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.  

Thursday, September 23, 2021

When Sorrows Come by Seanan McGuire

 



Amazing, satisfying, full of joy! The worst part of this book is the title - no sorrows here, only happiness!


I love Seanan McGuire. (Note: I review a bunch of her books so I am copying part of some of my other reviews here to save time.). She has quickly become my favorite living writer and I feel very lucky that she is so prolific. I was first introduced to her work when her book Parasite, written as Mira Grant, was nominated for a Hugo Award. I loved it and quickly devoured the Newsflesh series before I realized that Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire were the same person. 


I started reading her works under her own name, starting with Sparrow Hill Road, which is amazing, but I picked it because I was intimidated by her long running October Daye series. I had read some Urban Fantasy before, and I fondly remember Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books, but my tastes run more to science fiction and then secondary world fantasy, so I was hesitant to dive into such a long series. I picked up the first book, Rosemary and Rue, when it was on sale as a kindle daily deal, and I found it somewhat disappointing compared to her other work. I reminded myself that it was her first published novel, so I cut it some slack. Then Incryptid was nominated for the Best Series Hugo in 2018 and I dove into that instead. I loved it! So I vowed to give Toby another chance. And I was so glad that I did! It is no one of my favorite series. 


I was overjoyed when The publisher and NetGalley awarded me an eARC of When Sorrows Come (I had already preordered a copy beforehand). Minor spoilers: this is the wedding we have been waiting for! October and Tybalt! And it’s everything you could want. Bringing back old characters, royal coup hi-jinx, so much stabbing, so much blood, and just marvelous character work. And the bonus novella just kept on bringing the joy! It’s all character work, with some long simmering tensions starting to thaw in a way that is incredibly satisfying. 


October Daye is on the top of my best series Hugo ballot - she deserves to win. This type of long running series excellence is what this award was designed for and none of the other nominees come close. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente


I love Cat Valente's books - my daughter and I read all of the Fairyland books together and I ADORED Space Opera. So I was excited when Tor announced what I thought was a sequel to The Future Is Blue, my favorite story in Ms. Valente's short story collection of the same name.  So I was initially confused and disappointed when I started listening to the audiobook eARC I got from NetGalley and it turns out that The Past is Red is an expansion, not a sequel.  The story was enjoyable, but so incredibly grim that it really detracted from my enjoyment of the book - until the end, when a glimmer of hope sparkled, and I could climb out of the funk that the book had put me in.  The narrator, while good at her job, had a very thick accent and I don’t personally think she was a good fit for the content.  This wasn’t my favorite Valente,  but even weak Valente is still pretty darn good. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

 Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune


I loved the Extraordinaries and Flash Fire by TJ Klune, so I was so excited when NetGalley and Tor gave me an eARC of his new book Under the Whispering Door in exchange for an honest review. Sadly, this one missed the mark for me. The book is a about Wallace, who starts out as an asshole who is a horrific caricature of a greedy lawyer. Seriously, it’s like the author’s only experience of what a lawyer is is from the “Single Female Lawyer” show on Futurama. Anyway, Wallace dies, and meets a Reaper and a Ferryman who are supposed to help him move on to the next plain of existence. Then, in an utterly unconvincing manner, Wallace changes his entire character and becomes a good person and also falls in love with the Ferryman. Finally, in a completely unearned development that upends the core premise of the book, Wallace is resurrected to live happily ever after. Of all of the ghosts we encounter or hear of in this book, Wallace is the least deserving of resurrection - what about young Lea?


If this had been a novella, maybe I could’ve been convinced to like it, but this book was incredibly long and drawn out and just draaaaaaged. It was well written, and I like the author a lot, and will totally read his next book, but this one did not work for me. Your mileage may vary. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Fan Fiction by Brent Spiner



Star Trek is my fandom.  I remember when I became a Trekkie (spring of 1989) and I have loved it ever since. If you re curious, my current ranking of best Trek series as of today is:


LDS

TNG

DS9

DSC

TOS

PIC

TAS

VOY

ENT


But this could change tomorrow.  I have been a Next Gen fan since season 2, and have been to more than my fair share of Trek conventions.  So when I read an article on SYFY Wire about Brent Spinner’s not-quite-a-memoir noirish novel using the TNG actors as character, I was intrigued enough to request an eARC from NetGalley.  My opinion - better than TekWar, but not great.  As a memoir, it leaves much to be desired. It doesn’t cover a whole lot of detail about Brent Spiner‘s life. Most of what it does cover, about his terrible stepfather who was physically abusive, was interesting and I would’ve liked more of a traditional memoir or even biography. The mystery of a obsessive fan stalking Brent Spiner started out good, but there were so many red herrings that the final solution to the mystery was quite unsatisfying and somewhat inscrutable. The FBI agent and bodyguard who were beautiful identical twins who were both attracted to Mr. Spiner just seemed like the most blatant wish fulfillment fantasy that added nothing to the plot. Many of the jokes fell flat. I did enjoy it, because it was light and breezy and a fine beach read for the end of summer. But it’s hard to recommend. 



Sunday, August 1, 2021

Being Seen by Elsa Sjunneson


I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, but I was intrigued when I heard about this book. The author is a nominee this year for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award. I was reading her website and some of her essays in the Hugo voter packet and her website noted that she had this book coming out this year, so I requested a copy from NetGalley. The book is very well written and I really like her writing style. I felt like I really got to know her as a person and I loved her use of footnotes. I don’t know any deaf blind people and I know very few disabled people so a lot in this memoir was  - well, I was going to say “eye-opening”, but I’m going to try to use less ableist language in my own writing, so instead I’ll say it was edifying. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed reading this book. My only complaint is that it was a memoir and autobiography, and therefore jumped around a lot in the authors life and left several gaps making me wish that I knew more. Still, that’s a small quibble. I very much enjoyed it.