Review: Broken Light by Joanne Harris (2023)

Title: Broken Light
Author: Joanne Harris
Pages: 443
Genre: Fiction
Stand-alone/Series: Stand-alone.
Year of Release: 2023
Publisher: Orion
Review Copy via the Publisher

Bernie Ingram is forty-nine, menopausal, and lonely. Bernie feels herself growing less visible, less surprising, and less lovable with every passing day. Until the murder of a woman in a local park unlocks a series of childhood memories and, with them, a power that she has suppressed for all her adult life.

Until now.

When a woman finally breaks, watch out for the pieces…

I loved Broken Light. Harris takes the familiar life story of a woman getting pregnant too soon, settling down, and slowly becoming invisible but adds the rage of King’s Carrie being released at menopause.

Does Bernie seek revenge for all the women that men have wronged? She could, quite easily, because with great power comes great responsibility, doesn’t it?

Everyone has a choice, and when Berinie Ingram’s power reappears, she believes she will make better choices and control her powers. But life doesn’t work like that; there are consequences to interfering.

Harris demonstrates how easily women are diminished, sidelined, used and abused. As Bernie’s power grows, her rage is unleashed, as do the strength of the voices in her head that dare her to go further, to take more extreme actions.

Social media is ingrained into so much of our lives, and it’s integral to Bernie’s story. It might feel a little alien if you don’t spend time interacting on social media.

Does Bernie (via Harris) focus too much on the impact of social media discourse?

I did find it a little too open and maybe a little too laboured in the points it was making, but many corners of social media focus on convincing people that one group or another is the source of all their problems.

The format is mostly Bernie’s LiveJournal Entries with the occasional linked extract from her childhood friend’s new book on Bernie (published the year after the events Bernie describes). So it is going to reflect Bernie’s thoughts and feelings on things that are central to her and her world.

I can imagine this will frustrate or put off some readers and might cause a little Marmite-like reaction.

For me, Broken Light is utterly devastating but contains so many shards of hope. If every person could pivot slightly, the world can be such a better place.

Why haven’t I said much about the plot? #spoilers. I will say it made me cry and left me more hopeful than when I started it.

Read it and see if you feel the same.

Rating: 5/5 Date: 6 May 23

Additional Information

There is more insight and a Q&A on Joanne Harris’s website. Warning it does contain spoilers, so you may want to look after you’ve read it.


Audiobook Review: Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater (2023)

Title: Death of a Bookseller 
Author: Alice Slater
Narrators: Emma Noakes, Victoria Blunt
Pages/Length: 384/12hrs 58 mins
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Stand-alone/Series: Stand-alone.
Year of Release: 2023
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Review Copy via NetGalley

Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime fanatic is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep.

That is, until Laura joins the bookshop.

This tale of obsession is told from the dual perspectives of the person who carries the flame and the person who is their focus.

It quickly becomes apparent that True-Crime-Podcast-loving Roach feels she has a connection to Laura that’s not reciprocated. But Roach isn’t deterred; she sets out to become friends.

I find thrillers hard to review. Their strength is in the tension that builds as the story unfolds page by page. I don’t want to spoil things by revealing too much.

Slater’s skill is keeping pages turning. I listened to the audiobook, and each chapter is short, sharp and alternates between each character’s point of view. I kept listening

And due to the medium, I couldn’t flip forwards or backwards; I was trapped in each uncomfortable moment, and half-closing my eyes made no difference. I had to relive them from both sides over and over again.

I think Slater likes both Roach and Laura. You may disagree with me, but Slater has created characters who have sympathetic traits. Or at least they garner compassion, to begin with at least; whether you remain endeared to them by the end, that’s on you.

The entire bookshop’s staff rota is memorable, and how Roach and Laura see them gives a truer reflection of their individuality.

She also gives an insight into what really happens in a bookshop. It’s not just happily handing over books to the next customer. There seems to be more than one day working with a hangover.

I need to mention the performances of Emma Noakes & Victoria Blunt. They are perfect for the roles. The creepiness of Roach and the coldness of Laura come across strongly. There is a small point where Roach’s voice slipped; it was less than a chapter, but then the persona came back strong and clear. The editing was clever when Roach was taking off Laura’s voice, and vice versa, when the narrators swapped to say their own lines, which felt natural and creepy.

I spent time in their heads that I have the compulsion to change the locks and have vowed never to pick up a true crime book.

If you’re a lover of creeping dread, bookshops or are just curious about what’s in the mind of a True Crime lover, then Death of a Bookseller ticks all the boxes.

Rating: 4.25 Date: 26 April 23


Review: Siblings by Brigitte Reimann[trans. Lucy Jones] (1963/2023)

I finished Siblings by Brigitte Reimann (trans. Lucy Jones) is rightly described as a ground-breaking classic of post-war East German literature. 

This, I believe, is its first translation from German to English. 

Set in 1960 (and published in 1963) when the border between East and West Germany was closed. It examines the relationship between a brother and a sister as they each examine their place within the Deutsche Demokratische Republik/German Democratic Republic (GDR). 

The tension underlying Reimann’s style had me reaching to add tabs to moments I found notable. The pressure is mirrored in our main character Elisabeth’s relationship with her ideals, family, and co-workers. 

There is probably a literary essay to be written on reading this contemporary novel as historical commentary, as I have done. 

It is 129 pages, plus notes added at the back. I’m very grateful for the notes adding extra context.

It feels more profound and denser than its slight paperback form promises. 

I don’t want to give any spoilers but trust Reimann to lead you through the story, and you’ll get the answers you need, but perhaps not the answers you want.

Book of the Year, so far.

Rating: 4.75 Date: 26 Feb 23


Review: A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe, #1) by P. Djèlí Clark (2021)

Title: A Master of Djinn
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Pages: 416 (print)
Genre: Fantasy
Stand-alone/Series: Series but easily read as a stand-alone.
Year of Release: 2021
Publisher: Orbit


Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities.

When someone murders the members of a secret society, Agent Fatma’s job is to find the killer.

Set in Cairo in 1912, where djinn walk the streets and steampunk eunuchs serve coffee.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend, Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind their deaths and restore peace to the city.


P. Djèlí Clark is a master of world-building. The alternative Cairo he has created is tangible. I could quite quickly be drinking Sarsaparilla with Fatma. I can imagine seeing djinn doing their daily business and buying books from them.

He can also create a story that builds as you (the reader) and Fatma discover what’s happening. Clark shifts gears and moves things up a scale constantly. Just when you think it’s going to plateau, it jolts forward.

It is, at its heart, a historical urban fantasy detective story. The facts are there for Fatma to follow. But it’s also a Fantasy tale with a big F. The murders lead Fatma to find beings with inhuman motivations.

It’s also a romance. Siti always has Fatma’s back and leaps into danger. Fatma and Siti’s relationship is explored internally through Fatma’s feelings and externally through how other’s perceive them.

And this brings me to my problem with A Master of Djinn; it’s almost too perfect.

Clark has a cast of characters that too often pop up at the right time and place. Some readers, like me, get distracted from the momentum when they see some of the illusions’ mechanisms.

It’s his first novel, and I found it immensely enjoyable. I got frustrated by what I thought was the big scene at almost the novel’s end, but Clark had another trick to pull out of his bag, and I enjoyed being tricked.

He’s also used his setting to challenge colonialism and the Euro-centric worldviews. This, I think, he does with humour and panache. And is one of the other strengths of A Master of Djinn.

I wasn’t sure there could be the potential for a sequel as the story seems so entwined into the environment. After finishing it, I’m confident that if Clark wanted to revisit this world that he’d find another angle to look at his world.


Clark has created an anti-colonial fantastical environment to tell his police procedural using an outsider’s point of view that addresses war, power and manipulation.

As well as exploring the people’s need for a champion when they are considered the underdog, he puts a sapphic romance into the centre of this steampunk.

Did I say it’s also a detective story? It is, and the clues are there!


End of Month

End of March 23 Round-Up

My Book of the Year So Far

I am starting this update on a positive note; I finished Siblings by Brigitte Reimann (trans. Lucy Jones) on the last day of February. And it’s my book of the year so far.

There is a mini-review here:

Missing Mojo

In the middle of March, I finally DNF’d (Did Not Finish) a novel that was recommended to me.

I have to be in the mood to read, but I also need the mental capacity to process my reading. I can’t skim-read or skip sections. If that happens, it’s a sign that I should put the book down and, ideally, move on to the next one.

Sometimes I force myself to keep going, as it might just be that book section or my mood that day. As a tactic, this can work, but often it just zaps my momentum even more if I push it too far. This can infect my motivation to read other things.

In this case, the recommendation meant I tried past the point when I should have given up. And my mood for reading other things did dimmish.

I put this down in the middle of March.

I did try reading another book, which I should have loved, but it didn’t hook me, so I took some time out.

Though I can’t entirely blame my mood as…

I Got Distracted

You might not have been aware, but Nintendo closed the e-shop for games connected to their Wii U and DS/3DS consoles (which they stopped manufacturing in 2017/2020. and this caused a surge of panic buying.

I bought a Nintendo 3Ds off eBay to load it up with Pokemon games I’ve never played. The cost of physical copies of the various Gameboy games could buy a good few books, and the e-shop versions were around £8.99. So I chose the e-shop versions.

I’ve been playing Pokemon Scarlet as my first real Pokemon Game (Let’s Go Eevee was my first attempt, but I didn’t know what I was doing, and my Team was underpowered). I wanted to have the option of going back, hence the stocking up.

And that got me looking at retro RPGs…

All of this is to say that much of my reading time got sacrificed for video games in one way or another.

Collecting Books is Still a Separate Hobby

Despite not reading, I added 23 books to the TBR in March. They were a mix of the last arrival of my now cancelled book subscriptions, a physical copy of Rachel Pollack’s run on the Doom Patrol, and a combination of recommendations from other commentators and 99p ebooks.

Plans for April

I’m writing most of this on Easter Monday and have yet to finish reading anything of substance, so I’d better get a wiggle on if want the April update to have content mentioning books I’ve read.

I am, however, reading thanks to a visit to Eastercon again. It was the tonic and motivation I needed. And should mean I have at least one book to mention next time.

End of Month

End of Feb 23 Round-Up

NOTE: I wrote most of this at the end of February 2023.

Welcome to my monthly round-up. I am planning on publishing them on the last Sunday of the month. They are primarily for me to look back on at the end of the year, but you’re welcome to come along for the ride.

The Good

I should be gentler with myself. I thought I had a terrible reading month. But I haven’t. I read Far From the Stars of Heaven by Tade Thompson and The Fifth Season (Broken Earth Bk1) by N. K. Jemisin (no review yet).

I didn’t manage to finish anything else.

I did try. I DNF’d my first book of the year. I am sure the book is fine, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough. What should have been a romp was an anxiety-producing misadventure. I haven’t mentioned the title, as I may try it again.

I am currently reading Siblings by Brigitte Reimann. Fifty years after it was first published in German, Penguin Classics has translated it into English for the first time. It’s only 129 pages long, but I have to pause to add tabs to the pages and write notes in my reading-focused notebook. It is a powerful meditation on East Germany at the time.

Both of these caused my reading to slow down, and I didn’t have the mental space to read any short fiction.

I’m reading A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files as my ebook. It’s 275 pages long and could technically be described as short fiction. But it’s not what I meant when I said I wanted to read more short fiction.

The Bad

Just because I wasn’t reading didn’t slow my acquisition of new books.

I picked up some £0.99 ebook bargains, including The Kaiju Preservation Society, This This, Juniper & Thorn, and Now She is Witch.

I grabbed some anthologies: Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology and Unthinkable: A Queer Gothic Anthology from I also purchased The Devil and the Deep, Far Out: Recent Queer Science Fiction and Fantasy and Isolation: The Horror Anthology.

I bought the entire series (so far?) of Wayfarers by Becky Chambers. I picked up the first book of The Founders Trilogy (Foundaryside) by Robert Jackson Bennett & The Outside Series (The Outside) by Ada Hoffmann.

I also picked up a few standalone titles: Masks by Fumiko Enchi trans. Juliet Winters Carpenter, Lanny by Max Porter, Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher and Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner 

That is not all of them. I’ve logged all the books I’ve bought this year and know exactly how much I’ve spent. I need to calm down!

I am going to cancel my book box subscriptions. I have never been a hardback reader, and I know these are stunning, but they are expensive shelf-space-reducing objects.

This was ‘The Bad’? What is the ugly?

The Ugly

Chasing new shiny isn’t good for me. New shiny is where most of the book talk is aiming towards. I thought about ramping up my reading and reviewing again. I imagined chasing the waves alongside other book influencers. Realistically, it’s not going to happen. I either can’t or don’t want to devote time to keeping up with the field and reading the required work.

I must remember that I have moved on as much as the book-o-sphere has.

I will sit back and enjoy the content of those with energy and joy.

What’s the plan for March?

I’m writing this on the 12th of March. I have finished Siblings. I am still reading A Book of Tongues. I have eighteen days left of the month. The plan is to read an additional novel. That’s the plan.


Review: Far From the Stars of Heaven

Cover to Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having travelled light years from home to bring one thousand sleeping souls to safety among the stars.

Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake – and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel. Its skeleton crew are forced to make decisions that will have repercussions for all of humanity’s settlements – from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet of Bloodroot, to other far flung systems and indeed Earth itself.

Blurb from Far From Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

I’ve chosen to share the blurb as that’s more information than I had going in, and if you’re curious, I’d suggest going in coldish…

I will say that what sold it to me was being told that it’s a horror in space, which it is. It also starts as a locked room mystery.

Far From the Start of Heaven has many elements to enjoy, like the characters’ backgrounds and how they interplay, but the construction and the layering let it down.

There are jolts in the narration to move it along rather than slick reveals. They felt jarring, and I was expecting better. The writing had me speeding along, and then a choice was made, and I got mentally shifted in a huh rather than an ahh way.

There were some nice ahh moments too. That’s what makes this a complicated book to explain. It’s great until it’s not. It’s satisfying until it isn’t.

Towards the climax, something about the writing shifts from clear to vague. This gave it an unfinished and dissatisfying quality.

I did feel connected to the central character and her journey and got unexpectedly teary at the end.

Overall, this felt like an undercooked and failed experiment.

I really wanted it to be better than it was.

As the author is a Clarke Award Winner, I’d still like to read Rosewater and/or his shorter works to see how he handles stories in general.

Rating: 3.5/5


Review: Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White

Cover of Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White
Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White

I read the complete Salvagers Trilogy (A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe/A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy/The Worst of All Possible Worlds) by Alex White last year.

I also read my first Aliens tie-in novel (Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay from William Gibson by Pat Cadigan)

And as I enjoyed both separately, I thought I’d combine the author and franchise in the form of my next Alien book. 

[Spoiler]I was so gripped by this Alien story that, whilst reading it, I hunted down a great deal on a seven-book-set of other Alien tie-ins. Then when I fished The Cold Forge I ordered  Alien: Into Charybdis, which continues the story in some way. [/Spoiler}

The Cold Forge starts when a callous auditor from Weyland-Yutani is sent to a secret space lab to assess the profitability of the various research projects on board. It ends with shock and horror. 

I wasn’t expecting how much horror White weaved in. Their style for this story is dark. They managed to build a tension that made me want to know what could happen next to the scientists.

The reader knows how dangerous the xenomorphs can be even if the scientists think they are safely caged up, but what becomes clear is that the Aliens aren’t the only thing to fear. 

You can tell White is enjoying themselves. They go deep. There is no sugarcoating here. They also made a disabled character one of their main focuses. I wish more books would include disabled rep and make the characters part of the ordinary course of the story. 

I am excited to read the post-2014 batch of Alien novels from Tim Lennon, James A. More, Christopher Moore, Keith DeCandido, Tim Waggoner, and others. White has set a high bar to reach. 

Rating 4.5/5

End of Month

End of Jan 23 Round-Up: Addendum

In my End of Jan 23 Round-Up post I forgot the add the most important section, what I read in January, so here it is.

What I’ve finished reading in January

I finished a book I started in December:

  • The Burning God by R. F Kuang 

A novel from start to finish:

  • Alien: The Cold Forge by Alex White

I am making reading more Alien tie-ins a priority and I’ve got Alex’s sequel, Into Charybdis, all lined up to read in Feb.

I’ve only read on short story, OPTIMIST CLEAVER’S LAST TRANSMISSION” by J. C. Hsyu, which prompted some thought.

And that’s it. Not as much as I’d hoped, if I am being honest.

You can see what I’ve read in 2023 here.

End of Month

End of Jan 23 Round-Up

Welcome to my first monthly round up. I am planning on publishing them on the last Sunday of the month. They are mostly for me to look back on at the end of the year but you’re welcome to come along for the ride.

The New Year always starts with the best of intentions, at least for me, but planning and doing are two entirely separate things.

Playing Catch-Up

I have set this year’s plan as ‘playing catch-up’ and that’s still my intention though as you’ll see the struggle is real.

Currently Reading: The Fifth Season & Far From the Light of Heaven

I said in my opening blog post for the year that I wanted have another go at reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy and after a few false starts I think finally I’m invested.

The Fifth Season is told from the point of view (pov) of three main characters. Each gets their own chapter and Jemisin is swapping between them regularly. Every chapter swap between the characters but there is no order to it .

Having multiple povs is standard but my brain doesn’t really enjoy the swapping and changing. I like consistency and so this tends to subtly kick me out of the story.

In The Fifth Season one point of view is narrated using ‘you’.

You are she. She is you. You are Essun. Remember? The woman whose son is dead

The opening line to Chapter 1

I really don’t think it helped me to settle into the book as I usually bounce straight off second person narratives. And then I say bounce, they make me incredibly frustrated.

I wasn’t really feeling it on the second attempt either but I asked Mastodon for their views and I got two really helpful comments:

And then there was this.

So I am now listening to a mix of the audiobook and reading the text. Listening to The Fifth Season got me into the ‘you’ voice and combined with Robin Miles’s narration gave the voice of the story, which I’ve very grateful for.

And I’ve settled in to each pov and the ‘you’ doesn’t seem jarring now I’ve got used to it. I am very curious what the payoff is going to be.

I was listening to Runemarks when I tried the audiobook for The Fifth Season so I am balancing both books.

I’m now at page 200 and I don’t think there is further DNF potential. So thank you Cina and Louise for the feedback to get me going again.

I’m about 80 pages into Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson. I wasn’t sure what to read as my next ebook but someone mentioned that Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson. is a space horror book. And as it’s a book I already have, I have it a go.

I also found out that it’s also a detective story. I love this combination.

Tade has a storytelling style that had be invested from page 1. I am now on page 80 and I am curious to see where this is going as there is a lot of pages to go.

Back to Runemarks, I’m about 2 hours (or 66 pages in) and as it’s a relisten I can take me time and enjoy it. And I am. It’s a fun take on Norse myth.

For my own notes these books were published in 2007, 2015 and 2021.

Reducing the overflowing physical and digital TBR piles

I failed. I’ve failed so hard. It’s gone up. It’s gone up by quite a margin. I am keeping a spreadsheet of what I’ve bought but also how much I’ve spent. I’ve bought more books than I’ve set as my reading goal for the year. I need an intervention. Or better budgeting skills.

Below are some of the highlights. And can you blame me? Look at them, they all come highly recommend.

I dipped my two into these fancy book you can get with sprayed edges from Illumicrate last year getting the full package of book plus extras (Babel and The Book Eaters). I could see me accumulating lots of lovely items that stay in the box quite rapidly so I cancelled my subscription.

I did continue to have FOMO so I’ve got a book-only subscription to both Illumicrate and FairlyLoot.

My rationale is that I’ll pick up nice editions of new books. And this will scratch some sort of new book-itch… it’s not a very strong reason I grant you. But the two February books are high on my radar list. And the January Illumicrate (if I understood the teaser correctly) is a stand-alone I’m itching to read as well.

Bonus Challenge of Reading More Shorter Fiction       

If you check out my Read in 2023 page, you’ll see I’ve logged 1 short story. It was a short story that got me thinking but I need to get more shorter fiction under my belt in February, I think I’ve been distracted by acquiring new books…

Plans for February

Finish the books listed above, get some shorter fiction read, and maybe start The Stand.

Oh, and actually not buy that many books…