Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler–described by Vibe as “do[ing] for people of color” what William Gibson did for “young, disaffected white” speculative fiction fans–unfortunately passed away in 2006. But before she did that, she wrote a dozen or so novels and a couple collections of short stories, primarily science fiction. She described herself as primarily a novelist at one point, although she started as so many authors do with a short story publication in the early 1970s. Over her career, she won a handful of major awards, including Hugos, Nebulas, and a MacArthur Genius Grant. She is primarily known for tackling social issues unflinchingly through her works, and Fledgling, a solo novel published about a year before her death, is no exception.

Fledgling is Ms. Butler’s foray into the vampire-novel genre. The main character–also the narrator–is Shori, a young vampire who survived a vicious attack on her family that left her very much injured and suffering from amnesia. The rest of the story details her fight to save her family, and her re-learning of what exactly she lost by not remembering the rest of her life. Continue reading Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is a relatively recent entrant into the world of historical romance; her first published novel, Private Arrangements, I reviewed a mere year and a half ago, here. She’s a current resident of Texas, but she moved to the US from China at the age of thirteen and apparently had a taste for historical romance even then. This work is her second novel; she’s since published a third, entitled Not Quite a Husband. A fourth, called His at Night, is to be released next May. I believe that the secondary lead in Delicious and the lead in Not Quite a Husband are brothers, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary to read one before the other.

Verity Durand is the most famous — and infamous — chef in England. Famous, because her food makes angels weep and grown men slaver; infamous because, well, she had an affair with her last employer, Bertie Somerset. Of course, Mr. Somerset has since died and his younger half-brother, Stuart, has inherited the entire place, including Verity’s services — as a chef, of course. Stuart Somerset is a politician; originally a barrister, he’s now an MP and holds the ear of the Prime Minister; he works twenty-four hour days trying to get bills past. He rarely has time to eat, let alone enjoy his food. Oh, and he’s engaged to a Miss Lizzy Bessler. However, ten years ago, he had one amazing night with a lady he’s never seen since, despite searching. Only a totally crazy situation would throw them back together . . . wouldn’t it? Continue reading Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo

Mario Acevedo apparently, when he was four years old, told one of his aunts that he wanted a machine gun for Christmas. A stint in the army — where he also flew helicopters — apparently cured him of that, and provided him with fodder and knowledge for a series of books about a vet — these books, as a matter of fact. When not in the army, he has worked as an engineer and an artist, including being a combat artist and working with children. He has apparently been writing since he was young, and has published (so far) four novels in this series, all with . . . interesting . . . titles. A member of the Rocky Mountain Writers Group, he credits joining the group with his success in the publishing world.

Felix Gomez is in the U.S. military, and while he is in Iraq, he comes back with what he tells people is “Operation Iraqi Freedom Syndrome.” Except it’s nothing of the sort; he got vampirism instead. Fortunately, some of the weaknesses of being a vampire can be mitigated by 21st-century technology, such as Dermablend and high-octane sunscreen. Now Gomez is a P.I., and one of his old friends from college has called him up to find out why something very strange has happened at his DOE base (i.e., somewhere where they do nuclear research) — the women appear to have been infected with something that is causing them to be, ahem, hyper-interested in a certain sort of physical activity. Can Gomez figure it out? And why are vampires in the area dying? Continue reading The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo

Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss (Sophie Katz, book 4), by Kyra Davis

Kyra Davis is half Jewish (Eastern European) and half African-American; she married early and repented at leisure, getting divorced within a relatively short period of time. Despite a career in the fashion industry, she found herself writing novels as a sort of therapy, given the events of her life. Unlike most people’s therapy journals, though, hers turned out to be worth publishing, and she signed with Red Dress Ink (now subsumed back into MIRA, rather like Luna). This is the fourth novel to feature her amateur detective and mystery novelist, Sophie Katz. Ms. Davis currently lives in Southern California, where she writes full-time.

Sophie Katz (also half Eastern-European Jewish and half African American) is at an open house one day when she runs into her ex-husband, a realtor. He tells her of a dream house, a three-bedroom Victorian being sold for well under market value, and she reluctantly agrees to meet him there. Turns out there’s a catch: When they get there, the owner is found dead of a heart attack. The owner’s son still seems likely to sell, provided that Sophie joins the Spectre Society. Also, the house may or may not be haunted. Add that to some odd characters in the Spectre Society itself, her ex-husband’s jealous new girlfriend, and Sophie’s mother, and Sophie finds herself in another uncomfortable situation . . . Continue reading Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss (Sophie Katz, book 4), by Kyra Davis

This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet, book 1), by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in 2006, was an Indonesian author and political prisoner. He protested first against the treatment of the native Indonesians by their Dutch colonizers, then the World War II occupation of Indonesia by the Japanese, and then against the authoritarian regimes that replaced them. His political beliefs — which tended towards the socialist end of the spectrum — were not popular, and when his writing seemed to criticize the regime in power more directly, he ended up imprisoned. Many of his works, including this one, the first volume of the Buru Quartet, were written (or composed) while he was either in prison or under house arrest. This one was recited orally to fellow prisoners prior to being written down and smuggled out for publication.

Minke (which, I believe, is Dutch for “monk,” and a nickname) is a young man just before the turn of the 20th century, towards the end of his schooling, when, on a random invitation from a friend, he meets the most famous concubine in Indonesia and her family. Nyai Ontsoroh has been running a business empire for years, and she has been teaching her daughter Annelies — who is, of course, half Indonesian, half Dutch — how to run a business herself. Minke himself is entirely Indonesian and the son of a man with some political power, but he attends the Dutch school in a different town. There are all sorts of racial tensions going on, because Minke has fallen in love with Annelies and her with him, and she is considered significantly too good for him, being half Dutch — although she is the daughter of a concubine, which complicates things. How will their love survive?

Just as a warning and a reminder, there are spoilers after the cut, and some rather frank discussion of unsavory topics. Continue reading This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet, book 1), by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Virtually His, by Gennita Low

Gennita Low is unusual among authors in that not only does she have a day job — she runs her own roofing company — but it’s sort of a working-class day job, and she celebrates it. Her blog is at rooferauthor.blogspot.com, and she doesn’t pretend she’s just doing it until she can write full-time, as so many other authors do. A student of languages, she apparently yells at her employees in Chinese and Malay, and is learning German and Russian in her spare time. (What spare time?) She got her start in publishing by entering a lot of contests, and even being a finalist in a good deal of them. She writes primarily in the romantic suspense genre, but she includes some science-fictional themes in her works.

Elena Rostova — now Helen Roston — was a Russian orphan, but she joined the military and eventually was selected as the best candidate for a top-secret experiment, in making a supersoldier-spy. One of her primary qualifications was that she has psychic abilities. The supersoldier part included intense physical and mental training, and the spy part included virtual reality and clairvoyant training — which they call bilocation. Her mentor in this is a man she doesn’t meet; in the virtual-reality world where they see each other, she has designed his avatar. They are very attracted to each other, but will she ever find out his real-world identity? And will the experiment that is her life succeed? Continue reading Virtually His, by Gennita Low

Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, edited by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah was born in Ghana, viagra 60mg and emigrated with her family at the age of six, in the mid-1970s. Her full-length memoir, Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey through Depression, was published in 1998 and immediately hailed as groundbreaking, being that it was the first work published by an African-American person dealing with depression. Since then, in addition to her writing career, she has been an advocate for mental health education, especially for Black women. Ms. Danquah has an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College and has been published in a rather impressive list of magazines, journals, and newspapers. In addition to that, she has edited two collections (this one and Becoming American) and has written quite a bit of fiction.

This is, as the title says, a collection of new fiction and memoir by Black women (published since 1990; capitalization is the editor’s). It includes, as Ms. Danquah says in the introduction, younger authors: generally under 40 at the time of publication. The table of contents is fairly long and complicated, since many of the works are excerpts from longer pieces, so I will provide a link to the Google Books version of it: here. I had not heard of any of the authors prior to reading this volume, partly because the women included are all younger than the Alice Walker-Toni Morrison-Maya Angelou-Gloria Naylor bunch. Many of them were born after Dr. King was assassinated, and all of them have received acclaim as writers from many different sources. Continue reading Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, edited by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard is up for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, discount as part of the Hugo Awards; this is her second year of eligibility. She’s an author that most of us probably haven’t heard of, check especially book reviewers like me, viagra buy being that she writes short stories. As much as I love short-story collections, she doesn’t have a compilation published (yet), being that she’s only been publishing for two or three years. She lives in Paris, although she has American citizenship; she’s half Vietnamese by heritage and speaks English as a first language. By day she works as an engineer; by night, she’s an expert on Meso-American mythology and culture. Here’s a link to her bibliography page; it contains links to all of her short stories that are available for free on the internet.

The titles of the stories that I reviewed are as follows, with a short description:

“Autumn’s Country” (Asian-set story about arranged marriages and the possible results)
“The Dancer’s Gift” (Dark secondary-world fantasy about destructive empathy)
“Through the Obsidian Gates” (Sort of an Orpheus-in-the-Underworld story, but with Mayans)
“Obsidian Shards” (Aztec death priest fights crime!)
“The Lost Xuyan Bride” (Alternate-history Dashiell-Hammett type mystery)
“The Dragon’s Tears” (Asian-set death, riddles, and [obviously] dragons story)
“Beneath the Mask” (Aztec death priest fights more crime!)
“Sea Child” (Secondary-world fantasy with high cliffs and dangerous waters)
“The Naming at the Pool” (Different secondary-world fantasy, with different riddles and changes of identity)
“Weepers and Ragers” (Future-set science fiction with melting brains and murder)
“For a Daughter” (Literary flash fiction about China’s one-child policy)
“Citadel of Cobras” (Hermits, forests, and magic)
“The Triad’s Gift” (Novella-length story about riddles, losing one’s kingdom, and nagas) Continue reading The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

The Living Blood, by Tananarive Due

Tananarive Due (accent on the second syllable) is married to Steven Barnes, viagra 100mg also a novelist. Formerly a columnist for the Miami Herald, she used to live in Miami, and now lives in Glendora, CA. She received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern (a very fine journalism school) and an M.A. in Literature, specializing in Nigerian literature, from the University of Leeds (in England). She writes primarily in a supernatural/speculative fiction genre, but she has also written a historical novel and a work of non-fiction about the civil rights movement (of which her mother was a part). She also contributed to Naked Came the Manatee, a humorous mystery novel written by a group of Miami authors some years ago.

This is a sequel, and although I never read the first book, I’m cutting the plot discussion anyway. Continue reading The Living Blood, by Tananarive Due

Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata was born in 1956 in Chicago, side effects Illinois, and is of Japanese-American heritage. Her grandparents married in Japan and then emigrated here, and her mother was born in southern California. Although Ms. Kadohata was born in the North, she spent a good deal of her childhood in Southern states, during an interesting time, racially speaking. She received a B.A. from the University of Southern California, and has studied on a graduate level at a couple of venerable institutions. Many of her novels feature east Asian-American protagonists in coming-of-age stories. This volume, from 2004 and intended for middle-grade readers, is no exception, and it won the Newbery Award.

Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, is her world. Lynn is four years older, and she protects her sister as much as she possibly can. When the family’s Asian grocery store goes under in the mid-1950s, the family moves to Georgia where Mr. Takeshima can get a job in a chicken processing plant. The world is very different down there; it’s a small town and there are only 31 Japanese people out of 4000 residents. Many people won’t talk to them, but Katie’s fine. She has a best friend already — Lynn. Even though the family struggles with finances and working so many hours a day in awful conditions, and even though the two grow up and Lynn makes other friends, the sisters remain close — until Lynn gets sick. Continue reading Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata