Most Anticipated Books of 2015

A new year means a new round of “best of” and “most anticipated” lists. This year, there’s been some noise about those lists being (as usual) too large a percentage of the White and Male variety. So out of my own curiosity, I thought I’d look at my wishlist so far for the upcoming year and see how my stats fell out.

In no particular order:

  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear – Steampunk in the wild west. Release date: 2/3/15.
  • Liesmith by Alis Franklin – Norse god gets an IT job. Gay main couple. Out now.
  • The Diamond Conspiracy  by Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine – More steampunk. Part of a series. 3/31/15
  • Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop – Alternate world fantasy. Part of a series. 3/3/15.
  •  The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber – Victorian fantasy. New series. 2/3/15.
  • Hunting the Dark by Karen Mahoney – Part of a series. Out now. (1/1/15)
  • The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig – NYC UF with demons and mobsters. Technically released 12/30/14.
  • Hit by Delilah Dawson – New series. Young adult. About a teenage indentured assassin trying to pay off her mother’s debt. Just in time for tax day in the US – 4/14/15.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I honestly have no idea what this one’s about, but I want to read it anyway. 8/4/15.
  • The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs  – Nonfiction. About feminism in geek spaces, written by and for geek girls. 5/15/15. 
  • The Skull Throne by Peter V Brett – Epic fantasy. Part of a series. 3/31/15.
  • Kin by Lili St.Crow – Young adult. Part of a series of retold fairy tales. 3/3/15.
  • Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch – Part of a series. Has a male PoC protagonist. 1/6/15.
  • Servants of the Storm by Delilah Dawson – YA horror. HC is already out but I’m including because I’m waiting for the paperback releasing 6/2/15.
  • Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire – Part of a series. Go read it. Read it now. 3/3/15.
  • Dark Heir by Faith Hunter – Part of a series about a Cherokee shapeshifter. 4/7/15.
  • Gemini Cell by Myke Cole – Militiary UF. It’s billed as military sci-fi, but there’s not that much science in it. I think the UF label is shied away from simply because that’s seen as a “female” genre. (Tell that to Jim Butcher. I dare you.) 1/27/15.
  • Prudence by Gail Carriger – Technically I’ve already read an ARC of this but I’m including because everyone else needs to read it. Victorian UF. 3/17/15.
  • Unbound by Jim C Hines – Part of a series. Librarian mages. 1/6/15.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I have bookmarked right now. So there are 19 books on that list. 7 of them are written or co-authored by men. So my list is 58% female. That’s not bad, but I had honestly expected it to be overwhelmingly female, and it’s not. I see 2 authors that I’m aware of that aren’t heterosexual. That’s a little under 12% of the list. That’s kind of disappointing, honestly. And though there are 2 books about PoC, I only see 1 book where the author is a PoC (to my best knowledge). That part is… really disappointing, actually.

I have N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor on my radar, but I don’t know of any upcoming releases from the former and the latter’s previous work is still on my TBR list. Somewhere, I have bookmarked a list of fantasy works by PoC and I am going to go now and put my hands on it because honestly this is just pitiful.

Sometimes we have to actively SEEK OUT diversity. Sadly, some aspects of our current system mean that great books by people Not White and/or Not Straight (and yes, Not Male also) aren’t put in front of us to see them. It is our own responsibility to find these books and to be widely read. I have, obviously, not been doing a very good job of that. I hadn’t been looking for this when picking up new books. And sometimes “not seeing” race, or sexuality, or gender identity is just another way of saying you’re ignoring those people different from yourself. (Often times. Most times. 99.99999% of the times.)

I will be sure and share the list when I find it. In the meantime, if you have an upcoming or recently released fantasy or sci-fi novel on your radar by someone Not Straight/White/Male**, please share it in the comments section so we can all be aware.

**Written by someone other than yourself, please. This is a space for awareness, not self-promotion. 

[P.S. – I am also looking for suggestions for authors with non-binary gender identities, but I have personally not seen anyone in the SF/F genres “advertising” this information. So if you know of any, please list them. Thanks.]

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z MartinDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Published by Solaris on June 24th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Welcome to Trifles & Folly, a store with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 ? acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It?s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market.When a trip to a haunted hotel unearths a statue steeped in malevolent power, and a string of murders draws a trail to the abandoned old Navy yard, Cassidy and Sorren discover a diabolical plot to unleash a supernatural onslaught on their city.It?s time for Kincaide and her team to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

Some of us have gotten more than tired of UF stories with extraordinary main characters. Super speed? Super strength? Y.A.W.N. The beasties are no fun when you can beat the hell out of them. Which is why, I think, I found Gail Z Martin’s new book so intriguing. Cassidy Kincaide has one unique ability: psychometry. She can read an object’s past by touching it. Usually this doesn’t amount to much except old memories… Unless the object has a particularly nasty history.

I also love the name of Cassidy’s shop: Trifles and Folly is just a hilarious name for an antique shop, especially considering the deviant nature of some of the objects she runs across. The “trifles” are sold to tourists as antiques and the “follies” are handed over to Cassidy’s centuries old vampire partner to be locked away before they do more damage. Vampires have been so generally overdone as to be boring, but at least Sorren is mostly a secondary character and not the focus of the story.

This book is why I had a strange dream about a malevolent, possessed kitchen table. Now, I’ve always had odd dreams and strange nightmares. I taught myself lucid dreaming as a pre-pubescent so I could realize when I was asleep and not wake myself and my little sister up by screaming. I can say, however, with 100% certainty that I had never before encountered sinister furniture before in any of my previous nighttime wanderings.

If you like your urban fantasy to lean less toward paranormal romance and more toward horror, Deadly Curiosities is a solid book with which to spend some time. The later half of the book is so drawn with tension that I was practically jumping at shadows. I also love a book where the setting is practically its own character, and Charleston certainly fits that bill. I’d give this a solid four of five stars.

four-stars

Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuireSparrow Hill Road on 2014-05-06
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-stars
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Sparrow Hill Road has a unique format, in that it is more of a collection of shorts with most of the same characters and an overall theme than it is a linear book. This is mostly, I think, because the book started out as a series of shorts. However, I think the format is also a suggestion of the way a ghost might experience time. Namely, in strung together bursts of interaction with the living or their fellow dead. Sometimes convenience and storytelling work together, and it’s lovely when they do.

There is an over-arching plot, however. Rose Marshall died in 1952 due to a car crash on the way to her high school prom, a crash that was instigated by a man named Bobby Cross. Bobby sold his soul to live forever and must use the souls of the dying to fuel his existence. Rose is the soul that got away, and she’s been doing her best to thwart him ever since, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. These are her stories, and the stories of the souls she’s tried to save.

I’m pleased to see on Goodreads that this book is listed as Ghost Stories #1. I was originally a bit crestfallen at the book’s ending, but knowing there is supposed to be more makes me feel a lot better about things. (Please, DAW, don’t tease us! We need more Rose.) ((And readers, please buy this book! Sales = Life in the world of publishing, and I need Rose to live. Figuratively speaking.))

Sparrow Hill Road is a book that serves up ghost stories on a heaping slice of Americana. It is a testament to, and a warning of, the American highway system, and all the miles of road and the strangeness that has grown up around them. When I’m driving sometimes at night, I wonder if a dark road after dusk is what Purgatory is. I wonder if I would know if I can crossed over from the living into the world of the dead. Seanan McGuire has taken that spinal chill and extended it into a full body shiver of a ghost story. This book is an apt spiritual successor to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. (Spiritual. See what I did there?)

I wish McGuire’s writing got as many accolades as her work under the name Mira Grant does. It is justly deserved, regardless of which name is on the book. Sadly, I think it’s the genre that doesn’t get any respect. All I can say is — I pity the people who aren’t giving McGuire just as much attention as Grant*. The work is outstanding, regardless of subject matter or hot pink covers (as seen on Discount Armageddon, probably my favorite of the McGuire canon.)

*Full disclosure: I’ve only read part of one book from the Mira Grant list, and that book (Parasite) wigged me out to the point where I put it down and have yet to work up the courage to go back to it. 

four-stars

Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley ChuThe Lives of Tao on 2013-04-30
Pages: 204
Goodreads
three-half-stars
When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.He wasn’t.He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…File Under: Science Fiction [ The Tug of War | I Was Genghis | Diary of a Slob | Spy vs Spy ]

I’m going to call The Lives of Tao an “urban sci-fi story”. Firstly, because that’s honestly what it is. This isn’t near-future, far-future or even “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away”, but actually set right now in our world science fiction. So I’m going to call it urban sci-fi because 1) It’s got all the elements of an urban fantasy except replace the vampires and werewolves with aliens and technology, and 2) I know it will drive the no-girl-cooties parts of the science fiction fandom absolutely wild. You’re welcome.

Tao is an ancient, immortal, sentient, parasitic being from a race that crash-landed on Earth pretty much at the dawn of man. He’s part of an in-fighting group of aliens that are now stuck here until they can get human society to be advanced enough for long-flight space travel. The two groups of aliens have been fighting amongst themselves since they argued over a small matter of policy eons ago.

The small matter they argued over? Whether human civilization really *needs* to continue on after the aliens get what they want. One group, the Prophus, think that humans are pretty handy people to have around and that they can get what they want without killing millions of people in the meantime. War is the fastest way to advance technology. It’s also the fast lane toward extinction. The other group, whose designation eludes me at the moment, and my book is all the way across the room so you’ll have to live with it, [Editor’s note: They’re called the Genjix.] thinks humans are necessary eggs for their interstellar omelette. They don’t really care if humans live or die, so long as the Prophus die with them.

Caught in the middle of this is a depressed, out-of-shape, programmer from Chicago. Tao, wise and immortal ancient being, is forced to take up residence in this hopeless lump of a man if he wishes to survive. Sure, Roen — the useless lump — gets a brand new diet and exercise regimen courtesy of the Prophus and Sonya, the woman tasked with training him. He also gets some bad ass hand-to-hand and weapons training. He also gets his ass kicked several times by bad guys, his View Spoiler » gets [spoilered] and View Spoiler » [spoils] [the spoils].

I honestly don’t know if I liked this book. It was well-written, at times hilarious, and the alien bits were fascinating — but the plot was mostly taken up with turning a fat guy into James Bond. Hoo. Ray. Although I’m not really surprised that I’ve heard whisperings of Wesley Chu one day being a big name is SF/F. [Editor here again: Since I originally wrote this review, Chu was shortlisted for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award.  So, plot twist! I was right!] This book dragged me all the way through it even as I insisted that no, really, I was bored and wanted to do something else. I honestly don’t know how the author managed that.

I will be looking at the sequel, The Deaths of Tao, with great suspicion in the near future. Of course, I WILL be looking at it, which means the author has done his job. N’est-ce pas?

three-half-stars

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon Monk

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon MonkStone Cold on 2014-04-01
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
The latest Broken Magic novel from national bestselling author Devon Monk. Marked by Life and Death magic, Shame Flynn and Terric Conley are “breakers”—those who can use magic to its full extent. Most of the time, they can barely stand each other, but they know they have to work together to defeat a common enemy—rogue magic user Eli Collins. Backed by the government, Eli is trying to use magic as a weapon by carving spells into the flesh of innocents and turning them into brainless walking bombs. To stop him, Shame and Terric will need to call on their magic, even as it threatens to consume them—because the price they must pay to wield Life and Death could change the very fate of the world...and magic itself.

I don’t know what to tell you except I loved this book. Okay, so I’m still a little bit traumatized by That Thing that happened in the first book, which, if it could have been overcome or maybe not happened so that Shame could’ve had a happier ending, I would have loved. I know I’m being vague, but we’re talking Major Spoiler for the first book, so deal with it. I realize that it wouldn’t fit in with Shame’s character for him to have a *truly* happy ending, but oh, man… Did I want that for him. I really did.

As much as I love Shame, Zayvion is still my favorite character in this world. I don’t think that will ever change. I just needed to say that. I mean Shame is bitter & snarky (which I love) but Zayvion is tall, dark, Zen, and snarky which just pings all my buttons. (Hello, let me introduce you to my husband…)

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you about this book that’s not a super-powered spoiler. This is only a duology, but honestly it wouldn’t make sense for me to urge you to read these if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series. (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO READ.)

Basically, this was one of those rare books that made me resent absolutely everything that interfered with reading it: work, sleep, eating, showering, using the bathroom. I finished it in two nights and even that took too long because I had to Know! I was unhappy with one of the elements in the ending, but even I have to admit that the book ended just where it should have. Just because I wanted it to happen doesn’t mean that it was a good idea for the story. I find it fascinating that Devon Monk can do that. That ending was absolutely perfect and yet completely agonizing and I hate it and I love it and… and…

If there is ever an opportunity to hear Devon Monk teach about writing I will figure out a way to fly cross-country to do it. And the people who know that my first and last plane flight gave me anxiety dreams for six solid months know what it means to me that I would say that. (Note for the curious: it’s not the flying that gets me, it’s the airports. ::shudder:: Seriously. I never worried about the plane having problems, but having my ticket? Getting through security? Oh, yes! Basically, flying alone is the worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety, in my opinion.)

The writing here is tense and flawless and I’m both envious and deliriously thrilled by that. If you haven’t read Devon Monk, we might need to seriously reconsider our friendship. Think about that.

Seriously though… Do you like that “dropped into the middle of a strange world with weird magic rules that haven’t been explained yet” feeling that you get from Sanderson’s Way of Kings? Then you will feel right at home here. Fans of the series shouldn’t need me to tell them to read it. This is a fabulous, and fitting, end to Shame and Terric’s story.

For those of you who sat through all that, we now have something special for you. Enter to win one of two copies of Stone Cold for your very own.

What: One of two print copies of Devon Monk’s Stone Cold.

When: Beginning at 8a.m. EDT on March 31st and ending approximately midnight on Monday, April 7th (Sunday night/Monday morning). End time subject to change without notice.

Who: Anyone with a valid US or Canada mailing address.

Details: You must be willing to share your email address for the contest and your mailing address if you win. Your information will be used by me for those purposes only. As prizes will be mailed by the publisher, you also agree to share your mailing address with them. As such, Waiting for Fairies cannot be held responsible for the shipping or arrival of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

The (Late) Cover Reveal for Ministry Protocol

So this was supposed to go up yesterday, but I’ve spent every spare moment the last 24 hours bringing my entire network of websites back up from a catastrophic failure. Lucky me. That said, I promised this was going to go up, and it’s darn well going up!

Please note giveaway is not hosted here.

***
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels are a multi-award winning steampunk series, which tells the story of the government agency committed to keeping citizens safe from the strange, the unusual, and the bizarre.
In a very successful Kickstarter in July, the Ministry Initiative was funded, allowing the creation of both a roleplaying game and a brand new anthology.

 

Ministry Protocol: Thrilling Tales from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a collection of short stories that will take readers across the Empire and all over the world, revealing new facets of familiar characters and introducing new agents, allies, and enemies from the Ministry’s colourful history.

 

The authors of this globe-spanning anthology include Delilah S. Dawson, Leanna Renee Hieber, Alex White, Jared Axelrod, Tiffany Trent, Peter Woodworth, Jack Mangan, JR Blackwell, Dan Rabarts, Lauren Harris, Karina Cooper, and Glenn Freund from The League of S.T.E.A.M.

 

And one of the Ministry’s creators, Tee Morris, presents the origin story of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences itself.

 

Look for the ebook coming in August, with signed print editions to follow.

 

Feast your eyes on the cover art from the Ministry renaissance man, Alex White, and spread the word about the anthology by entering the giveaway.

ministry
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck WendigUnder the Empyrean Sky on July 30, 2013
Pages: 354
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It's the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow ? and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael's tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He's sick of the mayor's son besting Cael's crew in the scavenging game. And he's worried about losing Gwennie ? his first mate and the love of his life ? forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry ? angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn't seem upset about any of it. Cael's ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

This book foretells the near-future dystopian conclusion to our recent political history: Occupy Wallstreet and the 1%, GMO food scandals, domestic government spying campaigns, and the health detriments of high fructose corn syrup. In this somewhere-in-the-future world, the richest 1% literally float high above the rest. Below, spouses are chosen by government dictate and everyone gets hitched and is expected to procreate whether they’re reproductive or heterosexually inclined or not.

The farming heartland has become filled from horizon to horizon with one crop only: a strain of corn that has carnivorous tendencies. Other crops are forbidden, and whole towns have been completely depopulated over the merest whisper of a fresh vegetable, with no trace left of where the residents may have been taken — if they were ‘taken’ anywhere at all. Cancer runs rampant through the population and a deadlier, more virulent strain of plant-like growths pop up to devastating effects.

In the midst of all this bleakness, we have a group of teenagers coming of age. Their government-chosen spouses are about to be announced and they’ll be expected to abandon any pretense they had of hope for their future in favor of factory or farm work that will without doubt one day kill them.

Our main character — for he isn’t at all a hero — is Cael. Seventeen and about to arbitrarily be declared a man, he resents his lot in life and is angry with just about everyone. Most teenagers are, but Cael has more reason than most. He’s ashamed of his father for not standing up to their bully of a mayor. He’s lost his ship and his hopes for a different livelihood to the mayor’s arrogant son. His mother is bed-ridden with tumors and cancer. His lover is most likely about to be pledged to wed another against both of their wills.

All of this is completely understandable. All of this also turns Cael into a little asshole. He is arrogant, head-strong, selfish, and focused only on the usual and generally misplaced dreams of glory and triumph of the young. He treats just about everyone, including his friends and girlfriend, badly.

But there is hope at the end of this book, even if only a glimmer. There is clear indication that there is still story left to tell, at least. To be completely honest with you, I found this story terrifying. Not because there is anything particularly horror-genre-like to be had. There is suspense, surely, and moments of tension but nothing that can be pointed to and named as the Big Bad Monster. Except, of course, when you take into account all of those things that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Maybe I am just old and embittered, but I find this world Wendig has created not so very far fetched at all, and that scares the daylights out of me. My own fear and feelings of helplessness at the circumstances of right now, today, in the real world make this story sound more like science than science fiction. With that said, I want young people to read this. I want lots of young people to read this. I want them to read this with hope in their hearts rather than the despair I have in mine, and I want them to make better choices than we have been making.

I haven’t felt this petrified that a story might actually happen since Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. And since we actually did get NSA spying after all, I’m hoping we as a society can nip this particular narrative in the bud before we end up growing some killer corn.

Note: If you’re interested in reading this book, there’s a giveaway over on Goodreads

four-stars

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

A Not-Really Review of The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane on June 18, 2013
Pages: 181
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Warning: There will be vague spoilers in this post. I will put them under a spoiler cut for the blog, but if you are reading this elsewhere (via RSS) then you might want to skip this until you’ve read the book. 

This is going to be more of a reaction piece than an actual review, so keep that in mind. I don’t think you actually need my analytic brain to convince you to read Neil Gaiman. At least I hope you don’t.

I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in just a handful of hours late one night. There’s nothing quite like finishing a book at one in the morning, sitting in the middle-of-the-night silence with your thoughts boiling with new elements. I’ll share with you my initial reaction to the book as I wrote it.

I think, like the ocean, this book is supposed to be just a little bit mysterious, just a tiny bit unknowable.  I saw some early reactions.  No spoilers, no details even.  Just: “this book is for readers”, “this book made me cry”.  And reading through the front bits of it, it didn’t seem at all that way to me.  It was like all of Gaiman’s work.  A little bit surreal, a little bit threatening.  Something that speaks on so many levels that you just have to accept that you’ll never quite hear them all, no matter how badly you want to. 

A bitter little voice inside me started whispering: Maybe you don’t get it.  Maybe you are flawed.  Maybe you’re not like the rest.  And my heart felt a little hollow, because who wants to be that alone? 
 
Then, twenty pages from the end, the light refracted off the waters at just the right angle.  I sat, stunned, staring off into space with real tears standing in my eyes.  Finally, it hit me and I understood.  Gaiman reached straight through his story and with words alone plucked my soul like a harp string, setting the very particles of my being ringing with a Truth so profound I don’t think, in these early minutes, that I can quite grasp it yet. 
 
Have you ever felt that maybe there was a hole in your chest?  A secret wormhole of a tunnel that leads to *somewhere else*?  Do you read books to try and fill that hole?  To somehow connect the ends and turn it into a pathway you could walk through to something magical?  Are you afraid of that path, just a little bit?  Do you long for it and fear it equally?  Maybe it wasn’t yours to begin with, and you would get rid of it if you could, but you can’t now because it’s a part of you and maybe you wouldn’t really give it up at all if you were given the chance? 
 
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this.  I just know that this vibrating, humming thing has been set alive inside of me and I don’t know what to do with it yet.  It has a magic, that this little story has awakened but that doesn’t belong to the story at all.  It is mine.  It’s me. 
 
My magic.  A tuning fork to the Other that lives inside. 

Reading this book was surreal. Now the memory is so much like a dream that I can barely remember the details, but what follows are the insights that I have brought out of the experience.

At first, after I had come down from the shaking state of post-book high, I really struggled with the message that I thought I had grasped. Because what struck me so hard was the bit where View Spoiler ». And I said to myself, “Wait, that couldn’t be what Gaiman meant, because View Spoiler » Why would I feel such longing for that?”

Then I realized that this is Neil Fucking Gaiman we’re talking about. (Fucking is his married name.) So of course View Spoiler »must be a metaphor for the part of our souls that long for something Other.

Every reader carries that little tunnel to another world inside themselves, and it opens every time we read a book. The tragedy is that we never get to stay there. As soon as the pages close, the tunnel is gone and we can’t ever really keep the connection open. Sometimes that tunnel leads to good things. Sometimes it leads to bad things. But it always leads to awesome things (in the original sense, as in awe-inspiring, whether great or terrible.)

That first character we ever identify with in a book, the one who becomes our friend, is our Lettie. We can really only remember them like we knew them as children when we have the book open. But while we know them, they save us. Whether they save us from abuse or bullying or loneliness or something so mundane as boredom, they save us. That’s what it means to be a reader. Sadly, once those pages close and in the midst of all our adulthood, we don’t even remember them accurately but the best thing is that we can always go back. That’s the best part of books — the best bit of fandom in general, really — we can always revisit those worlds we love and they will always, always be there for us.

I decided not to read any spoiler-y reviews until I had all my thoughts on this sorted out so as not to bias my own opinion before it had completely formed. I did read a few before I came to post this though, and I can tell you that my interpretation isn’t the only one. I don’t even know if I’m correct, but that’s one of the great things about being a reader. We can take whatever we want to out of the story because once we’ve read it, it no longer belongs to just the writer but also to the world. Some people got statements of feminism out of the story. Others got a theme of childhood innocence versus adult longing. The thing is… I think we’re all correct. The Ocean at the End of the Lane incorporates all of these things and I believe there to be many more layers as well. It’s why this book seems to be so loved by so many people.

This book pinged the part of me that has a whole entire other Universe in my recurring dreams. I feel like this book is a reverberation from that subconscious space. I think Neil Gaiman is in my head.

four-half-stars

Review: Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hot Blooded by Amanda CarlsonHot Blooded on April 23, 2013
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
It hasn't been the best week for Jessica McClain.

Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge --- but Jessica is playing for keeps.

Because she's the only female werewolf in town...it comes with its own set of rules...and powers.

Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means.

All in a day's work for a girl.

The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full on action adventure featuring one angry Goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties...

This book kept me company a few weeks ago during a very long (2.5 hour) wait to have a flat tire repaired. The tire was fixed just fine, in case you’re wondering. I chose to read and review this book because I’d been hearing the name Amanda Carlson in my twitter feed quite frequently. Praise was coming from quarters that I generally pay attention to, and so when I came across this on NetGalley I of course requested it.

I’m not sure why I expected this to be more of a paranormal romance, since it’s marketed as an urban fantasy and has the words “action adventure” right in the blurb. I think I just see the word “mate” in a description and my brain shuts down in a sigh of cliche exhaustion. I’m so tired by books with a “fated” couple who were “meant to be together” by some otherworldly force. Ugh. Can’t people date just because they like each other? Or how about a couple who dates for awhile and then breaks up and their worlds actually don’t shatter and they go on to be perfectly happy people?

This… isn’t one of those books, but if you can overlook the cliche of “meant to be”, it’s not a bad story. Honestly, since it’s the second in a series and I haven’t read the first, I probably don’t have room to complain about the main couple. It’s possible that this aspect was addressed when Jessica and Rourke first got together. At least, for now I can hold out for that hope.

I think “action adventure” is probably the most apt term for this book. It’s Indiana Jones with an ensemble cast of vampires and werewolves and instead of Nazis we get flesh-eating bats, trolls, river nymphs, demons, and evil… goats. It’s a spun-sugar page-turner. There’s not much substance, but it’s delicious. Just beware of being left slightly sticky by the time you’re finished. …Okay, that metaphor really broke down there at the end, didn’t it?

Anyway. This book was a great way to spend a couple of hours when I didn’t have anything better to do. I doubt I’ll become a fan of the series, as I prefer to wait for those stories with the truly unique twists. This is simply a way for me to manage my own time, however, and if you need a good summer read, you won’t be wasting yours with this one.

three-stars

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith SaintcrowThe Red Plague Affair on May 21, 2013
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart--or conscience...

Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon's excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.

Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen's Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon's loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most...

The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.

I almost feel bad reviewing this book, because I didn’t love it nearly as much as I wanted to. I adore Bannon and Clare. I love that their relationship is a platonic love and not romantic. The parallels with all the various modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes make me very happy. The fact that Bannon is a kick-ass damsel who is very rarely in distress (and when she is, she is most likely to get herself out of it rather than being in need of rescue) is one of my favorite things about this series.

Saintcrow’s worlds are like dream-scapes, almost familiar but not quite: Londinium, Britannia, Queen Victrix. These things are almost history, but instead serve to disorient the reader and further immerse them in a world of ephemera. The reader is set adrift in this world with only the occasional touchstone of familiarity to acclimatize themselves. This isn’t a problem for your typical fantasy reader. I’ve had plenty of practice forging ahead with a story despite not knowing what the hell is going on in all the deeper layers of the world. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sanderson.)

Plenty of mysteries still remain: why was View Spoiler » ? What is the secret of Mikal’s past that Emma is so determined not to know? What about Ludo’s past? Or, for that matter, what exactly has led to Emma’s current dissatisfaction with her service to the Empire? I think the problem with this story in particular was that most of the mystery either happened in the past, or has yet to surface, which makes for a frustrating read.

I love the characters. I love the steampunk-fantasy amalgam of the world. It’s only that something about this particular plot was pedestrian. It feels like a stepping through of routine that we must endure to get somewhere significant but that doesn’t make much impact itself. Since a  highly viral plague gets released into the middle of Londinium in this novel, it’s rather stunning to me that this book felt so… well… boring.

I kept waiting for the emotional impact to hit but it never did. I don’t even know if I can say why it didn’t. I felt absolutely no connection to a couple of characters that I love in a world that I find fascinating with a plot involving a race against time to keep thousands of people from dying horribly.

I honestly can’t say if the problem with this book even IS a problem or if I just wasn’t in a good place to appreciate it when I read it. I am completely bewildered that I didn’t love this. That said, I won’t be abandoning this series because of said adorable characters and alluring world. I look forward to the next installment getting back on the usual exciting track.

three-stars