A Diverse list for Readers Imbibing in Peril #ripxi

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RIP or Readers Imbibing in Peril is in its 11th year! It was first started by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, and last year was hosted by Andi and Heather of the Estella Society. Carl is back hosting it again this year!

This fall reading challenge is all about books of:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I always go with Peril The First:

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Read four books, of any length, from the very broad categories earlier defined as perilous. They could all be by the same author, a series of books, a random mix of classic and contemporary or whatever you like.

I’ve taken part for quite a few years now but this year I’ve decided to write up a list of POC authors whose works fit into those categories above. I’m still working on this list, so please let me know if you have any recommendations!

Octavia Butler

NK Jemisin

Nnedi Okorafor

Nalo Hopkinson
(For these four writers, I’m gonna say, pretty much all their work fits in!)

Tananarive Due (I loved The Good House)

Attica Locke (Pleasantville and The Cutting Season)

Helen Oyeyemi 

Natsuo Kirino – Grotesque; Real World; Out

Asa Nonami – The Hunter

Keigo Higashino -I’m reading his latest translated work, Under the Midnight Sun, right now. It is massive but I CANNOT PUT IT DOWN. Also The Devotion of Suspect X

Liu Xiaolong – Inspector Chen series

Han Kang – The Vegetarian

Ken Liu – The Paper Menagerie and other stories

Zen Cho (Sorcerer to the Crown)

Yangtze Choo (Ghost Bride)

Daina Chaviano

Alain Mabanckou (Memoirs of a Porcupine)

Those whose books I’ve yet to read

Indra Das
Hao Jingfang
Cixin Liu
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Malinda Lo
Shizuko Netsuke
Miyuki Miyabe
Koji Suzuki

Kazuhiro Kiuchi

Are you taking part in RIP IX?? Also, here is the RIP IX review site!

Bloodchild and other stories by Octavia Butler

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What a great collection of stories this is!

I was at first surprised when there was an afterword after each story. Then as I read through each afterword, after each story, I wished that more short story collections including such afterwords.

“But I’m still glad to be able to talk a little about what I do put into my work, and what it means to me.”

In her afterword to The Evening and the Morning and the Night, a story which focuses on a disease, Butler describes her interest in biology and how she built this fictional disease from three genetic disorders, and even offers a reading list.

My favourite story is probably Speech Sounds, set in a world where a virus has taken away language, although it has affected people differently. A woman, Rye, can no longer read and write: “She had a houseful of books that she could neither read nor bring herself to use as fuel. And she had a memory that would not bring back to her much of what had read before.” She meets a man who cannot speak or comprehend spoken language:

“The illness had played with them, taking away, she suspected, what each valued most.”

While it was a rather satisfactory ending, of sorts, I think I wanted so much for this story to continue, for it to not be a short story, to know what will happen to Rye, to this world without language. Perhaps it moved me so because I cannot fathom the thought of not being able to read, to know that these symbols, these letters have meaning but to never be able to put them together. For all the horror books I’ve read this RIP season, this one might just be the one to really hit me hard, to hit me where it hurts.

(Later, I learnt that Octavia Butler was dyslexic. And maybe this short story stemmed from that?)

And it was a surprise to read about Butler’s humble beginnings, her early desire to be a writer, despite people like her aunt telling her that African-Americans couldn’t be writers.

“In all my thirteen years, I had never read a printed word that I knew to have been written by a Black person.”

I am so very glad that she persevered. That she kept writing, that she kept submitting, that she never gave up despite what others told her.

 

Bibliography

Series
Patternist series
Patternmaster (1976)
Mind of My Mind (1977)
Survivor (1978)
Wild Seed (1980)
Clay’s Ark (1984)
Seed to Harvest (2007, omnibus excluding Survivor)

Xenogenesis series
Dawn (1987)
Adulthood Rites (1988)
Imago (1989)
(Lilith’s Brood (2000), omnibus of the Xenogenesis trilogy)

Parable Series
Parable of the Sower (1993) (my review)
Parable of the Talents (1998)

Standalone novels
Kindred (1979) (my review)
Fledgling (2005)

Short stories
Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995); Second edition with additional stories (2006)
Unexpected Stories (2014, includes novellas “A Necessary Being” and “Childfinder”)
 

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I read this book for RIP IX

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

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I have only recently been reading more kidlit. Partly because of my two littles, who are – at ages 17 months and 3.5 – currently too little to read by themselves but enjoy being read to. I’m hoping that they will continue to love books when they get older. I try to read with them, as in, show them that I too love reading. And hopefully that will show them that reading is great! Well, I suppose another part of it is helping them get their hands on books that they will love reading. Right now, it’s a lot about vehicles – trucks, cars, spaceships. Next year, who knows? (Although I guess that it will be more of the same!).

I only heard of this book after it landed on the longlist of the National Book Awards Young People’s Literature. And thought that it would make a fun YA read for RIP IX.

And it was!

Here’s the synopsis:

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.

So it is a mystery, a coming-of-age tale, a ghost story, an adventure all rolled up into a book set in a smuggler’s inn at wintertime!

There is plenty of fun as we discover along with Milo and his friend Meddy what the various guests are up to. There are also Milo’s worries about his family and how he is perceived by others (he is Chinese, his parents Caucasian), thoughts of his birth family and his desire to learn more about them. And the usual insecurities that a young boy faces.

One of the problems with knowing nothing about the family you were born into was that you never really stopped wondering about it. At least, Milo didn’t. He wondered who his birth parents were, where they lived, and what they did for work. He wondered if they were even still alive. He wondered how his life would be different if he had grown up with his birth family, how it would be different if he actually looked like his parents and people couldn’t see immediately that he didn’t belong. He wondered how he would be different— and sometimes when he did this, he imagined himself to be very different indeed, which sort of felt like imagining a character version of himself.

And oh! It has a book within a book! How I adore that.

Then there’s Greenglass House itself. Set high up on a cliff, accessible via a ridiculous flight of steps or a cable railway. A bell attached to the cable railway’s winch sounds to alert those up in the inn that someone is heading their way.

It was an inn, actually; a huge, ramshackle manor house that looked as if it had been cobbled together from discarded pieces of a dozen mismatched mansions collected from a dozen different cities. It was called Greenglass House, and it sat on the side of a hill overlooking an inlet of harbors, a little district built half on the shore and half on the piers that jutted out into the river Skidwrack like the teeth of a comb.

And the glorious wintery setting, complete with mounds of snow outside and plenty of mugs of hot chocolate to go around. I mean, look at that cover! I wish I could visit already! (Plus it’s so hot right now I have ice water next to me and the AC on upstairs while the kids nap…. grrr….!).

I have yet to read the rest of the books on the longlist, but I’m rooting for this one. Readers both young and the not-so-young will have a great time with this book.

Now excuse me while I go see which other books by Kate Milford my library has!

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I read this books for RIP IX

RIP IX mini reviews: Carrie; Half a King; Countdown City

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“Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. On the surface, all the girls in the shower room were shocked, thrilled, ashamed, or simply glad that the White bitch had taken it in the mouth again. Some of them might also have claimed surprise, but of course their claim was untrue. Carrie had been going to school with some of them since the first grade, and this had been building since that time, building slowly and immutably, in accordance with all the laws that govern human nature, building with all the steadiness of a chain reaction approaching critical mass.

What none of them knew, of course, was that Carrie White was telekinetic.”

I’ve never dared to see the 1976 movie – and wouldn’t really bother with its 2013 reincarnation – but it’s so present in popular culture that I pretty much know what it’s about. But the religious aspect of it surprised me. I wasn’t quite expecting that.

I think it was more of a sad read than a scary one. Sad that a girl can be brought up that way. Painful to read of the bullying that went on.

 

 

 

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Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Patrick Rothfuss told me to read Half A King and so I did.

Not personally of course! I follow his reviews on Goodreads and that was enough to pique my curiosity.

And it was a great read. Lots of fun in a rollicking good way. It’s quite a swashbuckling adventure although it hardly begins that way.

I’ve never read any of Joe Abercrombie’s books before and this one is apparently his first young adult fantasy. It was a fun read and I’m curious now about his non-YA books.

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Countdown City – Ben H Winters

“On October third, seventy-seven days from today, the asteroid 2011GV1, 6.5 kilometers in diameter, will plow into planet Earth and destroy us all.”

This is the second book in the Last Policeman series. He isn’t technically the ‘last’ policeman around, as we do meet quite a few others that remain on the force. But he tries. He really does. Even when the case is as futile as a missing person. Because in his universe, the world is about to end soon. And pretty much definitely. A giant asteroid is heading their way and even if the impact doesn’t kill most people, the aftermath will. So plenty of people have left their homes and families and lives to go “Bucket List”. I suppose one could call this is a pre-apocalyptic series?

“Martha knows all of this. Everybody knows. The world is on the move. Plenty still leaving in droves on their Bucket List adventures, going off to snorkel or skydive or make love to strangers in public parks. And now, more recently, whole new forms of abrupt departure, new species of madness as we approach the end. Religious sects wandering New England in robes, competing for converts: the Doomsday Mormons, the Satellites of God. The mercy cruisers, traveling the deserted highways in buses with converted engines running on wood gas or coal, seeking opportunities for Samaritanship. And of course the preppers, down in their basements, hoarding what they can, building piles for the aftermath, as if any amount of preparation will suffice.”

The Last Policeman #3, World of Trouble, was released this year. I’m looking forward to reading it!

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I read these books for RIP IX

Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

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This book is comprised of various sources
– letters to Aunt Lisa
– A’s diary
– A’s dream journal
– Niamh’s notepad
– transcripts of video and audio feeds from various places like the post office and a store they frequent
– various other letters and other information that they dig up while searching the house
– research articles
– codes
(And there’s probably more I forgot)

At first I thought it might be too gimmicky, that there would be too much going on.

But oddly and wonderfully, it works.

A and Niamh travel to Axton House, which A has inherited. He’s a long lost third cousin thrice removed or something completely remote like that. There’s something eerie about Axton House. Two suicides. A maze – I don’t know about you but I think mazes are rather creepy and even more so if someone had it specially designed for their garden. A starts having very bizarre dreams that seem to play on repeat every night. There’s a missing butler, a mute girl, a library full of secrets, neighbours who seem to know more than they should. Plus there are codes! And things that go bump in the night.

Things just get weirder and weirder.

And for a while I think I know where it’s going then I realise that I really have absolutely no idea where Cantero is going with this. And even right at the end he’s still able to surprise the hell out of me.

I will leave things at that and tell you: read this if you’re up for surprises and fun. It’s such an apt book for RIP IX if you’re taking part in that. I mean, just look at that cover! Doesn’t that make you want to take it home?

Happy reading.

 

(A big thank you! to Andi at Estella’s Revenge whose post led me to this book!)

 

 

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I read this book for RIP IX

The Body at the Tower (The Agency #2) by YS Lee

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(Please note that this is the second book in The Agency series, if you’ve not read the first book before, you might want to do that before reading further!)

Mary Quinn is back. This time as Mark Quinn, a young apprentice builder working on the site of the Houses of Parliament. She’s there at the behest of The Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, investigating the suspicious death at the clock tower at the soon-to-be-completed Houses of Parliament.

Mary chops off her hair, binds her chest and pulls on the trousers in order to play a young lad working at a construction site. Sounds easy enough but this is Victorian London. And unfortunately for Mary, it brings back bad memories from her childhood, mired in poverty, having to pretend to be a boy in order to survive living on the streets on her own.

The murder-mystery, to be honest, isn’t very intriguing, and in the end, I wasn’t all that interested in who did what and why. Instead, the circumstances Mary finds herself in, and the new characters she meets as a result of the investigation are what make the story work.

Young Peter Jenkins, her fellow apprentice, who is at first suspicious of Mark/Mary but warms up to him/her. Intrepid (or just plain busybody) newspaper reporter Octavius Jones is an interesting addition to the cast as he snoops around and annoys Mary, and hopefully will appear in future books. And then there is James Easton, who was in the first book, and stirred up her Mary’s love interest. He’s a little different now, after a stay in India impaired his health, but he’s still quite charming and his interest in Mary continues, although he’s not quite sure what she’s doing playing a boy at a construction site. And the two of them, while attracted to each other, aren’t quite sure what to make of it.

What he, and almost everyone else, doesn’t realize is that Mary Quinn is hiding her true background. That she is half-Chinese. It’s something that was revealed in the first book, so hopefully that’s not really a spoiler for you!

“It was true that she didn’t look properly mixed race. Her skin was pale and her eyes round, so that much of the time she passed quite easily as black Irish. Even persistent questioners generally wanted to know whether she was Italian or Spanish. And that was just fine with Mary. The last thing she wanted was to acknowledge her Chinese heritage and deal with the questions and hostility it would inevitably invoke. Certainly not yet.”

It is something she muses on now and then, especially since one of the servants at the el cheapo boarding house she’s staying at while undercover is Chinese. Perhaps Lee will bring it up again in other books in the series – The Traitor in the Tunnel or Rivals in the City?

I think it’s great to have a mixed-race character (although she’s unwilling to reveal her Chinese side to anyone at this point of time) in a book set in the Victorian era. There is such potential for this and while I’m perhaps a little disappointed that Lee chose not to dig into it in this second book, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with this in future books.

The Body at the Tower was a solid second book of the Mary Quinn series. Some historical fiction, some detective/spy work going on, and a brewing love affair with hints of more to come.

 

 

Y S Lee was born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and Toronto, and lived for a spell in England. As she completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she began to research a story about a girl detective in 1850s London. The result was her debut novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House. This won the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s inaugural John Spray Mystery Award in 2011.

 

diversiverse

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I read this book for both Diversiverse and RIP IX

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

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I want to stay here on Monkey Beach. Some places are full of power, you can feel it, like a warmth, a tingle. No sasquatches are wandering around the beach today, chased by ambitious, camera-happy boys. Just an otter lounging in the kelp bobbing in the surf and the things in the trees, which may or may not be my imagination.

 

Jimmy Hill is lost at sea, the fishing boat he was on has lost contact and things are not looking good. Lisamarie, his older sister, waits for information as the search and rescue operation begins. And she begins to reflect on her life in Kitamaat, in this small Haisla Canadian Indian community that she’s grown up in with her family, relatives, friends, sasquatches and ghosts. The narrative moves from present to past and back again, as Lisa chalks up her own (ship)wrecked life. One of alcohol and drugs, of bullies and gangs at school, of tragedies and lost loved ones. And always, forever present, the spirits, the ghosts, the premonitions that surround her, are a part of her life, make her who she is.

It just so happened that Open Road sent me an email offering an e-book version of Monkey Beach for review. I don’t receive many of these types of emails so I’ll just chalk it up to fate! I was meant to read this book and write about it for Diversiverse!

Because what a book it is. And so deserving of being read by more people, whether for Diversiverse or RIP or otherwise.

Monkey Beach was, for me, one of the more, well, diverse reads in these past few weeks of Diversiverse reading.

The Haisla culture, the life in this village north of Vancouver. It’s myths and customs, food and traditions. All completely new to me.

Then there’s that very stark difference between my current suburban American life and my Singaporean childhood, teenhood and adulthood (very urban, very populated, fast-paced, where even in the middle of the night there is noise from somewhere. Singapore is far from quiet) and life in Kitamaat, where boat trips are common, where her family goes camping or fishing or foraging in the woods for berries.

Oolichan grease is a delicacy that you have to grow up eating to love. Silvery, slender oolichans are about as long as your hand and a little thicker than your thumb. They are part of the smelt family and are one of the tastiest fish on the planet. Cooking oolichans can be as simple as broiling them in the oven until they’re singed— which is heavenly but very smelly, and hard on your ears if you have a noisy smoke alarm— or as touchy and complicated as rendering oil from them to make a concoction called grease. Oolichans can also be dried, smoked, sun-dried, salted, boiled, canned, frozen, but they are tastiest fresh. The best way to eat fresh oolichans is to run them through with a stick and roast them over an open fire like wieners, then eat them while they’re sizzling hot and dripping down your fingers.

 

I loved going to Monkey Beach, because you couldn’t take a step without crushing seashells, the crunch of your steps loud and satisfying. The water was so pure that you could see straight down to the bottom. You could watch crabs skittering sideways over discarded clam and cockleshells, and shiners flicking back and forth. Kelp the colour of brown beer bottles rose from the bottom, tall and thin with bulbs on top, each bulb with long strands growing out of it, as flat as noodles, waving in the tide.

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Lisa’s relationship with her family is also a big part of the book. Her beloved Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist, the kind of uncle who lets out a moose call to attract their attention at a party. Her cantankerous and rather hilarious grandmother Ma-ma-oo who teaches her about Haisla ways, whose thrifty ways meant her curtains were so threadbare, her TV picked up CB signals, but her fishing nets were always immaculate.

It is also a story that speaks of a love for place and culture, as Robinson has set it in the village of Kitamaat where she was born. And while remote, this little community cannot ignore the encroachment of the rest of the world and its influences.

The tide rocks the kelp beds, the long dark leaves trail gently in the cloudy green water. I hear squeaking and chirping. Dark bodies twirl in the water, pause, still for a moment as I’m examined. I dip my hands in the water and the sea otters dart away, then back, timid as fish. Well, I’m here, I think. At Monkey Beach.

And with its restless spirits, its ghostly premonitions, the visions of Sasquatches, Lisa’s life hovers between two worlds.

“I heard something crunching on the hardened snow. In the distance, I could hear whistles. Something was coming towards me. I kept watching the sky. No one’s here, I told myself. I’m not letting my imagination get away from me. I am alone, and I don’t see anything but the auroras, low on the horzion, undulating to their own music.”

Monkey Beach is that gem of a book that sweeps you off your comfy reading chair and into the embrace of a different place altogether –  the salty sea breeze caresses your hair and the greasy scent of oolichans sizzling on the campfire lures you in. And all the time, those restless spirits murmur and whisper.

Eden Victoria Lena Robinson is a novelist and short story writer from Haisla First Nation, an Indigenous nation in British Columbia, Canada.

Bibliography
Traplines (1996)
Monkey Beach (2000)
Blood Sports (2006)
Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling (2011)

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