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

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

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

Slam! Vol. 1 by Pamela Ribon, Veronica Fish (Illustrations)

Slam! Cover

In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will have to decide if their budding friendship is stronger than the pull of a team when a win is on the line.

When life starts coming at you like a freight train, you have two options: run away screaming or lean into the hit.

From the first day of Fresh Meat Orientation for the Eastside Roller Girls, Jennifer and Maisie knew they’d be fast friends. But when they’re drafted by different teams, the pull of competition — and their increasingly messy personal lives — threaten to drive them apart. In roller derby, you take your hits, get back up, and learn how to be a better jammer, a better blocker, a better lover, and a better friend. Derby can heal your heart . . . but it might break a bone or two in the process.

Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and retired Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) joins artist Veronica Fish (Archie, Silk) for a tale of friendship, heartbreak, and truly epic jams.

My Review of Slam!

Slam! Vol. 1Slam! Vol. 1 by Pamela Ribon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slam is a bright and fun graphic novel about two young women who join a banked track roller derby team.

The artwork is wonderful! Bright and bold, and it really captures the different characters personalities.

The story is strong and interesting, with good dialogue. The characters feel realistic, they are well fleshed out with distinct personalities that show through in the way they speak and act. But for me, the story just moved a little bit too fast. A lot of things were skipped over that would have made me feel more involved. I wanted to see more of the training, and things like one of the characters first date with a new man – he just appears once and then suddenly she really likes him. I wanted to understand why!

So really my complaint is that I want more!

I recommend to anyone that likes roller derby, stories about women in sport, or stories about friendships between women.

Slam! Vol. 1
Slam!
Pamela Ribon, Veronica Fish (Illustrations)
Graphic Novel
September 7th 2017
Graphic Novel
112

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple Cover

The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of colour in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t even know how to start reviewing this, but I will say that it’s heartbreaking, eye opening, harrowing and uplifting. I’ve never actually cried reading a book before, but I came closer at the end of this than I ever have before.

Books on lists of classics, or those lists of 100 books you must read, are books that I normally stay away from. I expect them to be dry, preachy, pretentious, or all three and generally just dull. But this, this book deserves its place on all of those lists.

Alice Walker is a skilled story teller, and The Colour Purple is accessible and interesting. It works first and foremost as a story about a poor black woman living in deep south America in the 1930’s. Celie narrates her life through journal entries and letters, a literary device that I’ve rarely seen done well but here it works brilliantly to bring her world to life for us.

In this world, the book uncovers issues of race, misogyny, religion and feminism. It manages not to beat us over the head, or preach to us, but just shows us that they are there and how they affect people’s lives. In this subtle way, we can’t ignore them because they are a vital part of Celie’s story.

It’s sad to think that these issues are just as relevant today as they were in the 30’s. These prejudices haven’t gone away, not even here in the UK where we like to think we’re more tolerant than the Americans. They are just as internalised as they ever were, but, until recently anyway, better hidden.

My favourite thing about this book is the women working together to support and help each other.

I recommend this to everyone. It’s an interesting story, and while it’s hard to read at first it has an uplifting ending.

The Color Purple
Alice Walker
Fiction
1982
Paperback
295

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

The Growing Season Cover

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

The Growing SeasonThe Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warm, thoughtful and kind. It presents some big issues but brings a human side to give them meaning.

The Growing Season is set in an alternate version of our world, differing from ours only in the invention of the biotech baby pouch two generations ago. The pouch is an artificial womb that allows babies to be incubated outside of the human body. FullLife own the patent for the pouch and have marketed it so successfully as an end to inequality and the dangers of childbirth that natural births are rare.

Eva is carrying on her mother’s work of campaigning against the pouch. She believes that the technology has moved too fast, that as a society we did not stop to think about the issues, and now we are blind to any problems that the pouch brings along with it.

Holly had the very first pouch baby and is now a poster girl for FullLife. She is about to have her first grandchild, and she loves the pouch and the freedom and choices it brings for parents.

The book takes a very balanced view of the issues and presents both sides of the argument. It looks at the benefits of allowing both men and women to be involved in carrying the unborn child, how it allows people to be parents that otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and how it protects women from the dangers of childbirth.

We are also shown the other side – how it could enable domestic abuse, how it affects society in negative ways, how we adopt technology so quickly that we don’t think about the side effects, or what happens when it goes wrong. It also touches on the dangers of allowing one big company to have such a monopoly on our lives, and how it excludes those who live in poverty even further.

So it’s tackling big issues and could very easily have been dry and preachy. But Sedgwick makes them accessible by giving them a human face and showing how they affect people personally. Through Eva and Holly, she tells a warm and moving story about people. Their lives and families take up a big part of the book. I never felt like she was pushing the discussion about the issues or forcing an opinion on me, the story always comes first.

I thought it would be hard to read, so much so that I almost picked up something else when I was too tired to concentrate, but I gave this a go and got drawn in straight away. The writing is beautiful, almost lyrical at times and I flew through it because I cared so much about the characters.

Highly recommend this one if you like sci-fi, women’s issues, ethics in technology, or if you just like stories about people.

The Growing Season
Helen Sedgwick
Sci-Fi
September 7th 2017
Kindle
302

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra (Zodiac Starforce #1-4) by Kevin Panetta, Paulina Ganucheau (Illustrator)

zodiac starforce Cover

They’re an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures… as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters – not your typical after school activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself, and the world, from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship, with plenty of magical-girl fighting action, delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics.

Collects Zodiac Starforce #1-#4

My review of Zodiac Staforce: Power of Astra

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of AstraZodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kevin Panetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The artwork in this is absolutely stunning. The drawings, the characters, the outfits – everything is perfect! And the colours! Bright and bold and an almost dreamy mix of pinks and purples, yet it’s still vibrant.

This would probably be a four-star rating just because it’s so lovely to look at! Luckily the story and the dialogue lives up to the artwork. It seems very influenced by Sailor Moon. There are extras in the back and one of them is a one-page story with the characters in uniforms that look very much like the Sailor Soldiers. But it’s much more modern, and a lot louder and faster paced than Sailor Moon.

I started reading thinking that this was the first volume, but there must have been one before this that explained the characters and where they got their powers. It keeps referring events that happened two years ago, where they fought a big bad and I think one of the characters lost her mother? So I did kinda feel like I was missing something, but it didn’t impact on understanding the story in this volume.

The characters are well developed and easy to tell apart. They all have their own personality and their own style. My favourite is Kim! I’m also really liking Lily.

My only complaint is that I wish it were longer. I hope there’s more coming soon.

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra
Zodiac Starforce
Kevin Panetta, Paulina Ganucheau (Illustrator)
Graphic Novel
Dark Horse Books
March 9th 2016
Graphic Novel
136

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1) by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem cover

The Three-Body Problem Blurb

1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything: the key to the scientists’ deaths, the key to a conspiracy that spans light-years and the key to the extinction-level threat humanity now faces.

My Review of The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved everything about this, but I don’t want to give too much away about the story. It’s unusual and half the fun of the book for me was watching the events unfold and start to make sense as Wang Miao investigates the mystery of why the scientists are committing suicide.

I loved that it’s a proper hard sci-fi book, very science heavy. A lot of it I could follow, some of it I couldn’t but I just enjoyed going along for the ride. There are some very interesting, original ideas with a massive scope and although I was a bit lost at first it all come together into a very entertaining story.

One of my favourite things about the book is how there are female scientists, even back in the 70s, and it’s not an issue, it’s just normal. I don’t know if that’s how things are in China, or if it’s down to how the author wrote it, but it was lovely to read women being able to get on with the science without having to explain it.

The translator has done a brilliant job. There are a few footnotes, especially in the chapters set in the past during the Cultural Revolution. They were helpful and not excessive, and there weren’t as many of them once the story got going.

I’m giving it five stars simply because I enjoyed it so much. It has everything I like in a sci-fi book, and I recommend to anyone who likes writers like Isaac Asimov, who enjoyed The Martian, or who likes thought-provoking sci-fi with massive ideas.

The Three-Body Problem
Remembrance of Earth's Past
Liu Cixin
Sci-Fi
December 3rd 2015
Paperback
442

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon Cover

Lagoon Blurb

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

My Review of Lagoon

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aliens land in the water off the coast of Nigeria in this sci-fi first contact novel. What follows is chaos as the city starts to destroy itself through fear.

There are a lot of different voices in Lagoon, some only for one or two chapters. Normally I would find that confusing but here it worked well as it dropped into different people around Lagos to show events rather than having the main characters be everywhere and see everything. It did make it a bit hard to really connect with or care about any of the characters though as it’s a short book anyway and meant that even less time was spent on telling the main characters stories.

I loved the sci-fi side, there were a lot of fresh ideas that made this really interesting. There are African mythology and magic elements mixed in too, but I don’t know anything about African myths and these weren’t explained enough for them to make sense for me. They seemed to be added at random and not add anything to the main story. I’m also not sure why the main characters had powers, or why they were chosen by the aliens.

It’s very original and ambitious, and overall I enjoyed it. I liked the environmental / feminist / religious themes, but I think maybe there was just a bit too much in one book and I found it hard going at times to keep track of the main story. It’s difficult to get into, but I think it’s worth the effort for the fresh and modern perspective on sci-fi.

Lagoon
Nnedi Okorafor
Sci-Fi
April 10th 2014
Paperback
306

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling

Fledgling Blurb

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

My Review of Fledgling

FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shori looks like a normal human child but is actually a 53-year-old Ina, a vampire. The story is told through her eyes after she loses her memory and cannot remember who or what she is.

Shori is found and cared for by a human, but as they slowly realise what she is Shori starts trying to find her Ina family. This gives us as the reader a unique insight into the vampire community, Shori is one of them, but has to relearn everything about them, and we learn with her.

The Ina create strong families and communities. As an Ina Shori needs her human symbionts, she needs their closeness and their support.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the communal / shared partner way of living (I don’t like people, and sharing my life with one person is about as much as I can stand) but I like the different approach to vampire stories. It shows vampires as being capable of kindness and love for humans.

Shori has an intelligent, cold, analytical style which I enjoyed reading, and the whole story is quite serious, with no daftness in it.It makes a nice change from the normal over the top emotional vampire silliness!

I loved it at first, and the story built up a lot of momentum but then it kinda petered out towards the conclusion where it became quite slow.

It became what I felt was a discussion of race, prejudice, and moral values, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking, and the slower pace helped to digest it all.

This is one of the best vampire stories I’ve read and I’m excited about reading more of Octavia Butler’s books!

Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler
Fantasy
January 2nd 2007
320