Artemis – Andy Weir (2017, Broadway Books, New York)
I had such fun reading Andy Weir’s first book The Martian, and it was just as much of a romp reading Artemis. Even if you’re not a typical reader of science fiction, you’ll enjoy the entertainment value in Weir’s work – the science is palatable and light (but hardly forgotten!) and the sassy, smart, strong protagonists are just as flawed as we need them to be. In Artemis, Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a smuggler on the titular moon colony. Lured by the promise of a big payout, Jazz gets in way over her head when a juicy contract proves deadly, and she needs to use both brains and brawn (and enlist the help of some unlikely allies) to…well…stop the bad guys from doing really nasty things to the moon and its residents. This is a good old fashioned mystery with an extremely well-crafted and planned exotic setting and a clever (and at times, hilarious) first person narrator: a delightful, cozy combination.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble – Amy Stewart (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York)
If you remember me burbling with excitement over the first book in this series, Girl Waits With Gun, then it probably won’t come as any surprise that I liked Lady Cop Makes Trouble even more. This fictionalized story of the unconventional Constance Kopp, who in real life was one of the first female police officers in the United States, picks up where the first novel leaves off, with the newly-deputized Constance doing her best to help keep Bergen County safe from unsavoury elements (when she’s not looking after her quirky family, that is). All hell breaks loose when Constance makes a mistake while keeping custody of a high-profile criminal and she knows she must take drastic action or risk losing her job and harming the livelihood of her boss, Sheriff Heath. This book is less constrained by real events as the first book was, which may or may not matter to readers (it didn’t, to me – storytelling is storytelling and this is a fine example of what you can do with the spark of historical fact if you totally run with it). Careful, detailed character development and moments of poignant emotion and humour make this a real gem.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson (2015, Flatiron Books, New York)
I wasn’t previously familiar with Jenny Lawson’s work as The Bloggess, but since reading Furiously Happy, I’m a follower-fan; her sense of humour and positivity in the face of serious illness is entertaining and inspiring. Everything is fodder for her wacky, unique take on the world, and while her completely no-filter style and raunchy language may not appeal to everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of frequently outrageous, laugh-out-loud, yet poignant (and occasionally devastating) essays. I regret not reading Lawson’s first memoir Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) before I got to this one; a bit more background on her life and her family would have been useful. Let’s Pretend… is now at the top of my TBR pile.
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) – Jenny Lawson (2012, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York)
(One month later) Okay, so I just ripped through Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, which, as it turns out, is just as satisfying, rewarding, and unladylike-guffaw-inducing as Lawson’s second book. I read most of this in public spaces and although I tried really hard not to burst out laughing, it happened more than a few times. Zombies in the backyard, gigantic metal chickens, taxidermy alligators, laundry, colon cleanses, giving birth…it’s all here. And more. And it’s priceless.
I just couldn’t stay away. 😉
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Keystone Chronicles – Juliana Rew, Editor (2016 Third Flatiron Publishing, Colorado)
Third Flatiron Publishing recently released another highly entertaining anthology, Keystone Chronicles, and once again, I’m delighted with the creative theme. For this volume, writers were encouraged to place a keystone object or concept at the heart of their stories and run with it – and they certainly did. Standouts for me include Marilyn K. Martin’s walloping opener “Our Problem Child: Langerfeld, the Moon” (also available as a podcast here), Brandon Crilly’s dark and brilliant take on a VR world in “Coding Human,” Maureen Bowen’s delightful mythology of the Three Fates (“Splinters”), the gut-kicking development of Edward Palumbo’s “Desol8,” and Bascomb James’ “TANSTAFFL,” in which there are serious repercussions for tapping into resources of unknown origin. As always, the humorous flash fiction pieces that are included with every anthology are a treat; I especially got a good chuckle out of Larry Lefkowitz’ “Rejection” (the scourge of writers everywhere), and Damian Sheridan’s “Remembrance of Saint Urho” was laugh-out-loud fun. The diversity of style and voice and the solid talent of all of the writers involved makes for a fantastic read. Throw this one on your e-reader for the holidays, you’ll be happy you did.
7 Ways to Sunday: Stories – Lee Kvern (2014, Enfield & Wizenty, Winnipeg)
The dynamics of human relationships comes out in dark, often uncomfortable, and always thought-provoking ways in this powerful collection of shorts from Alberta writer Lee Kvern. Standouts for me include the heartbreaking “Snapshots (in Bed),” a catalogue of all of the losses of a dying woman, “LEAD,” a brilliantly-told vignette of a lonely teenager, and the title story, which recounts the unspooling lives of a selfish man and his family. These are not quiet stories; they crackle and explode with hard lessons and gut-wrenching surprises.