Book Reviews · Fantasy · POPSUGAR Reading Challenge · Science Fiction · Western · Young Adult

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020 Update: Week Twenty-Six

Good morning, everyone! I hope that you are having a wonderful weekend so far, and that you are continuing to stay healthy. As businesses continue to reopen across the U.S., Covid-19 cases have been increasing dramatically. I’d really like to encourage everyone to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines recommended by the CDC and WHO, be sure to wash your hands, and wear a mask while in public.

At the end of last week’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update, I decided it was time to set a new reading goal for myself. The goal I set was to reach 90% challenge completion before the end of June, which gave me 10 days to complete four additional Reading Challenge prompts. Since setting this goal last week, I have managed to complete three of those prompts, bringing my total up to 44 (out of 50).

I still need to complete one prompt by the end of the day on Tuesday to achieve my goal, but I’m feeling really good about what I’ve managed to accomplish this week.

A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name…

My first book of the week was A Storm of Swords, the third book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Since this is the third book of the series, there’s not very much that I can say about the plot without risking considerable spoilers for books one and two (A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings).

I’ve really been enjoying having the opportunity to finally read this series, particularly after having watched HBO’s television adaptation. It’s been very interesting to see how the books compare to the television series. This book in particular included a considerable number of differences, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series will be affected by those differences moving forward.

If you are interested in reading A Storm of Swords, you do need to have already read the first two books in the series. Otherwise, you will get very lost, very fast. You should also be aware that the series is written for an adult audience. The books contain a significant amount of content that may cause emotional distress for readers, including depictions of extreme violence (mostly in the form of medieval-style combat) and references to sexual assault/rape. Any and all ratings/warnings given to the HBO television series definitely apply to the books as well.

A western…

The second book I read this week was Firefly: Big Damn Hero, by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder. This is the first book in a relatively new series of novels based on Joss Whedon’s Firefly. It takes place a short time after the events of the final episode of the television series, sometime before the movie.

“Why can’t things just go easy for once?”

Firefly: Big Damn Hero, by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder (page 9)

When Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity arrive on Persephone to pick up their next job, the last thing they expected was having to transport a cargo of highly volatile explosives. Of course, when you’re short on money and in need of repairs, the last thing you can be is overly picky about your cargo.

Their job becomes even more complicated when the contact they agreed to meet for a side job turns out to be a fraud, and Mal is captured and delivered to a group of former-Browncoat vigilantes, who are somehow under the impression that he was a traitor to their cause. With a cargo bay filled with unstable explosives, and an Alliance cruiser interested in their ship, Shepherd Book leads half of the crew on a mission to uncover information about their missing captain, while Zoë takes command of Serenity.

This was a fantastic book! The plot and characterization were spot on, and the book is a very faithful representation of a truly amazing series. I was really impressed with how well the writers understood the characters and the world of the show. I’m already looking forward to reading the next books in the series, which include: The Magnificent Nine, The Ghost Machine, and Generations (which is due to be released on October 13th).

If you are a fan of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, you’re definitely going to want to read Big Damn Hero. It’s a face-paced read, and a convincing continuation to the television series that not only begins to fill in some of the gaps between the end of the series and the movie, but also expands on Mal’s backstory. If you’ve never seen Firefly, however, you will need to watch the series before you even consider picking up this book. Big Damn Hero makes frequent references to events and characters from the television series, and there are moments when knowledge of the show is essential in order to avoid confusion.

Even if you’re not currently thinking about reading this book, if you like science fiction and have never seen Firefly, I highly recommend taking the time to watch it. It’s one of my all-time favorite television series, and I’m certain that you will love it!

A book by a trans or nonbinary author…

The last book I finished this week was Once & Future, by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy.

Once & Future is about a teenage girl named Ari. She and her adopted brother Kay are on the run from the Mercer Company. A narrow escape forces them to crash land on Earth, which has become a protected nature preserve. While Kay repairs their ship, Ari takes the opportunity to look around, and finds a sword lodged in the trunk of an oak.

When she pulls the sword from the tree, she unknowingly wakes Merlin from a cursed sleep, setting into motion a series of events that has been happening over and over across the centuries. Ari is not just an ordinary teenage girl. She’s the 42nd reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur, and Merlin needs to make sure she’s trained and ready to take on her destiny…otherwise she’s likely to meet the same untimely end as her 41 predecessors.

I really enjoyed Once & Future! It was a very unique, fast-paced, character-driven read. This is the first time that I have read any work by Capetta and McCarthy, and I was very impressed with their ability to tell a compelling story. I was also impressed with the way in which they adapted the legend of King Arthur to appeal not only to modern teenage readers, but also to fans of the science fiction genre. The cast of characters is very diverse with respect to both sexual orientation and gender identity, and I thought it was interesting to see that diversity applied to the King Arthur legend.

I had a hard time putting this book down, and I’m really glad that I had the foresight to order a copy of the sequel, Sword in the Stars, earlier this week. It arrived in the mail a few days ago, and I will be starting it this afternoon. If you’re looking for a science fiction or young adult read that includes a diverse cast of characters and a lot of action, Once & Future is a great choice.

This week has been pretty successful in terms of the amount of progress I’ve made on the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, and I’m feeling really good about being in sight of my reading goal. Do you think I will manage to make it to 90% challenge completion by the end of June? I’ll let you know the results in next Saturday’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update, but if you’d like to know sooner, you can always find me on Twitter @UnapologBkworm.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll return to The Unapologetic Bookworm throughout next week for book reviews and other new content.

Have a great week, everyone!

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