kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
This came into my possession via the latest Humble Ebook Bundle, and I am so glad it did. This is how glad I am: I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I can't wait to finish before I tell you all how good it is.

The protagonist, Hanna, is sixteen, manic depressive (and explicitly, canonically prefers that descriptor to "bipolar", Because Reasons), and Finnish-"island girl" (Hawaiian?), raised (for most of her life) in Dallas. She describes herself as biracial and bicultural, and she's bilingual in English and Finnish - and the codeswitching is genuinely plausibly represented.

The dude she ends up hanging around with a lot is the same age, Latino, and bilingual in Spanish and English - again, really nicely represented.

The story takes place in creepy smalltown Texas. It's sub/urban fantasy and abusive parents and a critique of the medical-industrial complex and teenagers having (complicated, not always happy) sex lives all tied up in tight, funny monster-killing brilliance. It's lovely.

Content notes. )
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
[personal profile] zeborah
(A lightly-edited dump of my Goodreads reviews.)

Suckerpunch by Hernandez, David
Hooked me in at the start but the way events followed each other more realistically than determined by a story shape didn't quite work for me. (There was a story shape, it was just more in the gaps between the events.

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1) by Butler, Octavia E.
So many consent issues... Very good: it's got the claustrophobia, the every-exit-is-a-deadend feel, that I'd normally associate with horror, but manages to retain an optimism about it. The aliens are convincinly alien, and the frustration of their refusal to listen is steadfast without becoming unbelievable.

Straight - A novel in the Irish-Maori tradition by O'Leary, Michael
Straight is the second book in the trilogy; I came to it without having read the first, but felt it stood alone well enough that I had no trouble following the plot. Unfortunately that plot -- the protagonist discovering his father may have been a Nazi, then getting blackmailed and kidnapped by Nazis -- was way too melodramatic for me to take seriously. The prose (especially the dialogue) clunked badly for me, too. I did like the motif of dreamland vs reality vs realism though: that played out well.

My Name Is Number 4 by Ye, Ting-xing
Most disasters bring people and communities together; it seems as if the Cultural Revolution was designed to tear them apart. But this book shows that the struggle to survive and to keep relationships alive is always worth making. --Excuse shallow triteness; reading this book in the aftermath of earthquake I have deeper thoughts on disasters and communities but verbalising is harder especially for fear of simplifying. It was a good book anyway.

People-faces, The by Cherrington, Lisa
This is mostly Nikki's story, of how she's affected by her brother's mental illness and her journey in understanding it - caught between Māori and Pākehā models of understanding - and her journey alongside that of getting to know herself and her strengths. Her grandmother tells her that the dolphin Tepuhi is her guardian, but her grandmother is demonstrably not infallible and with the repeated point that Joshua is of the sea while Nikki is of the land, I think the book bears out that the real/more effective guardian for her is the pīwaiwaka.

Her brother's story is told in the gaps between, and completes the book.

Despite the focus on Nikki and Joshua, we get to see various other points of view, showing the further impact on the rest of their family and their motivations. Some of the point of view shifts are a bit clunky, for example when we get a single scene from the Pākehā doctor's point of view, or just a couple from Nikki's boyfriend.

But this is well-told; the author (of Ngāti Hine) is a clinical psychologist and has worked in Māori mental health services, and the emotions of the story ring very true to me.

Cereus Blooms at Night: A Novel by Mootoo, Shani
This was a fantastic read but at times a very hard one; serious trigger warnings for child abuse (verbal, physical, sexual).

It begins as a beautifully sweet story about racial and sexual and gender identity; about family separations made by force or by choice, and about forbidden liaisons both healthy and unhealthy. Set in the country of Lantanacamara, colonised by the Shivering Northern Wetlands -- more an open code than fantasy countries -- the story focuses on three generations of locals, straight and gay, cis and trans, more and less inculturated by Wetlandish education. The narrator begins by disclaiming any significant role in the story; instantly I want to know more about him, and (though he was right that this is more Mala's story) I was not disappointed.

The main story, switching among its several timelines, grows darker and winds tighter with perfect pacing. Revelations are neither too delayed nor too forced. And as it heads towards the catastrophe we've foreseen, through horror worse than we could have imagined at the start, so it brings us towards its equally inevitable -- and no less satisfying -- eucatastrophe.
[identity profile] kethlenda.livejournal.com
Helen Oyeyemi's first novel, The Icarus Girl was recommended in this community, and I ordered it about five minutes after reading the review! Then, I unfortunately let it languish in my TBR pile. When I got the chance to read her latest book, White Is for Witching, I decided to read WIfW first, since it's "hot off the presses." I very much liked it, and I'll definitely get to The Icarus Girl before too long!

White Is for Witching blends gothic horror, racial politics, and the older, bloodier sort of fairy tales into a deeply unsettling novel. The story opens with a passage intentionally reminiscent of "Snow White," describing the mysterious imprisonment? disappearance? death? of the heroine, Miranda Silver. From there, we move backward in time, to the point when the events leading to Miranda's fate began.

The story is told from several points of view, all of them seeing events from different perspectives, all of them possibly unreliable narrators. Miranda herself, her brother Eliot, her lover Ore, and her ancestral home all have their own versions to tell as the plot unfolds.

The house looms as the center of Miranda's tale. Menacing and xenophobic, it desires control over the people it considers its own, and means harm toward those it sees as foreign. The house and its ghosts want to make Miranda a vessel for their hatred. Miranda struggles against the house's domination, a battle that threatens to destroy her mental health and possibly her life.

Oyeyemi's prose is haunting and poetic. I hesitate to use the word "beautiful," as that might give a false impression of "pleasantness." Oyeyemi depicts nightmares, not pretty dreams. She has a knack for describing ordinary things in a way that makes them suddenly horrific, and when she describes horrific things, she does it in a subtle, oblique way that feels like you're looking at something so unspeakable that you can only look with your peripheral vision.

White Is for Witching works as a novel of the supernatural, and it also works as an allegory. I hesitate to even mention the A-word, for fear of driving away readers who've been burned by preachy authors. Oyeyemi doesn't preach, however. There's a message, but it never overshadows the plot and characters. It's just that you can see an extra dimension to the story if you look through the lens of allegory.


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