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Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day – Review

Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor.com Publishing
Date: 10 January 2017
Source: ARC (NetGalley)
Buy the BookGoodreads

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

I’m always up for reading more from Seanan McGuire and I was especially excited to pick up another Tor.com novella from her since her latest, Every Heart a Doorway, made my list of favourite reads of 2016.

I enjoyed Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, though I didn’t quite fall in love with it. The prose is as gorgeous as McGuire usually produces, the world-building is really interesting and the characters feel like real people, but this story didn’t have much of an emotional impact on me.

I know it’s a bit unfair for me to say I’m disappointed in something because I ‘just’ liked it instead of adoring it, but at this point I know I’m going to like McGuire’s work. I’m always hoping for something that’ll make me hide in the bathroom at work to have a wee cry (FEED), inspire me to get a tattoo (Wicked Girls), or end up on my Hugo Awards nomination ballot (Every Heart A Doorway, the InCryptids series).

Oh look, actual thoughts on the book instead of my Seanan feels:

I hesitate to call this book an Urban Fantasy, though that’s probably what it should be shelved under. The story and characters all clearly have deep countryside roots, with the city not being portrayed as much of a character, or all that welcoming of an entity. New York is the place runaways flock to and the place Jenna chose for her flight but it was never quite home. Instead, the pull of Jenna’s small, rural town is ever-present, it’s where her bones are buried and it can never stop being home.

The world-building was fascinating but I found it somewhat confusing, particularly the language around ghosts abilities to give and take time from the living. In the beginning, I kept having to double back to make sure I understood whether Jenna was ageing or getting younger. It took me a while to get into the world and its rules, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue in a novel but in this much shorter work it meant that I was confused for a much larger portion of the story.

Still, I was intrigued by so many things in this story: witches in the corn, covered mirrors, whispering rats, ghost traps. I also especially enjoyed Jenna’s posse of elderly cats, as well as her musings on death, the living and why ghosts who linger behind. I would definitely read more in that world, now that I understand the way the main premise works a bit better.

4 stars

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Martians Abroad – Review & Giveaway

Martians AbroadAuthor: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: YA science-fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Date: 17 January 2017
Source: NetGalley
Buy the BookGoodreads

Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the Director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth–the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her own plans for her future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right–there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more science-fiction, so I was very excited to get my hands on this book! The near-future, Mars colonisation aspect of the story did not disappoint, and I really enjoyed our protagonist, Polly. Also, I’m always here for any story set in a boarding school! although I did have some issues with the pacing, I enjoyed the book overall.

Check out my review video if you want to hear more of my thoughts on Martians Abroad! You can also enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own copy: the giveaway is open internationally until midnight on 3 February 2017 and the winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter.


The review:

The giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Closed and Common Orbit – Review

A Closed and Common OrbitAuthor: Becky Chambers
Genre: Science-fiction
Publisher: Hodderscape
Date: 20 October 2016
Source: Purchased new
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Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn & grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Chambers’ first book in the Wayfarer universe made my Top 5 books of 2015; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was an engaging, diverse space-opera with nifty, distinct alien races and some truly fascinating worldbuilding, but I still had a few qualms with it. As much as I loved the story, I found the structure and pacing choppy and somewhat distracting: it almost felt like a 90s TV show, focusing on a new alien every chapter.

This minor cloud has a major silver lining, in that having crammed so much worldbuilding into the first book gave Chambers a solid basis upon which to build this companion novel. Without giving away the big plot twist at the end of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I can say A Closed and Common Orbit is a much more intimate book. Here, we focus on two main characters and a small supporting cast rather than an ensemble, which I thought was a lot more effective.

Half of the narrative is set just after the events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, as we witness Sidra struggling to adjust to life in a body kit, while the other half focuses on Pepper’s childhood, more than a decade prior, when she was called Jane 23. In the establishing chapters of both storylines, I found myself wishing things would happen a bit faster, but I did enjoy both stories, and the way they came together at the end was very satisfying.

This structure also allows Chambers to do some really interesting and effective storytelling. Early on, a full-grown Pepper ordered ‘the left side of the menu’ from her local takeaway. I definitely chuckled, because who doesn’t love a too-large portion of proper greasy takeaway when the mood is right for it? Yet as we read on and witness Jane’s struggle to feed herself, Pepper’s enthusiasm for every food ever takes on deeper meaning. This is a woman who almost starved to death as a child, an experience which affects her to this day.

There’s just more time in this book to devote to Sidra & Pepper as characters and to tell the stories of their lives and their growth in depth and in detail. The overall stakes are smaller, in a sense. We’re not looking at the end of the world, or even a tricky mission with a big pay-off that turns sour. But we are looking at things that do mean the world for some of these characters – finding your identity, your own place in the world, your purpose, your family.

I teared up a good few times and I absolutely adored the ending. Such a perfect, beautiful note to leave our characters on.

4.5 stars