Haha,oh, it’s April?: Making book plans

Did I not say I was terrible at plans? Did I not say that? Anyway. We’re like a week into April, so I’m going to cheat a little bit. Here are the books I might/probably read:

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

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A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on mathematical modeling—a pervasive new force in society that threatens to undermine democracy and widen inequality.

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this shocking book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination

This popped up in my updates feed on GoodReads, so I added it to my want-to-read list, because I have no self-control. Given the increasing importance of technology and data in our lives, I felt understanding how algorithms can uphold and support an unfair system,  despite the “It’s fair because it’s math!” justifications,  incredibly important. I may or may not have already started it.

So you’ve been publicly shamed by Jon Ronson
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A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has
been democratized. The silent majority are getting  a voice, but what are we doing with
our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.

Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws and the very scary part we all play in it.

I’m all about that pop-science this month, apparently!

I think all of us are a little bit terrified of being publicly shamed. Remember in high school when you were all like “I don’t want anyone seeing what I do on my computer! what if they discover llamas wearing hats. Everyone will think I’m too quirky!” Yeah, let’s be real, llamas wearing hats weren’t your first concern. Like your teacher/parent/librarian always said, “The internet is forever, kid.”

Legend by Marie Lu

 

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What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

I may or may not be picking this up on the recommendation of Leigh Bardugo. Let’s hope I’m not tired of dystopia yet!

 

Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 by Margaret MacMillan26348

For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.

Ah, history– equal parts fascinating and fury-inducing. I picked up the book after finishing An Unquiet American, a collection of writings by Richard Holbrooke. A diplomat and one of the founders of Foreign Policy magazine, Holbrooke mentioned the Paris Peace Conference several times, often lamenting the decisions of leaders at the time. To him, the doling out of rewards and punishments, and the drawing of lines during the conference still play a large role in conflict today. I did read most of this book when I first picked it up, but school became too hectic so I dropped it. I’d like to pick it up again this month.   Margaret MacMillan is an excellent historian, as far as I’m concerned. I remember being impressed by the detail she included.

This is a huge tome, so let’s see if I can finish it.

Ancillary Justice by Annie Leckie

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On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

 

Ancillary Justice’s premise intrigued me. I loved the idea of a race which didn’t define gender. I think this more experimental side of writing (if you can call me that) drew me to the book more than anything else.

 

Something Fantasy because who do you think I am, anyway?book-cover-question-mark-image

cannot believe I haven’t found a specific fantasy book to read. I. cannot. believe. it. I always read fantasy! It is my favorite genre. Hold this space. Something will come.
But, if you have a few minutes, feel free to post a couple of fantasy books you really enjoyed below!

Makin’ a Plan

So, I’m doing a TBR list. We will see how laughable this decision is next month when I discover how closely I followed my plan. I am very much a book flitter;I flit between books. Plans do not work for a free soul like me. Actually, plans are the only thing that get me through most days, but let’s ignore that.

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas16096824

Back in the Fictionpress days (Fictionpress still exists, Leah), I used to  take twenty minutes of our precious dial up diligently loading new chapters from an epic, sprawling novel called Queen of Glass. Later that novel I adored so much became Throne of Glass, and the sequels. To my disappointment, I felt less than enamored with it.  I expected a grand adventure, what I got was mainly a romance. Now that I’ve readjusted my expectations, I am willing to give Maas a second chance.

2. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

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People have described this book as one of the most positive of 2016 and, let’s be real, after the year we’ve had, we all need a little bit of positivity.

The main character, Juliet, has recently moved away from home after telling her parents she’s a lesbian.  Now  in Oregon, she’s landed her dream summer internship, but she still hasn’t figured out how different parts of her identity– Puerto Rican, Lesbian, undoubtedly other elements I don’t know about yet because I haven’t read the book— fit together.

3.  White Rose: Munich 1942-1943 by Inge Scholl
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The White  Rose was an underground organization in Munich, comprised of students and professors, dedicated to opposing Hitler’s fascist regime and the atrocities committed under him.

Now the sister of two of its founders has compiled letters, flyers and stories into this volume to preserve an account of courage in the face of  horror.

History, for me, has always been a collection of stories and I’m hoping to spend more time this year learning them.

4. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee 

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1849. A young girl dreams of going to New York to become a musician. But life doesn’t afford many opportunities for Samantha, a Chinese girl, living in Missouri. Samantha discovers how many difficulties society can erect after the tragic loss of her father. Now in danger, she is forced to flee. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, she leaves Missouri behind. The two invent new identities, Sammy and Andy, and head west for the gold rush. On the run from the law, the two form a deep bond.

Stacey Lee, one of the founders of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, debuted with this book  two years ago. I’m only catching up now.

5. Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco 30095464

Oh, come on, you didn’t seriously think I would only read one fantasy this
month? Fantasy will almost always be my #1

A witch. A war. A  world on the line. Tea is born special in a world full of witches. While
others might control the Air or the Water, Tea can control the dead themselves. This makes her feared but also powerful. Now with the eight kingdoms on the edge of war,  Tea must hone her skills to defend her family and her home.

Mixed reviews on this one, but the concept is just so intriguing. This one will be released this month so it depends entirely on my ability to get it from, y’know, another country.

Wow I should write blurbs. Just kidding 

And that’s it for this month! What are y’all planning on reading? Tell mmmeeeeeee. Or don’t, I get it. (But actually, do, please )

3.5 stars to Uprooted by Naomi Novik


Uprooted
is an award winning stand alone fairy tale influenced fantasy novel by Naomi Novik. The story centers on a small village on the edge of an encroaching malevolent wood.  The villagers lived by three rules: Don’t go in the wood, kill those who do before they kill you and, when it gets bad, send for the Dragon.
The Dragon, a cold, distant figure, had lorded over their village for centuries. Though he protected them from the wood, the villagers did not love him. Every ten years he asked only one thing of them: a girl. Every ten years, they obeyed. After ten years, he would release her from the tower, changed.
Agnieszka has grown up knowing her best friend, Kasia, will be chosen by the Dragon. Good, kind, brave Kasia would disappear to the tower and, after she is freed, leave the village for adventure.
The day of the choosing arrives and Agnieszka discovers she was wrong.I’d recommend Uprooted for lovers of fairy tales and classic fantasy.

Plot:
The plot over all was well-structured; the reader could trace almost each event to a clear cause. In other words, the plot made sense. Some have complained that it followed too tried and true a fairy-tale formula; however, I disagreed. The writer noted that the story was influenced by the Polish fairy tales her grandmother told her when she was young, but Uprooted still felt original. It mixed cozy nostalgia, a creep-crawling villain, tragedy and redemption. Most of all, however, Uprooted was a tale of friendship and bravery.
There were a few moments where the story faltered– the world slipped or the character’s relationships felt strained, a scene went on too long– but, overall, I really enjoyed this story.

 World and Writing:

The rules of the world were, mostly, consistent. Naomi Novik’s writing shone the most in this section. The wood felt spine-tinglingly creepy.The wood had a darkness which added a dark undertone reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales. And, following in true fairy tale form, The Wood had a lesson; the story a moral.

Characters:

My main complaint with Uprooted lied with Agnieszka’s relationship with the Dragon. Here, the Beauty and the Beast influences were most evident; however, the transition felt much less believable. More on that can be found in the spoiler section.

On the other hand, one of the highlights of the book was Agnieszka’s relationship with her best friend, Kasia. The support they show for each other and the unshakeable bond between them is something I’ve sorely missed in other fantasy novels. Honestly, I would have been more than satisfied if the book focused more on their relationship instead of Agnieszka and the Dragon’s.

Continue reading 3.5 stars to Uprooted by Naomi Novik

New Favorite!: Crooked Kingdom

I was going to call this a review, but let’s be real here, this is pretty much a fan-girl moment.

Without giving away any spoilers to Six of Crows (if you haven’t read SoC, YOU SHOULD!!!!) Six of Crows went broad, Crooked Kingdom went deep. Not only did Bardugo amplify the characters’ internal lives and dilemmas but she also delved deep even deeper into the setting– Ketterdam, a city filled with inequity, crime and cash.

Plot

Kaz Brekker and his crew return for another daring heist with bigger stakes, fewer resources. But this time, the consequences of their failure dwarf lost funds and reputation. Turns of events and shifting alliances foil the Crew’s best laid plans  time and time again even as time is running out.

Characters & Themes:

Bardugo’s efforts to  create characters with depth is even more apparent in Crooked Kingdom. While Six of Crows introduced several distinctive  characters and hinted at their backstory, the book overall still felt more like a high-stakes heist novel. Though each character had different motivations for joining the crew, and different roles, the members depended upon one another mainly to reach their goal.

Crooked Kingdom, in contrast, focused more on friendships and personal relationships within the crew. The arc of the story depended more on character’s moments of introspection. This, for me, made Crooked Kingdom a perfect companion for Six of Crows. Bardugo didn’t simply jot down another heist novel (though one could hardly “jot down” a novel that requires as much planning as a heist). No, she introduced new themes, changed the dynamics within the crew, and added history to better frame  character’s motivations and development. These moments of vulnerability and self-doubt; of epiphanies and  acceptance; of fear and hope strengthened the relationships forged in Six of Crows.

Fear– its presence and overcoming it– was an undeniable theme in this book, as was sacrifice, both for the greater good and as a result of change. Each character had to confront their past and present fears or prejudices in the course of the book. They all needed rediscover or choose what defined in order for the crew to succeed.
While  Bardugo pulled the world and characters of Crooked Kingdom from her imagination, the lessons, dilemmas and themes in this story echo those found in modern events in our own world. This book reminded me of the power of stories to reflect humanity in  all of its complexity and to push us in the real world to question our situation and our society.

To put it plainly: I adore this story. I love the characters. Their interactions with each other, and with their world, felt authentic and genuine. I haven’t cried upon finishing a book in years, but I cried at the end of this one.

On top of all this, Leigh Bardugo seems like an amazing human.Loving art is made so much easier when the artist is a decent human being.  I give myself three months before I re-read the books. I fully expect to cry again.

For a more in depth Book discussion– fraught with spoilers– check back here next week!

BUT ALSO, SERIOUSLY, READ THIS BOOK. THEN FAN-GIRL WITH ME IN THE COMMENTS. If you wanna, or whatever, I mean.

The Raven Boys

Blue knew three things for certain: she amplified psychic power, she was fated kiss her true love and he would die, and the Raven boys were bastards.Unlike her family members, Blue had no traditional psychic power. She could not see the future or look into someone’s past by touching them or talk to ghosts. For sixteen years she has avoided the fate her family predicted for her by following the rules and avoiding the wealthy, arrogant Raven boys, but when Blue sees a spirit named Gansey and a Raven boy by the same name shows up at her family’s home a few days later, Blue is pulled into an mystical adventure.

Gansey has spent nearly half his life looking for a mythical king. He’s followed ley lines, or lines of magical energy, all around the world and ended up in Henrietta, Virginia. When Blue learns of this during his call to her family, and when she meets Gansey’s cute friend Adam, she decides to join the raven boys in their search. Breaking the rules for the first time, Blue joins the group. She learns that not all Raven boys are as odious as she once felt, but everything else she knew solidifies itself into a fait accompli. Some bigger energy is pushing Blue into this story, and as she and the boys learn more about the dangers surrounding the sleeping king, they wonder how they should wake him, or if they should at all.

The Raven Boys has an intriguing opening, but  the book suffers some from the first book syndrome. Much of the books feels more like a set up than a story. So many characters are introduced that some feel more archetype than person. The details which, when done well,  humanize character felt constructed.One can only hope they will be fleshed out and realized  further beyond nail polish colors, a love triangle,  snooty or absent fathers, and rich-boy rebellions in the coming books. Stiefvater laid the groundwork for this, along with many other mysteries to solve, so let us hope she is able to do so successfully.

This story is slow boiling,  with some nice twists leading us to a more promising end. I will be picking up the second book, hoping the story will be a bit more urgent and the characters’ more realized.