Black Canary: Breaking Silence (Alexandra Monir)

Black Canary: Breaking Silence is a novel by Alexandra Monir. It is part of the DC Icons novels.
Finished on: 16.4.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other DC Icons novels.]

Content Note: cissexism/gender plague

Plot:
Dinah Lance lives in Gotham City under the rule of the Owl Council who have made sure that the women in Gotham City don’t have a voice – figuratively, but also literally: singing is outlawed for women, and has been made physically impossible, much to Dinah’s chagrin. She dreams of singing, and of the one time she is sure she remembers hearing a girl sing when she was a child. When she and her friends Ty and Mandy try to find out more about the female singers of the past, Dinah gets in deep trouble though, drawing the attention of the Owl Council, with worse consequences only avoided through the intervention of her cop father Larry. Dinah should be keeping her head down under the circumstances, but with an old friend of her dead mother, Barbara Gordon, making an appearance, and new and very cute student Oliver Queen arriving at her school, Dinah can’t help but continue to question the way things are. And maybe she can find her voice after all.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence takes a very different approach from the other novels in the DC Icons series so far, setting its story decades in the future in an dystopian version of Gotham. While that’s interesting, a lot of it seems a little half-baked and not quite thought through, making it a little disappointing despite its obvious(ly) feminist mission.

The book cover showing a drawn blond girl with bandages across her mouth, a black canary on the shoulder of her torn leather jacket.
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Signal Boost (Alyssa Cole)

Signal Boost is the second novel in the Off the Grid trilogy by Alyssa Cole.
Finished on: 31.10.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel in the series.]

Content Note: suicidal thoughts, mention of rape and assault

Plot:
After electricity cut off everywhere, and with it all kind of communication systems, John and his best friend Arden made their way to his parents’ cabin. Now they have settled into a more or less comfortable routine with John’s parents and his siblings. Well, as comfortable as the end of the world can probably get. Until one night, John surprises a guy as he tries to steal their tomatoes. Mykhail wasn’t as lucky in the apocalypse as them, but as an astrophycisist he brings information of what might have happened – and a plan of how he may be able to help. For that, he needs to trek to his old university. John, who felt nothing but useless recently and who finds Mykhail very attractive indeed, is determined to go along and see if he can’t help either.

Signal Boost is a quick read that draws you in and makes you root for the characters. The plot itself is a little uneven, but as it takes a backseat to the characters and their relationship, I didn’t mind that too much.

The book cover shwoing an Asian man in front of a starry night sky.
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Queer*Welten 05/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 5 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 5.10.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

I’m really happy with my Queer*Welten subscription. Each magazine is different in tone and style, and there’s always something to discover. There’s really nothing more you could hope for.

The magazine cover showing a painting of a futuristic greenhouse with a cupola, a pool and pillars with plants winding around them.
Read more about each of the stories

Dune [Frank Herbert]

Dune is the first novel in the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
Finished on: 23.9.2021
[Here’s my review of the 2021 movie adaptation.]

Content Note: fatmisia, colonialism, racism, misogyny, rape, homomisia, eugenics

Plot:
Paul is the son and heir of Duke Leto Atreides and Bene Gesserit Jessica. By decree of the Emperor, the Atreides clan just received stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, home to the valuable spice. That means relieving the Harkonnens, led by their Baron, of their post there – and the resulting wealth. If the Harkonnens hadn’t already been the Atreides’ mortal enemies, they would be now. Just before the Atreides family is moving to Arrakis, the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit comes to test Paul, seeing great potential in him, whose fate seems to be intertwined not only with Arrakis, but the entire universe.

I pretty much hated Dune, and I’m not entirely sure why I struggled my way through it to actually finish it. I’m just very, very sure that I will not be continuing with the series.

The book cover showing a man wrapped in a cloak in front of an orange background. Behind him is a blue moon, his eyes also are a shining blue.

[SPOILERS]

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Queer*Welten 04/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 4 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 23.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

I’m not much of a magazine reader, but Queer*Welten is an absolutely lovely magazine that offers such a wide array of topics that I always find something in it that I love, and find more than a few somethings that I really like. This issue is no exception.

The magazine cover showing an illustration drawn with biro of two circles that seem mirror images at first, but differ when you look closely at them. They show rivers, plants, insects and fish.
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The Constant Rabbit (Jasper Fforde)

The Constant Rabbit is a novel by Jasper Fforde.
Finished on: 17.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism and fascism

Plot:
In 1965, an as of yet unexplained Anthropomorphising Event took place that transformed 18 rabbits into intelligent, talking human-sized beings. Ever since, they have multiplied and become a part of society. What part exactly that is, is a hotly-debated topic. The UKARP (UK Anti-Rabbit Party) that wants to see rabbit rights strictly limited has garnered much momentum. Peter Knox works for RabCoT, the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce, but sees the mounting leporophobia around him with concern. When a rabbit family moves in next door, and he realizes that he knew Connie, the mother, in college, it becomes ever more obvious that Peter will need to choose a side.

The Constant Rabbit is not subtle in its allegory, but its so supremely weird in the most wonderful way that it never feels preachy. It’s instead a deeply political, funny and revealing book.

The book cover, shwoing a white rabbit in a business suit in front of a red background.
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The History of Bees (Maja Lunde)

The History of Bees is the first novel in the Climate Quartett by Maja Lunde. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte der Bienen) by Ursel Allenstein.
Finished on: 9.8.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
1852, England. William is a biologist who dreams of studying bees. But after a professional setback, he hasn’t managed to get out of bed for months now. Maybe he’ll find new energy, though.
2007, Ohio, USA. George is a bee farmer, hoping that his son Tom will follow in his footsteps. Tom has other plans, though.
2098, China. Tao is one of many human pollinators, doing her best to fill in for the bees who disappeared and left agriculture and with it humanity in a life-threatening situation. But the work is hard and pay is meager.

The History of Bees is an okay read, at least once you get through the first half. While I found the topic interesting, the execution was difficult for me to enjoy.

The book cover showing a bee lying on its side as if dead.
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Last Guard (Nalini Singh)

Last Guard is the fifth novel of the Psy-Changeling Trinity Series (or the 20th novel of the Psy-Changeling Series) by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 1.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the Psy-Changeling series.]

Content Note: child abuse, (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
As part of the Mercant family, Canto is well-connected and has always been protected by them – meaning that despite the fact that he doesn’t conform to Psy ideas of perfection as he’s a wheelchair user, he could still rise in the family ranks and is now in the unique positions to bring together a Psy designation that has been mostly forgotten: the anchors like him. One of those anchors is Payal Rao, tough CEO of the Rao family conglomerate and Canto know that he needs her cooperation to make his plan of an anchor union work. What he didn’t expect when they finally meet in person, was that he actually knows Payal from when they were children – and their old connection immediately comes back to life again.

Last Guard gives us quite a few new perspectives in a world that has been firmly established – not an easy thing to pull off without feeling shoehorned in, but Singh manages it. And I liked Payal and Canto, making the book a full success for me.

[Let me just take a quick moment to say that I can’t believe that I read 20 books in this series, not counting the short story collections, within well over a decade and I am still having fun with the series as a whole.]

The book cover showing an Indian palace with palm trees, overlayed with a woman standing, overlayed yet again with a man's face, all in pink and black.
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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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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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