New Suns – cover launch

Delighted to help launch the cover for New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (@NisiShawl), and published by Solaris in March 2019.

I have to say, this sounds brilliant. The cover art is gorgeous (props to artist/designer Yoshi Yoshitani Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

New Suns 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 overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichéd expectations, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.
Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

Here’s a look at the contents:
• Foreword, LeVar Burton
• The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex, Tobias Buckell
• Deer Dancer, Kathleen Alcalá
• The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations, Minsoo Kang
• Come Home to Atropos, Steven Barnes
• The Fine Print, Chinelo Onwualu
• unkind of mercy, Alex Jennings
• Burn the Ships, Alberto Yáñez
• The Freedom of the Shifting Sea, Jaymee Goh
• Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire, E. Lily Yu
• Blood and Bells, Karin Lowachee
• Give Me Your Black Wings Oh Sister, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
• The Shadow We Cast Through Time, Indrapramit Das
• The Robots of Eden, Anil Menon
• Dumb House, Andrea Hairston
• One Easy Trick, Hiromi Goto
• Harvest, Rebecca Roanhorse
• Kelsey and the Burdened Breath, Darcie Little Badger
• Afterword, Nisi Shawl

Roll on March 2019!

The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

A post-apocalyptic fantasy with some glorious worldbuilding, The Fifth Season is the first book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. It’s a book to lose yourself in, told through three viewpoints – Essun, on the hunt for her husband who has kidnapped her daughter after murdering her son. Syenite – fourth ring Orogene on a mission to a coastal city to help with a problem with their harbour. And Damaya, a young girl on the way to the Fulcrum, where she will learn to control her Orogeny, and the very earth itself.

Three brilliant, unforgettable strong female leads, each told in a distinct voice. Indeed this takes a little getting used to, the swapping of styles between the three. One of which is told in the second person, something you see all too rarely. Persevere though, and if you give it a chance, The Fifth Season will reward you richly. The rest of the cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, both in gender, sexuality and race and all equally fascinating, each bringing more facets and layers to the story.

The worldbuilding on display here is absolutely top-notch, and with every chapter Jemisin draws you into this world which at times has shades of our own, but is otherwise completely… different. The story is like a jigsaw puzzle, sections interlocking piece by piece until you slot in the final segment and see the glorious whole.

It’s a phenomenal work, and I can’t wait to read the next two books.

The Fifth Season is the first of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, and won the 2016 Hugo Award. Huge thanks to Nazia (@gambit589) for introducing me to this book.

Reading more diverse fiction

Recently I spotted this tweet by V.E. Schwab.

I had a look at the article. ONE series out of the ten was written by a woman. ONE. I can see where Schwab is coming from.

My first thought was that I don’t look at the author’s gender when choosing a book to read, so I can’t be biased.

Can I?

I checked my goodreads books. From the 43 books I’ve read this year, 18 of the 43 are by women authors. It’s better than the one in ten from that article, but I want to do better. I’m currently reading NK Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (which is just stunning), taking it up to 19/44.

In my favourite genres (sci-fi, fantasy and crime fiction), it feels like there’s an awful lot of books by guys.

Jeannette Ng (author of Under The Pendulum Sun, which is now firmly on my list), said

Generalising terribly, straight white dudes get much more of an advertising push than everyone else (they’ll be more copies stocked, placed more prominently in bookstores, etc), so making an effort to seek out other authors is just counteracting that, in my mind.

If the guys get the advertising push, you’re more likely to notice them. They’re being marketed as the default, so you’re naturally more likely to pick them up. And the publishers see that you’re buying books by men (and usually straight white dudes) and think ‘ooh, people like this! We must have more!’

(yes, #notallpublishers, I know)

So, by choosing to read more books by women, books by people of colour, books by minority authors, it’s saying to publishers that we want *more* books from people like that. Let’s broaden our horizons, folks.

Of course, I’m not saying that I’ll never read a book by a straight white guy again (seriously, they’re EVERYWHERE), as some of my favourite authors are just that. But I’ll be making more of a conscious effort to expand my reading.

And maybe find some new favourite authors.

So I put out a call on twitter for recommendations for my list.

And the book recs rolled in. I’ve compiled them here, for my benefit and yours. Apologies if I’ve missed any – I’m always up for more recommendations in the comments too!

Some authors I’ve already read (or am currently reading):
Claire North (HUGE fan), Martha Wells (Murderbot Diaries), V.E. Schwab (Vicious and Vengeful are superb)

Several books/authors were recommended by several people:

  • Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Kameron Hurley (Bell Dame Apocrypha)
  • Seanan McGuire (as Mira Grant)
  • KB Wagers space opera series
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Catherynne M. Valente

Also recommended:

  • Cassandra Khaw
  • TJ Berry (Space Unicorn Blues)
  • Nicky Drayden
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Elizabeth Moon
  • JY Yang
  • Marie Brennan (Lady Trent)
  • Madeline Ashby (Company Town)
  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Mur Lafferty (Six Wakes)
  • Spare and Found parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
  • @RoanhorseBex
  • The Reader and The Speaker by Traci Chee
  • Ana Mardoll
  • Emma Newman
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Gail Carriger
  • Cherie Priest
  • Ada Palmer
  • Delilah S Dawson
  • Anne Leckie
  • Emma Newman
  • Kate Milford
  • Fran Wilde
  • Jeannette Ng
  • Clockwork Boys and also Wonder Engines by T Kingfisher
  • @meganeabbott
  • @MegGardiner1
  • @LauraMLippman
  • @KathyReichs
  • @GearBooks

Should keep me going for a while… Who’s with me?

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

Published by Jo Fletcher Books, August 2018
Source: review copy
Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I absolutely loved this book. Right from the off we’re thrown into the world of Sancia Grado, a thief on a job to recover something apparently innocuous from a heavily guarded warehouse. Things naturally go somewhat… awry and the adventure really kicks off. I do love a good heist story and Foundryside is packed with them, each more dangerous and daring than the last.

So far so good.

Then there’s the worldbuilding, which is incredibly imaginative and beautifully done. Foundryside exists in a kind of alternative medieval-ish Italy, with a delightfully clever magic system where rival Merchant Houses vie for power. Ancient magical artefacts, dead gods, it’s got the lot.

Is this just another ‘oh look some magic goings-on happen against a sort-of-fantasy backdrop’ kind of book?

No, it is not. It is so much more.

Because then there are the characters. Sancia Grado is a wonderful kick-ass, take no prisoners heroine who naturally harbours a dark and mysterious past. But once she’s retrieved the apparently-innocuous something from the warehouse in the opening scenes, we meet one of the novels truly brilliant characters, and the interplay between the two gives this novel something unique and is just so much fun.

The story rattles along at a grand old pace, the plot is clever and bright and will leave you eager for book 2.

Often when talking about books I get asked ‘so, what else is it like?’ If I had to compare this to any other books, I’d say take a health slug of Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, add in the whip-smart dialogue of Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight and sprinkle it with just a dash of China Mieville.

And these are some of my favourite things. But Foundryside is very much its own thing, and Robert Jackson Bennett has given us a cracking adventure.

This was the 35th book I’ve read this year, and it’s easily one of my favourites. I’ve not read any of RJB’s other books, but if they’re even half as good as Foundryside, I shall be a very happy reader indeed.

Very highly recommended. Add it to your lists now.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is published by Jo Fletcher Books on 23rd August 2018. Huge thanks to Milly Reid and Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy.

Straker’s Journey – Paul Hardisty

Delighted to take part in a blog tour (of sorts) for Paul Hardisty, author of the Claymore Straker books. I’ve had Paul on the blog before for  a Q&A about The Evolution of Fear, his second book. And he’s back!

We kicked off the week over at Liz Loves Books looking at where it all started, then part two with Off-the-shelf books talking about The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

Today we’re back with book two, The Evolution of Fear

Over to Paul:

For the sequel, The Evolution of Fear, I wanted to capture some of my experiences living and working in Cyprus for almost a decade. The start finds Clay in hiding on the coast of Cornwall in the UK. Rania has changed her name and fled to Switzerland. Because of what they did in Yemen, their enemies want them dead. But events quickly drive them both to Istanbul, where a brief encounter brings them closer than ever before, and then forces them decisively apart. They end up in Cyprus, where the politics of land in a country divided by civil war is making millionaires and condemning a species to extinction. What they find there will change them both for ever.

Thanks Paul. The Evolution of Fear is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and ebook now.

Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit. Gripping, exhilarating and, above all, frighteningly realistic, The Evolution of Fear is a startling, eye- opening read that demands the question: How much is truth, and how much is fiction?

No apology required

Now then. You may have noticed that I read a lot of books. Not quite so many as some, but significantly more than others.

And you may also have noticed that I like telling you about the books that I’ve read, either here or on Twitter or Facebook. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, in real life.

I tend to get quite excitable about books I love, especially after a beer or two. If I’ve seen you in a pub over the past couple of years and have raved at you about a book (or two), then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I *love* talking about books. Especially the books I love.

Sometimes I even like talking about the books I didn’t quite love so much (yeah, the killer mermaid one. Though I know of at least three people who’ve gone on to buy a copy based on me getting very over-excited about what exactly was wrong with the killer mermaid book)

Over the past couple of months there have been several occasions where I’ve been chatting with someone and they’ve paused and said

“I’m *so* sorry…”


“I have a bit of a confession to make…”

They didn’t like the book. The book that I loved, and talked about so much. The book that I’d recommended so hard that they’d gone and bought it.

Please, don’t ever feel you have to apologise for not liking a book, especially to me.

A book is a personal thing. You either dig it, or you don’t. A ton of people absolutely loved that killer mermaid book. More power to them, I say.

I feel it should be me apologising to you, for pimping a book at you so hard that you spent your hard-earned cash on it but didn’t love it!

Right, that’s cleared that up. Now, back to the books…


Happy birthday, espresso coco!

Today marks the ninth birthday of this little blog. Nine years! blimey.

It started, as all good blogs should, with a Hello World! post:

Ah,  another blog. The old one sort of vanished, so let’s try again.

The ‘old’ one could have referred to several other blogs I had around at the time, so I’m not entirely sure which it’s referring to. My Livejournal (which turned 15 earlier this month) was, and indeed still is, up and running, although sadly neglected at the moment.

So, espresso coco didn’t start off life as a book blog. It was more a place for random ramblings. Musings on the post office, the relative sizes of coffee cups (seriously, go watch that, it’s hilarious), or the occasional post with now-dead links. A musing on the mystical hour of 4am by Rives (one of my favourite videos – it showed up again in 2011 as clearly I’d forgotten that I’d already posted it).

I shared a lot of videos back then.

Maybe I should have a tidy up. WHO HAS THE TIME? Not me! And it’s my blog, so ner.

The first book-related post was a review (of sorts) of Scott Lynch’s excellent Red Seas Under Red Skies, but that didn’t show up until late August. It wasn’t until April 2010 that we saw the next bookish post, a video (told you) on the making of a book cover (Gail Carriger’s ‘Blameless’).

I also dabbled in movie reviews: Predators (could have been better), Adventureland (seven Molly Ringwalds out of ten) and Iron Man 2 (Don Cheadle tries very hard not to be Terrence Howard), just to pick a few.

I quite like talking about movies. Maybe I should do more of that.

I also posted up various bits of writing about a chap called Monty, gentleman thief and lover of dangerously caffeinated beverages, along with his long-suffering PA, Molly. He made some prank calls, got stuck in a minefield, and ended up in an… unusual car during a getaway. Huge fun to write. If you have a spare ten minutes, go have a read and let me know what you think.

In late 2012 I talked about Skyfall. More than once. Followed up by Ten Reasons Why Skyfall is the Best Bond Movie (still true) in 2013.  I’ve counted up seventeen Bond-related blog posts over the years. And I still haven’t done my BlogAlongABondAThon (looking at the books vs movies), or my Top Ten Bond Movies, or Best Bond Movie Per Bond, or a dozen other posts in the drafts folder.

I’ve also dabbled in photography advice (Ten simple ways to improve your photos), taken lots of photos of coffee. I love coffee.

Cappucino, Bottega Milanese, Leeds

From trawling through the archives, it was 2014 (ish) when the book blogging became more of a thing, and I started posting more regularly. I’d still post about random stuff from time to time, and I still really enjoy writing that sort of thing – ramblings about wands in Harry Potter, which way is up on a map, that sort of thing.

Maybe I should do more of that too.

I notice with some interest, that this is the 700th post on espresso coco.

That seems like quite a lot, but nowhere near the 12,000 or so posts on my Livejournal. I treated that more like a pre-twitter twitter, often with a handful of posts a day. I do miss the LJ community sometimes!

My top ten posts (excluding the homepage views)

Interestingly, they mostly hark back to 2013. Good year for blogging, 2013. Fine vintage.

Most commented on post was E is for Empire Strikes Back, part of my 2014 A-Z of Movies (now *that* was fun to do. Must do another one). Most of my most commented on posts belong to that A-Z.

This birthday post has got a bit long and rambling. Yes, yes, I realise that I’ve got past form in this regard. If anyone is still here, thanks for reading this far, and thanks for following my little blog. Here’s to another year (or nine) of blogging about books, movies and stuff. I’m glad you’ve been here.

As a special treat for reading this far, I’ll leave you with the ULTIMATE secret to a successful blog.

And some cake. Mmm, cake.