Home (Binti #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Home Cover

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

My review of Home

Home (Binti, #2)Home by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A big change of pace from the first book.

Binti was all about Binti stepping out into the world on her own and is a fast-paced alien contact sci-fi story. Home is about Binti’s return to her homeworld and her family, and her struggle to reconcile all the different parts of herself and find acceptance in her rigidly structured patriarchal culture. It’s a slower paced than the first book and it’s much more about Binti and the way she is changing from contact with the different cultures, the alien Meduse and the desert people – her own estranged family.

Sci-fi elements are still blended with this story but it’s much more in the background than in the first book. That’s not altogether a bad thing, Nnedi Okorafor’s world building is so good that the sci-fi becomes the norm and the story is allowed to grow and become more thoughtful.

I was pleased to see there are answers to some of my big questions from the first book but then it goes and ends very abruptly in what feels like the middle of the story. Just as I was really getting involved, it cut me off! I wish it was longer as it does feel like it doesn’t go anywhere on its own.

Home is an engaging sequel to Binti and I’m very eagerly awaiting the final book to finish the story.

Home
Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
January 31st 2017
Kindle

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents Cover

Octavia Butler tackles the creation of a new religion, the making of a god, and the ultimate fate of humanity in her Earthseed series, which began with Parable of the Sower, and now continues with Parable of the Talents.

The saga began with the near-future dystopian tale of Sower, in which young Lauren Olamina began to realize her destiny as a leader of people dispossessed and destroyed by the crumbling of society. The basic principles of Lauren’s faith, Earthseed, were contained in a collection of deceptively simple proverbs that Lauren used to recruit followers. She teaches that “God is change” and that humanity’s ultimate destiny is among the stars.

In Parable of the Talents, the seeds of change that Lauren planted begin to bear fruit, but in unpredictable and brutal ways. Her small community is destroyed, her child is kidnapped, and she is imprisoned by sadistic zealots. She must find a way to escape and begin again, without family or friends. Her single-mindedness in teaching Earthseed may be her only chance to survive, but paradoxically, may cause the ultimate estrangement of her beloved daughter.

My Review of Parable of the Talents

Parable of the Talents (Earthseed, #2)Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brilliant and disturbing, this is a far too realistic look at what the future could be.

In the first book, Parable of the Sower, the American economy had broken down, the climate was heating up and oil was running out. People were competing for the basic necessaties of survival and the police were corrupt and unreliable. Anarchy ruled and everyone lived in danger of gangs taking everything they have.

Despite all this chaos Lauren Olamina managed to create a community, a band of people working together to protect themselves and build a safe and suistanable life.

Parable of the Talents with things getting better. Lauren’s community, Acorn, is starting to grow and expand. But Andrew Jarret, a fundamental Christian, is running for president. He blames the countries problems on the lack of true Christian religion and encourages his followers to persecute and murder those of other faiths.

Lauren’s community is built around a religion she has started called Earthseed and it soon comes under attack from Jarret’s followers.

I didn’t like the strong religious tone running through the book. Lauren is trying to start up a new religion to stop people fighting and tearing each other down and to convince them to start up communities and work together to create a world where everyone supports each other. The way she starts out trying to create communities does seem sensible, but she seems to become more and more of just a preacher throughout the book and by the end it starts to feel like she is setting up a cult.

To be fair the book does a good job of not presenting Lauren as perfect, it shows her faults as much as it shows the good things she is doing. She manipulates people, and is well aware of doing it. Nothing is more improtant to her than spreading the word of Earthseed.

What I did like is the way it shows that when people treat each other as equals, work together and educate each other then they can not only survive but they can build something better.

A lot of it was very hard to read, I had to keep putting it down and switch to a different book for a while. The men that attack Lauren’s community belive that women should be silent and don’t allow them to speak. They treat the women like they are worthless, work them to the bone and sexually assault them at night. They are hypocrites that think they need to reeducate anyone that is not a “good christian”.

In the context of the current climate it is even more scary. Jarrett is very similar to Trump, with his habit of blaming all the countries complex problems on anyone that doesn’t meet the mould of white christian male. Jarrett’s slogan is “make America great again”. Women are treated as chattels and expected to be pure and not tempt the men.

Parable of the Talents is a frightening look at what the future could be. It does not make for pleasant reading but it is compelling and I wish that more people would read it. It’s a warning but hopefully not a prediction.

Parable of the Talents
Earthseed
Octavia E. Butler
Sci-Fi
1998
Kindle
424

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy by Lucas K. Law (editor), Derwin Mak (editor),

Where the stars rise cover

ALL EMOTIONS ARE UNIVERSAL. 

WE LIVE, WE DREAM, WE STRIVE, WE DIE . . .

Follow twenty-three science fiction and fantasy authors on their journeys through Asia and beyond. Stories that explore magic and science. Stories about love, revenge, and choices. Stories that challenge ideas about race, belonging, and politics. Stories about where we come from and where we are going.

Each wrestling between ghostly pasts and uncertain future. Each trying to find a voice in history.

Orphans and drug-smuggling in deep space. Mechanical arms in steampunk Vancouver. Djinns and espionage in futuristic Istanbul. Humanoid robot in steamy Kerala. Monsters in the jungles of Cebu. Historic time travel in Gyeongbok Palace. A rocket launch in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. A drunken ghost in Song Dynasty China. A displaced refugee skating on an ice planet. And much more.

Embrace them as you take on their journeys. And don’t look back . . .

AUTHORS: Anne Carly Abad, Deepak Bharathan, Joyce Chng, Miki Dare, S.B. Divya, Pamela Q. Fernandes, Calvin D. Jim, Minsoo Kang, Fonda Lee, Gabriela Lee, Karin Lowachee, Rati Mehrotra, E.C. Myers, Tony Pi, Angela Yuriko Smith, Priya Sridhar, Amanda Sun, Naru Dames Sundar, Jeremy Szal, Regina Kanyu Wang (translated by Shaoyan Hu), Diana Xin, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Ruhan Zhao.

My Review of Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and FantasyWhere the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy by Lucas K. Law
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I very much enjoyed this short story collection. The stories are a mix of sci-fi and fantasy and there are some absolute gems in it. I have loads of authors now I want to read more of!

My favourite stories include Back to Myan by Regina Kanyu Wang, Weaving Silk by Amanda Sun, A Star is Born by Miki Dare, The Bridge of Dangerous Longings by Rati Mehrotra and Old Souls by Fonda Lee.

Back to Myan is pure sci-fi. A mermaid on an alien planet whose home world overheats. She is evacuated and her tail replaced with legs so that she can live on other planets.

Weaving Silk is a beautifully written story about two sisters trying to survive in a city after an earthquake killed their parents and cut the city off from the outside world.

In A Star is Born an old lady in a home has found a way to time travel back to earlier points of her life.

The Bridge of Dangerous Longings is an unusual story about a bridge that will kill you if you try to cross it.

Old Souls is a tale about reincarnation, and a young woman who can not only remember her own previous lifes, but also see the past lifes of everyone she comes into contact with.

There are a couple of stories that I didn’t get on with, one that I just couldn’t follow and one that I didn’t get the point of, but overall the quality is very high.

I highly recommend this, it’s an interesting and high quality collection and it’s probably going to be one of my favourite books of this year. I hope they make volume two soon!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy
Lucas K. Law (editor), Derwin Mak (editor)
Sci-Fi
October 8th 2017
Kindle
352

The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

girl in the tower cover

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods.

When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

My Reviews of other Books in the Series

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1)

My Review of The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2)The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful fantasy, set in a dark Russian winter and full of folklore and magic!

Picking up where the first book left off, Vasilia has left her home in search of adventure. Of course, she quickly gets into trouble and she finds herself saving three young girls from bandits. Because girls aren’t allowed to travel the wilderness and rescue anyone Vasilia then has to pose as a boy to avoid ruining her reputation and getting herself sent off to a convent. She finds that she likes the freedom being a boy brings

Wilful, smart, brave and sometimes foolish, I was 100% rooting for Vasilia to find a space for herself in a world where women are confined to towers or convents. It made me angry to read at times, the way the women were treated as possesions, like a horse or a cow. If they were married they could leave their towers, called terems in the book, only to go to church or visit other women in their towers. I loved the way Vasilia smashed straight through everyone’s expectations of how the women should act, and how she refused to regin in her personality.

Vasilia’s horse Solovey is as much of a character as she is. He’s her best friend and biggest supporter and steals every scene he is in.

It’s much faster paced than the first book, all the build up and the world buiding is done and this gets straight into the action! It still has the atmosphere of cold, darkness and a long, long winter. The fairytales and folklore are still here too, the houshold spirits don’t play as big a part but the winter king is a much bigger player this time around! I must admit I have a soft spot for Morzoko.

I was drawn straight into the story, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in less than a day. I can’t wait to see what Vasilia does next!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Girl in the Tower
The Winternight Trilogy
Katherine Arden
Fantasy
December 5th 2017
Kindle
352

Tanglefoot (The Clockwork Century #1.2) by Cherie Priest

Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.

It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armoured vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.

But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation–some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories, cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.

This is the Clockwork Century.

It is dark here, and different.

My Review of Tanglefoot

Free to read online, Tanglefoot is a short steampunk story set in The Clockwork Century universe. It’s standalone so you don’t need to have read the first book in the series before you read this.

Edwin is a young boy living in hiding in a sanitarium, in the basement lab of an elderly inventor. As the inventor slowly slides into dementia, Edwin becomes more and more lonely, eventually building himself a robot friend that he names Ted.

But robot Ted isn’t as friendly as Edwin hoped it would be.

I love Cherie Priest’s books, and this atmospheric and creepy short story is a good starting point for the Clockwork Century series.

You can read Tanglefoot online for free.

Tanglefoot
The Clockwork Century
Cherie Priest
Steampunk
34

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis Cover

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

My Review of Artemis

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jazz Bashira is not a hero and doesn’t ever pretend to be one. Arrogant and sarcastic, she’s a character I can’t decide if I like or not.

She is very intelligent but her intelligence has made her lazy. She wants to be rich without having to work for her money and that, combined with some bad decisions as a teenager, has led her to smuggling contraband into the moon city as an easy way to support herself.

When a rich moon resident that she smuggles cigars for offers her a large amount of money to sabotage Artemis’ oxygen production she jumps at the chance. Even though she knows it’s a bad idea.

The plot is gripping and very readable, I powered through this in a single day while waiting for the gas service person to turn up. It’s well paced and exciting and I like the way it’s written. I wasn’t massively keen on the ending but I think it was in keeping with the characters personalities.

I loved the moon city setting and the author did a good job of world building. The author has put a lot of thought into what a city on the moon would be like and the little details are never forgotten about, like how the difference in gravity affects things. I could quite happily have followed Jazz about her normal life in Artemis for the whole book.

And the science! I’ve no idea if it’s accurate or not (I hope it is) but my absolute favourite thing about this book is all the science. I love the way it’s such a big part of the story.

There are things I loved about this book (the science and the moon city) and things I wasn’t so keen on (the stupid life decisions Jazz makes). But even though I often wanted to throw something at Jazz I still enjoyed reading about her.

So I’m probably a 3 star for the story, but the moon city setting and the fact that it’s crammed full of science take it up to 4 stars for me.

I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Artemis
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
November 14th 2017
Hardback
384

Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti Cover

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

My Review of Binti

Binti (Binti, #1)Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful world building, beautiful writing and a well developed main character.

The story surprised me (in a good way), it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I’m not going to talk about it though because I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone else. There are so many wonderful ideas in here and they all work well but I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and all the problems solved a bit too easily.

Binti is a brilliant character, intelligent and very brave, defying her family and travelling out into the universe alone so that she can attend university. She is viewed as ‘tribal’ and looked down on by most of the people that she meets, but she deals with it with grace and kindness.

The world around Binti is created with such details I can almost smell and taste it. A remarkable achievement for such a short story. The writing is beautifully done.

Thoughtful and intelligent, it could have done with more space for the ending but this is still a must read for any sci-fi fan.

Binti
Binti
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
September 22nd 2015
Kindle
96

Dead Man’s Chest (Phryne Fisher #18) by Kerry Greenwood

Dead Mans Chest Cover

The gloriously unflappable Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this deadly treasure hunt.

Travelling at high speed in her beloved Hispano-Suiza accompanied by her maid and trusted companion Dot, her two adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly, The Hon Miss Phryne Fisher is off to Queenscliff. She’d promised everyone a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they arrive at their rented accommodation that doesn’t seem likely at all.

An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mystery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably towards a hunt for buried treasure by the sea. But what information might the curious Surrealists be able to contribute? Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed but with a glass of champagne in one hand and a pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no-one is getting past her.

‘Missing housekeepers and secretive Satie-swaying, patchouli-soaked surealists are all part of the scene, plus, of course, a whiff of delicious murder.’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘If you haven’t yet met the delectable Miss Phryne Fisher, it is certainly time that you did.’ Ballarat Courier

My Review of Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man's Chest (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries #18)Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super easy to get into. From the first paragraph, I was drawn straight into Phryne Fisher’s world. The writing is wonderful and made the book feel more real to me than my actual life!

And all the food descriptions! Knowing what characters what like to eat makes them 10x more realistic to me. There are even about 3 recipes at the end of the book for some of the food they ate. And little gems like this made me smile:

“Dot supplied herself, Jane, Ruth and Tinker with cocoa and a few biscuits to guard against night starvation.”

I can relate to people that aren’t happy until they have planned when and what their next meal will be.

Descriptions of people are so well done I could imagine myself there in the book next to them.

“Madame Sélavy was tall, thin and haggard. Her face was bony, her nose beaky, her eyes as bright as pins. She was heavily made-up, white paint and red lips and kohl around the eyes. She wore a draped gown which Princess Eugenie might have considered overdecorated, dripping with black and gold bugle beads, embroideries, tassels and fringes to the utmost tolerance of woven cloth. She smelt strongly of patchouli. Rings burdened every finger, her neck was wrapped in pearl-studded chains and a band of brilliants encircled her throat. “

The main mystery was solved by an unlikely coincidence. I can forgive this because there was some decent investigating up to that point and Phryne did solve one of the sub-mysteries. That was enough to keep me happy so I’m not too bothered about the coincidence that was thrown in there.

There are a few loose ends that I can’t work out. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the treasure hunt was, or what the bit in the cave near the end was about.  And when the two men tried to abduct Phryne, who was watching from the neighbour’s house and why?

Everything else about the book I loved. I’ve read two in the series now and Phryne Fisher is already one of my favourite book characters. You’ve got to admire a woman that will quite happily abandon her clothes if it helps her escape the grasp of an attacker.

An absolute delight, this is a feel-good story that is perfect for a weekend of indulgent reading.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. 

Dead Man's Chest
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
January 1st 2010
Kindle
250

Cthulu and Other Monsters by Sam Stone

Cthulu and Other Monsters

Short tales of horror regarding the Old Ones and their minions by master horror scribe Sam Stone.

Cthulu and Other MonstersCthulu and Other Monsters by Sam Stone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always love getting my hands on a new Sam Stone book! This one is a collection of short horror stories about monsters and Cthulu.

One thing I like about Sam Stone is that she skips between and combines genres without it being jarring. The stories in this collection are all horror stories but they also combine other genres too. Some are a bit steampunk, and some are more sci-fi, some set in the past and some in the present. She’s clearly full of ideas and there’s a lot of originality in these stories.

My favourites are the steampunk tinged stories. There is one about Arabella, a Victorian lady who moonlights as a thief, and another where Lucy goes down into the sewers to hunt a monster plaguing the city. I loved both of these and I really wanted to see more from these characters!

This is a very adult collection, there’s lots of gore and a fair bit of sex. Things don’t always end well so you’re kept guessing right up to the end.

My only complaint is that sometimes the conversations are there more to give information to the reader than for the characters to communicate with each other. There’s a fair few “as you know” expositions that are thrown in there that feel like they don’t fit the story, and sometimes the characters can be overly formal and stilted. I feel like it could use a good editor as there are a few errors in the text. But it’s a minor complaint and it didn’t stop me enjoying reading this.

I found all of the stories creepy and interesting, and there weren’t any that I didn’t really enjoy. I feel like the author had a lot of fun writing them.

It’s a great little collection of horror stories and it’s just right for the long nights that are approaching.

Cthulu and Other Monsters
Sam Stone
Horror
April 2017
Paperback
287

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Queen of the Flowers Cover

With more than a dash of glamour and serious helpings of style, the witty and courageous Miss Fisher returns.

In 1928 St Kilda’s streets hang with fairy lights. Magic shows, marionettes, tea dances, tango competitions, lifesaving demonstrations, lantern shows, and picnics on the beach are all part of the Flower Parade.

And who else should be chosen to be Queen of the Flowers but the gorgeous, charming and terribly fashionable Hon Phryne Fisher? Phryne needs a new dress and a swimming costume but she also needs a lot of courage to confront her problems: a missing daughter, the return of an old lover, and a young woman found drowned at the beach at Elwood.

‘Kerry Greenwood is one of Australia’s leading writers of mystery fiction . . . Miss Fisher is a remarkable and engaging creature who can solve whodunnits as easily as if she were the naughty niece of Miss Marple’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Greenwood’s prose has a dagger in its garter; her hero is raunchy and promiscuous in the best sense’ – Weekend Australian

‘Fisher, a feisty sophisticate of the 1920s whose honour lies with the greater good. She’s all class and intelligence: a seductive creature with a great wardrobe.’ Australian Style

My review of Queen of the Flowers

Queen of the FlowersQueen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this through Netgalley as soon as I saw it because I am a big fan of the TV series!

I was a bit worried before I started reading that it wouldn’t live up to the TV version and would just end up ruining it for me. As soon as I started reading I realised my fears were groundless. The book version of Phryne Fisher is smarter, bubblier, sharper, just more than the TV version.

The characters are very likeable and I just love the descriptions of them. Phryne is an absolute delight to read. I love her independence and her outlook on life.

One of my favourite things about the TV series is the banter between Phryne and Inspector Jack Robinson. I thought I would miss it in the book but I actually like that’s it not there because it seemed to give the character of Phryne more room to breathe.

The tone stays light but the mystery ended up going in a quite dark direction, and Phryne does some decent investigating. I feel it does get a bit convoluted with two different stories going on and a few dips into the past thrown in. There were a few too many coincidences in Ruth’s story and it didn’t make sense why some of the people did the things they did.

I liked the main mystery though, and I found that once I read the first chapter I couldn’t put it down.

This is just like a glass of wine in book format. It’s all bubbles and lightness and the story fizzes along. I love the world the author has created and I will definitely be reading more of the series!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Queen of the Flowers
Phryne Fisher
Kerry Greenwood
Mystery
2004
Kindle
287