Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew.

Review:

One of my personal goals this year is to read more Scottish literature and when I saw this book on the list, I fell in love with the cover. It’s so beautiful I want to buy my own copy of it (and it was good enough that I’d happily have a copy to lend to people).

Before her death, Dylan’s mother travelled to a small fictional community in Scotland, called Clachan Fells, and bought a caravan in cash knowing that the family business was deep in debt and this way Dylan would have somewhere to live after his home was repossessed. He moves into the caravan and soon falls for his neighbour Constance. Constance has a young daughter called Stella and the story focuses primarily on the three of them and how they cope with the winter as it gradually gets colder and colder.

The characters are all really interesting and I loved how unashamed Constance was about being polyamorous and how accepting she was of her daughter when she came out as trans. The setting of the slow encroach of winter was fantastic and evocative and although Clachan Fells is a fictional setting, it was really brought to life and felt like a real place somewhere not far from Edinburgh.

Overall, I’m really glad I picked this as my choice for reading more Scottish literature and I really loved this novel. I would definitely recommend it as the writing is beautiful and the setting and story are fascinating and it’s a chilling look at what global warming could potentially cause without ever feeling like it was trying to be preachy.

Book Review – The Bone People by Keri Hulme

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Goodreads Synopsis:

THE BONE PEOPLE is a love story. It begins when a mute six-year-old, full of blasting hurt and strange charm, wanders off the beach and into a home of a despairing artist. Kerewin has given up everything but drinking, thinking and fishing, but the arrival of the boy Simon and, later on, of his Maori foster-father Joe, drags all three into the gyre of possibilities. Cruel, funny, ardent and beautiful, THE BONE PEOPLE is a powerful and visionary New Zealand fable.

Review:

It’d been a while since I’d read a book for my Around the World challenge and so I decided that I’d pick New Zealand next as I saw mentions of this book online due to the fact that the author is Aro-Ace. She’s also part Maori and both of these aspects of her identity are represented in the novel. The main character, Kerewin, is asexual and part Maori (she may also be Aromantic but I don’t remember if it’s ever explicitly stated) and there are plenty of other Maori characters, who also speak Maori to each other. There’s a small glossary at the back of the book to explain all the terms used, and I felt it really helped with immersion into the novel and the setting.

The synopsis describes this as a love story, but to me it’s more a journey of healing. At the start of the novel all three characters are rather broken. Kerewin spends most of her time drinking, Simon is mute and acts out a lot while Joe beats Simon as he doesn’t know how else to control him. Kerewin and Simon bond and he behaves really well with her as she learns how to communicate with him and recognises that his behaviour is due to frustration at not being understood. The way Simon is written, it’s highly likely he is autistic and I really appreciated the fact that Kerewin just accepts this as how he is and works to ensure they can communicate.

As the novel progresses, they slowly get to know each other and start to heal both mentally and physically due to the influences on each other. This is a very slow book, focusing on the journey made by each of the three characters and on the relationship between the three of them. As this is the central focus of the story, I won’t say too much on the characters or the plot, suffice to say that it was an enchanting journey and I didn’t want to put it down as I kept wanting to find out what happens to them.

The settings described in the novel are fantastic, with evocative imagery and lots of attention given to the biology of the locations allowing you a very clear mental image of what the various settings are like. My favourite setting was that of Kerewin’s tower, partially due to the fact that I always wished I could have a tower when I was younger.

This novel won the Man Booker prize in 1985 and is also an excellent novel focusing on New Zealand which I would highly recommend. It’s ideal if you’re also doing a read around the world challenge, and I also recommend it to those who not only want to see representations of asexual characters but also want to support an author who is asexual and aromantic.

Book Review – The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster

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Goodreads Synopsis:

When the Dragon Ships began to tear through the trade lanes and ravage coastal towns, the hopes of the archipelago turned to the Windspeakers on Tash. The solemn weather-shapers with their eyes of stone can steal the breeze from raiders’ sails and save the islands from their wrath. But the Windspeakers’ magic has been stolen, and only their young apprentice Shina can bring their power back and save her people.

Tazir has seen more than her share of storms and pirates in her many years as captain, and she’s not much interested in getting involved in the affairs of Windspeakers and Dragon Ships. Shina’s caught her eye, but that might not be enough to convince the grizzled sailor to risk her ship, her crew, and her neck.

Review:

This was a book that was recommended to me by a friend and as soon as I saw the cover, I couldn’t not buy it! It’s just such a stunning cover and it’s so rare to have a Fantasy cover that features a black woman. I’m also a huge fan of books involving weather magic and so I dove in as soon as I got it.

My biggest issue with this book is that as it’s just a novella, it ended far too soon. We got such tantalising glimpses of fantastic worldbuilding and characters that I didn’t want it to end. The magic system is one I really enjoyed reading about and I found the fact that the apprentices have to lose their eyes and have them replaced by stones was incredibly memorable and gave me such a vivid glimpse of their society.

The characters were fantastic and I particularly enjoyed the fact that the majority were female, along with the fact that several of the characters are queer and are not white. If you’re looking for more diverse reads, this novella is ideal!

I adored this book and strongly recommend it, if you’re doing the Fantasy Bingo then it’s also ideal as it can be used for the seafaring square.

Book Review – Sea Foam and Silence by Lynn E O’Connacht

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Be careful what you wish for…

She warned of the pain. She did.
But no warning can prepare you.
Nothing can.

How could I have known
What it is like on the dry sand?
We just watched.

It’s hard, not being able to ask
Questions, though I have learned some speech
With my hands. ˆ_ˆ

I miss my sisters.

I have made friends here.
I have laughed with them,
Learned with them, played with them.
I love them.

She said I would die if he loves someone else.
Will I die? At the beginning I wanted to. It hurts
So much. Life isn’t easy, will never be easy, but…
I don’t want to become sea foam.

Review:

This is another book I read thanks to the fantastic Ace Book Club on Twitter and when they announced it I thought it sounded amazing! A little mermaid re-telling in verse with an asexual character? Wow! Unfortunately, this book was just not for me, however, the reasons I didn’t love it were all personal to me and so other people will likely love it for the exact reasons I didn’t enjoy it.

First I’ll start with the writing itself. It’s written in verse and I’m a huge fan of verse novels. Unfortunately, this is in free verse and so to me and my background in very strict forms it was something I struggled with a lot. However, to people that aren’t used to verse novels then free verse is the perfect way to introduce them to the concept because it’s much easier to read. It’s also written in first person and I’m also not a big fan of that. There are also a lot of emoticons used in the text and again, that’s just my personal preference but all these things combined to make me really dislike the way it was written but since it was so short, I kept reading the entire thing. What I’d say is that the extract from Goodreads is a perfect example and if you enjoy that, you’re likely to enjoy it all.

Now that we’ve got the parts I didn’t like out of the way, let’s focus on the amazing parts. For example, the world building in this is really, really good. Unfortunately, we’re restricted a lot in what we see due to the first-person narrative and so just get wonderful glimpses of mermaid society. I also really enjoyed the characters and their interactions and although the main character seemed incredibly naive at points which is something I usually dislike, it makes total sense for somebody not used to human society to appear very naive. I shouldn’t really need to mention it given that it was for Ace Book Club so seems self explanatory but obviously the fact that there are asexual characters was another fantastic inclusion and I really enjoyed that interpretation (Not only is the main character asexual, she also definitely seems aromantic too)

Despite personally not being a fan, I would definitely still recommend this to others because it was just my own personal preferences that stopped me from enjoying it and there was nothing objectively bad about it – I’m just super picky in my verse narratives and found it difficult to get over that. However, for those that enjoy free verse (or have never read any verse narratives) then you should definitely read it as the world and the characters are just enchanting and you’ll be left wanting to know so much more and wishing you could spend more time with them in the fantastic world that has been created.

Book Review – The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody thinks she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Review:

I bought Tales from Perach yesterday which made me realise that as much as I enjoyed the series, I hadn’t reviewed any of the Mangoverse books so time to fix that now because I highly recommend them!

Now, I’m a huge fan of books with dragons and while having a browse for more, I discovered this book and to be honest, I wanted to read it just for that cover alone! I mean who doesn’t want to read a book with a cover featuring two woman on a dragon?

Everything about this book is just great. The worldbuilding, the characters, the diversity – I loved it all. It’s super sweet and my only complaint is that it was so short and that I finished it too quickly! Indeed, as soon as I finished the first book I went straight away to get the second as I wanted more! It’s just such an enjoyable, fun read.

Although this is a fantasy setting, Perach is a Jewish land and all the characters from there follow Jewish traditions which is incorporated really nicely. For example, Shulamit can’t take part in some due to her digestive issues.

The characters are just fantastic. I think this is definitely one of the first times I’ve seen a character with digestive issues in a book, especially in a Fantasy one! Shulamit is delightful and I really liked her, and I just adore Rivka and I really enjoyed reading a book that focuses on female friendship as the first part of the book focuses on them travelling around trying to find anybody interested in girls, like Shulamit is. The characters are all very diverse and reading it just gives you such a happy feeling as you’re so happy when the characters are happy. I felt like the end was a bit rushed, and I would have liked to have had more time for things to develop but at the same time, it was such a nice ending that stretching it out might have made it less enjoyable.

This is a book that I’d definitely recommend, as the whole series is just fantastic and I can’t wait to read the collection of short stories! It’s also one I’d warn not starting too late, because I read it in one sitting as I just didn’t want to put it down.

Book Review – Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.

But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

Review:

Gosh, I’m not quite sure where to start with this novel because I just adored it so much. Seriously, it’s probably going to be one of my top novels of the year because it’s just amazing in so many different ways.

First off, I got a free review copy of this through AceBookClub on Twitter which is a fantastic book club and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s so nice and refreshing to read stories that don’t focus on romance. They’re ace. Literally.

So, the summary from Goodreads is comprehensive enough that I don’t really need to discuss much in terms of the plot and instead I’m going to focus on the amazing characters. They’re all just so wonderful with a range of interesting powers such as Rose, one of my favourites, whose power revolves around plants. Also, three of the characters are in a healthy polyamorous relationship with a child that’s been established before the novel starts and so it’s just full of lovely love for each other and their child. Rose has a prosthetic leg (made by one of her wives), Regan suffers from anxiety and Evelyn is trans and there is a small section focusing on the importance of using the correct pronouns when referring to her. And of course, because this was for AceBookClub there are of course asexual characters. As you can see from the book cover, the characters are also from a range of ethnicities with a large variety of skin colours.

While reading this book, I was constantly delighted to discover more and more diversity while also enjoying a fantastic plot. It was super enjoyable to read and I just fell in love with all the characters and I was so happy to see parts of my identity represented in a really amazing setting and in characters with lots of fantastic powers. The entire book was just a delight and I ended up finishing it way before AceBookClub which is why this review is so late as I wanted to wait until they’d finished before posting it and then it was February and I was only posting reviews of black authors.

I highly, highly recommend this book and I’ll probably be constantly recommending it all the time because it’s just that great. I also have a review of one of the short stories, Runtime, which is a prequel and serves as a great and cheap introduction to the world of Parole if you’re not sure about making the commitment to buying the book.

Book Review – The Best of All Possible Words by Karen Lord

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

Review:

So, this is another book I got because the one I originally wanted (Redemption in Indigo) wasn’t available and again, I’m super glad I got it instead because I adored this book. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved everything about it.

The Sadiri used to be the rulers of the galaxy but due to an attack on their planet, there are now only a few of them left. A group of refugees settle on the planet Cygnus Beta and are on a mission to find potential wives due to the fact that the majority of the survivors are male. Delarua is a civil servant from Cygnus Beta and is assigned to work with the Sadiri as they travel around the planet to various communities to see how similar they are to the Sadiri, who have strong telepathic abilities, and to find out if they would be willing to consent to be their wives. The story follows the adventures of the small group as they travel around visiting all these groups and the adventures that follows. The plot is not very fast paced, indeed it moves very slowly and focuses more on the relationships between the characters, particularly those of Delarua and Dllenahkh, one of the Sadiri, as they learn more about each others cultures.

Now, the characters in this are all fantastic. I loved them all and they all seemed very well developed with their own goals and personalities. The interactions between them all were great and I enjoyed watching them develop together as a team. One of the characters, Lian, is also gender neutral and it mentions that they may potentially be Asexual however it is not confirmed due to the fact that Delarua just states that it is “none of their business”. I was really pleased to see the inclusion of a potential Asexual character and indeed the way Lian acts throughout the novel does seem to confirm it.

The worldbuilding of this novel was also super interesting and I really enjoyed seeing all the different regions of the planet and the different communities in them. One of my favourites was definitely the group that were having difficulties agreeing on minor points of their culture, so decided to adapt a completely new one together along with a new language and so ended up being a mixture of Celtic fairy folk (They spoke Welsh, but were part of the Seelie Court from Scottish myth).

Due to the slow-paced nature and heavy focus on relationships between characters, I know that this book might not be for everybody. Personally, I adored it and would highly recommend it, however if you’re looking for something fast-paced then this is probably not the book for you. It’s definitely fantastic though and I can’t wait to read more of her books!

Also, as this is set in space it definitely counts as more than 5000 miles from my location for the ReadHarder challenge! (I mean I will be reading other books that are set 5000 miles from my location on Earth, but I adore this one so much that I’m putting it down for the challenge)

Book Review- Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

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Goodreads Synopsis:

We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso, and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality.

Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things–a highly unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant.

Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans–after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse space, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: an opportunity to live apart from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent.

But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to discover her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him . . .

Review:

This was the only book by Nalo Hopkinson that my library had , so I had to get it instead of Brown Girl in the Ring which is what I originally wanted. Turns out, I’m very glad this is the book they had because I adored it, and it’s definitely made me want to read the rest of her books!

The book starts off with Makeda looking at a new place to live as she wants space from her twin, Abby, and because unlike her sister, she has no magic, known as “mojo”. However, the next day it turns out that their father has gone missing from the care home he was in and nobody has any idea where he’s gone.

One thing I really liked about this book was the characters. They were all very diverse in a variety of ways – Abby has one leg shorter than the other and so relies on crutches to get around while Makeda suffers from seizures, a lot of them are queer and of course they’re not white either. Their family, a mix of human and non-human, are also all very interesting ranging from their Uncle, who is literally Death, to their twin cousins who watch over twins. One of the main themes of the book was family and relationships and it was really nice to see the relationship between the two sisters and how they both dealt with their various issues.

The worldbuilding and descriptions in the book are just fantastic. You feel really immersed in the story and despite not having much familiarity with the myths that inspired it, I was still able to enjoy the story. It definitely made me want to learn more about Orishas though as they feature heavily in this book and I feel there were a lot of references that went over my head. Despite that, I still adored the book and would highly recommend it. One thing I should mention is that there is some incest in the book, as that may make some uncomfortable, however it makes complete sense in the book given that it deals with supernatural entities – so it’s similar to that found in the Greek pantheon.

Short Story Review – Runtime by RoAnna Sylver

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So, I’m currently participating in the #AceBookClub on Twitter and our first book was Chameleon Moon which I absolutely adored and after devouring it, I just had to read more about Parole and the characters that I’d grown to love.

This is a short story focusing on Regan, one of the main characters in Chameleon Moon. It’s set just before the events in Chameleon Moon and give you an excellent background to the events in the beginning of the book and lets you see what some of the other characters are up to. As somebody who had already read Chameleon Moon, I absolutely adored it for the added look at characters I loved (especially Kari, I can never have too much of her!) and for some interesting insight into Regan’s past. The world-building is just as fantastic in this story and I really enjoyed the additional look at some of the characters and of the world in general. The story can also serve as an excellent introduction to the world of Parole as, being a prequel, there are no spoilers for the first book. Indeed, reading it first will even help explain a couple things in Chameleon Moon.

I would definitely recommend this short story, both to fans of Chameleon Moon and to those who haven’t read it before as an excellent introduction to a fantastic world. I would also highly recommend #AceBookClub because if this is the quality of the books they pick, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Book Review – The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

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I found out about this book on an excellent list of books with ace/aro characters on Two Book Thieves . I was immediately drawn to it just for the name alone and since it’s only a novella I felt I had plenty of time to fit it in amongst my other reads.

So, this book follows two characters – the first is Clara who is a skilled technician who works on “Raises” which are robotic AI companions in the shape of various animals. She moves around a lot, and the book starts with her moving to Seattle. While there, she visits The Cybernetic Tea Shop which is run by Sal, one of the few remaining humanoid robots. Robots were declared illegal years ago and Sal now has to cope with dwindling business and threats from groups who are against Robots. When Clara meets her, she has been running her tea shop for almost 300 years, in memory of the original owner. Clara then becomes a regular at the tea shop and a relationship begins to grow between the two of them.

I adore this novella. I love every single thing about it from the fantastic world-building to the excellent characters. If I was to try and find a complaint, it would be that it was too short and that I want even more! However even then, the story never felt rushed and felt very natural. The characters are very well developed and I adored the fact that it is an Asexual romance story. The “Raises” were one of my favourite parts of the world-building as I can definitely see that becoming a thing in the future as who wouldn’t want a cute AI pet?

Anyway, this is a novella that I strongly, strongly recommend. Unfortunately it’s only available in e-book format which is a pity as this is something I’d absolutely love to have on my shelf. However, that does mean that you can get it and start reading it straight away!