2014 Whitneys: Speculative Fiction and Final Favorites

By Emily Milner

May has got me turned upside down and every which way, between recitals and plays and concerts and planning for the summer looming ahead before me, including my daughter’s Much Ado About Nothing in just a few short hours. Because of this, I’m going to condense two posts (Speculative Fiction and Final 2014 Favorites) into one. And, um, condense them further with Very Short Reviews. Here goes:

Speculative Fiction:
accidental apprenticeThe Accidental Apprentice: Rezdin the brilliant wizard becomes involved with intrigue between his own kingdom and master, Baron von Dappenshien, and his master’s political enemies who seek to penetrate a magic-proof zone. Along the way he takes on a new apprentice (hence the title). There were parts of this book I liked–I’m always up for a good fantasy, and I enjoyed the dynamic between Rezdin and his wizardly associate. The multiple points of view did feel jarring to me, and the title led me to expect more of an emphasis on the apprenticeship, which didn’t seem to be the main focus of the story.

Nameless: The Darkness Comes:
namelessLuna Masterson sees demons, and has her entire life, but she tries to avoid them if at all possible. When a demon endangers the niece she loves, and she becomes marked prey, she has to engage with an angel-haunter heroin addict and demons from her own past. I liked Luna’s voice in Nameless, and I liked the resonance of being haunted by demons who also channel Luna’s personal demons. Like the Accidental Apprentice it read more YA than adult speculative for me.

This Darkness Light:
darkThis is the story of John, who wakes up with no memory of who he is, but with the knowledge that he must save the world. He’s accompanied by Serafina, a compassionate nurse who saves his life, and hunted by Isaiah, a hired killer who has been blackmailed by Mr. Dominic–the personification of evil–into taking on this job. Along the way, death happens. Lots of death. Also monsters. I must tell you I am not typically a reader of horror, and it was hard for me to get through this book because I’m just not that into graphic mayhem. The end is redemptive, kind of, and I can respect the craftsmanship of this book without enjoying it personally.

Pretty Little Dead Girls:
deadBryony should have died, many times. Everyone who sees her knows she’s marked for death, and yet she manages to survive much more than you would think possible, given the fact that she looks like the sort of girl who gets murdered. As the title hints, this is a quirky, dark, whimsical book, that foretells disaster and yet somehow manages to deliver joy.

Words of Radiance:
radianceHow to condense over a thousand pages into a paragraph? In Words of Radiance, readers of The Way Of Kings go deeper into the world and characters Sanderson introduced us to: Kaladin, whose honorableness and powers get tested further; Shallan, whose powers of truth-telling deception develop as we come to know her terrible secrets; and Adolin, Shallan’s betrothed, who takes on the task of winning shardblades so his father can save the world from the coming terror. It’s fantastic stuff. With some speculative fiction books, I feel like the world is just smoke and mirrors: if I dig beneath the surface of the magic system, there’s nothing there. But with Sanderson, I know that’s not true. Everything he hints at now will be realized one day, every plot thread will be resolved. As a reader, I trust his books, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

And now (drumroll) Segullah’s 2014 Whitney Final Favorites:

Read More

2014 Whitneys: General Fiction Finalists

By Emily Milner

This is a short review/synopsis of the 2014 Whitney General finalists. This year four of the five books seemed more inspirational, and that’s not my favorite genre, so I will tell you up front I’m not the best reader for these books. I have even wondered if the Whitneys should have a separate category devoted entirely to inspirational fiction, so that the General category can be about stories that have no message attached. So if you love inspirational books (or if you wrote them), take my thoughts with a grain of salt (or don’t read them at all). I’m not in your intended audience, but I’ll say my piece anyway.

On to the books, which I’ve sorted alphabetically by author:
plentiful rainA Plentiful Rain, by Elizabeth Bentley. This is the story of Ellis, a Mormon intellectual who has avoided marriage and commitment for many years, but decides to brave the waters of the older singles scene again when his sister and father both get engaged. Initially attracted to the gorgeous Cassandra, he finds that her younger, recovering alcoholic sister has more depth and kindness to her.

Read More