[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )


Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 3 July 2017.
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Since 2012, Kristen from Fantasy Cafe has been running Women in SF&F Month every April, gathering together guest posts from a wide range of authors and bloggers. This year, she invited me to contribute. You can catch me over there talking about fae YA and why Jodi McAlister’s Valentine series is awesome.

Kristen also maintains a recommendation list of SFF books written by women. I highly recommend heading over to take a look through it. Perhaps there are some recommendations of your own you’d like to make!

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: April 2019 by Queen of Swords Press
Format reviewed: E-book (epub), 268 pages
Series: The Adventures of Captain Ramos and Her Valiant Crew #2
Genres: Science fiction, alternate history, steampunk
Source: Publisher
Available: Publisher (electronic only) ~ Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Indiebound ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Captain Marta Ramos, the most dangerous pirate in the Duchy of Denver, is back and she and Simms are up to their goggles in trouble. Has General del Toro found a way to use the Infected as an army and can Captain Ramos work with her arch enemy, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas, to stop him? Can Simms join forces with the devious Deliah Nimowitz on a jailbreak, some sewer misadventures AND a high society soiree involving tea, a heist and sausages? And what about the Rail King and his nefarious plans? Can Captain Ramos and her crew stop him before he completes his latest dastardly deed, one that may result in Deliah’s demise? Check out the next installment of the exciting adventures of Captain Ramos and her valiant crew to find out more!

Wireless picks up where Murder on the Titania and Other Steam-Powered Adventures with 3 linked novellas, all set in or near the Duchy of Denver, in an American West that never was.

I was absolutely delighted by Murder on the Titania when I read it last year, so I jumped on the chance to review the sequel Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures. This proved to be a wise move because I found Wireless to be equally enthralling.

The book comprises of three novellas, making the structure of the book somewhat different to Murder on the Titania. Where the former was mostly discrete short stories, the novellas in Wireless are more tightly linked. I found this very satisfying because it allowed a deeper dive not only into the characters and their relationships, but also into the world itself and how it may be changing. It does mean that the stories lose a little of the self-contained, Holmes-inspired mystery structure, but I found this a feature rather than a bug, and there remained enough mystery to keep me curious and engaged.

The cast of this series has always been reasonably diverse; one of the things I liked most about Murder on the Titania was its inversion of the racist and sexist stereotypes present in the work of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Wireless builds on that by introducing the Native Americans of this alternate America. They play a prominent role in the first story, Blood at Elk Creek, in which it becomes apparent that the nefarious General del Toro is testing out a way to control the mindless Infected by directing them to attack Lakota settlements. While I’m not the best person to judge, the representation of Native Americans seemed to be handled with respect, showing them neither as mystical guides or as ignorant savages (except when they choose to play to that stereotype for their own reasons). Colonel Geoffrey does hold some bigoted views, but he is nicely balanced out by Captain Ramos, who is more open-minded and willing to make friends. This is reinforced in Wireless, where we see a Native American engineer stepping in as a permanent part of the crew.

The first and last stories are more thematically similar, sharing a thread about powerful men abusing their power. Blood at Elk Creek looks at this in a broader way, being more focused the oppression of a group through the lens of racism. Wireless brings it down to a more individual level. There are overtones of sexism that it touches on, but it also recognises men are likewise victims of abuse and toxic relationships. It digs into shame and the ways the victims can be made complicit in the abuse of others. This was handled in a way I felt was sensitive and sympathetic. Both stories touch on issues of justice, looking at where society fails in that regard and whether an individual can step in when the system fails.

The second story, Do Shut Up, Mister Simms, is a light-hearted foil to the more serious stories. Running concurrently with Blood at Elk Creek, it shows how Mister Simms has his hands full keeping the crew out of trouble while Captain Ramos is away. When one of the crew is caught and imprisoned, he’s forced to call upon the help of Deliah Nimowitz, a cunning lady with her own agenda and a soft spot for Captain Ramos. It touches on the unconventional relationship between Deliah and Captain Ramos, a thread that then becomes important to Wireless.

I mentioned in my review of Murder on the Titania that I would have liked to see a bit more of the crew. Wireless in particular delivers on this, diving into the backstory of one of the crew. It was also delightful to see Mister Simms renew his acquaintance with Chippy, Deliah’s dog, and the two make for an adorable comedic duo.

The action sequences throughout the collection are tense and well-paced, keeping me glued to the page.

Overall, Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures was as fun and engaging as its predecessor. I will be keeping an eye for more adventures from Captain Ramos and her valiant crew in the future.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

The preliminary shortlists for the 2019 Ditmar Awards were announced yesterday afternoon. I’m honoured to be nominated for Best Fan Publication in Any Medium for the Earl Grey Editing blog and Best New Talent for my story New Berth from Mother of Invention. I was also delighted to see Mother of Invention nominated for Best Collected Work.

Thank you so much to everyone who nominated me. It’s an excellent ballot including too many friends to name and I’m so pleased to be standing alongside them.

The Ditmar Awards will be presented in Melbourne at Continuum, which runs 7-10 June. If you’re attending, please come and say hi!

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calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: February 2019 by Orbit
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi), 432 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: NetGalley
Available: Abbey’s ~ Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Indiebound ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

The Raven Tower is an intelligent, well-written book but not one I actually enjoyed. While its ideas are interesting, its characters failed to engage me.

The story alternates between two threads. One is told in first person by a god who has taken the form of a rock. The story starts in the distant past and narrates the god’s journey to the present, telling of how it came to awareness, its growing connection with humans and its role in the war between the gods. The second story is set in the present and tells the story of Eolo, a warrior of Iraden. It is told in second person as the god narrates Eolo’s story back to him.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the gods. It takes a bunch of old elements–such as the gods being active in the world, the idea of big and small gods, and the way they are sustained by the prayers and petitions of worshippers–and pieces them together in a way that feels fresh. The interaction between the gods serves to humanise them in some respects: they have their own petty squabbles but also friendships. They will hang out and discuss philosophy.

A key theme of the story is power and the power of words in particular. The gods’ powers are very much tied to words–what they speak must become truth if it is not already so. That manifestation relies on the god’s power, so they must only speak what they have the power to manifest or else run the risk of wiping themselves out. It’s a clever way of limiting the power of the gods and also leads to the very unique voice of the story. The narrator may not be able to lie, but they can hedge the truth and are quite transparent about doing so at times.

Unfortunately, this also lead to my key issue with the book. Because the god is narrating Eolo’s story, that part of the tale lacks interiority. The god cannot tell us what Eolo is thinking or feeling, else its power will be steadily drained away as the tale goes on. It does occasionally speculate what might have been the case, but elsewise the reader must read between the lines. This isn’t onerous, but it also isn’t satisfying. I found it created a distance that I could never quite bridge, making the experience an intellectual one. The lack of a strong emotional element left me unable to connect with the characters in any meaningful way.

One thing I was pleased to see was the way Leckie continued her tradition of including diverse characters. Most notably, Eolo is a transgender man, but in the background very little of the cast is white. Nor is this lampshaded or made a big deal of in a way that effectively shows this is (or should be) a normal thing.

All in all, while The Raven Tower is a clever tale, it is just not the book for me.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

This week I’m over at the Skiffy and Fanty Show with a review of Descendant of the Crane by Joan He. This is a Chinese-inspired YA fantasy novel about politics, leadership and sacrifice. It digs into some meaty themes but I felt the characterisation ultimately let it down.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

I might be wrapping up the Earl Grey Editing blog, but the news isn’t all bad. The shortlists for the Hugo Awards were announced last night and I am delighted to say that The Skiffy and Fanty Show has been nominated for Best Fancast.

It is a huge honour to be part of the team. Not only do they work hard, but they keep their sense of humour. They have taught me a lot about podcasting since I joined.

Along the way, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some amazing people, including Celine Kiernan, Rachel Hartman, Steph Matuku, Stephanie Gunn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Sam Hawke, Thoraiya Dyer, Marlee Jane Ward and Cody Sisco. And that was just in 2018! I’ve recorded a couple of great interviews since then that I can’t wait to share with you.

I’m also not going to forget my first Torture Cinema experience any time soon.

A huge thank you to everyone who nominated us.

And now to crack out the fancy tea.

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calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

 

With Aurealis judging done and fewer reading and book club commitments, my reading slowed down a little in March… although not as much as I expected it to. Mt TBR is inexplicably continuing to shrink and I find I’m starting to make progress on the oldest part of the ranges.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2019: 442
Mt TBR @ 28 February 2019: 368
Mt TBR @ 31 March 2019: 362

March Reading Plans ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading ) April Reading Plans )

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

Tea Break

Mar. 29th, 2019 08:00 am
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

 

After four and a half wonderful years, I regret to announce that I am winding up the blog here at Earl Grey Editing. This has been a very difficult decision because writing these posts has brought me a great deal of joy. However, it also takes up a good deal of time and energy. Changes in my personal circumstances mean I now need to invest that time and energy elsewhere.

I will be continuing to review and interview for The Skiffy and Fanty Show, so please join me there. I will also continue to be available for editing work.

Change is a constant, so I hope that at some point in the future circumstances will shift again and I will be able to return to blogging at EGE. But for now, I will be concentrating on finishing the reviews I’ve committed to. There will be the occasional announcement post going forward, but I’ll be wrapping up my regular blogging in early May.

Thank you to everyone for all your support over the last four and a half years. It has meant a lot to me and I hope we can have tea together again sometime soon.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Kumquat tea from Lupicia. This is a way more subtle tea than I was expecting from the smell. The kumquat mostly comes through as a gentle aftertaste. It’s a nice light tea, good for the afternoons.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: March 2019 by Escape Publishing
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi), 150 pages
Genres: Paranormal romance
Source: NetGalley
Available: Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In a world where flight is life, will two grounded people find other ways to fly?

When Benedick Sasaki’s wings are wounded in the line of duty, the former policeman doesn’t know if he has a place in a world where he can no longer fly.

Then he meets Clementine Torres, an artist born without wings and a vocal advocate for the flightless who has been subjected to recent hate mail and vandalism ahead of her new exhibition. As Clementine starts to teach Benedick new ways to appreciate the world on the ground, the threats against her art and possibly her life begin to escalate.

To survive, they will need to teach each other that not all beauty is in the air, and that both of them can soar without wings…

Grounded is one of the best paranormal romances I’ve read. It is smart and sweet, with some fantastic worldbuilding and genuine warmth between the characters.

The book is set in an alternate world where humans have evolved from birds rather than monkeys. While this world looks much like our own, (and is, in fact, set in an alternate version of my home town) it is clear the author has put a lot of thought into the differences that manifest. Some of these are big things, like architecture and furniture–there’s not much call for elevators or chairs with backs. And some of these are small, like the jokes people tell and the slightly different turns of phrase. Then Harris goes a step further and imagines the challenges facing someone born without wings. This is not the same as being born a human as we would think of it. Instead, we’re shown what it would be like to live as a being evolved to have wings but doesn’t due to genetic defect. How does this body keep warm and protect its kidneys? How does one keep back musculature in shape? This is quite aside from the difficulties in getting around and finding clothes that fit.

These are the challenges that face Clementine. At first she comes across as quite an angry person–and this is certainly the impression she leaves Benedick with after their first encounter as neighbours. And there would be some justification for this, if it were true. After all, Clementine is forced to spend a lot of time fighting for the space to even exist. However, there’s so much more to her than that. Unsurprisingly, she has a strong sense of justice, fighting not only for herself, but for others as well. This is paired with an eye for wonder and beauty. Her disability means she sees the world from a different angle to most and she’s quick to share that with Benedick. She sees his suffering and generously steps in to help.

Benedick starts out as a bit of a mess. Having permanently injured one wing, he can no longer fly and is struggling to adjust to his new life–to the point where suicide has crossed his mind. However, he’s quick to seize the lifeline Clementine offers him, intrigued by his new neighbour and the joy she sees in this world. Like her, Benedick also has a strong sense of justice. When Clementine starts receiving death threats and her artwork is vandalised, he follows the particulars of her case and advocates for her when his former co-workers are quick to dismiss her.

One of the things I loved most about Benedick was the ways in which he works against ideas of toxic masculinity. He cries several times–on his own and in front of others–as he adjusts to this situation. This is never made a big deal of, but simply shown as a natural reaction. His relationship with his brother Peri is warm and supportive; their scenes together were some of my favourite (and I really hope that one day there might be a book about Peri meeting the man of his dreams).

This book really packs a lot into such a small space, examining disability and microaggressions… and sometimes straight-up discrimination and lack of consideration. However, the pacing never feels too slow and there’s a nice synergy between the development of Clementine and Benedick’s relationship and the bigger issues. If I had one quibble, it’s that the resolution of Clementine’s case was a bit predictable, but that did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I’d really like to read more paranormal romance of this calibre and to see more of this world, so I shall be hoping for future books from this author.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Imperial Spice by Adore Tea. This blend of cinnamon, cloves and orange is one I’m turning to more frequently as the weather cools.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

This February was my second-best month for reading on record. It was beaten only by January 2017, which was not coincidentally the last time I faced a deadline for Aurealis judging. It seems that deadlines continue to be the best way to motivate me. This month was also helped by a couple of four-hour train rides to and from Sydney, which afforded some wonderfully uninterrupted reading time. Mt TBR has been shrinking at a very satisfying pace.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2019: 442
Mt TBR @ 31 January 2019: 391
Mt TBR @ 28 February 2019: 368

February Reading Plans

While February was an excellent reading month, it was still a challenge to make it through the books I’d earmarked as well as the last of the Aurealis judging. I’m pleased that in the end I made through all of them except one, which had to be returned to the library before I got to it.

Descendant of the Craneby Joan He. For review at Skiffy and Fanty–DONE!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Book club pick for February–DONE!

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. For review at EGE–DONE!

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner. For review at Skiffy and Fanty–DONE!

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. February pick for the Lady Vaults book club.

Books Read

28. Hive by A.J Betts. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Dystopian YA. While hunting for a wild bee, a young beekeeper discovers signs there may be a world outside the walls of her compartmentalised community.

29. Edge of Time by Thalia Kalkipsakis. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Science fiction. On the run from the government, Scout skips too far forward in time.

30. The Path of the Lost by Beau Kondos. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Dystopian YA. In a society where creative expression is forbidden, a young woman able to harness magic through art seeks to bring her abilities back into the world.

31. Wraith by Shane and Alex Smithers. Read for the Aurealis Awards. After developing the ability to fly, James crash lands in a city in the sky and must find his way home again.

32. Sympath by Carolyn Denman. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy. An angel resists the attraction to her fated mate, but is forced to work with him to save her friend’s farm.

33. Columbine’s Tale by Rachel Nightingale. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy. A storyteller with the ability to manipulate the dream world goes on the run from former friends who wish to use her powers for their own ends.

34. Sherwood by Meagan Spooner. Reviewed here.

35. What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Dark fantasy. The past comes back to haunt Hayden when she inherits her childhood home on her eighteenth birthday.

36. Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy adventure. When her father goes missing, it’s up to Jane to find him again. But she’s not the only one looking.

37. Shine Mountain by Julie Hunt. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy. When her family farm declines and her oma falls ill, Ellie must go on a quest to destroy the musical instrument that cursed them.

38. Iron by Aiki Flinthart. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy. Alere is a skilled swordswoman who finds herself at the centre of a brewing war over a rare deposit of iron ore.

39. The Ghost Engine by Theresa Fuller. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Steampunk. Lady Lovelace becomes trapped in a machine with a ghost and must solve a series of puzzles to free them both.

40. Lightning Tracks by Alethea Kinsela. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Fantasy. A troubled boy escapes to a fantasy world and becomes caught in a war.

41. The Way Home by Julian Barr. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Historical fantasy. Follows the survivors of the sack of Troy.

42. We Are Omega by Justin Woolley. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Sci-fi. First contact has been made, but two teenagers soon discover the aliens aren’t as benevolent as they appear.

43. Eve of Eridu by Alanah Adams. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Sci-fi. After her brother is culled, Eve finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the emotional control demanded by society and may soon face culling herself.

44. Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Sci-fi. Eve uncovers an android boy who seems to have a strange connection to her grandfather.

45. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. Nonfiction. As with the first book, it doesn’t bring a whole lot that the TV series doesn’t cover, although the illustrations are cute.

46. Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes. Nonfiction, pretty much what it says on the label. Succinct and useful, and written with a nice sense of humour.

47. Little Red Riding Crop by Tiffany Reisz. Erotica novella. Part of The Original Sinners series, which I’ve not yet read. BDSM mistress Nora needs a holiday. Her boss agrees to send her to Europe for a month on the condition she sneaks into a rival club and finds the identity of the owner who has been poaching his staff. Short and fun. I found I didn’t need to be familiar with the characters to enjoy it and I appreciated the little fairy tale touches.

48. Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis. Reviewed here.

49. In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire. Fourth book in the Wayward Children series. Lundy is good at following rules and finding loopholes. So when a door opens to the Goblin Market, she finds herself right at home. This book was a bit different to the previous ones, as Lundy was able to go back and forward between the worlds. I really enjoyed the Goblin Market, with its rules and debts. So it is perhaps unsurprising that I found her attachment to the ordinary world somewhat unconvincing and thus the ending didn’t quite land for me.

50. A Midwinter Night’s Dream by Tiffany Reisz. Erotica novella, BDSM elements. Spin off from The Original Sinners series in which the characters are transposed to 1871 England. In order to inherit his father’s estate, Baron Marcus Stearns must marry. It’s probably long past time I picked up the original series, though (again) I found I didn’t need to have a familiarity with it for this story.

51. Shadows Fate by Aiki Flinthart. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Last of the Ruadhan Sidhe trilogy. Urban fantasy. The Ruadhan Sidhe risk being wiped out unless Rowan can prevent information about them from falling into the wrong hands.

52. Undying by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Second of the Unearthed series. Sci-fi adventure. Trapped aboard a spaceship of invading aliens, Mia and Jules must somehow warn Earth of what’s coming.

53. Impostors by Scott Westerfeld. Read for the Aurealis Awards. Sci-fi. Frey is a trained killer who serves as her sister’s body double. When she’s sent to her father’s rival as collateral, she must somehow prevent her true identity from being discovered.

54. The Wicked King by Holly Black. Second in The Folk of the Air series. After a successful coup that made her the power behind the Faerie throne, Jude should be safe. However, it is one thing to gain power and another thing entirely to hold onto it. There was more political manouevering and less romance than in some of Black’s other books, but it maintained a nice tension. Cardan’s feelings were deftly shown between the lines. The map and chapter illustrations from Kathleen Jennings were a beautiful touch.

55. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He. Review forthcoming.

56. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. First book in the Six of Crows duology. Kaz Brekker has clawed his way up from the slums of Ketterdam to become a formidable gang leader. Now he is offered a job that will make or break him. As I have said before, I love me a fantasy heist and this had an epic scale that I really enjoyed. There was a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and I could see why the book was listed among media touchstones for the Blades in the Dark RPG. I was not prepared for the cliffhanger ending (though I probably should have been).

57. Reawakening by Amy Rae Durreson. First book in the Reawakening series. M/M fantasy romance. After sleeping for a thousand years, the Dragon King Tarnamell wakes up to find his human companions have long since passed away. In search of friends, he tries to claim a sassy desert spirit, but the spirit ends up falling victim to Tarn’s old enemy. It is up to Tarn to save him… and this time the Dragon King is on his own. I found this book had a very interesting take on dragon hoards and all the relationships were charming. However, the style was a little rough in a few places and I’m not sure the possessive angle quite worked for me even with the justifications.

58. The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. Review forthcoming.

Books Acquired

Dragon’s Keeper by Robin Hobb
Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis
In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
The Wicked King by Holly Black
Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes
Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014 by Ursula K. Le Guin
Sea Foam and Silence by Lynn O’Connacht
Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
The True Queen by Zen Cho

 

March Reading Plans

The coming month’s plans are surprisingly light. If I get through the books listed below, I’ll probably look at tackling Black Wolves by Kate Elliot. It’s a giant book and I’d like to have it read before I see her as the Guest of Honour at Continuum.

Dragonclaw by Kate Forsyth. March pick for the Lady Vaults book club

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. Buddy read with Belle of There Are Ink Spots On My Page, Tam of The Fantasy Inn and Travis of The Coffee Archives.

Grounded by Narrelle M. Harris. For review at EGE.

 

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

With the year well underway and Aurealis judging over, I have finally returned to my YA column at Skiffy and Fanty. This week I’m taking a look at Meagan Spooner’s feminist Robin Hood retelling, Sherwood. The book was an absolute delight, managing to examine sexism, class privilege and grief, while also delivering an entertaining adventure.

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calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Wombat Tea from the art of tea. I love a good Assam tea and this one comes blended with equally strong Daintree tea and a separately wrapped cube of chocolate (which you can be sure I’ve already eaten). Some of the profits from this tea go to Bonorong Wildlife Hospital.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: February 2019 by Five Fathoms Press
Format reviewed: E-book (epub)
Series: The Harwood Spellbook #2
Genres: Fantasy, alternate history, romance
Source: Publisher
Available: Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Disclaimers: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

Cassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she’s ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandras own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.

The first novella in the Harwood Spellbook series, Snowspelled was one of my favourite books of last year, so I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of the sequel. Thornbound does a brilliant job of meeting the standard set by the first book, keeping the thoughtfully feminist themes of the series while advancing both Cassandra’s story and the world itself.

Just as Cassandra is on the verge of achieving her big dream of opening a school for women magicians, things begin to unravel. Her childhood bully arrives as head of the delegation sent to decide if she’ll be allowed to keep the school open. She finds herself saddled with Angland’s most annoying weather wizard as an instructor… who then misses his first class. The Boudiccate have sent her husband running all over the country on urgent business since the day of their wedding. And to top it all off, Cassandra hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since she arrived at the school, thanks to a reoccurring nightmare. It’s enough to leave anyone fatigued and frazzled.

Cassandra continues to make a compelling character. As a trailblazer–both as the first woman magician and as the head of the first school for women magicians–she’s headstrong and stubborn, with a clear idea of what she wants and a reasonably solid plan as to how to bring it about. Going against society’s expectations means she knows the value of appearing confident and relying on her own strength. However, these qualities don’t always serve her well, particularly in her personal life. The story does a fantastic job of pushing back at narratives of the lone hero, noble sacrifices, and, to a degree, protecting loved ones. Instead, it draws out themes of respecting the choices of others, making connections, and not trying to do it all oneself.

I was also delighted to see Cassandra continuing to wrestle with the loss of her magic. All too often, fantasy stories turn to the magic fix, especially when it relates to health and able-bodiedness. While the loss of her magic doesn’t affect her in a physical way, it represents the absence of a crucial part of Cassandra–one that she still grieves over, even as she forges ahead. It forces her to be more resourceful and to rely on others, making her a far more interesting character than otherwise.

The story is set in an alternate Regency period. Many stories set around this era tend to be very white, so it was gratifying to see a reasonably diverse cast. Both Cassandra’s husband and sister-in-law are people of colour who occupy positions of significant power in this world. Racial tensions have been transferred to species instead, with an uneasy truce between the humans and the fey who formerly occupied the land. Naturally, there are some prejudices on both sides and we see some of this play out in Cassandra’s half-fey housekeeper, Miss Birch. Even Cassandra, who has nothing but respect for Miss Birch’s skills, catches herself making disparaging comments about the fey in front of her housekeeper.

Elements of mystery are included, as Cassandra tries to figure out who made the altar to bargain with the fey and what the deal is with the thorny vines both in her dreams and in the waking world. Cassandra is juggling so many balls that it keeps the stakes high and the story moving at a reasonable pace as she reels from one disaster to the next.

On the whole, I found Thornbound just as charming a novella as its predecessor. Its exploration of feminist themes was both thoughtful and satisfying. I’m really looking forward to the continuation of the series.

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Earl Grey from Lupicia. This has become my favourite Earl Grey blend. The tea is excellent quality and the bergamot is fragrant without being harsh.

Announcements ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

It’s amazing the way the minute I say I don’t care about shrinking Mt TBR it goes and shrinks. A lot of it was due to Aurealis reading, which had to be wrapped up. However, I also did a bit of decluttering. It’s nice to have the pile below 400 books again.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2019: 442
Mt TBR @ 31 January 2019: 391

January Reading Plans ) Books Read ) Books Acquired ) February Reading Plans )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: January 2019 by Wednesday Books
Format reviewed: Trade paperback, 400 pages
Series: The Gilded Wolves #1
Genres: Historical fantasy
Source: Pan Macmillan Australia
Available:Abbey’s ~ Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Indiebound ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Severin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Severin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artefact the Order seeks, Severin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artefact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

There was so much to love about The Gilded Wolves. This fast-paced adventure features a diverse cast, magical heists and a hefty dose of intrigue. It was a joy from start to finish.

I’m always here for a good heist, especially if it involves a tight-knit team. When the story opens, the team have been together for a while and have well-established relationships, giving the sense of a fully fleshed-out world. In fact, when we first meet the team, they are in the middle of a heist and Severin is elbow-deep in trouble. It makes for a wonderfully dynamic start.

The story is told in close third person, with chapters alternating between the perspectives of the team members. Since they each have distinct roles, this enables a view of the different aspects of the heists they pull–which is handy, since their capers often require simultaneous action in different places. When things go wrong, we get to see the other parts of the team realise that something’s not right and follow them as they try to correct course.

The characters are also distinct in their backgrounds and personalities. Laila is a desi cabaret star, a talented baker, and has the ability to read the history of objects when she touches them. Zofia is a Polish Jew, an engineer with a magical affinity for metals and numbers, and is on the autism spectrum. Enrique is a bi, white-passing Filipino historian with a love for language. And Severin himself is half-Arabic, the owner of a luxury hotel and someone who burns for revenge.

These diverse backgrounds are not just for show. The story tackles issues of racism and colonialism. Severin was denied his inheritance because the French faction of the Order of Babel were unwilling to have two non-white patriarchs heading their magical Houses, choosing instead to support Severin’s rival–the half-Haitian Nyx. And the bigger picture involves the Order of Babel undermining and suppressing non-Western nations’ ability to practice their traditional magics. Being a magical heist story, I inevitably compared The Gilded Wolves to The Lies of Locke Lamora. Its willingness to tackle these issues and to include such a diverse cast is what makes The Gilded Wolves superior, in my opinion.

It’s also a very visual novel; it includes some lovely description of outfits, food and architecture without ever getting bogged down. Each of the Houses has their own symbols and visual motifs, which complement the dramatic nature of the plot.

A story of this kind naturally has some twists and turns. The Gilded Wolves managed a nice balance between those I was able to predict and those that surprised me.

All in all, I expect The Gilded Wolves will make my year’s best list once December rolls around. I can’t wait for the next book.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Canberra Breeze from Adore Tea. I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. It’s a blend of caramel, berries and rose, with the latter two being the predominant tastes. I’m fond of rose teas, not so much of berry teas. The disparate tastes didn’t make a great first impression, but it’s growing on me. It goes nicely with raspberry jam on toast.

Announcements ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Published: Self-published in January 2019
Format reviewed: E-book (epub), 524 pages
Series: Aurora #7
Genres: Science fiction, military sci-fi, space opera
Source: Publisher
Available: Amazon (AU, CA, UK, US) ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~Google Play ~ Indiebound ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This review contains spoilers for previous volumes/books.

The battle is over, but the war is just beginning . . .

The Zeta invasion has occurred and the world now knows the truth: that an alien threat exists. While the UNF scramble to maintain calm, the pressure mounts to finally reveal their black ops ALPHA soldiers. The only question is, who will be entrusted to lead them?

Harris is still reeling from the devastation that occurred during Decima, and when a startling discovery is revealed, he suddenly loses the trust of the UNF. Next in line is McKinley, but still recovering from his injuries, hes struggling to accept what he has now become. Carrie, on the other hand, is the strongest shes ever been, but her linkage to Harris, and his to the Zetas, sees them forced out and treated as the enemy.

The power they once had within the UNF is lost.

Without a ship or a leader, and with enemies closing in on all sides, the Aurora team must fight to regroup and claw their way back from oblivion.

Carrie, Harris and McKinley face their most explosive showdowns yet, in this action-packed instalment that will leave readers on the edge of their seats!

Reading through the Aurora series thus far has been a long journey: the last instalment was published a bit over two years ago. Bridgeman hasn’t been idle in that time, releasing both a self-published title (The Time of the Stripes) and a traditionally published book (The Subjugate out from Angry Robot). This dedicated work ethic shows through in Aurora: Aurizun. There were a couple of rough spots in the writing style early on, but these quickly smoothed out and, on the whole, were an improvement on previous books.

The pacing remained a little uneven. The story is divided into two parts, with the beginning of the first part largely given over to the fallout from the previous book. This had the potential to feel slow, but there was enough emotional weight to keep things tense. The action peaks at the end of the first part, then slows down as the different factions manoeuvre around each other, before building up once again to the big finale I’ve come to expect from this series.

Once again, this is not a good entry point for new readers. Not only is this the seventh book in the series, but these are not small books and they feature a large cast. Being swamped with award reading, I didn’t get a chance to look back over the previous books in the series, so I feel it is a credit to Bridgeman’s writing that I was able to ease back into the story with minimal confusion over who was who.

However, this may also be due to the fact that this book doesn’t spend a lot of time with the crew of the Aurora. Having lost their ship in the previous book, they spend most of their time cooling their heels, with the focus being more on the personal journeys of Carrie, Harris and McKinley. A schism in the UNF also takes a lot of the spotlight as the top brass split over the best strategy to combat the looming alien threat. Readers who like politics and shifting alliances should very much enjoy this book.

The story also does a good job of continuing the themes of bodily autonomy that have woven throughout the series. I particularly appreciated the way it touched on women’s reproductive rights and how these get hijacked by the patriarchy for their purposes. And I was gratified to see the inclusion of more queer representation, particularly in a character who defies the usual stereotypes.

While I generally enjoyed the story, I was ultimately left with the feeling the series was treading water. There were some steps forward, particularly in relation to the personal journeys of the three central characters. However, these mostly felt like tying up loose ends from previous books rather than treading new ground. The characters are on a deadline, albeit a long one, so the wasting of time does raise the stakes somewhat for future books. That said, it didn’t make for a satisfying read and, given how long the series already is, I wonder how much of it is necessary.

In between all the politicking are some excellent set pieces. The action sequences are strong, visual and violent, helping to anchor the tone of the series.

All in all, Aurora: Aurizun was a solid instalment of the series and I’m curious to see what the next books hold.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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