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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, 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

October update

Hi all, sorry for the silence. We did some travelling that left me with enough time on planes to go on a small Cassandra Khaw bender and finish book 2 in, uh, 4 different series (serieses? seriesi?). But as soon as we got home I caught a cold and as soon as I was done antibiotics, I changed jobs.


We watched the RiffTrax version of R.O.T.O.R. a couple days ago, and I am still haunted by the line, "you look like you got both eyes coming out of the same hole." 


What the what?


Anyway, will try to get back to reviewing real soon.

Review: Dead Light March

Dead Light March (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Novella 2) (Shadowshaper Cypher, The) - Daniel José Older

This novella is the least stand alone piece of Older's work I've read so far. It's written from the perspective of a character introduced in the previous Shadowshaper novella, and important in the next novel, and introduces some aspects of magic that would be hard to get at from the perspectives present in that novel. However, it feels like 3 info dumps standing on each other's shoulders, dressed up in a plot coat, trying to pass for a story.

Review: The Dinosaur Hunters

The Dinosaur Hunters: A Secrets of the Dragon Tomb Novella - Patrick Samphire

A MG girl adventurer novella with a great setting. Ready for it?


Victorian era Martian colony with airships and dinosaurs. 


There is a mystery plot, but really this is all about the setting and the protagonist. 


I'm sad to see the other books in the series don't have her as the lead.

Review: An Extraordinary Union

An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole

Quite an enjoyable romance novel where nothing is easy. This is set during the American Civil War and doesn't shy away from the horrors of slavery or give the hero a white savior role. 


A+ romance arc. A+ spy adventure plot. A+ heroine. Basically just a great read all around.

Review: Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things - Jenny Lawson, Jenny  Lawson

A funny book about overcoming adversity, especially when it's source is your own brain and body. Like Lawson's previous book, she narrates the audio version, which we've been listening to in bits and pieces over various road trips.


Nothing in this book made me laugh so hard I nearly got into an accident, but it still had some quite funny parts. And, more importantly, Lawson pulls no punches in describing her dealings with depression and the importance of both moving forward and knowing when to hide in your hotel room for a few days.


Part self help, part philosophy, part taxidermy, and all heart.

Review: Ghost Girl in the Corner

Ghost Girl in the Corner: A Shadowshaper Novella - Daniel José Older

I was going to plunge right into Shadowhouse Fall, the sequel to the excellent YA UF novel Shadowshaper, but noticed there were 2 novellas set between the novels. This is the first, and follows a secondary character, Tee from the first novel. 


A satisfying read that leaves open a potential new threat for the novels in the series while still reaching a conclusion for the mystery of the ghost girl.


This story also has the cluelessest of white ladies who wants to make sure everything has a happy, optimistic twist to it. I definitely have worked with that lady. 100% guaranteed to be colorblind. I kind of wish we'd gotten a little more resolution there. Tee's journalism project is left off at a point where the white lady wants to talk about potential misuse of funds, and having finished both novellas and half the next novel, this hasn't come back up.


The printing press hasn't been mentioned at all in the other stories. Like this short was meant to introduce some stuff to the series for later, but the rest of the stuff it is built from doesn't exist in the novels. At least not yet. Having read Older's Bone Street Rumba trilogy, it may just be further out in the series that this comes back into play.

Review: Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling

Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling - Tony Cliff

A fun adventure about a swashbuckling, selfish, adventurous protagonist and her frustrated and ever practical traveling companion. This is the second in a series, but functions fine as a stand alone graphic novel. Appropriate for the upper end of middle grade reader looking for a girl adventurer.


There are some class/race issues that could have been delved into deeper, but at least aren't ignored or brushed over. 


I may pick up the next one as well.

Review: Paper Girls Vol 3

Paper Girls Volume 3 - Brian K. Vaughan

Not as good as previous volumes, but it would be hard to keep up the same amazing, dynamite good times forever. And this issue is bad times all around, from the plight of the character in the local timeline, to the ill fated time traveler they meet along the way, bad things happen to every woman in this volume. 


And can we just stop publishing anything men have to say about women getting their periods? Like, forever? In general, it hasn't bothered me that all of the creative team on this book is men, but for that specific subplot, I do not have enough eye rolling to convey my disappointment.


Over at goodreads, karen wrote an extremely accurate response to reading this, and included some panels. Including a screen shot of one of the last pages, which left me super interested in the next volume even if I didn't love this.

Review: Gwenpool, the Unbelievable, Vol 2

Gwenpool, The Unbelievable Vol. 2: Head of M.O.D.O.K. TPB - Christopher Hastings, Irene Strychalski

Not nearly as strong as the first volume. The conclusion was pretty cool, but the journey was merely adequately executed. The jokes in this one felt a little thin, and I fear Gwen is in danger of actually learning something in the next volume. Still, I will try volume 3 in hopes of more good times and explosions.

Review: Battle Hill Bolero

Battle Hill Bolero - Daniel José Older

The conclusion of the Bone Street Rumba, a wonderful UF trilogy with some short fiction I still haven't gotten around to, was quite satisfying, but perhaps not as strong a read as the second book. Book three follows through on the plots opened in the previous two, but lacks the POV character that made book 2 so amazing, the dapper AF gun toting lesbian. She's still around, but rarely on screen.

Review: The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin

The concluding volume in a trilogy whose first 2 entries both won a Hugo, this will be on my ballot next year. This series is great. This conclusion is brilliant and has pay off for so many world building hooks I'm surprised it isn't 1000 pages long. 


My favorite minor reveal is the origin of Safe, a drink mentioned only a few times that has endlessly practical applications in a world periodically ravaged by apocalypses. 


Jemisin is brilliant and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Review: Food of the Gods

Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw

I encountered this by way of a tweet from the author quoting a sexist negative review that compared the gore herein to Kameron Hurley as though that were a bad thing. So of course I purchased it immediately.


This is two shorter works with the same protagonist presented in three parts. The protagonist is a cannibal chef, not in that he eats people, but that he cooks them for gods. Gods who are almost universally assholes wielding binding contracts and treating humans like so much meat. Are the Gods patriarchy, capitalism, or just assholes, many readings will work.


The first part is an entire noir detective novel in a single act without drenching the protagonist in misogyny. On the one hand, it never feels slow, on the other, Khaw somehow found room to squeeze in a workers' rights discussion. Part of the break neck pace is the way world building is integrated into action sequences and gore feasts. Khaw taking the approach that her reader has probably read some urban fantasy at some point and doesn't need a tutorial. And that her reader also has the internet if they need to look up some entity in some pantheon.


Then we get to part 2, and, after an exciting episode of Iron Chef where the ingredient is porn star, things feel a bit less intense. A large part of this section is the protagonist being carried from scene to scene with no agency beyond being mouthy. There are narrative reasons for this, though, so I can't really call it a flaw. Probably more a reflection on the luxury of choices available to me as a middle class white woman than a criticism of the work. 


Part 3 is love and splatterpunk with tentacles and I am so very pleased to have found yet another bloodletting feminist good time this year.


If you thought American Gods had some neat ideas but was kind of long winded and had a boring protagonist, may I suggest this as an alternative?


I had never heard of Khaw before, but now I want to read everything she has published. I've already downloaded her latest, Bearly A Lady.

Review: Duck Duck God

Duck Duck God - José Iriarte

A fun short piece that manages to be warm, weird, and insightful at the same time. Iriarte's fiction is all interesting and worth reading, and this is no exception.

How is everyone?

By the time Irma got here last night, she wasn't as hard and heavy as feared. So I am pleased to report no flooding in the crawl space and no trees down. I was kind of worried about the latter. 

Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw
"Do not ever forget what you are. Meat. Food for the worms, food for the ghouls. Walking, talking, shitting food."

Review: Strange Practice

Strange Practice - Vivian Shaw

So . . . from the cover and description, I totally did not get that this was set in present day London. Only now am I noticing the London Eye visible through the window. Expectations completely off. On the one hand, I do love that it isn't bare midriff, tits and ass both out somehow, knife holding, and all that, but on the other, I wonder how many UF readers will pass right over this cover.


Whatever. Marketing gonna market. 


A very interesting book, for sure. Not so much action packed as tense and domestic in a very satisfying way. It starts with Greta (and, thus the reader) learning of the existence of the primary protagonists and just goes straight into the plot rather than spend the first 20% establishing yet another unbroken masquerade world. She knows what is what and Shaw, wonderfully, doesn't waste time assuming we don't. While "physician to things that go bump in the night" feels quite fresh as  a premise, this book isn't so much about selling a novel UF concept as about giving the reader characters and friendships to care about. Let's save the day is ancillary to let's help each other and not do anything dumb that will get us killed.


She hits a lot of the points I look for in a UF heroine but spends most of this book being frustrated and begrudgingly accepting offers to help. She holds a job and doesn't magically get stronger because the plot requires it. She also isn't hit on by every man she meets, just some of them. Sadly, like too much UF I've read, this cast is heavily male. Greta is the only POV character who isn't a man. The villains are all male. She has two female friends who do help, but from almost exclusively off screen. And, of course, one of them gets hurt leading Greta with guilt for something other people did.




That said, the stuff I liked far outweighs the stuff I am tired of. I'm quite looking forward to the next book in this trilogy. A very satisfying read indeed.