Hype post vol. 2 incoming! More queer books thrown at your face! This time featuring five books, two adult, three YA, and I’ve actually read one of them already. So we’ll start with that one, Belle Révolte:
Strong-willed women, revolution, big dreams and queer romance. What more can a girl want. All the stars to this wonderful book, check out my full review here. Pre-order it here (Book Depository doesn’t seem to have it, so an Amazon UK link for once, sorry…), although it’ll be on shelves in just a few days!
Keeping with the theme of queer romance and revolution, the second book on my list is We Unleash the Merciless Storm. After her wonderful debut last year, We Set the Dark on Fire, Tehlor Kay Mejia, is set to pick up straight where she left off and blow our minds again. This is the second book in a duology and I cannot wait to see where this story goes – the first book was one of my most anticipated debuts last year, and the same goes with this one! I fell in love with Dani and Carmen and their world and I need more. It’s out on the 24th, and I strongly suggest you pre-order it here or from your retailer of choice!
Next on my list is Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted. Their debut novel Magic for Liars impressed me so much last year that they’ve become an auto-buy author for me, and I’ve successfully recommended it to quite a few people as well, who also loved it. Upright Women Wanted is a Tor.com novella, which means it’s a short read that won’t take up too much space on your TBR and is going to bring you closer to fulfilling your coveted Goodreads reading challenge (I know it’s the start of the year, but remember how you’ve just been scrambling to finish just a few short weeks ago?). It also features queer librarians in a Wild West setting and if I understand correctly, they are fighting fascists. So sign me up. Amazon says this one’s coming out on the first of March, and they are letting you pre-order here. Sorry for advertising for evil again, but it’s a US only release, and Book Depository doesn’t have it! If you can find it elsewhere, I strongly suggest you get it there – I might wait until I’m in the US in May and can get it from B&N or an indie.
Ink in the Blood is the wildcard on this list. Kim Smejkal’s debut features tattoo magic and theatre, and according to the author herself, quite a bit of queer rep. It sounds fantastic, but I haven’t seen many reviews for it, it seems to fly a bit below the radar – all the more reason to give it a shot. It’s being compared to Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake, so we can expect dark and atmospheric… It’s out on the 11th according to the publisher (although Book Depository says 1st of March), and you can pre-order it here!
Last on this list (which is compiled in no particular order) is The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. More historical novel than anything else, this tale is set in the extreme north of Norway, in the arctic town of Vardø, in the early seventeenth century, and tells of a storm ending in desaster, a witch hunter, and independent women. Reviewers have loved this, and I have only heard great things about Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Adult debut. I read her YA debut, The Deathless Girls, late last year, and loved her writing style, and given that I tend to love books about witchcraft and feminism, I am very much looking forward to reading The Mercies! Pre-order it here from Book Depository, or get the Waterstones special edition here (or, of course, just get it from your retailer of choice!). This is out on the 6th.
Let me know what you think of my hyped books, or if you even pick up one of them based on my recommendation!
Just as I finally found my groove with reading, writing and posting regularly for the blog, my migraines decided to have a major comeback and I’ve just spent the past five days laid up in bed after about a week of denial. Which is why you have had to wait so long for fresh content from my end – but never worry, I have lots of reviews ready to write up from before I got ill, and now that I’m slowly back to human again I should hopefully be able to post them out quickly!
As the two books in today’s post are both tor.com novellas, I thought it would be fun to combine them into one post and try something new – let me know what you think of this shorter review style in the comments!
Prosper’s Demon – K. J. Parker
Publication Date: 28.01.20
Star Rating: 4 ⭐
An unnamed narrator who is an exorcist, a court physician and philosopher, reminiscent of a true renaissance man, and a possessed heir. A recipe for disaster. Clocking in at just over one hundred pages, this is a fun romp through a renaissance world, inspired by revenge plays of the time, full of Machiavellian energy and brimming with smart philosophical discourse. The novella format works very well here, ending on an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
Thank you to Tor.com and Netgalley for the provision of an eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi
Publication Date: 21.01.20
Star Rating: not rating this book
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, growing up black in the aftermath of the 1992 LA riots. Their story is told through fragmentary visits both real and supernatural as Kev is incarcerated and Ella develops powers…
I struggled with this one. And I think that is because I’m too far removed from its intended audience. As a girl from rural Switzerland I lacked knowledge necessary to understand the impact of what was going on much of the time, and spending time looking up events and asking American friends for clarification kept pulling me out of the story. For example, I had no idea parts of the story took place in LA until I heard Tochi speak on a podcast halfway through reading the book, as I was not familiar with the neighbourhood names.
That is not to say that it is not likely a brilliant book. Tochi’s writing is excellent and lends itself to getting lost in. It is informal, immediate and urgent, and still beautiful. I now want to read everything he has written.
So I’m not rating Riot Baby. It feels wrong to leave a review so open, but it would also feel wrong to give judgement on a book I don’t feel like I fully understand. If this intrigues you, I highly suggest you check it out for yourself! You can find the Goodreads link here and order it here.
Thank you to Tor.com for gifting me an ARC at Bookcon and Tochi for being kind enough to sign it for me!
2020 is gearing up to be a wonderful year for queer books about revolution! There’s this one, then I’ve already reviewed The Electric Heir , We Unleash the Merciless Storm, the sequel to last years grandiose We Set the Dark on Fire, is coming out in February. Then we have two wonderful UK debuts coming as well, Court of Miracles by Kester Grant in June (which I’m very lucky to have an eARC of, so you’ll get treated to a review as soon as I get around to reading it!) and Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn in May.
As I’ve absolutely loved all of the ones I’ve read so far, I have very high hopes for the ones I have not yet gotten my greedy little fingers on and I can’t wait to read them all! Expect much queerness and revolution to feature in my monthly hype posts.
As usual, all opinions expressed are entirely my own, so don’t go blaming anyone else for my ramblings. Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an eARC to feed them!
RELEASE DATE: 01/02/2019
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
Emilie de Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.
Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.
Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.
But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.
Without spoilers, there is bi-romantic ace and trans representation in this book, a f/f relationship and racial and economic diversity. Viewpoints are challenged, heads are butted, and characters grow. Characters are presented in a human and honest way, most of them chafing against the boundaries of their assigned roles and trying to figure out a way to be authentically themselves in a rigid society.
Emilie, born into an incredibly privileged family, ends up confronted with realities that she had not been aware of before. While she tries her best, she commits blunders and mistakes due to her naiveté, but to her credit, she learns from her mistakes and grows immensely as a person. Similarly, Annette has a lot of her own growth to do. The side characters, such as Madeline, Coline, Laurence and Estrel, or Charles are no less nuanced. They all have to let go of preconceived notions in order to realize what is happening on around them and truly band together.
The nation is in shambles, and a mysterious figure calling themselves Laurel is causing uproar. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that there is more to the war happening than the people are aware of, and that their king is privy to insidious goings-on. So who or what is Laurel, and what is the change they are promising?
Belle Révolte is extremely well written, gripping and will not let you go. It is a book that hit all my soft spots and made me fall in love with it. I urge you to add this one on Goodreads and pre-order it as fast as you can. Book Depository link is here, and it should be available from all reputable book-dealers.
If we’re being honest, I have an essay I need to be writing rather than blog posts, but oh, are they so much more fun to think about! I finished this twisted mash-up of fairy-tales and urban fantasy this morning and couldn’t resist writing about it immediately. Another one from NetGalley, with thanks to Transworld for the advance copy, and a disclaimer that all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 06/02/2019
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth.
You may well be one of them, though you might never know it.
This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire.
They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.
In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die.
You’ll have to read on to find out who and why . . .
This book had an incredibly unique concept and gave new life to the fairy-tales of the Brothers Grimm. Sadly, it was at times lacking in execution, and lost its momentum in tangents, posing more questions than it answered and leaving many strands unraveled. It is the story of four girls told in fragments, and two timelines – I read this as an eARC, so I’m not sure quite how fast the viewpoints change on paper, but I would estimate once every couple of pages on average. Therefore, it will likely confuse many readers, and take quite a bit of time to get into for most people. This is not something I mind too much, but in this case, it led to a loss of urgency.
Every time it felt like one of the girls was heading towards growth or confrontation, the PoV switched, and by the time it returned, the situation had changed. This also meant that it was hard to empathize with them, and choices that were made/things that were revealed towards the end had me scratching my head, as it felt rather clichéd.
Nevertheless, it was a very well-paced read that kept one glued to the page and provided a great and unique concept. It is worth picking up and making up your mind about yourself.
I am very excited to be part of the big Gollancz Blog Tour for The God Game by Danny Tobey! Many thanks to Stevie Finegan and Gollancz for inviting me to participate and sending me an early copy for review. Please also check out my fellow bloggers’ posts for their thoughts about this fantastic book!
A Sci-Fi thriller you can not put down, addressing social issues, theology, video games, relationships and morality through the lens of high school seniors struggling to find their way, this is a must-read of early 2020. I loved reading this book, and could not stop thinking about it – it was quite upsetting to be reading this while finishing up an essay for University, which meant I couldn’t just read the whole book in one go.
RELEASE DATE: 09/01/2019
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Win and All Your Dreams Come True™!
Charlie and his friends have entered the God Game.
Tasks are delivered through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them. Charlie’s money problems could be over. Vanhi can erase the one bad grade on her college application. It’s all harmless fun at first.
Then the threatening messages start.
Worship me. Obey me.
Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them.
Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
As Charlie looks for a way out, he finds God is always watching – only He will say when the game is done.
And if you die in the game, you die for real.
OPINIONS: Once you get sucked into The God Game, it does not let you go. This is true for both the book, and the fictional game inside the story. Danny Tobey has done really well crafting a gripping narrative that keeps you invested throughout. Stakes and tension are high, and pacing is excellent. You almost expect to receive a text message yourself, asking you to join the game.
Through the clever inclusion of theology, and specifically biblical imagery, a vengeful, old Testament God is evoked, playing with their victims and demanding absolute devotion. This can be taken as an allegory for the many things our society has taken to believing in, such as popularity, technology, and, yes, still, the various kinds of religion and hate still propagated today. This system gives you points for following the system, which rewards you with tangible rewards, and so-called Blaxx for resisting, which, when accumulating lead to real-life consequences… It is a very scary perspective on society, and all too possible in many parts of this world, making The God Game an incredibly timely novel. While most of the central characters are teens, I would not classify this as YA (Gollancz is also an Adult SFF imprint).
There are no good people in this book. All the characters are morally gray and struggling, although as the story progresses, some will show themselves to be rather more villainous than others. They are well crafted and human, something which is very important to me as a reader, and which I’ve been lucky enough to encounter in many of the books I’ve read recently. Through the story’s structure, their aims and goals are very clear, and there is a strong focus on the question what they are ready to sacrifice in order to achieve these.
After I had reviewed the Fever King last year, it kind of stuck around in my head, and I thought of it quite a lot. I’m not obsessing about books, ever, nope, totally healthy human being here, yuuup. It was definitely in the top five of 2019 for me, impact wise. So I was very excited to get approval for the Electric Heir on Netgalley, and oh, was I in for a treat! While the Fever King was good, I couldn’t put its sequel down, nor get my head out of the story…
RELEASE DATE: 17/03/2020
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.
Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.
Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.
OPINIONS: First of all, these books are AMAZING, and everyone needs to read this duology. It’s a crime that they haven’t been published in the UK yet, and I keep pushing them at everyone asking me for SFF with LGBTQIA+ rep – they address so many issues on different layers of the story and do it incredibly well. These books are like an onion of representation to pick apart and enjoy while making you think and consider the individual issues both by themselves and in combination. I can’t remember if the same thing was the case with The Fever King, but I really appreciate how content warnings were handled in The Electric Heir – there is a note at the front saying that the book contains potentially triggering content, and that more information could be found in the back. This makes it obvious, and clear where to find detailed information for those who need it and invalidates any ‘spoiler’ arguments that people seem to keep having against trigger warnings.
The Electric Heir picks up six months after the end of The Fever King. Everyone’s situation has changed, and traumatizing, atrocious things have happened to both Noam and Dara. They are still teenagers, still growing up and figuring out who they are in the middle of everything going on, and both struggle heavily with admitting that events have affected them and that they might need help. Victoria Lee manages to write their trauma extremely well, making them lose none of their humanity or letting anything seem overdone. They, and their supporting cast, are well-nuanced, growing characters with tangible moral compasses, struggling to figure out how to navigate a broken world and difficult situations, while fighting someone who might be one of the creepiest villains I have ever encountered: Calix Lehrer and his powers of mind control.
I’ve been in love with meta-storytelling at the latest since Shakespeare’s prologue to Henry V. So when Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood was published, I couldn’t have been more excited! I enjoyed her take on stories breaking free of their pre-determined paths, and taking over the ‘real world’ as it were, but I didn’t fall in love as much as I was expecting to. Still, I jumped at the chance to review book two for Penguin UK, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Many thanks to Netgalley and Penguin for the opportunity!
RELEASE DATE: 09/01/2019
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Alice has fought hard for a normal life. Having escaped the Hinterland – the strange, pitch-dark world she was born into – she has washed up in New York City, determined to build a new future for herself.
But when her fellow survivors start being brutally murdered, Alice must face the fact that the Hinterland cannot be so easily escaped. And that, from the shadows of her past something – or someone – is coming for her…
OPINIONS: While the characters in book one seemed to fall a bit flat, Alice in the Night Country developed more depth and humanity – which made a lot of sense with the story development. The more time the story characters from the Hinterland spent in the ‘real’ world, the more especially Alice assimilated and grew, even if not all of them fit in very well. The relationships are depicted poignantly, using very few words, showing rather than telling. The growth in craft between Melissa Albert’s first and second books is clear and admirable!
I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story, which was extremely well crafted, with reveals that made sense in the context of the story, but were not immediately obvious to the reader from the get-go. I do have one caveat, my pet peeve, where characters were being secretive to protect others they care about, and as soon as they opened up, things became a lot clearer as information was shared.
Also the Night Country is way too creepy. I don’t mean the book, I mean the concept. Trust me. Read the book and tell me I’m wrong. Add it on Goodreads, and pre-order it from Book Depository or your retailer of choice!