May 30, 2021

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #23 The Seanan McGuire by Any Other Name Edition


Intro


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps 😊. Just to be clear,  I'm NOT taking a break from writing long reviews - no such luck LOL. But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

This time I have three Seanan McGuire books, because I just love her and I buy plenty of her stuff...Only one of them was published under her real name though - the other two are, respectively, part of her A. Deborah Baker and Mira Grant productions (brand new the first, well-established the second). I have to admit that two of these books I found less brilliant than her usual, but still worth checking out even if you aren't a fan (which, counterintuitively, I suspect caused me to be less lenient LOL).

(Wayward Children #6)

★★★

An intersex girl finds a new family in a world of centaurs and other equines, where she's fated to play the hero at an unknown price.

***

Probably the weakest installment in the Wayward Children series so far, the one where both the lead intro and the overall morals are most didascalic (though someone might argue for the same thing happening in Down Among the Sticks and Bones - but the characters there came more alive for me) and the supporting cast least rounded. The second half does pick up, building on themes of destiny and human/beast divide. In the end though, the connection between questioning humans and a world that seems to call to them more to satisfy its needs than to cater for theirs comes across a bit muddled. Still worth it for the "there's no right way to be a girl" theme variation and the mythical-equine universe.

Full review to come (Goodreads pre-review)

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
(The Up-and-Under #1)

★★★

Two kids who don't know each other and couldn't be more different if they tried cross a strange wall for equally different reasons, only to get thrust into an Oz-like world where they will need each other to make it home...eventually.

***

After seeing it referenced multiple times in Middlegame, I thought OTWW would be more groundbreaking - and relevant, if in hindsight. It WAS enchanting and entertaining, with two quirky leads and at least one memorable side character (the Crow Girl), but it didn't feel, you know, SPECIAL, or an essential companion to Middlegame like I thought it would turn out to be. It felt very reminiscent of the Oz world (except for the metaphors/morals), a tad too much for it to be a tongue-in-cheek homage, and with antagonists who could have been fleshed out more, even within a short page count. Also, to me there was a power imbalance issue about the two protagonists, because even if you are (or the kid you used to be was) a rule-follower and/or someone who finds comfort in routine, it's so much easier to love free-spirited, courageous Zib than Avery. Not to mention, as someone who loves curls (the wilder the better) and wears her hair permed because it embodies the REAL me, I personally felt vindicated by Zib's attachment to her unruly mane, and by how Baker/McGuire seems to understand that your hair (or in cases like mine, your hair of choice) is a huge part of your personality. It's almost like Zib's hair were a third protagonist in the story, and heck, it felt so GLORIOUS to have a character own her "frizzy" hair for once.
In short, a MG version of the Wayward Children series, only with characters not looking for their door (unless you think Zib was, to an extent) and a focus on overcoming your differences and thus forming a life-saving bond.

Note: since this mini review turned out to be longer than my usual ones, and the book itself is so short, I decided not to write a standard review later. I also plan to do the same for the next books in the series.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
(Rolling in the Deep #1)

★★★★

After an expedition to the Mariana Trench ends tragically, but leaving a trail of mysteries in its wake, a second ship sets sail for the same spot in order to prove the existence of mermaids, and even the most fervent believers will have trouble to keep their wits (and their lives) about them, once reality smacks bites them in the face...and a lot of other body parts.

***

Rated 4.5 really.

A breathless, yet nerdy adventure, that will give you nightmares and quench your thirst for alternate-but-believable science at the same time. As usual, Grant/McGuire excels at writing complex, tridimensional characters, no matter if heroes or villains or (mostly) morally grey/simply human ones. (Also, name another book where mermaids and even dolphins get their POV chapters). As usual with her, diversity is well-represented and understood, from queer to deaf to autistic characters and more. As usual with her, this is a world you can buy into. And while horror and tension grow and people die gruesomely - or do science in the face of it - there's still space for a romance (or two, if you count the two killers in love. Or three, if you count the two exes with a complicated relationship) and a sciencey, nightmarish, mind-blowing twist.

Full review to come. (Goodreads pre-review)

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

19 comments:

  1. I think it's great that McGuire is showing intersex representation in her books, especially since this is a seriously underrepresented community in novels. Sorry you didn't absolutely love it, but at least there is some representation there :)

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    1. I'm spoiled when it comes to McGuire LOL. But she's one of the most active authors when it comes to representation...I've just read a book of hers with a transgender character.

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  2. I did not know that she went by other names too. I've always been interested in anything that has to do with the Mariana Trench. That book sounds interesting.

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    1. Those are the only names she go by...so far. And that book is awesome if you like murderous creatures! 😂

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  3. Great reviews Roberta! I love mini reviews, especially when they are grouped by a certain topic as these are.
    As for the books, I know that I definitely want to read Into the Drowning Deep soon (I'm glad to see you enjoyed it!), but I may give the other two a miss.

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    1. Across the Green Grass Fields is probably the weakest Wayward Children installment so far. And I have a love-hate relationship with Book 1 in the series (still a 3.5 star one for me!), but I loved all the others! Lots of diversity, too.

      ITDD is even darker than her usual stuff, but also more adventurous, and the mad science sounds plausible. If that's your jam, it won't disappoint. And thank you!

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  4. I felt the same about OTWW, like it was fine but not essential to Middlegame. Love your comments on Zib's hair! I consider mine a part of my identity too (and sometimes with feelings and a personality of its own 😂).

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    1. I don't know, it might be because McGuire is better suited to write grown-up books? I mean, the ones with lots of blood and monsters? 😉

      Ha! Red hair do have a personality of its own, I'm sure 😂.

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    2. *"does". I keep referring to hair as plural here and there because it's plural in Italian...

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  5. That's interesting about Green Grass Fields because I was kinda looking at that one. the whole grasslands world/ centaur thing had me intrigued.

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    1. Not my favourite McGuire, but the upside is, it can be read as a standalone even if it's part of a series!

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  6. I understand what you meant about Zib's hair. I feel the same way when I read about characters loving their natural afro hair. It's really refreshing to see. Wow, Into the Drowning Deep sounds like the book I wanted Twenty Thousand Leages Uner the Sea by Julves Verne to be like. I was ever so slightly disappointed with that one - Into the Drowning Deep sounds much better.

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    1. There's this stigma against curly hair that has been bleeding into fiction for a long time - at least someone goes in the opposite direction!

      Can you believe I've never read TTL? Yeah, I know, it's a classic...
      If you love murderous mermaids (though not all of them are strictly murderous), ITDD is a must read!

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  7. I am surprised to see such a low rating from you on a McGuire. I know you're a fan.

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    1. I think that's the reason...counterintuitive, I know, but the fact is, I expect more from her.

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    1. It's partly your fault if I do them at all 😉.

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  9. I love how much you love Seanan McGuire. :D (Definitely still need to get around to read Middlegame!) I'm fairly certain I've said this before, but I'm glad you enjoyed Into the Drowning Deep - I rated it four stars too, but it was a really solid four star read. I loved the way we got to learn about the characters enough to sympathize with them, even with the stranger ones like the monster hunters. Great reviews!

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    1. It's a 4.5 for me, really. Yep, one of the biggest strengths of McGuire is that she's so good at characters. They're usually well-rounded and you find yourself enjoying even the unlikeable ones!

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