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Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic
R.F. Kuang

Harper Voyager, 2019
★★★★★

There are some books that, while not perfect, just make you feel very strongly. I was on tenterhooks the whole time I was reading The Dragon Republic. I was so heavily invested in the characters and their relationships with one another that I really didn’t care about anything else in the book, so I easily overlooked the minor issues with pacing that may have bogged down another novel.

In The Dragon Republic, Rin finds her self dealing with the fallout of her actions at the end of The Poppy War. What this means, practically speaking, is that she is dealing guilt, or rather guilt at her lack of guilt, opium addiction, PTSD, and a a nation overrun with bitter Mugenese soldiers who have no home to return to. Then Yin Vaisra, the Dragon Warlord and Nezha’s father, strides into this mess and declares his intent to transform Nikan into a democracy, so he essentially begins to wage war against the Empress, Su Daji. Since Rin is intent on killing Su Daji, she allies herself with Vaisra.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang”

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10 Series to Finish in 2020

I’m really terrible at finishing series. Mainly, it’s because my memory is garbage, and so by the time a sequel comes out I’ve forgotten absolutely everything and have to re-read, and I’m really lazy about re-reading. Plus I have a short attention span and 99% of the time I prefer standalones or companion novels. But, mainly the memory thing, and because of that, I made the executive decision not to read series until they are complete, or nearly complete. So, I’ve been waiting and waiting on some of my favorite books to finish up so that I can finally get the payoff I’ve been waiting for.

Here are some of the series I plan to get to this year, in order of how likely I am to get to them! Continue reading “10 Series to Finish in 2020”

end of year: best books

Best Books of 2018

I read 92 books this year, the closest to 100 books a year that I have ever gotten in my adult life!!! It’s been quite interesting, as I’ve tried several new genres and some of my faves are quite surprising! So let’s get started!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Honorable mentions, in no particular order, include: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Freshwater by Akwake Emezi, Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus, Policing Egyptian Women: Sex, Law, and Medicine in Khedival Egypt by Liat Kozma, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena, and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor.

And now for the countdown!!!

#10

spinning silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: This is a spellbinding, gorgeously written book that takes various elements of the Rumpelstiltskin story and weaves it into an enchanting winter tale. Though slow-paced, it is never dull, and is told in multiple different perspectives, each of which has its own unique voice. The romances in this book are subtle and oh-so-slowburn.


#9

sawkill girls

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand: This little horror story is written so viscerally that it will make shivers crawl down your spine. I couldn’t even formulate a proper review for this because I loved it so much. It’s incredibly atmospheric and does a superb job balancing cosmic horror with modern-day teen friendships. And it’s sapphic.


#8

the poppy war

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This is one of the best fantasy books of the year. It features superb worldbuilding and a plot heavy on war and military drama, and yet it’s incredibly fast-paced. Its main character is one of the best female heroines (or anti-heroines) I’ve seen in a long time. The magic system is innovative. It’s a dark book that doesn’t shy away from depicting horrific violence and its effect on people.


#7

heart's invisible furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: This was such a surprise. I never expected to love this book, because it’s so outside of what I usually like. It’s a contemporary bildungsroman featuring a male character. But it turned out to be a darkly comedic and even absurd story interspersed with real tragedy. It’s also incredibly compelling despite its oddly episode plot structure; I couldn’t put it down.


#6

creatures of will and temper

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer: I’ll just quote from my original review: “This book cleared my skin, harvested my crops, nourished my soul, and added ten years to my lifespan. It simultaneously defied all of my expectations and yet gave me everything I wanted anyway.” It’s basically lesbians and demonic cults in Victorian London, superbly written and twisty. It’s so much fun and I absolutely adored it.  And that cover, Lord.


#5

silent companions

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: This book is everything I ever wanted from a neo-Victorian Gothic horror novel. It’s gorgeously written, atmospheric, female-led, truly creepy, and features witchery, semi-demonic entities, supernatural forces, gruesome murders, and shocking family secrets. And I couldn’t put it down.


#4

if we were villains

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio: This was one of the first books I read in 2018, and that it’s stuck with me till now says a lot, especially considering this is not my usual genre. This is such an emotive book; it was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for me. The prose is gorgeous and rich, creating an autumnal, claustrophobic atmosphere that ensnared me. And surprisingly, it touches on the havoc wreaked by toxic masculinity and winds up subverting the reader’s normative expectations. It’s quite a delightful surprise.


#3

crimson petal and the white

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: This gargantuan historical fiction tome is a neo-Victorian classic with an unusual narrative device that shatters the fourth wall. With a 19-year-old prostitute as its linchpin, it is brimming with period details; it mimics Victorian novels not only in its narrative form but in its style and content as well. 19th-century London comes roaring to life in this novel. It’s also surprisingly hilarious and compelling; it’s over 800 pages but I couldn’t put it down. And with so many hat tips and allusions to Victorian literature, it feels like a love letter to the entire period.


#2

home fire

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: For me, this is the biggest surprise of the year. I mean, a literary fiction novel coming in at second place?? But this book absolutely destroyed me. It made me feel so strongly in a way that few books do. A modern-day retelling of Antigone set in England with an all-Muslim cast of characters, it is a nuanced examination of the effects of Islamophobia, corrupt states, imperialism, and alienation. The writing is quietly beautiful. And then there’s the ending. The ending of Home Fire is probably the most memorable, tragic, beautiful, and fitting ending I’ve ever read. It fucking wrecked me.


#1

godsgrave

Godsgrave (and Nevernight) by Jay Kristoff: Do you know the sort of book that just makes you happy to read? Like you genuinely look forward to when you can sink back into the world because it just fills you with indescribable joy? That was Godsgrave for me; I legit looked forward to my commute and didn’t want it to end so that I could keep reading. This is such a strange fantasy series in many ways: it’s written weird, it has footnotes, and it’s really, really funny (and dark, too, quite dark, but also funny). But what sets it apart for me is its worldbuilding, which is so very dense and rich with minute details. Not only is our main character fantastic, but the series is full of minor characters with their own arcs and vivid personas, and there’s an amazing f/f relationship!!! Honestly, this is just such a thrilling book (and series) that I could just gush about it forever, but I’ll stop now.

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Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Five-Star Predictions

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm. This week’s topic:

APRIL 24TH – Top 5 Five-Star Predictions 

This is something I’ve seen Rachel do a couple of times, and I’ve been tempted to give it a shot myself, so now that it’s a Tuesday topic I guess the universe is compelling me to go for it.


darkdawnDarkdawn by Jay Kristoff: I made no secret of just how much I absolutely adored books one and two in this series. I don’t expect that I will feel any differently about the conclusion to the trilogy, even though conclusions are often controversial. Still, at the very least I expect Kristoff will wrap up loose ends and reveal everything about Mia’s powers. I expect Kristoff’s trademark snark and twists and turns and I have no doubt it will be a wild ride from start to finish.

 

 


leah on the offbeatLeah On the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I’ve read two books by Albertalli, and I’ve adored both of them. There’s something about this light, contemporary style that I adore. I can usually breeze through books like this super quickly because not only are they fun and engaging, but they’ve got this nebulous quality that makes you feel right at home. Leah is the snarky, fat, bisexual heroine I’ve been waiting for, and she is, unfortunately, in love with her best friend’s girlfriend, which promises some dramatic shenanigans. Plus it’s been said we’re getting more Simon and Bram!

 


creatures of will and temperCreatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer: Okay, first of all, I need y’all to understand the inordinate amount of admiration I have for this cover. Just. Look at this cover. Look at it. Look at its intricacy and detail, its classic artwork, its borders, its fonts…I just. It looks like a 19th century painting. It looks like an illustration straight out of a demonology encyclopedia. I actually just purchased this book and it arrived yesterday and I spent like ten minutes just staring at this cover because it is so beautiful. But aside from the cover, the story reads like something made for me: Victorian London, a female fencer, demons, an underground society fighting said demons. I mean. Can you say custom-made?


the poppy warThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This book has been getting a lot of hype in adult fantasy circles, and rightly so! First off, the author is younger than I am, in her very early twenties, and is a 2018 Marshall Scholar. Second, though a fantasy, it deals intimately with the violence of the Sino-Japanese War, particularly an frequently forgotten event called the Rape of Nanking, which I actually wrote my undergraduate thesis about! I won’t link to information, but you can look it up if you so choose; just know that it is one of the most horrific wartime acts ever committed. The sheer brutality of it is overshadowed only by the fact that it was completely forgotten in the aftermath of the war, and to this day there are segments of Japanese society that continue to deny it ever happened. That should tell you something about what to expect from this book. All reviews coming in so far say that this is a topic that Kuang handles deftly and intelligently.


american islamophobiaAmerican Islamophobia by Khaled Beydoun: I really admire Beydoun’s work and scholarship. In particular, he’s written a lot about the odd classification of Middle Eastern and North African folks as “white” on the US Census, and the history of that and the ramifications of a potential MENA category on the 2020 census. I think he’s a brilliant and incisive scholar, and given that this book was just published a couple of weeks ago, it promises to be timely and relevant to today’s political situation.  This is generally the type of non-fiction book I tend to love. Given that I myself am Middle Eastern and come from a Muslim family, I think the book will also resonate with me on a personal level. I am so confident I will love this book that I am strongly tempted to buy it so I can have it on my shelf to highlight and make notes in.