Moar #balisebooks

Where The Drowned Girls Go – Seanan McGuire

What happens in… the other school?

This is the book 7 of the Wayward Children series, and I still love that universe to infinity and beyond. Besides Miss Eleonor’s Home for Wayward Children, there exists another school for the kids who crossed a door, came back, and are trying to re-adjust to Earth life. Contrarily to the Home, the Whitethorn Institute is trying to re-adjust kids by trying to make them forget their adventures, and making them believe they never happened. And Cora, who we met in the previous books, just transferred there – because she believes life will be more bearable there. But then, obviously, it’s complicated. And the headmaster is kind of shady. A good addition to the series, although I kind of regretted not spending more time in beyond-the-doors universes.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E. Schwab

What if living forever came with the curse of being forgotten by everyone?

At the beginning of the 18th century, Addie makes a deal for her freedom from a marriage she doesn’t want. The terms of the deal und up being an… interesting curse – she gets to live for as long a time as she can bear… and in exchange, she gets forgotten by anyone as soon as they leave the room. We follow Addie’s life until the 21st century, a time where she finally meets someone who recognizes her. The novel is written in the perspective of all the events and lives that Addie has lived, in different times, and crossing the paths of many people, and some people many times. I really enjoyed the journey of this book and the reflection it triggered for me about life, time, creativity, relationships and personal impact on the world.

Hunt the Stars – Jessie Mihalik

What can POSSIBLY go wrong when you’re a bounty hunter hired by your sworn enemy?

Yay, a new series by Jessie Mihalik! (I still need to read Rogue Queen, but Consortium Rebellion was very cool 🙂 ). The narrator of the series, Octavia “Tavi” Zarola, is a bounty hunter and captain of a small crew, who was her team when she was fighting in the war. Torran Fletcher was a general on The Other Side Of The War That Just Ended – with the telepathic race of that corner of the universe. He’s also very good looking, apparently, and he has enough credits to hire Tavi’s crew and ship for a mission behind ex-enemy lines to recover unknown precious cargo. All in all, a pretty cool story, a nice slow-burn romance, and interesting considerations around telepathy and consent.

This book also made me realize that I really, really enjoyed what I’d call “descriptions of domesticity in a group of adults living together” – this is also a strong background for many of Becky Chambers’ books, and possibly why I appreciate some post-apocalyptic settings where the protagonists kind of have to stick together to survive.

Again, Rachel – Marian Keyes

Twenty years after Rachel’s Holidays, Rachel has it mostly figured out, until…

Marian Keyes is one of my “auto-buy” authors. I like her blend of light and tough topics, and the fact that I can chuckle one page and wipe a tear on the next chapter. The Walsh family is pretty familiar by now (it’s the 7th book in that setting), and we’re going back to Rachel’s story. Twenty years ago, Rachel was entering rehab, “not because she has a problem, see, but…”. At the start of this book, she’s clean, in love, working as a counselor in her ex-rehab center and gardening on her free time. Until one day she gets a phone call that pulls her down memory lane.

It was a tough book at times – there are stories about addiction, and about what can drive people to that, and without spoiling things too much, you may want to have a look at content warnings if some themes are hard for you. But as it was, it was exactly what I expected from Keyes, and I immensely enjoyed reconnecting with Rachel.

For the Love of April French – Penny Aimes

A kinky romance between a Black millionaire and a trans woman; it’s actually sweeter than it is kinky, and it’s significantly kinky. Not going to say much about this one, because I’m self-conscious, but I really enjoyed it (both characters are fantastic), so it felt wrong to not even mention it 🙂

For We Are Many – Dennis E. Taylor

More Bobs, more adventures, oh my!

In the first book of the Bobiverse, we met Bob, who by a series of accidents ends up becoming the brain of a Von Neumann probe fighting against a theocracy and exploring the galaxy where no one has gone before (well, unless the apparent gazillion of other extraterrestrial lives that seem to exist in the galaxy). In For We Are Many, we follow the continued adventures of all the Bobs who, in the meantime, have solved multiple problems such as FTL communication (useful) but sometimes struggle with their different self-imposed missions. This stays a very enjoyable story, with a special mention to the audiobook narrator, Ray Porter, who gives a pretty recognizable tone and cadence to all the Bobs and all the other characters – very impressive. I am, however, not convinced by his rendition of women voices – of which there are, however, not that many (not that it’s a good thing in general, but in that case… mixed blessing, I guess 🙂 ). It made me laugh out loud more than a few times, and I’m looking forward to the third book.

#balisebooks backlog

I published a few stand-alone reviews recently (Otaku, Could be Something Good, Quiche of Death, The City We Became, Solving Sophronia), but I read much more than that in the past few months, so let’s get rid of the backlog with a couple of notes 😉

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – I had never read Pride and Prejudice, but it had been on my list for a while – it IS considered a classic, but it’s a classic with a “popular” reputation, as opposed to classics of the kind “I remember reading that during high school, Worst Book Ever” 😉 And I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Bennet sisters, of their family, friends and acquaintances.

Hold Me and The Year of the Crocodile – Courtney Milan – still in the Cyclone series started with Trade me. I enjoyed both of these thoroughly, they’re cute as hell, funny, and nothing to not love there.

After Atlas – Emma Newman – second book of Planetfall, which happens on Earth with a few plot links to Planetfall itself. This is the story of Carlos, an indentured detective, who investigates a very gory murder. This was vastly different from Planetfall, still good, but far less memorable for me.

Naked in Death – J.D. Robb – first book of a Very Long Series (this thing has roughly 50 book, ongoing) – and J.D. Robb is also better known as Nora Roberts. It’s a pretty formulaic but very decent detective story in a close-ish futuristic/vaguely cyber world, starring Eve dallas as homicide detective, and overall it’s a good start for a “background series” I could see myself read for a long time.

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston – a very cute romance involving the son of the President of the United States and the Prince of Wales. Think West Wing meets super cute and funny gay romcom. Loved it.

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb – I listened that one as an audiobook while wandering the streets of Zürich, and it seems plausible that audiobooks work quite well for me when it comes to autobiographies/memoirs. Gottlieb, as a therapist, goes through a pretty bad breakup (and finds a therapist to help her go through it), while at the same time works with various patients, more or less sympathetic, more or less broken, more or less tragic. I enjoyed that memoir thoroughly, although it could feel somewhat voyeuristic at times.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay – I honestly do not know how to talk about this. It feels weird and somewhat “wrong” to appreciate that much a book that tells about someone’s story and struggles in such a “raw” way. Definitely a powerful telling; a lot of trigger warnings (rape and food disorders, both with a fair amount of details), and a weird mix of heartbreak and power. I don’t see how I could recommend that book to anyone, but I’m very glad I read it.

Almost Everything: Notes on HopeAnne Lamott – a collection of autobiographical essays/short chapters. Listened to that on Audible; definitely a mixed bag: about half of it I found funny or moving, and about half of it made me roll my eyes very loudly.

Valour and Vanity – Mary Robinette Kowal – fourth book of Glamourist histories. I didn’t enjoy that one as much as the previous ones – the heist theme didn’t do it for me.

Grown Ups – Marian Keyes – I will absolutely read everything Marian Keyes writes, and I read that in the weeks following its publication. A deftly woven dysfunctional family story, which I really really liked, but part of the ending was a tad too bittersweet for me (although it made perfect sense).

The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov – that one’s a re-read (of multiple re-reads). It’s the first “grown-up” science-fiction books I ever read, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s set in a distant future where Earth has the properly unsustainable population of 8 billion (heh 🙂 ), and where a number of colonies have been spawned. The colonies have a kind of “embassy”, called Spacetown, where the access is very restricted – and yet, a murder occured. Earth Detective Elijah Baley gets pulled on the investigation, with the help of Daneel Olivaw – a positronic robot. For a book written in 1954, it obviously didn’t age perfectly, but it aged surprisingly well 🙂 Definitely a classic.

The Naked Sun – Isaac Asimov – I actually re-read Caves of Steel because I wanted to re-read Naked Sun (which is the second book in that series). In Naked Sun, Elijah and Daneel are sent to Solaria, a planet that has births very much under control, and on which only 10000 people live. The interesting thing is that the society evolved in a way that people never see each other physically, only “view” themselves via holographic projections. That kind of thing sounded very on point a few weeks ago (and still does, in some places and in some circumstances) – and I really liked the distinction between “see” and “view” in Solaria’s vocabulary. Also: I really like this book anyway 😀

All Systems Red and Artifical Condition – Martha Wells – I gave a new chance to the Murderbot series. I hadn’t been convinced by my first read of All Systems Red, and as I re-read it, I’m not sure why, because it’s great. We follow a Security Unit who dubs itself Murderbot, but who has essentially one goal in life: be left alone to watch the equivalent of Netflix 🙂 Unfortunately, things don’t always go its way. It’s funny, it’s surprisingly wholesome, and I’ll definitely continue reading the others.

The Collapsing Empire / The Consuming Fire / The Last Emperox – John Scalzi – the third and last book of The Interdependency got published this month, so I re-read the first two to have them fresh in my mind. The Interdependency series sees a collision of two major events: there’s a new emperox, Grayland II, who was not exactly supposed to become emperox in the first place (she only did because her older brother died in a stupid accident); and the Flow, which constitutes the only way of traveling between all the star systems of the Empire, starts collapsing for unclear reasons, and it’s apparently unavoidable. The Interdependency series, with that premise, uses a cast of colorful characters and snarky writing to deliver a very satisfying story, which feels more like a very large book than like three distincts books.

The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary – Leon and Tiffy enter a flatshare/bedshare agreement: Leon works nights as a palliative nurse, Tiffy works days as craft book editor, and they actually never meet… but end up having a full-blown correspondance on post-its. A great romcom, with some more sobering aspects (Tiffy’s ex-boyfriend is a Real Problem), but I enjoyed that book a lot – very cute and very funny, with great characters.