A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers | 1 Minute Reviews

[Note: The review and blurb for this book does somewhat spoil the original, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which you should go read first! Go on go! If you’ve already read it, you can stay here].
Becky Chambers is back!! Hurrah!
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When this copy arrived on my doorstep, I was so happy to be returning to Chambers’ universe. The world is so rich with characters, cultures, races, species! Chambers has planned a series of novels that are semi-standalone set within this universe, and I’m so excited to be able to explore more corners of it.
A Closed and Common Orbit follows Lovelace, the AI of the Wayfarer, as she leaves her ship in the kit body built originally for Lovey, along with Pepper and her partner Blue. In a body that wasn’t built for her, Lovelace must reconcile her new sentience against Lovey’s history while attempting to exist in a world where her freedom is illegal.
Meanwhile, engineer Pepper’s story is told in flashbacks and present tense, in an absolutely heartwrenching storyline.
A Closed and Common Orbit takes us into the past of human genetic manipulation, while thoroughly interrogating the boundaries of Artificial Intelligence and brings us closer to the Aelueon race.
Honestly it’s beautiful and I cried quite a few times. I have never felt this way about a series before. You must must read it if you a) love Mass Effect/Firefly/Star Trek etc or b) love a good character based story set in astonishing world building.
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
Thanks to the team at Hodder for the review copy!! I ended up sleeping with it, I loved it that much.

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray | 1 Minute Reviews

Defy the Stars grabbed me from the first moment.

In three weeks, Noemi Vidal will die – here, in this very place.

Today is just practice.

I’ve been meaning to read more sci-fi YA as its an area I seem to unintentionally neglect, despite being raised on a diet of Star Trek.

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I love a good star crossed lovers romance, especially when in space. Something about being out on the open frontier whilst also being driven apart from the person you love just adds an extra oomph. And then Claudia Gray decided to make one of them a mech.

Noemi is a fighter pilot from the planet Genesis, willing to die to protect her beautiful planet from Earth in the suicide mission termed The Masada Run. While on a test run, Noemi discovers an abandoned ship, and on it she finds mech Abel, the most advanced mech in the universe. As the first human he’s seen in thirty years, Noemi becomes his commander and together they plot to blow up the Gate between Earth and Genesis, with Abel fatally pushing the button. That’s if they can get around the galaxy in time to collect what they need before the Masada Run takes off, and without being caught as deserters or found by Abel’s creator.

The wonderful Hot Key Books always include a “What’s In It?” on the back cover, and summed Defy the Stars up as “Romance. Rebellion. The Stars.” I’d like to add HOT MECH BODS.

Gray mixes climate change related apocalypse and interplanetary adventure, with the existence of souls and the meaning of morality and humanity, in relation to both Abel the Mech and the human race. The romance is compelling, as is the complex relationship Abel and Noemi have as master and servant according to robotics law. Also the ending… the ending!!!

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy, but will pass the time by picking up one of Claudia Gray’s previous books.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank you ever so to Hot Key Books for sending me this copy to review.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham | 1 Minute Reviews

I wrote the bones of this review back in 2016 when I was sent a pre-publication copy by the lovely people at Ebury Press. This was, importantly, also before I received my diagnosis of autism.

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Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a brutal, beautiful book that subverts the memoir genre through inclusion of third person accounts of events involving him. The timeline flicks around, with the Summer of 1975, the Summer of his kestrel, playing a centralised role. Alongside that are his end-of-chapter discussions with his therapist in September 2003, shortly after considering suicide, where he discusses his issues with people – and why he loves animals more than other humans – and his own struggles to navigate a world not built for him.

It’s utterly stunning and I am in awe.

While many nature memoirs tiptoe into the brutalism of nature, Packham strides forward into it – nibbling tadpoles, trying to rescue a drowning fox, stripping meat from bones. It is harsh, just as nature is.

While reading I saw so much of my childhood in his own; a lonely-alone child who dives headfirst into the natural world, where he understands animals while being baffled by humans? Yep, pretty close to the bone here. Mid-reading, I discovered that Packham is autistic, receiving his diagnosis as an adult 2005 which he is only opening up about now, in part due to the release of Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.

So much of what happened to him mirrors my own life, making this a book very close to my heart. I feel that the other lonely nature loving autistic children will find much to love here, especially if, like me, they grew up watching Chris on The Really Wild Show.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thanks to Ebury Books for sending me a review copy.

Want to read more books about autistic people? Check out my recommendations on The Essential Autie Book List.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde | 1 Minute Reviews

Interested in reading more books featuring autistic characters or queer characters, check out my lists Queer & Here and The Essential Autie List.

I heard about Queens of Geek thanks to Jim of Ya Yeah Yeah – an autistic girl in a romance novel set at a convention?! I mean, it just screams I gotta read this.

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Queens of Geek is published by the wonderful Swoon Reads, an internet publishing community that allows authors to submit manuscripts which are then voted on, with the best selected for publishing. I’m already considering submitting something, once its finished.

Therefore, it wasn’t so easy for me to pick up in a store, especially as it turned out that Jim may have bought the last copy Foyles had for at least a week, and so I ordered it on Book Depository so I could devour it over the bank holiday weekend.

And devour it I did.

Queens of Geek follows three friends – Charlie, Taylor and Jamie – as they arrive at SupaCon, the world’s best fandom convention.

Pink-haired actress-vlogger Charlie is there to promote her indie film alongside her pig-headed ex boyfriend Reese Ryan; will she ever escape questions about their relationship? A chance encounter with her favourite YouTube star Alyssa Huntington brightens the mood, and thus begins the cutest little f/f courting ever. Charlie’s chapters also deal with misogyny within creative industries, where women are asked about their styling, fitness, diets, as opposed to their methods and creativity.

Meanwhile, Taylor is experiencing her first convention alongside beautiful Jamie, who she shared that one non-date date with a few years ago, and nothing more. But she wants more. Definitely. Dressed in full Queen Firestone cosplay, Taylor’s aim is to meet author Skyler before they go (hopefully) go to college in LA, and an opportunity to enter a contest in front of everyone is just what she needs to make it happen, if she’s brave enough.

Taylor’s story resonated with me so much, to the point that I was reading sections of her chapters out to my partner, who’d smile wryly and say “that’s you.” Her fears, her thought patterns, her coping mechanisms. You can tell that this was written by an autistic person, because they just get it. Taylor and Jamie’s romance is also adorable, drawn from a place of intense friendship that made my heart burst.

If you are into your geekery and you really want to read a great romance, then this is the one. Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Lorali by Laura Dockrill | 1 Minute Reviews

A few days ago I came up with the bright idea of moving all my books out of the garage, where they sat in cardboard boxes within an incredibly loose sorting system, into the garden shed. The shed has stood empty for some years after the death of my father in law’s rabbit, and he’d offered it up to me as a book haven. I have since realised that moving them closer to the river that floods regularly may have been a terrible mistake.

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The point is while I was half heartedly organising things, I was giggling along to Lorali and not really paying attention to the faults in my plans. Hot Key Books had kindly sent along my copy due to its eye catching shiny cover, and also mermaids.

Lorali is a mermaid Princess who, as Ariel did before her, decides that her time underwater has come to an end, leading her to the join the world of the humans, or Walkers. Her new home of choice – Hastings.

Rory, a swaggering teenager from Hastings, is the one who discovers Lorali, stark naked and alone. Rescuing her from torrential rain, Rory becomes drawn into Lorali’s plight as they are chased by dapper pirates and grubby Dr Marten wearing sirens.

Lorali (the novel) is narrated in chapters between Rory, Lorali herself and THE SEA, who is actually really hilarious. The Sea’s chapters tend to focus on the current or historical world of the Mer, and follows Mer-Walker liaison Opal Zeal as she attempts to make contact with humans in order to find the missing princess.

Dockrill takes a spin on the mermaid stories, with the introduction of mythology around their creation and their tapestries (their tails), alongside the very real threat they face from poaching. The world she creates is rich and believable, and I’m very much looking forward to returning there with the sequel Aurabel, due in June.

Let me get real a second though. What starts off as a witty, brilliant story of mermaids and embarrassing teen boys and lighthouses suddenly takes a turn at one point and becomes incredibly dark. I ended the book needing to lie down in a dark room to process all sixteen of my emotions.

It’s a book that made me giggle, cry, and flail, which for me is the mark of an intense read. Also I can only assume that Dockrill is also a Gilmore fan, which is always a point in someone’s favour.

Interested? Get it here. I also reviewed the sequel Aurabel about a disabled steampunk mermaid BUT BE CAREFUL BECAUSE THE DESCRIPTION SPOILS LORALI.

Note: the GoodReads listing for this book also features the older cover in blue that was released in 2015. The cover pictured in this blog is the updated version published to match the sequel Aurabel.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Hot Key Books who continue to keep me in good books. You are angels.

Paulina & Fran by Rachel B Glaser | 1 Minute Reviews

I need to call Rachel B. Glaser right now and ask her so many things about this joyous book.

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Paulina is flighty, brilliant, cruel; Fran is lovely, curled, gentle. When Paulina decides to befriend Fran on a trip to Norway with their art school, so begins a friendship fill with honesty, romantic love and brutality.

Paulina has possibly the sharpest tongue of any character and I regularly found myself shrieking at her barbed comments. Glaser’s cutting humour leaves no corner of art school and young adult life untouched.

My heart was all for them all the way through. The toxic friendship reminded me so so much of Lina and Elena from Ferrante’s Neapolitan Saga.

Paulina and Fran is a brutal look at female friendship and obsessive romance in an art school setting. A must read.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thanks to Granta Books for sharing this copy with me.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt | 1 Minute Reviews

Well, holy shit guys.

I’ve known about the Lizzie Borden case for some time, though I’m not entirely sure why. I suspect either a cultural reference in a Nickelodeon show – Hey Arnold perhaps – or the library. Either way, finding someone famous with the same name as me who wasn’t also a Queen was inherently fascinating to me as a child.

So when lovely Georgina of Headline and Tinder was talking about a new book all about Lizzie, I knew I had to read it.

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Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel explores the famous murder of Lizzie’s father Andrew and stepmother Abby, and while it is common knowledge in the US, I think most people in the UK don’t know the details, so I won’t say more for fear of spoiling.

Atmospheric and rife with tension, Schmidt has created a masterpiece of literary thrillers in See What I Have Done; a historical whodunnit for one of America’s most infamous crimes.

The narrative is split between four points of view: Lizzie’s sister Emma Borden, Bridget the housekeeper, Benjamin a ne’er do well linked to Lizzie and Emma’s uncle John, and Lizzie herself. The Lizzie chapters are heady, jumpy, twisty-turn; you’re never really sure how sincere she is, but Schmidt manages to portray her as desperately insecure, manipulative and naive all at once.

The timeline jumps around the days before and immediately after the murders take place, via these four narratives, slipping you tidbits of fact and mystery. It is a well crafted, eerie novel which throws you suspects from all angles.

I was definitely hooked in completely by this rich novel, which grips you by the senses and refuses to let go! One particular scene with Lizzie’s pigeons brought tears to my eyes and I never want to eat lamb stew again, which is a tragedy and a sacrilege against my Welsh culture.

Pears too.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Headline and Tinder Press for sending this copy to me!