Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like savoring a hot cup of tea, sip by sip, in a hypnotic state. It’s just such a pretty experience. For me, the plot was almost secondary to my enjoyment of how this novel works as a love letter to art and to New York City. As Addie travels throughout the world and into and out of so many experiences, I felt like I was traveling, too–something we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. There are so many lush moments where food, destinations, performances, and people create a moment, and that’s what this story is… a collection of moments, and an assertion that all of them matter. Just beautiful.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is an odd, hard-to-find, little sci-fi title from 1976. It won the Hugo that year, and reminds me quite a bit of Huxley’s Brave New World, though it came along 50 years later. Both books feature central male protagonists who are cranky about a status quo that works to erase individualism via genetic and chemical means. However, what I really appreciated about this book in comparison to Huxley’s was its massive multigenerational scope, which Wilhelm still somehow handled in a very gentle storyteller way. The tone is strange–half Laura Ingalls Wilder, half hard sci-fi. Even as I’m writing this review I’m not exactly sure how to review it. Ultimately, this is a novel of ideas that rotates around the axis of this question: if you could only prepare for the next generation, and you only knew what the previous generation knew, and that knowledge was shifting with every go-round, could humankind survive? If so, what would it take?
Wilder Girls staggers into a lot of my favorite sub-genres and story elements. It’s a little bit of each from a sampler of dystopian sci-fi, body horror, climate fiction, and feminist fiction. It comes in with a strong concept, intriguing suspense, and a gripping setting. I think it’s a great book to help younger readers discover adult titles in the same territory, like Jeff VanDermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. For me, the high concept was the draw, the memorable world was engrossing, but the character dynamics took a backseat. Byatt’s perspective had me entirely captivated. Hetty’s I did not quite trust and, I suppose, that was part of the point. I do definitely want a vase filled with Raxter Irises, so that’s a testament to Power’s significant worldbuilding chops.
This is as close as having an appointment to view a library’s special collections wing as one can have in book form, specifically with archived DIY flyers, zines, and other materials created during the Riot Grrrl punk movement in the 1990s on the west coast. While the introduction gives great orienting comments, I was hoping for more of a guided tour throughout the text to help me better understand the background of each piece. That being said, the collection fittingly invites readers to take each artifact as they will, or don’t, who cares, be the revolution and make it whatever it means for you–and that’s how they were originally intended. A great immersive look into a unique moment of creative and political energy.
I will always love this book. I read it so many times as a teenager at the turn of the millennium and the enchantment it held for me then is a lasting spell. Block’s writing is fearlessly stylized and she navigates the dark with so much love and tenderness. Her voice as a writer is very recognizable, and not for everyone: the feelings and the beauty she wields are supersaturated. For me, the stories here are still captivating and a crucial portal to my own awakening as a writer. I re-read it with so much gratitude.
Ann Leckie is not afraid to really push narrative point of view beyond the expected, and that’s what I respect most about this dark fantasy. The story itself is nothing new–how many times have we seen kingdoms at war, leaders vying for power, and a simple farmboy swept up in it all? (Also, big Hamlet vibes.) But the relative familiarity of the plot is not where the secrets lie, because the story itself is told from a perspective that we don’t expect, and sometimes that we don’t even know is there. This book reimagines storytelling in a new way, and I enjoyed that. My favorite character wasn’t even close to human.
This volume is erudite in every sense of the word, and to be perfectly honest, it’s just not very readable. However, I did learn some new and fascinating things and enjoyed the teleological arguments posed by the author against the backdrop of, well, all of recorded history. The biggest thing that made this read a slow one for me was the focus on “monstrous” humanity for the majority of the book. I tend to think of monsters more along the creature or supernatural lines, which are certainly mentioned, but I would say the majority of the book focuses on an academic analysis of history’s response to human deformities, differences, monstrous desires, and antisocial impulses rather than the godzillas and ghosts I was hoping to find.
Oh, this collection is so insane. And delightfully so. Kelly Link is a high profile player in a group of contemporary voices who have taken the traditional literary scorn of genre fiction and turned it into a dare. This kind of no-rules, dark, and playful prose is thrilling and fresh. Link’s tongue stays firmly in-cheek throughout this journey of weird, but it’s captivating, bold, and beautifully unrepentant.
My favorites in this collection: The Summer People The New Boyfriend *Two Houses
I read this book at my cousin’s recommendation during the 2020 U.S. election–a stressful week-plus of national tension that required pure escapist fantasy. L. M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame) was a master of such tales, and this one is as dramatic, witty, romantic, and treacly as they come. This novel does what every Hallmark movie is forever trying to equal, and it did it first. I came to be swept away and was! May we all have such happy endings and affirmations of our truest selves.
Liana Finck’s distinctive style of drawing makes her graphic memoir feel as if it’s being told to you from the other end of the couch, while sharing a kettle of tea. The story is gently carried on the back of metaphors that allow her images to range free. It’s a beautiful memoir. Reading it feels like meeting someone for the first time, and knowing that they’re going to become important to you. Hard to describe. But you’ll know it when you see it.