Tomorrow is the first day of spring and, as is usual in Western Virginia, the weather is capricious. One day everyone is out in shorts, and the next we’re preparing for a blizzard. Good times.
I haven’t written any new book reviews in a while, but I’d like to talk about the novels I’ve been reading, many of which were recommended by fellow bloggers.
Closer Than You Think by S.A. Barton
Published December 24, 2016 by Smashwords Edition
This will probably be my next Indie Spotlight. I happened upon the author in the strange, labyrinthine realm that is Twitter, and his tweets caught my attention. He revealed enough in 140 characters to convince me that I’d enjoy his authorial voice, and I haven’t been disappointed. I liked some of these stories and loved others and — in every one, so far — the writing style and narrative voice have thoroughly grabbed me.
Each short story in this collection is set in the future and, like the television series Black Mirror, focuses on some aspect of technology. Many of these forms of technology, like flying cars and meat grown from stem cells, actually exist but aren’t practical for widespread use. The themes — including erosion of civil liberties, the costs of over-reliance on technology, and exploitation of vulnerable citizens — also tie the past to the future.
*Note: I enjoyed these stories, but “Put It In Your Mouth” thoroughly grossed me out. Especially since I was planning to have sushi for supper. 😀 #howtoruindinner
What I’ve Read in 2017:
This is a lovely novel about romance and friendship — my review is here.
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Kindle Edition, 541 pages
Published April 1, 2010 by Tor Books (1st published July 17, 2006)
Literary Awards: Prix Elbakin.net for Meilleur Roman Fantasy Traduit (2010)
Long ago, a hero went on a quest to save the realm — and he failed. Now, after centuries of totalitarian rule by an immortal emperor, the future lies in the hands of a band of rogues who can derive superhuman powers from ingesting metals. But how do you kill an immortal ruler?
What can I say? Brandon Sanderson is one of the kings of worldbuilding. From the opening scene, as ash rains down on a plantation, I had that spark of excitement that comes with entering a world that combines familiar elements with something utterly foreign. I’ve definitely never been in this world before.
The characters, especially, Kelsier, Vin, and Sazed, are wonderful; they were first-rate company for 500+ pages. The plot is well crafted, with a strong balance of action and character-driven scenes. The ending was what I’d expected yet, at the same time, it surprised me, and it was a satisfying conclusion. And I’m in awe of this author’s imagination.
This is a beautifully plotted but very character-driven thriller about a little boy who disappears practically right under his mother’s nose. Many of the topics explored, including the brutality of social media and the difficulty, for a detective, of maintaining objectivity and sanity in the midst of a harrowing investigation, have been well traveled. Yet I felt I was discovering something new and, God, this was a page turner. Plus the resolution of the plot surprised me. I love it when that happens.
Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn
Paperback, 305 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Riverhead Books
Literary Awards: Wirral Paperback of the Year (2004), Peter Pan Award, Prix Litterature in the La Nuit De Lire, Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Preis der Jugendjury (2004), Lincoln Award Nominee (2007)
Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, reclusive, peaceful people who have taught him kindness and compassion. Needless to say, he is ripped from that quiet world and thrown into a quest to take down a tyrant.
The setting of this fantasy novel is gleaned from Feudal Japan, and it artfully combines actual history and culture with fictional worldbuilding. Takeo is a terrific protagonist, and the story also offers strong female characters.
While this novel worked for me on every level, the author’s stand-out skill, for me, is descriptive detail. Her carefully observed descriptions, especially of nature, are gorgeous, but they are not unwieldy — they flow smoothly with the well-paced plot.
The blogosphere was full of people saying the “twist” in this ROCKED, and I was not disappointed. There was one major revelation, near the end, that I saw coming from a mile away. But at the core of this novel is a moment where it turns a corner and we realize this is an entirely different story from what we thought it was.
In addition to the brilliant plotting, it’s very character driven, with gorgeous attention to detail. I still feel the frigid, gorgeous Welsh coast in my bones as we speak.
[Yes, I realize I didn’t tell you anything about the premise of the book. And yes, that was intentional. It’s best to go into it blind.]
This novel combines a murder mystery with unusual architecture and a lot of mindfuckery. Emma is a beautiful, troubled young woman in therapy for post-traumatic stress after a break-in at her flat. Desperately seeking new living accommodations within her price range, she stumbles upon a stark but lovely place that comes with a pathologically controlling landlord wielding a colossal list of rules. She moves in with her devoted boyfriend, but she has her eye on the strange, sexy landlord.
Later, after Emma is gone, Jane moves into the flat. She’s recovering from a devastating loss. She is also attracted to the landlord, but she has unsettling questions about the woman who lived in the flat before.
This novel is slickly plotted, fast paced, and entertaining. It was a page turner — and a welcome diversion on a weekend when I was in dire need of an escape.
It’s been compared to Gone Girl and Fifty Shades of Grey. (I haven’t read Fifty Shades but, along with 99% of North America, I think I’ve got the gist of it.) It isn’t like either of these books. It isn’t as clever, surprising, or rich as Gone Girl — in my opinion — and (from what I’ve gathered) it’s much better than Fifty Shades. It’s an intelligently written, heavily psychological murder mystery that spotlights a young woman struggling to take control of her life in the wake of a soul-crushing loss.
- In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, Ruth blogged about favorite songs from movies set in Ireland at FlixChatter.
- A.M. Blair gave a shout out to Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit as part of her ongoing thoughtful, informative discussion of current events on The Misfortune of Knowing.
- Michelle of That’s What She Read reviewed The Wanderers by Meg Howrey, which publishers are pitching to fans of The Martian and Station Eleven.
- Lindsey reviewed Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed at Literary Lindsey.
- In honor of Queen Latifah’s birthday, Wendell spotlighted her top 10 performances at Dell on Movies.
- Jay reviewed Free Fire at Assholes Watching Movies.
- Brittani of Rambling Film reviewed Denial, which explores the baffling topic of Holocaust denial.
- Mario of Two Dollar Cinema reviewed Get Out.
- Matt reviewed The Last Word at Assholes Watching Movies.
- Sean reviewed Colossal at Assholes Watching Movies.
- Cindy Hannikman reviewed The Wish Granter (Book Two of the Ravenspire novel series) by C.J. Redwine at Fantasy Book Critic.
- Aaron Miles reviewed The Black Guard by A. J. Smith on Fantasy Faction.