The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin | 5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I’ll admit this this book was a slow start for me in the beginning. I wasn’t completely sold on the concept or the book when I bought it (it was on sale for 2 pounds so I really couldn’t say “no”) and I let it gather dust in my room for a good 2 months before I decided to start it. And when I did, I barely made it 30 pages in before I left it again for another month!

But I’m glad that I pushed through because I became very invested in the characters and the world within a few pages. I loved Jemisin’s world building here – she created a ruptured earth full of terrifying seasons and weather, and she did it so well that you felt the terror of the people.

Within this earth there is a fifth season that creates cataclysmic weather that basically destroys all life as you know it. This means that people on this world are terrified of shakes, quakes and unusual weather. Within this world, there are also individuals that are called orogenes that can harness earth’s power (and like all power, for good and evil reasons). I won’t say more because of spoilers but think X-Men on a ruptured earth. Oh, and everyone in this world is hella diverse!

Another aspect that I greatly enjoyed was the cultural and societal comm system she created. Here communities are the lifeblood of survival and each community has a stratified culture with each person belonging to a group, and each group playing a role in the survival of many. OK, so this is the anthropologist in me freaking out and many won’t give a crap about this part of the book but it is definitely a plus! This cultural and societal reaction is significant however to the survival of some of the main characters.

I could go on and on about other aspects of the book I like (think Stone People) but I’ll say something that irked me: This book is multi-perspective which isn’t exactly my cup of tea and took me a while to get used to. Jemisin does it well, and I get why she chose to use this narrative style, but eh, it was odd at first.

Other reviews I liked:

So that’s my brief review – I’d highly recommend it. Have you read it?

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Claire’s Year In Books

Claire's Year In Books

GoodReads recently shared their “Your Year In Books” feature and I always find it interesting to do a bit of a “post-mortum” of my year so I’ll give it a go for books, yes?

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View Claire’s Year In Books on GoodReads

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I read more meaty books this year

I read 17,892 pages across 52 books (this feels so impressive!) with an average book length of 344 pages which feels sizable to me.

I prefer to read books that are minimum 300 pages and to be frank, the fatter the book the better. In my head, I equate a longer book to something that has denser world building but it isn’t always the case, plus I see longer books as good value for money… am I weird for this? Does anyone else have a minimum page requirement?

153008The longest book I read was Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and it was over 1,000 pages (Fun fact: It took me the entire year to read this book! I read it in two 500 page chunks)

The shortest book I read was 4 pages and it was the Harry Potter: The Prequel by J.K. Rowling

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But stuck to my favourite genre – Fantasy!

I gave 34 books 4 or 5 stars, which is high compared to the 8 books that I gave 1 or 2 stars. I’d assume then that I enjoyed more books this year than not!

My 2017 year in reading was dominated by fantasy with the genre taking 23 out of  the 34 top books that I rated! No other genre came close: Sci-fi only had 1 book in the 4 – 5 star range, horror had 3, non-fiction had 4 and YA took 3.

I guess I really like fantasy? This is an interesting change because 2012 to 2014 was spent being obsessed with Historical Fiction and I haven’t read a single HF this year so far…and that’s not likely to change! Most of the books I plan to read next year are focused on non fiction and more fantasy.

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And I didn’t read as diversely as I should have so 2018 will have a few soft goals

This year I read more books by female authors at 18, with male authors coming in close at 13. I don’t think I read as diversely as I could though and I want to see myself make a greater effort to read books by female authors.

I don’t have stats about POC authors but I can say this: I didn’t do well in that. To be honest, I’m looking at the stats quite generally and I think 3 to 5 authors might be POC? This doesn’t make me happy – I’m going to have to try harder to read more diversely author-wise in 2018.

Another goal I have next year is to look for different perspectives, cultures and histories in fantasy. I’ve noticed that a lot of fantasy seems to feel medieval-esque, and… very white so I’d love to read more fantasy based on different cultures, backgrounds and with characters from many lands.

How was your year in reading? Do you have any recommendations for me for 2018?

Claire’s Top Books of 2017

Claire's Top Books 2017

Like Rinn’s said in her post, it’s that time of year where we sit and reminisce about the great books we read over the past year!

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is one of my top 3 books of the year. I didn’t expect to like it when my housemate gave me a copy, but I loved every moment of it. I read it very slowly on purpose, I wanted to soak up every aspect of the world! Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is another treat that helped cement my love of the grimdark genre: It’s an amazingly well written, engaging novel that had me reading late into the night (and annoyed my girlfriend because I refused to stop reading well past 3AM). The last book here is Kushiel’s Dart  by Jacqueline Carey that I picked up as part of the Tor Books book club. It’s over 700 pages and took me the entire year to read but it’s worth it. It’s a great world that has beauty, intrigue and magic in it.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin has been in the news for the past few years, racking up quite a few awards, but I only just got my hands on it this year. It took some time to get into but Jemisin has made such a truly engrossing fantasy world that I can truly understand why the books are at the “top” of many fantasy lists. Alice by Christina Henry was another surprise read that I enjoyed massively because of its dark, gritty and terrifying take on a beloved classic. The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson – I don’t even know how I got this book, but it’s a wonderful fantasy tale based on traditional Chinese myths and religions – this is important to me because fantasy can seem very western/white.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed was the first book I read in 2017 and it utterly captivated me. It made me want to go hiking in the US though I do not have that sort of stamina! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists is a MUST read because it helps readers see the value in different perspectives. Finally, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers was my surprise read because I am NOT a sci-fi fan. I love fantasy. Simply put! But Rinn recommended this so many times I felt like I had to do give it a go and it was well worth it, it’s a beautiful, stunning book that reads like an anthropologist’s tale of outer space.

What are your top books of 2017? Have you read any of these?

Alice by Christina Henry | 5 stars

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I haven’t posted individually yet because I was over-thinking what should be my official “first” post. Eventually I realized that this was daft and that I should post something that I enjoyed, so I’ve chosen Alice by Christina Henry. Also, a note: I can’t do reviews that talk about prose, characterization, or structure or all of these fancy ways of evaluating books. I can’t do that, I don’t think like that! So I’m basically going to structure my reviews thusly: What I like and why, what I don’t like and why.

I really enjoyed Alice. It was the first time I read anything by this author and I only stumbled onto the book by accident – it was the only thing in the library that looked appealing and I needed a read for my commute so I grabbed it without reading the back. I love it because, I appreciate Henry’s unique and innovative take on the Alice story and its host of oddball characters.

Without giving too much away: Alice lives in a world where magic is discouraged if not outright banned for everyone except what I’ll call “high wizards” and some important gangsters. Alice, though, she’s in a pickle with Hatter and they’ve had rough, rough lives. Of course other beloved Alice characters have their personalities torn apart and stitched together in a unique take in this novel with heartbreaking and sometimes cruel ways.

And I really liked that! I loved that Henry’s take is adult, dark and nitty and gritty. I appreciate that she built the world from a seedy point of view: In this place, magic is power and only the powerful can hold it and what this power looks like is more focused on society’s underbelly than overt expressions of it (like royalty, etc). It’s a different perspective on magic and it is both painful and difficult to read – which is why it’s great and you should read it.

What didn’t I like? I’m really scratching my head here because I loved the entire thing. I devoured the book in a few hours over one day. So I guess, I really liked everything.

But a warning: If you’re triggered by sexual assault, abuse and trauma I would not recommend this book.