Book Roundup – 2023 Year End pt 1

Jan 6, 2024 | Book Roundup

My Movie Roundup hiatus is lasting longer than I anticipated, I just haven’t been watching movies lately. However, I have been reading a lot. Enter Book Roundup!

Like Movie Roundup, these will be my thoughts & impressions of the books I really enjoyed. I’m not calling these “reviews” because, really, I’m totally running on vibes.

I attempted to read 56 books last year, and finished 40 of them. The rest I’m still either working on or Did Not Finish.

I won’t be including those I DNF’d or ones I rated 1-2 stars. All books I include will have a 3 – 5 star rating.

Full disclosure: The links I’m including are affiliate links—Amazon will throw me a few pennies if you end up buying from them.

Included in this round up are the following genres: fantasy, het romance, contemp drama, non-fiction, and sci-fi.

OK, let’s get to it!

I started playing World of Warcraft around 2005/2006. At that time I always played Alliance characters — I wanted to be a Night Elf, don’t judge. As a result I became familiar with the Alliance story by playing the game. For some reason, this year was the year I felt like digging further into the lore.

Arthas: Rise of the Lich King (World of Warcraft) by Christie Golden, 5 Stars

I knew the gist of Arthas’s story having run The Culling of Stratholme instance, but that was all. But two things put him in the forefront of my mind recently: the ability to play the Lich King expansion and the fate of Arthas’s soul in Shadowlands. I was really touched by the latter, such an anticlimactic and sad fate for a figure that figured so prominently in the world of Azeroth. I was motivated to go back and read about him and what could justify that fate.

The book was nothing short of excellent. We see Arthas grow from a skinny boy barely able to hold a sword to the formidable and deadly Lich King. It’s tragic. The story of how pride, duty, and privilege can be twisted into something dark and unrecognizable. Arthas was a puppet of evil, blinded by his own pride, unable to really see himself & his actions. It could be a tale of any modern politician — they start off with good intentions but soon lose their way with the easier choices corruption offers.
I still feel sorry for that boy, and for his ignominious end.

Sylvanas (World of Warcraft) by Christie Golden, 5 stars

I know Sylvanas is popular with Horde folk, but I knew almost nothing about her. Legion brought her to my attention, but it wasn’t until she was heavily featured in Shadowlands that I became curious about her.

Of all the books I read by Ms. Golden, I loved this one the best. It was a beautiful and haunting portrayal. My only complaint is that I wanted a timeline. Elves live for hundreds (thousands?) of years. I wanted to put her life in perspective via time.

Sylvanas and Arthas’s stories are quite similar. Like Arthas, Sylvanas was born into nobility, and spent her life serving her people. There was love, and light, and beauty—she was an elf after all.

All that ends when Arthas as the Lich King, invades, kills her body, twists her spirit, and sends her against her people. Even though she eventually breaks free, the damage is done. She’s undead, no longer welcome in the land of the living.

She fights to give The Undead a home and to her credit, she does. When the Alliance refuses to acknowledge them, she goes to the Horde.

At every turn, she does what she does for her people. But undead have lost “living” emotions—love, compassion, empathy— and taking care of her people results in endless senseless death.

Fueled by rage, she’s lost so much. It’s easy to understand why she does what she does, but it’s also hard to forgive. Her sentence at the end of Shadowlands is a just one.

I will say though, I made my first Child of the Blood character, and I’m exploring the Horde thanks to this wonderful book.

Rise of the Horde (World of Warcraft) by Christie Golden, 5 stars
Warcraft: Durotan: The Official Movie Prequel by Christie Golden, 5 stars

After Sylvanas, I had to read more, and learning about the Orcs was a good place to start.

Recently, Book Twitter was talking about “evil” races—I don’t know what the exact discourse was, but one point is that it’s lazy storytelling to classify a whole race as “evil”.

It’s easy to see why humans decided the Orcs were evil—one day a whole bunch of huge green humanoids appear and kill everyone. Evil. Easy.

But is it really? Once you’ve made your antagonist living beings, the truth becomes more nuanced.

Both books tell the story of the Orcs through Durotan’s eyes. I consider the first canon, and is the one I prefer. The second is the prequel of the movie-verse. Both books tell of a proud, resilient race that fought to survive a dying world as long as they could. In the end were they being corrupted and lead by evil? Unfortunately, yes.

Lost Planet Homicide (Audiobook) by Larry Correia, 5 stars
Ghosts of Zenith: Lost Planet Homicide (Audiobook) by Larry Correia, 5 stars

Both of these are Audible exclusives. They’ll be in audio form for a time then will be available in print.

I learned fairly recently that I really liked sci-fi/noir. Give me a hard boiled detective, put him in space, add in a little conspiracy—I’m golden.

Both books center on DCI Lutero Cade, an honest cop in a world of corruption. One hundred years ago, a corporate colony ship got lost and its only chance at survival was a planet that was extremely inhospitable to humans. The folks who live on the world now are hard people, used to harsh ways. Human lives are expensive, and sometimes it’s ok when they die by other’s hands. When it’s not ok, DCI Cade is on the case.

The twists and turns and unexpected revelations had me hooked, as did the excellent narration. The world is surprisingly well developed for these to be short stories. I loved the detailed intricacy of the world building. It’s fertile ground, and I hope Mr. Correia plays here more often.

The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov, 5 stars

It took 30 years for me to read this book, and I liked it. You can read about it HERE.

 

 

 

Assignment in Eternity by Robert Heinlein, 4 stars

I’ve been meaning to read more Heinlein. He’s got such a huge body of work, it’s slow going, especially given there’s so much else out there to read.

Assignment is a collection of four short stories:

Gulf: A collection of genetically separate humans of superior intelligence who carry themselves as benevolent rulers of mankind. They keep humanity from destroying themselves and the planet. As the story unfolds, they have their work cut out for them.
Probably my favorite story of the collection. Suspense, action, and heroics—all the things Heinlein can be counted on for doing well.

Elsewhen: A college professor teaches college students how to use the power of the mind to go anywhere in time and space.
Funky little story. Beyond the coolness of the technique, I felt like the story was wandering.

Lost Legacy: Three friends discover their latent psychic powers. They try to spread the word that anyone can expand their mind, but are quashed by the authorities. Fleeing to regroup, they discover a cabal of folks like them, who have used their powers to live extended lives, heal disease, etc. The friends find out that they’ve been intentionally thwarted by a group that uses their powers to suppress people. Our good guys thwart them of course, eventually causing the ascension of the human race.

Jerry Was a Man: Humans have mastered engineered life to the point that they can make any frivolous animal (griffons) for rich folk to play around with, as well as creating their own domestic help: Jerrys. These guys are created for all manner of work. Best thing—they’re paid in cigarettes! When they get old, they’re destroyed. But maybe they’re people. If you’re rich enough you can take the case to the courts and let them decide.

This story was made into an episode of Masters of Science Fiction (Tubi).

The best sci-fi stories for me are human stories. The idea that there can be more to being human, that our growth and power is inside us, is powerful stuff given the contemporary push for technologies outside of us *cough* AI *cough*. Robots are fun, but give me evolving humans any day.

The Lost Star of Mariage-du-Diable by Sabina Bailey, 5 stars

The It-Girl of a group of high school friends goes missing. The four friends left behind vow to live long enough to destroy the grave of the man who killed her.

Good lord this was a shock. The writing is beautiful and the ending was whoa. I just knew it was going somewhere else. I had my suspicions about who did it and wasn’t even close. This is one of those perfect short stories—it is exactly the length it should be. Impactful, brilliant. Great read.

Redemption by Kenya Wright, 3 stars

Until recently, I didn’t know Black woman/Asian Man was a thing in romance. I whole-heartedly approve.

Ebony has been running with her three children from her violent ex-husband. By accident, she ends up on Yoshiro’s property. Yoshiro is ex-muscle for the mob. They get to know each other & fall in love. It’s a slow-burn romance which, I found out, is my thing.

I have mixed feelings about this book, which was why I gave it 3-stars. For one thing, the strength of the writing isn’t consistent. The action scenes are strong and powerful, but then the scenes in between (especially the dialogue) sometimes lapse into cliche. I stuck with it because I liked Yoshiro & Ebony, separately and together.

A lot of folks liked this book, but I think I liked the idea of this book better than the actual execution.

Crystal Singing Bowls: The Angelic Sound of Healing, Relaxation and Spiritual Awakening Lobody, Ashana 5 stars

I decided my review said it best: “Just as crystal singing bowls have a healing and expansive presence, so too does this book. Ashana’s love and respect for the bowls comes through clearly and touched me deeply. I had always seen them as an instrument, a tool, but they are much, much more. My perception of the bowls has changed and I’m guided now to approach them with not only joy but with respect and gratitude.

That being said, this book is extremely thorough. Ashana grounds you in the background of sound as a healing tool and guides you all the way through picking your first bowl, playing for others, and even traveling with them! This book is an excellent resource and I predict will be the go-to for those wanting to learn about crystal singing bowls and for those wanting to uncover what’s next for their crystal bowl journey. It’s certainly opened my eyes to my own journey and I’m infinitely grateful that it crossed my path!”

That’s it for Part one. Part two coming soon!

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