Book Review of BLACKFISH CITY and THE LESSON

Here’s my third and final book review of CHARM CITY SPEC authors and hopefully a helpful guide for your favorite book lovers during the 2019 holiday season. Did I choose these books because of the beautiful colors on the covers? If so, it was unconscious. I CONSCIOUSLY chose these two books because they have fantastic ideas, lyrical prose, and are so immersive that you will have a book hangover when you’re finished.

Such beautiful covers!

BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller

Genre: Speculative fiction, YA, dystopia

Premise: (back cover) When a strange new visitor arrives in a floating city in the Arctic – humanity’s last hope after the ravages of climate change – the city is entranced. She’s riding an orca and has a polar bear at her beck and call. She’s called “the orcamancer,” and she very subtly unites four desperate people to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together, they will learn shocking truths about themselves – and save their city before it crumples under the weight of its own decay.

Who would love it: Well, according to Miller’s Twitter account (@sentencebender), anyone who is “a fan of polar bears…or killer whales…or bad-ass lesbian grandmothers.”  Me. I’m a fan of all three. But, that doesn’t touch on Qaanaaq, the actual floating city he’s built, or the story of both refugees and elite within that city, or mysterious broadcasts or nanobonding. People who are fans of those things will also love this book.

Favorite character: Too difficult! I’ll go with a favorite moment instead.

The polar bear opened his eyes and looked at Kaev.

In the instant of that eye contact, Kaev felt like he had broken free of his body. A happiness surged through him, warm as the sun, blissful as a thousand orgasms. The peace he’d felt while sitting there had been ten times greater than the joy of fighting, but this new sensation was ten times greater than that peace had been.

“Hello, Kaev,” Dao said. He and his soldiers had their backs to the grid edge; they could not see the polar bear. “You’ve been sitting here for a long time. I’ve got to presume that means you wanted us to find you.”

But Kaev could not hear him.

We are one, he thought, eyes locked with the animal’s.

Final Thought:

Miller’s debut THE ART OF STARVING won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction. His newest book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS dropped on 7/2/19.

 

 

THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull

Genre: Science Fiction

Premise: An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years the people of the US Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of superadvanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last.

A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families find themselves at the center of the inevitable conflict, witness and victim to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.

Who would love it: Wilton Barnhardt says, “I came for the aliens and a war of the worlds. I stayed for the deadpan St. Thomas humor, the complicated, charming, sexy island folk, and Turnbull’s delicious prose.”

Favorite character: Most people know that I have a soft spot for the familial, for the moments that ground fantasy in a web of relationships. Here’s our intro to Derrick (who is much more respectful that MY teenaged son).

Fifteen days before

“Aren’t you going to close the door?” Patrice asked.

“Grams said I can’t close the door if I have a girl in my room.”

“We grew up together.”

“That’s the problem. You grown now. Can’t have you up in my room with the door shut.”

Patrice glared at him, communicating all she could.

“Her words,” Derrick said.

“Boy, don’t you close that door!” Grandma Reed yelled from the living room.

“I know, Grams.”

“Come here for a second!”

“Be right back,” Derrick said. He grabbed some home clothes as he left to change out of his school uniform.

Patrice sat on Derrick’s bed.

Final Thought: Now I have to look up Turnbull’s Asimov’s short story “When the Rains Come Back” (made the Barnes and Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy’s short fiction roundup in 2018) and Nightmare story “Loneliness is in Your Blood” (selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.

Book Review of SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA and UNCOMMON MIRACLES

Here’s my second of three book reviews of CHARM CITY SPEC authors AND hopefully a helpful guide for buying gifts for the readers in your life during the holiday season.

For something a little different, I selected two short story collections: SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA and UNCOMMON MIRACLES. Short stories are nice for those who like to experience many different “worlds” and casts of characters, who want to answer one question or examine one moment in time rather than commit to a three-act structure, and for those who, practically, have less time to read. Convinced? If so, here are two collections that would make a wonderful gift this holiday season.

Storm sunning herself between books.

SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA by Sarah Pinsker

Cover art by Matt Muirhead

Genre: Speculative fiction, literary

Premise: There are thirteen different stories, so there are thirteen different premises. However, Publisher’s Weekly gave this collection a starred review. Here’s what they said:

*This beautiful, complex debut collection assembles some of Nebula winner Pinsker’s best stories into a twisting journey that is by turns wild, melancholic, and unsettling…The stories are enhanced by a diverse cast of LGBTQ and nonwhite characters. Pinsker’s captivating compendium reveals stories that are as delightful and surprising to pore through as they are introspective and elegiac.”

If that’s too oblique, here’s some specifics: In this debut collection, you will meet runaways, fiddle-playing astronauts, a touring band, under-employed Americans, retired time travelers, and dopplegangers.

Who would love it: Readers who like WINNERS… BECAUSE Sarah Pinkser’s stories have won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, and have been finalists for the Hugo, the Locus, and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award.

 

Favorite character: Grandmother Windy (from Wind Will Rove)

“My grandmother was an engineer, part of our original crew. According to the tale, she stepped outside to do a visual inspection of an external panel that was giving anomalous readings. Along with her tools, she clipped her fiddle and bow to her suit’s belt. When she completed her task, she paused for a moment, tethered to our ship the size of a city, put her fiddle to the place where her helmet met her suit, and played ‘Wind Will Rove’ into the void. Not to be heard, of course; just to feel the song in her fingers.”

Final Thought: Pinsker’s first novel, Song for a New Day, also released recently so you should buy a copy of that too.

 

One orea bunny, two white with caramel markings, one striped with a Harlequinn face, one striped with solid face, and two fawn colored with gray bellies.

UNCOMMON MIRACLES

Genre: Speculative, Weird

Premise: “Julie C. Day makes a bold debut with this genre-bending collection of stories. At times whimsical, at times heart-breaking, but always clear-eyed and honest, Uncommon Miracles proves that Day has joined the front ranks of the writers carrying American fantasy into a new golden age.”

Specifics: (18 stories) A grieving man travels through time via a car crash. A family of matriarchs collects recipes for the dead. A woman gains an unexpected child in the midst of a bunny apocalypse. An outcast finds work in a magical slaughterhouse. Whether set in a uniquely altered version of Florida’s Space Coast or a haunted island off the coast of Maine, each story in this collection carries its own brand of meticulous and captivating weirdness.

Who would love it: Readers who like stories that are more Alice in Wonderland than Hallmark movie.

Favorite character: Cole (from “Everyone Gets a Happy Ending”)

“Steph and I are stretched out on plastic recliners, our laps full of her offspring: six desert cottontails, and for some unknown reason, one of the English Spot variety. After all my careful care – changing the bedding in their crate, cradling them when Steph disappears from their sight – the English Spot is still the only bunny who greets me when I come near. I’ve named him Cole. A fact I don’t share with Steph, though I whisper it to him like a lullaby when she isn’t near.”

Final Thought: Day recently released a novella titled The Rampant, an apocalyptic tale by way of Sumerian mythology.  Also, I love the cover art (by Tiffany Bozic).

Book Promotion

For two months now I’ve been promoting my debut novel, Walking Through Fire, through orders, interviews, and readings. I made sure copies were in the local library and I gave a talk to the local Rotary Club. I spoke on panels at the Baltimore Book Festival and I’m participating at the World Fantasy Convention. I will attend Charm City Spec as an author instead of an audience member. So, there are a lot more events, but we are making progress in introducing my book to the world.

For example, a new review came in today from Booklist:

“Woosley gets off to a running start in this debut series starter, and she draws on a mix of mythology and religious allusions to create a post-apocalyptic world caught in a battle for control and power.”

AND, Walking Through Fire was longlisted by Booknest for Best Debut Novel of 2018. The prize was an engraved sword so I’m pretty steamed that I didn’t win…(just kidding).

sherri-4

Plans for this week:

I will be in costume on Halloween as part of Charm City Spec’s reading series. The reading is at Bird in Hand, Charles Village Baltimore and starts at 7pm. Sam J. Miller (The Art of Starving and Blackfish City) and Julie C. Day (Uncommon Miracles) will also be reading.

Then I will commute to the Inner Harbor Thursday through Sunday to attend the World Fantasy Convention. My reading is at 4:30 PM on Friday.

On Saturday I will leave the convention to drive to Towson and I will sign copies of Walking Through Fire at Ukazoo Books (8641 Loch Raven Blvd.) from 3:30-5pm. Then I will join my family to celebrate my son’s birthday.

On November 7th I’ll drive to Hagerstown Community College in western Maryland for an author event: reading, answering questions from the writing students, and judging an impromptu poetry contest (or so I’ve been promised).

Thank you to everyone who purchased a copy, attends a reading, or leaves a review on Amazon. There are other novels that have huge marketing machines, or big publishers, but my little story is making progress. Thank you for believing in me!

Love,

Sherri

Walking Through Fire

My debut novel is coming out next fall. That seems a realllllly long time away, but there are a lot of behind the scenes tasks that have to be marked off before a book is released. For example, I had to fill out this author questionaire while I was working on revisions. One of the questions was, “Who is going to read your novel?”

It sent me into a complete panic attack. Because…who IS going to read my novel? No one. And if anyone does, they will hate it for ALL the reasons or WORSE, it will be tepid and forgettable and even my friends won’t be able to make it past the first chapter and then they’ll avoid me because they don’t want me to ask how they liked the book. These brain weasels had me sitting on the kitchen floor crying. I put off tackling revisions because if I didn’t work on the story then it wasn’t my fault if someone didn’t like it, right?

I managed to bash the brain weasels and acknowledge that it’s true: NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LOVE MY BOOK. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s honestly okay. There will be one-star reviews (oh please, don’t let there be one-star reviews). We all have different tastes in reading and tv shows and music. My agent believed in me. My editor believed in the story. My family kept telling me they were proud of me.

So, why DID I enjoy writing the book in the first place? Here’s my Top 10 REASONS THAT I LOVE MY BOOK (remember David Letterman’s Top 10 lists?). No spoilers.

10) The park ranger is subversive. He subverts the old order in favor of survival and then he subverts the new government. He recognizes the intent behind a certain territory’s fear rhetoric from the beginning. For such an affable guy, he really does have his own set of rules.

9) My protagonist is a mom. Her son is both her weakness and her strength. She would do anything to keep her son safe…including changing the world.

8) Greek mythology is popular. Most people are familiar enough with Roman, Norse, and Egyptian myth to advance in Trivia Crack. But, I wanted to dive into the cosmology of the ancient Sumerians and the stories that came from the Tigris-Euphrates river valley.

7) The world I’ve created has zombie horseshoe crabs.

6) It also has a Jewish motorcycle gang.

5) Cancer affected our family. It was real and scary and isolating and humbling. I understand why some readers would want to escape into fantasy and keep this disease locked out, but I admire cancer warriors and I understand their families and maybe seeing Adam with his bald head and his neutrophil counts and his resilient spirit will resonate with someone who needs to be seen.

4) There’s a dragon. A real-live dragon. She’s fierce and beautiful and selfish and cruel. You’re going to love her.  Just…be careful.

3) When I taught Intro. to World Mythology at University of Maryland, one of the essay topics was to compare/contrast Inanna (Sumerian) with the later Ishtar (Babylonian). I had a blast imagining how the Mesopotamian pantheon would manifest post-Digital age.

2) Adam is eleven years old. He’s a cool kid and I got to work with my own son through different drafts as we discussed what Adam might or might not do. Ultimately I had to save some of my son’s suggestions for the sequel because, without meaning to, Adam was taking away from Rachel’s story and trying to go off in his own direction. A reflection of my son entering the teen years?

1) The number one reason that I love this novel is because it is imaginative and wild and a little unruly. Like a first born child, it is surrounded with the energy and excitement and expectations that come before a parent has really experienced that insane sleeplessness of having an infant or handling a toddler tantrum in the grocery store. I have a lot to look forward to: the cover real, the book launch, the first book signing. My goal is to keep the brain weasels muzzled and enjoy the moments.

Bonus: I think it’s funny that I can’t call Walking Through Fire by its initials.

I hope you enjoy Walking Through Fire, but you won’t have to avoid me or make excuses if you don’t. I promise not to ask for proof that you’ve pre-ordered (unless it is part of a promotion), or ask if you’ve read it,  or what you think. (But, I’ll appreciate it if you leave an Amazon or Goodreads review.)

Love,

Sherri