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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

ARC REVIEW: Necrotech by K. C. Alexander

Star Rating: ***** 5/5

Title: Necrotech
Author: K. C. Alexander
Genre: Sci-Fi
Subgenre: Cyberpunk/Transhumanist sci-fi
Review by Silicon.
Street thug Riko has some serious issues — memories wiped, reputation tanked, girlfriend turned into a tech-fueled zombie. And the only people who can help are the mercenaries who think she screwed them over.

In an apathetic society devoid of ethics or regulation, where fusing tech and flesh can mean a killing edge or a killer conversion, a massive conspiracy is unfolding that will alter the course of the human condition forever. With corporate meatheads on her ass and a necro-tech blight between her and salvation, Riko is going to have to fight meaner, work smarter, and push harder than she’s ever had to. And that’s just to make it through the day.



To say I enjoyed this book would be a massive understatement. 

Do you like ass-kicking, foul-mouthed, shit-starting heroines? Fast-paced plots that just don't stop the punches? Human & tech integration with ACTUAL CONSEQUENCES and unique dangers?

Publication date is September 1st for ebook & UK, September 6th for North America.

This is an honest review in exchange for an ARC. Yes, I really did like it THIS MUCH.


Plot & Writing Style


The plot of Necrotech is one wild ride.

The major conflict in the story centers around Riko's girlfriend, who is turned into a "tech zombie" (necrotech) following events that implicate Riko herself, and which she cannot remember. Complicating the issue is her girlfriend's brother, who Riko must work with if she's to figure out what happened. The complicated, messy relationships between characters in this book is a real strength of the storytelling. I really liked how Riko is clearly a person who loves & is attracted to many people, and how HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS is a central theme & conflict for everyone. Deciding who to trust, who to betray, who to save makes up a big part of how everyone interacts.

Shit just keeps hitting the fan. Everything Riko does to try and fix the situation has consequences, positive and negative. The world of the story is tightly integrated, and Alexander does a great job giving us essential information through action sequences and really keeping tension up the whole time. This is a first person POV book, so when Riko doesn't know something we don't either. It's tough to make this work with an amnesia-driven central conflict, but I think it was well done. Amnesia isn't my favorite plot device, but for this story it worked. 

If you see this XKCD and think "I'd like to read that!" You will enjoy Necrotech. This is one of the fastest-paced books I've read, which packs punches both physical and emotional.




Humanity has become concentrated in cosmopolitan mega-cities due to massive environmental degradation (whee, it's the future!), and depends on nanotechnology to survive.

The way tech and humanity is integrated in this novel is really unique. I liked the way that tech upgrades came with a significant danger and cost--the possibility of being overwhelmed by your tech's needs and becoming a mere vessel for it to operate. Very creepy. I think the way that tech and environment meshed was well thought out and has interesting implications--for example, nanotech removes the possibility of cancer, so people pulse themselves with straight radiation to disinfect the extremely dubious water coming out of their showers. People can connect and talk to one another through tech-based psionics wired into their brains, but this comes at the cost of also being constantly assaulted with visual and aural advertisements.

It's a very dystopian, post-climate-crisis environment and a very interesting use of universal nanotechnology.




Yessssss Riko. She's the best.

Riko beats people up, she swears loudly and frequently, she screws up and pulls herself to her feet again, she asks for help when she needs it and powers through when she doesn't. She's a FORCE. She's the kind of heroine I've wanted to read for a long time but rarely actually GET. Usually when you have protags like this, they end up needing A MAN to come save them somehow. Riko is self-sufficient and would probably significantly fuck you up if you suggested that. She needs help, but she doesn't need to be saved.

I really enjoyed how flawed and human K. C. Alexander writes Riko. She's not an emotionless machine. She cares for people and for her reputation. When she screws up and hurts someone else, she feels guilt and regret. Sometimes she screws up BECAUSE she feels so guilty it makes her rash and punch something she shouldn't. Riko has fears and joys that are just so centrally REAL that she really comes alive off the page. Plus I deeply enjoyed watching her beat her enemies up. I would not want to get in this woman's way. She's not the most conniving or intelligent character on the page, and THAT'S OKAY. That's better than okay, actually, it shows how she has significant challenges to face that she genuinely needs others for.

There's a great variety in characters presented in this book, who are all very different, yet need each other to survive and solve problems.




Riko has had a long and sometimes complicated love life, and is bisexual. LGBT+ rep is casual and inclusive in this novel, and I really appreciated that. We frequently see Riko make passes at both men and women throughout the story, and there's absolutely no fanfare or big deal made out of who she's attracted to by any other character.

Riko is an amputee who uses a prosthetic metal forearm and hand. In a lot of SFF, loss of a limb is often swiftly compensated by something that functions the same, if not better. However, while Riko's arm definitely is advanced tech, it's not the same as if she'd never lost the arm. It feeds data back to Riko in a series of statistics about whatever it's touching, and she must interpret them rather than feeling as she does with her other hand. It has drawbacks and strengths that play uniquely into how Riko navigates the world. I felt this was excellently done.

Genetics is messy in the world of Necrotech. People can take pills containing  genetic material from other human ethnic groups which augment their abilities and change their physical appearance.While this makes it complicated to evaluate racial diversity in the book, I was very happy with the many characters of color we got to see, and who play important roles. This is definitely not one of those "the future is white"-type scifi books. I was happy with the diversity in this book.




You need this damn book. There's a longish excerpt posted here by B&N if you want to see for yourself. If you don't like swearing you won't like this book, but you'd also probably not be reading my blog. SO. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

#ReadThemAllThon TBR List!

It's probably a really bad idea for me to join the #ReadThemAllThon, given imminent moving & the fact that I'm behind on reviews (when am I not?). But I am gonna throw caution to the wind and join in anyway! Live on the edge!

#ReadThemAllThon is run by Aentee @ Read At Midnight


CP: 10

 The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin


A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
 468 pgs, +46 CP potential

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner—that she will be the cause of a bitter war—and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life.
279 pgs, +27 CP potential

A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood

From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.
354 pgs, +35 CP potential

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
342 pgs, +34 CP potential

Don't Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

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.
262 pgs, +26 CP potential

Among Others by Jo Walton

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…
304 pgs, +30 CP potential

Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley

Watts is smoldering in ruins-and the cops are on Easy Rawlins's doorstep. Easy expects the worst, as usual. But, incredibly, they're asking for his help. A redheaded woman known as Little Scarlet had sheltered a man during the riots. Witnesses later saw him fleeing her building; not long after, Little Scarlet was found viciously murdered. Now, with his old friend Mouse at his side, Easy follows the case's single clue across Los Angeles. The missing man is the key, but he's only the beginning. Hidden in the heart of the city is a killer whose red-hot rage is as fierce as the fires that rocked L.A.
325 pgs, +32 CP potential

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?
 456 pgs, +45 CP potential 

I tried to make this list as diverse as possible! It includes a lot of new-to-me stuff ... namely: YA, which I don't read that much! I also read romance extremely rarely, so we'll see how this goes. I'm excited that I got to list 2 diverse detective novels, 1 scifi with #ownvoices disability rep, 1 fantasy with disability rep, 2 PoC-inclusive fantasy books, and 2 feminist theme books! I can't wait to read these. Now I just need time!

Link me your #ReadThemAllThon TBR in the comments! Or just tell me your favorite Pokemon :D

Friday, August 12, 2016

REVIEW: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Star Rating: **** 4/5


Title: The Ballad of Black Tom
Author: Victor LaValle
Genre: Fantasy
Subgenre: Weird (or New Weird)
Review by Silicon
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 going to start this review a little differently: with a link to an interview of the author.

Despite being such a short book, LaValle's story is a highly complex one. The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling, a subversion of HP Lovecraft's infamous The Horror at Red Hook, a disgustingly racist rant thinly disguised as a story.  I'm not going to review that piece of shit in this post (ohhhh, but I have PLANS, plans with graphs, for the future), and if you're curious about just how bad it is I'm linking  a Storify of my livetweeting while reading the thing: here.

Essentially, Red Hook centers on the main character's dislike, fear, and misunderstanding of the immigrant (and non-immigrant PoC) community in Brooklyn. Black Tom is LaValle's answer to Lovecraft's bigotry. From the interview:
Where Lovecraft would’ve seen an enigma I could say these were people I knew. They were complicated but not mysterious. What if I reimagined Lovecraft’s old story from their point of view? What if I made one of them the engine of the tale? How much would change if the folks used to playing the background came center stage instead?
This is something LaValle absolutely succeeds in.


The Ballad of Black Tom follows the character of Charles Thomas Tester, aka Tommy aka "Black Tom", a black man living in Harlem who supports his ailing father by taking odd, magical jobs around New York City. On one fateful day, he meets a white man named Robert Suydam, who wants to hire Tommy to perform in and be a part of a mysterious event at his house--a project Tommy finds is unearthly, frightening, and dangerously powerful. And that's all I'm gonna summarize because it is really hard to write about this book without spoilers.

If you've read Red Hook, you know it starts out centered entirely on the character of Malone, and his PTSD from the terrifying events he witnessed during his investigation into Suydam's doings. LaValle very significantly does not even mention Malone until we've been immersed in Tommy's world, the world that Malone--and Lovecraft--find so utterly incomprehensible. And when Malone shows up, he's a side character--without agency--looking on as Tommy handles a detective's contrived aggression.

This is an excellent example of how LaValle subverts Lovecraft's original tale. Black Tom really feels like as if you took Red Hook, turned it inside-out, and kept only the bare bones of the story's plot while completely re-imagining the flesh, the heart of the story.


To be honest, LaValle GIVES the Red Hook story a heart, one we can connect to and understand, in the character of Tommy Tester. In Red Hook, Malone is constantly afraid of the faceless mass of Red Hook residents, who he does not even see as human. In Black Tom, these people are the heart and soul of the story--a grounding force, a community, that Tommy feels safe and comfortable and accepted in.

Something I really liked about Black Tom is the way its theme really is understanding, empathizing, while Red Hook is all about fearing the Other. Example: when Tommy and his father visit the Victoria Society, a Caribbean social club. Tommy initially had described the club as a den of illegal activity, a place where the most hardened criminals go. Now, actually there, Tommy feels remorse as he realizes he had been harboring assumptions about immigrants from the Caribbean which were untrue. He realizes that they exist in a whole world similar to his own, with similar hopes and aspirations, and not as mere caricatures that gossip had painted them. This was a really lovely scene, one of my favorites in the book. 

Where Malone has only amorphous, hysterical fears unattached to reality, Tommy's fears are painfully real. The descriptions of Tommy's interactions with police, with white men, ring SO DAMN TRUE especially considering today's insane racial injustice problem. Malone imagines terrors based on his own inability to empathize with People of Color. Tommy faces real consequences--harassment, illegal confiscations of property, violence--when he does not act completely submissive in the presence of white men.  You may think I'm making an inflated comparison, but hilariously even in Lovecraft's own Red Hook, nothing happens to Malone despite all the time he spends feeling uneasy around Red Hook residents. He just has a few bad dreams. Tommy faces real danger.

I am not going to spoil SHIT. But let's say the Inciting Incident is so raw, so extremely parallel to today's tragedies, that it took my breath away.

The second half of the novella has a significant change--we switch to Malone's PoV, and Tommy becomes Black Tom, seen only from the outside now. This half more closely parallels Lovecraft's original, with Malone's biases and prejudice directing his actions. However, we have a crucial insight now--we already know and understand the world that Malone is still so confused by, we can understand why events unfold that in Red Hook are so baffling in their lack of motivation.

In Lovecraft's Red Hook, evil is a sleeping, otherworldly being. Evil is the unknown, given a form by his crude sketches of the Red Hook community he cannot understand. Evil is bringing down an inhuman power which does not care about human life, which consumes indifferently to our suffering. But in Black Tom, evil is not an eldritch power--as Tommy says:
What was indifference compared to malice? 
Human malice is shown to be so much greater than otherworldly indifference. A significant message, especially given Lovecraft's own clearly evident prejudice, which saturates his Red Hook piece and obscures even the story itself.

Writing Style

LaValle's writing style is very unfrilled, plain and succinct. He says what he means to say and doesn't spend words embellishing the events that unfold, leaving them raw and piercing. Tommy's reactions and thoughts are described from a slightly reserved close third POV which works very well for this story and parallels the Red Hook POV style. Though, ultimately, the Red Hook story and LaValle's Black Tom have very different writing styles--LaValle does not spend nearly as much time in lingering description as Lovecraft, for example.

One element I think LaValle especially excels at is "show, not tell" reactions. Though he does not explicitly state what Tommy feels often, we can certainly imagine and empathize with what he feels throughout the book. The terrible events that unfold have a special horror because we can SEE the character's reactions, and imagine their internal state. With single, perfectly placed sentences, LaValle does an excellent job at that difficult task of implicitly directing a reader's thoughts without outright stating what he wants them to think about.


There is no way I have done, or could do this story justice in this review. This is one of those deep, layered stories that needs significant analysis to fully extract all meaning. I really think Ballad of Black Tom should be treated as one of those classics we read in English classes. It's certainly as complex.

Black Tom masterfully subverts an extremely difficult, tremendously problematic story by one of the biggest names in Horror. But it's much more than just a retelling. It's a reimagining, a reclaiming, a fundamental redoing that takes the worst parts of Lovecraft's racism and shows how his incomprehensible caricatures are actually people. Are a COMMUNITY. It shows us how unimaginable evil isn't actually an otherworldly force, but the capacity for hatred that lies within humanity itself.
"Indifference would be such a relief," Tommy said.
There's so much more in here that I would love to touch upon, but I am going to instead recommend other sources. Firstly, LaValle's own interviews give deep insight into his aims and aspirations while writing this remarkable story. Secondly, check out the reviews already posted, and those to come, in #DSFFBookClub, where we're discussing this book right now! Finally, @Cecily_Kane kindly linked me a BRILLIANT analysis of Black Tom and Red Hook by Vajra Chandrasekera at Strange Horizons: here. I highly recommend you read it, it certainly goes a lot deeper than my review and touches upon a lot of extremely important points.

This is a bit of an unconventional review for me, but it's an unconventional book! I certainly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you've read Lovecraft. If you love the New Weird fantasy/horror subgenre, this is a must.

Reading Black Tom, and Red Hook have inspired me to seek out more Lovecraft subversion tales. After reading Red Hook, I'm way more interested in reading these than Lovecraft himself. If you're curious about that racist as fuck story (yes, I am still REALLY pissed at Red Hook), you can read it for free here, though I recommend a LARGE glass of wine as accompaniment.

Join in the discussion at #DSFFBookClub, and let me know your thoughts on Lovecraft and The Ballad of Black Tom below in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Pokemon Go Book Tag!

This tag is just too amusing of an idea to pass by. Just pretend I'm not weeping in the corner over here because my phone is incapable of running Pokemon Go.

This took me embarrassingly wrong to complete because I'm easily distracted. Well, it's done now. BEHOLD.

Tag created by Aentee @ Read At Midnight.

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Yes really. I know it's a horrible LotR ripoff BUT I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OKAY.

A Wizard of Earthsea. Ursula Le Guin is my favorite classic SFF author and the Earthsea series is just so incredible in so many ways. My personal favorite is The Tombs of Atuan, because I was a weird morbid kid and the idea of the silent, dark labyrinth that had to be navigated solely by touch ... so, so good.

China Mieville's Kraken. I remember when New Weird was a big thing in the fantasy genre and LITERALLY EVERYONE was reading The City & The City, Perdido Street Station, and Kraken. I finally did start Kraken, and it is extremely weird, but so far it hasn't really drawn me in.

This is too easy in the fantasy genre, where every second book is a LotR remake. I choose Dragonlance by Weis & Hickman, which is so trope-y it probably wraps all the way around to original somehow. We all have guilty pleasures, ok? Mine happens to be campy, terrible D&D-based fantasy. I also read Drizzt. Shut up.

Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars. I've been eyeing this series for probably like 8 years or something. But after Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan, I don't know if I'm ready to get involved in another fantasy epic of the same size right now.

Art © 2015 by Plunderpuss
Given the fact that I intentionally avoid suspense & horror, this is hard. I'll link not a book, but a short story: Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong. Brilliant, amazing *shivers*

ACTUALLY I HAVE A BOOK TOO. Bonus round: NK Jemisin's The Killing Moon. Such a creepy magic system. And NK Jemisin EXCELS at grabbing your feels and not letting them go until she's extracted every drop of remaining emotional stability. READ IT.

Phèdre & Joscelin from the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. Normally I don't enjoy romance in books--*ducks thrown tomatoes*--but Phèdre and Joscelin have such a deliciously complicated relationship, with tragedy and consequences and crossroads and ... I LIKE POIGNANT BOOKS, OKAY? Happy isn't intense enough for me. Usually.

Kushiel's Dart is a wonderfully lush book, probably one of the first SFF books I picked up with significant LGBT+ inclusion. It has brilliant politics, complex human relationships, beautiful writing, and READ IT OKAY. READ. IT.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Holy shit. This book grabbed and didn't let go and was AMAZING. If you like brutal political intrigue, read this book. READ IT.

I tried and tried to think of one, but it turns out my gut reaction was right. I don't like spin-offs. NO SPIN-OFFS. Like, maybe Drizzt shit? But not sure if D&D-based fiction really counts ... since essentially every series is a spin-off. Pass?

The Sundering series by Carey. I was expecting it to be a clever commentary on standard fantasy tropes, but not particularly emotion-destroying. BOY WAS I WRONG. This series is like LotR except from the PoV of Sauron's side. And Carey really, REALLY makes you sympathize with them. So much that I was legit sad when the Good Side had victories. EVIL IS JUST MISUNDERSTOOD /weeps

Malazan by Erikson. Everyone who reads epic fantasy knows this name, knows of its legendary worldbuilding & notoriously difficult reading experience. I still love it. Even if I have to take a break between each Malazan book I read. One day I will finish it!

OK so Barnes and Noble has this amazing collector's edition leather-bound fiction and I basically want ALL OF IT. What I would really want, though? Octavia Butler (one of her best books: Kindred) in that kind of beautiful binding. One of the greats of SFF writing, she deserves equal treatment as Tolkien.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I'm actually not sure if this is a debut? I think it is. In any case, I NEED TO READ THIS. Mathematical space opera! I ADORE hard science fiction, so this sounds like exactly the sort of book I will love. Reading Glaiza's review made me so much more eager to get my hands on this book. Cannot wait.

Scott Lynch. The Gentleman Bastards series (Book 1: The Lies of Locke Lamora) is one of the only ones that I will go out and buy the hardcover within a week of the release. Like thieves, snark, and brilliant heists? You need these books.

I won't say GRRM, I won't say GRRM ...


... Winds of Winter. Sorry.

Do you have OPINIONS on any of these books? Sabers at dawn! (or write a comment below)