Review: Featherhood [Memoir, Non-Fiction]

Rating: 5/5 stars

I’ve been following Benzene and Charlie’s story on Instagram from nearly the beginning, so of course I lost my ENTIRE shit when I found out he’s publishing a book.
Eyebrows are often raised amongst the cynical and the merely pragmatic whenever someone with famous connections – in this case the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour – lands a book deal, but in this case within the first few pages it becomes clear that Gilmour is a superb writer, and that this book was published on its own merit rather than because of friends in high places. It is ostensibly a memoir about the bond between Gilmour and the magpie he rescued from near-death as a fledgling, but also dives deep into the very heart of Gilmour’s past, his relationships, and ultimately his soul.

As a celebration of the magpie, it is a must read for those indifferent to magpies or those who hate them – because it will certainly change your mind. It is impossible to read this book and not come out as a magpie-lover, as Gilmour extols the virtues, vices and sheer sparkling intelligence of these wonderful birds. By turns humorous and heartfelt, tragic and triumphant, if you are looking for a book that will bring a new, multi-faceted perspective to your life, Featherhood is it. It is a reminder in these troubled times that there is always room for tenderness and kindness, both to our human and our animal neighbours.

NB: If you’re wondering why this review is more flouncy than my usual fare and why I used proper orthography for once, it’s because most of it was cannibalised from a cover letter I wrote to Penguin Random House (I did not get the job.) 

Review: The Court of Miracles [YA Historical, Alt-Hist]

3/5 stars

this was one of my most anticipated releases for years – i mean, a les mis retelling with eponine as the MC, and she’s french-algerian, and she’s part of the criminal underworld? count me in!!

but lo, i am disappointed once more. what a cold, hard world we live in.

it wasn’t bad, it’s just okay, and somehow that’s worse. if it was bad i could take the piss out of it with wild glee. but i can’t.

there were a lot of timeskips that seemed jerky and uncoordinated, like me after a few wines, and especially in the first half the narrative didn’t seem to flow very well. nina was a good character, pretty well-rounded, but she seemed to get out of scrapes and conflict a bit too easily for my taste. 

i’m glad there wasn’t an overt Pointless Romance, except it’s clear that any boy around her age who goes within 3.4 miles of her is cast as a love interest: montparnasse, st juste and the dauphin. it’s a little bit tiring, but at least she didn’t really care that much about romance otherwise i’d have been driven up the wall.

there were a couple of historical inaccuracies that did drive me a little bit up the wall, though. nothing too serious, and only throwaway lines really but still:

– it’s mentioned that the prince had a whipping boy, even though they’re pretty much entirely a historical myth, and just seems like a cheap shot at Making The Nobles Evil

– speaking of Making The Nobles Evil, the nobles are… all evil. except the prince because of course.

– faberge eggs are mentioned, despite them being made for the russian royal family, and despite faberge not being alive at this point in time.

also, this isn’t historical, but still annoying:

– lady corday’s hypnotism. seeing as there isn’t a hint of fantasy anywhere else, it seems a lot like a diabolus ex machina.

basically… it was a let down. it wasn’t horrific, but it was a disappointment.

Review: Reverie [YA Fantasy, M/M Romance]

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3/5 stars

this has a lot of good ideas, such as the concept of a “reverie”, a dream-like state that can pull people into it and have devastating consequences. unfortunately, i think the book failed to deliver on its promise.

kane made some stupid, illogical decisions such as trusting/not trusting certain people that made absolutely no sense and were clearly there only for the furthering of the plot. the plot itself was veryslow-going at first, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but even when it picked up it felt oddly disjointed, like an inexperienced knitter dropping stitches all the time.

the romance was same gender (m/m) which was nice, but the trajectory was very predictable. the characters were also not particularly interesting.

basically, a solid 3 star book: interesting premise, failed execution.

Review: Hush [M/M Romance, Political Thriller]

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5/5 stars

this was a masterpiece of character studies, romance and thriller, but what i was most struck by was tom’s shame surrounding his own sexuality.

i’m english, and we decriminalised male/male sex in 1967 (although, of course, i’m not implying the public accepted gay people immediately). foolishly, i assumed that the US had done so in a similar timeframe.

i was wrong. the US only federally decriminalised male/male sex in 2003. fucking 2003 . that’s in MY fucking lifetime, and i’m fucking gen Z.

this really drove home to me the plight of gay people in the 90s, and how they still felt as though they must be closeted – they mention AIDS, and reagan’s utter failure to do anything about it, which i knew. but i am still absolutely thrown that, in some states in the 90s, male/male sex was illegal. fucking illegal. yes, people may say “oh, but it was never enforced.” but it was used as a springboard for discrimination, as a justification, and at the end of the day it was still illegal. and it just made me realise how little i know about lgbt history in the US, and by extension, other places.

i’m a member of the LGBT community myself (bi, trans), but this really made me realise how urgent LGBT rights are in america. if m/m sex wasn’t even decriminalised less than 20 years ago, that really highlights why the anti-discrimination laws are so fucking lacking in some states.

but for all that, this book gives a positive message. a positive, beautiful message: that it took a long time, and so much shit happened, but we’ve got through it, and the LGBT community is stronger than it ever was, more accepted than it ever was.

i just hope that does not change.

tl;dr: this book broke my heart, then put it back together again.

Review: This Is How You Lose The Time War [Science Fiction, FF Romance]

rating: 5/5 stars

“This feels like teetering on the brink of something that will unmake me.” 

utterly impossibly, this book managed to exceed my expectations. do not take me lightly when i say i expected this book to be a masterpiece. and it was more. 

literary genre fiction is something so rare it’s sometimes considered impossible. This Is How You Lose The Time War laughs in the face of critics who disparage science-fiction, and it is not literary and poeticin spite of being science-fiction, it is entirely both. 

i feel like this book has turned me inside out, leaving my nervous system exposed like wires, raw and aching. i am going to carry this book with me for a very long time, like these characters carry their letters. 

Review: This Town Will Never Let Us Go [Science Fiction]

Rating: 5/5 stars.

“This superstition, that anything you do makes any kind of sense on the grand scale, is only right and proper. It’s the ridiculous, impossible, great and unarguable superstition which makes the whole of humanity possible.”


I am offended – an offence which cuts not only to the bone, but to my very marrow – that this has so few ratings, that this is so obscure. I understand why. An indie publisher; a spin-off known only to the most hardcore of fans.

Faction Paradox reaches, with its bare hands, into the dark cosmic horror underbelly of Doctor Who and pulls it, glistening like obsidian, to the surface. Almost literally. 

For this is a Doctor Who spin-off, except you don’t need to know anything about Doctor Who at all. I am not joking; they are ALL standalone characters, ALL standalone plots. You will find no Doctor here. Even if you don’t like Doctor Who, or tried to get into it and failed, if you like science fiction then I implore you to read this. not only is there no crossover of basically anything except from the general universe, it doesn’t feel like Doctor Who. It’s something utterly different. It is Doctor Who’s estranged cousin, the one who none of your family ever talk to, and you aren’t sure what they do for a living but something about them screams mortician, taxidermist, and/or mad scientist. 

For some reason, it reminds me of a cross between Welcome to Night Vale and Black Mirror. It is at turns poignant, trippy, what can only be described as batshit insane, and humorous:

“Valentine doesn’t think clothes are particularly relevant, and it shows. Just look. They’re as uninterested in him as he is in them.” 

“Now she’ll never get hold of a decent fried malmotti wrap ever again, and if there’s one thing guaranteed to make people turn against the War, it’s that kind of inconvenience.” 

But most of all, it’s somehow very Joycean. This is James Joyce doing hard sci-fi, and it is utterly glorious.

Even the format itself is Joycean: it’s a book written in chapterlets probably only 500 words each, a format that I adore anyway, but these are not just any chapterlets: each one represents a minute. We begin at midnight, like all good things do, and go through until six. It’s an extremely clever format, and I’m in love with it. 
So, by now, you’re probably wondering – well, what the hell is this all about? Well, there are three main characters: 

– Inangela, a teenage goth who spends most of the book zooming around the town in her Hell Truck with her friend named Horror. She is desperate to become part of Faction Paradox, even if she pretends it isn’t, and even if nobody is entirely sure if this cult/criminal syndicate/subculture is even real.

– paramedic Valentine, who has unacceptable opinions about the War. what is the War? Nobody really knows. Nobody wants to know, because they could never begin to comprehend something on such a celestial, vast scale. This is a War between what can only be gods. 

– pop star Tiffany, antic and strange, with a public image even more so. I would be surprised if her storyline wasn’t based on a crazy sci-fi version of Richard Dawkins’ memes, a word that has been more than a little bit ruined for me due to its internet connotations, but never mind. 

This is my first Lawrence Miles book, which is almost a sin for someone who claims to be such a big fan of Doctor Who and its extended universe. I don’t know if all his books are like this or this is just his faction paradox style, but holy hell. It is incredible. I had a really hard time whittling the number of quotes down, because I just wanted to put in practically everything. Extremely witty and profound, Miles’ narrative sucks you straight into the story and makes you experience an insane acid trip that will never let you go. 

I actually started to write this review when I was less than a third into the book. This is astonishing because I never draft reviews or write them before I’ve finished reading; they are usually just stream-of-consciousnesses thrown into the void of Goodreads. But I had so many thoughts bouncing around that I was terrified of losing any. 

I hope I have managed to stir your interest. If not, take a gander at the blurb. If that doesn’t interest you, then I don’t know what will. 

This is not light. This is heavy and deep, and if you’re not really into science fiction I don’t think I’d recommend it. It does not just tie your brain into knots, it knits a jumper from it. (I apologise for that visual image.) It is slow, yet also captivating in a way that never fails. It took me a while to read this; although I can sometimes read excellent books very quickly, this one is certainly like a bottle of scotch, or a very strong cheese: it’s gorgeous and wonderful and you must take your time – partially so it ends slower and you can savour it, and partially because, despite it being incredible, it can get a little much in large doses. 

This Town Will Never Let Us Go is empirical proof that genre fiction, specifically science fiction in this case, is not inherently inferior to literary fiction. On the contrary, it can be deeper and more intelligent. Sci-fi can say something profound about modern society in a way that, perhaps it can be argued, literary fiction never can. not in this world, this tech-drenched, augmented-reality world. 

Portrait of the Reviewer as a New Blogger

Hi all,

Just a little introductory post explaining who and what I am. Basically, I’ve been a prolific reviewer on Goodreads for innumerable years, and yet for reasons that my brain refuses to disclosoe even to myself, I had not yet started a blog.

Until now!

So, this is my blog of book reviews. It will essentially just be a collection of my long book reviews (because I read so voraciously, it would be impossible to write a long review for every book I read, so I am selective, and naturally I don’t want to post my mini-reviews here).

Not really much else to say here, except – let the reviews commence!