January 2016 Reads

3 stars

Envy of Angels, Sin du Jour #1 by Matt Wallace

Envy of Angels

The plot was fast-paced and fun, with high stakes and an engaging central conflict. The characters were nicely defined pretty quickly and it was funny – more chuckle-funny than laugh-out-loud-funny as far as I was concerned but it was on point overall. There were also slightly more violent, gory or gross scenes which I quite liked: tense but not overdrawn to the point of being uncomfortable.

I didn’t love the ending: There’s a twist which I felt didn’t quite hit the mark – the idea for it was cool, makes room for interesting things to come, but I felt the presentation of it was a bit dissonant. I’ve also not really read novella-length works outside of fanfic before, so I’m not really used to the form yet and I was a bit thrown by how lean the story was.

Overall, I liked it but I felt there wasn’t really enough to say I liked it a lot or I loved it. This being said, this book is the first in a series with at least three more novellas coming and I will be continuing on with the series.

5 stars

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


When Nimona, shape-shifter extraordinaire, gets herself hired as famed villain Lord Ballister Blackheart’s sidekick, she can’t wait to wreak some havoc. But Blackheart’s plans are that simple: it’s not all about mischief, they have to prove to the Kingdom that the villain label was forced on him by the ominous Institution. They have to show everyone that the Institution’s poster boy, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, isn’t and was never all that much of a hero.

Oh my goodness, this totally punched me in the feels!! It looks so cute & starts with such a silly, whimsical premise that I didn’t really expect to get so serious & heartbreaking.

A story about who or what makes someone a good guy, a villain or a monster, but also a story about old betrayals, ongoing machinations, and friendship & loyalty being tested. We’ve got morally ambiguous characters all-around, presented to us with a welcome lump of tenderness & empathy, but with no punches pulled.

If the print book is eligible, it’ll be going on my Hugo nomination ballot in a heartbeat.

2 stars

Blood of Elves, The Witcher #3 by Andrzej Sapkowski

Blood of Elves

I struggled a lot with this book: I wanted to like it, since I’ve heard really good things about the game series but I had to force myself to finish reading.

I don’t always mind non-linear narrative, but here it really detracted from the story, made it feel broken-up and confused, and I honestly could not see why the book was organised that way. Despite the multiple points of view (a storytelling device I *love*), I didn’t get a strong sense of the characters or the conflicts, and I didn’t really get why I should care what happens to any of them.

Very early into Triss Merigold’s POV, we learn that she got another character drunk so she could have sex with him. She did this despite knowing he was in a relationship with a mutual friend and then keeps pining about how he wants nothing to do with her now. I could not care less that Triss’ feeling are hurt because the guy she date-raped won’t go out with her. No, no, no.

This is apparently the second book in the series, with the first being a collection of short stories. I had no idea, and read this assuming it came first. Maybe the stories would have helped make more sense of the sprawling worldbuilding but since it probably couldn’t have given this book the actual plot arc it lacks, I won’t be reading more in this series.

4.5 stars

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise

15-year-old Meche is awkward and uncool, but she has two good friends and an impressive pile of vinyls. Things get messy when she, Sebastian & Daniela discover they can use the music to cast spells.

Meche returns to Mexico City as an adult, after living and working in Europe for years. She came for the funeral of her estranged father, but she finds herself dealing not only with her overbearing family but also with seeing Sebastian again.

I loved almost every single thing about this book. The two timelines feel very distinctive, and Moreno-Garcia captured the weird cognitive dissonance of coming ‘home’ as an expat beautifully. The 1985 portions of the story felt really poignant to me, and I liked the balance of magic and high-school drama.

Just a smidgen short of five stars because adult Meche was a bit difficult to relate to, at times. Her decision-making had me shaking my head throughout, but the rash choices make sense from teenage Meche: yes, she’s sometimes hurtful to her friends, but she’s 15 and she’s got stuff to deal with. On the other hand, there were definitely times when I thought adult Meche needed to get a grip and act her age.