Everfair by Nisi Shawl

imageIn Everfair Nisi Shawl has taken the real and horrific events of King Loepold’s colonisation of the Congo and spun them through the prism of ‘what if’.

She came up with an alternate history with overtones of steampunk. In this history the native population gained access to steam technology including Dirigibles by way of the Fabian Society. Their allies have also purchased land from Leopold and set up the state of  Everfair; a safe haven for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated. Together they fight back against Leopold’s disgusting murderous excesses to protect the land of Everfair.

That concept, that cover – I was sold. Then when I found out I’d be able to review this for Black History Month I was over the moon- I couldn’t wait to read it and share a glowing review stressing that black authors could write in any damn genre they wanted and do it well.

They can of course, but sadly this wasn’t the book to prove that. I just couldn’t get into it and I ended up putting it down twice and picking up other books before finally putting it down and giving up on it before I was half way through.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what was wrong with it, if indeed the fault was in the book not in me. I think in the end it came down to two things, the structure of the book wasn’t great – it should maybe have started later in the story and flashbacked more to establish characters motives etc. The other thing was that there were quite a lot of characters and I got confused between them – particularly the white characters so I was then unsure about motives and whether a particular character would do a certain thing only to eventually figure out I wasn’t reading about who I thought I was reading about!

Even though I didn’t finish this I don’t want to rate it too low. I have a feeling that if I pick it up again in another 6 months and have another bash at it I might finally get it and love it.

So for now – 3 Bites.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

imageAxl and Beatrice are an elderly couple living in Britain a while after the Romans have left, but long before the Norman invasion. The Britons and Saxons are living in a uneasy coexistence, but all are affected by the mist which has covered the country and is causing forgetfulness. Axl and Beatrice are no exceptions. They are both aware of this sickness that has come over the country, in fact it lead them to forget their own son. But now that the knowledge of his existence has come back, they are determined to leave their community and travel to his village to be reunited with him.

On their travels, the size of their party is increased with the joining of Wistan, a Saxon knight and Edwin, a Saxon boy who has been thrown out of his village after being bitten by an Ogre. The four travel to a monastery which houses a monk who can answer some of their questions and on the way meet Sir Gawain who is on a mission to slay Querig, a mighty dragon who lives in those parts…..

….and that’s as far as I got. I have real difficulty giving up on books- I was brought up in a house that believed In the importance of finishing a book once you’ve started. But lately I’ve started to think that maybe life is too short. I really wanted to like this book. I found the premise interesting, and the historical period in which its set is one I don’t know much about. The idea of the mist was intriguing: but ultimately none of the positives outweighed the general difficulty of reading it.

I found the style of writing really hard to get in to. And when I dipped out of the book (normally to read another book, because I wasn’t enjoying this one!) I spent a good few pages trying to readjust myself to the style. It may have been easier if I had a good chunk of time to sit and read it in. I didn’t care enough about the characters, so didn’t feel that need to persevere and find out what happened to them. Which is a shame- the use of mythology is certainly interesting, and the writing almost wistful at times which suits the setting. But in the end it wasn’t enough.

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Cauliflower® by Nicola Barker

imageThe blurb and cover of this book got me really excited, the cover has overtones of The Buddha of Suburbia, very pop-culture and intriguing.

The blurb reads as follows – “To the world he is Sri Ramakrishna – godly avatar, esteemed spiritual master, beloved guru. To Rani Rashmoni, he is the Brahmin fated to defy tradition. But to Hriday, his nephew and long-time caretaker, he is just Uncle – maddening, bewildering Uncle, prone to entering trances at the most inconvenient of times, known to form dangerous acts of self-effacement, who must be vigilantly safeguarded not only against jealous enemies but also against that most treasured yet insidious of sulphur-rich vegetables: the cauliflower.”

Nicola Barker’s writing style definitely lives up to the promise of the cover, it is exciting, pacy (almost breathy in fact) and doesn’t follow traditional structures. Very modern, very pop-culture.

She tells the story much like she’s telling a friend, it’s jumpy, gossippy and errattic as one thing reminds her of another and she dives into that snatch of story but then pulls herself back to the previous timeline.

Sadly this style is the books undoing.  By about a third of the way through I was getting confused and starting to wonder if there was actually a story in here. I returned to the blurb – ah yes I thought, the cauliflower, why on earth does he have to be protected from a cauliflower? I thought there must be more to come. By half way through I’d started to suspect that the only reason he had to protected from the cauliflower was to minimise his flatulence! I gave up.

I might pick this back up again but I have a kindle full of books crying out for my attention so it’s not likely to be for a while. I’ll definitely give Nicola Barker another chance in the future though, the writing was good even if the style didn’t seem to have enough story to support it – all in all it felt like more cheese than cauliflower!

3 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Orb of Truth by Brae Wyckoff

OrbHere at BookEater HQ we receive dozens of requests a week to review books for authors, some self-published and some conventionally published. Often we will receive the book for free in return for the review. This does not guarantee a positive review- our hard and fast rule is that any review we post on the website must be honest and not influenced by the method we receive the book. For the most part this is not an issue- even books I have not enjoyed particularly have had positives to write about in my reviews; I have been able to review honestly and yet not solely negatively.
The Orb of Truth by Brae Wyckoff was a book I received for free in exchange for an honest review and it has been a difficult book to review. I have struggled right up to the posting deadline with what to write- I am aware that for authors sending their novels out into the world for judgement, this is a huge deal for them- negative reviews will hurt- and yet I have to be honest.
The fact is that this was a book that I could not finish. I have had the book for some time and have tried to read it several times because sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a particular type of book. I made the decision today that I was not going to read any more.

The rest of this review will therefore be quite short as I have not read the entire book. My reasons for not finishing are as follows:

  • I found the language used to be overly descriptive to the detriment of the meaning of the sentence. There was little left to the imagination and even the act of smoking a cigarette was described in great detail.
  • I found the characters to be generic and the story overly full of the standard fantasy tropes- A grumpy dwarf, a heroic halfing, a dark lord manipulating puppet kings etc
  • I found the dialogue to be cliched and stilted. Conversations were unnatural and nobody ever just ‘said’ anything, they whispered or growled or exclaimed or muttered etc.

I should note that there are a number of good reviews for this book on both Good Reads and Amazon so maybe there is something I am missing.  I will leave it up to you as to whether you want to find out.

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.