Starter Villain

I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi. I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. Lately, it seems like I alternate between reading a new release of his with something older (that I haven’t read before).

Most recently, this was The Android’s Dream, followed by Starter Villain which is not even a new release, but pre-release! I feel so special to read this before everyone else, and I do not mean that sarcastically or facetiously. My only regret is that Starter Villain will soon be an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, and there is no better combo than Scalzi + Wheaton.

This book is fun, witty, and down-right LOL funny at points. Starter Villain definitely lands in the quirky category for me. Those of you that prefer your science fiction to be super super serious might not enjoy this one as much as I did! I mean , c’mon, there’s cat in a business suit on the cover!

The downside? Starter Villain is apparently a stand-alone novel, so we won’t be getting more stories about Charlie. Perhaps the cats (or the dolphins?) could get a spin-off? I really enjoyed the world building here and I was disappointed to have it end. This one is a bit on the shorter side, and pacing wise, I felt the very beginning dragged a bit and the end was rushed.

If you like sci-fi, Scalzi, or just want to read something really unique and entertaining, I highly recommend picking up Starter Villain when it comes out later this year.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands is the second book in the Emily Wilde series by Heather Fawcett. Emily is a professor and dryadologist, and these books follow her on adventures.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’d suggest starting there. If you have read it and enjoyed it, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.

This time, Emily and her handsome, scholarly companion, Wendell Bambleby are on the run. They are being chased by nefarious faeries and other Folk. Why? Because Wendell is an exiled Faerie king, and his treacherous stepmother has finally decided to kill him.

Emily is learning from her mistakes, and there’s a lot of character development and growth for both her and Wendell. These books also tend to be more serious, and are more about the characters and their adventures than the romance. Although, of course there is a romantic relationship. Sort of, maybe?

I found this to be a fun, quick read. Emily is a quirky protagonist, who doesn’t always get it right. This is refreshing, and yet it bothers me that we seem to have either gorgeous women who can do no wrong, or they are like Emily and described as disheveled, slovenly, hunched over books incessantly, and often unfeeling or insensitive to others.. Isn’t there something in the middle? Can’t we have a woman who’s not perfect but also not the worst?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Del Rey for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is a touching story about two socially awkward people and how their lives came to be entangled.

At its core, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a story about love, friendship, and belonging. Our main characters, Sam and Sadie, seek belonging and companionship; apart from each other, they have trouble finding it. And even together, they find it only occasionally and often imperfectly.

The story spans more than 30 years. Sam and Sadie meet as children, drift apart, and reconnect later in life. They spent their lives immersed in the video game world, and I found this aspect of the story the most interesting. Having grown up in the same era as Sam and Sadie, I recognized many of the mentioned games. I also identified with Sadie’s feelings about being a woman in a man’s world.

While I did enjoy this more than Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I can’t say I loved it. It felt superficial at times, none of the characters were particularly likable, and in the end, I didn’t care what happened to them. I just wanted them to get over themselves and stop always doing whatever was absolutely in their worst interests.

Ironically, when I finished it, I rated it five stars. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps the end got to me?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Talking to Strangers

I recently listened to Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell on Audible. Unfortunately, this is my least favorite Gladwell book so far. And actually, I don’t think I care for Gladwell that much. His work feels highly overrated, and his application of research to his chosen topics seems forced and on thin ground in some places.

Talking to Strangers is a weird mix of scientific research and experiments laid over sensational news headlines to explain how/why everyone “got it wrong.” Gladwell covers Jerry Sandusky, Larry Nassar, Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), Brock Turner, and others. Then, he uses these to tie together a theory about police and what happened with Sandra Bland.

This book should come with some trigger warnings. Gladwell goes into graphic details of sexual assault, including cases involving children. These are mainly related to Sandusky and Nassar. I wasn’t expecting so much about sexual assault and abuse, and this came as an unwelcome surprise to me.

Here are the bits that stood out to me as interesting and that I would have enjoyed in a 30-minute TED Talk:

  • Humans are adapted to default to truth. This means we generally believe we are being told the truth, and it takes a lot to tip the balance. This behavior is essential for a functioning society but comes with a cost when people are untruthful.
  • Kansas City Police and their model of preventive patrol does work–but only when police officers are aggressively looking for crimes, physically present, and do not default to truth. This may be what has led to current police situations we’ve seen occurring all too often lately.
  • Suicide is often a coupled behavior, meaning it is tied to a method or location. Removal of access to the coupled method can prevent suicides. (He cites some research on suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning and the reduction in deaths when British “town gas” was replaced with natural gas, containing far less carbon monoxide.

And that’s it. I would probably not recommend this book to anyone.

Rating: 2 out of 5.