Also Reading…

January is always a good month for reading: curled up in front of the fire, probably (at least in my case) recovering from the tail end of a winter cold, there’s no better way to spend an evening than in the company of a good book.

Over the past month Joanna has brought you retellings of Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard in conclusion of her season of fairytale retellings. Meanwhile, I’ve reviewed recent releases ranging from post-apocalyptic literary fiction to fast-paced Indiana Jones-style adventure.

Here’s a quick round-up of what I’ve been reading in between times.

Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich
Rebecca is expecting her Acceptance ceremony to be followed by the most amazing night of her young life: nothing has prepared her for the idea that she might be rejected by the Machine’s algorithms. I should start by saying that I almost put this book down a couple of times. I’ve read quite a lot of YA dystopian books lately, I was starting to get bored of the standard tropes, and at the beginning this book feels very much like all the rest. But I’m really glad I persisted: Rite of Rejection picks up a lot of standard elements and twists them into interesting shapes, resulting in a book that’s unusually nuanced. The unfair oppression of gay and disabled characters is highlighted, and the plot hints at the importance of rhetoric in righting societal wrongs. (I strongly suspect a sequel is in the works.)

Embers by C.K. Oliver
A slightly unusual early review, this one, as I was lucky enough to snag a partial of an unpublished manuscript. Embers kicks off with a number of intriguing hooks: Celosia lives in the shadow of a tragic, catastrophic failure, afraid to make the most of her elemental powers; Ianthe is a trainee whose ice manipulation may just be the perfect foil to Celosia’s fire-wielding; Kayvun is kidnapped from her home, her unique abilities marking her out as an experimental subject. The cast of characters spans the diversity spectrum, too, including characters who are variously disabled, transgender, and nonbinary, with lesbian romance. Definitely hoping this one gets picked up so I can read the rest.

Conviction by Tammy Salyer
This novella takes place ahead of Salyer’s Contract series, illuminating the backstory of how Aly and her brother David became deserters from the Corps. Aly is a soldier who thought she’d hardened herself against the mindless killing that comprises her day-to-day life executing the Admin’s oft-violent orders across the known universe, until the day everything goes wrong. Although these events are hinted at in Contract of Defiance (the first novel in the main trilogy — to be reviewed here soon!), this was a good read in its own right. Even the incidental characters are well-drawn, and I was sorry to reach the end so quickly. The ebook is currently a free download, so this would be a great way to sample the series.

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder
The second book featuring glass magician Opal Cowan, Sea Glass sees her forced to contend with doubt and disbelief from more powerful magicians — while fewer and fewer people seem to be on her side. Opal is an unusual heroine: her lack of self-confidence has been a theme throughout the series, and although she’s learning more about her powers, she’s far from an all-conquering type. These traits just make her more interesting, though, and it’s her friendships that really put the heart into this book.

The Lonely Dark by Ren Warom
Ingmar and Yuri are to be the first Cerenauts, detached from their human bodies and loaded into the ship’s computers to pilot Irenon through the depths of space. They’re excited to have been selected for a job previously only available to AIs — but just before they leave, an AI built by Ingmar’s father gives her a cryptic warning. This dark and spooky sci-fi novella follows the Irenon’s journey beyond the solar system. An enthralling and deeply unusual work.

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