Classic Remarks: Classic Book You’re Afraid to Pick Up

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is a classic novel you are afraid to pick up? Why?

I should preface by saying that in 2020 I finally read the Classic on my tbr that I was most intimidated by, which was Lonesome Dove. I was intimidated partly because of its size (it was 800 pages long!) and the fact that it was a Western, which is easily my least familiar genre. I had no idea what I was going to get, and 800 pages of I don’t know what I’m going to get was pretty scary! I ended up liking it well enough, I think I gave it 4-stars, but it’s not one I would purchase or re-read. You can read my sort-of-review here if you want.

Right now there actually aren’t very many classics on my tbr, and most of them are books that I would call “modern classics”. Meaning, written after 1950. They are books that have made it into the literary canon, but maybe aren’t old enough yet to really refer to as classics. And there is one in particular that I’m nervous about.

I am, of course, referring to Kindred by Octavia Butler.

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Review: Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Series: Red Rising
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5-
Content Warning: Rape (off-the-page)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. [redacted by reviewer because I feel like this is spoilery]

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.


This is going to be a short review, because I didn’t really connect with this book, but I’m not sure that I fully understand why.

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Review: Heroine Complex

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Series: Heroine Complex
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.


Heroine Complex was completely different from what I was expecting, but still everything I was hoping for. It was exciting, funny, sexy, and full of heart.

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Review: Prime Deceptions

Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes

Series: Chilling Effect
Genre: Science Ficion
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra find themselves once again on the fringe of populated space—and at the center of a raging covert war. When Eva’s sister asks for help locating a missing scientist, promises of a big paycheck and a noble cause convince Eva to take the job despite lingering trust issues.

With reluctant assistance from her estranged mother, Eva and her crew follow the missing scientist’s trail across the universe, from the costume-filled halls of a never-ending convention to a dangerous bot-fighting arena. They ultimately find themselves at the last place Eva wants to see again—Garilia—where she experienced her most shameful and haunting failure.

To complete her mission and get paid, Eva must navigate a paradise embroiled in a rebellion, where massive forests and pristine beaches hide psychic creatures and pervasive surveillance technology. Can she find her quarry while avoiding the oppressive local regime, or will she be doomed to repeat past mistakes when her dark deeds come to light?


This series is such a blast to read! Chilling Effect was one of my favorite books of 2019, and Prime Deceptions was just as good. Both books are as smart as they are funny, and as thoughtful as they are exciting.

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Review: Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert

Series: Dune Chronicles
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating:
⋆⋆⋆

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.


Setting out to write a review of Dune seems both pointless and impossible. It has already gone down in history as THE Space Opera to end all space operas. It is regularly compared to The Lord of the Rings in terms of both influence and popularity in the speculative fiction genre. The themes of the book endure these decades later.

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Thoughts about Classic Sci-Fi via The Martian Chronicles

I’ve always considered myself a fan of classic Sci-Fi. I love Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Carl Sagan. Though I admit to having never read any Octavia Butler (sorry, her books look weird!), I feel that I’ve read a good chunk of the well-known authors. But I’ve never been a fan of Ray Bradbury’s.

Fahrenheit 451 is just … not for me. But I thought that this year I would give The Martian Chronicles a try to see what I thought. While I liked it better than Fahrenheit, I discovered that a FANTASTIC story was not enough to help me overcome my distaste for the way Bradbury writes. It’s not bad, it’s just not what I enjoy. But as I was reading, I really noticed a lot of the things that make classic sci-fi so entertaining, and I thought I would share my thoughts with you all.

Seeing their predictions of the future is fun.

This is always one of my favorite things about reading classic sci-fi. It’s really entertaining to see what they got right and what they got wrong. One of the main things that is nearly always wrong is the timeline. In The Martian Chronicles Bradbury has people settling Mars by 1999. Haha, Hank and John Green would be tickled. Instead, we’re sitting here on 2020 hoping beyond hope that our next robot makes it safely to Mars.

The technology is always so hit and miss too. Like in this book, they have the capability of getting to Mars, within a few short months no less!, but they haven’t developed any means of communicating with Earth once they get there. I don’t know, that’s just really fun for me, to see how their predictions held up.

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Review: All Systems Red

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries
Genres: Science-Fiction, Novella
Maturity Level: 4-
View on Goodreads
Rating:
⋆⋆⋆⋆

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.


What an enchanting read! All Systems Red was a perfect blend of sci-fi adventure with hard science fiction, all packed into a quick, light novella. It was funny, sweet, moderately thought-provoking, and entertaining as heck.

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Review: Chilling Effect

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Series: Chilling Effect
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family.

To free her sister, Eva will risk everything: her crew, her ship, and the life she’s built on the ashes of her past misdeeds. But when the dominoes start to fall and she finds the real threat is greater than she imagined, she must decide whether to play it cool or burn it all down. 


This is one of the most fun Sci-Fi books I’ve read in a long time, and I really enjoy a good ol’ fashioned just-for-fun Sci-Fi romp. If Becky Chambers wrote a John Scalzi book, the result would be something like this.

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Review: World War Z

World War Z by Max Brooks

Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”


It’s been years since I read this book, so while I remembered that it was brilliant, I admit that I had forgotten how brilliant it is and why. Guys, this book is SO WELL CRAFTED. It’s not at all what you would expect, and the things that make it good aren’t the things you might typically look for in a zombie book. In fact, I’ll come right out and say that I actually don’t like zombies. At all. I don’t think they’re scary or interesting. But this book is gripping and fascinating anyway.

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Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Genres: Thriller, Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.


I am beginning to discover that maybe thrillers aren’t for me. This one is great. It’s smart, there’s no gratuitous violence for the sake of it, it moves fast. But I was just, meh.

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