Review- An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

51SaGVChQwL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: Science fiction
Format: Paperback (advanced copy)
Publication date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Akashic Books
Page count: 340
Star rating: 4.5/5

Aster lives in the lower-decks of a spaceship that is flying through the cosmos in search of a safe planet. Although she lives in this ‘underworld’, a place where inhabitants are considered almost sub-human, she is assistant to the Surgeon. The Surgeon is of the highest rank, the man who solves all the ship’s medical problems, and one of Aster’s best friends. Although the two make an odd pair, they are the perfect match. Aster is teased for not being feminine enough and Theo, the Surgeon, is called names like ‘sissy’ and much worse. Not only is she busy acting as a medical assistant, Aster is also on a mission to figure out what happened to her mom, who died the day she was born. She knows the secrets are hidden somewhere on the spaceship, she just has to piece all the clues together.

An Unkindness of Ghosts opens with a scene portraying Aster amputating a young child, Flick’s, leg. Gender identity is one of the first things mentioned in the book, which was very interesting and exciting. Flick comes from a low-deck where children are referred to with gender neutral pronouns. Even though, on Aster’s deck, children are assigned feminine pronouns, she does not consider Flick’s identity weird or strange in any way; it’s just the way Flick is. This automatic acceptance of someone’s identity, despite it being different than the one Aster grew up around, is amazing. Someday, I hope it’s the norm to respect other’s identities without second thought, just as Aster did. I already knew I was going to love An Unkindness of Ghosts from the first few pages.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you probably know that strong female characters are my FAVORITE. Reading about brave women who stand their ground in the face of evil that is bigger than them gives me hope that, in the future, well-known books won’t mostly feature male protagonists. I’ve found that science fiction, especially, is male dominated. For this reason, I am so thrilled about An Unkindness of Ghosts, because Aster is the powerful sci-fi lady that I’ve been waiting for. She was such a pleasure to get to know. I found this book comparable, in a strange way, to The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, which is one of my all-time favorite books. Both of these novels highlight space women who don’t take any BS from their opponents. I absolutely love that.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a science fiction book that deserves to be on ‘must read’ lists for feminism in sci-fi. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice science fiction novel with a bad-ass female protagonist and interesting commentary about sexuality and gender identity. Thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of the book after I expressed my interest in it. I enjoyed it very much and I won’t forget Aster and her adventures.

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Review- Elmina’s Fire

Hey everyone! Sorry for the delay between reviews. I got really sick last weekend and it set me way, way behind. But, I’m back with a review request I got from Selby Ink a few months ago. I’m so excited to share my thoughts with you all!

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Elmina’s Fire by Linda Carleton

51mICVoYh3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: She Writes Press
Page count: 330
Star rating: 3.5/5

Elmina’s mind, full of guilt, torments her daily. Her father raised her as a Catholic, but didn’t have the funds to set her up with a husband and sent her to live with the Cathars, who oppose Catholicism. Elmina respects the Cathars, since they treat her kindly, but feels like a traitor living in a house run by people who don’t agree with her views. The Catholics and the Cathars are in the midst of a war that’s only getting worse and Elmina feels like she’s in the middle of it. Elmina has urges to run away from the generous people who have become like her family, in hopes of finding refuge within the religion she’s always loved. Living in a house full of those who do not respect her faith is too much guilt for such a young girl to handle.

I like Elmina a lot—her character, her voice, her mind. Her faith and loyalty to Catholicism is very admirable. The internal hell that her mind resides in is one I’ve seen in many stories featuring strong females that are faced with big obstacles, like Elmina. She certainly tackles the war within her body and mind with determination not often found in women that young. Elmina’s depression is very evident in the tone and choice of words that she uses; it made me very sad to hear such hopelessness. The book reads as a letter to her God, whom she has tried so hard to devote her life to, but been faced with opposition to almost all her young life. I wanted so badly to hold Elmina’s hand and tell her that it is possible to calm the battles within your mind; it just takes practice and hard work. The entire book felt so raw, it really touched me.

Elmina’s Fire is the first book I’ve read that talks about the type of guilt that can be associated with religion and questioning one’s faith. On the other hand, this book also sheds light on how healing and uniting religion can be. Elmina experiences both of these extremities. The pain and shame she feels while living among Cathars is enormous, and yet, the sense of community she feels when surrounded by Catholics is also huge. This book definitely showed me some aspects of religion that I had never been exposed to before.

Even though I liked this book a lot, I have one critique. For me, Elmina’s Fire was a little slow in the beginning. I could tell that the pace was going to pick up closer to 1/3 the way in, but the first 50 pages or so were hard to get through. I’m very glad I stuck with the book, because I ended up enjoying it. I do wish the beginning of the book had been as interesting as the rest of it, though.

I want to give a big thank you to Selby Ink for the giving me a copy of this wonderful book they represent in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed getting to know Elmina and being exposed to aspects of Christianity that I hadn’t known before. Empowered, brave female characters are my favorite, and Elimina is certainly one of them.