The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

stars are legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars Are Legion
by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.

Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.

These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.

The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.

One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.

The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.

The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.

In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.

As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.

There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.

There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Slipping – Book Review

slipping by Lauren Beukes review

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this collection of short stories Lauren Beukes is now firmly on my favourite authors list. Clever and very relevant, the stories are a mix of sci-fi, weirdness, and commentary on modern life.

None of the stories here are very long so it’s easy to dip in and out of. Though saying that, normally I find myself having to stop between stories in short story collections but with this book I couldn’t do that, I had to start the next straight away. I think that was partly because they are short and I knew I wouldn’t have to stop reading half way through one (I hate having to do that), and partly because these stories are just that good I didn’t want to stop reading.

There weren’t any stories that I disliked, but my favourites were:

Slipping – about a contestant in a futuristic Paralympics event where the athletes can have exosuits, implants controlling their hormones, remote controlled bodies, or they can even remove their organs to make them run better.

Confirm/Ignore – a look into the mind of someone that creates fake online personas by copying other people’s photos and quotes.

The Green – pure sci/fi! Workers on a remote planet searching for plants or chemicals the company they work for can make money with.

Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs – a lolita punk pilots a Japanese fighter robot and battles monsters to save Tokyo.

Dial Tone – a story that’s about loneliness really.

Ghost Girl – a teenage girl haunting a university student.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

hunger makes the wolf

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hunger Makes the Wolf surprised me with how good it was. I think I was expecting a fun, quick space adventure read, but this story is so much more than that. There is magic (space witches!), rebellion of mistreated workers against the company that controls the planet, a woman learning to be a leader, and I think there are hints of a possible romance?

The main character, Hob Ravani, is a member of a gang of mercenaries who roam around their desert planet on motorcycles. They do odd jobs for money while trying to stay clear of TransRift, the company that controls the planet and the lives of the miners and the farmers. Hob has magic, a “witchyness” that means she can create fire, but she hasn’t learnt much about it beyond basic tricks like lighting cigarettes. Witchyness is feared on Tanegawa’s World so she has to keep it hidden.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s managed well. It starts out fast paced, we’re dropped into the middle of the action at the start and things are slowly revealed as the story progresses. Around the middle the pacing slows down where the rebellion is growing and Hob is learning how to be a leader, but it picks up again as it moves towards the action packed ending.

There’s plenty of character development, especially for Hob and her foster sister Mags. Hob isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and gets things wrong but still keeps trying to do the right thing and protect her family at the same time.

I loved the witchy elements, the Bone Collector, a sort of wise and mysterious mage, was one of my favourite characters in it.

The main story thread does have a conclusion, but there are things left open and it reads like there’s going to be a sequel. I’m certainly hoping there will be, there’s a lot more to learn about this world!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Best of the Web – December 2016 Roundup

paris bookshop

How social media sounded the death knell for super-skinny models

Europe has never liked borders – and it won’t be confined by them now

Women who Draw

Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

Colorfully Decorative Storefronts Reveal the Story of Paris

50 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Leeds

For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High

How to check if you’re in a news echo chamber – and what to do about it

Faux fur or real – do you know what you’re wearing?

Tokyo’s Vibrant, Adorable Taxi Signs Are Disappearing

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally

The Progress and Pitfalls of Television’s Treatment of Rape

Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’

50 Free Things to Do in Yorkshire

Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

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Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters Book Review

Book Description

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. But she’s never seen anything like this.

He is a broken man. The ambitions which once drove him are dead. Now he has new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city.

And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

My Review from GoodReads

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a few days to decide what to write about this one. I was on the fence whether to give it 3 stars or 4.

I enjoyed the serial killer / paranormal thriller storyline. It draws you in straight away with this, and the ongoing investigation held my interest. I thought it ended well without going so far into the paranormal side that the resolution is nonsense.

There are a few different viewpoints that the story keeps switching between, but because the characters are all realistic, unique and well developed I found it easy to keep up and keep them separate.

My main problem with the story was the detective’s teenage daughter Layla. She was self-obsessed and veered between acting old for her age and being very childish. All very true and normal for a teenager, but for me she got in the way of the story and became very irritating very quickly.

But Lauren Beukes’ writing and her skill in creating imperfect but likeable characters are what lifts this book above the norm. I even felt sorry for the murderer at times!

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Christmas books for people that don’t like Christmas

Christmas books for people that don't like ChristmasI actually do like Christmas, but I don’t like the overly sentimental, desperate to make you feel something rubbish that comes along with it.

The six books here are either set at Christmas, or have a wintery, dark feel to them. All of them offer something a bit different to the normal mass produced Christmas stories.

This is a follow up to the 9 Alternative Christmas books post I wrote a couple of years ago, because I wanted to share a few more books that I’ve read or heard of since then.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow

by Peter Høeg, Tiina Nunnally (Translator)

There’s a lot of snow in this book, and it’s actually set over Christmas, though you wouldn’t know it because the main character Smilla is not interested in Christmas at all. It’s bleak and completely unsentimental, but the story about a six-year-old boy who falls off a roof is gripping.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow on GoodReads

The Last Wish

by Andrzej Sapkowski

Another one that’s not set at Christmas, because it’s set in another world entirely. A fantasy about a witcher, a man with magic powers who hunts monsters for money. This has been made into a video game and I can see why because it’s faced paced and fun to read. The perfect antidote to Christmas mush, I’ve just bought the next book in the series to read.

The Last Wish on GoodReads

The Sittaford Mystery

by Agatha Christie

There’s nothing better than a good Agatha Christie to read in the winter. This has all the usual elements, an impossible murder, a country house, a truck full of red herrings, and throws in a seance and a winter with a heavy snowfall. Christmas is there too, but blink and you’ll miss it.

The Sittaford Mystery on GoodReads

The Taxidermist’s Daughter

by Kate Mosse

Set in the Autumn and not at Winter, but it has dark stormy weather and an isolated house. The creepy Victorian atmosphere makes this perfect for reading at this time of year.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter on GoodReads

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey

I don’t’ normally recommend books I haven’t read, but the description alone made me want to add this to this list. Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow.

The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness.

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

A story “about the ability of books to feed the soul.” this is on the list because a small part of the book happens over Christmas. It’s set in Germany during World War II and it is narrated by Death. Worth reading just for how unusual that is, but the tale of a young girl who is living with a poor foster family and can’t resist stealing books for herself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I can’t promise you won’t cry at this one, but it’s not cheap sentiment added just to get a reaction.

The Book Thief on GoodReads

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The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

the language of dying review

My review from GoodReads

The Language of DyingThe Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Five disconnected siblings return to their childhood home as their father is dying of cancer.The book is narrated by the middle child, and it was only after I started to write this review that I realised we never actually learn her name.

It’s only a short book, but there’s a lot packed into it. The narrator talks about watching her father dying, but she also tells us about the five siblings and their histories. We learn about how they grew apart, how they relate to each other now, and the different ways they deal with their father dying.

The narrator herself has a difficult story to tell about why she returned to live in her childhood home, and why she has been hiding from the world for so long.

The Language of Dying manages that difficult thing of being moving without being sickly sweet. It’s not an easy read, but Pinborough’s writing is beautiful, and she keeps a sense of humour and a magical element running through it.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. 

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Best of the Web – November 2016 Roundup

Manic Panic Isn't Just a Hair Dye Brand: It Was the First Punk Store in America

Manic Panic Isn’t Just a Hair Dye Brand: It Was the First Punk Store in America

BBC 100 Women 2016: Who is on the list?

Nicole Hellessey – Single Parent and South Pole Explorer

Is There an Echo in Here? Utilizing Amplification in the Sciences

Visions of the Future

Inexplicable Found Photographs of Women in Trees

Where to find Cheap Books

Who Will Command The Robot Armies?

Indian farmers fight against climate change using trees as a weapon

Meet the Tank Girls Taking on al-Shabab

Five boozy hot chocolates your granny wouldn’t make

There is no such thing as “free” vaccines: Why we rejected Pfizer’s donation offer of pneumonia vaccines.

Love, Disability, and Movies

How sexist stereotypes mean doctors ignore women’s pain

How an Ad Campaign Invented the Diamond Engagement Ring

Teaching 1984 in 2016

Visions of the Future

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Christmas Gifts for Book Lovers

These are my choices for the best Christmas gifts for book lovers. I’ve included some practical gifts, some cosy gifts and some that will make their home beautiful!

Panda Tea for One

Panda teacup Christmas gift for booklovers

Panda Tea for one £12 on Topshop.

Mini book necklace

Mini book necklace with coloured paper inside and a star on the front

Mini book necklace £12 at The Craft Fantastic

Bookshop Scented Candle

christmas gift for book lovers candle

Vintage bookshop scented Candle £10.99 at Old Glow Candles

Bookworm Badge

christmas gifts for book lovers badge

Bookworm badge £2.45 at Fable and Black

Recycled 100% Wool Throw

christmas gift for book lovers blanket

Wool blanket £22 from MARQUIS & DAWE

Classic Book Cover Cushion

classic book cover cushion

Classic book cover cushion £25.00 at The Literary Gift Company

Milk Chocolate Spoon with Marshmallows

Christmas gifts for book lovers - hot chocolate

Milk chocolate spoon with marshmallows – £3 at Whittards

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Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

My review from GoodReads

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story of alchemy in the late 18th century set in a travelling freak show.

The main characters were all very morally ambiguous, and most of them were not very likeable. Dr Potter is the main narrator and he is an alcoholic that has done, and is still doing, some very bad things.

Lyman is the man who is really running the travelling show and he is a nasty piece of work. Reading about him and the way he controls people makes my skin crawl – he’s a villain but written in a way that is realistic enough to be very, very scary.

The two brothers, Ag and Sol, were brilliant though. They argued and drank their way through the book, stumbling from one crisis to the next with no real idea what they were trying to do.

I also liked Elizabeth, she started out as a forceful, motivated and likeable character and I wish she did more than end up as a standard damsel in distress type.

Overall I enjoyed reading this. It’s well written and the characters are all well rounded and you know they’ve lived full lives before we met them. There’s a very oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere which builds tension to a satisfying finale.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. 

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