Take Your Medicine by Hannah Carmack (plus author interview!)

I’m incredibly excited to be sharing my first author interview! I recently received an advanced copy of Hannah Carmack’s Alice in Wonderland inspired book, TakeYourMedicine, and we managed to have a quick chat about the book too!

Take Your Medicine is a short, sweet novel about Alice, who lives with vasovagal syncope, a fainting disorder triggered by strong emotions. Her life is complicated when she meets the enigmatic Rabbit at the end of her orchard.

I loved the themes of family bonds in the book, as well as the budding relationship between Alice and Rabbit, whose witch background counterbalances Alice’s mother’s medical one. It’s a real coming of age story about finding your way as you approach adulthood; with a f/f relationship, strong mother-daughter bonds and a healthy sprinkle of flora witchcraft.

Now, on to the interview with Hannah Carmack!

Take Your Medicine is obviously Alice in Wonderland inspired. Other than Alice, who are yourfavouritecharactersfromtheoriginal?

It may be obvious when boiling down screen time in TYM, but I always loved the White Rabbit. I’m a notorious clock watcher, but rather than always saying ‘I’m Late!’ it’s more ‘I’m 20 minutes early and no one is here yet’

Whatkind of research did you do before writing?

I did tons of research! I don’t have vasovagal syncope, so getting the symptoms and treatment methods correct was really important to me. It was a lot of time spent researching on webMD and vasovagal syncope boards. /r/syncope was a HUGE and helpful resource.

There’s also a lot of plant and bug life referenced in the novel, so I had to do some digging to figure out what flora and fauna were native to Alabama.

What made you decide to write a character living with vasovagal syncope? Was there somethingthatinspiredyou?

Although I don’t have vasovagal syncope, I do have ulcerative colitis. Having an illness that isn’t often portrayed in media (and when it is it’s done as a joke) I felt a strong need to feature more illness/disability in my stories. I really want to normalize talking about illness and demystify the medical world. Vasovagal Syncope specifically attracted me because it can be so tied to emotional stressors.

Each of the characters has a very different voice, who was yourfavourite to write and why?

Al all the way. She’s such a fun character to write and she’s a little bit sarcastic! The scenes between her and her mother are some of my favorite scenes I’ve written to date. She also has such a unique way of viewing her landscape. Her voice lends itself to really unique descriptions and that’s something else I really appreciate.

Take Your Medicine is out on 5th March! Preorder a copy here.


Indie-Athon and My Indie Plans

I was very excited to find out that there is a readAthon in March inspired entirely by independent writers and publishers. I subscribe to a lot of independent presses, as well as Ninja Book Box, which supports indie books, so I have a massive backlog of indie published books to read. Many diverse ebooks that I’ve bought are also independently published, which makes my TBR even longer!

I’m not going to be making an official TBR for the month because I am such a mood reader, but I am going to make sure that every book I read in March is independently published. My current reads are: An Unkindness Of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books), Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (Okay, Swoon Reads is technically an imprint of Macmillan but I’m over halfway through this one so will finish it this month!), The Sorcerer Of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor) and In the Present Tense by Carrie Pack (Interlude Press). Which seems like a lot but, like I said, I’m a mood reader!

The IndieAThon got me thinking about ways I could be supporting independent authors and publishers. I sent out a call on twitter for people interested in being featured and got a bunch of responses! So over the next few weeks I’ll be doing book spotlights, interviews and reviews with independent authors and about independently published books!

My first post is up today, an interview with Hannah Carmack and review of her newest novel, Take Your Medicine. I also have a few reviews from my backlist to post so I’ll intersperse those posts with reviews!

For those of you interested, the book featured in the photo for this post is Hummingbird by Sophia Elaine Hanson, published by Calinda Lux Publishing. A beautiful collection of poetry that I would thoroughly recommend!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve been sitting on this one since Boxing Day, thinking about how to review it. I was expecting to enjoy it when I first picked it up, I wasn’t expecting to finish it within 24 hours and to immediately add it to my ‘Top Ten Of 2017’. But there we go!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has a slightly deceptive title. Superficially, the story revolves around the classic actress, Evelyn Hugo, telling her life story- and all the secrets of her seven husbands- to an unknown journalist. Really, the plot goes much deeper and we lean how Evelyn has loved a woman her entire adult life and how, in the cut throat world of classic Hollywood, this was such a dangerous act.

I loved this book partly because the characters are all so beautifully flawed. Evelyn tells a tale of using men and her sexuality to get ahead in the film industry, while also maintaining she feels no regret for her actions. She’s real, and unflinching and unapologetic. But she’s also inherently likeable. We see her through a young journalist’s eyes and follow her journey from fascination to hatred to forgiveness. The men in Evelyn’s life range from abusive but charming, to generous but lecherous, to loyal and lifelong friends. Her relationship with Celia is at times fraught, but raw. Nothing comes easy, like in real life.

There’s also a great deal of diversity within the story. The two narrators are a young biracial journalist and an elderly bisexual Cuban star. We see queer identities hidden from the world in classic Hollywood, but finally given a voice by Evelyn.

This was definitely one of my top reads of 2017 and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves!

One Way by SJ Morden

I received a copy of One Way from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

One Way is an exciting Mars-based thriller about a group of cons sentenced to life in prison who are offered the chance to commute their sentence to a life building and maintaining a colony on Mars. As building progresses, they start dying in mysterious circumstances but who is killing them off?

I’m still on a bit of a sci-fi kick so I was pretty excited to have my request for One Way approved! The book started off a little slow; there was a fair amount of preamble and training for the mission, but it soon picked up pace. The book has all the trappings of a decent sci-fi and murder mystery, which is a combination I’ve recently discovered I enjoy immensely. The narrative isn’t weakened by bringing together too genres; any weaknesses in the science become relevant to the story and, although I could guess at who the murderer was, their motivations and the actual ending really did catch me by surprise.

It was a clever take on a Mars-based sci-fi and if you like a bit of a thriller where you’re never too sure of the character you love it going to be suspiciously killed off then One Way may be for you!

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Continuing along my current sci-fi kick and SapphicAThon, The Real-Town Murders was yet another book I picked up thanks to a review in a lit mag. The story introduces us to a near future Britain where technology as developed to give people an in-built Feed, most people live out their days in an evolved virtual reality internet known as The Shine, and hackers are working on a gene-based level. Alma’s partner has found this out the hard way; having been infected with a gene-hacked lipid cancer that needs treatment every four hours or else she will die. Alma is the only person who can give treatment, which puts some limitations on her job as a Private Detective. When she tries to solve a seemingly impossible murder, she’s drawn in to a political coup and must fight to get back to Marguerite.

The Real-Town Murders feels a bit like a cross between 70s sci-fi and a cheesy cop show, but in a good way. Some of the plot becomes downright ridiculous towards the end, but with the way this version of Britain is set up it isn’t jarring. You feel for Alma, who just wants to be left alone to care for her beloved, while also wanting to know how the bloody body got in the boot.

My one resounding criticism is I was uncomfortable with the way Marguerite’s size was described. It wasn’t negative, as such, and her character is never treated with any less respect… it was just very male. It’s implied that her increasing size is as a result in of her condition and the lipids invading her brain but when he laugh was described as ‘Huttlaugh’ that, to me, indicates a writer who has prioritised immersing themselves in the genre over writing sensitively.

Overall The Real-Town Murders is a fun, quirky take on a crime noir, with a sci-fi twist. It’s worth a read of either of those genres are you thing!

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

I received a copy of The Feed from Netgalley in return for an honest review. I requested based on a slightly vague description; it sounded like a sort of horror… and turned out to be a sci-fi dystopia and therefore right up my street!

The Feed introduces us to a world where everyone is linked by a Feed- a far conclusion to the internet- and has every conceivable piece of information readily available. Messages from friends are instantaneous, thoughts run freely unless a person specifically blocks them. The main characters, a married couple called Kate and Tom, find the idea of switching off their Feeds quaint, until people begin to be hacked and world leaders assassinated. Six years later the Feed is still switched off, people are still learning the skills and knowledge that the Feed previously provided and regaining memories that they never had to think about before- their every experience being previously replayable. People are still being hacked- or Taken- when they sleep and the world has descended in to chaos. When Kate and Tom’s young daughter goes missing they have to face life outside of their camp.

The story reminds me of Black Mirror, a show I absolutely adore, except following the themes to their worst conclusion. Not only does The Feed broach the subject of how humanity would cope without modern communication and amenities, it ties it in to the characters very humanity and shows us just how far we could go towards destroying the world in the name of convenience.

Some parts of the story don’t match pace-wise; the beginning is a lot slower than the last third or so, but it’s still an exciting read and for a debut it’s pretty impressive. I’m possibly biased because it does combine two of my favourite genres, but it’s a twisty, sometimes violent take on the end of the world.

Beauty, Glory, Thrift by Alison Tam

Beauty, Glory, Thrift was a last minute addition to my SapphicAThon TBR after I read a review of it in Strange Horizons. I was immediately drawn to this short, sci-fi space adventure about a thief that discovers a digital goddess- Thrift- in a temple and downloads her to her brain, believing her to be mere software.

It’s a very quick read- I read my copy from The Book Smugglers in under an hour- but it packs an emotional punch. We see the world through Thrift’s new experiences; she sees everything through Pak the thief’s eyes, but with her own astonished take. The two start off at odds with one another, there isn’t much room in one person’s head, but there is a reason I read it for the SapphicAThon!

I have some thoughts about sci-fi in general that I think I’ll reserve for a separate post, but Beauty, Glory, Thrift has definitely been a nice segue back in to science fiction proper!