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review 2017-05-17 22:18
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Wayward Children #2
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway was one of my surprise favorites of 2016, so when I heard there was going to be another book in the series I got really excited. Then, honestly, I got a little apprehensive. What if it wasn't as good, or revisiting the world cheapened it? Yeah, I'll admit it - sequels sometimes make me nervous. In this particular case I needn't have worried. McGuire didn't rehash the job she did in the first book, but rather added new layers on top of what she built. Or perhaps I should say she added new layers below, as this book plumbs into the murky world of the Moors, and the events that occurred prior to EHaD.

 

Before you even get into the alternate world of magic and horror you get to spend time with Jack and Jill in the "real" world. You meet their parents before the sisters are even conceived and follow them all the way through their childhood. McGuire did such a good job with this entire section I found myself marking pages to reread. She made this family so repellant yet realistic, like a less cartoonish version of the Dursleys. There is so much in here about family, and children, that was astute and worth the exploration. And without this grounding the story that follows wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.

 

I love the way this book is written - how it feels like a Grimm fairytale. The authorial voice and the illustrations both add style and depth to the book. The world-building was well done, as was the mood and tone. Character was another win, as I thought Jack and Jill both came to life on the page. I was sucked in from start to finish. As with EHaD my only true complaint was that I wanted more, especially toward the end. Perhaps I'm just greedy. Regardless, this book hit the mark for me again and again, and I heartily recommend it. You can read it as a stand-alone if you so desire, but then you'd be missing out on another great book. I'm looking forward to the third book in the series!

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review 2017-04-27 05:05
The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Or, The Slytherin Handbook)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

I'm clearly in the minority on this one if you look at reviews, so it was somewhat heartening to meet up with my book club and discover they also had lukewarm feelings. Here's the thing: Dickinson crafts lovely prose. Sentence for sentence he is absolutely masterful. There were passages in this book I read over and over again. But when it comes to crafting a story as a whole? I just didn't buy in.

 

I loved the beginning of this book. The early chapters, when Baru is young and we get our first sense of how the Masquerade is trampling her people, had me sucked in and thinking this book would be a favorite. And then the story picks up, moves to another location, and stays there for the remainder. The rest of the book sets up scenarios, characters, and plot points, and none of them ever grabbed ahold of me or made me care. The plot attempts to twist and turn, but for me it just knotted - it seemed overly complex, and yet at the same time predictable, which is quite the trick. The supporting characters do things that seem convenient to the plot, but ultimately make no sense to me, thus breaking some of my suspension of disbelief.

 

And through it all Baru continues to tell you how awful she is, and is true to her word at least in that respect. That might be the thing that kills this book for me the most: I can't stand Baru. I read for character, and I just did not enjoy hanging out with this person for 400 pages. (Tain Hu on the other hand was pretty great. Lord knows what she sees in Baru.) For any Potter fans, this book reads like the Slytherin handbook - how to influence people and then screw them over for your own gain...the book! It's in the title. It's right there. But somehow that didn't make reading it any more enjoyable.

 

Here's the thing, if you like books that are rooted in political wheeling and dealing this might be your cup of tea. I mean, it's about vengeance through accounting, c'mon! And if irredeemable and terrible people aren't a big turn-off you also might love this book. As for me I need someone to cheer for, and I just couldn't cheer for Baru. I concede I'm in the minority here, so your milage may vary.

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review 2017-04-05 09:40
Sunstone Part 5 - The final chapter!
Sunstone TP Volume 5 - Stjepan Sejic

This book closes out Lisa and Ally's story, and it does so with plenty of heart, drama, and passion. If you've read the previous volumes you know what to expect, and if anything this volume takes it to a new level. The writing is heartfelt and every page is a gorgeous work of art. I can't wait to see what Šejić does next!

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review 2017-02-02 03:36
A Taste of Honey
A Taste of Honey - Kai Ashante Wilson

This book did so many things so well. It perfectly evoked that life consuming intensity and abandon of a first young romance, as well as the tension and pain of love amidst cultural and familial adversity. As a result this was a story that warmed my heart and broke it in equal measure.

 

The story alternates back and forth between the week Aqib and Lucrio fall in love, and the time which comes afterward. The world is lushly detailed and interesting, and I'm looking forward to revisiting it in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. (I did not feel like I was missing anything by having read this book first, though I could tell there was some nuance I might have understood or appreciated more had I visited this world before.) I really appreciated how cohesive and real the cultures Wilson created felt - this world felt lived in and well realized.

 

I cared about the characters and their relationships deeply, and my one complaint was that I was far more invested in the love story being told when Aqib and Lucrio met than the story of what came later. This was a couple that I found myself cheering for, and I loved both of them, flaws and all. This is a story of both the paths we take and the ones we leave behind, without being overly sentimental. Insightful, beautiful, and at times melancholy, this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

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review 2016-11-23 23:45
Vermilion: Magic, vampires, and talking bears in the queer weird west
Vermilion - Molly Tanzer In concept I should love this book: a gender bending psychopomp navigates a dangerous weird west world. Yes please! Unfortunately, the execution left a lot to be desired. First, the bad: It took me a while to put my finger on why this book doesn't work for me. There are a lot of little things that feel off. The way the book is divided into three sections that all have very different focus and pacing. The way 95% of the characters are queer in some way, which should be a huge plus, but instead feels forced. How I'm never quiet certain whether Lou's character isn't cemented enough that I can pin down whether she is constantly making mistakes because she's young, naive, stupid, or all of the above. Or how the book just sort of tapers off and stops without any real satisfying ending. But what really puts the nail in the coffin for me is the tone, or lack thereof. This book lacks a cohesive feel. It jumps from thing to thing without ever having a unifying tone. It doesn't feel like the weird west, or anything else. It just simply is, which is a huge missed opportunity. It just doesn't gel together well, and I think a huge part of that is a lack of cohesive tone. But there is good: I genuinely liked Lou despite not being able to fully pin down who she was. In fact, I liked pretty much all of the characters even though most of them were more sketched in than fully drawn. And I really did appreciate the diversity in gender and sexual expressions, even if they sometimes felt forced. The world had promise, even if it felt a bit kitchensink-esque in how many odd things were thrown in without seeming tied together (that's a big part of the tone issue). The psychopompery was really neat, and I wish we had gotten a lot more of it. I would have loved to read an entire book of just Lou in San Fran working her trade. Overall there were parts of this book where I was genuinely engaged and invested, though there were also parts I felt the urge to skim. It was uneven, but the parts that were good really were good. Can I recommend this book? It really depends on what you want. If you're craving a gritty weird west story with a well drawn world and a central character who is gender non-conforming then I would actually recommend Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. However, if you want a fantasy set in the west, with a diverse cast, and a very loose mystery, then you might enjoy this one. I'm curious to see if Tanzer can build on what she's set down and polish her craft in future books.
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