Tremendously, ridiculously, unapologetically Christmas-y. And that's my kind of thing. Liked this soooo much more than Morgan's category romances I'veTremendously, ridiculously, unapologetically Christmas-y. And that's my kind of thing. Liked this soooo much more than Morgan's category romances I've read; characters were sharp and interesting, the romantic arc was boldly/firmly followed but was driven by said characters' personalities, and also there was a poodle....more
I could have read an entire book narrated by the swordfish. Loved her POV.
So, the alien invasion of Lagos begins in the ocean, and it coincides with tI could have read an entire book narrated by the swordfish. Loved her POV.
So, the alien invasion of Lagos begins in the ocean, and it coincides with the literal cross-pathing and metaphorical destiny-entwining of three strangers, there on the beach beside the invasion: Adaora, the marine biologist cooling her head after a troubling fight with her husband; famous Ghanaian rapper Anthony, compelled to seek fresh air after a concert; and battered soldier Agu, who fled from his unit after he attempted to intervene when his superior attacked and raped a woman. Nearly as soon as they meet, these three are swept out in the ocean, and then, things start getting really, really strange.
This book's primary strength is in its wide-view, cross-sectional sociological interest in What Happens When Aliens Invade. There are a lot of POVs utilized in the narrative, and since the book is often a love letter to the city of Lagos, there is a lot of focus on communities, groups of people and the ways they interconnect, overlap, hurt, bleed one another, are the same in many ways, etc., and that was all engaging. The members of the evangelical group overlap with members of the LGBT group who include someone in the group planning to kidnap and ransom an alien, etc. There's not a lot of deep character development to be found, but with the book's wide focus, that didn't seem to be necessary for this particular story.
Readers who want an action-adventure alien story, one with a heroic journey, will probably be disappointed, as are readers who want a tight narrative or deep characters, but I like this kind of science fiction: mosaical in form, ecological and sociological in interest, with an intent to use The Strange to learn more about ourselves as humans.
Also, the militant environmentalist swordfish. ♥♥♥...more
I loved the historical story, mostly because I was already attached to the characters and their situations after reading The Winter Sea, but the conteI loved the historical story, mostly because I was already attached to the characters and their situations after reading The Winter Sea, but the contemporary strand of the story wasn't very compelling (even though wee Robbie from The Shadowy Horses is all grown up!). Kearsley's writing is, as always, smooth and comforting and cozy, and I love reading her author's notes and all her historical documentation at the end....more
Strong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the pStrong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the plot wrapped up completely, and there just felt like a good handful of loose ends. I was also very irritated that "illegals" was used as a synonym (by the protagonists and by an antagonist) for undocumented immigrant workers and that "Hispanics" was often conflated with the latter. I did really like the characters, though; their realizations about themselves felt believable, and their conflict with one another was interesting and often resolved in unexpected ways.
This is the first book in the Heartwarming line (apparently Harlequin's new-ish clean-and-sweet-but-not-necessarily-inspie line) that I've read; the type of plot and scope reminded me of a SuperRomance, but the physical attraction between the protagonists was minimally mentioned and the language was super squeaky clean (and the dialogue too often hokey) and there were a handful of references to praying. So: wholesome but with a more electric and edgy plot than one might expect from such a sweet line....more
Quick, fluffy, and predictable, but sometimes I need to read something that is basically mainlining a package of Pixy Stix with a side of mocking BritQuick, fluffy, and predictable, but sometimes I need to read something that is basically mainlining a package of Pixy Stix with a side of mocking British aristocrats....more
I had things to do today, but I started reading this and couldn't stop. Jane Casey outdid herself with this installment of the Maeve Kerrigan series.I had things to do today, but I started reading this and couldn't stop. Jane Casey outdid herself with this installment of the Maeve Kerrigan series. Again, this series hits something I really like seeing depicted--how Maeve has to negotiate sexism in the workplace in ways that means she's damned if she does something, damned if she doesn't, and that it comes across as draining and as confusing as it is in real life--and it's so strong with the emotional stuff (I'll get to that in a separate paragraph), but I can also see the major flaws in this series. So much of the plots are just "There's a psychopathic serial killer among us. Hmmph." And even though The Kill does hit that again, it also explodes a subplot that's been brewing since the second and third books (view spoiler)[Godley being in Skinner's pocket, and Maeve uncovering this precisely because she's underestimated (hide spoiler)], and I basically couldn't guess where any character or plot was going to end up.
But the emotional stuff. OMG. If unidealized teams and achingly brutal partnerships and bitter-tasting mentorships and complicated relationships are what you like from procedural mysteries, THIS SERIES. OMG. OMG. Ignore how the plots are sometimes banal and the POV stuff that Casey does sometimes doesn't work and ALL OF THAT STUFF, just focus on Maeve and Josh and Godley and everyone else. Maeve can't separate who she is from her job and from the people who've made her into the detective she is, and IT JUST GETS REALLY COMPLICATED EMOTIONALLY.
Also. This book needs content warning for sexual assault & rape, and I'm going to discuss that content under the spoiler tag. It goes beyond the normal heapings of misogyny the book depicts, and beyond the other ways that sexual violence and sexual terrorism have been portrayed in the series so far. (view spoiler)[The quick summary is that Maeve is sexually assaulted by a group of teenage boys while investigating a case. She saves herself, and she tells no one, unwilling to draw attention to herself when there's, y'know, the mass execution of five police officers needing to be solved. Later, her boyfriend Rob's gone into deep grief and hysteria, as one of his coworkers is killed under his watch, and Maeve is flailing at trying to comfort him, trying not to lose him, trying to be supportive of him. She wakes in the middle of the night to find him initiating sex, roughly so, and while she does resist a little, she tries to accommodate him because she wants to comfort him, wants to be there him for whatever he needs, but she's clearly experiencing flashbacks to her recent assault, he ignores when she says wait, even though she--being Maeve--is doing her best to be self-sacrificing because she doesn't want to lose Rob in any sense, and it's only when she says stop a couple of times that he does. They break apart. He's angry. He leaves.
Casey handled this scene really well. It was really fucking harrowing to see two beloved characters in that situation. And the scene where Maeve actually processes what happens, realizes how it wasn't her fault, that's also harrowing to read--of course, it's harrowing at least partially because it's Josh who knows that's something wrong and who can get Maeve to confess to him, and Josh who points out how fucked up it is that Maeve thinks Rob is doing a favor being with her, loving her, and that she's never been worthy.
Maeve and Rob don't interact directly for the rest of the book, and the book ends with them taking time away from each other. GOOD. (hide spoiler)]
So. Yeah. This book is dark, and nobody's a hero or an angel, and everything's awful, and Maeve's biggest supporter is still the biggest misogynistic asshole, and I can't believe I like it as much as I do.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Georgian-era women boxers!! Young women brimming with fury and tangled up in pride and (eventually) encouraged to hit things!! Blood!! Vulgar turns ofGeorgian-era women boxers!! Young women brimming with fury and tangled up in pride and (eventually) encouraged to hit things!! Blood!! Vulgar turns of phrase I've never heard before!! These are things I loved!!
Though I did really love reading much of this book, four stars still feels too generous, given the pacing/structural issues--plot was often little more than a trickle, and frequently the least interesting thing going on; I was more interested in the characterization and the historical details and the voices--and given how tedious one of the three POVs was. I'm lookin' at you, George. Admittedly, there was some novelty in George's sections once we had Charlotte's POV to contrast with it, and seeing all the darkness lurking in and out of his perspective, unknown to or ignored by him. I liked that, that pointed critique of his POV. He was still a tedious dickhead, though.
But I want to draw hearts around Ruth's and Charlotte's names, because they were awesome, and if you read primarily for women characters anyway as I do, they both have good stories here and the awesomeness of that outweighs the tediousness of George's sections. I still wished this book had a stronger narrative thoroughline, but I loved a lot of it anyway....more
It is winter now in Area X. Do you know where your borders are?
Acceptance is an unsettling but satisfying conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, cIt is winter now in Area X. Do you know where your borders are?
Acceptance is an unsettling but satisfying conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, chronicling human interactions with a stretch of land conquered by inhuman forces and now resistant to comprehension. (And see, I wrote that, and okay, it kind of gets at the wider premise of the books, but it's also far too dualistic and too trite and too wrong to explain it all. So.) The first book, I thought, was perfect and could stand alone (my review here), but the trilogy as a whole was really good, and a really engaging reading experience for me.
I'm not usually into Weird fiction, not into Horror, and not into unexplainable shit, but I still really liked this trilogy. While the middle book was purposeful in its bureaucratic, lulling listlessness and splinters of creepiness, it was still listless, and long stretches of it were dull to read--and it's only now, after having the final book shed light on so much of the second book, that I can better appreciate its flashes of brilliance. Like the first book, though, this third book is pure energy; I both couldn't read quickly enough and couldn't read slowly enough. I wanted to have all three books in front of me so I could go through them with highlighters in hand, cross-referencing themes and imagery and clues.
Acceptance is about meaning-making, what's knowable and what's not, naming and identifying, the foolishness of causality as an organizational principle humans cling to. There's epistemology and biology and parents fucking up their children and how it's all terroir. And then there's the setting. The setting! VanderMeer could just write about the natural history of the forgotten coast and it'd be compelling. Of everything--after so many prickly, distant characters and shadowy conspiratorial forces--it's the setting that feels so real and so vivid to me. VanderMeer's prose, even when describing the obscure at the limits of the imagination, can be so clear and quick-sharp ("Lowry isn't your direct boss, is more like slant rhyme, not there at the end of things but still in control"), even if it sometimes gets too fragment-y for my tastes.
I liked how this final installment utilized multiple points of view, from multiple points in time. It shifts beautifully between first-person, second-person, and third-person, depending on the character, and VanderMeer chose among the key characters whose perspective are not, of course, objective, but are essential for this story: (view spoiler)[The Director (the Psychologist, Cynthia, Gloria), Saul Evans (the Crawler, the lighthouse keeper), Ghost Bird (not the Biologist), Control (John Rodriguez), and also--much to my excitement--the Biologist (singularly named, singularly known). (hide spoiler)] With so many voices from so many different whens, the book played beautifully with the concept of time, and the way time is used to create/force meaning, and when I arrived at the epilogue, I realized how much my assumptions were making me an active participant in this meaning-making out of what may not have meaning at all.
The other thing I really liked about Acceptance was the inclusion of Saul Evans, the lighthouse keeper of Area X before it was Area X. He's been present in some form in the prior two books, but here, in the final book, we get his life before-ish the catastrophe. Saul was a preacher before he was the lighthouse keeper, a man of sermons and negotiator of divine mysteries, and I liked his sections of the book not just because I demand religion in my science fiction (they often do such similar work omg why isn't more science fiction also about religion okay!) but also because belief in the existence of God isn't at all the interest of the book (that'd be obvious & low hanging-fruit to mull over in the universe of the Southern Reach trilogy, and so I like how deftly VanderMeer avoids that route) or of Saul. The focus is on his actions, his relationships with other people, his role of mediating experience.
Once, from this vantage, he'd seen something vast rippling through the water beyond the sandbars, a kind of shadow, the grayness so dark and deep it had formed a thick, smooth shape against the blue. Even with the binoculars he could not tell what creature it was, or what it might become if he stared at it long enough. Didn't know if eventually it had scattered into a thousand shapes, revealed as a school of fish, or if the color of the water, the sharpness of the light, changed and made it disappear, revealed as an illusion. In that tension between what he could and couldn't know about even the mundane world, he felt at home in a way he would not have five years ago. He needed no greater mysteries now than those moments when the world seemed as miraculous as in his old sermons.
So. I recommend the trilogy, while noting that a) this is not where you should look for solutions, answers, or explanations, and b) the second book is different and not as successfully executed as the first and third books, but it's still necessary to read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book. This book. There's some really intense empathy happening here, and it's all without turning empathy into something sweet or necessarily natThis book. This book. There's some really intense empathy happening here, and it's all without turning empathy into something sweet or necessarily natural. (I think that's a good thing, that empathy is something that can be practiced even if it's not an automatic impulse.) At any rate, this book rocked me, kept me turning the pages with my heart caught in my throat: hence, the five stars.
I was skeptical of a novel combining death row and magical realism, but I was willing to give it a chance after learning that the author herself is a death penalty investigator, that she's covered a lot of tough topics as a journalist, and that she has experience with the foster care system. There were times I questioned some of the underlying narrative and considered how some elements were problematic, but overall, I thought the novel demonstrated great sensitivity and a shrewd understanding of systems and institutions. I thought often of Andrea D. Lyons's memoir, Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer, while reading this, which is where I first encountered the concept of the work of "an archaeologist of social despair." I was impressed by the clarity with which Denfeld demonstrated that this emotional/psychological archaeology--it's what occurs when trying to understand the why and the how behind someone convicted of unspeakable horrors--doesn't ever excuse, but it provides an opportunity for us to know, to recognize, to name the systemic failures that hurt--that molded--that person. For all of us to consider our collective accountability to one another.
The book's language initially struck me as overwrought, but I soon found the voice perfect: the unsteadiness of the POV (kinda omniscient first-person manifesting into third-person, there's magical realism involved okay), the sentences that plunge deeply or that continue and wrap around you, demanding your attention to witness what humanity looks like, in all forms but especially the shameful forms. The use of magical realism--of understanding/cloaking/uncovering/ALL OF THE ABOVE of the awful facts of death row in the poetry and the mechanics of fantasy--was used to great effect. It didn't romanticize. It drew attention to the lenses we use, the narratives we grasp on to, when trying to understand the worst of us (the worst in us).
But for all that, it's not that complicated of a book. It feels deceptively contained, even: the story itself is something most of us have heard before, even if not in this form. There is no question that the American prison system is a subject that needs to be addressed, examined, and questioned from all angles in our national literature, and I found The Enchanted a strong voice in that conversation....more
Draws a bit too heavily from the murder of Meredith Kercher / the trial of Amanda Knox for my taste , and I wasn't thrilled by the ending, but I lovedDraws a bit too heavily from the murder of Meredith Kercher / the trial of Amanda Knox for my taste , and I wasn't thrilled by the ending, but I loved the time-shifting structure of the book. Haas did a fantastic job tugging the narrative back and forth between scenes of heady, decadent teenage rebellion and the oppressive frustration of being caught in a predatory media storm and an unjust legal system....more
I really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and MI really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and Murphy was SO GOOD), but there's a weird passage about the American civil war and slavery that was unnecessary and souring. Set after the characters sing a song about James Connolly, American Shannon comments:
"It's an odd culture that writes lovely songs about an execution."
"We don't forget our heroes," Maggie said with a snap in her voice. "Isn't it true that in your country they have tourist attractions on fields of battle? Your Gettysburg and such?"
Shannon eyed Maggie coolly, nodded. "Touché."
"And most of us like to pretend we'd have fought for the South," Gray put in.
"For slavery." Maggie sneered. "We know more about slavery than you could begin to imagine."
"Not for slavery." Pleased a debate was in the offing, Gray shifted toward her. "For a way of life."
So all these characters are white, Maggie is Irish, Shannon and Gray are both Americans, and they're all in Ireland in the mid '90s. The action and dialogue move away at this point, and there's no narrative approval of Gray's opinions, but their inclusion made my jaw drop and threw me out of the story. I was irritated both by Gray's racist envisioning of the Civil War and by how a white Irishwoman making a living as an artist is presuming to have personal knowledge about slavery (though, yes, I'm glad she pushed back against Gray). Yes, I know that plenty of Americans do spend a lot of time frolicking in revisionistland about the civil war, but it's racist and unnecessary. (And, c'mon, wouldn't bringing up "John Brown's Body"/"Battle Hymn of the Republic" be a more appropriate comparison? It's about a decaying body after a martyr's been executed, I think it sounds lovely, and it's anti-racist, pro-freedom!)
The inclusion of these comments is just the gazillionth-and-one reminder of just how white (and/or racist) the romance audience is assumed to be, where one of the protagonists--he's the hero of the previous book--can say that most Americans like fantasizing about fighting in favor of slavery and justify it as "a way of life." FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK THAT....more