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#Diverseathon 2017 TBR

It’s Diverseathon time* again!

Diverseathon is a week-long readalong taking place from January 22nd to January 29th, and it’s organised by Christina Marie, Joce of SquibblesReads, Monica of She Might Be Monica, and Whitney of WhittyNovels. There are no real rules, the stated goal is to read more diverse books but that’s left fairly open to interpretation. I’m choosing to read Own Voices books, ie. books about people with marginalised identities that were written by people who share those marginalised identities.

I believe that second part is crucial because in addition to being severely under-represented in books, marginalised identities are severely under-represented in the publishing industry and book-reviewing community. As an ally with many factors of privilege, I want to support and signal boost the voices of marginalised people telling their own stories.

And now onto the books!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

This is the group read that participants are encouraged to pick up, which is how I first heard about it. I originally assumed it would be a non-fiction work about the Underground Railroad, and I was alreay pretty excited about that concept, but it turns out it’s a novel that features an actual clandestine railroad! I must confess, I do really like stories set on trains or that have trains in them. I got the audiobook of this one, it seemed only fitting that I should listen to it on my commute, since that is made of trains.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

The premise of an Earth that knows it is about to be devastated by an asteroid and the subsequent conflict about who and what to save and prioritise isn’t new in SFF; there’s a long tradition of using robots, aliens and artificial intelligences as metaphors to discuss those themes, it’s great to see works that explore those same ideas through actual marginalised people interacting with a science-fictional world. This novel came out in 2016 and it’s one of a giant pile that I want to get read before the nomination period for this year’s Hugo awards closes.

Dreadnought by Alice Daniels

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.

I’ve just received an ARC of this upcoming YA novel via NetGalley and I couldn’t be more excited that it came in time for me to read it for Diverseathon! The premise of this novel is just fascinating, with a conflict that seems immediately real and poignant for all that entirely foreign to me, as cisgender woman. What a perfect illustration of why we need not only diverse books, but specifically diverse books written by marginalised people about their first-hand, lived experiences.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaSalle

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

I’m not sure I’ll have time to get to this novella during the readathon, but I still wanted to include it, as it was published in 2016 and is therefore eligible for Hugo award nomination. I’ve not read anything from this author before, but this novella is part of Tor.com Publishing’s widely acclaimed novella imprint, and by this point I trust the team of Tor.com to pick stupendous work. I’ll happily pick up anything they publish and give it a whirl these days.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates takes the helm, confronting T’Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before.

When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt–but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!

I’ve never read any Black Panther comics but I definitely enjoyed T’Challa in The Avengers: Civil War (it was NOT a Cap movie, fight me), so I’d like to check this one out. Most of it should be on Marvel Unlimited by now, so it should be easy to get a hold of, and it also doesn’t hurt that I’ve heard nothing but praise for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing! This volume came out in 2016, so it is eligible for Hugo award nomination – another excellent reason to get to this one sooner rather than later.

*The challenge actually started yesterday and I’m posting this TBR late because I am a muppet and misremembered the start date. I’m a week-starts-on-Monday kind of girl and things starting on Sunday confuse me.

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The Obelisk Gate – Review

26228034Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Date: August 2016
Source: ARC (publisher)
Buy the BookGoodreads

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter found by the enemy, with the obelisks and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

This is quite a tricky book for me to rate and review because while it’s clearly very well written, I didn’t find it as enjoyable a read as The Fifth Season. I’m glad that I did read it because I’m still interested in the story and characters, but I found it a difficult read – very much worth the extra time and attention but still, not an easy reading experience.

In my review of The Fifth Season, I mentioned that Essun’s point of view was my least favourite since it’s narrated in second person. Once again, the writing of the second person narration is impressively well-handled, as is the reveal that one of the characters is in fact the narrator. This was such a smooth transition that I couldn’t remember if it had been introduced in The Fifth Season, or if it was new information. And yet, I still found the second person point of view difficult to read. It still felt weird and occasionally jarring to me.

The second point of view character introduced in this book is Essun’s daughter, Nassun, who is mentioned throughout the previous book, but who we haven’t yet properly met on the page. I enjoyed Nassun’s point of view a lot, and it was great to see her transform into a character in her own right, when she had been little more than a source of motivation for her mother in The Fitfh Season. It’s fascinating to get Nassun’s take on things, which is so different from her mother’s. Seeing this child’s interpretation of Essun’s careful teaching really underlines the sacrifices Orogenes face in this world for the sake of absolute self-control, which is so crucial to their survival.

It was somewhat distressing to see Nassun align with her father in the full knowledge that he had killed her little brother Uche for being an Orogene. in further very troubling company, Nassun then begins to associate with a character who makes a surprise from The Fifth Season, with a bit a new personality (woot, amnesia & mind-control!). I particularly enjoyed seeing Nassun’s opinion of the people around her and of her distant mother evolve throughout the book. As Nassun grows older and learns more about Orogeny, her father and the Fulcrum, she adjusts her view of the important players in her life in a way that gave me hope for her in the future.

Much like its predecessor, the Obelisk Gate is incredibly brutal and includes scenes of body horror which some people might find a bit too much. I was okay with them, but it did make it a bit more difficult to take genuine enjoyment out of the book when I kept thinking ‘Great writing, very effective, EWWWW’. There was a lot of me cringing at the places Jemisin was willing to go and trying hard not to visualise. There’s a revelation right at the end of the book that makes a lot of sense and that I probably should have seen coming. I won’t say what it is, but I will say it’s making me weary about the amount of graphic description of body horror there will be in the next book. There are some things I don’t really want to read about happening to a main character I care about, especially not when the narration kept calling her ‘you’…

I’m not surprised that this wasn’t an easy read, nor I am saying it’s necessarily a bad thing. Not every book can or should be an easy or straightforward read, and this feels to me like it was written to be layered, subtle and wonderfully challenging. In The Obelisk Gate, Jemisin creates a fascinating and demanding story, whose depth and complexities are well worth taking the trouble to fully engage with.

4 stars

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Planetfall – Review & Giveaway

What better way to start Sci-Fi Month than with the opportunity to win some shiny swag? Everybody loves shiny swag right?

So, without further ado, I present my very first giveaway! *squee*

The rules & the swag

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The rules are pretty simple:

– The giveaway is open from now until the 14th of November 2015.

– Since the prizes aren’t too heavy, this one will be an international giveaway.

– To enter, scroll down to the rafflecopter at the end of this post, and submit your entries. A winner will be selected at random once the raffle has closed.

And here’s what you can win:

A signed copy of Planetfall, the latest novel from Emma Newman. The book came out from Roc on November 3rd and is getting a lot of good buzz. I’m leaving the blurb as well as my video review below if you’d like to know more about it.

A robot-themed tote bag. It’s a nice sturdy bag, with a bright robot print on the side & it was exclusive to GollanczFest 2015, so you can’t get one elsewhere. Since this was a goody bag, it comes with little extras like novel previews & buttons.

About Planetfall

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

planetfallRenata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

My Review

If you’d like to hear what I thought of Emma Newman’s Planetfall, check out the review I filmed for my booktube channel:

Enter here!

If you’d like to win a signed copy of Emma Newman’s latest novel Planetfall and a sturdy robot tote bag from GollanczFest 2015, use the Rafflecopter below to submit your entries:
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Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions! I’m new at this giveaway malarkey & I’m sure I’ve forgotten something or other…

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Sci-Fi Month 2015 Introduction!

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Welcome to Sci-Fi Month 2015!

It’s my first time participating & I’m really excited for the month ahead. I might not read a ton of new works (I’m stepping up work on editing my novel this month for Nanowrimo) but I can’t wait to dig in to the Sci-fi portion of my TBR. Without further ado, here is a little bit more of an intro:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Tabby

The internet wants more cat pictures, right?

 

I’ve been a fan of sci-fi & fantasy stories since pretty much forever.

I have a booktube channel that focuses on SFF and I’m currently writing a steampunky-horrory Victorian medical mystery, complete with an airship crash and mutated carnivorous plants.

Aside from books, I like crafting, board games, chocolate, twitter and my cat, a 10-year-old rescue called Tabby, who is the sweetest, most ridiculous feline ever.

How long have you been a fan of science fiction?

I came to science-fiction through fantasy: I was raised on The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings as bedtime stories & fell completely in love with Dragonriders of Pern when I was 12. As soon as those books took a sci-fi turn, I was hooked & wanted to read more.

In high-school, I neglected assigned reading & devoured classics like Brave New World, Farenheit 451 and 1984 instead. Now I’ll read anything that can be labelled as genre fiction, but I especially love social science-fiction, historical fantasy & weird books that mixes genres.

Why do you like sci-fi and what is your favourite thing about it?

I’m obsessed with all the ‘What ifs?’ in speculative fiction, so I tend to love big books with epic world-building or really weird ideas. Before I moved to the UK, I did a degree in English Language, Literature & Cultural History, and I’m still quite nerdy about these things. I love a book that goes deep into explaining a culture, or discusses language in an innovative way. The linguistic & cultural aspects were my favourite thing about Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and its sequels.

Favourite books/games/films/TV shows in the genre?

Well that’s certainly a broad question! Let’s tackle these one by one:

Books

All time favourites include The Dispossessed, Dune & Nightfall. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed The Martian, but the latest books to really stand out for me have been Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves & Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy.
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Video games

My current favourite is FTL: Faster Than Light, a tense resource-management rogue-like with awesome pixel art. I also really, really want to play Civilization: Beyond Earth but my current PC specs isn’t quite up-to-scratch. One day…

Board games

galaxy truckerOne of my favourite board games ever is Galaxy Trucker: a space opera game in which you’re just trying to get to the end of the mission with your spaceship in one piece. That’s be easier if you didn’t build your spaceship out of random parts at the opening of each game, in a timed, competitive tile-laying round.

I also really enjoy Race for the Galaxy, a card game in which you build a space empire by collecting planets – it also gets bonus points for being an excellent two-player game.

Film

I don’t go to the cinema nearly as much as I’d like to, as it’s gotten ridiculously pricy, but I recently saw The Martian & absolutely loved it. Here’s to hoping its success means we get more cool sci-fi films! Honestly my sci-fi film knowledge is lacking A LOT, so if you have any suggestions for things I should watch please let me know in the comments!

Television

I’m an unabashed Firefly fangirl, I love Futurama & I still have a soft spot for Sliders, which I used to watch in high school.

I’m not 100% on calling Doctor Who science-fiction, there’s too much hand-wavy ridiculousness (and I’ll often rage about it), but I still watch. Favourite episodes include Blink & The Doctor’s Wife, I’m also pretty excited about the introduction of Maisie Williams’ character, fingers crossed this plotline goes somewhere neat!

What are your plans for Sci-Fi Month?

longwayI’m hoping to make a good dent in the Sci-Fi side of my TBR pile, which includes The Three by Sarah Lotz, Binti & The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor, and Calculating God by Rob Sawyer.

I’m currently reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and I will be hosting the 3rd week of the Readalong organised by Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow.

I have a signed book and a few other sci-fi themed bits & bobs to give away, so keep an eye out for that later in the month!

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Rush Jobs Blog Tour: Hobson & Choi – Series Review

Today, I’m very excited to be talking about Hobson & Choi, the darkly comic detective saga by my good friend and writing group buddy Nick Bryan (you should follow him on Twitter @NickMB, he is very funny).

The first book is The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf and the  second is Rush Jobs, which came out just yesterday.

I’m reviewing both of the books, and for those of you still reading after that, there will be a shiny, shiny giveaway at the end of the post!

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi #1)

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wpid-wp-1417027201089.jpeg“If we get 400 followers, John Hobson will solve that nasty wolf-murder case for free! Fight the thing himself if he has to! #HobsonVsWolf!”

Angelina Choi was only trying to drum up some Twitter followers and make a good impression on her first day interning at John Hobson’s one-man detective agency.

But the campaign went viral and now they have a murder to solve, no money coming in, and an unwilling Hobson faced with battling some enormous beast. With both follower and body counts rising, can they crack the case without offending everyone or being eaten by a huge dog?

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf is the first case starring Hobson & Choi, a bickering, mismatched detective duo for 21st century London. This book collects the debut storyline of the hit darkly comic crime web serial, extensively rewritten and improved for this definitive edition.

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I loved that the whole story kicked off with Choi doing the brash “I’m not a kid” teenage thing and messing up the twitter account. The social media aspect of this book could so easily have read as gimmicky, but Angelina’s eagerness to prove herself and be taken seriously makes complete sense, and because there are serious consequences to the slightly distasteful murder-solving twitter promises, the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

The mystery plot was well-paced and building up to a tense resolution, but to me, it was definitely the characters that made the story shine. Besides the obvious question of who had a motive for murdering someone with a crazed dog, there were so many interesting tidbits. Between Hobson’s ex-wife, the receptionist Choi likes, Hobson’s unsavoury mob contacts, Choi’s Mum, the other receptionist, etc…, there’s a huge range of nifty side characters, each with the promise of lots of conflict in future books.

Smaller things also pack a big emotional punch, like an argument between Choi and her concerned mother, which kind of made me want to call my Mum and apologised for the times I was a little shit as a teenager. But never mind that.

Nick’s writing is funny, touching and above all, relatable. It’s got a ring of truth to it that keeps the reader hooked throughout. You’ll read this and find yourself cringing with sympathy when Angelina internally berates herself about that thing she can’t believe she just actually said out loud, or sighing along with Hobson’s exasperation at those hipstery trendy kids that work at the Inspiration Gestation Station. No really, that’s what their offices are called.

FourAndHalfStars


Rush Jobs (Hobson & Choi #2)

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23568658“Sometimes #crime feels like the Matrix. Or the #patriarchy or #porn. It’s everywhere, even in people you trusted, and there’s so MUCH of it.”

Angelina Choi returns for her second and final week of work experience at John Hobson’s detective agency, ready for anything after their first successful murder solve.

After all that online buzz, they’re in phenomenal demand. Can Hobson & Choi solve a kidnapping, play chicken with corporate crime, beat back gentrification, save a dog from drug dealers and head off violent backlash from their last case? Or will grim revelations about Hobson’s past leave them floundering in the chaos?

Rush Jobs collects the second major storyline in the Hobson & Choi saga, #1 on Jukepop Serials and #2 in Dark Comedy on Amazon, adding brand new chapters and scenes to the case.

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I have to say straight away that I absolutely adored this. I liked the first book quite a bit, but this second volume really stepped up a notch. Hobson & Choi shows its origins as a serialised work with a number of smaller cases interweaving as the story goes, which was where it really hooked me.

As I’ve said above, I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, but I do watch a lot of US-style police procedurals, with a general season arc and a case solved every episode, excepting the occasional two-parter episode or recurring serial-killer villain. Maybe someone watches these shows for the intricate investigations, but I’m unashamedly in it for the characters. The same goes for Hobson & Choi.

This second instalment picks up right where the first left off and builds on the interesting glimpses of conflicts and relationships between characters. I particularly enjoyed seeing Choi grow in confidence as her work from the first book is acknowledged, and I liked Hobson’s pragmatism about the Twitter account: he thinks it’s nonsense, but he’s getting more paying clients out of it, so he’s getting Choi to keep it up.

There are more shades of good and bad in this one, more moments in which both Hobson and Choi screw up big time, more hesitation about the right thing to do. And as the story progresses, it becomes pretty clear that the Big Bad of the book is actually bloody terrifying, in a much more mundane and inhuman way than the hyper-aggressive ‘wolf’ from the first book. This made for some really tense moments when the jokes were reigned in and the true disturbing nature of the whole thing (including Hobson’s murky past) was revealed.

The book also ends on a more uncertain note as Choi’s two-week internship with Hobson has ended, but a third case, Trapped in The Bargain Basement, has already been announced, so we should see some more of Hobson and Choi. Don’t skip the bonus short story at the end of the book; it’s excellent and guaranteed to give you the creeps in a big, nasty, Orwellian way.

FiveStars

About the Author

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me-squaredNick Bryan is a London-based writer of genre fiction, usually with some blackly comic twist. As well as the detective saga Hobson & Choi, he is also working on a novel about the real implications of deals with the devil and has stories in several anthologies.

More details on his other work and news on future Hobson & Choi releases can be found on his blog at NickBryan.com or on Twitter as @NickMB. Both are updated with perfect and reasonable regularity.

Subscribe to his mailing list using the form in the sidebar of NickBryan.com to get news first and an all-new free Hobson & Choi short story immediately!

When not reading or writing books, Nick Bryan enjoys racquet sports, comics and a nice white beer.

WebsiteTwitterMailing List

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Giveaway!

Finally, Nick is giving away a signed paperback set and three e-book sets of the Hobson & Choi series! So if you’d like to win The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf and Rush Jobs, just fill in the rafflecopter, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway