Reading List – October 2020

This is my final indie book month of 2020!

Soul’s Choice – Kerri Davidson

soul's choice reading 2020I’ve followed Kerri Davidson on Twitter for a while – partly because she’s a social media genius, and partly because she’s very, very funny. She’s long had a few graphic novels (about drunken chickens) for sale, but she recently came up with the first novel for a debut series. A paranormal novel about souls? Death and life? It seems really interesting! For better or worse, Davidson’s book is not available through Amazon, but I did buy it myself and have not yet been a victim of credit card fraud.

Bag of Lettuce Books – Have checked, is legit, but prices are in Canadian dollars

The Spinner’s Child – Crispina Kemp

The Spinner's Child Spinner's game read 2020Crispina Kemp has been updating her blog to give snippits and hints about her 5-book series, The Spinner’s Game. I’ve thus been excited about this one for quite some time! Just a few months ago, she announced her series’ debut. Unfortunately, I just have the first volume in the set ready for review, but perhaps more reviews will be in stock later!

Amazon Link 

Her Name was Abby – Peter Martenuac

31nlju7qpylI have a review request form on my page (which you can check out if you’ve published a book), and Martenuac made use of it. I thought a zombie apocalypse book was right up my alley. I’m a little wary that this is the second book in a series, but you know what? I’ll give a ton of respect to any second book that can hold its own.

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell? I’m always willing to entertain indie books for review. I’ll leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon pretty reliably, and you might even see a review on this blog! Go to my request page here for more.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Binti: The Night Masquerade

I first saw this book series on Hannah J. Russel’s blog (here’s a page where it’s shown, but she’s talked about enjoying the series elsewhere). The first two weren’t perfect, but they were definitely worth reading.

The Book

9780765393135_custom-c05e841327d3ad168eb2474a1a7bc93d8d5c71fe-s300-c85Binti: The Night Masquerade
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Amazon Link

This book is almost 3x the length of the first book in the series, and the title references something we heard about in the second book! I’m looking forward to seeing how Binti solves the cliffhanger problems from the second installation, and I’m also looking to see if this book gets darker than the rest.

Non-Spoiler Review

Warning: contains spoilers for the first two books in the series.

I thought this was by far the weakest of the trilogy. I think Okorafor was going for something far deeper than the world and tone of the first two books prepared for. The mutation of Binti from something human into something else also continued to get more convoluted, and it felt like too much from a story construction point. The addition of characters like Mwinyi was, in my opinion, too little, too late. Mwinyi also gained a few chapters from his viewpoint 50+% through the third book; as it was the first chapter not in Binti’s perspective, I as well thought this was a weak narrative.

This book obviously wanted to be good, but it just fell short of the first two parts of the series. Simultaneously too much and not enough happened. The messy end left me feeling unfulfilled; it seems the book wanted you to get the message that life doesn’t end, that “messy” is just the way things are, but I didn’t feel like anything had wrapped up. It was entirely unsatisfying.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones


Like the final Harry Potter book, The Night Masquerade took the information from the other two books and synthesized Binti into an obvious Christ figure. This is all well and good, but one of the main points of the series was to explore ethnic and cultural diversity. By allowing the story to slip into a Christ-figure narrative, Okorafor sacrifices (haha, pun) part of her non-Western setting.

The ending, like I mentioned earlier, wasn’t good. It wasn’t just that bad things were still going on (they were), it was that the main character just looked at the situation and decided to go back to school anyway and screw the war she kind of started. It felt like her decision was to abandon the problem she failed to solve. I wasn’t a fan of how this was resolved (or not resolved).

Next week:

I get to start my last Indie Book Month of the year! Come stop by to see what books I’m going to review!

Book Review: Binti: Home

I first saw this book series on Hannah J. Russel’s blog (here’s a page where it’s shown, but she’s talked about enjoying the series elsewhere). I also enjoyed the first book in the series, so I thought I might as well swing through the rest of them.

The Book

41yn582bwytl._sx311_bo1204203200_Binti: Home
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Amazon Link

This book is about twice the length of the first in the series, so I felt like it was a reasonable stand-alone book eligible for one of my reviews. Luckily, my library had all three in the series, so I bought them home!

Non-Spoiler Review

I thought this addition to the series was better than the first. Though I still had major issues with the science fiction premises, Binti’s struggle felt more personal in this book and I could root for her with a bit more emotion.

Something that this book went into that I found missing in the first installation was the intersectionality of Binti being both Himba and female. The first book did focus on Binti’s cultural heritage and unique niceties that made her a good main character, but it didn’t show any complexities or failings of her original society. Here, you get to see a bit more of the dark sides of Himba culture, especially in the differences between how males and females are treated. There’s also the unexpected addition of another tribe, the Enyi Zinariya, that added further complexity that I thought made for great internal tension.

Like with the first book, many of the solutions to the problems felt contrived. Other solutions felt like they shouldn’t have worked at all. The presence of Binti’s artifact, the edan, continued to cause and solve more problems than I felt like it should. Though Binti: Home has some incredible strengths that make it worth reading, it also has some glaring plot weaknesses.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones


The plot, sadly, was the weakest part of the book. With beautiful worldbuilding and delicate appreciation of cultural, racial, and gender issues, this book has a lot going for it.

However, I found Binti’s sudden use of telepathy, her discovery of being connected to an ancient genetic computer that she inherited through her father’s alien DNA, and her seeing the male-exclusive Night Masquerade to be extremely convenient and a little nonsensical. I still don’t understand the concept of ‘mathematical current’ or ‘mathematical sight,’ and I think the author should have just said she’s psychic because of magic.

I also didn’t like how the first book teased you that this was going to be about college, then she just ditches and goes back home at the beginning of the book. Sure, it hints that she’s going back to college, but I was a bit disappointed. The book’s actual story and setting make up for it, but it’s just something to be aware of.

Next week:

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, Binti: The Night Masquerade!

Book Review: Binti

I first saw this book on Hannaconda’s blog (here’s a page where it’s shown, but she’s talked about enjoying the series elsewhere). Because of that, I picked it up when I saw it sitting on the library shelf. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I had some time to binge a short book today.

The Book

Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Amazon Link

This book looked so short, I just plucked it out of the library’s folds. I considered packing all three into a single review, but the next two books are a more reasonable length so I decided to forgive myself with this one.

It won both Hugo and Nebula awards, so I’m looking forward to something interesting and new.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book was interesting. Overall, I’d suggest it to a fan of sci-fi who wants to keep up with the modern classics or for someone looking for a well-done character from a non-American, non-European background. Okorafor does an excellent job making Binti’s culture accessible enough for a western English-speaker to enjoy, but does not dumb things down to the point where the Himba culture doesn’t matter. I found it delightful, but be aware – this book is very soft science fiction and floats right on the boundaries of fantasy. The description of “math” in the book is horrid.

One thing that I did think was an issue, though, were the use of “Macguffins,” wherein Binti just happened to have the materials necessary to solve the problem. Binti herself was clever, and her motivations were well-developed, but there were several overly-convenient plot devices that I wasn’t a big fan of.

I also wasn’t sure exactly what age range it fit, because it had a lot of tropes and feel like a YA novel but touched on some pretty complex issues of race and history that might go over a young reader’s head. I think I lean towards it being YA, but Okorafor insists it is adult.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones


In this book, Binti is the first person from the Himba people group to attend college on the planet Oomza Uni, and she fears some of the racial prejudices that may crop up against her. Some of these appear to be well-founded, and some of these are not. I did think the author focused a whole lot on Binti’s hair, but I realize hair is an important deal for black people and so I don’t have much issue with it.

When she was in the spaceship, the mysterious Meduse aliens took the ship and killed everyone. Then, it just so happened that Binti had an ancient tech item in her pocket that protected her and gave her telepathic powers. I thought Binti just happening to have this magical thing was a bit too coincidental. As well, Binti’s otjize (or scented red clay she puts in her hair – a Himba practice) just happened to heal a murderous Meduse’s wounds, which gave her an enormous leg up. I thought this, as well, seemed a bit coincidental. I understand its significance in a diversity-focused work, but as a plot device it fell flat for me.

Overall, though, Binti’s efforts to befriend the Meduse was interesting and worth the read. Alexander Eliot, if you’re reading this, I think you’d really enjoy this book. It reminded me of Expedition.

Next week:

Stay tuned for the next book in the series, Binti: Home!

Reading List – September 2020

It’s time for another exciting series!

Binti Trilogy – Nnedi Okorafor

I first saw this series on Hannah J. Russel’s blog. It seemed interesting, and many of you know I am making a concerted effort to read more diverse books (especially when I’m also trying to catch up with the classics, which are usually as white-bread as yours truly).

Also, I was just wandering about in the library and happened to read the first book while I was there. These books are pretty short, though they get progressively longer over the course of the series. I think the first one might have been a novella.


Do you write books and sell them in a non-sketchy fashion, such as through Amazon? If so, shoot me a line – I would love to read your book!  If I choose your book, I will always purchase it since I do not want to be beholden to the author when I leave reviews.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Outlander

Way back in 2018, back when I was young and fresh, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was disappointed because Outlander had been checked out at my library by other people and the wait list was so long that I was convinced I’d never get it.

Well, it finally became available, at long last!

And then it turned into the first book I’ve absolutely refused to finish since Thoreau’s Walden in high school.

The Book

Author: Diana Gabaldon
Amazon Link

Before you wonder why I even started this novel, I want you to realize that I thought it was about a time traveling WWII nurse who went back to 18th century Scotland and re-invented and produced antibiotics. I was excited for a novel to include details about bioprocessing and medical knowledge.


A Crappy Review

The book started alright. I thought it was a little weird that there was a sex scene with Frank, husband of Claire, but that wasn’t too bad. I knew there was a significant romance portion of this book.

But then she went back in time and got humped by Frank’s ancestor. There were lots of times when Claire was threatened, nearly killed, imprisoned, etc. because she was a single woman in a terrible situation, but the juxtaposed insistence that she was “strong and independent” and her absolute melting whenever anything she wanted crossed paths with a man just felt so wrong. It made me wonder what the point of the novel was.

Then Claire was forced to suddenly marry the main love interest, Jamie, and it just turned into a massive pile of smut. I kept going, thinking maybe it would be done soon, but then the love interest raped her while they were at a camp with other men. I was like “WAAAT” because I get furious at rape scenes. But I was like, “Well, perhaps this was a one-off thing, and she did start saying she liked it after he went too far. Let’s give it some… fuck, 1990’s slack? It’s just an awful book. Push through it.”

Then the next scene, Jamie punishes Claire for “making him look bad,” when what actually happened was she saved his life. He spanks and rapes her, definitely against her will. At this point I thought, “Maybe he wasn’t the main love interest, and in the next chapter she kills him.”

When the next chapter had Claire melt into thinking it was her fault and she had to do what Jamie and the other men said, I was like, “No. No, if you don’t slice him to pieces and run back to the standing stones, this book is stupid and I refuse to read further.”

And so I quit. I have no idea who this book is written for, and I can’t make any suggestions. I think the messages contained within the book are terrible for anyone, male or female, and it was definitely not about producing sulfa drugs like I’d wanted it to be.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones, But only because 0 isn’t an option

1 Discoball Snowcones


I didn’t finish the book, so I can’t really give spoilers. However, I looked up the rest of the plot before I finally decided that I could never finish it.

After the aforementioned rape and beating scene, I looked through the plot and found out there was definitely a male-male rape scene. I was like, “What the eff, this book is straight up erotica and smut the whole way through.”

How didn’t I know this beforehand? How did I get led so astray?

Next week:

First, in about an hour another book review will be popping up on my site: Where the Crawdads Sing. Stay tuned for that – it’s fantastic!

Book Review: The Gate

This book is described as an alien science fiction in which one of those “Ancient Aliens” type people turn out to be right. It promises investigations of ruins, professor stuff, relationship troubles, and more.

The Book


The Gate: An Invasion Universe Novel
Book 1 of the Astral Conspiracy Series
Author: D.L. Cross
Amazon Link

I saw this book advertised in one of those twitter threads where a person will say, “I’ve got some money to blow on books now! Tell me what to read!” and a buttload of people respond. I perused one list in which this book was part, and I thought it looked like mad fun.

Also, interestingly, I definitely bought this on Kindle on December 9, 2019, but I can no longer find a Kindle or electronic version available. I had no idea how to find an e-book until Robbie Cheadle pointed out that D.L. Cross was a pseudonym for Staci Troilo – and lo and behold! We have a universal book link now! So enjoy, and thanks to Robbie.

Non-Spoiler Review

The premise of the book is as advertised: it’s like the Ancient Aliens TV show meets Stargate. There’s a lot of cool ideas floating around in there, and there’s a lot of pseudoscience and historical research going into it. I didn’t look up everything, but a lot of the stuff had enough “truthiness” to it that I didn’t think it mattered. For example, I didn’t need to find out for myself whether or not there really was a giant snake statue/mound in Ohio – the author’s tone was authoritative enough that I just went ahead and believed it was true in their universe, might even be in our own!

(Mild spoiler?) The captured alien was SO COOL. I love it when you have stories including Cold War sci-fi, and this was chock full of it. There was also an interesting twist about the alien at the end. (End maybe spoiler)

From a premise and idea standpoint, there was a lot to like, and I think it could have been great.

I found 3 major plots – the Tasha/Tomas plot, the Landon plot, and the Nadia/Dev plots – and just couldn’t get into the most important one. My favorite was the Tasha/Tomas plot, because they were often philosophical, political, and emotionally vivid with their interpretation of events. However, the Landon plot was the keystone and centered around the main character, Landon. Landon was a massive coward, and I enjoyed seeing a book focus on a coward (since it’s not common). This plot provided the most background information, and it had a lot of movement. However, it wasn’t my favorite of the plots because the protagonist was not terribly active (which you’ll know I’m not a fan of from my review of Clara). The Landon plot was largely driven by bad guys with unclear motivation (the motivations are probably revealed in a later installment).

Character, however, did make a big difference. The male characters were a little more developed, especially Father Tomas and Landon Thorne. Landon’s cowardice was great, and I just thought Fr. Tomas was the calmest, most focused person in the book – which really made me root for him. It’s pretty much my “thing” to do feminist critiques of EVERY FRIKKIN THING because I accidentally signed up for a feminist lit course in college (they told us it was going to be on monsters in literature – it wasn’t). The female characters were very sexualized and, in my opinion, objectified. So, even though the ladies disappointed me, a lot of the guys made up for it.

Another common plot device was the “we can’t tell you, there’s not enough time!” trope. Never was it so necessary to act so quickly that an explanation could not be forthcoming, and it left me frustrated more often than I was pleasantly surprised later. Many, many books and media make use of this, so it’s not a real problem so much as just a pet peeve of mine.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones


There were three main threads of plot that I’ll talk about:

  1. Fr. Tomas and Tasha Halpern
    This plot’s main purpose was to interrogate the alien currently held by the government. Fr. Tomas was one of my favorite characters, and he added a lot both thematically and as contrast with other characters. Since Fr. Tomas and Tasha were trying to undo some of the damage done by earlier interrogators, this was the section where you see some of the hints of the past and how the alien is there. However, the solution presented at the end of this was achieved rather suddenly – but the twist (that the alien was linked with Landon) was very good.
  2. Nadia, Dev, Billy, and other randos
    This one had a LOT of characters involved. Nadia was a terrible person – and she did it using sex. Because of the way Nadia used sex, a specific way I just don’t see believable or useful, I couldn’t get behind this plot. Dev’s actions in response to Nadia depended on them having sex, as did most of the rest of the plot, and… I just couldn’t dig it. This was definitely my least favorite of the three subplots.
  3. Landon and the mercs
    Like I said above, Landon wasn’t terribly active. However, there was plenty of excitement to be had. Once the mercs take him to South America, the need to survive and get away from them becomes imperative. Landon and the mercs’ indigenous guides are great characters, and I thought the death of Lorena (one of the guides) provided a lot of motivation for the remainder of the book.

Anyway, I hope you’ll take this review and think about if the book sounds like it’d be your speed!

Next week:

It’s time to start August off right! Stay tuned to find out my new reading theme of the month and sit back for a whirlwind ride.

Reading List – July 2020

This is my third of four Indie Book Months in 2020!

Through the Nethergate – Roberta Cheadle

41umochifzlRoberta Cheadle announced the publication of her paranormal novel on her blog, and I was instantly stoked. I like a lot of what she posts on her blog, and I know her research is spot-on fantastic. I have been looking forward to reading this for quite a while now, so let’s hop in!

Amazon LinkThough Cheadle has made other purchase options available

From Ashes to Magic – Various, Edited by Mikki Noble


I follow Ari Meghlen on Twitter and WordPress, and she announced that she was taking part of this series. It’s about various magical creatures and creative interpretations of their lives, struggles, existences, and relationships, and I thought that would be a great way to get introduced to a lot of authors! Haven’t tried a “various authors” short story collection yet!

Amazon Link

The Gate – D.L. Cross

45946171Sometimes, I’ll surf around Twitter and look at books people have up for sale. This one attracted my attention because it’s a science fiction novel that contains archaeology, promises twists, and seems like it will probably have a humorous element to it. I’m excited to see if I chose something well!

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I filled my slots this year using Twitter, but I’m always looking for new indie books to review. I buy books I review because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Laevatein’s Choice

I read E. Kathryn’s first installation in The Shadows series because I beta read the book. You can find that review here. I also beta’d this one, so I can go ahead and tell you that this one is gonna be straight-up great. I’m excited to see the changes between the beta version and the final version!

The Book

51wxlvkpovlThe Shadows: Laevatein’s Choice
Author: E. Kathryn
Amazon Link

This is a YA book about kids with superpowers. The source of these powers, when we left off at the end of Fire’s Hope, was mysterious. There seemed to be a lot more to what it meant to be one of these people, and it had that air of mystery even though there was a definitive end to it.

And, like I said, I beta read this book. I put that up front on my blog reviews because it could be considered a conflict of interest. However, I’ve never asked E. Kathryn anything in return for my beta reading, and I bought the book with my own money.

Non-Spoiler Review

Ok, so, the good thing is I can confirm this book is great. There’s a powerful sense of plot here, and Mark as a character can be related to. The book gets into some pretty dark themes of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and adult manipulation of teens, but it’s done in such a wonderful manner that I think teens not only can read this book on their own, but should.

I grew up in a less-than-ideal household, one perhaps most similar to the one presented as Emilie’s in Laevatein’s Choice. (Mild spoiler for the rest of the paragraph, maybe?) In Emilie’s plotline, she struggles to convince anyone else that her mother and father aren’t great for her or each other. The way adults and other kids downplay her concerns is so awful, but also terrifyingly realistic. The struggles within Mark’s family after Mark goes through the massive changes in Book 1, Fire’s Hope, are also very interesting.

Something plot-related but not spoilerific is that what I consider the climax happens pretty early. Even so, the rest of the book leaves this ever-present air of tension that doesn’t let up until right when it needs to. Also, good hint: read this book while you work out. I read the final version of this as my “workout read”, and I definitely suggest doing that with this book. The physical oomph of this book makes it perfect for that cause.

Issues with the book are some that I tend to have with many indie books and many series. The first is that you’ll have to read Fire’s Hope in order to understand Laevatein’s Choice. While Fire’s Hope is good, it definitely feels like an author’s first book and like one written by a young author. It also doesn’t have a similar feel or gravity to Laevatein’s Choice, which could be disconcerting to people unprepared for the shift. The second is that you’ll run upon a few sentences that feel awkward or contain typos, but Kathryn’s writing has improved between the two books and I was interested enough in the plot and characters to forgive these few mistakes.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones


I know, I know; you’re going to say, “H.R.R., you scoundrel of a human being, you like plot-centered books.”

Guilty. As. Charged.

In this book, we meet up with some of the characters from Fire’s Hope and see how they’re coping with newfound freedom after escaping Superhero School/Prison. Some, like Sil, are faring well, while others, like Emilie, are going through some deep sh*t. The secondary characters’ plots are fantastic, and I thought the changes in Emilie’s situation were well-done.

However, Mark’s story is fantastic. His desire to be a winner, his desire to finally best Sil at something, and his need to feel welcomed draw him into a toxic relationship with a sensei. No, it’s not sexy or anything untoward in a manner you wouldn’t let your kid read it – it’s toxic in that Geoffery sensei belittles Mark, pushes him too far, delights in athletic injuries. Oh man, all the hints were there, but somehow I didn’t expect it on first read when Geoffery freaking turns on Mark and just destroys him with the sword Morglay. Geoffery, who reveals himself to be a quarter of the evil Shadow Strength, has made Mark into another vessel of Strength for reasons unknown.

The back 40% of the book examines the changes and struggles between Mark’s friends and family as they rush to save him. Secrets about his father’s origins and amnesia are revealed, Shadow magic is done, and much is explained about the universe. Though Laevatein’s Choice ends with a satisfying conclusion to the main story, it has set up for Book 3 very well.

Next week:

I’m moving on to a new month, so stay tuned to see what I read next!

Book Review: Mockingjay

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51zkheo7x8lCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, outperformed my expectations. The second book, Catching Fire, was somewhat interesting, but it felt like a repeat of the first book. I’m hoping this addition to the trilogy adds something new, but I don’t see how that’s going to happen and be successful. I don’t think Katniss is good enough at pushing the plot forward for her to be active in the last book.

Non-Spoiler Review

I will give this book one thing: it wasn’t a repeat of the first book. I didn’t like how book 2 was basically the same as book 1, so I’m glad Collins didn’t just have another Hunger Game for Katniss to finish.

That being said, I can’t believe how disappointed I was with this book.

I don’t think a civil war/rebellion was a bad direction to take the plot. The problem I had was that Katniss’s ability to influence events at the same time that she always discovered information after everyone else made this book feel a bit unreal. For example, early in the book she’s asked to be the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion. She doesn’t know what to do until Prim (the younger sister) tells her to make demands in return for being the Mockingjay. She didn’t make the decision herself, just like every other event in the book.

I also had major issues with Katniss being ‘the best shot’ as opposed to people who were soldiers for their entire lives. I had issues with Katniss bringing down bombers with a bow and arrow, no matter her skill or specialness of the arrows. I had issues with the supply chain mechanics of District 13’s total war machine, but I understand few people study that kind of war strategy.

Overall, the problem I had with the book was lack of any semblance of believability. I think it almost pulled its rather ambitious premise off and almost seemed hardcore, but then it would defeat itself by doing something far beyond unbelievable.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones


Ok, I’m going to talk about the very end here.

First off, I agree that President Coin wasn’t that great a person, and she was somewhat power hungry. Her desire to reinstate the Hunger Games one last time was a bloodthirsty move, but Katnis agreed to it. Then she shot President Coin instead of Snow.

WTF?! That was such a letdown. It seemed to me that she made an incredibly destructive decision, and I can’t bring myself to believe the rebellion was able to hold itself together after coin’s death.

Then there was the epilogue. For three books, Katniss was bound and determined never to have kids in the crappy, post-apocalypse world. In the end, she talked about her PTSD-induced marriage to Peeta (which I didn’t really like, after what happened to Peeta) and her children. It just felt so disjointed, sort of like the Mass Effect Blue Ending.

Also also, I found out that the Capitol was probably supposed to be Salt Lake City, which indicates to me the author intended them to be Mormons. I found that a wee bit religionist (is that a word?).

Next week:

It’s March next week – if you were around for last March, you might be able to guess what those books are going to be about!