Books finished in October 2015

1. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (audio book) by Susanna Clarke
2. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
3. Fiendish (audio book) by Brenna Yovanoff
4. Celestial Inventories (short stories) by Steve Rasnic Tem
5. Failure Lyric, poetry by Kristina Marie Darling

Still reading at the end of the month:
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie and Attachments (audio book) by Rainbow Rowell. Both are wonderful.


1. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (audio book) by Susanna Clarke

For those who loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and want to spend more time in the 19th century Britain of magic and fairies, this collection of stories is a must read. Mixing historic detail with myth and magic, these stories expand upon the world she’s created in wonderful witty ways. One of the things I love is how the many of the stories center around women, such as in the title story “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” which reveals another side to magic not seen in the novel. In another story in which Mary, Queen of Scots, attempts to get revenge through magical embroidery.

Even if you haven’t read the novel, this small collection of bite-sized stories would make a great introduction, in order to see whether the style suits you and whetting your appetite for the main course.

2. All the Rage by Courtney Summers

This is a rough, beautiful book that explores the after math of rape and the brutal reality of rape culture. Ostracized by her community for accusing the sheriff’s son of rape, Romy Grey becomes tried to find ways to escape from what happened to her while being unable to forget it because of the constant bullying from her classmates. She wears red lipstick and nails as a kind of army and takes comfort from the people she works with at a small diner outside of town. But the sense of disassociation from herself grows after a girl goes missing under potentially violent circumstances.

This is a heavy, emotionally wracking story. It is also beautifully written. Summers perfectly captures Romy’s voice and inner journey. Such a powerful story, one that made me cry several times. Highly recommended.

3. Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Fiendish is a dark and modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Clementine is placed under a powerful spell as a child, one that keeps her sleeping for ten years while roots grow through the cellar where she is hidden. She ages as she sleeps. A local boy named Fisher finds her and draws her out of the dark. The town she wakes to is divided, with the crooked (a term for magical) people of the willows on uncomfortable terms with the people in town.

Although there are a number of threats to be faced, the core of this stories is Clementine’s relationships with her family and with Fisher. I love the way Yovanof weaves dark and unsettling images and events with a modern southern small town. A fun read.

4. Celestial Inventories (short stories) by Steve Rasnic Tem

This collection was a mixed bag for me, some stories blowing my mind with their beauty and lyricism and others not grabbing my attention at all. On the whole, however, I would say that those stories that were wonderful outweighed those that were not as much (for me).

My favorite story of the collection was the first, “The World Recalled,” which
tells the story of a man’s life backwards through a series of surreal vignettes. The man witnesses (or imagines) a tree of keys, a kitchen table that tells very odd time, a ladle for stirring better perspective into the daily news, a colander hat, and other odd objects. “He kept telling his nurse to keep the closet door closed: incremental weather was hiding among his old coats and pants, and he certainly didn’t want any of that slipping unnoticed into his room” (from “Closet Weather”).

This focus on ordinary objects made strange or wonderful is clear in several of his stories, including “When We Moved On,” in which an elderly couple choose to leave behind their home filled with object-bound memories, and the title story, “Celstial Inventory,” in which a man closes himself up in an apartment and begins to make an inventory of everything within.

Another theme I found fascinating was the exploration of art and what it means through very dark mediums. In response to world that is virtually disease free, an artist puts his body through the pain and suffering of a variety of diseases as a kind of performance art in “The Disease Artist.” Meanwhile, in “Head Explosions,” terrorists are causing people’s heads to explode, but instead of dying, the people continue to live with grotesquely rearranged heads in floral and other graphic designs, which the narrator takes as a kind of art. And a beautifully mournful explorations of capturing a family’s final moment with a lost loved one is presented in “The Bereavement Photographer.”

I also enjoyed a couple of the fairy tale Tem presents. “Little Poucet” is a dark noir retelling of a classic tale and it one of the most disturbing stories I’ve ever read, in all the best ways. In “The Woodcarver’s Son” a father’s tears fill a house while his wife haunts it, forcing the son goes to a local witch seeking a cure for his father’s sorrow.

5. Failure Lyric, poetry by Kristina Marie Darling

I keep meaning to write a full review for this and submit it somewhere. The short version is it’s wonderful.

In the meantime, Kristin Marie Darling talks a bit about her book of prose poetry in this interview.