April, 2020 - I think I'm going to shut From My Bookshelf down for a while; maybe for good. I've been putting this together for quite a few years now and it's starting to feel a bit more of a chore. I'll keep my Goodreads connected, but with the state of the world right now, I just want to read without worrying about making sure I post something about it. Who knows - when the world starts to make some semblance of sense again, I may start actively posting here again. Until then, as always, happy reading!
Holy shit, this story is all over the place. A mad Indian, an obsessed hunter, both chasing a creature that may be a spirit, a Sasquatch, a product of evolution gone wrong, maybe a result of cross-species breading, all converging on a lodge in the forest that results in a final battle to the death. I eventually just wished the author would stick to one explanation and settle there, but nope, maybe there was yet another explanation to what the creature is. Overall, the action kept me intrigued enough to follow the story thru to the end, but unfortunately I don't think this is a book that I'll be revisiting anytime soon. One of the Paperbacks From Hell that just did not work for me.
Matt Godfrey's narration is good. He keeps the story moving and makes the action feel palpable. His performance is probably what kept me vested in listening to the end.
I would like to thank Valancourt Books for providing a free audio download of THE SPIRIT in exchange for a fair and honest review.
ORANGE WORLD AND OTHER STORIES by Karen Russell is a collection of eight previously published short stories.
The Prospectors - A ghost story of loss, love, and moving on, one of my favorites from the collection.
The Bad Graft - A bizarre scifi horror story about Joshua trees.
Bog Girl: A Romance - A young boy unearths a bog girl while cutting peat. A love affair ensues. Yes, it seems that weird.
Madame Bovary's Greyhound - This exactly what it is, a short story about Madame Bovary's Greyhound. Having never read MADAME BOVARY (no shaming!), I'm not familiar with how the Greyhound's story plays out there, but this story seemed to be touched with a flavor of THE CALL OF THE WILD. I don't know that the ending of this story would hit as hard if the reader did not own a dog of their own.
The Tornado Auction - Tornadoes are grown at farms and one farmer deals with the mistakes of his life.
Black Corfu - A posthumous surgeon, who cuts the hamstrings of the deceased to keep them from rising from their graves is accused of making a mistake and not performing a surgery properly. As a result, the doctor must deal with the rumors that surround this error, which possibly cause him to go insane. Not my favorite of the collection.
The Gondoliers - Young mutant girls ferry passengers thru a dystopian flooded future Florida.
Orange World - A new mother makes a deal with a devil to keep her baby safe. Clearly an allegory of the fear all mothers must have about the safety of their baby.
The first four stories are the strongest for me. The Tornado Auction was an interesting idea, but didn't quite have the same punch as the first four. The final three stories are the weakest for me, especially Black Corfu. That one really didn't work at all for me. Overall, a solid collection, and even I can attest that the stories that were not to my liking are still written well. I'll be interested to read more of Karen Russell in the future.
Bernard Taylor's The Reaping is an unsettling Gothic tale of seduction, and the myriad ways that seduction can be used against a person. Tom Rigby, former artist-turned-shop owner, is commissioned to paint a portrait in a secluded country mansion. At first reticent, the money offered is too lucrative for Rigby to turn down.
Rigby soon finds himself romantically involved with the subject of the portrait, a young relative of the owner of Woolvercombe House. However, during his stay at the mansion, Rigby observes more and more distressing goings-on, and is more than happy to have his leave of the mansion at the completion of the portrait.
Soon, to his horror, Rigby discovers that the commission for the portrait and all that he observed at the manor were all part of a diabolical plot, and that his was a small but integral part in a much larger, more sinister scheme.
Whether of wealth, the flesh, or youth, seduction is at the core of this book. Some plot points seem too contrived for necessity, but the twists and turns will keep the reader guessing. The horror is a very slow build, but once all the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, the story takes a rapid chase to its chilling and unexpected end.
Hannibal Hills narration is excellent and easy to understand. An all-around great book to listen to.
I would like to thank Valancourt Books for providing a free audio download of The Reaping in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Elizabeth Engstrom's Black Ambrosia follows Angelina's descent into darkness as she decides that she's had enough of the world around her and feeling weak so decides to become a vampire. Engstrom's prose is almost romantic as she describes Angelina's journey, and what ends she'll go to to achieve her goals. At turns both perverse, depraved, and beautiful, Engstrom does not shy from the darkness found in humanity.
Karly Hutchins narration is clear and understandable and perfectly captures Angelina's detached emotions. My only drawback for the audiobook are the chapter ending interviews. As Angelina makes her way across the country, characters give interviews of their impression of the young girl at the end of each chapter, and sometimes there is no break between the chapter and the interview, making it sound like it's part of the continuing story. I found this confusing at times. Had there been a slight pause before these interviews, or if they had even been narrated by someone different, I think these breaks would have been much more clear. Overall, however, it doesn't detract from the story's telling.
I would like to thank Valancourt Books for providing a free audio download of Black Ambrosia in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This is a remarkably beautiful book. A coming of age story that is just as much about discovering cultural identity as it is discovering queer identity, Michael never felt he found his place in his mixed family in addition to being queer. Moving to college, he discovers the local Drag Society and finally finds his way to the person he was always meant to be. Told in verse, the book has a definite lyrical flow. I wish I had this book when I was at a younger age; I think it would have helped me on my own self-discovery journey.
Not my favorite of the series, Artificial Condition definitely feels like it was put together as a surprise follow up to All Systems Red. ASR finished on a very satisfying note and I feel that everyone was a little surprised by its popularity (question mark? Not sure why, because it's incredible) and decided to have Wells pick up the story and start running with it. This follow up felt a little jumbled and rushed, and came very quickly and a little underwhelmingly to the answer of why Murderbot calls itself Murderbot. However, even what I feel was a mediocre Martha Wells story is still remarkably strong and still made me want to find out what happens next to Murderbot. A new mystery is on the horizon and Murderbot finds itself in a position that it didn't think it was going to be in: saving humans because it wants to and chooses to, not because it has been ordered to do so. It was remains hilariously cynical and exasperated by humans, while still discovering what it might actually mean to be human.
Another fantastic series from Tor.Com Publishing, Martha Wells' Murderbot turns out to be one of the most human characters you'll find. Basically a cyborg constructed to be a Security Unit (SecUnit) who has hacked its governor unit and is now rogue and self-aware, tho no one knows it, Murderbot continues doing its job because it really has nothing better to do. Assigned to protect the members of a scientific exploratory mission, Murderbot wants nothing better than to be left alone when not needed so that it can watch the hours of entertainment it has downloaded. However, when a fellow mission goes silent, the team decides to investigate and Murderbot decides to protect them (even tho it has advised against the investigation) because, to its surprise, it is beginning to care for the well-being of its crew. Eventually it becomes clear to the crew that Murderbot is rogue and self-aware and as they come to terms with that knowledge, Murderbot needs to keep its crew alive as someone seems to be out to kill them.
All Systems Red is a fast-paced scifi with a murder mystery undertone that is wildly satisfying. Wells strips away all the extraneous details that usually bog down scifi novels for me and just gives us exactly what we need to know to keep the story moving, and not much more. This also helps put us in the frame of mind of Murderbot, as it doesn't really care what's really going on around it, it just wants to watch TV. It is Murderbot's struggles with itself, wanting to know what it is and what its future holds, that makes this book so amazing. Through the experiences and wants and needs of an artificial being, we see what it means to be human. It doesn't seem like this should be something that would be easy to convey, yet Wells does it with ease, adding in a little bit of humor along the way. The Murderbot Diaries should be on your TBR list if it isn't already.
OK, so to put in bluntly, I absolutely adored Soulless! It is a smart, funny, sometimes sexy little morsel of steampunk romance brain candy. Now, first off, when you see the word "romance" in the description, please don't jump to the conclusion that I would have: that the book is chockablock with hot, steamy naughtiness. Now, in all honesty, it does have it's share of hot, steamy naughtiness (it is part romance when all is said and done, although it really has only one outright sex scene in the entire book), but it doesn't read like every action our heroine is taking is trying to lead her to her next tryst; this is Victorian England, after all, and there are certain rules and regulations one must follow before such scandalous behavior can ensue! What we have here, really, is a smart and sexy heroine who can not only hold her own against vampires and werewolves (she kills a vampire with her parasol, after all), but who can still manage to uphold the highest of societies standards and etiquette, often at the same time.
Soulless is a clever book, and the notion of vampires, werewolves and ghosts being accepted parts of Victorian society is a unique approach to the urban fantasy. How our preternatural heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, falls into all this as someone without a soul who can negate the powers of the supernatural makes her all the more an extraordinary character. In fact, all of the characters are well polished gems and each stands out in their own distinct way.
Carriger's writing is laugh-out-loud funny in some instances and solid throughout. I found it a refreshing read and a highly promising good start for this debut author. I'm anxiously awaiting the second in the series, Changeless.