Entries in family (17)

Monday
Jun102019

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley

This is another cute kids book I read with my daughter, and it's a lot of fun and super well-written right up until it falls flat on its face with a gimmicky cliffhanger ending. The author tries to hang a lantern on the ending, but it's still a cheap gimmick that takes away from an otherwise excellent book.

So, this first book sees no-nonsense Sebastian thrown into absolute nonsense when a pig in a teeny hat enters his life. His begrudging involvement with The Explorers Society introduces him to Evie who has some very big problems, including some terrible men trying to kill her.

Sebastian has just discovered the first clues to unravelling the mystery of all the trouble Evie is in. The two become fast friends as they search their home city for exiled members of the Society who can help them out of the trouble they're in, and maybe rescue Evie's grandfather, who is her only surviving relative. They might even save the world.

The story is full of danger and whimsy and friendship with a heartfelt, well-written style that is fast-paced and zany. I enjoyed it and my daughter loved it. The only failing mark is the cliffhanger, which is just so out of place and also so unnecessary. This book is excellent and leaves enough questions unanswered to propel readers into the next book. I really wish the author had trusted the story and not ended with a gimmick.

Thursday
Feb282019

The Family Plot

I used to primarily read horror when I was younger, but moved away from it as I discovered fantasy (mostly through King's Dark Tower series which is more weird epic fantasy than horror). I have continued to read things that fall under "spooky" but are primarily another genre, like dark thrillers and urban fantasy and... whatever Chuck Wendig's books are.

And I used to watch a lot of horror too. But in the recent past, I lost whatever shielding I had against the scares and no longer find it enjoyable. Back in the day, The Grudge creeped me out a bit, but I didn't lose any sleep. And then I recently watched Annihilation and that godsdamn screaming bear kept me awake for a literal week. And I wanted to watch the Haunting of Hill House but couldn't even look at stills from the show without getting creeped out.

And not in the good way. Not in the rollercoaster, this is scary but fun kind of way. I stopped being able to enjoy watching horror. But since reading and watching engage different parts of the brain, I decided to give reading horror another try.

I picked this particular book because I like Cherie Priest, she's got cute and hilarious dogs, and this sounded like everything I love about horror. But holy shit, it's scary! No nightmares, didn't keep me awake, but it got to the point I had to read the second half of the book during daylight hours. But it was SO GOOD.

So this is your basic haunted house story, with creepy as fuck ghosts. But it's about so much more than that. And I liked seeing the family dynamics play out, because I've been part of a family business and hell yes I know what that nonsense is like. The family politics. The bullshit. And I very do love old houses, just like the main character does. I live in a relatively old house, built in '39 with all the charm and surprises of an old house.

And I have been in a very old, moderately haunted house and experienced things I could not explain.

Anyway, this story was fun and spooky and endearing and terrifying. It's so atmospheric. When I think back to the things that actually happen, very few of them seem that scary out of context, particularly before the last third of the book. But the atmosphere? So spooky!

As much as this book freaked me out, I still loved every last bit of it. I read it in three days, which is about my top speed for novels. And it answered my question about whether I can still read horror. Haunted house fiction is about as scary as it gets for me, and I survived! Yay!

Highly recommend if you love ghosts and old houses.

Tuesday
Feb262019

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

This book has been pushed as something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Firefly, and in sense that's correct. It has a quirky, lovable cast living on a rundown junkheap of a ship being held together by duct tape and love. And honestly, I think that's where the comparisons end.

This is a great book, it just didn't fit my initial expectations after all the Star Wars and Firefly hype. Those comparisons fit for the characters but not so much the story itself. This book is a slow burn, which is fine, I just wasn't expecting it. Not a lot happens for like half the book, but the characters themselves interacting. But these characters are phenomenal.

Basically, the occupants of the spaceship Wayfarer are construction workers building wormholes in space. And they're a bunch of pacifists (which removes them by another step from Firefly and SW) from a wide array of species and backgrounds.

There's a lot of wonderful worldbuilding to go along with the wonderful characterization. And through the characters and the slow, meandering pace, there's a lot of exploration of moral causes that really shines a light on some of the goofy things that humans do (and should maybe stop doing).

The climax was a great bit of action that I appreciated.

But there were a lot of points where I felt like the conflict was shied away from. Where things could have been explored more deeply, especially deeper into specific character emotions during some key scenes, that were just left hanging or glossed over. And I was really disappointed that the truth about Rosemary's father didn't really amount to much.

And then there's the thing that Corbin does to Ohan that really pisses me off. The thing itself is horrifying, but the way it's just sort of swept under the rug and shrugged off really upset me. Regardless of how Ohan feels about it (and we never really know because this is another place where conflict and deeper exploration of character emotions is dropped), what Corbin did is 100% inexcusable. Just because we're shown Ohan learning to cope with the fallout doesn't mean Ohan is happy about it.

Anyway, there are more books in this world, but they don't look like they follow this specific cast and I'm really disappointed in that. This book felt like it was just getting started, but the next book is about a pair of side characters. Ditto the third one. This is the second time I've seen this kind of "trilogy" and I don't think I like this new trend.

I do still recommend reading this book. It's rich and wonderful.

Wednesday
Oct172018

The Fated Sky

So, it's hard to say much at all about this book without spoiling The Calculating Stars so I won't. If you liked the first you'll love the second.

The things I had issues with in the first book didn't go away for this one. The social issues that serve as antagonist were personified in Stetson Parker, first man in space. So it was interesting to see him get a bit of a redemption arc (though I never felt bad for him) while the social issues never really went anywhere. They were overcome to a point, but yeah... racists gonna racist.

The book was fun and infuriating and heartbreaking in equal measure, but it ends on a uplifting note. I had a lot of questions about some of the characters from the first book who weren't really in the second, but it looks like Mary Robinette will be writing more in the series, so I look forward to that.

Both books are really good. Mary Robinette's research is so extensive and it shows (and only rarely does it show a little too much). So go check out Calculating Stars, and if you like it, this one won't disappoint.

Monday
Oct152018

The Calculating Stars

This is alternate history sci-fi, taking place in the 50s and giving a whole new meaning to the space race after a meteor strikes the Earth in a possible extinction-level event. Instead of reaching the moon, the ultimate goal is Mars and space colonization due to fears that the Earth will very soon be uninhabitable.

And since it's the 50s and the main character, Dr. Elma York, is both a woman and an extremely gifted mathematician, sexism and racism are front and centre. While the meteor serves as a catalyst, these two social issues are the real villain throughout the book.

Elma's is a former WASP and her husband is the lead engineer working to get humans into space and give them all a future before Earth becomes inhospitable. Elma takes work as a computer with the IAC and strives to convince the men in charge that women belong on the astronaut teams.

But in addition to fighting the racism and sexism of the day, Elma has to overcome her crippling social anxiety. There are plenty of bumps and hiccups along the way.

There was a lot of cool space/rocket science stuff in this book, and Mary Robinette did some really excellent and extensive research in preparation for writing this, and that was easily one of my favourite things about it (even if some of the jargon got to be a little much). At first I didn't think I liked this book because all the ingrained racism and sexism was driving me absolutely crazy. But the end has a good pay-off to make up for that. Also, lots of hilarious rocket-related sexual innuendo. Hee!

While on the surface, this is a book about surviving an extinction event on Earth, it's really about social justice and friendships. It's a slower burn than I usually read but that doesn't mean it's boring. Highly recommend!