February 14, 2024

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #48 Seanan McGuire, Aliya Whiteley, Paul De Filippo


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 (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). 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.

Aftermarket Afterlife by Seanan McGuire
(InCryptid #13)

★★★★★

Ghost babysitter Mary Dunlavy - a staple of the Price-Healy household since Alice was a toddler - finds herself testing the limits of her freedom (and her powers) in the wake of the crossroads' destruction, while the Covenant strikes the family and their allies broadly and hard.

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to DAW for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

I may be biased because I love all things ghosts/afterlife, but regardless, the 13th InCryptid installment is a step above Alice's books in a number of ways. Mary's POV as a hundred y.o. ghost in a 16 y.o. body is fascinating (while completely different from Rose's, the Price's honorary dead aunt, protagonist of the Ghost Roads series); so is the afterlife she inhabits when she isn't sitting for her charges (or helping her now adult former ones); and seeing her interact with the Price family and friends gives us a fresh and more cohesive perspective on them (plus we get her backstory!). Also, Aftermarket Afterlife is once again proof of the long game McGuire has been playing since she started the series: all the events occurring in the previous 12 books finally fall into place in a larger framework, with Mary at their center - no longer bound to the crossroads (which Antimony destroyed), but still technically limited in her assistance to the family during the worst crisis ever...except she always finds new ways to stretch those limits, consequences be damned 😅.
This installment is the first one to feature each and every family member and most of their allies in some capacity (even ever-elusive Drew)...but mind you, after 12 books, and in the wake of the best engineered, most destructive Covenant attack ever, something's got to give. You might think that McGuire was especially unfair towards a certain character, because what befalls them happens offscreen, but there's a rhyme and reason to it. And frankly? I do like how everything, and everyone, can change in this series - even the dead, and even if it comes at a...price 😉. If the latest InCryptid books have let you down somehow, I bet this is the one that will make you fall in love with the series all over again - and it sounds like the Price saga has still a lot to offer...

Please note: contrary to the rest of the series, at the end of this book there isn't a bridge novella that loosely ties in the previous installment with this one, but one that takes place after a certain event in the main story, from Verity's POV. DON'T read it before Aftermarket Afterlife if you want to avoid a huge spoiler.

Note: as a rule, I review every book that I rate 3.5 stars and above in full, unless it's a novella or an anthology. But this series has been around for years now, and I only started reading it in August 2022, so I decided to only write mini (well...probably more like midi) reviews for its installments, or it would have been too hard for me to catch up. Now that I have, I'm writing mini reviews for the new ones as well, out of consistency.

Three Eight One by Aliya Whiteley

★★

An archivist from 2314 peruses and annotates a story posted on the net in 2024, in which a 17 y.o. girl undertakes a quest and tries to make sense of the world while dodging a supposedly ominous presence.

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Rebellion Publishing for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

I'm often drawn to books that bring something new on the table in terms of style and format, but alas, they don't always work for me. Three Eight One is maybe a step too far in terms of experimental storytelling for my tastes (not to mention that the back-and-forth between the quester's narrative and the archivist's notes is a bit challenging, especially when performed on a digital copy). Both the quest and the commentary have a strange quaint flavour, which of course is a precise stylistic choice and can be intriguing in the hands of the right reader, but it's not really my thing. Looking back at the digital age as we know it via a story set almost 300 years in the past (which would be our present) is a neat idea and makes for some interesting observations, but I struggled to retain their meaning and ended up feeling like I was studying for a test, while the story itself didn't hold my interest. So this one was a DNF for me (a first when it comes to titles provided by Rebellion/Solaris), but I can see it work for more patient/philosophical readers and fans of audacious writing styles.

Please note: both protagonists are 17 (though the archivist is "seventeen years of age in body, and six hundred and sixty-three in streaming years", whatever it means), but I didn't label this book as YA for obvious reasons. This is clearly adult reading material.

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later, and of course I don't plan to reread this book).

 Vangie's Ghosts by Paul de Filippo

★★

A little girl who can see her alternate selves in a myriad of parallel timelines cultivates the ability to leap from one another of them, until, as an adult, she's thrust into a war that could end the very multiverse.

***

Rated 2.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER:  I requested this title on NetGalley and Edelweiss, and got approved on both sites. Thanks to Blackstone Publishing for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

The premise of this book is fabulous, and the author put a wild, imaginative spin (or more like, a series of them) on the multiverse trope. Too bad the writing style didn't work for me, and the story itself lost me along the way (technically, I did finish the book, but skimmed the whole last section, because I couldn't muster the energy to care about that version of the main characters and the particular world they were living in). I tend to get excited when a book provides the random unusual, neglected word, but a whole novel filled with terms like "internecine", "certitude", "recumbent", "expenditure" and the likes, and written in an often cumbersome prose, is wont to to kill my reading mojo. I didn't have a problem with (most of) the far-off science stuff, but I found it hard to suspend disbelief for scenes - or scenarios - that read more like a spy-thriller parody than like honest storytelling (down to the required awkward sex scene). Most of the events (and the characters themselves) came across as over-the-top, and again, I'm not talking about the sci-fi bits per se (for instance, I especially found it jarring that the protagonist's inner monologue as a young kid was above and beyond her age and level of knowledge/understanding). Ultimately, I could see that Vangie's Ghosts had terrific potential, but the execution didn't do it justice.

(Apropos of nothing: at least two verbs are missing in this novel. Where were the proof editors?).

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later, and of course I don't plan to reread this book).

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?

12 comments:

  1. I love the sound of that POV. As for 381 I've seen mixed reviews, every one I've read seems t ohave issues so ... yeah. And Vangie's Ghosts... yeah what a premise. That's disappointing the exectuion was meh.

    Mallory IS a block of ice. Well, that Mallory :)

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    1. I read Shannon's review of 381 - she did finish it at least...frankly, I was too bored 😅.

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  2. Well at least you enjoyed one of the books a lot. I've been dnfing some books lately too but I don't review them anymore.

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    1. What can I say...even if these weren't books I got specifically for review purposes, I'm a completist 😅.

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  3. A painful batch. At least there was one amazing book, and no surprise, it was by McGuire. I am so happy that this author continues to deliver for you, and wow! It's impressive that she slowly allowed TWELVE stories to intertwine. That's some vision and plotting there.

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    1. And to think she has multiple ongoing series at once...🤯

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  4. I often toy with the idea of doing mini reviews myself, but I fear I'm simply too verbose lol. You, however, manage to do a great job giving your concise thoughts while always piquing my interest. Love it!

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    1. Thank you! I mean...some are more "midi" than "mini" LOL. But if need be, I seem to be able to condense my thoughts, and here I'm a verbose person myself 😅. I even used to write LONGER full reviews back in the day...but I've managed to cultivate a little self-discipline in time, so I'm sure you can too!

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  5. It's great when a bunch of books in a series can come together for a well-done payoff.

    I also am drawn to books with experimental style, but much to my disappointment, I don't think I ever end up liking them much.

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    1. For me, it depends. But I still need the story to be accessible, which should be a given, except sometimes the stylistic choices go in the opposite direction...or bury the story at all.

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  6. I think 381 would have been way better if you could read the footnotes! And it IS possible with eARCs, as I have read several that managed it beautifully (even smaller pubs, actually). But alas. I also don't know what the point was? I mean- I did not hate it, but I DID kind of wonder what the point was, and that is never great. Glad the McGuire series is still a hit for you after so many installments, that is awesome! Sad about Vangie's Ghost, too. Great reviews though!

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    Replies
    1. The footnote problem was real! since they made for half the narrative. And...if one has to wonder what the point is, I guess the story didn't do what it was meant to do? I mean, we can't both be so dense 😂 (OK, I didn't finish it, but I read a good chunk of it, and I couldn't fathom where it was supposed to go...).

      Delete

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