Tag Archives: #OwnVoices

Review of A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps), by Kai Ashante Wilson

I borrowed Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

First, 500 stars for that cover. It is amazing. I’d have read the book just for that. Yes, I really would.

Second, wow, I loved this writing style. Yes, it was problematic. At times it became overly florid and some of the dialogue is anachronistic, but mostly I loved it. I especially appreciated the difference in dialect between Aqib and Lucrio.

Third, the ending. For most of the book I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t loving it. The ending pulled this from a four-star read to a five-star read for me. Several complaints I’d harbored for most of the book were resolved in one fell swoop.

Fourth, I love the way gender norms were convoluted. Yes, if I’m honest, I often find this a cheap plot device and in a way it is here too, but I think it’s done usually well and I really enjoyed it. There were several points in the book where I just had to set it aside and laugh. This is never a bad thing to have happen, in my opinion.

Fifth, setting the book in a culture that more closely resembles Islam than Christianity. It’s fantasy, so it’s neither really, but so often you can see the roots of the imaginings and here it’s a refreshing change to find something beyond the strictures of the Christian church.

My only real complaints are the occasional missing word that I didn’t think was intentional, but rather editing mishaps, and  that I didn’t feel overly connected to the characters. You don’t get to know Lucrio at all really and Aqib always felt a little detached; his life speeding by too fast to really grab ahold of. But over all, I really enjoyed this and will be searching out more of Wilson’s writing. I know, for example, that he has some free reads on Tor.com.

Review of The Mechanical Universe, by EE Ottoman

The Mechanical UniverseI purchased a copy of The Mechanical Universe, by EE Ottoman.

Description from Goodreads:
A world of mechanical animation, spell craft, beauty, and romance…

A Matter of Disagreement
Bad enough the rise of mechanical animation is a threat to Andrea’s scholarly pursuits. Much worse that it’s a threat to the livelihood of those who depend on him for support. But all his protestations bring him is notoriety and an unwanted introduction to the man responsible for ruining his life…

Famed opera singer Aimé has a lot in common with Badri, the Royal Ballet Company’s most popular male lead. They have both dedicated their entire lives to their art and struggle to be taken seriously among the Empire’s elite. But the cost of such dedication is that it leaves no room for other pursuits, least of all those of a personal nature…

Winter’s Bees
Lord Marcel is a brilliant mathematician, member of the mechanical animation movement, and all around dandy. He is less successful in his love for Prince Gilbert. An arranged marriage should have been the perfect solution for bringing secret fantasies to life, but Gilbert wants no part of romance, especially not with a man he regards as a brother.

On the whole I really enjoyed this story collection. I liked the alternative history, magical world. I loved that all the main characters are people who almost never get to be romantic leads—fat men, trans men, differently abled, castrato, PoC (who fall in love with other PoC), men considered ugly by the standards of their couture, men with small penises. I would have really liked to have seen a woman or two. There are female side characters and they all seemed strong (if strong in very male ways), but no lead females.

The writing is very good, and the editing for the first two stories is pretty good too. It falls apart for the last one for some reason. I mean, really noticeably! But this isn’t the first Ottoman book I’ve read and it won’t be the last.

What I’m drinking: I call it tourist tea. Technically, it’s English Breakfast Tea. But it’s in a cute little red phone box souvenir tin (one in a set of three) that my aunt-in-law brought be from England. Thus, tourist tea…with milk.

Review of Pansies, by Alexis Hall

PansiesI requested Alexis Hall‘s Pansies from Netgalley. I was approved and then two hours later the paperback showed up in the mail. Apparently, I had forgotten that I’d pre-ordered it. Oops. But it was fortuitous since I ended up reading from both copies and finishing that much faster.

Description from goodreads:
Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie’s never met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

This is a truly beautiful book. Now, I’ll admit I’m biased, as Hall is one of my favorite authors and I’m kind of predisposed to like anything he writes, but I did very much enjoy this. The writing is lush. The romance so…well, so sweetly romantic you could almost scoop it up with a spoon. Both characters are distinct and likable. Hall even managed to make Fen’s forgiveness believable, which in the beginning I didn’t think was possible. Apparently, I’m a horrible person because I didn’t think Alfie deserved it.

Now, as with most of Hall’s books (maybe all, but I’m not a fan of definitives) all that lush writing can come across as painfully purple at times and this one may have been even more descriptive than normal. I think it’s lovely, but someone with little patience for such will probably not call this a winner. I also thought a few sections stood out as notably stuttered, in that they lacked the same level of flourish as the rest. Personally, I could have done with a little less sex, but I did really appreciate what Hall did with the sex he included. There are mishaps, and affection and a broad definition of what qualifies and very little penetration politicking (yes, I made that up), beyond Alfie’s engagement of his own injurious beliefs.

In all honestly, Alfie coming to terms with his own misconceptions and past self, with his own thoughtlessness, his own inability or unwillingness to consider the effects of his actions on another, or even to consider that he should consider such things was my favorite part of the book. Haven’t we all known (or been) that youth at some point?

I won’t call this my favorite Hall book. There’s little chance a contemporary romance could ever claim that title for any author, it’s just not my preferred genre, but this is definitely worth picking up. There is more emotion in this book than in most of what I’ve read this year put together.

What I’m eating/drinking: An extra hot latte from Webster Groves Garden Cafe (my local coffee shop) and, what turned out to be a chocolate chip muffin. I thought it was blueberry when I pointed to it in the display case. But honestly, how disappointed could I be?