Folding Paper & Spilling Ink

I'm an avid reader, literacy advocate, poet, and long time independent bookseller at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado. When I'm not reading or recommending books I spend my time writing them. While I read a variety of genres I primarily focus on curating the poetry and science-fiction sections at my store, which is where I focus most of my reading attention. I also have a soft spot for a good teen read, and enjoy digging into graphic novels whenever I get the time.

Sex Criminals #4: Fourgy!

Sex Criminals Volume 4: Fourgy! - Matt Fraction

Can I just cut and paste my review from the third volume? Because that would pretty much cover it.
Art = yes. Writing = yes. Weirdness in spades = yeppers. Hilarious little details if you squint = absolutely. A pretty great feminist speech by Dr. Kincaid = you got it. Relationship woes for our heroes = sadly yes. No idea where this is even going anymore = ding ding ding. Willingness to read the next volume = you betcha.

Something Bright, Then Holes

Something Bright, Then Holes - Maggie Nelson

Nelson's collection is divided into three distinct sections, but almost all of the poems included have a sense of vulnerability and melancholy. There is a focus on loss - lost love, lost mobility, lost time - the wreckage of broken relationships, hearts, and bodies. The first section, field journals written about the canal, captures this essence and distills it. She uses minutia to highlight entropy. The tension between beauty and decay, treasure and refuse. A time capsule of a single summer that simultaneously has a timelessness that extends to every summer. The stretch of endless afternoons, summer heat, and isolation. Written mostly in couplets this collection is sparse, raw, observant, and pensive.

Sex Criminals #3: Three the Hard Way

Sex Criminals Volume 3: Three the Hard Way (Sex Criminals Tp) - Chip Zdarsky, Matt Fraction

More adventures for the sex criminals. If you're looking into reading volume three by now you know what to expect from both the writing and art style (although this volume seemed extra meta, in a funny way). This volume introduced an asexual character, and I thought handled that exploration really well. It also had a side rant about how shaming people for what they are into (or not into) is pretty shitty, as well as some feminist theory sandwiched in between story/weirdness. All in all a good volume, even if I have no idea where any of this is going anymore.

Moonstruck #1: Magic to Brew

Moonstruck #1 - Magic to Brew - Shea Beagle, Grace Ellis

Super cute, über diverse, whimsical fun. The pastel, fluffy, round art fit the writing perfectly. A sweet story that centers on self acceptance that's complete with magic, monsters, and cute lesbian werewolves. Perfect for tweens, teens, and young at heart adults.

Chainbreaker: Timekeeper #2 (Part 1...because it doesn't end)

Chainbreaker - Tara Sim

This book has no ending. For real. It just stops. I'm not even sure I can classify it as a cliffhanger it is so abrupt. And with a page count approaching 500 that really yanks my chain.

 

On the plus side this book is mostly set in India, which was a nice change from the well tread streets of London. There are airships, fallen towers, and some action. I liked the side characters introduced, and I enjoyed getting to know Daphne more. The world continues to amuse me.

 

On the down side the pace is glacially slow. This isn't helped by long passages of flashbacks, or that chapters alternate between POV characters instead of staying where the action is. Danny and Colton are separated for almost the entire book, so if the romance element is important to you, well, sorry, you're just going to get pining. And, as I mentioned, there's no ending.

 

This book frustrated me. But, and here's the thing, I'm planning to read the third in the trilogy. After that build up I need to see what happens. So if you go into this book just be prepared for it to be part 1 of 2, and for a slow burn.

Timekeeper: Or, what if clocks controlled time

Timekeeper - Tara Sim

This was a cute queer teen romance with some really interesting world building. I find the idea of time being run by clocks, and all the implications and complications that entails, absolutely fascinating. I can honestly say I've never encountered a setting quite like this one before. Heck, I didn't even mind that this had strong historical fiction elements (which is not something I generally enjoy). The central mysteries held the book together fairly well, and kept pages turning, despite being pretty obvious. There was even some action thrown in, though not a lot. I also enjoyed Colton and Danny's budding relationship, and found them very cute.

 

On the flip side, the story lagged in places and tended to repeat itself. The writing was fine, but nothing terribly special. Some of the conflicts could have easily been solved by people just talking to one another, which is a pet peeve of mine, but not all of them so it wasn't too exasperating. This was one of those books that I enjoyed, but didn't really capture me to the point where I was thinking about while I wasn't reading it, nor yearning to pick it back up again. I liked it. I'm going to read the next in the series. But all in all I found the ideas are more memorable than the story.

Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm

Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm - Emma Koenig

Was this book occasionally repetitive? Sure. Did I find it fascinating anyway? Absolutely.

 

As with any essay collection there are going to be some pieces that are better than others (and this is no exception), but what makes this collection so interesting to me is the sheer volume and the way the voices both echo and contradict one another. With each essay around two to three pages in length (a few are longer, but this was pretty consistent average) there are a lot of perspectives in here. I find it interesting getting to hear women speak anonymously, and thus totally honestly, about their sexual experiences. There are plenty of pieces in here that are basically just women relating what works for them in the bedroom, but there are plenty more about what *doesn't* work, first experiences, ruminations on femininity, how things have changed for them, how they feel different, or just how they feel in general. These aren't stories you often get to hear, and even when I couldn't relate (although there were a few where I very much could) I was interested.

 

My biggest critique would be the apparent lack of variety in the essayists. Its hard to be sure, since it is anonymous, but the contributors did seem to come from fairly uniform backgrounds, which could have been improved. I'd have liked to have read more essays from queer women, assault survivors, and various age groups. There are essays from all of those groups, but not nearly as many as there are from 20-something college educated women. I suspect this is because many essays were collected online.

 

The foreword talks about how sexuality is part of what makes us human, and by denying women their sexuality we deny them the ability to be fully human. I truly believe this, and this book put a very human voice to the varied world of women's sexual experiences. A great book for anyone interested in sexuality, regardless of gender.

Six Wakes: A locked door mystery in space, where no one (including the murderer) knows whodunit

Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty

I love the idea of a locked door mystery in space, where no one knows whether or not they are the murderer. I love stories about cloning, and how that influences a culture and morality. I love weird weird near-science speculation, like 3D printing an entire pig. I dig stories with amnesia, and paranoia, and unreliable narrators. I quite like page turners. So all that said this book checked a lot of boxes for me. The pacing was fast, the story quirky, and the world building, while lightly drawn, interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book.

 

There is a flip side to this book though in that I don't think it is particularly well written. The characters all have a core background schtick, and that stands in for a personality. The dialogue is pretty cringe worthy. The pacing is a bit uneven, and certain twists or turns are either poorly explained, or don't track well with previous information. Also: Bad science? You betcha! There are even numerous typos and grammar errors, which I don't expect to run into at such volume in a finished book. It honestly felt like it needed more editing and a tighter re-write.

 

Luckily, this is one of those books that hit me at the right time and in the right mood, so I was willing to let a lot of things slide that might have ordinarily driven me nuts. I was having enough fun that I could forgive the flaws and just enjoy the ride. Sitting with the book some time later those flaws start to stand out a bit more, which is why I can't give it a higher rating. If you're looking for fun pulpy sci-fi this one fits the bill and should keep you entertained. If you're looking for stunning prose or deep philosophical explorations this one will likely miss the mark.

Point Blank

Point Blank - Alan King

All in all a really enjoyable collection. I especially enjoyed the poems contrasting what it means to be black in America as opposed to Trinidad & Tobago where his parents grew up. There are many astute observations about race in here, but there are also plenty of poems about youth, manhood, family, romance, and even several about comic books. A well rounded collection with a strong voice and snappy metaphors. Well worth the read.

Swing: Volume 1

Swing Volume 1 - Linda Sejic, Matt Hawkins

Set in the same universe as Sunstone this graphic novel focuses on a married couple trying to rekindle their sex life by exploring swinging. Much like Sunstone this volume isn't shy about the topics being explored, and manages to be sweet and sexy as well as educational for those new to the subject. I really enjoyed the art in particular, and some of the character development was quite good. I'm looking forward to seeing how the story develops in future installments.

Bullet: Anita Blake #19, wherein a lot of things and nothing happens

Bullet (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #19) - Laurell K. Hamilton

The weirdest thing about this book, by far, is that it simultaneously manages to have no plot and too many plots all at the same time. There are at least five plot hooks thrown into this novel and none of them really get fully pursued. There's too much planning, and angsting, and screwing, and agonizing, and ruminating on long winding metaphysical descriptions and threats, and even dancing, to ever get around to totally engaging with any one thing. If this book is about anything it's about the whole plot with the weretigers that has been brewing for...four books? Five? I'm not sure. At any rate this book comes to a screeching halt after Anita collects her entire rainbow (not joking) of weretigers, leaving plot lines like assassins and evil vampires dangling for another time.

 

More and more these books blend into one another so that they cannot stand on their own - each book a record of a day in the life, if every day is rife with conflict and melodrama. It feels like fanfic, except the original author is penning it. It's almost like a new weird art form born of loose editing and fever dreams. Regardless, the series marches on, and I will continue my dabbling out of morbid curiosity. (Again, I'm reading these so you don't have to. You're welcome.) I give this book a solid shrug.

Flirt: Anita Blake #18, Sort of

Flirt (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #18) - Laurell K. Hamilton

A short story, inflated to a novella, marketed as a novel. I did appreciate that this installment had more of an actual story arc than most late series Blake novels - the length kept it from spinning too far off the rails. It also focused primarily (though not entirely) on her necromancy more than other metaphysical wankery, which was refreshing. Unfortunately she also manages to somehow add a new man to her collection (through force I might add), and repeat herself every other paragraph. So...yay? I give this a resounding meh. (Again, I'm reading these so you don't have to.)

Good Morning, Midnight

Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel - Lily Brooks-Dalton

I'm sure there are plenty of people who will find this a beautiful and meditative read about the nature of loneliness and connectivity. I was not one of those people. Not by a long shot.

Maybe it's the result of years of studying literature and writing, but I could not stand the way this book was written. I know a lot of people enjoyed the prose, but again I was not one of them. There was no developed voice, and the style of the writing feels very much like the product of a writing program rather than an author developing a distinct voice. The metaphors were often tortured and the language repetitive and rote. More damning, I found the characters unbelievable, especially the astronauts (and cosmonauts). I did not believe these people and I did not like them. And the twists? I called them Very Early in the book (maybe page 20?), and they were aggravatingly pat. Perhaps I've read too many stories in workshop, or too many books in general, but I found the story laughably trite and predictable.

Here's the thing: I feel like Brooks-Dalton wanted to write a story about the nature of loneliness and the human condition. Which is great. The mistake is that she decided to shoehorn this story into a sci-fi genre and she totally dropped the ball. You can write literary sci-fi, but it's a tricky beast. You need to understand both literary trappings and genre trappings, and make them work in tandem. In this book they were fighting against each other. For example, the book kept pointing at science, and trying to make it a core part of the story, without ever understanding it. Science isn't a magic system you can just slot into your story to make it more interesting. It became evident that the research done was only very surface level, and the discrepancies became distracting. (Don't even get me started on all the errors made in regards to space and the space program.)

Not a science nerd? Maybe it won't bother you. Then again, an awful lot of people are going to enter into this book expecting at least some answers to basic questions set up by the premise, like what caused the apocalypse, and those questions are not answered. There really isn't much plot to speak of, and there is absolutely no world building. These are things many folks appreciate and expect in their narratives.

Look, here's the thing, if you're intrigued by the idea of a post-apocalyptic narrative, or you're interested in a duel narrative where a scientist and an astronaut work to solve a problem, this will disappoint you. It is neither of those things. This book is about isolated people navel gazing about how they came to a point in their life where they are alone. That's it. And a lot of people will enjoy that. Which is totally fine. Unfortunately I for one found it insufferable.

Women & Power

Women & Power: A Manifesto - Mary Beard

Mary Beard does a wonderful job of giving historical context to current cultural attitudes. The first essay is essentially the history of men telling women to shut up. She examines how the simple act of speaking is, in point of fact, gendered. I found it revelatory that in many cases it isn't what is being said that is offensive to some, it is simply the fact that a woman is the one saying it. The second essay ties together with the first and examines how women occupy spaces in power, and how power is also gendered. How women in traditionally powerful roles become masculinized, and how much of the power held by women is not recognized as important or innately powerful. There is a lot to chew on in here, and I highly recommend it. If nothing else it's fascinating to see where certain behaviors, such as harping on the sound of a woman's voice, go back thousands of years. In studying the roots we are better prepared to pull out the weeds.

The Atrocities

The Atrocities - Jeremy Shipp

This novelette is a brief dip into classic Gothic horror, and I enjoyed it for the short time it took to read. It leans heavily on the old tried and true Gothic staple (a governess goes to an isolated spooky house to watch over a creepy kid), and does a good job modernizing what could have been a tired story. One of the most striking things about this story is Shipp's use of nightmares. Not only is his imagery striking and grotesque, but it also has a bizarre floaty and disconnected dreamy feel, making the entire story feel like one disjointed and disturbing nightmare. My only real complaint is that I never really connected to the main character, but with such a short length that's to be expected. I'd be curious to see what Shipp can do in a full length novel, and I'll be on the lookout for more offerings.

Skin Trade: Anita Blake #17

Skin Trade (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #17) - Laurell K. Hamilton

*shrug*

Things I liked about this book: Edward. All the Edward. He remains fantastic. It was also nice seeing Anita actually out working on a murder case for once. How quaint. Also: I quite like Las Vegas, so it was fun seeing the characters run around in Sin City.

Things that drove me nuts: Lack of editing, weird pacing, and repetition plague this book. Hearing the same phrases over and over again to the point where I wanted to start a drinking game. Also, you can't have a character insist, probably about three dozen times, that they are acting A-typically then have them continue to act in that fashion. At a certain point there's just no credibility. And then there is the fact that the pacing is downright bizarre. It starts out glacially slow as the book catalogues every detail and interaction, minute by minute, for the first 450 pages, then falls into numerous sex scenes all back to back, then has about 15 pages of final confrontation (but also, oddly, also sex) and no falling action. It was weird.

This is one of those books that needs to be heavily edited, cut in half, and to have the scenes re-ordered. There is a story in here, it just gets bogged down. It's like Hamilton was trying too hard not to write a book populated entirely by erotica but forgot how to write a mystery. All in all I didn't hate it, but it wasn't a good book by any stretch of the imagination. So yeah, shrug. I'm reading these so you don't have to. ;)

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