Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Station Eleven is the best book I regret ever picking up. It’s absolutely brilliant…and there lies the problem. The vision of the apocalypse, the characters, people’s reactions – it all felt too real. Visceral, human, and deeply, deeply sad. It got under my skin to the point I wondered whether I should stop reading. I’m unused to books hitting me as hard as this. I think the last one was The Unwomanly Face of War, but that was nonfiction, and well over a year ago.

Some of them took turns trying to sleep in the moving caravans, others walking and walking until their thoughts burned out one by one like dying stars and they fell into a fugue state wherein all that mattered or had ever existed were these trees, this road, the counterpoint rhythms of human footsteps and horses’ hooves, moonlight turning to darkness and then the summer morning, caravans rippling like apparitions in the heat, and now the Symphony was scattered here and there by the roadside in a state of semi-collapse while they waited for dinner to be ready.

But at the point it was already too late; if it’s going to stick in my mind like a painful splinter no matter what, I might as well finish. So I did. I went into the book largely blind, knowing only it was postapocalyptic, literary, and slice of life, and I think it may have been for the better, so if this was enough to convince you, stop reading here.

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

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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: Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox

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Every once in a while, I get a mad compulsion to read a book. I hear of something, and it won’t give me peace until I go and read it – and without a fail, those books prove to be my favourites. So it was with The Name of the Wind all those years ago, or The Curse of Chalion, or more recently The Gray House. And so it is here.  Outside of my usual wheelhouse or no, I had to have it and yet again my instinct has proven correct. I wanted to yell about it from the rooftops before I was halfway through. I finished it in less than a day. It satisfied the craving for more Witchmark left beyond perfectly.

“Of course I could have turned them out into the fields, to laugh and cry like that with no roof to shield them. Maybe in another world, that would be best, but…” Archie got up stiffly, muscles aching from holding Rufus against the trunk of the apple tree the night before. “Not in this one. In this world, love needs shelter. And as long as the rectory’s standing, I’m going to provide it.”

If you’re looking for extremely well-written, atmospheric m/m romance with a slight fantasy twist this is very likely a book for you.

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Review: One of Us by Craig DiLouie

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Wow. I don’t even know how to approach reviewing this. It’s an exploration of “us vs. them” mentality through a SFF lens and, while well-written, in no way a pleasant read. I could only read it a few pages at a time before I had to put it down again. The petty, everyday evil, the worst aspects of humanity laid bare. It was almost too much. But. It felt powerful and important and viscerally realistic in its own brutally unflinching way. Necessary.

He learned what he was, what they were, and that monsters and men were not meant to exist in the same world. If your own mother hates you and drives you away, why should total strangers love you? From the beginning, the masters understood this fundamental truth. They created separate worlds, one for themselves, another for monsters. The system would not end when the mutagenic reached adulthood. The children would grow up to become free folk living in an invisible cage, with no rights or opportunities. Which meant no real freedom at all.

The basic premise is that a sexually-transmitted disease caused a generation of children to be born with pretty significant mutations. Abortion, safe sex education, discussions on rape, medical testing have become a necessity. The plague children have mostly been taken away at birth and shut into Homes, institutions where the employees are mostly ex-cons and other sorts of desperate people that shouldn’t be let near children. They are used for slave labour on farms. As the children become teenagers, they start developing superpowers and tensions are rising.

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Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (The Masquerade #2)

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Thanks to Tor and Netgalley for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes provided may change in the final vesion.

For me, this has been one of the most anticipated releases of 2018. I couldn’t wait to return to the world and see where the story takes Baru next, I pre-ordered in case I wouldn’t get the ARC, and when I did, I was almost wary of reading it, anticipating the emotional punch. The enthusiasm from bloggers who got it earlier was contagious. Sadly, while it was good, it didn’t quite live up to its hype.

Who says you have a duty to a nation? Who says you cannot reject an unjust duty? Who says you can decide which evil is small enough to tolerate, and which is too great to allow? Who says you should allow anyone to hold such power over you, the power to use your work for purposes you do not understand?

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Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow #1)

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The Sparrow is a book that left me with a lot of conflicted feelings. I’m glad I read it and I have enjoyed it immensely, as much as one can enjoy a tragedy. But would I recommend it? I’m honestly not so sure.

I have a huge weakness for stories with a mystery at the centre, where we know the ending, but not the how and the why. It intrigued me right from the start. The story is mostly centered on Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest and linguist, the sole survivor of a first contact mission gone horribly wrong. It starts shortly after he’s returned to Earth, physically and psychologically shattered, with some horrible rumours about him circulating. Immediately, there are questions. Why and how did the rest of the crew die? What went wrong? How is it that he survived? The unwrapping of said mystery is careful and unrushed, with two parallel timelines – one in the present, following his slow recovery, the other following the mission to the planet of Rakhat from the beginning to its disastrous end.

“No questions? No argument? No comfort for the afflicted?” he asked with acrid gaiety. “I warned you. I told you that you didn’t want to know. Now it’s in your minds. Now you have to live with knowing. But it was my body. It was my blood,” he said, choking with fury. “And it was my love.”

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Review: The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

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I want to shove this book at everyone I know.

Can I find the right words? I can tell about how I shot. But about how I wept, I can’t. That will be left untold. I know one thing: in war a human being becomes frightening and incomprehensible. How can one understand him? You’re a writer. Think up something yourself. Something beautiful. Without lice and filth, without vomit…Without the smell of vodka and blood…Not so frightening as life…

This is a collection of accounts of Russian women who went through WWII – soldiers of all kinds, partisan fighters, and medical workers mostly, but also washerwomen, bakers, mechanics, civilians…both about the war and what happened afterwards. All of them women whose stories were forgotten; silenced or forced to keep to a certain, more traditional narrative of glory. It’s hardly a traditional war book. No listings of great battles, victories, losses. Only very human, personal stories from the perspective of those who did not get to tell them until then.

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