Review: After the Wedding by Courtney Milan

Series: The Worth Saga #2
Published by: self published
ISBN: 1717220576
ISBN 13: 9781717220578
Published: April 2018
Pages: 364
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

After the Wedding by Courtney Milan is the second in the Worth Saga, following Once Upon a Marquess.

In the first book we met Judith and Christian, and while we meet two of Judith’s four siblings, we only hear about Camilla, who took a spur of the moment opportunity when it presented itself and has then regretted it ever since.

When their father was found guilty for treason Judith became head of the household, and struggled to keep food on the table for her younger brother and sisters. An uncle offered to take Judith and Camilla in, however refused their younger sister, Theresa. Judith then refused, not wanting to leave anyone behind. Camilla, however, scared of the unknown, took the offer thinking it would mean a roof over her head in the very least.

The uncle however passes her on to someone who passes her on, and so forth, until she is basically a servant. And then she gets a little too close to a man who promises her everything yet leaves her ruined… and she is forced to move on again, however now at half pay. She finds herself servant to a rector who is at best a cad and at worst a bounder (sorry, I saw the chance to reference Austentatious and I had to take it) who is sneaking money meant for honourable things into his own pocket.

It is here that Camilla runs into Adrian, a man posing as a valet who is actually there on a mission from his uncle, to try to prove the rector as a disreputable man. However instead, the rector forces Camilla and Adrian into a compromised situation, which then gives him grounds to force them into an actual shotgun wedding, and toss them both out onto the street.

From there we have two people who are growing more and more attracted to each other, who are married so could legally act on these urges, however also want an annulment for the simple fact that it was a shotgun wedding and therefore they had no choice in the matter.

There are some other plot things here and there, but parts weren’t as clear as they could have been and the second quarter of the book dragged so much that it took me months to get through. Then it all picked up again and I finished the last half within an hour, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata & Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

Published by: Grove Press
ISBN: 0802128254
ISBN 13: 9780802128256
Published: June 2018
Pages: 176
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is set in Japan, and follows the life of Keiko Furukura who is 36 years old and has worked at the same convenience store for eighteen years so far, and feels no impulse to change. She’s comfortable there and it’s a safe space – she knows how it operates, what is expected of her, and she’s been there so long that she has a store of responses that sit various situations so she can avoid awkward interactions.

If you’ve been to Japan you’ll know their convenience stores are quite integral. We have 7-11s and similar in other parts of the world but in a konbini (コンビニ) we have a different level of quality all together. Aside from the seasonal items and limited edition specials, you also get very cheap yet high quality fresh-ground coffee, snacks such as sandwiches, gyoza, onigiri and then evena black label premium range, and then there’s also free wifi, free and clean restrooms, and a clean seating area for you to rest or work. It may be menial work but their level of quality and convenience vastly outweighs any other I’ve come across.

This book explores the general view of society in Japan, and how there are only the few main ways one is expected to act and seek to accomplish in life. And how it feels to be on the outside of these norms, feeling that pressure to conform but remaining outside of the scope of normal. As someone who has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s, I was really able to identify with Furukura. Others may see the relentless analysing as exhausting however it’s simply how some environments or situations read. And safe is good. In Japan there may be the expectation to live for your job and while, yes, take pride in your work, somehow this doesn’t stretch to convenience store work.

Really, we should be congratulating those who do any job well. If Furukura feels safe in that job, is happy getting up each day, and earns enough to live the life she wants… that should be enough for her parents and those around her.

Review: City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Series: Poison Wars #1
Published by: Tor Books
ISBN: 0765396890
ISBN 13: 9780765396891
Published: July 2018
Pages: 560
Format reviewed: eVersion from Publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

I’m having trouble reading, lately. I love a book and yet I’m constantly distracted from it. This has been quite a month, too, with my dog being attacked by two others and almost losing a leg – a project at work finally finishing but making me such a zombie all I can do is play Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine on repeat. And I had a holiday to Tasmania and then Canberra, and though I always think I’ll read on the plane trips (six, this time), it never happens.

Regardless, City of Lies was a source of great comfort to me throughout the above. It’s not exactly a nice tale – it doesn’t comfort you through fluffy scenes and cozy scenes – it comforts you through being so damn well written and engaging that it warms your soul and revitalises you. If you’re a fan of V. E. Schwab or Robin Hobb’s work go get this book right this second.

I’m always a sucker for character-driven books, and that’s what we have right here. The characters are all varied and interesting, but the plot, too, drives you from scene to scene, and it’s pretty much a murder mystery set in a fantasy world, with the characters trying desperately to find out why their uncles died, and why everyone is trying to kill them. Specially who and why.

The world building is exquisite. There is a sense of history and the turning of religion to science and the heartache this can bring to people. A city is literally torn apart and you get such a sense of the life the city once had. And really, what drives this narrative is the women. The ones who were brave enough to risk their lives to come to the Chancellor and explain. The ignored sister who leaves the safety to take a dangerous trek that has already claimed many lives. And my favourite – the scornful, intelligent, spiritual young woman who loves her mother and brother, and really isn’t afraid to talk bluntly to the chancellor and his advisors.

The other main characters are Tain (the chancellor) and his proofer, Jovan, who has been raised to know all poisons by taste, touch, smell. It’s the job his uncle had before him, and it’s what has taken both the previous chancellor and Jovan’s uncle right at the start of the book, and their murders that they’re hurrying to solve. Jovan’s job should have actually been that of his older sister – Kalina – however thanks to her chronic condition she simply wasn’t strong enough for the job. She makes herself useful in other ways, but the fact Jovan spends every waking moment trying to keep Tain alive, and having it distracted for thinking he also has to be the carer of his sister – who is stronger than he realises – is another driving factor of the book. And as someone with chronic illnesses I couldn’t adore Kalina more, and what she achieves.

I’m writing this review at 75% because I hear that the ending is going to ruin me and want to grab Hawke’s leg, and refuse to let go, allowing myself to be dragged around as I wail and beg to know what happens next. I figured I should write this now while I can still feign coherently.

This book is excellent in its representation of other cultures, same sex relationships, living with chronic disease, living with compulsions, and throughout we see the characters learning from their mistakes and prejudices, accepting same sex couples as literally nothing to remark upon, and supporting and working with people with chronic illnesses or compulsions as if they’re something to work alongside of. One has the compulsion to do everything evenly, and when they’re in a state their closest friends simply ensure they rub both shoulders evenly, as to help calm them rather than set them off even more. It’s really, really lovely to see.

City of Lies is the debut start to what promises to be an excellent series, by Australian Sam Hawke. I also met her briefly at Worldcon Helsinki and she seems incredibly lovely. Go buy this book! I’m going to go and read the final 25% and cry.

Review: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen Books
ISBN 13: 9781625794802
Published: February 2016
Pages: 352
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

This was the first book I got to see released in the series, and how everyone reacted to the surprise there would be another to read – at this point I’d been meaning to read the series for at least a few years. I still regret I wasn’t there for the ride, but also slightly glad I didn’t have to pay for an eARC copy.

Spoilers lie ahead.

Continue reading

Review: Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3
Published by: Tor
ISBN: 1250185432
ISBN 13: 9781250185433
Published: August 2018
Pages: 160
Format reviewed: eBook from publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) | Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)

Fine, I’ll admit it. Murderbot is my favourite detective (which is steep praise considering how many detectives I love).

In this third edition, it’s continuing its search for more answers, and along the way has to grumpily save the day yet again, because that’s what it does. It sneaks aboard another transport as we saw in the previous novella however this time it’s surrounded by humans and another bot that it can’t easily hack. Especially as it seems to be beloved by its human and treated almost like a pet. As novellas are short it’s hard to review the plot without giving something away from this or the second one which has only recently come out, and so lets just say that the lies do kind of spill out the rest of the plot…

As the others have done, this one continues to explore what it means to be human. What makes one life worth more or less than another.

Overall what works best about this one – other than its snark and sarcasm as we’ve come to love from the previous books, is the connection that our murderbot continues to make. In particular to another bot, Miki, who our bot kind of views as a bit of a simplistic and laughable piece of hardware in one hand, and is almost a little jealous in another, as Miki is so loved and valued by her human.

The decision we see it make with the information it now carries is what makes me look forward even more than I was already for the fourth book.