What I read – November 2015

In this week’s video I’m talking about all the lovely things I read in November. You can watch the video below or keep scrolling to read the text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gAcr9u3dftM


Lets work from least favourite to favourite so I can work my way up to the serious levels of emotion I’m going need at the end!


 

darkforestTo begin we have The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu.

I was super excited to get to this book – it was in my priority TBR for the end of the year, I’d been told it was even more amazing than the rather excellent first book in the series The Three Body Problem – and I couldn’t read it. Seriously.

I do not know what is up with the writing style in this book but it is jarring as hell and just unpleasant to read. Maybe it was down to a change in the writing style from books 1 to 2 in the original Chinese version or maybe it’s to do with the changed translator but reading this made me sad. Somebody please tell me what’s going on with this. I swear it’s not just me.


 

House of Shattered Wings - cover The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard.

The story is set in a fantastical version of Paris where fallen angels waged a huge war destroying most of the city. The war is over but the factions remain locked in elaborately polite political power games and the dark deeds of the past are emerging to haunt the angelic houses and destroy everything the hold dear.

You can read my full review in an earlier post:

Room to Grow Into| Review of The House of Shattered Wings 


 

theawesome The Awesome by Eva Darrows is all about Maggie, a seventeen year old apprentice monster hunter in a world where all the supernatural beasties have come out of the proverbial closet.

Maggie is badass and awesome, or at least according to Maggie she is. The only problem is that Maggie is stuck being an apprentice until she can rid herself of her rather pesky virginity. So now Maggie has to negotiate the rather trickier world of social skills and dating all the while dealing with ghosts, and zombies, and monsters, oh my.

It’s hilarious, honestly I was laughing out loud within a couple of pages. Maggie is the narrator so we see the world through her eyes and it’s a gloriously uncomfortable experience that had me squirming in cringey delight at the memories of my far less awesome teenage self. It’s not perfect, there were a few moments where I felt some of the language was a bit problematic, but it was largely delightful, romping fun.


 

traitorbarucormorantThe Traitor Baru Cormorant by Set Dickinson

Well damn me. This was clever, cunning, and dark as hell.

It tells of Baru Cormorant whose homeland is invaded when she is a child. She swears to revenge herself on the empire that destroys her country’s way of life but chooses to do this by working her way into a position of power. In order to gain this trust and power Baru is faced with a life of betrayals and lies to her family, her country and to herself.

You can read my full review in an earlier post:

It hurts so good… | Review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant


 

Long Way to a Small Angry PlanetAnd finally came The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book is about the crew of a small spacecraft on a long journey. That’s it. And well, I’ve already done a separate review post and I’ll be putting out another review video for this one (extended review) but here’s the the short version of that:

I LOVE IT. IT IS AMAZING. IT IS THE NICEST SWEETEST BOOK ON EARTH AND ALL MUST READ IT.

You can read my short review in an earlier post:

Love Wins | Thoughts on A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet


 

 

And that’s it for November. What did you read last month?  I’m off to keep reading my December reads starting with His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

 

hisdarkmaterials

Keep reading, sugarplum.
x

Baking cake, talking books (Book Cake Tag)

In today’s video I’m baking a book cake!

The idea is to pick books that fit characteristics assigned to each ingredient. I took it a bit further and decided to bake some real cake whilst talking about the books. So if you want to see the baking you’re going to have watch the video. If you just want to read about my book picks and/or see the recipe then skip over the video and keep reading (recipe at the end)!

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ARJ3hWK9r5M


Flour: Slow to start but that really picked up later!

A confederacy of duncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a literary fiction novel that I found really baffling and hard to read at first but then rapidly got sucked in to the wonderous whirlpool of ridiculous horror that is Ignatius J. Reilly’s life and thoughts. It’s a tragicomic tale of wrathful, slothful, ranting behemoth of a man that is truly artful in the telling.

After a life self-indulgent idleness and never-ending study Ignatius suddenly finds himself in the awful position of need to get that most dreadful of things – a job. His (mis)adventures are filled with the beautifully-drawn oddities of New Orleans life and Ignatius is the man you will LOVE to hate; selfish, domineering, and deluded, tragic and comic and larger than life.


Margarine: a rich plot!

His Dark MaterialsHis Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is a a fantasy trilogy like no other. It’s a rich, detailed and marvellously imagined story set across parallel worlds. Epic in scale it combines spellbinding adventure and beautiful writing to create one of the most enduring stories I’ve ever read. 

It tells the tale of Lila and Will, two children in very different versions of Oxford who each find themselves caught up in a web of deception and danger as the old powers of religion and science clash across the multi-verse. It  features armoured polar bears, magical objects, arctic prisons, dying angels, witches and daemons. And to top it off it’s also an audacious and profound re-imagining of Milton’s Paradise Lost. How can you resist?

If you are thinking of reading it soon then why not join me? I’ll be taking part in a readalong of these books in December. It’s being led by author and booktuber, Jen Campbell, along with Holly from the YouTube channel Library at the Edge of the World.

JOIN US…..? 😡

never join - star wars gif

Damn you Skywalker


 

Eggs – assumed it was bad but actually enjoyable!

Goblin Emperor coverI was really reluctant to pick up The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison despite the fact that I heard nothing but glowing reviews for it. I’d be bouncing off a lot of epic fantasy at the time, I think I was a bit done with a lot of the genre tropes and somehow I just felt like this just wasn’t going to be my cup of tea.

HOW WRONG I WAS!

It’s the story of a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


 

Sugar – a sweet story!

Making of a MarchionessThe Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett tells the story of thirty-something Emily who lives alone, humbly and happily, in a tiny apartment and on a meager income. She’s the one that everyone counts on but no one notices iuntil, in true Cinderella-like glory, she meets the a Marquis and he falls in love with her – just as she is. Plus then there’s a whole murder mystery section and our new Marchioness turns out to be a stone-cold badass! (You may think I am kidding at this point but I am so not. It’s half love story, half deadly intrigue!)

It’s the sweetest, most adorably lovely love story in the world. If you’ve ever read A Little Princess then think of that but for adults. Because it’s literally that – same author!


Icing – everything you enjoy in a book

Ancillary JusticeThere is no other book I could pick. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is my all-time favourite book for a reason. It’s part epic space opera, part intimately written tale of grief and loss. And part adventure, part domestic, part ode to song, part everything.

Broken down to it’s simplest plot it is the story of a warship trapped in a human body and her search for revenge. Formerly the vast troop carrier, Justice of Toren, now simply Breq – a grieving ancillary who we follow as she seeks for a weapon that can destroy her master.  Along the way we learn of her past life and the haunting events that led up to destructive present.

I’m really bad a writing a synopsis of this book. It is beautiful and haunting and clever. It has dramatic and adventure, gorgeous writing, and will make you question the concept of gender to boot.


 

Sprinkles – a pick me up!

darling buds of mayThe Pop Larkin Chronicles by H.E. Bates are a series of novels which started with The Darling Buds of May. They are a gorgeous romping masterpiece about the joys of living, of love, laughter, family, sex, food, fun and friendship. It starts with the Larkin family arriving home at their idyllic farmstead to find a young man waiting in the yard. He’s the tax inspector and has a few questions for Pop. Instead of answers, Charley-boy soon finds himself one of the family enjoying endless delicious dinners, drinks, sunshine, and life with beautiful Mariette.

It is a joyous series and cannot fail to transport you away from even the greyest days and into the warm fields of an English summer evening.

 


Cherry on top – favourite book of the year

Female Man book coverThe Female Man by Joanna Russ is one of the great classics of science fiction and earlier this year it blew my tiny mind.

It tells us of four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other’s worlds each woman’s preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged.

Written in the 1970s you see the gender roles of the time and marvel at their strange and awful imbalance. And then it becomes achingly familiar and fills you with a rage that we’re still, STILL, dealing with this shit forty years later. The writing is unbelievably good, like freaking genius levels good. It burns like lines of fire in my heart, good. READ ITTTTTTTTTT.


 

Recipe: Vegan Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

Cakes

Ingredients – cake

    • 1 cup soymilk
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar ( or white vinegar)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup roughly chopped Oreos (chop and then measure)
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder ( Dutch processed or regular)
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Line muffin pan with baking cups (paper or foil).
  3. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside to curdle. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla to the soy mixture and beat until frothy.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining dry ingredients.
  5. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches beating until smooth, with no large lumps remaining.
  6. Pour the batter into prepared baking cups, filling them to three quarters full.
  7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  8. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Ingredients – decoration

  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer
  • 8 Oreos, finely chopped
  • More Oreos for decoration

Instructions

  1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and soy milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Finely chop about 6 Oreos and mix into the frosting.
  4. Frost the cupcakes generously, sprinkle with remaining Oreo crumbs, top with half a cookie.

What I Read – October 2015

Hello lovely humans, today I’m going to be talking about all the things I read in October which I am still failing to believe is already over. Like the hell, when did that happen? As ever you can watch the video or skip ahead to read a text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/adx2Dd2yakI

In October I finished three books and two graphic novels which doesn’t sound like much but I’ve been rather ill for the last half of the month so I’m quite pleased with it. If you don’t follow me on twitter you may not already know that I’ve had labyrinthitis for about two weeks. It was entirely not fun but I seem to be all better so Awoohoo.


Goblin Emperor cover

First of my reads was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This is a fantasy book about a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage.

It follows him from the discovery of his new position into the first few months of his reign as he come to terms with the memory of a father who didn’t love him, a government that doesn’t believe in him, and court of nobles about as easy to understand or trust as a nest of snakes.
I’ve become so used to fantasy books that are all violence and betrayal and general awfulness. Even when there’s romance or triumph in the end the main thrust is always a protagonist at odds with everyone, misunderstood or downtrodden or alone. And I kept expecting that and it never happened. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


 

Lock In by ScalziThen came Lock In by John Scalzi, a total change of pace to a fast-reading detective story set in a future where a percentage of the population are locked in their bodies because of a disease but are able to operate in the world by using future neural technologies that allow them to control other human bodies, with agreement, or human shaped robots knowns as threeps.
Our protagonist is a Haden starting his first day as an FBI agent and he’s thrown into a mystery that starts with a murder where the suspect claims to have been under the control of another and then gets way more complicated and dangerous when the murder starts linking to a much wider plot of corporate intrigue and somebody hacking the neural technology to take control of people’s minds.
Like all of Scalzi’s books this was a fun read, his writing is consistently good and damn readable. It’s a simple classic detective story with ideas about internet security and privacy and personal integrity and control all woven into a great future concept. It’s not going to blow you away with its complex literary ideas but that is so not the point. It’s damn good at what it wants to be.


 

Ancillary MercyAnd then, and then, oh my goodness, then came Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. This is third and final book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and I am both happy and sad to have read it. It’s really impossible to tell you any of the plot without totally ruining the first book but I will tell you that it was a wonderful ending to the series. As a whole they have blown me away.

Leckie has a way of creating characters and worlds that you come to know intimately and that reach far beyond the story that takes place on the pages. It was a relatively neat ending which was not necessarily what I expected but worked in that there was clearly more to come that we won’t ever see.

And that’s the magic of these books – there’s a huge universe of cultures and politics and ideas and people that we learn about and are inspired by and it’s just a taster of the many stories in that universe, it’s a beginning, even though this is the end. Goddamn it’s like Harry Potter all over again. I can’t cope.

Mourning the book

If you want to get schooled in elegant writing that can confront social and ethical issues with grace, and give you all the emotions about spaceships then read these books immediately.


 

Saga Vol. 5And the first of my two graphic novels was Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples – the continuing epic which continues to be epic. The art is still lovely, still inspires moments of laugh out loud holy shit am I glad I’m not reading this in public like I did that one time because ohmygod that’s a big picture of a….lizard. I still really like it but I can’t deal with having my stories broken up so much. I need to know what happens.


 

 

Sex CriminalsAnd then for continued not to be read in public enjoyment there was Sex Criminal Volume 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. This is the story of a young woman for whom time stops after she orgasms. And then one day she meets a man for whom the same thing happens and they decided to use this amazing superpower to rob banks. Because of course. It is witty and clever and so so funny. The creators have obviously just taken these ideas of what you might do in that situation and when that situation might come up and it’s just cringingly, hilariously awful and yet amazing and sweet. Definitely worth a read – if you’re over 18.


 

And that’s it, that’s all she read! Thanks for reading.

Scandalous Gothic Classics for Halloween

Hello lovely humans. It’s late October which means Halloween which means it’s time to read some spooky spine-tingling scary stories.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GEzLKNdrmM8

Did you know that the spooky has also been tied up, shall we say, with the sexy for oh so many years. So today prepare your loins to be aquiver as I tell you of some shocking gothic classics from the 18th and 19th centuries. Beware my children these stories contain vampires, and ghosts, and monsters – oh my.

anticipation


 

The Monk by Matthew LewisFirst off is The Monk: A Memoir by Matthew Lewis. Not the most promising naughty title I’ll grant you but this little ditty from 1796 is amazeballs. Lewis was 19 when he wrote it and well it’s like a 19 year old’s dirty movie of ridiculous gothic silliness and death. It was scandalous when it came out. Mostly because fornicating nuns. Seriously.
Everyone has fantastic tragic backstories, there are secret pregnancies, mysteries prophecies, everyone is shagging everyone else, and everyone and everything is awful. Somehow it all makes sense at the time like the most insane soap opera populated by nuns and the cast of The Borgias. Yeaaaaaas. You will love it.


 

Carmilla by J Sheridan Le FanuAnd then comes Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu. Who just has the best name. It’s from the 1870s and it’s about a young beautiful girl called Carmilla who because of dramatic circumstances comes to stay at the secluded house of an English gentleman and his pretty innocent daughter Laura.

Laura and Carmilla become desperately, passionately just good friends. And then Laura starts having the strangest dreams and Carmilla really does have palest skin, and the reddest lips. And what could possibly be going on?

Plus the it’s really short, available to read for free online, and the YouTube adaptation that came out last year is simply marvellous.


 

The Great God Pan by Arthur MachenAnd to, erm, finish us off may I suggest The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen from 1897. Machen isn’t hugely well known but he’s incredibly influential in the horror genre. he was one of the biggest inspirations for H.P. Lovecraft’s whole schtick, and Stephen King is huge fan.

It tells of weird science done on a dark dark night where an old god is called down onto the body of an innocent(ish) woman who nine months later gives birth to a girl. And then the horror begins as a beautiful girl grows up and tempts and corrupts and terrifies those around her.

I mean, a woman who likes sex?! How can such a monstrous creature be defeated? Read this book to find out.


And there you have it. A few suggestions for a shiveringly good time this Halloween. What are you going to be reading on that dark dark night? I know what my plans are!

EJ at home

My glamorous life: watching youtube, eating crisps!

Author Spotlight | Isaac Asimov

Hello lovely humans! Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the books of one particular author – this week I’ll be focusing on Isaac Asimov. So I’ll give a bit of an outline of his life and then tell you about my favourite books by him.

If you’d rather read a text version then skip below the video and get started.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/nlTUQYX8Pb4 


Isaac AsimovIsaac Asimov, for anyone who hasn’t heard of him, is probably one of science fiction’s best known authors. He was incredibly prolific, writing, editing or contributing to over 500 books in his 72 years. Seriously, just check out his wikipedia bibliography pages! It’s kind of scary!

But there’s no need to be scared! Lots of Asimov’s works are very accessible and readable even to those who aren’t familiar with science fiction. He was one of the first science fiction authors I read as a kid and I was hooked immediately.

He was born in 1920 in Russia to a Jewish family though he himself was a renowned humanist throughout most his life. His family immigrated to America in 1923 and as a kid he read and loved the pulp fiction magazines that were super popular at the time and began writing his own stories at a really young age. He published his first short story at 19 and basically never stopped after that point! He also studied biochemistry at Columbia and went on to become a professor at Boston University. So he was a real deal scientist. He wrote a lot of popular science books as well as fiction.


 

So now onto my favourite works of his Like I said before Asimov was one of the first science fiction writers I read as it was the Foundation series that I picked up.

Foundation by Isaac AsimovThe first book, Foundation, begins in the centre of a vast galactic empire where a genius mathematician called Hari Seldon uses incredibly complex statistics and things to predict the future of humanity. He says that the empire is going to crumble and when it does it will bring a sort intellectual dark ages as planets are cut off from learning and knowledge. He persuades the empire to establish two colonies of humans at the far flung edges of the galaxy who will work to preserve the knowledge of civilisation and reduce the period of the dark age to a little as possible.

Of course it turns out to be far more complicated and devious than that and we get to watch the Foundation planet fight to survive the turbulent political upheavals of the following decades. It’s fascinating and fun and there’s spaceships and cunning plots and clever people winning the day.


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation series is still beloved amongst many science fiction fans though it hasn’t got the popular cultural impact of my other favourite the Robot stories.

 

I, Robot, the most famous of these, is a collection of some of the many Robot short stories that together tell the tale of a fictional history of robotics and how robots and humans have interacted. It deals with ideas of morality and intelligence and how we interact with non-human entities. A fair few focus on how we as humans can understand what robots think or how they think and he invented the term robotics (not robot, that came earlier) and set out the Three Laws of Robotics that are still familiar to us today.


 

The End of Eternity by Isaac AsimovAnother of his books that I think is totally great is The End of Eternity. In this Asimov deals with the concept of time travel. The protagonist Harlan is time-engineer who works in a place called The Eternity. It’s separated from the rest of time and the people who work there move up and down the timeline to adjust what happens at different points to try and minimise human suffering over all history. The problem is that Harlan falls in love with a woman from a particular time period and takes her out of it. It turns out that she’s not really what she pretends to be and that the entire process of adjusting time to reduce suffering is not a beneficial or benevolent as the Eternity engineers have been led to believe.


 

Now I can’t be totally positive about Asimov – he had his flaws just like all of us. The main issue is his treatment of women in his books. In some they are lacking completely and in other they are portrayed as crappy dated stereotypes. He did get better as he got older and this treatment of female characters was fairly par for the course for a lot of sci-fi written at the time but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point it out. It also doesn’t make his books totally bad. It is perfectly possible to love something and find it problematic at the same time.

And I do love his writing. There’s a common theme in most of Asimov’s books which is the importance of knowledge and wisdom but also of the potential perils of cleverness and information without emotion and morality. He’s held up for his hard science fiction based in his real knowledge of science but actually what I always find makes me love his work is his exploration of how science interacts with these more human qualities. Family, love, compassion, understanding, thinking beyond our own achievements toward the betterment of society and future generations. Asimov balances these two areas and brings them together to make really readable fiction.

Thanks for reading!

A queer rainbow TBR

rainbow rocketI decided very last minute to join in with the #rainbowthon readathon that’s happening on booktube this week (15th-2s1t June). The basic idea is to read 4-6 books that are the colours of the rainbow (some books can serve for two colours). I decided to put a twist on it and make my rainbow book a pride rainbow and put together a TBR of queer SFF reads. Double the rainbow for your money!

 


Red

Darker Shade of Magic coverA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is my choice for red. The book centres around Kell, one of the last Travellers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. Grey London is ruled by mad King George and has no magic. Red London reveres magic and Kell is raised with the prince himself. White London is a land of intrigue and murder where magic fights its users. And once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now….

The book features a canonically bisexual character which is rare enough to make me squee with joy when I discover such a thing.


 

Orange

Infidel book coverInfidel by Kameron Hurley is the second book in the Bel Dame series following Nyx Nissa a government assassin turned bounty hunter living in a world divided by a centuries long war. The world that Hurley has created in this series is brutal, dark, horribly believable, and wonderfully readable. Nyx is bisexual in the books and Hurley also identifies herself as ‘not the straightest arrow in the quiver’.  One of my favourite writers of the moment, her strongly spoken views on feminism, ethics, publishing, and more are always worth reading.


 

Yellow & Green 

Babel-17 cover

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany is my pick for yellow and green. Samuel Delany is one of the great masters of science fiction and is gay. Babel-17 is set in a distant future where humanity hes begun receiving strange communications from an alien race. It’s all about the power of language, (mis)communication, and understanding. One of those been-meaning-to-read-it-forever books!

 


 

Blue

Lightspeed QDSF coverLightspeed: Queers Destroy Science Fiction is a bumper-sized special edition of Lightspeed magazine that I help kickstart a few months ago. It’s been entirely written and edited by queer creators and is filled with original short fiction, flash fiction, and non-fiction essays that encompass a great swathe of the QUILTBAG spectrum. I may have sneakily already started this one and, let me tell you, it’s fantastic.


 

Purple

Heiresses of Russ coverHeiresses of Russ 2014 by Melissa Scott and Steve Berman (eds.) is an anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. It includes eighteen stories that vary from shapeshifting sidekicks to magical fertility rites to the delayed gratification of soulmate countdowns. The thing I like the most about the descriptions is that it promises that the women in this books “will find themselves tested not because of their sexual identity but rather the identity they have composed, constructed, and spun”.


 

And there you have it – a double rainbow of pride month fabulousness. Long may it shine.

rainbow rocket

7 Thrilling Adventure Novels (for a rip-roaring good time)

Hello lovely humans. This week’s video was all about adventure novels! I recently read Harry Harrison’s Deathworld, a ridiculous but also ridiculously fun, science fiction book about a mysteriously murderous planet. It reminded me of how much I really enjoy an uncomplicated bit of thrilling adventure time and so I wanted to recommend great adventures to read when you also need some thrills, spills and chills. Watch the video or read on for the extended text version.


Cover of Love and Romanpunk

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts is a collection of short stories that shows us the monstrous secrets of an ancient Roman family and the line of hunters who must chase them down through history. The stories stretch from a 1st century AD bestiary all the way up a fight to death aboard an airship in future Australia. Pure good fun. You may never think about Mary Shelley in quite the same way ever again.


Cover of Old Man's War

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is a fantastic military science fiction adventure. In a distant future humanity squabbles with alien races to populate the few habitable planets and so the Colonial Defence Force recruits soldiers from Earth to help the cause. But the CDF don’t want young people, they recruit you on your 75th birthday. How it works nobody knows but our protagonist signs up and begins his military career and the adventure of a new lifetime. Lot’s of tension, lots of excitement, and if you like it there’s a whole bunch more in the series.


 

lovelace and babbage coverThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua pretty much chose itself for this list. It’s a graphic novel about Charles Babbage who invented one of the early forerunners of modern computers, The Analytical Engine, and Ada Lovelace who basically invented coding. Starting with the very true story of their lives it then pops us over into a pocket parallel universe where Lovelace and Babbage use their giant steam powered computer to fight crime and have adventures. As is only right and good. Possibly the most perfect book ever.


Hundred Thousand cover

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison is about a young woman, Yeine, who is, to her shock, named as the heir to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. But this is a kingdom whose power comes from their control of gods whom they enslaved in the distant past. Yeine struggles in the treacherous environment of the castle – making dangerous deals with the strange gods and fighting to stay alive in the political power struggle for control of the kingdom. Surprising, tense, and thoroughly enjoyable.


 

Enter the Saint coverThe Saint books by Leslie Charteris are some of my favourite old fashioned adventures. The series started back in the 1920s following Simon Templar, a vigilante better known by his alias The Saint. He steals from criminals and he does it in style. This is James Bond before James Bond was invented. Perfect tailoring, car chases, fisticuffs, x marks the spot, and few detours to fight the nazis. Forget James Bond, forget Robin Hood, meet The Saint.


 

Rat Queens #1 coverRat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe is a comic book graphic novel series about a gang of hard drinking, bad-ass mercenary adventurers in a fantasy world full of dark elves, vampires, trolls, and evil squid gods. Not one for the kids, the Rat Queens must fight to save themselves from being banished and then to save their town from the mysterious evil forces threatening it with, well, evil. Hilarious, irreverent, and deliciously violent.


 

Throne of the Crescent Moon coverThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a fantasy adventure following an old ghoul-hunter, Adoulla Makhslood, who just wants a quiet life and a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately he’s kind of sucked into a huge adventure as a series of supernatural murders spread across his city. As Adoulla and his assistants discover terrible political connections to these unearthly killings their lives and lives of the entire kingdom are suddenly at risk. If you like your cup of tea with a side order of blood and magic then this the book for you.


 

So those are some of my favourite books to go to for some pure fun adventure time. What are yours? I’d love to know.

BooktubeSFF Awards Announcement

A couple of months ago an idle conversation on twitter led to an idea, which led to some emails being exchanged, which led to some organising, which led to…this.

The BooktubeSFF Awards!

We want to know which SFF books the booktube community loves and so we’re starting our awards. Because why not?!

This year the awards are being run by me, Nicole, Lindsey, Thomas, & Kaitlin.

Categories:

  • Best Novel
  • Best YA Novel
  • Best short work
  • Best graphic work

Timeline:

  • June 1st-30th: Nominations are open – fill in your choices on the nominations form.
  • July: Shortlist of 3 per category are calculated from nominations.
  • August-October: Readalongs for all items in the shortlist.
  • November: Winners announced in a glittering and wonderous liveshow.

For more information about eligibility criteria, timelines, rules and so on you should check out the BooktubeSFF Awards site and there’s also a goodreads group where we’ll be running the read along and where you can ask any questions. Also feel free to bug us on twitter or whatever – we’re all there!

Now just go and vote!

 

 

March Reads – Mini Reviews

Hello lovely humans. This week’s video/blogpost is a roundup of all the amazing things I read this month, and there were some seriously amazing things! As ever you can find a readable version below.


Female Factory coverThe Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter.

A collection of short stories all themed around ideas of reproduction and the female body and the ways these are controlled, taken apart, and constructed by people around them. It is gloriously weird and gothic.

Some stories are more fantastical like that of the shape changing rebirth in the billabong, some are more science fiction like the future where only a few women have the ability to bear children but can do so many at a time, and some blur that boundary between genres like the workhouse children desperate for a mother who try to build one for themselves. Something in each story feels very familiar despite their fantastical nature giving them a little hook back to real life that leaves you wondering, worrying, waiting for it all to come true.

4.5/5 


 

God's War coverGod’s War by Kameron Hurley

This is the first book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy but it stands very well on its own. And dear god I am in love with this world. And it’s not even the kind of world I would normally love.

It tells the tale of Nyx Nissa a government assassin turned bounty hunter living in a world divided by a centuries long war. It’s brutal and dark and nasty but so amazingly imagined that I couldn’t stop reading.

All technology is based around insects which is at once gruesome and amazing, the society is based around Islam which was so refreshingly different to see, and the cultures are female dominated which just felt so cool but wasn’t at all nice. The characters themselves are unpleasant but very human and actually horribly understandable.

 5 out 5 stars


 

Lagoon cover imageLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

My copy of this book is covered with a veritable explosion of post-it notes because it made my brain very excited.

The story is told from multiple points of view but centres around three people who are all in the same place in Lagos when aliens arrive. But this is not your average first contact story. The aliens are just the beginning.

This is a blending of science fiction and fantasy and fairy tales and mythology and urban legends and media reporting and every other way that we tell stories.

If you’ve ever read Angela Carter especially Nights at the Circus then imagine that but updated, moved to Nigeria, and with aliens. It’s uncanny and unsettling and makes you want to know more about Nigeria and Lagos and the rich world of stories that you might not be so familiar with.

5 out 5 stars


 

Saga #1 cover imageSaga by Brain K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

A couple of weeks ago I asked you all for graphic novel recommendations and that’s what I’ve been reading since then. So my very first one was Saga by Brain K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Everyone seemed to love this so I figured it was worth a go though I’m always dubious about hype.

Totally worth it guys. It is actually really really good. The story and the characters are so clever, the art work was lovely, and the way the story is told is very easy to get into even if you’re not so familiar with the way comics read which, y’know , I’m not.

4.5 out 5 stars


Rat Queens #1 coverRat Queens by Kurtis Weibe and Roc Upchurch

So that was a good start but I’m a dubious person I was not expecting the next thing to also be amazing and perfect.

I was so wrong. So wrong wrong. Because Rat Queens is….I just love it. I feel like it’s everything I was subsconciously asking for in media and someone’s just given it to me in comic form. SO GOOD.

The story followss an all female gang/adventuring group of mercenaries in a fantastical world with orcs and dwarves and and elves and giant squid-gods and magic mushrooms and sarcasm. It’s basically Discworld with more girls. I feel like Violet might be my cosplay destiny and all-around bro.  Can’t wait for the next one.

5 GIANT STARS


 

the wicked + the divine coverThe Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

The premise of The Wicked + The Divine is that, every ninety years, twelve gods from across human history come to earth and inhabit the bodies of teenagers. They quickly become inspirational, famous, and notorious figures – celebrities, actors, and popstars in the current cycle. But within two years every teen is dead and the cycle continues on for another ninety years.

The artwork is completely gorgeous but I was a little bit squicked by the ‘live fast die young leave a beautiful corpse premise’. It’s very macabre: worshipping the cult of youth, and the perfect dead celebrity, tokens of our messed up society. But actually this weirdness, wrongness, was explored eventually which made the whole thing a lot more interesting.

4 out 5 stars


 

Serenity coverSerenity: Those Left Behind

This is the first of the Firefly graphic novels continuing on from the TV series. Whilst it was fun to return to that world, and the dialogue and story felt true to that, the artwork just was really varied and just couldn’t live up to comparison with memories of the actual people that were meant to be depicted. Fun but not something I’ll be continuing.

 3 out of 5 stars

 

 


 

So that’s been by reading month for March a varied but extremely good month overall!

And a huge thank you to those who recommended things for my first graphic novel explorations. I couldn’t have asked for a better start!

Love and rockets
EJ
x

Discworld Reading Order

This week’s video is a tribute to the late, and very great, Terry Pratchett. It’s my own special answer to the question ‘where should I get started with Discworld?’.

I’ve included the lyrics below the video if you want to avoid my singing. I still cannot believe I did this despite hating musicals and not being able sing. And if I never have to hear this song again, it would be too soon.

Let’s start at the very beginning a very good place to start
When you write you begin with
A, B, C.
When you read you begin with
1, 2, 3. (1, 2, 3).
1, 2, 3. The first three books just happen to be
1, 2, 3. (1, 2, 3.)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Oh let’s see if I can make it easier.
Mmmm.
A disc, a world, a very big world.
A series with over 40 books.
Yes, I know, that’s quite a lot.
Hard to just  jump in and start.
So I get asked a lot of times.
Where should I best jump in.
Can I start anywhere.
And I just have to say no, no, no, NO.
I mean yes, of course you can.
Start wherever the hell you like.
But if you ask for my advice
Then this is what I have to say
Read the book in order
Yes they’re very different
From the first one to the last
What the fuck did you expect
There’s a lot, Of reading guides
That map the different story arcs
Start they say, with Sam Vimes
Follow him in all his different books
Sure that’s a great idea
But it misses so much out
You might know what’s going on
But you’re missing all the jokes
That were set up in books 1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8
So just start with the first book.
You will the love the world you find.
When you read the series through, you will see the subtleties.
Once you step into this world you will never want to leave.
A disc, a world, a very big world.
A series with only 40 books.
That really is not enough at all.
Because they are so very good.
Read them as they came out
Trust in Terry’s great mind
You really won’t regret
Stepping into the discworld.