Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

 

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” –Margaret Atwood

Note: Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale book and Hulu TV series are mentioned in this review, although not in great detail. It feels impossible to talk about The Testaments without referencing both.

When The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, it was both revolutionary and revelatory. In it, Margaret Atwood imagined the nation of Gilead, an autocratic theocracy created through the violent overthrow of the United States government. In a world in which fertility rates had fallen drastically, one of Gilead’s prime commandments was procreation by whatever means necessary, including the forced servitude of fertile women as Handmaids, women forced to conceive and carry babies that they’d have no claim to. Through ritualized rape, Handmaids endured their roles as vessels and chattel belonging to the Commanders and their wives — or faced gruesome punishments, including mutilation and death.

Gilead was not much kinder to the Commanders’ wives, who were expected to know their places and stay there. Women’s rights were gone absolutely — no ownership, no money, no independence. No reading! Reading was considered such a sin for women that all public signs were replaced with pictures — a drawing of food to denote a store, rather than letters spelling out words.

In The Testaments, years have passed since the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. Gilead continues on, still in power, still subjecting its women to its caste system and degradations, at war with Canada and battling to take down the resistance group Mayday. In this new novel, the story is told through three different narrators’ first-person story.

First, and probably most familiar to both readers and viewers of the TV series, is Aunt Lydia. We’ve known her up to now as one of the system’s enforcers, one of the Aunts whose job it is to train Handmaids and keep them in line through whatever means necessary. Here, we hear Aunt Lydia telling her own story, and we see a much more complex take on who she is and how she came to be this way. Her backstory is fascinating — and, it’s worth noting, substantially different than that of the Aunt Lydia character in the Hulu version. Prior to Gilead, Aunt Lydia was a well-respected and well-established judge. When the forces of Gilead came to power, Aunt Lydia and her colleagues were rounded up, imprisoned, and tortured, until they either agreed to work for Gilead or were executed.

Lydia opted for self-preservation — although it’s left ambiguous as to what her true motivation is. Is she only about her own survival? Or is she playing a very long game, establishing her own power base in her own domain with the goal of bringing down Gilead from within? And if the latter is true, how could she stomach all that she had to do to gain and retain her power? She’s a perplexing character, clearly able to be quite cruel and manipulative and deadly… yet she does save girls from terrible situations as well, and finds her own sly and subtle ways to get back at the Commanders who wrong her and other women.

The second narrator is Agnes Jemima, whom we first meet as a young school girl. Agnes is the privileged daughter of a Commander and his wife Tabitha, and while Agnes’s relationship with her father is formal and distant, she and Tabitha have a loving, tightly bonded connection. Tabitha entertains Agnes with stories, including a fantastical story of rescuing Agnes from a castle and running away with her through the woods. This rings true to Agnes — she has a very vague memory of running through a forest.

Meanwhile Agnes attends school for girls and learns appropriately girlish subjects. But when Tabitha dies, Agnes’s life changes dramatically, from learning that she was actually born to a Handmaid to gaining a new stepmother. And the stepmother can’t wait to be rid of Agnes, pushing for her to marry (at age 13!) so the family can secure a connection to another powerful man. Agnes’s wishes matter not at all.

Third, we meet Daisy, a 16-year-old Canadian girl living with kind but overprotective parents, ready to become politically active despite her parents’ wishes. When tragedy strikes, Daisy learns the truth about her own life. She’s actually Baby Nicole, Gilead’s internationally famous poster child, who was smuggled out of Gilead by her Handmaid mother as an infant and who’s become the symbol of righteous struggle (for Gilead) and the battle to overthrow Gilead (for the opposition). Daisy’s protectors come up with a crazy scheme to smuggle Daisy back into Gilead, to become a resistance courier and retrieve a cache of documents so powerful they could lead to Gilead’s demise.

Insane as it seems, Daisy agrees to the plan, and returns to Gilead in the guise of a convert seeking to become a novitiate Aunt. Here, the three main characters’ paths intersect and become tightly woven together.

It’s an intricate plot, full of the social commentary and political intrigue we’d expect in the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale — but the book’s success hinges on the three main characters. We have to believe in them, understand them, and invest in their quests… and for me, at least, I absolutely did.

It’s a fascinating journey, although I couldn’t separate myself from the TV series while reading the book. Although it’s never stated explicitly, it’s plain that Agnes is the child taken from Offred (June) in The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching to see that she has no memory whatsoever of her mother. We also understand that Baby Nicole is Offred’s second child, born during her time as a Handmaid. Baby Nicole’s birth and escape to Canada feature very prominently in seasons 2 and 3 of the TV series, although events seem to have unfolded in the world of The Testaments in a different manner. For those who haven’t watched the series, I wonder how long it would take for the connection between Agnes and Nicole to become clear.

By having these two young women telling their stories, we gain a very different perspective on Gilead from that shown via Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale. For Agnes, growing up in Gilead is just normal. She doesn’t miss reading, because it was never part of her life. She accepts the social structure as the way things are supposed to be, because that’s all she’s known, and being from a Commander’s family, she’s grown up with privileges and in as much safety as any female in Gilead could have. Through Nicole’s experience, we get to see how weird it would be to be thrust into this situation, to learn to hide by pretending to be obedient and meek, and to meet face to face with girls her own age who are completely alien to her.

Finally, through Lydia’s version of the tale, we see yet another view of the founding of Gilead and its power structure, and see how survival is both a choice and a price. Lydia is fascinating. I’m so eager to hear other readers’ interpretations of her character as portrayed in The Testaments.

The Testaments is a powerful, engrossing read, and absolutely a worthy sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Very thought-provoking, and very much worth reading.

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The details:

Title: The Testaments
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication date: September 10, 2019
Length: 422 pages
Genre: Dystopian fiction
Source: Purchased

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Take A Peek Book Review: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

My Thoughts:

What fun! In this charming YA graphic novel, Deja and Josie both are completely nuts over how much they love working at the pumpkin patch. And really, if my town had a pumpkin patch even half as amazing as theirs, I think I’d be nuts about it too. It’s huge, it’s utterly corny (with super-punny signs), and it’s the place that Deja and Josie feel most at home. But their last night ever working at the patch leaves Deja determined to eke out every last experience, and she drives the reluctant Josie to run from attraction to attraction, food stand (Frito pie!) to food stand (kettle corn!) in search of the elusive girl of his dreams. Josie is a by-the-rules nice guy who believes in fate and just letting things happen, while Deja is a free spirit who believes in grabbing life and experiences and making your own luck.

The story in Pumpkinheads is sweet and endearing, but never cloying. I love the characters, their humor, their connection, and their easy acceptance of differences, as well as their essential good natures. The artwork is tons of fun, with the characters easily exhibiting a wide range of emotions through their faces and body language, and leaving plenty of room for humor via visual delights, rambunctious children, and one super-aggressive runaway goat.

Naturally, coming from the talented minds and pens of Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, Pumpkinheads is enjoyable start to finish. Highly recommended!

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The details:

Title: Pumpkinheads
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: August 27, 2019
Length: 209 pages
Genre: Young adult graphic novel
Source: Library

Shelf Control #183: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Published: 2005
Length: 259 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station – and she also happens to be a werewolf. One night, sick of the usual lame song requests, she accidentally starts ‘The Midnight Hour’, a late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. Almost immediately she’s deluged by calls from desperate vampires, werewolves and witches from all across the country, wanting to share their woes and ask her advice.

Kitty’s new show is a raging success, but it’s Kitty herself who could use some help, not least because her monthly change is a deep and dark secret to all but a very special few.

And when she finds one very sexy werewolf-hunter on her tail, not to mention a few homicidal undead, she realises she may just may have bitten off more than she can chew…

How and when I got it:

I picked up a used copy a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

The Kitty Norville series is 14 novels long, plus assorted related shorts, and I do love me a good urban fantasy series… but the reason I picked up this kinda-battered paperback is because I loved Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn’s excellent post-apocalyptic novel (and its sequel, The Wild Dead). Having read those two books, plus Vaughn’s story, “Raisa Stepanova,” from the Dangerous Women anthology, I have a strong suspicion that Carrie Vaughn is an author whose works I need to explore. And anyway… Kitty and the Midnight Hour just sounds like so much fun!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/16/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life. 

I’m down to the last two weeks in a cast. I’m much better at functioning with one hand — but I’ll be happy to move on.

What did I read during the last week?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: Lovely story. My review is here.

Reticence by Gail Carriger: I finished the audiobook last week. My review is here.

Pop Culture

I just finished season 2 of Veronica Mars last night. Now what? I know I’ll probably end up continuing straight on to season 3, but not without some qualms. I remember hating that season when it originally aired and swore to pretend it never happened… but for continuity’s sake, I guess I can’t ignore it forever. Sigh.

Fresh Catch:

My two most highly anticipated releases for fall 2019 both came out this week! My book mail made me very happy.

Also, a family member who shares my interest in true-life survival stories sent me this book this week:

Looks terrific! I think I’m going to save it for my flights to and from a conference later this month.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I’ve made it through about half so far, and I’m loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Doing an audiobook re-read of Carry On before the release of the sequel. I can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about the story… but that’s okay, it gives me a chance to be surprised and entertained all during my listening adventure.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — I’ve basically given up on keeping up with our group read of this book, but since I’m determined to finish it, I’m switching over to Serial Reader and tackling it in small daily chunks instead.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — I’ve read this novella a couple of times before, but it’s great fun to reread it with the group. We’ll be done by the end of the month.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

First, let’s pause to admire the sheer gorgeousness of this book cover. There. Now we’ve had our daily dose of beauty.

In The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a young woman learns that the world is not entirely as it appears, and that she herself isn’t quite who she thought she was.

January’s father is employed by the fabulously wealthy Mr. Locke to travel the world and seek out rare and exotic artifacts. Because his journeys take him away for months at a time, January lives in Mr. Locke’s mansion, pampered but isolated, feeling abandoned by her father and unsure of her place in the world.

When a battered book called The Ten Thousand Doors comes into her possession, January begins to learn about Doors — secret portals that bridge the thin connection between worlds. According to the book, Doors are real, and people who know how to look and find can access their pathways. And yet, there are those who would see these doors destroyed, viewing them as dangerous to the world we know.

The more January reads, the more she learns about the secrets of her own life and why she lives as she does. She also begins to learn about her own hidden powers, and realizes that her life with Mr. Locke is built on control and lies. But freedom comes at a steep cost with great danger, and as January struggles to get away, she becomes hunted by very powerful people who want her stopped.

The writing in this book is lovely, capturing the magic of books as well as the beauty of the natural world and the mysteries all around us. For book-lovers, there are special little passages that touch our hearts:

Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page-riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book.

It’s like the author has been spying on me! How did she know that I feel the need to touch the spines of my favorite books when I see them at the library or a bookstore, and maybe whisper a quiet “hello” while I’m there?

The book’s imagery and use of unusual words also delighted me:

Time went strange. The hour-dragons stalked and circled. I heard their belly scales susurrating against the tile in my sleep.

January is a wonderful lead character, brave but not without fear, curious, open-minded, and desperate for both belonging and the truth. She risks herself over and over again to fight for freedom, and remains utterly loyal to the important people in her life. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that the truth about her family is its own story-within-a-story, and is beautiful as well.

Once we have agree that true love exists, we may consider its nature. It is not, as many misguided poets would have you believe, an event in and of itself; it is not something that happens, but something that simply is and always has been. One does not fall in love; one discovers it.

The only thing that keeps this from being a 5-star read for me is that it really starts off slowly. I had to reach the 25% mark before I truly started to feel invested in January and the other characters. Of course, later I was so involved that I didn’t want to pause even to sleep, so I’m absolutely glad to have stayed with it. Still, I had enough doubts early on that it took me a while to overcome my reluctance and really plunge in.

A final note: As I read the excerpts from The Ten Thousand Doors (the book that January finds), I found myself struggling a bit with the footnotes and missed quite a few. They’re worth reading, but in Kindle format, they weren’t always easy to access and are actually embedded at the end of the book (at least in my copy), and the back and forth was a bit irritating. Small annoyance, but I thought I’d mention it.

I won’t say any more about the plot, but it’s best experienced fresh and without foreknowledge. I highly recommend The Ten Thousand Doors of January. It’s both an enchanting fantasy story and a very human story as well, with memorable characters and filled with emotion and passion. What a lovely read!

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The details:

Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Redhook
Publication date: September 10, 2019
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Won in a Goodreads giveaway!

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Audiobook Review: Reticence by Gail Carriger (The Custard Protocol, #4)

Dueling covers: US version

 

Bookish and proper Percival Tunstell finds himself out of his depth when floating cities, spirited plumbing, and soggy biscuits collide in this delightful conclusion to NYT bestselling author Gail Carriger’s The Custard Protocol series.

Percival Tunstell loves that his sister and her best friend are building themselves a family of misfits aboard their airship, The Spotted Custard. Of course, he’d never admit that he belongs among them. He’s always been on the outside — dispassionate, aloof, and hatless. But accidental spies, a trip to Japan, and one smart and beautiful doctor may have him renegotiating his whole philosophy on life.

Except hats. He’s done with hats. Thank you very much.

Reticence is a fun, enjoyable wrap-up to a delicious series. The Custard Protocol is four books of fluffy good times, as an odd crew of misfits and eccentrics set sail through the aether on their giant spotted dirigible, seeking danger and adventure all around the globe.

In Reticence, the last remaining unmatched member of the Spotted Custard’s officers finally meets his true love in the form of Dr. Arsenic Ruthven, a Scottish doctor whose no-nonsense approach and absolute devotion to learning and libraries secures her a spot in Percy’s antisocial little heart.

As Arsenic learns to love the crew and vice versa, they set off on a trip first to Egypt and then to Japan, seeking out more supernatural shapeshifters and a missing spy, and discovering all sorts of new and exciting mysteries to solve. With plenty of explosions, tea, and parasols along the way.

As the conclusion to both the Custard Protocol series and, it would appear, the Parasol-verse at large, Reticence features cameos by a who’s who of characters from all of the related books (including the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series). Because really, how could we possibly leave this amazing world without one more check-in with Alexia, Conall, Ivy, Lord Akeldama, not to mention Sophronia, Lady Kingair, and more?

Dueling covers: UK version

The adventure itself is fun, and seeing Percy lose his heart in the most awkward way possible is highly entertaining. With Percy at center stage, I did miss spending time with Rue and Quesnel, who are much more my favorites, and the wonderful character Tasherit spends most of this book literally asleep.

Once again, the audiobook is a total delight — so much so that I can’t imagine enjoying this series quite so much on the printed page. Narrator Moira Quirk is outstanding, giving each character a unique voice, capturing the silliness to perfection, and keeping the action sequences exciting and easy to follow.

I’m sorry to see the series come to a close. I know there are more related novellas in the works, but I do hope the esteemed Ms. Carriger decides to treat us to yet more full-length books (or, dare I suggest, four-book series?) set in this oh-so-special world. The Custard Protocol is a treat. Highly recommended.

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The details:

Title: Reticence (The Custard Protocol, #4)
Author: Gail Carriger
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: August 6, 2019
Length (print): 339 pages
Length (audiobook): 12 hours, 21 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/steampunk
Source: Purchased

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Shelf Control #182: Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots
Author: Seanan McGuire
Published: 2012
Length: 204 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Velveteen: How dare you? I never asked for you to hunt me down!

No, Velma Martinez hadn’t. But when you had once been Velveteen, child super-heroine and one of The Junior Super Patriots, West Coast Division, you were never going to be free, even if your only power was to bring toys to life. The Marketing Department would be sure of that.

So it all came down to this. One young woman and an army of misfit toys vs. the assembled might of the nine members of The Junior Super Patriots, West Coast Division who had come to take her down.

They never had a chance.

Velveteen lives in a world of super-heroes and magic, where men can fly and where young girls can be abducted to the Autumn Land to save Halloween. Velma lives from paycheck to paycheck and copes with her broken-down car as she tries to escape from her old life.

It’s all the same world. It’s all real. And figuring out how to be both Velveteen and Velma is the biggest challenge of her life, because being super-human means you’re still human in the end.

Join us as award-winning author Seanan McGuire takes us through the first volume of Velveteen’s — and Velma’s — adventure.

How and when I got it:

My favorite local bookstore got a limited supply of the hardcover editions of the three books in the Velveteen series at some point last year… so of course I had to get them all!

Why I want to read it:

It’s Seanan McGuire! How could I not? When you have a favorite author, and when you’ve read everything available by that author except for three particular books, and when those three books basically fall into your hands… well, of course you’re going to want to read them. The story itself sounds quirky and offbeat and light-hearted, and I can’t wait to finally get started. Maybe I’ll set aside a long weekend (whenever I have one next) and see how much of the three books I can get through.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

The Monday Check-In ~ 9/9/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life. 

Three more weeks in a cast! I’m ready to be done… but patience is a virtue.

Meanwhile, I entertained myself with a jigsaw puzzle — my first one in years! And naturally, it’s book-related:

But now all I have left are the white parts around the edge, and I really don’t want to deal. Can my completist nature allow me to just walk away? And hey, if you’re interested in this puzzle (which is really quite fun), you can find it here.

What did I read during the last week?

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire. The newest Toby book! I loved it, of course. My review is here.

Reticence by Gail Carriger: The 4th and final book in the Custard Protocol series! I finished the audiobook — review to follow.

Pop Culture

My Veronica Mars rewatch/binge continues! After finishing season 1, I moved right along to season 2. I’m now 6 episodes into the 2nd season, and loving it all over again.

Fresh Catch:

What do you know? No new books this week! Which is good, since the new Margaret Atwood and Stephen King books will be released this week, and those should keep me plenty busy.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Ten Thousand Door of January by Alix E. Harrow: Just starting. What a gorgeous cover!

Now playing via audiobook:

Doing a quick audiobook re-read of Carry On, so I’ll be nice and ready for Wayward Son when it comes out later this month.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group read right now:

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — To tell the truth, I’m always falling behind on the group read, mainly because this book just isn’t grabbing me. It was endearing at first, but now I just basically want it to end. And I still have about a third to go.
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon — I’ve read this novella a couple of times before, but it’s great fun to reread it with the group. We’ll be done by the end of the month.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, book 13) by Seanan McGuire

I am beyond thrilled to have received an ARC of the newest book in the amazing October Daye urban fantasy series. Thank you, NetGalley and DAW Books! I love this series just as much now, 13 books into it, as I did many books ago… maybe even more! October herself continues to grow and change as a character, and the big-picture story arcs continue to evolve in a way that moves Toby’s world in new, exciting directions, all the while keeping us in touch with the huge cast of characters and letting us see their ever-changing roles and lives.

Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

This book! This story! Toby… Tybalt… the Luidaeg… Gillian…

Ugh, someone stop me before I become a totally incoherent, mumbling nincompoop.

I just love them all so much!

The Unkindest Tide is EXCELLENT. I love the plot and the character development. I really don’t want to give anything away here, so…

In this newest book, Toby is called upon to pay her debts to the Luidaeg by using her magic to fulfill the Luidaeg’s vow to the Selkies, to force the Selkies to answer for their ancestors’ long-ago crimes. The backstory of the Selkies and the Luidaeg’s relationship to them never fails to make me want to cry. The Luidaeg has been portrayed throughout the series as the scariest thing around, but over the course of these thirteen books, we’ve been able to also see her heart and her pain, and I love her to absolute pieces.

In terms of the plot, the gang gets together to travel to the Duchy of Ships, a sort of floating kingdom where the Selkies gather to learn of their fate. But there are other political forces at play, involving violence and intrigue and murder, and Toby has a limited amount of time to fix it all, save the day (yet again), and be back in time to carry out the Luidaeg’s plans.

The end result of all this is the beginning of a new chapter in the world of the fae. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next!

And yes, I really did love everything about this book, other than my ongoing annoyance with Gillian, who needs to stop being such a brat and start appreciating her mother. But hey, what kind of dramatic tension would we have if everyone got along perfectly?

I’ll wrap things up with a quote from the book, without providing any context, just because I love the writing and dialogue in this series so, so much.

Whatever. I’ve been mocked by better than a few octopus people…

A final note:

The Unkindest Tide includes a bonus novella, Hope is Swift, with Tybalt’s nephew Raj as the main character. It’s fun and affecting, and a nice bit of entertainment after the more intense subject matter of the main novel.

And, okay, a word from Raj, just for fun:

I don’t have my Uncle Tybalt’s skill with flowery, archaic declarations of love, a fact for which I’m genuinely grateful — sometime listening to him is like listening to the audio version of some dreadful period romance, the sort of thing where the men are constantly losing their shirts and all the women keep swooning at the shameful sight of their exposed pectorals.

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The details:

Title: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 3, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Shelf Control #181: The White Darkness by David Grann

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: The White Darkness
Author: David Grann
Published: 2018
Length: 160 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon , a powerful true story of adventure and obsession in the Antarctic, lavishly illustrated with color photographs

Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton’s men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton’s legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton’s crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back. On November 2015, at age 55, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.

David Grann tells Worsley’s remarkable story with the intensity and power that have led him to be called “simply the best narrative nonfiction writer working today.” Illustrated with more than fifty stunning photographs from Worsley’s and Shackleton’s journeys, The White Darkness is both a gorgeous keepsake volume and a spellbinding story of courage, love, and a man pushing himself to the extremes of human capacity.

How and when I got it:

I bought it last fall when it was released.

Why I want to read it:

David Grann is the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, which is one of those exceptional types of non-fiction books that read like a novel. Naturally, when I saw that he was releasing a new book, I had to have it. The subject matter sounds amazing. I’m definitely fascinated by Antarctica and the certain type of obsession it takes to explore there, and I always love a good survival story, so this book appeals to me in a lot of different ways. It’s a small, slim hardcover, with glossy photos, and looks like it’ll be a great read once I finally sit down with it!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!