PositivePaste MagazineOver the past several years, it’s been fascinating to watch Gailey refine the blueprint for a domestic thriller with a supernatural twist, culminating in their latest horror novel that gets beneath your skin before you even realize how deep it’s gone. Examining a serial killer’s legacy through his widowed wife, estranged daughter, and abandoned house, Just Like Home interrogates the bloodlust of the true crime genre alongside a good old-fashioned haunting ... Other writers would stay in their lane between true crime or haunted house story, but Gailey grabs both plots by the throat and binds them together in an unsettling, deliberately related tale ... The repetitive language can at times feel as if it’s obscuring the actual plot revelations, with the effect of a seasoned reader of the subgenre able to guess at some conclusions before Vera reaches them. But that doesn’t mean there’s some neat explanation for everything going on within the walls of Crowder House—on the contrary, there are multiple overlapping issues that raise more questions than they answer by the time you close the book. Trained as we are to crave the clear narrative arc of a true crime tale (even an unsolved one), it’s a refreshingly messy resolution.
RavePasteIt’s been a while since a romance novel made me burst out cackling on the second page, but Emily Henry has done it ... Henry has outdone even herself by presenting a delightfully prickly enemies-to-lovers romance that brutally takes apart the Hallmark Happily Ever After and sensitively revises it into something more realistic yet still swoon-worthy ... The novel also continues a growing trend in contemporary romance that I hope is here to stay, wherein the love affair isn’t the only heartstring being tugged ... The trickiest part of romance is sticking the landing. If readers expect an HEA but your whole book is predicated on life not always ending on a happy note, how do you reconcile the two? There’s a part of me that wonders, if Book Lovers had been written to lean more into the literary fiction side of things, if it might have turned out differently. That said, Henry pulls off an ending that both fulfills the genre tropes while still surprising this teary-eyed reader.
MixedPasteNot surprising for someone who regularly sees how the sausage gets made, Carmen has a tendency to observe her own actions and interactions from a remove, as if editing a comic book script—which is only exacerbated when she finds herself stalked and endangered on the already-threatening streets of ‘70s Manhattan. Segura’s writing reflects that with Carmen frequently noting how she \'felt\' everything from a menacing grip on her arm to the chill of being watched from afar by a stranger, instead of fully inhabiting that moment. Unfortunately, that often translates to a similar distance for the reader. It’s difficult to become entirely emotionally invested in Carmen because she has worked her entire adult life to keep anyone from doing so ... Carmen’s Miami exists entirely in memory, evocatively described in contrast to seedy yet compelling New York City ... It’s rare for a hero’s origin story to be so relentlessly sunny, yet Segura aptly illustrates how even the most carefree-seeming place casts deep shadows ... For all that Carmen and her collaborators create comics out of love for the medium, I was hoping for more sequences lovingly describing the experience of making these stories ... Though Segura throws in a number of red herrings in the form of various editors and artists representing potential friendships, rivals, and/or love interests to Carmen, the resolution to the mystery errs more on the side of the unsurprising for anyone who has followed comics controversies over the decades. Yet that in and of itself is an incisive commentary on how little has changed: how powerful personalities are granted numerous second chances, while outsiders like Carmen dare not waste the one opportunity for their perfect shot at being part of comics history ... With this thoughtfully researched and lovingly crafted novel, hopefully Segura is doing his part to turn the tide in the direction it should have been moving all along.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveNPR... a tale of retrospects, of foresights, of the same moment layered on top of itself like repeated musical notes and of quotes that echo across time. Unlike Station Eleven, this book could not have been written before our particular pandemic. But while Sea of Tranquility both reflects our current crisis and revisits moments and characters from Mandel\'s preceding two books, it also demonstrates a creative leap for the author: It\'s the most explicitly science-fictional of her works, exploring time travel by way of a lunar colony in 2401. Despite this conceit wearing thin in parts, the prose never stutters ... Clearly drawn from real life, Sea of Tranquility never feels too self-indulgent. Mandel demonstrates yet again her talent for balancing an ensemble cast, with even the briefest of interludes making each character sympathetic and memorable, like strangers encountered at a party even if never seen again. This is especially impressive considering the main players exist in separate centuries, yet their respective troubles are relatable despite the differences in circumstance ... The lunar colonies do suffer slightly from some spotty worldbuilding; Mandel establishes fascinating details about the socioeconomic divide concerning who grows up on literally the dark side of the moon, yet the colonies arrive so fully formed that their background feels incomplete ... Where Mandel succeeds is in reminding us that even the most life-changing, seemingly unique moments will eventually repeat themselves ... Readers may be split on whether Station Eleven was too much to read during this point in history, but Sea of Tranquility provides a strange comfort ... what a treat to witness the inner workings of a celebrated author and especially this ambitious experimentation during a period in which we were all bouncing off the walls — in this case, seeing what sticks.
PositiveNPRNagamatsu\'s collection of interlinked stories unflinchingly inhabits the ripple effects of a 30,000-year-old Arctic plague, released from melting permafrost ... Tracing the lifespan of the Arctic plague via interrelated vignettes certainly gives How High a very A Visit from the Goon Squad vibe, but it\'s vital to crack the surface of its timely narrative context and focus more on the emotional underpinnings. Like Jennifer Egan\'s novel, it deserves to be read in order, as the connections between various lives over the subsequent generations are often subtle, from a minor character in one story undergoing a career change in the next, to a few potential forays into alternate universes ... The novel\'s title comes from one of the weaker stories, \'Through the Garden of Memory\' ... this more out-there story lacks the affecting specificity of the accounts that precede and follow it. By contrast, a story like \'The Used-To-Be Party\' is so achingly poignant because of its hyper-specific and relatable form: a social media posting from a lonely man to the neighbors that his late wife knew intimately but to whom he is virtually a stranger ... If you regard How High We Go in the Dark as an emotional roller coaster, then you might agree that it peaks narratively about two-thirds through the collection, with those daring stories providing the reading equivalent of a slow ramp-up and stomach-dropping plunge. That necessarily means that subsequent stories may fail to elicit the same thrill. Yet, the ride needs its downs to balance its ups in order for the reader to feel as if they\'ve experienced the complete arc, as if they\'ve gotten their money\'s worth, as if they can get off the ride and decide whether to get back on again.
Charlie Jane Anders
RaveTor.comWith boldly realized worldbuilding in a fraction of the space that many SFF novels take up, these stories feel almost too short—they often end with the reader blinking back a powerful afterimage, followed by the urge to immediately read anothern ... Anders’ brief intro to each selection is a much-appreciated bit of context, with details that sketch out her career as an artist and journalist in the SFF sphere ... It will also help readers further determine if they want to read straight through or dart around ... There is no wrong path, and a linear read has the feel of reaching into a bag of mixed candy (sweet, sour, anise-y) with every turn of the page ... Less effective are the stories that tie in to Anders’ novels or otherwise larger SFF universes ... Anders is an incredibly self-aware writer. She treats Even Greater Mistakes as the opportunity to display both her guaranteed hits as well as stories that she struggled to get right. But the very best thing about Anders’ work is how she queers even her own worlds ... there will always be...writers like Anders, chronicling ages we haven’t yet lived but that, through her thoughts and words, we feel as if we have.
Alix E Harrow
PositiveTor.com... an engaging (if at times overly zippy) adventure that sets up exactly what every fairy tale needs: A heroine who is out of fucks to give ... The truths that they uncover are a keenly sharp commentary that feels both timeless and very much rooted in current conversations about childbearing people’s bodily autonomy ... The novella’s length does dictate some reliance on overly recognizable narrative shorthand, however. For all that Zinnia watches Primrose react to her world opening up, the princess still comes across as the physical embodiment of archetype subversion rather than her own complete person. Similarly, at times Zinnia seems to be purely defined by her snarky nihilism, which acts as the figurative wall of thorns blocking her own access to greater self-awareness. Then, of course, there’s the amyloidosis, which seems to be such an intrinsic part of her that it translates across retellings ... certainly reveals clever glimpses, but Harrow seems to promise even deeper self-reflection in the forthcoming sequel A Mirror Mended, and hopefully increasingly more inspired adventures in the fairy tale multiverse.
Claire Vaye Watkins
PositiveNPRThis surreal odyssey, propelled by maternal rage, may at times be alienating even to female readers, but it is unequivocally triumphant to witness Watkins writing for herself ... The journey occasionally drags in the portions that come across as too obvious in their excavations ... The letters from Claire\'s mother Martha to her cousin, chronicling her teenage loves and newspaper aspirations, start out infused with the titillation of who-likes-who but eventually become so repetitive that it\'s unclear if that\'s a commentary on limited teenage perspective or a consequence of too-faithful transcription ... What has more of an impact are Watkins\' subtle, deliberate stylistic choices ... Her dark glee, cautious explorations, and triumphant control of her new appendages are a thrilling embrace of what makes her monstrous ... Watkins shows readers — and perhaps proves to herself — that one does not have to choose the lesser of two evils. A woman can want motherhood and the rest of her life, not or.
MixedNPRIs there a romance plot more audacious than the fake-dating scenario? ... In her debut novel Winter\'s Orbit, Everina Maxwell rockets this surefire premise into space ... While the novel\'s background is densely populated by supporting characters, they mostly feel underdeveloped ... The marriage between love story and space opera is strongest in the smaller, human moments ... The utilization of a heavily-foreshadowed technology for a poignant sequence of reverse-gaslighting. The intergalactic conspiracy to which Winter\'s Orbit builds is less gripping than Kiem and Jainan\'s rise to power couple. But when these sensitive boys figure out what actually makes their match work, that\'s when sparks fly.
PanDen of GeekIt doesn’t take long for Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two to reunite gunter-turned-billionaire Wade Owen Watts with a vintage video game that holds a clue to a virtual scavenger hunt that will forever change the future of the digital, escapist OASIS. But after winning this particular game, Parzival (Wade’s OASIS alter ego) finds that he automatically starts over. Because of an extra life, he is given the option of playing through the game again, even though there are no surprises, simply to rack up extra points and because he can. Reading Ready Player Two feels a lot like that ... Unlike the OASIS, the world of these books remains static and unchanging. Rather than extend that extra life through another run-through of the same game, Wade wisely lets it expire and takes his win. If only Cline had done the same.
PanDen of GeekWith no real context for why the book is finally seeing the light of day, it’s difficult to see the rushed timing as anything more than a cash grab. Over a decade after Bella Swan made her final choice, is it really worth resurrecting this book into a second life? ... Unfortunately, the answer is: only for the most diehard Twilight fans, and even then it’s a stretch ... because these star-crossed lovers are so inexorably drawn to each other, it’s especially difficult to make a retelling that doesn’t just copy-and-paste the same dialogue but swap the pronouns and proper nouns. Meyer does what she can within the constraints that she created fifteen years ago ... Even Twilight fans will be hard-pressed to find enough that’s new and compelling about this retelling.
Mary Robinette Kowal
PositiveTor.comA reader will likely empathize with Nicole’s impatience to get to the Moon already. The first third of the novel proceeds at a frustratingly slow pace, setting up the necessary conflict on Earth as well as the idiosyncracies of lunar living, albeit sometimes repetitively. It’s not until Nicole and her team are settled on the Moon, with a few hiccups, that the book’s action truly picks up ... Part of the story’s slow pace is due to Nicole herself, a vexing (in the best way) enigma of a protagonist ... The reward of reading, then, is sticking with Nicole until she unclenches enough to reveal the parts of herself that are not immediately apparent: the anorexia that lets her squeeze into gala gowns and exert control when so much agency is taken from her, that becomes unintentional self-sabotage just as the colony’s glitches shift from inconvenience to true danger. But as things get increasingly personal, Nicole also reveals another facet of herself, answering some questions of how she is so good with people, and it is spectacular.