Book Review: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

how long til black future monthHow Long ‘Til Black Future Month?
by N. K. Jemisin
Anthology of short stories/Science Fiction/Fantasy
397 pages
Published November 2018

I’ve only read one other N. K. Jemisin book – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which is the first book of her NOT Hugo-award-winning trilogy. I really ought to read the rest of her backlist, as she’s an amazing author. How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? is a collection of short fiction – windows into futuristic or fantasy or even contemporary worlds, all centering black characters. I think my favorite was The City, Born Great, about New York City waking up. L’Alchimista, about a talented chef given an impossible challenge, appealed to my baker’s heart, as did Cuisine des Mémoires, about a magical restaurant that can recreate any meal from any time. The Narcomancer sounded like something that could happen in my D&D game, and The Evaluators was slowly horrifying. The Storyteller’s Replacement and Cloud Dragon Skies both have dragons, one of my favorite fantasy features, as does the story Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters.

Every story in this book was amazing. I’ve only specifically named a few, but every single one is excellent. Jemisin runs the gamut from sci-fi to cyberpunk to medieval fantasy to magical realism and contemporary fantasy. There are stories in parallel universes, purely online worlds, shattered universes, and worlds that seem to be our own with a touch of magic. Every one of them is brought to vivid life. Jemisin is an extraordinary writer, and her short fiction shows it.

These are intelligent stories, full of commentary on the current state of our world. From the Jim Crow South to the abandonment of New Orleans to floodwaters, to future apocalypses brought on by our negligence and space exploration spurred by climate destruction, Jemisin’s stories have footholds in reality that are hard to ignore.

Fantastic book. (And that cover is FIERCE.)

From the cover of How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?:

Three-time Hugo award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N. K. Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first short story collection.

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed speculative fiction authors of our time. In the first collection of her short fiction, which includes several never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights with narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo Award-nominated short story “The City, Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Friday 56 – Vox

voxThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Vox by Christina Dalcher, a dystopia in which women in the US have been forced to wear bracelets that count the number of words spoken. If a woman goes over 100 words each day, it starts shocking her with increasing intensity for each word until she stops. Women also aren’t allowed to read or write. The book is terrifying and enraging.

He trained the counter to my voice, set it to zero, and sent me home.

Naturally, I didn’t believe a word of it. Not the sketches they showed me in their book of pictures, not the warnings Patrick read aloud to me over tea at our kitchen table. When Steven and his brothers burst in from school, full with news of soccer practice and exam results, while Sonia ignored her dolls, mesmerized by her new shiny red wristband, I opened the dam. My words flew out, unbridled, automatic. The room filled with hundreds of them, all colors and shapes. Mostly blue and sharp.

The pain knocked me flat.

Our bodies have a mechanism, a way to forget physical trauma. As with my non-memories of the pain of birth, I’ve blocked everything associated with that afternoon, everything except the tears in Patrick’s eyes, the shock – what an appropriate term – on my sons’ faces, and Sonia’s delighted squeals as she played with the red device. There’s another thing I remember, the way my little girl raised that cherry red monster to her lips.

It was as if she were kissing it.

Book Review: River of Teeth

river of teethRiver of Teeth
by Sarah Gailey
Alternate History?
173 pages
Published 2017

I somehow missed that this was a novella, every time I looked at it online. It wasn’t until I checked it out from the library and was shocked at how small it was that I made that discovery. It was a welcome one, since I checked out seven other books that day, and finding something short was a relief!

And I AM SO GLAD I finally read this, because it’s AMAZING. It opens on Winslow seducing a federal agent, and quickly moves to him gathering up a crew to drive feral hippos out of a marsh in Louisiana. I was expected a fun hippo-cowboy romp, and I got that – what I wasn’t expected was strong, deadly women, a bisexual male hero, a nonbinary love interest, and hippo steeds. I don’t know why hippo steeds didn’t occur to me – it’s not like they could wrangle hippos from atop horses! There is so much goodness packed into this little volume.

Taste of Marrow, the sequel, is slightly longer, at 192 pages. Still not full book length. I’ve put a hold on it, because I need to know more about these characters!

River of Teeth: short and sweet, action-packed with amazing characters and a fascinating, bizarre, but historical premise.

From the cover of River of Teeth:

In the early twentieth century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Library Loot Wednesday

Oh boy. I picked up EIGHT books this week. I was not expecting that many to show up at once!

I have several New Releases (well, new for the library – that means they likely came out in November) and three older books.

In New Releases, I picked up N. K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? (that coverrrrr), and Julie Dao’s sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I also received Empress of All Seasons, Autism in Heels, and Love Á La Mode (because I’m a sucker for romance mixed with food).

In older books, I checked out When Dimple Met Rishi (finally!), The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily, and River of Teeth, which I’ve been meaning to get around to. Hippos as an invasive species in the Mississippi? That sounds amazing. It’s also blessedly short, which I was pleased to see when picking up EIGHT BOOKS. River of Teeth will also fill my library’s January Reading Challenge prompt of “Book you’ve been meaning to read.”

It’s a lot to read, but I’m pretty excited about every one of these books!

 

Top Ten Tuesday – New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Go see what everyone else is reading!

how long til black future monthI read A LOT of new authors in 2018. I was trying to read more diversely, AND I read a lot of debut novels. I read FAR more new authors than old authors. I get the feeling this topic is supposed to be authors who already have a body of work that I’m just getting introduced to, though, so I’ll try to go with that.

I didn’t actually write up a review, but I did read N. K. Jemisin‘s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms this year – and it was amazing epic fantasy. I just checked out her newest, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? from the library, and I’m eager to get to it. I’d read more of her stuff, but I’ve been avoiding epic fantasy lately. I just don’t feel like I have the time to devote to it!

Rosamund Hodge became a favorite author of mine this year. I started the year with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, and went on to read Crimson Bound and Cruel Beauty. I recently checked out Endless Water, Starless Sky, the sequel to Bright Smoke. I’ve also gone through her list of short stories on her webpage. She’s amazing.

CirceI discovered Madeline Miller through the Book of the Month club – Circe was the first book of hers I read, and though I bought Song of Achilles on my Kindle, I have yet to read it. I should really do that.

Again in books I didn’t actually review, I read my first Ursula Vernon this year, after meeting her at Anthrocon over the summer. I bought three of her books there, and they’re all excellent!

Jenny Han got so much publicity with Netflix’s adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before that I finally read the book (and its sequel) and those are also excellent. Need to get my hands on the third!

I read Mary Roach‘s Bonk and loved it, and she apparently has a few other nonfiction microhistories. Her voice is fantastic, so I might need to pick those up at some point.

I don’t know that I’ll read any more of his stuff, but John Scalzi‘s Redshirts was pretty hilarious.

Oh, this might be a shock, but the first (and only, currently) Sarah J. Maas book I’ve read was her contribution to the DC Icons series, Catwoman: Soulstealer. It was really good, but I’m still not sure I want to spend the time to read her series.

Anna-Marie McLemore was also new to me this year; I checked out The Weight of Feathers but didn’t get around to reading it for a while. I finally read it in December, and the lyrical beauty of her writing blew me away. Blanca y Roja is now sitting on my shelf to be read!

My last new-to-me author is Katherine Locke, the author of The Girl with the Red Balloon and The Spy with the Red Balloon. I really enjoy her Twitter account as well as her books!

 

 

Book Review: The Brilliant Death

the brilliant deathThe Brilliant Death
by Amy Rose Capetta
Young Adult/Fantasy
330 pages
Published October 2018

It’s not often that I like a relationship more than I like the separate parts of it, but that’s the case with The Brilliant Death. I love Teo and Cielo together. As a couple they are amazing. I like them individually, but together they are something unique and lovely. By the end of the book, they can both switch genders at will, and they love each other for who they are, not what bodies they happen to be wearing.

This book plays with the gender binary, giving us two characters who dance from boy to girl and back again when it’s convenient for them. Teo uses this ability to masquerade as her brother, going to the capital city when summoned by the ruler of her country after the assassination of her father.

If Teo’s name and the use of the word “strega” hadn’t given it away, the book is very Italian-inspired. The family ties, the landscape, the names, the atmosphere is unmistakably Italian. While that’s still a Western European culture, it’s not one we actually see in fantasy that often, which makes this book more enthralling.

While Teo juggles loyalties to family, country, and friends, Cielo is on a mission to find out what happened to their mother. Falling in love isn’t in the plan for either of them, but when is it, really?

I loved the magic, the characters, and the setting of this one, and I really hope there’s going to be a sequel. The plot was definitely left open enough to allow for one, though I could be happy with this as a standalone, too.

From the cover of The Brilliant Death:

Teodora Di Sangro is used to hiding her magical ability to transform enemies into music boxes and mirrors. Nobody knows she’s a strega – and she aims to keep it that way.

Then she meets Cielo – and everything changes.

A strega who can effortlessly swap back and forth between female and male, human and animal, Cielo shows Teodora what her life could be like if she masters her powers – and how much more she’s capable of. And not a moment too soon: the ruler of Vinalia has poisoned the patriarchs of the country’s five controlling families, including Teodora’s father, and demands that each family send a son to the palace. If she wants to save her family, Teodora must travel to the capital – not disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

But the road to the capital, and to bridling her evolving powers, is full of enemies and complications, including the one she least expects: falling in love.