The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

Reviewed by Mark:

The Last Emperox is Scalzi’s concluding volume to his Interdependency trilogy, wrapping up the story that started in The Collapsing Empire and continued with The Consuming Fire. The flow streams between planets of the Interdependency are slowly collapsing, isolating star systems and consigning their inhabitants to a slow death. With time running out, Emperox Grayland II must wrest control from her enemies in order to save as many as possible, sending millions to the only planet with a breathable atmosphere: End. With political machinations abound, there are few options left to her, but her enemies know it is only a matter of time before they succeed. Or will they?

Fans of Scalzi will not be disappointed in his telling of this story, done with all his usual aplomb. The Last Emperox concludes well, though sometimes feels a touch rushed, and it leaves the door open to further tales in this setting – some of which could prove very interesting indeed, should he decide to tell them. In short, this is a fun trilogy that begs you to read just one more page. It’s over before you know it, and enjoyable throughout. Scalzi sure knows how to entertain.

Author: John Scalzi 
Publisher: Tor UK 
Release date: 16 April 2020

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Reviewed by Lotte:

How can you really enjoy a book but really dislike every single character? For me, that was exactly how I felt about this book. This novel by Tyce was full of suspension and plenty of plot twists – some predictable but many totally unexpected until the last minute. This is the story of Alison whose personal life seems to be falling apart whilst her career begins to take off. As details of her most recent case unveil themselves so do the flaws and apparent misdemeanours in her personal life. Slowly her life and the lives of those around her unravel to a point beyond recognition, that is until the pieces start to fall in place and it all begins to make sense, in a dark, disturbing way

I think I disliked Tyce’s characters because they were incredibly human, flawed and messy, which becomes uncomfortable. But this may also have contributed to me really enjoying this book – it was real. And the twists and subversive actions were subtle enough to feel believable too

In terms of plot twists, Tyce certainly knows how to throw a curveball just when you think you’ve figured out what is happening. The suspense she creates and the revelations of yet more intricately placed surprises was incredibly clever. Plus all the loose ends that Tyce left throughout the book were all neatly tied up by the end. I do love a book that makes sure it explains all its unanswered mysteries.

The pacing of this book was great too. I felt drawn to reading chapter after chapter, not wanting to put the book down, yet wanting to make it last. I choose to read this book at the same time as a friend and couldn’t wait to discuss it with her. So many facets and talking points! All in all, a really good book!

Author: Harriet Tyce
Publisher: Wildfire
Release date: 21 February 2019

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Reviewed by Sophie:
(Contains spoilers)

I’ve heard so many different opinions about this book so when a friend suggested it for our #lockdown read I was ready to form my own opinion.

This book frustrated me from start to finish… But I couldn’t put it down. I even read on after I had put my baby girl to sleep and should have been sleeping myself, just to know what was happening. Continue reading “Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce”

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Reviewed by Sophie:
(Contains spoilers)

I was disappointed with this book. It was full of excellent plot ideas and the author could have chosen to go down anyone of them and it would have been interesting. However, I felt that they were poorly mashed together; none of them explore well enough to make it a good read. I wanted to become close to the protagonist but dispute feeling some sympathy this was quickly dropped.

I did enjoy the lack of speech marks l, which created an inner monologue style of writing. This was the only real part I enjoyed. Continue reading “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender”

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Reviewed by Lotte:

This was the story of a young girl who discovers she can taste emotions in food, right down to where and the situation in which the food was made. From here the story shares her struggles with this, the secrets she stumbles across and then the unfolding of other family members potentially having gifts too.

This book contained so much promise with an excellent premise, but I felt it was poorly executed. For a start it felt like multiple books crammed into one, as if the author had many ideas so tried to incorporate them all, which only left it feeling like it was all half done.

So firstly, we read of Rose’s gift and although there were reactions to her struggles and refusal to eat certain food, there was even more left unsaid. Characters picked up on it in different ways but seemingly lost interest and left her to it. And that’s without mentioning the implications of said ‘gift’. This just felt unbelievable for me, given Rose’s age.

Bender then sets out multiple avenues that the story could follow throughout the book with none of them coming to fruition. The initial way was a way in which Rose’s gift could be used for good with a friend and how that then twisted into dependency. This is where I thought the story was heading and I was excited by that prospect. But it was not to be. Then it looked like she might use it to unearth secrets like when she discovered her mum’s additional activities. This seemed like an unnecessary part of the story as nothing came of it. It only added to the lack of believability.

Then the story twisted to the brother’s problem which just seemed weird and disconnected from the theme…he became an inanimate object, a chair. Seriously? I did not understand this at all! We begin to learn of perhaps a family trait – we know of Rose and her brother, then we find out about her Grandfather and potentially her father. Again, I thought this was finally where we were heading. But it turns out the Dad refuses to work out what his gift might be, he only shares a small amount about the grandfather and nothing really of the brother.

Eventually Rose finds a path for her life and a potential career but we’re now at the end of the book and so following the same theme, this aspect is unexplored too.

This book was about everything and nothing. This particular lemon cake was indeed sad.

Author: Aimee Bender
Publisher: Windmill Books
Release date: 1 September 2011

Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales by Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane

Reviewed by Lotte:

What a deliciously wicked collection of dark and twisty fairy tales. O’Regan and Kane have done it once again, sourcing the most excellent takes on new and re-imagined fairy tales written by renowned authors such as Neil Gaiman and Christina Henry. This anthology contains 20 short stories that are based loosely around the theme of curses. These authors have taken this cue, warping and twisting stories so good that even the re-imagined ones bear hardly any resemblance to their originals.

I think I can honestly say I found each and every one of these stories both enchanting and captivating. They were each written in the individual author’s style and covered a different take on the cursed theme. No two were the same yet I was equally drawn into them all. Some were beautifully written about magical curses turned sweet and others were disturbingly cold and wretched.

Even the placement of each story was well laid out, with each varying greatly from the last, meaning they didn’t mash into one. My particular favourites have to be Christina Henry’s ‘As Red As Blood, As White As Snow’, Neil Gaiman’s ‘Troll Bridge’, Jen Williams’s ‘Listen’ and Christopher Golden’s ‘Wendy, Darling’. Using poems my Jane Yolen to bookend this anthology was a lovely touch. I would highly recommend delving into this if twisted tales are your thing!

Author: Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane
Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: 3 March 2020

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Reviewed by Lotte:

It’s time to get Untamed! Yes! In this memoir Glennon talks about how in the last 4 years she has found herself, finally hearing the voice within and vowing to never again abandon herself. She explores the conditioning within women and in society as a whole, offering alternative view points and ways to break those chains. To become free again. To become wild. To become Untamed. I decided to listen to Glennon narrate this on Audible which I think helped me to see it as she intended with the phrasing and emphasis in the right place. It certainly felt very moving.

I really enjoyed this book, I felt like it spoke to me on many levels. Hearing Glennon’s explanation of her perspective was informative and eye-opening. How wonderful to be able to appreciate another person’s experience of the world and the choices they are making. It’s like this book sung to different parts of my body and was healing in ways I could not have imagined. Prior to reading it, I was intrigued by the changes in Glennon’s life having followed her on Instagram and relating to the things she shares. What I did not expect was to learn so much from this book, to have so many things to consider with this altered perspective. I felt a myriad of emotions too, being moved to tears one moment to feeling called forth in a rally-cry of support and strength to support and uplift others.

It truly contained so many elements that I am certain I will re-read this many times. But for now, I feel I my understanding of the world has shifted, I’m analysing the way in which we’ve been conditioned to believe we should be a certain way. I’m realising that I am a god damn cheetah!

Author: Glennon Doyle
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio
Release date: 10 March 2020

Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin by Hannah Lynn

Reviewed by Sophie:

Let me set the scene… I started this book in the middle of the night with a newborn, feeding. I wanted to read but wanted something easy to keep coming back to as feeding time is reading time.

I have had Hannah Lynn’s books on myself for many years and have felt guilty of not being able to read before now. I’m so glad this was the first read of her books.

The humour is seen throughout the book not only in the encounters and events that happen to the protagonist but also in the conversations had and the tone of the book.

The amount of things that can happen in an allotment.

The characters were light-hearted and relatable.

Looking forward to reading more in this series

Author: Hannah Lynn
Publisher: Self-Published
Release date: 4 October 2018

The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviewed by Lotte:

In this sequel to The Calculating Stars earth is still failing and the time until it becomes inhabitable is advancing quickly so the colonisation of Mars becomes the main focus. Once again, Elma discovers that being a female pilot puts her at a disadvantage for the Mars expedition. So she embarks on a fight for her right to be on it and to prove herself through the training program and the expedition itself.

This book was just as good as its predecessor if not better. It was fun, heartbreaking, clever and incredibly moving at times. It showed the very real trials of being a woman in a man’s world, with the added complications of the inherent racism of that time. I felt like the characters and storyline were easy to buy into and relatable because Kowal wove in appropriate references to that era that had me feeling frustrated and rooting for righteousness to prevail. There was also the complications of a long-distance relationship, involving sacrifices made for Elma’s career again showing the intricacies of that time and the dynamics of the relationship. I felt the heartache and anger when Elma told Nathaniel about ‘the bag’. Kowal’s words were so strong and poignant in places, whilst remaining fun and exciting overall.

As in the first book, the science fiction element of this book was easy to follow, interesting and enough to make the story work without being too heavy and intricate. There was also a lot more suspension in this book so I found myself willing the science to work somehow too! This was a great instalment in this Lady Astronaut series.

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Solaris
Release date: 28 July 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is a fun, intelligent book involving a national crisis which shatters lives and forces earth into speeding up its mission to colonise other planets, firstly the moon and then Mars. This book has an apocalyptic feel, set in the 1950’s.

Kowal pitches this book in a time when sexism and racism are rife, with women and those of differing ethnicity from the 1950s privileged white, had to fight to be heard and get a seat at the table. Ironically, it is actually those women that make the colonisation possible with the “Lady Astronaut” being an integral part of the whole operation. In fact, it is her calculating skills that assist most with the operation. She is a strong, independent and intelligent woman who learns of her own privilege and attempts to strive for what is right. However, along the way she realises that this isn’t always possible and that fighting for what she deserves isn’t always straight forward.

The science fiction element of this book was easy to digest, giving the reader enough to understand what was happening and to make the story work without being overloading. This was a good balance for me as I can become bored with protracted explanations of made up technology and scientific logic. This certainly isn’t a hardcore Sci-Fi novel but that worked for me.

All this is based in a fast paced, well thought out novel that captured my attention instantly. The way in which Kowal writes instantly draws you in to both the characters and storyline. I definitely want to read the sequel to this book!

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Solaris
Release date: 10 April 2019