Books

Review: Tenth of December

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Review: Tenth of December

I picked this one up because of a challenge. Or maybe it was more of a dare. My youngest sister (*waves* Hi Hannah!) read this collection first, and while she was impressed that the author had the range to write such wildly different stories – many of them in completely different genres – she also found it grim, depressing, and with a truly bleak view of humanity, and by God she wanted someone else to read it so she could have someone to talk to about it.

There are ten stories in George Saunders’s collection Tenth of December, and I tore through all ten of them in about two days. Maybe closer to a day and a half. Readers beware, these are all very dark (with an occasional moment of dark humor), but the author’s writing style flows so easily that it makes for perfect summer reading. But maybe not bedtime reading, since you might have trouble sleeping afterward.

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Review: How to Talk to Girls At Parties

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Review: How to Talk to Girls At Parties

Enn: “I don’t know what to say to girls.”

Vic: “They’re just girls. They don’t come from another planet.”

Awkward teenager Enn was already unhappy about being dragged to the local party by his confident friend Vic. He was even more uncomfortable when it turned out to be the wrong party. But Vic decided they were going to stay anyway. Because this party had lots of girls. 

Enn didn’t have a lot of experience with girls, so he was going to have to stick to Vic’s suggestion: just try talking to them.

It sounds like a regular coming-of-age story (or at least trying to survive being a teenager with one’s sanity intact). And it is, sort of. Except for the fact that the girls at this party are from much further away than either boy realizes.

If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to read something by Neil Gaiman (or if you’re like me and you’ll read anything that has his name attached to it) then you might want to pick up this graphic novel adaptation of his short story How to Talk to Girls At Parties, with artwork by the incomparable Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

…the other was a torso, jutted from the bicycle itself, its moving prow, a figurehead where handlebars should be. She was extruded from the metal. She pushed her arms backward and they curled at the ends like coral. She stretched her neck and widened her eyes.

Thibault swallowed and tried to speak, and tried again, and screamed, “It’s the Vélo!”

Just a novella this week, but that’s okay because there’s enough glorious weirdness in China Mieville’s latest work to fill a whole novel.

The story begins with the sound of gunfire. German soldiers scatter as they’re attacked by a creature in the shape of a woman merged with a bicycle. Even stranger, the reaction of the French Resistance fighters watching is less Dear God What Is That Thing, and more Look Out, It’s Another One.

The Last Days of New Paris is set in an alternate history version of Nazi-occupied Paris, where an unexplained event, the S-Blast, has somehow tapped into the soul of the Surrealism movement. Now images from works by Max Ernst, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and hundreds more are stalking the streets, while demons called from Hell reluctantly follow the German soldiers’ orders, and the very landscape of Paris has been twisted into something impossible.

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Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

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Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

I wanted to do a quick review of Ruth Ware’s mystery novel partly because they were handing out free copies at San Diego Comic-Con and I want to encourage that kind of thing (seriously, getting a preview pamphlet is fun, but for a book nerd getting handed a whole free book is like winning a mini lottery.) But also because the movie by Reese Witherspoon is tentatively scheduled to come out in 2018. It’s being touted as “The Next Gone Girl” and I wanted to see how close to the mark they got.

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

Lumin is a forest world, with trees who’s roots reach all the way to the planet’s core. The lives of the people of Lumin are closely entwined with those trees. Maybe too entwined; after using the energy that flows through the forests to power every aspect of society, the Core is heating up and the trees themselves are dying. There’s only one way to reverse the damage: shut down the entire Network, cutting off all advanced technology that feeds off the trees and throwing the planet into a new dark age. The Core will stay sealed for as long as it takes the planet to heal.

More than six hundred years later, a young woman named Mia stumbles across a treasure in the Archives of the Order of Vis Firmitas. The treasure is a book, hidden away for centuries. The history of an ancient battle and the key to the lost technology of the planet may be contained inside the mysterious artifact that slowly comes to life in Mia’s hands: the Compendium.

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

Last week the Binary System Podcast was on vacation (check out the BSP Facebook page for pictures taken in and around Niagara Falls), and traveling means picking something want to read, something out of a list of books I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Adam-Troy Castro’s short story collection Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories was the perfect choice for some light reading while waiting around in airports.

Keep in mind that “light” in this case refers to the size of the book. It does not mean “happy”.

Shakespeare wrote that art is “a mirror held up to nature”; for this book Adam Troy-Castro is using a funhouse mirror with a magnifying glass, reflecting some of the very worst that human nature has to offer. These stories are dark like you wouldn’t believe. They’re also fascinating, thought-provoking, hard to put down and, in several cases, deeply upsetting. You could plow through all eight stories in a matter of hours, but I’d recommend following the suggestion David Gerrold wrote in the intro: don’t read all of them at once.

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Review: The Thief’s Daughter

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Review: The Thief’s Daughter

Jeff Wheeler returns us to the kingdom of Ceredigion with The Thief’s Daughter, the second book in the Kingfountain series.

It’s been ten years since the end of The Queen’s Poisoner, and they’ve been some of the happiest years of Owen Kiskaddon’s life. The terrified little Fountain-Blessed boy has now grown into a capable young man, training every day to become a fighter and tactician. Even better, he’s been able to spend most of that time living with the kindly Duke Horwath and the Duke’s granddaughter, Evie (that’s Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer to you.) Owen’s best friend – and possibly the love of his life – has grown into a beautiful and devastatingly intelligent young woman who’s just as determined to marry Owen as she was when she was nine.

But a nearby kingdom plans to attack Ceredigion, and there are rumors that one of the King’s deposed nephews is still alive and returning to reclaim the throne. Owen and Evie will have to thread their way through plots and assassination attempts while trying to prove their loyalty to a king who will do anything to protect his kingdom and his crown, even at the expense of everyone around him.

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Review: Masks

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Review: Masks

“And when the last of the traitors had been executed, the young Autarch made a decree: Henceforth all citizens of Aygrima would be Masked in all public places…”

The Masks are what makes the kingdom of Aygrima safe, everybody knows that. Enchanted to reveal treasonous thoughts, they protect the rule of the blessed Autarch from rebellion. And sure, Mara worries a little about whether the Masks change people, and she hasn’t been completely truthful about how much magic she’s still able to see. But it’s okay, the celebration for her fifteenth birthday is almost here, and as the Gifted daughter of the Master Maskmaker she’ll have the most beautiful Mask her father can make, and she’ll join Aygrima society as an adult and her father’s apprentice and it will all be fine.

Then her Masking goes horribly wrong, and Mara finds herself one of the unMasked. Outcast and doomed to spend the rest of her life as a slave in the Mines, Mara learns that everything’s she’s been told about the blessed Autarch’s reign is a lie. More than that, there are fellow outcasts working to overthrow the powerful Autarchy, and Mara has to decide if she can trust them as she tries to learn the extent of her own impossibly powerful magical talents.

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Review: Summerlong

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Review: Summerlong

It’s been three years since Peter S. Beagle released a short story or essay, and longer than that since his last novel. That’s a long dry spell, especially for someone who’s writing was such a big part of my childhood. Fortunately Beagle’s latest novel, Summerlong, is due out this September, and it’s absolutely worth the wait.

Retired professor Abe and soon-to-be-retired flight attendant Joanna have spent the last twenty-two years building a comfortable life for themselves. They have their own odd quirks, but also a lot of sense; they’re certainly not the type of people to be captivated by a total stranger and invite her to live with them. Except that’s exactly what they do a few hours after meeting the new waitress at their favorite diner.

The beautiful Lioness always has that effect, effortlessly charming the people she meets and causing everyone – customers, neighbors, children, whales, Joanna’s often-heartbroken grown daughter Lilly, even the usually gloomy Puget Sound weather – to fall head-over-heels in love with her. Abe and Joanna are soon exploring new dreams for themselves, and trying to ignore the nagging sense that there’s more to Lioness than she’s letting anyone know.

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Review: Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird

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Review: Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird

Elizabeth over at Binary System Podcast has been trying to get me to read the latest Doctor Strange series almost since it first came out last October. I finally ran out of excuses when I stumbled over the gorgeous hardback graphic novel Doctor Strange – The Way of the Weird, collecting the first five issues of the series written by Jason Aaron (Star Wars, The Mighty Thor, Avengers vs. X-Men), with art by Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, plus a couple dozen other X-titles).

Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the character; Aaron gives you a quick history of the surgeon-turned-Sorcerer-Surpreme on the first page, and then throws you into a gloriously insane world of magic and monsters that’s hidden from most “normal” humans.

Ever since starting his new life as a sorcerer, Doctor Strange has been operating as something of a supernatural troubleshooter, driving out magical infestations from his home in Manhattan. But there are rumors that there’s something out there worse than alien parasites or demonic nightmares. And whatever it is, it’s getting closer, right when Strange is starting to realize that the price of using magic may be a lot higher than he can pay.

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