Into the Drowning Deep

Cover of Mira Grant’s book Into the Drowning Deep - under black water, red hair and a hand seem to sink

Title: Into the Drowning Deep
Author: Mira Grant
ISBN: 9780316379403
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: November 14, 2017
Page count: 512
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5 stars!

Goodreads description:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price. (From Orbit Books)

My Review:

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! I finished this book with full-body goosebumps and chills!

Into the Drowning Deep is a TERRIFYING and FUN read! If you’re trying to stop biting your nails, this is maybe not your best choice of books, because YIKES, the pacing is tight! I mean, killer mermaids?! What more do you really need in life?

This book is super page-turnery – I was frustrated every time I had to put it down to deal with real life. It has a BIG and fantastic cast of fleshed-out characters (more flesh for the mermaids to eat? Hahahahaha, I digress). There are queer & bisexual main characters, deaf twins (who are not having the hearing world’s crap, thankyouverymuch), so many smart scientists and someone called a sirenologist, which sounds like a pretty great job if you ask me. This book passes the Bechdel Test so many times over that I think it made up for books I’ve read in the past that didn’t. I loved that the story pivoted around climate change repercussions!

This looks to be the beginning of a new series from Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire in case you didn’t know). Surprisingly, there is no cliffhanger ending, so do not let that hold you back from picking it up. However, the door is HUGELY WIDE OPEN for future books. I can’t WAIT!

Thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for a copy of this this book in exchange for an honest review.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Cover of the book Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. A group of kids and a dog stand in silhouette with a tentacled monster in a lake in front of them. Pinks, greens, oranges.

Title: Meddling Kids
Author: Edgar Cantero
ISBN: 0385541996
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: July 11, 2017
Page count: 336
Genre: Mystery/Horror
Source: NetGalley
Rating: Unrated

Goodreads Description:
1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven’t seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she’s got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter’s been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.


With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids taps into our shared nostalgia for the books and cartoons we grew up with, and delivers an exuberant, eclectic, and highly entertaining celebration of horror, life, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.

Review
As a lifelong fan of Scooby Doo (who had VERY STRONG OPINIONS of such things as the creators changing the theme song when I was 4), I thought this sounded like a fun romp of a book. It might have been, but it contains some really troubling language that was both unnecessary and extrememly disappointing.

For example: Pretty early on, as we’re getting introduced to all the main players in the story, we’re taken to an asylum. The opening scene there is one of the main trouble spots. The author is setting the scene, talking about other patients there before we even meet Nate. On one page he describes a character named Kimrean – so the character has a name. But in two different instances, the character is referred to as “the hermaphrodite.” At first, the term took me aback, because we have much better language to talk about trans/intersex life these days. I wondered if I was being “overly sensitive” because it IS supposed to be 1990. But then when I went back to reread it, it’s not just the term hermaphrodite that is troubling. It’s the fact that he refers to a named character as both “the schizophrenic hermaphrodite” and again as “the hermaphrodite.” Why?! It’s such incredibly othering language, and it’s just lazy. That is what makes it offensive. Despite it being set in 1990, it was written long after that -and I am CERTAIN that the author could have handled this scene with more care. Instead, he went for the cheap laugh (of the “look at all the freaky people!” variety), and it really failed.

So, if I could excise that scene from the book and my memory, how would I feel about the book? It was okay. I didn’t love it, but it was definitely a unique story. There is a sense of snarky, overly clever humor (the kind where you can imagine the author being so entertained by his own wit) threaded through that might work really well for you, or it might make you cringe – it was about 30/70 worked/didn’t work for me. Words like “tragichuckled” don’t exist FOR A REASON.

The pacing was odd. And there are no chapters, just Parts (I think 1-5). I kind of missed the endpoint of chapters for pacing’s sake. It was the kind of book where if I was reading it, I found it compelling enough, but I was NOT rushing to get back to it between readings. I should say that I have never read Lovecraft, so I can’t speak to that aspect of the book.

If it was cleaned up a LOT, and sensitivity readers/writers were brought in, it could make a fun summer movie – that’s what I kept thinking as I read it.

But as it stands, it needs a rewrite. I could not in good conscience recommend this book to anyone as it is now.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Cover of the book Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova on a white background with tiny yellow flowers

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
ISBN: 1492620947
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Page count: 336
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Library
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads summary:
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Review: 4 Stars!

I really enjoyed this! It has familiar tropes that you can slip right into (heroine who doesn’t appreciate her gifts and acts rashly without understanding the whole situation, a little bit of a love triangle, and a quest to redeem her actions) – but it felt totally fresh. The underworld of Los Lagos was really original – I loved all the fantastic creatures we met there (and some were pretty scary!). The description of the colorful landscape itself was really great – I would *love* to see this is as a movie or mini-series! I can see it as supersaturated, so many purples and oranges…

This book was a page turner – the short chapters might have had something to do with that? Whatever it was, I liked it, I felt like I was flying through it without rushing at all. The pacing is absolutely perfect – no lulls or long drawn-out boughts of hand-wringing.

Alex felt totally believable to me as a teenager – she’s confused, she’s afraid of her magic, she’s unsure of her feelings – but she’s also not taking any shit, she’s brave, and she stays true to herself. Her growth as a character over the course of the book felt really authentic. I worried a bit about The Chosen One trope, but I think the author handled it in a really cool way – I won’t say anymore because I hate spoilers.

Side note: The Devourer reminded me of a scarier, waaaay meaner version of David Bowie’s Jareth, The Goblin King, from the movie Labyrinth (which is one of my all-time FAVES). She had a much more developed backstory though (I mean, who the hell is Jareth? How did he become the Goblin King?!) ANYWAY, she’s a worthy foe, and I want to see someone’s rendering of her cool steel and bone dress and mask.

The system of magic that Córdova created is really cool and original, and I thoroughly appreciated her Author’s Note at the end where she explains what’s real, what she used as inspiration for the fictional pieces, and where you can learn more about each facet.

Also: it’s rad that this book is populated 100% by people of color. And, bonus queer rep. If that’s a thing you try to read more of (I do!), then know that this book has it.

All in all – two very enthusiastic thumbs up to this book. It’s fun, it’s heart-felt, and it’s super satisfying. I will give a side WTF to that epilogue, buuuuut, I guess since it’s the first in a series, we’re just going to have to come back to see what’s up with that in Book 2! Very much looking forward to the next adventure.