The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Synopsis: “[A]n innocent young woman becomes entangled in a web of ancient secrets and deadly lies that lie at the dark center of her prosperous island world. Eliana is a model citizen of the island, a weaver in the prestigious House of Webs. She also harbors a dangerous secret—she can dream, an ability forbidden by the island’s elusive council of elders. No one talks about the dreamers, the undesirables ostracized from society.

Joining a band of brave rebels determined to expose the island’s dark secrets, Eliana becomes a target of ruthless forces determined to destroy her. To save herself and those she loves, she must call on the power within her she thought was her greatest weakness: her dreams.” (source)

My thoughts: I would prepare those readers expecting the stark, post-apocalyptic reality from Memory of Water; The Weaver is much more fantastical, mythical, dream-like. Its story a little denser, a little unfocused.

I loved the use of water in The Weaver — in this case it is something to be feared, the potential ender of life instead of the giver as in Memory. I loved that Eliana has brown skin[spoiler]; her girlfriend is pale-skinned, which, I assume, is who the publisher chose to feature on the book’s US cover. Booooo to them for whitewashing[/spoiler].

Emmi Itäranta writes such evocative prose! The entire waterwold felt alive – wet, cold, salt buildup – as if lying in wait to devour the island’s inhabitants. This island’s dystopia hinges on misinformation and control of information. Something I’m sure some of us can relate to.

I look forward to Itäranta’s next book.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Rating: 4 of 5

We Love You, Charlie Freeman is a story about a Black family who moves from the city to the boonies in order to participate in a research project teaching sign language to a chimpanzee named Charlie. But do not assume this is a book about chimpanzees or animal rights, oh no. This book is about race, memory, history, and especially the language with which to talk about all three.

Charlie Freeman hooked me with its characters from page one. It was interesting to discover how the experiment grew to encompass the family more so than the chimpanzee, and it was downright frightening to uncover the Institute’s dark history. Living the majority of the story through Charlotte’s eyes allowed me access to an existence I will never be able to live myself, and I appreciated the experience of seeing from Charlotte’s and her family’s perspectives.

Because I do not wish my own skin was white. What I envy is not their skin but their insouciance. I envy the freedom to sin with only a little bit of consequence, to commit one selfish act and not have it mean the downfall of my entire people. Where indecency and mischief do not mean annihilation. I envy that their capacity for love is already assumed, not set aside or presumed missing, like it is for us Negro women. (Nymphadora, 1929)”

Watch out for Kaitlyn Greenidge; I suspect she’s gonna make big waves in the literary world and I can’t wait!!

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Received ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Rating: 4 of 5

On my list of Best Zombies in YA, Shallow Graves ranks high, right after The Reapers Are the Angels and Raising Stony Mayhall.

I enjoy the playgrounds located in gray zones, especially when there’s a killer who only murders other killers. (Think: Dexter Morgan or John Wayne Cleaver as popular examples.) Are they good for ridding the world of evil-doers? Is what they’re doing righteous in some twisted way? Is murder ever justified, morally or ethically?

In Shallow Graves, the monster with a conscience is a 17-year-old girl who just so happens to be sorta, kinda, but not all the way dead. Her name is Breezy, she’s half-Chinese, half-Irish, bisexual, and she wants to be an astronaut on the first manned mission to Mars. Or, at least, she was all those things when she was alive, back when she was human, before she was a zombie who craves killers, not brains.

Recommended to readers who want a dark fantasy with horrorish elements, who don’t mind an occasional non-linear timeline, who want to read something with little to no romance, and/or just plain want something different than the usual mainstream young adult literature.

Whatever Wallace writes next, I’m excited to read it.

P.S. I don’t think this book needs a sequel but I would love to read a companion novel (or three). The worldbuilding is solid; the characters are there, waiting. Breezy, Zeke, Jake, Violet, Esme, Lyle, Mother, even Rain — potentially endless storylines to explore.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Rating: 4.5 of 5

All the Birds in the Sky was the first 2016 release I absolutely did not want to put down until I was finished. It was so weird, in that brilliant way I always hope to find in a new-to-me author’s work. The seamless blending of magic and science, the absolutely believable relationship between Patricia and Laurence, the ethical dilemmas of their gifts and those effects on the world… How does one review a book that itself refuses to be crammed into one neat little “normal” box? Loved it!

Highly recommended if you’re looking for something different, something simultaneously imaginary and realistic.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, spoken by my absolute LEAST favorite character, Patricia’s sister:

You never learned the secret,” said Roberta. “How to be a crazy motherf***ker and get away with it. Everybody else does it. What, you didn’t think they were all sane, did you? Not a one of them. They’re all crazier than you and me put together. They just know how to fake it. You could too, but you’ve chosen to torture all of us instead. That’s the definition of evil right there: not faking it like everybody else. Because all of us crazy f***kers can’t stand it when someone else lets their crazy show. It’s like bugs under the skin. We have to destroy you. It’s nothing personal.

My only nitpick was that, once again, during childhood and young adulthood both characters had absolutely NO adults (including and especially their parents) who believed them, supported them, got them. I guess “us against the world” is a great way to bond two people, but it’s a pet peeve of mine with a lot of the fiction I read.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

The Suicide Theory (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster The Suicide Theory (2014)Fate, an inescapable path of predetermined events, is a rather daunting concept. What’s the point of freewill if, no matter our decisions and choices, we’ll always end up in the same place?

Synopsis: “A suicidal man hires a demented killer to assist him in suicide, but he miraculously survives each attempt on his life.” (source)

My thoughts: THE SUICIDE THEORY is dark, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Percival (Leon Cain) wants to die, but no matter what he tries, he just can’t. So he hires Steven (Steve Mouzakis), a sadistic assassin, to kill him. The theory being, if Percival can’t kill himself, someone else may be able to. The strong performances and chemistry between Cain and Mouzakis outshine the pieces of the puzzle that some might see as contrived. In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with this Aussie thriller.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY or PREDESTINATION.

Check out THE SUICIDE THEORY at Freestyle Releasing | on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 9/29/2015)