Book review of River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

I decided to review both of Sarah Gailey’s novellas—currently collected in the volume American Hippo—in one post.

What the publisher says:

River of Teeth:RiverofTeeth

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

TasteofMarrowTaste of Marrow:

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the dam that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.

Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.”

In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

My thoughts:

River of Teeth:

A delightful premise, a diverse cast of characters, and a heckuva lot of interpersonal conflict made this novella an enjoyable read. It’s basically a Mississippian western with hippos. A southern? It’s also a caper plot, something that the characters debate at length, much to the reader’s amusement.

Winslow Houndstooth once had a hippo ranch until it was burned to the ground with his beloved hippos inside and he was forced to leave that idyllic life behind and resume a less reputable one. He’s taken on a commission from the government to blow up the dam that keeps feral hippos trapped in the Mississippi so that the river can be reclaimed for travel and commerce. The owner of a riverboat uses the ferals for his own nefarious ends, however, and he’s not interested in letting Houndstooth and his crew achieve their goal.

And Houndstooth has ulterior motivation: the riverboat owner is also the man responsible for the destruction of his ranch. If he and his crew complete the commission, he can also exact his revenge.

Taste of Marrow:

This novella continues the story of Houndstooth and his crew after the events of River of Teeth. While the dam was destroyed, the chaotic events leading up to that qualified success leave Houndstooth and his crew scattered. Houndstooth is obsessed with finding his lover Hero, denying the possibility that they may be dead. The one crew member with him, Archie, worries for Houndstooth’s sanity.

Meanwhile, Hero travels with Adelia the—retired, she insists—assassin, believing that Houndstooth was blown up along with the dam. With Hero and Adelia is Adelia’s newborn Isabel and when their erstwhile employer kidnaps Isabel to coerce Adelia out of retirement for a very special assassination, it sets Houndstooth and Archie, Hero and Adelia, and the federal Marshall who’s been trying to bring Adelia to justice, on a collision course in Baton Rouge.

My ratings:

Four out of five stars for both!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 3-9, 2017

Here’s your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Autocrit offers five quick editing wins for December. NaNoWriMo Tumblr

Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary gives an agent’s take on NaNoWriMo.

Lance Schaubert writes a defence of spoilers. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass objects to the willing suspension of disbelief. Writer Unboxed

Lynne Griffin stops by Writer Unboxed. Dying to know, afraid to find out: building tension in fiction.

Allie Larkin is refilling the well. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie: the big ole scary monster at the window. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau looks at identity as a theme in YA. DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson teaches you how to use small forms as steps to a novel. DIY MFA

Jonathan Vars: five tips for building tension into your scenes. DIY MFA

James Scott Bell visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: ten ways to goose the muse.

Julie Glover wonders, what motivates you to finish? Writers in the Storm

Kristen Lamb says all wounds matter: writing better stories.

Jefferson Smith guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: how can we improve our readers’ experience? Story immersion.

Author Amal El-Mohtar was detained for hours in customs because she was travelling to the States … even though she’s a Canadian citizen. CBC

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel lecture: my twentieth century evening and other small breakthroughs.

Steph Farnsworth: science fiction, speculative fiction, and the problem of imagination erasing race (featuring Nisi Shawl). Stand Up

Here is part one of Adam Fitzgerald’s interview with Samuel Delaney: don’t romanticize science fiction. Literary Hub

Kari Maaren writes through grief: unfinished. Tor.com

Stephanie Marchie describes what happened when she enlisted an algorithm to help her write the perfect piece of science fiction. Wired

Jess Zimmerman: when bad men define good art. Electric Lit

How we eclipse women’s literary brilliance with scandal. Sarah Seltzer for Jezebel.

Sarah Gailey: fear of the female voice. Tor.com

I hope this writerly goodness will sustain you through the week!

Be well until Thoughty Thursday.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 16-22, 2016

Just to let you know. I’m participating in #NaNoWriMo this year, but I wasn’t able to take much time off in November. So I’m working. And, I’ll be out of town, training for the day job, for the first week. And I’ll be at Wordstock Sudbury the weekend I get back. And I’ll be helping to launch the SWG anthology, Sudbury Ink. On the weekend of the 12th/13th (the day/date is yet to be determined).

So, it’s going to be a busy month.

As a result, I’m not going to be blogging at all in the month of November. I will be able to complete and schedule the curation posts for the first week (Tipsday on Nov 1st and Thoughty Thursday on Nov 3rd), but, after that, you won’t be seeing another post until December 3rd, when I’ll be doing a double monthly update for October and November.

I just wanted to let you know ahead of time, so you won’t be expecting posts, or wondering where the heck I am.

I’ll be well, and writing 🙂

Your #NaNoWriMo round up for the week:

K.M. Weiland reviews the WriteMind Planner (plus a chance to win!). Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy guest posts on Kate’s blog: three ways to instantly spot telling.

Chris Winkle shares five ways to hide your foreshadowing. Mythcreants

Vaughn Roycroft suggests the synopsis as a way to revision success. Writer Unboxed

Dave King helps you meet your characters on Writer Unboxed.

Janice Hardy asks, which character is the heart of your story? Fiction University

Writing a series: how much do you need to plan ahead? Jami Gold.

Alex Bloom makes a guest appearance on The Write Practice: what most writers don’t know about screenplay structure.

Steven Pressfield: what works and what doesn’t.

Gail Carriger discusses one of her literary influences, Mercedes Lackey.

Sabaa Tahir picks Patrick Rothfuss’s brain about writing sequels and impostor’s syndrome. Tor.com

Sarah Gailey wants to see more mentally ill women protagonists. Tor.com

Authors share their views on cultural appropriation. The Guardian

Marlon James: why I’m done talking about diversity. Literary Hub

Finally! An infographic that breaks down the big five and their imprints.

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan reports on a gorgeous typeface that drove men mad and sparked a 100-year mystery. Gizmodo

Charles Dickens and profanity. Bryan Kozlowski for The Millions.

Azhar A. Alkazwini documents the influence of the Norman Conquest on the English language. Medievalists.net

Five portmanteau words you want to start using. Sad and Useless

Hephzibah Anderson settles in with The Wide Sargasso Sea, the book that changed Jane Eyre forever. BBC

Looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2? Check out this teaser trailer! Brian Raftery for Wired.

Women will direct every episode of Jessica Jones, season 2. Beth Elderkin for i09.

All the best until Thursday 🙂

See you then! *waves*

Tipsday