Review of The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley book cover and RRPL catalog link

An excellent speculative fiction alternate history set during the Napoleonic Wars featuring a time travelling LGBTQ+ love story. In The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley, Joe Tournier wakes up on a train station platform with no memory of who he is. He’s in London, but everyone is speaking French. When he receives a postcard with his name on it, mailed a hundred years ago, Joe journeys to the lighthouse pictured on the card and is kidnapped through a portal into the past by a mysterious man.

Pulley’s novel is at once both a romantic love story across time and space and a well-researched alternate history that examines how the use of future technology would change events in the past, and how far nations would be willing to go for information from the future. This book is for anyone who has ever wondered what would have happened if the French won at Trafalgar, if the telegraph was invented fifty years earlier, or even what would happen if a sailing ship battled against a steam-powered battleship. The twisty, turny plot may be confusing or hard to follow at first, but the payoff in the end is well-earned. Pulley does not pull her punches, either in the story or the action, but her take on naval ship battles is visceral without being over the top with gore. For anyone who loved Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.

Look for the Kingdoms on May 25!

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Discover Your 2021 Reading Goals

Like many other librarians and avid readers, I have set a reading goal for myself each January for at least the past decade. The book number tends to steadily increase, though I’ve stuck to 50 books for the last couple years. 50 books seemed daunting when I first set that goal, but after realizing I should count everything I read (not just novels) it was definitely an attainable goal. Between the single issue comics I regularly pick up and the plethora of cookbooks I seem to always have checked out, I’m able to get to my goal without too much trouble. This year I’m planning to revisit some old favorites for second or third readings (looking at your American Gods) in addition to a good variety of newly published titled and new to me titles.

If you are someone who hasn’t set a reading goal before, or perhaps you’ve struggled with not completing your goal, I’m here to encourage you to give it another try! Most importantly to remind you- if you are setting this reading goal for fun, because you enjoy reading, then make sure you have FUN! I have plenty of friends who seem to beat themselves up for not reading more, but your reading habits aren’t for any awards or competition. Read what you like, as often as you like. If that means 5 books a year, then that is fabulous!

I often hear people putting pressure on themselves to read “important” books. Just the other day my husband semi-jokingly said “2021 will be the year I read Crime and Punishment!” as he grabbed the Dostoevsky classic off our home bookshelf. Is he actually going to read this book? Probably not. Is it a book that he might feel he is supposed to read because #literature? Yes. But who really cares about all that? If all you want to read in 2021 is romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, or heartwarming dog stories, then you do you.

This year, as I ease back into my routine after some relaxing time sequestering myself away during the holidays, I’m looking at what I am most excited to read in the coming months. Below you will find some of the soon-to-be published titles I cannot wait to read in 2021!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

Getaway by Zoje Stage (no cover art available)

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Poison Flowers and Pandemonium by Richard Sala

If you are a horror fan like me I highly recommend checking out this awesome post from Emily Hughes on the Tor Nightfire blog- you can see all the horror books being published in 2021 in a handy dandy month by month list! *heart-eyes emoji*

2020 was obviously a difficult year, and even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel for 2021, we aren’t out of the woods yet so be kind to yourself and read what brings you joy and happiness. What are you most excited to read this year? Share in the comments below!

Book Review- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I recently finished Stephen Graham Jones’ latest novel, The Only Good Indians, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The book is amazing, and unlike anything I’ve read. Teetering along a fine line between literary horror (yes, there is some disagreement as to whether that exists but I strongly support the notion that it does), a straight-up revenge story, and multi-faceted narratives of various Native American experiences, it delivers some serious gore alongside real emotional pain. It’s wildly atmospheric and to put it plainly, weird. Weird in the very best way, of course.

The revenge plot centers on four Native American men getting their just deserts after disrespecting the sacredness of an elk herd while hunting on elder tribal lands. The group’s excessive spray of bullets decimates an elk herd that includes a pregnant elk, who struggles with every thing she has to survive for her calf. She succumbs to her wounds and the Blackfeet reservation’s game warden discovers their trespass which results in them being forced to leave all the elk meat behind, except for the cow who fought so hard. The four pals are banned from hunting on the reservation for ten years as further punishment, but their real punishment arrives years later.

Without spoiling too much of the story, because there are indeed some surprising twists and turns, I can say this moment of carelessness and disregard results in very serious repercussions for the four men, their friends and family, and even their pets. In the beginning readers increasingly question what is real and what is being told to us by an unreliable narrator. Eventually, through a very clever shift in perspective, readers see the truth of what is happening and the story really picks up speed as we hurtle towards a conclusion.

The Only Good Indians is a stellar example of how horror can also be literary, as Jones has crafted a deeply felt look at cycles of violence, identity and the price of breaking away from tradition, and perhaps most surprisingly, the power of forgiveness and hope. I can’t promise it will all make sense in a neat, tidy way in the end but it doesn’t really need to honestly. A #ownvoices title that is highly recommended reading for fans of horror, literary fiction, strong character writing, and twisty plots.

Trigger warning: When I say there is gore in this, I am not exaggerating. It does include some brutal ends for specifically dogs. I assure you, the book overall is worth reading and you can breeze past some of the grisly paragraphs if need be.

Check out the ebook here or request the print copy here.

The Only Good Indians is the November selection for Novel Scares book club, my book club devoted to all things horror. Please join us for a lively discussion on Zoom November 12th @ 7 pm! Registration for fall programs begins September 1st and you can register for Novel Scares here. This program is also part of the county wide One Community Reads, taking place now through September, inviting you to read and reflect about race, injustice, history, and a better future.

Happy reading and stay safe!

New Graphics Novels to Read Now on Hoopla

Throughout the past few weeks I slowed down on my reading a bit to dive into some tv shows and films, but now that I’ve nearly finished all three seasons of Hannibal (an amazing show and noteworthy if for nothing other than truly disturbing and beautiful cinematography) I’m getting back to my lengthy to-read list.

Hoopla has gotten some really great new graphic novels that I am so excited to read! Here are my top recently released graphic novels you can read right now on Hoopla- some were new just in the past month and some are releases from earlier this spring that I missed during the chaos that was April and May. Better to read late than never is a mantra I often tell myself.

From sci-fi adventures to superheroes (sometimes hero-ish? looking at you Catwoman) to stories about adorable cats, there is something for everyone in the titles above.

I also just snagged the first five single issues of The Low, Low Woods, a newer comic series put out as part of the Joe Hill presents Hill House Comics of DC. I am quite delighted to crack open issue #1- the series is by the author of one of my favorite short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado! If you haven’t read Her Body and Other Parties and you like weird feminist fiction- check it out now here on OverDrive! You won’t be disappointed. And since I generally love anything Joe Hill puts out or helps to publish, this should be a stellar series. Volume one is slated to be released this fall if you are more of a “wait for the collected volume” sort of reader *wink wink*.

Happy reading and stay safe out there!