[Books] When To Quit?

Are you one of those stubborn, determined readers who finishes everything that you start? Because I have learned that, while I think it’s an admirable quality, I’m not that kind of person. I used to think that I was! I’d get to a point in a book where I was stalled because of one reason or another. Usually, I just wasn’t gelling with some aspect of the story. More often than not, I fail to care. Something within the book has to make me care. I’m at that point with one of my current reads, and while part of me truly wants to finish the book due to other factors, I find that I just do not give one good goddamn about what happens. Nothing in this book has me interested in what happens at the end.

Cut because I’m going to talk more. I won’t be naming names. But cutting anyway. Continue reading

Book Review: Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch

So here it is,  book 3 of the Peter Grant / Rivers of London series. This is the book that temporarily derailed a friend of mine from the series, so I wasn’t entirely sure how things were going to go for me. This friend and I have similar tastes, so I will admit to being a bit concerned. Nevertheless, I plunged in.

I do have to say that this book was a little better than I had anticipated. Which is a great thing. I’m still a little leery of Aaronovitch and his very male cast of characters. Stephanopoulos being more in the thick of things was a nice move. Further, I am rather fascinated with Lady Ty and what, precisely, she does. What is she responsible for, within her mother’s court? What’s her role?

Cut because I care. There might be spoilers. Continue reading

Book Review: Normal by Warren Ellis

I admitted in another review that the only reason that I read this book when I did was because I wanted to be able to finish 2018 on an even number of books. I was sitting at 69 when December 31 of last year dawned, and Normal was sitting right there, slim and nonthreatening. After flipping through the book and discovering that it was a mere 160 pages, and having nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve (my life is deeply boring in the socializing department these days), I figured that I could whip through the book before midnight struck, thus making my final book tally for 2018 sit at 70.

I received the book via a horror novel subscription box that went up in terrible flames last year. I won’t name it, because I don’t wish to draw out the thieving troll who ripped off his entire subscription base and did a great deal of damage to several small presses. If the book hadn’t come from that service, however, I’m certain that I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. It’s not the most compelling cover that I’ve ever seen. I’ve also never read anything else by Ellis, so there wasn’t a burning need to leap into the pages. And the premise is not the most joyful thing, either:

Some people call it “abyss gaze.” Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.
There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geo-engineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.

For both types, if you’re good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it’s something you can’t do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the “abyss gaze” takes hold there’s only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Dearden uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future—and the past, and the now.

I’m not always looking for happiness when I read something. The holidays, however, are not my favorite time of year, and this? Did not seem like the best thing to read when one was already in a low mood.

No spoilers. Cutting it anyway. Continue reading

Book Review: Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Second book of the year! I’m always delighted when I start reading an established series. I’m an impatient little snot, and I already have a few series that have me waiting for new installments. When I find something that I enjoy and learn that there are already multiple volumes available? Happiness abounds. What, I’m a simple creature, and it doesn’t take a whole lot to make me genuinely happy.

I started reading the series at the start of 2019 in hopes of something distracting and engaging, while not giving me emotional scarring (*cough* Robin Hobb). So far, I’m enjoying my jaunt through the magical alterna-London with my new pal, Peter Grant. The second volume in a series is often a tricky one to master. The first book draws the audience and sets certain expectations. When you pick up the next in the series, whether you like it or not, you  have preconceived notions of what you’re going to be reading. Occasionally, this is a disappointing experience. I almost quit one of my now-favorite series because the second book was such a confusing mess to me at the time (and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is). I gave that series a final shot when the third book appeared, and it ended up saving the day quite heartily.

Here, with the second book in the whatever-this-series is called these days (I’ve seen it listed under at least two different names), I wasn’t terribly worried about what I might find. I had already made the perhaps-foolish decision to invest in the first six or seven volumes during a Book Depository sale, so I was, by god, going to read these books. I’m trying to buy fewer physical books, partially because shelf space is at such a premium for me, and partly because I feel more than a little guilty about the number of unread books that I have hanging around my house already. So, it was with a slight amount of trepidation that I decided to dive into Moon Over Soho. I am pleased to say that it wasn’t disappointing at all.

Cut for mild spoilers. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Book Review: Rivers of London / Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

I don’t remember what drew this series to my attention. Most likely, it was when it popped up on the Hugo ballot a few years ago in the first year of the Best Series award. I was rooting for the October Daye series, personally, and I wasn’t aware that Aaronovitch’s  books existed prior to that year. Fast forward from 2017 to a few months ago. I was clicking around on Book Depository (a dangerous pastime, I know) and noticed that the series was part of the sale. I checked the prices against what it would cost to acquire the books digitally (because I am attempting to be more thrifty these days), and discovered that, thanks to the sale and Book Depository’s excellent free shipping policy, I could purchase paperbacks of almost the entire series for a lot cheaper than digitally. I was having one of Those Days when my memory decided to play hide and seek, and looked for the first book in the series under the USA title, Midnight Riot. It wasn’t in stock. I muttered something under my breath, ordered the other books, and decided to wait.

Imagine my embarrassment and slight irritation with myself when I realized that book one was published under a different title in the UK, and thus why I wasn’t able to find it during the first sale. I really prefer that my book editions match when I go for the paper copies (yes, I’m one of those people), so I ordered a copy of the UK version, Rivers of London in late November while indulging in some pity-shopping.

Cutting for spoilers. You’re welcome.

Continue reading

Dispatch From the Price Palace

Well then!  It’s been far too long since I checked in, and for that I apologize.  Funny thing about crazy weather: it leads to crazy illnesses.  I have dodged the flu bullet so far (thanks flu shot!), but the pressure changes and unreliable temperature patterns have led to multiple headache days for yours truly.  I’ve also been working my tail feathers off at the Day Job.  The flu is practically an epidemic in my home state.  Schools are closing, people are boldly venturing out in masks, and my pharmacy has been ultra busy.  The latter is compounded by a coworker being out sick for the last week.

Plus, Mr. Price is getting ready to leave on an adventure of epic proportions (more on that another time), so we’ve been doing a lot of preparations for that trip.  This has included descending into a nigh doomsday prepper level of food preservation.  I have learned a great deal.  For example, a huge can of green beans dries down to just enough to fit in a sandwich sized Ziploc bag.  Also, there is definitely a difference between generic and name brand canned corn.  I’m surprised.

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I’m still well within my goal of one book per week in 2017.  Some recent picks included Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library and two novellas: Passing Strange  by Ellen Klages and Final Girls by Mira Grant.  The latter of these was obtained via Humble Bundle’s newest Fantastic Fiction bundle.  It’s a fantastic deal and you should pick it up if you get a chance.  It’s more than worth it.  (PS: Look for reviews of the two novellas by yours truly on Speculative Chic sometime in March!)

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As for The Invisible Library, I tore through it madly.  It was supposed to be a placeholder until my copy of S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong arrived.  I expected to like it, but I didn’t expect to get a stay-up-too-late, read-obsessively sort of story.  It was amazing.  I immediately ordered the next two books in the series: The Masked City and The Burning PageI did start reading Wintersong when it arrived, and I’m enjoying it, but the back of my brain is simply itching to get back to Cogman’s series.  I’ll probably review Wintersong here, though, so keep an eye on this spot.

(You should keep an eye on this spot anyway, I’m awesome.  Ha ha.)

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe…

…and gave Cthulhu forty whacks.  Sort of.

If you haven’t read Cherie Priest’s marvelous Maplecroft, you are doing yourself a disservice.  I purchased the novel when it first came out.  I started reading it in December of 2014.  Then, unfortunately, Jay and I had to make an emergency trip to Texas for what turned out to be our last visit with his grandfather.  When I was throwing things together for us to leave, I didn’t pack Maplecroft. It was an oversight.  By the time we returned home to Virginia, I was reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.  Somehow, I never picked Maplecroft back up at any point during 2015.

Then our kitchen caught fire late last year, leading to extreme smoke damage throughout that level of our home.  Most of my books were ruined.  Maplecroft, fortunately, was among the books in our basement bedroom.  It miraculously survived with zero smoke damage and was returned to us in good condition.  I decided to pick it up last week after coming across it by chance.

Isn’t it pretty?  I adore this cover.maplecroft

The novel is fantastic as well.  I didn’t remember enough about it to simply pick up where I had left off (and my place had been lost anyway), so I began again.  It’s chilling!  Priest is an amazing writer.  This reminds me a great deal of Dracula (one of my favorite novels), both in style and mood.

I’m really enjoying the experience of reading this, too.  I’ve taken to reading primarily via e-book in the last several years.  I simply do not have the space to house as many books as I would love to own.  This, though, I am reading via dead tree format.  There’s a certain joy to be had in carrying around and showing off a book that one is reading.  Don’t get me wrong; I love reading with my Kindle and iPad.  It’s efficient, easy on my hands and wrists, and super convenient.  Reading something on paper, though, gives the experience a warmth and tactile pleasure that’s missing with e-books.  Also, I’m one of those wicked readers who enjoys underlining the especially important or meaningful passages in books.  You can underline with Kindle editions, but nothing’s as satisfying as marking a significant passage in a favorite book.

Here are a few lines that I especially loved from early in Maplecroft:

…I fear to the point of fretful, bowel-clenching sickness that I might chase her away even without the secrets that darken the space between us.

and

…I value beyond my life the time I spend with her beside me.

(pages 4-5)

Beautiful, old-fashioned lines, both of them.  Priest has gorgeously captured the language of this era.  She is one of those authors who is able to skillfully shape her prose to match her story.  I love it.  If you haven’t read her fiction before, give it a try.  Don’t care for Lovecraftian historical fantasy?  Maybe old west steampunk is more your speed?  Try Boneshaker and sequels.  Like comics and smart YA stories?  I Am Princess X might be for you.  Urban fantasy addict?  Bloodshot and Hellbent deserve your time (though, be warned: I don’t think there will be any more of those).