Monthly Archives: July 2019

Review of HALO: Smoke and Shadow, by Kelly Gay

I won a paperback copy of Kelly Gay‘s contribution to the Halo universe, Smoke and Shadow.

Description from Goodreads:

Find. Claim. Profit. In a post-war galaxy littered with scrap, it’s the salvager’s motto. And with a fast ship and a lust for adventure, Rion Forge has certainly made her mark on the trade. When the discovery of a wrecked UNSC cruiser brings Rion’s past back to haunt her, stirring fresh hope into a decades-old wound, she’s hell-bent on finding answers: What really happened to her father and his ship, the Spirit of Fire?


As I said, I won this book through a giveaway and, having not read any of the previous 18 books or ever played the game, I was really going in blind with reading it. But I was able to follow it without problem and it was engaging enough. I felt it would have been better suited for a full-length novel than the novella it is. It could have done with the room to flesh it out. And there is a bit of predictable tragedy I’d have preferred to do without. But all in all, I’d be willing to read the next book in Gay’s arc of the Halo franchise. (However, having just read a review of HALO: Renegades with some pretty major spoilers in it, I guess I don’t need to. To be fair the reviewer was pointing out the events of other books in the universe that functioned as spoilers to Renegades, but having not read those other books it was their review that was the spoiler.)

Review of Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant

I borrowed an audio copy of Mira Grant‘s Into the Drowning Deep through Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

The ocean is home to many myths,
But some are deadly…

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 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.


These are mermaids of the old stories, the mermaids of nightmares, the mermaids closer to sirens that Ariel. And I loved them. Or well, not them, but the story around them. Yes, as others have commented, the book is on the slow side. Keeping the suspense high at the expense of pace. But I appreciated that. I also appreciated the love in various forms (familial, platonic, queer, straight, and strained). I liked that an autistic character got to be a hero and that somehow Mira Grant made me feel sorry for an endangered species hunting psychopath (that couldn’t have been easy). All in all, I really quite enjoyed this.

Review of Saman, by Ayu Utami

Saman, by Aya Utami is one of those paperbacks that has been on my shelf so long that I no longer remember how it got there. I’m imagine I bought it at some point, perhaps someone left it in the Little Free Library, I don’t know.

Description from Goodreads:

Saman is a story filtered through the lives of its feisty female protagonists and the enigmatic “hero” Saman. It is at once an expose of the oppression of plantation workers in South Sumatra, a lyrical quest to understand the place of religion and spirituality in contemporary lives, a playful exploration of female sexuality and a story about love in all its guises, while touching on all of Indonesia’s taboos: extramarital sex, political repression and the relationship between Christians and Muslims. 


I think maybe a lot of this just went over my head. I loved Saman as a character and I liked the others well enough. I recognized the thread that held them all together as a cast. I appreciate that the book pushed boundaries when published in Indonesia, touching on the cruelty and oppression in famers’ lives, repressive sexual attitudes, religion, transmigration and politics, etc. But in the actual reading of it, I thought the whole thing felt disjointed. At one point (about halfway through) I actually turned the book over to reread the synopsis to ensure it wasn’t actually a series of interconnected short stories. And the little twist at the end (especially the last two emails) came so out of left field that I was left baffled. For all that, there is some beautiful writing here and Saman is a character you can’t help but root for.