Tag: queer fic

Review – The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Posted October 30, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, by Olivia WaiteThe Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Olivia Waite

I picked up The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from where it had been patiently awaiting me on the shelf more or less on a whim… and got immediately sucked in. At first I couldn’t quite see how Agatha and Penelope were going to work — and in that sense the book was very much a slow burn and definitely put the work in! I believed in it without question by the end, for sure — and I also believed that they would be good for one another.

Agatha and Penelope are both rather independent, but each in their own way, bringing their own strengths to the partnership. Agatha is practical, focused on her goals of managing her business and her son as he comes of age-but she lacks idealism and joy. Those things aren’t lacking around Penelope, though she has yet to find her voice and her joy. From being quite unlike, you quickly come to understand why they complement each other and work well as friends — better than they might have imagined.

They are the main characters, of course, but there’s much to enjoy in the supporting cast: Penelope’s ‘husband’ and his real relationship with Penelope’s brother; the shocking and unrepentant poet, Joanna Molesey; Sidney, Agatha’s son, and Eliza, his lover… the supporting cast all have their charms and their stories, and help to bring the story to life.

Another aspect some readers will be keen on is the fact that Agatha and Penelope are mature women: Agatha has an adult son, after all! This isn’t a story of blemishless, stunning young women, but one of women who have lived, and enjoy that in one another. Pretty as the cover is, too, it’s misleading — Agatha and Penelope are average women, not higher class debutantes.

To my surprise, the book fell together for me very well, despite my initial scepticism about the characters and how they’d fit together. And their little revenge against closed-minded prigs in their community is rather enjoyable…

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Slippery Creatures

Posted October 7, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Slippery Creatures by K.J. CharlesSlippery Creatures, K.J. Charles

One of my least favourite things in any story is when the plot is driven by miscommunication/lack of communication… but though this is true of Slippery Creatures, I can’t ding the story for it. The lack of communication is built into the characters, and how they react to it is totally consistent, and makes sense with who they are. It would be more frustrating if they weren’t bouncing off each other, because it wouldn’t ring true. Kim is messed up, and Will is horribly stubborn, and the story would be far too easy without them.

I do enjoy their relationship, and their characters, even though Kim unquestionably brings it all on himself and puts Will in terrible danger by misreading him and his motivations, and then not being straightforward with him. But I really enjoy Phoebe and Maisie, and I’d love to know more about them — they both play small but emotionally significant parts in the plot, and I love them.

The end of the book is very much not a happy ending: Slippery Creatures is the start of something, not the end. For that reason, it’s a little rough to say how much I’m going to enjoy this series as a whole — but I suspect it will be a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Elatsoe

Posted September 21, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Elatsoe by Darcie Little BadgerElatsoe, Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe is a book set in a slightly alternate US, with many things that are familiar… and some things that aren’t, like Ring Travel (for those related enough to fairies to use fairy rings as transport) and the well-known presence of things like ghosts, vampires, and weird cursed scarecrows. Darcie Little Badger is Lipan Apache, and so is her main character and her family, and the story is strongly informed by those traditions, stories and magic.

I think that for the right person, this book is pure magic. There’s a lot to enjoy, like Kirby the ghost dog, and the ghost trilobites, and for goodness’ sake the ghost mammoth. The world-building around the story is pretty fascinating, in its differences and the way it makes different traditions work together. I also enjoyed the trust between Ellie and her parents, and the fact that they believe her and act on what she tells them (unlike many parents in YA books). It’s also cool that Ellie is casually revealed to be asexual.

I didn’t fall head over heels for it, though. It felt like it just wasn’t aimed at me, really; there was nothing that I hated or could point to that I didn’t specifically like, though the narration felt a little young, and I could never quite place how old Ellie was meant to be. (We’re told at one point, or at least get a pretty good idea, from her thoughts about college and so on, but then I kept reading her as younger.)

So, not quite for me — and yet still enjoyable: I read it in big chunks, after all!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Patience & Esther

Posted February 27, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Patience & Esther by S.W. SearlePatience & Esther: An Edwardian Romance, S.W. Searle

Patience & Esther is a cute graphic novel featuring a lady’s maid and a parlourmaid in an Edwardian house, who become friends, fall in love, and decide to make their way in a world that is beginning to talk about women’s suffrage. Esther is in fact Indian, and the comic is also very positive about Patience’s weight. It’s a sweet story, focusing on the love between them and their will to make their way instead of their setbacks. It’s worth noting that there are several very explicit sex scenes as well.

I feel like the impulse to make it a very positive love story was nice, but it made the whole thing lack bite for me. I quickly realised that in every case they’d figure things out. There’s definitely a place for that, but with only the barest edge of reality in there (when Esther has trouble getting a job) their triumphs felt easily won as well.

Overall, it’s enjoyable and I like the art style, plus the notes at the end about some of the historical details.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Fireheart Tiger

Posted February 24, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de BodardFireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard

Received to review via Netgalley

This is blurbed as The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle… and it’s really not like either of those, to my mind, so I really wouldn’t recommend it as such. There’s a touch of politics, yes, but Thanh isn’t much like Maia and nor is her position very similar except in that they’re both in a precarious position in a court (though Maia’s risks feel quite different to Thanh’s)… though now, a few weeks after reading the story, I suppose I do recognise Maia’s road to taking control of some of his power echoed in Thanh’s story. It might be more alike than it seemed on the surface, now it’s settled.

When it comes to its other big comparison point, for me it lacks the humour of Howl’s Moving Castle. It is also obviously completely devoid of any Welsh influence, and is not aimed at the same age group. It shares one central plot element, sort of. I’m a little confused about these comparisons, to be honest; I always suck at comparing books to one another, but I still don’t see the comparison here.

In any case, it’s a queer story set in a Vietnamese-influenced court. Thanh is a princess, but she’s most definitely a spare: originally sent away as a hostage, now returned and asked to negotiate with those who previously held her hostage. She has two main memories of her time at the other court: her affair with another princess, and a massive fire that overtook the palace and nearly left her stranded.

Both of these things are, obviously, relevant.

I found the way the plot played out fairly obvious; as a novella, it paints in pretty broad strokes. There are some hints of nuance in Thanh’s mother’s characterisation and motivations, which helps, but mostly it’s fairly straight-forward and works out the way I expected. (I’m very surprised by people who don’t recognise the abusive relationship for what it is, though, and think that’s intended to be the romance — so maybe it’s more subtle than I thought and I just trust Aliette de Bodard a bit too much!) For a story of this length, I don’t usually expect to be surprised, though, and I did very much enjoy the queer relationships and the glimpses of a different kind of court life and attitude to that more familiar to me from history and Western-inspired fantasy.

In the end, it didn’t blow me away as much as I’d hoped or expected — which is partly, I think, due to those comparisons to two books that mean a lot to me. It was enjoyable to read, but not like The Goblin Emperor in the ways I hoped for, and even less like Howl’s Moving Castle. We all take different things away from stories, and it’s clear that my version of The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle don’t overlap with the understanding of them taken away by those who made these comparisons. It’s worth keeping that caution in mind when comparison titles make something sound like it’s going to be completely up your alley, I guess!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Cemetery Boys

Posted February 24, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasCemetery Boys, Aidan Thomas

I really wanted to read this as soon as it came out, but I’m a mood-reader and it kept not being the time. Whoops. Anyway, now I have: it’s the story of a trans brujo, someone who can summon the souls of the dead and lay them to rest. Yadriel is a part of the brujx community, but somewhat kept apart because they’re handling the fact that he’s trans quite badly. In his desperation to prove himself, he summons a spirit… and it turns out to be the ghost of Julian, a boy from school who is rather wayward and not at all like Yadriel himself.

I wasn’t entirely sure how Yadriel and Julian could work together, knowing that this also featured a romance between them, but even as Julian annoys the heck out of Yadriel… the attraction and connection between them also makes sense. It’s somewhat forced on them by circumstance, but Julian’s unexpected kindnesses — and Yadriel’s desperateness to prove himself — speak volumes, and they become quite close. With the help of Yadriel’s cousin Maritza, a bruja also somewhat ostracised for her refusal to use blood to channel her healing powers (she’s a vegan), they try to figure out why Yadriel’s brother is missing, and what the heck is going on.

There was a certain aspect of the plot which I saw coming from a bit too far away, and I really wish it hadn’t worked out that way because I liked the character, and I was more in the mood for a different kind of story there. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, because it does, but it wasn’t how I’d hoped things would turn out.

I adore how fiercely protective of Yadriel Julian becomes; the ending is a smile a minute, honestly. The overall feel of the book is rather young, but that rather suited my need for something that felt easy to read (even as it deals with some difficult topics, like being trans and fitting into your very gendered community properly). Definitely one I’m happy to recommend!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Defekt

Posted January 15, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Defekt, by Nino CipriDefekt, Nino Cipri

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 20th April 2021

I didn’t love Finna, though I liked it; it felt it leaned a bit too much on being angry about soul-sucking capitalism (which, same, but the choir can get tired of being preached to). Defekt is set in the same world, and briefly crosses over with Finna (we see Jules right before the events of that book), but for whatever reason it worked a bit better for me — it felt a little less preachy, and I loved the idea of all those sentient furnishings. The toilet is a highlight (seriously).

I was a little bit put off by the “self-cest” thing, though: Derek is the main character, and after he takes an uncharacteristic sick day, he has to do a special inventory shift. During the shift, he meets four of his clones, and finds himself particularly drawn to one of them. Sure, that one is quite different to him in many ways, but the potential romance between them was a bit of an odd note for me.

Still, a fun novella, and I suspect those who already enjoyed Finna will enjoy this at least as much.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Faerie Hounds of York

Posted January 7, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden PowellThe Faerie Hounds of York, Arden Powell

The Faerie Hounds of York did not quite go the places I expected it to. It started off with Loxley finding himself in a fairy ring, rescued by a gruff but kind stranger, Thorncress. Warned to leave the area and get himself to London, away from Faerie influence, Loxley quickly finds himself under Thorncress’s care again. A bond is forming between them, as Thorncress tells Loxley he will help him solve his mystery and get free of the Faerie… if it’s possible.

There’s one hell of a moment with this book which I didn’t expect, given the genre; I shouldn’t say too much unless I spoil the impact, because it turned a story I was mildly enjoying into something more intriguing for me. Some aspects of the romance genre are still here, but there’s a subversion of certain expectations which put me on the back foot. I shouldn’t say too much about that!

I enjoyed the characters and the bond they form, but that moment of subverted expectation might’ve been the best bit — I could otherwise have wished for more build-up, more familiarity with the inner lives of the characters (particularly Thorncress). On the other hand, then there’d be less mystery… In any case, definitely enjoyable.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Conventionally Yours

Posted December 31, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Conventionally Yours by Annabeth AlbertConventionally Yours, Annabeth Albert

Conventionally Yours features a trope-filled road trip during which two rivals head to a gaming tournament together, and of course discover that the other isn’t so bad, the other really is quite infuriating, the other has unexpected depths and issues that they didn’t dream of… and there’s only one bed. Conrad is handsome and popular, able to charm his way through most situations — except of course the mess he’s in; Alden is reserved, all too aware of his own reputation for brilliance, and not sure what he’s doing with his life. Both hope that the gaming tournament is going to solve all their problems, if they can just survive the road trip.

The way they open up to each other works for me; they feel real, with their insecurities and their stupidities, without it ever getting too far into the kind of tropes I hate in romance, like miscommunication. (Just talk! to! each! other!) There are a few bits that give me that cringe… but not too much, because mostly they do a half-decent job of being adults, and figuring things out together. That’s something I always enjoy in romance — any signs of mature communication, even if it doesn’t always work perfectly, really just work for me as a way of making me like characters and believe in relationships.

It all works out fairly predictably for a romance… but I was happy to take the ride along with Alden and Conrad, and I appreciated the discussion of Alden’s anxiety and neurodivergence, and the delving into Conrad’s issues that are hidden by his glossy surface.

I also really appreciated the illustrations, since I’m so not a visual person. They’re really clean and cute.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Posted August 17, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 10 Comments

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

I know there are people for whom this book leaves them entirely cold — whether the whole story falls apart for them, or the setting, or they see massive problems with certain plot points… I tried to read it more critically this time, ready to see those things and understand where they’re coming from. It didn’t work; I fell in love all over again and devoured it whole in about five seconds flat. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

It’s the found family thing that gets me every single time, I think: the way they’ll cover for each other and work to understand each other and accept each other no matter what. This is mostly a book about good people, perhaps implausibly so: with almost everything any of them do, you can believe that they’re doing it because they think it’s right, and that it’s the right thing to do. (There is a major exception for me which I’ll discuss in a moment.) I can understand people who aren’t hooked by that, who don’t find it believable or can’t even get invested because the conflict feels implausible to them… but it’s catnip to me, apparently.

I do hate the whole plotline with Ohan, I’m afraid. Even as my heartstrings are tugged by the results of it, I loathe that Corbin takes away Ohan’s self-determination, and chooses things for them that they don’t want. I hate that the reader is manipulated into being glad about that, and to think that Corbin essentially does the right thing. Nope nope nope nope nope. It’s the dark spot in this book for me: I understand why it’s there, and I can’t help but love the bit with Dr Chef at the end… but the decision made for Ohan is not something I’m actually comfortable with.

It doesn’t darken the rest of the book for me, and as ever I actually cried cathartically for almost the last 50 pages of the book… but it’s worth knowing about, particularly if you have a disability or mental illness where other people think they know better than you about your own body. It’s very discomforting, and it’s worth knowing before you go in if that’s something you might be sensitive about.

I just love almost all the characters so much; Sissix is so darn awesome, Ashby’s a darling, Kizzy’s like Firefly’s Kaylee on speed (almost literally)… It all comes together so well for me. Pitched perfectly to my id, I guess!

Rating: 4/5

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