Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Book Review: Diet Riot: A Fatterpunk Anthology (edited by Nico Bell and Sonora Taylor)

Diet Riot: A Fatterpunk Anthology, edited by Nico Bell and Sonora Taylor, is one of the anthologies I was hoping to submit to but couldn't get around to finishing anything for. Now that I've had a chance to read it, I'm even more gutted that I didn't get the chance to be part of it because this anthology freaking rocks

I love the overall tone of Diet Riot. Although every author has their own voice and vision, with varying styles and abilities, there's an underlying sense of positivity that runs through the anthology. It isn't just about body positivity, which the book achieves by putting fat characters in the protagonist's role (something we just don't get enough of... well, anywhere,) but also inclusivity and feminism - sometimes in subtle, quieter ways, and sometimes in loud, in-your-face ways. 

The stories I liked best were the latter of the two. I loved the attitude and the snark of stories like "Blue Hair" by Marsheila Rockwell (which features a witch who turns her girlfriends into cats,) "Like a Thief in the Night" by Kay Hanifen (in which the old grey man goes to Hell where he belongs,) and "The Floor is Lava" by Nikki R. Leigh (which has freaking alien lava cryptids vs. a roller derby team.) These were my favourite stories, although I enjoyed nearly all of them.

Making fat characters the main focus of the anthology opened the editors up to the expected amount of  abuse online... because the trolls just never stop, do they? I'm grateful to the editors for taking the chance, though, because Diet Riot offers a neglected demographic something to identify with. The anthology gives us witty, strong, likeable, relatable characters who (for a change,) look like us. 

Sure is nice to have a fat character in horror who isn't either the funny sidekick or the creep who dies first.

I got a real kick out of Diet Riot: A Fatterpunk Anthology. It was fun, fast-paced, and entertaining. There were enough lake monsters, evil doctors, ghosts, and demons to please any horror fan - without the hardcore (sometimes unnecessary) gore and hatred of women that sometimes spoils the genre for me. 

Yeah, I know... I'm a horror author. Doesn't mean I have to like the way everyone else does it. I'm more on the horror lite end of the spectrum than the splatterpunk end, which makes Diet Riot a perfect fit for me. 

Diet Riot is everything I could have asked for in a "fatterpunk" (Did I mention how much I love this word?) anthology - except about twelve more stories. I was having so much fun I was sorry to finish the book. Maybe the editors will grace us with a sequel?

Saturday, 9 July 2022

Book Review: The Sylvan and the Sand (The Book of All Things #2) by Sarah M. Cradit

I have reached into the sand, and the sand has offered me strength. I have submerged myself in the salt of the sea, and the salt has offered me courage.

They say you should never trust a book by its cover. That’s advice I’ve never been particularly good at taking – especially when it comes to books with covers by artists like Melissa Stevens and Merilliza Chan. Show me s book with cover art by either of these illustrators and I’m sold before I’ve read a word.

I love the soft, high fantasy look Stevens created for The Sylvan and the Sand (The Book of All Things: Book 2) by Sarah M. Cradit. (The illustrations throughout the books are a nice bonus.) It fits the tone of the story perfectly, romantic and enchanting.

When I started reading The Sylvan and the Sand, I didn’t realize it was part of a series – not that it’s an issue. The book stands alone very well, although the enormous cast of characters does take a little while to get to know. I struggled a little bit at the beginning to remember who was who but, as they were divided up very quickly, it became a lot easier to follow.

So… who’s who?

Yesenia Warwick and Corin Quinlanden are complete opposites from warring families – which doesn’t stop King Khain Rhiagain from arranging a marriage between them. Them… and all the children of the lords who swear fealty to him. As he blindsides the ruling families of his realm by pairing off their heirs, the king creates havoc, personally and politically.

Yesenia and Corin seem to have it easy as the story starts. She’s just her father’s daughter, after all, and Corin is his father’s second son. Neither are of particular importance (from a strategic point of view,) but they still manage to turn the whole plan on its head.

And even incite a revolution.

Which is what makes it fun, of course!

Both Yesenia (‘Sen’) and Corin are strong, driven characters that just get better as they grow into their forced marriage and changing societal roles. Yesenia is an inspiring, tough, experienced character while her counterpart, Corin, is cowed, abused, and inexperienced. She brings him out of himself, and he makes her a more patient, more tolerant person. They’re perfect for each other.

The character development in The Sylvan and the Sand is top-notch, which is more impressive when you consider how many there are to keep track of. All of the important characters have their own identities, personalities, and goals. They’re important to the story, not just background noise. I’m actually looking forward to checking out the other books in the series to see who’s involved in which books. There are definitely people I’m hoping to see again.

Cradit doesn’t just excel at character development; she is a master of imagery. Her descriptions – not just of places, but especially the way she handles action – have a way of putting you right in the moment that allows you to lose yourself in the story. I don’t think I got a single thing finished once I started The Sylvan and the Sand. (And I'm not one bit sorry.)

The Sylvan and the Sand might be set in a fantasy world, but many of the lessons it teaches are universal. Some of the lessons that stand out are love (the fear of both having and losing it,) coping with abusive family members, and the burdens of womanhood. I found myself nodding frequently, silently agreeing with some characters – and silently raging at others.

Even the hateful characters were fully developed, which didn't make them any less hateful.

Sen and Corin’s happily-ever-after is hard-won, which makes it all the better. Another thing that makes The Sylvan and the Sand a satisfying read, though, is that it’s not just about their relationship. Both have their own goals when the book starts out and those goals remain central for much of the story. They just happen to fall in love along the way.

And isn't that always the way?

I absolutely loved The Sylvan and the Sand. It was engaging, well-written, entertaining, and came through with the warm fuzzies at the end. This is one of those books I’m glad I judged by its cover.