Fantasy · YA

Moonlight and Midtown – Christina Bauer

3 stars

Moonlight and Midtown is a fluffy novella, filling the space between the first novel of the Fairytales of the Magicorum series which came out last year, and the second novel which comes out later in 2018.

cover128041-medium

After battling werewolves and evil aunties, Bryar Rose is ready to enjoy her new life. No more crazy aunties. Her curse is toast. And Bry’s new man, Knox, is literally a dream come true. Best of all, Bry will soon attend a regular high school. Forget those sketchy tutors! To get ready, Bry is dedicating the rest of her summer to some serious back-to-school shopping with her best friend, Elle. It’s a blast, except for one thing:

Mysterious strangers are following Bry across Manhattan.

All these stalkers have oddly familiar scents and an uncanny ability to slip into the shadows whenever Bry tries to confront them. Even worse, their presence is making Knox act crazy with a capital C.

But Bry’s having none of it. Enough of her life has already been ruined by secrets. With Elle’s help, Bry plans to confront these strangers, find out what they want, and send them packing. Trouble is, the truth about their identity won’t be so easy to manage, especially when Bry finds out how these stalkers could change her future with Knox…and not for the better.

Just as much fluffy fun as Wolves and RosesMoonlight and Midtown sees Bryar trying to navigate through the new-to-her world of the Magicorum. She’s always been on the fringes of that world, but now she’s neck deep and in desperate need of clothes that won’t be destroyed when she shifts.

All Bry wants to do is meet her new classmates without being forced to literally wear a potato sack.

Moonlight and Midtown is a fun whirl through the world of the Magicorum and just the refresher I needed as I look forward to Shifters and Glyphs later this year.

Moonlight and Midtown is available now!

Thank you to Monster House Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Advertisement
Science Fiction · YA

Lifel1k3 – Jay Kristoff

4 Stars

Happy Book Birthday to Lifel1k3! This wonderful ride of a book hit shelves in the US today.

Point of order: When reading a book Jay Kristoff is involved in, do not get complacent. Just when you think you see where the story is going, be prepared to be proven wrong. Repeatedly.

29456569
Cover from Goodreadss
36998210
Australian cover from Goodreads

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

Well, it’s exactly what it says right there on the tin. The Australian tin, that is.

It’s Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-Men, with a little bit of Blade Runner cheering from the sidelines.

That’s a pretty accurate description of the whole book, complete with guns a-blazing car chases through the irradiated desert. It’s a frantic story that grabs you by the hand as it’s running away from explosions and kind of throws story at you while it’s on the move. Just, as I said before, don’t get complacent.

Jay Kristoff is a snake. He lulls you into a false sense of security and then while the sirens are blaring, explosions in the background and the whole team is running for their lives, he’s gonna pull the rug out from under you. Not once, not twice, but over and over again. Lifel1k3 is full of moments when just as I’ve fallen into the rhythm of the story I’m tripped up by a twist in the plot.

Jay is the King of the Plot Twist.

The main cast is comprised of loveable misfits.

  • Eve who just wants to make enough to buy her Grandpa’s meds
  • Lemon Fresh, Eve’s bestest and greatest ally, sweet cinnamon roll, important
  • Cricket, the sassiest logika I ever did see
  • Grandpa, sage old wise-ass
  • Kaiser, who’s a good puppy!?
  • Ezekiel, capital T TROUBLE and the trigger for all their woes (OR IS HE?!)

Over the course of the book, Kristoff raises many questions, and I dearly hope he answers them in the next book. The core question of Lifel1k3 is one that Asimov first raised when he outlined the three laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Are robotics and by extension, Artificial Intelligence, ethical? Many a science fiction writer has played with the ramifications of these laws, and how they might play out should robots gain true intelligence. In Lifel1k3, Kristoff takes us through another interesting interrogation of the ethical dilemma of those who would create robotic life. Under all the fluff and flair, buried beneath the frantic energy and bubble-gumption is a story with an interesting ethical quandary in the center. What does it mean to be alive?

Lifel1k3 hit shelves today in the US and is available now from all your favorite retailers.

Thank you to Random House Children’s/Knopf Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Urban Fantasy

Trail of Lightning – Rebecca Roanhorse

5 Stars

Trail of Lightning is the first book in a new Urban Fantasy series by Rebecca Roanhorse, author of the multiple-award-winning short story “Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)”. Trail of Lightning is her debut novel and what a debut it is!

36373298
Cover from Goodreads

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

Trail of Lightning was absolutely fantastic. Even brand-new to the field Roanhorse’s writing is easily on-par with Urban Fantasy veterans such as Seanan McGuire, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher. I can’t help but compare Trail of Lightning to other UF series – and when I do, I’m comparing it to the cream of the crop, because that’s the level of quality here.

Roanhorse’s Sixth World is a vivid dystopia, beautifully built and will appeal to fans of the Kate Daniels series. I loved exploring the world of the Dinétah. Set on the Navajo reservation in the Southwest, the community and landscape we’re introduced to is something new. Readers unfamiliar with Navajo customs and beliefs will definitely walk away having learned something new. I know I sure did. 

I would have liked a pronunciation guide for the many Navajo words Roanhorse uses throughout the book. I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce some of the words with double vowels and accent marks I haven’t encountered before.

The main character, Maggie Hoskie (or Maggie Hostile as I began to call her in my head) will feel both familiar and fresh to UF fans. Maggie is a badass with baggage. She’s had a rough road to get where she is, and she’s not happy with her current situation. Things go from mediocre to worse as she follows the trail of monsters to their source. She is just the kind of character that Urban Fantasy fans love to love, but with fresh spins on everything so she doesn’t feel recycled, which is hard to do.

There is a LOT of Urban Fantasy out there, and there’s a lot that feels recycled and tropey. Trail of Lightning dodges all of that to stand out from the crowd. I was simultaneously sucked in and blown away by the story. I can’t wait for the second installment, Storm of Locusts in 2019.

Trail of Lightning hits shelves June 26, 2018 from Saga Press and should absolutely be on your radar if you’re a fan of UF.

Thank you to Saga Press for providing a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Urban Fantasy

Ashes of Honor – Seanan McGuire

4 stars

Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, we’re doing a Re/Read Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. (Less than six months away!!!) The re/read along is newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We recently discussed Book #6, Ashes of Honor.

10184345
Cover from Goodreads

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

Way back in 2014 when I first read it, I rated Ashes of Honor with 4 stars, and that holds today. Ashes of Honor is a really satisfying installment in the October Daye series. For a lot of fans, it’s a favorite because a long-held wish comes true.

Toby still bleeds a lot, but she’s definitely getting better about asking for help. It’s actually a major theme in this book: biting the bullet and both asking for and accepting offers of help.

The other major theme in the book is one that carries throughout the series, but really kind of comes to a head in Ashes of Honor: family. Especially the importance of both the family you have, but the family that you’ve chosen.

I believe the title refers mostly to Etienne (though it certainly does apply to a few other characters as well). He feels as though he has behaved dishonorably and this book is his journey to rectify that. Along the way, he gains new respect for Toby and her methods. It was really refreshing to see Etienne lose some of his rigidness and disdain.

The plot zips by at a nice quick clip and Ashes of Honor is one of the easiest in the series to consume.

Come back late next month for a review of Chimes at Midnight, book #7 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion for that book Sunday, June 3!)

Contemporary · YA

Anger is a Gift – Mark Oshiro

5 Stars

Anger is a Gift is a book for now. Anger is a Gift (affiliate link) is a book that crystalizes what life in America is like for so many people of color, especially those living in urban areas. It is a necessary book. It’s not comfortable, nor is it comforting, but it is necessary and beautiful. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

 

36142487
Cover from Goodreads

 

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC through a friend. While reading Anger is a Gift I frequently stopped reading, pressed the open book to my face and had to sit with my feelings. At times I was elated, so full of happiness that I thought I might dance into the sky. Other times I was so angry, so frustrated that I thought I might burst into flames. And once, I had to hold back tears. Anger is a Gift is a rollercoaster of emotion.

This book has two sides. On one side, it’s a love story. It’s a sweet, fluffy book that will make your heart soar because it is about friendship and relationships and all your dreams coming true. On the flip side, this is a book about social justice, systematic injustice and what one boy and his community do in response. It’s a heavy, unflinching book that feels like a punch to the gut and filled me with so much anger.

The main character, Moss is a sweet cinnamon roll, too pure for this world. He’s a sweet kid. He’s got a wonderful relationship with his mother – it’s so full of trust and love. Throughout the book, Moss struggles with the world reacting to his blackness, his gayness and his anxiety. Anger is a Gift is told 100% from his perspective, giving readers a look at Moss’s inner monologue. He’s such a kind kid. He wants to learn, he wants to love, he wants to be loved, but he also wants a world that hasn’t ever been fair to change. He’s polite and gentle and tries his best to be a good friend and a good person. He feels powerless against a system that has increasingly treated him and anyone even remotely like him as less than. He’s suffered injustice after systematic injustice in his life and Moss has finally had enough.

The supporting characters are equally interesting. Bits, a non-binary character, is one of my favorite side characters. They’re full of wisdom and kindness and sadness. I love Bits’ story and personality.  Rawiya is my second favorite. As a former punk, it’s easy to see why a punk-rock Muslim girl would steal my heart. Moss’s mother Wanda is the kind of mother I wish everyone had. She’s patient, kind, supportive and absolutely there for her son when he needs her.

The remaining supporting characters are all fantastic as well. There’s a wide rainbow of diversity in the cast: many sexualities and gender identities, races, religions and abilities. Mark writes these characters so real and so believable that anyone who calls it forced or unbelievable hasn’t read the same book I have.

The social justice elements of the book were visceral. Anger is a Gift is unflinching in its portrayal of underfunded schools, full of cracks and peeling paint and mistrust (sometimes outright hatred) of the student body by administrators and empty of empathy, school supplies and basic human rights, with the exception of a small few bright spots of light in teachers who get it.

I grew up in an agricultural town in Central Washington. My school was 50% white and it wasn’t until I graduated and moved to another part of the state, a more affluent part of the state, that I found out having a dedicated school police officer wasn’t normal. It was to me. They’d always been there. Every school I attended had one. The officer at my high school singled kids out, including my sister. He pulled her out of class at the drop of a rumor. She missed more class because of him than because of illness. It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe the world Mark’s built in Anger is a Gift. Police forces around the country are already militarized on the streets, why wouldn’t they be in schools as well?

The ending was probably the least believable part of the book. It’s not a bad ending, but it felt a little abrupt and unrealistic. But it’s a hopeful ending, and one I’m satisfied with.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Mark Reads, support him on Patreon and had the pleasure of meeting him when he went on tour for Mark Reads a couple of years ago. Anger is a Gift is very different from the excerpt he read for us then, on tour, but is absolutely the kind of book I’d expect from Mark. My one big regret is that there’s no way for Mark to do a Mark Reads reaction video of his own book since he’s already been spoiled.

Anger is a Gift is out today, and you should absolutely pick up a copy.

*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a copy from Amazon, please consider supporting this blog and purchasing via my affiliate link.

Fantasy

Four Roads Cross – Max Gladstone

5 Stars

Welcome to part five of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.

Four Roads Cross is book five in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the fourth book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

 

four roads cross
Cover from Goodreads

 

Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

Four Roads Cross is the final book in what I think of as Act I of The Craft Sequence. It wraps up many of the overarching storylines that the other four books have brought up and is the most complex narratively of the first five books in the series. There’s a lot going on in this one. There’s a lot of Craftwork, questioning and committing of faith, and many relationships in flux. It’s a busy book, but that business makes Four Roads Cross one of the easiest of the series to read. At this point in the series, readers are familiar enough with the world that Gladstone doesn’t have to slow down to explain how things work the way he does in books earlier in the series.

Four Roads Cross is probably my second favorite book in the series, sliding in right after Ruin of Angels/ Come back next month for my review and our discussion of that one!

Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part one of our discussion and a giveaway of a kindle version of Four Roads Cross. Then be sure to come back and read part two below! Join us next month for our reviews and discussion of the sixth book in The Craft Sequence, Ruin of Angels!

Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.

Continue reading “Four Roads Cross – Max Gladstone”

Blog Housekeeping · That Reading Life

April Challenge Progress Report!

20180503_153257_0001

Here’s an update on my progress for the 2018 Reading Challenges! Now that April has given way to May, let’s see what I accomplished this month!

My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal is 175 books, and so far I’ve completed 66/175. GR tells me I’m 8 books ahead of schedule. Woohoo! I’m feeling good about that lead!

Next, let’s check in on the Literary (&) Lacquers Reading Bingo, over in the Literary Lacquers facebook fan group. So far I’ve checked off 6/16 prompts. (If you participate, there are discounts for completion!)

  • A Graphic Novel – Paper Girls Vol. 1
  • A Book Written by an Author of Color – Markswoman
  • A Book With a Green Cover – The Book of Life
  • A Book Written by an Author From A Different Country – The Illuminae Files
  • A Book With a Color in the Title – The Black Tides of Heaven (no review yet)
  • A Book That’s Been on Your TBR for Over a Year – A Conjuring of Light (No review yet)

On the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, I haven’t checked much off. 6/24, still a little behind.

  • A Book About Nature – Our Native Bees
  • The First in a New To You YA or Middle-Grade Series – Markswoman
  • A Comic Written or Illustrated by a Person of Color – Paper Girls Vol. 2
  • A Sci-fi Novel With a Female Protagonist by a Female Author – The Tea Master and the Detective
  • A Book With A Cover You Hate – Lustlocked
  • A One Sitting Book – A Court of Frost and Starlight

I’ve made more progress for Popsugar’s Reading Challenge. 16/47 – roughly on track.

I am also participating in my local library’s 10 To Read challenge and made no progress this month. 3/10

  • A Young Adult Book – Godsgrave
  • A Book Set in a Place You’ve Never Been – Tricks for Free
  • A Book About Food – Acid Trip
  • A Biography
  • A Banned Book
  • A Book by a Native American Author (I plan to read Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning for this prompt!)
  • A Book Recommended by KCLS Staff
  • A Book in Translation
  • A Book That’s Been Made Into A Movie or TV Show

I did my fourth buddy read of The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone with my blogging buddy Marzie. Check out the discussion posts of Last First Snow.  Look for our reviews and discussion posts of book five, Four Roads Cross later this month!

The Hugo nominees were announced last month, and I’ve started to chip away at the reading. Voting opened today and is open through the end of July. The list of nominees is here.

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • Best Novella: Down Among The Sticks and Bones
  • Best Short Story: Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience TM
  • Best Graphic Story: Bitch Planet, Vol 2: President Bitch; Monstress, Vol 2: The Blood
  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Thor: Ragnarok; Wonderwoman
  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form: The Good Place, Michael’s Gambit; The Good Place, The Trolley Problem
  • Best Series: InCryptid, The Memoirs of Lady Trent (minus the final two books), the first in the Raksura series by Martha Wells
  • Best YA (Not A Hugo): In Other Lands

I…..still have a LOT of reading ahead of me.

In addition to all that, I am hosting an 11-book Read Along of the entire October Daye series as we prepare for book #12 Night and Silence to release in September. Over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook (which I help admin), we’re discussing one book every three weeks. We’ve made it through books 1-5, and will be tackling book 6, Ashes of Honor on May 13.

What have you been reading this month?