Angelfall (L. Penelope)

Angelfall is the second novel in the Eternal Flame series by L. Penelope.
Finished on: 21.02.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Lyrix is the first angel to emerge in a thousand years. This means that she is still closest to the angels’ power source and should become a Seraph – one of the four angel leaders – relieving the fifth youngest angel. But Lyrix feels that she needs to explore the world a little more. That includes spending time with Wren. He is angelborn – his mother is an angel, his father human – and thus at the very bottom of the angel hierarchy. He, too, feels pulled towards Lyrix. But there is no room for their relationship in their world – so they hope that maybe in the human world, they are allowed some freedom.

Angelfall is a nice, quick and very enjoyable read but I also have to admit that I’m not too sad that there aren’t any more novels in the series. Though if Penelope ever continues writing it, I might pick it up anyway.

The book cover showing a woman from the nose down in a ripped shirt, below her a cityscape.
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Queer*Welten 01/2020

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. It contains four short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 14.2.2021

Queer*Welten fills a gap in the German SFF scene by having an explicitely queer-feminist mission. That in itself would be reason enough to support it any way you can. But fortunately it’s not all the magazine has to offer – it gives us a wide range of stories that probably has something to offer for everyone.

The magazine cover showing a colorful word cloud in the shape of an heart.
Read More About Each of the Stories

Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

Rebecca is a novel by Daphne du Maurier.
Finished on: 6.2.2021

Plot:
Working as a companion to Mrs van Hopper has brought the unnamed protagonist to Monte Carlo where Mrs van Hopper spies Maxim de Winter, whose somewhat tragic story precedes him: he is a widower and lives at the grand estate of Manderley, now all alone. Mrs van Hopper arranges a meeting with Maxim de Winter which also introduces the protagonist to him. When Mrs van Hopper falls ill, the protagonist and Maxim de Winter start to spend more time with each other and finally he asks her to marry him. But living in Manderley, where the shadow of Maxim’s deceased wife Rebecca hangs over everything and her housekeeper Mrs Danvers makes sure it doesn’t leave, proves quite a challenge for them.

I’ve been meaning to read Rebecca for a while, and despite its renown I actually managed to stay spoiler-free – which was a good thing. But even if I had known more about how things would go down, I doubt that I would have been any less engaged in the book. Rebecca is a classic for a reason, a hypnotic novel that doesn’t let go of you easily.

The book cover showing a drawing of a young woman in front of a huge estate.
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Misspelled (ed. by Julie E. Czerneda)

Misspelled is a short story collection edited by Julie E. Czerneda.
Finished on: 5.2.2021

Misspelled is an anthology with stories all about spells that go wrong somehow. The stories are all humorous in tone, but, as usual, not all of them work equally well. Each story in this collection is introduced by a narrator who also comments on it at the end – a bit like an MC. I found that a little irritating, but not so much that it actually bothered me. Overall, the collection didn’t blow me away, though I liked more stories than I didn’t like.

The books cover showing a young woman leaning on a stone table with a key on it, with a kind of lens-flare effect over the image that includes a couple of ghostly figures.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

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Angelborn (L. Penelope)

Angelborn is the first in the Eternal Flame series by L. Penelope.
Finished on: 20.1.2021

Plot:
Caleb is angelborn – his mother was an angel, his father human. He risked everything once for finding love in the human world, but didn’t succeed which sentenced him to spend eternity in the Wasteland. But he manages to escape together with another Wasteland resident, Wren, and knows he has another chance to find his soulmate and convince her to share her soul with him.
Maia has always seen ghosts and it hasn’t been easy, but she has learned to live with it. Only the ghost that is haunting her roommate at college claims that he isn’t a ghost at all, but alive. Maia doesn’t know what to believe when it comes to Caleb, but she knows that she shouldn’t be feeling about him the way she does.

As I was reading Angelborn, I wasn’t too sure whether I actually loved it. But I couldn’t stop reading and was absolutely engrossed, so it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed it.

The book cover showing the torso of a Black man wearing nothing but a leather jacket. Beneath him are the ruins of a city.
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Recognize Fascism (ed. by Crystal M. Huff)

Recognize Fascism is a short story collection edited by Crystal M. Huff.
Finished on: 17.1.2021
[I won this book in an LibraryThing Early Review Give-Away.]

The title of this collection is well chosen – all the stories revolve around fascism, recognizing it, fighting it, preventing it, getting out of it. In their introduction to this collection, Huff notes they were uncertain if they could edit it – whether they knew enough about fascism to do so. But they point out the problem with fascism in a very clear way:

Fascists foster uncertainty in order to undermine the ground you stand on when you declare, “This is fascist.” It’s akin to developing a political Impostor Syndrome, until you are second-guessing yourself at each turn. Fascism evades and evolves, such that you can’t exactly pinpoint it. It is a moving target. It gaslights. If you are unclear about what it is and can’t put your finger on it, pushing back against it is so much more difficult! Fascists then weaponize this confusion to secure your acquiescence.

So, they need not have worried about that, and it shows in the stories they collected that show a broad range of SciFi and Fantasy settings that all come back to the central theme. It is also an excellent example for feminist practice by using clear and extensive content notes for each story, so props for that as well (I will therefore not use Content Notes in this review, unless I discuss something in detail). Altogether, it’s an anthology that is very consistent in its high quality and I really enjoyed reading it.

The book cover showing the drawing of a young Black woman with a crown made of flames.

[Read more about each of the stories after the jump.]

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Piranesi (Susanna Clarke)

Piranesi is the second novel by Susanna Clarke.
Finished on: 9.1.2021

Plot:
Piranesi lives in the House. The House is endless and it provides everything he needs. The tides bring him fish, the statues that are present in every room bring him wonder. Twice a week, Piranesi meets The Other – the only other human who lives in the House, as far as Piranesi knows, and he has explored much of the House. Piranesi keeps meticulous records of his explorations, always looking for truth and knowledge. But the truth may be different form what he expects.

Piranesi is a strange, beautiful, weird, engrossing novel that gives us a bit of a mindfuck in very unexpected ways. I loved it and can only recommend that you go in knowing as little as possible about it. It will be worth it, I promise.

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Moonlit Surrender (Kitty Wilder)

Moonlit Surrender is a novel by Kitty Wilder.
Finished on: 1.1.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer contest.]

Content Note: dubious consent

Plot:
Lucy is trying very hard to balance her work life with the night classes she attends at community college and to still find time for her boyfriend. But when a mixed up classroom leads her to Professor Johnathan Wright, everything changes. Not only does Lucy find herself drawn inexorably to Johnathan, and vice versa, but Johnathan isn’t just a simple professor at a community college. He’s a vampire and his world is dangerous indeed for a human like Lucy. But the supernatural is only a part of the world that Johnathan opens for Lucy. The other part is sexual power exchange and submission.

Moonlit Surrender is a quick, engaging read with an interesting main couple that lost itself a little for me in the second half. It suffers a little from “not like the other girls” syndrome, and adds a daddy kink in the second half that I wouldn’t have needed. But I read it in pretty much a day and I did enjoy it overall.

The book cover showing a man with very pale eyes holding a woman with dark hair from behind.
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Magical Meanderings (Irene Radford)

Magical Meanderings is a short story collection by Irene Radford, some published under the names Rachel Atwood, C.F. Bentley and Phyllis Ames, and some written in cooperation with Bob Brown.
Finished on: 31.12.2020
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer contest.]

The collection gives us a broad variety of stories, showing how prolific a writer Radford is. Some of the stories are connected to novels she has written, which have a tendency to be unclear for the uninitiated like me. I have to say that while I enjoyed some stories, and didn’t enjoy some others, overall I didn’t fall in love with any of them. Despite the great variety here, I don’t think I will check out more of Radford’s works.

The book cover showing a pixelated photo of a forest with a drawn figure wearing a hat standing in it.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

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The Year of the Crocodile (Courtney Milan)

The Year of the Crocodile is a novella/short story in the Cyclone series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 21.12.2020
[Here are my reviews of the rest of the series.]

Plot:
Tina and Blake have been dating for almost a year and Tina is excited to bring Blake home for Chinese New Year. Blake has been suggesting that Tina’s parents should also meet Blake’s father Adam, but Tina is afraid of that encounter. Her parents Hong Mei and Jian had to flee China for political reasons and don’t let anybody push them around. And Adam Reynolds, CEO of Cyclone Industries, is a pusher if ever there was one. But when Adam gets wind of it all, he decides to take matters in his own hands – as per usual. It will be an explosive New Year indeed.

The Year of the Crocodile is an absolute blast (no pun intended) (okay, pun slightly intended). It is funny and emotional and a sweet intermediate course in the series.

The book cover showing a blond, white man hugging an Asian woman from behind. She is turned to look back at him.
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