Catching Up: Quick Book Reviews

As you know every once in a while I like to tell y’all what I’ve been reading, provided I can actually read new things within a reasonable amount of time. Right now, I’m re-reading Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories to pick up everything I missed four months ago and The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. Another book I won’t mention I had to put down because it was not going in a direction that would have done its Black female lead character any favors. However, there have been a few other reads that I’d like to share.

Bed of Lies by Shelly Ellis

bed of lies

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is the second time I’ve won a book from Ellis and I must say I’ve enjoyed both books. Bed of Lies is one of those books perfect for you if you enjoy drama, particularly family drama (yes think Empire), with attention to Black lives we don’t see often in this genre. Ellis pays attention to her characters and lets you get to know them as they work out the mess that is, well, everyone. This series has the guilty pleasure value of the 80s nighttime soaps such as Dallas and Dynasty in which we see the rich have their drama on an epic scale and it’s fun to see if the ones who really deserve it will meet their downfall. However, I will admit that I wished the story didn’t end on a cliffhanger. While series can be good, they can also stand on their own within each book. But Ellis has an engaging style and she doesn’t cheat the reader, so I’d definitely recommend this for any book club or someone looking for a good, juicy read.

 

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

falling in love with hominids

I’ve been following Nalo Hopkinson for a while and got around to reading Brown Girl in the Ring earlier this year. So I trusted when I got Falling in Love with Hominids that I would not be disappointed. And how I was not disappointed! I love short story collections and this one shows the extent of Hopkinson’s talent and imagination, both of which are unmatched by anyone in her genre. I was especially taken with the stories “Left Foot, Right” and “A Young Candy Daughter.” The former story took an unexpected turn that blew me away and the latter was a charming and unique Christmas story. One of the best things about this collection is that no matter what type of SFF you like, there’s something for you.

 

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

TheLivesOfTao-144dpi

I got to see Wesley Chu at our annual book festival here in Wisconsin last year. He gave a reading from this book and I had to admit his reading was funny and engaging. A couple of months ago, I got the entire Tao trilogy from my favorite local bookstore and eventually picked up the first book a few weeks ago. Overall, Chu has a great writing style and a humorous flair I wish I had. He also has an excellent eye for detail. However, this story of an overweight loser who gets invaded by an alien species in a millenia long war eventually lost its charm with a few details. I know it sounds picky, but I have to side eye men of color who only see white women as love interest. Considering that the only Asian woman in the book is an older woman described as “handsome” and never even considered as a love interest, well… I have concerns. And also, one of the women is fridged. Very disappointing because Chu’s writing is quite good, but sometimes tropes can ruin anything. Yet I still see myself reading the other two books in the series, so I can’t really talk…

 

Queer Indigenous Girl and The Black Indigenous Boy by Semana Thompson and her sons

queer indigenous girl cover vol 1

As you all know, I just released my zine Soaked in Cinnamon. I’m also lucky enough to acquire a few zines by other awesome people. I was most recently given copies of Queer Indigenous Girl and The Black Indigenous Boy by the author herself Semana Thompson. These zines have all the qualities I tend to love about zines, personal writing and images that make you feel that you really get to know another person. Semana includes her own drawings and collages with notes in her own handwriting. However, The Black Indigenous Boy is by her sons who introduce themselves throughout the zine. What I love most about this is seeing Black/Indigenous boys sharing their thoughts on mental health but also just being kids with aspirations to be superheroes. I mean when do we stop allowing little (Black) boys to be kids? Both these are available from Semana at misssemee.com where you can find out more about her and the work she does in her communities as well as support her.

 

What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear by Bao Shu

bao shu

When I decided to submit my novella to Fantasy & Science Fiction, I thought I should read a couple of stories to get a feel for what they liked. Admittedly, I racially profiled Bao Shu and decided to see how I compared to him. Long story short, I didn’t. What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear is an amazing piece of speculative fiction set in China from 2008 with the Olympics then goes into an alternative reality. Shu’s work was translated from his original language and focuses on the perspective of its main character. I don’t want to go into specifics because I’m afraid it’s spoilery, but I will say that his attention to detail and history is incredible and something I wish I had the time to parse out in my own work. Oh and there’s a love story 😀 . The work is novella length and probably still available at F&SF. If you want a great example of good storytelling in SFF, this is one of your best bets.

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