ARC Review: Heartbreak, Inc. by Alex de Campi

I’m writing this with a cold, and I finished it at about 2am, so I may not be fully coherent. Please bear with me! It was one of those books you have to read in one sitting, even if it won’t fit in one sitting.

This cover is amazing and more than half the reason I requested this book!

The Story

From acclaimed comics writer Alex de Campi, a sexy (prose) novel about an agency that specialises in breaking up relationships, with a side hustle in the occult.

Evie Cross had big dreams of becoming an investigative journalist but at 25 and struggling to make it in New York City, she’s finally starting to admit that her dream is her side hustle and her day job is actually… her job. That is, until she signs on as a temp for a small consultancy whose principal, Misha Meserov, specializes in breaking up relationships. Misha is tall, infuriatingly handsome, and effortlessly charismatic—he can make almost anyone, man or woman, fall into bed with him. And he often does.

But the more Evie is exposed to Misha’s scandalous world, the more she becomes convinced that he’s hiding something… when a wealthy San Francisco tech CEO with a dissolving marriage starts delving into the occult and turns up dead, Evie has to decide between her journalistic desire for the truth and her growing desire for Misha.

The (somewhat spoilery) review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Continue reading…

Review: Witchmark, by C. L. Polk

I kept hearing so much good about this series, and I was looking for a cool, romance/light fantasy audiobook so I landed on this. I’ve now just finished audio-reading the second one in the series, and looking forward to the third!

The Story

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I normally review books right after I read them, and I’m finding that reviewing book 1 after reading book 2 is quite difficult. I think this is especially the case here since there’s a narrator switch between books.

I really enjoyed the mix of genres in this, between what I believe is called gaslamp fantasy, romance, and murder mystery. It’s a nice mix of three of my favourites.

I found Miles really compelling, and the overall plot kept me guessing the whole time. I think it is, at the core, a story about discrimination and oppression for people who aren’t as rich and powerful as a baselessly chosen elite. The poorer witches are persecuted, while the powerful ones sit in government and control everything. It was infuriating, but in a good way.

I quite enjoyed the romance itself, but the main draw for me was the mystery and political plot, to be quite honest. And the resolution exceeded all expectations, I truly did not see any of it coming, and yet there were enough clues laid out that I felt like I should have. I also really liked some more minor characters, including Tristan’s staff, and Robin, who I’m very glad to see is the narrator of book 3.

Overall it was a lot of fun to read/listen to, and I jumped on to the next book. I think the only reason it’s not getting a full 5 stars is that the second book in the series felt even better and somehow even more tightly plotted, and I preferred it overall. But both were great reads and I fully recommend it!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd*

*this is an affiliate link, I may receive a free month on Scribd if you subscribe through this link, at no extra cost to you.

ARC Review: The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri

I was so lucky to get this ARC, but due to some circumstances unrelated to the book, I struggled to get to it and then finish it (part of it is really my struggle with ebooks). But I did finish it as part of my mini-readathon this weekend, and I’m very glad I stuck with it, because every bit of it is just brilliant.

The Story

Exiled by her despotic brother when he claimed their father’s kingdom, Malini spends her days trapped in the Hirana: an ancient, cliffside temple that was once the source of the magical deathless waters, but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

A servant in the regent’s household, Priya makes the treacherous climb to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to play the role of a drudge so long as it keeps anyone from discovering her ties to the temple and the dark secret of her past.

One is a vengeful princess seeking to steal a throne. The other is a powerful priestess seeking to save her family. Their destinies will become irrevocably tangled.

And together, they will set an empire ablaze.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received this ebook for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I’ve a lot of feelings and I’m not sure where to start. What I can say for sure is that all the raving reviews it got are not exaggerating one bit. It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of epic fantasy and whenever I picked it up I found it so so hard to stop again, even if it was like 2am and I had work in the morning.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it except wlw, an Indian-inspired universe, and something like enemies-to-lovers but not quite? I’m still not sure how I’d describe the plot but it exceeded all my expectations.

The main characters (the women, I mean) are both relatable and flawed, realistic people, who’ve been hurt by what they’ve been put through and have to put the pieces of themselves back together. The men, and especially Chandra and Ashok, the main heroines’ brothers, are deeply flawed but in a cruel and unusual way, which makes for great antagonists. Ashok at least has some deep trauma and reasons for acting that way, but he’s never given a pass, which I really appreciated. But you also get to see the baseless cruelty of some people, out of fanaticism or just plain hatred, in Chandra, and I thought that was just right too. Yes, some villains have their own story and redeeming qualities, but some really are just horrible people, and that is that.

This is also a book about patriarchal oppression and colonialism, and in that way it hit all the right notes for me as well. Following the stories of three women who’ve all been deeply wounded by the empire felt right, and the difficult positions everyone had to take at one point or another, while not necessarily moral, felt just within the circumstances they’d been dealt.

The prose is amazingly good, and I was 100% invested the whole time, whatever was happening. There’s not a boring moment in the whole book! But I think my favourite part was trying to guess at Malini’s intentions and what she would do next.

As the book grows towards its ending, I kept thinking we’d reached the climax, only for the next chapter to hit an even higher note! I’m quite impressed at how tightly plotted the whole thing is, and how all the cards lay just right at the end. True craftwomanship! Makes me super excited for the next one!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Portal Bookshop | Kennys

mini readathon: a recap

So I planned to do this yesterday but i ended up finishing past midnight instead of 5pm like I said, soo it was a bit late.

While I didn’t read quite as much as I’d planned, I did finish 3 books I’d already started:

-Stormsong by C.L. Polk (I’ll be posting a review of the first in the series shortly)

-Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri, which keeps blowing my mind that much later. Also got a review ready to go

-Best SFF of the year (2018). Like all story collections there were great hits, and there were some misses. I allowed myself to skip some, but I enjoyed most of it

I’m currently on holidays for a few days in the countryside, and typing this from mobile. I’m excited to be out of the house for a bit, even if it looks like the weather won’t be on my side. My holiday read is gonna be The Unbroken, and I’m really looking forward to that!!

A life update (and mini readathon)

I’ve been unusually silent the last couple of weeks, mainly because i’ve struggled to read pretty much anything. I’ve started half a dozen books, and only finished one audiobook (The Truth, by Terry Pratchett, which I’d feel odd reviewing considering. you know. It’s been published for years and years.

On the why side, there’s not really a reason, I was not really busier than usual, I’ve just been dropping things on account of how tiring the first 5 months of this year (and the whole of last year) have been. And we can go out again, which means I do, sometimes, plan to do stuff other than reading during the weekends. And then my health hasn’t been the best, sometimes the chronic pain is not just “can’t hold a paper book” but “can’t focus on an audio because pain” so I’m learning to deal with that and cut myself some slack

But! I’ve got the next week off work, and while I’ve got Plans, I also want to make the most of this weekend where I’ve nothing to do. So I decided to do a readathon, 5pm today (Friday) to 5pm Monday. You can also join in this storygraph challenge if you’re tempted to do the same.

I’ve a few ebooks lined up (2 ARCs, manly) but this is mostly it:

  • finish Stormsong audiobook (5 hours left give or take)
  • Jasmine Throne ARC (70% in!)
  • Best SFF of 2018 (I’m 1/3rd through?)
  • A Desolation Called Peace (barely started)
  • Pyramids (read or DNF, I’ll decide once I get started)

Then the “I’m not likely to get here but I’ll try” ones:

  • HEartbreak Inc, another ARC I’m really excited about
  • Either The Galaxy and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, or Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear, as the mood strikes me

I’ll be talking about this on Twitter, and hopefully updating you here on Monday night!

Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers

I’ve been a bit quiet lately. On the one hand the weather’s been gorgeous, and on the other, I’m lacking the spoons to actually write… and that includes blogging :/ But I’ve still been reading, and I’m very happy to tell you more about the 3rd Wayfarers book today! Becky Chambers is one of my, if not the, favourite queer authors, or favourite authors altogether. Her scifi is very human and I just adore the worlds she builds!

The Story

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read this in preparation for the last of the series coming out (I already own it but I take forever to read at the moment).

I love every one of the books in this series – the first one maybe most of all – and this one was no exception. It really punched me in the guts at one point too, I had to put it down and take a few deep breaths, but I just couldn’t stay away from it for very long. Just be aware it comes with a TW for major character death.

It can easily be read as a standalone, although if you’ve read the previous ones you’ll be happy to meet Tessa, Ashby’s sister.

I sometimes have trouble with ensemble casts because there’s always one or two I don’t particularly like, but this wasn’t the case at all here. Just loved every single one of them, and was invested in all their stories. I also especially liked the diversity involved, from the unruly teenager to the mom of two, to the queer archivist in her 70s or 80s. It’s very rare to read about older queer people, especially, and it just warmed my little heart!

But most of all for me, with any Becky Chambers book, is the worldbuilding. Here, the Fleet is the perfect alternative to capitalism, a place where everyone has food and a place to sleep. It’s also a place where sex work is not taboo, where death is made meaningful… I have a lot of feelings about the Fleet, and most of them can be summed up as “I want this, for myself, like yesterday”.

It was a hard read at times, but it always felt just right and was very satisfying in the end. Just a perfect cosy, low stakes scifi novel about normal people trying to find their way in life.

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones (signed copies!) | Kennys | Portal Bookshop

May Wrap-up and Highlights

May has been both a relief, and a stressful month. First, I’m entirely finished with my school work. I ended in my dissertation about a week early from the due date, which was a total relief. I feel like I’ve got things under control for the first time in a long time.

Restrictions are lifting slowly over here, so I took a trip to Kilkenny a few weeks back. It was maybe a bit early (and definitely a rainy day…) so the mix of doing outdoor stuff and being in the rain wasn’t a good mix per se, but I still enjoyed it. Even if it took my body a couple of days to recover from all the walking.

My body’s still acting up with pain flareups, so I’ve been reading a lot of audiobooks as I lay in bed waiting for it to pass. There’s got to be a good side to everything! I read 13 books all together this month, so here’s just some of the highlights!

  • The Tea Dragon Society and The Tea Dragon Festival, two amazingly gorgeous comics by Kay O’Neill. I only got the second one on Saturday and I gotta say it was just as good, if not better, as the first one!
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer – a soft-spoken, informative and heartbreaking audiobook about Native American ways of living. A must-Read in my opinion.
  • A Memory Called Empire, by Arcady Martine: Fast paced and brilliant scifi novel around colonialism and the meeting of cultures. I’ve just about started reading the second one in the series!
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers. This book wrecked me! I might eventually write a review, though it’s the 3rd book in the Wayfarers series – it mostly works as a standalone. It’s another amazing bit of writing by Becky Chambers, who’s now definitely an auto-buy for me
  • Hani and Ishu’s guide to fake dating, by Adiba Jaigirdar, an absolutely adorable Irish-Bengali YA romance that had me feeling all the feels!
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo, and the Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djeli Clark – I’m really excited for A Master of Djinn to come to my country in audio format, but in the meantime I’ve found some Clark short stories I’m gonna read too.

I’m behind on my ARC reviews, but I’ve started Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, it’s shaping up to be a great novel already!

For June, I’d planned to do a queer author spotlight, but I’m realising now that I won’t have the spoons to do it as well as I’d want to. So instead, I’m going to focus on reading queer books this month (more than usual, that is to say) and use those reviews to highlight some queer authors and stories.

What’s the last queer book you read? And your favourite queer book of all times?

🌈 Happy Pride month everyone! 🌈

Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, by Adiba Jaigirdar

I’ve got to admit this was entirely an impulse buy. I don’t really read contemporary YA but the author shared pictures of the paperback on twitter and I just fell in love with it! It’s such a good cover! So I preordered it. I rarely do this because the preorder options here aren’t good, but there was a link to Eason’s (that’s like the Waterstones of Ireland, really) right there on the author’s website, which… if you make it easy for me I’m happier to buy your stuff. That should’ve given it away, but I didn’t realize that this was based in Ireland til I started reading.

Look at this cover! Look at the colours! Isn’t it the best??

The Story

Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve just got a sweet spot for stories set in Dublin (or in places I know generally). Reading things like “let’s meet up in Dundrum!” or “We’ll take the Luas” (that’s the Dublin tram, for those of you reading this outside Ireland) is surreal and makes me very happy for some reason. So finding out this was based here and not in the UK or US as I was expecting just made this even better!

But even besides the home sweet home aspect, it’s an adorable, cute, funny little book. I straight up devoured it in 2 days, and with my bad focus, that’s saying something!

Now, as the book will tell you when you open it, it broaches possibly triggering subjects like homophobia/biphobia, racism and islamophobia. Hani’s “friends” are just mean white girls, yall! They were, unfortunately, absolutely believable in their behaviour and comments. But Jaigirdar also takes no hostages, and I especially liked how Ishu was absolutely mad about the things Hani’s “friends” said. It was clear both characters had their issues, with Ishu being way too focused on pleasing her parents (out of legitimate fears of rejection) and Hani hanging on to these toxic friends. So it wasn’t one-sided at all, but I loved when Ishu would tear into Aisling and Deirdre. God those girls are ignorant! And Ishu’s remarks were hilarious.

As you see I’ve a lot of feelings about this novel! I loved the main couple, and how their differences shaped their dynamic but also how they completed each other very well and in a way can give the other a “reality check”. I also loved Hani’s Amma and Abba, best parents a girl could dream of! And really enjoyed how Ishu’s relationship with her sister evolved throughout. It leaves you with a lot of thoughts about family, but in a good way I think? This novel just filled me with a lot of good fuzzy feelings by the end.

Now, I know very little about Bengali culture at all, so for me it was more a learning experience than a “see yourself in it” experience, but it was a good immersion and it reads really well even as a mostly ignorant white person. But mostly I’m really glad that girls like Hani and Ishu have books where they can see themselves in, nowadays. I don’t think I’d have been able to pick up a book like this even 10 years ago, and I’m glad that landscape is changing!

It was an adorable romance, and very funny too! 10/10 would recommend! Just go read it 😀

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | more links on the author’s website!

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

Review: Tales of Lunis Aquaria, by Tessa Hastjarjanto

A quick one today, as I want to tell you about a book by my friend Tessa Hastjarjanto, over at Narratess. It’s a lovely little collection of tales/short stories.

Louxor always likes a cute book

The Story

The balance is tipping. Something shifts in the world of Lunis Aquaria. Menacing creatures, daunting deserts, and treacherous mountains. Hardships and solace, friendships and love. Read the stories of what went on before the world is lost in disparity and meet the heroes who will one day restore harmony.

Tales of Lunis Aquaria is a collection of nine short stories set in the fantastical world of Lunis Aquaria.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I always find it hard to “grade” short story collections. I spent some time hovering internally between a 3.5 and a 4 on this one.

It is, like I said, a lovely little collection. I love the universe it sketches out, with what is essentially a nature goddess and some alien observers in the shape of common animals. Some of the stories were cute, and some were bittersweet, and I generally quite enjoyed it.

One issue I had was that you can feel there is more to it than you’re told, and I feel like a few more stories in the collection might’ve helped round it out, and tie in some of the loose ends. Also, I kept wishing for some queer characters. But as it stands, it was a cute read, and I can’t wait to read more stories in the universe, and get some answers to my questions. This feels more like a first volume (and Tessa promises me more stories are to come!) so it’s hard to judge the whole just on the face of its first part.

What I really loved about it is that it truly felt like fairy tales, the kind of stories I could’ve read as a kid, in tone and in spirit. And yet it did not shy away from harsher stories as well. A good little collection to read with a mug of tea.

The Links

Amazon* | Book Depository

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

Review: Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is going to be a bit different than usual, as this is nonfiction. Few months ago, I asked about recommendations on Native American… psychology, I think it was? Over on twitter. Now, this is Not It, but it was an amazing read nonetheless. I first got a paper copy from the library but it was written so tiny I just kind of gave up on it. It’s too tiring for me when I feel like I’d need a magnifying glass. Thankfully though, the audiobook is on Scribd, so I jumped on that opportunity!

The Book

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I’m European. I studied US history from a non-US perspective so I may have a good grasp of the general history and Native American oppression but it’s in a very general way, and I knew little about Native American culture and ways of living before reading this book.

First, I will say it is highly accessible, the audiobook was lovely, read by the author herself. Her voice is very calm and soothing and I’ve got to admit I used this as my bedtime reading for a few weeks, as it lulled me right to sleep (this is a compliment! I was never bored, just soothed).

I don’t feel competent to evaluate the topic, in all honesty, but I think the book does its job very well in first, making you rethink scientific ways of thinking and how obtuse (often white, often male) scientists can be. As a psychology student, this is something I’m well aware of, but it was nonetheless really interesting to hear about how Kimmerer challenged that, with concrete examples.

I did learn a lot about plants (lichens are a mix of fungi and bacteria??? pecan trees all give nuts at once???) but more importantly about how Native Americans, in specifically Anishinaabe and Potawatomi people live alongside nature. I think we (Westerners) have a lot to learn in terms of respecting nature, and practicing honourable/reciprocal methods of harvesting. I grew up on a farm, and I know the good the bad and the ugly, but the idea that you could plant maize, beans and squash together on the same bit of land was never something I even HEARD of, and yet it makes absolute sense!

It also gave me a much deeper understanding of what was done to Native Americans, not just in terms of displacements and loss of land, but also what was essentially kidnapping children, and forced assimilation. I knew about most of this, of course, in a vague and academic sort of way, but I think it was important to me to learn about it from someone who IS Native American, and not from some WASP professor.

Another of Kimmerer’s focus is, of course, climate change, and capitalism’s impact on the land. I say of course, because she clearly sets out ways in which Native Americans work with the land, and this contrasts clearly with the “use all you can no matter the long term consequences” capitalist approach. She draws a grim portrait of the state of the land (and this was published 8 years ago so things surely did not get better), and I was extremely pissed to learn about Onondaga Lake, but she does not stop there. She offers ways in which everyone can help, and doesn’t want you to stop at despair, because that does nothing. In a way, I found her account truly hopeful. I think it should be required reading in agriculture and forestry schools.

I could write a whole essay about it, but I’m going to stop here. This was an amazing book, and it was truly eye-opening, and I’ve got to confess I thought I knew more than I did, so it was humbling too. And funny! Kimmerer has a way with words, and I can’t recommend the audiobook enough.

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd*

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission (or a free month on Scribd) for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you