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

The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

About the only thing I know about R. A. MacAvoy is that she’s female. Apparently she was born in my (former) neck of the woods in 1949 and attended Case Western Reserve University. This, apparently, allows her to make Cleveland jokes. (It’s okay. The Browns are enough of a joke for most of us.) She now lives in a horse pasture and writes full-time. This book, if I’m not mistaken, was originally published as an Amazon Short in 2005 and sold only as an ebook, entitled The Go-Between, until Sub Press picked it up for a September release.

Ewen Young is a painter by day and a kung fu master by night. His uncle Jimmy is his teacher, and one night, after an art show, several thugs jump him outside as a ‘message’ to said uncle. Soon thereafter, he goes to the kung fu studio and finds Jimmy shot in the head; the man who did it is still there and shoots Ewen in the heart. The next thing he knows, he’s in the hospital, on morphine. But every so often, he — isn’t there. Or particularly anywhere. The nurses accuse him of pulling out his IV, despite the fact that it’s out cleanly. Where is he going? And what’s going on? Continue reading The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College and an author of children’s books. She used to have a cat named Taxi, for the sheer joy of calling the cat and watching the neighbors make faces. She takes modern dance and yoga classes for fun, and bakes bread. She has also coauthored a scholarly paper on frogs. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books before — here and here — and while they aren’t always my favorite, I seem to keep coming back for more.

The Cinderella story is a common one throughout many cultures, and Ms. Napoli has chosen to set her variant of the tale in Ming-Dynasty China. Xing Xing’s mother dies when she is very small, and her father remarries, to a woman with a daughter close to Ping’s age. The stepmother (called Stepmother) has decided to bind her daughter (Wei Ping)’s feet, in order that she will be able to attract a man of a much higher social status. And of course, once the father dies, Stepmother treats Xing Xing as if she’s the lowest kind of servant, even so far as to sending her off to try to sell green dates as some sort of false miracle cure to raise money. One day, there is a fair in town, and Xing Xing finds some of her mother’s old clothing (including shoes) to wear into town . . . Continue reading Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

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

Incantation, by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman has written a number of books for both adults and young adults; three of said novels (Practical MagicAquamarine, and The River King) have been made into movies, starring some rather impressive actors. Born in New York, she attended Adelphi College and later Stanford, getting degrees in creative writing, and in 1983 she wrote the screenplay to a movie entitled “Independence Day,” but not the one with Will Smith and aliens. She currently lives in New York and Boston. Previously on Someone’s Read it Already, I reviewed a novel of hers, The Foretelling.

Estrella de Madrigal is a young woman in sixteenth-century, small-town Spain; her best friend is Catalina, who lives nearby. The girls are very close to each other until Estrella pays a little too much attention to Andres, Catalina’s cousin whom she is intended to marry. Unfortunately, this sets off a streak of jealousy and vindictiveness in Catalina. The town, Encaleflora, is undergoing some awful changes; it’s the time of the Inquisition (although they don’t call it that) and all the Jews and Muslims in town are suspect, even the ones who converted years and years ago. Estrella’s family behaves strangely — is it possible that they are secretly Jewish? And how will they survive? Continue reading Incantation, by Alice Hoffman

The Lone Star Stories Reader, edited by Eric T. Marin

I like free books. So when I was alerted to the presence of a free PDF copy of this brand-new anthology, also available in print form, I was excited. I don’t get around to reading e-zines as often as I should, and there are some amazing stories one can read for free out there. This is a collection of fifteen of the best from several years of Lone Star Stories, and it’s available for download here. I do, of course, encourage you to buy a print copy if you like the PDF. Eric Marin pays the contributors out of his own pocket, and it would be great if he could recoup some of the costs. (Or, ideally, make millions of dollars and publish all sorts of things, but I’ll aim for a more realisic goal.)

The stories include: “Wolf Night,” by Martha Wells; “Seasonal Work,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; “Janet, Meet Bob,” by Gavin J. Grant; “The Great Conviction of Tia Inez,” by M. Thomas; “Angels of a Desert Heaven,” by Marguerite Reed; “The Disembowler,” by Ekaterina Sedia; “A Night in Electric Squidland,” by Sarah Monette; “Thread: A Triptych,” by Catherynne M. Valente; “The Frozen One,” by Tim Pratt; “Dragon Hunt,” by Sarah Prineas; “Manuscript Found Written in the Paw Prints of a Stoat,” by Samantha Henderson; “Giant,” by Stephanie Burgis; “When the Rain Comes,” by Josh Rountree; “The Hangman isn’t Hanging,” by Jay Lake; and “The Oracle Opens One Eye,” by Patricia Russo. Continue reading The Lone Star Stories Reader, edited by Eric T. Marin

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

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