"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, July 04, 2016

Broken Monsters

TITLE: Broken Monsters
AUTHOR: Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes continues to fascinate me with her books as each one is better than the one before. Broken Monsters starts as a conventional suspense/mystery, with a murder and a detective, Gabi Versado, in charge of the investigation. The story is told from alternating povs, including that of Gabi's daughter, Layla, as well as the killer, himself. The killer seems to be a typical haunted psychopath who quickly escalates into serial killer-hood. But is the dream that compels him just that, or something more?

The title takes on many meanings in this book that skates the line between reality and fantasy, defying an easy label, which is how I prefer it. My favorite books often blend elements of multiple genres. Mystery? Fantasy? Horror? Thriller? This book covers all those and adds in a decent amount of social commentary about how the internet, especially social media has come to impact and even control our lives, becoming a place where people derive meaning, validation, confirmation. The supporting cast are characters who all matter, coming from varied walks of life, to all play a role as the killer's obsession grows. That obsession crosses into the art world and the need for an audience. Even more than with her other novels, Broken Monsters has a lot to say beyond telling a compelling story. And I can't wait for her next book.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ancillary Mercy

TITLE: Ancillary Mercy
AUTHOR: Ann Leckie

The third book in the Imperial Radch trilogy picks up where the second left off. Reviewing a book that continues a story works only if people reading the review have read the earlier books, in my opinion, so I won't go deeply into the plot. Leckie's universe centers on the Radch and their leader who have built an empire through conquering other planets and bringing alien humans into the fold by any means necessary. Which usually means killing a lot of them until compliance is reached and the realm back, more or less, in balance. Citizens of conquered planets have been taken captive and turned into slave labor by having their minds replaced with implants to connect them to a ship's AI. Thus, the ancillaries of the books' titles: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and now, Ancillary Mercy. Even Anaander Mianaai, the Radch ruler, is spread out across Radch space in thousands of ancillaries. They should all be the same mind, but something happened, a schism, that has one part of her deciding ancillaries are wrong and should no longer be created and another part of her thinking ancillaries are fine.  Basically, the Lord of the Radch is at war with herself, and the destroyed ship Justice of Toren, now confined to a single ancillary and captain of the Mercy of Kalr, is stuck in the middle, sent by one Anaander to protect a space station and its nearby planet, and under imminent attack by an opposing Anaander.  Which somehow, isn't as complicated or convoluted as it sounds.

By time I started this book, I was in love with Breq, as Justice of Toren is calling herself, and her officers and crew. This isn't a big battle in space type story, though there is some action. There's more twists and turns and political machinations and spycraft and it all adds up to a fast-paced story and I was sorry to say goodbye to Breq and all the others. I hope Leckie writes more books in this universe she's constructed, a realm where most places, no one pays any mind to gender and "she" and "her" are simply default pronouns. A realm where AIs seem as human as the humans they protect and serve. It's an interesting place I hope I get to visit again.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Miscellany

I refreshed the blog links over in the left sidebar. Only one had to be removed due to no posts in just over a year. I added a few others I read regularly.

I've been playing on GoodReads. I much prefer Library Thing. On LT, I add a book and it's in my library. If I want to indicate I don't actually own it, I add it to the "Read, Not Owned" collection I created while adding to my LT library. Easy peasy, all part of one step. On GR, added books go onto a shelf, none of which are "Owned Books." GR has an "Owned" section, but you have to add books you've shelved to "books owned" as an additional step. If there's a way to do that at the same time I "shelve" a book on GR, I have yet to find it. So, that's an annoyance because I own pretty much all the books I read these days and want that indicated.

I've also spent hours obsessively answering/trying to answer/skipping Trivia questions on GR. Talk about addictive.

Over on Library Thing, I tried out the catalog feature being tested, that makes your library work like an opac (online public access catalog) as found on library sites. LT is offering it to small libraries for a fee, but individuals can use it for free. It gives more options for searching your own collection. Very cool!

Finally, I widened the columns here and am thinking of redoing the design, using new colors, making a new header. It's been a while since I changed to this look and the old blog is looking a bit long in the tooth. Time for a change!


Ancillary Sword

TITLE: Ancillary Sword
AUTHOR: Ann Leckie

Book 2 in Leckie's wonderful Ancillary trilogy finds one-time ship AI Breq, formerly the ship Justice of Toren, now confined to a single ancillary body, on Athoek Station by order of the Radch emperor. As Fleet Commander, Breq has been tasked with keeping the station and that sector of space safe while the emperor wars with herself. I'd go into details but my review of the first book, Ancillary Justice, will have to suffice. It's complicated.

At any rate, Breq has agreed to go only because the sister of Lt. Awn, the officer she'd been ordered to kill years ago lives on Atheok Station and protecting Awn's sister is a priority for Breq. But she has issues of her own to contend with, including a young lieutenant assigned to her by the emperor as a spy, a ship already at Atheok Station whose captain is likely concealing something vital, and a situation of potential unrest between the haves and the have-nots living on the station.

There's more political intrigue and less action in this book than the first one, but the climatic scene in the station's garden is quite thrilling. Breq might be no more than an AI, but in many ways, she's amazingly human. I love this series, and as I'm about to start book 3, I wish there was a book 4 and more beyond it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Cellar

TITLE: The Cellar
AUTHOR: Minette Walters

For six years, 14-year-old Muna has been a slave of Ebuka and Yetunde Songoli. Having two sons of their own, they claimed Muna from a West African orphanage, then emigrated to England. During her years with the Songolis, Muna suffered much abuse, physical and sexual, but when one of the Songolis' sons, Abiola, disappears, Muna's fortunes change for the better.

To keep the police investigators from discovering their shameful secret, Yetunde claims Muna is their daughter and moves her from the cellar where she's been confined to live when she isn't cooking and cleaning for the family, into a spare bedroom upstairs. Yetunde claims the girl is brain damaged and doesn't speak English, but Muna is far more clever than the Songolis know. Muna has a full grasp of English and slowly realizes how much power she now has, power she uses to manipulate the Songolis in order to better her own position. As the family's fortunes continue to take a downward turn following Abiola's disappearance, Muna's improves.

This novella is a bit of a change of pace for Walters, one of my favorite writers. Told in third person from Muna's pov, this isn't so much of a mystery as it is a psychological suspense story. It is also a disturbing one, and one I found compelling.