“Abaddon’s Gate” Review

The book cover is yellow with various ships taking up most of the cover there are at least three of them in various shapes. The bottom half of the cover is taken up by the title an author's name. Full title: “Abaddon’s Gate: The Expanse No. 3”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2013
560 pages
Completed May 14, 2024

For generations, the Sol system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared beyond Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless space beyond.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first two books, mostly because I never really warmed up to two of the point of view characters. These books all have multiple points of view – the first one had two and the second and third have four. With the previous books I enjoyed everyone’s storyline, not this time. One because her part of the plot was the most frustrating and the other just because I didn’t enjoy his personality. The most frustrating part of the book was the plot against Holden – all because someone decided to take revenge on him for stuff that wasn’t even his fault. I did enjoy everything else about the book – everything having to do with the artifact and finding out more about the aliens that had existed in the universe long before humans. I wish there’d been more of that part of it.

“Caliban’s War” Review

The cover has a red background while the bottom corner/half is taken up by what looks like the gray surface of a planet. There's a satellite or ship in the upper right side of the cover. The author's name takes up the top of the cover while the title is on the bottom. Full Title: “Caliban’s War: The Expanse No. 2”
Written by: James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2012
595 Pages
Completed May 8, 2024

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun…

This is good sequel to the previous book. The characters and the world building are developed a bit more and new characters are introduced. The central plot of helping the scientist find his daughter is good and flows well with the overall story-arc that’s getting started. The two new characters – Roberta “Bobbie” Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala are great additions. I like the fact that the series will continue to have these mostly stand alone stories that build on the overall story arc of the series. Each one develops the arc a bit more while having its own central issue to resolve.

It isn’t lost on me that there is a problem with the way the series has reduced the idea of racism down to conflicts between Earth, Mars and the Belt. This results in Earth being seemingly comprised of a single group of people like Mars and the Belt which doesn’t make much sense. In some ways it works for what the series wants to do but it others it’s a noticeable issue. Bringing this up now because the introduction of Chrisjen Avasarala who is part of Earth’s government makes it more obvious.

“Leviathan Wakes” Review

The top half of the cover is taken up by the author's name and the book title. In the background is a view of space with a blue tinge with earth visible at the top edge. There is a large asteroid at the top left corner and the bottom is entirely taken up by the edge of a ship. Full Title: “Leviathan Wakes: The Expanse No. 1”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2011
561 pages
Completed May 4, 2024

Humanity has colonized the solar system–Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond–but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations–and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

I’ve been wanting to re-read this series for a while so I decided May was going to be the month I started reading it again. As this first book in the series this one is a fun read. The characters and the world building are great. I love the way everything is set up for the rest of the series. A lot of things happen in the book that will have an impact much farther down the line. I also really like the way the crew of the Rocinante comes together – Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, and Amos Burton – it’s a team built out of chaos and destruction but they make a great team flaws and all. Detective Miller good too but he’s definitly a tragic character.

Okay I’m just going to say this once – something that frustrates me about the writing is how often “stupid” or “idiot” are used as shorthand for any character flaw instead of actually naming the flaw for what it is – arrogance, greed, carelessness, recklessness, etc. Granted, it’s a thing people do all the time, so it’s not surprising it’s in the book. It’s still frustrating though since it’s a constant thing that happens. There’s also a weird scene where Holden contemplates taking advantage of a drunk Naomi (they’re at a bar together she’s drunk, he is not) and the narration clearly acts as though it’s a natural thing to contemplate… the fact that he doesn’t do it at all doesn’t mitigate anything. At least it’s clear throughout the book Naomi isn’t going to tolerate any BS from him and he listens.

“Where the Stars Rise” Review

The book cover has areas of blue with shades of purple with white lights (stars) scattered around the cover. In the center is a spaceship pointed upwards with a dragon wrapped around it and then extending above facing towards the left. The title of the anthology is at the bottom with the editors names. Full Title: “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy”
Edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak
Published by Laksa Media Groups Inc., October 2017
352 Pages
Completed April 26, 2024

Follow twenty-three science fiction and fantasy authors on their journeys through Asia and beyond. Stories that explore magic and science. Stories about love, revenge, and choices. Stories that challenge ideas about race, belonging, and politics. Stories about where we come from and where we are going.

Each wrestling between ghostly pasts and uncertain future. Each trying to find a voice in history.

Orphans and drug-smuggling in deep space. Mechanical arms in steampunk Vancouver. Djinns and espionage in futuristic Istanbul. Humanoid robot in steamy Kerala. Monsters in the jungles of Cebu. Historic time travel in Gyeongbok Palace. A rocket launch in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. A drunken ghost in Song Dynasty China. A displaced refugee skating on an ice planet. And much more.

Embrace them as you take on their journeys. And don’t look back…

Another great collection of short stories. I enjoyed reading the majority of the stories in the book. There were a couple I wasn’t quite sure what was happening and didn’t enjoy as much but they were worth trying them. All of them had interesting ideas and characters. It was interesting seeing the different Asian cultural contexts for the stories and the ways the science fiction and fantasy elements played out. This would be another anthology where it’s important to read the forward and the afterword for some additional context. As always I’ll be checking out all the authors to see what else they’ve written. I’ve already read a book by at least one of the authors, Meru by S.B. Divya – great book.

“The Last Watch” Review

The cover is black with stars and a spaceship near the bottom of the cover. The ship is in the process of being destroyed with a blue light cutting cross the middle of it at an angle. To the right of the light the ship is nothing but a cloud of debris. On the left side is the rest of the ship still whole. The top half of the cover is take up by the title and below the ship it says "They're humanities last chance" and then the author's name below that. At the very top of the cover there is a statement "An epic tale of survival at the end of the universe" by Meghan E. O'Keefe, author of Velocity Weapon. Written by J. S. Dewes
Published by Tor Books, April 2021
472 Pages
Completed April 20, 2023

The Divide. It’s the edge of the universe.Now it’s collapsing—and taking everyone and everything with it. The only ones who can stop it are the Sentinels—the recruits, exiles, and court-martialed dregs of the military.

At the Divide, Adequin Rake commands the Argus. She has no resources, no comms—nothing, except for the soldiers that no one wanted. Her ace in the hole could be Cavalon Mercer—genius, asshole, and exiled prince who nuked his grandfather’s genetic facility for “reasons.” She knows they’re humanity’s last chance.

It took me a while to get into this book. I enjoyed the characters the whole way though but the plot felt slow until the end when more things were figured out. By the end of the book I was enjoying the set up of what was happening and what needed to be done. I did end up feeling though a lot more could have been explained about who the characters were and what the different groups were all about. It made it a little difficult to really get into the story when I didn’t understand who they were fighting in places. Maybe I missed an explanation but I had no clue about one group in the book. Without spoiling too much there’s also a plot point that only some members of the Argus make it off – it’s not clear how many and also only a few are ever really involved in the story. In the end though I did enjoy the book and will be reading the sequel to find out what happens next.

“Tell Me How It Ends” Review

The book cover is a drawing of a person sitting behind a table with a set of 5 tarot cards that are face up on the table. Everything is various shades of purple. Written by Quinton Li
Published by Quinton Li Editorial, April 2023
326 pages
Completed April 7, 2024

Iris Galacia’s tarot cards do more than entertain gamblers. With the flip of her fingers she can predict the future and uncover a person’s secrets. But under the watchful eye of her mother, she is on thin ice for pursuing a passion in the family business, and then cracks start to form until she eventually she falls through. She is given an ultimatum — a test to prove her worth: earn a thousand coins or leave the business, and the family.

Enter Marin Boudreau, a charming young person who can scale buildings and break off door knobs, who comes for her help to rescue a witch who’s been falsely imprisoned in Excava Kingdom. And Marin is willing to pay a high sum for her talents. But saving a prisoner from royal hands isn’t easy, nor is leaving home for the first time in eighteen years.

Now Iris must learn to trust in herself, Marin, and this new magical world, while racing the clock before the royals decide the fate of the witch, and before any secrets catch up to her.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this book because a lot of my issues with it can be explained by it being both a “cozy fantasy” and young adult. I did enjoy some things about it – the characters were interesting and all that. However, conflicts that should have been more serious are resolved almost instantly and with more compassion (from villains) than seems reasonable for anyone. Even the ending of the story with Iris making a choice about what to do next was too easy. Without spoiling too much, Marin never really proves themselves to be trust worthy and Iris feels too sheltered and naive to really be reliable in picking what she should do next. There’s a lot of reasons why she should escape her current life but it doesn’t feel like the found family she found is all that safe either. That said – how I feel about the ending of the book might be more about my personality (and age), along with the genres, than the story itself. One thing I did like was the way the Tarot cards were used in the story – there were a lot of good details about how they worked and how they helped Iris figure out what to do next. Not a series I’ll continue, but honestly if you like cozy fantasy with found family where things are resolved easily it might be more your cup of tea than mine.

“Light from Uncommon Stars” Review

The majority of the cover is a view of space with stars and patches of nebulas in lighter blue. there's a spaceship flying across the top of the cover and the title of the book is written in large font across the middle of the cover with the authors name at the bottomWritten by Ryka Aoki
Published by Tor Books, September 2021
372 pages
Completed March 29, 2024

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

This was a very cool and very strange story. Other reviews have said it felt like multiple stories being told at once and that’s sort of true. But really it feels like multiple lives intersecting in a time and place in various complicated ways and we’re just going along for the ride. Which is how life works. Books usually focus on one story but this one was a bit more realistic to life with multiple people and their stories connecting. It’s also multi-genre in that it’s a bit science fiction and a bit fantasy and a bit coming of age general fiction for one of the characters. And I really enjoyed getting to know all of the characters – even Shizuka Satomi and her complicated history. Some would say she’s evil but it feels more complicated than that. There’s a couple places where I think things could have been explained a little more bot overall everything was great about the book. Hopefully all continues to go well for everyone!

“Real Sugar is Hard to Find” Review

The cover is taken up by hills and fields with drones flying over head and a dark brown sky. There is a person standing in the front center of the cover holding a container with a cake inside and wearing a respirator mask. They're wearing brown clothing and red boots. The title is across the top and the authors name is near the bottom right corner. Written by Sim Kern
Published by Android Press, August 2022
206 Pages
Completed March 25, 2024

A collection of short stories by Sim Kern, REAL SUGAR IS HARD TO FIND explores intersections of climate change, reproductive justice, queer identities, and family trauma. Whether fantasy, science fiction, or terrifyingly close-to-home, the worlds of these stories are inhabited by flawed characters whose lives are profoundly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation.

Arranged in a progression from dystopian to utopian worlds, the stories chart a path from climate despair towards resilience and revolutionary optimism. Even in the bleakest of futures, however, Kern offers reasons to hope, connect, and keep fighting for a better world.

This was a great collection of stories! I enjoyed all of them though there were a couple I did want to know more about what was going to happen next. That said most of them did feel complete and even the ones that didn’t ended in a way that made sense for what was being told. As the description says even with the darker stories there was always a sense of possibility and hope. I’d read anything by Sim Kern at this point.

“Breakout” Review

The cover is a view of space with several colors purple, blue, green among the stars. There is a planet at the bottom of the core with two visible moons and a space ship over the planet. The title is at the top of the cover with the author's name. Full Title “Breakout: The Altayih Chronicles 1”
Written by Alek L. Cristea
Self published, February 2023
324 pages
Completed March 24, 2024

Malek dreams of owning his own ship and escaping the prison he’s been unjustly held in. When his escape plan collides with the agenda of a Shinarian girl, he must choose between trusting her and going alone. Trystan, on the radical colony Eden One, discovers his father’s involvement in a terrible project and must decide whether to act despite risking everything. Làhn, a skilled thief, is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and must piece together his past to clear his name. Together, they must confront Berik Corp, a powerful entity threatening the galaxy’s stability.

This was a fun and exciting read. I really liked that along with the Trans / Queer representations there were various disability and mental health representations as well. The characters are great and I really enjoyed learning about them. Each of the three main characters has their own group of friends that are going along for the journey which makes things more exciting. The book ends in a way that makes it feel like a pilot episode for a tv show with a long story arc but will have standalone episodes along the way to completing the arc. Definitly a lot of story possibilities! I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

2024 Trans Rights Read-a-Thon

Information graphic announcing the read a thon and the dates March 22nd through 29th and my two goals to raise money for OUT MetroWest and to read at least three books. The covers for the books are displayed in the picture and are also named in the text of the postThe 2024 Trans Rights Read-a-Thon has begun and this year I am fundraising for OUT MetroWest located in Framingham, Massachusetts!

“The Trans Rights Readathon is an annual call to action to readers and book lovers in support of Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) on March 31st.”

My Fundraiser for OUT MetroWest

More information about the Trans Rights Readathon

I will be reading the following books this year:

“This Arab is Queer: An Anthology by LGBTQ+ Arab Writers”
Edited by Elias Jahshan

“Real Sugar is Hard to Find” a collection of short stories by
Sim Kern

“Breakout” – first novel in new series by Alek Cristea, described as a “space-opera/cyberpunk adventure featuring queer teens in space fighting back against oppression.”

Previous books I’ve read with Trans characters or written by Trans individuals include:

“The Thirty Names of Night” by Zeyn Joukhadar

“Seeds for the Swarm” by Sim Kern

“Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction” by K.M. Szpara et al.

Other books written by or with Trans individuals

“Lakelore” by Anna-Marie McLemore

“Depart, Depart!” By Sim Kern

“Hell Followed With Us” by Andrew Joseph White

“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir” by Samra Habib

“VenCo” by Cherie Dimaline

“The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester” by Maya MacGregor

“The Wicked Bargain” by Gabe Cole Novoa

“The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will” by Maya MacGregor

“The Free People’s Village” by Sim Kern

“The Gilded Ones” trilogy by Namina Forna