Thursday, July 25, 2019

Novella Mini-Reviews: Final Girls by Mira Grant & Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Mira Grant
Subterranean Press
Publication: April 30th, 2017
Hardcover. 112 pages.

About Final Girls:
"What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears? 

Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole lives—while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But…can real change come so easily? 

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival."

As you may or may not know, Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire are the same author using different pseudonyms. From my experience, it seems as though Mira Grant leans more towards the sci-fi and medical sci-fi routes, whereas Seanan McGuire has more books featuring fantasy and the like. Final Girls falls in the realm of what I would describe as science fiction with a mental health medicine focus. This was a really interesting thought experiment about an experimental new method to help estranged family members and friends develop a strong relationship using virtual reality simulations.

What I liked: I loved how Grant took the idea of how fear affects the mind and body and explored that in a new way. I was fascinated by how Esther, who tested out the experiment herself, was able to be sucked into this simulation idea despite her occasional awareness that the situation wasn't real. Grant's prose also continues to be one that easo;y drags the reader in, as she knows how to combine a simple style with strong descriptions and explanation in a way that makes this an enjoyable read.

What I didn't like: There's nothing that I explicitly disliked in this novella, but it also wasn't something that stood out to me in any strong way. I will certainly remember this novella and the premise that it explores, but there's still something about it that prevented me from enjoying it further. I think the main thing that might've have contributed to this was my lack of interest in most of the characters. Novellas don't provide much time to really connect with a character usually, but it's still possible to care about them and I'm not sure that's something that I ever really felt about the characters--even though the two main characters were developed well--which in turn caused me to feel as if I was being held at arm's length. I felt that many areas were not explored as much as they could have been.

Overall, Final Girls is a fascinating futuristic sci-fi novella with some interesting ideas to explore. I've given it 3.75 stars!

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Publication Date: January 9th, 2018
Hardcover. 174 pages.

About Beneath the Sugar Sky:
"When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests... 

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do. 

Warning: May contain nuts."

Beneath the Sugar Sky is the third installment in the ever-popular Wayward Children's series. In this book, we follow yet another member of Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children on their own journey as we get to explore even more new worlds. We visit a few worlds in this book, but the main one is a sugar-sweet Nonsense world, and as someone with a huge sweet tooth, this world spoke to me.

What I liked: McGuire has an incredibly inventive imagination and she continues to build these magnificent settings that stand apart from everything else and that come vividly to life in my own mind. Her descriptions are stunning and overflowing with beautiful prose. I loved that this book combined some new characters with old characters--all from different worlds--and readers are able to continue to learn new things about them and their character. I also really appreciated how seamlessly McGuire incorporates so much diversity among her cast of characters--it's effortless and flows perfectly, yet is also prominent enough to make a statement.

What I didn't like: Much like with Final Girls, there's nothing that I can really pinpoint that I disliked, but this installment just didn't call out to me quite as much as some of the others. Parts of it felt very formulaic and a bit lacking in some way, while other parts were beautiful and immediately grabbed my attention. I think the inconsistency really translated to my own uncertain feelings about this book. The plot was just a bit odd in this one and I couldn't find myself feeling fully invested in the stakes at play.

Overall, I've given Beneath the Sugar Sky 3.75 stars!


  1. Beneath the Sugar Sky is my least favorite of the series. I tend to gravitate towards her darker, more serious stories, and this one was just too silly for me.

    1. I also gravitate towards the darker ones. I enjoyed the world in this one, but it definitely didn't grab nearly as much as the previous ones!

  2. Final Girls definitely has an interesting premise, and that's quite the cover too. I might have to get that. I've read a fair amount of her work- mostly as Mira Grant- and I've liked her stuff for the most part.

    1. I am super into the cover, it's really a neat story idea also!

  3. I had no idea these were the same author!

  4. I love Mira Grant's Rolling in the Deep and Into The Drowning Deep. I'll have to check out more of her work soon!