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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

Currently reading

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

The Expanse Pilot

Full pilot episode up on youtube. Very pretty, but I'm looking forward to rewatching this when the CC is actually working.



Review: Illuminae

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

I hadn't heard of this book before it appeared on The Big Idea, and basically sold me with a single image. What a load of fun. I love all the details, and all the different voices, and the predictable but just right plotting. 


And the cover. Let's talk about the cover. I mean look at. Let's look at the cover.



 See all the transparent sections? Look what is under the dust jacket.



Right? The alignment between the blacked out sections and the cover text? So much to love and we haven't even opened the cover yet!



So much detail. Here's the first page of the actual book.



Note the page numbering at the bottom. This is a brick! But it reads very fast. In part because of the amount of white space on many of the pages, and in part because it moves rather fast. Very easy to pick up for short stints or to hold onto for lengthier sections of being trapped under the cat. This was quite fun!

Animals attack drones.

Review: Rapture

Rapture - Kameron Hurley

Nyx is back for one last job. Yeah, we have all heard that one before. Even older and less in shape, she is a force to be reckoned with. The pacing isn't quite as brisk, but the world is a lot weirder and the new characters are all a lot of fun. 


Kage. Can I get a whole novel about Kage?


The worst part of this book is that now I am out of bel Dame books to read. What the hell am I supposed to escape into next time the bullshit of the real world gets me down? The second worst thing is not having a map of the world and feeling lost at times about relative locations. That is a complete list of complaints. 


Did I mention Kage?

Review: Infidel

Infidel - Kameron Hurley

Wonderful, powerful, fantastic sequel to God's War. Everything I loved about the first one plus some welcome character reveals and development for a secondary character.


Basically Nyx is my Patronus, and years after the misadventures of the first book, she still hasn't figured out how to die. No matter how hard she gets knocked down, she gets back up and keeps moving forward - and in this book, she gets knocked the fuck down. 


Inaya, who's role in God's War includes some mystery and a lot of frustration shines amazingly in Infidel. 


Basically, this book is full of blood and death and awesome women. 


You know. Comfort food.

Review: Bitch Planet Vol 1

Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, Valentine De Landro

I'm not tattoo people, but if I was at all, I would have my NC tattoo right the fuck now. This is glorious. Best comic out there right now. Yes. Yes. All the yes.


Still undecided? Try this interview out.


Sadly, given my preference for collected volumes over individual issues, I missed out on the essays and other bonus material in the individual issues. 

The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

The writing in this book is simply gorgeous. Lyrical, divine sentences. Rich descriptions that somehow never feel like they're slowing down the pace. 


Also, an important warning: this is not stand alone. 


Shahrzad is a fascinating heroine. She's out for revenge, but she's willing to bide her time to ensure her success. She's razor sharp in wit. She knows who she is and has no fucks to give about anyone else's attempts to contain her. And yet, she isn't so arrogant or so consumed by vengeance to fail to be a sharp observer, realizing that things in the palace do not add up.


I'm not quite as enthralled with the Caliph. While he has more depth than he seems, he's still  accurately describes as an impetuous youth prone to violence. His trust issues take far too long to resolve, and once they do, it seems beyond belief that he would ever have spoken to Shahrzad.


I also have a hard time with neither he, nor his most trusted guards not knowing who Tariq was before he ever entered the palace. Ok, minor spoilers, but only minor: at some point, the Caliph hosts a gathering that all the important families receive invitations to. Not a spoiler: this same Caliph has been randomly selecting brides and murdering them for months before the start of the book. Somehow, nobody considers, I don't know, cross-referencing the list of invitations against the list of families who's daughters he's murdered?! Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?! I mean, even to people who aren't inner circle enough to know why he keeps killing girls, this should be a no brainer. But, alas, Tariq's father is invited, and Tariq arrives in his place - no disguise, no subterfuge, and nobody knows who he is? 


That aside, I really enjoyed the plot, and I look forward to the sequel.


Shazi forever.

Review: Castle Hangnail

Castle Hangnail - Ursula Vernon

This book is adorable, and I am madly in love with it. The illustrations are great. The characters are wonderful. It has a lovely sense of humor and a healthy respect for just how out of control mint can get. 

Review: Rat Queens Volume 2

Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'Rygoth Paperback - May 19, 2015 - Kurtis J. Wiebe

I loved the first volume, and this one is even better. Talk about adding depth while maintaining great momentum and the sense of raunchy joy that made volume 1 such a fun read!

Review: Empress Game

Empress Game  - Rhonda Mason

A fast-paced, galactic scale adventure with engaging characters, fantastic fight scenes, and a bit of romance. One of my friends picked this up based solely on the cover, and it turned out to be so good neither of us can figure out how nobody has been talking about it.


Really, how has everyone not read this already? It's so below the radar that I had to add it to booklikes to review it.


The whole concept of the Empress Game is itself so absurd that when the protagonist looks up it's history, she compares the Imperials to children.


Have I mentioned that I love her?


We meet her in a fighting pit at the wrong end of the universe - this book start with a knife fight. (Have I mentioned that starting a SFF novel with a knife fight that I will read your book? Because I will.) She's been hiding and fighting for so long now that she doesn't know how to do anything else. Her serious trust issues are not easily resolved - nothing in this book is easy. It feels like a fun light read, but I keep turning parts of it over in my head.


If I have to pick something to complain about, I wish it hadn't been quite so hetero-normative. Maybe book two?


Oh, I am so excited that there is a book 2.

Review: Sex Criminals, Vol 2.

Sex Criminals Volume 2: Two Worlds, One Cop - Chip Zdarsky, Matt Fraction

Book, it's not you, it's me.


I suspected after the last collection of his that I read, that Matt Fraction just isn't the writer for me. And while I liked this volume a lot more than the previous, I don't think I'll be picking up another of his books. Don't hold that against this book, though, This volume adds a ton of breadth and depth to the world (regular and quiet). It's just not for me.

Review: Rolling in the Deep

Rolling in the Deep - Mira Grant

I am utterly baffled to see that I haven't reviewed this novella. How did I fail at that? I talked about Rolling In The Deep constantly for about a week and a half, but apparently not online.


First, a note: this is in no way related to the McGuire story in WDSF.


Such a fun concept! The framework for this story is a "documentary" about the final days aboard a failed "scientific" mission to look for evidence of mermaids. In quotes because it's a documentary in the style of entertainment television, and the original mission was funded by the same entertainment company - which hired women to play mermaids in addition to scientists to study them. 


And rather than cheese factory, Grant turned out an excellent science fiction horror story. Yeah, this work of fiction cares more about plausibility than the average ancient alien documentary out there. 


I'm still waiting for my trilogy of trilogies about her other mermaid story, though.

Review: P.S. Be Eleven

P.S. Be Eleven - Rita Williams-Garcia

Can you tell I've been catching up on middle grade?


After a summer spent living with their long estranged mother, the sisters arrive home only to find everything changing around them. Their uncle is back from Vietnam with a sickness he just can't shake, and their dad has a new lady friend. 


This series is great. The characters are all fantastic, and the historical backdrop is fascinating. Plot-wise, this one is a bit predictable, but in ways that don't diminish the reading experience. This is an emotional juggernaut, and not a mystery novel, after all. Knowing what's going to happen just makes the scenes before even more bittersweet. 


When I read One Crazy Summer, I had no idea this was a series. I'm so glad Ladybusiness reviewed this volume or I might have missed out altogether. There's a third one, set in Alabama!

Review: New Beginnings

Everyday Angel #1: New Beginnings - Victoria Schwab

Ya'll, someone set a middle grade series in the same universe as Dead Like Me and made the first book about cancer, and I know how that sounds, but it's actually pretty sweet.


I gave it to my niece - the first autographed book I've given her.


Guardian angels, sure, but this isn't really Christian in mythology. This angel knows she needs to help three people . . . somehow. She figures out that the first person is a young girl who's brother has cancer. To accommodate his treatment, the family has moved to a small apartment near the hospital, and her mother spends almost every waking moment devoted to her sick child. 


This is an adorable little story about self worth, inner strength, and a magic teleporting shadow. And there are 2 more books to go!

Review: Chapelwood

Chapelwood: The Borden Dispatches - Cherie Priest

If you loved Maplecroft, odds are good you will like this. If you hated Maplecroft, odds are good you won't like this.


Years have passed since the events that brought Simon Wolf into contact with Lizzie Andrews. He's continued to be a professional investigator of the odd. She's continued to pursue her interest in the not-quite-natural, but sealed off the basement and stopped experimenting. Now they are both interested in the same series off ax murders and other odd reports coming from Birmingham, Alabama.


Told largely through journal entries and newspaper clippings, this one does occasionally break epistolary form with first person sections that clearly weren't written accounts. That's not a huge deal, I guess. Either way, it's rotating, mostly first person with several POV characters. 


More importantly, there is a room that eats things. Not all things, just important ones.


I liked this quite a bit, but I'm biased in favor of southern food and mouthy women. I hope there is a third book in this series.

Review: Serpentine

Serpentine - Cindy Pon

Kind of a slow start, but overall a lot of fun, with an ending I respect the hell out of. Refreshing setting, great characters well realized, and undead hordes, what's not to like.


The back of the book is actually a really great description for this one, and I don't have much to add. There is supposed to be a sequel, but this is functionally stand alone. And super interesting. 


Check this one out.