Bound — Mark Lawrence

A novella that fits in between Grey Sister and Holy Sister.

Essentially, it’s just an enjoyable little side escapade for our protagonists as we are all invited to a Sis’, young adults, soiree down in Verity after a series of unexplained poisonings.   And we even get the beginnings of some real romance creeping into our story line for Nona: ooh-er!

Yes folks, more of that great action packed shenanigans that we have come to expect from a Sis soiree: all good fun.

Mark’s Page

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Grey Sister — Mark Lawrence

We begin this book about 2 years after the end of Red Sister.

Except for Clera and Hessa, Nona and company are all back at Sweet Mercy moving up to grey class and enjoying new rivalries and enemies there.   Yes folks, it’s more of the catholic girls school dorm rivalry and pecking order stuff that Red Sister was full of.   However, the petty rivalries and pecking order stuff don’t take up much of our time as this book soon picks up speed as Nona has to run away from Sweet Mercy to escape the Inquisition who have turned up at Sweet Mercy with a nefarious agenda.

I was hoping that this book would be much better than Red Sister and i wasn’t disappointed.   It’s well good and immensely unputdownable.   I don’t really want to say any more because i think i’ll give away too much of the story.   Suffice it to say, if the slow pace of the bulk of Red Sister left you a little disappointed but you enjoyed the faster pace of the ending, then you’ll really enjoy this, so definitely give it a go.

Next up is Bound, which is a novella that one should read before moving onto Holy Sister.

Mark’s Page

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Red Sister — Mark Lawrence

The first book in a trilogy that leaves me reaching straight for the next book, Grey Sister.

Admittedly, it’s mostly about a bunch of young girls training to become warrior nuns, wielding weapons both corporeal and magical, so it might not get the hard core fantasists satisfied.   But the book ends really well and we can hopefully move on now to a more grown up story.

Set on an ice world with a dying sun that uses a large mirror satellite to focus the suns meagre rays onto a thin band of area around the equator where most of the people live.   The world was populated by a diaspora from space and the remains of the ships that brought the various peoples to the planet are enviously fought over by warring factions.   Somewhere amongst the remains lies the ability to take control of the satellite and therefore control of the whole planet.

My only real issue with it was that it was a bit long winded and one does get the feeling that a good editor would have trimmed this down quite substantially.   Still, it was worth enduring for the end bit which turned the speed dial up to 11 after being at 5 for the previous several hundred pages: the contrast was quite something.

Fingers crossed for the next book then.

Mark’s Page

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Great Gerta and the Mermaid — Mari Ness

For all fans of Peter Pan and Neverland.

A fun story about one of Hook’s pirates, Great Gerta.   It’s also nice that we finally get some mermaids taking a more prominent role in a Neverland story.

Definitely deserves a place in the “Peter Pan and Neverland” hall of fame.

Best of all, you can read this for free at Lightspeed magazine, or listen to the podcast like i did.

And why not sign up to Lightspeed Magazine Story Podcast while you’re here, or there, and make sure you never miss another great story?

Mari’s Page

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The Book of Tea — Kakuzo Okakura

In direct contrast to The Wisdom of Tea, in which we are taken on a 25 year journey of a Tea practitioner from their very first lesson, in The Book of Tea we are given the history of Tea itself and its associations through the ages with Eastern religions and philosophy.

As such, this book is wonderful and it makes one realise that there is so much more to Tea than simply throwing some tea leaves in a pot.   There are some great passages in this book where Kakuzo has some wonderful rants about western culture which are a delight to read.   One can really get a vision of just how coarse the Devon Cream Tea in a sea side cafe — not forgetting morning tea in mother’s finest china with a biscuit — is when compared to Japanese Tea in a traditional tea hut, even though the English will proclaim these two tea ceremonies of theirs as the height of culture.

A must read for all who enjoy reading about Japan and its culture, and anyone who enjoys a cup of tea, however you may take it.   Written over 100 years ago and is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

Kakuzo’s Page

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Guinea Pig Apocalypse — De Kenyon

De Kenyon is the name DeAnna Knippling publishes her children’s books under and Deanna sent out a free copy of this in her newsletter.   Normally i wouldn’t bother with some random children’s book, but i’ve enjoyed DeAnna’s grown up books and the title of this intrigued me.   When i read the synopsis and found out that it was about squirrels taking over the world, i just had to give it a go.

To begin, if you’re a grown up and wanting something grown up to read then move along, this ain’t for you.   But if you’re like me and occasionally like a bit of silly sci-fi-ish stuff to keep us young at heart then this may be just what you’re looking for.   Note: when i say silly i mean good, fun silly, not stupid silly.

Basically, it’s about a young boy, Galileo, whose parents are mad scientists who make a replicator that makes guinea pigs out of sewage.   What they don’t realise is that it’s all part of the squirrels’ big bad plan to take over the world by using said guinea pigs to wipe out all the humans — because, as we all known, squirrels are the most evil creatures on the planet.

I have absolutely no idea if this book is suitable for a child near you, you’ll have to read it yourself first: go on, you know you want to.

I would probably aim it at around 10-11 year old but don’t quote me on that cause i’m useless at guessing these things.

All in all, i quite enjoyed it, but then i enjoy some good, fun silly now and again.

De’s Page

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Portrait of a Girl — Dörthe Binkert

I really enjoyed She Wore Only White so i followed Dörthe on Amazon and when this came up on sale for £1 i really couldn’t resist.

And what a bargain.

It’s similar in a lot of ways to She Wore Only White in that we have a true historical setting, with true historical characters, that Dörthe uses as a canvas upon which to paint her fictional story.   And also in that we have a young woman who is adrift in the world trying to find where she can belong.

All very well written with good characters, a good plot, and the perfect level of scene setting.   Dörthe does a wonderful job of taking us back in time, to Switzerland in late 19th century, and giving us a glimpse of the disparity of wealth between the local peasantry and the rich and wealthy, European elite who descend upon the valley each summer.

This is the second book that Dörthe has had translated into English and i do hope that there will be many more in the future.

Dörthe’s Page

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The Wisdom of Tea — Noriko Morishita

If you enjoy reading about Japan and its culture then this book will be very much for you.   In The Wisdom of Tea Norika tells us about her first 25 years journey learning all about Tea and in so doing gives us a wonderful view inside this part of Japanese culture that most of us would never have gotten to see.

Starting at 20 years old, Noriko is badgered into going to Tea lessons by her mother and cousin and only agrees to go so that she can go to a cafe with her cousin afterwards to hang out and be 20 year olds.   Little did she know at the time that 25 years later she would still be going to the same lessons every Saturday and writing a book about her experiences in the Tea room.

What looks from the outside to be a fairly simple thing, as Noriko takes us on her 25 year journey she makes us realise many of Tea’s facets and depths as she slowly learns that Tea is a life long learning experience that will only end when we end life itself.

After reading this book, all i can say is that if i knew where i could get Tea lessons near me i’d be signing up tomorrow.

Well worth a read for everyone interested in Japanese culture, Zen and other such things.

And if you haven’t read it already, do be sure to have a read of The Book of Tea, which further explores the history of this wonderful beverage and culture.

Noriko’s Page

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The Raven Tower — Ann Leckie

No idea how i came across this, but it sounded rather good so i added it to my wish list and when it got put on sale for only 99p, i didn’t need asking twice.

And for 99p i definitely got an incredible bargain.

I’ve no idea why this is listed in science fiction on Amazon, i’d definitely put it squarely in the grimdark fantasy section.   I suppose i may be getting my genres completely misconstrued, but i don’t think i am.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a good bit of grimdark fantasy then this should be right up your alley.   Who are the good and the bad in this and are they even aware that they are and why?   The baddies, although doing what they do for completely nefarious reasons, are actually doing the good thing; while the goodies, thinking they’re being all altruistic and everything, turn out to be on the baddies’ side.   And it’s all wound into a very well written story.

My only little winge is that Eolo’s gender thing is rather ambiguous and confusing and i think this could have been better defined.   At the end of the book i’m still not sure what gender Eolo actually is: cis, trans or otherwise.   Another character also mentions an aunt that had a gender thing going on, but again, no real information as to what.   I just completely failed to see what purpose having a main character — and another character who wasn’t part of the story whatsoever — with ambiguous genders served: other then being a poor attempt by the writer to include someone with these issues in order to get some woke cred.   Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re going to have characters with gender issues, dysphoria, trans, non-binary, etc., that they were made relevant to the story and explored further with a view to educating the ignorant masses on these issues while also helping and supporting those who have to deal with these issues in real life?   A great example of a writer that did such a thing would be Jason Segel, working with Eve Lindley, in the series Dispatches from Elsewhere: definitely a must watch before you read another book if you haven’t watched it already.

Other than my little winge this is a great book with great characters, well written and it really plays with the idea of gods and how gods get, keep and use their power over people.   We can see in our own world how a certain god has been allowed to overwhelm other gods and how this has ultimately turned the whole world into a shit hole of ecological disaster with a global plague while in a mass extinction event.   This is what happens when you worship a god whose clergy tells you that you don’t have to care about this world because said god has got something better for you when you die — just keep breeding like flies and fucking the planet up, Armageddon will soon be upon us and the pious shall have their rapture.

Ann’s Page

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The Longest Shard — Kathleen McClure

If you like really good steampunk with really good characters navigating a really good world then The Fortune Chronicles by Kathleen McClure will be right up your alley.

Every one of the Fortune books i’ve read so far has left me really glad i bought it and always leaves me eagerly awaiting more.   Kathleen is one of those writers who, once she’s got you started in a book, just ain’t gonna let you go until the last page.   It’s just non-stop, gritty, character driven stuff with great world building that will keep you up late reading when you should be getting some sleep.

The Longest Shard is a really well written, fast paced novella giving us more of Gideon Quinn’s back story before the main books.

Seriously folks, if you like steampunk give Kathleen, Fortune and Gideon Quinn a chance, you won’t regret it.

Kathleen’s Page

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