Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (My Rating: 4/5) I love Kelly Link, and this was no exception to that rule. She writes the strangest, most wonderful blend of genres and does so while keeping you fully engaged in the stories. A couple of the tales found here were a little too experimental for me. “The Cannon” for instance. Forgive me for not getting that story at all. But there are plenty of gems, too. Such as the title story, which I’d already read in Pretty Monsters, but it’s still fantastic. As for my new favorite, “The Hortlak” and “Stone Animals” tie for the prize.
Feed by M.T. Anderson (My Rating: 3/5) I hate when a book has me fully engaged only to take a nose-dive. It was a well-done dystopian setting, which is already hard enough to find, with lots of shades of Brave New World. Two-thirds of this book is great. Then suddenly it decides to become more involved in the romance than anything else. And the romance, to put it plainly, is awful. Our main character is far too shallow to ever really love anyone, and that’s obvious even before things really go to hell. Don’t think for a second that I don’t get the message about disappearing from pain rather than living in it and how detrimental that can actually be. That doesn’t stop the delivery from being frustrating and downright enraging. If you don’t fully hate the main character before it’s over, then you have a much higher tolerance for turd-like behavior than I do.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (My Rating: 3/5) My first problem with this book comes with the way it was sold to me. I thought this was a thriller. It’s not. It’s a family drama. Whoops. I wish someone had told me that. Haha, get it? Things I never… told you. Anyway. Even after getting into it, I found the writing would perfectly service a thriller but not a family drama. For something that’s character driven like that, I expect more from the writing. This book just didn’t have that spark. It’s also very short with a lot crammed into that small space, so that the book covers a huge range of topics without focusing on anything, giving me little to hold onto. If I can say it did something successfully, the character arcs were great. It could be read and enjoyed for that. It wasn’t awful, but it was overall lackluster.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (My Rating: 4/5) This was a very necessary novella. It’s an homage to/deconstruction of H.P. Lovecraft’s work and his prejudices. It begins with the dedication “For H.P. Lovecraft, with all my conflicted feelings”, and that echoes throughout the telling. The really fantastic thing about this is how he’s not just talking about Lovecraft’s racism. He’s using “The Horror at Red Hook”, a very racist story that also happens to include the police in a heavy way, to comment on what’s happening all around us, right now. It’s a very powerful piece of work infused with a lot of anger, and again I call it necessary.
As for the Lovecraftian parts itself, there were things I absolutely loved and things I also didn’t. He takes the story places I’ve never seen. Lovecraft was fond of driving his characters insane with revelations, and LaValle gets much braver than that. I appreciate that part of things more than I can say. But then in a way, he also chickens out. This might be considered a spoiler, but he uses that Lovecraft monster that we all know. His most popular one. I’m really not sure he fit in this story. LaValle makes him fit, but part of me really wishes he’d gone for a lesser known Elder God. One that fits the point of the story better and doesn’t cater to the crowd that maybe hasn’t ever read Lovecraft but they’ve seen a plushie. Obviously it didn’t affect things that much, because the rating reflects how moving I thought this was.
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco (My Rating: 4/5) Like the above entry, I started my spooky reads early. When I get halfway through September, I start pining for horror. This was a thrift store find that I’d been meaning to try out. It did not let me down. I’ll say that if you want violence and splatterpunk, don’t come to this book. It’s a slow burn that’s all about characters and atmosphere and building a sense of foreboding. I love a ride that’s about suspense, but if you find that boring, steer clear. The writing in this was incredibly good. The characters felt like real people. It’s fairly short, so it can be devoured in a couple days.
The thing that lost that one, teeny star? The husband. I hated that guy. I feel like Marasco was trying to write him in a way that seemed endearing, but I found him insufferable. I’ve seen the reviews that paint Ben, said husband, as long-suffering, while the wife, Marian, is a spoiled brat who forces him into this awful situation. Let me give you a flip-side interpretation. All Marian has in her life are three things. Her husband, who mocks her and patronizes her every chance he gets. Her son, who is ungrateful and dismissive. And her house. Or rather her crummy apartment. Is it any wonder that a beautiful house could seduce her? I kind of want everyone to read the book this way, as a commentary about a poor, duped housewife. I think the story gets richer when you view it from that angle.
There you have it! Thank you for reading. If you want to support this blog, check out my Redbubble shop. As always, happy geeking!