I don't always read speculative fiction, but when I do... Okay, that's a wicked lame start, but seriously, I feel like I need to qualify my review. I'I don't always read speculative fiction, but when I do... Okay, that's a wicked lame start, but seriously, I feel like I need to qualify my review. I'm not much for "weird" fiction -- I can be very impatient and/or lazy when it comes to elaborate world-building or well, weirdness -- but now and then I enjoy something, well, odd.
I've long been a VanderMeer fan because his novels have plenty of oddity along with some delicious narrative description and fabulously unforgettable characters. (His Veniss Underground -- a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth -- is a desert island pick of mine.
In this slender, gripping novel -- the first of a trilogy (sorry!) -- VanderMeer creates a world like ours with one outstanding difference: thirty years ago, some event literally reshaped part of the country, and Area X (as the place is now known) is a wild, "pristine" uninhabited preserve closed off by the government. Mostly forgotten by the public, Area X is an unsolved mystery still as there has been no successful expedition into the space: one expedition had all its members kill themselves; another where they murdered each other. The most recent one had members return without notice only to die of aggressive cancers.
Our narrator is a biologist who is part of the twelfth expedition. The novel is her diary from the expedition, and in it she recounts what she knows of Area X. From the first handful of pages, we're plunged into a creepy world where even the other expedition members can't be trusted and our guide, the biologist, carefully parses out details as she sees fit.
As with his other books, VanderMeer's imaginative and poetic narrative style is seen here, too; despite the biologist's dry and pragmatic approach to her job, the events she witnesses and the landscape around her defy neat prose, and there are passages that feel nearly feverish, they're so wild and linguistically fancy. There's delicious tension, plenty of creepiness, and a brisk plot that has one racing to find out what is next.
I adored this novel and read it one night -- a rarity for me since getting pregnant! -- and I immediately got -- and inhaled -- the second book, Authority. (Review coming soon.) I'm on tenterhooks for the final book, Acceptance, which doesn't come out until September.
The publisher has the first chapter posted online for those who are curious; if you like survivalist stories, strange happenings, government conspiracies, and movies like Prometheus or shows like Lost, consider giving this one a read....more
This book has one of the most unique premises I've read in a while: set in 1730 in the Pennsylvania colony, our heroine Selah Kilbrid is literally a dThis book has one of the most unique premises I've read in a while: set in 1730 in the Pennsylvania colony, our heroine Selah Kilbrid is literally a direct descendent of the goddess Brigid. Her divine gift is that of healing, a gift she cannot refuse to use when asked -- but a gift she has to keep hidden lest she gain some unwanted attention. From an Irish Catholic family, she lives in the heavily Quaker town of Hopewell, a well-liked healer and farmer's daughter.
Pursued by a Quaker preacher, Nathan, whose interest in her crosses into dangerous obsession, Selah agrees to an arranged marriage with a cousin per her father's wishes. But upon arriving in Philadelphia, she instead finds herself bound together with the (stunningly sexy) Henry Alan, an indentured servant.
I admit I have a love/hate relationship with romance novels: I adore me some hot and heavy flirtation but really loathe some of the childish, alarming, or emotionally unstable behavior that gets trotted out in the name of plot. But Edgren's historical romance has everything I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurve in a romance novel: fabulously fun heroine and hero, great setting, delightful obstacles that don't make me mentally scream, "Just tell him!", and a believable chemistry that had me swooning within a dozen pages.
Selah was a believable heroine that I loved from the first page: bold in ways that felt authentic and historically accurate (even as a demi-goddess!), who acted in a manner that read reasonable and believable -- even when she made dumb choices. As Edgren stays solely in Selah's first person POV, we don't know much about Henry and his motivations, but he's a dreamboat with a dramatic backstory. The complications between Selah and Henry are interesting and actually challenging: how does she handle her goddess-ness with him, and how much can she trust a man who is literally indebted to her but legally has rights to her inheritance?
And as for the sex...there is none! Don't despair, as I might have if I learned this tidbit ahead of reading, as there's plenty of tension and some making out that's fun. The absence of sex only stood out to me as this is from Carina/Harlequin, so I just assumed there'd be sexytimes, but in terms of storytelling and plot, how everything shakes out for our hero and heroine reads perfectly. I didn't miss the sex, and I still had happy sighs throughout the book.
This is clearly the first in a series, and I am frothing with impatience for the next book. (The danger of inhaling new releases, am I right?!) I read this book in a day -- started it in the AM and just kept sneaking glances throughout the day, pausing only when necessary -- and it's a great escapist read for those who enjoy some armchair time travel and competent heroines. The Pre-Revolutionary War Philadelphia and Pennsylvania setting is wonderful, as is Edgren's Quaker community -- a locale I rarely come across in historical fiction.
If you like historical romances, get this for sure. If you like some paranormal or supernatural elements in your fiction, but aren't into urban fantasy, also consider this one -- it has some magical themes that blended seamlessly into the story and never jarred me out of the rest of the narrative. ...more
DNF as it was wildly overdue at the library. Liked the premise and the setting, but just didn't quite get sucked it -- hence the four plus weeks it toDNF as it was wildly overdue at the library. Liked the premise and the setting, but just didn't quite get sucked it -- hence the four plus weeks it took me to get halfway through....more
This delicious novel is penned by a novelist and poet, who co-wrote the entire thing, creating an atmospheric, emotional, and vivid story of love, plaThis delicious novel is penned by a novelist and poet, who co-wrote the entire thing, creating an atmospheric, emotional, and vivid story of love, place, betrayal, and violence. I apologize now if my review doesn't convey my deep like and enthusiasm for this novel -- writing reviews recently has been hard! (Pregnancy brain! and all that, right??)
Set in 1927 in a fictional town on the Mississippi, the story is split between Dixie Clay, a bootlegger who lost her son two years ago; and Ted Ingersoll, a IRS agent searching for two murdered revenue agents with his partner Ham Johnson. But the plot isn't precisely a cat-and-mouse tale, nor a will-they-or-won't-they love story, as the threat of the Mississippi flooding over its levees colors everything and everyone.
Ingersoll, a jazz-loving orphan who fought in Europe during World War I, stumbles upon an infant when he and his partner investigate the scene of a shootout. Loathe to leave the child at an orphanage, on the recommendation of a shop keeper he gives the baby to a young housewife, pretty Dixie Clay.
Dixie, still heartbroken over the death of her infant, clings to the new child, disbelieving -- and unwilling to give him up even when her good-for-nothing husband threatens her. While Ingersoll and his partner masquerade as engineers arrived to help fortify the levees against the swelling Mississippi, they quickly learn that Dixie Clay's swank and swaggering husband is an ambitious criminal, and Ingersoll has to reconcile his interest in Dixie with his desire to do his job well.
There's a love story in this novel that is predictable, but I didn't mind, as I just adored both Dixie and Ingersoll. The flood of 1927 was totally new to me, despite being considered by some to be the worst natural disaster to ever occur in our country, and the events and impact of the flood were fascinating and disturbing and made for a fantastic backdrop to this story.
I'll admit I was curious how coherent the story would feel with two authors. My apprehension was that the two viewpoints would be split between the authors -- Ingersoll penned by Franklin and Dixie by Fennelly -- and according to the Reader's Guide included with the novel, this was the original plan. In the end, however, both authors worked on both characters and sections, and the resulting prose is just gorgeous -- lyrical, poetic, rich, and action-filled.
As one who is going to give birth in a few months, I enjoyed Dixie's ruminations on motherhood and parenting -- I haven't been drawn to fiction around those themes for some reason, but welcomed them here. (Fennelly wrote Great With Child, a volume of letters she sent to a pregnant friend -- "These are letters I would have welcomed when I was pregnant," she said -- and if they're half as tender and thoughtful as her writing here, I'm going to love them.)
For those who enjoy Jazz Era-novels but want something different, consider this one -- I haven't stumbled over many novels that feature jazz fans and flappers that aren't set in a large urban center. Fans of fiction set in the South absolutely will want this book -- place is a very rich character here! Thoughtful and action-filled, this is a wonderfully escapist novel with two very appealing characters and an absorbing story. ...more