Monday, August 22, 2016

Hugo Awards for 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards were presented this weekend, at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention. Here's the list of winners:

  • Best Novel: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Best Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
  • Best Novelette: "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2015)
  • Best Short Story: "Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
  • Best Graphic Story: The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Jessica Jones: "AKA Smile," written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer
  • Best Editor—Short Form: Ellen Datlow
  • Best Editor—Long Form: Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Best Professional Artist: Abigail Larson
  • Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  • Best Fanzine: File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  • Best Fan Writer: Mike Glyer
  • Best Fan Artist: Steve Stiles

I don't read as much sci-fi as I once did, but I still enjoy the genre. And several of these titles look interesting enough for me to add them to my "must take a look" list. I did recently acquire one of the "Best of the Year" books edited by Ellen Datlow, but it was her horror series rather than the SF. And I've seen The Martian — excellent movie!

You can see the full line-up of nominees and list of winners on the Hugo Awards website.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Beginnings: A Death in the Family


Mrs. Malory and A Death in the Family (Signet, 2006), part of Hazel Holt's wonderful Sheila Malory series of cozy mysteries. These are the book's opening lines:
I am very much afraid [my cousin Hilda wrote] that you may have to suffer a visit from Bernard Prior. He arrived at my house uninvited, and indeed unannounced, last Wednesday and stayed for several hours. He seemed oblivious to my hints that he and that dim little wife of his had long outstayed their welcome, so that in the end I was obliged to be quite brisk in my effort to get rid of them. 
Apparently now that he has retired he has taken up genealogy — such a tedious study, I always think — and wished to glean from me any information I might have about our common ancestors.

My Thoughts:

I love the Mrs. Malory mysteries, and my first thought was that I thought I had already read this one. But after skimming a bit of the first chapter, it doesn't sound at all familiar. Must have skipped over it (number 17 in the 21-book series). And my second thought was oh dear, they're dissing genealogists! Which makes me feel very uneasy since I dabble in family history myself, and hate to see a fellow enthusiast made light of. I'm also hoping that the genealogist won't turn out to be the murder victim in this one, but it's not looking good. Oh well, I'll just have to read on and see what develops.

I've been going through an annoying reading slump lately — just can't seem to settle down with any book for very long. But in the past, Sheila Malory has almost always given me the nudge I need to get going again — so I'm hoping she has that effect this time.



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: Dark Matter


This week my teaser lines come from Dark Matter, the new novel by Blake Crouch (Crown, July 2016). This quote is from the first page of Chapter One:
Standing happy and slightly drunk in my kitchen, I'm unaware that tonight is the end of all of this. The end of everything I know, everything I love.
Yeah, I know that sounds like a spoiler — but it's from the book's first page, so I don't think it's giving anything away. I've read one other book by Blake Crouch — Pines, the first book in his Wayward Pines trilogy — and really enjoyed it; so I'm hoping this one is just as good.


Don't really care much for that cover (the Kindle edition). Boring, and it sort of makes me dizzy if I look at it too long. Here's a shot of one of the international paperback editions (Hungary) that's a little more interesting:





Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

This Too Shall Pass

Milena Busquets
Translation by Valerie Miles
Hogarth, May 2016
176 pages

Publisher's Description:
Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like. 
To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.

My Thoughts:

Apparently Milena Busquets' short novel This Too Shall Pass was quite a sensation in Europe, but it's gotten a cooler reception over here. And I think I can understand all the mixed reviews.

In the book Blanca's mother has just died; to deal with her grief, the 40-year-old "orphan" decides to return to a place she remembers fondly from her childhood. And she also decides that just about everyone she's ever met should go along. And they do. Making for lots of interesting and confusing situations.

Blanca is definitely a maddening character, imperfect (to say the least!) and self-involved — and her relationship with her mother is something any psychiatrist would probably love to get a chance at. Let's just say it was very close, prickly, and ... well, a little weird. The book is narrated in Blanca's voice, so we get her thoughts and opinions throughout. And many of her comments about her mother sound very much as if she were speaking about/to a dear friend or "significant other" rather than a parent. But then, you sort of get the distinct impression that her mother was the significant other in Blanca's life. At one point (p.75 in the ARC), while mentally addressing her absent mother, she says:
I guess you were partly aware that you were the love of my life, and no other stormy love affair would ever come close to outdoing yours.
And knowing she feels that way makes her extreme feelings of loss and confusion a little easier to understand and tolerate.

But with all her problems and foibles, Blanca is also very human, funny and warm-hearted. So although I started out agreeing with the nay-sayers, I ended up enjoying the book quite a bit. Not sure I'd actually recommend it — it's probably not for everyone. But I'll be looking for more of Busquets' work in the future.


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(Full Disclosure: I received my copy of This Too Shall Pass free of charge, from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)


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● Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Books In Translation Challenge,  European Challenge, 2016 Women Challenge, Women's Fiction Challenge.


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: The Port-Wine Stain


This week my teaser lines come from The Port-Wine Stain, by Norman Lock (Bellevue Literary Press, June 2016). This quote is from page 49 of the uncorrected proof, so it might differ slightly in the published edition (but probably not):
His words were wild, and I trembled to hear them. And then he placed the skull upon the table and began to run his fingers over it, as though he meant to read Vogel's character in the fleshless face.
The book is a historical novel about a young medical assistant who becomes acquainted with Edgar Allan Poe, and much of the writing definitely has a very Poe-ish ring. I've read about half the book and I'm enjoying it, but also still waiting for something significant to happen. So far, it seems to be mostly style and not much substance.



Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.


Friday, July 29, 2016

I Am No One

Patrick Flanery
Tim Duggan Books / Crown Publishing
July 2016; 352 pages

Publisher's Description:
After a decade living in England, Jeremy O'Keefe returns to New York, where he has been hired as a professor of German history at New York University. Though comfortable in his new life, and happy to be near his daughter once again, Jeremy continues to feel the quiet pangs of loneliness. Walking through the city at night, it's as though he could disappear and no one would even notice. 
But soon, Jeremy's life begins taking strange turns: boxes containing records of his online activity are delivered to his apartment, a young man seems to be following him, and his elderly mother receives anonymous phone calls slandering her son. Why, he wonders, would anyone want to watch him so closely, and, even more upsetting, why would they alert him to the fact that he was being watched? 
As Jeremy takes stock of the entanglements that marked his years abroad, he wonders if he has unwittingly committed a crime so serious that he might soon be faced with his own denaturalization. Moving towards a shattering reassessment of what it means to be free in a time of ever more intrusive surveillance, Jeremy is forced to ask himself whether he is 'no one', as he believes, or a traitor not just to his country but to everyone around him.

My Thoughts:

I broke one of my own rules and read several reviews of this one before I started it; generally, with Early Reviewer books, I at least try to get started on the story before I go looking for other opinions. And that little investigation got me worried — the reviews are very mixed. Then I started reading; and I admit, the slow, involved opening required more than a little perseverance to get through. Several times, in those first few pages, I got lost and had to re-read a sentence or two (or even paragraphs).

But once I was past that problem beginning, this turned out to be a really haunting tale. Although he's not immediately likable, I found Jeremy — the beleaguered academic at the center of the book — to be an intriguing and even sympathetic character. I enjoyed getting to know him and seeing his story develop. And even though fear of surveillance in our modern society certainly isn't a new or unexplored subject, this book makes you feel just how creepy it can be. This is one of those books that are really hard to discuss without revealing too much about the plot; so I'll just leave it at that — very creepy. Sometimes the creepiness feels a bit like a combination of Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe. An example (from p.120 of the ARC):
It is horrible to begin to imagine that what seems like paranoid delusion might be anything but, that suspecting you are being followed and monitored and manipulated is, in fact, the height of sanity, perhaps the very definition of sanity in today's world. What is crazy is to imagine we are living private lives, or that a private life is a possibility any longer....
I do think the book was longer than it really needed to be, although I seem to be saying that about almost every book I read these days. But I liked the way Jeremy's story kept unfolding and expanding, revealing his history and personality a little at a time — the character towards the end of the book seems much more complicated, and yet more understandable than the one presented at the beginning. A very intriguing read, and I'm really glad I stuck with it.

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(Full Disclosure: I received my copy of I Am No One free of charge, from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)


Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Beginnings: Vinegar Girl


Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler (Hogarth, June 2016). Here's the first sentence of Chapter One:
Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen.
My Thoughts:

Well, I'm a little embarrassed that my first thought was "Wow, they have a landline!" Yes, I know there's no reason it couldn't have been a cell phone ringing in the kitchen. I guess I just assume that these days there's no such thing as an unattended cell phone.

Aside from that, the only thought that first sentence brings to mind is that I can't imagine the original Kate -- from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew -- doing a spot of gardening. She'd probably rip up all the plants and dump them all on her sister's head. That's, of course, the pre-Petruchio, untamed Kate.

I've had this one on my radar for a while now, and hope to get through it quickly. I've read a couple of Anne Tyler's books that I really enjoyed -- Noah's Compass and The Accidental Tourist -- and started a few others that I wasn't able to finish. So I'm not sure what to expect from this one. But Taming is one of my favorite plays and I have fond memories of playing the Shrew in a high school production, so I have high hopes for the book.



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.