An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole [Review]

AEUI’m actively looking to diversify my reading, especially in genres where minority voices are not always heard, and diverse characters are not always seen. I jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of this title and wasn’t disappointed. Sometimes nothing is better than curling up for the afternoon with a book you know you’re going to race through and enjoy in a single afternoon. This book was exactly what I was looking for.

An Extraordinary Union follows Elle Burns, a woman born into slavery. Living free in the North, she chooses to use her eidetic memory to help the Union by posing as a mute slave in Charleston.   There, she meets Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton detective who’s also in the South under false pretenses. Danger, intrigue, and romance ensue.

I haven’t read a lot of straight-up romance. (I’m not counting romance-heavy YA or historical fiction here.) I’ve read and enjoyed Sarah McLean and Courtney Milan, but that’s about as far as I’ve made it, though every once and a while I get a hankering for a romance and will pick something up. What was immediately noticeable to me with An Extraordinary Union was that the stakes were so much higher than I was used to. Usually in a regency romance, someone’s honour or virtue is at stake, and the biggest obstacle is how society views the couple. In this case, the situations Elle and Malcolm found themselves in were literally life and death, and it added an element to the story that I really appreciated.

One of the challenges with a story like this is the ending. I recently saw some internet angst around the question of whether or not a romance novel needs a happy ending. Romance readers will shout at you (usually politely), “YES, OF COURSE.” In this book we have a mixed race couple working as spies across enemy lines during one of the deadliest wars in American history. I don’t really want to talk about the ending too much, my brain found it hard to reconcile all of the moving pieces here. I do think Cole handled it very well, but it was a little bit jarring to me as a reader.

The best news is that this is the first book in a series, and that we’ll get more of The Loyal League. I will absolutely be looking to read the next installment, and in meantime, will continue my search for diverse romance reads. If you have recommendations, please let them in the comments!

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel [Review]

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. The thing is, like so many other books this year, I didn’t get to it before the release date, so the galley didn’t really help me out. But I still want to shout out publishers for sharing – it’s not their fault I can’t get my act together!

Image result for waking godsWaking Gods is the second book in the Themis Files series. I will not be including any spoilers for this book, but there might be some slight spoilers from Sleeping Giants. If you haven’t come across this series before, or are waiting for it to be complete before diving in, fair warning. But also, if you haven’t started the series yet, WHYYYY.

I sort of want to caps lock this review because I feel like I’m shouting about how great the series is every time I talk to anyone about it. Waking Gods continues the story of how humans might cope were we to find a massive robot built by an alien race buried in the Earth. (Spoiler: not super well.) Our cast of characters is back and face a new challenge when new robots arrive on the planet and don’t seem to want to move unless we try to attack, in which case they annihilate us. The mystery of why they’re here, who created them, and what might come next deepens, and the more we learn, the more questions that need to be answered.

The thing I really enjoy about the series is that we get multiple narrators helping to tell the story through a series of saved files, so we’re able to jump perspective, time, and format with relative ease and it doesn’t end up being confusing. I’ve listened to both books now on audio, and I really recommend it. There is a whole cast reading for the various characters, and it really lends a cinematic quality to the reading experience. I found myself looking for any excuse to turn the audiobook back on, which is what I really look for in a listening experience.

I’d describe the book as being a true science fiction story, written for literary fiction readers. The story has some great sci-fi elements and pulls those off really well, but the real hook is the character develop and the human reaction to the unknown. We action is taking place on Earth, and we don’t get any more information about the alien race than what the humans are able to figure out.

It makes this an easy book to recommend to all sorts of readers, and so I recommend it to you.