Square3 – Mira Grant

One moment, nature had laws and generally followed them, unenforced and unpoliced. One moment, everything was normal. The next, physics and mathematics were negotiable things, and the supposed laws that had always governed biology were shattered beyond all repair.

Seventeen year old Katharine and her fourteen year old sister, Susan, are almost close enough to one another when the incursion happens. Almost.

Now an adult, Susan works in “rift physics”, the world she knew as a child changed in ways her and other scientists are still trying to come to grips with. Katharine, meanwhile, is on the other side of the rift. Susan doesn’t even know if her sister is still alive. That side of the rift is where the monsters came from, after all.

“Sometimes you have to be inside a thing to understand it”

I preordered this book in May 2021 and may have accidentally burned the cover image into my brain since then. It had me expecting more monsters per page than I actually encountered but the monsters I met were well worth the anticipation. 

I loved Katharine and Susan and the ways they looked after one another as kids. I loved the science and how easily I believed all of this was not only possible but potentially imminent. 

Just in case this novella winds up in the non fiction section, it’s been really nice knowing you. No matter which side of the rift I end up on, it’s practically a certainty that I’m a goner. Maybe I’ll be too mesmerised by the impossible colours to notice the monsters. Maybe I’ll be too curious about the possibilities of the other side of the rift. Maybe I’ll irritate the wrong kid. 

“Should I be alarmed?”

”It won’t change anything if you are, so I wouldn’t bother wasting the time if I were you.”

Bonus points for the delightfully appropriate chapter numbering and Susan’s Project title. 

Now, if someone would please commission a companion novella written from Katharine’s point of view or a sequel, I’d be a really happy soon to be squished, melted or otherwise mangled rift casualty. And if that could happen some time in the next, oh, 130 days, that’d be awesome.

Heads up: the incursion happens on 16 May 2022. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“This is a safety light!”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We think we understand the laws of physics. We think reality is an immutable monolith, consistent from one end of the universe to the next. We think the square/cube law has actual relevance.

We think a lot of things. It was perhaps inevitable that some of them would turn out to be wrong. 

When the great incursion occurred, no one was prepared.  How could they have been?  Of all the things physicists had predicted, “the fabric of reality might rip open and giant monsters could come pouring through” had not made the list. But somehow, on a fine morning in May, that was precisely what happened.

For sisters Susan and Katharine Black, the day of the incursion was the day they lost everything. Their home, their parents, their sense of normalcy … and each other, because when the rift opened, Susan was on one side and Katharine was on the other, and each sister was stranded in a separate form of reality. For Susan, it was science and study and the struggle to solve the mystery of the altered physics inside the zones transformed by the incursion. For Katharine, it was monsters and mayhem and the fight to stay alive in a world unlike the world of her birth.

The world has changed. The laws of physics have changed. The girls have changed. And the one universal truth of all states of changed matter is that nothing can be completely restored to what it was originally, no matter how much you might wish it could be.

Nothing goes back.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House – Mira Grant

I fell in love with Julie Dillon’s cover illustration at first sight. It’s so delightfully ominous and between the house that should be mine and the promise of tentacled creepiness I was sold. I may have already been sold by the fact that my all time favourite author wrote it but even if I hadn’t, that illustration would have clinched the deal. Having said that, this is the first Seanan/Mira book I’ve read where I didn’t fall in love at first page and I feel like I’ve somehow failed as a reader.

Spindrift House has had a great deal of time to decide what it wants to be, and what it wants to be is unforgiving.

On a hillside in Port Mercy, Maine, “A Healthy Place for Families”, you will find Spindrift House. It was built some time in the 1800’s and while local legends disagree on many of the details, everyone agrees it was built by someone who wasn’t a local, someone who died soon afterwards by falling from its widow’s walk.

There’s a mystery about Spindrift House that needs to be solved and the Answer Squad (this book’s Mystery Incorporated equivalent, minus Scooby-Doo and Scooby Snacks) are certain they’re up for the task. The Answer Squad are:

Harlowe– “cryptography fanatic, mystery freak, beloved nerd”. Harlowe, the brains of the Squad, is a girl with a tragic past. She’s in love with Addison and is the foster sister of Kevin.

Kevin – foster brother of Harlowe. Kevin lives on a family farm with his mother, he has an older brother and adores his pet chickens. He doesn’t date.

Addison – best friend of Harlowe and Andy’s twin. She snores and shares the role of “being the beauty and being the bruiser” with Andy.

Andy – Addison’s twin. He’s the quiet one and has anxiety.

The difficulty with being a recognized member of a teen detective club is that “teen” was always a limited-time offer.

Harlowe doesn’t want to lose her found family and hopes that solving the mystery of Spindrift House will keep the Squad together.

Once we reached Spindrift House, nothing would be simple, or predictable. We were counting on it. The word for a simple, predictable mystery is “solved.”

This is a Mira Grant novella. There’s no such thing as simple.

And you may want to stop reading now because I’m about to go off on a really weird tangent but for some reason I can’t help myself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So, I’m not one to shy away from telling anyone who will listen about Seanan McGuire. Every Heart a Doorway was life changing for me and secured her place as my favourite author of all time. While I still have many, many of her books to read I’ve figured out that, while written by the same literary extraordinaire and having definite similarities, Seanan and Mira books have different flavours. It’s like they’re both caramel but Mira books are salted caramel, or perhaps because of the sciency bits, they’re more like NaCh caramel.

While this book was labelled salted caramel it felt more like caramel with some geometry, so maybe caramel of a specific shape, one without straight lines. While I love all caramel I was expecting one type and although there were traces of it, I also found more of the type I wasn’t expecting. Why did I use that analogy?! Now, not only have I confused myself, I’m hungry too.

“Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved.”

Anyway, while I enjoyed this read I’m not desperate to reread it, and that’s a first for me with Seanan/Mira. I didn’t connect with these characters, the ending felt rushed and I feel like I somehow messed up an incantation or something, because I didn’t feel the magic I’ve experienced while reading literally every other book of hers so far.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and stillbirth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nature abhors a straight line. The natural world is a place of curves and softened edges, of gentle mists and welcoming spirals. Nature remembers deviation; nature does not forgive.

For Harlowe Upton-Jones, life has never been a straight line. Shipped off to live with her paternal grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her mother and father, she has grown up chasing the question behind the curve, becoming part of a tight-knit teen detective agency. But “teen” is a limited time offer, and when her friends start looking for adult professions, it’s up to Harlowe to find them one last case so that they can go out in a blaze of glory.

Welcome to Spindrift House.

The stories and legends surrounding the decrepit property are countless and contradictory, but one thing is clear: there are people willing to pay a great deal to determine the legal ownership of the house. When Harlowe and her friends agree to investigate the mystery behind the manor, they do so on the assumption that they’ll be going down in history as the ones who determined who built Spindrift House – and why. The house has secrets. They have the skills. They have a plan. They have everything they need to solve the mystery.

Everything they need except for time. Because Spindrift House keeps its secrets for a reason, and it has no intention of letting them go.

Nature abhors a straight line.

Here’s where the story bends. 

More Walls Broken – Tim Powers

“Divergent reality, quantum mechanics! Ghost raising!”

Vitrielli was working on transmigration of souls before he died. Ainsworth and Blaine need information from him. Cobb just wants tenure and got roped into this late night expedition to the cemetery. They had planned to summon Vitrielli’s ghost and take him back to the lab in a thermos to question him but naturally things didn’t turn out as expected.

“His memory is what we want. What he took away with him.”

I’m all for parallel universes and ghosts, and I loved that chocolate was one of the items required to attract ghosts in this novella (who isn’t attracted by chocolate?!), but ultimately the hype I created in my own mind let me down.

I wished for this novella on NetGalley (which was always going to be a long shot) and then patiently waited for its release, hoping I’d be able to buy the ebook. In the meantime I read an excerpt which hyped me up even more. I kept trying to find ways to buy the ebook but because I live outside of America that wasn’t an option. (Oh, the joys of loving books and not living in the bookish promised land!) I finally asked my library to buy it for me and they did! I love my library! But after months of anticipation I think my expectations became unrealistically high.

I enjoyed this story. Really, I did. It flowed well. It was written well. It left me half satisfied by the ending and half wanting more, which I quite enjoy in a story. I’d just hoped for something more groundbreaking and less predictable. I was waiting for all hell to break loose and, while the ramifications of this trio’s experiment with the afterlife were interesting, the story was a lot more contained than I had hoped.

Content warning for death by suicide.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As this ingenious new novella, More Walls Broken, begins, a trio of academics have just entered a deserted California cemetery late at night, bringing with them a number of arcane devices aimed at achieving an equally arcane purpose. What follows is the sort of dizzying, mind-expanding entertainment that only the always reliable, always astonishing Tim Powers could have written.

These three men, professors in the “Consciousness Research” department at Cal Tech University, have come together to perform a seemingly impossible task. Their goal: to open a door between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and to capture the ghost of the recently deceased scientist Armand Vitrielli. For their own desperate reasons, they hope to avail themselves of the secrets Vitrielli left behind at the time of his death. Their experiment, naturally, fails to come off exactly as planned.

A door between the worlds does, in fact, open, letting in something – someone – completely unexpected, and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate throughout the narrative.

Intricate, intelligent, and always thoroughly absorbing, More Walls Broken mixes fantasy and quantum physics in utterly unique fashion. The result is a brilliantly imagined account of multiple realities and unintended consequences that is pure dazzle, pure storytelling, pure – and unmistakable – Tim Powers. In book after book, story after story, Powers has set the standard for literate imaginative fiction. With this essential, beautifully realised novella, he has done it once again.

Kingdom of Needle and Bone – Mira Grant

The difference between hero and villain was so frequently in the paperwork that most people never thought to file.

I love this book and I need MORE! Part of me adored that ending and another part of me, the greedy reader part of me, needs to know what happens next! In detail!

This was my very first Mira Grant Seanan read and I’m in awe over how much I loved it. I accidentally found Every Heart a Doorway on my library shelf in October 2016 and it became, over the course of one day, my all time favourite book. However, I’d hesitated to try a Mira book as I had this bizarre notion that they may not be for me. Well, to that I now say, ‘Pish posh! And bring me another!’

Seanan’s characters become real to me in such a short space of time. I become fully immersed in their world and the only reason I didn’t finish this book within a day was because life vaguely imitated art. Nope, I don’t have Morris’s disease but I did have a lovely time with food poisoning.

The outbreak was beyond control long before anyone realized it was happening.

Julie Dillon’s dust jacket illustration is absolutely jaw dropping and made me need this book before I even read the blurb. It’s just so delightfully creepy and mysterious and sinister.

I would advise with this book that you read the blurb but not much else. I want everyone to experience this book as I did, not knowing how everything was going to unfold until it did so with each page turn. The only thing I would mention is that if you’re strongly against the use of vaccinations then there’s a fair chance this isn’t a book you want to add to your TBR pile.

No matter how much she wanted it, this was one nightmare she would never wake from.

I am the proud owner of copy 35 of 1250 signed numbered hardcover copies. ❤️

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We live in an age of wonders.

Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.

Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.

How wrong we could be.

It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.

She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.

We live in an age of monsters.