Review: Herman Needs A Home, by Lucy Nogura

Blurb

Herman Needs A Home

A little crab’s each for a shell to call home.

When Herman the hermit crab gets too big for his shell, he can’t find a new one that feels just right. With his sister, Hiro, he travels up and down the beach in search of a shell he can call home.

They don’t find a shell, but they do find something else – a pile of rubbish left behind on the sand. But can Herman make a home out of any of it?

My Review

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book and to Love Books Tours for organising this tour. I received a lovely parcel from Lucy Noguera.

Herman and his sister Hiro need new shells, so their family line up and swap shells. Unfortunately, Herman is bigger than any of the others and needs to find a new shell. Hiro and Herman go for a walk on the beach to fins a new shell. Instead they find a large pile of rubbish. Nothing fits right, of course but as night falls, Herman hides in a broken tennis ball. The next day he goes on an unexpected trip.

I reviewed another book by Lucy Noguera last year, SWOP the satsuma sized secret, and really enjoyed it. That came in a lovely parcel, too. This book is for younger children and is beautifully illustrated by Emma Latham. As with SWOP, there is a lesson for young readers. In this case, it’s about the damage rubbish can cause to sealife and ends with a page about how to look after the coast by clearing up rubbish.

The illustrations are lovely, bright and colourful. The paper is high quality, dense and solid, so it’ll last a good long time. The writing is fun and bouncy, and I suggest it’ll be good reading for both parents and children.

I generally send these books to my cousin’s kids, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of this one. I think they’ll love it.

Blog Name Change

Evening all, it’s late but I thought I’d share a decision I made. I’ve decided to change the name of the blog from Rosie Writes… to Everything Is Better With Dragons.

There are reasons. Firstly, I named this blog 9 years ago when I didn’t know what the blog was going to be about, other than me writing. The blog has evolved into a book blog, so the more general name isn’t appropriate anymore. There is also another book blog called ‘Rosie Reads’. In fact, there are about half a dozen with a similar name. It can be quite confusing, so I’ve decided to move away from such a common name.

Secondly, I don’t particularly resonate with the name ‘Rosie’ anymore. It’s associated with a different me, not the me I am now. I’d prefer people to use Rosemarie to address me now.

Thirdly, my business cards have a dragon on with ‘Everything is better with dragons’ around the dragon, so it makes more sense to have the name on the blog too.

Forth, the podcast has the same name and logo, and I like things to all line up. There are Tumblr blogs and a Facebook page with similar names but not quite the same. And probably no one has gone with this colour scheme, pink and green. I actually have a dragon I made in those colours.

The web address is the same as always.

TBR Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

Paperback, 351 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Akashic Books

Blurb

Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.

My Review

I’ve reviewed this book on my podcast Everything Is Better With Dragons, episode 2 which will be available soon, but I’m sharing a written review for those who don’t listen to podcasts.

I liked this book.

Aster is clearly Autistic, like Rivers Solomon, and later in the book we learn Aster is probably non-binary too. A bit of intersectional representation! Aster also comes from the lower decks of the arc ship she’s travelling in. The society of the HSS Matilda is highly stratified by skin colour, the darker you are the lower down the ship you live and the worse your living conditions are. Aster, unlike many of her deck mates, has a lot of mobility between decks due to her position as assistant to the Surgeon General, Theo. Aster has a complex relationship with Theo, neither really know what they are to each other beyond their professional relationship, and both struggle to express what they feel for each other.

Complex relationships are a theme in this novel.

Theo has a complex relationship with his uncle, Lieutenant, who eventually becomes Sovereign. Theo is frightened of his uncle and aware that his uncle is highly conflicted about his feelings for Theo.

Lieutenant has a complex relationship with morality. He is attracted to his feminine nephew, appalled by his attraction and also by the ‘pollution’ of the family bloodline represented by Theo’s skin colour. He’s also jealous of Theo’s relationship with Aster. He assumes it’s sexual, although it doesn’t get that far. He can’t punish Theo directly, because they are equals as Commander of the Guard and Surgeon General, but he can hurt Aster. After his ascension to Sovereign, he takes his sadistic hate out on everyone on Q deck, where Aster lives. He claims that his authority comes from a deity, and that as a ‘pure’ human he is better than lower deck residents.

The society in the book is heavily based on the Antebellum South of the U.S., so incredibly unequal, racist and screwed up. Aster and her friend Giselle are irritants in the society they are forced to tolerate. Aster because she is able to code switch in both gender and language, doesn’t get the point of a lot of the social conventions and has the ability to move about. Giselle because she’s bat shit crazy and is happy to cause mayhem and be a Devil. It is her ability to withstand abuse and trauma, and react in unexpected ways that prevent the Guards or any authority from keeping her down.

Another complex relationship, that between Aster and Giselle, defines and triggers major events in the novel. They love and hate each other, but they also need each other. Aster couldn’t interpret her mother’s notes without Giselle, who sees the world from an entirely different angle, possibly upside down and inside out. Giselle is paranoid, and has delusions of persecution; she is convinced someone is trying to poison her for much of the book. She gets into all sorts of places because she wants to hide from her persecutors.

Aster has complex relationships with maternal figures in her life, firstly her absent mother and secondly Q-deck leader, Aint Melusine. Lune, Aster’s mother, left a riddle for her child to unravel, which becomes Aster’s driving interest, along with botany, astronomy and chemistry. It is Aster’s need to answer the question of Lune and where she went that gives Aster the resilience to survive persecution by Lieutenant and to save HSS Matilda from pointless wandering.

Ainy Melusine replaced the mother Aster never knew. She is not particularly maternal despite being a Nanny on the upper decks, and teacher to the children of Q deck, but she does her best for Aster who she recognises as an unusual child from an early age and helps her to gain an education beyond that normal for a low deck child. Melusine is also Theo’s mother, which complicates her relationship with both Theo and Aster, as she can’t tell either of them. Theo’s father was a previous Sovereign, and the relationship between him and Melusine was clandestine and considered immoral on the upper decks.

These complicated relationships and characters travel through space on a large arc ship that has been travelling at near light speed for 350 years, although on Earth a thousand years has passed. They are powered by Baby, a miniature star, who provides power for the drive and provides light for the crops on a complicated layering system of fields. The ship is clearly and vividly described as is the society that has evolved in different decks and over the ship as a whole. The contrast between the metal and decay of the lower decks with the lush extravagance of the upper decks provides a visual narrative about the people of the Matilda. Despite the harshness of their lives, the lower deckers are inventive, loving and preserve their own food, languages and storytelling cultures against all odds.

The narrative is broken up with stories that Melusine has told Aster in the past. These stories are colourful and clearly draw on Black American and African stories. Melusine or Aster reflect on the stories and what they mean to them, which brings them seamlessly into the narrative.

The narrative is mostly told from Aster’s perspective but occasionally Theo, Melusine and Giselle have chapters. I found this a really interesting structure and have used a similar structure in my novels. I enjoyed the direct plotline with past events being pulled in as memories that fit into the story seamlessly. There’s no skipping between past and future. It’s a lot less confusing that way, at least for me.

The writing and the language used is particularly effective for showing the different cultures and social structure with its minute gradations based on minor differences in skin tone. The language has impact, especially during traumatic events. Some things are heavily implied and some are outright stated, depending on the needs of the narrative. I have the audiobook as well as the paperback and listening to the story had a strong impact on me.

I really enjoyed this novel. I read the last 100 pages in an afternoon, so engrossed by the action and events, I had to know what happened next, and I’d love to see a sequel.

Review: Fantasy Short Stories, by Suzanne Rogerson

Fantasy Short Stories

A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.

The Guardian

With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.

Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.

Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector

Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.

Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.

Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds

Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.

Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.

But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?

All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/fantasySS

Continue reading “Review: Fantasy Short Stories, by Suzanne Rogerson”

Review: The Heron Kings’ Flight, by Eric Lewis

Fiction: FICTION / Fantasy / Epic
Product format: Paperback
Price: £12.95; $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-78758-698-7
Pages: 368 pp


The Heron Kings have been betrayed. A century after their formation from a
gang of desperate peasant insurgents, the shadowy band of forest rangers
suffers a rare defeat when a skirmish turns into a bloody ambush. Their shaky truce with the crown is tested as young members Linet and Aerrus work to track down their enemies. When reluctant peacetime soldier Eyvind reveals a conspiracy to welcome the charismatic invader Phynagoras, the trio must convince a weak king and pitifully few allies to stand against the storm.

Their only hope lies in the forgotten tactics of their own guerrilla past, and a terrifying new alchemical weapon the likes of which the world had never
imagined. The only question is which side will be destroyed by it first…

FLAME TREE PRESS is the imprint of long-standing independent Flame
Tree Publishing dedicated to full-length original fiction in the horror and
suspense, science fiction & fantasy, and crime / mystery / thriller categories. The list brings together fantastic new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices. Learn more about Flame Tree Press at http://www.flametreepress.com and connect on social media @FlameTreePress

Continue reading “Review: The Heron Kings’ Flight, by Eric Lewis”

I’ve started a podcast.

I’m scared and the first episode is a bit of a mess because I don’t have any editing software, so it’s just me talking into a microphone with some stock music added at the beginning and end. I reviewed two books quite quickly and mentioned others on the blog. WordPress has some sort of agreement with Spotify because every time I publish a blog post I get a ‘turn it into a podcast’ message, and I finally gave in after writing my review for Legends & Lattes earlier. I bit the bullet and made use of a borrowed microphone. I’m hoping to get better at recording and try to find editing software that will let me take out my hesitation and repetition, as well as the dogs making noises in the background.

I hope to release a new episode every fortnight, hopefully with at least two reviews and any rambling chatty stuff that sneaks in. I like to talk about my work so I probably will end up discussing the neurodiversity heritage project and possibly even the allotment.

I should probably tell you what it’s called and all that.

The blog is called:

You can find it on Spotify and Anchor.

If you can bare to hear my weird voice and don’t mind me rambling a bit, please give it a listen and leave any constructive feedback in the comments of this post.

TBR Pile Review: Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree

Paperback, 305 pages
Published February 22nd 2022
ISBN13: 9798985663211

Blurb

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

My Review

This book arrived on Monday and to be honest it didn’t make it to the TBR pile. I took it upstairs to add to the pile and instead spent two hours reading. I finished it today. Didn’t have the energy yesterday after work, but I’m okay today. Not going to the Wellbeing Hub at the leisure centre on Monday might have something to do with that. I’m disappointed in myself and my body that a fairly gentle exercise routine two days a week and working one afternoon a week results is enough to knock me off my feet for two to three days. It’s ridiculous.

But ignore all that, you’re not here for updates on my dodgy health and energy levels, you’re here for the book review.

Viv is an orc adventurer, sick of all the travelling and killing. After one final mission she settles down in the town of Thune and opens a coffee shop, an utterly unheard-of venture. Making friends with a giant cat, a succubus in a sweater, a rattkin baker, a hob carpenter, Arcanist (wizard but with scientist overtones) who refuses to drink hot drinks and a musician who invents soft rock, Viv finds a home. She also has to cope with the local crime family demanding protection money and an old companion who thinks her good fortune is unfair. Their friendship sees them through trials and tribulations, and Viv finally finds love.

I enjoyed this novel. The plot is not new. Lots of cosy romances have a similar plot, but none I’ve ever heard of involve fantasy creations. I don’t read romance much, but if you add it to a fantasy setting and don’t make the romance overwhelming, I’m fine with it. I found the characters fun and realistic. The worldbuilding is really good. It’s not heavy handed, but there’s enough detail added as colour, like mentions of far off places and organisations that it comes across as a complex complete world. It was easy to read and I rooted for Viv and her friends.

I had a read of the acknowledgements. It looks like Baldree wrote this book for NaNoWriMo 2021, and somehow managed to publish it by February 2022. The press, Cryptid Press, looks like it’s the author’s own press, so I assume it’s self-published. I also looked briefly at the author’s website https://travisbaldree.com/ which seems to confirm it. It’s well edited. The benefits of having a proper editor and plenty of beta readers. Having tried something similar, without those benefits, I can only doff my overly large hat to Baldree. Nice work.

If you want to try a fantasy that is light and fun, with high fantasy elements, I recommend this novel.

Pen & Sword Review: Carry on Regardless, by Caroline Frost

By Caroline Frost
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526774781
Published: 5th May 2022
Expected Re-release Date: 30th June 2022

Blurb

The completely updated story of Carry On, Britain’s largest film franchise, all the way from the gentle capers of the 1950s, through the raucous golden age of the 1960s, to its struggles in the years that followed.

We take a happy walk down memory lane to enjoy again Sid James’s cheeky chuckle, Kenneth Williams’ elongated vowels, Charles Hawtrey’s bespectacled bashfulness and Barbara Windsor’s naughty wiggle.

It all seemed effortless, but exclusive interviews with the series’ remaining stars including Bernard Cribbins, Angela Douglas and Kenneth Cope shed new light on just how much talent and hard work went into creating the laughs. For the first time, the loved ones of some of the franchise’s biggest names – on and off screen – share their personal memories from this unique era.

Was Carry On really as sexist, racist and bigoted as critics claim? Three of the films’ female stars explain why they never felt remotely exploited, plus we take a fresh look at some of the series’ biggest titles and discover that, in reality, they were far more progressive than their detractors would have you believe.

Finally, with constant talk about new films, fresh productions and tantalising speculation about a brand new era of Carry On, we ask – does this unique series still have legs?

My Review

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. It came with my latest box of books from Pen & Sword. I have always enjoyed the Carry On… films, they are a fond memory from my childhood, where we collected the VHS tapes and then the DVDs. I still have the DVDs but got rid of my tapes when I moved out in 2014. I have always been fascinated by the personalities behind the films, especially the ensemble cast of the 60s who come to mind when I think about the films. I’ve been re-watching the films lately. They’re a nostalgic blanket on a wet Sunday afternoon.

I can also quote quite a few lines from most of the films.

This book is an overview of the films, the cast and crew, going from the earliest film, Carry On Sergeant, to the final film, Carry On Columbus. Over the series the films poked gentle fun at institutions, cracked jokes and threw out double entendre all over the place. Unfortunately, by the late seventies, they struggled to cope with changing social mores and the attempts at keeping up with the times fell flat.

Frost writes from a position of fondness and the author clearly enjoyed interviewing as many people as she could who had been involved, and using the auto/biographies of those she could not, to give a positive view of the films. However, she doesn’t give us many details of the actual production process, and she gets repetitive at times. We hear time and time again how much the cast enjoyed filming, and how it was ‘just like going back to school’ every time they went back to Pinewood Studios. It also gets a bit ‘Great British Humour’ at times, all a bit jingoistic.

I found the discussion of criticism of the films interesting. Certainly the sort of stuff they got away with wouldn’t happen now, such as the black face used in Carry On…Khyber and …Up The Jungle. The roles for women could be a bit limited, although as the author points out, many of the women characters were strong, determined women. Carry on Cabby is a fantastic early example. However, the cheap jokes at the expense of women’s appearances is galling, and actually contributed to Joan Sims’ possible Binge Eating Disorder. I thought that Frost’s attitude to the criticism of what she and others refer to as ‘Woke’ and ‘PC’ critics is a bit hypocritical. People have made valid points about the films and the attitudes they display, and you have to be a very canny viewer to realise there’s a bit more going on.

There is a discussion of the likelihood of new Carry Ons…end the book; there are some deluded people out there that think it could happen. I’m sorry, but times and humour have changed. The films are a snap-shot of a time and place, a period of social change that is reflected in the attitudes of the films and the tension between the past and present in the 1960s and early 1970s. The films also worked because they had an ensemble cast of comedic actors. As we saw with the rebooted ‘St. Trinians’ films, what worked in 1960 doesn’t work in the 2000s; social mores and humour have changed, and there is a dearth of the sorts of comedic actors who would be willing to work as part of an ensemble cast, or with the training on stage, TV and film that the cast had.

Over all, it’s okay, but could be better.