Monday, October 26, 2020

What I'm Reading Now


T. Kingfisher, The Hollow Places

T. Kingfisher is Ursula Vernon's pen name, the one she uses for her books for grownups, as she puts it. This one, as with her last one, The Twisted Ones, is a horror novel. This one is maybe ten times as scary as The Twisted Ones, which is saying something.

I usually don't like horror novels that much, but for Vernon I make an exception. This is because, besides being genuinely horrifying, her novels always have great characters and excellent writing. This one does too. My favorite character is Simon, who subsumed his twin in the womb; one of his eyes is actually his twin's eye, and he sees differently through it.

There's also a portal, but not a C.S. Lewis portal, and extremely scary monsters, and an excellent battle of taxidermied animals.

Highly recommended.

Victoria Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

This is the first Schwab I've read, though she's been a big deal in the SF community for some time. As it says on the tin, this is about the life of Addie LaRue, who makes a deal with the devil (or a devil) in the 18th century. LaRue does not want to marry, which is essentially the only option for a woman in her small French village; she wants to experience the whole world, not be locked in this one tiny life.

So on her wedding day, she asks a devil/pagan trickster god to help her achieve that wish. He grants her wish: she is immortal, but ensures that no one will remember her, ever. So long as she is in sight, people can remember her. The minute she goes out of sight, even for a second, they forget her and her entire existence. So she can't hold a job, or rent a room, or have a friend or lover -- or rather, she can have these last, but only so long as she stays in sight. Once the lover leaves the room, even for a second, they forget her entirely.

Most of the novel plays out the effects of this curse, and LaRue's experiences as she moves through the centuries; but there is another character who has also made a deal with the devil, and once LaRue meets him, the plot thickens.

I liked this okay. Nice plot, and readable prose. 

John Grisham, A Time for Mercy

This one was available through the library and I am desperate for things to read right now, so I ordered it, even though my past experience with Grisham novels has not been great. (Wooden prose, wooden characters, badly edited.) This one was also not so great.

Apparently it's a sequel to some other books he wrote which I have not read. I can live with that, though the constant recaps of the previous books (he doesn't just do it once -- he recaps over and over throughout the text, I guess in case his reader isn't paying attention?) are annoying. There's a lot of over-writing like this, including an entire subplot which never exactly resolves.

The main plot is a sixteen year old kid who kills his stepfather, who just happens to be an excellent and highly loved police officer. (Color me dubious, given that the cop is given to getting knee-walking drunk and starting fights in bars, never mind how he slaps around and rapes his kids.) We are shown the kid killing the cop in the first pages of the book, so there's no mystery. And then the trial plays out pretty much as you would expect -- the lawyer uses the abuse to argue that the kid was justified. Hung jury, they have to retry. That's all, that's the end.

There's also a creepy subplot, in which the lawyer and a preacher at the kid's church gang up on his pregnant 14 year old sister (the one who has been getting raped by the stepfather) and coerce her into continuing a pregnancy against her own wishes and against the wishes of her mother. Then the lawyer and his wife, who have not been able to have the second child they want, adopt the infant. We're told this is the best thing for the 14 year old, since abortion is evil, but if that's not unethical behavior, holy shit, it ought to be.

Grisham also wants us to believe that being forced to carry her rapist's baby to term, give birth to it, and then give it up for adoption is not at all traumatic for our 14 year old high school freshman. She starts high school just as perky as anything! Happy endings all around!

Do not recommend unless you really like courtroom dramas and can wince your way past all the cringe-inducing writing and that subplot.



Jenny F. Scientist said...

I love Ursula Vernon but 100% cannot do the horror. Too scary!

I'm re-reading some of Stephanie Barron's "Jane and the.." mystery series. Comforting, like warm rice krispies treats.

delagar said...

I should try Barron -- I need some comfort reading.