Friday, December 31, 2021

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K.J. Parker

 I had never read anything by KJ Parker before, but I remember Jo Walton speaking fondly about his prior books in this world, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, so I was thrilled to get an eARC from Orbit and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Jo Walton described Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City as a “grabby” book - a book that grabs you, that you can grab and not want to put down. This book was definitely grabby, with a fun first person narrator that was not necessarily likable but fun to be in the head of. 

As a former classical studies major, I really appreciated most of the author’s callbacks and references to actual history (those that I picked up on, at least - I’m sure I missed a bunch). 

A few times, towards the end of the novel, some of the coincidences felt a little too contrived, but this is a minor quibble. The book was super fun from start to finish and I wholeheartedly recommend it. I am going to go check out the earlier books by this author soon!

Monday, December 20, 2021

The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 2 edited by Jonathan Strahan

 As I have said before on more than one occasion, I am wary of anthologies - I worry about changes in quality and tonal whiplash between stories in themed multi-author collections.  But I really enjoyed Jonathan Strahan’s first volume of this year’s best series last year, and I was right that I would like this year’s too! Thanks, NetGalley, for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.  Probably my favorite story was The Pill by Meg Ellison, an amazing story that had a real core of truth to it. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Chef's Kiss by Jarrett Melendez

 After weeks of contemplating the cute cover of this graphic novel, I finally requested it from NetGalley.  I’m glad I did! The book was as cute as the cover made me expect it would be. The story is slight - Ben has graduated college, looking for work, finds a restaurant where he fits in, despite his original plans to be a writer.  The story is a nice. Owing of age tale of a boy/man learning to make his own decisions. The romance is nice, a tad slow, but overall very cute.  Some weird choices marred the book from being perfect for me.  The stoner roommate character detracted from every scene he was in - he added nothing to the plot and was just overall terrible.  The pig-as-food critic idea was kinda neat, but the scene where he is smoking a cigarette as a shorthand way of saying he was having a food orgasm fell completely flat.  Overall, a book long on cuteness, if a tad short on substance. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell

love Peter F Hamilton! I love the Commonwealth books so much, as well as the Void trilogy, and I adore Great North Road.  I thought the Salvation Sequence was hit and miss, but when I finished reviewing it, I said that I looking forward to trying his next series. And I was so right! I got an audio advanced reader copy of A Hole in the Sky and it was fantastic! So when I found out he had a novella coming out. Few months later I was excited to try Light Chaser, which Mr. Hamilton co-wrote with Gareth L. Powell.   

While the Light Chaser wasn’t bad, it did not live up to my expectations.  Sometimes, when two authors collaborate, it works seamlessly and one would never know it was a joint effort by two different minds.  (I’m looking at you, James S. A. Corey.). Sometimes, it feels less seamless.  Sadly, Light Chaser fell into this camp.  While the book had some interesting concepts, the execution felt flawed.  I found the change in writing styles in different segments to be a bit jarring.  

 I am very much looking forward to everything else Mr. Hamilton chooses to write, but I don’t think Mr. Powell is to my taste.  But I appreciate and thank Tor and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

Oh, I so wanted to love this book! 

I have been reading a lot of fantasy lately, and I really was jonesing for some good science fiction. I had heard of the author Tade Thompson, and heard good things, but hadn’t gotten around to Rosewater (which is on my TBR pile).  So when I saw a new book by him available as an eARC from Orbit on NetGalley I got excited. It sounded like it would be right up my alley - locked room murder mystery on a space ship! What fun! And the book started out very promisingly. We’re introduced to Shell, the young woman on her first voyage as captain. Then we meet Fin, the disgraced investigator trying to get his job back. 

And from there, the book spirals out of control, like the ship falling out of orbit. It feels like the authority had a bunch of interesting ideas but no coherent way to put them together into one story. They don’t all feel like the belong to the same story. All of the characters are ciphers- none of them get any development and they all felt flat and samey. 

Sometimes it feels like the author got 1/3 of the way into the book and didn’t know where it was going and threw in something new. Robot wolf! Evil AI! Political drama with earth! Vengeful exploited workers! Aliens who might be ghosts! It’s all too much and none of it works. 

But I think the biggest problem is that it’s not a good mystery. There are no clues. There are no suspects. The author just puts in an extremely long infodump chapter 2/3 of the way through telling you who is the bad guy and why. 

All that being said, I liked the writing style and I might try another book by Tade Thompson. But not right away. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne Valente

I still love Cat Valente's books - as Ive mentioned before, my daughter and I read all of the Fairyland books together and I ADORED Space Opera. So I was excited when Tor announced Comfort Me With Apples, which, based on its description, I assumed was going to be some sort of Stepford Wives/Snow White mashup. Spoiler alert:  I was half right. (The other half was not Snow White but the book of Genesis)

Sophia lives an idyllic suburban existence, surrounded by friendly neighbors when her husband travels for work, but she becomes unnerved when she discovers someone else’s hair in a hidden hairbrush and starts to uncover secrets that eventually unravel her marriage, her town, and her very existence. 

The writing is beautiful, lyrical, evocative, and amazing. Ms. Valente is a singular talent. My enjoyment of this book was definitely enhanced by the narrator, who handled the material admirably. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a free audio eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

Last year, when I reviewed Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed, I said “After reading this book, I will definitely pick up the next book by Premee Mohamed.  This author has a great deal of potential and I look forward to seeing what else she writes.”  When NetGalley listed this new novella by Ms. Mohamed, I was happy to check it out, and I’m glad I did.  The Annual Migration of Clouds is much more polished and better written than her debut novel.  This is a post-apocalyptic novella, set at a repurposed university where survivors are ekeing out an existence, where many people are infected with a parasite of some sort that changes their behavior to push self-preservation.  The protagonist is offered acceptance into a college far away that her mother argues does not exist.  The author captures the mood of this world perfectly, even if she doesn’t quite put forth enough worldbuilding to  fully justify how it could exist in its current format.  Like in her first novel, the character work and evocative descriptions are standouts.