Book Review | Founder’s Mercy, Owen Lach

Goodreads Blurb:

The Bolvar Union provides everything a good citizen needs, only asking one thing in return: total devotion to the State. Teenage best friends Adan Testa and Bo Shen have other ideas. They plan an unlikely heist to earn their way over the wall, escaping Bolvar before serving their mandatory five years in the Bolvar Union Defense Force. But Adan doesn’t know he possesses a secret talent that no one has seen in the five centuries since the First Explorers colonized Neska. And when the Union discovers Adan’s hidden gift, they’ll do anything and everything they can to discover his secret. Even if it kills him.

Fans of Alex London’s Proxy or M.R. Carey’s Ramparts Trilogy won’t want to miss this engaging and inclusive sci-fi dystopian thriller.

My Thoughts:

Founder’s Mercy was such a fun read! I loved the concept of the dystopian future on the backdrop of past colonists to the planet with varying results. The alternating chapters switching between of the present day and the captain’s log from the first settlers of the planet made for an interesting read. Especially when I made connections between the information being revealed in the logs and the events of the novel’s chapters.

While the plot was gripping and exciting, I think my favourite thing about this novel were the characters. I loved following Adan and Bo in their bid to escape their constrictive lives under the thumb of ‘The Union’. A body of government that claims to have their citizen’s best interests at their focus, but it doesn’t always seem that way. The friendship between these two main characters was wonderful to read amongst the dark backdrop if the setting. The friendship itself was so genuine and caring. The other main supporting characters were all so interesting to read, and I loved learning more about them all and following their crazy journey.

There were some little things I found with this novel that I had a small issue with. These were things that didn’t take away from the plot too much but were noticeable to me as a fellow writer. I didn’t feel they affected the narrative voice much, but without them would have enhanced the work. I also found the romances to be a little rushed – they seemed to develop very quickly. I know this can happen (I’m not that cold hearted). I just felt that a little more time (timeline time) spent with the romances might have made them more believable to be. Don’t get me wrong, the relationships were sweet, and I am totally onboard and emotionally invested. No turning back now!

Something I really loved was the casual inclusion of pronouns within the character’s conversations when they introduced themselves. I also loved how Adan would use neutral pronouns for people he met until he knew for sure. This is something I would love to see more of in other novels.

Overall, I love how much fun this novel was to read. It had a high stakes plot, secrets and lies everywhere you look, and some exciting scenes to read. The romances were really sweet, and I loved all the characters and their depth. I recommend this for those who enjoy dystopian sci-fi with strong plotting and some really fun characters.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 22nd March 2022.

Book Review | Queer Body Power, Essie Dennis

Goodreads Blurb:

As a young, queer, plus-size person, Essie Dennis has spent a lot of time feeling like they weren’t enough – not queer enough, not feminine enough, not perfect enough. When they took to social media to share how they felt, they were overwhelmed by how many others felt the same.

I look too masculine to be non-binary
I look too feminine to be a lesbian
Am I too fat for drag?

Inviting you to challenge accepted beauty standards and the concept of ‘the perfect body’, Essie takes everything they have learned on their journey to self-acceptance and body satisfaction to help guide you towards loving your queer body. From gender, sexuality and reclaiming your body, through to food, politics, social media and fatphobia, this radical book starts a conversation about body image and mental health that queer people are so often left out of.

My Thoughts:

I really do feel that I read this book at the right time for me (not that I think there would ever a wrong time for me to read this). I have always had issues with my body – before I realised I was queer, and still now. While I have always had love and support from friends and family, I haven’t granted myself that same support and self-love. This book prompted to do some deep thinking on my own self-image and how my queerness is tangled with it, and how I haven’t been treating myself the way I should. This is something I really appreciate.

I found Queer Body Power to be really insightful and written in such a way that I didn’t feel I was being lectured. Essie Dennis has such a warm and friendly tone to the way that they write, it meant I didn’t feel like I was reading a ‘non-fiction’ book but that I was involved in a conversation. This conversational tone was really brought forward with the inclusion of stories from other queer people. Reading the range and diversity in the stories they had to tell added a depth to the book which I loved.

The exploration of how societal expectations to do with the concepts of femininity and masculinity can be harmful to one’s sense of self and body-image was so interesting to read. It really made me think about the way my presentation has been constantly changing, and how that change was possible reflective of a label I was trying to fit into at the time – however damaging the goal was to my physical and mental health. I loved the selection of focus chapters that they decided to explore. Especially those on gender roles, food, fatphobia, and fashion.

Queer Body Power is a book I think everyone should read at some point – queer or not. This book made me smile, it made me cry, and ultimately it made me think about my own body issues and their source. Thank you Essie Dennis for writing and putting together this honest, raw, and thought-provoking read.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 21st March 2022.

Book Review | City of Shattered Light, Claire Winn

Goodreads Blurb:

As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.

As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she’s more than her manipulative father’s shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue A.I. hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.

Gun-slinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs—until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.

Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The A.I. exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.

My Thoughts:

I picked this one up mostly because of the cover. Two badass ladies, what more could I want? Once I’d read the blurb I was sure I had to read it!

The pacing and writing of this novel was wonderfully done. I was invested from the first few pages. Both in the characters and their story. I really loved the dual narration from the main characters Asa and Riven, it made their dynamic a lot more interesting. I loved the snark and humour in the dialogue – both spoken, and internal from the narrators.

With this novel, Winn has created a vivid world for her characters to navigate through. I loved the atmosphere of Requiem with it’s dark and gritty atmosphere – especially with it lit up with the neon lights of that tech focused world. I especially liked seeing Requiem from Asa’s (the runaway’s) point of view, while she feels out of place, Riven thrives – and slowly, Asa starts to feel the same. Asa’s character development is something that I hope is explored further if a sequel is written.

I loved getting to know the characters in this book. They all had really interesting backstories which added to the mysteries. One thing I did find was that the two main characters seemed a lot more fleshed out than the others on the team, even though the other team members had just as much of a role to play as the two main characters Asa and Riven. I understand that as main characters, and the narrators if the story, Asa and Riven are bound to have a bit more too them, but not at the expense of other characters. Especially when they are all so wonderful. This is in no way a hard criticism of the characters and the way they were written, this just made it a little difficult for me to connect with them, though it in no way lessened my ability to get emotionally invested in the whole rag tag team. I am really looking forward to seeing more of the characters in future novels in this series.

One of my favourite parts within this novel is the sibling dynamics of various kinds that are displayed with different characters. The caring or protective aspects were really sweet to read which I loved. What I think I liked most though was the more chaotic energy that Asa and her sister emulated with their interactions. This was similar with Riven and her crew, which made this such a fun novel to read. The sort of “this idea is crazy but it’s your idea so I’ll do it anyway” energy that only siblings or really close friends can truly have. This really added to the whole found family feel of this novel.

I recommend this to lovers of the sci-fi genre who don’t want something too intense but still want it to be cleverly plotted and fast paced. If you’re looking for something with great characters, a well crafted plot, and plenty of found family/sibling dynamics then this is for you!

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 19th October 2021.

Book Review | Goddess of Limbo, Lea Falls

Goodreads Blurb:

Free will is a relic of the past. Souls have a prewritten path to heaven. If they miss it, they are doomed to roam the lost realm of limbo as splinters of their former selves or worse—as demons.

Their only hope is the reaper Alames, whose own soul shattered when her celestial lover, Balthos, usurped their creators to make them gods. In her absence, he builds a pantheon of monsters and tricks the mortals, whom he blames for his grief, into worshiping him. But when a new generation defies Balthos’s law, Alames’s splinters appear among them.

Brilliant physicist Ally longs for progress and innovation, but the Council controlling her nation strips the “Mad Princess” of power. Pregnant and uncertain, the unrivaled Captain Se’azana abandons her career for the false promises of love. The starving serf Richard makes a deal with a Fae demon to save his son. And teenage rebel Vana trades her guitar for a blade when faced with ruthless nobility.

When worlds tear and hearts break, will they defy the gods’ narrative to create a brighter future or will they obey the lies preached and doom their souls forever?

My Thoughts:

To start off, this was an incredible read. There are so many things that I loved about it that I am not really sure where to start – especially with the size of the novel itself. I read this one on my Kindle and so I couldn’t quite fathom the length of this book until I was adding it to my Goodreads lists and saw the page count (an amazing 670 pages). I tend to be more wary of longer books now, worried that my attention will drift, and that I am more likely to lose interest. However, after reading the description for the book I had a feeling this novel would be for me, and I was right. Having read Goddess of Limbo I am reminded of why I used to love books of this nature so much. I loved being able to spend as much time as possible in the world that Lea Falls has created and getting to know the characters that exist within it.

The world building in Goddess of Limbo is so detailed, and beautifully crafted. I can tell that Falls spent a lot of time researching as well as mapping out the world’s law. It was definitely worth persevering with. It is difficult to explain the way that a fictional world works without info dumping, and Falls does a wonderful job of integrating the facts of the world without just explaining the history in bulk. In saying that, the history covered early on in the novel, I did find it a little difficult to follow at first, but the further I read, the more I understood. I didn’t feel that this took away from the novel itself. I can sometimes find it difficult to situate myself in a fantasy world as I connect more with characters to start off. With the rapidly changing narrative points of view early on it took a bit more time.

This novel has a wonderful collection of diverse characters. Each character felt so real to me, as while they all had their own positive traits and achievements, they all had their own flaws which made them tangible within the words that created them. I loved the relationships within the novel, they were beautifully messy at times, and some managed to break my heart – romantic and friendships alike. Each PoV character had a beautifully distinct voice, which I loved, making the change of narration at each chapter something to anticipate each time. With ten PoV characters I first thought it might be difficult to keep track of each story line, but the stories intersected beautifully so to draw the focus to the main plot. I’m not sure I could choose a favourite character, I love them all too much – though Robert, Subira, Zazil, and Martín stole my heart completely.

There is something beautiful about the way that Falls writes. She drew me in, slowly at first, but then managed to hook me when I least expected it, and after that I couldn’t put the book down (quite literally – I was reading on my breaks at work, and even after my 1am work shift finish). The various story threads all joined for the epic final battle in the most marvellous way. I was exclaiming and audibly gasping throughout the last few chapters, not quite able to contain my stress for the characters. I have to say Falls can definitely craft a big revelation. There’s a certain chapter (that I won’t reveal – for spoilers) that had me close the cover on my Kindle and have to take a few deep breaths. I got it partially right because I saw the clues, which I am happy about, but just interpreted them sort of incorrectly – which made the reveal that much more surprising. I cannot wait to do a reread so I can find all the clues again, and possibly more.

I am so happy that I came across this novel when I did. Not only is it a carefully crafted epic fantasy, but it is an epic fantasy with a diverse cast of characters. The representation in this novel is what I think all fantasy should have. I think for me, this is part of the reason I could get so into this book – I saw myself in more than just the one character. The first time I read they/them pronouns being used I think I may have cried a little from happiness, the queer relationships and characters brought a wide smile to my face, and I really just want to thank Lea Falls for that. I am really looking forward to any sequels that are written and will devour them just as I have Goddess of Limbo.

I highly recommend this to lovers of long, epic dark fantasy; and to those who want to read about wonderfully real characters in a detailed and creative world. This is a story of underdogs fighting for what they believe is right in a world that doesn’t always work in their favour. It is a story of love, loss, and hope, and of a fight worth fighting – whatever you are fighting for.

Please Note: There are a lot of trigger warnings and content warnings for this novel which I think would be useful to read through if you are wanting to read this book. You can find the full list on Lea Falls’ website, here.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy), I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 14th October 2021.

Book Review | A Lady Who Looks Good When She’s Crying, Dan Ackerman

Goodreads Blurb:

Angels shouldn’t pal around with demons, especially not ones they’ve been sent to assassinate. They shouldn’t work with them or cook them dinner, or strike a deal with the Devil for them either. Sunshine probably isn’t a very good angel.

The demon in question is Felix Specter. He’s forgiven Sunshine for stabbing him all those years ago. He’s got a lot on his plate: a curse, his mental health, and a questionable love life. Finding out Sunshine owes the Devil a few favors doesn’t help. Neither did that kiss, not that Felix will talk about it anyway.

On top of everything else, Sunshine and Specter have a case to solve. They handle issues that human detectives can’t, like monsters in the sewer, mages doing illegal charms, and runaway witches. But they’ve always dealt with anything the city has to offer. Would could be different this time?

My Thoughts:

I am so glad I was able to get an eARC for this novel, as I might not have found it otherwise, and I am so glad I did. I love a mystery novel, and this, even better, is a genre mixing mystery. With a detective agency, a cast of great, both human and non-human characters in a world much like our own but with magic and a magical community.

Beyond being a mystery novel, this novel is a slow burning romance between the two MCs Sunshine (the angel) and Felix (the demon). When I say slow burn, I mean slow burn. This is a relationship that started as a rivalry of sorts thousands of years before the events of the novel. It is wonderfully written – Ackerman has a wonderful way with words. Their use of language to bring these characters and their relationship to life was both beautiful, and in places, heartbreaking.

The romance storyline I found to be woven nicely into the mystery plot. Neither taking away from the main goal of the story or overtaking the whole story all together. Which is something I love in these sorts of mixed genre novels.

While for the most part, the story ran smoothly, weaving between the mystery, the romance, and the magic of it all, the conclusion to the mystery plots seemed to arrive too close to the end of the story. So it felt like everything was wrapped up quite abruptly, which threw me off a little.

I did notice a few, seemingly purposeful, loose ends which hadn’t been tied up. So I am looking forward to what I believe will be another installment (or two) in the Sunshine and Specter series where those losses ends will end up.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Supposed Crimes who sent me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review. This title will published 1st August 2021.