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Cyanide Reviews//Bingo 2019 Mini-Reviews

2020.03.31 22:27 cupofcyanide Cyanide Reviews//Bingo 2019 Mini-Reviews

I completed 2018's card fairly easily, so I didn't think 2019 would be much different. By mid-June, I was in a pretty good spot, with 9/25 squares filled. And then I hit the biggest reading slump of my life, didn't touch another book till January, read about a book/per month. So, thank the gods for this quarantine because I would not have had time otherwise. I read 9 books in about a week in a half get this card finished, but alas, I have succeeded! Also novellas. Novellas carried my ass. Here's my completed card

Row 1

Slice of Life/Small Scale Fantasy - The Cybernetic Cafe by Meredith Katz - 4/5

Ace rep and robots, so I'm automatically a fan. However, outside of fanfiction, Slife of Life is NOT my genre. I was bored. It was cute, but boring.

SFF Novel Featuring a Character with a Disability - We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett - 4/5

A compelling YA novel inspired by the Russian WWII Night Witches about developing female friendships. I enjoyed the small scope (no 'save the world' plots here). The worldbuilding is solidly done and leaves plenty of room for further exploration.

SFF Novella - This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone - 5/5

Some of the best damn prose I've read in an SFF novel in the last five years, along with some fun-if-confusing timey-wimey time travel shenanigans. Also an F/F enemies-to-lovers relationship.

Self-Published SFF Novel - The Mortician of Avalon by KR Williams - 4/5

A self-pubbed webserial gem I recently discovered on Tapas. While the writing could probably go through a round of editing, the story (murder mystery where the detective meets the prime suspect and realizes that suspect is his soulmate, also dragons) is cute as fuck and extremely engaging.

SFF Novel Featuring Twins - The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang - 4/5

A fantastic Asian-inspired fantasy novella that envelops the reader in worldbuilding. While I thought the pacing could be longer, it was overall a great read. Also, there's this absolutely beautiful scene where one of the characters realizes he's male, and I had to put the book down because of how moving it was.

Row 2

Novel Featuring Vampires - The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare, Wesley Chu - 4/5

A great addition to the Shadowhunters universe, and frankly, a good entry novel as well. Magnus remains my favorite character and Malec my favorite pairing. The best part is that while the two undergo conflicts, they TALK THROUGH THEIR PROBLEMS, like REAL ADULTS.

Graphic Novel/Audiobook/Audio Drama - The Vela by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, Rivers Solomon, S.L. Huang -5/5

My first audio drama from SerialBox and I loved it! Creative worldbuilding, well-fleshed out characters, captivating plot. I wasn't sure how cohesive the story would be told with four authors, but it came through fine. I really liked that this drama explores the layers of extremity from groups of people supposedly on the same 'side' of an argument and those nuances.

SFF Novel by a Local to You Author - Passing Strange by Ellen Klages - 5/5

Yeah I bought this one for the cover. Thankfully, it was also really good. I live in the Midwest and finding a MidWestern SFF author was going to be difficult. However, I did a summer internship in California, so I'm using this book written by a San Francisco native. Soft and very very queer, Passing Strange explores homophobia and anti-Asian racism in SF in the 70s yet delivers a hopeful message in the end.

SFF Novel Featuring an Ocean Setting - The Deep by Rivers Solomon- 3/5

While a very nuanced and atmospheric novella exploring the rebirth of babies of drowned pregnant women with fantastic worldbuilding, I found the main character frustrating to read.

Cyberpunk - Ninth Step Station by Malka Ann Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen - 4/5

Crime dramas are really suited for a serial format, which makes the audio drama format such a good choice for 9th Step Station. Emma and Miyako friendship and character development are lovely and lead the listener through war-torn futuristic Tokyo. I loved listening about the technology like the expanded use for drone and augments of varying degrees of weird that get described.

Row 3

2nd Chance Novel - The Young Elites by Marie Lu - 2/5

I really don't want to dignify this one with a review, it's my '2nd Chance' novel for a reason. I only read the half I couldn't stomach in 2017, and I don't think I lacked understanding in any part of the story. Tl;dr - Adelina Amouteru is Edgy™, makes bad decisions, and acts surprised when the situation gets worse.

Afrofuturism - Binti by Nnedi Okafor - 4/5

Math powers!!! She has math powers!!! A fun sci-fi novella that I wish was longer but alas. Still very enjoyable. Technically Binti falls under Africanfuturism, but for the sake of a Bingo square, I think it counts.

SFF Novel Published in 2019 - Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto - 4/5

One of my top 5 YA novels for 2019 following the (extremely unhealthy) relationship between two sisters on the run for being animal mages (basically druids) while simultaneously looing for phoenix eggs to revive the legendary Phoenix Riders of old. The amount of work the author puts into developing the history (there's a full lineage of kings and queens and their significant contributions) is stunning and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. Also THAT COVER

Middle-Grade SFF Novel - Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer - 5/5

Artemis Fowl is a perfect book and the movie can go fuck itself

A Personal Recommendation from Fantasy - One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence - 2.5/5

I've never disliked one of Mark's books til now but I guess there's a first for everything. The MC Nick was an insufferable perspective to read from and the focus on romance was hard to read because Nick and Mia had zero chemistry together. Mia can do so much better. Like Ready Player One, One Word Kill relies hard on 80s nostalgia to carry the book and as someone not alive in the 80s, it fell flat.

Row 4

Any fantasy Book Club/Read-along Book - The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso - 4/5

Definitely a book I should have picked up earlier. Anyone in search of a 'complex' female protagonist should look no further than Talyien, the Bitch Queen. I didn't necessarily agree with Talyien or really like her character at times, but I sure as hell rooted for her. Paired with the gorgeous Asian-inspired worldbuilding and food descriptions guaranteed to make you hungry, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro has a lot of love.

Media Tie-In Novel - Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion - Stage 0: Entrance by Goro Taniguchi - 3/5

I've never seen Lelouch Lamperouge written so out-of-character and I used to read a lot of Code Geass fanfic

Novel Featuring an AI Character - The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu - 4/5

Obama recced it so I had to read it, that's how this works right? For anyone who likes their Sci-Fi really really science-y, this is your book. Liu shows off his computer engineering degree by having character build not one, but two basically logic processors using two drastically different methods. The tradeoff here is that the characters read incredibly 1-dimensional and the writing style seemed a little stiff.

SFF Novel That Has a Title of 4+ (inclusive) Words - Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean - 3/5

Empress of All Seasons offers an interesting premise (fighting for the hand of the emperor, but also MC is a yokai and the Empire is racist against those), but poor execution. I'm tired of reading YA novels where the main couple meet for 10 minutes and decide, yup, we're fate to be together let's get married rn cool cool. Especially when the main couple have basically no chemistry together. I thought the twist at the end was interesting but also the last several chapters could have been their own book so :/

Retelling! - The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard - 4/5

Aliette really has a knack for fantastic f/f sci-fi retellings (see In the Vanisher's Palace). This book retells Sherlock Holmes, except Watson is a shipmind (AI for a ship) that brews psychotic teas for humans to scrap a living. Also people wear robots as jewelry, which is Very Cool. While the plot itself is straightforward (murder mystery, it's Sherlock Holmes), this novella does a really good job at using the plot as a vehicle to enhance character development and worldbuilding.

Row 5

SFF Novel by an Australian Author - We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson - 4/5

Another 'book that's been on the TBR for too long' book that was absolutely lovely. Er, and gorey. Very gorey. Madson comes up with very creative ways to kill people then makes those deaths very explicit. It's been a while since I've read a large-scale, grim epic fantasy book and the first time main-ish character got killed off, I was caught off-guard. But after that, I had fun. There are some great characters in here and I look forward to book 2. Technically, I read the self-pub version so I'm counting this one for hard mode even if it got picked up by Orbit (congrats Devin!).

Final Book of a Series - Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn - 4.5/5

My new favorite Imperial! I've had no exposure to Thrawn prior to the new Thrawn trilogy and oh man I fell in love. I binged the entire trilogy in three days over Christmas because damn these books are amazing. I was really happy to see Eli Vanto (best boy) return in the last book and as always, I loved the space-fights with Thrawn ten steps ahead of everyone else. Definitely the best Star Wars books I've read so far.

#OwnVoices - The Hanged Man by KD Edwards - 5/5

I fell in love with this series after reading The Last Sun and The Hanged Man easily trumps it. We get more, of, well, everything really. More adventures with Rune and Brand, meeting the rest of the Major Arcana, more Lord Tower (hrrrrng), just overall lovely stuff. This book also dives into some Deep Shit, which to be fair, was alluded to in book 1, but I still wasn't fully expecting. However, that gets balanced out with Rune and Brand's antics, which make for just an overall fantastic book.

LitRPG -> Replaced with Dragons! (2018) - Temeraire by Naomi Novik - 5/5

I was going to read a LitRPG book! I swear I was! But this was the last square on the list, The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is over 300K words long and I would have had to finish it all in 23 hours (doable but stressful). So I relented and replaced that square with Dragons! (2018), using Temeraire which I'd read in the summer. Temeraire (both book and character) are fucking fantastic and everyone should be reading it. We get to watch Temeraire grow from hatchling to young adult and every part of that experience is a delight to read. Do yourself a favor and read this one.

Five SFF Short Stories - Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee - 5/5

A must-read for any fan of The Machineries of the Empire trilogy. We get snippets of Jedao as a child and young adult in Shuos school (pre-all the bad shit), Cheris as a kid, and also Jedao's uniform kink short. All good stuff. What really makes this book worth reading though is "Glass Cannon", a "what-if novella that takes place after Revenant Gun, featuring the team-up every fan wanted but never got. And also it teases the setup for another series in-universe? If there's more Mikodez, I'll be extremely happy.

You can find full reviews on my blog - A Cup of Cyanide
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