Reviews

Out of Salem: Nonbinary Zombies and Lesbian Werewolves

Out of SalemTitle: Out of Salem
Author(s): Hal Schrieve
Series: 
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQAI+
Pages: 432
Published: 
March 5th 2019 by Triangle Square
LGBTQAI+: Nonbinary and lesbian mains, multiple transgender and lesbian side characters
Other representation: Nonbinary author, Muslim main, non-white and Jewish side characters
I received an ARC through The Lesbrary in exchange for an honest review.
This review was originally published on The Lesbrary on February 10th.

When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.

4.5 stars

When I saw that cover and read the blurb, I was ready for an epic queer urban fantasy adventure. I mean, doesn’t that just sound badass? Two fourteen-year-olds: a nonbinary witch zombie, and a Muslim lesbian werewolf. I have read many urban fantasy books where the supernatural creatures live in secret, so I was excited to see this book went in another direction, one I’m always eager to read more of: a world where supernatural creatures live among humans and are regulated by rules and laws. It’s always interesting to see how intertwining the two worlds changes them both.

Out of Salem is unique in that regard because instead of human, the default seems to be witches, with only a small percentage of the population being nonmagicals. Werewolves, zombies, selkies, shapeshifters and other creatures are minorities that have limited rights which vary in countries or time periods, just as with real life minorities. I loved all the little details, like the ways to become a zombie, the casual mention of prophecies, or shapeshifters being able to marry any gender in certain countries.

So, for the first part of the book, I was getting what I signed up for: a really well-built and interesting urban fantasy world in the ’90s that incorporates supernatural creatures into real-world history and culture. And I loved it. Then, it gradually got a little too real for comfort. It’s as if the book was asking the question, “hey, you know what’s scarier than zombies and werewolves? Reality!”. (A little like that Doctor Who episode with the spiders and the gun-loving white guy.) As I kept reading about horrible bullies, racist rallies, police brutality and windows being broken for the owner supporting minority groups, it was difficult not to think about how many people go through all this stuff daily. Z and Aysel having to sit in class while the teacher talked about how dangerous their kind is, and Z reading a book by a guy who thinks all zombies should be killed in horrifying ways reminded me of too many similar situations I went through for being a queer person.

There are many fantasy books that use supernatural creatures as metaphors for real-life oppressed groups, while using all white and allocishet casts. What made the metaphor in Out of Salem really work for me is that while Z, Aysel and the others are persecuted for their supernatural traits, they are also minorities in real life. Z is nonbinary, Aysel is a lesbian, and major side characters include an elderly lesbian, a Black Jewish teacher, and several transgender werewolves. While the main focus isn’t on these real-life traits, they are still mentioned: the older lesbian expresses joy that Aysel is able to come out so young, Aysel draws a parallel between being a “good werewolf” and her mother being a “good Muslim”, and it is made clear that Mr. Weber is risking a lot more as a Black Jewish person than one of his more privileged colleagues might.

All in all, I consider Out of Salem a wonderfully well-written book with great world-building and characters. I loved the little group that formed by the end, and how they gradually became closer to each other. I loved that Aysel and Z gravitated towards each other not only for both being monsters, but also both being queer. I loved Z explaining their identity, how both they and their friends were kind of awkward and unsure about terms, but not malicious by any means – the way you’d expect 14-year-olds in the ’90s to be when they have few queer adults to look up to or to learn from.

My only real complaint is that I found the ending too open, and since I saw no indication of this being a first book in a series, I was a little disappointed. I wasn’t sure how I expected all the plotlines to be wrapped up neatly, but this was still a let-down.

Concent warnings: misgendering and deadnaming (mostly due to Z being closeted, not intentional transphobia), death of family members, body horror (because zombies), police brutality, some gun violence, racist rallies, bullying, suicidal thoughts

~ Alexa

Advertisements
Reviews

Rescues and the Rhyssa: F/F sci-fi adventure

Rescues and the RhyssaTitle: Rescues and the Rhyssa
Author(s): T.S. Porter
Series: 
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: December 12th 2017 by Less Than Three Press
LGBTQAI+: F/F main ship
I received an ARC from the author through the Lesbrary in exchange for an honest review.

This review originally appeared on The Lesbrary on January 13th, 2019.

Cadan is cousin to the King of Nidum star system, and his favorite weapon to needle the Imperial forces encroaching on their territory. With her combat implants and a reckless streak the size of a planet, Cadan has never failed him. 

Pan Sophi, Captain of the Rhyssa, is a smuggler who makes her living off the tensions. With her crew behind her, Sophi’s always on the lookout for the next deal. Anything to keep flying. 

They only get along when they’re falling into bed together. Otherwise the clash between Cadan’s idealism and Sophi’s harsher worldview always results in a fight. But when the King’s children are kidnapped, only Sophi has the skills to help Cadan get them back.

5 stars

Two occasional lovers with many differences team up to save three kidnapped kids. And then it gets even more complicated.

Sophi is the captain of a smuggler ship with a diverse crew, including two types of aliens, a nonbinary human, and Muslim humans as well, if I understood the cultural clues right. They are quite literally a found family, especially with the reptile-like aliens who accept Sophi into their family as a male based on her role, despite her being a human female. I absolutely LOVED the aliens we’ve seen, and the fact that we had the opportunity to see from their perspective. Both the analoids and the blatta were well-developed, unique and complex species with their own culture that is very different from humans, and seeing Sophi as a human make the effort to take part in that culture and adjust was really interesting. (No spoilers, but there was a scene pretty late in the book that showed the crucial importance of having blattas on your ship and it was amazing. I love blattas.)

And then there’s Cadan. Cadan is big, dangerous, scarred, and she doesn’t exist. She has been turned into a weapon for her King that she is endlessly loyal to: she goes where he tells him too without question. And yet, she’s far from being emotionless. We find out early on that she is actually part of the king’s family: his children are her niblings, the king is like a cousin or even a sibling, and she is devoted to all of them because she loves them. I loved to see Cadan with her blood family just as much as I loved to see Sophi with her found family. Both of these families had unique members and plenty of love and care for each other despite their differences. I also really love the idea of a transgender king where it is only casually mentioned once because otherwise it’s not a big deal to anyone. And I love the kids. Seriously, I love the kids.

And of course, there’s Cadan and Sophi together. They are very different people with different values and different goals, which causes a lot of tension in their relationship. Yet, they love each other. There are plenty of sex scenes in this book, some of which seriously made me blush, but one of my favourite scenes was the completely non-sexual yet intimate bondage scene that Sophi used to relax Cadan. I admit that sometimes I felt like there is too much tension and not enough common ground between them for this to actually work as a romantic relationship as opposed to casual sex, but the ending/epilogue was open enough that I can believe them getting to that point.

If you are looking for a F/F sci-fi story with well-developed aliens, relationship conflicts and family dynamics, this might just be for you. I know that I enjoyed it.

content warnings: kidnapping, violence, explicit sexual scenes

~ Alexa

Reviews

More Likotsi!! – Once Ghosted, Twice Shy

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5)Title: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
Author(s): Alyssa Cole
Series: Reluctant Royals #2.5
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Pages: 106
Published: 
January 8th 2019 by Avon Impulse
LGBTQAI+: F/F ship, lesbian and bisexual mains
On-page sex: yes

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

Rating: 4 stars

The Reluctant Royals series reviews:

Likotsi was my favourite side character in A Princess in Theory, and who can forget her iconic “High– Hi… man”? That, and the second book in the series, A Duke by Default was one of my favourite romance novels ever, so I was eager to pick up another novella by Alyssa Cole. This time with lesbians! (Well, one lesbian. Fab is bi/pan, I believe.)

This was a typical Reluctant Royals novella, in a good way: it had all the things I love about the series. Complex characters with interesting hobbies, funny lines and flirts, things I would never think of like mini museums in an elevator, puns like Fab’s username, and more. It also had Likotsi’s POV, and with that, more about Thesolo’s religion and their belief system, which I found really interesting and comforting at the same time. Their concept of the “second death” (that you need to grieve again after briefly meeting a ghost) was heartbreaking, especially the way it was woven into the story. Oh, and the shoes. I loved the beliefs about the shoes. (I swear that one makes sense in context.) I confess to my ignorance and say that I have no idea if Thesolo’s religion is based on any real-world beliefs, so I’m not sure how much credit Cole gets here, but regardless, I liked it.

There is another “typical Reluctant Royals thing” that this book has, something that I usually like, but in a novella this short it was gut-punching and left me with mixed feelings. I’m just going to come out and say this: wow, Alyssa Cole doesn’t do escapism. All her books are incredibly current, full of recent, recognisable events or issues – sometimes that’s the use of social media, a recent meme or musing about the importance of representation, and sometimes it’s the very real threat of deportation, hints to a new government, and things getting worse. Still, perhaps I’m harsh on the “no escapism” thing, because a foreign prince and his assistant do swoop in to save the day and give us a happy ending.

Overall, this novella might have been short but it fit perfectly into the Reluctant Royals series that I love. I hope we’ll get to see more of Likotsi and Fab, even if only as cameos in the later books.

~ Alexa

Reviews

A Little Familiar: Magical Queer Story with Witches

A Little Familiar (Familiar Spirits, #1)Title: A Little Familiar
Author(s): R. Cooper
Series: Familiar Spirits #1
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 91
Published: 
October 3rd 2015
LGBTQAI+: gay main character, genderfluid (?) love interest
On-page sex: yes

A powerful witch, Piotr Russell has resigned himself to loneliness, because ordinary humans can’t know what he is, and other witches are intimidated by his abilities. Generations of Russells have lived and died with only their familiars at their side. The presence of a friendly familiar is enough to keep even the loneliest witch sane, and yet Piotr deliberately hasn’t chosen one.

The rarest of rare jewels, Bartleby is a human familiar: a witch with no magic of his own, and a desire to find a strong witch to help and serve. In particular, he desires to help and serve Piotr, and everything in Piotr wants to let him. Bartleby was meant to be his familiar; Piotr knows it as surely as he knows when it will rain or when the apples in his garden will ripen. But what Piotr wants from Bartleby, all he’s ever wanted, is for Bartleby to love him, something he thinks is impossible.

Russells live and die unloved, and he won’t allow Bartleby to feel obligated to spend his life with him as his familiar if he could be happy in love with someone else. But Samhain is a time for change, when walls come down and borders grow thin, and Bartleby isn’t going to waste what might be his last chance to convince Piotr that they were meant to be. He might have no magic, but love is a power all its own.

5 stars

“All that, and they’d have to want me too. That seems like a lot to ask of anyone, Bartleby. That’s a job as well as a husband. Why take that on, for a great big boring grouchy bear?”

I wanted my first review of the year to be of a queer story that I really enjoyed, and preferably one that is self-published and/or lesser known. So, here we are.

A Little Familiar is a truly magical read, and I’m not only saying that because it’s about two queer witches. This was one of those books where I absolutely adored the writing style, and I felt like the descriptions really brought the story to life. I could almost taste the cinnamon, apple and pumpkins. It also had a couple of metaphors that I’m STILL squeeing over, because they are so accurate and descriptive, and yet I never would have thought of them.

  • His rage was the gentlest rage imaginable, the briefest, quietest maelstrom in a teacup.
  • His anger was fierce and soft, stinging like kitten’s claws.

There’s a lot of pining in this book, which was excruciating but beautiful to read. The story is from Piotr’s POV, and seeing him be absolutely smitten with Bartleby was amazing, mostly because I was also absolutely smitten with Bartleby.

Bartleby is exactly my type of character, in style, personality, the fact that he’s compared to a trickster spirit, and the fact that he’s genderfluid. Or, is he? It’s a little confusing, because here’s this quote that states he isn’t:

He wasn’t genderfluid, at least, not how Piotr understood the term, but then again perhaps he was. Bartleby was… Bartleby. He wore what he chose to wear and acted how he chose to act. He’d never requested to be addressed by another pronoun or name, he simply was, like a trickster deity of old, although one not interested in deception.

But honestly, Bartleby is so obviously nonbinary in the entire book, that I have a suspicion Piotr (whose POV the above quote is from) just doesn’t get that genderfluid people can exist without necessarily using different names or pronouns. I mean, seriously:

“I’m, um,” Bartleby said, and didn’t immediately finish his thought. He had slipped a barrette into his hair and his lips were sparkling with gloss. The Dorchester Grocery shirt and red coat were familiar, but he had on a wool skirt and indigo tights. “I’m this me, today.”

In conclusion, I definitely read Bartleby as nonbinary, and the representation really worked for me personally as a nonbinary person.

Please read this book and fall in love with Bartleby with me. (Piotr was also great, but let’s be honest, Bartleby stole the entire show for me.)

~ Alexa

Reviews

Some Girls Bind: A Genderqueer Journey to Self-Discovery

Some Girls BindTitle: Some Girls Bind
Author(s): Rory James
Series: 
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Genderqueer
Published: February 1st 2019 by West 44 Books
LGBTQAI+:  Genderqueer (they/them) protagonist, gay side characters.
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jamie knows that she isn’t like other girls. She has a secret. She binds her chest every day to feel more like herself. Jamie questions why she is drawn to this practice and why she is afraid of telling her friends, who have their own secrets. Could she really be genderqueer?

Rating: 4 stars

When I look in the mirror,
I don’t see a girl and
I don’t see a boy. I just see
my goofy glasses and Beatle-like hair.

Let’s get this out of the way first: the formatting of the ARC I read is horrible. There is a part where the same section repeats 4-5 times, and there are words that are either missing, or look more like keysmashes than actual words, and I have to try to figure out what it was supposed to be. I’m going to try my best not to let this affect my rating and opinion of the content itself.

I was a little skeptical when I saw that this book is written in a poetry-ish style (as in: no rhymes or real logic, but all the lines are really short for some reason), and I often wished that it had been written in prose instead – but despite that, this book felt really real. Seriously, some parts were as if they were taken straight from my internal monologue as an AFAB genderqueer/nonbinary person.

The whole book is really introspective, and there isn’t really a plot other than finding yourself, figuring out your identity, trying to figure out what others would think, etc. There are supportive parents, unsupportive parents, supportive friends, queer side characters, and going to poetry readings by queer poets. There was also a part about the dangers of unsafe binding, and how you might resort to it if you’re desperate but you really shouldn’t.

The main character also doesn’t have a love interest and kind of questions their romantic orientation, so if you’re looking for a queer book without romance, this might be your thing? They don’t consider being aro, though.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4 stars because other than the formatting issues I don’t really have anything negative to say about it. I personally found the main character really relatable and close to my own personal experience, and I can’t recall any parts that could have been offensive or hurtful – but others might think differently, so proceed with caution.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Why Did I Wait So Long to Read This: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author(s): Becky Chambers
Series: Wayfarers #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Published: August 13th 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton
LGBTQAI+: Sapphic main characters in a slowburn relationship, aliens with different concepts of gender, probably something else I missed?

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

Rating: 5 stars, favourited

I’m pretty sure this book invented the concept of “found family”.

First, I was kind of surprised by how much the title actually fits the book: yes, this is indeed the description of a long journey to a war-torn planet, with everything that entails. A lot of the journey is getting to know the characters and their cultures, so the plot might seem slow at times, but then something big or dangerous happens and you have to hold your breath. And then it completely destroys you emotionally. So yeah, it was a wild ride, but let’s not rush ahead.

I loved how diverse the inhabitants of the galaxy were: I didn’t feel like the aliens were just slightly different humans, they were all completely unique in biology, looks, culture and history as well. I loved how those cultures sometimes clashed, and the crew members had trouble really accepting something from someone else’s (like in the case of Sissix or Ohan), but they still respected the other crew members and their culture. I found the way Sissix’s people treat families especially interesting – some part of it, like the polyamorous living with your lovers/friends type of thing was appealing, while other parts were admittedly strange for my human brain, but at least I know Ashby and Rosemary shared those thoughts with me. I also loved how Dr Chef’s species treated gender as something that changes over time for their species.

Not only the aliens are unique either: the humans in this book also have different groups with different views, including the Exodans who have left behind their species’ bloody past and became completely pacifists with strong principles on holding guns. I loved how Ashby’s views were explored and handled, and I loved the strong anti-colonialism message.

And the found family aspect? Just, wow. These people love each other so much. Sissix and Ashby are so good. Jenks and Kizzy are so good. Dr Chef’s talk with Rosemary about their species is so good. Ohan and Corbin appear less often, but when they do, they destroy your emotions, especially in the second half of the book. One of my favourite moments was when Corbin gets in trouble (not describing the trouble obviously, because spoilers), and Sissix is SO annoyed because she hates his guts, but she still doesn’t even consider not helping him.

There are also some complicated or questionable moral decisions that come from the difference in the cultures, most importantly in Ohan’s case. I can tell you honestly that I’m not sure how to feel about what happened to him in the end, and I don’t know what would have been the right path there. I just don’t know.

Lovey and Jenks and the whole storyline about AI and their consent was amazing. (It also gave me very strong Joker/EDI vibes, but hey.) And then it destroyed me and honestly this is another storyline that I’m not yet sure how I feel about, but it’s supposed to be in the center of the sequel so hopefully reading that will help me judge it.

As for the F/F ship that develops as a pretty slow burn, I have… neutral thoughts? I liked it, but I wasn’t truly feeling it. Still, it was nice to have casual LGBT characters, like Rosemary’s sexuality or Kizzy’s dads.

Random little bits I loved:
* If you don’t know somebody’s gender, it’s polite to default to xyr pronouns.
* The part towards the end where Ashby acts the AI’s name and he acts so confused and thinks he’s in trouble.
* Humans being like “holy shit she’s sixteen” and Sissix being like “wait how much is that? translate it to my species please.”
* “Come on. Put on your trousers. I want to meet the woman who gets to take them off.”
* Jenks staying to listen to a non-sentient AIs entire intro speech, to be polite.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Even More Sapphic Mermaids: Surface Tension

Surface TensionTitle: Surface Tension
Author(s): Valentine Wheeler
Series: 
Genre: Fantasy
Published: December 17th 2018 by NineStar Press. OUT TODAY!
LGBTQAI+: F/F main ship (unspecified characters, one of them may be bi?), gay side character
I received an ARC from the author through The Lesbrary in exchange for an honest review.

Sarai ran away from home to find a new life on the high seas. But when a storm destroys her ship and her life aboard it, she’s stuck on land with only a days-long hole in her memory and the tattered clothes on her back. What could have happened beneath the sea? And can the strange new world she finds when she investigates help her save the world she left behind?

Rating: 4.5 stars

“Do I look very different, wearing one of your skins?”
Well that was a terrifying thing to say, Sarai thought.

Before we get to the review, let’s take a moment together to admire that beautiful cover, okay? I absolutely love blue covers, I love the font used for the title, and I admit I didn’t even notice the shipwreck and the building at first, but wow. And the way the light shines through from the surface! Honestly, this cover is beautiful.

With that out of the way: I think most of you know me well enough by now to know that I will ALWAYS pick up a mermaid book if it comes my way, especially if it has sapphic mermaids. This one is more of a novella than a full-length book, but I still found enough uniqueness in it to hold my attention.

Honestly, with such a short story it’s difficult to really talk about it without spoiling half of what happens, but I will try my best. When Sarai gets shipwrecked, she tries to find her own way without going back to the family that rejected her, but instead she ends up kidnapped by mermaids wishing to learn about the human world. The mermaid main character, Ydri is curious, passionate, and a real scientist. Although the book wasn’t really long enough for overly complex personalities, I liked both of the main characters and especially appreciated that Sarai called out the unequality of their relationship in the given situation.

I liked the slower scenes as well, of Sarai trying to settle back and build a life for herself when she isn’t sure what she wants. I also really appreciated the existence of a gay side character who is kind, soft, has a sense for art and adventure, and becomes Sarai’s platonic best friend, partner and supporter. Nicholas deserves the world, honestly. The ending itself is kind of open, because their adventure is only just beginning, and I kind of wish there was a sequel happening – but that would be a very different story.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Sincerely, Harriet: A Lovely Story About a Lonely Kid

Sincerely, HarrietTitle: Sincerely, Harriet
Author(s): Sarah Winifred Searle
Series: 
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Published: January 1st 2019 by Graphic Universe (TM)
LGBTQAI+:  —
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Harriet Flores struggles with boredom and an unrequited crush while learning to manage her chronic illness through a long, hot, 1990s summer in Chicago. She uses her imagination to cope, which sometimes gets her into trouble, as she makes up fantastical fibs and wonders if there are ghosts upstairs. One neighbor, Pearl, encourages Harriet to read and write, leading Harriet to have a breakthrough and discover the power of storytelling.

Rating: 5 stars

Harriet just moved to a new place with her parents, and she doesn’t have any friends yet. Her parents work a lot, so she spends most of her time at home trying to amuse herself, or talking to her old neighbour downstairs, Pearl. She makes up stories and pretends that she has more friends than she does. She wonders if the floor upstairs is haunted by a ghost, and writes letters to it just in case it exists. Also, she has multiple sclerosis.

This graphic novel had beautiful art, and a complex main character. I saw some other reviews calling her unlikeable because she makes up lies, but I can’t really fault a lonely kid for wanting to believe she has friends, and I also found that she has significant development even the course of this relatively short book.

It’s a slice-of-life story that doesn’t have much plot, but it has wonderful backgrounds, character development, and I felt like the art really gave back the loneliness and quiet that Harriet must have been feeling. It also touches on issues of both disability and racism. Not to mention that Harriet’s neighbour, Pearl has some serious awesome taste in books from what I’ve seen.

I also loved the sort-of open ending, and I felt like it was perfect for this story.

If you are looking for a quiet, quick read, then I definitely recommend this graphic novel.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Afterlife: Foxes, Grief and the Meaning of Life [12 Days of Clink Street]

AfterlifeTitle: Afterlife (Goodreads | Amazon)
Author(s): Tracy Ogali
Series: 
Genre: Poetry, Fantasy?
Published: July 15th 2016 by Clink Street Publishing
I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What do you do when your life falls apart? Who do you turn to for help? This is a story about how to come to terms with the tragedy of losing a loved one. Fox is lost, consumed by grief, unable to move on with his life. Until one day he has an epiphany, so strong that he decides to go on a quest around the world to search for the meaning of life. He meets all the wise creatures that provide him with their philosophy. But nothing works. He feels like a failure. Then, out of the blue, a voice speaks to him: a butterfly. She agrees to show him the way, and it is here, with her guidance, that fox begins to learn about nature, who he is and the true wisdom of life and death.

I understand, but you must still try.

Was that title ominous? Sorry about that. But no, really.

I was drawn to Afterlife immediately when I saw the fox on the cover, because… well, I may or may not have a weakness for foxes. Then I read the blurb, and I realised that this was a book about dealing with grief in a seemingly kid-friendly way, and I was really curious how that would work out.

In the end, Afterlife surprised me in several ways. I initially assumed that the illustrations would be bleak or colourless to go with the depression and grief, but all the pictures were unique, and most of them colourful. When I got to the end, I realised that the reason they had different unique art styles is that the illustrations were done by not one illustrator, but a group of art students. And let me tell you, they did a great job. The illustrations with the butterfly were especially amazing.

The stanzas were usually easy to follow, although I felt like the message sometimes got a little too abstract for children maybe, and the rhymes were sometimes a little… odd. Nevertheless, the story was meaningful, and it was interesting to see the Fox’s journey and what the different animals thought about the meaning of life and death. I also loved how it was shown that it’s okay to grieve but you must eventually move on and heal.

I am also somehow the first person to rate and review this on Goodreads, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

**

I thank Clink Street Publishing & Faye from Authoright for inviting me to be a part of this event. I received a copy of the above book for free in exchange for an honest review.

**

Print

Saturday 1st December

A Thousand Worlds

Marie’s Book Boutique

Pen & Paper

Sunday 2nd December

Heavenly Good Books

Jazzy Book Reviews

Between the Pages Book Club

Monday 3rd December

Librarian Laura’s Great Reads

Grass Monster

Life at 17

Tuesday 4th December

Mixing Reality with Fiction

Donna’s Book Blog

Nayu’s Reading Corner

Wednesday 5th December

Tea Party Princess

Between the Pages Book Club

Bookshine and Readbows

Thursday 6th December

Novel Kicks

Life of a Nerdish Mum

Just Us Book Blog

Friday 7th December

Yet Another Blogging Mummy

Sincerely Stacie

Orchard Book Club

Saturday 8th December

The Little Contemporary Corner

Impressions in Ink

Sunday 9th December

Wrong Side of Forty

Reading for Pleasure

Dystopic

Impressions in Ink

Monday 10th December

Librarian Laura’s Great Reads

Reading Away the Days

OBC Mini Reviewers

Tuesday 11th December

Alisons Book Reviews

Portable Magic

Just Us Book Blog

JBronder’s Book Reviews

Wednesday 12th December

The Writing Greyhound

Between the Pages Book Club

Bookshine and Readbows

Reviews

Letters and Space Adventures: Dear Earthling

Dear Earthling: Cosmic CorrespondentTitle: Dear Earthling
Author(s): Pen Avey
Series: 
Genre: Middle Grade, sci-fi
Published: December 3th 2018 by Common Deer Press
LGBTQAI+: —
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dethbert Jones is your average ten-year-old – only he lives on the planet Crank with his pet chicken-snail and his robot best friend Andi Social. When he and Andi join the Space Cadets, a Scouts-like organization, they are totally smooshed at the prospect of going to Space Camp where they’ll learn to pilot a real shuttlecraft and disintegrate weapons of mass destruction. Blamtastic!

To earn his cosmic correspondent badge, Dethbert begins writing to an earthling – and boy, does he have a lot to write about! Between questions about Earth food, culture, and activities, Dethbert recounts his experiences attempting to avoid his horrible little sister, impress his animal-obsessed crush, and fly a space shuttle. Misadventures – from hairy ankles to crash landings – abound, but Dethbert’s curiosity and enthusiasm can’t be crushed, not by anything in this galaxy, anyway!

Rating: 4 stars

Dear Earthling was an adorable middle-grade sci-fi story with fun illustrations. It’s about a kid who is a Space Cadet, which is basically a Boy’s Scout in space. The chapters are all fairly short, as they are letters the main character writes to his human penpal.

The planet where Dethbert lives, Crank, is sort of like Earth in a parallel universe. Most of their things have names that are horrible puns on Earth names, like “bored games”, “Duesday”, “When?sday” and so forth. I admit that the puns got a little too much for me eventually and I groaned at many of them, but I’m sure kids would appreciate them more.

Dethbert is a good who gets into trouble and fights with his friends sometimes, but he also has a big heart, and many eccentric friends and family members. Overall, I found this a really endearing sci-fi story that is perfect for preteens.

One thing that made me pause was the mention of one kid’s parent being a missionary who was nearly eaten by “cannibalistic savages” that he tried to convert. That story has pretty negative connotations, and I feel like it was really unnecessary to include it, since it’s not even a big plot point or anything.

~ Alexa