Oh hey, August. You’re looking nice. Only, maybe don’t shove July out of your way like that. It’s rude.
What have I been doing? Well…
SF/F Read Alongs
Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S. A. Corey
In the Labyrinth of Drakes (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4) by Marie Brennan
In Other News…
Virology (Shock Pao #2) by Ren Warom
After thoroughly enjoying the cyberpunk-with-a-heart explosion of ideas that was Escapology, there was no question that I’d come back for more when a sequel was announced. Escapology left plenty of questions to answer about the aftermath of Shock’s actions, and Virology answers them while delivering even more of the kind of spectacle that drew me in the first time around. As before, some readers might find Warom’s gloriously messy narrative style a bit frustrating, but it works wonderfully for me. If unrestrained imagination coupled with sharp-witted “what if?” SF futurism (sprinkled liberally with diverse characters) is your cup of tea, then I will happily recommend this to you.
July really was all about things that delighted me (see above regarding Lady Trent), and my first dose of Lumberjanes is one of the reasons why. It’s got a bunch of girls being fearless and funny (and kind of dumb) but always being friends first. It’s got monsters and riddles and puzzles and pointed things to say about toxic masculinity. And it’s got catchphrases – some of the most adorable cussing I’ve ever heard in my life (“Holy Mae Jemisin!”).
In short, I am ashamed that getting to this took me so long. If you haven’t done so, do so.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I found this book by way of my Twitter feed, which is periodically lit up by Mackenzi‘s tweet-threads celebrating Bygone Badass Broads (check out the hashtag in her bio, it’s awesome). So when I discovered she was writing a novel, I latched on in true fangirl style, and snapped it up on release.
Oh, my heart. Oh, Monty, you utterly lovable asshole.
I had not expected so much heart and warmth, though it delighted me to find it. From the flippant humour to the just-angsty-enough queer romance (and the societal pressures it brings), to the utterly satisfying ending – I loved everything about this book. If I want more of anything, in fact, it’s more tales involving Monty’s younger sister, Felicity. She’s a bygone badass broad in the making, and I. Want. More.
The Refridgerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
I’ll admit that when I picked this up, I was a tiny bit worried about its accessibility where the non-comic-book-reading fangirl (which is me) was concerned. I need not have worried, as it turns out.
This is a short but very sharp collection of sequential stories, connected by a broader story arc – but that arc is one that remains firmly in the background, as it appears to centre upon the tales (of woe) of various male superheroes.
This book, these stories, are all about the women done wrong by them (or by their inaction, which is arguably the same thing). These women are by turns penitent, grieving, in denial – and all, in some way, angry at the world that saw them erased. The women of the Hell Hath Club tell their stories to the only ones who’ll listen – other women. The ones who understand, or might do so if they heard enough. Each story is different, but it all comes down to that: a longing to be heard, to unburden themselves of that guilt, or rage, or grief. The trappings of their tales might also be familiar, whether you’re well-versed in comics or not. Popular culture gives these women a place in the collective geek consciousness, even if their stories haven’t been told quite like this before.
So do yourselves a favour, geek friends and enemies, and pull up a chair. Listen. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t – but listen anyway, why don’t you?
Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire
Spoiler for this story below!
After falling very hard for the first novella in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, getting my hands on this follow-up was a no-brainer. I mean, come on – it’s a Seanan story. I’ve yet to find a bad one, even if I haven’t yet read all of her work. That said, while I did enjoy this novella, it didn’t hit me in the feels quite as hard. The story of Jack and Jill, who appear in Every Heart a Doorway and have the bare bones of their story told there, has a lot of its detail filled in here.
It’s dark and bloody and strange, and like its predecessor it hits out at poor parenting without sugarcoating the pill. On paper, I should have loved it. In reality, I liked it. I’m not even sure what was missing. I do know I was less than delighted by the ‘queer love interest gets killed’ angle of the finale. I love Seanan and her work, but I do not love these plot twists, and seeing one of her stories use it felt a bit like being let down.
So, yeah. Come for the trappings, if you dare. Just … maybe beware the traps?
Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw
Being familiar with Khaw mostly as a writer of Lovecraft-inspired horror (Persons Non Grata) and urban fantasy (Gods & Monsters), I was intrigued to hear she’d written a paranormal romance story with a fluff count higher than that of its gore. Diversity is a strength in storytelling, innit. And Bearly a Lady features a bisexual werebear and is published by The Book Smugglers, so naturally I didn’t waste any time deliberating over buying it.
Reader, I ate it all up.
Khaw’s strength, if this is any indication, is in writing engaging characters. Zelda leaps off the page, and had me hooked from her first sartorial disaster of an appearance. It’s hard being a fashion forward werebear, you guys. If there are any flaws apparent from this story, it’s in plotting: here, it’s loose at best and basic at worst. But if, like me, you think sparkling wit and enjoyable characters can make up for that, then absolutely have at it. I couldn’t put it down, and that pretty much says it all at the end of the day, doesn’t it?
So that’s what I’ve read in the past month. Right now I’m also tackling The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, which is proving to be an interesting exercise in buddy-reading (hey, Dvorah! I’m still reading I swear). Should I finish, you can look out for my thoughts on it at some future point.
Also on the near-future agenda is a follow-up series to fill the void that will be left when Team Muskedragon finishes the Memoirs of Lady Trent. It’s looking good for a certain ‘librarian’…