Magpie Murders
Currently reading
by Anthony Horowitz
The Heart of Darkness Meets Sherlock Holmes
I'm not one to shy away from a good murder mystery book. Hell, those Bryant and May series is all about them. I usually need some sort of hook in order to be reeled in (see what I did there?) and Magpie Murders has got a beautiful set up:

The story is about a book editor named Susan who oversees the successful crime novels by Alan Conway about a Holmesian detective named Atticus Pünd. In his latest manuscript, Susan begins to suspect there's more to the story than just another Pünd mystery, but a true story of greed and murder.

This book was a bit stiff to get into - there's one brief opening chapter where Susan implores the reader to read Conway's latest book and that he's a bastard that ruined her life. And it quickly jumps into the Pünd story, set in a quaint English village, Saxby-on-Avon in the 50s. The problem is that each beginning chapter is dedicated to a prominent figure (and possible suspect) in the story and there's at least half a dozen, if not more. So it's really just a dreg to get through the exposition and set up.

I still don't know how this all ties to the present day and Susan's troubles, but I assume once I finish the manuscript, I'll get to know more.
Lovecraft Country
by Matt Ruff
A vignette of horror stories from a black perspective
When it was announced that Get Out's Jordan Peele was adapting Lovecraft Country for HBO along with J.J. Abrams, it immediately caught my attention. Despite H.P. Lovecraft's awful real life, his work is seminal in the horror genre. Modern horror owes a lot of it's psychological thrillers and unknown terrors to H.P.'s work. I didn't really know that much about the book, just that it was praised as being really, really good.

And so far, it's been quite a shock to read. Not that the stories are shocking, just the format. I was expecting more of a straight-up novel, but the book is a series of short stories that all center around two black families living in Jim Crow America during the 50s. The first story shares a lot of similarities to Get Out - a young black man goes to a white man's cult manor to rescue his captive father. But from there the story spins out into a haunted house story, a supernatural heist tale and a science fiction adventure and other bizarre tales.

The book is sublime as it puts these characters in fantastic situations but never strays from the idea that America is the more horrifying place for a black family. It's refreshing to see these genres from a different perspective - that of a black family that includes strong women and geeky, sci-fi loving nerds.

You can read my final review here.
Persepolis Rising
by James S. A. Corey
The start of a new trilogy in The Expanse Series.
If you're a science fiction fan, you owe it to yourself to read The Expanse books. Persepolis Rising is the seventh book in the series about the near-future of humanity. It has fairly humble beginnings looking back after 7 books, but you wouldn't know that when you start to read the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Humanity has conquered the solar system and hasn't quite figured out how to reach beyond.

Scientists uncover a strange, living alien artifact dubbed the protomolecule and this proves to be the spark for all sorts of drama - war between the Earth and Mars and the Belt colonies (a loose collection of space stations and colonies on moons beyond the asteroid belt) and corporate conspiracies. Suffice to say, there's a lot going on and it's quite epic.

And just when you thought that the series had done everything, Corey (a pseudonym for authors Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck) flashes forward nearly 30 years and sets up a conflict that's just as engaging as the rest of the stories. I didn't think I would enjoy seeing these characters age, but after throwing the crew of the Rocinante into the fire, it's good to cozy back up Holden and his posse. This time around, they have more experience and aren't learning any lessons here - this story is more about the politics and jockeying for humanity's soul and the book is a great set up for the final trilogy.

Read my final review here.
Bryant & May Series
by Christopher Fowler
Finishing up the oddball detective series.
I happened upon one of the Bryant and May mysteries at the library about 10 years ago. And I read about 5 or 6 of them, out of order. I decided I wanted to catch back up with these characters and stories, so I've been reading and re-reading all 13 books so far (there is a 14th, but won't be released in the US until next year). I'm finally on my last stretch of books (taking 4/5 at a time) and I think this series has gotten a lot better with time.

Bryant and May are two very old, archaic detectives in London who run the Peculiar Crimes Unit - a police force tasked with solving crimes that no one wants and are oddities. Which is great - Arthur Bryant is this idiosyncratic curmudgeon who consults witches and psychics and old books for help in solving his cases. The books are enamored with London's rich history and the off-beaten paths of the city. May is his faithful companion, a more by-the-books man who is the yin to Arthur's yang.

I will say I think Memory of Blood was treading water with the series, but Invisible Code felt like a big leap forward (much like the 7th installment which shook things up). This time the writing and characters and story felt much more important and serious. Things from past novels come to a head in this story and it feels like the Unit is more integral to society than ever, whereas past novels I felt the PCU was seperated from present-day London. I'm halfway through the books and I cannot wait to finish these books.

Read my final review here.
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
Magic and science collide in a bizarre story.
Patricia and Laurence had some really messed up childhoods. Abusive parents and harassment at school by bullies, they find each other in school and their bond helps them get through the hell that is their lives. After drifting apart, they both find their respective niches in life - Patricia, a witch and Laurence, a scientist - but also find themselves fighting each other when it comes to the fate of the world.

I don't know if I could classify this as a young adult novel, but it certainly plays out like one. I'm not a huge fan of books about magic users and witches, but so far the more fantastical parts are more fun than fleshed out. I don't know if the author intended to be mysterious when it came to describing how magic worked in the world, but it's a good hook nonetheless.

The characters have been really good. They both can be assholes and hurt eachother and some of the inner dialogue happening feels real. It's an emotional story more than I thought. If you're looking for a hard science fiction book, this is not it. This is more about the two characters and them colliding and drifting together over and over throughout their lives.

Read my final review here.
S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst
Sleuthing it out amongst the margins.
S is a wholly unique experience. I say experience because it's not just reading a book. You have to get involved. And if that's off-putting to you, then you should just avoid this book at all cost. I'm about half-way through reading the book and I still have no idea exactly what I'm reading. S. is at once a 1949 book titled Ship of Theseus written by an elusive writer named V.M. Straka. And within that book's conveniently wide margins lies another narrative - one of correspondence between Eric and Jen who find themselves caught up in the mystery of the book and author itself. Two scholars who become obsessed with finding out who V.M. Straka really is. The book comes with an assortment of letters, postcards and paraphernalia to help to guide you along the modern story.

And it's fascinating. I know the ending will leave me with more questions than answers (thankfully the internet has got that covered), but damn if I'm not enjoying trying to figure things out. The original story - Ship of Theseus - is a weird time-traveling tale of a amnesiac protagonist and his inevitable encounters with revolutionary figures. And Jen and Eric see the novel as a metaphor with coded/hidden messages that reveal who Straka is and the mysterious and secret "S" organization. 

This is going to take several read-throughs to fully form a picture of what's happening, so I don't know how I'll feel after I close the book for the first time. It's an astonishingly grand endeavour for the writers and I cannot help but admire their ambition.

Read my final review here.