The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu

the rise of io

Thanks Angry Robot and NetGalley for this e-ARC!

You guys, Wesley Chu is some sort of sci-fi/action wizard. As I’ve said often on here before, his Tao series is fantastic – I loved all three books and the novella that came out after. I was SUPER psyched when I found out that he was starting a new follow-up series – the events take place in the same world and chronologically after the first series, but follow a new main character. You don’t have to read the Tao series to read The Rise of Io – it’s helpful, but you can definitely start here if you want.

The Rise of Io follows a young, abrasive woman named Ella Patel – she’s a talented con-artist and thief struggling to keep her head above water in one of the poorest sections of India, recently ravaged by the alien war between the Genjix and Prophus. Hoping for a reward, she jumps in to help in a fight and then she’s inhabited by Io – an unimpressive Prophus alien who now has to get Ella trained and integrated as an agent, in an area of the world with no tactical support. Ella is not happy about the alien sharing her head, and her and Io are set to clash heads while trying to complete Io’s mission.

Ella is a riot – she’s crafty, mean, and a fabulous opportunist but she’s got a kind heart. I loved how ornery she is with Io – it’s exactly how you’d expect someone to react to an alien suddenly in their head and able to read their mind. She’s not shy about voicing her resentment. Io is an interesting alien – in contrast to Tao from the earlier books, she’s not accomplished much in her millennia on Earth. Her military ventures have been failures, and her hosts mostly insignificant. Even so, her cunning is noteworthy and her frustrations with Ella have some merit to them. Ella and Io have to try to work as a team, but it’s on shaky ground.

I admit to feeling a bit of hesitation going in, because add-ons to a beloved series can always be tricky. These are new characters, but would the story feel stale? Would the plot follow the same formula? I had nothing to worry about – Wesley Chu’s ability to write fast-paced action, entertaining characters, and new plot twists is a thing to marvel at. The Rise of Io will be released on October 4th, but I’m already searching for news about the next book.

 

Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood

 

I definitely grabbed this book because Mindy Kaling Instagrammed it. Confusingly, she seems to have deleted that post, but luckily nothing dies on the internet and there’s a screenshot out there for me to give as proof:

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Maybe she deleted it because she’s planning on faking her death and realized she might not want to give it away? Too late Mindy Kaling, sorry. Anyways, yes that was my main reason for deciding to get the audiobook and as usual, my kind of superficial reasoning paid off.

Elizabeth Greenwood sets out to learn about how to fake one’s death while feeling some serious stress about the amount of her student loans. I kind of wish she had gone into how our culture has gotten seriously out of control with the “you must go to college even if you don’t know what you want to go to college for” mindset we seem to force onto teenagers, therefore pressuring them into taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans for a weak-ass Liberal Arts degree that won’t help them get a single job, but I digress. She owes a shit ton of money and is facing a lifetime of trying to pay it back, when someone jokes “Or you could fake your own death” and she thinks HOLY SHIT YES I COULD FAKE MY DEATH! And then she decided that researching pseudocide and writing a book about it was probably a smarter choice overall, and here we are.

So, the beginning of this book was crazy interesting. You know those books that lead you to sprinkle random facts from it into conversations even if it’s not even closely related to the topic you were discussing? Yeah I had that going on. SO fun! The early chapters focus a lot on her interviews with people who work in some way with disappearing people. Frank Ahearn is a “privacy consultant” and an expert in helping people disappear, and he talks a lot about the various reasons someone might not want to be found, and the major ways in which people trip up and get themselves found. Since such a big reason for pseudocide is insurance fraud, she also talks with Steve Rambam, who provides insight into how pseudocide comes into play in bogus insurance claims. Her work with these two men was really in depth, and are probably my favorite parts of the book.

The book starts to slip a bit when she talks to John Darwin, known (apparently) for faking his death and succeeding, until he turned himself in six years later. While I’m sure it was awesome to score an interview with someone who kind of succeeded at the thing, she spent a LOT of time talking to him, and he comes off as kind of a wang. According to Elizabeth, he spent a lot of their interview time talking about how much women throw themselves as him and how easily he can hook up with younger chicks. EWW. I don’t really think he deserved quite the amount of page space (or listening time) that Greenwood gave to him, and I got bored with the chapter on him. She does use his story to touch a little bit on how faking your own death can affect family and loved ones, but overall I’d pass. She was weirdly emotionally invested in talking to him. And then she dives into famous people rumored to have faked their deaths, and this is where I realized this book wasn’t going to be as awesomesauce as it initially seemed (maybe that’s why Mindy deleted her Instagram photo??). The distance between my interest in how people try to fake their deaths and my interest in people who spend their lives researching clues to prove Michael Jackson is still alive is VAST. I just do not give a shit if Elvis is really sittin somewhere gorging himself on peanut butter and banana sandwiches. This just felt like she was really stretching to meet that page count.

Anyways, this was still a really interesting read and I do recommend it. It was fun to listen to, and who knows? Maybe some of the information will be of use to me someday. Who knows where my journey will take me? It might just be that it takes me to living in some place where no one knows my name and I don’t own or drive a car because getting pulled over by the police for some minor traffic infraction is a really easy way to blow your cover.

~Sarah

Sarah Sunday

You guys, this week was just a big ball of SUCK. Work sucked, I found out the honeyman will be away for our big 10-year anniversary next summer, the washer is leaking when it’s not used for a day or two, and then I got sick. UGH.

Reading: You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson, and Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. Because I was so goddamn busy I didn’t really get to participate in the #DiverseAThon like I wanted to, but this is what I was reading when I did get a few minutes and could focus.

Watching: I watched a lot of Cougar Town (season 1) this week. It’s my go-to comfort show.

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Listening: To some old Eminem. I don’t know why, I stumbled on some random stuff in Prime playlists.

Eating: Saltine crackers! I pull out the classics when I’m sick – crackers and canned chicken noodle soup.

Blogging: I got some reviews up this past week, and hopefully I’ll have more this week (and time to post them). But on a related note, I’m on Litsy now!! I’m one of the beta testers for the Android version, and I’m SO EXCITED. Come find me!  (SarahSaysRead of course) I’m loving having a book-centric social media app.

Thinking: About how I did manage to get up early twice this week to work out (to try to get some stress relief) and I’d like to do that more this week. Having colorful leggings totally makes it more exciting, so I just ordered some more.

 

Anticipating: Family coming to visit. I don’t know when, but I really really want my brother and mom and sister and nephew to come visit – maybe around the holidays, but hopefully sooner. I have more room in the new apartment, so I want visitors! Also, I need to buy a planner because I ordered some AWESOME fun stickers from Wrecking Ball Designs and I can’t wait to use them! Any one have good planner recommendations?

Alright, I’m going to go read now. I basically slept on and off for 12 hours yesterday, so I’m feeling better enough today to actually read and if I try really hard, maybe I can even finish a book today. How’s your weekend going?

The Hike by Drew Magary

I don’t even know where to start. Alright, well I kinda do – one day Ben decides to go for a walk. He’s a family man, out-of-town for a business meeting and staying in a small, sketchy motel in the woods of Pennsylvania. The lady at the desk says there isn’t a path to hike on, but there is. Ben walks for a while until all of the sudden, he sees two large men wearing the skins of rottweiler faces as masks and dragging a young girl’s body, and then he’s running, running, running until he no longer knows where he is. But it’s made very clear that he must stay on The Path – leaving the path means certain death. Staying on the path means only extremely likely death.

This book is BANANAS. So, Ben doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, what’s real or not real. It seems unreal that there could be an enormous cricket taking up an entire room in an otherwise abandoned house, or that his crush from his college years is in a tent with life-saving supplies, or that a foul-mouthed crab would be his best and only assistant on this weird journey – but it feels real, and Ben quickly learns that his only hope of getting back home to his family is following this damn path through to the end. This story has a very video-game feel to it, with the mostly one-way adventure and successive obstacles to overcome. It also had a bit of a Wizard of Oz feel – some of the horrors that Ben faces seem to come from his own subconscious, but this definitely isn’t a dream.

I think I enjoyed this book for the absolutely bonkers ride that it is, and I read it entirely in one day, but I’m not sure if it’s a book that will be on a favorites list or anything. I still love the author’s first book, The Postmortal, and The Hike can’t even really compare to that. Still, this was a fun, bizarre read so if that’s the kind of thing you’re in the mood for, then this is the book for you.

 

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

 

Her hope wilts on its stem before it can bloom into promise.

Here Comes the Sun is about a family of Jamaican women. Margot has been working hard for years for the fancy hotel resort; and secretly sleeping with the foreigners there for extra money to support her family. Her mom forced her to do some unspeakable things as a child, and her main focus is to provide enough money so that her little sister Thandi can avoid the same fate. It’s largely Margot’s extra flow of cash and monstrous ambition that allows Thandi to attend a good private school, where her family just knows that she’ll succeed and one day get a glamorous job that will save them all from a lifetime of poverty. Thandi, however, has things other than school on her mind. Her whole life, she’s seen the positive impact that having lighter skin can get you so she starts sneaking off to a local woman who helps her lighten her skin. For Thandi, lighter skin means more opportunity, more popularity, more safety, and more beauty. Dolores is their mother, and she spends her days selling junk to white tourists. It’s never enough to pay the bills, but she never appreciates what Margot contributes and hangs all of her hopes for a better life on Thandi.

In a country where the tourism industry continues to wreak it’s havoc on the local populace, the people have few options. When all that you’re doing isn’t enough, what else are you willing to do to save yourself and your family? And how do you deal with the fact that those sacrifices might hurt the very people you’re trying to protect?

As you might be able to tell, this is not a happy novel. The bright cover and happy-sounding title are almost in jest, because by the end I just felt a little hopeless. But it touches on SO many important issues – race, homophobia, rape, skin politics, capitalism, prostitution, insecurities, and more. The despair feels so real, which is one of the things that makes this a great book. Nicole Dennis-Benn is a really talented writer and I can’t wait to see what else she writes. I’d feel weird saying that I “enjoyed” the book, since there was so much devastation, but it was well worth the read and definitely deserves the buzz it’s been getting.

(And if you’re participating in #DiverseAThon this week, this would be a good book to include in your reading pile.)

~Sarah

 

Sarah Sunday

Hey y’all! I’ve spent most of this weekend relaxing around the house and avoiding all humans! I read a whole book yesterday! It’s been awesome.

Reading: You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson – I was already excited that I got approved for this on Edelweiss, and then I found out that the author will be at Book Riot Live! Score.

Watching: Season 1 of Cougar Town, because it’s fabulous and I’ve been feeling extra Ellie.

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Listening: To Cougar Town in the background. Duh.

Eating: I had two Twinkies for breakfast.

Blogging: Yup, I have a big list I’m workin on. Most notably, Here Comes the Sun and The Hike reviews. I’m having a hard time with those though… hoping to get them done today. Having the new laptop helps, because I literally dreaded using the old one.

Thinking: I don’t wanna go to work tomorrow. And also, I hope the honeyman gets home soon but I should really probably shower sometime soon.

Anticipating: Next weekend. And maybe actually tackling the rest of the unpacking this week so that everything is set up.

Aaaaand also, I wanted to point your attention to the upcoming #DiverseAThon starting tomorrow, running from 9/12 to 9/19.

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I don’t think there’s a sign-up post or anything (or at least I haven’t seen one) so just join in however you feel like – booktubing, instagram, twitter, blog posts, etc – and shine some light on diverse authors and stories. I’ll be following the hashtag all week and reading as much as I can by diverse authors only. Show your support and join in!

~Sarah

August Recap

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I read 4 books in August, same as July… So I’m glad that I managed at least that, even with moving and stuff. In all fairness one of them was a short play, but still. Oh, and 19 issues of comics.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – This YA novel just came out this week, but I read the e-galley. Honestly, it didn’t live up to my high hopes, but maybe the sequels will strengthen it a bit?

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling – I liked Scorpius, but otherwise this didn’t really feel like a HP story. I would’ve been okay without it.

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Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole (Off the Grid #2) – Second in the author’s post-apocalyptic romance series, this focuses on John falling for the man trying to steal from their vegetable garden. Looking forward to starting the third book!

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Damn, I still haven’t gotten around to writing an actual review of this. Basically, I went and bought the hard copy before I even finished reading the e-galley. It’s fantastic. This is my third Whitehead novel and he rocks.

 

STATS – BOOKS

Books read: 4

Female authors: 3 (75%)

Non-white authors: 3 (75%)

Format breakdown: 2 e-book, 2 print

STATS – COMICS

Issues read: 19

Female authors/illustrators: 7

Non-white author/illustrators: 4

Format breakdown: All print.

Some goals for September – read at least 5 books (almost done with my 2nd, so should be possible) and catch up on blogging things. Now that my book room is all set up at home, and I have a new laptop, this should be a breeze.

How was your August?

September Monthly TBR

I’m baaaack!

I read 4 books in August, which honestly was more than I thought I’d be able to, so that’s cool, plus 19 issues of comics. Not too bad. We’re all moved into the new place and books are unpacked, so I can finally get back into the swing of things with blogging and such. Yay! So this is late, but here’s what I’m gonna try for this month.

From top to bottom:

  • Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – Continuing on with my Outlander re-reads. Not sure if’ I’ll actually finish this in September, but I’d like to dive into it.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – Because it’s one of the books on my physical “unread” shelf.
  • Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn – I actually only have about 130 pages left in this – so far I strongly recommend.
  • The Hike by Drew Magary – New Drew Magary novel! I’m excited but I also admit to being a little hesitant because what if it’s not as good as his first book? It’s not a sequel, but you still always have that risk, ya know?
  • Jessica Jones: The Pulse, The Complete Collection by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley – Library find win!

On the Kindle:

  • You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson – ARC and I’m really looking forward to it, and the author is going to be at Book Riot Live!
  • The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle – Another ARC and the premise reminds me of the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome so I’m quite excited to start it.
  • The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine – Seriously, I have a ton of ARCs for books coming out in October. I’ve heard great things about Alameddine so I bet this will be a good one!
  • More by Hakan Gunday – Another ARC, I think this is a novel about the human traffickers who smuggle refugees into Greece.

And of course, I have ton of other books on my Kindle waiting for me. After my books being packed for so long though, I’m finding myself reaching for print more, so I’m struggling a tiny bit with e-book reading. I’m sure that will fade.

What else are you excited to read this month?

~Sarah

It’s Friday!

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Happy Friday! Finally! This has been the slowest week ever.

This is actually an update to let you know things will probably be silent around here until around Labor Day (not that I’ve been super active, but ya know).We get our keys to our new place today so there will be lots of moving and unpacking and working and eating takeout. Plus, I’m hanging with my niece and nephew this weekend while my sister goes on a trip, and I have work still, and yeah. All the things!

So here’s what you’ll hopefully have to look forward to after my brief little hiatus:

  • my September TBR
  • a mini-review recap of August
  • pictures of my bookshelves once they’re all set up
  • a review or post about The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • a review of Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood
  • possible reviews or thoughts on some e-galleys I got approved for and have kind of started but not really finished yet
  • musings on getting ready to go to Book Riot Live in November

I’ll still be active on Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat  (SarahSaysRead on all three) so you can see all my moving shenanigans and chat with me there🙂

Hope y’all are doing lovely!!

Sarah Sunday

Last week was THE WORST, a bunch of people were on vacation so work was crazy busy. I’m really bummed that it’s already Sunday.

Reading: Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood (audio), Seven Skeletons by Lydia Pyne (e-galley), and Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole (e-book).

Watching: Scrubs and basically nothing else. Not a lot of TV-watching happening over here because we’ve been diving into Borderlands a LOT. I’m working on my Maya character.

Listening: Playing Dead, and sometimes some In the Heights or Hamilton to mix it up. My niece and nephew finally discovered how awesome Hamilton is so I’m extra looking forward to watching them all next weekend.

Eating: I had a breakfast empanada at the public market yesterday and it was SO GOOD and dammit why don’t we have more empanada places in this town?

Blogging: I really need to wrote reviews for The Underground Railroad and Labyrinth Lost, it just hasn’t happened yet.

Thinking: About working out, which probably won’t happen today because I got up late and I’m doing laundry and already showered… but I have new workout clothes that I’m really excited to wear, so soon.

Anticipating: Getting the keys to our new apartment on Friday! Woohoooooo!!!

How has your week been?

~Sarah