book reviews: the witness wore red, the ballad of black tom, transcription, lot, provenance, the raven tower, wilder girls

long time no write, blog. things have been weird and difficult recently and updating this has seemed literally insurmountably hard, but i also didn’t stop reading in that time, so we’ve got a backlog — reviews under the cut.

the witness wore red, rebecca musser

a book by a woman who left the fundamentalist mormon church. i more or less enjoyed this — i think it suffered a little from being a linear narrative, honestly, and she really avoided contending meaningfully with the extent to which other people in the church, including women, were complicit in the crimes of the jeffs family and the various men in power. also her husband absolutely sucks and i hope she gets a divorce.

the ballad of black tom, by victor lavalle

this is a short story rewriting a lovecraft story from the pov of a black protagonist. i think it gets at something interesting about liking lovecraft when you’re not a cishet white man — my favorite lovecraft story is “the shadow over innsmouth”, which is pretty explicitly about miscegenation. there’s some real perverse satisfaction in taking a story (in fiction or in real life!) about your being a monster or an abomination and leaning into it, and this story gets that fundamentally.

transcription, by kate atkinson

i don’t have much to say about this. it was — fine? it was fine. it’s a spy story set in WWII and was enjoyable enough, i guess, although everyone felt rather two dimensional to me.

lot, by bryan washington

ah, this book made me cry a bunch. these are short stories set in houston, with the largest set of them concerned with a gay man and his mom’s restaurant and his life; the one that made me suddenly cry, though, was the one about the baseball game. i enjoyed this a lot.

provenance, by ann leckie

a lot of ann leckie’s stuff is a little – cis. not so much as to make me angry (lol seanan mcguire fucking sucks, i genuinely got angry at every heart a doorway), but a little cis nonetheless. i did enjoy the idea of choosing your name and gender when you hit adulthood (…and honestly like – kind of ideal tbh…)

i liked this — i liked ingray quite a bit, and i think leckie’s interest in the definitions of things and what makes something one thing or another is consistently interesting. this time it was history instead of a person: neat!

the raven tower, by ann leckie

i – really REALLY disliked one of the main characters, and in general the protagonist (…more or less) i liked but really wished had been a little more assertive; once again the writing is a little cis.txt, although it’s not terrible. i liked this a little less that leckie’s other books, but it was still enjoyable and the ending was real satisfying t b q h

wilder girls, by rory power

godddd by all accounts i should have loved this book! the description that sold me on it was annihilation meets lord of the flies, and — the body horror is GNARLY, and by far and away the best part. the problem is that every relationship in this book felt flat and dull — the relationship between hetty and reese careened frantically back and forth with the exact same behaviors apparently being hate OR love, depending, and byatt’s Twisted Inner Darkness was nonsensical and hinted at without going anywhere. just disappointing, tbh, and really a shame — one of the few books where i think a couple hundred extra pages would have really helped give it room to breathe and percolate instead of being an adventure in telling, not showing.

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