellent author and I did figure I would like these books, I just really wanted to continue on with the main character of the Study series.  

When I learned this book would follow Opal, a glass blower and an interesting character from the Study series, I was happy and excited to read the book.  However due to life and all that comes with it, it took over a year before I finally got to this book.  Yet, I am thankful for this as I think I read these books at the right time.  For one I was craving them by the time I got to them.  The other reason I will get to in a moment.  

What I liked or loved about this series:

The scenes describing glass blowing were very well done.  Glass blowing has been an interest of mine for years.  Thanks to the wonderful resource that is the internet I have learned quite a lot in that time and can tell you that I found nothing wrong in the terminology or descriptions that Snyder used during they glass blowing scenes.  The fact that the author did obvious research on the topic and ensured her terminology and depictions were correct is something I really appreciate as not all writers do this.  It makes the writing come alive and shows the author cares.  Also I enjoyed reading a book were the main character is a glass blower.

It took until 2/3rds of the way through the first book before I realized I was reading a book set in 1st person perspective.  This is a feat because I generally like 3rd person the best and normally notice 1st person point of view immediately and it takes a few paragraph or pages for me to get used to the 1st person perspective.  Not this time because Snyder’s writing is so well worded and edited.  

These books also don’t end with a cliffhanger which I will endlessly appreciate.  Additionally, they pick up essentially where the last book ends so you get to see the consequences and ramifications of the previous book.  However, one downside to this is that a lot happens to Opal in such a short period of time. 

Throughout the three books, Opal goes through several transformations and character developments due to the situations she is thrown into and I really liked seeing her development.  The impacts of the events in her life and her actions have consequences and those consequences impacted her character which influenced how she reacted to new events.  Snyder did a great job at balancing this process and making it believable.  One of Opal’s transformations was skimmed over and I would have liked to have seen more of it, however it would have made the book over 500 pages and most people wouldn’t have wanted to read through those scenes.  Opal isn’t the only one to develop as a character over the course of this book, and development is not limited to main characters, another thing I appreciate.  

These books follow a more character driven plot.  The last two books do have more of an overarching plot line but they are still very character driven books.  On a similar note, I also liked learning more about Opal’s powers, which where unique, interesting and nothing I’ve ever really seen before.

I read  Storm Glass at a great point in my life.  In this book Opal has feelings of doubt about herself, her skills and usefulness and is undergoing a transition from student to the work place and being the expert.  At this point in my life I am also transitioning and going through similar feelings of doubt.  I appreciate the reflections I can see of my life in Storm Glass.   

The third book is the first time I remember Opal being described as not white (in this series, it likely happened in the Study series).  This could be because I was reading too fast or because it didn’t occur previous to the third book.  Either way, it’s annoying that it took that long but I do appreciate when PoC are in fantasy books where the plot is not driven by the colour of their skin.  White people get to go on many adventures where skin colour is not a factor and PoC should get the same opportunity. 

What I didn’t like or detested about this series:

There are certain themes and/or plot line/tropes that appear in every one of Snyder’s books and the Glass series was no exception.  In the last book, Spy Glass, I almost thought I would get through a book without one of the plot lines occurring, yet in the last 22% it happened, making it 6 for 6 of the books I have read of hers.  Most of her books this even happens multiple times making it all the more annoying and repetitive.  More on this in the third part of this review.

In general, these books were well written and thought out, however there were a few inconsistencies that were over looked.  

Another thing I had issue with was the fact that none of the ‘plot twists’ were actually plot twisty.  I figured out all of them before they happened.  It could be that I’m particularly astute and put together all the clues, but really I think the foreshadowing was just very heavy handed

These books also contain the tired old ‘we touched and there were sparks’.  As an asexual person this is all foreign to me however I watched a video recently by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes in which she has basically the same opinion as me: it’s not really a thing that happens and it puts unrealistic expectations on young woman for what a relationship should be.

There was a sort-of love triangle thing in these books, however it was about the least eye-roll worthy one I have read in years.  Yet, I did not like the ultimate outcome (who Opal picked) for reasons that are spoilery and I will discuss at length in the third part of this review.  In fact I was so very much against this person that it dropped the book rating 2 stars, a first for me.   

I felt one of the books had a bit of deus ex machina at the end to resolve the plot, though agin, it wasn’t the worst case I have ever seen. 

One of the books instead of using the ‘miscommunication’ trope used the ‘no one believes the main character’ trope instead to create tension.  While it worked really well since I was super frustrated, I did like seeing the impact it had on Opal.   

Finally, as a microbiologist, the blood magic parts of these books grosses me out just due to how easy it is to transfer disease through blood. 

Last thoughts:

Overall, I really enjoyed this series and it was a solid 4 star read for me.  The last book I did give 2 stars on but it was a 4 star read up until the last 20% or so when the same old tired trope showed up again and the final love interest was revealed that I am violently against them being together.  This is one of the main things I want to talk about in the last spoilery discussion post on this series.  If you are curious and don’t mind spoilers please join me for that!  Despite giving the book 2 stars and not likely the ending, I was glad to have read the third book and would recommend this series to people that love fantasy and character-driven books.  Again, these are adult books, and have triggering content to them so inform yourself if you do have triggers before picking these up.  

 

Glass Series by Maria V Snyder, Part 1: Introduction to the books

The Glass series is a trilogy that I read one after another during a busy week of work, travel and interviews, so I didn’t have time to write individual reviews; thus I’m writing a three part series review.  I have a lot to say about these books and therefore I’m splitting things up to make it more manageable to read.

This first post is going to be a spoiler-free overview of the series.  The second part will be a spoiler-free review on the books, with some thoughts and comments I had while reading and after I was done everything.  The last post, which will likely be the longest post will have lots of spoilers.  There are some major plot points I want to discuss and analyse, some of which I had a number of issues with.  The things I want to discuss I cannot do without spoilers of some or all of the three books and they are too important to leave out of a discussion/analysis of this series.  Since not everyone likes to read spoilers, that is why I have decided to write it as a separate post and leave it up to you to decide if you want to spoil yourself.

So without further (and boring) ado, here are the books:

Book One:

Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

Published May 2009

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 488

Genera: Adult low fantasy (magic present but no other humanoid or mythical creatures)

My Rating: 4 stars

Read in under 36 hours

 

Book Two:

Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder

Published September 2009

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 379

My Rating: 4 stars

Read in under 24 hours

Book Three:

Spy Glass by Maria V Synder

Published September 2010

Publisher: MIRA Books

Pages: 479

My Rating: 2 stars

Read in approximately 24 hours

 

Overview of the series:

This series follows 20 year old Opal Cowan, who is finishing off her last year as a student of magic at the Citadel in Sitia.  Opal is first introduced to reader’s of Maria V Snyder’s works in the Study Series, more specifically the last book Fire Study where Opal plays a large role in tying up the conflict of that series.  However, her peers are not that impressed.  Considered a ‘one trick magician’ by her peers, she is surprised when the Master Magicians have a mission where her skills as a glass blower and magician might be of use: the glass orbs of the Stormdancer clan are breaking and killing the magician trying to calm storms and bottle up their energy.  Opal knows glass, but does she know enough about magic to help the Stormdancers?

From this mission onward we follow Opal as she deals with many twists and turns and political snags in her life and as she discovers new aspects of her magic that she and all the ‘experts’ in magic have never seen before.  During the course of this series we get to see how Opal grows as a person as a consequence of her own actions and other’s fears.  

Note #1: While you can read these books without reading the Study Series (Maria V Snyder) there are a few events that occur in those books which are referred to in this series.  I my opinion it would help to have read those books and know the background of Opal and Sitia.  Also a large number of characters that appear in the Glass series overlap with the Study series and the full depth of characters is better having read the Study series.  

Note #2: these books are ADULT fantasy.  They contain adult material and triggering topics.

List of known triggers: rape, assault, violence, torture, kidnapping, child neglect (minor, occurs in third book and has happy ending).  I will be discussing a few of these in the third review post, but I will point out that triggers before I talk about them.

 

The next 20

I had planned to do one of these every 10 books, but I forgot until I was at 27 books so far in the year and figured I would wait until I hit 30.  Between crazy overtime at work and other life thing, several months passed before I, finally, got to 30 books.

30 books is 60% of my reading goal for the year, thus I’m in the home stretch. I was about 5-7 books ahead of the game for the half of the year however life happens as it does and I got to 8 behind before a massive push to finish off one of the books that was dragging and I’d had from the library for 3 months set me back on track.  After that book I knew exactly what I wanted to read and nailed 3 books in about 5 days meaning I’m only 5 behind.  

Read so far:

11. The Selection by Kiera Cass     3/5 stars

12. The Elite by Keira Cass     2.5-3/5 stars

13. The One by Kiera Cass     3/5 stars

14. The Heir by Keira Cass     3/5 stars

15. Shades of Doon by Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp     2/5 stars

16. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell     1.5-2/5 stars

17. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone     5/5 stars
Continue reading

This or That Book Tag

tagREADING ON THE SOFA OR ON THE BED

Pretty much anywhere.  When at school/my own place it’s my bed because I don’t have a couch.  At my mom’s place it’s mostly on the couch or the lazyboy chair.  

MALE MAIN CHARACTER OR FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER

It’s hard because I tend to like female characters better but they are often not done complexly or interestingly in literature.  Whereas male characters more often then not are complex and interesting but also eye-roll worthy.  

SWEET SNACKS OR SALTY SNACKS WHILST READING

A slight tenancy to sweet but it’s pretty equal.  

TRILOGIES OR QUARTETS

Quartets.  I don’t like good series to end.  However, I will ditch the last book in a quartet if it’s boring me.  

FIRST PERSON OR THIRD PERSON

No question, 3rd is best for me. 

READING AT NIGHT OR IN THE MORNING

Night through to the early morning hours.  Though I read at all hours.  I am not one that needs to read to fall asleep and I have specifically made it so this is not the case as nothing is worse to me then starting to read and then falling asleep which I know happens to a lot of people who have trained themselves to sleep once reading.  

LIBRARIES OR BOOKSTORES

Love the bookstore atmosphere, but I like the freeness of libraries and the comfy chairs and the variety of new and old books.  True story: my first fine for a late book just happened because I was a few hours late renewing the book, but I had the book (one that was meh but I wanted to finish it) for over 2 months and only paid a quarter because I didn’t pay enough attention.  Pretty dang good if you ask me.

BOOKS THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH OR MAKE YOU CRY

Laugh.  I dislike books that make me cry.  I read for pleasure not to cry my eyes out.  Plus books that would make me cry stress me out too much. 

CHARACTER DRIVEN STORY OR PLOT DRIVEN STORY

Both generally, but I do like character stories and can forgive a weak plot if there are good characters whereas I find it harder to like a good plot with weak characters.  

Book Review: Saga by Conor Kostick

Disclaimer: This is the second book in a trilogy of which all books have been released.  I will be writing this review without spoilers of the first book, however some expectant spoilers will likely exist (meaning nothing specific, just broad strokes and/or themes that show up that may be used to determine plot points to truly astute readers).  


Saga by Conor Kostick

Published May 2008 

Publisher: Viking Books

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

Genera: Young Adult, SciFi

Result: 3 stars

Summary:

After the event of Epic a probe from Earth sent a new game, Saga, to the people living on New Earth, much to the excitement of the people of New Earth.  Oblivious to this, Ghost and her gang of kids living in Saga are living the life of hover boards and petty crime.  They don’t realize they are part of a game and that things are going to start getting interesting with the arrival of new people that can come and go at will and will be reborn after death.  No one knows the reason for the convergence of these two worlds but the Dark Queen, who has dubious plans of her own to fulfil. 

Review: 

I really loved the first book in this trilogy – in fact Epic is currently my top new read of the year thus far – so I wanted to read more.  I thought I had an idea about where this book was going to go, yet it didn’t go there.  On one hand this is a good thing as it didn’t follow the typical trend of a series.  However, this book – a sequel to the previous book – ignored important world consequences that would have happened as a result of the previous book.  I would have liked to have learned more about those consequences and the ramifications.  In the second book it seemed as though the world lived on like the big things that happened in the previous book did not happen. Thus this book is more of a companion book then a sequel.  

Instead this book follows a mostly new cast of characters: Ghost and the Dark Queen being the major players, though Cindella/Erik and a few others of the previous books show up as well.  The balance of male to female characters in this book is much more balance then the previous book, which I was happy to see.  The new characters were interesting and unique with their own stories to tell, which I liked learning about.  Also, the main character, Ghost was clearly described, at least twice, as being dark-skinned.  

This book rotated between 2 main and a one-off side character’s point of view, going from 1st (most of the time) to 3rd perspective.  It wasn’t that jarring and the 1st person was pulled of better then most novels.  However, sometimes the writing worked and sometimes it didn’t.  Erik’s perspective was ranged from good to awkward, the Dark Queen was interesting but often annoying to read and Ghost’s was good mixed with some really great passages.  The characters, Erik in particular during his speech scene, were more articulate then is natural.  

The slang of the characters in Saga was interesting but for a world that has had 2000 years to develop, it was stuck in the 90s punk stage, which was very odd.  There was hoverboards, I guess as a way to make it feel futuristic, but there were still billboards and card readers and chips for money making it an interesting mash-up for a setting which could be hard to get into.  This world also had the typical dystopian faction system, this time card colours dictated how you lived life and what jobs and money you got.  Interesting, but nothing revolutionary.  There was a distinct lack of world building between the three worlds included in this book and of how Earth exists now. I would have liked to learn more about how Earth developed over all that time.  

The probe and the RALs having sort-up humans thoughts and emotions was weird but interesting, however I mostly found it confusing as to how they got to be that way as the worldbuilding in that area was lacking beyond a general ‘it happened’.  However, the consequence of it happening was thoroughly and wonderfully discussed.  

Lastly, this book is mostly set in the ‘virtual’ world, which I didn’t like as much as the great balance of virtual and real world that occurred in Epic.

Last Thoughts: 

Overall, this book did not do what I expected.  It was interesting but also kinda ‘meh’ for me.  I wanted more worldbuilding and/or for things to be revealed faster then they ultimately were.  I do not think I will be continuing on with the last book as the plot is not really something I’m interested in seeing.

However, the idea of silent parties where everyone brings their own music and headphones to listen with and dance around to your own beat sounds so neat but it would be so creepy to see a large group of people dancing with no sound at all.