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Search tags: catherynne-m.-valente
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review 2018-01-26 22:02
Review: The Refrigerator Monologues
The Refrigerator Monologues - Annie Wu,Catherynne M. Valente

An interesting set of interconnected backstories for several dead ladies modeled on DC and Marvel characters, but set in a unique superhero universe.

 

I was familiar with most, but not all of the source material. The section reinterpreting Jean Grey was by far the best. Even teenage me thought Dark Phoenix Saga was some serious bullshit, and it's nice to see a smart, articulate writer tackle this particular criticism. There's a reason I went Excalibur instead of X-Men back in the day. The Harley Quinn section felt far less successful as feminist critique, but can't be faulted for not being true to the character. Mera's section is so well done that I both wish I were familiar with the referenced backstory and never, ever want to read that shit.

 

This is a strange, sharp collection. An angry gem. A beautiful diamond made from compressing garbage so tight it has to shine.

 

Not a title for everyone, but definitely for me.

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text 2018-01-06 20:43
I never preorder books ...
Space Opera - Catherynne M. Valente

... but for this one I might make an exception. The blurb starts with:

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top science fiction spectacle from bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente, in which sentient species compete for glory in a galactic musical contest—where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

 

That sounds amazing.

 

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review 2017-12-19 23:37
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente

I love Catherynne M. Valente. I fell in love with her writing and worlds when I first read her Fairyland series. Ever since reading those books, I have set out to buy and collect all of her works. I'm well on my way and now I am the proud owner of more than half her novels. Just three more and I will own all of her novels. Then I shall move on to her poetry and short stories! But for now, I shall tell you how I love Six-Gun Snow White because this review is just going to be more praise for the ever talented Valente.

 

I picked up this book because I just wanted to try one of Valente's adult works that's similar to her Fairyland series and I was not disappointed. Her writing is just as rich and whimsical as always. I adore how she took the tale of Snow White, as well as other fairy tales, and wove a Western story within to it. It seems so seamless and magical; I felt enraptured by her story. The artwork, done by Charlie Bowater, is incredibly detailed and fits into Valente's prose perfectly. I adored everything about this book.

 

The characters are all based on figures from fairy tale. There's Snow White, obviously, but there's also Cinderella, Rose Red (which just so happens to be Snow White's gun), and Charming (who just so happens to be her horse). I loved reading and figuring out from which fairy tale Valente took inspiration from and how she was able to form it into her own narrative. Snow White is brave, curious, intelligent, and strong for being able to endure all the abuse her step-mother, and later other characters, displayed toward her. She's not without flaws and she does fall to depression at some point, but it's her comeback that felt so real, so authentic, because we don't always come out of our struggles all the better. Valente did a fantastic job in showcasing what it's like to live a difficult life yet, somehow, finding a way to persevere.

 

If you love fairy tales, if you love Westerns, if you love reading about characters fighting for their right to live, then I highly recommend this book. If you also love beautiful writing, books set in a whimsical world, then read this book! Valente is a master with her craft and she definitely deserves praise for what she does. Be warn, there is child abuse, attempted sexual assault, and swear words within this novel and if that might bother you, perhaps you might want to skip this one. But I do think it's an amazing read. One you will enjoy greatly if fantasy and fairy tales are your thing~

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review 2017-09-24 04:12
Review: In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan's Tales Book 2 of 2)
In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan's Tales, #2) - Catherynne M. Valente

In the Cities of Coin and Spice is the sequel to In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente.  The books share the same structure, with stories nested inside of stories, up to seven levels including the framing story.  As for that framing story, it continues in this book and finally gets a satisfying conclusion.

 

I enjoyed this one as much as the first one.  The format has lost its newness factor, though; at this point it feels perfectly normal.  It also didn’t seem quite as complexly structured as the first book, but maybe that’s just because I was so used to it.  It seemed like the stories were more concentrated in a couple layers.  As before, the stories were interconnected.  There were also a <i>lot</i> of ties back to the first book, some obvious and some more subtle.

 

The stories themselves were darker than in the first book, especially in the first half, and I think I liked them a bit better.  I did still occasionally lose interest in some parts, but not too much.  The author wove everything together from both books in a satisfying and intricate way.  I suspect a reader would enjoy the series as much if not more on a re-read, because the conclusion sheds new light on everything that happened before.

 

This was my first time reading anything by Valente, and I was impressed.  I’ll likely try more of her work in the future.

 

Next Book

The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  I don’t know anything about this book, but I vaguely remember seeing comments that left me with the impression it would be pretty dark and/or bleak.

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review 2017-09-17 23:30
Review: In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales Book 1 of 2)
In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1) - Catherynne M. Valente

I thought this was a very clever and unique book.  At least, I’ve never read anything like it.  It tells a lot of stories, I couldn’t say how many, but definitely more than a dozen.  However, this is not an anthology.  It’s layer upon layer upon layer of related stories nested inside each other. 

 

The framing story is about a lonely girl who people shun because they believe she’s a demon.  A curious boy approaches her and, over the course of a few days, she tells him two stories.  Each of the two stories takes up about half of the book.  Within each story, some of the characters tell other stories.  Within those stories, somebody tells another story.  These stories often tell the backstory of a particular character, so you’re sort of gaining more and more history, going backwards in time as you go forward in the book.  Periodically, the book returns to the higher layers to continue those stories, and then it possibly goes back into the same lower layers to finish incomplete stories there, or else it starts a new inner story with a new set of layers.  Some of the different branches were only moderately related, but there were lots of little connections here and there which were fun to watch for.

 

Sound confusing?  It really wasn’t.  The first main story never went more than 5 layers deep.  The second main story went up to 7 layers deep a couple times.  When I first realized the structure of the book, I was a little worried that I would get confused, so I started checking myself each time the story went into a deeper layer, recounting to myself the steps that had led there.  I was always able to do so quickly and without confusion, and I think that process helped me keep it all straight in my head.  I could see where some people might find this book disorienting, though.  For me, it may have helped that this type of thought process is part of my day job as a programmer; I kept making comparisons to it while I was reading.  Reading this was kind of like keeping track of the call stack while reading or debugging a program as it progresses forward and backward through layers of subroutines. 

 

The stories all borrow heavily from fairy tales.  This was especially noticeable to me since I had read through The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales earlier this year.  It really isn’t a retelling of any of those stories, but there were lots of little nods, sometimes with similarities and sometimes with twists, and with the tiniest hint of satire.  Unlike many of the Grimm’s tales, however, this book was internally consistent, the characters’ actions made sense, and it never felt silly. 

 

I do still have a little bit of Fairy Tale Fatigue from the Grimm’s book though, so that might have impacted my enjoyment of some of the stories.  Some layers were more interesting than others, so the book didn’t always hold my interest, which is the main reason I’m not rating it higher.

 

Next Book

In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente, the sequel to this book.

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