Being Neurodivergent

I’m on the Autistic Spectrum, but was diagnosed late. Generally I was the kind of autistic kid that adults overlook, mostly due to the stereotyped and cliché (mis)conceptions of what autism both is and isn’t. For starters, Autism is a spectrum, meaning that it presents in a variety of different ways. Further, what used to be classed as Asperger’s Syndrome (what I was diagnosed with first) is now considered to simply be part of the spectrum of autism. The terms “high-” and “low-functioning” used to be applied, but this is no longer the case (for the most part) and instead we have the spectrum. The former “levels” of functioning on the spectrum were honestly pretty ableist.

Being on the Autistic spectrum can include other neurodiverse experiences or mental health conditions, including ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Anxiety, OCD (Obssessive Complusive Disorder) and many more besides. For my part, I experience ADD (Over-focused subtype), OCD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (as well as Social Anxiety Disorder, but it’s difficult to tell how much of that ties in with my being on the spectrum).

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So what does all this mean?

Well…

  • It means that I’m a strange but generally amazing creature that worries excessively, has an anxiety gremlin rooming with me in my brain, I suffer from constant Intrusive Thoughts and have trouble switching my focus from one thing to another, but good luck getting me to quit once I am focused.
  • It means that people and small talk and generally expected social interactions are tantamount to myth and wonder to me and I just do not entertain the notion of a casual conversation because what is this mythical thing of which you speak and how do I participate in it? and I’d really much rather never leave the house than have to say “hello” to a single person I don’t want to greet, ever again.
  • It means that I have little-to-zero tone control 90% of the time and if I try to emulate or fake it, yeahhh, we’re both gonna know about it. (This is particularly hard when people do or say something I don’t like or disagree with, because I have no ability to remain civil or not activate You’re A Jerk face. Also awkward when receiving gifts I don’t dig, because my “Yes, thank you for the thought” face needs some work.
  • It really needs work.) It means I stress out over even the slightest interaction with anyone who isn’t My People (I have two of those). Yes, even online. Yes, even if I’ve known the person for years. Yes, even if the people are lovely. Yes, no matter what.
  • It means I get anxious if my set routine is disrupted and sometimes I will have to go through certain steps before I can happily settle into an activity; like arranging my space just-so at my desk, or making sure that the bed is made before I get in.
  • It means that when I’m comfortable with someone and feel safe I can talk forever and ever and ever and sometimes I zone out to what others are saying if it doesn’t interest me and yes this makes me a jerk sometimes, sorry.
  • It means I talk in “parentheses”, literally pausing to add in a slightly related sentence before going back to the main topic, by which point I’ve usually moved way too fast and lost everyone because people can’t see parentheses Leo.divider

Honestly, I could be here all day. Half of the time I forget just what it means. And I could probably have stopped listing things five sentences ago, but I’m not good at not talking about the things that make me neuroatypical. These things are a big part of what makes me, me, and it’s all swings and roundabouts in what they are, do, and how they effect me on a daily basis. But when all is said? I love my neurodivergence. Sure, anxiety sucks and apparently I’m supposed to care that people are hard and socialness is important, but hey–I love my parentheses and how I skip topic five million times a minute and how I’m receptive to sounds and scents that other people might not be.

I intend to talk more openly about each of these things in detail, so look out for the related posts, all of which I will link to my drop down menu at the top of the navigation bar, for sake of convenience and ease. And also because it will be neat and pleasing.

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Bi Visibility Week – On Being Bi/Pan-(romantic)

bi-flagSo apparently being bisexual is frowned upon by many (ridiculously rude and shitty) people. Honestly, though, even having to type that is so ridiculous that I almost deleted it twice. Because it doesn’t seem like it should be true. But it is true–biphobia is a big thing. I’m lucky enough that,  in the circles I move in, I’m not subjected to it at all in my personal offline life (my friends are literally all varieties of queer; and this happened organically, without any of us knowing about one another’s queerness before we met, and without meeting in a specific queer community or setting), but I know from basically existing in the world and online that people get twitchy (and paranoid and downright nasty) about bisexuality. They get mean about bisexuality. Really mean.

Before we go any further, repeat after me: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase. Bisexuality is a valid sexuality; we exist and we are here and there is no qualifying “test” or lifestyle checklist we have to complete.

And once again for those in the back: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase.

OK, good.

Men who are bisexual are faking and are actually gay and women who are bisexual are straight and faking liking women (funny how the world revolves around we dudefolk, isn’t it? (Except that it’s not funny at all…)).Of course this is incorrect and also so incredibly damaging. To constantly invalidate someone’s sexual preference–especially when said sexuality can be easily erased or hidden (being “straight-passing” or “gay-passing” depending on relationship status)–is cruel and hurtful and damaging.

If you like one or more gender(s), then, congratulations! You’re bisexual. Bisexual guy married to a woman? Are you still bi? You betcha! Same if you’re a bisexual woman and married to a man. And this works for bisexual people who “pass as gay” by being in a relationship with people of their own gender. They’re all bisexual and they’re all valid.

Some people use pansexual synonymously with bisexual (though many don’t)–and I’m one of them. Whilst I don’t technically identify as bisexual (note the emphasis) or pansexual (again, emphasis), I do identify as panromantic.

Yep, that’s right: it’s the sexual part that becomes the deal-breaker. I am definitely attracted to pretty much any person of any gender whatsoever–therefore making me very bi/pan–but in my case, the attraction is as far as it goes. I’m asexual (there will be a post on this in the near future) and therefore would usually rather read a book or eat oatmeal or honestly just pet a cat instead of engaging in any business relating to the between-the-sheets activity. I’m just not interested.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to how people look or the notion of them as romantic possibilities. Asexual simply implies that, when it comes to the down-and-dirty, I don’t harbour any real interest or physical desire. It’s not simply a matter of choosing to abstain, but a literal physical, emotional and mental disinterest in the deed, generally speaking. Sure, many asexual people still have physical relations with their partners (whether to have kids, or simply because they enjoy–but do not feel pressured into–making their partners happy, or even because, however often they feel like it, they don’t mind having sex with people they’re in a stable relationship with), but the cinching point for many is that we are simply not that bothered by the idea. 

I could go on, but then I could also write whole essays about asexuality, and this is all about being bi this week. So…

Regardless of my asexuality, I consider myself bi/pan. Strictly speaking, I do prefer the term bi/panromantic, but most of the time our dialogue on sexuality doesn’t stretch to inclusion of these terms (or any terms that fall outside of allosexuality, for that matter) because there isn’t a widespread acknowledgement of the difference between physical sexual desire and the magnetic pull of one person’s heart towards another’s (purely romantic attraction; attraction to a person based on who they are as a soul, instead of a physical, sexual being).

Yes, this is crappy, but since my panromantic-ness isn’t a performance for anyone/thing, I’m perfectly comfortable broadly identifying as bi alongside asexual. I’m open about most things, so if people really get confused by the seeming contradiction of bisexual asexuality, they can always ask if it’s that big a deal!

I’ve always been comfortable in my happy little bi self. I’ve had relationships/harboured attraction towards people of quite literally every gender variant, including straight people, gay people and those that fall somewhere between. But it’s also not something I realised was a Thing until far later than I should have. With little to no bi rep in the media I grew up on, it’s no wonder that, years later, I’m looking back at what seemed to be peculiar crushes on other people of my own gender, wondering if what was really happening was my own burgeoning bisexuality.

There’s still so little representation of bisexual people in our media. I can likely name more gay characters than I can bisexual–which is a big problem. Gay rep is very important, yes, but bi rep deserves just as much attention. In a way, since it can be a complex issue, it arguably deserves more attention. Conveying a same-gender relationship is easy: boy meets boy, or girl meets girl. Easy. But a bisexual relationship, to be explored on the page as a sexuality, needs a little more, unless a character is constantly reaffirming their own preference. This is why we need #ownvoices authors telling our stories: I don’t think it would be possible for me to write something without a queer character, because it’s such an integral part of who I am, it comes so naturally to the characters I write.

But it is important to acknowledge bi characters when we see them, and to not fall into the systemic biphobic habits of labeling these characters as gay or straight depending on their current preference/history of relationships, and thereby denying them the deserved and valid identity of queer.

I did this recently, having lamented the lack of queer rep in one of my favourite series. I fell into the trap of taking away a character’s queerness by not considering their bisexuality as being “queer enough”. Which is really, really crappy of me, let’s me fair. Yet, this is the systemic bi-erasure hard at work, right there. I’m talking about Aedion Ashryver in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series, which now features a queer character as part of the main cast. Bisexuality is valid. Aedion Ashryver is valid.

Aedion is my current bookish crush. And he’s a great crush for me to have, as a bi guy, because he is also bisexual. It matters. His past relationship with a member of the Bane is important but in no way invalidates his current feelings towards a female character. Aedion wasn’t gay when he dated the soldier and he isn’t straight now he’s attracted to a woman. He is–just as he has always been–bisexual. Having a crush on a fellow bi hottie feels good, because there’s the notion that the character gets me, gets my sexuality. That’s really important.

I don’t have many bookish crushes (girl or guy), and perhaps my asexuality tempers any attraction based purely on how a character looks or presents, but I think it’s more that the characters I could crush on feel unattainable. With bisexuality so easily erased across the board, it’s easy to feel invalidated as a bisexual person, when the choice of crushes leans either towards gay imaginary romance or straight imaginary romance.

That’s not to say that bisexual people will always want to/need to date other bisexuals, but with this ingrained sense of biphobia, it’s little wonder that those who identify as bisexual will do so openly around only those they trust the most, or they may conceal that part of themselves altogether, lest they be judged for their preferences. The gay and straight communities are equally guilty of this treatment.

There are many married men and women in my circles who are bi, but rarely consider/announce themselves as queer, even though their letter (the B) is right there in the LGBT+ acronym. That’s hugely problematic.

In the same way that the L and G seem to come together and form one big gay supervillain, bent on stealing the focus and attention entirely for themselves, whilst the other letters are shoved into the background, taught to be grateful for whatever scraps of (often bad) representation they’re given, any focus on the gender elements of the queer/LGBTQIA spectrum are similarly often forgotten. Indeed, talk of “queer rep” is so often reduced to simply “gay rep”, which is telling in and of itself.

Queerness is about so much more than who you’re attracted to and shouldn’t be reduced to an overarching label of “GAY”. There’s a lot of work to do, but hey, hopefully with more attention on the important issues of queerness, through awareness periods such as Bi Visibility Week, maybe we’ll eventually gain some ground and open the dialogue all the wider for it.

And before I go, once again:

Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. 

 

 

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2016

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So I’ve never been to a geek convention like Nine Worlds before. Sure, I’ve vaguely attended anime cons but honestly, they’re not even comparable. (The UK doesn’t really do great anime cons.)

I would have attended this year even if I’d not been aware of the communication system they have in place. But it certainly helped put my anxious mind at ease, knowing that I would, in theory, be able to go around with my big red badge of NOPE and remain off the radar for any well-meaning conversational types looking for a chat or even just a casual passing word.

If I’d only had the anxiety by itself to deal with then I’d have done far more than I did. As it happens, chronic illness doesn’t just go away because you’re trying to have a good time and step out of your comfort zone for once, so there were times I missed stuff because I wasn’t well enough.

Even before arriving at Nine Worlds, it felt different. I don’t have a lot of experience with things like this, but I could just tell that it was open and accessible and that I’d feel safe there being “different” (in my case, disabled, not NT and also queer). Even if you just take into account the fact that I’m horribly introvert and have massive social anxiety to deal with, Nine Worlds presents such a safe space,  by means of their communication system. Not only is the system of coloured badge overlays very simple, but it is also advertised: people can’t miss the fact that this exists. Yes, there was a single time where someone talked to me and I wasn’t happy about it, but, on the whole, the badge system is amazing and it made me feel safe.

It’s also worth adding that you can have pronouns added to a badge, to help with any awkward/upsetting situations that might arise. I had a standard badge without pronouns, but I assume that pronouns are simply written on the blank badge the same way names are (meaning you can have a different name on your badge to any other details you might have needed to give).

Nine Worlds works as hard as it can to be an accessible con, for both visible and invisible disabilities, as well as anything from deafness to sensory overload issues. It really shouldn’t be the case that I’m (in a good way!) singling out a convention or event to say “yes, they care about accessibility and safety”, but the Nine Worlds team really does give a damn. With closed sessions for both PoC and queer peeps, you really get the impression that they know what’s up with the world and with the geek community. They get that there’s work to be done, and they’re willing to do it. Hell, that in itself is enough to make me want to go again, even without the fact that it was also a really, really great convention.

As I said, I’ve not been to one before, so I can’t judge others (outside of the horror stories I see on social media), but there’s something that seems just so inclusive about Nine Worlds. From the accessible seating set aside at various intervals in panel rooms (that’s right – these spaces aren’t just at the front of the room, but spread out amidst the regular seating, too., just as the spaces reserved for wheelchairs are) to a quiet room and the teeny reminder on their accessible seating signs that not all disabilities are visible, Nine Worlds are seriously on point with getting this stuff right.

There was one lift that could have been too small for some wheelchairs, so they advertised this and set up special arrangements to help those whose chairs were too big get around. It’s difficult to think of just what else they could have done!

It’s hard to stress just how much of a difference that red badge made to me. Whilst it didn’t entirely solve my social anxiety issues (which are fairly complex and multi-layered, and I’ll likely cover them in another post soon), it helped immeasurably. Part of my anxiety is related to being seen and so obviously there’s nothing that anything short of a cloak of invisibility could do to help with that–but! That didn’t mean that the knowledge that nobody would talk to me didn’t help. No chance of chit-chat in the lifts; freedom to browse the Expo with nobody trying to hawk anything or start a conversation; no worry about people I know thinking “hey! That’s Leo!” and coming to say hello if I wasn’t ready. All these fears were immediately eliminated.

I can imagine for other people who struggle with social anxiety or peopling, that the idea of being able to wear a badge that keeps you “off limits” is just ridiculously reassuring. Imagine being able to toddle from your hotel room, down into the lift, wearing your big red badge of NOPE, knowing that you might be ferried down through hotel with nary a word spoken to your person, both as you make your way to the panel you’re attending, as well as during, after and for the rest of the convention, if you so wish. Anyone with a red badge is perfectly welcome to initiate conversations with anyone they feel comfortable, but there is absolutely no obligation and neither will there be the fear of being rude if you’re not able to talk or socialise. The badge does all that for you. It’s genius, really.

I’d say it’s worth expecting someone to accidentally speak to you whilst wearing the badge, but it’s difficult to say whether it will happen or not, since the circumstances were so very specific with me, and, though I’m still trying to decide if the person in question recognised me from social media or not, it wasn’t a conversation as much as a passing remark. It wasn’t great, but it didn’t do any harm overall (likely because the person may have realised and shuffled off after the fact, or, because it was intended as a passing remark in any case). Anyone who wants to put their faith in this badge system, can indeed do so. It worked and it felt safe. There’s not a lot more you can ask for, really.

 

 

Leo’s Top Ten Reads of 2013

…well, eleven reads, really. Sorry not sorry. ( ̄ー ̄)

So, before I get started, I need to add in a few honourary mentions for books that either aren’t out yet, or, in the case of one, don’t actually exist as published books yet. It seems weird to say that books from 2014, essentially the future, were my favourites in 2013, hence the mentions now.

Shadowplay-CoverShadowplayby Laura Lam would have probably come in third on this list had it been released this year. It’s a tricky situation with Pantomime, because it was released earlier this year, but…I’d already read it in 2012 as an ARC. So I keep forgetting it’s a 2013 book. So, because my neat little list is already written, both it and Shadowplay get a massively neon mention here. Read both: they’re excellent. Also, read Laura’s post about helping Sophomore authors out, because it’s true and awesome.

Mini-mini excerpt from review (because I can):
Shadowplay is a gorgeously written novel with so big a heart the pages can barely contain it. There is scope and ambition and a very clear sense that Lam knows precisely what she’s doing; the perfect author-puppeteer behind Micah’s stage.”

A Secret Book That Isn’t Even Acquired By A Publisher Yet – I know I could have just called it an unpublished manuscript, but where would the fun be in that? A manuscript I read by one of my favourite authors, A.E. Rought, would seriously have made my top ten list. It was sublimely excellent. The world needs this book. Just wanted to add this in to give a massive shout out to A.E. Rought and her excellent prose. You rock my world.

The Almost Girl, by Amalie Howard – for the exact same reason as Shadowplay. You need this book in your life. No really, you do: it’s got a “ballsy heroine and a deeper plot lurking beneath the surface…”. The Almost Girl was a total hit with me. Eagerly await this book if you love YA science fiction.

Mini-mini excerpt from review:
“Riven is more likeable than she first seems (and definitely a girl I’d love to interview!), with a heart bigger than even she thinks. The Almost Girl is strong, fast and undeniably addictive.”

Now, my list:

#11. Playing Tyler, T.L. Costa PlayingTyler-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

Playing Tyler is an action-filled book, but don’t be misled by the cover: there’s no vast war or landscapes of death and destruction. It’s all computer-generated (or is it?) and everything takes place in the safety(?) of Tyler’s own life. It is so, so good and damn I wish there were more books like this; books that really get into the psyche of YA guys and make them just as emotional and vulnerable as girls. It’s reality and it’s nice to read. Furthermore, Ani is smart and fun and brilliant and next to Tyler, they make an excellent team. Their narratives throughout the book simply sing together.

Literally everything about this book is amazing. It is subtle science fiction that manages to press all the right buttons whilst maintaining a very complex story that is as shocking as it is thrilling. It is a page-turner and completely unputdownable. I inhaled this book, it was that good.

This is a book you have to read, because it doesn’t just hit the spot, it tap dances all over it.

#10. Skulk, Rosie Best

Excerpt from review:

Skulk is an absolute page-turner that I couldn’t put down; it was just brilliant. There’s absolutely nothing to say about Skulk that isn’t positive… there just isn’t. One of the best Strange Chemistry books to date, this is within my top three books. It’s completely unforgettable and exciting. The characters are real and human and I imagine that when I’m in London this weekend, I might see Meg skulking about. With identifiable characters that break the YA norm of all being within the YA range themselves, Best has quite literally taken a fistful of real life and smeared it all over the book. I especially admired the parental abuse: it wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t physical, but it’s still there and it’s still relevant and highlights that there are about a million different flavours of abuse. I like when difference is demonstrated; I like when it’s done with skill. Meg is one of the most rounded, realistic YA heroines I’ve read in a long time and I loved her. She’s fun and quirky and interesting. Meg is definitely not a forgettable heroine.

Skulk ends on one of the most gripping, frustrating (in a good way!) cliffhangers that I have ever seen: there needs to be another Skulk book and I need it in my hands, now. Another nugget of Strange Chemistry gold.

blood_and_feathers-_rebellion_250x384#9. Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, Lou Morgan

Excerpt from review:

Blood and Feathers: Rebellion is a pacy, dark and witty urban fantasy adventure that reads like the literary love-child of Supernatural (before it got stupid, judgmental and boring – added: right now) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There might not be any vampires or a team of sidekicks and no monsters and ghouls to kick the asses of, but Alice is a heroine that Buffy would definitely knuckle-bump and it’s almost certain that Dean Winchester (before he became a massive jerk – added: right now) had a hand in the slick, clever script of this edgy and cutting urban fantasy.

Angels with guns and angels at war is definitely a turnaround for the mythology surrounding angels and demons and in this continuation of the desperate situation from Blood and Feathers the stakes are higher, the writing sharper, slicker and so much more personal. Morgan’s prose is effortless and sharp, funny and deft. Parts of Rebellion hit hard, right where it hurts. There is a balance that Morgan achieves between the light and the heavy and it’s as though she has been doing it for years. There’s a lot of heart in this book, along with betrayal and loss.

Absolutely superb and definitely freaking awesome. This baby is a winner and damn it, but there had better be another one, because there’s no way that it can end like that

#8. Katya’s War, Jonathan L. HowardKatyasWar-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

Howard has pacing down to an art in this gripping and quick novel that makes me wish there was more YA science fiction that isn’t done-to-death, boring-as-ass dystopian (dystopian stuff is absolutely not my thing) repetitions of the same thing. With dystopian lit, the problem is often that the setting is the story, rather than the characters. Science fiction like this makes me really, really want more. Especially if it’s from Strange Chemistry.

Everything about Katya’s War is a success and it concluded with possibly the best finale I’ve read for a very long time. At the end of Katya’s War I was on the edge of my seat; not from the tension, as I’d clued into what was happening shortly before, but through the feel-good sense of cool that radiates through the final pages.

Katya’s War is an expertly-crafted novel that has no peer in the current YA landscape. Well-freaking-done, Howard. The book left me with an almost feral grin, teeth bared in a mixture of delight and tension, thinking: “Bring it on!”

#7. Cracked, Eliza Crewe

Excerpt from review:

Cracked surprised me, by being not at all what I expected. There’s a certain poetry to how Crewe writes Meda’s darker sides, and it’s addictive as hell, steering the story on with a comfortable yet oddly personal pace. There are no illusions that this is Meda’s story and nobody else’s and the pace is entirely hers. I’m already pining for more Meda.

Ultimately, this is an excellent book that I can’t imagine people disliking: it’s so funny. It’s also smart and cool and darkly adorable. It’s an awesome little jaunt through Meda’s head and her fast-spiralling world, so hold on tight, because Meda’s very quick and she’s slowing down for nobody.

Fast, clever and dark—you have to read this book. Preferably, now.

#6. TaintedA.E. Rought Tainted-144dpi

Excerpt from review:

As with Broken there is an undeniably Gothic tint to the writing and a deep streak of emotion that courses beneath the surface. It makes for a sumptuous book that is a sheer pleasure to read. The way Rought crafts this Gothic, horror-cum-love story is delicate and skilful and makes her shoot even higher on the list of writers I love.

The ending hits hard with one fist and offers you a hug with the other; it’s difficult and trying but completely perfect for the story. I hated and loved it all at the same time. Having been left completely open, with the fate of the antagonist half left unknown (the old “we couldn’t find a body” issue), there is the opportunity for another instalment, despite the resolution of Alex and Emma’s largest problem at hand.

I’d, naturally, love for there to be more books, but the story does have a nice, satisfying end that left me all goosebumpy, so maybe the story is over.

Regardless, Tainted surpassed even my highest expectations and presented an exciting and utterly thrilling horror-romance that easily earns itself the highest rating, with a pocketful of change.

Gorgeous, and damn it, but I love Ann Rought.

Drakenfeld-Cover-Art-540x830#5. Drakenfeld, Mark Charan Newton

Excerpt from review:

I expect that Newton’s new series will be an immediate success, thanks partly to its depth of worldbuilding, managing to create a secondary classical world that is familiar enough to be so, yet still completely his own. Lucan Drakenfeld is a complex character with a good core—and this is just the kind of character I feel has been largely missing from certain veins of fantasy. There’s been too much darkness. It was about time that something lighter, yet still no more stereotyped or clichéd, should break through that darker branch of the genre.

Overall I loved Drakenfeld every bit as much as I expected to. It left me with a deep longing for more fantasy/genre hybrids. Romance has always been something of a part of SFF, way back through the decades, and so to find it in fantasy isn’t classed as anything unusual. But horror and crime and mystery as their own separate elements have not yet breached the hold. Drakenfeld is the first step, with the novel generally being accepted as having “crime” elements, so much so that Newton himself is a member of a crime writers association.

A deep and clever story focused around a man and his duties, with revelations along the way that make for an enjoyable start to a promising new series.

#4. The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett

Excerpt from review:

As far as plot progression goes, there is a lot that happens in The Daylight War and everything leads towards a very, very loaded climax that threatens to be the biggest cliff-hanger of the series. This book deepens matters across the board and things become tenser with every chapter. Unlike the previous books there isn’t as much a theme of solitary battle: Arlen and Jardir both involve their warriors more as the demons grow stronger and although there are battles, the real focus is on the tightly woven and interlaced character relationships and the choices they make. This really is a story about the characters of the world with far less focus on the greater war at hand.

This is strangely at odds with the fact that the greatest battles the characters have faced occur in this book. It is an odd balance, but it works exceedingly well. In the end, this is probably the best of the whole series.

This will be a strong contender for one of the best books of the year, even this early on.

Utterly gripping and brilliant.

#3. The Raven’s Shadow, Elspeth Cooper

Excerpt from review:

The world of The Wild Hunt is vivid and dark but with no stylised grittiness; everything has its place and its reason and it presents a far more realistic world than books that try to veer more towards the grittiness, or those than try to avoid it altogether. It has a balance and it holds throughout.

The ante has really been upped with just how the events of The Raven’s Shadow play out; the end provides a cliffhanger of an ending that will make your jaw drop. With pieces falling into place across the vast stage of the series, and with each and every character making their own moves and steering others into place, The Dragon House is set to be simply spectacular.

You will not read another writer that compares to Cooper in epic fantasy at the moment; she is a talent that will endure and in ten years’ time, she will be a classic. With beautiful prose that presents a brightly-imagined world right at your feet, and a tangled story that weaves and wends without ever losing itself, The Raven’s Shadow is a stunning fantasy novel in and of itself—and a superb continuation of the absolutely stellar series that simply everyone should read.

#2. Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare CP2_cover

Review upcoming… eventually; when I review the rest of the Infernal Devices. I binged the trilogy, fell head over heels in love with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters all over again. The Infernal Devices kicks the pants off of The Mortal Instruments–and I already love that with a fiery passion. Clockwork Princess was heartrending and exciting and surprising and generally everything I have come to love about Clare.

The Infernal Devices proved to be excellent therapy after the terriblehorrible congealed mess that was the City of Bones movie. I miss Will and Jem and Tessa incredibly and wish there had been as many Infernal Devices books as there are The Mortal Instruments. The characters are just better somehow… and, well, there’s Tessa instead of Clary. Tessa. Tessa all the freaking way.

I kind of hate the cover, since it makes Tessa look older (what is the problem with teens/YAs looking like teens/YAs?), snotty and kind of, not very Tessa at all. Some of the fanmade covers I saw whilst searching for this were so much better. Bah!

16046550#1. The Falconer, Elizabeth May

Excerpt from review:

I couldn’t put this book down. Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the writing is sharp and beautiful and full of emotion that grabs and sucks you into Aileana’s world. I have no complaints, no niggles, nothing. I cannot find a single fault. No, really

The Falconer was exciting and moreish and, and, and—

Perfect. It ended so suddenly, with so fabulous a cliffhanger that I wanted to take a plane to Scotland (it’s quicker than the car) and hammer on May’s door until she surrendered at least the first chapter of the manuscript for the sequel. Not in a creepy, stalker kind of way, though… More in a ‘this was practically my favourite book of the year’ kind of way.

It has actually been difficult to write a good review for this book, because so many of my thoughts when compiling an opinion generally become a garble of fanboying uselessness. I want more books like this; I want more Elizabeth May. She’s smart and funny and writes like an angel—bit of a writer-crush here? Yep, I think so. 5303332

There was something utterly resonant about The Falconer. From the very first page I was enchanted and swept away. The book was over far too soon. It’s my favourite book of the year without a second doubt. I almost chose something else, but when I thought back to how The Falconer had made me feel, how the story was so perfect and how much I took from it, there was no competition whatsoever. May is wonderful. Just wonderful. Maybe more Americans should relocate to Scotland and write YA books–because it seems to be working well enough so far! All my heart for The Falconer.