“The witch that needed a gender 101 class” and other stories.

I’ve been following Ana Mardoll on twitter for ages, but never read one of xer books (my TBR is SO long, and I try to not acquire more books, also for financial reasons), but when I saw the following tweet, I could not help myself:

So on to Netgalley I went, and requested and send to kindle I did. Here’s the blurb:

Destiny sees what others don’t.

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

And I loved it. The stories had a lovely length befitting to the story. The only one that I wished was a bit longer, was the last one, about a little girl going to a dragon to have a wish granted. I just wanted to see what kind of adventures she would have when she was older, since she was so brave and sure as a toddler.

It’s amazing to see how genderessentalist tropes and fairytales get turned on their head, when a protaganist isn’t cis gendered, or falls outside of the gender-binary. It was lovely to see stories where the gender of the main character was a plotpoint, but not a problem (except for one story, where the near family does not accept the gender identity of the protagonist, but even there the problem is not that the protagonist is trans, but the problem is that his father finds that hard to accept. And even that is not the main issue in the story).

I’ve learned that witches and dragons and sorcerers really need to take a gender 101 class if they want to see their curses actually be successful in the long term. And this also rekindled my love for fairytell retellings. And realised that stories about non-cis characters are really validating to my own non-cis gender identity. More please! Maybe I should lift my selfimposed book-buying ban…

The Quantum Magician: hell of a hard sf heist

Netgalley kindly gave me the book The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken in exchange for a honest review.

First, the blurb as goodreads gives it to us:

Belisarius is a quantum man, an engineered Homo quantus who fled the powerful insight of dangerously addictive quantum senses. He found a precarious balance as a con man, but when a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of warships across an enemy wormhole, he must embrace his birthright to even try. In fact, the job is so big that he’ll need a crew built from all the new sub-branches of humanity. If he succeeds, he might trigger an interstellar war, but success might also point the way to the next step of Homo quantus evolution.

This is a heist-story, in a hard science fiction universe, a load of science/techno-babble somewhat based in actual science, aliens that are more then just green humanoids, and space opera feels to it.

I really enjoyed this book. The fast pace, as is becoming of a heist, makes for a quick read, and the characters and their backstories are fascinating. I actually liked the little insights in the lives and characters of the book, more then the actual heist part, which had just a bit too many technical convoluted explanations. You meet all the people in this book at a midpoint in their life. They’ve done things before Balisarius pulls them in, and will do things after (if they make it…). I loved the kind of humans that were developed: the homo sapiens (humans, just like you and me, but then… in the future!), homo quantus (their brains are basically quantum computers), homo pupa (designed for religious awe towards their “gods”. This gets… creepy quickly. Content warnings for torture and medical procedures apply) and the homo eridanus (they’re deep sea dwellers, and can’t live without intense water-pressure, which has created it’s own kind of religion with lots of cursing included).

So, if you like a read that will keep you on your toes because of pace, characterization and scienc-y stuff: grab The Quantum Magician! It got published October 2nd 2018, and so you should be able to find it at any (digital) bookstore near you ^^

Review: Soulless by Montiese McKenzie. Or: how I offered to review a book, while my TBR was begging me not to.

I’ll let you in on a conversation I had with a dear friend about a week ago:

  • Me: I’m tempted to get more books
  • Me: tell me I don’t need more books
  • Friend: Well, how many unread books do you still have that you want to get to?
  • Me: Goodreads tells me that’s about 550
  • Me: (this is not a typo)
  • Friend: You don’t need more books

So, of course I offer to read and review Montiese McKenzie’s new book Soulless, why do you ask?

First, the blurb from amazon/goodreads, so you people know what I’m talking about.

A serial killer is stalking the posh homes of the nation’s capital. The victims are a group of women known as Meretrix, and the crimes send former FBI agent Alexander Rubidoux and his spirit team of Sam Kassmeyer, Jacob Falconer, and Mandy North on the path of a wily killer who might be closer than any of them realized.
On the home front, a family quarrel sends Nathan Kirsch running into the night. When he doesn’t return home the next day one case suddenly becomes two. Do recent, friendships cultivated as Nathan comes into adulthood hold the key to his disappearance? Will Alexander find him safe before the unthinkable happens? The spirits will need all the help they can get and it comes in the form of Devrim Hisham, his new girl on the street, an MPD detective with experience in the supernatural, and a human FBI agent from Alexander’s past who is brilliant but in the dark about the killer’s true motive.

My verdict? I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I always forget I like supernatural stuff (give me all the non-sparkly vampires, shapeshifters, spirits, everything!), and that whodunnits don’t have to be boring. Just a warning if you haven’t read the two books before this one (like I hadn’t): there’s a lot of characters and relationships and new kinds of beings to absorb in the first few pages. The book is a complete story, and you don’t need to have read the earlier books, but it helps. Also, judging by this one, the other books in this series (Awakening of the Spirit) are a good read too, so just read them for their own sake. (I know that I will)

The main thing that irked me a bit, was the absolute of good and evil. The light, the spirits and their Boss are good: the Darkness is bad. All people and creatures can be more good or bad, although this also depends what “kind” you are born as or made in. This is something I had to suspense my disbelief for the most. Things are never so clearcut. Everything is grey, always.

I can’t say too much about what I really liked, because I’ll spoil too much. I’ll just say someone gets their first kiss and it’s cute and amazing and I squee’d! And I want to know so much more about [character’s name redacted] and how they’ll learn more about themselves, because they’re amazing and badass. The story kept me on my toes (I like a mental workout while reading) and there were some plottwists I did not see coming. Fun!

Just a warning: as you probably noticed in the blurb: there’s violence in this book, especially against women, and some of the stuff is quite descriptive. Also contained is some sexual violence (not much though), and mention of abuse in a former relationship. It’s typical for what to expect in this genre, so if you read more paranormal mystery/urban things, you’ll probably be fine :)

Stolen: a review

People who follow me on twitter, might know I have a slight reader-crush on Chris Ward (proof). I’m slowly reading through his bibliography (and he writes a lot!), and sometimes get e-ARC’s because I am on his mailinglist. This was also the case for Stolen, for which I am truly grateful, because this was a highly entertaining and suspenseful read.

This book is being put in the genre of “romantic suspense”. I hate romance books. I really enjoyed this one however, so even if you have the same averse feeling towards romance books, you might want to give this one a chance. What it lacks that many romance books do have, is the love-triangle. Yes, there are of course problems that the two people in this book have to overcome, but they are human problems that make sense to them as a person and their situation, not “romantic problems just to get a plot going”. The plot of Stolen is driven by the search into Chiaki’s (one of the main characters) past, and not by the two lovebirds getting together (although that is the catalyst for why the search is being undertaken). It has a bit of the “true love on first sight”-trope going on, but since those emotions are actually questioned by the characters, I can forgive them this.

But to give away all of the plot would give too many spoilers, so I’ll mention the other things I loved. As the above tweet tells you, I loved the characters: can I be their friend? They are full people. They have good and bad traits, they have a past and a future. You feel for them, right from the beginning. The book takes places in Japan, and Ben (the other main character) is from the UK. I have an ungoing fascination for Japan (I am learning Japanese, again, as I have tried on and off for the past 10 years, but I am finally getting somewhere :D), so the casual immersion into Japanese culture was something I really enjoyed. And it had the outsiders view from Ben, which is very relatable to mine, since I live in Europe. It’s a page-turner. There are no real lulls in this book, which keeps you reading and reading. I think it’s more luck than anything else that I did not miss any public transport stops while reading ;)

This post first appeared on ReadingTheThing.

#boutofbooks 17: summary of summaries!

So I participated boutofbooks 17, and it felt like a really productive one. I did not participate in the twitterchats *sad trombone* and did not do any challenges, because that did just not fot my (BUSY!) week.

My totals (since I love numbers!)
I listened to 105 minutes of audiobook, read 966 pages, finished 5 books and started 5 books (but one was almost done when starting this week, and one I started and did not finish yet).

This readathon kickstarted my reading again. I am a lean mean reading machine, peeps! Beware or I’ll hit you with hardbacks and punch you with pages!

(Can you tell I had a busy day at work and need ro release some stress xD)

For your calenders: next BoutOfBooks will be the first week of 2017!

Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I had heard about THE CIRCLE. I mean, I work in IT, I know people who read books, and some of those people tend to go for the bestseller-kind-of-book, and this book got a lot of traction. So I knew it was about privacy and something google-like, and that people found the ideas scary and fascinating. Then my book club proposed us reading it, and I fully supported this idea. We tend to read non-fiction, so doing fiction is a nice change of pace for a change, and it’s a topic I have opinions on, so all seemed swell.

And oh boy, did I have Opinions! (And those Opinions will contain spoilers, so don’t read on if you mind those).  For me it was a quick and fast-paced read, some fastfood inbetween more nourishing reading. I ended up being so annoyed that I had to tweet about it (sorry tweeps!).

I really disliked the main character however, but how she was as a person and how she must have been “set up” by Eggers. I suppose he wanted a protagonist through which he could explain all of the Circle, the fictional google-esk company that gives the book it’s title and is overtaking the whole internet with the unification of all it’s services from facebook to banking to collecting all of the data. However, that did create a protagonist who is so much like a blank slate, that she has no personality of her own. She seems constantly only being imprinted by the people – men – she meets (even her body is described by how it got more attractive to men when she gained some curves after puberty; male gaze much?).

IMG_20160823_213135676

She completely internalizes the philosophy of the Circle, becomes a spokesperson because she starts to wear a webcam-camera 24/7 (well… except bathroom visits and sleeping).The people that disagree with this, with her being so-called Transparent and the Circle’s way in general, are being portrayed as ungrateful and horrible. Mostly so her ex-boyfriend Mercer; he is being called fat and ugly multiple times throughout the book. Because being fat is the worst thing a person can be of course.

There is also casual poly-shaming. There is a comparison of people who rule companies that go for less privacy to nazi’s. And yes, of course those are just the opinions of the characters in the book, and fictional characters can say what they want, but it makes the whole book unlikable for me, since it’s seems unnecesary. If you think companies that want global surveillance for everyone are horrible, than say they are horrible. If you need an example of news that might come out that would horrify people, than don’t take the situation that one’s parents probably have or had open relationship; there is much more horrible stuff out there that does not involve people who all gave consent (yeah, I know it’s just a starter for reveiling something *really* bad, but an open relationship being portrayed as something you should be shamed for, rubs me the wrong way).

In our real, actual world we have Google and Facebook. They know much about everyone, and we often don’t know or don’t want to know how much and how they got this knowledge.Everyone is different with how the care about this. Some people (try) not to use these sites and all the (virtual) products they own. Some embrace part. Some use all and share “everything”. Not to mention that even though the internet is widespread, it is not accesible to everyone (and there is censure going on, in China, Turkey, other countries). The fact this book made all the people in the world seem as it was one homogonous group, was too farfetched for me. It also made it very western-centric, which isn’t a problem it itself, but then please don’t make it sound like it’s the whole world you’re influencing.

The book also seemed to have the underlying idea that always being connected to others over the internet, makes people needy and sensitive to possible social rejection. Again there is a generalization that this’ll work for all people, while it is way more diverse. This seems much more a personality and anxiety thing than a general rule. People are different in how much they want to give up in privacy for products. Although I must admit that general awareness of sharing things online, and how it can backfire, should get better (she said, while writing a blogpost for all the world to see).

 

Posthumanism in future Manchester

2015 in Manchester is not a place and time you want to be, if you read Matt Hill’s book GRAFT. The story about Sol and Y is sometimes hard to get into, and sometimes really accesible. Although that might also be a personal thing, which depended on my own state of mind; I read the book in a few readings, and wasn’t always the most awake. Which might have lead to me DREAMING about someone with three arms! But I digress.

What I liked, but what others might not enjoy as much, is that many things stay vague. How has the world collapsed into something post-apocalyptic in just 10 years? How does the changing of humans into something else work? Where do they come from? How is the rest of the UK faring? The rest of Europe? The world? I enjoy the slowly finding out what there is to find out, and still having questions at the end, because that is how life works; you don’t get anything in a clearcut package.

I loved how the story was structured. How you got to read about Sol and his work in one chapter, and seem to be in a completely different world in the next, following Y after she wakes up and has no memory of what has come before. Different characters are introduced, and their tales connect. That does work well, except in one case. On the whole, I feel like the role Mel plays seems a bit too fabricated, like she was added on later because some of her functions were needed. However, I did like her as a character/person and would like to know more about her. The same goes for many characters in the book: The Irish, Roy, the Reverend, The Manor Lord.

This book only scratches the surface of this possible future. Will there be more? I’d like it if there was.

Graft by Matt Hill will be published on the 2nd of February by Angry Robot Books.