ghosthermione's reviews
267 reviews

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, by James L. Grant, Jeff VanderMeer, Gail Carriger, Ann VanderMeer, Cherie Priest, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Stephen Baxter, G.D. Falksen, Daniel Abraham, Evelyn Kriete

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  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No


A few good stories overshadowed by a lot of boring ones and quite a few not so subtly bigoted ones. Steampunk is no reason for thinly veiled antisemitism and racist terms being bandied about, and it doesnt reflect well on the authors or editors of this book...

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Dragon's Winter, by Elizabeth A. Lynn

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 11%.
Too simplistic and boring. Also I am tired of disfigured characters being villains.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two?, by Temi Oh

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 24%.
This is not how space agencies work.  This is not how mental health works. This is not how you plan a mission. Let alone a 20 year nonstop mission. This is not how human (and children's) rights work either. And you don't replace your astronauts a day before the start of mission either with an untrained unhealthy kid OR an untrained adult. Or ignore 
Spoiler  a death on the team 
  and give no aftercare to the kids who witnessed it before you send them off. The lack of thinking in the worldbuilding made me give up. 

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The Red Scholar's Wake, by Aliette de Bodard

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adventurous emotional hopeful tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


  Thanks to Netgalley and Orion Publishing for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I got taken in by the idea of lesbian space pirates when the book was first mentioned, and I was so looking forward to it! I tend to… not really read blurbs for authors I trust, so I was surprised and intrigued to find out that one half of the main couple was a mindship. Sentient spaceships are one of my favourite tropes and de Bodard’s take on it always fascinates me (I think I can say without spoilers that they’re human-spaceship hybrids, borne from a human mother) and I loved the idea of exploring what it means for one of them to have deep feelings for someone, and how that is navigated.

The romance hit all the right notes for me from the start, with all the tropes that made me go “aaaaah” and not want to put down the book (well, phone) even though it was 3am. It’s a romance born of necessity and it really added tension to the whole situation. And what does it mean to consent when the other person has so much power over you? I liked that it didn’t shy from those difficult topics. And the trauma of past relationships, and the damage it can do to the children involved.

Speaking of children, all the kids in this book! They were adorable! And aside from providing some needed levity, I love that they’re truly individuals with their own needs and feelings and not just an afterthought.

De Bodard also continues on her trend to not really have male characters. I mean, there’s one or two, but most important players, and almost all background characters, are women. And in a genre that’s still dominated by men, it’s always refreshing.

Aside from the romance, we get a mystery/political intrigue plot that was interesting enough to keep me guessing and yet did not overshadow the romance. Another thing with the Xuya universe is that there is some kind of magic to the technology – I don’t understand it, but there’s no technobabble trying to make me understand it. It’s these characters’ reality and it just IS, and I appreciate that. On the one hand, I keep wanting more explanations and context, and on the other I’m happy to leave it as is and just go with it; it’s part of what makes the universe so vivid to me, that not everything is explained away.

I was really happy to get a novel-size story in that universe, and a full-on romance novel at that, and I would heartily recommend it whether you’re familiar with this universe or completely new to it. 

The Arthritis Helpbook: A Tested Self-Management Program for Coping with Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, by Kate Lorig, James F. Fries

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 73%.
The self management tips were truly helpful but the fatphobia in the diet advice, the casual sexism, racism (sure nobody knows African countries unless they're a geography wizz) and casual implications that all young adults wanna get married and have babies... pass. I had a 2006 copy and feel like if there's a 7th edition they should really rethink some of their word choices!
Did get a good few exercising techniques and bits of info out of it though.
Detransition, Baby, by Torrey Peters

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 14%.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 12%.
not for me/ not the right time
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers

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Not quite my favourite series by Becky Chambers if I'm being honest, but I still jumped on the audiobook as soon as I saw it on Scribd, and did quite enjoy it. I think my only gripe is that these novellas feel more like arcs in a larger story, than stories that hold on their own, and I would rather have waited longer for one large book, rather than have three shorter novellas that are so dependent on each other that they don't feel quite finished.
I do love the worldbuilding though, and I'm quite enamored with this hopepunk kind of story that imagines a future where we've moved away from harmful levels of consumption and towards all-recyclable materials and community-focused trade systems.
Good Neighbors: The Full Collection, by Stephanie Burgis

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I’ve really enjoyed Scales and Sensibility previously, so I got this book knowing it was a historical romance, but not much else. I didn’t read the blurb or anything, just knew others whose opinion I trust loved it, so I went into it expecting a regular romance, and was pleasantly surprised to find out it had magic and necromancers and a heroine who’s a metalworker and wears pants (well, coveralls) most of the time! I’m a sucker for a woman with a job, especially in historical romance so this was a great start!

Now, technically this isn’t one novel, so much as a collection of short stories, all linked together. But it reads as one, or at any rate, like different acts of the same story.

I have to say, I love a good grumpy heroine as well. Mia just… doesn’t want to make friends! She doesn’t want to socialize! She’d rather stay in her workshop and drink her tea and never see anyone but her dad all year long! I can entirely relate, minus the workshop. Her grumpiness extends to telling her neighbours exactly what she thinks, and that includes the handsome necromancer who’s trying his best to invite her to tea (and get her to fix his minions). Which makes for hilarious and cute interactions.

As in any good romance, you can clearly see how the both of them are yearning for each other, and their flaws and insecurities complete each other so well and make for the best miscommunications! The last two stories were my favourites, as they take a little longer to develop and see our two heroes come together to make the world a better place, and look, I’m also a sucker for stories of found families and communities fighting against injustice. Also, “there’s only one bed” and fake dating tropes in the third story just made me very, very happy!

It’s also refreshing to read a historical romance where the main characters are like “propriety? I don’t know her” and like, share a carriage alone together. Or a room. No chaperones or anything like that, and nobody who matters really cares. It’s not exactly your regular historical romance. But it did remind me of other romance novels like Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series, if only for the working women and the community coming together. Also, while it’s a f/m story, there are background queer characters that are absolutely great, and I really hope the author gets around to the novella about some of them she mentions in the afterword.

Overall a great, light and short romance with some adorable (yet headstrong) characters in a historical-ish setting. With pet sea serpents and minions and skeletal dragons… and the idea that love – in all its forms – triumphs after all.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo

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1950s historical novels aren’t my main interest, but I do like queer romances, especially historical ones (though I veer closer to the 1800s) so I was intrigued by this book. It’s kinda hard to get around here, but the library is well-stocked so I took advantage! 
I’ve recently stopped giving star ratings, just because it feels a bit artificial, but this one would be a definite 5/5 for me. I absolutely enjoyed every page of it. I’d read Malinda Lo’s Ash, a Cinderella retelling, a few years back and enjoyed it a lot too, but you can clearly see the growth in the writing style since then, and a lot of research went into making this book historically accurate as well – and it shows! It’s like a window into another time.

I’ve never been to the US, and my knowledge of San Francisco comes from movies and reading October Daye, so I’m not entirely the best person to judge but it made me feel like I was truly there.

We’re talking about queer teenagers in the 50s so obviously there’s a lot of homophobia, and that was hard to read about at times, but I always felt the characters were true to themselves, and Lily in particular was absolutely relatable in the ways she came to understand who she was, in her shyness around other queer women, her being torn between her family and who she really is… The fact that she had to deal with white queer women around her’s comments about her race made it very clear that she was stuck between two world neither of which truly accepted her, and seeing her navigating that and coming out a proud young woman was really cathartic. Even as a white queer woman myself, Lily’s story spoke to my younger self, without shying away from hard truths about racism which still feel very relevant today.

The last third of the book gets to a crescendo and I simply could not stop reading, I finished it at about 3am because I had to know what happened to them. And I don’t say this often for romances because they’re pretty self contained, but I want a sequel! I’d love to see Lily and Kathleen navigating the 60s and 70s and what happens to them as they grow older (together or apart), that’s how much Malinda Lo made me care about these characters!

As a final note, I also appreciated the research notes at the back of the book, with resources and books to look into it yourself if you want to know more about this part of history. Because it did make me want to read more on that. 

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