Reviews

Review: Tone of Voice

37508432Tone of Voice by Kaia Sønderby

Genre: Science Fiction
Release date: May 1st 2018 by Going to Mars
Purchase: Amazon
Representation: #ownvoices autistic bisexual polyamorous female lead, nonbinary side character, sapphic side character

This review originally appeared on The Lesbrary on March 13th, 2018.

“Things on the inside get easy to see,” Xandri murmured, snuggling contentedly between us, “when you’re always on the outside.”

Back in March, I finally read and reviewed Failure to Communicate, a book that was recommended to me as #ownvoices autistic representation by an indie author. I wasn’t aware before reading the book that other than being autistic, the main character, Xandri, is also bisexual and possibly polyamorous, with one male (Diver) and one female (Kiri) potential LI in the first book. The series also deals with some heavy issues, such as ableism in society, and parental abuse in the main character’s backstory.

I adored the characters and the worldbuiling of Failure to Communicate so much that I immediately rushed to pick up its prequel, Testing Pandora, which takes place a few years earlier. So, obviously, when the second book in the series, Tone of Voice came out earlier this month, I had to pick it up immediately.

A quick, mostly spoiler-free recap of the first book for those who are not familiar with the series: Xandri is a member of a xeno-liasons team on a spaceship called Carpathia, a ship responsible for several successful first contacts with many alien species. Since Xandri is autistic, she had to learn many social clues that came naturally to allistic people, and this constant attention to body language and such actually makes her the best at reading and contacting with new alien species. In the first book, Xandri negotiated an alliance with a notoriously xenophobic species, the Anmerilli, but due to some circumstances she was (frankly, unfairly) forced to leave the Carpathia. The second book picks up a few months later.

Tone of Voice starts with a quick guide to the various alien species present in the books, which was a pretty useful refresher. The species we get to know closely in this book are the Hands and Voices – a symbiotic species where one whale-like alien (a Voice) lives together with several octopus-like creatures (the Hands), which is, of course, a huge oversimplification. I absolutely love the way Kaia handles alien species in her books. While they are usually compared to some Earth animal or concept so that people can more easily imagine them, the alien species are all distinct. What’s more, even within the species there is diversity, different sub-species, and different groups or cultures.

It was great to return to Xandri’s mind and narration. She remains a complex and wonderful protagonist, with quirks and flaws and impulsive decisions, but many more loveable qualities. Xandri is a pacifist at heart: despite not always understanding them, she loves people and she loves all alien species, and she doesn’t want to kill anyone. She feels sorry for those who die, even if it happens in self-defense. And yet, I loved how it was addressed that violence is sometimes necessary, and that violence from oppressors and violence from the oppressed groups defending themselves will never be equally bad: “For once, the voice at the back of my mind had all the sense. If their worst nightmare is the people they want to oppress and kill fighting back against them, then they are the ones with the problem.”

A big change this book brought was the multiple POVs. While the first book was entirely from Xandri’s point of view, in Tone of Voice, the narration kept switching between Xandri and her best friend and potential love interest, Diver. This was great for several reasons, one of them being that it allowed the reader to see the events happening in two places at once – which was pretty useful when there was a lot happening. I felt like the stakes were raised much higher in this book: as we can already see in the blurb, Tone of Voice has two armies with clashing with each other instead in the second half instead of small groups fighting like last time. That also means several deaths in the side cast that sometimes caught me off guard, but it also meant many, many tense moments where I was eager to keep on reading and see what happens.

This book also introduced a nonbinary side character with vi/vir/virself pronouns. I am always happy to see more nonbinary characters, especially once that use “unusual” pronouns, so Jae was a nice surprise.

There is no info about the third book yet, but there’s a lot to look forward to. The ending of Tone of Voice gives the reader some clues on what the main plot is going to be, and I’m also curious if we find out more about Xandri’s past.

My rating: 4 whales 🐋🐋🐋🐋

~ Alexa

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Reviews

Review: The Murderbot Diaries #1-2

32758901Let me introduce you to my new favourite sci-fi novella series with a double review of the first two books.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

All Systems Red

This book was exactly as good as everyone said it would be, and the reason for that is 80% the main character, Murderbot. About 15% is the rest of the crew, and maybe 5% the plot. Which doesn’t mean the plot is bad, actually – but Murderbot and its personality stole the spotlight so completely that the plot was secondary (tertiary?) to me.

Murderbot (as it calls itself) is officially a SecUnit, a security construct with both organic and inorganic parts that is supposed to have no free will and protect the company’s clients on surveys and missions. In reality, Murderbot has overriden its government module and has complete free will, only it has to hide this fact to avoid being discarded. It does its job more-or-less, but mostly it just likes to be left alone and watch entertainment/serials/the equivalent of TV shows I guess.

And that is only one of Murderbot’s super relatable qualities. I’m not sure saying that a construct has anxiety would be correct, but Murderbot certainly shows the signs. It doesn’t like to talk to humans, and it doesn’t even like humans looking at it.

As for the crew, only a few of them really stand out for me, but I loved their little interactions with each other, their surprise and arguments about Murderbot’s personhood, and the way they (especially Dr. Mensah) made an effort to accomodate Murderbot’s needs and make sure it’s comfortable.

As I said, the plot was secondary to me, but I still enjoyed it and felt the tension at several parts where I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending – I would have to read the sequel to really decide on that – but I really hope that characters from this first book will pop up later on as well.

ALSO: While there is no central romance in this book, several side characters are mentioned to be in polyamorous relationship. In fact, polyamory appears normalised and quite common in this universe, which was amazing to see.

36223859Artificial Condition

I liked protecting people and things. I liked figuring out smart ways to protect people and things. I liked being right.

I loved this book because while it had three humans for Murderbot to protect, it also had several bots that were shown to have emotions and form bonds with each other. And I’m not only talking about ART, the one Murderbot befriends, but also several sidecharacter bots (including a spoiler-y part) who went beyond their orders and programming.

As Murderbot has no interest in sex or romance, there is no main romantic relationship in any of these books, and as Murderbot isn’t human, it can’t really count as nonbinary representation despite having no gender – however, the same isn’t true for side characters. The first book had several polyamorous relationships mentioned, and suggested that polyamory was quite common and normalised in this society. This is also true in this book, where a group marriage with kids is casually brought up at one pont, but what I really liked was that there was a nonbinary character with a gender identity that seemed to be specific to the character’s community. (The pronouns used were te/ter, which is not a pronoun set I’ve ever seen, but I’m always happy to see new pronouns I’m unfamiliar with.)

Again, this book had plenty of relatable anxiety moments from Murderbot; two bots working together and trying to pass as human; bots having emotions and protecting people out of their own will; normalised polyamory and nonbinary genders, and plenty of other great stuff. One of my favourite moments was when Murderbot got overwhelmed/stressed out and its bot friend played the soundtrack of its favourite serial to help, but the book is really full of moments like that.

I don’t think I can ever get enough of Murderbot’s adventures.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Sky in the Deep

Sky in the Deep_cover imageSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Genre: Fantasy, YA
Published: April 24th 2018 by Wednesday Books
Pages: 352 (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
Sex on page: No (fade-to-black yes)
LGBTQAI+: None

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am usually skeptical of books that get a lot of hype, especially books without queer characters. Based on the cover and the blurb, I also expected a cold, gritty, bloody tale of warriors and betrayal.

(Note: There are minor plot spoilers in this review, but honestly, the blurb already gives away a lot of things that happen quite late, so you won’t find anything major that’s not already in the blurb.)

“Do you know how?” Halvard asked, looking up at me from where he sat on the ground.
Inge laughed. “She has hair, doesn’t she?”
“I used to do my brother’s,” I answered. The breath caught in my chest.

Don’t get me wrong – I got all of that. There is cold and ice, there are betrayals, and there certainly are warriors. And yet, this book is anything but gritty. Finding out that her brother has been alive and living with the enemy all this time, and forced to live among the enemy for the winter, Eelyn is full of anger and betrayal and doubt.

And yet, there is so much gentleness in this book. Gentleness between Inge and her children. Gentleness between Eelyn’s brother and his new family. Gentleness between Eelyn and the Riki family she lives with. Gentleness between community members who help each other and take care of their own.

“We find things, just as we lose things, Eelyn.” Inge stood. “If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”

In a lot of places, this book reminded me of Ice Massacre, another book of teenage warriors who are trained to kill and fight yearly against a specific enemy from a young age. I only read the first book in that trilogy, so I don’t know where the story goes – but Sky in the Deep is a standalone, so you get the ending in the first book, and it’s much more positive than I expected.

I am also wary of m/f romances in YA because many of them are built on no chemistry and toxic tropes, but that wasn’t the case here. This might be strange to say given the circumstances, but Eelyn and Fiske felt equal in their relationship from the beginning. I admit I didn’t read the whole blurb, so I wasn’t actually sure they would end up together at first, but I could feel the romance and the trust build between them.

I uttered the words that had once been said to me, the night my mother died. “You run into the forest. You don’t stop until morning. No matter what.”

In the end, this book had much less grittiness and betrayal, and much more gentleness and found families than I expected. And by that I mean, there are found families literally everywhere.

In short, Sky in the Deep was a beautiful standalone novel that had a violent plot in a cold climate, and yet still felt heartwarming.

Content warnings: attempted sexual assault. violence. cutting out an eyeball at one point.

My rating: 🗻🗻🗻🗻🗻/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: The Boss of Her

39027065The Boss of Her by Julie Cannon, M. Ullrich and Aurora Rey

Genre: LGBTQAI+, Contemporary, Romance, Boss/employee
Published: April 17th 2018 by Bold Strokes Books
Lesbian Book Bingo squares: Workplace romance, Butch/Femme
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
Sex on page: Yes

Going to work never felt so good. Three office romance novellas from talented writers Julie Cannon, Aurora Rey, and M. Ullrich.

In For Your Eyes Only by Julie Cannon: Dress for success takes on a very different meaning. CFO Riley Stephenson finds herself in a particularly difficult position when the stripper she’s fallen for shows up at her office―as her new employee.

In Lead Counsel by Aurora Rey: Attorney Elisa Gonzalez is happy working behind the scenes while still having time for a life. All that changes when her firm takes on a major case and Parker Jones, powerhouse litigator and her law school crush, is named lead counsel.

In Opportunity of a Lifetime by M. Ullrich: Luca Garner is eager and hardworking, but her new boss is a total nightmare―snarky and uncooperative, not to mention an ice queen. VP Stephanie Austin doesn’t mean to be unkind, but the last thing she wants is an assistant getting under her skin, especially one who is as attractive as she is kind.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to start with some nitpicking to get this out of the way: the order of the stories in the book is not the same as in the blurb. Yes, it’s a small thing, but it was weird. Still with me? Okay. Let’s talk about the stories.

Lead Counsel by Aurora Rey: Maybe it was the lawyer thing, but personally, I didn’t find this story as engaging as the other two. I did like that they decided not to do the boss/employee romance long-term, though. (Although how they solve it is spoilers, obviously.) 3/5 stars

For Your Eyes Only by Julie Cannon: It might be a random thing, but I really loved all the safety measures Jess was shown taking while she worked, and how she was not shamed for being a stripper. I also loved how the story was divided into three sections: the first two described the same events from the perspective of the two love interests, and the third section described the rest of the story in third person. One minor thing is that I was really uncomfortable with how Ann pushed the “you need to get laid” thing. 4.5/5 stars

Opportunity of a Lifetime by M. Ullrich: Mitchell was the best thing about this story. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but also not really – I enjoyed this story, but I especially enjoyed how Stephanie’s child nephew helped Luca and Stephanie bond, and I loved Kathy referring to Luca as Mitchell’s best friend. I took a star off because I really wasn’t impressed by the dramatic twist towards the ending. I mean, come on, you’re going to make drama about something that has clearly changed during the course of several months? 4/5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this collection more than I expected given some of my previous experience with contemporary adult romances.

My rating: 📁📁📁📁/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: The Deep End

39887360The Deep End by Ellie Hart

Genre: LGBTQAI+, Mystery/Thriller, 40s protagonist
Published: April 16th 2018 by Bold Strokes Books
Lesbian Book Bingo squares: Romantic Mystery, Doctors/Veterinarians
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
Sex on page: No

Local veterinarian Dr. Giselle Cutler’s world revolves around her profession, and Marta, the woman she loves. She’s confident both will always be there to support her until her cell phone rings in the middle of the night, and her once-stable world begins to spin out of control. Her sister Tiffani is missing, and all fingers point to fifteen year old Leif, Giselle’s nephew. Life as she knows it is fading fast, and with it, the security that family provides. As the true nature of each relationship is revealed, Giselle begins to doubt her ability to keep – and deserve – a lasting partnership. But Marta’s not giving up, and her support is the lifeline that keeps Giselle from toppling over the edge as they confront the dangers and dark secrets behind Tiffani’s disappearance.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is like, 3.25 stars for me? It’s a strong 3 stars.

First of all, I love the cover, it’s beautiful, but I feel like it has a very different atmosphere from the book itself. I could imagine the cover on a romance, but it doesn’t really scream “mystery with disappearance, murder, maffia, alcohol poisoning and suicide attempt” for me.

As you can see from the blurb, the main character, Giselle is a lesbian in a long-term relationship with Marta – it is an established relationship, and they have romantic scenes and a supportive relationship, but the romance is far from the main focus. Personally, I love reading the beginnings of romances, the getting-together part, but it was amazing to see a book with an established lesbian couple where they can be in love without the relationship or their orientations being the focus.

Other than that, if I had only two words to summarise the plot, I’d say “too much”. I understand this is a mystery, but it felt like there were too many sideplots, too many secrets, too many twists, too many connections. They would have actually been interesting in themselves, but this way it felt a little like the writer constantly wanted to one-up herself. I finished reading the book, and honestly, I still have SO MANY QUESTIONS about several of the minor plotlines. (Oh, and the major plotline, Tiffany’s disappearance? We never find out exactly what happened to her. When I saw the word “epilogue”, I had to skim over the last few chapters to see if I missed where it is revealed, but nah. The epilogue hints at which of the 5-6 suspects was actually behind this particular plot, but that’s all.)

Still, despite the many sideplots and some minor annoyances, I enjoyed reading this book. I especially liked Leif’s character, though I wished we had learned more about Sara.

My rating: 📱📱📱/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Not So Stories

35894420Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore

Genre: Anthology, Fantasy
Published: April 10th 2018 by Abaddon Books
Length: 334 pages
Number of stories: 14
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
Sex on page: No

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories was one of the first true children’s books in the English language, a timeless classic that continues to delight readers to this day. Beautiful, evocative and playful, the stories of “How the Whale Got His Throat” or “The First Letter Written” paint a magical, primal world. It is also deeply rooted in British colonialism. Kipling saw the Empire as a benign, civilizing force, and his writing can be troubling to modern readers. Not So Stories attempts to redress the balance, bringing together new and established writers of color from around the world to take the Just So Stories back; giving voices to cultures that were long deprived them.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Because every day of freedom is a small act of victory against those who would rob you of it.”

Not So Stories is a response to a book by Rudyard Kipling that I confess I have never read, but according to the blurb, it’s a book rooted in British colonialism. Even without knowing this information, it is clear that the stories in Not So Stories are all against the different aspects of colonialism, explotiation and racism. While I sometimes felt like I lacked context for the stories, I still enjoyed reading them.

I’m not going to write an individual review for every story, but I’m going to list my favourites from the collection:

queen by joseph e. cole (this is the one the quote I started with is from)

best beloved by wayne santos

saṃsāra by georgina kamsika 

the cat who walked by herself by achala upendran 

how the simurgh won her tail by ali nouraei

how the camel got her paid time off by paul krueger

My rating: 🐪🐪🐪🐪/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Nothing But Sky

35223711Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Published: March 27th 2018 by Flux
Length: 284 pages
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: None
Sex on page: No

Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I started reading this book, my first thought was that it would fit perfectly in The Radical Element anthology that I read recently. It’s a historical fiction with a 18-year-old female protagonist who is truly radical and defies convention by performing tricks on the wings of moving airplanes in the 1920s.

After I read the book, I would like to say that I probably would have enjoyed it more if it truly had been a short story/novella in an anthology instead of a full-length book. This way, I often felt like it dragged on, or the exact same type of conflicts and scenes kept repeating (some practice, someone trying to convince Grace not to fly, Rowland showing up…). While it was overall a good story, I feel like it would have worked better if it was half as long.

Another problem for me was the characters. Other than Grace and MAYBE Henry, I couldn’t really get connected to anyone. Grace’s two female friends were nice, but they didn’t appear that much. The Uncle, Daniel and Nathan were interesting as Grace’s family, but – especially the last two – barely felt like individual people to me (up until a certain spoiler-y event).

It was clever how the book kept hinting at one character being a traitor when it was really another one, so it gets a few points for not being predictable, but the eventual reveal just made me less enthusiastic about both of these characters when I already wasn’t too attached to either.

Overall, I think this book had a great setting but unfortunately I didn’t find it very enjoyable to read.

My rating: 🛩️🛩️🛩️/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: Not Your Sidekick

31698951Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Genre: YA, SFF, Superheroes, LGBTQAI+
Series: Sidekick Squad #1
Published: September 8th 2016 by Duet
Length: 296 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: Bisexual girl main character (#ownvoices), main f/f relationship, trans guy side character (I’m also pretty sure Emma is a-spec but it’s not mentioned in this book yet)
Sex on page: No
Note: Chinese/Vietnamese main character

Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Pretty much everyone I know has either read this book or is planning to read it, so here I am, officially joining the squad. (Not the sidekick squad, unfortunately, though that would be badass.)

There are never enough #ownvoices bisexual heroines, especially non-white ones, and Jess is amazing – as are all her friends. This book was fun and easy to read, although way too predictable at times, but I suppose that comes with the genre. After all, is it really a superhero novel without all those incredibly obvious secret identities that somehow nobody notices? And the main villain very conveniently detailing all their plans and secrets? I don’t think so.

Before going into this, I thought this was a contemporary/near-future setting, but turns out the story is set a couple of hundred years into the future, and in a sort of post-apocalyptic world, which was a nice surprise. I loved the little details, like driving your own car or having a pet being a luxury.

I loved laughing at the ineffective villains pulling pranks, then gradually realising that there’s so much more behind their actions. I loved how the main conspiracy was set up, and how history being rewritten and the media conveniently influencing people was focused on.

The main romance between Jess and Abby was adorable and I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel. I also loved all of Jess’s family, especially her little brother and his totally-not-obvious crush on Bells. I am heartbroken about Jess’s sister and I’m curious to see where that relationship goes in the sequels.

I also really, really loved the recurring mentions of the Rainbow Allies club working at their school. I live in Hungary, and while I’ve heard about GSAs in the US, I’ve never heard of any here and certainly not in my city,  so it’s always interesting to read about.

All in all, I think this is a really fun read if you don’t take it too seriously (because yes, some of the parts are really THAT obvious). I also have an e-copy of the sequel (Not Your Villain) which is from Bells’s POV, so I can’t wait to read that one. Hopefully next month?

My rating: 🤖🤖🤖🤖/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Review: Cheerleaders from Planet X

35671549Cheerleaders from Planet X by Lyssa Chiavari

Genre: Science Fiction, Aliens, LGBTQAI+, YA
Series: Standalone
Published: September 5th 2017 by The Kraken Collective
Length: 318 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: Lesbian main character and love interest
Sex on page: No
Note: Half-Filipina main character

Aliens are among us. And humanity’s only hope just happens to carry pom-poms.

Laura Clark thought she was just your average college freshman—until the day she saw a cheerleader on a skateboard get into a superhuman brawl with a lightning-wielding stranger in a trenchcoat. And the weirdest thing of all? Nobody else saw it happen. Nobody, that is, except the beautiful but standoffish Shailene, one of the mysterious (and possibly super-powered) cheerleaders from Laura’s rival school, Bayview University.

When girls start disappearing all over the City, Laura suddenly realizes that she may have seen more than she should. And if she wants to keep from disappearing herself, she needs to find some answers. But though Laura can’t shake the feeling that they’re somehow connected, Shailene is more than a little reluctant to share her secrets. With strange, bug-like creatures and a sinister man in a dark coat stalking her every step, Laura will have to uncover the truth fast if she wants to survive.

The fate of the planet just might hang in the balance.

It’s somehow unusually difficult to articulate my thoughts about this book, so this review might be a little all over the place.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while – I was first intrigued by the cover and the title, then the blurb. Cheerleaders who fight aliens like some kind of superheroes? Sign me up!

I read this book fairly quickly and I enjoyed it as well, but when I got to the end I had to realise that it was more forgettable than I hoped. I enjoyed the action and the plot twists (really – I guessed part of it, but there was much that I couldn’t/didn’t guess so I was at the edge of my seat waiting to find out what was going to happen), but when everything was finally revealed, it felt like a little too much at once. Suddenly all kinds of government conspiracies and they-aren’t-who-you-think and Greek mythology was involved, and most of this was revealed at the same time. I felt like a more gradual reveal of the situation might have been better.

Most importantly, I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters. I enjoyed the dialogue, especially the several references/jokes about the upcoming election and such, but in the end none of the characters truly grabbed me. I was interested in what was going to happen them, but not THEM, if that makes sense.

In short, this was an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable read for me.

My rating: 🛸🛸🛸🛸/5.

~ Alexa

Reviews

ARC Review: Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1)

37943458 Flotsam by R. J. Theodore

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy
Series: Peridot Shift #1
Published: March 27th 2018 by Parvus Press LLC
Length: 324 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: I think Tisker (a side character) is gay, but there is only really one reference to it and the word isn’t used. There are also aliens who use neopronouns. (So, not much.)
Sex on page: No (also no romance at all, only references to a past fling)

There is currently a U.S. only giveaway for Flotsam by the publisher here.

A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not even sure how to rate this book. 3 stars? 3.5?

Peridot is a fractured planet made up of many islands, home to five distinct humanoid races that were created by the Divine Alchemists, who are now worshipped as gods: Cutter, Breaker, Bone, Vein and Rakkar. The main character, Talis, and two other members of her crew are all Cutters, and the fourth one, Dug is a Bone.

I would like to start by saying that I loved the worldbuilding in theory – the fractured planet and the five races that were created by gods who still live among the people – but I had problems with the execution. To me, the Cutters sort of seemed like “regular” humans with no real special characteristics. We only see one Breaker in the entire book, and basically no named Rakkars. The Vein are four-limbed people who are physically blind, but oh, they have a magical sight – like every other blind race in anything ever. And finally, the Bone are dark-skinned people who live in desert tribes. While not outright barbaric, the Bone are often portrayed as violent, and the one Bone crew member, Dug, is described as large and intimidating immediately when he appears. I hope I don’t have to explain why I was conflicted about that. In short, I liked the idea but I felt like the races could have been written much better, and I’m hoping they’ll be more detailed in the sequel.

As for the characters, in the first half I was intrigued by all four crew members of the Wind Sabre – but towards the second half, Sophie and Tisker faded into the background and barely felt like individual people. Also, as I mentioned above, there is one throwaway sentence about Tisker not preferring Talis’s “parts”, which is not only a pretty cissexist way to say he’s gay, but it’s also never brought up again. (To be fair, there aren’t really heterosexual romances in the book either, other than mentions of the fling Talis used to have with one of the male antagonists.)

One thing I really enjoyed was the alien race (the Yu’Nyun) and the very different way they use gender and pronouns. They don’t seem to have genders at all, or at least at this point we don’t know anything about those – they use pronouns based on situation and class, and they have very strict rules on what class is allowed to wear what type of clothes. If I remember well, there are 9 pronoun groups, but like 50 different versions of the same pronoun? While this is only explored in a couple of scenes so far, I was genuinely intrigued by an alien race that is truly different from what we expect, and doesn’t just have the same binary genders. The characters we see use the xe/xin/xist pronoun set, and one of them becomes a major side character. (Although an actual “human” (Cutter, Bone, etc.) nonbinary character would have been nice.)

As for the plot… I sadly have to admit that I almost completely lost interest in the book about 70% in. I found myself enjoying it until then, but the main battle fell flat for me and I was begging for it to be over. Still, there were some plot twists and solutions by the crew before the 70% mark that I appreciated.

In short, I would say that Flotsam had many ideas that I liked, but the execution very often could have been better. I might pick up the sequel to see if these things improve, but at this point I am undecided. Honestly, I have no idea where the plot is going after this, but I hope we learn more about the Rakkars and the Breakers, as well as the Yu’Nyun. Especially regarding the Yu’Nyun, I have some suspicions based on hints and I would love to see more.

My rating: 👾👾👾/5.

~ Alexa