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Wonderland Blog Tour – Book Review

Good morning and welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this anthology of work inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 
I think most people are somewhat familiar with the original stories. My first introduction to Alice, I’m fairly sure, was via the Disney animated film, and to be honest I’m not convinced if I’ve even fully read the original stories. I really must rectify that soon (would love a MinaLima to design an edition btw). The genre bending children’s fantasy, has definite horrific aspects and many a joke has been made about what Carroll was on when he wrote these tales. They are a true classic, and have been a springboard for many a spin off or retelling both on film, and on the page. 
The majority of the works in this anthology are short stories although these are bookended by two poems by Jane Yolen. The second of which I preferred. Some of the tales may be better appreciated by people who are familiar with the originals but despite this most can stand alone. 
I was only familiar with 3 of the 20 names associated and so I had the pleasure of being introduced to other authors, some of whose other work I am now likely to seek out as a result. 
There is something for everyone in here, but as with most short story collections perhaps not everything will be for everyone. Stories that although are well written, don’t quite make that connection. There’s historical, contemporary and futuristic tales in fantasy, science fiction, horror, historical and more. Topics such as capitalism and child abuse are discovered. Not be shelved in the children’s section next to the original. And most of the characters from Hatter to Cheshire, The Jabberwock, and even the more obscure Walrus, appear in one form or another across these tales. For me there were many more hits than misses and I will mention a few of the hits next. 
First up is the author I was most familiar with – MR Carey with There Were No Birds to Fly. The tonal similarity with his other works was apparent. That apocalyptic creepiness. Oddly this was the least recognisable in terms of its connection to the original, until the very end. Carey shows that being inspired by something can still lead to a highly original story. 
Next was Genevieve Cogman. I was aware of her and have her Invisible Library series waiting on my TBR. Her tale The White Queen’s Pawn had a wry and dark humour, and a be careful what you wish for moral. I definitely plan to bump her tales up the list. 
And the stand out for me was Cavan Scott’s Dream Girl. I won’t mention the genre as that is sort of a spoiler in itself but it was perfection. It reminded me of  the Wizard of Oz/Wicked retelling and I would love to be able to read a longer work based on what this becomes at the end of the story. 
Thank you to Titan for the gifted review copy and to editors Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane for bringing this together. Do check out the rest of the blog tour stops to see which stories stood out to everyone else. 

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New Suns – Speculative Fiction by POC collection – Blog Tour Book Review

Synopsis

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new Suns,” proclaimed Octavia E. Butler.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlapping. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

What I Thought

As with any short story collection there will be stories that you love, many that you like and a couple that just don’t quite hit the spot (at the time of initial reading at least). When the former two outweigh the latter you are onto a winner and that was the case here.

Speculative fiction is always as much about the here and now as it is about visions of the future. A number of the stories provide such good political commentary that Trump will want their authors federally investigated! Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire (E. Lily Yu) – a take on the Emperors New Clothes conjured up scary naked visions I didn’t really want but provided brilliant political satire.

The stories were an eclectic mix which is what you hope to get with mixed representation. Here we also had mixed presentation. From an euthanasia tourist holiday infomercial script to fairytales, ghost stories, gang warfare – there is something to suit everyone. I guess I was expecting a little more straight science fiction but enjoyed the variety of fantasy and slightly more contemporary feeling pieces. Even the couple of stories that didn’t quite hit the spot for me were lyrically written and just because the meaning was not immediately apparent to me doesn’t mean they won’t jump out at someone else. As readers we bring so much to what we read and current preoccupations jump out more readily.

My two favourite stories were:

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea (Jaymee Goh). With echoes The Shape of Water this is a f/f love story with feminist themes.

The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations (Minsoo Kang) is written as an historical paper on a peace treaty orchestrated by two translators who don’t quite translate what is being said by the violent rulers going head to head. I particularly liked the add on commentary about not looking enough at the female perspective and I’d actually really want to read the translators story in real time.

Do you like reading short stories about the macabre and unusual? Then pick up New Suns and step into the unknown.

Check out the rest of the blog tour and see which stories other people highlighted.

I was gifted my copy of New Suns for the purposes of providing an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own

Halcyon by Rio Youers – Blog Tour Book Review

Synopsis

Sometimes Heaven Can Be Hell

Halcyon is the answer for anyone who wants to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems.

A self-sustaining community on a breathtakingly beautiful island, Halcyon is run for people who want to live without fear, crime or greed. Its leader has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing, and believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. Yet he soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer. As the founder captivates his young family, Martin sets out to discover the truth of the island, however terrible it might be, where something so perfect hides unimaginable darkness beneath…

Author

Rio Youers is a British Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife Emily, and their children.

What I Thought

If you still have the Halloween spirit after last night’s festivities this is a perfect scary book to pick up.

The ‘Utopian’ Halcyon island of the title is only glimpsed in the first part of the book and instead we focus mainly on Martin and his family and the tragedy that leads them to Halcyon. Investigating his youngest daughter Edith’s night terrors leads to the realisation that they are not the benign nightmares that children simply ‘grow out of’.

I whipped through the first 100 pages and again at various points during the story. When the thrill kicks in it grabs you. The pacing was a strong point and for me Halcyon lives up to the page-turning moniker.

This is a modern horror thriller that uses the fears of the modern day to create a chilling exploration of terrorism, radicalisation and cults and also what happens when you become disillusioned with your country and fellow man. There’s a line in the book that says “Vulnerability in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon.”

There is a supernatural element in the book but the real monsters are all human – or at least pretending to be. As with the best villains they too have their own demons to contend with but their exploitation of the vulnerable is the real evil in this book.

There is definitely content in the book that won’t be to everyone’s taste -trigger warning for torture and sexual abuse. However for me the characters were engaging enough to be invested beyond this.

The blurb on the back compares Youers to Koontz or King and this definitely has a feeling reminiscent of The Shining/The Stand era. I would definitely pick up another of his books to read when I feel like being scared.

Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour to see what everyone else thought.

Thank you to Titan books for the free copy I received for the purposes of an honest review.

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