Friday 56 – A Spark of White Fire

spark of white fireThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from A Spark of White Fire, a space opera retelling of the Mahabharata.

Rickard’s face flashes in and out of my mind, with that sudden smile that would transform him. I’m surprised by how much it hurts to think of him. By how much I still miss him.

The very last memory I have of him is the way he stepped onto the wing of his ship and then looked back one more time. I was trying not to cry – he could see that, and his face softened. You will always have a place in my heart. Those were the very last words he ever spoke to me. They’re the words I try to remember, the ones I cling to, because the ones that came before fill me with shame and despair every time I think of them.

Book Review: Blanca & Roja

blanca rojaBlanca & Roja
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Young Adult/Fantasy/Magical Realism
375 pages
Published October 2018

This is another enchanting tale from the author of The Weight of Feathers. She’s a little different from my normal fairy-tale retellings, as these are inspired by fairy tales, and have the atmosphere of fairy tales, but aren’t recognizably any particular tale, and definitely don’t follow the normal plot of an particular tale. We know the story of Snow White and Rose Red. This isn’t it. We know the story of the Swan Princess or Swan Prince. This isn’t it. It has elements of both stories. But it is something entirely new and absolutely enthralling.

The story also has minority representation; both girls are Latina, and we have a nonbinary love interest for one of the girls, who is a fascinating character in her own right. (She expresses preference for she/her pronouns in the book.) The other love interest is seeing-impaired. He’s not blind, but he has a lot of issues with depth perception, so he’s constantly running into things and misjudging where things are.

Blanca & Roja grow up in a family where there are always two daughters, and as soon as the youngest turns fifteen, a bevy of swans shows up and picks one of the sisters to become a swan and join them. When past sisters have resisted, the swans have taken both. Blanca & Roja love each other so much, though, that they can’t imagine living without the other. So they try to become as indistinguishable from each other as possible, in the hopes that the swans won’t be able to decide between them and leave them both alone. Blanca drinks bitter things and feeds Roja sweets, eats red rose petals and feeds Roja white ones, each doing the opposite of their personality to bring them closer together. That, of course, doesn’t work.

But when the swans finally do come, it’s after a local boy and his best friend have gone missing in the woods, and the two teens have gotten their lives entwined with Blanca & Roja’s. The magic surrounding them collides with the magic surrounding the sisters, and the story you expect is not the one you get.

At this point, I will read anything McLemore publishes, because she is outstanding. Her novels are magical, lyrical, and atmospheric, melding fairy tales into shiny new stories. I can’t rave about this author enough!

From the cover of Blanca & Roja:

THE BIGGEST LIE OF ALL IS THE STORY YOU THINK YOU ALREADY KNOW.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters – they’re also rivals and opposites, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them.

Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Meant to Read in 2018 But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, she has a linkup on her page so you can see what other people regret not reading!

Oh man. I have way, WAY more than ten books that should go on this list! First, the ones I meant to read and really SHOULD have read, for blogging reasons!

I snagged several books at the Baltimore Book Festival in September that I STILL haven’t gotten around to reading – The Root, the first Wrath & Athenaeum book, by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun, who I got to see in several panels that weekend. He’s fantastic, and I REALLY need to carve out the time to read his books. I also watched Charlie Jane Anders in a few panels, bought her book (All The Birds In The Sky), and received her second book (The City in the Middle of the Night) as an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway. It comes out in February, so I have to read it and review it before then! I also received a book free from a local author (The Shadow of the Rock), with a promise to review it on the blog, and I need to make that happen too. (Rather desperately. I feel pretty guilty about that last one.) I can’t believe I haven’t read ANY of the books I got from the festival. I’ve been too occupied with library books!

I haven’t entirely kept up with those, either. I never did read America for Beginners, which was on my summer TBR list, or Guidebook to Relative Strangers, which was one of Book Riot’s Persist Book Club reads. Both of those got turned back in unread, as did The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. They weren’t the only ones, but they were the three I felt worst about!

Other books I wanted to read and never got around to include Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes, though given she’s of Pakistani descent, reading that series this year for the Year of the Asian might be better anyway! I also meant to read Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City – I even bought it for my Kindle! The last one I’ll mention is Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, the start of the Grishaverse. I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and they were AMAZING. But I haven’t read the rest, and lord, do I need to!

Even reading as much as I do, I can’t read as much as I’d like. I simply don’t have enough time in my life to cram as much information into my brain as I want to. That frustrates me to no end!

Book Review: Vox

voxVox
by Christina Dalcher
Dystopia
326 pages
Published August 2018

I felt like I was reading a horror novel instead of a dystopia. The first third of the book, specifically, was enraging. It’s the setup – the explanation of how the world is now, and how it came to be that way – that made me have to set the book down twice and walk away to calm down.

The book is the story of Dr. Jean McClellan, cognitive linguist. The forced silence is particularly painful for her, a former scientist who was working on a cure for people who had brain injuries or strokes affecting the Wernicke area of the brain, where we process language. She was about to start restoring language to people who had lost it, only to have it stolen from her and every other woman in the country.

The book opens on Dr. McClellan being asked to return to her work, because the President’s brother suffered a brain injury while skiing and can no longer understand language. As one of the most important advisors to the president, the government needs him. In return for the removal of both her bracelet and her daughter’s, she agrees, hoping to find some way to sabotage the work.

Vox sets out a sequence of events that seems far too feasible for comfort. The religious right extends its foothold from the Bible Belt to more and more of the country, pushing a return to “traditional family values” while methodically stripping freedoms from women and LGBT people. Women’s passports are surreptitiously cancelled, schools are split and classes on Christian theology introduced to the boys’ schools. Girls’ schools consist of very basic math (so they can continue to do the grocery shopping and cooking!) and a ton of home ec. Sewing, Cooking, Housekeeping. LGBT people are sent to prisons/camps unless they marry someone of the opposite sex and produce kids. Basically, it’s the right wing’s dream world.

It’s a horrifying scenario. Even given all the dystopia I’ve read, this book rocked me. It definitely belongs in the league of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. My only complaint is I wish the ending had been a little more drawn out, and explained the fallout in a bit more detail. Other than that, though, amazing book.

From the cover of Vox:

Set in a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning . . . 

Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.

. . . not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

#YARC2019 – The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge!

Okay, so I’m adding one more reading challenge this year. I went back and forth on this, because I wanted to go easy on the challenges this year, but this one is SO CUTE and is hosted by some of my favorite bloggers!

There are four hosts:

Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams
Shealea @ Shut Up Shealea
Vicky @ Vicky Who Reads
CW @ The Quiet Pond

CW has drawn such AMAZING art for this reading challenge! Definitely go to her blog and look at the adorableness. (The whole blog is pretty adorable, not just the YARC post!)

 

There are different badge levels, and though my brain says I should go for one of the lower ones, I want that tiger! That means reading over 50 books by Asian authors this  year. I actually have three on my table to read already – Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, Julie Dao’s sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons, and Yangsze Choo’s The Night Tiger from January’s Book of the Month. I might have a fourth, if When Dimple Met Rishi counts! (Wait, six, with Sangu Mandanna’s A Spark of White Fire and Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen.) We’ll see how far I get by the end of the year. It’s not exactly a challenge that will mesh easily with my 50 States challenge. I might be able to combine a few books. But there’s a LOT of amazing Asian fantasy coming out this year!

I’ll keep a page updated with my progress, the link is also available in the sidebar!