Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure By Courtney Milan

The author Courtney Milan came to my attention recently as the result of some fairly unpleasant decisions (and their consequences) made by the Romance Writers of America in response to some of Milan’s robustly framed but justifiable critique on racism/racist tropes in romance (and on one book in particular). The Guardian has a summary.

Not having read anything by Milan, but seeing the comments threads full of praise for her work, I decided to give her books a try, and the what’s the first thing I found listed but a wonderful tale of 70ish ladies teaming up for delicious revenge and late blooming lesbian love!

Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure is a romp, with a dastardly villain and dashing heroines – the wealthy Mrs Bertrice Martin and the impoverished but proper Miss Violetta Beauchamps. What begins as a gentle kind of lie to get Violetta out of some desperate straits turns into a Regency buddy tale of two fed-up women burning down the patriarchy!

It’s not anything like a nuanced tale set in the gritty realism of London’s seedy streets. As Courtney Milan states in her Author’s Note:

Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him because he deserves them. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

The Nephew is indeed Terrible – a liar, a fraud, a sex pest, a bully, and arrogant and insufferably lazy lout – which makes his come-uppance a particular joy. Each woman has her troubles and secrets; each needs to grow and to listen to each other. Even as the plot as a whole is an unvarnished escapade, these two central characters are portrayed vividly. You can’t help wanting them to get away with all their zany plots.

And oh, it’s a glorious and often hilarious ride. Violetta may be a bit diffident, and Bertrice a bit oblivious to her privilege of wealth, but they both know what it’s like to be a woman at the mercy of unscrupulous men, and their schemes of retribution are also the framework that brings them close, helps them to learn their own worth and to accept the love they want and deserve.

It’s always a delight to read some queer historical romance, and the delight is doubled when we get some older women as the romantic leads.

Milan has an excerpt on her website. I for one am an instant fan, and will be looking up more of “The Worth Saga” (of which this is book 2 ¾).

Buy Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

Review: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans

Alison Evans’ Highway Bodies was a superb new zombie apocalypse with its focus on gentle queer kids surviving in a savage world by leaning on love and friendship as well as their own resources.

Their next novel is another sweet tale of young queer people finding their place in the world and with each other, in an environment of fairies, strange green realms and a witch’s curse. It’s as much contemporary fairytale as modern YA novel, which is a good part of why it’s so delightful.

The chapters vary between non-binary Iris, who grew from a seed in the ground, and their new friend Babs, who was cursed by a witch and is sometimes invisible. The two befriend a new trans kid who hasn’t found his name yet, so they call him the boy until he chooses.

Babs, Iris and the boy negotiate school, home lives, art class, the woods and the realm beyond, and learning magic. Babs’ attempts to find and confront the witch that cursed her are complicated by Iris’s promise to the fairies to not help her, and by the attentions of otherworldly threats when they cross into the realm.

Euphoria Kids is charming, filled with lush growing things, wonderful descriptive language and effortlessly inclusive concepts and language. With home life difficulties and wild magic all around, the book’s inherent gentleness isn’t without tension or drama. Instead, Evans guides us through a world that is shifting and often uncertain, but filled with courage, kindness and friendship.

Euphoria Kids isn’t due out until 4 February, but you can pre-order this lovely fairytale at:

Review: Wild in the City – A Guide to Urban Animals Around the World by Kate Baker, Illustrated by Gianluca Foli

Most of us have heard about the foxes that frequent London suburbia – I’ve seen a few myself, and a penfriend used to write about the vixen that had kits in a den under her allotment shed. In Melbourne, too, followers avidly check online for the state of the Collins Street falcons (with their chicks so entertainingly called by locals the ‘Murder Pom-Poms’).

It’s hardly a surprise that wild animals with shrinking habitats have found niches for themselves in cities around the world, and Lonely Planet Kids has created another fascinating book for the 9-12 age range on how wild creatures are adapting to the need to live in cities – and at times how humans are adapting too.

Wild in the City‘s critter citizens are presented in nice little sections about habits, habitats, human interactions, conservation status, examples of unusual sightings as well as where/when to usually see them.

For some critters, the book also offers some lovely tips on providing safe environments for bees, birds and other animals – including building bug hotels and the hedgehog highway.

While I’m aware of suburban foxes, squirrels, monkeys, falcons and bats in different parts of the world (and am much too aware of city dwelling spiders), I never knew about the hyenas of Harar in Ethiopia, or of the sloths who literally hang around Panama City.

Gianluca Foli’s illustrations are a charming accompaniment to Kate Baker’s accessible text. Wild in the City is a lovely coffee table book for any budding city-based naturalist in the family.

Buy Wild in the City

Review: Myths and Legends of the World, Retold by Alli Brydon, Illustrated by Julia Iredale

Lonely Planet Kids is putting out some gorgeous illustrated books about the world, and Myths and Legends of the World is another beautiful example.

Julia Iredale’s sumptuously coloured artwork is a marvellous match for Alli Brydon’s smart retelling of this collection of world mythologies, using a nicely judged balanced of traditional storytelling rhythms with some fresh, modern turns of phrase that invite young readers to connect with the folklore of different parts of the world.

The creators and editor, Rhoda Belleza, have done an excellent job of curating a representative sample of global myths. Some are more familiar – the African trickster Anansi, Scottish Selkies, the origin of the elephant-headed Ganesh and Maui are all among the better known deities, demi-gods and supernatural beings.

The Anangu People’s tale of how Uluru was formed offers insight into why it is a place of spiritual significance – a lovely inclusion in this book, particularly in light of the recent ban on climbing the rock.

Myths and Legends of the World is for readers aged 9 to 12, but it isn’t just for kids – it’d be a beautiful coffee table book to dip into. It’s also available as an ebook if you want to take the pretty with you!

Buy Myths and legends of the World