Speculative Chic year-end roundup

If you aren’t a reader of Speculative Chic, the other blog I contribute to, here’s a run down of what I’ve posted there this year.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann LeckiMy review of Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

I reviewed Ancillary Mercy, the third and final installment of the Imperial Radch trilogy,  over at Speculative Chic as part of our series on 2016 Hugo nominees. I may not have reviewed Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword (books one and two) anywhere — and that needs to be rectified at some point, but I have read them. I’d say Ancillary Justice blew my mind, and the other two cemented Leckie as an author to keep reading.

super-extra-grande-by-yossMy review of Super Extra Grande by Yoss

Super Extra Grande was an impulse read picked up from the library based on the back blurb and the slim size (I can’t often commit to longer books anymore). It’s about a veterinarian that specializes on ginormous space animals, so of course I wanted to read it.

sff-geek-list1A Geekish Gift Guide – this year instead of posting my usual bookish gift guide, I created a “Geekish” one inspired by my fellow contributors over at Speculative Chic. From SFF movies and TV to gaming and banned books, we have a wide range of interests. This was a fun one to put together. Hope you enjoy!

Finally, I talked about a few of “My Favorite Things” over the year:

Unlocked by Courtney Milan

Unlocked
Courtney Milan

This is a 99 cent eBook that was for a brief time over the end of last year, free, so I pounced on the chance to try this new-to-me Romance author.
 

The Premise: Ten years ago, Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfield realized that the cutting remarks he used to cover up his huge crush on Lady Elaine Warren was actually turning the vibrant girl he liked into a subdued social pariah. Ashamed of himself, Evan left England. Now he’s back, and he finds Lady Elaine unmarried and still the object of mockery, and she does not like him. Evan wants to apologize, but Elaine does not trust him, nor can a mere apology erase what he had done. This is a bitter thing, but Evan has to try, because now that he is older and wiser, he knows that he’s head over heels in love with her.
 
Read an excerpt of Unlocked here
 
My Thoughts: This story begins at a ballroom. Evan Carlton is back from abroad and can see firsthand what he has done to Lady Elaine. While his cousin still snickers and pokes fun, Evan has gained a lot of maturity in his ten years away, and watching Lady Elaine, he bitterly regrets his past and her current exclusion from society. For her part, Lady Elaine thinks that Evan’s return is a personal nightmare and wonders what other games he has planned for her. He was the worst tormentor of them all, and she had made herself sick because of him.
 
This is a story where the hero has clearly wronged the heroine, but the excitement of reading it is all the raw emotion that the past stirs in both characters when they meet again in the present. The narrative hints at the person Evan was as Elaine reacts and his cousin Diana gleefully resumes their old habits, and the person he is, as he tries to tell them both that he is different. At the same time, we also glimpse Elaine’s state of mind – her worrying over the guest list at the party, her shock that it is not as “safe” as she wanted because Evan and his cousin are there, and her determination to laugh her awful laugh to show that they have not won. I adored the tension of the first few pages as Evan tries to apologize, and Elaine suspects everything he does is a trick. Of course, running through all their interactions is an undercurrent of attraction that Evan is only too aware of, and Elaine interprets as something else.  Evan has to make a dramatic gesture in order to get any trust.
 
I loved the first half of this story, which dealt with Evan’s return and his first attempts with Lady Elaine. I found their every interaction charged with Evan’s longing and Elaine’s wariness, and it was delicious reading to see what Evan does to try to get past Elaine’s walls. I’m one of those people who loves the slow build-up of a relationship over time. Evan and Elaine’s interactions were just charged with unresolved emotions and I was eager to see them gradually understand one another. Unfortunately, in a novella, there is no time for gradual relational development and this story takes a short-cut. It novella skips ahead in time after the premise has been laid out. The second half of the book has these two in a new, better phase in their relationship, although Evan secretly holds hope for more. The story continues from their in the way you would expect.
 
Overall: If you are a fan of unrequited love and heroes who have to prove themselves, this novella fits the bill. It showcases the juiciest parts of the romance (first meeting, a bit of drama, and a happy ending) and a lot of people will love Unlocked for it. But… the relationship journey is my favorite part, and I wish that part in the story wasn’t fast-forwarded, especially after the emotional undercurrents at the beginning. I didn’t take to the second half of this novella the way I took to the first after that. On the other hand, a novella is only so long. 99 cents is a bargain for what you get here.
 
Courtney Milan has published books through HQN, and Unlocked looks to be her first self-published effort (although I see a couple more since).
 
Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (eBook)
 
Other reviews:
Dear Author – A
Smexy Books – A
Cheeky Reads – “an amazing story”
Book Girl of Mur y Castell – “Wonderful”
Pearl’s World of Romance – 8.6 (Great)
One Good Book Deserves Another – 5 stars (out of 5)
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books – “I wouldn’t say it’s the best thing I’ve ever read, but it is a nice romantic escape”
Genrereviews – 4 pints of blood (out of 5)

Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews (Novella)

Magic Gifts
Ilona Andrews

This is a novella from the Kate Daniels universe that was a free gift for fans over the Christmas holidays. It was a limited time only download, so I don’t think it’s up anymore, but word is that it will be published with the upcoming Gunmetal Magic if you missed it. In the timeline of the series, this fits right after the last Kate Daniels book (Magic Slays, which is book 5).
 
The order so far:
Book 1: Magic BitesGoodreads
Book 2: Magic Burnshttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 3: Magic Strikeshttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Novella – Magic Mourns in Must Love Hellhounds anthology – https://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 4: Magic Bleeds – https://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Book 5: Magic Slayshttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg
Novella – Magic Gifts
 

 **** Magic Gifts probably has major spoilers of the relationship variety and minor spoilers of the plot variety for anyone who hasn’t read the first five books. ****

The Premise: Kate and Curran are out for a nice dinner at a local restaurant when a gift of a necklace at a nearby table ends in death and mayhem. Tracing the origin of the necklace before its latest victim, a seven-year old boy, can die, while also dealing with owning a business, being the Beast Lord’s consort, her grumpy best friend, and the politics of the Mercenary Guild, and you have your typical week in the life of Kate Daniels.

My Thoughts: At 97 pages (how long the pdf was on my nook with small text), this felt like a nice long novella, and fit much of the style of the previous books. As usual, Kate has her hands full in all aspects of her life. First, there is her struggling business at Cutting Edge Investigations. Her best friend Andrea is handing a big case and is off the page much of the time, but there is clearly something going on there that will be expanded in Gunmetal Magic. Then, there is the Mercenary Guild.  They want Kate to settle a dispute about Guild leadership, and Kate isn’t eager to be the deciding vote.

While those distractions are going on (the Guild business takes up a lot of Kate’s time), the meat of the story is about the necklace. This is a series that does not stick to one set of mythologies — we’ve seen Celtic deities, Indian demons, and Russian witches. This time, the mythology is of a Nordic flavor, which made me think I was seeing nods to Tolkien, but now I think it’s the Norse mythology he used in his books. Kate has to consult the Neo-Vikings for their expertise, and we get to see another new monster as part of the investigation. As creepy-crawlies in the Kate Daniels universe goes, I found this one quite nightmarish, thank you, but other than that, the impediments to solving the case were relatively minor, and this felt like a condensed but still substantial, version of the full-length books.

Overall: Quite satisfying and met my expectations of what a Kate Daniels story should be. If you are already a fan, you won’t be disappointed by this one. If you are not, I suggest you begin with the first book and work your way through the series before you get to this novella.

calico_reaction – 6 (worth reading, with reservations)
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive
One More Page – 5 stars (out of 5)

Novella reviews: Fairy Tale Fail & Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra

I first heard of Mina V. Esguerra on Chachic’s blog when she reviewed Fairy Tale Fail. This is a Filipino author who writes chick lit set in Manila. I always love a book NOT set in the usual places, and filed it away for future reference. At 99 cents each, I didn’t think I could go wrong with either Fairy Tale Fail or Love Your Frenemies, the two options I found at the Barnes & Noble ebookstore. Of course, I went with the one with “Fairy Tale” in the title first. 🙂 Since these are each about 200 pages, I thought I would review both of them in the same post.

 

Fairy Tale Fail
Mina V. Esguerra

The Premise: Ellie Manuel is a young twenty-something working girl and free spirit. She enjoys her job in Marketing, but work is not the end-all and be-all of her life. Travel is her real passion, and can spend hours constructing her next vacation. From what to eat to where to stay, the options are limitless. Ellie is a dreamer for sure, and she is convinced that life is like a fairytale. There are only seven types of stories, but in Ellie’s life, she is the Hero, and eventually, she will get her happily ever after. That is why, when her boyfriend Don dumps her because they aren’t “in sync”, Ellie is sure it’s all just a part of her Hero’s Journey. Don will come back if she stays true. Then months pass, and Ellie isn’t so sure. She gets promoted, makes friends with the cute guy of the office, and begins to feel happy, without Don. Wasn’t Don her True Love? Or was she mistaken?

My Thoughts: It was very interesting to read about life in the corporate world that’s so different from mine. Not only do I know nothing about Marketing or Client Services, but the corporate culture in Ellie’s life sounds so different. Just the fact that there were a lot of young people in Ellie’s office blew me away (there is a serious dearth of people my age where I work), but that there is a social life among them? I’m jealous. I loved the concept of the barkadas – circles of friends and how they tied into the story. How social the work culture seems! I also enjoyed the glimpses of life in Manila like the food and the torrential rain that are a part of life there. Peppered throughout the story are Filipino words that I usually could guess the meanings of within the context. I wish there was a glossary, but I didn’t *need* it.

Ellie and Don belonged to the same barkada at work before they started dating. When Don breaks up with Ellie, it’s very painful for her, and it’s made more so because Don is still within her circle of friends, and he was there first. With Ellie’s feelings on her sleeve, things are very awkward with Don, Ellie, and their work barkada.  I really felt for Ellie during the breakup and it’s aftermath. I think most people have experience with a bad break up. The fallout amongst friends and the little dramas that play out afterwards felt very realistic (the dialogue felt particularly spot on as well). Ellie’s situation conjures up those feelings of denial, depression, and bargaining that are part of the grief process, although I wondered and worried about Ellie. She just wouldn’t get angry at Don nor would she accept her relationship with him was completely over, but this is obviously the crux of the story.

Ellie has to get herself out of her post-breakup rut and regain control. So she makes some changes like moving to a job in Client Services. She takes some trips alone, and makes friends with Lucas, the cute guy with Rock Star hair. Lucas at first doesn’t seem like Ellie’s type. He’s tattooed, a smoker, and agnostic, and office gossip has him dating one pretty girl after another and fathering a lovechild. For a nice Catholic girl, he hits everything on Ellie’s no-no list, but the more she gets to know Lucas, the more she realizes that her first impressions were wrong. They have a charming relationship with the sort of easy conversations you only have with your very best friends. A year later and Ellie is more like her original self:

“Ellie the Free Spirit was the girl [Don] fell in love with, the kind of person he kept comparing Ellie the Girlfriend to, and apparently by being away from him I was restoring myself to that state.”

It isn’t exactly a surprise where the story goes from here, but it is nice and satisfying the way it does.

Overall: This was a short and sweet chick lit that charmed me with it’s whimsical main character, easy dialogue, and feel-good romance. As a bonus, the Manila setting gave me a glimpse of another culture, and I’m always hungry to learn about places I haven’t been.

Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (eBook)

*****

Love Your Frenemies
Mina V. Esguerra

The Premise: Kimberly Domingo grew up in privilege. A fixture of the Country Club, she was raised alongside two daughters of her mother’s college circle, Chesca and Isabel, who became her closest friends. In high school, she got what she wanted by being direct (and intimidating), and at work, she got ahead easily with the same directness and ambition. She was the girl people loved to hate. The only person that can trip up Kimmy is Manolo, an on-again, off-again fling she’s had since she was fifteen. Unfortunately, Manolo’s M.O. seems to be: make Kimmy melt, then disappear. Then Kimmy met Zack. They were supposed to get married, but Zack broke off the engagement, leaving Kimmy the object of scorn and rumor. Unable to deal with it anymore, Kimmy left the country. Now, many months later, she’s back for her her best friend’s wedding. This time though, Kimmy thinks she knows how to get her life back in order – by cutting off the toxic friends that put her in the position she found herself in months ago.

My Thoughts: This story is told in alternating chapters that tell the story of what’s going on now that Kimmy is home, and what happened months ago, before her failed wedding. There were times, reading about Kimmy’s past, that I just didn’t understand her, particularly at the start this story. Compared to the dreamer main character Fairy Tale Fail, Kimmy was a much harder character to love. She’s a girl who is incredibly confident that what she thinks is how things are, who doesn’t seem to have any regrets being a Mean Girl growing up.

“If you went to school with us, you would think that Chesca and I had a lot of friends — but really, it was just us. We let one girl join our “group” because she had a driver and her own car. Another because she was good at math and she let Chesca copy off her once. We also kicked people out of our group fairly regularly, if and when they stopped being useful, so yeah, we weren’t very nice.
And this is how we did it: Chesca invited the girl into the group, and I eventually did something to kick her out. But we made decisions together, and just played different roles. She was always the angel, and I was always the witch.”

Kimmy is self-aware about who she is. This is the story about the not-nice girl – the girl who is actually the villain from the point of view of another Esguerra book (My Imaginary Ex), much like Darcy of Something Blue by Emily Giffin. She’s not so nice, but at the same time, it’s obvious that she’s still going through something and she hasn’t figured out her life yet. It takes some time, but slowly the reader begins to realize that Kimmy could be harder on herself and her friends than they all deserve. How she sees things colors what really happened, and people change as they grow up. I really liked the way Kimmy’s relationships were portrayed in this book. They were a little dysfunctional but realistic. It was refreshing to have a story with the dramatic best friend that demonstrates her love in a different way.

Love Your Frenemies felt like an internal story. We’re in Kimmy’s head a lot, and a lot of history and back story is implied. She grew up with Isabel and Chesca and Manolo and they are such a huge part of her life she will always feel their impact. It takes a little time to get into that part of the story, but it feels very organic the way Kimmy narrates as things happen and as she remembers the past. I really enjoyed the perspective from a more messed up, less happy heroine. If I were to have a complaint, it would be that I wanted more of a connection to the romance. I could tell that it was the kind of romance that devastates a person, but I felt like I was seeing it through the lens of time, and I wanted to understand Manolo’s perspective better.

Overall: The trials and tribulations of the not-nice girl was a refreshing perspective in this chick lit novella and I liked the depth and development that went into the story in such small space.

Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (eBook)

Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews

Silver Shark
Ilona Andrews

My book reading has taken a little detour into contemporary YA this month (three reviews in the genre forthcoming), but never fear, I’m not abandoning my love of speculative fiction.

Here’s a novella to tide you over. Silver Shark is the second novella set in the Kinsmen universe (the first is Silent Blade https://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i1.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg, which was published by Samhain, but each book can be read out of order), which is being self-published by the authors. This review is based on an eARC that I requested and received from Ilona Andrews.

The Premise: Captain Claire Shannon is the leader of a team of psychers on the planet Uley. For 300 years her people on the Western Continent have been fighting a war against the Eastern Continent. Claire’s team uses their mind to connect to biological computer networks . They can infiltrate enemy networks, take data, and kill telepathically. They are incredible weapons, and when her side loses the war, aware that her abilities make her a dangerous tool no one wants alive, she hides herself in the civilian population and is shipped off as a refugee. Her mind hidden behind layers of protection, Claire is just a mousy secretary on the planet Rada, but hiding her true ability could be a problem, because her first job interview is for a position with Guardian Inc, which is a company that specializes in “Extrasensory Security Protocols and Biocybernetic Safety”. In other words, she has landed in the midst of pyschers, and her boss, Venturo Escana, head of the Enscana kinsmen family and Grade A pyscher, is the lion in this proverbial den.

Read an Excerpt of Silver Shark here

My Thoughts: Rada, the world in which most of Silver Shark takes place, is also the same world that Silent Blade was set, but while Silent Blade dealt with hired assassins, and physical abilities, Silver Shark is more about telepathic ability and hidden identity. In other words, you don’t need to have knowledge of the world building of one of the novella’s to understand and appreciate the other. In my opinion they may be read in any order, although yes, the couple from Silent Blade does make a cameo in Silver Shark, but I don’t think that a couple getting together in a romance counts as a spoiler.

Silver Shark is 98 pages (ARC length) compared to the 48 paged Silent Blade, so it’s no surprise that the world building felt more involved. This story revisits Rada, but describes it as seen from a foreigner’s perspective – very bright and beautiful compared to the drab, utilitarian (and war torn) Uley, Claire’s home planet.  I liked the way these places worked with the plot, but what I particularly liked was the depiction of the biological computer networks that only telepaths can access. The visual representation of code reminded me of the Scarabaeus series by Sara Creasy, but it in not quite the same way – more like being inside a dream than outside it. I really liked how lush and dangerous this computer world was and how Claire and others saw it.

This is a science fiction romance spin on the boss/secretary trope. In this case, the boss, Venturo Escana has little clue that the drab off-worlder that he decided to rescue is in fact a psycher like himself. Claire on the other hand, is very aware that the first impression she made was off as a fresh-off-the-boat bumpkin, but while her suppression of her true self keeps Claire safe, her attraction to Venturo makes her unhappy that he doesn’t know the real her. I really liked how the story drew out the tension of Claire’s dueling desires and the potential that she would be discovered (and shipped back to certain death in Uley). With this being a romance, as a reader you know Venturo has to find out, but the when and how are unknowns. All I will say is that the execution of the reveal was delicious.

I was also tickled by the thoughtful spins that were put into the boss/secretary story. Of course there is the science fiction setting that is integrated into Venturo’s business, which involves providing security for systems that run on biological networks, but there more than that. For instance the issue of power and consent is addressed in a unique way (which as a bonus shows some insight into Venturo’s POV).  The subplot of cut-throat competitors and a long term grudge with the owner of a rival firm was another nice touch that felt familiar and yet different from your usual Businessman Boss romance.

In the end I really enjoyed this one, and I do find myself rereading my favorite bits with a bit of a grin on my face. The only thing that kept it from being a home run was my reaction to the ending. I felt like I didn’t really get an explanation from Venturo for his decisions, and the story switches gears and ends before we ever do. If not for that feeling of incompleteness, this checks all my boxes. Recommended unreservedly.

Overall: Really, really enjoyable. If you like Boss/Secretary romances, Ilona Andrews, or SFR, then get this. I think $2.99 is a steal for this feel good, entertaining SFR that you could read in one sitting.

Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (nook)

Other reviews:
Leontine’s Book Realm – 4 stars (out of 5)
Literary Escapism – positive
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive

Dark Nest by Leanna Renee Hieber

I liked The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Persephone Parker – it was very Gothic and different.  So when I found out on The Galaxy Express that Leanna Renee Hieber had also written a futuristic fantasy novella, and it won the 2009 Prism award, I said – “holy crap, I want to read that”. Earlier this year the author contacted me and offered me a copy to review so I jumped on the chance.

The Premise: This is the blurb: “Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth has just found out her long-time lover, the powerfully gifted Chief Counsel Kristov Haydn, has died. Newly evolved psychically gifted humans have been sent by the Homeworld on a space mission aboard two distinct “Nests”. Relationships between the Light Nest and the Dark Nest have faltered and Ariadne is sure there’s something insidious behind it. In a matter of hours, Ariadne must find out what really happened to Kristov, unite her people to discover vast new powers the Homeworld denied them, or else submit to genocide.”

Read an excerpt of Dark Nest

My Thoughts: The setting with two ‘nests’ in space, both full of people who are Psychically Augmented, one light – who believe in order and suppression of emotion, one dark and more dramatic, intrigued me.
In terms of setting, there were several details about the ships I enjoyed. I think the Light Nest made me think of the Enterprise with it’s clean lines and bright spaces, but I loved the first introduction to the Dark Nest: “A vast, stylized, silver-blue steel Notre Dame now floated through space, giving a new and literal meaning to “flying” buttresses.” I’m not sure why they looked like this, but it ‘s lovely to imagine.

The story hints that the nests were not so divided as they are now, that outside forces deliberately put a wedge between the sister spaceships.  When the story begins, the difference in the nests have become so pronounced that there is hardly any interaction between the two at all. All the Nesters went to the same school and have past history, but the visits that used to happen between the two ships, have ceased except for Couriers who send messages back and forth for business purposes.  There are low rumblings about the slow separation between ships that have been working together (searching for worlds that can support human life), but few question it. Nor do many question the intrusive watches on everyone -the monitoring of emotions and the information sent back to Earth.

Dark Nest won the Prism award, and I can’t find anything but glowing reviews of it online, but I had one problem with the story, and that was that by the time this story is told, I feel like I have to catch up to where the characters already are, and so things seem to happen too quickly and the ending came too soon. When Ariadne’s ex, Kristov, dies, at the beginning of the book, Ariadne is surprised to hear he was murdered, possibly through the order of the Homeworld because of his rebellious views. Much has already happened by the time that Kristov Hadyn dies, and the reader learns through Ariadne how far things have gone.  The romance mostly happens off the page as well. Ariadne has a back story with the person she ends up with, and a flashback to their past is what we get in terms of romance. When they meet again, there is low conflict between them. I think Ariadne feels more stress in thinking of seeing him again than with actually seeing him. His personality is such a draw to her that all he does is give her his special look and they’re together again.. The conflict in this story instead lies with the two types of Nesters and their Homeworld (What exactly is the Homeworld’s plan for the Nesters? Is it true that they used brainwashing and lies to divide the two ships?) but that too seemed quickly resolved: the rebels have a plan. I  thought the writing and the setting were well done, but if I could wish for something, it would be more in terms of not learning things after they were already established like the romance, the plans for the rebellion, and the insidious workings of the Homeworld; I’d rather read about them as they happened.

Overall: I liked the writing and I liked the setting, but I wish there was more.  This is a novella so by it’s very definition it’s short, but I think I still wanted to experience events as they unfolded, rather than feeling like I was getting the wrap up of a longer and meatier story.

Buy: Amazon (paperback) | Powells (paperback) | B&N (ebook)

Links:
Interview at Kwana Writes
Interview at Gossamer Obsessions
Interview at the Book Butterfly
Interview at Galaxy Express

All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis

Connie Willis
This book was in my library’s FOL sale area and I picked it up because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything by Subterranean Press used anywhere. They usually have limited edition runs and they are collector’s items no? I picked up All Seated On the Ground by Connie Willis for a dollar. I was surprised to then find that this book sells for over $40 online. Maybe I will keep it now (but don’t worry, you don’t have to spend $40 to read the novella. It’s all online at Asimov’s here).

This is a small hardcover novella and at 126 pages it’s a very quick read. The jacket blurb says that the author is “a huge fan of the holidays and their accompanying frivolity and nonsense, and has written a marvelous array of Christmas stories”. This is one of them. The story starts off in Denver where a space ship has landed on the Denver University campus, and six aliens have gotten out. Instead of doing anything expected like trying to take over the world or kidnap Earth women, these aliens just glare at everyone in disapproval.

In an effort at communication, the goverment formed a commission “consisting of representatives from the Pentagon, the State Department, Homeland Security, the House, the Senate, and FEMA, to study them”.  Months pass by with little result, only more glares. When it failed, another commission was formed. Then another one when that failed. The third commission includes our narrator, Meg, who had written humorous newspaper columns about aliens before and after the arrival of these beings (by now called the Altairi). At this ppint, the fervor over the Altairi has died down and it’s close to Christmas. The only thing the commission has figured out is how to get the Altairi to follow the commissioners to various locations.

One day, they take the aliens to a mall and the Altairi suddenly sit down in unison. Dr. Morthman, the chair of the commission is very excited, yelling orders everywhere and demanding to know what caused this reaction. Despite wanting answers, he never pauses to listen to anyone else, and ignores Meg when she tries to tell him anything. So Meg goes off on her own to figure it out with the help of a choir director named Calvin Ledbetter.

Overall: I thought this was a cute, lighthearted, story with a tongue-in-cheek message. There’s also a lot of Christmas and other holiday season songs, many versions of which I’d never heard of. Probably a nice story to read aloud closer to Christmas season. I wouldn’t say to go buy it for $40 though. Only if you are a diehard Willis fan and need to complete your collection. I mentioned it’s free online right?

Subterreanean press link