WWW Wednesday 05/22/2019

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’m currently reading…

readingBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicone Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
This is a nonfiction book about Elizabeth Holmes and her infamous startup, Theranos. It’s exactly as wild and weird as you think it is.

The Red Labyrinth
by Meredith Tate
(Review copy provided by NetGalley.)
This is a YA fantasy novel. It has a pretty interesting concept, but it feels very YA.

The Plot to Cool the Planet
by Sam Bleicher
(Review copy provided by the publisher.)
I’ve kind of stalled out on reading this one. I need to get back to it.

I recently finished reading…

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Everything I Never Told You
by Celete Ng
Full review to come! I’d been meaning to read this for ages. I read Little Fires Everywhere when it came out, and that was my first Celest Ng book. Everything I Never Told You is kind of a family drama told in two separate timelines, detailing the events leading up to a young girl’s death and the aftermath.

The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
Full review here. This is a nonfiction book about the medical and legal struggles of a group of women who worked with radium in factories around the time of the first world war.

How We Disappeared
by Jing-Jing Lee
Full review here. This is a WWII historical fiction novel with several different point of view characters; it takes place partially during WWII and partially in the year 2000, and the story focuses on Japanese occupied Singapore.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna 
by Juliet Grames
Full review here. This is another historical fiction novel which takes place during WWII, but it focuses largely on other things. The main character, Stella, is a young girl when her family immigrates to America from Italy. The narrator is a modern woman who is a member of Stella’s family, and the novel is presented as her best attempt to piece together their family history.

Up next…

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The Space Between Time

Charlie Laidlaw
(Free review copy provided by the publisher.)
There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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What are you reading this week? Any thoughts on the books listed in this post?  Please feel free to discuss or share WWW links in the comments!

 

The “Pancake” Book Tag

The Paperback Piano tagged me to participate in this tag!

Here are the rules for the tag:

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them.

So let’s just jump into this! 🙂 pancake-book-tag-1.png

“Two weeks later, I wore a coat to school for the first time that year. Fall had made its presence known in the form of wet, earthy smells and shivering tree limbs shedding leaves in various shades of exotic cat. I walked to school that morning, listening to the crisp sounds that punctuated each one of my footfalls and the honks of geese flying overhead. I found it strange that there could be so much beauty in the death of all these living things. Maybe it was only beautiful because we knew they would be resurrected next spring. I don’t think I would enjoy fall quite as much if I knew there was an eternal winter to follow.” 

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Ruth Emmie Lang

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7235533Shallan Davar from the Stormlight Archive books, by Brandon Sanderson.

“You have quite the clever tongue on you!”
“I’ve never actually had someone’s tongue on me,” Shallan said, turning a page and not looking up, “clever or not. I’d hazard to consider it an unpleasant experience.”
“It ain’t so bad,” Gaz said.” 

“The only time you seem honest is when you’re insulting someone!”
“The only honest things I can say to you are insults.” 

Shallan is a treasure and she’s truly at her best when she is bickering with someone.

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“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” 

The Harry Potter books are the ultimate comfort read for me. The Sorcerer’s Stone was the first book I remember absolutely falling head over heels in love with, and to this day it gives me the warm and fuzzies.

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“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.” 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid hit me so hard. I stayed up way too late to finish reading it the first time, and I cried like a baby when it was over. Evelyn felt so real to me and I was so emotionally invested in the story that it felt really hard to move on to another book after that.

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The Editorby Steven Rowley. I have to admit that I felt kind of lukewarm towards Rowley’s first novel, Lily and the Octopus, but this one was a treasure. The perfect blend of emotion and humor, it was just so cozy.

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Eleanor Oliphant! (Excuse the cameo from my chubby Wendy, but I’ve just realized I’ve never taken a “proper” bookstagram photo of this book.) If it hadn’t been for all the hype around this book, I would have dropped it like two chapters in. I’m so glad I didn’t. Eleanor wormed her way into my heart in a big way.

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 

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Not a lot of books surprise me, but The Silent Patient probably had my favorite twist of all time!

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“I used to think soul mates were two of the same. I used to think I was supposed to look for somebody that was like me. I don’t believe in soul mates anymore and I’m not looking for anything. But if I did believe in them, I’d believe your soul mate was somebody who had all the things you didn’t, that needed all the things you had. Not somebody who’s suffering from the same stuff you are.” 

I’m not big on romances in general, but I will say that the relationship between Daisy and Billy in Daisy Jones & The Six was a lot of fun.

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Okay, to be fair, I know the author didn’t intend for me to like the protagonist of Lookerbut it was seriously insufferable being in her head. The POV character has been recently left by her husband after a long struggle with infertility and she has become obsessed with an actress who lives in her neighborhood. She’s… all kinds of awful.

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The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi! This book has a fairly large cast of major characters, and there’s diversity in terms of race, sexuality, and more. Also, it has a super fun heist story and a magic system. This book made my heart happy in all sorts of ways.

I know I’m supposed to tag other people to participate, but I always feel like people will feel pressured even if they don’t want to post it. 🤷 If anyone wants to participate, feel free to join in! 🙂

 

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore


The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Length: 497 Pages

Release date: April 18, 2017

Synopsis: 

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

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The Radium Girls sat unread on my shelf for a ridiculously long time before The Girly Book Club chose it for the June selection and finally gave me an excuse to move it up on my TBR. This was so incredibly difficult to read at times, but I don’t think the importance of this story can be overstated. What really struck me over and over throughout this book was the blatant disregard for (and at times the outright denial of) women’s pain.

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A Woman Painting a Clock Face with Radium – 1932 (Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

The ladies employed by Radium Dial suffered, in addition to the physical health issues related to radium poisoning, what I can only characterize as psychological torture. They were mislead about the safety issues  surrounding their work by the grossly negligent management over a long period of time, resulting in the ongoing exposure and subsequent creeping health issues. Radium Dial then denied any wrongdoing, insisting for years on end that there was no such thing as  radium poisoning, despite the existing scientific literature at the time unequivocally stating otherwise. They used every possible tactic to deny any liability, from claiming that their health issues predated their employment to denying  that they had any health issues at all.

Kate Moore’s deep respect for these women truly shines through in her telling of their stories. She notes in the post-script that, in trying to research the Radium Girls, she was able to find existing books, but these tended to focus on the legal elements or the scientific elements of the events. While these are certainly present in Moore’s book and they are necessary and interesting, there is a clear focus on these women as, first and foremost, people who lived, breathed, had hopes and dreams, and were deeply wronged all in the name of profit.

The Radium Girls brings to light an important time in history which helped open the door for sweeping reform in regards to workers’ rights and safety. The book contains endless food for though on topics such as bodily autonomy, workers’ rights, and patients’ rights… and it’s a timely and necessary reminder of the need to value people over profits.

buy

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“And Grace Fryer was never forgotten. She is still remembered now—you are still remembering her now. As a dial-painter, she glowed gloriously from the radium powder; but as a woman, she shines through history with an even brighter glory: stronger than the bones that broke inside her body; more powerful than the radium that killed her or the company that shamelessly lied through its teeth; living longer than she ever did on earth, because she now lives on in the hearts and memories of those who know her only from her story.

Grace Fryer: the girl who fought on when all hope seemed gone; the woman who stood up for what was right, even as her world fell apart. Grace Fryer, who inspired so many to stand up for themselves.”

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How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee (Review)

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How We Disappeared
by Jing-Jing Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 352 Pages

Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Synopsis: 

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.

In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is strapped into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery as a “comfort woman.” After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced still haunts her.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he never could have foreseen.

Weaving together two time lines and two very big secrets, this stunning debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, revealing the strength and bravery shown by numerous women in the face of terrible cruelty. Drawing in part on her family’s experiences, Jing-Jing Lee has crafted a profoundly moving, unforgettable novel about human resilience, the bonds of family and the courage it takes to confront the past.

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My thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

How We Disappeared is a beautiful, heartbreaking historical fiction novel with an element of mystery. There are several different story lines woven together with different point-of-view characters, but the strongest part of the novel while, also perhaps being the most difficult to read, was Wang Di’s experience. Wang Di is taken from her family during WWII and forced into sexual slavery as an innocuously named “comfort woman.”

Jing-Jing Lee’s writing is beautiful and the character of Wang Di brings a personality to a very real tragedy that could otherwise feel quite distant and abstract in today’s day and age. Despite the plethora of WWII historical fiction, there seem to be comparatively few novels which acknowledge the horrific abuse which “comfort women” suffered, much less the lack of understanding these women would have received from their fellow countrymen after the war. Despite the reality that this was a situation of sexual slavery, Wang Di knows that she cannot expect sympathy, and people will treat her as if she consented and, in doing so, betrayed her country to the Japanese invaders. Lee has portrayed that heartbreak and internalization of shame flawlessly.

While Wang Di’s story was much more dramatic, 12-year-old Kevin definitely won me over as well. His grandmother’s deathbed confession turns his understanding of his family upside-down, and he is determined to solve the mystery without the aid of his father. While his story isn’t exactly lighthearted, it definitely provides a counter balance to Wang Di’s much darker storyline and feels like an adventure.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed How We Disappeared, and definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction. I’ve seen it recommended to fans of Pachinko several times, and while I understand the comparison, I do think How We Disappeared has much better pacing (and it’s also about 150 pages shorter.) Jing-Jing Lee has brought an under-represented bit of history to life in this novel.

buy

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Thank you for reading! Have you read How We Disappeared? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames (Review)

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The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna 
by Juliet Grames

Genre: Historical Fiction, Cultural

Length: 464 Pages

Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Ecco Press

Synopsis: 

In this stunning debut novel, a young woman tells the story behind two elderly sisters’ estrangement, unraveling family secrets stretching back a century and across the Atlantic to early 20th century Italy

For Stella Fortuna, death has always been a part of life. Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents—moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed or haunted.

In her rugged Italian village, Stella is considered an oddity—beautiful and smart, insolent and cold. Stella uses her peculiar toughness to protect her slower, plainer baby sister Tina from life’s harshest realities. But she also provokes the ire of her father Antonio: a man who demands subservience from women and whose greatest gift to his family is his absence.

When the Fortunas emigrate to America on the cusp of World War II, Stella and Tina must come of age side-by-side in a hostile new world with strict expectations for each of them. Soon Stella learns that her survival is worthless without the one thing her family will deny her at any cost: her independence.

In present-day Connecticut, one family member tells this heartrending story, determined to understand the persisting rift between the now-elderly Stella and Tina. A richly told debut, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a tale of family transgressions as ancient and twisted as the olive branch that could heal them.

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My thanks to Ecco Press for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher.


“This is the story of Mariastella Fortuna the Second, called Stella, formerly of Ievoli, a mountain village of Calabria, Italy, and lately of Connecticut, in the United States of America. Her life stretched over more than a century, and during that life she endured much bad luck and hardship. This is the story how she never died.”

This book was an absolute dream. Let me get the negative out of the way first and say that the only thing that’s keeping me from rating it a full five stars is that the pacing sometimes felt a bit slow. That being said, the writing style was phenomenal and Grames really made these characters feel intimately real.

This novel is the life story and family history of Stella Fortuna, with a series of near-death instances providing the backbone of the plot. Stella was born in a rural Italian village about a hundred years ago. Her father is about as useless as can be, but her mother loves her dearly and Stella is fiercely protective of her younger sister, Tina (at least when they are young.) The story follows the family from their origins in Italy to the end of Stella’s life in the US, long after her family emigrates on the cusp of WWII.

This may sound odd, but one of my favorite things about this book was Grames’ choice of narrator; the book is told from the point of view of a descendant of Stella. The narrator’s voice is understated for most of the book, but there are moments when her personality shines through, and I think telling the story from the point of view of one of Stella’s distant family members was a perfect choice. She is distant enough from the events of the story that she doesn’t seem to have a vested interest in skewing her telling, but she is close enough to Stella as a person that there’s a real sense of emotional connection.

Grames explores Stella’s difficult transition in America so convincingly. Dragged across an ocean by a father she never even loved, Stella feels cut off from a vital part of herself. What was supposed to feel like a new beginning simply leaves her feeling unmoored, and it’s not long before her parents are rushing to marry her off. Having grown up witnessing her father’s treatment of her mother, the very last thing Stella wants is a husband.

I spent a lot of time reading this book thinking of how different things would have been for Stella had she been born in another generation or another place. Living in that time period and having the extra pressure as an immigrant to fall in line with what’s considered “acceptable” behavior for a woman, there’s a great tragedy in knowing that in another time, Stella could have lived the life she wanted without scrutiny.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is a lovely novel and an excellent choice for those who enjoy reading historical fiction and family sagas.

Content warnings: rape, sexual abuse of children

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Thank you so much for reading! Let’s talk in the comments! Tell me about a novel you love that follows the main character’s entire life story.

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WWW Wednesday 05/08/2019

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’m currently reading…

CaptureThe Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna
by Juliet Grames
(Copy provided by publisher)

This novel is the story of Stella Fortuna, her childhood in an Italian village, and making a new life in the US as her family immigrates on the cusp of WWII. Lisa See calls it the “quintessential American immigrant story.” Grames’ writing is so lovely and particularly impressive for a debut novel!

The Plot to Cool the Planet
by Sam Bleicher
(Copy provided by publisher)

This is a weird one to categorize… It has some mystery and science fiction elements. The book begins with the murder of an inconveniently outspoken climate change scientist. I’m not quite sure what I think about it yet.

I recently finished reading…

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Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson
I think most people have read Anderson’s novel, Speak, at some point in their lives. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a young adult novel about a young girl in high school struggling with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Read it. Really.) Shout is a book of poetry that shares a lot of thematic elements with that novel. I don’t do full reviews of poetry on this blog, because it feels even more subjective than reviewing a novel and I don’t like that, but I do highly recommend this book. (Content warning for sexual violence, obviously.)

Lili de Jong, by Janet Benton
This is a historical fiction novel about a young woman who finds herself in the unfortunate position of being pregnant and unwed in 1883. She goes to a home for unwed mothers with the intention of giving her baby up for adoption once she is born, but Lili finds herself unable to do so. It’s a really lovely novel about love, resilience, and injustice.

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire
(Copy provided by NetGalley.) You can read my full review hereMiddlegame is a seriously fun adult fantasy novel about two young almost-twins who were made, not born, and about the dark forces that threaten them.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West
Lindy West has packed this essay collection with a balance of humor and vulnerability. West has never been quite what the world wanted her to be, from her time as a painfully shy and awkward kid to an outspoken, large woman. She’s open about her insecurities, but seems to have largely overcome them. I really loved this essay collection.

Looker, by Laura Sims
This is categorized as a thriller; a lot of other reviewers have pointed out that the label doesn’t feel quite right, and I’m inclined to agree. Looker follows the downward spiral of a professor who has recently been left by her husband. She is obsessed with her neighbor, an actress, and her seemingly perfect life. It’s a really odd book, and it was disconcerting spending time in the head of such a venomous POV character. (Content warning for harm to animals.)

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracy Garvis Graves
I don’t read much romance, but I was lucky enough to meet the author of this at a recent book signing, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. This is a super sweet love story about second chances. The main character, Annika, is on the autism spectrum, and the way that impacts her life features heavily in the story. The main narrative is about Annika and her college sweetheart, Jonathan, rekindling a romance after losing touch for years.

Up next…

42550681How We Disappeared
by Jing-Jing Lee
(copy provided by NetGalley)

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is strapped into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery as a “comfort woman.” After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced still haunts her.In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he never could have foreseen.Weaving together two time lines and two very big secrets, this stunning debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, revealing the strength and bravery shown by numerous women in the face of terrible cruelty. Drawing in part on her family’s experiences, Jing-Jing Lee has crafted a profoundly moving, unforgettable novel about human resilience, the bonds of family and the courage it takes to confront the past.

jennabookish

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What are you reading this week? Any thoughts on the books listed in this post?  Please feel free to discuss or share WWW links in the comments!

 

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire


Middlegame
by Seanan McGuire

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 528 Pages

Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Tor.com

Synopsis: 

New York Times bestselling and Alex, Nebula, and Hugo-Award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of amoral alchemy, shadowy organizations, and impossible cities in the standalone fantasy, Middlegame.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

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My thanks to NetGalley and Tor.com for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

Middlegame is a deliciously dark and fun adult fantasy novel. Imagine one day finding out there was more than a grain of truth in the fairy tales you grew up reading. Roger and Dodger grew up in a world where a series of books about the “Up-and-Under,” written by Asphodel Baker, were hiding alchemical truths under a thin layer of fantasy. These two almost-twins find out that there is a lot more to the world and to themselves than they ever imagined.

While the story itself is a lot of fun (full of psychic links, time travel, and danger), the absolute high point of this book for me was exploring the relationship between Roger and Dodger. They meet for the first time in their own heads, with a seven-year-old Roger trying to convince himself that the girl’s voice in his head is just a new imaginary friend he’s dreamed up. Except… she knows things he doesn’t, mainly how to do the math homework he’s been totally failing to comprehend.

Roger and Dodger are polar opposites in a lot of ways; Roger lives for books and words, and Dodger lives for the straight-forward world of math. But they’re also two sides of the same coin, with their weird ability to see into each other’s minds and a strange sense of not truly belonging. They love one another fiercely and their bond really jumps off the page.

If I have any complaint about this book, it’s that the pacing can feel a bit off at times. At over 500 pages, it is a bit long, but for the most part is very engrossing. Given the sheer size of the book, it also seems odd that the rules of the universe don’t feel entirely pinned down, although perhaps this will vary from reader to reader, as I’m only passably familiar with a lot of the things McGuire employs in this book, like the Doctrine of Ethos, alchemy, and other vaguely magical concepts.

Middlegame is a highly ambitious novel and a perfect choice for those of us who like our books a bit on the weird side. Great for fans of books like The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Stuart Turton), The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson), and Dark Matter (Blake Crouch).

**content warning: suicide attempt, violence, mild gore**

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Thank you for reading! This was my first Seanan McGuire book and I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work. Tell me about an author you’ve recently discovered in the comments!

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