Saturday, August 29, 2020

Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel by Ryan North; Kurt Vonnegut

I will read anything Ryan North writes.  He is a brilliant, funny, insightful author.  I first came to know his work through The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which is the best comic book series ever.  Period.  Full stop.  Subsequently, I sought out his other works, like his brilliant Romeo and/or Juliet and his self published book based off of his tumblr B to the F, where he recaps the bizarre novelization of Back to the Future page by page.  So when I saw that NetGalley had an eARC of his to request I jumped at it before I even realized what it was.  It turned out to be a hauntingly evocative graphic novelization of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I have never read any Vonnegut before - I think I had bounced off of his writing style back in high school.  But this graphic novel perfectly distilled the essence of the original book with perfect visuals. A comic is one of the best ways to tell a story about someone unstuck in time, because each panel is a frozen moment that still manages to convey movement.  Ryan North did a fantastic job here.  You should totally check this out!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

This is the best superhero novel that I’ve read in years!!! I follow Seanan McGuire’s twitter feed, and I pay special attention to her book reviews, because I know she reads a lot of ARCs and I know she only writes about things she loved. So I knew that when Hench showed up on NetGalley I needed to request it. Thankfully, I got an eARC because it meant I got to read it early!!! Hench is a book told from the point of view of Anna, a woman with a talent for spreadsheets and data analysis who works as hired help for supervillains. This is a world where villains can be Evil when they try to extort the mayor and equally evil when they fail to provide medical benefits. Anna has a fascinating journey exposing all of the flaws of the Good vs Evil tropes that make up this subgenre. This book compares quite favorably to The Velveteen Vs. series by Seanan McGuire and to Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, and I can’t wait to read the next book by Natalie Zina Walschots. This is a must buy!!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

I don’t like horror. I never wanted to watch scary movies as a kid. I got nightmares from E.T. I never saw anything with Freddy or Jason. So I would never ordinarily have been on the lookout for a book like The Holllow Places by T. Kingfisher, except for the fact that T. Kingfisher is also Ursula Vernon. Ms. Vernon is the author of the Hamster Princess books, which my daughter enjoys, and is a delight on Twitter (I highly recommend her thread explaining what happens when she tried the Ancient Greek method of using pottery shards in place of toilet paper). Furthermore, I recall Seanan McGuire effusively praising last year’s Kingfisher horror novel, The Twisted Ones so much that I just had to buy it ( but have not read yet). In addition, her novella Minor Mage was absolutely delightful and I cannot recommend it enough. So I decided to be brave and request an eARC of The Hollow Places. And I am SO glad that I did. The Hollow Places was fantastic. The protagonist is a recent divorcĂ©e who moves in with her uncle into a room in his tiny small town museum of taxidermy and oddities. There she and the barista next door find a portal to another world, a terrifying place of willows that are not quite willows. The characters are amazingly detailed and feel so real and the fantastical elements impinge on the story so gradually that you never lose your suspension of misbelief. The mysteries are meaty and satisfying, though the final reveal felt a little out of left field. Only a little though - the wackiness of the museum of oddities setting did help sell it. It worked in the context mostly, but it was the only  weak point in an otherwise excellent novel. I’m so glad I read this book! Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire


Short version of review: excellent book but don’t start here! It’s worth it to read this series from the beginning!

Longer version: I love Seanan McGuire. 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 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 A Killing Frost, book fourteen of this series. It is fantastic, but you should NOT dive into this unprepared. You need to read the previous volumes to really appreciate how much a master of her craft Ms. McGuire truly is. 

As the author herself has commented more than once, writing a fulfilling well planned out series is a different challenge than just writing one good standalone book. Each book in the series has to be rewarding and stand alone, while building on what came before in a way that feels fair and giving clues and hints for the future. It is no small task, and there is a reason that Seanan McGuire has been on the Hugo ballot every year the Best Series Award has existed. 

Based on A Killing Frost, I plan on nominating the October Daye series for Best Series Hugo once again and this time I bet it wins!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

I had never heard of Laura Lam until earlier this year when I read her book Goldilocks. It was quite enjoyable, and I made sure to note her down on my list of “authors I want to read more of.”  So when I saw that she and Elizabeth May had a new space opera book coming out, I quickly requested an eARC from NetGalley. I’m glad I did! 

Although this book is far less “hard sf” than Goldilocks was, it shares that book’s careful exploration of character. It’s also a rollicking adventure with lots of twists and excitement. Totally recommend it!