The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

This is THE LIGHT BRIGADE by KAMERON HURLEY.

A book I hadn’t heard of before going over the Tor.com reviewers’ best books of 2019.

Some years ago, if you’d have said “military sci-fi” my answer would have been, what? no!

But this was fascinating! Mars and Earth are at war and Dietz has signed up to fight. He’s part of a team that is turned into particles of light and then beamed at lightspeed to wherever they’re ordered, sometimes Mars. But something keeps going wrong with his drops, he seems to be joining his team at different times and situations. And soon he learns the truth behind it all.

It is an intense read. So much happens and the reader is trying to puzzle it out along with Dietz. I’ve seen a few reviews since that talked about this book being a new take on Starship Troopers, which I don’t know about as I’ve not seen the movie or read the book. So I’ve come into this as a reader who doesn’t really know much about more classic SF or military novels.

But what I really liked about this book is the way she constructed her future world. Where there are no nations, just corporations. Where you are either citizens or not. And if not, you have no rights and privileges. You are a “ghoul”. Dietz is a one of these “ghouls”, once an inhabitant of São Paulo which has been wiped out by the Martians.

What a read this is. It is brutal and bloody. It discusses politics and capitalism that, while set in a future society, rings so relevant and true to our current one. Loved it.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

For a long time I had Atwood on a pedestal. I mean she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale!

Then I read Angel Catbird and it was a bit sad and embarrassing (please don’t read it). So it has been a while since I’ve read anything by Atwood (not counting the brilliant graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale).

I was however curious about The Testaments.

Please note I will attempt to make sure there are no spoilers in this review and as such, I won’t talk much about plot (here’s the the Goodreads synopsis) but the storyline takes place 15 years after the first book.

First of all, if this were written by a YA author as her version of what happened to Gilead I probably would have applauded it.

But this is Margaret Atwood we are talking about, and so I had high expectations.

I don’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I liked (or liked despising) the fact that we were back in Gilead and hearing from Aunt Lydia. Lydia was a great character and it was especially interesting hearing from her perspective.

The story was fast-paced, very plot-driven, and it ended up being a quick read despite its 400 pages. But I felt that her young teenaged character in the non-Gilead world wasn’t convincing. Some of what she said sounded odd. And really, I was disappointed that we don’t hear from Offred.

After I read the book, I saw a review that remarked that The Testaments picks up plot elements from the TV series and I wondered, what have I missed out on since I haven’t seen the TV show? And to be honest, after learning about that, I was a bit pissed off. Is this a sequel of a book or of a book and a TV show? Did I need to get a Hulu subscription in order to learn what I was missing?

So after it all I feel that this book, while readable and entertaining, was, for me, not very satisfying. It brought me back into a familiar world with hopes of answers but I wasn’t wowed by it.

Sudden Traveler by Sarah Hall

 

 

“We are, all of us, sudden travelers in the world, blind, passing each other, reaching out, missing, sometimes taking hold.”

Reviewing a collection of short stories isn’t an easy task. With a few exceptions, short story collections tend to feel like they need to be read over a longer time than it takes to read a book. For example, read one story, take a break and go read something else. Then come back to another story after that breather.

And in a collection such as this slim volume by Sarah Hall, a lot of breaks are needed, as the stories take on such varied settings, some weird and otherworldly and a bit experimental, some more rooted in the every day. Is that why the title is such? That as we read the stories, we are, too, “sudden travelers”, having to switch our perspectives completely?

For these stories are set in Turkish forests, Cumbrian villages, some that seem more like dreamscapes with weird transformations.

There is no doubt that Hall is a great writer. The stories are full of beautiful writing. For myself, as I am not much of a reader of more experimental turns, I was more drawn to her more ‘real’ stories like Orton and, especially the penultimate story, Sudden Traveler. And her writing pulled me in deep to those stories, tears falling, even, for one of them.

So while I stumbled during a couple of stories, unsure of where these pieces were leading me, the end result was worth it.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book.

Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Grab a copy of this book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about Sarah Hall: Website and Facebook

 

 

X-23 and Abbott – 2 comics for #ripxiv

X-23 Vol 1: Family Album by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Juann Cabal

Abbott Vol 1 by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Sami Kivelä

I loved this X-23 series! If you’ve not heard of X-23 (Laura) she’s a clone of Wolverine and she has her own clone, a young girl named Gabby. What I know about X-Men I learnt from that cartoon series that aired in the 90s (I think) and from the movies. X-Men comics have never really attracted me much but I did read the previous X-23 series a few years ago and I always thought her character was kinda overlooked – although I’ve since realized that she became the All-New Wolverine. (Side note: how does one keep up with all these different comic series??)

Anyway in this volume, Laura and Gabby have great interaction (I especially liked that short story set in a high school). And the Stepford Cuckoos! This is the first time I’ve come across the multiples and they are fascinating – they have a telepathic hive mind and erm, well, some of the sisters are dead.

Very suitable for #ripxiv I reckon.

Also extremely in the #ripxiv mood is Abbott, a new series by Saladin Ahmed. I wasn’t expecting the supernatural aspect of this series though! But it adds a different element that has me wanting more. It’s set in 1970s Detroit with a black female reporter as its main character. The artwork has a gorgeous vintage feel and Ahmed deftly weaves in issues like racism and sexism into the storyline. I’d love to read more!

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks #tlcbooktours

I love chocolate.

And perhaps that may be the only reason I joined this book tour.

I hadn’t heard of Karen Brooks before, although she is an author of quite a few other books. But the title had “chocolate” in it and here I am.

This chocolate of 17th century London though isn’t exactly the chocolate we are used to today.

It is a drinking chocolate and before our main character Rosamund gets involved, it doesn’t exactly sound very palatable. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…

Rosamund’s story is a bit of a fairy tale one. She works in a small inn in a small village and is abused by her stepfather and stepbrothers. And one day when she is fleeing her stepbrothers, she quite literally falls in the path of the wealthy Sir Everard Blithman who happens to be traveling through the area. Sir Everard is so taken with her, mostly because she resembles his late daughter, and pretty much buys her hand in marriage. Sir Everard is going to open a chocolate house and Rosamund becomes an important part of the business and it is booming. However, this is a family full of secrets, which Rosamund, to her horror, gradually uncovers.

I loved all the history that is brought into the book – the plague, the great fire of London, as well as the beginnings of the chocolate that we love today. Brooks brings in all the sights, sounds and smells of 17th century London, and it is rank and vile for most of it. But luckily, there is the chocolate house and its spices and flavours.

Rosamund was, for me, a bit too perfect and sweet. And as I prefer to take my main characters with a pinch of saltiness and flaws, it was hard for me to fall for her unlike all the rest of the characters in the book who are so taken with her.

But it was an enjoyable read, best with a stash of chocolate nearby to dip into whenever the craving hits.

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book.

  
 
Grab a copy of the book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about Karen Brooks: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter.

The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang #tlcbooktours

 

 

The Dragon Republic picks up where The Poppy War ends and the reader is thrown right back into the war zone.

(I’m trying to keep any spoilers for the first book out of this post, so please bear with me).

The Poppy War was, for me, an amazing read. For too long, much of the speculative fiction I read didn’t reflect myself or my culture, so to read this very Asian dark fantasy novel, it blew my mind. It made me think of all those (somewhat cheesy) myth-based Chinese TV series I grew up watching as a kid in Singapore – Journey to the West, Nezha – and all those Chinese movies like Red Cliff, Three Kingdoms, that my Dad watched.

So I definitely was excited to get my hands on the second book, The Dragon Republic. And it was just as awesome.

The focus here is very much on Rin, as she comes to terms with her actions in the first book. It’s still very much dark and war-centric (there are navy battles!) but the pace is less back-breaking than the first.

And Rin, well, she’s still Rin. She’s headstrong and determined. She makes horrible choices sometimes and terrible things happen to her. But that’s what makes her human, despite having a god’s powers. This second book is very much her story. It feels a little like the other characters are sidelined, and I was a bit disappointed with that, especially as the rest of the Cike don’t play much of a part.

Sometimes second books can be a big letdown and this one was absolutely not one of those. The Dragon Republic was exciting and complex, it was full of energy and passion and all kinds of darkness, and it kept me in good company on a 16-hour plane ride to Singapore.

 

 

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and

publisher Harper Voyage for sending me a copy of this book.

Check out the rest of the stops on the tour

Grab yourself a copy of this book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Find out more about author RF Kuang: WebsiteTwitter, and Instagram

The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney #TLCBookTours

 

 

 

 

 

Think Grumpy Old Men. In a nursing home.

Well, at least one of the old men is grumpy.

And that is Joel Monroe, who is in his 70s and held ‘prisoner’ at Hilltop Nursing Home. His roommate Miller, who has been in a coma, dies, and Joel, still grieving for his wife, whose bed Miller had taken over, is overcome with grief.

It doesn’t help that the nursing home has stuck him with Frank de Selby, a former soap opera actor who is full of questions, rather flamboyant and optimistic. Joel is determined not to like this new roommate but once he gets to know the real de Selby (real name Frank Adams), he realises that while they are very different people, he quite likes Frank.

Frank shares that his family has left him alone after learning that he’s gay. Joel reveals that he has been thinking of killing himself.

Sharing secrets and escaping the nursing home to get a pint in a bar and these two roommates become great friends, the kind that seem as if they’ve known each other forever.

I loved how different the two men were from each other. And how they learnt from each other and grew, in their own way.

The Great Unexpected is a charming and amusing read, a poignant tale of friendship and ageing.

 

For more information about Dan Mooney and the book, check our his author website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, look at the book’s Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour.

 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

 

Thanks to  TLC Book Tours and publisher Park Row Books for sending me a copy of this book.