Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

An Artificial Night – Seanan McGuire

3.5 stars

Continuing on in my re-read of the October Daye series, An Artificial Night is the book where the October Daye series finally starts to find its’ stride.

Cover from Goodreads


October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.

Comparing AAN to ALH and R&R only, An Artificial Night has the biggest, baddest villain and some serious ramifications for Faerie, Toby, and all she holds dear.

Taking on Blind Michael is the scariest and hardest thing Toby has ever done, and over the course of the book, Toby finally comes to term with the fact that whether she likes it or not, she’s a hero. She can’t hide anymore. She has to own it.

Some things remain from previous books that are still annoying. Toby still bleeds everywhere, faints or blacks out left, right, and sideways and she’s still denser than lead. (The Luidaeg even calls her out on being stupid.) Despite all of this, the plot and the villain and the setup for significant ramifications throughout Faerie really make the payoff worth it. As Toby begins to accept that she’s a hero, she seems also to get smarter and make slightly better choices.

Join me over in the Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant Fans group on Facebook, where we’re doing a Re/Read-Along as we prepare for book #12 in the series, Night and Silence, to be released in September. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #4, Late Eclipses on April 1.


Giveaway · historical fiction

Win An ARC of Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling!

Earlier this month, I attended Emerald City Comicon and had a wonderful time, as always. I finally got to meet Jim Butcher, met Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson, had a book signed by Seanan McGuire and saw October Daye cosplayers and snagged many an ARC from the publisher booths. One such ARC  is Black Chamber, by S.M. Stirling. It doesn’t quite sound like my kind of book, and since I’m swamped with other ARCs and reading, I thought I’d share the ARC with you! Scroll down for the synopsis and Rafflecopter giveaway.


The first novel in a brand-new alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president for a second time right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America’s back.

In 1912, just months before the election, President Taft dies suddenly, and Teddy Roosevelt wastes no time in grabbing power as he wins another term as president. By force of will, he ushers the United States into a new, progressive era with the help of the Black Chamber the mysterious spy organization, watching his back.

Luz O’Malley–a brilliant, deadly, and young Cuban Irish American agent of the Black Chamber–heads to Germany. She’s on a luxury airship swarming with agents of every power on earth, as well as conspirators from the Mexican Revolutionary Party and the sinister underground of the reborn Ku Klux Klan, yet none know her true identity.

Her anonymity will be essential as she strives to gain the secrets of Project Loki, an alarming German plan that Roosevelt fears will drag the U.S. into a world war. To gather this intelligence, Luz will have to deceive the handsome yet ruthless Baron Horst von Duckler. She, along with naive Irish-American Ciara Whelan, has to get this vital information back to the U.S.–or thousands of lives might be lost.

Click the link below to enter! (US & Canada only, sorry!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fantasy · YA

In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan

5 Stars

This is one of the easiest ratings I’ve ever given. I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I knew that I was giving this book a 5-star rating.


Cover from Goodreads


“What’s your name?”


“Serena?” Elliot asked.

“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”

Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

Our main character, Elliott, is annoying. Seriously annoying. He embraces his annoyingness and uses it to whatever advantage he can. Exactly like every thirteen-year-old boy I’ve ever met. He’s whiny, obnoxious, kind of a jerk, terrible to his friends, and yet really accepting of people as they are. In Other Lands follows Elliott through four formative years – the most crucial years of his life to date. Elliott has a lot of growing up and self-discovery ahead of him, and that journey is one of the many things that makes this book special. Elliott is surprisingly oblivious to things that are obvious to the reader, despite being pretty introspective.

He goes over the wall into the Borderlands and chooses to stay. His portal opens and he runs right in and makes it his home. He has to navigate cultural differences, teenage emotions, relationships, friendships, classes and his own personal desires.

I don’t want to spoil the magic of discovery for other readers, but In Other Lands is inclusive, witty, and touching. I laughed out loud and leaked tears on and off throughout my read. I didn’t want to put it down, and when I had to, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

In Other Lands is what you’d get if Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway had a baby with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The tone is light, but the subject matter is meaty and full of pointed and poignant observations about our own culture.

My one and only complaint about In Other Lands is the cover. It’s a beautiful cover, but a misleading one. Let’s be honest here: people judge books by their covers. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. Another unfortunate fact is that many boys won’t pick up books that they think are for girls. (Girls generally pick up more “boy” books than vice versa) This cover feels feminine, and I fear has turned boys off from picking this book up. If I were to re-cover In Other Lands I’d give it a gorgeous, adventure-y cover reminiscent of the Percy Jackson books. (Or we could have both covers and the world would rejoice.) I want this book to be in as many hands as possible, and it makes me sad thinking that anyone might pass on this book because of the cover/content mismatch. Everyone with even a passing interest in YA, Fantasy or a combination of the two should read this book.

In Other Lands is on shelves now and everyone should be tripping over themselves to go out and get a copy RIGHT NOW!

Science Fiction

The Tea Master And The Detective – Aliette de Bodard

4 stars

This is my first foray into reading anything by Aliette de Bodard. The beautifully written novella made me curious to read more of her work!

Cover from Goodreads

Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…

If Sherlock were an Asian woman in space, and Watson was a sentient spaceship, this would be the story of their first meeting and first case together. (Just days after I wrote this review, I found this quote on Aliette’s Goodreads profile: “my ‘Sherlock Holmes if Holmes were an eccentric scholar and Watson a grumpy discharged war mindship’ book” how funny is that)

Set in her Universe of Xuya, The Tea Master and the Detective, is similar in tone and flavor to Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of the Empire series. They’re very different stories, but fans of one may find lots to like in the other.

I really enjoyed The Tea Master and the Detective. The story was interesting and kept pulling me along. I’m definitely interested in exploring more of this universe. I’d recommend The Tea Master and the Detective for a time when you can sit and read the whole thing at once or in one or two sessions. Trying to read it in broken chunks on my work breaks didn’t work well for me.

I received an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 


Fantasy · historical fiction

Weaver’s Lament – Emma Newman

2 Stars

I haven’t been this disappointed by a second novel in a while. Brother’s Ruin, the first in Emma Newman’s Industrial Magic series was fantastic and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Weaver’s Lament, but boy was I disappointed.


Cover from Goodreads


Charlotte’s magical adventures continue in Weaver’s Lament, the sequel to Emma Newman’s Brother’s Ruin.

Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical prowess under the secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently in revolt.

But it isn’t the workers causing the trouble. The real culprits are far more extranormal in nature.

And they have a grudge to settle.

Weaver’s Lament has little of the same magic and excitement that Brother’s Ruin had. The entire book is spent demonstrating how terrible the conditions are for women, and especially working women. Nobody listens to Charlotte in the book but everyone is using her. Her brother is using her while dismissing her talent and intelligence. Magus Hopkins, while pretending to help her is obviously not telling her important things. She seems oblivious to this despite obvious evidence of it.

There’s nearly no magic in this book and entirely too much frustration. I’m sorely disappointed. I’m still hoping for a third book in the series, and hoping it will be a massive improvement.

Urban Fantasy

A Local Habitation – Seanan McGuire

3 stars

Continuing with Seanan McGuire Week here at Alex Can Read, I’m finally getting around to reviewing A Local Habitation, book two in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.

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. It’s newbie friendly, as we’re keeping our discussion limited to just the books we’ve read so far in the Re/Read along. We’ll be discussing book #3, An Artificial Night on March 11.


Cover from Goodre


October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.

A Local Habitation is probably the weakest book in the series, closely followed by Rosemary & Rue. From there, the series significantly picks up. If you make it through these first two books, it only gets better.

As she once again reluctantly performs her knightly duties, Toby continues to faint a lot and bleed a lot, but it took almost halfway through the book before she really started to bleed.

A Local Habitation is more claustrophobic than Rosemary & Rue because the majority of the plot is contained within the walls of January O’Leary’s tech company. The plot is a bit slow and takes a while to really heat up, but once it does we’re at a roaring boil. A Local Habitation also introduces us to some of the most interesting characters in the series. The Olsen twins and April O’Leary.

While the book is slow, the events are crucial to understanding some of the later books, so it’s definitely not skippable. On rereading, I saw so many little breadcrumbs that Seanan left for us to connect to things in later books.

Check back next week for my review of An Artificial Night, book #3 in the series. (Or if you can’t wait, join our discussion this Sunday!)

Fantasy · Magical Realism · YA

The Wicked Deep – Shea Ernshaw

4 Stars

The Wicked Deep is one of the most polished debut novels I’ve read in a long time. Shea Ernshaw has written a witchy YA novel that flirts with tired tropes and breathes fresh new life into them.

Cover from Goodreads

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

In The Wicked Deep we get a fresh new take on small, tourist-town life. It reads a lot like a contemporary novel with some fantasy elements woven in. A little tooo much to be Magical Realism, but I wouldn’t argue too hard if someone wanted to classify it that way. Ernshaw’s thoughtful novel is tightly plotted and carefully crafted. I’ve been reading for a long time and this felt fresh and new. She even managed to surprise me with a couple of twists at the end – I was delighted! (There were even a couple of emotional gut-punches!)

The characters had depth and felt multidimensional, and the quick romance that buds is sweet without being eye-rollingly saccharine or completely tropey. The threat of revenge from the drowned sisters was believable, though not fully explained.

I read the book in a night because I simply didn’t want to put it down. The Wicked Deep is also, delightfully, a standalone. In an age where more and more YA novels are parts of series (especially in fantasy), it’s a singular delight when I find a standalone that feels complete. I don’t need more of The Wicked Deep because everything I needed in the story is right there, between the pages.

The Wicked Deep is on sale March 6, 2018. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy or contemporary YA, The Wicked Deep will be a fun, satisfying read.