Review: Two Turtle Doves by Alex Monroe

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Goodreads summary:

Revealing how a small curious boy in Suffolk turned into an internationally famous jewellery designer Two Turtle Doves is the story of a life spent making things.

Growing up in 1970s Suffolk in a crumbling giant of a house with wild, tangled gardens, Alex Monroe was left to wreak havoc by invention. Without visible parental influence, but with sisters to love him and brothers to fight for him, he made nature into his world.

Creation became a compulsion, whether it was go-carts and guns, cross-bows and booby-traps, boats, bikes or scooters. And then, it was jewellery.

From full-out warfare waged against the local schoolboys to the freedom found in daredevil Raleigh bike antics to the delicacies of dress-making and the most intricate designs for jewellery, Two Turtle Doves traces the intimate journey of how an idea is transformed from a fleeting thought into an exquisite piece of jewellery. It is about where we find our creativity, how we remember and why we make the things we do. Continue reading

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Goodreads summary:

A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. 

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction. Continue reading

Review: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Goodreads summary:

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate? Continue reading

Review: The Up-Side Down Bible by Symon Hill

Goodreads summary:

Attempts to read Jesus’ teachings with an open mind can be hampered by years of being told the ‘right’ interpretation in church. Christians familiar with the texts can gain fresh insights by listening to people coming to it for the first time, who may find the traditional readings far from obvious.

Symon Hill has led many Bible study groups with largely non-Christian groups and has discovered surprising and helpful insights that are less likely to be found among Christians used to reading the Bible. For example, these readers will often relate to different characters and find meanings that may surprise us.

In The Upside-down Bible, Hill presents alternative readings of some of Jesus’ best-known parables – focusing on topical themes of money, power, sex and violence – which will help us to consider the teaching of the Bible with a fresh perspective and gain a deeper spiritual and cultural understanding of the Bible texts. Each chapter includes questions, prompts and reflection points making it useful for group and individual Bible study. Continue reading

Review: Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones

Goodreads summary: 

Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force.

Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints.

At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara’s services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away—for reasons of state and reasons of the heart.

Heather Rose Jones debuts with a sweeping story rich in intrigue and the clash of loyalties and love. Continue reading

Review: The Ryogan Chronicles by Erica Cameron

Hello folks! Today is a very special day. Today is the book birthday for Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron, the second book in the Ryogan Chronicles! Thanks to the lovely folks at Entangled Teen, I got the chance to read this stunning sequel a little early, so to celebrate this occasion I will be reviewing the series so far, which began with Island of Exiles. These are both amazing books, and I’m so glad to be able to share my love for them with you today. Continue reading

Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember


Goodreads summary:

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies. 

Review:

This is an absolutely spectacular book, and absolutely one of my favourites of the year – possibly ever. Seriously, it’s completely brilliant. Smart plotting, ensnaring characters, evocative language… I love it. 

Firstly, one of the healthiest relationship representations I’ve ever read, for all that both parties are probably murderers. In fact, there’s lots of interesting consent things going on here generally. The king of the glacier has perverted the system that his mother upheld and turned mermaids into broodmares, terrified more than anything of a low fertility count that will doom them to a life despised. On the other hand, they might have a high fertility count and be trapped in a cage by the merman they’re coerced into committing to until they’re exhausted from producing so many offspring and entirely without hope. So, you know. It’s not great either way. 

Ersel has never wanted to play her part in the system. She and her childhood friend Havamal dreamed of leaving the glacier and finding somewhere to live in freedom. But he decides that safety is better than freedom, and joins the King’s guard. Now, she is alone. There are a lot of “I’m not like other girls” moments early on in the book that I squinted at, but stay with it, because it’s challenged in the most excellent way as Ersel finally begins to find her purpose later on. Because it’s often her misunderstanding of other people’s needs and desires – her assumption that she must be alone – that causes her to do the most harm. 

It’s that moment, and others, that brought home to me exactly how smart this book is. Not subverting tropes for the sake of it, because it’s a fun thing to do, but taking specific expectations and very thoughtfully bearing down on them until they shatter. Ersel is belittled by the other merpeople, who think that she’s doing all this because of her love for a human. But she asserts again and again that she’s doing it for herself, for the dreams she’s had since she was a child, and I love her for it. Ersel and Ragna exist as independent people, not compromising themselves for each other but making sacrifices for the things they believe in. 

This is a genuine twist on the version of The Little Mermaid that we all know, not just a simple retelling. Characters are spliced and reconfigured in startling ways, and nothing is quite as you’d expect. I don’t want to issue spoilers here, because it’s too good to spoil, but trust me, it’s great. 

While we’re on the subject of things being not quite as you’d expect, I just have to talk, for a second, about Loki. They are completely marvellous. Contrary and dangerous by nature, but never without cause. They manipulate Ersel and other characters, but not with infinite power. It can be so tricky to have gods in books – often they take over, or get distracting. But Loki’s involvement is completely delicious, and they teach Ersel some valuable lessons that she’s going to need in order to rescue her people from tyranny. And they’re not just here to cause havoc generally – there’s clearly some long game being played here, and I’ll be interested to see what happens here further down the line. 

Ersel is bi in the text, but I also read her as some degree of asexual – I’d be interested to hear other people’s perspectives on this. She frequently asserts that she’s not interested in the kinds of relationships expected of her by her people, and though (minor spoiler) she and Ragna do have sex, she doesn’t express specific sexual desire for Ragna – she just enjoys the experience. But the amount of times that she declares her lack of interest in the mating rituals of her people, and her reluctance to agree to commit to Havamal despite her admission that she cares very deeply for him, all feeds into a personal interpretation of the text that says she’s asexual to me. 

The Seafarer’s Kiss is clever, passionate and compassionate. The characters make mistakes but are driven to actively repent of them rather than simply being condemned. It’s dark in places, comforting in others, and never stops being interesting. 

Also, the beluga whales are super cute. 
Representation:

Plump mermaids are healthy mermaids. Also a lot of body image issues are dealt with. The f/f romance between Ragna, a human, and Ersel, a mermaid. Loki uses gender neutral pronouns.

Review: Lorali by Laura Dockerill


Goodreads summary:

Colourful, raw, brave, rich and fantastical – this mermaid tale is not for the faint-hearted.

Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn’t exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human.

But along with Lorali’s arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory’s bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway? 

Review: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

I’ll be honest, I picked this book up because it was gorgeous (absolutely stunning!) and featured mermaids. Somewhere along the way, I’d decided that this was a f/f mermaid story, and was disappointed when I found out that Rory is a dude. But that’s my own fault for not even reading the blurb properly, and it in no way influenced my rating of this book. 

First of all, the positives. Laura’s characterisation and world are excellent. Her take on mermaids – ex-people who were salvaged when they went into the sea by other mermaids (mostly) – revitalises an old set of expectations, and the details are skillfully woven into the narrative. The Ablegare boys are fascinating and dangerous, like an especially charismatic shark. The way she uses multiple perspectives, including the Ocean herself, is brilliant.

Up until the epilogue, I was completely committed to loving this book, and reading the sequel (which is also gorgeous). Now, I’m not so sure, and this is where the spoilers come in. Come back for the last paragraph if you don’t want to know how the book ends.  

That last chapter, pre-epilogue, is a brilliant set piece. The Ablegares are at their best and worst, Rory is in apparently unsalvageable danger, the Cavities are an unstoppable force dramatically halted. And then, at the point that all the emotional tension has been ramping up to, at the moment of Rory’s death… We skip a year. 

We skip. A WHOLE YEAR. What?? Though in reader-time we’ve just seen Rory die, suddenly we’re being shown his mum as happy and singing with her new adopted daughter, Lorali. Though we last left the Whirl in political upheaval as their Queen spiraled into dangerous grief, now it is stable and safe with Zar on the throne instead. Hastings was reeling after the interference of the Ablegares and the murder of one of their children by a sea-beast sent by the Mer, and now everything’s fine and dandy. No. Sorry, but that’s not cool. The narrative whiplash is excruciating. For me, it was a spectacular mis-calculation to end it this way.

Essentially, we skipped a whole novel’s worth of material, and my faith in the narrative was shattered. Sure, it’s a happy ending. But at what cost? Before that moment, I would have been more than willing to recommend this book to anyone. But now I don’t think I would. Now, thinking back through the novel, I’m questioning whether the way Lorali’s past was revealed was the best way to go about it or not? I’m questioning the trigger that sent her up to the human world in the first place. It’s a good book, but I can’t believe in it any more. 

Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste


Goodreads summary:

A spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore that will have readers holding their breath as they fly through its pages.

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

With its able and gutsy heroine, lyrical narration, and inventive twist on the classic Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree,” The Jumbies will be a favorite of fans of Breadcrumbs, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Continue reading

Review: Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac


Goodreads summary:

A post-Apocalyptic YA novel with a steampunk twist, based on an Apache legend. 

Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones — people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human — and there was everyone else who served them. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero. 

Review:

Wow. I mean. Wow. 

Killer of Enemies is a knockout of a book. The post-apocalyptic world is hostile and full of genetically engineered monsters. No-one would stand a chance if they didn’t have a unique set of skills. Lozen isn’t a willing monster-hunter. Her family are held hostage every time she goes out of the compound on a mission from a One. But she does have what it takes to stay alive. More than that, she hopes and plans to one day free her family, and go back to the lands they know and loved. 

Lozen herself is what makes this book. She is a warrior and a tactician. But she is also a daughter, and a sister. She keeps a lot of herself hidden from the Ones who rule the compound that keeps her family safe – well, safe from the monsters outside, anyway. So a lot of what we get to know about her through the first person narrative is hidden from everyone else. We are offered a unique perspective on this world, and it exceeds expectations. 

Lozen is connected to her past and her traditions in a way I don’t think I’ve read before. In some ways, a lot of my recent reading has been about tradition and beliefs: Binti and When Dimple Met Rishi come to mind. But Killer of Enemies isn’t about uniting the old with the new. Lozen’s traditions are urgently relevant to her life now, and her history comes alive in a slow, mesmerising unfurling that captivates the imagination. It’s real. 

But Lozen isn’t just acting for herself, or her family. As the novel moves forward, she begins to realise that something bigger than her is beginning. And she will need every bit of knowledge and history and skill to survive what comes next. Killer of Enemies is spectacular, and I will definitely be picking up the sequel.

Representation:

Lozen and her family are Chiricahua Apache, Native Americans. The author is Native American.


Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac was published in September 2013 by Tu Books.