JJ Reads

Memo Pad: May Wrap Up

May was such a busy month for me which is why this post is a couple of days late. But before that I just want to say hello June! It’s my birthday month which is exciting. It’s also pride month so happy pride everyone. It’s also also officially summer in my books (sorry southern hemisphere people).

But back to May. Okay. So first off I had excellent news. My short story is going to be published. I got the acceptance email a couple of weeks ago and I’m super happy! I don’t have any details. It’ll take a while (hello publishing industry) but at some point my work will be published.

In other writerly news, I finished up my latest edit for my YA Scifi and I’ve foisted it off on beta readers which means I’m done with it for two months and I get a much needed rest! Which is the main reason this post is late. I couldn’t bring myself to do ANYTHING for a few days. Working for 3 months straight on that revision killed my motivation to do things!

I did however read a bunch of amazing books in May (8 books) although I had a reading slump at the end there – also caused by me going nonstop on my editing but also because there was some minor travelling which meant I was too exhausted for a week to do ANYTHING, even if that thing was lying in bed with a book.

Of those 8 books, I did a post with a bunch of mini reviews which you can find HERE, but in summary….

Mini Reviews Summary:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ***** YA with amazing characters fighting against racism and police brutality.

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn ***** Twisty YA with horrible secrets, unfolding memories and an unreliable narrator.

History is All you Left me by Adam Silvera ***** Absolutely heartbreaking queer love story all about grief and healing.

Avi Cantor has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb ***** Contemporary fantasy short story about two trans boys falling in love.

Ashore (Staying Afloat #2) by Isabella Adler ***** Super strong sequel in a great self-contained and easy to read queer adult scifi series.

Full Reviews:

The Outside by Ada Hoffman***** (free review copy)

This is an adult scifi all about the laws of physics, what monsters lurk just outside the limits of human perception and what happens if those laws of time and space aren’t real. Or alternately, you could say it’s all about AI that’s become so advanced they claim themselves as gods and limit the technology humans are allowed to use by modifying certain humans to act as avenging angels. In space. It’s both. And it was such an amazing and mind-bending ride (FYI, I had VERY weird dreams after reading this book).

The main character is a scientist trying to create a power source strong enough to circumnavigate angel tech and fuel a space station. She’s watched closely by angels and her superiors for different reasons but both boil down to her being autistic. Which, I have to be honest, is the main reason I picked up this book.

I loved Yasira, she’s a great character and the story is written to have her autism affect the plot and her perceptions of things was really cool (Also the writer is autistic too). But apart from Yasira, I also loved that there were lots of other neurodivergent characters. Including an angel with speech apraxia that communicates using text based messaging and occasionally through a translator device. Yasira’s girlfriend was in some ways her opposite but it was clear how and why they worked, I loved their relationship although it doesn’t take up much of the book. It was there and already established and committed which was great to read. And that’s not even really getting to the angels whose relationships and morality were really interesting to explore. Is it moral to let a few people die if you’re saving the universe? I mean they’re angels so they don’t care.

As for the outside itself, the place beyond what we can understand, the thing that morphs and kills indiscriminately when accidentally let through by certain experiments ….well. It was freaky and twisty. You should pick this up if you want a scifi that’s going to challenge your brain into contortions while following a host of really complicated and awesome characters. Expect weird dreams. And also pick it up anyway because the neurodivergent rep is awesome.

Rep: autistic main character in an established f/f

Warchild by Karin Lowachee *****

This is such a tough book to review because I don’t even know whether to say if it’s YA or adult. Things I do know:

  • It is my favourite kind of scifi, full of action and complicated allegiances and universe spanning events but completely focused on one boy who’s stuck in the middle of it all.
  • It is my favourite book of the month, one of my favourite books of the year, and straight onto my favourite books of all time list.
  • It follows Jos from the moment his world gets turned upside down at age 8 when the merchant spaceship he lives on gets boarded and destroyed by pirates, to when he’s 14 and in the middle of a war between two sides he cares about, to 17 when he has to make choices for himself about who to believe and what to do about it.
  • It’s full of action, found family and amazing side characters that left me needing more.
  • Did I mention space pirates, an alien world rich with culture, brothers in arms on a military ship entrenched in its own kind of culture, and subterfuge behind enemy lines of both sides while Jos doesn’t know which side is right?

It sounds complicated and yet following Jos through it all kept everything very real. As much as I hate comparing anything to Enders Game it very much is in the same vein. A young child taken and convinced to play at war whose feelings for both sides and relationships with those around him affect him just as much as the fighting. (Except not written by a bigot.) And as much as I love that book, I think this book was even better. Seriously, this review can’t do how much I loved the book justice. I loved Jos. I love how complicated his relationship with both sides were. I loved the settings of the military ship and the alien world. Read it. Please. I need someone else to share it with!

Trigger Warnings: rape, child sex trafficking

Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe***** (Free review copy)

An adult scifi with great crossover appeal for those who love YA. It’s action packed with awesome complicated characters set around two planets on the outer edge of the galaxy fighting for use of keeper controlled gateway tech. Siblings Sanda, a gunship pilot, and Biran, a trainee keeper for the protectorate, are both destined for great things but when war between planets explodes they’re split up. Sanda is rescued by an enemy AI ship but wakes 200 years later to find both planets wiped out.

So first up the book is told in multi pov, the two main ones are the brother and sister. Which, I mean, I’m so happy whenever I find books that centre different kinds of relationships. And I loved theirs. There are also a couple of extra povs that pop up here and there to give us more insight and a larger picture of what’s going on. I really liked the way it was done, although I would have loved to see more of the characters in a particular pov. (I do expect to see them more in the sequel). I also loved how even though the book was split over different places and timelines they all linked strongly to each other. Neither sibling ever lost sight of what they were fighting for. But being siblings is only the start of their characters. They each had jobs and ambitions and personalities that held their own. I loved how we got Sanda, with a newly amputated leg from her gunship exploding, trying to survive alone in the universe and how she dealt with it compared to Biran who was always surrounded by people and had to play politics. I also loved all the side characters, they made for such a rich story. From the manipulative power of Lavraux, to the amusement of Nox, or the complicated feelings of the siblings dad’s, and of course, Bero, the emotional AI ship that plays such a huge role. They were all awesome.

This isn’t a scifi that focuses solely on action. The characters really hold their own BUT there is action. And world ending stakes. I mean literally, the planets themselves get torn apart…. I think the pacing worked perfectly. There’s politics but it’s never Biran sitting around playing mind games. He’s out there doing things and getting into trouble. Sanda while mostly alone has to find ways to survive on spacewalks and abandoned bases. There’s action and flights but never so quick or so much that we ditch the characters that make the book so good.

All in all, the book has the perfect mix of politics and action. The main characters, and their sibling relationship, are the centrepiece to an amazing cast and an entertaining scifi adventure.

Rep: disabled main character (leg amputee), very minor queer characters (nonbinary, the mc’s have two dad’s, very minor f/f characters)

Favourite book of the month: Warchild by Karin Lowachee which was so AMAZING it didn’t give anything else a chance which means I want to shoutout to Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn for also being very amazing.

Favourite quote: “From what I can tell, morality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t.” – Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

What about you? What was the best book you’ve read lately and have you read or want to read any of these? Do you have plans for June?

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