Book Review: Dracula: Rise of the Beast edited by David Thomas Moore

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Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror

Publisher: Abaddon

Length: 304 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: March 13th 2018

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Anthology of stories exploring the secret history of the world’s most iconic monster 

That the cruel, ambitious monster of Bram Stoker’s most famous novel was once Vlad III Dracula, Voivode of Wallachia – the Impaler, to his enemies – is known. A warleader in a warlike time: brilliant, charismatic, pious, ferociously devoted to his country. But what came of him? What drove him to become a creature of darkness – an Un-Dead – and what use did he make of this power, through the centuries before his downfall?

Decades after the monster’s death, Jonathan and Mina Harker’s son Quincey pieces together the story: dusty old manuscripts, court reports from the Holy Roman Empire at its height, oral traditions among the Szgany Roma people who once served the monster.


 

Dracula: Rise of the Beast is an anthology of five novellas interconnected by a series email between two protagonists who are studying Dracula. The stories are loosely connected and present the many facets of Vlad Dracula: from the Ottoman Wars to the modern days. As usual with anthologies, a few stories didn’t work for me but for the most part, I found this collection very interesting and quite refreshing. You could ask yourself what’s new about Dracula but I assure you that those stories will change your mind about that!

 

Individual Reviews

The Souls of Those Gone Astrays From the Path by Bogi Tákacs ★★

A Jewish rabbi and his nephew spy on Vlad Dracula in a series of letters. I have to say that this story was the one that impressed me the least and since it’s the first story of the anthology, it didn’t leave me with a great first impression. It took me days to read because I had trouble getting into the story. It is extremely slow-paced and I felt like we didn’t learn a lot about Dracula in this one.

Noblesse Oblige by Adrian Tchaikovsky ★★★ 1/2

I always look forward reading any of Tchaikovsky’s stories, his name was one of the reason I was interested by this particular anthology.

This story follows Erzsebeth Báthory, an Hungarian countess famous for her murders (I had to Google that because while reading I felt like I was missing something and she existed! you can read more about it here). She was rumoured to bathe in the blood of the innocents she murdered in order to remain young, always. Because of that, she gained the surname of Lady Dracula and it is Tchaikovsky’s takes on this urban legend.

This story was quite horrifying as we read diaries entries written by Báthory as she slowly experiment with her victims in order to win her battle against Dracula. Her character is brutal and unforgiving and it was fascinating to see how sure she was of the right of her actions.

A Stake Too Far by Milene Benini ★★★ 1/2

A tragic story of two brothers that can’t live together. What surprized me the most about this story was how much Dracula’s character felt relatable to me. In most stories, he’s the bad guy yet in this one story, he felt almost human. I cannot say he was likeable but as far as a vampire goes, he was quite nice! I wish Vlad and Radu’s history could have been more detailed, the ending felt a bit rushed and  and the story too surface-level for my liking. I wish we had had a bit more knowledge about their relationship and their inner conflict. I still enjoyed this story but I wanted more.

Children of the Night by Emil Minchev ★★★★★

Children of the Night is definitely my favorite story of the anthology. It is one long letter written by Dracula to one of his vampire friends where he counts his love affair with a monster. It was extremely gruesome and horrifying yet strangely fascinating to read about. We learn how his children came to be and how Dracula was seduced by the strange creature. It sure is an odd story but I was hooked from the start!

The Woman by Caren Gussof Sumption ★★★★ 1/2

This novella counts three different stories focused on Romanian women connected through the ages. It is told thanks to a mix of documents such as diaries entries, blog posts and letters and we slowly learn how the women are connected. It was another great story centered around family and Romanian culture. I don’t want to say much more than that because the beauty is discover bit by bit how the storylines intertwine with each other!

 

Overall Thoughts

This anthology was a very interesting take on the Dracula myth. It was fascinating to discover different interpretation of the same character through the eyes of various authors. In my opinion the Dracula of this anthology was way more interesting than Stoker’s Dracula as he felt more alive (odd choice of word to describe a vampire isn’t it?) and complex.

As usual with anthologies, all the stories didn’t all work for me but for the most part, I found them good and they push me to make some research of my own. I’m also happy to have discovered some new-to-me authors since the only author I heard about previously was Adrian Tchaikovsky. I definitely want to read some more stories by Caren Gussof Sumption and Emil Minchev!

Required reading to any Dracula fan and highly recommended to horror and dark fantasy lovers!

★★★★

 

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to Rebellion Publishing, all opinions are my own.
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Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Del Rey

Length: 323 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 4.5 stars

Publication Date: October 3rd 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

 

Book Review

The Bear and the Nightingale is a fantasy book following Vasya, the daughter of a powerful family who has special gifts: she can see spirits. Even before her birth, her mother predicted that her daughter would have special links with the nature and indeed, even if she passed away a few moments after giving  birth to her strange child, her predictions were true and her child with the ability to see more than she ought to.

However, a few years after her mother’s passing, Vasya’s dad bring home a new wife from Moscow. What he doesn’t know is that his new wife also has the sight and, unlike Vasya, she doesn’t think having spirits in her house is such a great thing to have. More than that, she thinks that they are the child of the devil and thus, decides to call for a priest from the capital. Konstantin, a very charismatic young priest then joins the household and slowly convince everyone that they should stop giving tribute to the housespirits and stop believing in childish fairytales. However, because of the lack offerings, the spirits slowly start dying even with Vasya’s efforts and they are left without protection against the real monsters roaming the snowy forest that surrounds them.

I fell in love with Arden’s prose in a few pages, the writing is lush and draws a beautiful and terrifying picture of the unforgiving Russian winter. If you want to read this book, prepare yourself for a story full of fairytales and folklore with rich characters that you can’t help but to understand (even when they are being awful!).

This book is everything I wanted Uprooted to be and more. As much as I thought Uprooted was lacking both in term of plot and characters, The Bear and the Nightingale succeeded in pretty much everything. It is a debut but I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t know that going in. The story is very slow-paced but at no points I felt like Arden was dragging the story, she just took her time introducing and building her characters to the point where I felt like I knew every single one of them. It never felt tedious or boring, on the contrary, it allowed me to have a connection with them. The same goes for the antagonists, even when they acted horribly toward Vasya, I could always understand where they were coming from and why they acted that way.

Vasya’s character is great, I think she might be one of my favorite protagonist period. Sure she’s quite stubborn but she is very independent and she’s trying her best to protect everyone around her, even people she doesn’t has any warm feelings toward. She’s feisty and mischevious but she has a big heart and she thinks before doing anything stupid. Her relationship with her siblings was wonderful and reading their banter was a great time!

I would absolutely recommend this book, it is the first in a trilogy but the story can perfectly stand on its own. I will definitely pick the sequel up soon because I want more slow burn, atmospheric and eerie books!

 

★★★★ 1/2

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machiado

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Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Length: 248 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: October 3rd 2017

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

 

Individual Reviews

The Husband Stitch ★★★★★

This story is the reason I gave this anthology a try. I first read it in The Long List Anthology Volume 1 edited by David Steffen and then again in The New Voices of Fantasy  edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman so it was my third time reading it.

The Husband Stitch is a retelling of the Green Ribbon but more than that, it is a story about a woman and her body and how her life is expected to fulfill not only her husband’s wishes but also her child’s.

It is about consent, love, motherhood and giving everything to the ones you love. The writing is experimental and gorgeous, the style is unique but it worked so well with the story. Being the opening of the anthology , it set expectations very high for the rest. (Which is probably why I was so disappointed with the anthology as a whole, but we’ll get to that in a minute).

You can read this story for free HERE

Inventory ★★

The title is quite self-explanatory, Inventory is an inventory of a woman sex experiences in a future where the world is falling apart. I was a bit disappointed with this story because I feel like the post-apocalyptic context wasn’t explored as much as it could be. But imagining a world only through sex scenes isn’t an easy feat… I could understand why Machiado decided to tell this story by I cannot say it was particularly successful for me. The writing was beautiful but in the end, it left me quite underwhelmed.

Mothers ★★★

Mothers is one the weirdest story of the collection. It starts off with a woman having a child with another woman. However, it’s not clear if the child exists or if he is just a metaphor for the relationship between the two women. The narrator is unreliable so it’s hard to follow what is actually going on. It is a story about motherhood and society’s expectations but I couldn’t connect with it personally because of how confused I was.

Real Women Have Bodies ★★★★

Set in a dystopian future where women are slowly dissolving into the air, this story follow a woman working in a dressshop where the spirit of the ghost women inhabits the clothes. This story is one of of my favorite of the collection, it punched me in the guts repeatedly as we slowly learn more about the cause of those disappearances.

The writing is gorgeous, the pacing is perfect and the themes explored such as the place of women in the society and sexuality were very interesting.

Especially Heinous ★★★★ 1/2

This story is retelling of each episode of the twelve seasons of Law & Order in very short snippets. I know it sounds tedious but I actually ended up really enjoying it (without having ever watched a single episodes of Law & Order in my life). I liked how all the snippets were connected together and how Machiado managed to create such an interesting and coherent picture with elements that seems completely disjointed at first!

Eight Bites ★★★

This story follows a woman who gets a bariatric surgery after being pressured by all the women in her family. If you ever went through an eating disorder, this story will not be easy to read as you experience the physical and emotional struggle the woman goes through. My favorite aspect of this story was the mother-daughter relationship and how it evolved after the surgery.

The Resident ★

This is the story I disliked the most. This story follows an author who joins a residence in the woods with other artists in order to finish her book and how she slowly becomes insane. The story makes less and less sense the more you read and at the end, I was so lost that I couldn’t figure out if all of that was supposed to be a dream or a story where things are supposed to make sense.

The protagonist of this story is extremely hard to sympathize with as she was extremely rude and awkward with everyone around her including her family for no apparent reasons. I don’t remember all the details of the story but I do remember my strong dislike for her.

Difficult at Parties ★★★ 1/2

Following a woman you can’t stop watching porn after suffering a sexual assault, this story was pretty painful to read, especially the moments where the relatives were trying to make her stop. It was a very hard read and, eventhough I am glad I read it, it’s not a story that I would ever reread

 

Overall Review

If I had to describe this collection in one word it would be bleak. Don’t get me wrong, most of the stories were good and had interesting discussions and themes but still, it was exhausting.

Also, I do consider myself a feminist but I don’t think Machiado and I are on the same page. I thought that most of her male protagonists were horrible people and although I met my share of asshats, the majority of the men I know are not devils. I found myself a bit tired with this vision of the world where if you are not a woman, it means that you can’t understand one.

Another issue I had with this collection is the amount of sex scenes that it had, I have nothing against sex in books but Machiado’s vision of sex is uncomfortable for a lack of a better word. I never read sex scenes so tedious and un-erotic before. It felt almost aggravating to the women’s body especially when it was with a dude and yeah, it wasn’t pleasant at all.

However, I have to recognize that Machiado’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and her ideas are fascinating. I absolutely recommend The Husband’s Stitch to everyone because it is still one of the best piece of short fiction I ever read but, would I recommend the collection? Not really, no, just because I can’t even decide myself if I liked it or not.

★★★

 

 

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

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Genre: Fantasy, Horro

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 189 pages

Format: audio

Rating: 4.5 stars

Publication Date: June 13th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

 

Book Review

Jack and Jill were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase in their grandmother’s room and they entered a land filled with magic, vampires, werewolves, mad scientist but, more importantly, a world where they can be who they want.

Raised as perfect representation of what their parents wanted as children, Jack, or Jacqueline is the perfect little princess, quiet, polished and pretty while Jill, or Jillian, is as close as the son her father always dreamed of. She plays sports,  is adventurous and the perfect tom-boy. However, behind this facade, Jill just wants to dress like her sister, tired of not being the pretty one while Jack is envious of her adventures and doesn’t want to play the role of princess anymore. Each one of them just wants what the other has.

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a prequel novella to Every Heart a Doorway but you can read it as a standalone without being confused and it won’t spoil you anything.

I listened to the audiobook just like I did with Every Heart and I would highly recommend this media because it really makes McGuire’s prose shine.  Her writing is gorgeous and has a very distinct feel. I never read something quite like it before. It is both eerie and whimsical, clever and poetic with the right touch of dark humor. It made me feel quite nostalgic for things I never even experienced before!

I loved this book even more than Every Heart because I felt very connected to Jack and Jill and their struggle to fit in. My only complain is that I wished it could have been longer, I would have loved to see more of this world.

I would highly recommend this little book to everyone, I think everyone can find something to love in this series.

 

4.5 stars.

January Wrap-Up & February Reading Plans

January is over! This month was pretty good even if I had my finals pretty early on the month but since now I’m on winter break, it’s all good!

This month was a pretty good month, I read a couple of very good things and one disappointing thing. Let’s start with the bad: Dreadnought by April Daniels… I made a pretty ranty review of this one so if you want to know what didn’t work (spoiler alert: everything), you can check out my review. Other than this book however, everything I read was either good or very good so overall, I am happy!

 

Books Read

  • Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky ★★★★
  • Autumn by Ali Smith ★★★★★
  • Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey ★★★★
  • Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka ★★★
  • Dreadnought by April Daniels ★1/2
  • Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado ★★★
  • The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma ★★★★

I decided that from now on, I would only review books if I actually have something worthwhile to say about them (or if I received them from the publisher of course!). Which means that for example, I won’t be reviewing Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey. I really liked it as usual with Carey but I don’t have anytning to say about it. Carey is that kind of author for me, I really love most of her books: they are well-written, the intrigue is always good and the worldbuilding is top-notch but I am unable to review them. I highly recommend her works but I don’t know what I would say about them except “it’s good stuff guys, check it out!”. So, yeah… check it out!

Same with Metamorphisis by Kafka, it was very weird, funny and in the end quite tragic but I don’t really have anything to say about it.

However, I will talk about Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado in a couple of days and I am still debating weither I should write a love letter to Autumn by Ali Smith which was so amazing that I am actually re-reading it right now. Same with The Fishermen by Obioma, I really liked it but I don’t know how I would express my feelings about this one. I will have to think about it for a while before attempting to write something coherent!

 

Book of the Month

 

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This book is amazing. Ali Smith’s prose is a dream: she plays with words masterfully. Proclaimed the first first post-Brexit book, this book follows a friendship between a child and a hundred years old man. It is a witty, sad yet full of life poignant story.  I am re-reading this right now and I am loving it even more. In a strange way, this story feels very personal even if I never experienced something like that in my life.

 

Currently Reading & TBR

As I mentionned, I am currently reading Autumn by Ali Smith but I should finish my re-read today or tomorrow. I am also 200 pages in Black Wolves by Kate Eliott, an epic fantasy book that I have been meaning to read for years. So far, I am very much enjoying it!

I would also like to read The Tunnel by Ernesto Sapato but in Spanish. I have been meaning to read a spanish book in its original language for a while and I really want to do it now. French is my mother tongue but I would love to be able to speak four languages (I speak French, English, Spanish and I started German a few months ago) and I reckon that reading would be a nice way to learn new words! So that’s my personal challenge for the month! 🙂

 

How was your January? Have you read anything good?

Book/Rant Review: Dreadnought by April Daniels

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Genre: Science Fiction, Superhero Book

Publisher: Diversion Publishing

Length: 276 pages

Format: ebook

Rating: 1.5 stars

Publication Date: January 27th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Book Review

Quick disclaimer: this review is going to be pretty ranty.

 

Danny is a girl born in the wrong body. She knows it and has been keeping it secret from her family for a long time. One day, while painting her toenails behind a supermarket, she finds herself in the middle of a fight between two superheroes and it ends quite badly for the good guy. Dreadnought is one of the most famous superhero in the US and well, Danny didn’t expect him to die and pass all of his powers into her hands. She finds herself being the new Dreadnought and having her dearest wish fullfilled. She now has the body she only wanted to have… whiwh means that she has to find a way to explain why she is now a girl to her family.

 

Dreadnought was one of my most anticipated releases last year and I preordered it weeks before its release. I had high expectations going in because I couldn’t imagine how it could fail with such an amazing premise. I love superheroes stories, I love both Marvel and DC’s universe and I watch a ridiculous amount of superhero movies and shows I was extremely interested by the fact that the main character is transgender and I was so prepared to love this.

Well, obviously, I didn’t.

I have several complaints about this book and I don’t really know how to start.

First of all, it was obvious that it was a debut, the writing felt young and awkward, the characters are as flat as can be and the story was very predictable. I can tolerate bad writing and meh plot if the characters are multi-dimentional but it definitely wasn’t the case here.

Danny, while being the main character, was a complete cardboard cutout. The book was narrated from her perspective but after spending almost 300 pages in her head, I still know next to nothing about her. Sure she wants to be a girl and she struggles to explain it to her family but that’s all. She doesn’t have any hobbies: she saves people because she’s able to do so but doesn’t have any particular characteristics. She’s an idea not a person.

Same with every other character actually. Even her best friend, David, isn’t fleshed out at all. His first idea after seeing Danny in her new body is to stare at her (enormous) boobs and the day after, to ask her on a date. Is it normal behaviour? No, I’m sorry, if one day one of my male friend turns up in a female body, I would have a bit more questions, like “what happened to you dude?” and “are you okay?”. All the characters are devices to move the plot forward, they don’t feel like human beings. All of the characters have one role to play and can be described in a few words: the pervese BFF, the transphobic superhero, the nice girl, the sexy one, the friendly one, the bully etc etc… That’s not character building for me.

However, I could have seen past that and enjoyed the book for what it was if I didn’t have to deal with all the sexist and just completely WTF moments in this book that really pushed my nerves.

I know nothing about transitionning so I can’t attest about the effects on one’s body but I’m sure it doesn’t turn people into dumbass, so how am I supposed to react when one of the first remark Danny makes after being transformed into a girl is

Suddenly, I am worried about getting fat, which is something that hasn’t happened to me before.

What. The. Fuck. Oh yeah, because all the girls have issues with their bodies and weight obviously. I mean, who has heard of a confident girl? It doesn’t exist. Right?…

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Also, in this book Danny makes countless remarks on how much she feels more emotional since being a girl and how she is so much irritable now. Why, oh why… I mean this is ridiculous, yes hormons are a thing but being a girl doesn’t systematically mean that you have mood swings. I am a girl and I am calmer than a lot of my male friends. Men are not robots and women are not bipolar, it is ridiculous. Girls don’t all wear pink and “girly things” as Danny always seem to thing and they are not prone to be more emotional being, I just do not get why it had to be in this book.

So yeah, I can’t for the life of me recommend this to anyone. The characters are flat, the story is boring, the writing isn’t good and some passages pushed all my wrong buttons. I won’t give this book one star because I found the relationship between Danny and her parents interesting and, from the reviews I have seen from people who transitionned, it seems like good representations. However, it’s the only good point.

For me, this book feels like a first draft that was published without any changes made by an editor. Lots of things could have been improved and left out. Because of that, I just won’t be reading the sequel. I just don’t care enough to want to know more about this world and the characters, I wish I gave up on this book because I just feel like I lost my time.

Please read something else.

1.5 stars

Book Review: Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Thriller

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 200 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: November 7th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear.

Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

Book Review

Ironclads is a military science fiction novella following an impossible rescue mission led by a couple of soldiers who don’t even know what they are fighting for anymore. Ironclads is set in a future where the war is now a playground for the rich kids. Think of it as the return of chilvalry: if you are rich, you have all the cool toys and armours to play with and kill a bunch of soldiers incapable of protecting themselves. You are a Scion, an unbeatable being. To be a Scion, you have to have money, which means that most of them are heirs of CEOs of huge corporations. Those corporations  lead the world and decide who fight who.

Serngeant Regan and his team have to find a Scion gone rogue, nobody knows what happened to him so they have to send a team to find out where he is. However, finding what happened to this Scion is not an easy-feat for ill-equiped simple soldiers especially when the Scion was last seen in the land of the enemies, here, the Nords. However, a job is job and we follow the (mis)adventures of Regan’s team as they travel in search of the missing Scion.

In this future, the world is a complete mess: war is everywhere and boundaries are constantely changing. The UK is now part of the US after completely collapsing because of the Brexit. Discrimination and sexism are at the heart of this new civilization and corporations do whatever they please.

I don’t want to go in too many details about this book as it is extremely short (only 200 pages!) but I have to say that a lot of things are packed into it. The worldbuilding is very detailed and the characters are multi-dimentional and complex. They know they are probably going to die on this impossible mission but we can understand their motivation to keep on searching for the missing Scion. By the end, I felt like I understood all the different players in this story and why they acted the way they did. It is really impressive to see how much every little detail is thought-out especially in such a short number of pages!

I read and loved Children of Time by Tchaikovsky in 2016 and it is now one of my favorite book of all time. After reading Ironclads, I think I can count Tchaikovsky as one of my favorite author and I can’t wait to see what he puts out in the future! I highly recommend this novella, I don’t usually read military science fiction stories but I found this one very good! 🙂

4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Solaris. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Steal the Stars by Nat Cassidy & Mac Rogers

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Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Thriller

Publisher: Tor

Length: 403 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: November 7th 2017

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

Dakota “Dak” Prentiss guards the biggest secret in the world.

They call it “Moss.” It’s your standard grey alien from innumerable abduction stories. It still sits at the controls of the spaceship it crash-landed eleven years ago. A secret military base was built around the crash site to study both Moss and the dangerous technology it brought to Earth.

The day Matt Salem joins her security team, Dak’s whole world changes.

It’s love at first sight—which is a problem, since they both signed ironclad contracts vowing not to fraternize with other military personnel. If they run, they’ll be hunted for what they know. Dak and Matt have only way to be together: do the impossible. Steal Moss and sell the secret of its existence.

And they can’t afford a single mistake.

 

Book Review

 

Steal the Stars is the novelization of the podcast produced in 2017 by Tor Labs. You can listen to the podcast for free here. I actually listened to the entire thing before picking up the book but of course, you don’t have to do that to enjoy the novelization by Nat Cassidy.

Steal the Stars follows Chief Dakota Prentiss, also know as Dak, a woman working for Quill Marine, a private research laboratory lead by Sierra Corporation, an organization so big and powerful that it basically rule the Pentagon. Quill Marine isn’t a simple laboratory but an incredibly complex research facility dealing with alien artefacts and Dak has to assure the protection of the site.

Dak isn’t particularly happy with her job but at least, it is so time-consuming that she doesn’t have to think about how shitty her life is. When she has the time, she spent her money on alcohol and tries to forget about her past in the army.

Every day ressemble the others until Matt Salem, a new recruit, joins the team at Quill Marine. He is young, sweet, beautiful and clearly attracted to her. The thing is, if you work at Quill Marine, you can’t “fraternize” with your fellow colleages meaning that their affair is doomed from the start. You can’t just quit working at Quill Marine because of the things you see at the facility and you cannot run away either since Sierra Corp basically rules the US.

So Dak and Matt’s only solution is to buy their freedom stealing a few things at Quill Marine: an alien named Moss and an harp capable of shutting down electric network. Of course, as you can imagine, things don’t go so smoothly for them.

 

I first experienced Steal the Stars with the podcast. The entire production is really fantastic, it is narrated by a full cast and it has cool special effects. The pacing is also pretty damn perfect and I binge the entire thing in just a few days.  However, I think I prefered the book over the podcast because it allowed me to understand the characters more.

Indeed, in the podcast, I was thrown off by how quickly the relationship between Dak and Matt developped and how intense it seemed. I mean, I don’t like insta-love, I just don’t think things like this happen in real life, of course, attraction can be immediate but love? No. So to see two people barely knowing each other falling head over heels in love after such a short period seemed a bit off to me. However, in the book, I understood a bit more where Dak was coming from, she’s old, depressed about her life and is basically waiting for her miserable life to end so, of course, when a beautiful knight in shining armour arrives, you cannot be indifferent to that. Also she is so desperate that it is easy for her to mistake a simple need for companionship for love.

Their relationship isn’t healthy, it is not something to strive for, they just want to survive and escape their miserable lives. In this book, this desesperation is much more explicit than in the podcast and this explains a lot of what happens toward the end. (The ending is amazing by the way, I totatlly did not see it coming!).

I have to say though that Steal the Stars is much more a character study of Dak than a thriller. The first half is slow-paced and I read a couple of reviews mentionning it as a problem. I didn’t mind it since I listened to the podcast first and I already knew what was going to happen and it allowed me to understand the characters more but I can see why it would bother a few readers. If you are interested by Steal the Stars but you don’t know which format you might prefer, give the podcast a go. It is free and it will give you a sample of the style and the pace.

All in all, I would recommend Steal the Stars, it is a bit different to what I am accustomed  to reading (or listening!) but it kept me on the tip of my toes and I really enjoyed it!

4 stars.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor Books. All opinions are my own.

La crème de la crème: Best Books of 2017

2017 wasn’t the best reading year of my life but still, I read some amazing books! I already mentionned a couple of my honorable mentions here but, wer are finally here to discuss la crème de la crème of 2017.

All of the books mentionned weren’t necesseraly published last year mind you, but I read them all in 2017.


*FANGIRL MODE ACTIVATED*

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  • In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

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In Order to Live is the memoir of Yeonmi Park, a girl who managed to escape from North Korea when she was just a child. It follows her incredibly hard journey to freedom as she finds herself in the worst situations who could possibly imagine.

It is a difficult book as it is impossible not relate to Yeonmi and to compare your confortable life the the horrors she confronted. It is a short but very impactful book and I will be re-reading this one in the future. It managed to re-shape the way I view my life. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

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Rosewater was published in 2016 and I’m afraid it was ignored by too many people. If you enjoy Nnedi Okorafor’s writing and themes, you should absolutely give a chance to Tade Thompson. After reading three of his short stories and Rosewater, I can say without a doubt that he is one of my favorite author. His works are brutal and fascinating and his protagonists feel incredibly real (even if most of them are assholes) and very relatable.

Rosewater follows the aftermath of an alien invasion in Nigeria and it is a raw tale of survival and discoveries. If you are looking for a challenging read, give this book a try you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)

 

Aaaah this book is everything I wanted it to be and more. The third and final book in the Broken Earth trilogy was simply an astounding  conclusion to a phenomenal series. I was a bit disappointed with The Obelisk Gate so I was afraid about this the ending but, wow, I don’t have words. Just go read it if you haven’t already.

 

 

 

 

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This one I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction and even if I knew it had speculative elements, I was afraid it was going to be too serious and hard for me. However, since it was nominated for the Clarke (and it won!), I read it as a work of SF.

If you didn’t want to pick it up because it’s “not science fictioney enough”, you might be surprised by how much the speculative elements are necessary to tell the story. I mean, you surely have read a couple of books marketed as SF that could have happened in a contemporary setting and without any real important impact on the story, well, it isn’t the case here. Whitehead didn’t use speculative fiction as a gimmick but because it was an important tool to show his point.

So yeah this book won the Pulitzer and the Clarke and it deserves both.

Fun fact, I offered a copy of this book to my father who loved it then my mom read it and loved it and bought a copy to my aunt who is currently reading it and loving it. I’m a bit jalous of my dad who had the chance to meet Colson Whitehead and have his copy dedicated!

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Ah this book was such a delight. I really didn’t like Aurora by KSR so I was extremely hesitant to pick it up but I loved it so much that I can’t wait to gift it to everyone in my family (yeah you can see a recurring trend here, if I love a book, I gift it to everyone!).

This book is amazing and managed to appeal two of my inner geeks: the finance geek and the climate fiction geek. It was fun and challenging, a bit rambly and info-dumpy at times but just the way I enjoy it. It made me laugh several times but it also taught me a lot. It’s not a book I would recommend to everyone but it felt like it was written just for me!

 

 

  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

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Okay so this one I am conflicted about. I mean I LOVED it with my whole heart but I have to admit that it is quite pretentious. I mean the style is quite off-putting and even if I get why Palmer is using it, I feel like she could find an easier way to tell her story. I can definitely see that this book has flaws and I get the mixed reviews this series is receiving BUT I just cannot not love it you know? In my opinion Seven Surrenders is even more amazing than Too Like the Lightning, it made think a lot, I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I re-read some passages multiple times to try and understand what was going on. It was challenging in the best way possible and I loved it. What can I say. At this point, I am just fangirling.

 

 

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I have read some truly amazing books this year but, if I had to choose one, it would be Raven Stratagem. I read and adored Ninefox Gambit last year and I re-read it in preparation for Raven Stratagem (the re-read made me fall in love even more) but for me the sequel is even more amazing because more things happen and it is easier to follow what is actually going on. The characters, the world and the story are all complex and outstanding and I am dying to read the sequel. I have this series in every format possible, I have the eARCS, the paperbacks and also the ebooks, I mean if I have a sudden impulse to read those books at any given times, I can, I’m ready.

 

 

As much as I can find flaws in almost everything I read, this book series is perfect in my eyes and I wouldn’t change a single word!

 

 

Enough about me, what were your favorite books of 2017?

2018 Goals

New year usually means new resolutions! I am not gonna lie, I’m pretty terrible at actually accomplishing them but they are fun to make anyway so…

 

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I mostly failed last years resolutions because 1) I wasn’t a consistent blogger at all 2)I didn’t keep track of my short story reading because it was almost inexistant in 2017. However, I didn’t request too many books from Netgalley, I DNF’d a bit more and I didn’t buy too much physical books. So everything isn’t a complete failure!

To continue the tradition, here are some bookish goals for 2018!

  • Read at least 52 books

This one is pretty easy as it means reading a book a week which is completely doable. I didn’t read as much as I wanted in 2017 but I realized that I don’t want to put pressure on myself this year. 52 books is way more than what the average anyway! If I read more, that’s good, otherwise, it isn’t really a big deal. Who cares how much I read anyway?

  • Read more than 2 non-fiction books

99.99% of my reading is fiction and I would really like to branch out more in the realm of non fiction. I read two last year and they were absolutely amazing so I want to read more than two this year. I do have a couple of them on my Kindle already so that shouldn’t be too difficult!

  • Read more literary fiction

Same as non-fiction, I don’t read a lot of literary fiction even if I seem to be really enjoying it. I don’t have a set number in mind but I just want to read a couple more than last year. I know it’s vague but, I’m not good with constraints 😛

  • Not fall into the hype of a new release

I read a good number of 2017 releases last year which was fun but I neglected a bit my backlist reading. I have a ton of older books on my Kindle that I am drawn too but I was too excited for new releases to give them a try. So less new releases and more backlist!

 

So as you can see, my goals are pretty achievable! As for non-bookish goals, I only have two of them and those I really have to accomplish:

  • Pass my driver license test
  • Finish my undergraduate years and start biological engineering studies. (The French system is pretty different from other education systems so I hope it makes sense because I don’t really know how to translate it otherwise)

Those goals really matter to me, the other ones are for fun!

 

What are some of goals for 2018? 🙂