Friday, December 30, 2016

Silicon of the Internet is moving!

After just one too many fights with Blogger, I've decided I've had enough.  And, well, it's a new year so might as well make the change now.

So I'm moving to a shiny new URL at Wordpress!


I've copied over all my posts and comments, and over the next few weeks will be posting a nice big header on all my posts here linking to their equivalents over at Wordpress!

I would super appreciate it if you update any links you may have to this blog. I won't be checking back here much, so any comments won't get replies. I won't delete it, but no further updates will come here. Check my shiny new Wordpress blog for all further posts :D

Early next week I'll have a new review on the Love Beyond anthology, 2017 goals, and more ON THE NEW BLOG!

Come say hi and spread the word!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ARC REVIEW: The Path To Dawn by Miri Castor

Star Rating: *** 3/5

Title: The Path To Dawn
Author: Miri Castor
Genre: Young YA Fantasy
Subgenre: Urban/Portal Fantasy
Review by Silicon.

Opal is a young girl living in Dewdrop, a bustling suburb southeast of New York. Life is a constant struggle for her, until she befriends newcomer, Hope Adaire. With the girls' friendship slowly beginning to grow, Opal's life begins to change in mysterious ways, as the secrets of Hope's enigmatic life begins to unfold.

In the process of taking new paths and unveiling truths, a new world is discovered and with it, the discovery of a Gift a power that can make Opal stronger than she ever imagined. Yet with every truth, lies must be shattered. Now, when Dewdrop and the new world is threatened, this temperamental teen with too much emotional baggage, must learn how to control her Gift, and protect everyone living in her world and the new one—or face the consequences of unmasked truths.

The Path to Dawn is a coming-of-age story geared towards young adults and teens. It is a story that should make one question the power of truth and lies.




The Path to Dawn is a fun, yet also deep story about a young girl named Opal who is far from ordinary, and her struggles overcoming barriers with her family, her friends, and a great responsibility she never asked for. I would place this book as younger YA or possibly MG. Disclaimer for this review: I rarely read books intended for this young of an audience, so some issues I had with it may not be a problem for the intended reader. Overall, I enjoyed it and I'm interested to see where the series goes.

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.




Opal Charm, eighth grader, has a lot on her plate. Her mother has become unpredictable in her anger, her father distant, her older sister engrossed in her secret escapades, and her school life a drag. After losing her older brother Jermaine in a freak accident years ago, it seems like her family--and her life--is swiftly falling apart. She doesn't even have a best friend to lean on anymore. With the arrival of a new girl at school, Hope, it seems like life is about to get even stranger. Hope is an odd girl with a mysterious life, and she brings change. And it seems as though Opal is at the center of it.

One of the things I really, really liked about this book was the realistic way that relationships and conflicts were portrayed. Opal herself is not a happy-go-lucky kid--she struggles with depressive and suicidal thoughts, has difficulty making friends, and is afraid of opening up. She felt very real to me. I honestly cannot think of many books which handle child characters with difficulties like Opal in a way that feels as authentic as this book does. Her family relationships were written excellently. Though dysfunctional in many ways, Opal's family is still there for each other when they most need it. I think it is so important for younger readers to read about characters like Opal.

Despite having little support from home and dealing with her own emotional turmoil, Opal is still very much a hero in this novel. She is called upon to protect a strange, alternate world from the ravages of a dictator and initially is very reluctant to do so. But Opal is loyal, she knows what she needs to do because it is right, even if it would end up hurting her. This is definitely a Chosen One novel but one, I would argue, that presents the trope in a unique environment. Opal's interpersonal difficulties are equally important as the great conflict she is to resolve. Personally I had more interest in how Opal dealt with her family and friend problems than in the Chosen One storyline, which arrives rather abruptly without much context early in the book.

For the majority of this book, Opal and her friends are ordinary 8th graders. Hope has some weird characteristics but we don't know about her great secret for a long time. The magic and the other world, as a consequence, did not feel very real to me or very grounded in the story. I also wasn't very fond of Hope, who keeps a lot of secrets and pops in and out of Opal's life without explanation. Aaron's and Opal's friendship, on the other hand, was my favorite relationship in the book. They have a rocky past, but they work through it in a very mature way despite Opal's fears about opening up to her best friend. Even the big bully in the story, Charlotte, is far from one-dimensional.  

Characters grow in this novel. I really liked the way that Opal and her friends learn to talk out their problems, something I think is incredibly important for younger readers to see. This novel shows young characters with real-life, serious problems that seem unsurmountable--a friendship broken, a family growing apart, bullies who won't let up, authority figures who aren't there for you--and yet, these characters DO find ways to surmount them, through friendship and loyalty and having hard, but necessary conversations and sticking up for one another.

The writing style in this novel felt stilted to me, with a lot of telling rather than showing and with occasional info-dumps and flashbacks that didn't work for me. However, as I haven't read young YA since I myself was probably a young teen, I also don't know what writing styles normally look like for that genre so YMMV.

There's great diversity in this book. Opal herself is a young black girl, her best friend Aaron is Asian (possibly Chinese? But I don't recall the character himself identifying as a specific ethnic group), and they live in a diverse neighborhood. Loved the casual inclusion throughout the book. At one point they're walking home and a group of hijabi girls passes them, skateboarding. Despite the environment of the strict gender separation of their Catholic school, friendships between genders are common. I liked the central role that girls of color played in this novel--from being Chosen Ones, to repairing relationships, to supporting one another, to taking care of themselves.




I think this is a great book to share with a younger teen reader just getting into fantasy. Not only does it feature a diverse cast of well-developed characters who feel real enough to walk down my street, but it also handles difficult topics in a very approachable and mature way. While the portal fantasy storyline and the writing style didn't work for me, I would definitely encourage readers to give it a try.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ARC REVIEW: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Star Rating: **** 4/5

Title: Rosewater
Author: Tade Thompson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Subgenre: Biopunk
Review by Silicon.

Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a woman known as Bicycle Girl. And that’s just the beginning.

An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The citizens of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn’t so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.




This is a brilliantly imaginative, unique, and game-changing scifi novel. If you like glorious mindfucks of scifi novels, this is the book for you. It's one of the most original scifi books I've ever read.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Imagine a world not-too-far in our future--Earth 2066. Aliens have made contact and what's more? They've decided to live here too. The humans? Don't know why. We don't know their purpose, their desires, their needs. We can't stop them so we do what we've always done as a species: adapt to the weird new world that we live in, and survive. 

Xenomorphs--aliens--fill the air, granting some people strange powers such as the ability to read minds. Kaaro, our main character, is one with such a power. By day, he uses his abilities to protect banks from mind-reading hackers. But he's actually an agent of the governmental secret service group S45.

Kaaro works at his day job, performs interrogations, finds people with unerring skill, and goes about life with a bland disinterest. Until he meets and falls for Aminat, a woman who is strong, independent, and keeps her own counsel. Kaaro doesn't know her secrets but there's shadowy undertones, to the point where his boss warns him off the relationship. But Kaaro refuses to listen.

At the same time, there's even weirder stuff happening in the world, and this time it's dangerous. Sensitives like Kaaro start dying horribly of mysterious diseases. S45 doesn't want him to investigate but Kaaro knows he must. Why are the sensitives dying? Is it human-borne, are their bodies giving up--or is it something more sinister?

Writing Style

This book's structure is nonlinear in time. We get snippets from different parts of Kaaro's life: his childhood, wild young adulthood, his encounters with strange things and even stranger people. We learn what made Kaaro the person he is today, what events shaped his life and how he became entangled in this enormous web. Each vignette uncovers the character of Kaaro even as it uncovers the mystery of the aliens, the strange isolated city of Utopicity, the growth of Rosewater, and the urgent mystery of the dying sensitives. 

This is not a light read. For me, the nonlinear timescale really threw me for the first few chapters--I had to keep checking the year marked and I had a hard time figuring out when we were in Kaaro's life. But once I got into the flow, it worked out. Rosewater manages to make each vignette of Kaaro's life interesting and, more importantly, relevant. Thompson weaves all the complex threads of this story through the vignettes in such a way that they feel very much like one cohesive story. The ending brings everything together in a satisfying, if not the most happy way.



I really, really loved the aliens. I love the bizarre way they interact with the world--like microorganisms in a huge network, permeating and infiltrating everything. Society, human interactions, the setting, the story itself. Even when they are passively beneficial, there's an element of unsettling otherness. I liked how Thompson absolutely did not make them one-dimensional and how the humans are very realistically quite ignorant of them. They don't know what the aliens' purpose is, nor what they're made of, nor how intelligent they are, or how and why they arrived. They try, as we would, to understand them scientifically, but the aliens are just, well, too alien. And they're not interested in giving up their secrets until they decide to.




I very much enjoyed how Thompson centers Nigeria in this novel. In fact, this is a novel utterly devoid the usual over-reaching shadow of America--the US has gone dark, for unknown reasons. We hear about events taking place in the UK and other parts of the world, but this book ultimately is not about the West.

The vast majority of the characters are black and Nigerian, including all the main and secondary characters. Furthermore, Thompson includes several LGBTQIA+ characters such as Kaaro's mentors, a gay couple who are the first to take Kaaro in after his family violently casts him out for stealing. However: take note that in this Nigeria of the future, laws prohibiting homosexuality still play a huge role.

There are multiple strong women secondary characters--Bola, Kaaro's friend. Aminat, his love interest who is much more than just that (there's a line in the book where someone checks Kaaro, reminding him that Aminat is the protagonist of her own story, not a support to his--I cheered. Also I really fucking want to read Aminat's story now). There's Femi, Kaaro's superior who is a leader in every sense of the word--strong, decisive, puts up with no shit, masterfully handles Kaaro and others around her to get what she and the government wants.




In all honesty, I cared more about the secondary characters than Kaaro himself. He's not an instantly likable character: apathetic, reticent, and has a childish streak of insolence, especially directed at his superior. I understand part of his insistence on being continually insolent to Femi, but the added gender imbalance just irritated me. Occasionally his interactions with women skirted the edge, or stepped over the line of disrespect. However, he is intensely loyal to friends to the point where he risks his life to save them, intelligent, curious, and quietly independent. I thought he treated Aminat with respect, as a whole other intelligent person with her own life and aspirations he could not pry into.

But to have seen Aminat's story, or Femi's--those are the stories I would really love to read. By the end I was okay with Kaaro and I wanted him to succeed. But in the beginning I wasn't entirely on his side and it was a slow development over the course of the novel for me to go from mild dislike to lukewarm.




I definitely recommend this novel to lovers of intense, complex scifi. The world Thompson builds is unique, strange, and dangerous. The imagination that goes into the alien biology, and into integrating them so tightly into Nigerian society was particularly excellent and well thought out.Something to especially note especially is that this is a masterfully crafted novel. The complexity of the storyline and the difficulty of handling the many threads and nonlinear progression is technically incredibly challenging and I applaud Thompson for making it look so effortless. This is a great novel and I hope to see what more Thompson will do with Rosewater in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's almost 2017

Firstly, WHERE DID THE YEAR GO?! How am I still so behind on freaking everything?! No I'm not panicking about ALL THE SHIT I need to do nooooo.


Here's my one-gif summary of 2016:

Original? No. Accurate? FUCK YES. 2016 was a piece of shit year. If I list out all the ways, I'm just going to get sad and pessimistic and hate life. SO.

Here's some non-shitty things that happened in 2016:

I GOT INTO GRADUATE SCHOOL. Holy shit. Holy shit. I am going to be a scientist for real. It's been an entire 3 months of my 1st year and no one has sent me a "sorry, that acceptance letter wasn't meant for you!" email yet so maybe it's really for real.
  • I get to study the thing I love and do cutting-edge research and I GET PAID FOR IT. 
  • I'm already involved in a bunch of diversity in science initiatives including running my own coding mini-class focused on making coding approachable for all! WATCH OUT SCIENCE AND TECH, SI IS HERE TO SET SHIT ON FIRE (figuratively, figuratively >.>)
  • I'm busy as fuck. Hence the sudden dearth of posts: adjusting to graduate school, moving, and all that ended up eating my life. But now I think I've got it down and will definitely start posting regularly again. But I'm busy because I'm DOING AWESOME THINGS. So life's pretty great. If exhausting.

  • I read a lot of amazing books, mostly over summer! I have a terrible memory so check out my Goodreads for highlights. 
  • In addition this year I started pushing myself as a reviewer and have been getting A+ requests from authors and publishers! I'm really, really excited about this. Especially because there have been so many gems of diverse books in my requests since I made it explicit that marginalized voices are the ones I focus on.
  • I made hella incredible friends in the book community! 
  • I bought way too many books >.>.

I started writing new stories, and haven't totally given up on them yet! Small goals, ok.
  • How could I forget, I SUBMITTED A STORY to a zine for the first time! Ever! Got my first rejection too. Now I'm a legit writer.
  • Now that I've better adjusted to my new life, I definitely want to make sure I write more, write more OFTEN, and actually get shit done. 
  • I've been focusing on writing epic fantasies that I've always loved set in worlds inspired by my own culture, featuring 100% PoC characters. This is actually surprisingly hard, even if I'm WoC. One day I'll talk about how deeply insinuating the "othering" of marginalized people is, even to the point where it affects OUR OWN art. 

I discovered I can do a lot more than I thought I could. I'm a very high anxiety, intensely introverted person. This makes Doing Things (organizing, leading, speaking up) really fucking difficult. NEVERTHELESS:
  • I'm organizing a fucking CLASS. 
  • I'm taking no shit from people around me. Every single bigoted comment, no matter how mild at surface-level, is getting pointed out. I won't pretend this is easy.
  • I'm dealing with my ridiculous phone anxiety to call my representatives weekly, and since the election I haven't missed a single week. Soon, I'm going to start helping to organize community phone banks campus-wide.
  • I'm taking action, figuring out my local politics, trying to understand the morass that is our government. Because this shit matters, now more so than ever.
  • And you know what? People ARE listening.Which, frankly, amazes me.

I don't doubt that 2017 is also going to be a garbage fire year. I got no comforting words or happy illusions about that. But you know what? We're going to survive. We're going to keep being here. We're going to raise our voices and make brilliant art and hold each other up because that's what we've always done in the face of people who want us to shut up while they try to bulldoze our lives.

I've got goals for 2017 which I'll post closer to the actual New Year. But feel free to comment below with yours! As the year winds down, upcoming on the blog are like ALL the damn reviews I've gotten behind on. There's some great books in the pile, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

REVIEW: The Squab Fiends by Victoria Arius (DNF)

Star Rating: ** 2/5

Title: The Squab Fiends
Author: Victoria Arius
Genre: Steampunk
Subgenre: Erotica
Review by Silicon.
DNF: 20%

Elizabeth Herbert is as free as any woman can be in Victorian England. A widow with fortune, connections and an appetite for new experience, her search for her old lover John Maginn will lead her into adventures which stretch her credulity and sexuality. When two scientists pull Maginn from the side of a Channel steamship in 1862, he bears little resemblance to the man who left England seven years before. Exiled by his Herbert’s husband, left for dead on a battlefield in India and battling constant pain and an addiction to opium, it seems the fates have conspired to make his existence intolerable.

Damodar Rao has been raised to rule, every moment of his childhood and adolescence carefully controlled to prepare him for a great future. Arriving on English soil after his guardian disappears, a happy accident will open his eyes to becoming a prince among women, without violence or responsibility. Together the trio must keep transform themselves by rejecting their dark pasts and dependencies. Determined to take control of their destinies and using progress as their weapon against superstition, they discover that to be truly free, they must fight an elite occultist movement, while warring against their own desires.




This book does some things very well, and others not. Unfortunately, I decided to DNF this book fairly early due to a dealbreaker which I did not think would improve.

I received an ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




There's three main PoV characters, each of whom I will visit in turn during this review. 

I loved Elizabeth. She knows what she wants and she's had enough of playing second fiddle. She's a middle-aged, bisexual woman with children who isn't done with life after her husband's death, and knows her OWN chapter is just about to begin. In a setting where characters worry about being "on the shelf" at age 25, Elizabeth's forthright approach to love and sex is refreshing, as is her unambiguous bisexuality. She's really the driving force of the story. Due to her widowed status, she knows she's in a unique position in society, and she's going to use it to get what SHE wants. 

Her story opens with a short BDSM scene between Elizabeth and her maidservant, and I was glad to see giving and receiving pleasure were equally important to Elizabeth. She's attuned to her lover's needs and they both have agency and input in the scene, with control flowing from one to the other. This joy in shared pleasure marks all sex scenes I saw in this book, as far as I read. However, I found the scenes rather short, slightly flowery, and very focused on the actual act rather than before/after--they feel cropped, I would have preferred more lead-in before the characters get down to business.

John's storyline starts with his suicide attempt off the side of a boat. He's rescued just in time, and awakens in strange company. These two men, Clover and Fox, promise him they can create a marvellous prosthesis to replace his amputated right leg. Despite wariness at their high-handed approach (they seem to always know what's best for HIM, to John's annoyance and mine), he eventually agrees to go along with the plan. John's PoV is told from a first-person PoV, a change from Elizabeth's close third PoV. I found this switch abrupt. John's story, at least as far as I've read, consists of a lot of telling. His first scene is dominated by Fox and Clover explaining his situation while he listens, his second and third by his extremely long reminiscence of how he came to lose his leg. I was much less interested in his PoV than Elizabeth's. 

And now we come to Damodar Rao. 

Damodar Rao is the 3rd and final PoV character in this novel. He is Indian, and has found himself in the Western world for the first time in his life. The way Rao was handled in the 10 or so chapters I read is the reason I decided to DNF the book, beginning with these lines in his first PoV scene:

...was appreciating the most amicable company and was entranced by the hospitality of the English. It was this hospitality that he was finding so profoundly affecting. He had spent his whole life hearing about the brutality and avarice of India's Masters. Having been being meticulously prepared to take on the mantle of revolt from his determined mother, he could not believe how warmly the country had opened her arms to him.

The setting is VICTORIAN ENGLAND. This is a period of greatest oppression of the English to their subjugated states. I'm sorry, but it stretches imagination too far to believe that an Indian man during the time period of Indian revolt and independence would be welcomed with open arms in the country of his oppressors. Rao is depicted as an innocent, wandering good-naturedly through London and sampling its many pleasures without care in the world. Not only is this benevolent, warm-hearted depiction of the English people towards Rao simply incorrect, it is harmful. It is erasure. 

Look at the explosion of racism following Brexit, at the many victims of English xenophobia even today within the South Asian community. India was not benevolently conquered, it was violently oppressed; mined and drained of its natural resources while its people were denied cultural identity, worked as chattel, and murdered indiscriminately. To erase this reality, even for the sake of a fun, lighthearted story, is wrong. Rao's characterization reminds me of how Indians (and other non-Europeans) are often characterized in period literature--dumbly naive, unsuspicious trusting, an "innocent savage" exposed to civilization and refinement for the first time. 

Furthermore, as we continue reading John's story, we discover he was an officer in the British army in India. He is described as being a true friend to the native soldiers, unlike his colleagues:

All the English officers boasted of their relationships with the native soldiers but they were paternalistic and only engaged wit the men on a shallow level. I started to try and understand the variations in religions and customs between the men [...] even choosing to socialise with them [...] I soon found that I was regarded as a pariah and became even closer to the native men, who seemed so open in comparison.

Ah, so John is the rare Good White Man, the one who truly understands the savages despite their differences. We are meant to instantly sympathize John for this, I'm sure, but instead I find myself irritated at the heavy-handed, narrow attempt at making John racially color-blind. Like I said in my Writing Racism post: it's not only the Bad Guys who are racist! In this time period, it is unimaginable that a privileged white man, an army officer with power OVER said "native men," would be free of any racial bias and easily accepted into their society, as though he were not complicit in their oppression. I also did not care for the implication that John learns to cheat at cards because of his association with the Indian soldiers.

Victorian-setting stories often ignore the violent reality of the English Empire on the rest of the world in lieu of telling stories of amusing romances in High Society. This is very common, and I would have ignored it with a short note if it were the case. When a story set in this era includes a character of color who has experienced English oppression first-hand, and one actually present during the start of the revolution, I expect the issue to be handled. Many cultures today are STILL recovering from the violence of European imperialism, including India itself. This treatment of the character Rao is inexcusable, and I have no desire to read any further.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

ARC REVIEW: Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan

Star Rating: *** 3/5

Title: Cold-Forged Flame
Author: Marie Brennan
Genre: Fantasy
Subgenre: Sword-and-Sorcery
Review by Silicon.

The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.

At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy.

Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.



Cold-Forged Flame is the first novella in a series by Marie Brennan which follows this strange woman through her adventures in a Celtic-inspired land. Publication date is September 13th 2016.  I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a pretty unique story that works very well in novella format. Unfortunately, it didn't grab me. There's nothing big that I felt it did wrong--it just didn't pull my interest as much as I wanted it too.




The premise of this book is essentially "You know nothing, Jon Snow, but we're forcing you on a quest anyway."

The main character awakens into an unfamiliar world and is immediately bound to complete strange quest by the group who summoned her. She has been magically compelled to find a cauldron of blood upon a strange, dangerous island, and return a vial of this blood to her summoners. However, there is a catch--she's given almost no information about the quest or herself, and indeed can't even remember her name, her abilities, anything about her life or the land which she finds herself in. As she fights through the island's challenges, she slowly puts together pieces of herself, and discovers she indeed has a lot more left to lose than she thought.

Usually these sort of "go on a quest, but we're giving you no information"-type plots annoy me, but we discover later on that there is a reason for this non-communication that makes sense. I liked that. I also liked the free will vs. compulsion theme that this story plays with, but I felt it could have pushed more and gone farther than it did. The obstacles she's forced to go through are diverse and feel genuinely difficult. The main character is challenged physically and emotionally throughout the story. She has to balance the necessity to complete the quest with significant misgivings about the world she finds herself in--who can she trust? Should she complete the quest, or try to trick her way out of it? Should she try and figure out who she is, or will that only make her situation more dangerous?

The climax is excellent. I really, REALLY liked the way everything came together at that scene. My favorite moment is definitely when she realizes what she will have to give up in order to complete her quest. Everything before is an excellent build-up to the final reveal and it is done very skillfully.




There's very few characters in this story, understandable given the length. The main character, who is unnamed, is very fun to read. She's kick-ass, pissed off (VERY understandably), and determined. Though she starts out knowing nothing, she manages to discover bits and pieces of herself in a very organic fashion--figuring out she can fight, for example, when she gets attacked unexpectedly. She's sarcastic, suspicious, and not particularly nice, but also deeply conflicted and because of her lack of self-knowledge. She's been thrown into a bad situation and grimly determines she must make the best of it. She felt very real, and I sympathized with her situation. I was very much on her side the entire time.

Along the way, she meets a companion, Aadet, a stranger who also seeks the cave she's headed towards. She's extremely suspicious and curt with him, but as they travel together she warms to him more and even trusts him--they become friends, in a way. He is definitely weaker and less capable than her, but they depend on each other to make it to the cave that is their goal.

Brennan does a good job of humanizing the summoners especially through the character of Therdiad. They're not some distant evil or unambiguously selfish group, but also just people making the best of a bad situation. 

The great enemy, the Lhian, who controls the island and the obstacles the main character is forced to go through, was excellently done. She's a significant power, a dangerous force, and an extremely perceptive one. She isn't evil, and her motivations and challenges make sense, given the gifts she guards.


Writing Style


This story is written in Third Limited POV, and uses present tense throughout. I personally liked the use of present tense--it underlines the way the main character is forced to live entirely in the present, due to her lack of a past and an uncertain future. Overall, the writing style is very clean and very experienced--it's not in-your-face with any self-conscious style and allows the focus to remain on the story. I particularly enjoyed the dialogues between the main character and the various people she meets. The tension and pacing was decent, and definitely builds up at the final scene. I would have preferred the book to have more tension. It's not a race against time story, but I feel like the plot would have benefited from an increase in urgency.




The setting of this story is Celtic-inspired, as far as I could tell. I admit that Celtic culture, mythology, and language is something that I have only very peripheral and basic knowledge about, so I may be missing quite a bit here. I liked the setting, though I would have liked more information about the world--it rather feels like this story takes place in a bubble, given the main character's lack of knowledge for most of the story. We do get clues about the political struggles between nations by the end of the story, but I would have liked to know more. It's not a typical fantasy sword-and-sorcery setting, which I appreciated. The island was my favorite part--I really liked the way that it could appear or not appear, the mutable landscape, the many obstacles it presented. 




Not a whole lot to say here. I liked that there were multiple, extremely capable female characters--indeed, they were the most important characters in the story. Given the setting, I was unsurprised to find no PoC, and relationships/attractions are not mentioned in this story at all so I can't say anything about LGBT+ inclusion. I don't really have a problem with the diversity here though, because it IS a very short story with very few major characters. 




This book was a "meh" for me. It definitely had elements I enjoyed--the main character, the climax, the writing--but overall, I just didn't feel particularly pulled to read more. It's a good twist on the Sword & Sorcery quest archetype and I didn't feel it had any particular major faults. If you like this type, I'd recommend it. But ultimately my ambivalence towards Jon Snow plots, the not-quite-high-enough tension, and the feeling of disconnect I had to the rest of the land have me setting it down as a "meh" rather than as a "YES". But I can definitely see another reader enjoying this book.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#ReadThemAllThon Mini Review: Don't Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

Here's the first mini-review for books I read during the #ReadThemAllThon! Unfortunately I move in a week, so it's unlikely I'll be able to get to the rest of the books planned :( Poor Bulbasaur, I tried!

Star Rating: * 1/5 Stars

Title: Don't Cry, Tai Lake
Author: Qiu Xiaolong
Genre: Mystery
Review by Silicon
Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is offered a bit of luxury by friends and supporters within the Party – a week’s vacation at a luxurious resort near Lake Tai, a week where he can relax, and recover, undisturbed by outside demands or disruptions. Unfortunately, the once beautiful Lake Tai, renowned for its clear waters, is now covered by fetid algae, its waters polluted by toxic runoff from local manufacturing plants. Then the director of one of the manufacturing plants responsible for the pollution is murdered and the leader of the local ecological group is the primary suspect of the local police. Now Inspector Chen must tread carefully if he is to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder and find a measure of justice for both the victim and the accused.


Ah sexism, we meet again ... I didn't like this book.

Let's talk about the good first. 

This is an #ownvoices diverse mystery book set in Wuxi, China. It is very immersive in Chinese culture. There's no Westerners, no suggestion of "white dude saves everyone" (WOOHOO), it has amazing food descriptions that made me really hungry, and I liked seeing the city through the eyes of Inspector Chen.

Now the bad.

The mystery sucked. From the start of the book, I was wondering "why didn't they ask X?", and, well, X was the murderer. I'm horrible at figuring out mysteries, so it was a disappointment that my first guess was indeed correct (I get Miss Fisher mysteries wrong fairly regularly. I'm pretty bad).

The book is rather obviously focused at a non-Chinese audience--which is not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely took me out of the story a few times. It has a lot of extremely simplified explanations for things, for example:
"You haven't eaten, have you, Chen?"

It was a conventional greeting Chinese people made when running into each other on the street.
I personally disliked the abundance of poetry snippets. I want my clues, dammit!

And oh, the sexism. Put on your flame-retardant lab coat, I am going to set something on fire.

The book features one female character, Shanshan, who is--SURPRISE--young, beautiful, intelligent, kind, caring, nurturing, and THE LOVE INTEREST. She's a fucking FLING for Inspector Chen! She's also a suspect. NO. JUST NO. I was SO pissed at this development. They go on dates! Pour out their deepest thoughts to each other! Instantly fall in love! She sees him as her protector! ARGH.

Really really mad because this woman is a fucking ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER. She works at the company whose CEO is murdered. She is a LEGITIMATE SUSPECT and probably had HELLA CLUES (not to mention: FUCKING INTELLIGENT and RESILIENT) but dude was waaaay more concerned with how pretty and understanding she was than asking for her expertise--which he does, but really more because he wanted to take her on a date. So. Pissed.

The only reason I finished this book was to see if Shanshan was playing Chen all along in a masterful game of manipulation. Sadly, no.

Not recommended.