Sunday, December 27, 2020

Book Review: A Longer Fall

A Longer Fall 
by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exactly what you’d expect from a shoot em up romance book.
Just like book 1 we meet up with our loveable, if sometimes morally abject Gunnie Rose, and guess what? She's in trouble, lol. This series is like Firefly but without the space; so you know a western but updated and not set in the Old West time period.
If you love Charlaine Harris' Sookie series then you are sure to love this. It has a bit more guns, no vampires, but all the jokes, wit, and violence of Sookie's series. Just an all around fun, engaging, little read. This book helped get me back into the groove of reading again after the drought that has been 2020. 
Additionally, this series would make a great tv show! I sure hope Harris is in talks with HBO or Amazon Prime already!

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea 
by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderfully magical book set in a cruel empire, across a sea of mermaids (who play a minor role and are not the mermaids most think of), and where anything might hold a little magic. I adored our characters, yes even the cruel ones. Given I am terrified of water, especially the ocean, its surprising that the love affair this book has with the sea felt natural and right to me. Now that’s proof of good writing!

Stories Inside Stories
I always love books that have lore or stories inside of stories. Maggie Tokuda-Hall gives us this in the form of little fables or myths; as well as the stories the characters tell of their past. This writing technique is perfect for fantasy world's as it gives insight into the history or foundation of the world. Done well it's a delight every time; and I definitely was thrilled each time I encountered one here.

Gender Swap
A (perhaps) cliché piece of this story is that Florian, our lead girl, is hiding out on a pirate ship as a boy. This is not an uncommon trope if only because women have been legitimately doing this for thousands of years in our history. The reality is, for this fantasy world (and our own) that being a man is almost always safer and provides opportunity that being a woman does not. I like how Florian handles her identity of being a woman inside of being a man. Her own sexuality is at question throughout and it plays nicely with the gender question as well. I was unsure at many points what way Florian might lean and thus felt like I was discovering her as she discovered herself.

So there is some pretty heavy romance in this. It doesn't feel out of place, and it's handled beautifully; but it is there. So if you are hoping for an all out violent and brutal fantasy you will find that those pages are present as well; but that much of the over arcing story has a romantic tone to it. It felt genuine in The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea for me. I liked how the Sea itself had a few moments to speak to us and expressed itself in a very lyrical, romantic way.

This may be one of my favourite reads of 2020. It's been a tough year to get into books and things have really distracted me from reading this year. So to find a story like Tokuda-Hall has given us was a huge relief; and allowed me to really enjoy the experience. There are fights, torture, and injustices in this gorgeous novel; alongside rescues, love, and pity. The magic of this book is that it has a little bit of magic laced into it; while still feeling realistic, harsh, and unfair. Just like our own world so often is.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book Review: The Midnight Circus

The Midnight Circus 
by Jane Yolen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The introduction to this short story anthology is beautifully done. Jane Yolen shares a couple personal insights into this set of stories and directs everyone to take a look at the related poems (which make up the last half of this book) related to the stories themselves. Yolen truly is an endearing and lasting female SF/F author of her generation.

Story 1 - The Weaver of Tomorrow
Lovely little reminder that what you think you want may not be what you really crave. Love the use of time passing here to show the two inevitable pieces of life, birth and death.

Story 2 - The White Seal Maid
This story features a man and a selkie. It feels very similar to many stories I’ve read before, except it’s missing something. Perhaps it’s the desire to have an obvious moral at the end, or that our man is very one-dimensional, or that we never understand why the selkie chose to do what she does. Either way it wasn’t satisfying for me.

Story 3 - The Snatchers
Meh. Just okay.

Story 4 - Wilding
This is such a cool concept and the use of Central Park is just brilliant. I want so much more! It reads like the tease you'd send to a publisher to try and get them to endorse a full story being written. So very unsatisfying in length and content but really cool concept.

Story 5 - Requiem Antarctica
First, I want to sincerely thank Yolen for writing this. I did not know the history of the race to the South Pole. As I read this, and realized it is an alternate history, I immediately went and read pages on the events. If you read the Wikipedia page that will be enough to realize Yolen did a brilliant job of combining fact with fiction.
This is a jewel of a story. It's creative, briliant, contextually relevant, and an interesting way to learn about history. Absolutely amazing!

Story 6 - Night Wolves
I wish I’d read this story as a child or teen. Then perhaps I’d be a little less intimidated by the dark.
A clever manifestation of a certain kind of loss and grief. Very well done

Story 7 - The House of Seven Angels
Alternate origin story for Moses during his youth. Meh.

Story 8 - Great Grey
This one is creepy... like serial killer creepy but totally not that. Kind of clever. Wasn't perfect but a very solid read.

Story 9 - Little Red
I dunno what it is about little red riding hood but I can’t get tired of retelling or spins on her story. Wonderful rendition with a twist.

Story 10 - Winter’s King
As someone who lives in a cold place (and hates the heat; give me -30C over +30C any day of the week or year) this had a nice dose of melancholy for me.

Story 11 - Inscription
Interesting method of story telling used.

Story 12 - Dog Boy Remembers
Where’s the rest of the story?! This feels like a preview to a larger novel. Really interesting and well done but I want sooo much more. Does dog boy ever succeed in his desired revenge, what is the symbolism of the cap, and so much more. This should definitely be a full book to explore all the interesting nuances dog boy has."

Story 13 - The Fisherman’s Wife
Love the description of the mermaid as alien (not beautiful) and the use of communication (or lack thereof). A wonderful little tale.

Story 14 - Become a Warrior
A story about how women can become as strong and cunning as men. Although ultimately a revenge story which I often struggle with. Revenge feels so petty to me most times.

Story 15 - An Infestation of Angels
The Gipt in this story must be Hutts (Star Wars) as that was immediately what I imagined them as (lol). Clever little trick to make one think that a deity is watching over and not just biology at work.

Story 16 - Names
I didn’t really get this one to be honest...

Definitely some real gems in here. I'm giving it five stars overall if only because the Antartica story and Dog boy are easily shining stars that make this whole anthology worth reading. None of these are poorly written (It's Yolen and she keeps her high standard in place) or so bad that I didn't want to finish the story. Given how difficult it can be to find good, consistent anthologies this one is easily a step above most.
Yolen is an absolute champion of the writing world and each year that goes by, as I get older and so does she, I worry about the day she won’t be here anymore. With over 350+ stories out there published you’d think there is enough of Yolen in the word; but I do not. Please keep it coming!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Book Review: The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt

The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt
by Riel Nason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This (Canadian made) children's picture book is not just for the Hallowe'en season. It's perfect for anytime of year as it's about being different from others.
Our little quilt child is surrounded by family members who are sheets; and so much lighter than he. Instead of being able to fly all around, our quilt has to lay in places, walk about, and find vantage points to lay down to see what's happening. Riel Nason has given us a clever way to explain that everyone is a little different; even if it seems like we are the only one.
The illustrations are perfect. A little haunting but not scary in any way. Instead they have just a bit of melancholy that I think comes from the subdued colours chosen.
I would highly recommend this children's picture book for any child from any walk of life. We all feel singled out or excluded for whatever reason at some point and this book beautifully demonstrates how being different isn't always a bad thing.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Book Review: The Angel of Crows

The Angel of the Crows 
by Katherine Addison
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF @ 32%
Just not enough here to keep me going. Let's delve into the specifics below.

Holmes Mysteries
I came to a realization as I was reading this, and investigated it in other reviews to see if I was correct (which I was), all the mysteries (except for Jack the Ripper) are all well known Sherlock Holmes cases. They all resolve the same as the originals. For someone like me who is familiar with many of the original Holmes stories and knows how most of them are solved this took away a lot of appeal. I get that it's supposed to be about nostalgia and a new setting for Holmes (plus add in Jack the Ripper) but honestly I just can't bring myself to navigate this dense writing just to read outcomes to mysteries I already know.

Jack the Ripper
While still slightly intrigued about how Katherine Addison plans to resolve the Jack the Ripper case in this story; it wasn't enough to keep me going. The writing is absolutely beautiful here, and her set-up of the snippets of the Ripper's point of view are clever. I absolutely loved each one of them. It's almost tempting to just read those pieces of the story until the end of the book; but that feels sacrilege and I just can't bring myself to disrespect the effort Addison has put into this. Additionally my greatest fear, and one of the reasons I also didn't finish this, is that the Ripper cases will end unsolved as they are today in this story. A thoroughly unsatisfying end that I just wanted to avoid.

Beautifully Written, but Dense
Some books are just so beautifully written you don't care what the story is. Addison almost achieves that for me here. This is a gorgeous piece of prose taken on it's own without any other context. But it's also dense. The writing matches the Victoria era on the story and really puts you into the place and time of London. It's tragic that instead of finding this glorious, I instead found this to be more dragging density along with the plot that didn't have enough to keep me interested.

I am sure there will be people who think this is the best book ever. And I wouldn't disagree with them. It just wasn't for me at the moment I had it in hand. There is a possibility I could come back to it if the mood strikes me to want some Holmes stories repurposed. The density of the story reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (although not quite that epic with footnotes) which is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. So I may be inclined to blame the pandemic for my inability to focus, or I really just found this too predictable knowing that the Holmes mysteries will all be resolved in the way I already know.
I would say if you have any interest in this book give it a shot. But don't be afraid to put it down early if it's just not for you.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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