Jennifer's back for 2024!

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Jennifer's back for 2024!

1whitewavedarling
joulukuu 21, 2023, 1:23 pm

I’m back for 2024!

2023 was a roller coaster of a year for us. We finished up repairs for Hurricane Ian, my husband had an ankle surgery that took him out of commission for nearly two months, and we also had to say goodbye to our dear hound, Arthur. By our best guess, he was around fifteen (and we’d had him for 11 of those years). I didn’t post about it here because, simply, it was just too hard.

But, for him, a picture in memory:



He loved being at the beach--you can see it on his face. He got a bit of his youth back when we got Charlie--and he'd picked her out, so these last few years were good ones. I think I'll miss him forever.

I think it would have taken us a long time to get another dog, but even though he'd never really been able to keep up with Charlie, she missed him desperately, and we knew we couldn't wait long. Just like we'd let Arthur make the final choice about bringing her home, we waited only a few months before taking her out to look for another shelter dog to make the home complete. We/she found a big shelter mutt named Gouda, and decided to adopt him and rename him Guinness. He’s about Charlie’s age, and makes a great playmate for her, so you’ll meet him below.

Meanwhile, it’s been a super-slow year for writing. My agent and I decided to part ways (amicably), and the tension/struggle leading up to me making that decision made it hard for me to focus on writing. I’m slowly getting back into the swing of querying a new book, but querying is tougher than ever, so we’ll see how it goes. My old book is still out to a few editors through my old agent, just in case a slow-moving bite comes in. I’m also a little ways into a few different WIPs and hoping to make a lot of progress in the new year.

I did have another successful year as a freelance editor/ghostwriter/book coach, which I’m incredibly thankful for. A lot of freelancers I know had to go back to more traditional work during or after covid because their work dried up, so I count myself lucky. And I’ve really fallen in love with ghostwriting too—I just have to figure out how to better balance that against my own writing, assuming I get another big contract since my current one’s ending soon.

Oh, and then there’s reading! It looks like I’ll end up finishing up the year at right around 108 reads. Not bad! I didn’t quite make all of my challenges (especially trying to read more nonfiction), but I did pretty well.

This coming year, I’ll continue trying to do my alphabet challenge of reading through the alphabet with first letters of titles AND last names of authors (success in 2023!), the randomcat challenge (success in 2023!), the alphakit challenge (looks like I may be short by one book for 2023), the SFFKit (again, coming short by one book), and the ScaredyKit challenge (which looks like a success for 2023). I’ll also be continuing to aim for reading 24 HOWLS books with the Howl Society over the course of the year, which I did just manage this year. The one additional Cat I hope to participate in is the CalendarCat.
So, with all that said... here’s me looking forward to a less tumultuous year of writing and reading and fur-babies!

2whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 7, 10:19 am

Planning 2024 Reads

This is Guinness, being closely examined by Ziva. They’ve become good pals since this was taken! And this is a good shot of his size! He’s about 70 pounds, and we think he’s got some Rottweiler and Hound (he bays like a hound!), along with some St. Bernard, because you should see the drool fly when treats come out...



I came so, so, so painfully close to meeting my goals last year, except in my plan to read more nonfiction. Here’s hoping I can make it happen this year....

February: Cradle of Ice (SFFKit)
March: Mindhunter (ScaredyKit)
July: Never Have I Ever (HOWL Book #1), Slither (HOWL Book #2), The Necromancer's House (RandomCat & HOWL Book #3), Contact by Carl Sagan (SFFKit & 'S' AlphaKit), Another Dead Intern by Joel Spriggs (ScaredyKit and a second 'S' alphakit book)
August: HOWL Book #1, HOWL Book #2, RandomCat, Danse Macabre (the next Anita Blake Vampire Hunter book on my list) (SFFKit), Akata Woman (ScaredyKit), Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (CalendarCat), Spectral Hue by Craig Laurance Gidney ('G' AlphaKit), Season of Purgatory by Shahriar Mandanipour ('M' AlphaKit)
September: HOWL Book #1, HOWL Book #2, RandomCat, Battle of the Labyrinth (SFFKit), The Fireman (ScaredyKit), Anoka by Shanke Hawk (CalendarCat), I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura Vandenberg ('V' AlphaKit), something by Italo Calvino ('C' AlphaKit)
October: HOWL Book #1, HOWL Book #2, RandomCat, Dreamer's Pool (SFFKit and 'D' AlphaKit), Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp (ScaredyKit & 'T' AlphaKit), October Dreams (CalendarCat)
November: HOWL Book #1, HOWL Book #2, RandomCat, Ancillary Justice (SFFKit), Wolf Land (ScaredyKit), The Stranger by Camus (CalendarCat), Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses ('L' AlphaKit), What Doesn't Kill by Ken Brosky ('W' AlphaKit)
December: HOWL Book #1, HOWL Book #2, RandomCat, The Absolute Book (SFFKit & 'K' AlphaKit), Queer Little Nightmares (ScaredyKit & 'Q' AlphaKit), Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (CalendarCat)

Currently Reading: A Discovery of Witches, The Power of Horror, Contact, Frank's Bloody Books

Personally completing the alphabet via titles and authors...

Title Alphabet:

A B C D E F _ H _ _ _ L M N O P Q R S T U _ W X Y _

Unaccounted for in plans: G, J, K, V, Z

Author Alphabet:

A _ C D E F G H I J K L M N O _ Q R S T _ _ W _ _ _

Unaccounted for in plans: U, X, Z

Looking at Publication Dates for Books Read:

1936 (1),
1978 (1),
1983 (1), 1984 (1), 1988 (1)
1992 (1), 1998 (1)
2003 (1), 2004 (1), 2008 (2),
2010 (4), 2011 (3), 2013 (1), 2016 (1), 2017 (1), 2018 (3), 2019 (1)
2020(2), 2021 (7), 2022 (10), 2023 (8), 2024 (1)

GIVEAWAYS TO BE READ:
Millard Salter's Last Day (LT)
The Crowns of Croswald (LT)
Learning to Cry (LT)
Acheron (GR)
The Hypnotic Tales of Rafael Sabatini (LT)
Frank's Bloody Books (LT)

3whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 8:03 pm

HOWL Society Books! Every month, I’m waiting on staring at my screen, wondering what we’ll be reading next month after voting closes. I imagine I look about as pitiful waiting as Charlie looks with her favorite octopus. My plan is, once again, to read twenty-four, even if that means one book in a few months and three in others.



1. The Hunger by Alma Katsu (2*)
2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (5*)
3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (4.5*)
4. The Dybbuk by S. Ansky (4.5*)
5. Phantoms by Dean Koontz (3.5*)
6. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (5*)
7. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez (3.5*)
8. Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell, Jr. (4*)
9. Below by Laurel Hightower (4*)
10. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (3*)
11. Curse of the Reaper by Brian McAuley (4*)
12. Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology edited by Peter Straub (2.5*)
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.

4whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 17, 3:26 pm

RandomCat! What more needs to be said? But here’s a picture of Hart randomly putting Charlie in time out!



1. Murderbirds edited by Mike Jack Stoumbos (4*)
2. The Free People's Village by Sim Kern (5*)
3. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (3*)
4. Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver (4.5*)
5. Leonardo's Nephew: Essays on Art and Artists by James Fenton (4*)
6. Compass Rose by John Casey (4.5*)
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

5whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 15, 4:29 pm

I love the SFFKit. I came within one long book of finishing it up this year. Let’s see what happens next year. Meanwhile, I present to you a dog named Guinness who is sometimes so long that you’d think him to be right out of a sci-fi story...



1. Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (4*)
2. The Blood Gospel by James Rollins (4.5*)
3. A Quantum Love Story by Mike Chen (4.5*)
4. Forget Me Not (Systema Paradoxa Volume 10) by Carol Gyzander (3.5*)
5. Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes (5*)
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

6whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 12:24 pm

The ScaredyKit. I love nothing more than curling up with a cup of coffee, Ziva on my lap and grabbing for my coffee, and diving in.



1. The Neighbors: A Gripping Psychological Thriller by Alex Witcher (5*)
2. The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling (4*)
3. To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames (5*)
4. Humans are the Problem edited by Michael Cluff and Willow Becker (4*)
5. The Boys from Santa Cruz by Jonathan Nasaw (5*)
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

7whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 5, 11:12 am

The CalendarCat. This was fun before, and I’m looking forward to enjoying it again! But no matter what time of year it is, our cats always consider it time for blankets, so here’s a quick peek at Ziva and Quinn.



1. The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat (4*)
2. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (3.5*)
3. Night Shift by Robin Triggs (4*)
4. Linghun by Ai Jiang (5*)
5. The Poet and the Donkey by May Sarton (4.5*)
6. Compass Rose by John Casey (4.5*)
7. The Witchery by S. Isabelle (5*)
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

8whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 5, 11:13 am

And then there’s the AlphaKit—fun to make my way through, and it always helps me to choose my way through my TBR (which is harder than Guinness choosing his favorite toy)!



1. Envy the Night by Michael Koryta 'E' - 5*
2. You are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade 'Y' - 5*
3. The Dybbuk and Other Writings by S. Ansky 'A' - 4.5*
4. The Free People's Village by Sim Kern 'F' - 5*
5. Sick Crush by Alta Hensley 'H' - 1.5*
6. The Reformatory by Tananarive Due 'R' - 5*
7. Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver 'O' - 4.5*
8. Under the Heavens by Ruth Fox 'U' - 4*
9. The Poet and the Donkey by May Sarton 'P' - 4.5*
10. The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville 'N' - 5*
11. The Boys from Santa Cruz by Jonathan Nasaw 'B' - 5*
12. Pebble & Dove by Amy Jones 'J' - 4*
13. The Witchery by S. Isabelle 'I' - 5*
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.

9whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 26, 9:32 am

Nonfiction. I am once again going to do my best to force myself to read nonfiction. I failed miserably last year. Maybe Charlie will help me put down the remote?



1. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (3*)
2. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (4.5*)
3. Leonardo's Nephew: Essays on Art and Artists by James Fenton (4*)
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

10whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 23, 5:57 pm

But I did manage to read twelve poetry collections last year! I want to make sure to do so again.



1. Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver (4.5*)
2. The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti (4*)
3. The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walrath (5*)
4. Sheet Music to my Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich (4*)
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

11whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 12:25 pm

And finally, of course I managed to read twelve books from my favorite authors in 2023, and hope to do the same in 2024. I can lap up those like Guinness laps up a Starbucks pup cup!



1. Envy the Night by Michael Koryta (5*)
2. The Free People's Village by Sim Kern (5*)
3. The Reformatory by Tananarive Due (5*)
4. The Blood Gospel by James Rollins (4.5*)
5. A Quantum Love Story by Mike Chen (4.5*)
6. Leonardo's Nephew: Essays on Art and Artists by James Fenton (4*)
7. The Boys from Santa Cruz by Jonathan Nasaw (5*)
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

12christina_reads
joulukuu 21, 2023, 3:37 pm

So sorry for your loss of Arthur; that's a lovely photo of him. But best of luck with your 2024 reading and with incorporating Guinness into the menagerie -- looks like he is already doing great!

13dudes22
joulukuu 21, 2023, 4:02 pm

I'm so sorry about Arthur. He looks like a great dog. What a good idea to take Charlie to find a new companion. And I do think he looks like a Guiness.

14lowelibrary
joulukuu 21, 2023, 4:10 pm

Love all the fur baby pics (especially the kitties). Good luck with your reading in 2024.

15DeltaQueen50
joulukuu 21, 2023, 7:46 pm

I am also very sorry to read about the loss of Arthur. It's never easy losing a loved one. Good luck with your 2024 reading and have fun caring for all your fur-babies.

16Tess_W
joulukuu 21, 2023, 9:17 pm

Good luck with your 2024 reading and Guiness!

17rabbitprincess
joulukuu 21, 2023, 11:57 pm

I'm so sorry about Arthur. He looks so happy in that beach photo. Sending cuddles to the whole pet crew.

Guinness is a great name for the new dog. It suits his colouring :) Also, Arthur was the first name of the inventor of Guinness beer!

18MissBrangwen
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 22, 2023, 11:07 am

Great categories, and good luck with your reading in 2024!

It is so hard to lose a furry companion. Even though you love the new pet, you never forget your old friend.

19Jackie_K
joulukuu 22, 2023, 4:03 am

I'm sorry for your loss of Arthur, it's so hard to lose such an important member of the family. Guinness looks like a right goofball, and like he's fitting in already, I think he's landed on his feet with his new humans!

20MissWatson
joulukuu 22, 2023, 9:46 am

Happy reading with your furry crew! And fond memories of Arthur, of course.

21whitewavedarling
joulukuu 22, 2023, 11:09 am

Thank you so much, everyone. All of the messages about Arthur are really appreciated, he was such a big part of our world for so long (my husband's very first dog, ever, also). I think he'd approve of our Guinnes, though, and I'm looking forward to sharing the new reading year with you, along with new stories of our fur babies!

>17 rabbitprincess:, I didn't know that! I'll have to tell my husband, and I know he'll get a big kick out of it!

22VivienneR
joulukuu 23, 2023, 1:44 pm

Love the pet photos! Guinness is a beauty - good choice by Charlie. Happy reading in 2024.

23Charon07
joulukuu 23, 2023, 6:01 pm

So sorry for your loss. That’s a great picture of Arthur—he looks so happy! I love the photos of the rest of the crew too.

24RidgewayGirl
joulukuu 25, 2023, 6:37 pm

Guiness has certainly landed in the proverbial catbird seat! I wish you many happy years with your long boy. Here's to 2024 being a great reading (and writing) year.

25whitewavedarling
joulukuu 30, 2023, 12:58 pm

Thank you for stopping by, everyone! As things are wrapping up in 2023, I hope you're enjoying the last bits of the year and getting ready for another great year of reading!

As for me...

I'm trying to finish up The Ghost Sequences before 2024 starts, but the books that will be following me into the new year, and which I'm actively reading vs taking a break from, are A Darker Shade of Noir and From the Mouth of the Whale.

Beyond those, my plans for January include:

The Hunger by Alma Katsu (HOWL Book Club Read #1)
The Dybbuk by S. Ansky (HOWL Book Club Read #2 & 'A' AlphaKit)
Murderbirds: An Avian Anthology (RandomCat)
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames (SFFKit)
The Neighbors by Alex Witcher (ScaredyKit)
The Blind Owl by Sadiq Hidayat (CalendarCat)
and You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade (AlphaKit 'Y')

A number of these are pretty short, so I've got my fingers crossed that I'll start the new year off by meeting my January reading goals, even with travel coming into play! We'll see how it goes...

26whitewavedarling
tammikuu 16, 5:41 pm

After some travel, I've got some catching up to do!

1. A Darker Shade of Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates

Despite the number of big names in this collection, I have to admit that it was fairly lackluster for me personally. While there were some gems in the collection--especially the works by Tananarive Due and Margaret Atwood--there were just as many stories that felt either unpolished or unedited, and a few that just didn't feel like they fit in a collection of body horror. All told, while I generally love collections put out by Akashic, I wasn't sure what to make of this one, and I doubt I'd pick up another collection edited by Oates after reading this. The stories were somehow too one-tone while also not always feeling as if they fit the theme, and I was glad to finish it up.

27whitewavedarling
tammikuu 16, 5:57 pm

2. The Hunger by Alma Katsu

I've heard such fantastic things about this author, but it seems I started with the wrong book. In truth, the more I think about this one, the less I like it, and that's never a good sign.

It's a page-turner through the first third--I have to give it that much. Early on, I was fully engaged and anxious to keep going, thinking it was a fantastic way to start off a new year of reading. But then things fizzled. One problem is the number of POV characters. There are so many POVs that, unique as they are, all of the main characters come across as somewhat superficial and undeveloped simply because of the sheer number of them. You may feel truly engaged by one, and then not come across it again for another sixty or seventy pages. Similarly, there are a number of chapters devoted to exploring particular characters' histories...but since we see so little of the characters in the present, and the backstory doesn't add much which couldn't be summed up quickly, all that backstory only separates us from the readers more, making it feel as if we're getting snapshots and ideas of who these people are rather than actually being allowed to engage with them.

But perhaps that brings us to the fact that, to Katsu's way of thinking/planning, these characters are based off of real people and real history. Unfortunately, my uncharitable view is that Katsu changed so much about the characters--oh, how I'd be mad if I were one of their ancestors!--and did so little justice to the actual history which supposedly inspired this book, that the only reason I can think for her to even bother connecting this book to the history is that she wanted to 'cash in' on the historical connection. I truly can't come up with any other rationale, much as I hate to say it, because the characters are so different and this could so easily have simply been fiction without any mention of history. And, it likely would have been better...after all, part fo the problem here is that the reader loosely knows what's coming because of the history Katsu supposedly focused on, which means that plot can only hold so much mystery. Leaving a reader to focus on character development and engagement, which doesn't get us very far.

All told, I'm not sure when (or if) I'll try Katsu again. The taste in my mouth from this book is, put bluntly, one of disrespect. That she disrespected the history and the real people involved by tying this book--this work of fiction--to their names and their tragedy. And when it comes right down to it, I'm not sure why I should support an author who'd do that when I have so many other choices demanding to be read.

Obviously, this isn't one I'd recommend.

28whitewavedarling
tammikuu 16, 5:57 pm

(By the way, I've got some much more positive reviews coming soon, I promise!)

29whitewavedarling
tammikuu 17, 2:18 pm

3. The Neighbors: A Gripping Psychological Thriller by Alex Witcher

I picked up Witcher's work thinking that I'd just read a few chapters and then go to bed. An hour later, I re-filled my water glass and changed into pajamas...and kept reading. And reading. Until, later in the night and long past when I'd planned to go to go to bed, I finally read the last page and was able to close the book. I'm not sure any thriller has ever kept me so anxious to know what was coming, to the extent that I just didn't contemplate putting the book down--it wasn't an option.

Witcher's tight plotting combined with surprising reveals/twists and believable characters makes for a fantastic book, and I'm anxious to see what he puts out next. This was fantastic, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers.

30RidgewayGirl
tammikuu 17, 6:32 pm

>29 whitewavedarling: Glad that one delivered!

31whitewavedarling
tammikuu 18, 12:29 pm

>30 RidgewayGirl:, Me too! And now I've got another author to keep looking forward to new work from :)

Meanwhile, for everyone's amusement...

I just finished explaining to our local Walgreens pharmacy that my cat Ziva is a cat. Again. And explaining that cats are not going to be covered by our health insurance, no matter how many times they try to run through the prescription and get them covered. Because, again, cat.

And when she asked if Ziva would be willing to pay the $18 for the prescription, not covered by insurance, I explained again that Ziva is a cat and thus has no money, but we as her people will gladly pay it. Because, you know, health, but she is still a cat and will as far as I know remain a cat.

I do not know how many times I have had this conversation at this point. Sigh.

32christina_reads
tammikuu 18, 2:11 pm

>31 whitewavedarling: LOL I had no idea you could even pick up an animal's prescription at a Walgreens!

33whitewavedarling
tammikuu 18, 3:04 pm

>32 christina_reads:, Sometimes! I can't remember the rationale for this one, she's been on it for so long. We used to pick up our dear Arthur's Xanax from them too, though most of our pet meds do come direct from the vet!

34Tess_W
tammikuu 18, 9:53 pm

>29 whitewavedarling: Somebody, somewhere else recommended this. On my WL it goes. Psychological thrillers are my favorite sub-genre.

35whitewavedarling
tammikuu 19, 5:29 pm

>34 Tess_W:, Let me know what you think of it when you get to it!

36whitewavedarling
tammikuu 21, 6:28 pm

4. Murderbirds: Unhelpful Encyclopedia Vol. 1 edited by Mike Jack Stoumbos

This is such a fun, fantastical anthology. With a mix of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, the stories here offer an incredible variety of unique stories featuring birds of all sorts, and in ways I couldn't have imagined before picking up the book. With such unique concepts and shifts in tone and genre, it feels like there'll be something here for nearly every reader--particularly bird lovers, though, of course. Some of the stand-outs for me were "Outback Attack" by John K. Patterson, "Polly Want an Apple" by Mike Jack Stoumbos, "Felix and the Flamingo" by David Hankins, "Cheer Hawks and a Side of Murder" by Crystal Crawford, and "Falcon's Apprentice" by Jody Lynn Nye.

Absolutely recommended for all those interested.

37whitewavedarling
tammikuu 21, 7:02 pm

5. The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat, translated by Naveed Noori

This is a fever-dream of a dark, compelling novel, and a reading experience that sucks one in until each moment is its own small psychological impact. A novel that was banned in Hedayat's home country of Iran, the work mounts gorgeous prose, a poetic sensibility, and a sometimes-style of repetition that makes one feel as if they're being sucked into a whirlpool of a story. It's a novel to be sucked into and experience...and perhaps to be read more than once if the darkness isn't too much.

Recommended.

38whitewavedarling
tammikuu 29, 12:05 pm

6. From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjon

One of the stranger works of historical fiction I've read, this stream-of-consciousness tale moves through territory of history, fable, story, poetry, and forays into the speculative at a frightening pace, but is carried along by a tough lyricism that all but demands a reader keep going. It feels like this book might be one which could benefit from a second and even a third read, but so much of what I enjoyed here was in the 'experience' and poetry of the first reading, I suspect I'm more likely to try one of Sjon's other works. This one was an interesting one, certainly, but covered so much territory that the reading felt more fragmented and wandering than I really would have liked.

39whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 4, 12:19 pm

I've been so busy lately, I'm a review behind and also behind on reading, but I figured it was about time to check in--albeit in a loose attempt to keep myself accountable!

The books following me from January into February include The Dybbuk and Other Writings and Bloody Rose, both of which I'm about halfway through. I started Envy the Night February 2nd, and am loosely halfway through that one too lol.

My additional loose plans for February include:
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (as a HOWLS book club read)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (as a HOWLS book club read)
Free People's Village by Sim Kern (for the RandomCat & 'F' AlphaKit)
Cradle of Ice by James Rollins (for the SFFKit)
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling (for the ScaredyKit)
and Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (for the CalendarCat)

I suspect something will end up getting left by the wayside, but I'm determined that it not be The Death of Jane Lawrence since I've already *planned* to read that book two or three times and kept on not doing it!

40whitewavedarling
helmikuu 16, 12:30 pm

I'm behind on reviews again, but here's at least one as I move toward catching up:

7. Envy the Night by Michael Koryta

Koryta has become one of my favorite authors, and this thriller may not end up being my favorite, but it's still a fantastic, page-turning novel that kept me desperate to read more. His storytelling and the wonderfully believable characters he creates stand out above many of the suspense novels I pick up--they just have such depth, each story feels more real than not, as if we're seeing into a world rather than being told a short tale of one.

Absolutely recommended.

41whitewavedarling
helmikuu 16, 12:55 pm

8. You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade

There is such fantastic power in Cade's writing, and this brief collection screams with passion and with stories worth whole worlds.

Stelliform Press has become a favorite of mine ever since I discovered them, and so I expected great things from this collection. Yet, I was still blown away. Cade's writing marries speculative thrills and high-concept stories with a passion for science, the environment, and the natural world. While the stories range through genres, with a few being closer to horror and many being closer to near-future sci-fi or even potentially near-future realism, they come together in a collage of insight and nuance that screams with emotional intelligence and a desperate hope for the world. Cade's natural story-telling ability is alone worth seeking out, but the ideas and characters here are so unique and real, the book is perhaps the most powerful collection I've read, and I adored it.

Some of my favorite stories in the bunch: "You are My Sunshine" (the title story), "Tidemarks", "Inside the Body of Relatives", "The Streams are Paved with Fish Traps", "Tranquility", and "You're Not the Only One".

But in truth, I'm sure I'll re-read the whole collection.

Absolutely recommended.

42whitewavedarling
helmikuu 18, 10:59 am

9. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

This is a fast-reading science-fiction thriller, and every time I picked it up, I sped forward in reading it. Without any doubt, Crouch did an absolutely stellar job with his concept, and for the most part, he made believable characters. I was rooting for the protagonist throughout, and enjoying the twists.

That said, it was an oddly stressful read because it moved so fast and things remained so desperate throughout. There were also some loose ends that I'd have preferred be cleared up, although I understand why they weren't, given the POV, and so those don't even bother me particularly. But all told, I'm not sure when/if I'll read more Crouch work. It was almost too much, too fast, and too open-ended for me to be 100% satisfied.

Still, it's a fantastic book worth reading. I'm just not sure I want more of the same flavor.

43whitewavedarling
helmikuu 27, 1:35 pm

10. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

In the beginning, I had a hard time getting into Domestic Violets. The protagonist felt a little too crude and eye-rolly for me to particularly care about him, and the humor of the book was clearly meant to be humor, but put me off more than anything. And yet...I kept going. Perhaps because Norman's prose flowed so easily or I was curious where it was going, or perhaps just from inertia. Either way, by perhaps the midpoint, I was well enough engaged that I didn't want to put the book down and had begun to care about the characters despite myself and their floundering ways.

I'm not sure who I'd recommend this book to--perhaps lovers of quirky domestic comedies in general fiction, or literary fiction on the domestic, quiet side of the aisle. In the end, I did rather enjoy it.

44whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 3, 1:02 pm

11. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I read American Gods when it first came out, some twenty years ago, and enjoyed it then, although I felt like quite a bit of it went over my head--perhaps because I read too fast? Reading it again some twenty years later, and reading Gaiman's preferred version that's some 12k longer than the original, I still suspect that many little details slipped by me, but I loved the journey of revisiting this book and these characters. There's something about this easy-going fantasy, traveling over endless territory and through so many gods' worlds, that is simply entrancing.

I'm not sure what genre it is, or why it is so hypnotic as it is, or even why I enjoy it so much, but I'll always recommend it.

45whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 3, 1:55 pm

12. The Dybbuk and Other Writings by S. Ansky

Encompassing a selection of Ansky's fiction, drama, and nonfiction, this collection is a step back through time, back to the beginning of the twentieth century and Jewish culture, life, and thought, particularly around the time of WWI. Even the fiction is so detailed, and so culture-rich, it feels as much like a peek into another time and history as it does like fiction. The standouts here are, though, Ansky's drama The Dybbuk and the English translation of a portion of his journals. The drama is as fascinating as it is powerful, and as short as it may be, the characters are built in a fashion that allows readers to fall into the drama's reality. The journals, much as the excerpt here may only be an excerpt of his much longer work, are difficult to read because of the territory of violence and poverty they cover, but also incredibly powerful, to the extent that I wish the rest of his nonfiction had been translated into English already.

I'd absolutely recommend this full collection for all those remotely interested.

46whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 5, 10:48 am

13. The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

This is by far the best new gothic novel I've read in years; in fact, I'd put reading it off because I'd hit so many disappointments in the genre, but this one sucked me in almost immediately. Although the beginning was a somewhat slow start, I was still engaged and drawn in to the characters, and once the story really got going, I couldn't put the book down. Starling has such a dynamic story and characters here, with so much nuance to each plot turn and moment, I just adored it from start to finish.

This is absolutely a gothic horror novel and ghost story that I'll remember and recommend.

47Charon07
maaliskuu 5, 7:38 pm

>46 whitewavedarling: I’ve had this on my TBR list forever. I’m glad to hear you recommend it—I’ll have to bump it up the list!

48whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 7, 11:59 am

>47 Charon07:, Definitely do! I kept on planning on reading it the last two years, and kept not getting around to it. I'm so glad I finally did!

And meanwhile, as I slowly catch up on reviews...

14. Phantoms by Dean Koontz

Classic Koontz, this is one I read for the first time back in late elementary or early middle school. I've no memory of reading it back then, beyond the fact that I enjoyed it, but without question, this is one of those works I was devouring as I cemented my love of horror. Revisiting it now, some thirty years later, was everything I expected. Koontz's stories are fantastic, twisting in all the right ways and places. And although his dialogue and plenty of the exposition are fairly clunky, the book is still a fun, page-turning feast of horror.

Recommended for horror lovers.

49whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 8, 2:44 pm

15. Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Reading the first book in this series, Kings of the Wyld, I fell into Eames' writing and had a difficult time putting the book down even when my eyes were crossed and my hands exhausted from holding it up. I couldn't wait to read more and see where Eames was taking us, and I felt all of the emotions one hopes for with a good book. So, with that experience in mind, I was thrilled to pick up Bloody Rose. And, admittedly, I enjoyed this book quite a bit...but it just didn't live up to Kings of the Wyld, and I can't pretend otherwise.

I think part of the fault in this book not living up to its predecessor's standard lies in the choice of narrator. While I understand Eames' choice here, Tam Hashford isn't as dynamic or sympathetic or Clay Cooper; more problematically for the reader, she just doesn't have as much struggle and depth. This isn't to say that she doesn't struggle in the book, as any good narrator would, but we don't feel the depth of her emotions or her want. We don't feel her being torn in different directions like we did with Clay Cooper, and the truth is that we're more tied to the people around her, at least emotionally, than we are to her. Or, at least, this was my experience. As much as I liked the idea, going into the book, of being tied to a young bard, her being the band's objective witness was just a bit too objective, and it didn't really feel like the book earned her end-point.

I'll still look forward to Eames' next book, but this one didn't have the same impact as the first book in the series, and since I thought the story and the writing and the humor were all as fantastic as before, I keep coming back to the narrator and how unconnected I felt emotionally. This might have been a stand-out book if not for the high standard set for the first, though.

Recommended for fans of the first in the series, though with the caveat that this one doesn't live up to the first.

50whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 8, 4:24 pm

16. The Free People's Village by Sim Kern

I've struggled to write a review of this queer alternate history novel, ever since I read it, and that's for one simple reason: Sim Kern is a powerhouse voice, and this is a book which everyone should be reading and talking about.

Encapsulating what's best and worst about our world, taking a real look at social justice initiatives on a local level, and building a wonderfully queer world of believable characters and meaningful interaction, this book is one of those which comes across as deceptively straight-forward and page-turning. But with each page and each emotion, the impact grows, until one wishes they could turn away from the book, with all its horror and humor, but simply cannot.

I'm not doing justice to this book, but I can tell you that it's a work of nature, and whatever Sim Kern writes next, I'll be in line for it. I hope everyone will read this book and share it with a friend, or a hundred friends. This is a book that needs to be read. But if this review leaves you thinking it's just a thought book, or just a message book, think again: the story here is as fantastic as Kern's voice, and it's the truth and the heart and the characters that make it all ring out with power.

51whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 11, 3:21 pm

17. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

I bought this book years ago, and although I've long since been aware that it's more travel/nature-writing than about wildlife, let alone the snow leopard in particular, I admit I was still hoping for more of a focus on wildlife. There's no denying that Matthiessen is an incredibly talented nature writer, and for what it is, I enjoyed reading about his travels and hiking, but I can't help feeling that the book is closer kin to books on spirituality and eastern philosophy than it is to anything related to nature and/or wildlife. I'm not sure if this is in the territory of the rest of Matthiessen's writing, but it's undeniable that I feel a touch misled and likely won't read his other works.

I'd recommend this for readers interested in personal spiritual journeys undertaken in nature and fans of nature-based travel writing, but that's about all I can say, I fear. It was fine, but it really wasn't for me.

52whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 14, 10:40 am

18. Sick Crush by Alta Hensley

This was a fast read, but that's about the best thing I can to say about, I'm afraid. It's certainly reminded me to take that line about someone being a 'USA Today Bestselling Author' with a grain of salt since, to be honest, I can't imagine reading this and running out to buy more of Hensley's work.

All told, I just take issue with the lack of depth. The first half of this felt like a straightforward presentation of tropes and stereotypes, and when the twist came, that was a pleasant surprise...but it also felt more like the author had been playing with the reader than anything since the POV she'd chosen should have shown her hand much earlier. I hate the feeling of an author playing games with a reader instead of allowing a story to unfold naturally, twists included, so that was a major point against the book for me. But even beyond that, the way Hensley stuck to the stereotypes of the characters and didn't really show us anything more than instalove made for a fairly dry book, and characters that were difficult to believe in as the book got further in. Emotions weren't given time to develop, and we'd go from anger to forgiveness after a few frantic pages of interior monologue. That's the other issue--all of the character development depended on nothing more than frantic inner monologue, beyond fully developed scenes and the progression of any real feelings or relationship.

I've got another book by Hensley already sitting on my shelf. I'm honestly not sure I'll read it, given that it's already there, but I won't be buying more of her books.

53whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 17, 1:35 pm

19. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

This is a fascinating journey into the world of fungi and nature at large. I had my favorite chapters, but truly, the whole book entranced me and left me fascinated from one page to the next. Sheldrake writes about the natural world, and fungi more specifically, with such engaging prose that it's impossible not to fall under the spell of this book.

Absolutely recommended for anyone interested in ecology, the environment, and of course fungi.

54whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 24, 12:53 pm

20. West Jerusalem Noir

As I write this, we're six months into Israel's full-out assault on Gaza and the Palestinian people, and to be honest, it's impossible to read this anthology right now without that context being a shadow over the stories. That's why I ended up putting off reading this arc, though I'm normally anxious to dive into a new Akashic Noir anthology as soon as it comes. That said, I did my best to separate current events from the stories I read as I moved through this anthology, and in some cases managed better than in others.

The stories that pay attention to the occupation were, for me, the most current-feeling ones, though they were often the ones that felt less 'noir' in nature. Many of these, though, felt as much like slice-of-life stories as fully built short stories in a noir anthology, and although the setting itself was brought to life over and over and over again, that sometimes seemed like the only connective tissue, even above tone and genre. And while I did enjoy a number of them, many felt somewhat unfinished or out of place.

In the end, I'm always glad to have been exposed to the new authors I find in a noir anthology from Akashic, but I'm glad this wasn't my first, or I'm not sure I'd feel the need to seek out more. I'd probably mostly recommend this anthology to readers who want to explore literature placed in Jerusalem moreso than to someone seeking a particular genre.

55whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 10:09 am

21. The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

Due has long been one of my favorite writers, and this book may be her best yet--at the very least, it is absolutely the best historical horror novel I've ever read. With haunting attention to every detail, and equal parts emotional impact and horror, this story is one that will stay with me for ages to come. Due's characters are more alive than ever--which is saying quite a bit--and even the smallest of them gets such attention as to be either heart-rending or terrifying.

I'd absolutely recommend this to any horror reader, as well as readers interested in historical fiction (haunting or otherwise) that deals with race and/or the mid-twentieth-century South.

56hailelib
maaliskuu 28, 4:03 pm

>53 whitewavedarling: I'm putting Entangled Life on my library wishlist though it may be a long time before I get to it.

57whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 28, 6:32 pm

>56 hailelib:, I'm glad! It was such a fun book to read. And I'm not much for nonfiction generally, but this one was so fascinating I just kept sinking into it :)

58Charon07
maaliskuu 28, 7:29 pm

>55 whitewavedarling: I’ve added The Reformatory to my TBR after that powerful recommendation. (BTW, your touchstone is pointing to the wrong book.)

59whitewavedarling
maaliskuu 30, 10:09 am

>58 Charon07:, I'm glad to hear it--and, thank you!!! I'll fix it now :)

60whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 1, 10:25 pm

22. Night Shift by Robin Triggs

This wasn't the book I expected it to be, but the further I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. An old-fashioned mystery in a high-tech, high-stress environment, it ramps up more and more as a reader pursues the story, and there are some fun twists to keep it moving fast. The characters are believable and strong, as well, so while there were moments when I wished for a slightly deeper read, I ended up having a lot of fun with it.

Recommended for readers of thrillers.

61whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 17, 5:26 pm

23. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

I read Enriquez's Things We Lost in the Fire when it first came out, and fell in love with her haunting brand of literary stories. When I finished the collection, I immediately searched for more...and couldn't find them.

This is Enriquez's second collection published/translated into English, but was written prior to TWLitF. I didn't realize that at first, but was glad to discover it simply because while I enjoyed most of these stories, they didn't live up to the memory of what I'd experienced in her work before. It's possible this book suffered some from me reading through all of the stories quickly, vs pacing them out, as the themes/devices got to feeling repetitive after a while, but I suspect it's simply that Enriquez grew as a writer between this, her first collection, and her second one.

I'd still recommend this one, particularly to writers new to her work, but it's her other collection that I really loved. Obviously, I'll remain on the lookout for more of her work.

62whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 21, 10:29 am

24. Frozen Hell by John W. Campbell

The Thing has long been my favorite horror movie--one of my favorite movies, period--and so reading the source material for the movie was long overdue. I ended up reading this extended version which was only published more recently, long after the original WHO GOES THERE? inspired the films. This longer version of the novella, discovered among Campbell's papers at Harvard, includes a longer and more developed introductory section of three chapters that were essentially cut prior to the initial publication.

First, I want to note that the preface and introduction here are well worth reading. In discussing Campbell's history and writings, they not only give context for the work (both long and short), but offer up a fantastic reading list for any reader who came to sci-fi late (like me) and is hoping to go back and read more of the classics. The novella itself is more than worth reading, of course. From a writer's perspective, it's fascinating to look at the decisions Campbell made and wonder what changes he might have made to the early chapters if he'd chosen to publish the full novella as a work initially. Now, there's certainly good case for understanding why he made the cuts, but I was still glad to read the whole.

This novella moves fast--especially in the final few chapters--and it was sometimes difficult for me to separate my hyper-awareness/memory of the movie from the story. I think, for me, that probably made the story even more encompassing and enjoyable, and that I might have felt it read too fast otherwise. But on the whole, I loved it--it's a fantastic piece of science fiction horror, worthy of time from any lover of the genre.

Absolutely recommended.

63whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 21, 10:49 am

25. Linghun by Ai Jiang

Knowing that Linghun would be focused on grief, I took far longer than I might have in getting around to reading it, but I'm so glad I finally did.

A haunting meditation, the novella Linghun is also a magical story which is as sweet as is it is horrific. For readers who've spent serious time wrapped in their own grief, there are moments where which will ring as true as any memory or moment in time, when you'll see each other in each of the characters and their flawed struggles, and too easily be able to imagine yourself ensnared in the simple traps laid out in the world Jiang builds here. Because what is so magical here--and so terrifying--is that the grief tearing at each character's fabric is just so connective that it makes each desperate situation understandable, even as different as the characters and their choices may be. As such, the novella is incredibly powerful, and with characters that will live with me for a long time yet. Even as I hated Jiang for making some of the eventual choices she made, I ended up loving the book all the more, and I suppose that goes to show the true craftsmanship here, even atop her gorgeous way with language.

The one caveat I have to give about this book: I actually went in thinking that Linghun was ONLY a novella. I didn't realize there were a few short stories included at the end of the book. The problem, simply, is that while those stories are incredible--wonderful feats of world-building and story-telling in and of themselves--they can't help paling after the depth and power encased in the fuller novella preceding them. I wish I'd known they were there and read them first, to be honest, or simply put the book down for a few weeks and then got back to them, and I think I would have appreciated them more. I'm not sure why the editors made the choice to include them after the novella, but personally, I'd suggest readers experience them seperately, either earlier or quite a bit after, so that they can receive their due attention/worth.

Either way, though, this small collection is wonderful. I'll read anything Jiang writes in the future.

64Charon07
huhtikuu 21, 12:26 pm

>63 whitewavedarling: Great review. I’ve added Linghun to my TBR.

65whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 21, 7:18 pm

>64 Charon07:, I'm so glad! It's such a wonderful book.

And, meanwhile, another...

26. Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver

I return sporadically to this book when I want a sense of calm. The calm of a knowing bird's silent gaze, the calm of a swan slipping along the top of a lake, the calm of birdsong coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. There's a peace in these poems that I fall into, whether reading it in glimpses or in whole.

Nature poetry doesn't always have the power (to me) of these poems. Often enough, I grow bored or annnoyed with it seemingly trying to do more than it does, or be more than it is. Pushing language too hard and erupting overtop what it's supposedly attempting. But Oliver's poems are something else, quiet and good and easy, but still with an awareness of the larger world even as she examines the simple forms, actions, and attentions described so beautifully here.

And of course there are the essays. When I come back to this work, I say I won't cry over a re-read of "Bird", and then of course I do indeed cry over a reread of "Bird." Perhaps one day I'll look up interviews or see what she's said more about this essay and the experience driving it, or perhaps I'll just reread it again and cry again with the imagining.

The poems here are gorgeous. And in a world so dark as it can be, sometimes the simplest glimpse of a bird, as in these pages, can mean everything.

Recommended.

66lowelibrary
huhtikuu 21, 10:46 pm

>63 whitewavedarling: Taking a BB for this one.

67whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 22, 11:10 am

>66 lowelibrary:, I'm so glad!

68hailelib
huhtikuu 22, 1:30 pm

>62 whitewavedarling: I may have to get Frozen Hell or at least look up Who Goes there in my books!

69whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 22, 3:01 pm

>68 hailelib:, I'm glad I read it! I'd originally planned on reading Who Goes There? instead, but then it became clear that the originally published novella is a bit harder to get your hands on then Frozen Hell. I did end up picking it up in a collection of Campbell's work, but since the "revision" is primarily an extension backward of the beginning/new chapters, I'm not sure whether or not I'll bother to read it--at least not any time soon, since it kind of feels like I've already read it now.

70whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 12:17 pm

27. Under the Heavens by Ruth Fox

Fox's Under the Heavens is a blend of space opera, speculative climate fiction, and young adult dystopian. Admittedly, I went into it not realizing there'd be such a heavy YA dystopian element, and I think that's what largely threw off the fix for me. I absolutely loved the larger story and the concepts involved, but I was really in the book for the speculative climate fiction element, and the bridging of eco-fiction/biological concerns with science fiction. Instead, though, that dystopian YA and the hard space opera feel often left me feeling anxious for the story to get on with itself, and I didn't ultimately enjoy the book anywhere near as much as I'd expected to. Especially since the hard sci-fi was a little too belabored in some spots and could have used some editing down, this just wasn't what I was hopiong for.

I probably won't go on with this series, but if Fox turns to writing adult work, especially if it involves climate or marine concerns in either fashion, I'll certainly be anxious to try it.

71whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 25, 10:56 am

28. To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames

To Break a Covenant blends gorgeous writing with found footage, a dangerously haunted town, wonderful atmosphere, creepy underground mine scenes, and an all-girl friend group of teenagers that reminds me of the friend group from It in the best ways possible. From the first few chapters, I was already hooked, but as I got further into the book, Ames' writing sucked me in such a way that I couldn't look away from the book. This is the first read I've had in ages which truly creeped me out, to the point that I couldn't go to bed after reading from the middle sections especially.

I want to note that I would not classify this as YA horror. There are element's of the full novel's structure which, to me, defy those genre expectations too much to be ignored--in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if that's part of the reason that this book's average rating is lower than I'd expect. The protagonists are teenagers, yes, but they're adult-feeling, mature teenagers, which defies the traditional YA voice. And, of course, it IS possible for adult horror to have child or teen protagonists--just take King's books as example, not to mention Saul and other giants in the genre. So, I expect that while some marketing and readers might have seen this as YA, that's a disservice to the novel in many ways.

But truly, I could care less what you call it. If you're a horror-lover, just read it. From here on out, I'll be reading anything Ames puts out there.

72whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 27, 11:27 am

29. The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti

Horror poetry is an in-between territory balanced between conventions of the horror genre and powerful poetry. In this collection, I can't say that the balance is always spot-on--there are times when it feels like shock-tacular horror wins out over poetic instincts, and times when the sound of poetry moves away from horror--but there are so many poems here which DO exceed the expectations of that balance, it ends up being a more than worthwhile read.

My favorite poems here are the longer ones which move more into the realm of story vs siding more with the abstract. Some of my favorites: "The Thing About Stars", "Until You Reach Me", "A Flame, Snuffed", "The Toddler's Guide to Reincarnation", and "Mazzeratura or, The Penalty of the Sack"

Recommended for horror readers, with the warning only that much of this little book is incredibly dark, and packs a punch that I'm not so sure is often found in horror poetry.

73whitewavedarling
huhtikuu 28, 12:29 pm

30. The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walrath

This slim volume of poetry inspired by anatomy carries the same magic as Walrath's first collection, which I adored. Here, the poems slipped out into small bites and nibbles of thought and image are haunted by desire, feminism, and struggle, with each poem exhibiting something of a natural spiral of thought. The fact that the poems feel effortless is testament to Walrath's talent, and the gorgeous cover image of birds using a ribcage as a perch is the perfect lens through which to come to this collection, open-minded and open-hearted.

I'll read anything Walrath creates, and absolutely recommend this work.

74whitewavedarling
toukokuu 4, 11:27 am

31. The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

I discovered James Rollins' work while I was an undergrad in college, and he became a favorite almost immediately. His genre-blending into fun thrillers makes for fast, entertaining reading, and I just adore his storytelling. I think I put off reading this one only because I wasn't sure how a co-authored work of his would read, and of course, there are so many books that I never get around to anything as soon as I mean to anyway. In the end, though, I devoured this book--it kept me up well past when I'd normally have been sleeping on two consecutive nights, and I can't wait to dive into the sequel.

For a fast-reading horror-thriller that feels something like Indiana Jones blended in with Stephen King, this is perfect. Absolutely recommended.

75lowelibrary
toukokuu 4, 11:57 am

>74 whitewavedarling: Taking a BB for this book.

76whitewavedarling
toukokuu 4, 5:40 pm

>75 lowelibrary:, I'm glad! It was so much fun, I'll be picking up the sequel soon!

77whitewavedarling
toukokuu 4, 5:48 pm

I'm already a full book into May...but realized I never even gave a beginning-of-the-month update! With good reason, though... It's been a heck of a (writing) week.

Aside from the normal work/life realities: On Monday, I was able to announce my inclusion in a short story TOC that I signed a contract for a while ago. On Tuesday, I got accepted into a separate anthology which I'd thought I was out of the running for. And...on Wednesday...I got a contract offer for a short horror novel! I'm still asking some questions and waiting on a few folks from other presses to get back to me, but it looks like my first horror novel might soon be contracted for publication :)

And, meanwhile, of course, I've been reading...

I just finished The Blood Gospel last night, and I'm loosely a hundred pages off from finishing Mike Chen's A Quantum Love Story.

Also ear-marked for this month, I've got the following books up on deck:

Below by Laurel Hightower (HOWL Book #1)
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (HOWL Book #2)
Leonardo's Nephew by James Fenton (RandomCat)
Humans are the Problem: A Monster's Anthology (ScaredyKit)
The Poet and the Donkey by May Sarton (CalendarCat & 'P' AlphaKit)
and, finally, Memory Collectors by Kim Neville (AlphaKit 'N')

78RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 4, 5:54 pm

>77 whitewavedarling: That is very exciting!

79pamelad
toukokuu 4, 6:03 pm

>77 whitewavedarling: Congratulations!

80Charon07
toukokuu 5, 10:08 am

>77 whitewavedarling: Congratulations! I’ll keep an eye open for your LT author page!

81christina_reads
toukokuu 6, 11:04 am

>77 whitewavedarling: Such exciting writing news -- congratulations!

82whitewavedarling
toukokuu 6, 11:19 am

Thanks, all! The publishing world is so slow, it's fun to be able to celebrate when good news comes!

83whitewavedarling
toukokuu 8, 11:52 am

32. A Quantum Love Story by Mike Chen

I should say that I never would have read this book if it had been written by another writer. But Mike Chen's writing and storytelling are among my favorites, so I couldn't quite resist, much as I tried.

Fact 1: I'm super-picky about time travel stories. More often than not, they leave me grumbling about plot holes, with a headache, or just plain annoyed.
Fact 2: I sometimes read romance, but I avoid the more dramatic and sappy stories entirely. I much prefer action and/or humor.
Fact 3: I hated The Time Traveler's Wife so much that it's among a very short list of books which I so disliked that I not only swore off the author, but was physically mad at her for writing the book. Through angry, sobbing tears and disgust at myself for finishing the book, I swore (this was in 2010) that I'd never again read another book which tried to tackle both time travel and romance at the same time.

And I kept that promise...until this book showed up on my doorstep. You see, I'd pre-ordered it without paying much attention to the blurb, because again, it's MIKE CHEN. How could I not want to read whatever he wrote? But then I read the blurb, and put it aside. And read the blurb again a month later, and put it aside. And read the blurb again...

And I told myself, time loops aren't quite time travel, right? And I always search out books that deal with memory. And again, it's time loops, not time travel. Time loops, not time travel....

So, I read the book.

And honestly, I'm glad I did. In the end, I adored it. It was heartbreaking at so many moments--and I'm sure I'll never read it again, to be fair--and I saw some of the heartbreak coming, which made it all the harder to bear, but Chen injected enough humor and science(ish) into the work that the drama and heartbreak weren't allowed to hold the greater story back, and the story itself was pretty wonderful. It's ultimately my least favorite of Chen's works (though I've got one more to read that I'm saving for a proverbial rainy day), but I'm glad I semi-intentionally broke my promise to myself and read it. I'd certainly recommend it.

But if you think I'll ever read another book that bridges time-play (loops or travel) and romance...well, that's not happening. Not until one of my favorite authors (gulps) decides they have to write such a thing, too. Hopefully, it'll be at least another 14 years before that happens.

84christina_reads
toukokuu 8, 2:05 pm

>83 whitewavedarling: I'm intrigued -- would you be up for sharing why you hated The Time Traveler's Wife so much? I haven't read it and have seen mixed reviews, but never such a strong negative reaction!

85whitewavedarling
toukokuu 8, 3:37 pm

>84 christina_reads:, Oh gosh, I'm just going to share my old review of it here lol. I will say--I NEVER would have finished it if I'd DNF'd books back then. Now, I'm not so averse to putting down a book that feels like a waste of my time/energy, but back then, I was always determined to finish every book I started.

So, uh, the review/rant about The Time Traveler's Wife...

I'd have to say that it's been over a decade since I gave serious thought to not finishing a book--I'm meticulous about finishing books that I start. That said, I gave serious thought to throwing this book away unfinished when I was halfway through. As is, it will be the first book in years that I give away without any desire to hold it for my own library.

This may be a page-turner, but it is constantly sad, tragic, and depressing. The writing isn't bad, but it's also not anything worth reading for its own beauty and worth. Niffenegger came up with a good premise for a story, but left out those aspects which could make the book redeemable, or great.

First, the interest of a romance book comes from the characters falling in love with one another, and from conflict. Here, it is ONLY conflict. The characters are simply in love with each other, but though we see their whole relationship, we never see them fall for one another. It's circular, which I suppose was either an oversight or an easy answer from the author--either way, it's a frustration once one sees what's happening. Henry is in love with Clare because she's fallen in love with him. However, Clare is in love with Henry because he was in love with her when he met her (her having already fallen in love with him). It would be simple enough to show each character falling in love, but we see none of it. Both characters at different points are either entirely in love or simply not in love. If you think about this, you'll see it's true, though the author's fast-moving plot (however predictable it is) does a good job of masking this huge aspect that she has, simply, left unwritten and unmentioned.

Conflict, though, is everywhere, to the extent that it's nearly unbelievable that two people can be so incredibly unlucky. The circle of plot seems to be that whenever the author feels things are getting mundane, she throws in another tragedy, or another detail of an already mentioned tragedy which makes it all the more tragic. In other words, there are so many, so often, that they as single events lose their power. Additionally, the characters are ridiculously well-adjusted for having gone through all they've supposedly gone through---I have to think that Niffenegger may have been worried about the chronology and plotting of time here, but she wasn't worried about the believability of the characters or the psychology of the events and characters as presented.

I should say, I'm not opposed to tragedy, or to dark books. However, when a book is written simply to be a tear-jerker, when I feel the author is simply playing darkly with her characters and with my emotions for the heck of it as opposed to for the story, and when I feel that the tragedies separately serve no purpose, I see no purpose for the book. An author should be true to the story they create, not their own whims of destruction.

Life is too short to read a book whose sole value is painting many tragedies without tangible enough happiness to balance Anything, let alone the book. Someone might argue that the true love pictured in the book balances the sadness out, but since the author neglects to show us where that love comes from, or even how its arisen, it's difficult to find it a believable love as opposed to something that simply has to be there for the story, and so, is. I'm not sure, honestly, where all the hype came from on this book; I simply found it maudlin and depressing for the last three-hundred pages, not to mention predictable, and the pieces which I was most interested in learning were left out entirely or treated ambiguously and briefly. Certainly, the author started with a wonderful idea, but I have to say that in my opinion, she didn't do a worthwhile job with it--she simply got it done, and sold.

I don't recommend it--to anyone, and I won't be wasting my time with this author in the future.

86christina_reads
toukokuu 8, 4:11 pm

>85 whitewavedarling: Well, that review definitely solidifies my decision not to read the book! Thanks for sharing. :)

87KeithChaffee
toukokuu 8, 4:13 pm

My problem with The Time Traveler's Wife is that it was filled with time travel tropes that had long since been handled much better in other stories, and the author was too ignorant of the genre to realize that. She was presenting these stale, clumsily handled ideas as if they were dazzling inventions, and by marketing the book primarily to romance readers who didn't know the time travel genre any better than she did, she got away with it.

88whitewavedarling
toukokuu 8, 4:33 pm

>86 christina_reads:, Yep, definitely a good decision lol. Even just thinking of that book raises my blood pressure, even 14 years after reading it!

>87 KeithChaffee:, That's the best answer I've heard for why it was able to gain traction and get so much attention! It would also make sense that I'd have missed something like that, as I really didn't read much sci-fi until maybe five years ago, long after I'd read that book, so I would have been focused on (all of) the other problems rather than that one!

89whitewavedarling
toukokuu 9, 11:17 am

33. Below by Laurel Hightower

This fast-paced novella has so many surprises packed into its pages, it's hard to believe so much can be packed into a short book, but Hightower's writing is tight and powerful, and she has a talent for the most haunting of scenes. Admittedly, there were moments where I wished for more description or that things had moved just a bit slower, but on the whole, I enjoyed this and I'm sure I'll seek out more of the author's writing.

Recommended for horror-lovers.

90Charon07
toukokuu 9, 7:04 pm

>89 whitewavedarling: Taking a BB for Below!

91whitewavedarling
toukokuu 10, 11:34 am

>90 Charon07:, I'm glad to hear it! It was a fun read :)

92whitewavedarling
toukokuu 13, 11:37 am

And now, for a book that's the complete opposite of the last one in everything but length...

34. The Poet and the Donkey by May Sarton

This is a simple, sweet novel that tells of a poet, his struggles with the muse, and a donkey named Whiffenpoof. Adding to the story are lovely little snapshot illustrations by Stefan Martin which help to bring Sarton's words to life.

It's an easy, lovely story, gorgeously written, and as calm and refreshing as a Sunday morning drive through the country, as if from another time.

Recommended for anyone interested.

93whitewavedarling
toukokuu 18, 1:32 pm

35. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

I fell into this book quickly, and adored Melchor's style and the way each chapter enmeshed us in character. And yet, ultimately, I ended up DNFing the book, just past the 75% mark (which is the latest I've ever given up on a book).

As much as the style of this book takes some getting used to, the content is often harder to take. I haven't looked up trigger warnings, but this book probably deserves pretty much all of them. And while for more than the first half of the book I felt like the writing and the topic more than warranted the depth of trauma, focus, and content, I got to a point in the book where it no longer felt justifiable. The book was getting harder to read in terms of the violence and objectionable content, and more and more, it felt like we'd veered into writing that was meant to shock more so than anything. I'm not one for shock value, or for extreme horror in general, and while I'd love the beginning of the book (despite plenty of rough content), I got to a point where I just felt more and more disgusted with the book. So, finally, I put it down.

There's a lot to love about Melchor's work here, her writing talent, and the effects achieved through character immersion and study. Even the interplay of violence, humor, and trauma. But, for me, it got to be too much, and ultimately felt like trauma piled atop of trauma and brought up over and over again for little more than shock value. Once I closed the book, I couldn't bring myself to open it up again.

This isn't actually a book I could recommend to anyone, to be honest. I've given it a three-star rating based on the first half of the book and based on the fact that I trust the judgement of friends in my book club who hold it in higher regard than I do...but I don't see myself ever recommending this one or picking up another work of Melchor's in the future, much as I can acknowledge the talent on display in the writing.

94whitewavedarling
toukokuu 24, 11:57 am

36. Humans are the Problem: A Monster's Anthology edited by Michael Cluff and Willow Becker

This is such a fun collection, and the variety of theme and monster is fantastic. Many of the stories do strike something of the same tone, so I suspect wandering through this rather than binging through story after story might make it an even more enjoyable read, but I think my only real complaint may be that the very first story--"Root Rot" by Sarah Read--is simply so fantastic that it sets an awfully high bar, and while I enjoyed the stories that came immediately after it, none of them quite lived up to Read's story, and that slowed me down quite a bit as I got into the collection. But, all that said, I think the hallmark of a great anthology is twofold: 1) You don't feel like you're reading different variations on the same stories/themes/characters over and over again (which happens far too often), and 2) You find some fantastic favorites as you read, and though every story/poem can't be a favorite, even the ones you don't love feel worth reading, barring one or two at most. And by those standards, this was absolutely a great anthology well worth the time.

And along with the aforementioned "Root Rot", I definitely found some other favorites along the way--most notably "Woof" by Patrick Barb, "On This Side of the Veil" by Gabino Iglesias, "Epic Troll" by Auston Habershaw, "The Man of Seaweed and Reeds" by Corey Farrenkopf, "The Blanch" by Dominick Cancilla, and "My Friend Nessie" by J.H. Moncrieff.

Recommended for readers who love horror shorts.

95whitewavedarling
toukokuu 26, 9:31 am

37. Leonardo's Nephew: Essays on Art and Artists by James Fenton

I discovered James Fenton through his poetry--way back in high school, in fact, when I first fell in love with his collection Out of Danger--but in the years since, I've made an effort to read his nonfiction, as well. In this collection, his thoughtful prose and compelling style once again made me glad that I put in the effort to search out his other work. In widely varying essays on both art and specific artists, this book takes us through and around a huge swath of territory, blending biography with history and with art criticism to bring artists and their worlds (and interests) to life. Journey through history in this book was, admittedly, far more enjoyable than the art history course I took, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested. It game me plenty of material to think about in my own work as a writer, as well.

Recommended.

96pamelad
toukokuu 26, 6:16 pm

>95 whitewavedarling: I first came across James Fenton as Redmon O'Hanlon's companion in Congo Journey, then as the author of All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of Asia. I just took the second from my shelf and found a card used as a book mark in the chapter on the fall of Saigon. The card is for Hotel Chau Au - Europa, Dalat. I was there in 1994!

I can recommend both books, though thirty years is quite a while.

97whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 27, 11:39 am

>96 pamelad:, Oh, that's really need about the card! I read All the Wrong Places some time ago and really enjoyed it. I think Congo Journey will be my next nonfiction read in relation to Fenton!

98whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 2, 11:09 am

38. Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist

Faerie Tale walks a fine line between dark fantasy and horror, and lands mostly outside of horror only because of its subject--which is to be taken as something of a warning for dark fantasy readers, as the gore, the trauma, and the various resolutions tread territory that's often closer to what I'd expect from horror vs fantasy.

All that said, this is a fast-paced and fairly fun read. It does read as somewhat dated--there's so much head-hopping there, I often rather wished it were written from a more contemporary style--and the women in the book are especially stereotypical (though, truth be told, most of the characters do come across as fairly superficial/undeveloped, maybe partly because there are just so many POVs here and the action takes all of the focus). But if you can get past that dated quality and just fall into enjoying the story, there's plenty of entertainment to be had here.

Will I recommend this book? To anyone interested, given the caveats, yes. Will I read more of Feist's work? Likely only if the concept really jumps out at me, as plot gets a lot more focus in this story than character, and I more often enjoy books that are at least partly driven by engagement with character.

99whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 2, 11:22 am

39. Forget Me Not (Systema Paradoxa Volume 10) by Carol Gyzander

This was a fast read, and I enjoyed it more and more as I got into it, but I admit I was hoping for more. The story is incredibly simple, and while there's a nice twist to what's happening, the dialogue comes off as so stilted that it's difficult to really fall into the world of the story and engage on any level beyond presented myth. Adding to the dialogue issue is the fact that the characters are incredibly one-dimensional, drawing attention to the artificial nature of the story.

Style-wise, it just reads as more of a fable or myth than a contemporary novella/story--and that would be fine, if not for the length asking readers to engage on more of a novella/story level.

Conceptually, I enjoyed the idea here, but the presentation fell so flat for me that I'm not sure I'd read another work in the series or from the author. This probably isn't something I'd recommend unless you're specifically looking for works centered around North American cryptids and/or Lake Erie.

100whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 2, 11:45 am

40. The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville

I've been meaning to read this book nearly since it came out, as speculative fiction with a focus on memory seemed right up my alley. And, in the end, I'm so glad I did.

It's possible my instincts put off my reading it because, in truth, this was a far more emotional read than I expected, and hit close to home in too many respects. As such, it wasn't an easy read for me, but as I absolutely adored it. I'd call it something of a Velveteen Rabbit for adults--and I say that lovingly--but with the requisite touches of horror, fantasy, and loss that one might expect from such a description. Neville's style and storytelling are wonderful in every way, though, and I'd absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested.

101lowelibrary
kesäkuu 2, 6:27 pm

>100 whitewavedarling: Taking a BB for this one.

102whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 3, 1:32 pm

>101 lowelibrary:, I'm glad! It really was fantastic. I was so disappointed to look up the author and find out it's the only book she's released!

103Charon07
kesäkuu 4, 7:37 pm

I’m taking BBs for both >98 whitewavedarling: and >100 whitewavedarling:.

104whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 6, 10:29 am

>103 Charon07:, I'm glad and amused, those are such wildly different books lol.

105whitewavedarling
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 14, 12:09 pm

I've fallen behind on both reading and reviewing because, as of this past Friday, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Quinn. This is a picture of her in her prime.



Quinn was my Black Friday miracle kitty. In 2017, my husband needed a new computer, but money was tight because he'd been out of work for a while, and though new work was lined up, things were still awfully tight. We decided the smart thing to do would be to take advantage of Black Friday sales, even though both of us had always been careful to avoid shopping that day.

After hours at Best Buy, with a new laptop in hand, we were in a forever-line to check out. Feeling totally overwhelmed by the crowds, I disappeared to browse dog beds at the Pet Smart next door--our sweet Arthur was in desperate need of a new bed, so it made sense. An hour or so later, though, I'd caught eyes with an older, unhealthy-looking cat in a kennel. Malnourished, sad-looking, and simply curled up in a bed. The signpost beside her kennel said that she was only 8, and named Queenie, but that her previous owners had taken her to a vet to be put to sleep because she'd 'peed on electronics'. The vet had refused because she was healthy, and so had taken ownership and gotten her to a rescue.

Money was tight, and my husband and I were leaving on Christmas vacation in three weeks. Adopting another cat made no sense. And yet I couldn't stop looking at her. I talked to the rescue worker, and told her that if she was still there after we got back from vacation, I promised I'd be there for her. I hoped she'd be adopted before then--nobody wants to see a cat sleep life away in a kennel for a month when they could have another home--but it was just bad timing. This was a no-kill rescue, so I didn't expect what the woman told me next: They didn't have a suitable foster able to take her, but Quinn (then Queenie) wasn't doing well in the kennel/Pet Smart. She needed space, quiet, and attention, and didn't have enough of either, hence her looking so malnourished. The woman told that she honestly though this sweet cat would waste away and not be around after another month, she was eating so little.

When my husband called to say he was done, I asked him to come meet the cat. All the way home, talked about the cat. And when we got home, we slept on it...and the next day, I called to ask what we had to do to adopt her. The woman at first didn't know who I was talking about, and then when I described her some more, she said, "Oh, you mean the Screamer!" (It turns out, Queenie/Quinn got very loud when morning came and she was ready for food/attention!)

We adopted her, obviously. Queenie wasn't a name either of us could live with, and we figured it couldn't have the best memories for her if her previous owners had wanted to see her put to sleep. So, we called her Quinn, thinking it was just different enough and similar enough to make sense. In our minds, we thought we might have her for six months to a year. She was that unhealthy, and it really felt like we were just bringing her home for a comfortable, final retirement. We ended up having her for a wonderful six and a half years.

Since then, she became my shadow. It took time. She was fine with our big hound, but scared of the cats (having had both of her front paws declawed). Eventually, she'd come to lounge across my foot or let our little Siamese cat groom her. The last four years or so, she's slept in bed with us every night. She remained scared of our male cat, and would yowl if she didn't feel like walking across the house to go to her favorite litter box. I'd get up and carry her across the house to avoid an accident. In the morning, she was our alarm clock, waking us for food even if the dogs were content to sleep. At night, she'd sleep at my shoulder on the back of the couch while I was reading or watching television. If my husband took a nap on the couch, she'd be on top of him.

She needed so much extra attention, I quit traveling in the summer to teach at boarding schools, but never regretted it. The house feels empty without her, particularly because it happened so fast. Almost as soon as we realized she was sick, with cancer that had already spread, we had to say goodbye.

I'm not sure when I'll be over this loss, but thank you for listening to her story.

106DeltaQueen50
kesäkuu 14, 12:31 pm

I am sorry for your loss. Quinn was a beautiful cat and it warms the heart that she had those good years as part of your family.

107dudes22
kesäkuu 14, 1:03 pm

I'm sorry for your loss too. You worked hard to give her a good life.

108MissBrangwen
kesäkuu 14, 1:23 pm

I am so sorry. What a sad and yet wonderful story.

109christina_reads
kesäkuu 14, 1:36 pm

So sorry to hear, Jennifer. It sounds like you gave her a wonderful home in her last years.

110NinieB
kesäkuu 14, 2:15 pm

I'm so sorry you've lost Quinn. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing her story and for giving her a loving home these last six years.

111lowelibrary
kesäkuu 14, 4:52 pm

> 105 Thank you for sharing that wonderful story—condolences from me and my rescue kitties.

112RidgewayGirl
kesäkuu 14, 9:58 pm

>105 whitewavedarling: What a beauty! I know what it's like to lose a cat you've bonded with, but what a remarkable life you let her live, full of love and security.

113MissWatson
kesäkuu 15, 5:28 am

>105 whitewavedarling: I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Quinn's story.

114whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 15, 12:34 pm

Thank you for the messages, everyone, and for reading our story. At times like this, it really does mean a lot to be able to share and have such a supportive community here.

115Charon07
kesäkuu 15, 2:58 pm

>105 whitewavedarling: My sincere sympathies. I know what it’s like lose a companion who’s so close to your heart. Quinn was a quite a beauty. I’m so glad to hear about the wonderful new life you gave her after her rough start.

116rabbitprincess
kesäkuu 16, 8:22 am

>105 whitewavedarling: I'm so sorry about Quinn and and am grateful to hear her story. She truly does look like royalty in that photo!

117whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 23, 6:10 pm

Thanks, >115 Charon07: and >116 rabbitprincess:. We're still reeling here, honestly. The messages are really appreciated--it does help to share her story.

Meanwhile, I've been reading as an escape, so there's some catch-up to list. I'm still catching up on reviews, but to give a brief update:

41. Curse of the Reaper by Brian McAuley (horror - 5*)
42. The Boys from Santa Cruz by Jonathan Nasaw (suspense/thriller - 5*)
43. The Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes (space opera - 4.5*)
44. Compass Rose by John Casey (general/lit fiction - 4*)
45. Xombies by Walter Greatshell (horror/dystopia/post-apoc - 2.5*)
46. First Thrills edited by Lee Child (short thriller stories - 3*)
47. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich (horror poetry - 4*)
48. Pebble & Dove by Amy Jones (general/women's fiction - 4.5*)

118whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 25, 10:55 am

49. Lessons in Demoralization by Nikki R. Leigh

This horror collection is full of original concepts, fantastic horrors, and as many gory scenes as one could hope for from a book with this many stories. Many of the stories felt like they were crying out to be extended into novellas, the concepts were so rich, and if anything, I wish many of the stories had just been a bit longer to let us really live in the moments with the characters, but this collection is a lot of fun, regardless.

Definitely worth picking up if you love horror shorts!

119whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 25, 11:22 am

50. The Pain Killers by John Avanzato

Avanzato's writing is a ton of fun, and I'm enjoying this series. There is quite a bit of heavy-handed humor which sometimes becomes over-the-top for me, but I also know that it's one of the things a lot of readers love about the series, so that's more of a me-thing. In this installment of the series (which can be read as a stand-alone), there are enough twists and turns to keep the action and the story moving fast, and I really enjoyed it overall, despite a few coincidences that I'd prefer have been avoided.

Definitely recommended for readers who love their suspense novels filled with humor.

120whitewavedarling
kesäkuu 26, 12:30 pm

Retreating into books so much this month ended up meaning that I finished out my June reads with time to spare. Now, I'm still wandering through the anthology, Poe's Children, and I've also started reading the mermaid/paranormal romance, Siren's Call.

For July, my plans include:
Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (folk horror stories)
Slither by Edward Lee (horror)
The Necromancer's House (a horror favorite re-read)
Contact by Carl Sagan (science fiction)
Another Dead Intern by Joel Spriggs (comedic paranormal)
The Witchery by S. Isabelle (YA horror/paranormal)

Definitely a month heavy on paranormals/horror, but after more gen/literary lit this past month than I necessarily meant to pick up, I think that's what my brain wants. With any luck, I'll fit in some further progress on ongoing nonfiction reads on the side.

121whitewavedarling
heinäkuu 1, 8:02 pm

Finally, I finished an anthology begun in early March:

51. Poe's Children: The New Horror: An Anthology edited by Peter Straub

This is a tough collection to review simply because so much depends on how you judge the whole of it--and I don't mean in terms of quality. Whatever Straub was thinking in putting it together--whether we take what we can from the overblown, condescending introduction, or think of the anthology in terms of horror, or think of it simply as an anthology of quality stories--the way we look at the whole of it matters because there is such unevenness in terms of genre. Some of the stories are undoubtedly in the realm of horror, but many others simply aren't. You might call them literary, or weird, or even dark fantasy or simply speculative, but thinking of them as horror is difficult if not impossible. Similarly, looking at them as descendants of Poe may make things clearer, but it's hard to understand why other authors wouldn't have fit in far more smoothly if that were the yardstick. And as for horror...well, if we look at the collection as horror, new or otherwise, it's difficult to know what to say since many of these stories simply don't feel up to that label if I'm being honest.

So, to take nothing but quality into account, where do we end up? Well, honestly, nowhere I particularly want to go again. The early stories in the collection are uneven at best--there's a certain lack of polish, as if too much is just left open-ended, without quite enough resolution. Worse (to me), so many of them have the same sort of lack in terms of resolution, and the same tone, that the anthology became repetitive fast--that's why I began reading it in March and finished only months later. I have to admit that I simply couldn't finish a number of the stories here--they weren't offering me enough to engage with, and they made me want nothing more than to put down the book. In fact, Straub's own story was among this number, which may say something about the editing as a whole.

There were some great stories here, but they were the ones by authors I'm already a fan of, for the most part. And those which stood out otherwise were ones which felt totally out of place in a 'horror collection'.

So, would I recommend this anthology? Probably not. There are some great stories here, but the sameness in tone and the lack of cohesiveness--in either genre or quality--make it tough to know what reader would appreciate all of the stories here, or even most of them, without growing bored and wandering off.

122whitewavedarling
heinäkuu 5, 11:09 am

52. The Witchery by S. Isabelle

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed witchy YA this much, and while I've read some standouts over the years--The Scapegracers and Secret Circle series come to mind first of all--this might top the list for me now. On top of going darker than I expected for YA, Isabelle didn't veer away from the socio-political questions you'd expect to rise alongside witchery, not to mention conversations about race and violence and grief. Nothing was simple in this book, and the story (and characters) was all the better for it. I at first had a difficult time getting used to all of the different POVs, but soon they each became so distinct that it was impossible to imagine the book written in any other fashion, with each POV clearly adding not only to the complexity of the book, but to the story and the emotion of it.

I rarely move directly from one book in a series right into the next, but in this case, there's no question. I stopped reading last night only to see if the second book was out, and then order it when I discovered it was. After that, I stayed up late reading because I simply couldn't put the book down again until I'd finished.

Absolutely recommended.

123whitewavedarling
heinäkuu 5, 1:35 pm

53. Siren's Call by Devyn Quinn

This was not the read I was expecting. And while I enjoyed it, for what it was, I'm not surprised the rating hovers around 3 rather than being higher, given genre expectations. While this starts off as a paranormal romance, and while romance is certainly a real part of the story, the novel diverges into being more focused on suspense/adventure, with the romance taking more of a background role. On some level, it's closer to what I'd expect from romantic suspense, but even then, the romance element of the story is so quickly taken for granted, it's not a good fit. Call it a mish-mash of romance and adventure, if anything.

On the whole, I did really enjoy the writing and the characters as well as the world-building. I expect that I will go on to read the next book in the series and other work by Quinn--but I won't pick these particular books up when I'm specifically in the mood for romance.

124lowelibrary
heinäkuu 5, 10:56 pm

>122 whitewavedarling: Taking a BB for this one. I like a good Witchy YA.

125whitewavedarling
heinäkuu 7, 10:18 am

>124 lowelibrary:, I'm glad! The sequel is supposed to reach my hands today, and I can't wait to dive in!