Books Read in 2022: Four-Star Fantasy and Sci-Fi

You know how sometimes weird things just pop into your head for no discernible reason? And then sometimes if you think about it you can, in fact, discern the reason? And it's kind of cool realizing how micro-glances and subconscious spottings of things can prompt the teeming chaos of your mind to blip forth random musings? Once I was driving and suddenly the song Here With Me by Dido started playing in my head, and I wondered why, and then I realized that I had passed a sign saying Building for Rent and the song was off the album Life For Rent - wait, no it wasn't, it was off her first album, but my brain didn't know that. 

Anyway, I was sitting here assembling the book titles for the post and suddenly I thought again how funny it is (to me) that the German word for nurse is Krankenschwester which translates literally (I think) to 'sick sister'. I'm not sure why. There don't seem to be any nurses in the book titles, although there are sisters in some of the books. Brains - so weird.

At school today I was at the desk checking out books to students and listening idly to the conversation of the students on the carpet who couldn't take out books. I heard one of them say to another, "you know British? Teach me some!" The other kid said "okay. 'Woe-tuh' means 'water'". I think my eyes almost popped out with the effort of not wheeze-laughing. 

Four-Star Fantasy and Sci-Fi

A Letter to Three Witches by Elizabeth Bass: Synopsis from Goodreads: Bewitched meets Practical Magic in this sparkling and quirky rom-com with an enchanted twist. When romance problems cause their powers to go berserk, a trio of witches whose family was banned from practicing magic risk getting in serious trouble with the Grand Council. Can they get their magic—and their love lives—in order before it’s too late? Nearly a century ago, Gwen Engel’s great-great-grandfather cast a spell with catastrophic side-effects. As a result, the Grand Council of Witches forbade his descendants from practicing witchcraft. The Council even planted anonymous snitches called Watchers in the community to report any errant spellcasting… Yet magic may still be alive and not so well in Zenobia. Gwen and her cousins, Trudy and Milo, receive a letter from Gwen’s adopted sister, Tannith, informing them that she’s bewitched one of their partners and will run away with him at the end of the week. While Gwen frets about whether to trust her scientist boyfriend, currently out of town on a beetle-studying trip, she’s worried that local grad student Jeremy is secretly a Watcher doing his own research. Cousin Trudy is so stressed that she accidentally enchants her cupcakes, creating havoc among her bakery customers—and in her marriage. Perhaps it’s time the family took back control and figured out how to harness their powers. How else can Gwen decide whether her growing feelings for Jeremy are real—or the result of too many of Trudy’s cupcakes?

Kind of a funny story about this book. I joined NetGalley a few years ago - it's a site where librarians and book reviewers and bloggers can request advance copies of books. I figured it would be a long shot that I would get approved for anything good, but many publishers are surprisingly permissive in flinging about review copies. I made the classic rookie mistake of requesting a million books and got approved for a thousand and then was totally overwhelmed with reading opportunities and review obligations. These days I am much more circumspect about what I request, which doesn't explain this book - it's not a genre I usually read at all. 

I also belong to a Book Bingo Facebook group with some friends, started by a really lovely Ottawa woman who later died of cancer. I liked the idea of not choosing books completely randomly. The first year, though, I made the mistake of looking still kind of randomly for books to fit the squares, and ended up reading some absolute rotters. After that, I used the prompts to focus my reading by picking books that were already on my actual shelves or virtual to-be-read shelves. 

I read this for a 'new-to-me author' square. It's basically a kind of screwball comedy with incidental witchcraft. It riffs on this terrible tv movie I saw many many years ago called Letter to Three Wives (which was apparently a made-for-tv remake of an actually decent movie). The made-for-tv one had Stephanie Zimbalist and Lonnie Anderson and Ben Gazzara, and the plot was that three wives got a letter from a slutty friend saying she was leaving with one of their husbands. Then there's the recall of how all the couples got together and finally the reveal of whose husband was going to leave with her. It was cheesy and horrible and I loved it and remember most of it decades later. 

The book bore little resemblance to the movie past the initial conceit, and, as I said, bears scant resemblance to what I usually read, which I started to think might be a bit of a mistake, because this book was a heck of a lot of fun - the adjectives 'zany' and 'madcap' and perhaps even 'rollicking' could be applied. It would be a great beach read, but also brightened up a fearsomely dreary January furnished in Worldwide Pandemic and Idiot Trucker Protest. Cupcakes were enchanted! People got turned into objects and animals! There is family drama but instead of regular politics there are witchcrafty politics! And curses! And the threat of eternal banishment! God, imagine if my mom had my spell-casting abilities to criticize as well as my hair and weight. Perish.

The Last To See Me (The Last Ghost #1) by M. Dressler: Synopsis from Goodreads: For fans of Lauren Oliver and Kazuo Ishiguro, a sophisticated, literary ghost story that reminds us the past is never, ever forgotten. In a small logging town along the coast of northern California, young Emma Rose Finnis was born and died. Now, no one remembers her hardworking life and her grand dreams--but she remembers. She remembers everything. Emma Rose still walks the coves and cliffs of her village, one hundred years after her death . . . and she doesn't plan on leaving. But when a determined hunter arrives with instructions to "clean" Emma Rose out of her haunt, the stately Lambry mansion, death suddenly isn't the worst fate imaginable. Emma Rose refuses to be hounded from the only place she's ever found peace, even if it means waging a war on the living . . . and the dead. Lyrical and haunting, this spellbinding American ghost story alternates between Emma Rose's life and afterlife as the past and present become entwined in a compelling tale of love, loss, and tenacity over a century in the making. 

-"I have to be careful not to be angry or allow myself to feel any emotion at all, feel the very thing he says I cannot feel, because if I do, if I show for one minute that I’m human, then in the next moment I won’t be allowed to be. The charge is what they call our lasting. That’s all they think we are. A bit of static left in the linen. A spark when you rub your gloves together in the cold.”

-"A ghost stays because she chooses to stay. Her will chooses it. My will. I”m not like the visitors who come to the cliffs to stare at the horizon, pulling out their cameras and devices to try and capture a moment they’re so afraid they’ll lose and forget. A ghost never forgets.”

When I read the review I thought linking Lauren Oliver and Kazuo Ishiguro was a little bit of a reach, and then I thought maybe that one Lauren Oliver book, but the book I was thinking of was actually If I Stay by Gayle Forman. There are definite notes of Never Let Me Go, though. This is a ghost story that introduces the element of Ghost Hunters, in a world where ghosts are acknowledged but undesired - I felt like this element really added to the story, much like the way the town used Internet surveillance to monitor the witch cursing their village in Hex. The writing is gorgeous and Emma Rose's voice is strong and defiant, particularly with regard to her indignation about the living being so bent on dismissing ghosts. The trope of the love story between a rich man and a poor girl isn't new, but the way it's framed here makes for a moving story and an imposing metaphor for how a place's history suffuses its present in many ways. The story is self-contained enough that I didn't feel any immediate urgency to read the next book (thank you for eschewing the cliff-hanger, M. Dressler), but I think I'd like to read it someday. 

The Lost Child of Lychford (Lychford #2) by Paul Cornell: A finalist for the 2017 Locus Award for Best Novella! It’s December in the English village of Lychford – the first Christmas since an evil conglomerate tried to force open the borders between our world and… another. Which means it’s Lizzie’s first Christmas as Reverend of St. Martin’s. Which means more stress, more expectation, more scrutiny by the congregation. Which means… well, business as usual, really. Until the apparition of a small boy finds its way to Lizzie in the church. Is he a ghost? A vision? Something else? Whatever the truth, our trio of witches (they don’t approve of “coven”) are about to face their toughest battle, yet!"

-"As Lizzie had seen so many times with victims, the harder your life had been, the harder it was to give yourself room for ethical choices. So were born cycles of abuse."

I read the first novella in this series a year or two ago and then decided one afternoon to finish the series. It's lovely  - great female characters, a small town in a battle against a nefarious corporation, the forces of good and evil, a Reverend and a sort-of witch, and a fairy or two (interesting juxtaposition of religion with mythology and the occult, which I enjoy - when you're fighting demonic forces, use whatever works, right?)

The Lights Go Out in Lychford (Lychford #4) by Paul Cornell: Synopsis from Goodreads: Be careful what you wish for… The continuing tale in the award-nominated Witches of Lychford series, described by Seanan McGuire as “Beautifully written, perfectly cruel and ultimately kind”. The borders of Lychford are crumbling. Other realities threaten to seep into the otherwise quiet village, and the resident wise woman is struggling to remain wise. The local magic shop owner and the local priest are having troubles of their own. And a mysterious stranger is on hand to offer a solution to everyone’s problems. No cost, no strings (she says). But as everyone knows, free wishes from strangers rarely come without a price…

-"'Oh no. We've had to do some extreme things to save the world -- ' 'Yeah, we're going to have to read the comments.'"

See previous review.

Last Stand in Lychford (Lychford #5) by Paul Cornell: Synopsis from Goodreads: Celestial beings and human witches clash for the future of the human and fairy worlds in this exciting conclusion to the Witches of Lychford series. There are changes in the air, both in Lychford and in the land of fairy. The magical protections previously employed by the town are gone, and the forces of darkness are closing in – both figuratively and literally. Can Autumn and Lizzie save their community, and... well, the world...? Exploding fairies, the architect of the universe and a celestial bureaucratic blunder make this a satisfying conclusion to the ever-popular Witches of Lychford series.

The whole shebang, everything but the kitchen sink, evil people being evil and human people trying very hard to figure out what the right thing is and then do it - a wonderful ending to the series. 

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd: Synopsis from Goodreads: What is the purpose of a map? Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map. But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence... because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way. But why? To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps... From the critically acclaimed author of The Book of M, a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret—one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history.

-"Everything was ahead of us, and we were going to do it together. We were going to stun our colleagues, amaze the public."

Three and a half. I liked this less than Shepherd's previous (first) novel, The Book of M. I felt faintly annoyed at some reviewers raving about this one as if it was a 'highly imaginative' glorious example of its kind, whereas if you've read a lot of fantasy, the central 'big reveal' is a pretty well-worn conceit. But truthfully I can't be sure that envy doesn't play the smallest part here,  because I looked up Peng Shepherd to find out if it was a man or woman and she is eye-wateringly beautiful with hair that goes into an effortlessly messy bun (plus the whole being a writer thing, but the hair, you guys, the hair is glorious).  I do like the way she writes, and the weaving together of the history of a tight-knit, intelligent and competitive friend group, and the subsequent implosion of said friend group, with the plot is effective and engaging. And of course maps are such a rich metaphor, exploding with possibilities for fantastic storytelling. I think I just got the impression, as with Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy, that a lot of people who only read straight literature read this and praised it as if they hadn't ever read speculative fiction before, which I find vexing.

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day: Synopsis from Goodreads: June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention who leaves home to begin grueling astronaut training at the National Space Program. Younger by two years than her classmates at Peter Reed, the school on campus named for her uncle, she flourishes in her classes but struggles to make friends and find true intellectual peers. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station—and a hard-won sense of belonging—but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world seems to have forgotten the crew, June alone has evidence that makes her believe they are still alive. She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégé, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the relationship that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create—and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

--”I picked up the cell. It was much lighter than my uncle’s, but at the same time, I felt the weight of all the hours James had worked on it. When I was younger that would have seemed like some kind of paradise – a problem that needed to be solved, access to a wide range of materials and tools, and almost complete solitude in which to solve it. But I didn’t feel that way anymore. Now it just seemed incredibly lonely.”

This is the book I was talking about when I said it unfair of me to criticize We Have Always Been Here for being slow and cerebral. I don't know if this book is very different, or if (more likely) I was just in a better mood, but I really liked this one. It's difficult to describe being a genius - I'm sure we've all experienced how hard it can be for a really smart person to teach you how to do something they already know how to do. But here I was reading about a child beginning to think at a genius level, and it made me feel like I could almost understand it. And that is some crazy good writing, because we had people over on Saturday night and I heard someone say the word 'innoculous' and it took me two hours to figure out what was wrong about that - genius not so much. Sometimes I'm just cool with reading a lot of meandering philosophical musing. Apparently the science in this wasn't up to par for some people. To those people I say, joke's on you, if I was a genius I'd be disappointed too.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: Synopsis from Goodreads: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone. Or does he?

-"Time to get a look at my fellow patients. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here, but at least I’m not alone – aaaaand they’re dead."

-"-”I wait. No need to get greedy. If I paw at it too early, I might knock it off course and into space. I'd have no way of recovering it. Don't want to look dumb in front of the aliens. Because they’re surely watching me right now. Probably counting my limbs, noting my size, figuring out what part they should eat first, whatever.”

I loved The Martian. In my friend group I discovered The Martian and made everyone else read it. I didn't read Weir's sophomore novel, but I picked this one up after someone I knew said they liked it. I did like it. Not quite as much as The Martian, but that might be largely because of reading order. In The Martian I felt like there was enough science that I didn't feel talked-down-to, but not so much that I got bored. Here I felt like there was maybe just slightly too much science - I forced myself to read through every word of it, which some fellow readers told me was a mistake, but if the author writes it, I try to read it. I also feel like Weir (I am completely unable to write Weir without first writing Weird and having to erase the 'd') may have one voice for a character in him and one voice only. I like that voice - it is warm and funny and a little dorky - but Ryland Grace sounded very very like Mark Watney from The Martian. 

Besides all that, this is a tremendously fun ride - way more hilarious than your usual the-world-might-be-ending-and-I'm-alone-in-space yarn. The way he works through things, his self-deprecating goofy humour, the thing that I shouldn't spoil even though I feel like it's pretty obvious - all great. 

If, Then by Kate Hope Day: Synopsis from Goodreads: The residents of a sleepy mountain town are rocked by troubling visions of an alternate reality in this dazzling debut that combines the family-driven suspense of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere with the inventive storytelling of The ImmortalistsIn the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of a beautiful co-worker in Ginny’s own bed and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny’s husband, Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be coping with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mother healthy and vibrant and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she’s on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career. At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly disturbing—and, in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens Clearing, it becomes obvious that the visions were not what they first seemed and that the town will never be the same.

I read this after In the Quick because I liked the author's writing and the synopsis sounded interesting. It's very different from In the Quick - maybe she decided to just kick the science thing and screw the naysayers. This is also a slow-paced book lacking an urgent plot, but it's a little more mainstream and less astronaut-y than the other book. Great characters, and an interesting way of exploring alternate lives - regrets, lost loved ones, alternate romantic partners, split-second decisions that could have gone another way. 

Book of Night (Book of Night #1) by Holly Black: Synopsis from Goodreads: In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own. Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows. Holly Black makes her adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies.

I didn't love the very first Holly Black book I picked up, and thank goodness I didn't let that deter me from the second, because I have loved almost everything since (not The Cruel Prince, not sure what's going on there but no thank-you). I have a weak spot for self-destructive female characters with no fear - probably because I'm occasionally self-destructive with tons of fear. Good backstory about Charlie's history with her unreliable mother, which explains a lot about her current state. Then there's the wheeling and dealing and scheming and danger, except there's also magic involved, and a dark secret - I love a dark secret, don't you? 

Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor: Synopsis from Goodreads: For the first time in hardcover, the winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award! With a new foreword by N. K. Jemisin Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself -- but first she has to make it there, alive.

I am choking here. I think I need to reread this and maybe the others. I think I'm confusing Binti with Gaal Dornick from the tv version of Foundation (I just found out she's a male character in the book). I liked the description of Binti's culture, and the university setting in space, and then I think things got horrifically violent and she needed to rely on her cultural wisdom. But I'm not sure. 

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2) by Alix E. Harrow: Synopsis from Goodreads: A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's Fractured Fables series. Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues. Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can't handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White's Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she's desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen's poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

Alix E. Harrow writes long, serpentine, lovely works of fantasy like The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches. Then there's this Fractured Fable series which is short, sharp and super-fun (and gayer and gayer in this entry). So much fun.  

Scorpica (The Five Queendoms #1) by G.R. Macallister: Synopsis from Goodreads: Synopsis from Goodreads: A centuries-long peace is shattered in a matriarchal society when a decade passes without a single girl being born in this sweeping epic fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Circe. Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within. Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.

Someone in my Book Bingo group recommended this for the square for a book set in a non-patriarchal society. Honestly, for the first quarter or so I was not disinterested, exactly, but I kept putting it down and not being overly anxious to pick it up again. Then I picked it up and finished it. I'm honestly not entirely sure how I feel about it. There were compelling characters - I adored the travelling bandits - and the worldbuilding was fantastic - I could picture it all effortlessly. Is the matriarchal society substantially different from the patriarchal? There are still bloody power struggles. I guess men aren't treated quite as badly as women in our society, but it's not like equality is the watchword. Also, I was a repeat victim of this condition I have where I somehow become blind to the 'Five Queendoms #1' part, and then as I get near the end I realize that everything doesn't really have time to wrap up, and then I look back at Goodreads and curse the publisher and my stupid series blindness. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series. There was about to be a war, and war fought by women is still war.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho: Synopsis from Goodreads: A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy. Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she's determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god--and she's decided Jess is going to help her do it. Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she'll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.

-"So much for being lucky, thought Jess wildly. It figured that she'd avoided getting nagged to go to law school, only to get nagged to become a vessel for the dead."

-"No one warned Jess, so she looked incautiously right in the Black Water Sister's face. It was only for a moment, before the terror hit, the bone-deep knowledge that she'd fucked up. It was the same terror she'd felt meeting Ah Ku's eyes at that first encounter, when she'd seen the god in him -- a precipitous feeling, like vertigo, as the world jerked into true perspective."

Holy hell, this was a ride. I've been trying to read more books that take place in settings I'm not familiar with, and this fit the bill righteously. The descriptions of the heat, the humidity, the multi-person dwelling with constant familial squabbling, the religious shrines - oh, and also the becoming a host for the spirit of your dead grandmother and trying to settle a decades-old blood feud, while deciding if you can come out to your parents without being disowned. I borrowed the ebook from the library and it returned itself before I was done, and I very nearly bought it rather than waiting until it came back around, but I'm trying not to buy any too many all the books, so I waited impatiently. Jess struggling to merge her modern skepticism with irrefutable evidence of the numinous marries beautifully with her struggle to reveal her sexual orientation to her loving but very traditional parents. 

The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz: Synopsis from Goodreads:This isn't a love story. This is Impossible. *** Nick: Failed writer. Failed husband. Dog owner. Bee: Serial dater. Dress maker. Pringles enthusiast. One day, their paths cross over a misdirected email. The connection is instant, electric. They feel like they've known each other all their lives. Nick buys a new suit, gets on a train. Bee steps away from her desk, sets off to meet him under the clock at Euston station. Think you know how the rest of the story goes? They did too . . . But this is a story with more twists than most. This is Impossible.

I LOVED this. I've read three books by Sarah Lotz and enjoyed them all, while also being really impressed with her range, because they are all very different from each other. This might be my favourite. I frequently say/think that I don't really like romance. I don't really understand why so many books that are ostensibly other genres have to include a couple, usually heternormative although thankfully this is shifting, that solve the mystery or beat the clock or fight the monster while "fighting a growing attraction". C'mon, what are the odds that you're going to be in this ludicrous situation with a same-aged attractive sexual counterpart? This might be why every now and then I should just read a freaking romance, because that's all that's supposed to happen, and sometimes it happens in a fun and offbeat and interesting way, and that's fun to read. Wow, did I just have an epiphany? Anyway, that's what this was. Two quirky characters (with a great supporting cast) who fall in love but are in an impossible situation, and they do crazy things to try to overcome it. 


NGS said…
Binti! Binti! Binti! The first novella was a five star for me and the rest of the series was good, but not great.

I 100% agree with your Project Hail Mary review. Watney and Grace could have been interchanged in either book. He never gives any backstory to either character (did they have families on Earth? pets? interests besides space?) and while they are charming, witty characters, they are identical in most regards. Also, The Martian was a much more interesting book to me.

This is the second review I've read of The Cartographers today and I'd never even heard of it before, so I added it to my list to see how it shakes out!
StephLove said…
That Andy Weir is probably not for me as there was a little too much science, or rather math, in the Martian. In parts, it felt more like a word problem than a novel, to me anyway.
E. said…
Well, thank you yet again, as my library request queue grows longer and longer... I love your take on the books you've read, and I've learned over time that I can trust them implicitly. I'm in awe of the work it must take you to create these Books Read posts, and I'm so glad every year that you do them.

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