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

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

stories for Punjabi widows

Description

Nikki is a modern young Punjabi woman, who has spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from her community and living an independent (read: western) life. But after the death of her father leaves her family in financial straits, she takes a job as a creative writing teacher for a group of aging widows at her temple and discovers that the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just a few greying hairs.

These are women who have lived in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands their whole lives, being dutiful, raising children and going to temple. They may not have a great grasp of English but what they do have is a wealth of stories and fantasies that they are no longer afraid to share with the other women in the group.

As Nikki realises that she must keep the illicit nature of the class secret from the Brothers—a group of highly conservative young men who have started policing the morals of the temple and the wider community—she starts to help these women voice their desires, and also begins to uncover the truth about the sudden recent death of a young Sikh woman.

My Review

Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nikki doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She quit her law degree and is now working in a pub. Looking for a way to earn a bit of money she takes a job to teach a storytelling class for widows at a temple in Southall.

At first, Nikki is dismissive of her students, expecting them to be dull and timid. She thinks that she can get them to tell stories that she can then create a book from – it felt almost as though she set out to exploit them.

She soon finds out that most of the women in the class don’t know how to read and write, and her job is actually to teach them. Not only that, her students were pushed into signing up and resent being taught as though they were children. They quickly hijack Nikki’s class, and turn it into the storytelling class it was meant to be, but with a twist. They want to tell erotic stories!

I found it hard to get into at first. A lot of characters are introduced, conversations wander, everything feels vague and the students are hard to tell apart from each other. Nikki feels bland and her personality doesn’t come across very strongly. Her class is quickly taken away from her and she is pushed around by her students and her work mates.

It settled down after the first 40% or so, and I found myself engrossed in the story. The students’ personalities start to emerge and I could see that they were a group of lively, smart women all with their own views on life. Their conversations were so funny! I loved reading their life stories.

The erotic stories are wonderful little gems dotted throughout the book. The widows say they can get away with telling them because they are forgotten and ignored by their community. No one pays them attention, they are expected to fade into the background.

Still, they have to keep what they are doing secret. A group of young men known as The Brother’s patrol the community watching the women to make sure they are behaving properly.

That brings in a darker theme to the book. Nikki’s boss at the temple Kulwinder starts to become suspicious of what they are doing in the class and they are in danger of being found out. And something has happened to Kulwinder’s daughter Maya that everyone keeps hinting at but no one will explain to Nikki.

At the end the pacing felt off again, everything happens in a rush. It’s all resolved very neatly, everything is tied up and ends happily. It’s positive and uplifting, but I don’t feel like it would actually happen. There’s a dark side to the book but the reality behind this feels pushed to one side in favour of a happy ending.

But at the same time, I do like that it ends positively. This is a warm and kindhearted book, I feel like Balli Kaur Jaswal really loves her characters and this shines through in her writing. The happy ending feels right for the book, and it certainly left me feeling happier!

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

View all my reviews

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Balli Kaur Jaswal
Fiction

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1)

the ninth rain

Book Description

Jen Williams, acclaimed author of The Copper Cat trilogy, featuring THE COPPER PROMISE, THE IRON GHOST and THE SILVER TIDE, returns with the first in a blistering new trilogy. ‘An original new voice in heroic fantasy’ Adrian Tchaikovsky

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall… 

My review of The Ninth Rain

The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy, #1)The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jen Williams has written a wonderful fantasy book here, with a cast of warm and lively characters.

Lady Vintage is a travelling scholar, researching the remains of what appear to be alien ships that crashed to earth in a failed invasion attempt. She has a strong and kind personality and she doesn’t let problems stop her, almost refusing to acknowledge them. Vintage is still mourning the loss of her Eboran friend (lover?) Nanathema who disappeared 20 years ago.

Tormalin is an Eboran who Lady Vintage has hired to help and protect her on her travels. Tormalin left his home in Ebora 50 years ago to escape the Crison Flux disease that is slowly killing his people.

Noon is a fell-witch, drawing on a life source she is able to summon green fire. Fell-witches are feared and hated and she has been locked in the Winnory prison since she was young. This is a horrible place that mistreats the women and houses in squalor while profiting from their witch talents.

The story and the world Jen Williams has created has some original and inventive ideas, making it stand out from the bog-standard fantasy norm. She has included some diverse characters too, and the women aren’t just damsels in distress but major players in the story.

There’s a lot to the story, but information and clues are fed to us slowly allowing us to build our own picture of the world and make guesses at what is happening. There are no big information dumps here!

While I liked the story, the characters are what make this book so enjoyable. Their relationships and banter are funny and intelligent and they all just sprang to life in my mind.

The magic, monster fighting and witches that fly on giant bats just make it even better!

The Ninth Rain for me is the book equivalent of a warm blanket and a big cup of tea or snuggling with my partner. It left me with a warm, happy feeling after reading it.

I’m not happy about having to wait for the next book. I had to go out yesterday and buy the first one of The Copper Cat series to keep me going.

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

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The Ninth Rain
The Winnowing Flame Trilogy
Jen Williams
Fantasy
February 23rd 2017
544