The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. ★★★★
In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Theodora Goss mixes together some popular literature of the 19th century (particularly science fiction and horror) with an emphasis on female characters.
The story opens with Mary Jekyll burying her mother. Her mother’s death has left her penniless, and she has no idea what course her life will now take. Then she discovers that her mother paid a monthly sum for the care of “Hyde.” Mary immediately remembers her father’s old associate, who still has a reward out on him for information leading to his capture. She takes the information to London’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his associate Dr. Watson, who are themselves investigating a series of gruesome murders. Mary quickly learns two things. Firstly, “Hyde” is not her father’s old associate but his young and troublesome daughter, Diana. Secondly, the mysteries of her heritage may be bound up in the current murder case.
Wilders by Brenda Cooper. ★1/2
Trigger warning: suicide
Reading Wilders was a struggle from the get go. It took me three weeks to finish. I haven’t had this much difficulty forcing myself to finish something since my senior English class read Faulkner. I may take Faulkner over Wilders.
The future is divided between the cities and the unincorporated land outside them, intended to be restored to nature and wilderness. Coryn Williams lives in the megacity of Seacouver but is left orphaned after her parents double suicide. Her sister Lou leaves her behind to become a ranger, working for an NGO on the outside. On her eighteenth birthday, Coryn is determined to reunite with Lou… so she ventures outside her city, accompanied only by her robot Paula.
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. ★★★★
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
Parable of the Talents somehow manages to be even darker than the first book, Parable of the Sower. Of course, I knew it’d be dark. Octavia Butler’s work is always intense. But even prepared for it, Parable of the Talents was difficult to read in places.
Like it’s predecessor, Parable of the Talents follows Lauren, a young woman driven by her religious revelations of something she calls Earthseed. At the end of Parable of the Sower, Lauren had formed Acorn, a small community based around Earthseed. Six years later, the world is a less chaotic place than it was during Parable of the Sower. Things are still bad, but they’re bad in a different way. Mobs of arsonists and looters are no longer the main threat to Acorn. The danger is instead in growing religious intolerance and the rise of a far right Christian group, Christian America, that wants to make “America great again.” And by “great,” they mean their type of Christianity.
The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig. ★★★
This YA time traveling book is the sequel to The Girl from Everywhere, and I suggest the series be read in order. While I find the time traveling method quite novel, reading The Ship Beyond Time made me realize I wasn’t caring about the characters enough to want to continue with this series.
Nyx has finally taken the helm, directing her family’s ship through the tides of history. She’s thrilled… until she learns what fate awaits her. She’s destined to suffer the same fate has her father, losing the one she loves. Is it possible to change time itself? A mysterious stranger claims he knows the secret of it, and he requests Nyx’s presence at a mythical island where nothing is as it seems.
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente. ★★★1/2
Catherynne Valente tackles gendered superhero tropes with this collection of six stories. The girls of the Hell Hath Club are dead, but they’ve found each other for company is the strange expanse of Deadtown. They gather together, drink Styx water, and commiserate about their lives and deaths. Superheroines, girlfriends of superheroes, supervillainesses… they all got the short end of the stick.
I’m not super knowledgeable about comic books. I’ve seen some movies, read a few issues of Ms. Marvel, but that’s pretty much it. However, I could still tell which comic book characters most of the dead girls were supposed to be. The first one, a scientist who accidentally gives her boyfriend superpowers, is clearly based off of some girlfriend of Spiderman. The extremely powerful, only woman on her team heroine with psychic powers sounded a lot like a certain X-Man. An off kilter villainess with an impressive but misplaced loyalty to her man could be no one but Harley Quinn. Another’s the wife of Aquaman, not quite dead but slipped out of her asylum to search Deadtown for her murdered son. Of the six women, there were only two I couldn’t connect to any Marvel or DC characters. One is the famous girl in the fridge, who I’ve heard of before but don’t know much about. According to other reviewers, the last is a riff off of Karen Page, who I only know from the Netflix series.
Snake Eyes by Hilary Monahan. ★★★1/2
Trigger warning: Sexual assault, violence
Snake Eyes is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. There’s no way I’m ever forgetting it.
Tanis Barlas is the daughter of the Lamia, a monstrous snake woman from Greek mythology who cares little for her human daughters. Yet she retains a tight control over all her offspring, and Tanis is forced to every month find a man for her mother to mate with and then devour. The only thing making her life bearable is her human girlfriend, Naree. But then two events change Tanis’s life forever. Her mother’s ancient enemies, the Gorgons, arrive in Florida hunting them, and Naree becomes pregnant. With Naree in danger, Tanis will do whatever she must to keep her lover safe.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. ★★★1/2
This turned out to be one of those books that makes me wonder if I’m a shallow reader. How could I not have loved A Closed and Common Orbit? All of my book friends are raving about the humanity and loveliness of it, and I’m sitting here being like, “Yes, but I was bored for half of it.”
A Closed and Common Orbit is a loose sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but can easily be read independently. Lovelace is a spaceship’s artificial intelligence system, but after a complete shut down and reboot, she wakes up in an artificial body with no memory of her prior existence. She now has the task of figuring out who she is and what her purpose is in life, as well as adjusting to pretending to be human. From the beginning, she’s aided by Pepper, an engineer who’s own past as a Jane, a clone built to work in scrap factory, parallel’s Lovelace’s. A Closed and Common Orbit alternates between Lovelace’s (now Sidra’s) start at life and Pepper’s past as Jane.