Friday, March 4, 2016

Guest Post: Reader Response by Kristi Charish (author of Owl and the City of Angels)

Happy to have Kristi Charish the author of one of my new favourite urban fantasy series Owl. You can see my review for her first book in the series here. Her newest title Owl and the City of Angels came out on March 1, 2016. Today she'll be talking briefly about reader response.


Best responses from readers is always a tricky one to tackle because it plays fast and loose with a serious rule of mine: Goodreads reviews and I shall not meet. There’s a good reason for this- Goodreads (and other review places) are places for readers to talk about books and how they made them feel. It is not a place for authors to go and read what people think about their books- there is email and Facebook for that.

Having said that, some my favorite emails are from readers who have reached out and wanted to tell me they enjoyed the book. That is always awesome- I don’t think readers realize how fantastic it makes my day when someone who read my book decides to email me out of the blue. A lot of Owl fans have told me they love the same 80s style action adventures I do– The Mummy, Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China to name a few – and it’s one of the things that excites me about writing - that my love of fun adventure movies comes across in Owl.

Another response that’s been awesome is the conversation happening around what a genre female protagonist should be. On one hand we have the Mary Sue stereotype – the girl everywoman supposedly wishes they could be who gets swept off her feet into a dream world and often rescued by a male counterpart – and the backlash against that type of damsel in distress which has demanded strong, fierce female protagonists with ‘agency’…though I’m not sure anyone has a clear idea of what that’s supposed to mean. There is a fantastic discussion on the topic on Tor by author Erin Lindsey asking whether we’ve replaced one unattainable stereotype with a new unrealistic stereotype. In the middle of that discussion is the question of whether a female protagonist needs to be likeable and whether we as readers are disinclined to accept a true female rogue who really doesn’t care about your feelings. I’m not in that conversation, but Owl certainly is and I’m happy to see it- both the good and bad comments -because I think it’s an important conversation to be having right now. Why should only the boys get all the fun being jerks in their stories and the girls get left out? (I’m looking at you James Bond).

The best response from readers hand down? Regardless of whether they liked Owl or not, hearing that someone bothered to pick up and read the book.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong

Summary:

Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy's most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan.

With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.

Review:

Since I had reviewed Otherworld Nights, I had read Kelley Armstrong's short stories before. And between Cainsville and Women of the Otherworld, I can say I'm a fan of her writing.

That's why the short stories that feed into those series are my favourite. They are just a bit of richness to the settings, a little extra that adds to the world. I'm a huge fan of that with stories I adore; I'll read the drabbles, novellas, extra scenes on an author's blog.

That being said, there were a few stories that were the exception. I really liked The Collector, Plan B and Last Stand which were all great short horror stories that worked despite. I was not a fan V Plates however which is part of the Otherworld series. (Thank you Kelley Armstrong for introducing "zombie brothel" to my Google searches as I tried to verify the title).

In the mood for some unsettling creepy tales without having to settle in to a novel for payoff? Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong is a good read. Recommended especially with warm mug of tea on a winter night.


Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong is available now wherever you buy books.

Overall rating: 3/5

Full disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev


Summary:

Ria Parkar is Bollywood's favorite Ice Princess--beautiful, poised, and scandal-proof--until one impulsive act threatens to expose her destructive past. Traveling home to Chicago for her cousin's wedding offers a chance to diffuse the coming media storm and find solace in family, food, and outsized celebrations that are like one of her vibrant movies come to life. But it also means confronting Vikram Jathar.

Ria and Vikram spent childhood summers together, a world away from Ria's exclusive boarding school in Mumbai. Their friendship grew seamlessly into love--until Ria made a shattering decision. As far as Vikram is concerned, Ria sold her soul for stardom and it's taken him years to rebuild his life. But beneath his pent-up anger, their bond remains unchanged. And now, among those who know her best, Ria may find the courage to face the secrets she's been guarding for everyone else's benefit--and a chance to stop acting and start living.

Rich with details of modern Indian-American life, here is a warm, sexy, and witty story of love, family, and the difficult choices that arise in the name of both.

Review:

Sometimes I like books that are fluffy and sweet. Sometimes I like to sink my teeth into something a little bit more serious. The Bollywood Bride is a little bit of both, and I adore romances like this.

At its heart, this is both a reunion story and an enemies to lovers. Ria and Vikram have a past that is gradually exposed over the course of the book but they also have an extreme aversion to each other which they express in very different ways.

Also, critically this examines the nature of lies. From lies you tell yourself to feel okay. Lies you tell the public. Lies you tell your family and friends. Who do you owe the truth? And how much of it?

I absolutely love that there is an emotional resolution that isn't explicitly tied to the Happily Ever After and feels complicated and real. I love that the Bollywood Bride tackled mental illness, extended families and sacrifice. I can't wait to read more of Somali Dev's romance.

The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev is available now wherever you buy books.

Overall rating: 3/5

Full disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson


Summary:

Falling in Love with Hominids presents over a dozen years of Hopkinson’s new, uncollected fiction, much of which has been unavailable in print. Her singular, vivid tales, which mix the modern with Afro-Carribean folklore, are occupied by creatures unpredictable and strange: chickens that breathe fire, adults who eat children, and spirits that haunt shopping malls.

Review:

Nalo Hopkinson has a rhythm in her writing that has me thinking in sing-song for weeks. She's a vibrant voice with a spectacular imagination and her series of short stories also serves as a great introduction or overview. The dialogue is worth raving about.

There was once a hearing impaired drummer talk about how they thought of sounds as thick or thin rather than the traditional soft or loud or low or high. The same applies to Falling in Love with Hominids with the way it uses language--as if there were a completely different way altogether of constructing sentences.

In the foreword, the author talks about being misanthropic as a teen but learning to fall in love with hominids. Is there a central theme that ties these stories together? Not really. At best, that the magical and the mundane are never as far apart as we think they are. This might be detrimental to someone looking for a central point or a journey, but I just enjoyed the stories individually and as a collection.

A great place to continue learning to love short fiction.

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson is available now wherever you buy books.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Full disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Also, I'm back to reviewing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: The Waterborne Exile (Waterborne #2) by Susan Murray


Summary:

In a world of turmoil, following the king’s death, the traitor Vasic is struggling to secure his rule over the combined Peninsular Kingdoms whilst the exiled queen, Alwenna, has taken refuge with freemerchant community whose elders fear her dark power. Mistrust rules the day with bribery, drugs, traffic king of children, and murder rife throughout the kingdom.

As the priestess’ plot for revenge continues, Alwenna leaves to seek the outcast group of loyal kinsman. Marten attempts to restore Alwenna to the throne but as the priestess closes in, will he succeed?

Review:

When I reviewed the first book in the Waterborne series, by midway an eerie tone set in, a kind of moral greyness that it never shook. Now the Waterborne Exile continues that horror vibe with unsettling and unpredictable magic and mystery.

While I don't think there's much a strong sense of character here--the plot still features more heavily than Alwenna herself, I like where I think the series is going. It's starting to feel a little bigger in scope (not quite epic but something closer) even though it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. If anything, I think that's the kind of set up you often end up with in the second book in what is presumably a trilogy.

What do I expect out of the next book (with no spoilers):
- answers about Alwenna's powers
- answers about the Grey Brethren
- more intrigue
- a beautiful cover (I mean look at this one).

The Waterborne Exile by Susan Murray is available now wherever you buy books.

Overall rating: 3/5

Full disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from Angry Robot Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Review: Under the Lights (Daylight Falls #2) by Dahlia Adler


Summary:

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight--on everyone's terms but his own--Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could.


Review:

I read Young Adult literature when I was too young to do so, and I still read it now that I've slowly aged out of the target demographic. And much like for SFF, I read it because I think that is incredibly important and can tackle some of the more serious issues. My grade twelve writer's craft teacher once remarked that the things she began writing when she was a teenager were the same things she wrote about now.

I cannot state enough the grace with which Under the Lights tackles its story. Under the Lights at the end of the day about love. It's about unrequited love. It's about loving your parents when they are visibly very flawed human beings. It's about the love that fuels relationships--filial, romantic and friendships--that grow and change with you as you're becoming an adult. Under the Lights is about the first love you'll ever have and the moment you've realized you've never quite loved anyone for real.

While I wasn't always a fan of Josh's part of the narrative because he's purposefully dickish in an irritatingly familiar way, I loved Vanessa's a lot. And at the end of the day even Josh grew on me with a little bit of perspective and some growing up on his part. I also loved the way the secondary characters, mostly returning cast from Behind the Scenes like Ally and Liam with some new faces, added some real depth to the story.

At the end of this, the fact that this is a love story for a queer woman of colour is so important. I read Vanessa Park as bisexual, though many may not agree because, well, subtext. But that itself is very clever in some ways but not confirming a label where none is really needed. I often say that I wish books had been around when I was younger, and Under the Lights is no different. The romance is right on the cover! There are no suggestive silhouettes or objects, just two young women kissing in a way I see in mainstream M/F romances in media and not enough for queer romances. Most especially during Pride and after a landmark SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality, my heart is so full.

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler is out today. And I'm going to buy a copy because I need more of this.

Overall rating: 4/5

Full disclosure: I received this book as a review copy from Spencer Hill Contemporary through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: Red Nexus by Benoit Chartier



Summary:

Once part of the Tokyo elite, Wen Harkwell lost his status when his mother died, and now he's forced to labor in the depths of the city, far from the easy life of the Heights, struggling to support his thirteen-year-old brother Sammy. By day he toils in a factory and by night he digs for scrap in the infamous Heap under the city. One night Wen is drawn to an old book he finds and risks taking it home-a quick decision with devastating consequences.

Soon after, Sammy is kidnapped, and when Wen turns to a friend and coworker for help, the two find themselves embroiled in a secret high-tech operation that will stop at nothing to maintain their ciphered code. When Wen realizes that the same corporation connected to his mother's disappearance is behind the attack, he knows he must do whatever it takes to save his brother-even if it means working for the enemy.

Review:

As you can likely tell from my blog title, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. It is the genre I first grew to love as a kid because of the range of imagination that can be shown. I don't read as widely as I should anymore and Red Nexus proved that to me.

The key feature of Red Nexus was a dark, vibrant technological world I couldn't get enough of. Honestly, I don't know whether I've been reading too many character-driven novels but I probably would have happily had nothing happen while exploring the world building. As a consummate political science nerd, what is your system of government exactly? Please write 20 - 200 pages for me.

The plot and Wen care nothing for my wishes though. From the moment Sammy gets kidnapped, there are a few short moments before careening from one chaos to the next. Red Nexus could probably be listed for someone who likes action movies Though this is written from Wen's perspective, I would've liked to see a bit more depth in some of the secondary characters.

My only other quibble is on occasion the dialogue doesn't read as smoothly as it could. I'll concede that this is genre-wide issue for me. And oh, what a wide and wonderful place Red Nexus is. If you're looking for some sci-fi with some philosophical heft and good world building, you've got the book.

Overall rating: 3/5

Red Nexus is available at:
Benoit Chartier's website



Full disclosure: a copy of the novel was kindly given to me by the author.