Category: Books

Book Talk: Beneath the Sugar Sky

Posted February 7, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: Beneath the Sugar SkyBeneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #3
Pages: 176

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire's Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the "real" world.

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can't let Reality get in the way of her quest - not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn't have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests...

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

Also in this series: Every Heart a Doorway
Also by this author: Every Heart a Doorway

A friend of mine sent me their ARC copy of Beneath the Sugar Sky because I’d expressed an interest in reading it. My interest largely stems from the promise that we’d get to see a little more of Nancy and the Halls of the Dead, but the book would have caught my interest anyway. It just sounds like a lot of fun.

CW: Fatmisia (that gets called out repeatedly), amisia, suicide

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In Stillness: The Perception of Asexuality in Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway”

Posted February 1, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Miscellaneous, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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It’s here! I’ve finally polished up the draft version of my In Stillness essay and am officially sharing it with the world. :O Prepare yourself because this is 4,970 words long minus quotations, end notes and works cited list. With, it’s about 5,837.

In Stillness:

The Perception of Asexuality in Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway”

Before August 2016, I had never read a story with a character who explicitly identified as asexual. It is tempting to say that, before that time, I had never read any character like me before. This is not true. I’d read several stories with asexually-coded (ace-coded) characters before then[1], but August 2016 marked the month when I first read a story featuring a character who explicitly used the label to describe herself.

That character was Nancy from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and until I read that novella I did not truly understand why I too needed labels in fiction, why I too needed to see such blunt visibility and recognition. Every Heart a Doorway was published on May 10th, 2016 and has gone on to be nominated for (and sometimes winning) several major awards. To date, it has won the 2016 Nebulas, the 2017 Locus Awards, and the 2016 Hugo Awards, and it was one of the books named on the Tiptree Honors list in part for its portrayal of Nancy’s asexuality.

Being published by a respected traditional publisher, written by a well-known and popular queer SFF author and explicitly including a discussion of the definition of asexuality has seen Every Heart a Doorway rise to prominence as one of the major books included on recommendations lists featuring asexual characters. Arguably, it has gone on to become the poster recommendation for asexual representation within fiction.

As a reader on the asexual spectrum, I was initially delighted by the narrative that McGuire wrote. I was dazzled by the fact that here, for the first time that I could recall, there was a character written specifically and deliberately to mirror my experiences. It wasn’t a complete match, but it was close enough to hit home. It also, deliberately, called out some of the most harmful stereotypes regarding asexuality that I have seen and experienced. That, more than anything, is what I fell in love with the first time I read it.

When I reread it for the Hugo Award nominations in the spring of 2017, however, my experience was markedly different and I found the amisia[2] in the central premise almost unbearable. Nancy’s personal storyline revolves around her desire to return to the Halls of the Dead, the portal world that she visited, loved and wants to return to with all her heart. While the narrative is aware of its amisia on a surface level, this essay will show that once one looks below that surface the story actually perpetuates the very ideas that it so strongly attempts to deny.

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Book Talk: No More Heroes

Posted January 29, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: No More HeroesNo More Heroes by Michelle Kan
Pages: 279

The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy - one whose motive is as unclear as their identity. Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they're going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain?

No More Heroes is an urban fantasy action/adventure novel about young would-be heroes who get more than they bargained for when they delve deeper into a world they never knew they were a part of. Featuring a diverse cast of players, discord, a mystery to be solved, plenty of literary action and high-stakes battles, No More Heroes is a story about self-belief and camaraderie, persistence in the face of trials, and what it means to be the best version of yourself.

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Livetweeting William Elliot Griffis’ Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folk

Posted January 5, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Way back at the beginning of December 2017, I started a livetweet of a book I’d found on Project Gutenberg called Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks by William Elliot Griffis, an American. I was looking for a collection or an anthology to help a friend with a project and, well, I stumbled across that and I was curious. Do not make my mistakes.

I got about 5 stories in before deciding that I had to do a livetweet of the experience. And it is an experience because these stories are terrible. It’s not that Dutch fairy tales are inherently terrible – they are few, but there are some nice ones – but that Griffis just… isn’t a good storyteller and, sometimes, doesn’t know what he’s talking about to such an extent that I was left seriously doubting whether he’s not just made at least half of these stories up himself.

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Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work update

Posted December 30, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Okay, so I have a few books that I’d like to take about before the end of the year and… I’m failing to write long and proper reviews for all of them, so I figured I’d write a few mini-reviews and bundle them.

These will likely be the final reviews of the year, but I may end up rested enough that I’ll actually write a few more. They may or may not be around this length and they may or may not end up grouped together.

Beyond that… Tiny work update! I’m still poking away at RibbonDancer now that I’ve finally found a direction it’ll move forward in. Yay! (Minor downside: apparently it requires the same song on repeat. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it wasn’t one of the distracting “I must sing along” ones that make for terrible writing music.)

DemiPrincess1 is still with its betareaders, so both it and DemiPrincess2 are on hold until I can revise (read: rip to shreds and rebuild from the ground up) DemiPrincess1.

I seem to be in the grips of writing all the nonfiction at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that my latest work has all been nonfiction. This week’s project? Starting to poke at a retrospective of my experiences prioritising books with characters on the asexual spectrum.

I now have, like, four essays in draft format? With nary a clue what to do with any of them because I still pretty much lack the confidence not to self-reject nonfiction?

Thankfully, I do know the overarching issue is that I’m perpetually insecure about how many sources you actually
need. That’s the one thing I wish university had taught us in better detail and more nuance than “Source everything!” and… Yeah. Anyway!

You’re likely here for those reviews I mentioned earlier, so I should probably get to them. In short, writing is slow and mostly focused on nonfiction and wrapping up the year. (I can’t believe it’s almost 2018 already.) These are the last of the reviews for books I read with ace-spec characters in them.

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateThe Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
Series: All for the Game #1
Pages: 262

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

This book came to my attention because of its supposed demisexual representation. Well, because the series has demisexual representation, rather. It’s gotten rave reviews and was highly recommended and, basically, I feel like the book I read comes from another dimension because this is, hands-down, the worst book I’ve read this year. Nothing in it makes sense.

As for the demisexual representation? I didn’t like it personally. I thought the narrative made it extremely clear that Neil was interested in girls when he was a teenager and his mother abused him for it and doesn’t handle the link between Neil’s sexuality and trauma in a way that worked for me. Also I felt that the beginning of the romance we see here reads more like Stockholm Syndrome than demisexuality. (Fun fact: they’re not the same thing.)

CW: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, ableism, stereotypical depictions of mental illness, racism

Yep. That’s all I’ve got. Anything else is just a rant.

Far From Home by Lorelie Brown

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateFar From Home by Lorelie Brown
Series: Belladonna Ink #1
Pages: 205

My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.

My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s really romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calm rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess—anorexia is not a pretty word—and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.

And if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then I’ll crack. Which means I gotta get out, quick, before I fall in love with my wife.

Again, this is a contemporary romance that came to my attention both because it has demisexual representation and also because it’s an f/f romance. It is explicit, so if graphic sex isn’t your thing and skimming doesn’t work for you, this book probably isn’t. It also comes with warnings for eating disorders as Rachel is a relapsing anorexic. The Indian representation also relies on stereotypes according to other reviewers.

I actually have a lot of misgivings about the demisexual representation in this book. Not only does Far From Home feature the Allo Saviour trope variant of introducing an allosexual character for the explicit purpose of introducing the MC to asexuality (or, in this case, demisexuality, because Rachel has already researched asexuality and… somehow has never heard of demisexuality.) and because I’m not convinced that it handles the combination and the intersectionality between eating disorders and asexuality. It comes very close, imo, to suggesting that Rachel’s asexuality/demisexuality is a result of her eating disorder and presented as an element of her recovery process, especially combined with the fact that Rachel decides to marry Pari for a green card without ever having met Pari until the party she says that in.

As such, I can’t say that I really liked the book. I would’ve liked it far more of Brown had presented it as an allosexual f/f romance. Pari is an absolute sweetheart and Rachel is quite sweet as well. They stumble, but they work things out and watching these two women call forth aspects of the other that they didn’t know they had in them is lovely. If you like the premise (and ignore the demisexual rep), you might find it a really sweet and fun f/f romance.

Stake Sauce: Arc 1 by RoAnna Sylver

Book Talk: Three Mini-Reviews and a small work updateStake Sauce: Arc 1 The Secret Ingredient Is Love. No, Really by RoAnna Sylver
Series: Stake Sauce #1
Pages: 204

Jude used to leap out of helicopters to rescue/protect people from terrifying infernos. Now, by day, he protects the local mall from rowdy teenagers who ride their skateboards inside. By night, he protects the the parking lot, and the rest of Portland, from undead, bloodsucking creatures of the darkness. Or would if he could find them.

But he’s just about ready to give it up (living with PTSD and pain from the traumatic event that cost him a leg, a friend, and a lot more is hard enough), when something crashes into his life. And his window.

It’s one of these creatures of the darkness – and he’s a lot less scary than expected. More cuddly, with dark fuzzy wings, and neon-bright hair.

His name is Pixie, and he refuses to bite anyone. Assault/murder/draining fluids isn’t punk, even if being a vampire really kind of is. He’s very hungry by now, and the much bigger, meaner, deadlier vamps kick him around on the nightly. Jude would love to find and fight some actual undead bullies. And Pixie could use some help staying… ‘alive.’ Time to make a deal.

Together they fight crime. And maybe even heal.

Of course, life still sucks when you’re a vampire who refuses to suck blood. Fortunately, there’s a really interesting new barbecue restaurant in the mall, with an intriguing new recipe. (We hear that the secret ingredient is… love. No, really.)

Also by this author: Chameleon Moon, Stake Sauce Arc 1, But Not Up Here (Poems About Remembering In Neon)

Disclaimer: The author is a friend. I’ve done my best to write an unbiased review.

Stake Sauce is, in a lot of ways, not the kind of story I normally read. It’s a contemporary novel(la?) about vampires. They don’t sparkle, though one of them is pink and adorable and stole my heart just a little. Pixie is the adorablest, sweetest creature and well-worth reading this book for.

But, in addition, there’s Jude – a transgender, disabled, greyace, greyro mall cop turned vampire hunter – who deals with chronic pain and PTSD. Like all of RoAnna’s books, it centres disability and community, as well as recovery and hope. It’s absolutely, delightfully queer.

My main issue with the story is that it moved way too fast for my tastes, which resulted in feeling like I kept missing bits of context and details and that kept the whole story from shining as brightly as I could imagine it doing.

The main villain never really had a chance to become terribly scary to me and I don’t think Jude and Pixie’s relationship really got the space it needed to breathe. T_T That said, they are adorable together and I look forward to seeing more of them in later arcs. Plus, I was always going to whinge about there not being enough Pixie, so you may want to take that with a grain of salt in general. RoAnna also manages to walk a really fine line between her depiction of vampires as well.

That said, this is the first episode in an ongoing serial, so the overarching narrative isn’t finished yet at all. While Stake Sauce is a complete story arc in and of itself, it’s very obvious that there’s more to come. If you enjoy vampire stories, I’d definitely recommend it. Not only does it offer you a really intriguing urban fantasy setting that will, I suspect, be expanded on in later installments and the extras RoAnna offers except with more diversity, it also offers you a great mixture of familiar and unfamiliar vampire lore and tons of sympathetic and positive marginalised representation.

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Book Talk: Winter Tide

Posted December 29, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: Winter TideWinter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
Series: Innsmouth Legacy #1
Pages: 384

The last daughter of Innsmouth returns to Miskatonic University in this bold and compassionate new take on the Cthulhu mythos.

After attacking Devil's Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra's life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys is a book that I would never have picked up had it not been on lists of asexual representation because Emrys has said Aphra is asexual in interviews. That is to say: I am not the target audience for this book by a very large margin. I’m not a horror reader and pretty much all I know about Lovecraft’s mythos is what a then-friend who loves it told me about it. Oh, and the two Lovecraftian Hugo-nominated novellas. But that’s it.

So, before I go any further, please bear that in mind: I’m keenly aware of the fact that there are a lot of details and strokes that I’ve missed just because I don’t know what the narrative is doing with certain aspects of Lovecraft’s concepts and ideas. (If it helps: imagine trying to discuss how Marillier’s Heart’s Blood deconstructs Beauty and the Beast without ever having read the fairytale before.) I mean, I can tell you that the book is addressing the misogyny in Lovecraft’s work, but that’s as far as it goes.

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Book Talk: The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green

Posted December 22, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore GreenThe Faerie Godmother's Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle
Pages: 54

The village of Styesville has a dragon problem, and is in sore need of a knight in shining armor to solve it for them. Instead, they get a strange traveler in a ragged cloak they barely even notice at first. Worse still, it soon becomes clear the problem setting fire to their village isn't as simple as a dragon...

The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle is a delightful aromantic fairytale. It just squeaks past being a novella, but the story it delivers in these words is a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy fairytale retellings and stories that play on existing tropes and narratives.

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Book Talk: The King’s Name

Posted December 16, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: The King’s NameThe King's Name by Jo Walton
Series: Tir Tanagiri #2
Pages: 347

Years have passed since the Jarnish invasion, and Sulien ap Gwien has worked tirelessly alongside her lord, King Urdo, to restore the King's Peace to Tir Tanagiri. But the man Sulien believes to be the greatest of his time is seen by others as a potential tyrant. Urdo's vision of a nation of citizens bound by a single code of law is viewed with increasing mistrust, and this soon gives way to civil war.

Sulien must take up arms again. But where once her enemies were barbarian invaders, now they are former comrades and loved ones. As the conflict tears her country and her family apart, Sulien must fight harder and harder to hold onto Urdo's vision of the future.

Also in this series: The King's Peace
Also by this author: The King's Peace

The King’s Name is set several years after the ending of The King’s Peace and starts with the first suggestions of civil war. The last time I read The King’s Peace I sadly didn’t have access to this sequel and time and my already massive TBR let it slip from my mind. Not so this time as I picked it up immediately after finishing The King’s Peace and I’m terribly glad I did.

CW: Suggestions of mind control. Also mentions of mass murders and attempted terrorist attacks.

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Book Talk: The Tropic of Serpents

Posted December 15, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: The Tropic of SerpentsThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
Series: Natural History of Dragons #2
Pages: 320

Attentive readers are already familiar with how a bookish young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would lead her to becoming the world s premier dragon naturalist. Three years after her journey through Vystrana, the illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) Lady Trent defies convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of the legendary swamp-wyrm. Accompanied by an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell... where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan is a book that’s been on my TBR pile for… a while. I’ve kind of been avoiding it because I knew it’s a first person narrative and I’ve in the middle of writing a first person narrative of my own since… before I got it.

But, eventually, I finished and it snuck itself into my hands. Okay, no. It’s part of an effort to read all the books I own that have ace spec representation in them, and this is one of the tradpub books that has it, in the form of Natalie.

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Book Talk: 27 Hours

Posted December 8, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: 27 Hours27 Hours by Tristina Wright
Series: Nightside Saga #1
Pages: 387

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she's in love with her best friend, Dahlia. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn his colony's darkest secret.

To save everyone they love, they'll both have to commit treason.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, these four runaways must stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, or the things they fear most will be all that's left.

So… 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. It’s made quite a splash in the online YA circles I frequent for a couple of reasons, notably its positive queer representation and its problematic race representation.

I picked the book up specifically so I could familiarise myself with the asexual representation and here we are. If you’d like a detailed discussion of the race relationships and the problematic nature of the portrayal, this review will give you a lot of details on what to expect. I strongly recommend reading it.

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