Radio Silence (Alyssa Cole)

Radio Silence is the first novel in the Off the Grid Trilogy by Alyssa Cole.
Finished on: 16.7.2021

Content Note: threat of rape

Plot:
Arden and John were roommates in Rochester, New York when something happened that turned the whole world upside down – no more electricity, no more internet, no information on what is going on. It has been a few weeks and things have gone from bad to worse, so the two decide to hike to the Canadian border where John’s family has a cabin. John hopes to meet them there and that life in the countryside is still a bit safer than in the city. But just before they reach the cabin, they are attacked. Fortunately, John’s gorgeous brother Gabriel comes to the rescue. Navigating this new life isn’t easy, and definitely not made easier by Arden’s attraction to Gabriel, or Gabriel’s controling tendencies.

Radio Silence was a really good read – I practically read it in one sitting and enjoyed it all the while. Good characters, nice setting and a main pairing that has excellent chemistry – nothing more I could ask for.

The book cover showing a young Black woman looking at the camera.
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A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan (set between the first and second novel).
Finished on: 15.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other Brothers Sinister books.]

Plot:
Lydia Charingford has left her past far behind her with the help of her family and her best friend Minnie. The only person who still reminds her of that most difficult time and who still could ruin her, is Doctor Jonas Grantham. Despite knowing about her past, Jonas has no such inclination, though – he would much rather win Lydia over for himself. If only she’d give him half a chance to do so. When he sees an opening to spend more time with her, he proposes a wager – and Lydia accepts.

A Kiss for Midwinter is a sweet read that explores its characters’ vulnerabilities in a really wonderful way, but the romance didn’t quite get off the ground for me in this one. I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me squee as it should have.

The book cover showing a dark-haired woman in a white 19th century dress with mistletoe in her hair.
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Superman: Dawnbreaker (Matt de la Peña)

Superman: Dawnbreaker is the fourth DC Icons novel, this one written by Matt de la Peña.
Finished on: 13.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other DC Icons novels.]

First, let me just say that I wasn’t aware of the sexual harrassment accusations against de la Peña, or I would have steered clear of the book and definitely not have spent any money on it. I only just learned about it when I googled him for this review. So, please think carefully before you throw any money at him.

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Clark Kent would be a normal teenager in Smallville – if it wasn’t for the fact that he has superhuman powers. He has always had them, not knowing why or how, but now they’re getting stronger. As does his urge to help, even though heroics run counter to his parents’ plea that he keeps his powers under wraps. When he hears about people disappearing from Smallville from his classmate Gloria Alvarez, he asks his best friend and school reporter Lana Lang for help figuring out what is going on.

Superman: Dawnbreaker is a slightly disappointing take on Superman, I thought. The character’s potential remained untapped for me, although I did appreciate it that the book talks a lot about racism and the precarious situation of (Mexican) immigrants.

The book cover shwoing a young boy with glasses wearing a red hoodie and a backpack in front of a field that is hit by lightning. In front of him is the Superman symbol.
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Queer*Welten 03/2020

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 3 contains two short stories, a comic, an essay and a mix of several short pieces in different forms about heroes.
Finished on: 12.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

The third issue of Queer*Welten collects yet again different perspectives and voices within SFF that both talk about and show how different SFF could be if it wasn’t just a white cis dude club. I really like how they always manage to include so many different facets of the issues they talk about – this issue is no different in that regard, but a lot different from what SFF often offers.

The magazine cover showing a drag queen astronaut with blue skin.
Read more about each of the stories

Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)

Siege and Storm is the second novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
Finished on: 11.7.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Plot:
Alina and Mal have made their way across the True Sea where they hope to build a new life for themselves in anonymity and far from the Darkling. For a while, this works out. But the Darkling hasn’t given up on Alina and her powers, and he has gained some new powers himself. When he finds them in hiding, he brings them back to Ravka with the help of privateer Sturmhond – but not before taking a detour that will affect Alina and her powers even more.

I wasn’t absolutely enthusiastic about the first novel, and Siege and Storm engaged me on about the same level of enthusiasm. The book is a good read, but I had at least as many issues with it, as I enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a snakelike dragon in shades of turquoise on black background. Golden drops cover the page.

[SPOILERS]

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Fat Chance, Charlie Vega (Crystal Maldonado)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is the first novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 8.7.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia, diet culture, racism

Plot:
Charlie and her parents used to be a good team, but since her dad died, her mom has gotten obsessed with her own weight – and with Charlie’s. Constantly leaving her diet suggestions, Charlie feels that her mother is never happy with her. It feels like the only person who is firmly in her corner is Amelia – who is everything that Charlie is not: beautiful. Athletic. Popular. In a relationship with a cute boy. When Brian takes an interest in Charlie, instead of easier, things get even more complicated for her.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an absolutely lovely, wonderful and cute book that I wished I could have read when I was a (fat) teenager. But better now than never!

The book cover showing a fat, Brown girl with glasses in front of a few flowers.
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The Trouble with Time Travel (ed. by Catherine Valenti, Laurie Gienapp)

The Trouble with Time Travel is a short story collection edited by Catherine Valenti and Laurie Gienapp.
Finished on: 6.7.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

I like time travel stories, so this anthology sounded very nice. As usual with anthologies, the quality between stories varies a little, though overall I’d say that it is pretty good, albeit not great, here. Definitely good enough to check it out – you’ll probably finde one or the other story you like here.

The book cover showing a man with a walking stick walking across a cloud towards a huge clock. Clouds, man and clock are all floating in the universe.
Read more about each of the stories

Hush (Dylan Farrow)

Hush is the first novel in the Hush series by Dylan Farrow.
Finished on: 2.7.2021

Plot:
Shae lives at the edge of a small village with her mother. They are just about tolerated in town since Shae’s brother died of the Blot, a highly contagious illness transmitted by ink which is why reading and writing are outlawed. The only people who don’t seem to fear that Shae might still be carrying the Blot are her best friend Fiona and Mads, the neighbor boy who may be more. But not even with them Shae has shared the fact that something is wrong with her, that her dreams and her embroidery are bleeding into reality. When the Bards come to town, Shae hopes to receive their blessing and healing, just like the entire town. While the town receives rain from them, Shae isn’t so lucky. And after they are gone, Shae’s mother is murdered, leaving her without hope and with very few options. So she risks it all and travels to the High House, where the Bards live, hoping to get help from them.

Hush is a pretty good read, albeit not deviating far from young adult fantasy standards. As it is being touted as a feminist book, I was expecting a little more from it in that regard, but I did like reading it overall.

The book cover showing a starry sky over the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea.
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Biskaya (SchwarzRund)

Biskaya is the first novel by SchwarzRund.
Finished on: 30.6.2021

Content Note: suicide, mental illness, eating disorder, (critical treatment of) racism and queermisia

Plot:
Tue is a Black woman in Berlin. She grew up on Biskaya, an island state that is part of the EU, but moved to Germany when she was still pretty young. Now she is the singer in punk band with a pretty good reputation and some success. But Tue struggles with her mental health, with being a Black queer woman in Germany, with her band members and with her flatmates. It is only with her best friend Matth, also queer and Black, that she feels at home.

Biskaya is an ambitious book. In some ways it is rather obvious that is a debut novel and maybe not quite as polished as you’d expect, but it is definitely worth it for the interesting perspectives it provides.

The book cover showing a slightly abstract painting by the author, a human figure in red, around the upper arm what could be a green bracelet with yellow pearls.
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Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender)

Felix Ever After is a novel by Kacen Callender.
Finished on: 25.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Felix is a student at an art school, hoping to get into a good college to pursue his art further. He therefore attends summer school with his best friend Ezra. He is also Black, trans, queer and desperate to fall in love for the first time, but secretly afraid that he has one marginalized identity too many. And maybe he is not all that sure about his identities anyway. Before he figures anything out, though, Felix arrives in school one morning to find pre-transitions photos of himself and his deadname plastered all over the school gallery. Suspecting his classmate and rival Declan, Felix hatches a plan to make him pay. But that plan leads him somewhere else entirely.

Felix Ever After is wonderful. Simply wonderful. It’s the kind of novel that queer people everywhere should grow up with, really. It made my heart swell in the best of ways.

The book cover showing an illustration of a Black guy in a tank top. His arms are covered in small tattoos, he is wearing a flower crown and underneath the tank top, we can just make out scars from top surgery.
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