Middlegame by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reread July 2020

Check out my reading vlog!

I reread this a 2nd time as I read the e-arc for McGuire’s newest companion novel, Over the Woodward Wall, see that blog post. I loved it even more getting the extra insight into the side story of Over the Woodward Wall.

Reread April 2020

The Stay Home Reading Rush vlog.

What the fork was 2019 Josh thinking (giving this 4.75 stars). This book is flawless. I think I had such high expectations going in I was overly critical, to the point that I docked it points for a non issue.

This story is so we’ll crafted and the perfect mix of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s also time travel which is the best thing ever. End of story. The one complaint I had last time was about the depth of our villains; this go around, it became very obvious to me why they are the way they are.

God I loved this book. I kinda want to read it again but I should pace myself before I overdue it.
5/5 star

First Read – October 2019

Introduction 10/21/19

I decided to read this because Lala at the booksandlala youtube channel spoke so highly of the book. It is a scifi-fantasy story about two siblings with potentially god-like powers for nefarious purposes. I seems like everything I would love. Plus, McGuire is the author of another series I’ve wanted to read called the Wayward Children. It’s the winner of Hugo and Nebula awards.

My biggest fear her is the hype. There is something special about going into a book you think and hope you are going to like, and then you read it and do love it. Here, there is the opinion of someone I value significantly (granted with limited data). I don’t want to set my expectations too high. Still, I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Update 10/22/19

I’m almost done. I have a 1/4th left, and I hate it’s almost over. Everything about it is fantastic. I’ve actually stopped reading it to prolong the ending. I am starting my next book in hope that I will get invested in it, so when this is done, I have something else I’m also excited for and into. This story is very well told. I almost wish it was longer just because it is so fast paced. It is very long, nearly 500 pages I think, so it is hardly lacking in material.

I think the biggest flaw in this for me is the basis for the magic. It isn’t badly done. McGuire uses pseudoscience like Astrology, Homeopathy, and Alchemy as a real device by which to do this magic. It’s fiction, but I can’t help but cringe at how so many people don’t see it that way. This is the skeptic in me. It doesn’t lessen the quality of the book, nor do I think most people will be as put off by it as me.

What I have been asking myself is whether this is a favorite of the year. This story is great. It is well written. The plot is well crafted and unique. The characters are largely good characters. The big bad feels a little one dimensional, but most of our other characters are flawed yet well meaning. There is some mystery around the motivations in this book. So, we may get more background to flesh out our main villain. My favorite set of characters are of course the main characters, that is the siblings.

I really appreciate the dynamic they have and the love they share for one another. It’s an easy thing to relate to as someone with two sisters. Siblings are, for at least a part of your life, your best friend, and the bond you share outmatches and outlasts the bonds we share with others. I am really hoping for some heart wrenching moments towards the end. There have already been tough moments between the siblings, and one moment early on almost had me crying. That’s really what solidified the dynamic between the two for me.

Finished 10/28/19

This is a fantastic story founded in characters we are invested in. The story itself is the perfect mixture of science fiction and fantasy. My favorite types of stories are those that incorporate a bit of both but are still grounded in real everyday life. That made this story easy and fun. However, it goes deeper with how it explores the ideas of family and a sibling bond as I mentioned before.

The biggest faults I found in the story were the villains. They felt one dimensional, and they never got fleshed out. There really isn’t a more stereotypical villain then one that seeks to take over the world. What’s more the story’s conclusion (light spoilers ahead), while not exactly predictable, feels like what we would expect.

McGuire still maintains some mystery about the fate of the world. The siblings are real people, but they’re also more than that. They are something not even they understand. What might happen if they ascend to their full power may be itself dooming to the earth. If they don’t, they will just be replaced with another pawn for the main villain. Is it a lose lose or is there hope?

All in all, the story is near perfect in its telling. While the villain is a caricature, our “heroes” are real characters that we can connect to. 4.75/5 stars. I hate not giving it a full 5 stars. I can’t help but wonder if I am being overly critical because I came in hyped up. I remember Viscous was similarly hyped, but I definitely enjoyed this story more.

Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★ (#kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/26/19) #kingathon continues

With the Bill Hodges Trilogy completed, I am moving on to Dolores Claiborne. I haven’t read the Outsider yet, but I wanted to change it up before I read it. Dolores Claiborne which I remember was one of those literary books I remembering hearing about in high school. I think that comes from the unique structure which is an extended dialogue from Claiborne herself after being interrogated for killing a women. Some of the reviews seemed to complain this structure is slow, but so far I am enjoying it (7%). Granted, I’ve got 5 or so hours to go, but the narrator is engaging and believable. Furthermore, there’s nothing more compelling than well developed characters, and this is very much a story about characters. I am looking forward to this!

Update: Finished (9/26/19)

The time is 12:00AM on 9/27/19. I just finished Dolores Claiborne, and while it may be 12AM as I write this, I am counting this as a read-in-one-day. This 9hr novel barely breaks 300 pages. It was a quick and immersive tale. Furthermore, the audiobook, even at at 1.7x speed, was amazing. The narrator gets the accents on point. I absolutely loved it. This is by far my favorite Stephen King novel of the year, and I would put it up there among the best Stephen King books. I am astonished at the complaints to this book. Sure, there are no chapters or breaks, but this interview is still styled in the form of a novel. We have a clear beginning middle and end. Every bit of it was an absolute delight. This is King at his best. The characters are real; the one exception may be Dolores’ husband who has no redeeming qualities (save a smooth forehead?).

The book is mostly supernatural free. Instead, King explores human nature in human life. We see a town that judges through the blind eyes of an outsider incapable of seeing everything, and we are forced to question what is right and wrong. What’s more, the people we see that seem so hateful, why are they that way? What we see may not what really lies beneath the surface, and even if it does, whose to say their actions aren’t justified considering what they’ve endured in life.

There are similarities as well as direct connections to Gerald’s Game that I can understand from Mike Flanagan’s Netflix film adapting the book. Still, it makes me more inclined to read it if this is the type of story we are getting. I imagine it is, except the stress may be a bit more extreme. It also makes me want to rewatch the movie. I have no memory of it. I am not even sure I followed it when I first watched it. I know I don’t remember it being an interview per-say, but it may be in the form of flashbacks. Either way, you can’t really present the story in the same format as King did. On that note, I had no qualms with it. It was easy to read, and the story interesting enough to keep me engaged. You may not read the book, but at least check out the movie which is likely to retain the basic themes. Just watching the trailer gives me chills, which is weird since I have seen it before. Everything makes more sense now.

This is a solid 5/5 stars. Likely in my top books of the year. I love horror and the supernatural, and I usually focus on King’s novels that fit that niche. The fact that this worked so well for me shows why I need to branch out.

January 2019 Reading Update

Beginning Reading (January)

I really want to read at least 10 books. I’ve got a list of ~15 ready to tackle, but I often find my tastes change fairly quickly. Part of what keeps me from reading is that I listen to days worth of podcasting every month. I tend to alternate between podcast binging and audiobook binging, and sometimes a lot of music. My goal is to fit in a decent amount of books this year. Furthermore, my goals are to read more new books. There are a lot of books I love to reread. Harry Potter is the most common; I’m currently on book three again. While I read, I hope to make note of how I enjoyed (am enjoying it). I also really want to make sure I expose myself to a broad field of fun reads to books that make me think.

To do list (books I am currently hoping to read this year)

I have a list of ~15 books I am hoping to read this year, organized and ready to go (this feel apart quickly). My goal is to read fun books, thought provoking books, and educational books. I’ve tentatively ordered them to keep myself from growing tired of one.

I think I have 200+ books marked as wanting to read on goodreads for a variety of reasons, and that can be intimidating. This list i composed of 1) am intrigued by and 2) be uniquely thought provoking (I’ve dropped the idea of reading nonfiction science books. I have enough science in my life). My assessment is sufficiently hand wavy that it is very subject to change (update: it did).

My attempt to work in some science books is already being undermined by my choice of The 15 Lives of Harry August. Even Religion and science was a lazy choice being super short. I also don’t know if I’ll be able to manage several of this non SK fiction stories for the simple fact that I only have so much attention with an audiobook. I suppose that list is more than 15, but I throw in extra SK as something to fall back on in if I feel tired of books that make me thing :-p . Another common theme is my desire to finish the Oxford Time Series (OTS). It was one of the highest regarded scifi stories, every book winning a nebula I think with Connie Willis being one of the top sci fi writers (and of the few major female scifi writers, see Octavia Butler as an even rarer black women scifi writer).

End of January Update

I’m nearly done with The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I finished Firestarter. That puts me well on track to finish 10, but not quite the 15 I’m hoping for. I may need to find more times to listen. The problem is I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I don’t really want to stop. I listened to a bit of Harry Potter too :-/ (guilty pleasure); that’s something I’m trying not to do. I could listen to something new. Plus, Harry Potter is a slippery slope. A chapter turns into a book, turns into a rewatch of the entire series. It’s a tough one for sure :-p.