Today, 3 short reviews and some screaming.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
For a book where the secondary characters were (deliberately?) really underdeveloped, I loved it a lot.
It’s about a SecUnit (a self-aware security droid) that calls itself “Murderbot” and has gone rogue – it has hacked its governor module to access the combined feed of entertainment channels (it’s a bored rogue bot). Now it can act freely, but that doesn’t mean it will leave the humans in danger.
I loved reading in Murderbot’s PoV. I was afraid it would sound mechanical, but it didn’t – and it was really entertaining. A shy, murderous droid. It works.
I loved how this book avoided the “AI falls in love and discovers they’re more human than they thought” trope – one of the many overused subtropes of “romantic love makes us human/worthy of human rights”, which I hate (I’m looking at you, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and also at you, Defy the Stars). Murderbot is not human. Murderbot doesn’t want to be human. That means it doesn’t necessarily want what the humans want, and that doesn’t mean it’s evil.
Since Murderbot is not exactly what humans expect when they think about machines, there’s a lot of awkwardness between it and the human crew – they do not know how to deal with a machine that looks like a human and almost acts like a human, but it’s definitely not one.
Most side characters are forgettable, but there is a side f/f relationship and this is only a novella.
My rating: ★★★¾
This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
For a book about delusions and open heart surgery, this was unexpectedly readable.
I read it in less than a day, and yet I can’t say I liked it. It left a bad taste in my mouth, even if I loved the writing, the despicable characters and the weirdness of it all.
First thing first: what was the point? That people who follow the rules can hide darkness within? That being “good” doesn’t mean what the main character thought it meant?
Maybe. But honestly, the main appeal is the messed up main character, and the book basically wants to show you how much this mentally ill girl – the only mentally ill character – is irredeemable and dangerous. This didn’t sit well with me at all.
I actually loved how layered and messed up the main character was, but I couldn’t ignore all the implications and the fact that this book is using a rarely depicted mental illness (delusions) as a plot device, villainizing the main character in the process. Maybe I should just not read psychological thrillers, because I always find the ones who use mental illnesses and (not this time) gender or sexual orientation as plot devices/plot twists. I think it’s gross and it needs to stop.
This is a very unusual, visceral book, and I have to say that the writing was stunning and sharp like that cut on the cover, but it wasn’t enough when the content was troubling me so much.
My rating: ★½
Snow Like Ashes series by Sara Raasch
My main problem with this series is that there’s nothing unique about it. Everything in here has already been done by other popular YA authors, and more often than not they did it better.
Snow Like Ashes (Storm Like Clichés?) has every YA fantasy trope, always played straight:
• love triangle
• best friend in love with the main character
• flat worldbuilding, a kingdom for every season
• laughable political intrigue
• cardboard cutout villain
• some spoiler-y tropes we could have done without because of how cliché they are
I didn’t think the first book was terrible – it had some entertaining scenes – but it’s your typical YA fantasy and nothing more, and the series went downhill.
Ice Like Fire is the only book that has ever made me want to quit reading YA fantasy – and I’ve read some that were all-around terrible, but they never made me feel this way. This one was the definition of mediocrity, and it made me think that maybe I had read too much YA fantasy, that maybe the genre wasn’t for me anymore. It was mostly filler scenes to get to the third book, which was even worse.
Frost Like Night was predictable, so predictable it felt like a YA fantasy finale script. I mean that: it was almost like a list of every single thing that usually happens in a YA fantasy trilogy finale, and everything felt emotionless, even the characters I had liked in the previous books.
Overall rating: ★¾
Now, the Screaming
Some screaming about recently revealed covers, because why not.
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: the cover of the next book by one of my top 3 favorite YA authors has been revealed and it’s so beautiful I can’t function. Snow White & Rose Red + Swan Lake retelling? With queer brown girls? And disabled and non-binary main characters? Or, just some more magical realism by Anna-Marie McLemore? I need this.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee: my favorite author has written a middle grade space opera and I don’t even like middle grade but this is probably my most anticipated release of 2019 together with Kings of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. A fox spirit? I’m totally not thinking about Ninefox Gambit‘s Jedao, no, why would anyone ever think that
Also, how many other middle grade sci-fantasy books inspired by Korean mythology exist? Probably none, and why can’t this come out sooner?
Bright We Burn by Kiersten White: I’m actually not that invested in this series (they’re good! They just happen to bore me a lot, so I try not to get too excited for them/overhype myself or I know I will end up hating this last book.) but: a pomegranate? Really? I mean, I agree with the author about this cover being one of the most bloody ones in YA without actually having any blood on it, but there are a lot of meanings associated with this fruit so I’m curious?
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden: This cover is glorious! I didn’t love The Girl in the Tower so I hope this will be the book in which finally Vasya gets some character development. And I don’t want to complain because this is coming out less than a year from the second book, but why is this book about a winter, whose best feature is the wintry atmosphere, being published in August?
@publishers do you hate yourselves?
Have you read any of these? Is there any new cover reveal you really liked?