If you’ve been following Noelle Stevenson since the tumblr days and the Broship of the Ring, then this book will be like a walk through memory lane with a selection of comics/doodles/etc from those times. And the summary posts of her year that she had on her blog. Which may make this book feel a bit too familiar and maybe not that surprising/new.
However, for me, despite being one of those from way back then, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a refresher of whereshe was (and a reminder of her age and what she’s done so far), but it was also, a reminder of my own ghosts, successes and battles. Because in some ways I had similar things happen to me, grand things and then that fear of “will this be the last grand thing because I have used all the grand-thing-points alloted to me during this lifetime already?”. She is way better at wording this and even illustrating.
And it is a memoir of where she was before she realised a lot of her identity, but also, as her career in art got a massive kickstart and also what pushed her to find the way into it.
Reading it was fun and when I finished it (it was relatively fast since it’s art and short posts on how her year had gone and what was accomplished/not done/etc), I felt inspired to draw, to put some of my own experiences to paper. And at the same time I wanted to give her a hug. And maybe just sit down and talk because I have similar fears, I have had similar fears.
Afterwards, I even had a deep conversation with my husband pondering if I had done the most amazing thing I could’ve done already and how I felt I may have wasted that chance because life happened and well, I am relatively happy where I am, but I am doing less amazing stuff now than I was 5-10 years ago. I won’t go all into it but it was an interesting talk, and I can only recommend reading this book. Or if not the memoir, maybe give Nimona a go?
I don’t usually read books that cross into “scary” land because I am not big on horror. But I like Premee and her twitter, and the fact that Johnny (one of the main characters) is a young female “genius” sold me to it.
One of the strengths of the book is setting the mood and the progression of the story. We start with a very “normal” (or as normal as having a genius world saving best friend can be) part of the story and Nick trying his best to figure out what comes next as Johnny goes further away and is less and less around due to all the amazing discoveries and inventions she is making, while he is the one working a bakery job to help his family.
Almost immediately I had a lot of things I wanted to quote as Johnny talks about how it is to be female, young and a scientist and have to compete against the established older male scientists. I don’t talk a lot about what I used to do for work and what I do now, but I used to be very similar to Johnny (sans the Ancient Ones). I was the one everyone expected great things. Had a big research career before I even graduated university. Doing big things, and everyone expecting great things… in Johnny’s words “everything”. So it was easy for me to engage with this book and to feel it to heart. Which made the scary a little less scary and more like “oh, that is scary but kinda interesting”.
Another strength is the relationship between Johnny and Nick. They are friends, but could they be more, and how can you keep a relationship (of whatever kind, friends or more) when the people in it are so different and understand each other’s challenges so little? Nick struggles to understand how despite Johnny being white and a genius, she still has barriers men wouldn’t have. And at the same time, Johnny fails to see what being brown and not being rich does to Nick. There are moments were they are as close as close can be and then you realise that at the same time ther eis this big chasm between them. It was masterfully done and it is proof of the craft that Premee can write an apocalypse/end of the world horror and at the same time have this intense view of a relationship as it moves and tries to define itself into adulthood.
Gosh, the Ancient Ones in themselves and the whole part of the plot that goes around it kept getting more and more interesting. The connections between cataclysms and ends of civilizations was also a bonus point for my history focused heart and just seeing all the little hints about geeky or nerdy stuff kept me smiling despite also being scared and worrying about the fate of the world and about Johnny and Nick.
And those last few chapters, well, that was magnificent and sad and intense and a big relief. A lot of emotions to be felt throughout it, and I couldn’t help but side a little with both of them and not be sure what exactly I wanted to happen because it was so hard to think what would be the best outcome for everyone involved.
Also, Ben and the genetically modified dung beetles that wouldn’t roll dung but might steal satsumas or other round objects made me giggle. The sarcams levels are great too, if you need a serving of that.
If you like history, science, geniuses and friendships put to the test with an end of the world, this is definitely your book. It gets my scarydorsement and my full endorsement as a read worth reading.
Ok, I give up. I’ve typed this review so many times, several different days and it just disappears. So I am going to skip the “this is the info you can find on Goodreads that tells you what the book is about” and just go straight into the review.
Queen Talyien (Tali) is the combination of “strong female character” with “chosen one” with “what if it all went wrong?” and this is done masterfully.
We start the story with her explaining that she’s basically ruling alone because she kinda screwed up and her husband left her (and their son) the night before they were meant to be crowned King and Queen of a country that is factioned and fractioned and is just a lot of fighting lords for land and ruling over the others.
Then she gets a letter from her husband to come and meet him at the neighbouring country where apparently he ha been having a comfortable life for hte last 5 years without bothering to make himself known to her or you know, his son (I didn’t have much respect for the husband, despite Tali trying hard to blame herself for him leaving). She is told not to go by her counsellors but decides to try to fix her marriage, for the sake of their son.
Know, one thing to know is that Tali was born to be Queen. She was educated for it, she had an arranged marriage and everything, all her life has been centered around becoming the Queen her father wants/wanted her to be. She has a purpose to fulfill and any time she has strayed from it, she pays the consequence. Her whole being is trying to meet the expectations, to hold everything together while the rest blame her or praise her or even thwart her. I identified with her so much on this. When you are defined by the expectations of others, when you have been brought up to live to those expectations, and to be them, it becomes slowly clear that you will never fulfill all of them. Because you just can’t. You can’t be what others want you to be and forgo who you are for the sake of everyone else.
So when she chooses to try to make the most of this opportunity to make everything right, and to not be the only one holding it all together because her husband is off doing whatever it is he is doing. She goes. She is doing the best she can.
Of course, this ends up with an assasination attempt (and by ends I don’t mean she dies and that’s it) and she’s left alone and in a difficult position in a foreign country, having to figure it out as she goes. This is where she fully shines and the story truly becomes the best. It is once she is out on her own, having to fend for herself and do and be just herself that she shines, that both you as a reader and Tali as her own, slowly chip away at the expectations and find the real Talyien.
The restof the cast is well fleshed and have their own unique characteristics but to explain them, would be to ruin the experience of meeitng them and then finding where they fit in the story. All I can say is that I have a soft spot for Khine.
The book is gritty and has a lot of violence in it. There is also some attempted sexual assault, a lot of gaslighting and abuse. However, this doesn’t retrack from it but rather gives it more depth. And it also has humour to contrast it, at times I was so angry and then suddenly wanting to laugh.
To me, the book was a delight to read but it was also a book that made me angry. It reminded me of how men manipulate capable women for so many reasons, and undermine them. They chip away at them and do their best to destroy them and somehow we still come out alive and victorious. So I was angry and laughing and sad and joyous and I couldn’t stop reading because I needed to know what would happen and if there was hope.
So, do I recommend this book? Yes. But this is NOT a Young Adult book, Tali is an adult, she has a child, she is a Queen, not a princess. Her problems aren’t the ones a YA heroine would encounter, and the whole book is definitely more about older characters and different stages of life.
If you liked The Poppy War, then this may be feel like a great book, as it reminded me a bit fo the feeling I had after reading Poppy War (but they are not the same, this has no Academia side and is more mature, more adult). And it has that same world building magic that Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash have.
And if you follow my reviews, it has the secret ingredient that makes me love a book… grief. (This is a lot less about death of someone and more about loss of identity, about loss in general).
You are invited! COme inside and play with G.O.D. Bring your friends! It;’s fun! But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
When Stevie mentioned this “GOD” game book I was hooked. (This was a review copy, provided by the publisher for free in the hopes I would like it and join the tour, which I did) I was brought up in a religious environment and it has taken some time to work through that, and I did some work with AI(Artificial Intelligence), neural networks, machine learning and cybersecurity. This book felt like a very interesting one for me.
The God Game is a wonderful display of what an AI that has been fed all data about religion and has to then make a choice about humanity and religion and the common denominator in it. The conclusion as to what the motivations of the AI behind the God game, left thinking “oh wow, that is a very interesting question” and it made sense. It fit the way AI process data and come to questions and conclusions, and it also fit the panorama of religion.
I am aware Tobey is heavily involved in AI, so not a surprise here, however, what was interesting was also seeing each character be fleshed out as their own. They all have their own motivations to be part of the game, and to keep winning, but it is also their compasses and own morals that define how far they’re willing to go, and what parts of it they will question or go against.
Some of the concepts where very far fetched but it was still interesting to see this “futuristic” approach to AI mixed with some of the data that is already available but is too big data that processing is usually quite costly compared with the return it provides in useful information for those processing it (in this case, since it is an AI and fiction, there doesn’t seem to be that type of limitation).
Another thing explored here that was interesting was the way games and being “online” and outside of “real life” can warp you and give you an odd sense of being in control or of things being harmless and no consequences coming from it. “It is just a simple joke, a simple dare, no one was hurt”, that type of thing.
As interesting and well developed as the GOD game is, I wouldn’t want to play it. And I had the issue that every adult and “responsible” person that has more than a sentence or so of action in this book is a terrible person. They have horrid secrets, have failed the teenagers and are just a combination of selfish and bad, even if some are trying to make it better or hide it or whatever. That was my least favourite part. I know it works for what the story is trying to say, but it made it not as good as it could’ve been, because all the “NPC (non playable characters)” where more or less made to fit exactly the plot and make it make less bad of what the main cast was doing, and I just wish there had been more contrast, more to work on.
One last thing, this book explores how far someone can go towards “bad”, so there is an incredibly long list of trigger warnings that I honestly couldn’t comprehensibly list. To me, due to the context of the game they were less of a shock, but I expected that and worse given the premise, however, if you are coming to this book without expecting the worst, it is going to slap you in the face badly. Take care when reading this.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.
First review of the year, even though I read this last year (this is so weird to write), and breaking away from the usual puzzle background because Vixy was being a good model.
Natalie has been working on learning new foods and growing her repertoire of food and has been chasing her dream away from home as she didn’t see eye to eye with her mum. And as such she also didn’t see eye to eye with her neighbours.
However, after her mother dies, she returns and decides that maybe she’ll open the restaurant she inherited and fulfill her dream. And as she does this, she also starts seeing her neighbours differently, tries to help them and cooks lots of delicious food.
The main thing was that this book made me SO hungry! Do not read while hungry or with any hint of hunger because you’ll be craving the food so bad. I kept drooling over the recipes, loving the simple and interesting magic in the “dishes” and just that hint at a slight bend between magic and reality as we see it.
The writing flowed, I felt for Natalie and her neighbours and I just wanted them all to be happy and succeed. And to make food. So bad. It was interesting to see her mother’s agoraphobia define her childhood and then to slowly find out why it got so bad and why her mother was so against Natalie’s dreams.
Another thing that I found interesting is how sometimes we think we know what is best for someone else and what the fix is, but it isn’t always what is best and meddling has consequences. Natalie has a good heart even if it is a bit broken, patched and mended, and she has a fear of commitment so it was interesting to see her grow through the story and find that confidence in herself, and to learn more about her family history, her grandmother and the neighbourhood in general.
Worth the read, keep snacks available while reading. I ended up being lucky that I was reading at a Thai restaurant while waiting for my food, so my cravings were relatively quickly satisfied but at other times, it was tricky not to want to immediately get delicious food.
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.
Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching…
I read Sanctuary a while back but had a backlog of reviews, so only doing it now. My bad! Because this book was a wild ride and it kept surprising.
The only thing to consider is that this is a book about a witch hunt, a “murder” and contains rape of a minor by another minor (slightly older). There’s a lot going on in this book.
I found this book a wild ride because the beginning is a hit in the face, and then it shifted from a muder mystery/investigation to a bit of “The Real Housewives of Sanctuary”. This was the part that took me the longest to get through, as it is exactly that type of drama and relationships that I try to keep myself away from and do not particularly appreciate in personal relationships (Vic wrote it brilliantly, which is why I struggled with it, it was too “real”).
The concept of a “small” town full of secrets was very intriguing and it was good to see the secrets reveal themselves a little through Maggie but also to get them from each of the characters involved and then seeing different sides of the same story. And seeing characters suddnely connect the dots and go “oh dear”.
Abigail and Michael drove me up the wall, but I have known people like them and yeah, wide berth. No wonder Daniel was as he was.
I liked Sarah and one part I wanted to know more of was the magic system, the Conclave, everything. It is a world where being a witch is allowed and technically not persecuted (the nuance on how it can be a useful but slightly complex skill and how to use it, plus the implications on keeping records, and what actions you can do or not, was fascinating. I could read a book on how it is meant to work, or more details of it, seriously).
To be fair, in general, the characters kept me wondering or hating them very much. For some I just wanted them to stop being so obtuse, and the ending was good, as was the explanation of the mystery and if it was a murder or not. Plus all those layers of secrets on secrets and lies on lies were very intriguing and kept connecting the story throughout. Shame that the children sometimes end up having to live through everything the parents have done and undone.
Still, if you want a good witchy scary feminist book, with a murder and a mystery, go for this book. it won’t disappoint!
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…
This review has taken me a while to get to, and I have been putting it off. Not because it is a bad book, rather to the the contrary, I loved this book, which is why it is harder to review. I become an incoherent mess trying to write a review that does it justice.
After a lot of thought, this will be a review that may contain spoilers, however I will do my best to keep them minimal, as this way I can do a better job at the review.
I will start by saying that Aliette has a way with words. I felt so much reading this book. Every word was like poetry, and it radiated beatuy (even for the ugly things in the book, even for the hurt, it was raw and sad but also had a beauty to it). It is almost as if she was a word magician.
Another thing is how easy pronouns and ranks and self defining fits in this world. It just is and that’s it.
And the world is an interesting one, as it is what is left after the Vanishers took it and tried to make it into an image of their own, breaking the rules and taking, all the time. Obviously if you take and take, things slowly sicken or fail and this is the world they live in.
When Aliette signed my book she wrote “a new take on an old tale” and that is the perfect way to describe it. I have a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast retellings, with Robin McKinley winning this one (Bridig Kemmerer comes a close second), but with Vanishers’, it doesn’t compare. It isn’t a retelling as much as it is a new classic in the making.
The cast of characters is relatively small, but they are well formed, even the ones that appear little in the story. Everyone has a purpose, everyone exists for something and they are motivated by their own ideas rather than just for the plot or to make our heroine (or our dragon) do something (this does happen, but not for the sake of).
There is also a lot of focus on filial piety which made me curious to learn more. One of the other things that was interesting was the way Vũ Côn is maternal. How she has adopted this pair of young beings and is their mother. It was interesting to see the way she tries her best to protect them, at the same time as she is trying to help them fend for themselves and learn lessons and deal with consequences, and how this is a very fine line sometimes.
One of my favourite things was that when she makes a mistake (or several), she thinks about it, ponders and then attempts to fix the mistake and not only that but to avoid repeating it in the future. She may not be entirely human, but she’s also a being that learns, that grows, that errs.
Seriously, I devoured this book and at the same time didn’t want it to end because it is so beautiful, so comprehensive for such a relatively small book. It touches on so many things and it leaves you thinking. It also left me with some saudade for things that were (sorry, it is the best word I know to describe it). A melancholic nostalgia but also, some fondness and happiness.