I can see the appeal of this, but it wasn’t really my thing. Listening to the audiobook helped a lot except how distracting I found the switch between narration and full cast. Sometimes the general narrator would read out the dialogue and sometimes the individual actors would, for no discernible reason. Paul was like THE most boring character, which reinforced how I felt about him when I watched the movie. Watching the new movie before reading did honestly help me understand the book more (and reading afterwards helped me understand the movie more as well). Honestly I wish the whole book had been focused on Jessica, she was truly the coolest character. I briefly considered continuing the series but the next book is about more PAUL, so I think I’m going to pass. Also, it was incredibly distracting how Herbert constantly described how fat the Baron was, and I hated how he played into the ‘predatory gay’ trope, but I guess it was written in the 60s.
I wish I had liked this more, but I definitely didn’t dislike it. If the miscommunication trope is not your jam, I highly recommend you skip this one. The heroine is very out of touch and noncommunicative when it comes to feelings in general, and romance is no exception. That’s what ended up frustrating me here, most of the conflict stemmed from her deceiving the hero and then being too afraid to talk about it. I also just didn’t connect enough with either of them. There were also a couple unchallenged comments about weight/food that I didn’t appreciate, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Thankfully it was a quick and easy read overall. I think there are definitely loads of people this will work for, but I found it a solid ‘meh.’
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.
The comps for this were spot on — it truly is Midsommar meets Blair Witch Project, but somehow less compelling than either of the two. It was incredibly readable, but really fell apart in the last act for me. There was a hint of a paranormal element that just wasn’t fully explored in any way, and some plot points that I wish had been expanded upon were just glossed over. By the end, I just kind of felt like “that’s it?”
The treatment of mental illness in this was also… not great. I did like that the author addressed how draining it can be to be the sole support of a friend in the midst of crisis, but that was canceled out by writing off an entire character as psychotic and violent because they [checks notes] take abilify.
The concept itself was really interesting and could have turned out so much cooler with some more thought-out writing. I will say that I got pretty creeped out at some parts and it was an incredibly atmospheric read. This would be a fun horror read if you’re not looking for anything too well put together.
(SPOILERS HERE) Side note — I got huge queer vibes between Alice and Emmy and was so disappointed when nothing happened between them. I thought it was obvious that they were in some kind of intense queerplatonic relationship with unspoken (or forgotten?) feelings between the two of them and can’t believe that wasn’t the case.
Obviously are reviews are subjective, but I want to emphasize that all my ‘issues’ with this book are purely personal preference. I think this was well-written and it is clearly beloved by many! I just didn’t really jive with the writing style, it’s very much a story-inside-a-story and I had trouble parsing it all out. The prose is truly beautiful though, and the characters are all distinct and interesting. I did feel like a lot of the relationships were implied rather than spelled out; I tagged this as ‘polyamorous’ and don’t even know if that’s canon but it is how I read it personally.
I’ll definitely be recommending this even if it didn’t quite work for me, and while I don’t intend to continue the series I’ll still be keeping an eye out for Vo’s future works.
“Starting to think communism is better than being dead.”
This was certainly, uh, a novel. This was my last read of the Hugo noms for this year and while I absolutely agree with its inclusion on the list, I can’t say I particularly loved this book. The nonlinear timeline is extremely confusing, in part because this is first person narration and the MC also has no idea what’s going on. It’s also just a confusing concept, period. The lack of linearity and large-ish cast also made it difficult to keep characters straight.
I did find a great deal of it to be compelling enough to keep me glued to my kindle, but also hit some spots where I was ready for us to wrap things up. I’m also not a huge fan of war narratives and felt like it hit a point where Hurley was hitting me over the head with her messages; on the other hand, a lot of the fascist elements were frighteningly timely. There was some interesting stuff done with gender, but I just didn’t get why it was handled the way it was; it would have been far more interesting to have a gender neutral MC than to wait until the final act to reveal the MC’s gender.
I guess I’m just not fully convinced by this one. I’ll definitely be recommending it to hard sci-fi fans and those who like war stories, but it wasn’t a big hit for me.
I buddy read this with Hadeer, who enjoyed it and wrote a much more thorough review than I did. Go check hers out!
This is a retelling of one of Lovecraft’s stories, which I have not read. Lovecraft himself is infamously racist, so LaValle’s retelling is a commentary on racism. What I found myself most struck by was how some of the explicitly racist bits could have been pulled straight out of today’s world even though the story takes place some 100 years ago. I found myself absolutely horrified by one scene, only to immediately see how it is paralleled by stories in the news today. But while I appreciated LaValle’s commentary, I couldn’t connect to the character’s or the story itself and had a difficult time feeling invested in the novella. I’ll still be recommending it to others, and am glad to see most people have enjoyed it more than I did.
My first read for Transathon! Anna-Marie McLemore is nonbinary and one of the main characters is a trans boy whose pronouns are both she/her and he/him.
While I enjoyed this, I wish I had liked it more! I thought that it was trying to do a little too much at once and subsequently ended up a bit scattered. The characters and their relationships really made the read worth it, but I was mainly confused about the magical realism element and felt like the ‘rules’ were kind of arbitrary. I also never felt a real sense of danger and thus wasn’t too invested in the swan aspect of the storyline. I definitely felt a lot could have been cut out of this to make it more enthralling. As a sidenote, I really liked the menstruation rep! Roja has heavy, painful periods and I appreciated their inclusion, although it also felt a bit heavy-handed at times.
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders Published by Tor Books on February 12, 2019 my rating: ★★★ Goodreads avg: 3.56 (as of 2020-06-29) Spoiler-free review
Would you give up everything to change the world?
Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.
Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.
Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.
Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.
Part of how they make you obey is by making obedience seem peaceful, while resistance is violent. But really, either choice is about violence, one way or another.
This was such a strange book that felt almost needlessly complicated in some aspects. I could tell that Anders was extremely into her world building but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for some aspects of it. It reminded me a bit of Amatka: a society filled with unyielding rules. The comparisons largely end there, though.
I never felt strongly connected to any of the characters. Sophie didn’t feel solid enough as a pov character; she never really bypassed concept into full-fledged character for me and I didn’t feel like she had much agency. I struggled similarly with Mouth, who started off as a caricature and morphed into something softer that I didn’t quite understand. I just never felt fully convinced by either of them. The dialogue itself, while largely good, felt stilted in some parts. There were random scenes where I thought, “no one talks like that.”
I really struggled with the message of the story for a bit. It sort of felt like it was trying to push too many storylines together at once. If it was expanded into a series this would have made more sense, but as is it had a kind of claustrophobic feel to it. My mind was constantly dragged in several different directions and I wasn’t really sure what to expect next, but not necessarily in a good way.
I did really admire the way this tackled toxic relationships. Sophie is deeply in love with her best friend Bianca, although seemingly unable to admit it to herself. Bianca is privileged, self-centered, and blind to anything that doesn’t impact her directly. It was frustrating watching Sophie return to Bianca over and over, but it also makes sense in the context of their relationship (until their last meeting — that didn’t make sense to me).
Regardless of my criticisms, this was highly readable and I hope people will still give it a shot. I hit points where I just didn’t want to put the book down because the writing was so compelling and I really wanted to see what would happen next. It’s a good book, but I think cutting down a little would have gone a long way.
Though his touch is gentle it feels bruising even through clothes: she can’t suffer a man to touch her, however well meant.
I wonder if I would’ve gotten along better with this had I not consumed so much media about the Salem witch trials over the course of my life (fun fact: one of my ancestors was in the trials). While the setting is different, the story is largely similar to those out of Salem — but make it gay. The novel is based on true events, though. My issue is just that I didn’t feel Hargrave brought anything new to the table with it; it was easy for me to see what was coming and I dreaded picking the book up. While I love my fair share of sad stories, I feel like I always get something out of them and that just wasn’t the case here. If you haven’t been inundated with stories of witch trials, I think this would work better for you. For me, it just felt like another of the same.
content warnings: death of a loved one, sexual assault, miscarriage
Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, you know?
i wish i had liked this more because it had a lot of potential. i just found it to be a little too disjointed for my tastes. i was at a loss a lot of the time and didn’t feel like the journey was fully worth the destination — as great as i found that destination to be. i even put this down for a few days because i was just bored reading it, which is a shame considering how wild the content itself is. i do think it’s worth giving a shot if the premise intrigues you, even if it didn’t work for me personally.