My Month in Reading, September 2019

In September, I read three more InCryptid books by Seanan McGuire, and finished out the series so far. Other than that, I read a few graphic novels and listened to a short sci-fi novella.


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Cannon by Wallace Wood

This book is definitely a relic of its time. Wood liked to write sexy action comics for servicemen, so these stories originated in comics sent to soldiers. Wood had a great art style, all bullet-headed agents and voluptuous, leggy women. He had a talent for drawing both action scenes and cheesecake pinups, and he was also especially good and looks of existential horror, which pop up once or twice in this volume.

One of the tropes of this series is that all the women are beautiful and none of them keep on their clothes. A handful of the female characters (heroes and villains both) are seemingly always nude or only occasionally dressed in see-through clothing. When given the opportunity to disrobe, they do, and if they need to escape a villain’s clutches in the altogether, they make the best of it.

This would all be a bunch of absurd, sexploitational fun if not for the threats of rape and casual misogyny that crop up throughout. I liked the art and adventure enough that the occasional sour note didn’t ruin the book for me, but my rating definitely comes with a big asterisk.

LIKED IT


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Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

I think one of the biggest strengths of the InCryptid series is its ability to support switching viewpoint characters from volume to volume. These books exist in a shared world, but every Price sibling has a different perspective on life and a unique tone that comes along with it.

The whole series is funny, but the humor in each book comes at you from different angles. This book is the first of three focusing on Antimony Price, the youngest Price sibling, tasked with an important undercover mission after the world-changing events of the last book. She also ends up joining the circus.

One nice thing about Antimony’s story is that she gets a bit of new romance, which was missing from the last few books because Alex and Verity have more established relationships. It’s a fun time to mix romance and danger with death-defying feats in a carnival tent. I’ve already purchased the rest of the series so far, so it won’t be long before I’ve finished reading the remaining books.

REALLY LIKED IT


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Imaginary Fiends by Tim Seeley, Stephen Molnar and Quinton Winter

In the world of this book, imaginary friends are real but are also trans-dimensional vampires that feed on fear, among other emotions. The main character, Melba Li, is a young woman committed to an insane asylum as a teenager after stabbing her best friend a dozen times because Polly Peachpit, her imaginary friend, told her to do it. The FBI recruits the now adult Melba to help solve a case that may involve another imaginary friend.

The art in this book is pretty great, and the story goes to some bizarre, oftentimes dark, places. I like the idea of someone who can only solve crimes with the help of a manipulative invisible monster. It’s an absurd trope, but it’s fun to see it play out in this scenario.

Unfortunately, I think this book was a casualty of DC shuttering Vertigo, and it seems unlikely the story will continue. At least the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and this story arc can easily stand alone even if there is plenty of potential for more in this world.

REALLY LIKED IT


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Giselle and Beatrice by Benoît Feroumont

This is an odd book. The art is exaggerated and cartoonish, but the subject matter is fairly explicit. It’s about a woman named Beatrice, mistreated by her sexist cad of a boss, George, until she gets revenge with magic that turns him into a woman named Giselle. Oh, and Beatrice has a penis because she was partially transformed by the man who gave her the gender-swapping magic.

After George becomes Giselle, Beatrice forces herself on her and then makes Giselle clean her apartment as her live-in maid. Complicating things for Giselle is the fact that she has a thick accent and speaks in broken English, so she has a hard time explaining her predicament to anyone. As time passes, their relationship changes in unexpected ways.

I liked the art, and the story kind of reminds me of Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, but this is also a book about two reprehensible people. George was a scumbag, but Beatrice isn’t particularly likable once she gets her revenge, and Giselle soon becomes sympathetic.

LIKED IT


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tricks For Free by Seanan McGuire

Antimony is on the run from the covenant as well as hiding from her family, so she goes to ground and goes undercover as an employee at LowryLand, a Disney-like theme park with equally soul-destroying working conditions.

It wouldn’t be an InCryptid novel if she wasn’t surrounded by cryptids and the supernatural. Her dead aunt Mary hangs around to make sure she’s safe, and her roommates are a sylph and a gorgon. She doesn’t have her mice or her boyfriend Sam, but plenty of weird stuff keeps happening around her no matter what she does and how much she tries to hide.

When Antimony runs afoul of magic users in the park, she jumps at the chance when one of them offers to teach her how to control her magic. Everything seems great until strange, unexplained accidents start happening around the park and Antimony decides to investigate even though it might blow her cover.

This was yet another highly enjoyable entry in the InCryptid series. I did get a little frustrated late in the book when it felt like the characters were constantly rushing into danger without much of a plan, but it wasn’t enough to kill my momentum. The ending sets up further complications that will surely pay off with dividends in the third Antimony book, That Ain’t Witchcraft.

REALLY LIKED IT


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That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire

And now, after six InCryptid books in a row, I come to the end of the series so far. Book nine comes out in February of next year, and you can be sure that I’ll buy it day one. I enjoyed immersing myself in this world for the last two months.

I especially liked how Antimony’s books served as a trilogy within the larger series, building a story arc that resolved with a confrontation against the most significant and dangerous supernatural villain in the series so far, while also tying up one thread of the Price family’s fight against the Covenant, now personified in Leonard Cunningham.

My favorite part of this book comes during a climactic moment that I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that it was the only moment in the series so far that made me get a little misty-eyed.

LOVED IT


⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay

I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews of Tremblay’s work, but this is the first of his stories that I’ve read, and although it was decent enough, it probably wasn’t the best introduction.

In it, an amnesiac wakes up in a strange facility and an unseen woman puts him through his paces. She prompts him to remember his past via mental and physical exercises. The tone is detached and a little unsettling, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that there is more going on than the main character first realizes.

This novella is part of a collection of thematically related short stories made available on Audible and Kindle for Prime and Kindle Unlimited users. It’s a fancy short story collection that you can download and read in any order. Even if this story wasn’t my bag, I plan on checking out the rest of the series.

LIKED IT

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The RookPublished: January 11th 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre(s): Fantasy, Spy Thriller, Comedy
Format: Hardcover
Length: 486 pages

When the heroine of The Rook wakes up, she finds herself standing in a park in the pouring rain, surrounded by dead bodies and with no memory of her life or the events that led her to her current predicament. Luckily, the former occupant of her body, one Myfawnwy (pronounced “Miffany”) Thomas, was both meticulous and forewarned, and so she prepared for every eventuality by leaving two letters in the coat our heroine is wearing.

The first starts as follows: “The body you are wearing used to be mine.” Much of the novel unfolds as a one-sided conversation between the woman Myfawnwy used to be and the one she becomes after losing her memory. For simplicity’s sake, O’Malley refers to the latter as Myfawnwy and the former as Thomas.

Thomas lays out two options for Myfawnwy to follow: she can either assume a fake identity and hide from whoever is trying to kill her, or she can work to fit herself back into the role and identity of her “predecessor” and try to solve the mystery of her attack. Naturally, she chooses the second option, or else the novel would have wrapped up very quickly.

It turns out that Thomas is a high-level bureaucrat in a secret organization called the Checquy which devotes itself to controlling and covering up supernatural threats to the UK. She also has powers of her own, as do all upper-level members of the organization. Myfawnwy discovers those powers inadvertently when she is attacked a second time and uses them to knock out several more people at once. However, as she reads more into Thomas’ history, it becomes clear that she never quite lived up to her potential. Even though she could have been powerful, she preferred desk work to field work, and had a reputation for shyness.

The conceit of an amnesiac main character is an excellent way of introducing readers to the strange world of the Checquy. Myfawnwy’s coworkers run the gamut from her fairly normal corporate secretary to an entity called Gestalt who controls four bodies with one mind. O’Malley populates this world with strange and occasionally horrible details that live in uncomfortable proximity to each other.

Myfawnwy is also a fantastic character, frequently hilarious and always likable as she bullshits her way through departmental meetings and unexpected field work. The perspective bounces back and forth between Myfawnwy’s modern-day adventures and Thomas’ letters, which fill in backstory and handle a lot of the world-building. Myfawnwy is also surrounded by great characters in the present day, from her too-beautiful American counterpart who becomes a good friend, to the disgustingly unhinged villain who confronts her later in the book.

The Rook is commonly compared to a lot of other authors and books, but it’s definitely more than the sum of its influences. The best description I could come up with when summarizing the book for a friend was that it’s a bit like The Bourne Identity with Terry Pratchett’s sense of humor. if you’ve ever read anything by Tom Holt, I think his work is a fair comparison; he also enjoys mashing up mundane things like accounting with werewolves and vampires.

The one criticism I would make of the book is that Thomas’ letters consist almost entirely of infodumps. It makes sense for the character, and O’Malley mostly gets away with it, but I do wish the balance leaned more towards Myfawnwy learning about her world through footwork rather than reading those letters.

In any case, I loved the book, and am very excited that O’Malley plans on writing more books in the same universe. The Rook wraps of Myfawnwy’s story pretty neatly, so my guess is that future books might focus on other characters, but if he does choose to revisit this character at a later point in her life, I won’t complain.

LOVED IT
LOVED IT

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