Scardust – Suzanne van Rooyen

A mini review:

I just finished Suzanne van Rooyen’s Sciffy-romance novel Scardust. Really good read, nice and twisty. If you like your romance with healthy lashings of angst-angst-angst, virtual reality, queerness, and AIs, but still get a satisfyingly happy ending, then go read this.

It’s a fast read, with some lovely voice and character going on.
(and an equally lovely cover.)

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From her website:

 

Dead Rock, Texas, 2037

Raleigh Williams made a promise to his brother before he died, that he’d scatter his ashes on Mars. Desperate to leave a life of bad memories behind and start over in the Martian colony, Raleigh fully intends to keep that promise. But his plans are thwarted when a meteor near-misses him in the desert, and Raleigh finds in its crater not debris or even a spacecraft, but a man covered in swirling scars and with no memory of who he is. At least he looks like a man—a man Raleigh can’t seem to keep his eyes off of—but whenever they touch it ignites a memory swap between them.

Raleigh agrees to help Meteor Man piece together his life through their cosmic connection. But the memory share goes both ways, and Raleigh becomes inexplicably entangled with a guy who is everything he needs—everything good that Raleigh is not—but might not even be human. As their minds and worlds collide, reality unravels and Raleigh must face a painful truth, one that could shatter his dreams of finding love, reaching Mars, and fulfilling his brother’s last wish.

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REVIEW – Lois McMaster Bujold – Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

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It’s been many years since I first picked up a Vorkosigan novel, and ages since the last. If you’ve followed Bujold’s space opera you’ll know a lot has happened, and characters and worlds have grown, changed, and died over the years.

In this context it makes no sense for Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, a new Cordelia novel, to feel the same as an old one. Decades have passed; we’re back on Sergyar where Cordelia Naismith first met Aral Vorkosigan, though things are very different now. Aral is dead, Miles is a father of what appears to be a small army, and, in general, people are not running around shooting each other and decapitating emperors.

For some readers this is A Bad Thing, and for others, a Right and Fitting Maturity.

I enjoyed this book and it’s an easy, flowing read, but if you’re looking for whizz bang flash and epic space battles, you’re not going to get it here. The Vorkosigan books have always been about people more than anything else, but now those people are older, relationships have changed, and the focus, while still filtered through a military haze, is distinctly romantic and familial. Yes, there are some planetary side plots, but they are there really to support the main plot about Cordelia’s relationship with her husband’s (and her own) lover Oliver Jole, and their future unborn children. These are negotiations of a new space after the end of something, the rebuilding of love after death. And quite literally, the rebuilding of dynasties and capitals.

And yes, that is going to bore some readers.

For me, it felt like the perfect final bookend to the story that began with Shards of Honor. A novel-length epilogue, if you will.

 

Recommended for: Long-time fans of the Vorkosigan series, but the ones who keep a little flame of romance alive in their hearts.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Cat Clarke – Entangled

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CAT CLARKE – ENTANGLED

The day seventeen-year-old Grace Carlyle decides to end it all, she wakes from her last drunken moments to find herself kidnapped. She’s alone in a boarded-up white room where the only interesting things are the pile of pens and reams of paper and her darkly handsome kidnapper Ethan.

Ethan makes sure she has clothing, food, and little else. All she can do to stave off the boredom and terror is write.

So begins Cat Clarke’s YA novel Entangled. Told through Grace’s “diary” entries in the room, the story at first begins with Grace working through what happened that night she meant to take her own life. And how, drunk on gin, she instead began talking to a stranger in the park, and woke up trapped.

Gradually Grace tells more of her story, and through her desperate and rather pitiful entries, we begin to see her life and what drove her to her decision. She wears a mask of not caring, of drinking hard, and being the girl the guys like to party with. She’s judgey, mean, shallow, and rather not nice. But while Grace’s character has all the self-absorbed hallmarks of any seventeen-year-old, there’s a very damaged girl under all those layers.

Her relationship with her best friend Sal and her growing attachment to her first real boyfriend Nat are splayed out in detail – a slow, agonising reveal. While Grace remains oblivious to what’s really going on around her, Cat Clarke lays out enough clues that the reader can see just how blind Grace is, and if not like her, at least feel a tremendous amount of pity for her. She is the agent of her own destruction, but as Grace’s writings bring her closer to her own realisation of the truth, and to the final haunting moments, it’s hard not to wish you could leap in and shake her, or at least save her from herself.

Clarke deftly spools the story out from end to middle, and back up to the end again, with a fast-paced read that highlights Grace’s own unreliability as a narrator. She sees what she wants to see, even if it will ultimately hurt her.

American readers used to a somewhat more puritanical approach to teenagers may be  upset by the sheer level and amount of underage drinking, swearing, and casual sex, but it did not feel out of place within the story and setting. If librarians and teachers are able to look past any problems parents might have with the tone and subject matter, it would make an interesting discussion book with its focus on depression, suicide and cutting.

The resolution is fairly dripping with pathos, but does leave the reader with a smidgen of hope.

 

Recommended for: Readers of contemporary Young Adult and New Adult, who like a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of teen angst, and want their characters a little raw, a lot flawed, and very broken.

 

 

 

 

 

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