The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Adult / March 24, 2018

Author: Susanna Clarke. Summary: Susanna Clarke delivers a delicious collection of ten stories set in the same fairy-crossed world of 19th-century England. With Clarke’s characteristic historical detail and diction, these dark, enchanting tales unfold in a slightly distorted version of our own world, where people are bedeviled by mischievous interventions from the fairies. With appearances from beloved characters from her novel, including Jonathan Strange and Childermass, and an entirely new spin on certain historical figures, including Mary, Queen of Scots, this is a must-have for fans of Susanna Clarke’s and an enticing introduction to her work for new readers. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Clarke’s signature, sweeping style plays off better in the long run, I’m afraid. I did enjoy this collection of short stories based in the same world as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, but they’re just not as good as the book. Susanne Clarke seems to develop her characters more slowly and gradually, building them up into real people – which can be a great thing. It just doesn’t work as well in a short story. The strange, sometimes dream-like nature of faerie magic also doesn’t fit into the shorter span. Furthermore, the collection is fairly dependent on…

Deerskin
Adult / March 2, 2018

Author: Robin McKinley. Summary: The only daughter of a beloved king and queen, Princess Lissar has grown up in the shadow of her parent’s infinite adoration for each other—an infatuation so great that it could only be broken by the queen’s unexpected passing. As Lissar reaches womanhood, it becomes clear to everyone in the kingdom that she has inherited her late mother’s breathtaking beauty. But on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Lissar’s exquisite looks become a curse… Betrayed and abused, Lissar is forced to flee her home to escape her father’s madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar finds refuge in the mountains where she has the chance to heal and start anew. And as she unlocks a door to a world of magic, Lissar finds the key to her survival and begins an adventure beyond her wildest dreams. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I’m not familiar with the fairy tale (Donkeyskin) this springs from, but long before I got to the end and saw the author’s note I knew the story was a fairy-tale. From the fairy-tale epitaphs like “the fairest woman in seven kingdoms” to the dreamy prose, from the conscious tropes to the startling…

All Things Austen, Part 1
Adult , Outside the Reviews / February 23, 2018

Hello everyone, Marietta here! Yes, I’ve finally crawled out of my Internet Silence Hole and am ready to blow you all away with a fascinating post about the most exciting, fast-paced books you’ve ever read, written by the most awesome author in the world: Jane Austen!! Right? Don’t you all agree with me? (Say yes, it’s the safest answer.) OK, I’ll admit it – Jane Austen isn’t exactly known for action scenes, fast-paced, witty dialogue or content that needs to be censored. But there are a lot, LOT of good reasons why she is one of the most famous authors in the world and why every book she wrote is a classic. Her books are FANTASTIC, you all. And I know this for a fact, because I just finished reading through all of them this past year. I discussed them with my mother and a friend here in Wisconsin, and together we compared, contrasted, attacked, defended and lauded all of her excellent works. (Then we watched the movies and criticized the way that BBC did Persuasion, because it could have been so much better.) But since I don’t have enough time to do 6 reviews and since you don’t have…

The Tea Master and the Detective
Adult / January 15, 2018

Universe of Xuya. Author: Aliette de Bodard. Summary: Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood. A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her. As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars… (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Some…

The Princess Bride
Adult / January 9, 2018

Author: William Goldman. Summary: What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the “S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, and Miracles. In short, it’s about everything. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Do you know how long it took me to realize there is no “unabridged” version of this story? It was infuriating. Goldman claims to be writing the abridged version; indeed, this comes up again and again in the footnotes, as he comments on how many pages he cut out here…

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Adult / January 2, 2018

Author: Shirley Jackson. Summary: Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Merricat is eighteen years old, but sounds more like ten sometimes. She lives alone in a huge, old house with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian, where nothing ever changes… and she likes it that way. So the day her protections fail and Change arrives in the form of Cousin Charles, she buckles down to fight. The real power of Shirley Jackson’s writing lays not so much in the plot as in the character. Not that there’s any problems with the plot, which is creepy enough as it is, but you have to hear it in Merricat’s matter of fact voice. It’s that straight forward, childish voice…

Left Neglected
Adult / December 16, 2017

Author: Lisa Genova. Summary: Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most. My Thoughts: Left Neglected plunges us straight into the hectic life of Sarah Nickerson, a highly successful career-driven executive and mom. There’s no time to think as she whirls from email to breakfast to helping kids back to email ontowards school drop-off and then she’s rushing off to work already behind. The writing is so good at immersing you in Sarah’s juggling act that the first couple of chapters are actually stressful. Then one rainy morning no different from any other, careening down a 70 mph highway, Sarah’s life comes to a screeching…

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters
Adult / December 7, 2017

Author: Daniel H. Wilson. This ARC was provided, in return for an unbiased review, by Netgalley. Summary: In “All Kinds of Proof,” a down-and-out drunk makes the unlikeliest of friends when he is hired to train a mail-carrying robot; in “Blood Memory,” a mother confronts the dangerous reality that her daughter will never assimilate in this world after she was the first child born through a teleportation device; in “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever,” a physicist rushes home to be with his daughter after he hears reports of an atmospheric anomaly which he knows to be a sign of the end of the earth; in “Miss Gloria,” a robot comes back to life in many different forms in a quest to save a young girl. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters displays the depth and breadth of Daniel H. Wilson’s vision and examines how artificial intelligence both saves and destroys humanity. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: You know how it is with any short-story collection – there are ups, downs, the “what the heck even??” stories. The over all tone of this futuristic sci-fi collection was fairly AI-themed and dark. Not surprising, given the title, but it started off with the…

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Adult / December 3, 2017

Author: Susan Clarke. Summary: English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory. But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French. All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be…

Ready Player One
Adult / October 24, 2017

Author: Ernest Cline. Summary: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS…