Catherynne Valente

Review: The Refrigerator Monologues

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Review: The Refrigerator Monologues

Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to okay people. Bad things happen to everyone. Good things happen to…well, somebody, probably. Somebody somewhere else.

Being a superhero causes a lot of collateral damage, and we’re not just talking about crossover events that level a city block. Start dating a guy who has a superpower and/or a secret identity and suddenly you’ve got a target on your back with a sign reading “FOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, SHOOT HERE”.

Ever wonder what those hapless wives and girlfriends of superheroes think about this trend? Imagine knowing that your ex gets a dramatic pose and a lost love to avenge, while you get a cosmic prison, a room in an insane asylum, or an eternity wearing the godawful clothes someone picked for you to wear in your casket. (Really, these shoes with that dress? Come on now…)

Catherynne Valente’s latest book The Refrigerator Monologues (due out this June) is a collection of six stories told from the point of view of women who have been “refrigerated”: stripped of their powers, driven insane, strangled and stuffed in a fridge, basically removed from the stage in order to move the “real” hero’s story forward. Written in Valente’s delightfully off-kilter style and with illustrations by Hawkeye‘s Annie Wu, the women of the Hell Hath Club swap tales while hanging out at the Lethe Cafe in Deadtown, the city where the fictional go when they die.

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Review: Radiance

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Review: Radiance

A tale may have exactly three beginnings: one for the audience, one for the artist, and one for the poor bastard who has to live in it.

The plot of Catherynne Valente’s latest novel Radiance centers around the mysterious disappearance of a woman – Severin, who’s origin is also something of a mystery – during her investigation of yet another mystery. The book jacket describes it as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery,” and that doesn’t even come close to the wonderful weirdness of a book set in a 1930’s that never existed, in a version of the solar system that only appears in pulp paperbacks and black-and-white movies.

Darn it. If I’d known I was going to enjoy the book this much I would have read it in time for our “Best Books of 2015” list; it would definitely have made it into the top ten. Maybe even the top three.

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Review: Speak Easy

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Review: Speak Easy

Mr. Puss-Boots dreams a story like this, a story where a prince goes creeping down into the underworld after twelve dancing princesses because some king decided the girls were having too much fun and wanted to rub their faces in how hard he owns them.

Like several of her previous books and short-stories, Catherynne Valente’s latest book (well, novella) is loosely based on a fairytale, in this case The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Very loosely based. In fact, without a couple of brief asides by the narrator and the actual description from the book cover, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to connect this with the original fairytale.

Set in the fantastical hotel Artemisia in the middle of New York at the high point of the Roaring Twenties, Speak Easy is filled with Valente’s usual luscious descriptions and a cast of thousands (dozens, anyway), each with their own story. So many stories in fact, that the book could have been stretched out for at least a few hundred more pages. As is, there’s not enough room to give most of the characters more than a brief mention; the results are tantalizing, but also a little cluttered.

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Review: The Habitation of the Blessed – A Dirge For Prester John

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Review: The Habitation of the Blessed – A Dirge For Prester John

The legend of Prester John is one of the first documented cases of a hoax going viral. In 1165 a letter was discovered, supposedly sent to the Byzantine Emperor from a mysterious king in  the far east, telling of a Christian land filled with riches and monsters. The letter inspired stories and explorations and crusades for four centuries before everyone finally decided the whole thing had been made up.

But what if it was all real?

In The Habitation of the Blessed, Catherynne Valente tells a small part of the story of Prester John as it appears in three books plucked from a tree where they’d been growing like fruit. The viewpoints alternate from Prester John’s own tale, to his history as written by his fantastical wife many years later, to the nursery stories told to a trio of royal children long before John ever came to the country of Pentexore. And all of this is read by two humble priests who frantically try to finish transcribing the story before the books they’ve harvested can finish rotting and going to seed.

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

A dual post from Kathryn and Elizabeth

When talking about great couples from sci-fi and fantasy books, there are a lot of obvious ones:  Harry and Ginny, Westley and Buttercup, Drogo and Daenerys, Katniss and Peeta (or Gale), and Bella and Edward (or Jacob), to name a few.

We decided instead of listing all the famous ones, we’d talk about some of the other sci-fi and fantasy couples from our favorite books.

(Except that Kathryn just HAD to go and include Ron and Hermione. ~ Elizabeth)

(I regret nothing! ~ Kathryn)

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Review: Six-Gun Snow White

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Review: Six-Gun Snow White

Love is the color of blood. Love is what grown folk do to each other because the law frowns on killing…

I read the description for Six Gun Snow White on Goodreads: “…Valente transports the title’s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West…” and thought, oh well, I’m not much of a fan of Westerns, maybe I’ll just pass on this one. And then I laughed and laughed, and bought the novella anyway. I haven’t read even one story from Catherynne Valente that I haven’t liked; I think she could write the labels on sugar packets and I’d still want to read them. And if this had been just a simple translation of the Snow White fairy tale into the Old West (substitute six-shooters for swords, outlaws for dwarves, and make everyone wear period clothing), it still would have been a fun read. But this is Valente, so the end result is much, much more complicated.

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

It was around this time last year that I read Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (my review of it is here.) After reading it I cheerfully said “The sequel just came out! I can’t wait to read it!”

Apparently I could wait, because it took me a year to get around to it. And I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I recommend you read it sooner.

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

I was honestly relieved when I ran across The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, because here is a book that has everything I was looking for.

Lately I feel like publishers are pushing so hard for books in the currently popular genre of vampires, magic, Game Of Thrones ripoffs, et cetera, that they’re not paying attention to the fact that half of it reads like bad fan fiction–full of predictable plot lines and really awful dialog. (Yes, I read fan fiction; we all have our guilty pleasures.) So I’m always happy when an author like Catherynne M. Valente, who knows how to write, gets published.

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