ARC Review: SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC from the publisher
Content warning: Famine, poverty, flaying, plague, war, queerphobia, misogyny, immolation, dismemberment

A girl’s family dies in a famine-stricken village at the hands of despair and bandits. Instead of succumbing to her nothing fate, so takes on her brother’s name, Zhu Chongba, and takes on his destiny of greatness. She joins a monastery, gets enlisted in the army, and seeks greatness at every turn. On the opposite side of war, there is Ouyang, the eunuch general, whose everything was taken from him by the family he serves.

My official review is one long joyous screech of hype. This book has so many things I love, such as character archetypes and depictions of betrayal. The balance between political intrigue and epic battles is masterful, as are the parallels between Ouyang and Zhu.

Continue reading

ARC Review: THE BURNING DAY AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES by Charles Payseur (2021)

Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction Short Story Collection
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Unabridged Books | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the author

Short story writer Charles Payseur is prolific in both his reviews and his short story career. This collection is a compact, but mighty sample. There is something for everyone, from stories taking place down on earth, to space exploration, to tales about black holes and space ships full of cats.

They’re queer, they’re speculative, with lovely imagery and relationships that feel all-too human throughout. Some stories are also chilling, in more ways than one. There is a breadth here of speculative experience that is a wonder to behold.

Author Charles Payseur will be featured as this blog’s next interview guest on July 18th, 2021.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT (Monk & Robot #1) by Becky Chambers (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: July 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: Welts, pus, blisters

Centuries ago, the robots walked off their jobs and let the wilds take over. In the current day, Sibling Dex decides they’ve had enough of their duties and decides to fuck off into the wilderness to become a tea monk. After several years, they set off on the road and run into a robot named Mosscap. The two begin a strange friendship built on attempts at understanding that leads to deep conversations about identity, purpose, and the meaning of life.

Kind, philosophical, and full of awareness, this book reads like drinking a cup of tea for self-care.

Continue reading

ARC Review: THE FORTRESS by S.A. Jones (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Physical ARC from Publisher

Received an ARC from the Erewhon Books, the publisher
Trigger warnings: violence, sex, abuse, child sexual assault (not shown, but mentioned), corporal punishment, acid attack

Some stories you read and you enjoy it for the story. Others you read, and you can see the author trying to process things going on the real world. In The Fortress, Jonathon Bridges pledges himself to one year of servitude to the Vaik, an all-women population living on their own land separate from the rest of society. The story follows his year and describes the litany of sins and penance.

What Jones masterfully pulls off is the kind of tale where I found it hard to critique in ways one would normally engage in a story. The prose is sharp. The world-building doesn’t quite fade into the background as immersion, but it’s there enough to contextualized everything happening to Jonathon. I found myself wishing him to get a hold of himself and nigh-yelling about how much of a piece of shit he is, but not in the way of a character in a story, but a person in real life. How he could be so complicit to so many heinous things. It seems that Jones herself is trying to understand men like Jonathon. Instead of going a revenge route—and there were so many opportunities—Jones chooses compassion. The choice of service as opposed to violence left such an impression. Did I read this book or did its thesis just happen?

A unique tale in which the path to anything resembling redemption means letting go of your ego and giving over completely to servitude.

ARC Review: FINNA by Nino Cipri (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 25, 2020
Source: The author

Received an eARC from the author

The nightmare of IKEA—I’m sorry, LitenVäld—is made so much worse when it turns out that there are multiple versions of each one scattered throughout a multiverse. It doesn’t help when you have to navigate it with your ex who is also your co-worker.

The relationship between Ava and Jules is so completely. Both of them are bona fide disasters. Cipri expertly sets up the conflicts and that ended their relationships as the kinds of arguments which help them survive being lost at sea and cannibal sales associates. It’s another one of those books where you’re rooting for the main characters to both be brave enough to be cowards and cowardly enough to be brave. Did I cry at the end? Yes. Retail is a hellscape, but can be survivable with the right people at your side.

Wormholes, retail hell, and a queer love story. What more can you want?

ARC Review: UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED by Sarah Gailey (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Alternate History/Future (Speculative Fiction)
Year Release: February 4, 2020
Source: The Publisher, Tor.com

Received an ARC from the publisher, Tor.com

The Wild West seems to be a having a very small moment. If you enjoyed Gailey’s first novella, River of TeethUpright Women Wanted will tickle those cowboy needs, albeit with fewer swamps and hippos.

The femmes in this novel are all so complex. Queer librarians actually spying for the resistance on horseback? A tough cinnamon roll who followed all the rules only to run away from there? A non-binary who code-switches when going into towns to protect the mission at large? Casual polyamory? Betrayals? This novel has so many trappings of a great desert adventure on horseback and so much more. The world-building is great and gives context to the work these librarians do without actually having to spell it out for the reader. In addition, it doesn’t flinch away from the mundane nastiness of life on the road, and I found that magical.

It bears repeating: if you liked Gailey’s first two novellas, you’re going to be enamored with this one.