Review: Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick

Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick
Amazon

Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.

Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a confused but semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

I requested this book via NetGalley to review because the title and description sounded intriguing. When I started the book, however, the intrigue fell away a little.

Not So Much, Said The Cat starts with an introduction from the author, talking about his writing journey and how this collection of short fiction came to be. Unfortunately, the introduction read very self-aggrandizing and I’m still not sure if it was intended that way or just came across that way by accident.

But I put that aside and jumped into the world of the first story, and enjoyed it very much! I’ve seen other reviewers all say the same – the first story is a great start to this collection and definitely makes you want to read more.

However, the book is only 288 pages, which should be a very quick read, but it actually took me over 2 months to get through it. Which is a downside for me, but for anthology lovers maybe that would be a positive? Each story was a different genre to the last, jumping around between fantasy, sci-fi, fable-type fiction and more, to the point that I could only read one story at a time and needed several days (sometimes a week or more) between them to get my brain ready for the next genre switch.

I’m not sure why the author (or publisher) planned the stories in this way. There were several of each genre in the book and I think it would have been a more enjoyable read to have more fluid genre transitions, from fantasy through to sci-fi crossovers, then pure sci-fi through to the fable-style stories, etc. The way they were all intermixed felt very “bitty”, and frustrated me a few times that I couldn’t just relax and read several at once.

For example, “The Dala Horse” was such a swift change in genre and setting that it pulled me out of the story too much at first – I found myself thinking “wait, where am I? What setting/world is this?” instead of just enjoying the story. And “3am In The Mesozoic Bar” was a flop for me because it took too long for the story to show you what was going on. I think it (and many others) would have read differently if I’d known upfront which genre I should be expecting.

You could definitely tell the same author wrote each story, even with the different settings and protagonists the language and writing style was much the same. But that alone wasn’t enough to tie the collection together for me to read more than one at a time.

The stories themselves are mostly good – a couple are very good, then they become “ok” the further into the collection you go, with one or two not grabbing me at all. But you have to expect a mixed bag with a short fiction collection that crosses so many different worlds, genres and characters.

The ones I enjoyed (such as “The Man In Grey”, and “The Woman Who Shook The World Tree”) had strong plots, characters, and I mostly enjoyed the author’s writing style – very accurately described in the book blurb as sesquipedalian.

“An Empty House With Many Doors” was a surprising treat later in the collection. The worldbuilding was interesting and it was great to have an emotional rollercoaster through such a short story.

Overall I think the collection is an OK read, very middle of the road. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone personally, but if you enjoy mixed-genre anthologies you might feel differently about it than I did.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

August Mini Book Haul

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Phew it’s been a while since I’ve been able to blog! Or vlog…or do anything that isn’t related to moving house. XD

But now we’re (mostly) moved and (mostly) settled into the new place and LOVING it! We’ve been moving fairly slowly, so we can do some DIY projects at the house before we need to move everything out of the apartment. But I can confidently say that the last box of things will be in our house by the end of the weekend. Woo!

Then we can both relax…and build some bookshelves. 😉

So August hasn’t been a book-buying month really. I did buy one because I fell in love with pictures that a friend had posted online. And I got another book by happy accident – the previous owners left it (and some other things) in the house. Yay free book!

The book I bought was:

poisondiariesThe Poison Diaries by The Duchess of Northumberland
Amazon

This truly gothic tale—a “facsimile” of Weed’s journal found at Alnwick Castle, in England—is not only a story of the battle between good and evil, but an educational parable of the curative and lethal properties of plants.

Weed—an orphan boy who apprentices with an evil old apothecary—is both used and abused. His journal is part botanical workbook and part diary of his own relationship with poisonous plants.

Weed discovers that he is one of the few people whom the plants talk to, and they try to persuade him that, with their help, his master can easily be disposed of. Although he refuses at first, after Weed’s first love, Marigold, experiments with the poisons and dies, he is pushed over the edge and plots to kill his master with a taste of his own evil medicine.

Each chapter of the story begins with Weed’s botanical notes: a plant’s appearance and properties, where it is found, how it should be cared for, the most poisonous parts, and how poison is extracted and administered. Accompanied by Weed’s sketches of the plants in their natural form, his diary also reveals the “real” personalities of the plants.

The pictures in this book are just gorgeous! Beautifully drawn pen and ink drawings – I’d love to own some of the pictures to hang on a wall. (I show some of them in my YouTube video below.)

The book that came free with the purchase of our house (not such a great deal, when you think about it lol!) was:

threedaystoneverThree Days To Never by Tim Powers
Amazon

Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking scientific discoveries made possible the creation of the most terrible weapon the world had ever known. But he made another discovery that he chose to reveal to no one—to keep from human hands a power that dwarfed the atomic bomb.

When twelve-year-old Daphne Marrity takes a videotape labeled Pee-wee’s Big Adventure from her recently deceased grandmother’s house, neither she nor her college-professor father, Frank, realize what they now have in their possession. In an instant they are thrust into the center of a world-altering conspiracy, drawing the dangerous attentions of both the Israeli Secret Service and an ancient European cabal of occultists.

Now father and daughter have three days to learn the rules of a terrifying magical chess game in order to escape a fate more profound than death—because the Marritys hold the key to the ultimate destruction of not only what’s to come . . . but what already has been.

I hadn’t heard of Tim Powers before but I really like supernatural thrillers, and a quote on the back is by Dean Koontz (one of my favourite authors), so I’m looking forward to reading this.

I talk about the books in more detail on my latest YouTube video – and natter a bit about the house move and a few other things.

I’m going to be uploading more regularly on my YouTube channel, and I have a few new ideas to start over September. So if you enjoy my videos don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube! 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong

EdgeofNowhereThe Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong
Amazon

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

A friend on twitter recommended this book to NetGalley users, and the description sounded interesting so I requested it. It was labelled as “women’s fiction” but really I think it’s historical fiction foremost. I wish I’d realised that before requesting it, as I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. The description made it sound as though the story was set in 1992, but in reality it’s all set in the past – from 1913 to 1939.

The Edge of Nowhere is a narration of the protagonist, Victoria’s, life. What I mean by narration is that the whole book read very much as telling instead of showing – which is a big no-no in the writing world – and I felt more like I was reading a padded out list of events. There wasn’t any “showing” to help me become immersed in the story, and each character and situation felt flat because of it.

The story starts with the protagonist saying this is a letter to her family so they can understand what she went through, and it ends in much the same way. But at 358 pages I think it could have been better executed as a brief letter at the start saying something like “the following is a book about my life, for my grandchildren” and then show us her life instead of just telling us a series of events. (It’s pretty unbelievable that she wrote a 358 page letter lol!)

On top of the “telling instead of showing” issue, the dialogue wasn’t very good, in my opinion. Every character sounded the same as the rest (you could make a drinking game for whenever anyone said “I don’t have much but I can share”). And confusingly, at the start of the book Victoria (and her family) seemed to speak with a mostly “proper” accent, but as the book went on the author changed the way Victoria and everyone around her spoke, giving them more of a drawl including missing letters from words. This change seems to be trying to drive home that Victoria wasn’t from an affluent family, but it was inconsistent with how the story started.

Which also caused some confusion for me because at the start of the story I thought she was living in a Victorian affluent setting, due to the names and how everyone was speaking and interacting, but also the way certain characters finances were talked about. Will, in particular, was made to sound like a very wealthy gentleman at first, but within a couple of chapters they were talking about how much of a hard working farmer he is and about what little money they made from even great farming years.

The writing style as a whole made it a struggle to get through the book, which is a shame because the idea for the story is a good one and the topics covered are important things that should be discussed – not just from history but in modern day too. Topics such as starvation, misogyny, sex work (the book briefly touches on this), survival, infant death, and grief.

Victoria goes through a vast list of trials and suffering. I felt angry at everything she had to endure, but at the same time I didn’t actually care about Victoria at all. Her character – even though her demeanor changed through the book – fell flat for me. I like to see character development that actually develops the character in a way that shows us the changes, and doesn’t just write the character telling us how they changed.

I wouldn’t recommend The Edge of Nowhere to anyone but, as I hadn’t ever heard of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl before, I have learned something from reading this book. And even though the “telling” and dialogue were a struggle to get through, I do feel as though I’ve learned a little about what it was like for some families during that time.

Due to learning something new, my rating isn’t as low as it would have been.

Rating: 2.5/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Book Blogger Hop

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This is my first time taking part in the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer.

This week’s question: Do you give books as gifts?

My Answer: Yes! Although not as often as I probably could.

I have quite a few friends and family who love to read, yet thinking about it now I don’t give them books as gifts very often.  I should change that! (This Christmas sounds like an expensive one for heavy book shipping now hehe.)

I’m part of a street team for an author, and every year we do a Secret Santa book swap between ourselves – to each send a copy of our favourite book to the random name we draw. It’s a lot of fun and I know the people I’ve sent books to have been excited to try new authors. Likewise for me when I receive my gift!  Last year I sent The Girl With All The Gifts (Amazon), and this year I’m still undecided on what to send – but there is a lot of year left before Christmas (thankfully!).

As it’s my first time taking part in this hop I’m not sure what else I should write… So i’m going to check out the other hoppers before I start babbling, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared next time hehe!

I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

June Book Haul!

JuneBookHaul

I know, it’s been a bit longer than expected since my last post. Sorry!  We went to visit some family, and then started house hunting. Which takes a lot of time – who knew?! (Well, we did but oh well!) What we didn’t realise is how quickly property sells here, especially if it is a “good deal” in a good area.

We ended up in a sort of bidding war, where our offer was one of 5 and everyone had to submit a “best and final” offer. It was really nerve wracking! You don’t know what everyone else is going to do, so we really went all in – the house is just so perfect for us and we didn’t want to lose it. I even wrote a letter to the seller to let them know just how much the house meant to us.  So after a very tense 24 hours of not knowing what would happen… we got the house! 😀  We don’t close on it yet, but it’s so great to know we will be moving to “our house” soon…because it really did feel like home right away.

In the midst of all the busyness I did still find time to buy some books – not much of a surprise there! It’s a slightly mixed bunch, with a few authors I haven’t read before.

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1. Burned by Karen Marie Moning. Amazon
2. The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Amazon (How gorgeous is that cover!)
3. Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews. Amazon

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4. Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost. Amazon
5. Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks. Amazon
6. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day. Amazon
7. Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle. Amazon | Book Depository (the US version has a different title/cover, but I like the UK title/cover more so I bought my copy from Book Depository)

My vlog talks about the books in more detail 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

NightShiftNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Amazon

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

When I requested Night Shift I didn’t realise it was book 3 in the “Midnight Texas” series. But that didn’t cause any issues, it worked as a stand alone novel – I only realised it wasn’t book one after I’d finished reading it.

I read quite a few of the Sookie Stackhouse series when it first came out, and I’ve read (and loved!) the Harper Connelly series, so I was really looking forward to reading Night Shift!

In Night Shift there are a couple of crossover characters from both of those series – one I didn’t recognize (from later in the Sookie series that I hadn’t reached yet), and one from the Harper Connelly series.  It was a fun twist to have this kind of crossover but I don’t remember vampires being around in Harper’s world, so the crossover of them living in the same town was a little strange.

Night Shift focuses on several different characters, all with their own unique skills: Fiji is a witch, Lemuel is a vampire, Manfred is a psychic/medium, Quinn is a weretiger…the list goes on.

The main plot is about the town needing to come together to stop strange suicides that have been happening, and to put an end to what has been causing that to happen. I was interested enough to keep reading, and wanted to know more about the sub plots that take place through the book. Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier were my favourite characters, and they seemed the most developed. The other characters weren’t underdeveloped, they just didn’t feel as substantial to me.

I liked that Manfred has a great psychic ability which is triggered by touch, and that he saw a lot more into people’s lives than they probably realised. Just a simple friendly gesture from someone (a pat on the arm) could end up with Manfred seeing everything they were hiding from the outside world. Seeing him here made me want to re-read the Harper Connelly series.

Fiji is a witch who is more powerful than she realises, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of witches in Night Shift (or at least the way Fiji’s magic was shown). She has a draw of “trinkets” which I loved seeing, and the reason for them (no spoilers, so I won’t go into more detail), and I love the way she casts spells and channels her power.

Mr. Snuggly is just fab 😀

As for negatives, a lot of the backstory for each character was “told” to us, almost just listing out what had happened, and sometimes felt more like padding as it didn’t add anything to the current story.

In fact, a lot of the book felt like padding. One character is in town throughout the entire book and gives a very vague “warning” at the start, then at the very end says (I’m paraphrasing) “So I’ve always known what’s happening, I came here for the sole purpose of telling you how to deal with it…but I just didn’t tell you since I’ve been here, even though it could have saved lives and given you all a head start on fixing things”. It was the most “wtf” moment in the book for me. Their whole purpose was to be the character who knew what was going on…yet they waited until literally the last moment (after Lemuel had already finished his decoding) to tell anyone. Basically if this character had said what he knew at the start, there would have been no book.

And then the whole thing felt like such a forced plot – just pushing us along toward what was ultimately a very disappointing ending. After a build up through the whole book, the finale is 2 pages of basically nothing exciting. Just a totally fizzled out ending.

Then in the final few pages of “and they all lived happily ever after” summaries there is a very homophobic comment (said as though it’s a positive thing), and a conversation that’s very degrading to women. I don’t know if those will be edited out before the final release but I certainly hope so! It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I will say that because I was given an advanced copy of the book there were quite a few things I think (I hope!) will be edited out. From small things like typos, to bigger things like character A telling character B that they hear voices in their mind and character B saying “I think I know what that is! I’ll go check something and let you know!”, then a couple of chapters later character A tells character B again as though it’s the first time talking about it and character B wonders why character A didn’t say something sooner.

The interaction between all of the characters was interesting, and because of that the sub plots drew me along through the story (perhaps more so than the “main” plot). Olivier is someone I would really love to read more about – she could have her own series and I’d jump at reading it!

But for Night Shift… Overall I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. It’s just an average book, nothing special. I don’t feel like checking out the previous two in the series because it didn’t pique my interest enough, and I doubt I’ll be reaching for any future books in the series unless I’m really stuck for something to read.

I feel this book is closer to a 2.5 rating, but I’m feeling generous because I did enjoy Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier’s characters.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.