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In-Hand TBR Talk

My TBR list technically consists of books that I already own and have mostly started... while I have a second TBR list, those are books I don't have in the immediate queue. What follows are the books at the forefront of my attention and the top of my TBR!

I tend to get to new releases and standalones ASAP, so these make up the majority of my ever-changing TBR, but when it comes to the end of series or shows, I tend to hesitate on the ending. I just don't want things to be over. The current bane of my existence? The fifth book in the Red Rising series.

I passed this series along to a friend as a birthday present, and they're catching up quick. Since the last book came out, I've yet to finish it, too afraid of the wait before the last book comes out. (UHH Pierce Brown, can we get a date on that???) So it's in a perpetual place of honor on my TBR shelf...

At least until Brown announces a title and release date for the final book!

Currently my must-read TBRs include Buzz Kill by David Sosnowski, Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang, The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso by Dante Alighieri.

So far, as you can see in the picture above, I've started Altered Carbon and The Poppy War, and I've finished Imagine Me by Tahereh Mafi, Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff, and The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White. I started the former books before I started studying for my Master's degree comprehensive exam in Literature and Rhetoric/Composition, so those went on the backburner while I read and studied my exam texts.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (2002) Science Fiction

This is actually one of the only books I read after watching the t.v. show. This whole concept really drew me in when the Netflix show was released in 2018. To this day, it's still one of my all-time-favorite shows.

The series follows Takeshi Kovacs, one of my favorite characters in literature, on a futuristic planet called Harlan's World. 250 years earlier, Takeshi was an envoy, fighting against a future that was fast approaching. In this reality, human consciousness is transferred from body to body (called "sleeves") in a computer chip called "cortical stacks." Because it's so expensive to replace sleeves, most people can't afford to do it until the end of their life, so they live through the entire aging process multiple times. Most choose not to resleeve more than once or twice - choosing true death instead. Kovacs and the enjoys envision a future where death is only for the poor, and the uber-wealthy can afford to design and clone new bodies to live forever and thus, control everything.

Fighting against the UN, Kovacs was "killed" - his body destroyed and his cortical stack put on ice. After 250 years on the stacks, Kovacs wakes up in a new body, on a new planet, and in the middle of the reality he tried to stop.

And the worst of it? He's been brought out to solve the "murder" of one of the uber-wealthy men he despises. A man who was resleeved into a new body but who can't remember who killed him. A man who promises that Kovacs wont go back into the stacks if he can find the killer.

I was over halfway through this novel when I stopped to study for my exam, and there are two more books in the series, Broken Angels (2003) and Woken Furies (2005). It's beyond creative. The sci-fi elements have a twinge of steampunk and old-school Victorian feels.

Buzz Kill by Sosnowski (2020) Science Fiction

This is one I haven't started, but I received it in the Scribbler book box a few months ago. I typically don't read novels about high school students much anymore, but Pandora Lynch doesn't sound like your average teenager. From Amazon, the summary is as follows:

Pandora Lynch lives in Alaska with her single dad, an online therapist for Silicon Valley’s brightest and squirreliest. Homeschooled by computer and a self-taught hacker, Pandora is about to enter high school to learn how to be normal. That’s the plan at least.

NorCal runaway George Jedson is a hacker too—one who leaves the systems he attacks working better than before. After being scooped up by a social media giant, will George go legit—or pull off the biggest hack ever? Not even his therapist knows for sure, but maybe the headshrinker’s daughter…

After meeting in cyberspace, the two young hackers combine their passions to conceive a brainchild named BUZZ. Can this baby AI learn to behave, or will it be like its parents and think outside the box?

With a hilarious and deeply empathetic narrative voice, this elegiac and unapologetically irreverent novel is both humorous and tragic without ever taking itself too seriously.

While this book has mixed reviews, I'm interested to see how it comes together. Most sci-fi books I delve into have older characters dealing with grander, world-saving problems. But the thought of two offbeat kids coming together in this modern, technological-age really sounds appealing. While it's classified as Sci-fi with a little bit of Steampunk, what I've read about it so far seems more like a technology-filled contemporary! But I guess we'll see what they do with AI within the pages of Buzz Kill that makes it more than it seems.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (2019) Fantasy

Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors of all time. From Shiver to The Scorpio Races to The Raven Boys (and everything in between), I've spent a lot of time in Stiefvater's worlds. Call Down the Hawk is a sequel series to my favorite, The Raven Boys. This quick synopsis does include TRB spoilers, so skip to the next TBR novel on this list if you're planning to read it! (And you should be. It amazes me every time!)

(The Raven Boys Spoilers!) CDtH is the story of Ronan Lynch, one of the best and most rounded characters in The Raven Boys. In the original series, Ronan was the "tough guy," the scary one. The one who cared nothing for school but was viciously loyal to his friends, Gansey, Adam, Noah, and eventually, Blue. But more than that, Ronan is a dreamer. When he sleeps, he pulls things from his dreams, whether he wants to or not. With a better grasp of his gift, Call Down the Hawk follows Ronan on his struggle to have a life that isn't marred by the monstrosities he brings back with him.

With his own mother a dream brought from his father's head, and his brother from his own, Ronan knows the horror of what happens to them when the dreamers die, and Ronan is desperate to control his dreams before they become too much for him and cost him everyone he's ever loved. Little does he know, he's not his own worst enemy, and he's not the only one putting his - and his brother's - life in danger.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (2018) Fantasy/Historical

The Poppy War takes place in China, inspired by/based around the Second Sino-Japanese War, and focuses on an orphan named Rin who secretly trains to be admitted to the Sinegard Academy. The story is complicated by allusions to history and magical abilities that are grossly at play in the middle of a war between kingdoms. Rin is sent to the front lines, and must traverse the line between winning the war and losing herself.

The writing in The Poppy War is not like much of what I've read. It's a slower-seeming novel. I'm only about halfway through the novel, and I'm still waiting for it to pick up again. But the characters really are the driving force of the first-half of the novel. The historical and mythological elements really turn the book up a notch, and it makes me want to better understand Chinese history and myth in order to catch all the allusions that Kuang based her novel on.

Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1472) Narrative Poem

OKAY so this has been on my list for a very long time, and I'm sure that it needs no introduction. But I'm going to introduce it anyway! The Divine Comedy consists of three parts (canticles): the Inferno, the Purgatorio, the Paradiso. Granted, like most people, I only know The Inferno, but I would like to get through all three portions someday.

I'm currently reading the John Ciardi edition of the text, hoping the footnotes will help me through (and by reading, I mean I read some and haven't looked at it in a month - but technically this is the newest edition to my TBR). According to the translator's note of the text, The Divine Comedy is one of the toughest reads, so I don't have a lot of faith that I'll get through it any time soon. Especially not when I'm about to start another (post)graduate program.

From Wikipedia, the Inferno "tells the journey of Dante through Hell guided by the ancient, Roman poet, Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the "realm ... of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen." As an allegory the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin."

Basically (and very over-simplified), author Dante puts himself into the story by putting himself in Hell and working his way through the nine circles, led by the poet Virgil. During this period, Dante begins to see his sin and ultimately rejects sin, which allows him to move into Purgatorio, where he will meet Beatrice When they meet at the end of Purgatorio, she becomes his guide all the way through Paradiso.

Dark Age (Red Rising) by Pierce Brown (2019) Science Fiction

Dark Age is the second book in the sister series (sequel series) to Red Rising. RR is my favorite book series, and I always have a hard time talking about it because I just want to rant. It leaves me a bit jumbled up and speechless. Like I said, I've put Dark Age on hold, because I'm worried about the major book hangover I'm going to have when there's nothing left in the RR world for me to read. I'm really hopeful that Brown will take mercy on me and get his next and last book (in the series) out. Fingers crossed that he's writing it or editing it or something right now.

Since I don't want to give you any spoilers, let me tell you about Red Rising instead of Dark Age. Red Rising focuses on the book-character loml, a helldiver in the mines of Mars named Darrow. Darrow is 17 at the start of the book, married to Eo, and blissfully in love with her, willfully blind to everything else. In the society on Mars, the classes of people are split into castes and designated with a color. Darrow is a red. The lowest color in the hierarchy. He and his people live underground in the mines of Mars and have never the surface of the planet or the stars above.

The Reds were sent to Mars to cultivate it and make it habitable. They're mining a gas that fuels spaceships and machinery in the universe. This gas would make it possible to terraform the surface of the planets, bring the other colors to Mars, and liberate Darrow's people from their short, dangerous lives lived in the dark beneath the uninhabitable planet.

But Darrow soon learns that there's more to the story than any of the Reds know, and it sets off a chain reaction that puts Darrow at the helm of a revolution, a Red Rising.

I hope you found a book or two to add to your own TBR lists! If you're like me and keep two separate running lists for going-to-read and going-to-read-soon, I'd love to hear about the books at the top of that TBR!

What are some reads you aspire to? Like myself with the Divine Comedy? And what are some rereads you find constantly jumping to the top of your TBR?


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