Book Review: The Starlight Watchmaker (2019)

The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

Hugo suddenly felt strange all over. He realised with a shock that he was happy. For the first time in ages, Hugo felt happy. It wasn’t terrible at all, talking to Dorian and getting to know him. It was actually nice.

Oh my goodness, what a gem of a find! I stumbled across the sequel story, The Deep-Sea Duke, on Scribd (what an entrancing cover, oh my gosh) and read a couple of pages before realising it was the second in the series, so I quickly zipped back and picked up this one. It’s so, so good! Charming, sweet, wholesome, feel-good. And it really just confirms for me how much I adore novellas. Smaller stories that pack a punch are just such wonderful creations! This book moves at a cracking pace, but the world-building is exceptional and slick. I’m really impressed.

The different types of aliens and planets are so creative and diverse! One of the characters that you meet is an island well on her way to becoming a planet. One of the main characters is an android. The other survives off algae grown in a tank in their enormous penthouse room. The author’s descriptions are just phenomenal.

The library was full of different bushes and shrubs lined up in rows. To choose a book, you walked down the stacks until you found the right plant and picked one of its flowers. Each petal unfurled to become a page, and black veins on it formed writing. The longer the book, the larger and fluffier the flower, with hundreds of petals covered in writing.

I also really loved how much agency each character gets, and the androids’ storyline was especially poignant. The Starlight Watchmaker reminded me a bit of Blade Runner 2049 and To Be Taught, If Fortunate, at least in terms of themes. Obviously vastly different fictional universes, but the emphasis on the humanity of androids and aliens is emphasised in The Starlight Watchmaker in a similar way to Blade Runner 2049’s depiction of android falling in love; and the importance of alien life in To Be Taught, If Fortunate. And let’s not forget the CUTE FACTOR.

Hugo and Dorian are the sweetest characters. Huge is a shy, uncertain android who was abandoned by his previous owner with no warning or explanation. He described watching the Earl’s ship fly away and it’s so, so heartbreaking. In contrast, Dorian is the son of a duke with wealth enough to afford a watch that will take him back in time. And it’s one such broken watch that brings the duke and the watchmaker together. THEY ARE SO ADORBS.

This is a must-read for sci-fi fans!

Book Review: Partners in Crime (2021)

Partners in Crime by Rachel Bowdler

I have adored all of Rachel Bowdler’s novellas that I’ve read so far and she’s definitely becoming one of my go-to authors for a lovely romance read. I totally recommend her books!

Firstly, how bloody gorgeous is this cover? I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I picked up the Kindle version of this one with the other cover, but I’m definitely grabbing a copy of the paperback because I am straight up HEART EYES for this cover. Strong noir, graphic novel vibes and I am HERE FOR IT. Secondly, this one is fabulously sapphic.

Partners in Crime features a podcast on true crime, and it’s fitting choice to read this month with the Book Trove book club as I was just watching Only Murders in the Building, which also follows podcasters of true crime. (And is also awesome, FYI.)

Bryce was special, Thea was beginning to realize. She wouldn’t find that same connection anywhere else.

As always, Bowdler manages to pack a wonderful amount into a novella. There’s romance and angst and mystery and suspense. And, like all of Bowdler’s novellas, the characterisation is just wonderful. And Thea and Bryce are impossible not to root for.

Deep down, though, she knew what had really driven Thea here. She knew why her best friend could never let these cases go, knew why she took it upon herself to try to solve them. They rarely covered unsolved mysteries on the podcast anymore. Thea always needed an answer — because she’d never gotten one for herself.

Bowdler really knows how to write characters you feel for and ship from the get go. Coupled with angst and a murder mystery, and you have all the ingredients for a great novella! Can’t wait to read her next one!

Buddy read this book with The Book Trove. We’re hoping to shine some attention on independent books and authors. These books are picked totally at random and selected by vote amongst the group.

Book Review: The Cracked Reflection (2021)

The Cracked Reflection by Terry Geo

“Once I’d gotten her to calm down a bit, she told us that her imaginary friend had punched her in the face and called her a bitch.”

Well, if that didn’t immediately give me the wiggins!

Imaginary friends, am I right? \o/

The Cracked Reflection moves along at a swift pace with a cracking dialogue. I do wish we’d had a bit more detail in some places, but as it’s a novella and teasing the larger story of book one, I have a feeling all my questions will be explained therein.

I can’t wait to dive into the next book and I think I want to reread this again after once I’m immersed in the universe! Can’t wait!

Book Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate (2019)

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch: changing myself to suit them.

I got real Lost in Space meets Prometheus vibes from this novella, and I mean that in the best way possible. And oooooh, this story beautifully well written.

I haven’t read Becky Chambers before, although I’ve heard nothing but good things about A Closed and Common Orbit and the others in that series, but I haven’t had a chance to pick them up yet. I was delighted when I got To Be Taught, If Fortunate in a random selection of science fiction books from a local book shop. [Aside: It was super cute, they have an option of a surprise book set and ask you what genre you like and then they send three random ones. I also got The Chocolate War and Scythe, which I still need to read. Both also look great!

Firstly, the writing is fantastic and the philosophical questions posed are very thought provoking. I didn’t always agree with the characters’ choices and conclusions, but I loved how they were presented and argued. This is a book that really makes you think, consider, have patience. And I love books like that. There’s a huge focus on kindness, leaving no trace and seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, which I adored. I don’t know how I feel about the ending – but it did make me feel EMOTIONS. It’s the kind of ending that really sticks with you, which, again, I love.

It must also be said that the attention given to the planets and the focus on the different creatures was SO FREAKING GROOVY. Like, lads, the ‘rats’ are going to stay with me. Oh my gosh, the rats. The descriptions of their noises gave me chills. The sea world was intense, goodness. I also have a lot of thoughts on the stationary world. The way Chambers presented everything was brilliant, honestly.

If you’re a space fiction nerd like me, you will love this!