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.


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!

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.

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.

Fantasy · Urban Fantasy

Tricks for Free – Seanan McGuire

5 Stars

Tricks for Free is quite possibly the best installment in the InCryptid series so far, which I am sort of surprised I’m saying. I love Verity and loved the Hollywood aspects of her books, while Antimony, the main character in Tricks for Free, reminds me of my own little sister and I’m just not that into theme parks. But somehow, the combination of Antimony, theme parks and a special kind of Seanan magic, and I was HOOKED.

I couldn’t put the book down.


Cover image courtesy of the publisher


The publisher’s synopsis:

Penance, noun:
1. Punishment for past actions.
2. An attempt to pay for what can’t be bought.
3. See also “exile.”

Antimony Price is on the run. With the Covenant on her tail and her family still in danger, she needs to get far, far away from anyone who might recognize her—including her own mice. For the first time in a long time, a Price is flying without a safety net. Where do you go when you need to disappear into a crowd without worrying about attracting attention? An amusement park, of course.

Some people would call Lowryland the amusement park. It’s one of the largest in Florida, the keystone of the Lowry entertainment empire…but for Annie, it’s a place to hide. She’s just trying to keep her head down long enough to come up with a plan that will get her home without getting anyone killed. No small order when she’s rooming with gorgons and sylphs, trying to placate frustrated ghosts, and rushing to get to work on time.

Then the accidents begin. The discovery of a dead man brings Annie to the attention of the secret cabal of magic users running Lowryland from behind the scenes. They want the fire that sleeps in her fingers. They want her on their side. They want to help her—although their help, like everything else, comes with a price.

No plan. Minimal backup. No way out. Annie’s about to get a crash course in the reality behind the pretty facade. If she’s lucky, she’ll survive the experience.

All of the InCryptid novels are wild, wonderful rides of mystery, magical creatures and mice and Tricks for Free is *almost* an exception. There are almost no Aeslin Mice in this book. If it weren’t for the bonus novella at the end (first available to Seanan’s Patreon supporters and now available to the public for the first time here!) there would have been no mice. (Thankfully, we’re spared THAT horror.) That’s honestly my only complaint. Not enough mice.

Antimony is holding it together, mostly, and just trying to make it from one day to the next. But of course, the universe won’t let Annie fade away. She’s a Price, after all. And Prices are always up to their neck in one thing or another. Tricks for Free is a very strong entry in the InCryptid series and I’m already dyyyyyying for the next book in the series.

Somehow, despite my general ambivalence toward theme parks, McGuire’s description of the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes inner workings of Lowryland makes the setting interesting and engaging. There’s something about seeing below the facade and shine that draws me in. Add in Annie’s struggle to understand and control her magic, keep her identity a secret, and not crack under the loneliness of being completely disconnected from her family and from Sam and you’ve got a complex, layered, rollercoaster of a novel.

Tricks for Free is out in the wild on March 6, 2018. This is one ride you definitely want to be tall enough for.

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


Sparrow Hill Road – Seanan McGuire

4 Stars

For someone who doesn’t drive, Seanan McGuire can sure wax poetic about the open road.

Sparrow Hill Road was first released in 2014, with the cover on the left, but is getting a gorgeous new cover (on the right) in anticipation of a sequel! In my own anticipation, I reread Sparrow Hill Road.


Covers from Goodreads, and while we’re there, let’s review the synopsis:

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Sparrow Hill Road is set in the InCryptid universe but is completely detached from the events of any of the InCryptid stories, so even if you’ve never read a single InCryptid story, you’ll feel right at home in these pages.

McGuire is absolutely in her element in Sparrow Hill Road, her poetic prose driving the story forward, one heartbreaking page at a time. Part love poem to the open road and freedom, part ghost story, Sparrow Hill Road is gripping and lovely and made me cry while keeping me on the edge of my seat.

The story isn’t entirely linear and is full of interconnected vignettes that form the skeleton of Rose’s ghostly existence. Instead of her day to day existence, we visit Rose during the most important parts of her unlife.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, the sequel to Sparrow Hill Road, is due out July 3, 2018 and I am so excited!


Two Serpents Rise – Max Gladstone

5 Stars

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

Two Serpents Rise is book two in The Craft Sequence, whether you read the books in chronological order or publication order. We’re reading the books in publication order and you can check out our discussion of Three Parts Dead here for part one and here for part two.

Cover from Goodreads

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

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

New readers to the series might be surprised to find that Two Serpents Rise is largely disconnected from the first book in the series, Three Parts Dead. It’s an entirely new city, new cast of characters and completely new issues. Two Serpents Rise is packed full of people of color and features two queer relationships.

I found that I liked Two Serpents Rise better than I liked Three Parts Dead because the core issue of the book was more relatable to me – keeping the water supply safe and sustainable. It’s something anyone can understand. We depend on clean water for our lives and livelihoods. Book one was more abstract and harder for me to connect to, though I feel like it gave us a better understanding of how the world works. I’m not sure I would have fully understood some of the ramifications in Two Serpents Rise without the context and worldbuilding from Three Parts Dead.

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

Continue reading “Two Serpents Rise – Max Gladstone”