Friday, 18 January 2013

Holiday Recap

I read some books over the recent holidays and wrote some reviews of them, but I'm aware that many people (myself included) went away or spent time with family and friends rather than with their computers. So I wanted to recap some of the reviews I posted over the break in case you missed some.

And the end of December, I read and reviewed:

Salvage by Jason Nahrung, a novella out from Twelfth Planet Press. A snippet of my review:
I found Salvage to be quite dark. I'm inclined to classify it as the horror version of magical realism. The fantastical elements didn't come to the fore until near the end and would have surprised me if I hadn't been expecting them (since Twelfth Planet Press do primarily publish speculative fiction). The publisher is categorising it as "Australian Gothic" which I think is fairly apt.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a YA novel that technically isn't spec fic, but felt close enough. My review was also syndicated over at Visibility Fiction. An exerpt:
At its heart, Beauty Queens is an indictment of the beauty and pageant industries and the beauty standard. Through the interactions of the characters and their journeys towards self-discovery on the island, the story explores what it means to be female in a materialistic society obsessed with perfection and the limitations (and secret powers) of feminine expectations.

Transgressions by Phillip Berrie, a self-published fantasy novel written by — full disclosure — a friend. I tried to be as unbiased as possible in my review. Excerpt:
The world building was well thought out. There were lots of small world-fleshing out bits dropped in, which I enjoyed. A particular favourite was the psychic wave that rolls with the sunrise which interferes with some types of magic and jolts magic-wielders awake if they're sleeping.

The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, an ebook release of a SF novel first published in the mid-90s. I was impressed at how the technical aspects stood up to the test of time. I am looking forward to reading more of Nagata's books in this world. Review excerpt:
There was a lot to like about The Bohr Maker. I very much enjoyed the worldbuilding; one of my favourite things was the nanotech introduced into the river running through the slum (which was downriver of the rest of the city) which changed the water from foetid to clear with edible "fluff" floating on top of it that some of the poorest residents of the city collect to eat. Obviously, it sucks to have to eat river fluff, but how neat is the technology? It would be an awesome invention to carry through to the real world.

Broken by AE Rought, a new YA book from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot. It turned out to be a love story with horror elements (and not exactly paranormal ones either).  Excerpt:
In essence, this is a story about their slowly blooming relationship. I thought the pace at which Emma's feelings and their relationship developed — in story terms — was pleasantly slow. There was no irrational insta-love from Emma and we see lots of minor key moments in the development of their relationship, like SMSes that give Emma gooey feelings with only a few words, and uncertainly, and small nice moments. Although in actual time the book spans less than a month, I found the development of their relationship absolutely believable.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, the action, pseudo-SF YA book that was the inspiration for the movie of the same title. I enjoyed the movie more. Review excerpt:
I'm not a fan of science fiction without any accurate science at all, so that didn't help. But the action isn't too bad and I didn't find the book actively offensive. The writing is distinctly pedestrian with stilted dialogue and bursts of summarised conversation which were less fun to read through than the proper dialogue (eg "I told her blah and she said that blah and I agreed").


I Am Number Four was the last book I read in 2012 (though due to a backlog it didn't appear on the blog until January. The next reviews are the first few books I read in 2013.

After the Darkness by Honey Brown is a contemporary novel with horror/thriller elements. Absolutely nothing supernatural or unbelievable happens, but Brown managed to capture an excellent sense of creeping dread and darkness. It's an excellent read. Review excerpt:
Although the book is called After the Darkness, it's really about how hard it is to leave the darkness behind. It's also about how darkness is often contagious, touching on the way in which abuse victims often go on to re-enact their trauma as a way of coming to terms with it. And the hopelessness that comes with fearing for your life. And having to relate to people in a life you have to pretend is normal.

Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren is a collection of three short stories and one novella, all horror. I really loved the short stories which felt like perfect creepy camp-fire tales. Review excerpt:
I didn't enjoy "Sky" as much as the short stories. Not because it was bad, but because it made me uncomfortable in a less enjoyable way. If anything, it reminded me most strongly of Warren's Slights, but less horribly disturbing. Whereas the short stories are almost the kind of creepy tales you might tell around a camp fire at night.

I enjoyed
Through Splintered Walls very much, despite reading the three short stories in the middle of the night during a bout of insomnia (I'm not sure why this seemed like a good idea at the time, but I suppose it could have been worse).

I wrote a couple of non-review posts over the holidays, too. Going back a bit in December, I set myself some reading challenges for 2013, and at the start of January I posted some reflections of 2012 (including pie charts!) and made some resolutions for 2013.

And that's what you missed here if you were away from the internets over the break.

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