needs more demons?

irreverent opinions on books

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Catherynne M Valente: Space Opera

12 Aug 2018 · No Comments

I loved this book so much it’s hard for me to write coherently about it. The language: dense, rich, vivid musical. The premise: yes, Eurovision in space, played for laughs, but not JUST for laughs, also a glorious, delirious refutation of “rare earth” and “habitable zones,” a dizzying celebration of near-infinite diversity. A plot twist, telegraphed literally from light years away, still deeply satisfying when it materializes. Optimism, not of the Pollyanna fairy-tale-ending variety: gritty, scrabbly, acknowledging the deeply fuckedupness of many things, but proudly declaiming that it can still all be WORTH something, that the chance to pull it off, if slim, is real. The rare trick of writing about music in a way that doesn’t make someone who’s played it cringe, and of paying tribute to Ziggy and the Spiders in a way that does them justice. Standing ovation. Playing the encore in my head.

→ No CommentsTags: comic · s-title · science fiction · v-author

Courtney Milan: After the Wedding

03 May 2018 · No Comments

I very much appreciate how Courtney Milan inverts and subverts familiar romance tropes, and “After the Wedding” is no exception: it literally starts with a wedding, in which the principals are forced at gunpoint to marry, and their efforts to obtain an annulment, coupled with their inconveniently increasing mutual attraction, drive much of the plot. The setting is England, shortly after the U.S. Civil War; the man in the forced marriage is black, the woman is not, and neither of them are exactly what they first appear to be (although Milan plays fair with the reader, introducing her protagonist as “Lady” Camilla Worth) and establishing details of Adrian Hunter’s parentage in his introduction as well).

I found so much to love about this book – Camilla’s indignation on the part of women whose petitions for annulments were unfairly denied, the details of Adrian’s business venture, the large and diverse cast of bit players.

I did have to adjust my expectations a bit in one regard: Camilla and Adrian are both viewpoint characters, and both have complicated thoughts about choices they either made or were not able to make. The noun “choice” and the verb “choose” are both important to their inner monologues, and that initially struck me as a bit repetitive before I realized that their attitudes about choices were shifting subtly as the novel progressed.

(Disclosure: I was provided an ARC of this novel.)

→ No CommentsTags: a-title · historical · m-author · romance

Alyssa Cole: A Princess in Theory

03 May 2018 · No Comments

When Naledi gets exaggeratedly polite emails about being a long-lost royal bride of an African nation she very reasonably assumes they’re a phishing/identity theft attempt, but it’s all true, and “A Princess in Theory” unspools like a modern take on a classic screwball comedies, with assumed identities, disastrous coincidences, palace intrigue, and even a bit of skullduggery. It made me laugh out loud frequently. I don’t usually cast books in my head, but the dynamic between Prince Thabiso and his assistant Likotsi put me in mind of T’Challa and Okoye in Black Panther, and then it was hard for me to shake images of Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira in the roles. Minor quibble that the resolution of the mystery element felt a bit rushed but I still enjoyed the book thoroughly. This is my first exposure to Cole, but I’ve already pre-ordered the next book in the series.

→ No CommentsTags: c-author · p-title · romance

Leigh Jenkins: Catherine the Inquisitor

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

Interesting, if not always compelling, alternate Tudor history tale. sometimes felt like Jenkins was more ingested in showing off research than telling a story, but I still had some problems maintaining suspension of disbelief. Narrator Henry’s voice convinced me, but he’s a bit dry.

→ No CommentsTags: c-title · historical · j-author · science fiction

Steven Erikson: Willful Child

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

I thought this started out very strong, but even though its episodic, aimless nature is explicitly part of the point, I was ready for it to be over well before it was.

→ No CommentsTags: e-author · satire · science fiction · w-title

Jennifer Weiner: The Guy Not Taken

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

I liked this short story collection much better than “Good in Bed.”

→ No CommentsTags: g-title · short stories · w-author

Jonathan Howard: Carter & Lovecraft

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

Entertaining collision of hardboiled PI and Lovecraft ’s Mythos, with a dash of a metaphysics/ metatextualism. Already impatient for sequel.

→ No CommentsTags: c-title · fantasy · h-author · horror

Sara Benincasa: DC Trip

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

liked this better after I stopped worrying about the geographical inaccuracies and just went with the full-on zany. the framing device didn’t work for me, and some of the backstory digressions seemed a bit OTT, but I did like the alternating chapters from the kids’ perspectives and the chaperones’ perspectives. sweet (if a bit raunchy) and very silly. could easily see this being optioned for film.

→ No CommentsTags: b-author · comic · d-title · romance

Holly Messinger: The Curse of Jacob Tracy

11 Jan 2016 · No Comments

Reminds me almost equally of TV’s Deadwood and Angel – impressively researched post-Civil War setting with a complex supernatural ecosystem in a series of nearly self-contained novellas that gradually advance a larger plot. Novel finds some degree of closure, but more seems indicated, and I’m eager for follow-on.

→ No CommentsTags: c-title · fantasy · historical · horror · m-author

Naomi Mitchison: Travel Light

07 May 2014 · No Comments

“Travel light” is an exhortation protagonist Halla hears at one point in this singular slim book; it’s a tactic that enables her to travel farther and faster than she otherwise might, not being unduly burdened. It’s also a tactic the book itself employs, moving from what at first seems to be a fairy tale that might employ familiar tropes — wicked stepmothers, and such — into several quite different things, not burdened with the notion that it needs to keep an easily described shape. I wouldn’t exactly say that the novel grows more sophisticated as Halla trades innocence for age and wisdom — for one thing, that implies it’s relatively unsophisticated at the outset, itself a gross simplification. But I’d argue that the novel has little truck with linear progressions of any sort. How does the book go from being a girl-raised-by-animals story to a not completely unsatirical socio-political tale set in a mildly fantastic Constantinople? It travels light.

This was my introduction to Naomi Mitchison; I’ll certainly seek out more.

→ No CommentsTags: fantasy · historical · m-author · t-title