Review: My Beautiful Life by K.J. Parker

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ARC received from the publisher (Subterranean Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve always been interested in reverse stories, where the ending (in this case, the death of the narrator) is known from the start, and then they slowly work its way towards it. Where the question is not what happens as much as how it happens. And I have enjoyed what I read of K.J. Parker so far.

I’ve done some truly appalling things in my life. I’m bitterly ashamed of them now. Saying I did them all for the best—and saying, those things weren’t my idea, other people made me do them, is just as bad; admitting that I’m a spineless coward as well as morally bankrupt. I’m a mess, and no good nohow.

But despite the catchy opening, I was not…quite satisfied with what I got.

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Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

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ARC received from the publisher (Saga Press) on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have first heard of the book on twitter and got curious when I learned it was inspired by a song. At the time, I haven’t read any of Solomon’s books (though my friends have recommended me An Unkindness of Ghosts plenty) nor have I heard of Clipping. But I went and listened to The Deep – it was not my usual type and yet I liked it. I liked it a whole lot.

And the ever-important question: Was the book any good? Hell yes. Though I was a bit unsure at the start, it did pretty much exactly what I expected from the song, and more.

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Review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #4)

Rezultat iskanja slik za In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

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I have thought this novella was just what I wanted. Something short, something warm, something familiar, right? I didn’t expect it’d be so sad – much sadder than the other Wayward Children novellas so far  – but then, I read Every Heart a Doorway, I should have. 

At eight years old, Katherine Lundy already knew the shape of her entire life. Could have drawn it on a map if pressed: the long highways of education, the soft valleys of settling down. She assumed, in her practical way, that a husband would appear one day, summoned out of the ether like a necessary milestone, and she would work at the library while he worked someplace equally sensible, and they would have children of their own, because that was how the world was structured.

Unfortunately, it also suffered from pacing issues.

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Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis (The Harwood Spellbook #1)

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This was a cute little romance novella, but unfortunately, not the kind of romance I’m into.

Cassandra is the first female magician in Angland. Or, rather, was. A while ago she lost her powers, as well as broke her betrothal to the equally brilliant magician Wrexham. Now trapped in a house party with her ex-fiancé, meddling family members, a promise made in haste, and mysteriously bad weather, things are getting increasingly complicated.

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Review: To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

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ARC received from the publisher (Harper Voyager) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

And Becky Chambers has done it again. I know that’s a cliché line to use in a review, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few decades she will be remembered as one of the greats. This is the exact kind of thought-provoking, insightful, ultimately deeply human sci-fi that makes up the best the genre has to offer.

However, I went in with entirely the wrong expectations so I will say this: don’t expect another Wayfarers. Expect discussion of the ethics of space exploration. Expect your mind to be blown, perhaps. But heartwarming, character-focused…forget it.

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July 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up

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July has been an interesting, unusual, out-of-character month. I don’t go on binges, I don’t read novellas unless forced to for a reading challenge, and I have never been interested in Westerns until the end of this June. Yet I have:

  1. Read or attempted to read 6 westerns
  2. Read 8 novellas
  3. Binge-read a series that’s part of a subgenre I normally avoid (Urban Fantasy)
  4. DNFd 4 books

I think I only read one book that wasn’t on a theme. Unfortunately, all of this has two side effects: I have completely neglected the Bingo challenge and generally wrote fewer reviews, as I plan to merge Weird Westerns and LGBTQ+ novellas in two more comprehensive posts (soon!).

As far as non-review posts go, I did a Top 5: Weird Literary Fantasy list.

  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (reread): The first book on my journey through the Weird West. It stands up to a reread very well, and I loved that it tackles the racism and sexism of the era…but I completely forgot how much sexual violence is there 😬
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins: I was enticed by the cover and the premise (books made out of memories! Romance!), but even though I did enjoy it, I’m not happy at the number of abandoned plot threads and the abruptness of the ending.
  • Unsouled by Will Wight (DNF): Very much not for me, but may appeal those looking for books about magic systems and protagonists growing more powerful.
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson: Literary novella, fantastic. I wasn’t quite sure of it right until the end, but as all the pieces clicked into place…wow.
  • Territory by Emma Bull: Weird Western slice of life. Sadly, another book that suffers from abruptly abandoning plot threads. And it felt….bland. Oh well.
  • A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (DNF): The writing style was good and the worldbuilding interesting and one of the protagonists was the fun kind of trigger-happy sociopathic prick, but the homophobia/racism/transphobia of the world were just too much. Uncomfortable and unfun.
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages: Another wonderful novella, this one depicting the queer women’s subculture of 1940s San Francisco. The magic is almost incidental, but it doesn’t matter. It’s great.
  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: Not the typical Western, perhaps, but I haven’t encountered a book that’d be as much of a pageturner in a mortal age. I’d read it in one sitting if it wasn’t nearing 3 am…
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (reread): This time in paperback. Still as good as the first time.
  • The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (DNF): A cross of Weird Western and New Weird, more interesting in theory than in practice. Nothing outrageously wrong with it, I was just…bored.
  • Los Nefilim series by T. Frohock: Yes, the whole thing – three novellas and the novel. One after the other. And I don’t even normally read UF! The worldbuilding and the characters are A+ and I could not stop. Features a rarity: an established couple. To be precise, a gay established couple with a kid.
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson: What the fuck. It’s not often that the book confuses the everloving daylights out of me to that extent, but what the fuck. And the ending just confused me further.
  • Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox (reread): Reread it to reset my brain after Sorcerer of the Wildeeps broke it. Still good, still don’t like graphic sex scenes.
  • Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord (ARC, DNF 12%): Decided to pull the plug after a month or two of not picking it up. No specific reason. If you want Reneissance-inspired worlds, family rivalries, and political scheming it may be worth a try.
  • Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett: Basically post-colonial, f/f Shakespeare fanfiction telling the story of Miranda after the end of The Tempest. Excellent, and super adorable.

Currently reading:

  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (12%): I’m leading a bookclub in August, so I have to finish it quick. So far, I’m enjoying it very much.
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (40%): It’s so long!
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (48%): See above. Damn chonkers.

Books read this year: 40 (+ 11 rereads)
r/Fantasy Bingo Challenge progress: 9/25 (36%)

Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

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Short but stunning. Despite probably not being long enough to even qualify as a novella, there’s a lot packed inside the small space. It’s about history, revisionism, stories, taking your truth back, humans exploiting other species without regard for anything but ourselves. And it’s beautiful. Highly, highly recommended.

Stories, too, they discovered. But it was a funny thing: They were shattered into pieces, like the Great Mother who had scattered them, and no one tale held to the ear by itself could ever be fully understood. To make them whole required many voices entwined. Then and only then could we become the undying We, endless voices passing along the one song that is also Many.

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