Tag Archives: readinglist

5 Happy Things: March 2019

I’m trying to ignore the world, mostly; I’ve done what I can and, despite there being so much hate around, I’m focusing on making the world a tiny bit better. What’s making me happy in March 2019?

1. Comics

Nathan W. Pyle‘s aliens and Catana Comics are making me laugh so much at the moment.

2. Reading

You know when you start reading something, and just – YES. THIS. Wait, I have to stop for real life? No. Nope. I’m staying in this world. GO AWAY, I’M READING.

And it’s a work book, too, so I might be able to buy it. EEEEEEEH.  (I love my job!)

Other books, too; I’ve been re-reading The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet; re-reading The Goblin Emperor – ALSO DID I TELL YOU GUYS THAT WE GOT IT? We’re republishing it in the UK with a much nicer cover (sorry to the original designer, but that original one is awful) and OMG I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I think I’ve read it nine times now. GO AND BUY IT. It is so pretty!

I’m also working through my TBR stack – currently reading The Court of Broken Knives and This Savage Song, amongst others. Books rock!

3. Chocolate

Otter discovered that there’s a shop in Oxford that sells Tony’s Chocolonely and it’s just the most amazing thing. Up until now it’s only been sold in the Netherlands (oh noes, trips to Amsterdam – who needs to come back with weed in your suitcase when you could bring chocolate?) but I am now planning a trip over to the Covered Market. It doesn’t look like they do all the flavours, which means I’ll still have to go to Amsterdam, but hey ho.

4. The red kite

The red kite has been floating around; from the front window, there’s a view over the hill and down into the valley, and it seems to be a favourite hunting spot. It’s been really fun spotting it almost every day – during the storm when it wasn’t even having to flap, just hovering valiantly in the wind and being blown all over the place; on sunny, calm days when it’s just soaring with the thermals; on those misty still days when it disturbs every eddy of fog. I love the gentle movements of the tail-feathers that send it whirling in a tight circle, and the easy tilt to the wings that send it climbing.

5.Improving Me

Kate with glasses (not mine!)I’m still having days where I’m struggling – I always will – but I’m still trying to take two steps forward for every step back. I’ve seen a doctor about something small that’s been bothering me for years. I’m looking into brushing up my music theory; I’ve picked up my piano music and started playing the piano again – and I’m singing again! I’m making a determined effort to get through my TBR pile. I’m taking more selfies. I’m getting together cards and making an effort to be more in contact with friends that I don’t see as often as I’d like. I’m trying to do something useful with my time instead of going on Reddit; I’m sewing, or reading, or thinking about writing. I’m trying to be more present in my every day life; I’m trying to be kinder, and helpful, and listen more.

And even when I have bad days, I’m accepting them as they come – and as long as I can do one useful thing, one thing that improves me or someone else around me, then I’m considering that a win.

(PS. I haven’t got glasses – I was just messing around with my partner’s!)

Review: Dangerous to Know

Dangerous To Know: The Chronicles of Breed: Book One by KT Davies

After Breed, a thief-assassin of small renown is chased by a dragon, tricked by a demon, almost killed by a psychopathic gang boss, and hunted by a ferocious spider, life really takes a turn for the worse.

Sentenced to five years bonded servitude to a one-handed priest magician, Breed must find the hammer of the ancient hero known only as The Hammer of the North within a year and a day…

Or Else.

So, with only a drug-addicted vagrant, a rat-faced child, and a timid priest for backup, Breed sets out for the mighty city of Valen and the tomb of the Hammer.

What could possibly go Wrong?

As it turns out…just about everything can go wrong. As, honestly, you’d expect from someone tricked into a deal with a demon and then enslaved by a priest…

But Breed’s not exactly sympathetic. A thief, murderer, general doesn’t-care attitude…plus being a mixed-race monster that just about everyone else distrusts is not exactly a recipe for being liked. That said, Breed’s very endearing as a character; when catastrophe after annoyance after disaster keeps happening, they’re still trying to come out – not necessarily on top, but at least the right way up. They’ve also got a refreshingly direct moral compass, a not-so-subtle way of dealing with things, and a foul mouth. It’s a winning combination.

The plot’s entertaining, if fairly full of politics and backstabbing; this is also the first of a trilogy, so while several of Breed’s problems get sorted, various more are still lying in wait for future books. However, it’s a story that rattles along with various amounts of snark, questionable characters, choices of dubious value, and some good old punch-ups. I’ll be interested to see where Breed goes next!

Review: In The Vanishers’ Palace

In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Unsettling, sweet, disconcerting, thoughtful and weird…a mix of sci-fi and classic fantasy, with an interesting and complex protagonist, a story that weaves and never quite goes where you expect it, and a world that’s broken and hard, leaving the characters to do what they can to soften the edges.

Vu Côn is a cool and thoughtful foil to Yên’s more impetuous nature, although it’s a pleasure to see Yên grow from the shuttered and wary soul, despite the occasional frustration that Vu Côn – and the reader – get from her growth! It’s also satisfying to see more of Vu Côn’s history throughout the story, and their reasons for their actions – and in addition, seeing the growth of the two children. The relationship between Yên and Vu Côn is thoughtful and slow, and I like seeing them tread around each other – and around the rest of the world and events.

It would have been satisfying to see more of Yên’s explorations of her writing, her magic, her passion for words and teaching; they took second place to the pace of the plot towards the end, which worked very well in story terms, but left me a little sad for that side of Yên’s personality (she got bribed with a library and then immediately left it! *cries*) But the story itself is very satisfying; the tangles and growths of all of the characters are complex and interesting, and the ending is sweet.

Definitely a book worth reading if you like sweet and thoughtful sff stories.

Review: Sing For The Coming of the Longest Night

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian & Iona Datt Sharma

The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in…

Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.

To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who’s only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.

But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.

So, basically, it’s a story about following a trail of clues; Meraud has done something stupid, and his lovers have to follow a trail of very Meraud-like clues to get all the pieces they need to try to bring him back. In the process, they have to work together – and navigate actually finding the bloody clues from wherever Meraud has hidden them…and despite the fact that Meraud isn’t really a present character in most of the story due to being, well, missing, he’s most definitely the heart and centre of the book, and one of the more frustrating characters! For us as well as for Nat and Layla, I feel…

The book overall is a light and fairly easy read; described as “joyously queer” – it is! It’s fabulous and complex, with bisexual and polyamorous relationships overlapping and weaving around children, adulthood, friendships and new families; but to call it queer leaves out so much of the tapestry of normality that makes this book so rich. Religion of all types crosses with magic; adult life overlaps with children, growing up overlaps with past memories and traumas; fairyland overlaps with reality and history; and the personalities of all of the characters weave in and out of each other to make the story so much deeper. But the thing that really makes this book so compelling and joyous is the personalities, the friendships and the relationships and the people;  the love and the tenderness; the problems and the conflicts and the way you can just hear Nat thinking, “For fuck’s sake, Meraud…”

It’s a story about finding someone – but it’s a story about finding other people, too, and learning to live with the tendrils of love that spread; working together to make relationships work, amongst life and children and growing and someone doing something really stupid, Meraud… and overall, it’s a gentle, magical, joyous and utterly queer story.

Review: Reel Love

Reel Love by Owen Michael Johnson

Reel Love by Owen Michael JohnsonIn a quiet corner of England, a young boy visits the cinema for the first time. Overwhelmed by the experience, he returns to see a movie which will ignite his imagination, fill his head with fantasy and change the course of his life. That enthusiasm carries him though to his adolescence, when he gets a part-time job as an usher at his local cinema. Falling in with the motley crew of cinephile staff, he falls in love, finds his tribe, and fantasises about his film-filled future.  The final act sees that same boy as a grown man, back in his hometown after life panned out in a slightly unexpected way. When an opportunity to break into the film world presents itself, he finds that his life has come full circle as he sets out again to make his magnum opus…

It’s a bit of an unusual read for me; film and memoir aren’t usually my genre, but I bought this (hard copy! Signed!) on the recommendation of a colleague – and it’s definitely worth it.

This is a sweet, poignant and drama-filled story about cinema; about growing up, discovering love and life and passion; about having dreams broken and then finding them; and about how to rediscover something that you weren’t sure if you’d broken forever, or just needed to see under the layers of influence and memory.

The artwork is lovely; Johnson’s got a dramatic style and an eye for visuals that really works with the subject matter, and takes a lot of influence from a wide variety of film. There are multiple references to the genre – both from the visuals, the plots, and the directing side – but it’s also a sweet and simple story about love, and family, hometowns, moving away and coming back, teaching, memory and learning.

There’s a lot of love and passion that comes through in the story; it’s a tribute both to growing up, to memory and influence, and to the films that shape the protagonist, and a beautifully drawn series. If you’re into film or memoir, it’s worth a read.