We Are Most Certainly Not: WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE by Daryl Gregory – Review

We Are All Completely Fine

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Genre: Adult fantasy/horror
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Release date: August 2014
Source: Purchased
Pages: 182

The nitty-gritty: A short but powerful tale of six unusual people who form a support group, unexpectedly horrific and sad, which left me wanting more.

We knew each other, at first, only by our words. We sat in a circle and spoke to each other, presenting some version of ourselves. We told our stories and tried out behaviors. Dr. Sayer said that the group was the place for “reality testing.” What would happen if we exposed ourselves and shared our true thoughts? What if we talked about what we most feared? What if we behaved according to rules that were not predicated on our worst suspicions?

Perhaps the world would not end.

I picked up a copy of We Are All Completely Fine after reading several glowing reviews, and it wasn’t until I recently received a review copy of Gregory’s Harrison Squared that I realized the two books are connected. These sorts of serendipitous discoveries delight me to no end, and so I decided to read this book first, even though Harrison Squared is a prequel. I zipped through this in less than a day. At less than 200 pages, it’s a quick read, not only because of the page count, but because I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Brutally violent and shocking, Gregory gives us a highly imaginative set-up that shows how fear can control us.

Most of the “action” takes place in the past, as five lost and damaged people who have suffered supernatural traumas are brought together for group counseling by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer, who seems to genuinely want to help them recover. Stan was captured and partially eaten by a family of cannibals (but survived!); Harrison used to slay monsters, and has been immortalized in fiction as a monster detective known as Jameson Jameson (Jameson Squared); Greta has intricate scars all over her body but won’t talk about where they came from; Barbara was once captured by a creature known as the Scrimshander, who flayed her arms and legs and carved images onto her bones (then stitched her up again); and Martin hides behind a pair of video game glasses through which he can see the “dwellers” who come from another place to torment humans.

Jan cajoles them into coming together, week after week, as they gradually start to open up and tell each other their stories. If you were to take the supernatural aspects of this story away, you would still have a very powerful tale of the group dynamics of people with scars—both physical and metaphorical—who try to use therapy as a way to heal. But the weird circumstances of these characters are what makes this book so special. One by one, each character tells his or her tale, and the reader discovers that there are certain connections among them. Each character has a distinct personality: Harrison is angry, Stan can’t stop talking about his horrible experience, Greta is silent until almost the end, and Martin is clearly scared to death, and is afraid to take off his “frames.”

But the character of Barbara was the one I connected with the most, emotionally. She’s a wife and a mother of two boys, but she feels so distant and apart from them that it made me terribly sad. Her scars are literally bone deep and she can’t escape them.

You’ll definitely need a strong stomach for this story. Gregory describes each character’s ordeals in Technicolor blood and guts, and even though I’m not usually squeamish when it comes to descriptive violence, I have to admit several scenes in this book made me queasy. But in between these horrors are lovely human moments when the characters connect with each other.

One thing that I’m still puzzling over is the narration of this story. It’s clear in the beginning that someone in the group is narrating: “There were six of us in the beginning. Three men and two women, and Dr. Sayer. Jan, though some of us never learned to call her by her first name.” And yet—the narrator is never identified, and comments on all six characters. It could be first person omniscient point of view, but I’m not really sure because I’ve never read a story quite like this. If anyone has read this book and knows what I’m talking about, I’d love to hear what you think. It’s driving me crazy!

I was also a bit confused by the ending. I honestly expected more of an “ah ha!” moment at the end, because the lead-up was so good. But it sort of fizzled out for me, with an odd connection between two of the characters that came out of nowhere, and an ominous message that foreshadows more bad times ahead.

But otherwise I loved this story. Gregory is an author I’ll be watching for sure, and I’m all primed now to read Harrison Squared, which tells the story of Harrison’s early life. I’m also wondering if Gregory will ever write back-stories for some of the other characters. I’d love to read more about Martin and Barbara. (But not Stan or Greta. Their stories would be too much for me, I think!) For readers who aren’t afraid to dig deep into the horrors of the human condition, We Are All Completely Fine is a must read.

Final rating: 8/10

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An Absurd Journey Through Dead City: DEAD BOYS by Gabriel Squailia – Review

dead boys

Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia
Genre: Adult fantasy
Publisher: Talos
Release date: March 10 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 288

The nitty-gritty: A folktale-like story with an odd cast of dead characters, lots of humorous moments, but not enough of a plot to keep me interested.

While reading Dead Boys, I realized after only a couple of chapters that I wasn’t going to agree with most of the glowing reviews I’ve seen for this book. And I’m not sure why. It’s got all the elements for a successful story: a fantastical setting, interesting characters, and writing that (while not my favorite style) is well done. Perhaps it was the silliness of the set-up—a dead man named Jacob is a “preservationist” in the underworld, stitching up and fixing the decaying bodies of the dead. Or it could have been the language itself, a very formal style that often felt like something right out of a Shakespearean play:

“Thy doom drops from above, body-robbers!” cried the head, bouncing past Remington’s feet. “Draw near, that I might gnaw thy hated ankles.”

(Seriously, the entire book was written this way.)

But mostly, it was the absurd humor and a plot that I quickly began to lose interest in, that had me skimming chapters near the end. Dead Boys is the story of a journey, and yet it felt as if the characters were never getting anywhere. And I’m disappointed because I really thought I was going to love this book.

Imagine this, if you will: Jacob Campbell is a corpse who lives in Dead City and patches up the decomposing dead, corpses that wash up on the banks of the Lethe river. But as much as he’s more or less happy being dead, he’s heard tell of a “Living Man” who was still alive when he crossed into Dead City, and Jacob is anxious to find him, in the hopes of someday reaching the land of the living himself.

He’s joined on his journey by a boy named Remington, who has a bird nesting in his skull, and a dubious character named Leopold who may or may not be trustworthy. Together they navigate a strange and decrepit landscape, full of armies of attacking corpses and huge, shifting piles of debris. Not to mention plenty of dead body parts falling off or getting hacked off and put back on again. Yep, this is one crazy book, people!

Now, I did enjoy parts of Dead Boys, especially the way Squailia describes the world of Dead City. The river Lethe runs through the city, washing up bodies of the newly deceased. Everywhere are piles of garbage and detritus, mostly composed of bones and decomposing flesh. Jacob’s vocation is interesting, although disgusting and ridiculous! His job is to try to make the dead appear more alive, by fixing their parts that are coming off, a sort of taxidermist for the dead. I found the idea both hilarious and disturbing at the same time, and believe me, it just kept getting weirder the further into the story I got.

My favorite character was young Remington, so named because he shot out the back of his skull with a gun (OK, I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I think it went like that!) Remington has a little black bird that has taken up residence in his empty skull and acts as Remington’s eyes when he flies. As strange as that sounds, I adored Remington and his little bird companion.

Most of the characters are missing body parts, like a headless couple dubbed “Adam and Eve.” And then there’s Etienne, the Living Man of legend, who is now no more than a head tacked to the wall of a tavern.  And in the middle of it all, Jacob is there to help the dead regain some of their dignity by repairing their broken parts. There are a lot of body parts being lost, and then reattached, and then lost again. One particularly disturbing scene deals with a penis swap (yes, you read that correctly!). Why the dead still have penises is anybody’s guess, but I think you have to appreciate a special brand of humor in order to laugh at things like this. (And I know those readers are out there, in fact, I’ll bet some of them are reading this review right now!)

And so the characters trudge through a dangerous land that could resemble a Bosch painting. Somewhere among all the heads and limbs and penises flying around, is a story. But for me, it was buried too far under all the bones of the dead to make sense. I know one thing for sure: when I die, I certainly hope I don’t wind up here. The dead in Dead Boys are a sorry lot indeed, roaming through a dismal landscape and barely getting anywhere. For those readers who appreciate absurdity, gross humor and an author who delights in playing with language, this may be just the book for you.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote is taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

Final rating: 6/10

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Waiting on Wednesday [139] – THE CHART OF TOMORROWS by Chris Willrich

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books that you’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I usually suck when it comes to reading a series in its entirety, but this is one series I’ve kept up with from the beginning, and I’m looking forward so much to book three:

The Chart of Tomorrows

The Chart of Tomorrows (Gaunt & Bone #3) by Chris Willrich. Releases in July 2015 from Pyr Books. Check out the gorgeous artwork on this cover! Plus, I’m happy that poor Persimmon Gaunt isn’t nearly naked on this cover, LOL! Or she might be, but you can’t tell because of all the shadows. Here’s what Goodreads says about the story:

The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.

Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his “destiny” and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too.

But as the nomadic Karvaks and their war-balloons strike west, and a troll-king spins his webs, and Joy is herself chosen by the spirit of the very land Innocence has fled to, Gaunt and Bone find themselves at the heart of a vast struggle — and their own son is emerging from that conflict as a force of evil. To save him and everything they know, they turn to a dangerous magical book, The Chart of Tomorrows, that reveals pathways through time. Upon the treacherous seas of history, Gaunt and Bone must face the darkness in each other’s pasts, in order to rescue their future.

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Are you reading this series? Let me know what you’re waiting on this week:-D

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Tammy’s Top Ten Books From the Last Three Years

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Hop on over to find out more about Top Ten Tuesday and maybe even join in the fun, as they give us a new theme each week! This week’s theme was very hard to narrow down, but even though I wanted to choose more than ten books, I decided to stick with the program. Since I’ve been blogging for about three-and-a-half years, it was easy enough to choose books I’ve read and reviewed on this blog. To that end, all the links go to my reviews. (You’ll also note that I made up a *special* designation for books I loved above and beyond the usual love. I did that for a while, but I’m no longer using that award.) Here they are, in no particular order, my top ten books from the past three years:

1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab. This book has everything I look for in a perfect story: awesome characters, a rip-roaring plot, emotional connections and a deliciously complex story construction. Read it if you haven’t!

2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. The first book in Brown’s series was a hell of a ride, and a debut novel too! It only gets better in the second book, but I wanted to highlight this one since it was such a memorable read for me.

3. The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig. This book! This is still my favorite Chuck Wendig book to date. Although I haven’t cracked his Miriam Black series, and I know a lot of people love those books. Just read it, OK?

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandell. I know this went on to be a bestseller and an award nominee, but I read it before all the hype, and I can tell you it’s well deserved. A quieter, more introspective read than most of the other books on this list, it was magical and dazzling.

5. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. Beukes is a new “auto buy” author for me, and I’m catching up on her backlist as well. This is her latest, and it’s so well written and plotted and paced, that I can’t imagine how she can get any better.

6. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. This zombie tale was unexpectedly emotional, and once again, it’s a book that reflects my mantra for my most favorite books: “It’s all about the characters.”

7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This was another surprise book, one I didn’t expect to love so much. But Cline is a born storyteller and I clung to each and every word. I can’t wait for Armada, which comes out this year!

8. The Martian by Andy Weir. Here’s another bestseller on the list, and again, I like to think that I read it before it became one. I’ve never had so much fun with only one character! (For the most part. Of course, there are more characters in the story than the MC, but his scenes take up the bulk of the book.)

9. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. I love the entire series, but this is where it all began. Jay’s books are emotional and sad and wondrous. You really should read this series if you love fantasy!

10. Three by Jay Posey. This was an amazing start to a fantasy series, and it’s also Jay’s debut. I wasn’t as crazy about the follow-up, Morningside Fall, but I know there is a third book on the horizon, and I’m dying to read it:-D

There you have it, my top ten books from the last three years. Have you read any of these?

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Beware: You’ve Just Entered White London! Blog Tour + Giveaway: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

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I’m thrilled to be a part of V.E. Schwab’s blog tour for her latest fantasy for adults, A Darker Shade of Magic, presented by Tor Books! I devoured this book recently, and you can read my review here. The story centers around a magician named Kell who is one of the last of his kind, people who can travel among the three different Londons that exist in Schwab’s magical story. Red London is the seat of magic where the river runs red and everyday magic is the norm. This is Kell’s home where he spends most of his time with his family. Grey London has lost its magic, and is a harsh place full of desperate people. And White London is the scariest, a place where magic is wielded as power and those who rule took the throne by murder. By stopping here today, you’ve set foot in White London:

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Scorched metal and settling ash.
A dying city, a desperate people, a defiant magic.
There is no future for the weak, and power bends only to those who take it.
The ruthless twins perch on marble thrones, their lips red with blood.
They give orders—
and a magician in chains obeys.

Victoria is doing a whirlwind tour through 36 different blogs, and each blogger got to ask her one question. Here’s what I asked:

BB&B: If you could be a character in any of the books you’ve published so far, which book and which character would you choose?

 

Victoria: It’s honestly a tie between Victor Vale in VICIOUS and Lila Bard in ADSOM, the reason being that Victor is my supervillain alter ego (he is the character most closely modeled on my own headspace, make of that what you will) and has my favorite superpower (I mean, come on, the ability to cause or cancel pain), but Lila is a truly aspirational character for me. She is who I WANT to be, fearless, reckless, willing to risk her life in order to feel like she’s truly living.

Here’s  more about the book:

A Darker Shade final for IreneKell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Here’s what people are saying about A Darker Shade of Magic:

Find the book: MacMillan | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Powell’s | eBooks | Google Play | Kobo

In this short video, Victoria takes us on a walk around some of the places in London that inspired her to write the book!

About the author:

V. E. Schwab author photoV.E. SCHWAB‘s first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and The Unbound, and the Everyday Angel series for middle grade readers.

Find Victoria:
WordPress | Tumblr | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Fun places to visit:
Darker-Shade.com – A special website for A Darker Shade of Magic that is full of information and materials for readers!
A Buzzfeed Quiz that will sort you into one of the three Londons!

Click here to visit all the stops on the blog tour for A Darker Shade of Magic! Many blogs have their own giveaways, so check them out:-D

And now, the giveaway! One winner who is reading this blog post will win a finished copy of the book, plus a SIGNED double-sided poster:

Giveaway is INTERNATIONAL! Please fill out the Rafflecopter to enter. Winner will be selected on March 14th. Good luck!

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What’s On My Plate – March 2015

On My Plate

Wow this year is going fast already! I know February was a short month, but come on! How can it be March already?? This month I have really overextended myself, as you’ll see by the huge pile of review books I have on tap. Not sure how this is all going to pan out, but I’ll do my best:-D Here’s what I’m planning for March:

For Review:

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman. This short middle grade novel is Hoffman’s first, and because I love her fantasies for young adults, I can’t wait to read this one.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. I’m looking forward to checking out this debut, which is getting lots of attention.

Dark Star by Oliver Langmead. This will be my second book from small UK press Unsung Stories, and I’m quite looking forward to it. Plus, pretty cover!

Throne of Darkness by Douglas Nicholas. This is the third book in Nicholas’ fantasy series, and even though I didn’t read book #2, the publicist assures me that this reads as a stand-alone.

Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz. Yay, Angry Robot is back! This is my first AR title I’ll be reading since their hiatus, and I hear it’s really good.

Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory. I was (happily!) just approved for this title on NetGalley, and I also just found out that the character of Harrison is based on a character in Gregory’s book We Are All Completely Fine, which I just purchased! Super excited to read both books. (Note: I just finished We Are all Completely Fine and WOW. Loved it! I’m looking forward even more to Harrison Squared.)

Broken Skies by Theresa Kay. The author kindly sent me a digital review copy, and I’ve been seeing lots of great reviews on Goodreads.

Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters. This is a collection of short stories and one of Apex Books’ “Apex Voices” authors. I love discovering new authors from Apex!

Strangers by David Moody. I accepted this review book on the recommendation of Wayne Simmons, an author I adore. Sorry it’s taking me so long to get to it, Wayne!

Blog Tours:

Oh boy, lots of blog tours this month, I think I’ll take a break from them in April! In any case, I’m beyond excited for my stop on the A Darker Shade of Magic tour, which is tomorrow! Stop by for an international giveaway of a copy of the book and a signed poster!

I’ll be on the Unchained Memory tour on March 9th. I’m trying out a new small press for this one, INK’d Press, and I’ll be reading the book very soon.

Lastly, my stop on the Vostok tour is March 31. I’m taking a chance on this new-to-me publisher/author, so stay tuned for my review, and hopefully a giveaway of the book.

Giveaways:

My monthly book review giveaway starts on the 15th, so check back soon! As usual, this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL, and one winner will receive a book that I reviewed during the month of February.

I’m participating in the annual Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop (which used to be called “Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop”) which starts on the 20th. I had great fun last year with this hop, giving away a secret box of books. Don’t worry, I’ll leave you some clues as to what’s in the box! Due to shipping costs, this giveaway must be U.S. only.

And that’s what’s on my plate this month! Let me know what you’re up to:-D

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Cover Reveal! THE REBIRTHS OF TAO by Wesley Chu

I’m thrilled to be part of Angry’s Robot’s cover reveal today for the last book in Wesley Chu’s Tao series, The Rebirths of Tao! The book will be released on April 7th, and because I’m such a big fan of this series, you can bet I’m very curious to see how it all winds up. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to the cover reveal, shall we?

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TheRebirthsOfTao-144dpi

Cover by Stewart Larking
Published by Angry Robot Books

About the book:

Many years have passed since the events in The Deaths of Tao. The world is split into pro-Prophus and pro-Genjix factions, and is poised on the edge of a devastating new World War; the Prophus are hiding; and Roen has a family to take care of.

A Genjix scientist who defects to the other side holds the key to preventing bloodshed on an almost unimaginable scale.

With the might of the Genjix in active pursuit, Roen is the only person who can help him save the world, and the Quasing race, too.

And you thought you were having a stressful day…

Pre-order the book: Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

Need to catch up on the rest of the series?

The Lives of Tao | The Deaths of Tao

What do you think of the cover? I think it’s a perfect addition to this series!

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Backlist Burndown Review: ZOO CITY by Lauren Beukes

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It’s my first official Backlist Burndown review! Thanks to Lisa @ The Tenacious Reader, on the last Friday of each month we get to link up with other bloggers who are participating. The goal is to read a book from an author’s backlist that you’ve been meaning to read, but just haven’t been able to get to. I could honestly spend all my time reading backlist books, since I’m so behind, LOL! But trying for one a month is a good start.

This book is also part of my Women of Genre Fiction challenge, hosted by Worlds Without End.

This month I read Zoo City by the immensely talented Lauren Beukes, author of Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls.  I believe this is her second published book, and it couldn’t be more different from Broken Monsters!

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date:  2010
Source: Purchased
Pages: 416

The nitty-gritty: A highly imaginative, gritty, dangerous romp through a fantastical Johannesburg, with non-stop action and a unique and unforgettable heroine.

The tea tasted like stale horse piss, drained through a homeless guy’s sock.

Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters was one of my top ten reads of 2014, and I was eager to read more of her earlier works. I decided to choose Zoo City for a couple of reasons. First, I just love the cover and the fact that animals play a big part in the story, and second, I wanted to read something that could count toward my Women of Genre Fiction challenge. Zoo City won the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2011, and it’s not hard to see why. The writing sizzles with electricity and is the perfect style for Beukes’ story of magic, political upheaval, and survival in a futuristic Johannesburg, South Africa.

The setting alone should clue you into what kind of story this is. Beukes, who lives in South Africa, clearly has first-hand experience with the political and social landscape of the country (although she does credit many sources for helping her with research). This book was a rough read at times, with graphic violence, terrible living conditions, and nasty characters. But there were also moments of beauty (though fleeting!) and compassion, and man did I love the animals!

Zinzi December lives in Zoo City, a block of decrepit apartments where those who have been “animalled” huddle together. In this future society, a mysterious plague has created a most unusual side effect to murder: anyone who commits it suddenly finds themselves with a personal animal companion. Their animal is psychically attached, and the two can never be separated or they experience excruciating pain. Zinzi’s animal is a Sloth who mostly clings to her back and communicates with her not in words, but with gestures. Zinzi fears what all animalled people fear: the Undertow, a devilish entity from Hell that comes to take them away when their animals die.

When Zinzi acquired Sloth, she was also saddled with a magical ability to “find” lost things, like rings or car keys. One day, she’s about to return a lost ring to its elderly owner, but when she goes to the house, the woman has just been murdered. At the crime scene, Zinzi is approached by a pair of animalled people named Marabou and Maltese (with a Stork and a Dog attached to them) who want to hire her to find a missing teen pop star. Zinzi takes the job, but her life is about to take a turn for the worse.

You may recognize the idea of having an animal companion that is tied to you, if you’ve read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, etc) trilogy. When I first realized where Beukes was going with her story, I was a little indignant, thinking “Hey, you’re copying Philip Pullman!” But then, one of the characters actually references the book, and I realized she is only paying tribute to his books, not copying them. What I loved about the animals in Zoo City is that they act as a scarlet letter of sorts. You can immediately identify society’s criminals because they all have animals as their badge of shame.

Beukes’ Johannesburg, or “Jozi” as it’s affectionately called, is a bleak and crime-ridden city full of drug dealers, magic spells, grunge music and of course, animals. Her descriptions of the city are so vivid, that I felt as if I were right there in the middle of the stink of the slums. The writing is sharp and calculated, each word meticulously placed, and the beat of African pop music is ever-present in the background, which gave this story a relentless rhythm. Lauren Beukes’ writing reminds me so much of Chuck Wendig, that if I had to guess, I’d say the two are twins who were separated at birth!

Despite the animals that populate the story—and if you’re thinking this is a light and fluffy animal story, you need to reset you expectations—most of the characters are not very nice, and even the ones who are occasionally do nasty things. Zinzi is a girl with a horrible past (which I won’t divulge here, but you can imagine something bad must have happened in order for her to be animalled), but she’s trying to turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, she owes a dangerous drug dealer lots of money and gets involved in an email scam in order to pay down her debt.

Zinzi’s boyfriend Benoît (whose animal is a Mongoose) has quite the interesting story, and their relationship was one of the most honest and poignant ones I’ve seen in quite some time. Benoît lost his wife and three children in a war, but when he finds out that they might actually still be alive, he knows the right thing to do is to try to find them and bring them back, even though he wants to stay with Zinzi. Their relationship was complicated and real, and I loved it.

I couple of things didn’t work as well for me. Although I did come to love all the African words and dialect that Beukes liberally sprinkles throughout her story—they give a wonderful authenticity to it—all those foreign words tripped me up occasionally and slowed things down.

I also thought the plot was a bit of a mess at times. A lot happens in this book, maybe too much. Zinzi is trying to solve some murders. Then she’s meeting with a completely vile man named Vuyo who pays her to participate in email money scams. And she’s taken on the job of finding Song, the spoiled teen pop star who is missing. During all of this she’s trying not to get shot or stabbed by the denizens of Zoo City while keeping her Sloth safe. It was almost too much for me at times.

And yet I loved this book. Once again, Lauren Beukes convinced me that she is one of my favorite authors. She doesn’t shy away from tough subjects or unlikable characters, but underneath all the social commentary and metaphors about how people carry their burdens around with them, is a story with a big heart. Luckily I still have two backlist books of hers to read: Moxyland and The Shining Girls. I suspect I’ll be reading them very soon.

Rating: 8/10

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Waiting on Wednesday [138] SLASHER GIRLS & MONSTER BOYS Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share the books we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. This particular book has been on my Goodreads TBR shelf—without a cover, I might add—for almost a year! And I’m thrilled that the cover has finally been revealed:

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke. Releases from Dial Books in August 2015. This is a short story collection with horror and thriller stories from some of YA’s biggest names! Just take a look at the roster up there, and I’m sure you’ll be familiar with at least one of them. I’m very excited to see Jay Kristoff’s name on this list, as well as Cat Winters and A.G. Howard:-D Here’s the description from Goodreads:

For fans of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lois Duncan, and Daphne Du Maurier comes a powerhouse anthology featuring some of the best writers of YA thrillers and horror

A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.

Fans of TV’s The Walking Dead, True Blood, and American Horror Story will tear through tales by these talented authors.

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Let me know what you’re waiting on this week!

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Tammy’s Top Ten Favorite Heroines in Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

 Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and each week they give us a Top Ten theme to blog about. This week it’s heroines! We all love our heroines, right? It seems there are so many great heroines these days, that it was hard to narrow this list down to only ten. But I did, and here are my choices (in no particular order):

1. Yukiko from The Lotus War series by
Jay Kristoff

I mean, just look at her! She’s a small girl with a big sword, not to mention a big heart. Yukiko stole my heart in Stormdancer, and she never lost her charm throughout the entire series.

2. Sydney from Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious is a very special book, it’s probably one of my all-time favorites, and Sydney was one of those characters that you hope you’ll find again someday, in a different book. I just adore her. I don’t want to tell you too much about her, if you haven’t read Vicious yet (and why haven’t you??), but let’s just say she has a dog she loves, and her special power is bringing back the dead.

3. Nora & Skelly from The Blue Blazes by
Chuck Wendig

The Blue Blazes

Chuck Wendig always writes strong and interesting female characters, and The Blue Blazes has two of my favorite heroines ever. Nora is an angry, unpleasant woman and has a very complicated relationship with her father, Mookie Pearl. But I fell in love with her anyway. (Wendig seems to have a talent for that!) Skelly belongs to a girl-gang called the Get-Em-Girls, gets around on roller skates, and was an all around fun character to read about.

4. Elizabeth Barnabus from The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

The Bullet Catcher's Daughter

This book was such an unexpected surprise! If you love steampunk and characters with moxie, you should read this if you haven’t already. Elizabeth leads a secret dual life that I can’t tell you about here, so you’ll just have to pick up the book! She’s a mistress of illusion and carries a battered suitcase around with her. I mentioned in my review that Duncan has perfectly captured a female protagonist’s voice, unlike any male writer I’ve ever come across.

5. Maude from the Golgotha series by R.S. Belcher

I loved Maude for her Buffy-esque characterization. She’s a warrior with a great burden who will eventually pass her knowledge and skills on to her daughter. Such a great series, I hope Belcher is working on Book #3!

6. Widdershins from the Widdershins Adventures by Ari Marmell

I just recently read my first Widdershins book, and I fell in love with her! Of course, I didn’t start at the beginning of the series like I was supposed to, but that didn’t really matter. Widdershins  has a charming sense of humor, not to mention she uses some very quirky swear words, and I loved her relationship with her own personal god, Olgun.

 7. Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic by
V.E. Schwab

U.S. cover, Tor Books

U.S. cover, Tor Books

I just finished this and reviewed this yesterday, and I couldn’t leave the wonderful character of Lila out of this top ten list! Lila is a thief who wants to be a pirate and live a life of freedom, a life full of adventure. She’s sarcastic (all my favorite heroines are!), a terrific fighter, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone. Plus she’s got a soft spot for fashion!

8. Persimmon Gaunt from Gaunt and Bone series by Chris Willrich

Willrich’s entertaining and wonderfully written fantasy is about a married couple, Persimmon Gaunt and her husband Imago Bone, but Gaunt is certainly not the type of wife to let her husband do all the dirty work. In the first book she’s pregnant, but still manages to hold her own during a perilous journey.

 9. Cass from The Legends of the Duskwalker series by Jay Posey

Cass is a mother to Wren and is determined to protect him, in Posey’s post-apocalyptic world. She’s also a drug addict, which makes her a refreshingly human character. I loved the way she grew throughout the two books, becoming increasingly stronger and able to defend the people she loves.

10. Atlanta Burns from the Atlanta Burns series by Chuck Wendig

Atlanta

I just couldn’t leave Atlanta off this list, even though I had so many other heroines to fill this last spot. Atlanta truly is the definition of “heroine,” and even though this book was tough to read, and made me all kinds of mad at times, Atlanta is a character you’ll never forget.

How about you? Who are your favorite heroines in fiction?

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