Top Ten Tuesday April 14: Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

April 14: Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About (This is for the books you liked, but rarely come up in conversation or rarely fit a TTT topic, etc.)

1)We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
2)Impossible by Nancy Werlin
3)A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
4)Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
5)Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
6)The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
7)Tunnel Vision by Keith Lowe
8)The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
9)Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
10)The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
11)Proxy by Alex London
12)The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
13)The Prophet by Michael Koryta
14)The One Man by Andrew Gross

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Set in the magical world of Renthia, The Queen of Blood is Sarah Beth Durst’s ambitious entry into adult epic fantasy. With the danger of Peter Brett’s The Warded Man, heart of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and lyricism of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, this is the first chapter in a series destined to be a classic.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

I first received The Queen of Blood (Book One of The Queens of Renthia) as a panel giveaway at Book Con in 2017.

Then at NYCC 2019 I bought a mystery box from Harper Collins. The theme was Fantasy Quest and one of the four books inside was The Queen of Blood.

I took that as a sign that it was time to finally read it and I’m glad that I did.

The world building is well done. So is the character development. What I really liked was the positive female friendships.

There’s action, humor, mystery, and some romance. It was such a relief to read about a romance that is not a triangle and not childish. It also doesn’t focus much on the romance, but just enough so you understand the characters feelings.

This was my favorite quote because it made me laugh:
Page 211: “Even a handfull of gravel is a useful weapon when thrown at the right time. My mother embroidered that on a pillow.”

I liked the message that while Daleina is not a natural talent she works hard, studies hard and pushes through difficulties. She discovered what she was good at and developed that skill.

When I first saw the thickness of the paperback I was a little apprehensive, but the pacing is just right. Durst knows how to balance the action with the quieter moments, and knew when to have the story jump forward in time.

I will finish the trilogy eventually. I’ll either borrow the books from the library (when they open again after this Covid-19 pandemic is gone) or with a B&N coupon.

4 out of 5 Spirits.

Top Ten Tuesday: March 31: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 31: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover.

1) This blog. I review the books I read and do these Top Ten Tuesday lists.

2) Goodreads. I don’t just have it, I am active on it. I update with the books I am reading and my progress. I rate and review the books I read. I have the App and use it at bookstores to scan the books that catch my interest.

3) I have been keeping a Book Challenge list since 2007. This is only when I started keeping track. I have been reading since I was a kid (Baby-sitters Club!). I would order from the Scholastic catalogue.

4) The TBR pile of doom! I add books faster than I can read them.

5) I collect signed editions of my favorite books from my favorite authors.

6) I love going to book events. Book releases. Author signings. Book panels at comic con.

7) I’ll take books in any platform: print, e-books, audiobooks, borrowing from the library, and ARCs. Anything to increase my knowledge, enjoyment and book challenge numbers.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.

Among these problem solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly these overlooked math whizzes had shots at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia, and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives – and their country’s future.

 

I bought the audiobook after seeing the movie in 2017 and wanted to listen to it now for Women’s History Month.

I am so torn about what to say. I think these stories are so important – the unsung heroes, especially women, who didn’t get the credit they deserved. The brains behind the achievements and discoveries much be known. Especially when it is centered around women in STEM.

However, listening to this book was a real struggle. I would tune out, or leave the room and let it run. Half way through I started skipping ahead so I could “skim” it. It was filled with too many facts. It was like listening to a text book. I especially would tune out when it explained anything about engineering, aerodynamics, mathematics, or computing. There were also so many facts about the history of segregation and the space race. I understand the importance of telling it, but the delivery – just rambling facts was so boring.

I often struggle with non-fiction books. I want to be shown facts, not told facts. In the end what I really wanted was the movie in novel form.

2 out of 5 Rockets.

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

252863_600

A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

I got this ARC from the Book Wizard at New York Comic Con 2019.

They story starts off with a lot of action and interesting characters. The middle lags a bit and it wasn’t until the last hundred pages or so that it became a page turner. Also, with the coronavirus quarantine happening I had a whole day to finish the last 100 pages.

The story is packed with tropes (star-crossed lovers, fake dating, there’s only one bed,etc.) but even so, it was all fun. I really liked that it wasn’t instant-love between Ettian and Gal. They have known each other from 2.5 years, so we already in the middle of them pinning for one another.

 

The rest of the review has some spoilers. So beware.

immaculatecheapaztecant-small

Continue reading

The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson, Narrated by Kate Mulgrew & Francesca Faridany

In 1912, scientist Marie Curie spent two months on the British seaside at the home of Hertha Ayrton, an accomplished mathematician, inventor, and suffragette. At the time, Curie was in the throes of a scandal in France over her affair with Paul Langevin, which threatened to overshadow the accomplishment of her second Nobel Prize.

Performed by Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany, this play by Lauren Gunderson is an ode to two remarkable women who, despite tremendous personal and professional obstacles, continued to devote their lives to scientific innovation and social change.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson was awarded a commission through the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, an initiative dedicated to developing innovative original plays driven by language and voice. As an Audible commissioned playwright, she received funding and creative support to develop The Half-Life of Marie Curie.

I finally decided to listen to this Audible Original for Women’s History Month. I really loved it.

First – I never knew that Marie Curie had an affair with a married man and there was a whole scandal. So, wherever she is now she should be happy to know that is not her legacy. I only knew of her scientific achievements.

Second – I am embarrassed to say I never heard of Hertha Ayrton. But that is what Women’s History Month and audiobooks are for, learning new things. She sounds badass.

The performances were fantastic. Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany had great chemistry. There were some sad moments:

Hertha Ayrton: It’s love’s destiny to wound us. That’s how you know it mattered at all.

But also it was incredibly funny. This cracked me up:

Hertha Ayrton: Men get to have sex all the time. They don’t mind what Einstein does with his evenings. Einstein gets to keep his lab.

Marie Curie: Einstein doesn’t have a lab. He just wanders the halls looking a bit off.

Also, it being a short audio drama, it is so easy to listen to again anytime.

5 out of 5 Nobel Prizes.

Top Ten Tuesday March 10: Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

March 10: Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence

These are the authors I follow on SM. Some I only follow on Twitter, some I also follow on Instagram/Facebook.

1) Pierce Brown.
2) Deborah Harkness.
3) Katherine Arden.
4) Erin Morgenstern.
5) E.K. Johnston.
6) Stephen Chbosky.
7) Claudia Gray.
8) Nicola Yoon.
9) Ruta Sepetys.