Edel Grace

Programmer, Developer, Enthusiast

Book Review: The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Feb 21, 2018 | Comments

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

A sprawling, genre-defying epic set in a dystopian metropolis plagued by dragons, this debut about what it’s like to be young in a very old world is pure storytelling pleasure

In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. In this bombshell of a novel, Chandler Klang Smith has imagined an unimaginable world: scathingly clever and gorgeously strange, The Sky Is Yours is at once faraway and disturbingly familiar, its singular chaos grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive at all costs.

The Sky Is Yours is incredibly cinematic, bawdy, rollicking, hilarious, and utterly unforgettable, a debut that readers who loved Cloud Atlas, Super Sad True Love Story, and Blade Runner will adore.

Oh man, where do I start with this book? This book is genuinely weird and I’m still on the fence on whether or not this is a good thing.

The Setting

The world that The Sky is Yours set in is no doubt a dystopia. Dragons circle the city which is rife with drug dealers and mercenary gangs. Despite having affluent areas, I couldn’t help but imagine a city full of rubble. It’s not glamorous by any stretch of imagination but it is also lacks any charm whatsoever. One of the characters described the city as a lost cause and I would pretty much agree with him.

The Characters

Surprisingly, almost every single character is unlikable. There’s Ripple, the sheltered rich boy who treats women horrible and is incredibly entitled. Abby, his girl toy for the majority of the book, is even more sheltered and uncivilized and the literal definition of a dumb blonde. His fiancee Swanee is just as annoying and entitled as he is. His parents are even worse and I swear they are devoid of any feeling at all. His mom is like a spitting image of Abby in that she is pretty much just a tool or trophy to the ones they love.

The only character that I genuinely enjoyed was surprisingly the villain, Eisenhower Sharkey (I think that’s his name). He is a drug ring leader and killed the parents of Ripple and Swanee but Swanee falls for him and I really actually rooted for Sharkey. I mean, Sharkey fed Swanee’s drug addiction but Ripple is so useless that I can’t imagine why Swanee would ever go back to him.

The Plot

The plot is so… Out there. A million things is happening at the same time. Some of the sub-plots definitely over stayed their welcome and made me skip through it just to get to the juicier bits.

The ending made absolutely zero sense to me and felt a little bit too convenient but I accepted it just so I could finish the book. Spoiler alert: Everything turned out great and the city began to thrive again. Hmm. Okay. Alright. I was just glad it all ended.

Summary

So far, I’m being a little harsh here. I actually did enjoy this book once I got over the overall weirdness of everything in the book. Honestly, this book is not to be taken seriously. It reminds me of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens which is equally outrageous and equally silly and probably intentionally so. The writing is also dreadfully ok. There are good nuggets here and there, especially when Smith goes into exposition.

Unfortunately, this gets a 25 for me. I would only recommend this to people who I’d know would like this. I can’t think of anyone at the moment but I know they exist.

Book Blogger Hop #23

Feb 16, 2018 | Comments


Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme run by Coffee Addicted Writer. Every Friday, a question is posted for the book blog community to discuss. This week’s question is…

Have you ever found yourself acting like a favorite character in a novel? If so, which one?

Not at all! The only time I find myself acting like anyone other than myself is if I’m acting like my friends as a result of months of exposure to their quirks and traits. I rarely spend that much time with a character, even if I’m reading a series.

There have been times when I thought to myself, “I wish I could act like that character” or “I wish I could be more like that character” but I rarely act on it. If I do, it’s usually more of a universal trait rather than a specific trait that makes a character unique. For example, sometimes I wish I was as brave as some characters. But many characters are brave and they are hardly unique for being so. In conclusion, the answer is no.

Book Review: The Unreal and the Real by Ursula K. Le Guin

Feb 14, 2018 | Comments

The Unreal and the Real Volume One: Where on Earth

For fifty years, National Book Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories have shaped the way her readers see the world. Her work gives voice to the voiceless, hope to the outsider, and speaks truth to power. Le Guin’s writing is witty, wise, both sly and forthright; she is a master craftswoman.

This two-volume selection of almost forty stories taken from her eleven collections was made by Le Guin herself, as was the organizing principle of splitting the stories into the nominally realistic and fantastic.

Where on Earth focuses on Le Guin’s interest in realism and magic realism and includes eighteen of Le Guin’s satirical, political, and experimental earthbound stories.

Highlights include World Fantasy and Hugo Award winner “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” the rarely reprinted satirical short, “The Lost Children,” Jupiter Award winner, “The Diary of the Rose,” and the title story of her Pulitzer Prize finalist collection Unlocking the Air.

Stories in this volume were originally published in venues as varied as Playboy, TriQuarterly, Orbit, Redbook, and The New Yorker.

Companion volume Outer Space Inner Lands includes Le Guin’s best known nonrealistic stories. Both volumes include new introductions by the author.

I love Ursula K. Le Guin. I wrote a post about just how much she sparks my imagination and makes my insides tingle. I really enjoy her science fiction and I haven’t read any of her “realistic” fiction. This is where the books title originates. The Unreal and the Real is a two volume anthology of Le Guin’s short stories. The first volume, Where on Earth, is a collection of stories that do not have any science fiction elements in them.

This volume was actually a hit or miss on a couple of the stories. I can barely remember most of them however the ones that stuck out in my mind were: Brothers and Sisters; Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come out Tonight; and Half Past Four.

Half Past Four

I had already read this short story before. I own the book, Unlock the Air and Other Stories. The first time I read it, I was wholly confused. There were mini stories in this one story and the same characters were in each story. It seemed like their circumstances were different in each of the stories.

The introduction in Where on Earth really put the story in perspective. They were all separate and distinct stories despite having all the same characters. This was inspired from writing exercise Le Guin taught a class of poets: write a story about people with varying positions of authority.

Knowing the whole story now made me appreciate it much more. I don’t know which mini-story I preferred the most. I liked how each story kept the main traits of the characters and it seemed to actually add to their personalities. It was interesting knowing how each character would act in different circumstances and relationships with each other.

Essentially there are four characters: Ella, Ann, Todd, and Stephen.

Ella is a woman who is either Ann’s mother, step-mother, or sister. Ann is pregnant or a new mother and a sister to Todd or Ella or Stephen’s daughter. Todd is Stephen’s step-son or Ella’s brother or Ella’s son. Stephen is Ann’s father or Ella’s brother or the neighbour. It’s all very complicated when I explain it like this but it’s actually easy to keep track of.

Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight

This story was very different but also very Le Guin at the same time. A child survives a plane crash in the middle of the desert and is adopted by animals. These animals can talk and take the appearances of humans but are still very much animals. I love how Le Guin can capture the characteristics of these animals in a humanized way. For example, Coyote, is a wild and brash character, not unlike a real coyote. The animal society in the desert is also extremely fascinating.

Brothers and Sisters

Maybe it’s because Brothers and Sisters was the first story that I remember it very well. This is a story of two brothers, one pretty exceptional and the other a dreamer. Of course, in the middle of them is a girl. I was quite pleased with the outcome and while I grew to dislike some of the characters, I couldn’t fault them for their personalities.

Overall

I liked this book quite a bit. There were some stories that I didn’t particularly care for unfortunately but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I would give this book a solid 35. Le Guin is great with her words and I would recommend it to people who don’t expect her science fiction. I think in the end I prefer her fantasy/sci-fi works.

January 2018 in Review

Feb 8, 2018 | Comments

My 2018 started pretty quick. By the 2nd of January, I was back in class. I took a block week course and barely survived. My sleep schedule was terrible and waking up for an 8:00 AM class everyday was extremely jarring.

Expenses

Timeline

  • Jan 02: Started classes
  • Jan 03: Dinner at Limericks
  • Jan 06: Dinner at Seoul Korean BBQ
  • Jan 07: Winded some yarn and started on a shawl (post)
  • Jan 10: Went to the gym

    Trying to run fast

  • Jan 16: Went to a Crochet and Knitting Meetup
  • Jan 17: Went to the gym

    My gym partner took forever to come so I spent over an hour on the treadmill

  • Jan 19: Went to BlueFin for all you can eat sushi (post)
  • Jan 20: Celebrated my birthday with friends at Moon Korean BBW (post)
  • Jan 21: Went to Taco Time with my cousin for discounted food (post)
  • Jan 23: Tried Tango lessons
  • Jan 24: Dinner at Sho Sushi
  • Jan 31: Went to the gym

    My gym partner didn't show up but that's okay I planned for this

  • Jan 31 (cont’d): Also went to Kilkenny’s for a charity event that my friend was hosting. It was a lot of fun! We ate really huge burgers and played some trivia games. My brother and I were in a team together and we were extremely uncultured. That’s okay, it was still fun. One of my other friends, Ray, got super drunk and we were carpooling and it was a really interesting ride. Thankfully our driver was sober!

Expenses

Overall spending in January

Bills: Tuition, phone, and account interest/fees

Optional bills: gym and netflix

Just for fun: Mostly eating out, bought Civ 6, went to see Jumanji, and bought an app (a sleep tracker)

Bought a mouse because mine broke, not sure what the misc category is to be honest

Hours of Sleep

Tracked the hours I slept, I seem to sleep around 6.5 hours on average

Hours spent on phone

Hours I spend on my phone. Thankfully I seem to be spending less and less time on my phone

Summary

All in all, it was a good month. I spent a lot more than I wish I should have. Tuition is a no brainer but still. I need to get a job. That’s the goal for next month hopefully.

Book Review: The Knitting Sutra by Susan Gordon Lydon

Feb 7, 2018 | Comments

The Knitting Sutra

When Susan Gordon Lydon was coping with a broken arm, her craft took on new significance. While knitting was essential to strengthening her hands, it also provided her with a newfound sense of peace and creativity. Immersed in brilliant colors, textures, and images of beautiful sweaters, Lydon found healing and enlightenment in a way she had never imagined. Capturing this journey of discovery, The Knitting Sutra recounts her remarkable membership in a community of craftswomen around the world, from sweater makers in Scotland to Navajo weavers, and the adventures that her craft led her on.

As she masters new techniques and conquers old obstacles, Lydon’s story conveys how the lessons she learned from knitting, such as stillness and interdependence, later sustained her through a cancer diagnosis and even the incapacitation of her hands. The Knitting Sutra is both a meditation on craft and an affirmation for anyone seeking heartfelt comfort.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually a knitter. I mean, I knit, but I am in no means an actual knitter. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying stories related to knitting.

Initially, I thought this would be a more of a workbook that would help guide you through spiritual knitting. When I deciding whether or not to take this book out of the library, I read a snippet. Nope, it seemed to be largely a memoir. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed but like I said, I enjoy stories related to knitting.

Lydon seems to be a very spiritual person. I didn’t expect a knitter would be crossing the country seeking guidance from spiritual leaders. It was a bit out of the ordinary but I quickly grew to wish I had known Hayat and Jimmy and the likes. Lydon seems like a very well traveled and knowing person so I enjoyed following her around in her attempts to make peace with the spiritual.

Of course, the main lesson of the story is mindfulness. The main reason why I felt this book didn’t satisfy me was because I didn’t necessary learn anything new. While I do like how Lyndon approaches mindfulness, I was still left for wanting more.

What I appreciated the most however was her advice on knowing yourself. Several times throughout the book, Lyndon refers to making sweaters that never really appear like she thought they would. The sleeves would turn out too big or the garment would be slipping off her shoulders. It was best to make your own tweaks to patterns so that whatever you were making was fit for you. And mistakes were okay. Arabic weavers would often put in mistakes into their works because “Nothing but Allah is perfect.” I thought that was a good metaphor.

Overall

I give it a 25. This is not a book that I would come back to nor remember in a couple of years. It was well written and I enjoyed the content but it was ultimately lacking.

The difference between the knitting moments and the spiritual moments were too great at points. Some of the links between the two were too weak to justify. However, Lydon did make some good points throughout the book that kept me reading.

It’s a nice quick read and the fact that it’s so short justifies the time spent on it. Don’t pass it up if you have the chance but you aren’t missing much.

About

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My name is Edel Grace Altares. My programming interests include full stack development and back end development. My languages of choice are Python and Java. Outside of programming I enjoy crocheting, video games, cats, historical fiction, and reading.

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