Do You Ever Feel Haunted?: Reviewing Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Hi everyone! I hope you are all still doing as well as the last time you found one of my blogs. I am still impatiently waiting the arrival of autumn because I am sick and tired of being hot all the time. I’m over it. I need hoodie/sweater season to begin already. September is still young and there is still plenty of opportunity left in the year. Let’s discuss Borne by Jeff Vandermeer.

The world is in ruins ever since the Company created a massive, monstrous ursine creature called Mord. Among those ruins lives Rachel, a young scavenger just trying to survive, and her lover, Wick, who remains a mystery to her. One day, while scavenging in Mord’s wake, she stumbles across a strange creature she decides to take home. The creature, who she names Borne, begins to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. With no discernible shape or origin, Borne relies on Rachel to guide him and Rachel finds herself growing protective over this odd being. As Borne grows, though, Rachel fears he might be a danger to himself and the world around him. As a new force threatens to invade Rachel and Wick’s safe haven, she must make critical choices and the consequences will change her reality.

This is not my first time reading a Jeff Vandermeer novel. (Feel free to read my review of Annihilation if you wish). I find the way he portrays the power of nature to be fascinating and Borne was an interesting portrayal of an “eco-apocalypse.” Rachel served as an insightful narrator who helped to further enhance the strangeness and horror of the aftermath of man trying to mess with the balance of nature. Her relationship with Borne is as sweet as it is complicated. I liked how Vandermeer didn’t try to “uncomplicated” issues of people trying to control nature. His narrative is certainly thought provoking and it kept me interested through the whole novel. Though I am not usually a fan of apocalypse stories, I think Vandermeer breathes a breath of fresh air into the genre. If you want some eco-centric sci-fi, then you should definitely check out Borne.

Nature Does Not Make Leaps: Reviewing The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hello everyone! I hope you are all getting through your TBR pile as I am. I am not going to ramble on for too long as I stayed up far too late to finish this review. If you are interested, I have reviewed two other books by Silvia Moreno – Garcia, so you are welcome to check those out. Let’s talk about her latest novel, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a retelling of H.G. Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Carlota Moreau lives an idyllic life on a beautiful estate in the Yucatan peninsula. Under the guidance of her eccentric yet brilliant father, Carlota studies diligently and prays constantly. She is not alone on this island as she lives alongside her father’s creations: half-animal, half-human hybrids who were created to be workers. With the assistance of Montgomery Laughton, an Englishman with a dark past, their little community exists in harmony. Everything is upended when Eduardo Lizalde, the son of Moreau’s patron, comes bearing news of his father’s frustrations at Moreau’s lack of progress. Soon, secrets are brought to light that force Carlota to confront the horrifying truth about her father. Now, with the help of Montgomery and the hybrids, Carlota must take a stand and fight to protect everything she holds dear.

I really enjoyed Silvia Moreno – Garcia’s take on this rather classic tale of man trying to control nature, only to have nature fight back in some way. I appreciated the carefully woven motifs about rebellion and what family truly is. The characters are complex and seem to move through the story of their own volition. I also appreciated the feminist undertones woven throughout the novel. Moreno – Garcia does an excellent job with character development, which has been my favorite thing about her novels. If you want a novel that harkens back to classic sci-fi while also putting a new spin on the genre, then I would definitely recommend giving this novel a read. (Read her other books too. They’re really good)

One Flesh, One End: Reviewing Gideon the Ninth (Book One in the Locked Tomb Trilogy) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well under the worst heat arguably ever. I’ve had some positive life changes in the last week, so I’m in a good mood right now. Though we are still little ways out from spooky season, that won’t stop me from delving into the creepy and macabre. Without further pretense, let’s get into Gideon the Ninth, the first novel in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Gideon Nav grew up in the Ninth House, a place known for its dreary atmosphere, ossifying nobility, and strict religious conduct. Her only dream is to be free and enlist as a soldier. Her plans for her escape are thwarted by her childhood nemesis and the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth house, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Harrow is called upon by the Emperor to join the necromancers of the other eight houses to be tested in deadly trials. The remaining heir will become a Lyctor, the immortal right hand to the Emperor. Harrow offers Gideon an ultimatum: serve as her cavalier and she will be free from her servitude. With Harrow’s advanced magic and Gideon’s sword, the two find themselves facing a challenge far greater than imagined and death isn’t even the worst outcome if they fail.

Content warning: body horror, gore, violence, language

With that warning out the way, I may have found my new favorite sci-fi horror novel. Granted, it isn’t necessarily scary, but Gideon the Ninth was certainly a thrilling read. Gideon herself was a great protagonist and I loved her playful banter and sarcasm. The novel itself was a rather cinematic one with an interesting magic system, fleshed-out characters, and big action set pieces. It is also a fairly classic whodunnit mystery at the heart of the novel. I do enjoy those types of mysteries so I might be a little biased. I am going to go ahead and give Gideon the Ninth my personal seal of approval and encourage you to try this one if you want a book that’s equally creepy and fantastical.

Large. Angry. Terrifying: Reviewing The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Hi everyone! As always, I am wishing everyone the best. You know, when I write these blogs I really hope that at least some of you read these books too. I like sharing things that bring me happiness in hopes that someone else will find happiness in the same things. With the world being what it is, we could all use a little escapism here and there. Enough with my mildly sappy rambling. Let’s talk about The Kaiju Preservation Society.

Jamie Gray is just trying to make ends meet when he gets laid off from his job because of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While working for a food delivery service, he runs into an acquaintance who offers him a mysterious job at an equally mysterious “large animal preserve.” Jamie takes him up on the offer and soon discovers that his job is not even on this Earth or with ordinary animals. Instead, Jamie finds himself face-to-face with impossibly large and deadly creatures. Though, they are not as deadly as they seem as they need help to survive. Jamie and a few newcomers must protect these creatures when deadly forces threaten the safety of both kaiju-kind and mankind alike.

This isn’t my first time reviewing a John Scalzi novel and this won’t be my last as I had a blast with The Kaiju Preservation Society. Jamie as the narrator is sharp and witty. The other characters only add to a great deal of fun and intrigue in this novel. The world-building is also fascinating and thoroughly explained in such a short novel (258 pages). It definitely gave me similar vibes to The Martian, if that is the kind of sci-fi you enjoy. Scalzi delivers fun and fast-paced adventure full of monsters and science in a novel that any fan of Godzilla will truly enjoy.

In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck: Reviewing Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen

Hi everyone!! It is a great time to be a nerd. All of the major franchises are coming out with new projects, movie theaters are back in the swing of things, and streaming services are finally coming out with good stuff. I always look forward to late spring/summer because that is when all of the best movies and tv shows premier. At the tail end of the Kenobi series, I decided to read this particular book just to make myself way sadder. (The show was great, btw, and you can argue with a wall if you think otherwise.) Let’s go back to a galaxy far, far away and talk about Brotherhood.

The Clone Wars have begun and tensions are on the rise throughout the galaxy. The Jedi Order is trying desperately to stop the Separatists from growing stronger. Chaos breaks out when Cato Neimoidia, a key player in the Trade Federation, is attacked and the Republic is blamed. Obi-Wan Kenobi volunteers to visit the planet to find out who is really behind the attacks. Despite Obi-Wan’s insistence, newly knighted Anakin Skywalker joins the investigation into who bombed Cato Neimoidia. The two must reevaluate their relationship now that they are equals and work together to uncover the conspiracy against the Republic.

This was a fun read, albeit a little sad knowing what ultimately happens. I enjoyed the way Chen built off of prequel movies and somewhat “enhanced” previous events. The book also builds off the previous Star Wars novel I read, Master and Apprentice, which I really appreciated. I like that these books are becoming their own little universe. Chen also keeps consistent characterizations, while also having fun with the characters. If you are a fan of the Prequel Trilogy and/or the Clone Wars series, then I would definitely recommend this novel for you.

Where Love can Outdo Nature: Reviewing Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Hi everyone! There is nothing quite as satisfying as finally getting around to reading that one book that’s been on your TBR list for the longest time. It’s even more satisfying when you really enjoy said book. It was just the book I needed at this time with everything being considered. I don’t write this blog to be political, but it is unavoidable. So, with that vague statement, let’s talk about Her Body and Other Parties.

Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of eight short stories combines horror, a twisted sense of humor, dark fantasy, and psychological analyses to highlight the harsh reality faced by women.

I am going to give a disclaimer at the top of this review that these stories do discuss mature topics about trauma, abuse, and sexuality. Approach with some caution if you are not ready to read about such topics.

With that all being said, I was certainly impacted by these stories. I love the use of defamiliarization that Machado so cleverly uses to highlight the reality that women have to deal with. Machado does let the reader’s imagination run, while still having a clear message throughout. I personally always look forward to that one short story that is going to haunt me and Machado delivered eight of them. Two stories particularly stood out to me were “Inventory” and “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law and Order: SVU.” I do highly recommend this collection if you are looking for a book about feminism and queerness told in such a unique and dark voice.

There is no chaos – only harmony: Reviewing Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this lovely summer weather. I may be in the middle of some life changes but have had just enough time to catch up on my TBR list. You’re all going to be seeing more Star Wars novel reviews from me in the future because I officially have a new obsession. Whether you’re on the light side or the dark, I hope you appreciate my review of Master and Apprentice.

It is the duty of the Jedi to train their Padawans to be fierce and just warriors. Qui – Gon Jinn, however, finds himself at odds with his pragmatic Padawan, Obi – Wan Kenobi. Their relationship is only strained further when Qui – Gon is offered a place of the Jedi Council. Before a decision can be made, the Master and Padawan are summoned to the planet of Pijal by a renegade Jedi, Rael Aveross. Jinn and Kenobi find themselves in the middle of political turmoil. When danger lurks around every corner, Jinn and Kenobi’s bond is put to the ultimate test.

This book was equal parts epic adventure and thoughtful character study, which is what I want in a Star Wars novel. Claudia Gray does and excellent job maintaining and expanding upon the characters of Obi – Wan Kenobi and Qui – Gon Jinn. Even the original characters in the novel are interesting in their own right. This imaginative addition to the Star Wars canon is definitely worth the read for both casual and long term fans alike.

One Match can Light up an Empire: Reviewing Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Hello everyone! Yet again, I find myself finishing a book at an ungodly hour and feeling the need to blog about it immediately after when I should just go to bed. This one, for me, couldn’t wait. I wanted to kick off Pride Month with an LGBTQ+ book review for all of you. I am in the process of moving right now (among other life events) so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read this month. But nothing will ever truly get between me and my need to read every book I get my hands on. So, let’s discuss Winter’s Orbit.

Prince Kiem has built a reputation for himself as the “playboy prince of Iskat,” which puts him in the bad graces of the Emperor, his grandmother. His carefree life is turned upside down when the Emperor calls on him to enter a political marriage with the recently widowed Count Jainan. Neither wants to be married, but it is the only way to settle the disharmony rising up between their home planets. The couple soon find themselves wrapped up in a conspiracy that spreads across the galaxy and must work together to prevent a possible war.

Everina Maxwell does an excellent job balancing a compelling plot and slow burn romance in this exciting sci-fi novel. The pacing was steady and allows for the reader to fully absorb the vast galaxy that Maxwell carefully crafts. The romance between Kiem and Jainan is sweet, awkward, and passionate in all of the best ways. It is definitely more of a character driven novel overall, which I appreciate in this instance. With sci-fi novels, it sometimes feels as though I either get to know the setting or the characters well but rarely both. In this instance, I felt as though both were equally fleshed out through the writing. I am absolutely going to recommend this novel if you are looking for a sci-fi adventure with romance to read this summer.

May the Force Be With You: Reviewing The Last Command (Book Three of the Thrawn Trilogy) by Timothy Zahn

Hi everyone! The snow is starting to melt here, but you can’t really trust the weather. I am in a marginally better mood, however, I hope to see some change in my future. I am still very much in the mood for Star Wars after finishing The Book of Boba Fett. I personally enjoyed it quite a bit. A die hard Star Wars fan might disagree with me, though. I digress. Let’s talk about the final book in the Thrawn trilogy.

Grand Admiral Thrawn continues his ruthless attacks against the New Republic with a new weapon at hand: an army of clone troopers. Han Solo and Chewbacca struggle to recruit their fellow smugglers as a last ditch effort to defend against Thrawn’s attacks. Princess Leia must seek out an enemy in the Alliance while also preparing for the birth of her twins. The last hope the New Republic has is in destroying the dark Jedi Master C’baoth and he has only one goal in mind: to bring Luke Skywalker to the dark side or kill him.

This was a pretty satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. My biggest gripe is with the focus on some of the new characters. I personally didn’t get very attached to the some of the new characters that Zahn created but I do respect how these characters helped build the world further. Zahn did do a great job handling the established characters like Luke, Leia, and Han. It felt like a natural progression for them after the original trilogy and they got to have more time to shine. Thrawn is also just a great character to read about. Arguably, he is one of the best Star Wars villains and I would like to see him in live action. I would still recommend this trilogy to any Star Wars fan and I am definitely going to check out more Star Wars novels in the future.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged: Reviewing Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Hi everybody! I could be asleep right now but it’s a snow storm and it has motivated me to shrink my ever-growing TBR list. If you know me, you know I like science fiction but I am no expert in science. I wish I could know more and I am trying to know more. Thankfully, Andy Weir knows how to make science more exciting through these exciting adventures. Let’s talk about Project Hail Mary.

Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma to find himself the sole survivor on a spaceship. He can barely remember his own name, let alone the purpose of his mission. Ryland soon realizes he must do the impossible to save Earth on his own. Or maybe he isn’t alone after all.

I just want to give a huge shoutout to Andy Weir for presenting complicated scientific principles in a way that someone like me, a book nerd, can properly understand. Not only that, it was wrapped in an exciting and suspenseful adventure that kept me reading. It is certainly comparable to Weir’s first breakout novel, The Martian, but this one had some added elements that really played into my love of science fiction. You don’t have to read The Martian or even be a scientist to enjoy the thrilling ride that is Project Hail Mary.