Mini Review Roundup [25/05]

This was an audiobook and poetry weekend, to be sure! After finishing Gold Rush Manliness and Everything You Love Will Burn, I decided to pick up some romance and poetry. I have a lot more nonfiction on my list, but mixing it up definitely keeps things interesting. I’m also enjoying Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky, an epic sci-fi book.

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

All she wanted to do was stand there and look. Being by the sea always made Sarah feel small. Insignificant in a way that was comforting somehow.

I’m actually setting this one aside for now. About halfway done, and whilst I really do like O’Neill’s writing and I’m definitely going to try one of her other books, I’m not in the right mood for this one. I think what the book is trying to depict is an important topic to discuss – how bad relationships can become – but I don’t think I’m in the head space for it. As well, Sarah is a character that I’m struggling to connect to. I’ll probably come back to this at some point though. The story certainly does draw you in.

I also picked out a few poems to read this week as I was definitely missing poetry. Uncanny Magazine has a lot of great poetry, so I checked out some of their recent issues

Issue 31 / Issue 32.

I started with ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ by Ada Hoffmann.

Have you ever torn through a forest of books, trawling the half-naked
flotsam
of dream and the tarnish of myth, desperately seeking
a memory?

Pretty, right? I liked this one. What a lovely poem. Available here.

Followed it up with Brandon O’Brien’s ‘Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Belle’, which was brilliant.

Wanting pretty things is hunger, too,
and having is feasting, denied by few.

Available here.

I also read Annie Neugebauer’s ‘The Wooden Box’. Really liked this one!

It’s a wooden box,
ornately carved, beautifully
stained a dark mahogany.

It’s dry as I lift it up
and gently slide out the
tongue-and-groove top.

Gave me chills, to be honest! Read here.

  1. Cage of Souls | science fiction, dystopian
  2. A Small Revolution in Germany | lgbt, fiction
  3. Agnes Grey | classics, fiction
  4. The Curse of the Black Cat | fantasy, lgbt

What’s everyone reading this week?

Mini Reviews & Reading Roundup [23/05]

Today I finally finished Gold Rush Manliness. It was really good, I just kept getting sidetracked. It was a great examination of how race and gender impacted the gold rushes in California and British Columbia. This line really stuck with me: In short, the notions of white manhood established in the nineteenth century persist today, and their legacies can be seen everywhere, from the least-threatening practical joking to the most menacing expressions of white male superiority. There were loads of things in this examination that really wow’d me. Definitely recommend!

I also read Warm Up, which is a prequel story to V. E. Schwab’s Villains and Vengeful. I really liked it! If you’re curious, the book is available on Tor, here. It was dark and eerie and very well done. I loved this quote: It didn’t catch fire. Nothing ever actually caught fire. No, it all simply burned.

Beyond the Dragon’s Gate by Yoon Ha Lee is a new Tor original. Read it online, here. I quite liked it! The new issue of Uncanny Magazine is also out and I’ve started with poetry this time!

Girl, you best stop setting yourself on fire,
you may be the phoenix,
but these bones aren’t kindling
to keep others warm—

Ali Trotta, ‘Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength’, here.

Currently reading;

Still working through Everything You Love Will Burn, Agnes Grey and A Small Revolution in Germany, all of which I’m liking, although Everything You Love Will Burn is something I have to listen to in small doses. I also started Cage of Souls. It’s my first Adrian Tchaikovsky. He’s such a big name in the science fiction genre, so I’m glad to have finally picked up one of his. I’m also about halfway through Louise O’Neill’s Almost Love. The prose is really good and the storyline sucks you in, but I’m having trouble liking the main character.

What’s everyone else reading? Have you read any of the above? What’d you think?

Indie Book Promo Post

Hi guys! Fancy checking out an indie author?

To date, I’ve published two standalone novels, a novella, one series, and an anthology with several other talented writers. But I’m struggling to get more readers. It’s a tough industry to break into! So I thought I’d make a promo post to try and put a spotlight on my books.

I’d be absolutely grateful to anyone willing to give them a chance. 🙂

Haze [paranormal romance, urban fantasy]

When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancé. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?

Dust & Lightning [science fiction, no romance]

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

Spellbinding [anthology, fantasy]

Everyone knows magic isn’t real … But what if it was?

Nine tales, each one a snapshot of what happens to those who suddenly find themselves entangled with magic. From the wish that grants one sudden, unimaginable power, to a dark hex upon a wood, to faeries with nefarious intentions and hunters seeking blood, this anthology showcases the intricate web of adventure that comes from messing with magic.

A Touch of Death [science fiction, dystopian, later books LGBT]

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

A Game of Wings and Marks [urban fantasy, romance]

When Octavia Coal goes to the mountains to clear her head, she doesn’t expect to find an angel in trouble.

He tells her his name is Tamiel and he’s one of the Irin – the army of angels tasked with keeping demons from overwhelming humanity. But Tamiel broke a sacred law – he fell in love with a human – and now he’s being hunted by the same angels he once served.

With nowhere else to go, Octavia and Tamiel – along with Jack, the human in question, and her brother Caleb – appeal directly to Zev, the Demon of Games. A trickster of unparalleled power, Zev gives nothing for free, and the gift he offers Octavia to keep Tamiel alive comes with a confusing catch: He makes her the Healer of Raphael, archangel and Commander of the Irin.

Suddenly a target for both angels and demons, Octavia quickly learns that the only way to survive is to play the game better than they do.

The only problem is, she doesn’t know whose game she’s playing … 

March 2020 TBRs

currently reading

I have no ability to read one book at a time, and I’ve found myself reading several at the moment. Clearly I have the attention span of a napkin 😉 I’m hoping to get all of these read and reviewed this month, in addition to more short stories!

Demon’s Blood by Shari Sakurai:

Immortal blood is precious and Kokawa Taku’s makes him especially unique.

After vampire hunters force them to flee Tokyo, Taku and his lover, Thane, try to make a new life for themselves in England. But three months later Thane is still tormented by nightmares of the fire that almost cost them their lives. This leads to carelessness and the discovery of one of his victims.

When faced with threats from all sides Taku tries his best to protect them although his actions are met with disapproval and anger from Thane. Unknown to his lover, Taku is also struggling to keep hidden the truth of what really happened three months ago.

However, it is only a matter of time before Taku’s past and bloodline catches up with him.

Enchantée by Gita Trelease:

Love. Magic. Revolution. Enchantée is Gita Trelease’s lush and imaginative debut fantasy about an impoverished girl who must use magic to impersonate an aristocrat in Versailles to provide for her sister as her own political awakening forces her to choose sides in the French Revolution.

Paris is a labryinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose — love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic — before Paris burns.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past — both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. Paul’s intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that ‘heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down’.

André Aciman casts a shimmering light over each facet of desire, to probe how we ache, want and waver, and ultimately how we sometimes falter and let go of the very ones we want the most. We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we’ve always known we were.

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove

The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance. Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms. Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.” But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true…

While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

The Sigil by Shakeil Kanish & Larissa Mandeville

A tragic death.
A dangerous obsession.
A desperate mission.

After losing the person most important to him, Lake Smithson stumbles across a letter he cannot explain. A single brush of his finger and he is thrust into the heart of a mystery only to slowly realize that his obsession to be more, will unleash an evil that threatens all he has left.

Faceless creatures, terrifying magic, unlikely friendships, and broken promises lead Lake and his friends to walk a tight line between the mage realm, on the brink of extinction, and the human realm, on the precipice of revelation. Will Lake become the first human to wield magic or will he be the last?

 

What’s everyone else reading this month? 

The Wonderful World of Sci-Fi Shorts

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I have fallen in love with sci-fi short stories. There’s something quite fun about a short, to the point story with a punchy setting. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to sit down with a big ol’ book of sci-fi even when you’re in the mood, so the short ones are really good for giving you something fun to read that you can finish in under an hour. I started the year with The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey, and then I was directed to Tor by a friend of mine a month or so ago, and have since I’ve found so many wonderful short stories. I also don’t know why it’s taken me so long to discover the awesomeness that are online science fiction magazines! I feel so behind, honestly. 

Some of my favourites from Tor have been A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone, Skinner Box by Carole Johnstone, The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove, Into the Gray by Margaret Killjoy, These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Khaw, The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin, and His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal. They’re all available online and I definitely recommend checking them out. 

After Tor, I found Uncanny Magazine. They often offer audible versions of the stories, too! I haven’t had the chance to read loads, but I really, really liked And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands by Sharon Hsu and The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander. I’m going to dive more into the stories soon. I can’t wait!

There’s also Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and Asimov’s Science Fiction. I just listened to the audible version of Her Appetite, His Heart by Dominica Phetteplace. Lots of free stories, lots of audible versions. It’s just a plethora of sci-fi/fantasy goodness. Additionally, a kind-hearted soul on Goodreads created lists for Tor shorts, Lightspeed Magazine shorts, and Clarkesworld Magazine shorts that are really helpful if you want to go back to the beginning. 😉

Does anyone have any short stories magazines they love? Share them with me! I’m on a roll.

Mini Review Roundup

Mini Review Roundup:

Skinner Box by Carole Johnstone | available for free here. | science fiction, short story, romance, horror

Can a cognitive neuroscientist be fooled? Can an expert in the field of deep learning and AI evolution be unknowingly coerced? Can a genius be corrupted? Can a manipulator be manipulated?

Wow. This started out one kind of intense and then turned into a whole other kind of intense and I’m fairly darn impressed. Be sure to mind the warnings at the top, but I definitely recommend this! A very dark, riveting sci-fi short.

All Around the Watchtower by Ben Haskett | science fiction, short story

As soon as we awoke to those alarms, I just wanted to go back into the pod.

What a great sci-fi short!

And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands in Uncanny Magazine by Sharon Hsu | available for free here. | fantasy, short story

War, it turns out, is the easiest thing of all to make anywhere.

This was utterly gutting, but so beautifully written.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman | available for free here. | lgbt, graphic novel, romance

This is super cute and the art is wonderful. ^____^

 

New Release: Dust & Lightning (2020)

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I’m so, so happy to share my new novella with everyone! In this story you shall find: space shenanigans, a grumpy cat and a grumpier MC, friendship and banter, no romance, lots of adventure, and one dastardly group determined to ruin everyone’s day.

Synopsis: In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

Goodreads | Amazon

Mini Reviews Roundup

 

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

Now, the King’s subjects knew all about this particular forest, and avoided it like the plague, and if the Prince had thought to ask them they could have easily told him why this was so. If you know a blessed thing about royalty, however, you’ll have already guessed that he had bothered doing no such thing.

What an absolute delight this was! This is a humorous short story about three raptors and a princess against an awful prince.

An Angry Earth by Michael Poeltl

A world like ours is alive. We share it with the plants, animals, fish and insects. We share it. Every living thing is important to sustaining life as we know it …

I’d liken this story to The Wump World, which is one of my all time favourite books, and the one that made me an environmentalist before I could even spell the word. Impressing upon everyone the fragility of our world and the damage that’s being wrought by thoughtless greed is so, so important.

Bonus points for the use of the library in the story. Everyone should be encouraged to go and dig through their tomes to find information. The drawings, too, were very well done.

Definitely recommend.

Ponies by Kij Johnson

This one honestly broke my heart and really horrified me. I mean, I think that was the point. And if you like horror stories that are trying to teach a lesson, this one might be for you, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

Mini Review Round-Up | LGBT Romance

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When Red Cried Wolf (Happily Ever Asher #1) by Nash Summers | lgbt, short story

His roommate, Morgan, had been like an elusive baby deer, skittering off into the woods at the first sign of human life. Asher usually made sure not to make direct eye contact or any sudden movements around him for fear of scaring him off.

I thought this was a cute start to the trilogy and it definitely left me wanting more, but Asher was a bit too much at times. Dude needed to chill about how much he loves love, haha. Morgan was my favourite and I’m excited to see how their relationship develops in the next two.

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His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal | lgbt, short story

And then there was an arm around my waist, holding me upright again, there was a hand wiping dust, blood, and tears from my eyes. It was Shehzad Marid—ever loving, ever loyal, always on my side in my hour of need.

This was a really good short story about a trapeze master and his jinni. Available online here.

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Lovers (Voyeur #2) by Fiona Cole | lgbt, romance

“I miss you. You won’t touch me, or kiss me, or sit with me, or hold me. Nothing. And I fucking miss you.”

I haven’t read the first one in the series and I’m not sure I’m bothered to read the rest of it, but I did enjoy this one. It follows Jake, Jackson and Carina in a love ménage à trois that becomes increasingly complicated due to Jake and Jackson’s past and their intense friendship.

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Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | lgbt, short story

It smelled of diesel hearts and drudgery and overcrowded colonies; of battery acid gone bad and bromides and foundered courtships. Intoxicating, yes, but in the way of verses etched unwanted upon the spirit’s cracked windows. 

The imagery and descriptions in this are gorgeous. Available online here.

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The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu | lgbt, short story

This is the man who seconds ago risked going insane in order to feel soul-rending pain for fun. How can he suddenly look so vulnerable?

This was so random and quite good, if a bit too abrupt. I feel like I needed more information and development on the rain and on the sister. I’ve rarely hated a character so much who appears so briefly, but I wanted that addressed more in depth because she was horrible. Available online here.

Review Round Up: Three Novellas/Short Stories

The_Butcher_of_Anderson_Station

The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse #0.5) by James S.A. Corey

“Because why matters, Colonel. Why always matters. Whatever your story is, I know how it ends. It ends with you, here, talking to me.”

I am a huge fan of the television show (which I only started a week ago and am almost done with because it is awesome) so I wanted to try the books and see if I liked them. I picked the very first in the order, even if it isn’t technically the starting point and I really liked the writing!

The storyline of Anderson Station is so tragic and highlights the casualties of war and all the innocents caught in the crossfire. Fred is a very interesting character. He and Dawes play off each other well. Can’t wait to start Leviathan Wakes! I need more of Captain Jim and his crew!

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seemed to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

This is a hard one to stomach even if it is so short. I went into it not knowing the premise, so for the first part of the story I was intrigued, and then I was furious, and then I just sort of sat there and went whoa. I feel like if you know anything about the premise, it ruins the surprise, and since it is only a few pages long, I won’t go into much detail. Simply put, I definitely recommend this, even for the emotional and philosophical gut punch you will receive. Very thought-provoking and days later I’m still thinking about it.

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Marked: A Possessive Vampire Romance by Dawn Jansen

Let me stay here, underground, where it is quiet and dark. Let me sustain myself on the blood of rats and be at peace.

This short story follows Ada and Lucien, a human historian and a vampire hiding underground, respectively. Ada’s exploring the tunnels in New York for research when she runs into Lucien and accidentally pepper sprays herself in the face in surprise. But Lucien’s even more surprised, cos, you know, Ada looks like his dead lover Claire.

I stumbled a bit with how quickly they fell for each other. I kind of get Lucien’s obsession – it reminded me of Stefan and Damon finding Elena in The Vampire Diaries — but I thought Ada fell a bit quick for the lad. I think if I met someone in a tunnel and freaked out, I wouldn’t be flirting. You do you, girl, but I agree with Laura, the roommate: She told me it doesn’t matter how hot he is, there’s no way I’m going back there. BRING THAT GOOD ADVICE, LAURA. Honestly, I struggled with how consumingly Ada fell for Lucien. I don’t care if it’s gonna get me killed, if I don’t see Lucien again, I might as well be dead. Girl. GIRL. VALUE YOURSELF. Like, at least ascertain that he is not, in fact, a murderer before kissing him.

I found the vampire lore that was hinted at to be quite cool! The idea of vampires living underground because of hunters makes for an intriguing backstory. I would have loved more of a backstory on Lucien’s turn. Lord Gaston only got a brief reference and I’m desperately curious about the vampiric world building and how covens work in this. In fact, Lucien and Claire’s whole backstory went by so quickly, but teased at so much intrigue! If the author wants to write a prequel, I vote for Claire and Lucien bossing it up across Europe in the 1700s.

Overall there’s a lot to like here, but I’m a fan of the slow burn so I do wish it’d been a bit longer and given us more of a build up and backstory.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

all reviews cross-posted to goodreads 🙂