I will be the first to admit, I don’t read a lot of romance. But with the state of the world lately, I’ve been craving something with a guaranteed Happily Ever After. Enter: Romance. I was approached by Delilah Night to review the first novella in her newest series, Comet’s First Christmas, first in her new North Pole Chronicles. And reader, if you’re looking for a sweet seasonal, lesbian romance, you can’t go wrong with Comet’s First Christmas.
I’ve dreamed of this day for years, and now it’s reality. I’ve been called up for the Big Show. Official Pole phone and email, Naughty-or-Nice login, and upgraded I.D. with my new job title—Comet. In three weeks, I’ll be part of the team flying Santa around the world.
In an instant my life goes from peaceful, if boring, to a blizzard of last-minute flight preparations, route planning, and anxiety-triggering stress.
The moment I meet my P.A., Jillian, her beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes are an oasis of calm. But I’ve barely got enough time to wonder if her plump lips taste as sugarplum sweet as they look. Disturbing news has popped up on Santa’s radar.
Someone is turning Santa’s most fervent believers into non-believers overnight. If we can’t find and stop this hacker, there won’t be enough reindeer cutout cookies and hot chocolate in the world to restore balance to Santa’s Naughty-or-Nice list in time for Christmas Eve.
Comet’s First Christmas is a cute workplace romance that takes place at the heart of Christmas – Reindeer and the North Pole. Elves and Christmas cheer about throughout the story, all with interesting twists. The reindeer leading Santa’s sleigh are technologically savvy, dedicated shapeshifters. Rather than settling for the basic elements of Christmas we all expect, Night plays with expectations and turns them on their heads. It’s still as wholesome and kind as you’d want a Christmas story to be, but with details and elements that surprised me and made for a richer, more unique setting.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Romance, without some romance and the love story at the center of Comet’s First Christmas was very sweet. A little insta-love never hurt, especially in a story as short and sweet as this one. Claudia and Jillian are fun characters to get to know and I was definitely rooting for them from the page they met.
It was fun to read something outside of my usual repertoire and the HEA at the end was satisfying and left me feeling pleased and cozy – ready for hot cocoa, sweaters and Christmas jingles.
If you’re in the mood for a cute cozy romance brimming with Christmas Cheer, Comet’s First Christmas should definitely be on your wishlist – whether you’ve been naughty or nice! It’s available now on Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
You know a book is good when you put it down after finishing a four-hour marathon read from beginning to end and simply go, “Wow.” That’s how I feel about Hench, the new novel from Natalie Zina Walschots.
Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.
So, of course, then she gets laid off.
With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.
Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing. And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.
It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.
I have always loved stories about imperfect people, especially in a superhero context. Stories that explore the grey areas of personality and the fact that very rarely is someone all good or all bad. Very rarely does a villain not have some kind of backstory that explains why they’ve made the choices they have. Hench is just one such exploration, and Walschots does it masterfully. I hate to compare Hench to other things, but if I had to go with modern literary sales pitches, I’d say it is Megamind meets The Boys.
Atmospherically, the book is kind of dark, without straying into grimdark. It’s not a warm-fuzzies kind of story. But to balance the darkness, Walschots weaves in wry humor and thoughtfulness that is so kind it’s almost painful, knowing that that kind of kindness might just be the most fantastical element of the whole story.
The characters all feel like real people, the kind of people who end up in places they maybe didn’t expect, but one way or another here they are because bills have got to be paid. Anna is very relatable, and I can really sympathize with parts of her story.
But what I really loved, was that it’s practically competence porn. Shows like The West Wing are enjoyable to me because I love witnessing excellent people do excellent things. There’s nothing more satisfying than a job well done. And Anna is very competent. It’s a dream watching Anna accomplish many things, and do it all beautifully well. That’s not to say she’s perfect, mistakes aren’t made and everything goes without a hitch – what a boring book that would be. But Anna is good at what she does.
Hench is such a good read. I laughed and cringed and couldn’t put the book down as I raced the clock to the end. And even once I was done, my mind just kept chewing on this scene or that. It’s so good.
I preordered my copy months ago, on a tweet-thread recommendation from Seanan McGuire and I absolutely don’t regret it. You won’t either. Hench hit shelves just this last Tuesday, September 22. It’s available wherever books are sold. Do yourself a favor and pick a copy up today.
Kevin Hearne is back in the universe of his much beloved Iron Druid with a new series Ink & Sigil. Readers unfamiliar with this universe will feel welcome, as the book doesn’t lean on prior knowledge, but fans of Atticus O’Sullivan will still find plenty of little nods to the previous series to feel connected and treading familiar ground.
Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.
But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.
But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.
I really enjoyed Ink & Sigil. Al is a thoughtful old man who clearly tries to take care of those around him to the best of his abilities and tries to minimize harm. Nadia is an interesting, nuanced and strong (literally) character with a lot more depth than Hearne’s earlier women characters. The hobgoblin is amusing and provides needed humor and levity when the book sometimes goes dark. The characters are all a little unusual, making for a book that stands out from other Urban Fantasy novels I’ve read.
I will say flat out that Kevin Hearne has sprinkled in all of my favorite things, so I am immediately biased to like this book. Ink & Sigil somehow surprised me by featuring….handmade inks and fountain pens. Why this is surprising with a title like that is beyond me. And yet it was. (I am notorious for not reading blurbs of books before I read the book – it’s right there in the blurb – enchanted ink!) Anybody who knows me IRL knows I love fountain pens and inks. I’ve got a tidy little collection of fountain pens (mostly TWSBI) and a slightly less tidy collection of inks. So it’s no wonder that Al and his story full of magical inks and beautiful pens instantly charmed me. I’ve added photos of three of the five pens called out in the story to this post.
Not only that, but Hearne then moved on to include gin and whisky quite prominently and with much fine detail in the story. Again, anyone who knows me IRL knows that gin and whisk(e)y are my go-to spirits of choice. There’s nothing finer on a hot day than a Gin and Tonic. Nothing better on a chilly evening than a dram of something brown and neat or a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Ink & Sigil is a book that pays attention to the details. Hearne takes care to tell us the color of Nadia’s nail polish, the brands and flavor profiles of the drinks consumed and the rich hues and ingredients in the inks included in the story. And it doesn’t get bogged down in the details. The story of Al, Buck and Nadia moves at a fairly brisk pace for a senior citizen and is full of wit, charm and mysteries to unravel. There were moments I literally laughed out loud, and others where I was very tense, wondering how the team was going to accomplish their goals.
Throughout the story, we discover some of what happened in the Iron Druid Chronicles and afterward through the lens of someone slightly more in the know than the average person, but without a front row seat. These callbacks help fans of that series keep their footing and timelines clear, but add depth and richness to the universe without being confusing for new readers, unfamiliar with the adventures of Atticus and Oberon.
It is hard to review a book set in the universe of the Iron Druid Chronicles without comparing it to the Iron Druid Chronicles, so I’m not going to try. Just from book one, I like Ink & Sigil more than I liked the Iron Druid books. Al and Nadia and the hobgoblin are more interesting, nuanced characters than Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon. For many readers of the series, Oberon was the best part of the books and frankly he turned me off of the books a lot. He was, even for a dog, very one note and crude. Granuaile didn’t get interesting until the final two books when she suddenly got a personality and Atticus always felt very “poor me” even when he was in a situation of his own making. Al, Nadia and the hobgoblin are completely different and I frankly like them much better. Where Oberon was the comic relief in Iron Druid, the hobgoblin takes that place in Ink & Sigil to a much funnier effect, at least to me. Nadia feels like Hearne took all of the (deserved) criticism about Granuaile to heart and wrote a character that looks and sounds like a real person. Hearne is a better writer in Ink & Sigil and it shows.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ink & Sigil and will be excitedly waiting for book 2 to come out. In the meantime, book 1 hits shelves August 25, 2020. If you pick it up, come back and tell me what you thought in the comments below.
I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
The sequel to one of my favorite books of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, is Harrow The Ninth and it is weird. I had a really hard time rating this one, and it will be hard to discuss without spoilers, but here goes.
She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?
Harrow the Ninth has all of the mystery and intrigue and spooky skeletons and macabre imagery as Gideon the Ninth, but lacks the same heart and humor. This is somewhat to be expected, because the narrator is of course, the extremely serious Harrowhark, rather than the done-with-this-shit, wisecracking Gideon. Harrow is an unreliable narrator to an extreme degree. She admits on the page that she is mad, and has actively made herself unreliable.That change in tone and loss of humor was something I viscerally felt, and couldn’t help feel, the way one tongues at the gap in their smile when a tooth goes missing. You can’t help but poke and prod and compare to what was there before. It’s a loss that is painful and curious all at the same time.
That weirdness and loss aside, Harrow is a book to read slowly, savoring each page. There is a lot going on, and it is going to be a confusing ride. I spent probably the first 50% of the book very confused and somewhat lost. Something was wrong and I just couldn’t figure out why. But as confused as I was, Harrow is a book full of answers. (And a whole lot more questions of course.) Harrow answers so many of the questions raised in Gideon. The story is told in alternating sections of past and present. We learn why and how Harrow came to be (literally). We find out why she and Gideon hated each other and so much more. It is so satisfying to find answers to many of the burning questions I had after reading Gideon.
Of course in answering so many questions, Harrow raises many, many more and ends on such a bombastic note that I am immediately clamoring for the third and final book in the trilogy, Alecto the Ninth.
Harrow the Ninth hits shelves August 4, 2020 and it’d be a mistake to pass it by.
I was provided an eARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Middlegame is the latest release by Seanan McGuire and is absolutely amazing. You need to read it. That is all. That is my whole review. READ IT.
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
Below, is part two of my buddy read and discussion with Marzie’s Reads, and friend of the blog Janelle. ****THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS. If you have not read Middlegame, stop, go read it, and then come back. THERE ARE ALL OF THE SPOILERS BELOW.****** You can read Part One here.
Alex: Jumping back into the story, I really liked the cat that wouldn’t die, Old Bill. He was a great little flavor. And I really liked how we saw Roger and Dodger at different points in their lives.
Janelle: Yes! The cat!
Marzie: That was awesome with the cat, yes. It’s interesting about Roger and Dodger. You know our two oldest kids are twins. They’ve had periods of time where they’ve barely spoken for a year or more (because of fights) and then they just mysteriously reconnect. That reconnection she wrote between them, again and again, felt so real to me based on what I see with our kids.
Alex:I think people will like hearing that – I saw some questions on GR about the twin representation, and whether or not it was going to be any good. Speaking of which, did anyone notice the lack of representation in this book? Seanan is so good about that usually, that it kind of bothered me that the only rep I saw was Smita, who took their blood. Everyone else was kind of white, straight, and cis.
Janelle: I did notice that, actually.
Marzie: I thought it was a little weird, really, for her. Yes and Smita, the only POC, got Erin-ed. Yikes.
Alex: The absence was jarring, since Seanan is usually so good at making that seamless and feel like we’re in a real place with real people.
Marzie: It has to be very deliberate. But it did feel odd. Seanan never does anything by chance with her craft, so she must have had reasons for writing it without a lot of diversity.
Alex: I can’t imagine what reason she’d have for writing such a homogenous book as this. Other than she expected a lot of people would die, and didn’t want to be accused of killing all the rep off?
Marzie: And as it is, she did kill Smita.
Janelle: I’d really like to mention that the way they chose to terrify Roger into not contacting Dodger felt real enough to be heartbreaking. I felt like it happens to so many children. Not on such a high level, but I think most of us reading this have had moments of being gaslit by adults. It felt very abusive. It was one of the more real, horrific moments in the story for me.
Alex: Oh god, yes. I felt for him so deeply then. It was one of the times I cried while reading. I was crushed when Dodger didn’t seem to understand his reasons. That feeling of unfairness that you made a decision with good reasons, good intentions, but you still hurt people and your intentions don’t get you a pass was just seeping off the page.
Marzie: I had to take a break there the first time I read it. It felt like a perfect example of manipulating a child to me, after all my years doing child welfare stuff. So awful and so very real. The way adults can manipulate children with fear of losing their family is searing.
Janelle: Exactly. “If you tell what I do to you, your whole family will be taken away from you.”
Marzie: It was pretty much that, yes, and again made me think of organized religions that have abuse problems with children. That kind of power is frightening and so easily can become abusive. But as much as I cried for Roger, I felt much worse for Dodger who had no idea of what happened. Roger had his family but Dodger lost her line to the world in a way.
Janelle: I felt for both of them. It was crushing.
Marzie: So I’m really curious to see if this book has changed Seanan as a writer. Like, can she write just Seanan or just Mira in the same way now?
Janelle: I guess we’ll find out with The Unkindest Tide.
Alex: Or maybe sooner, with the Shadow of Spindrift House.
Marzie: Yes, and I was so struck by the Spindrift chapter title in Middlegame. It’s not a common word and even if there was no connection, it has me thinking that this book has percolated through both her author personas.
Alex: I totally missed that! On another note, if you could have the powers of Language or the powers of Math, which would you choose?
Janelle: God. Tough question. I’ve always felt a kinship with language, but feel so stupid about math. Part of me wants to choose math so I could see it. Intellectually, I understand how beautiful a proof can be, but I don’t get it.
Marzie: I’d choose math because it IS as language to me. It’s a universal language like music.
Alex: I am all about the language. The right language can solve so many problems. I would like to just be able to tell the universe how to be.
Marzie: But the right language is math! Trust me. Aliens speak math.
Alex: But math describes how the universe IS. I want to tell it what it SHOULD be instead. And Roger is a polyglot by the end, speaking all the languages he wants. Why should alien languages be any different?
Marzie: But human languages describe what is and what can be just as math does. And Dodger creates things with math that Roger cannot. Like more time. Math allowed her to manipulate reality in a way Roger cannot.
Alex: I am not arguing that math isn’t a language. If we follow that logic, then language powers include math powers and then you get cake and eating it too and that is beyond the point of this very silly question. 😛
Marzie: It’s not a silly question! It was certainly important to separate the two to James Reed, for instance, so….
Alex: It is because I asked it in a silly spirit 😉
Janelle: I choose math. I made my choice. When do I get to become Dodger? Isn’t that what you were offering?
Marzie: Sigh. Now Alex will just have to tell us how to remake the world and time.
Alex: *cackles* there is that. What is a gun without a trigger but a state of frustration?
Marzie: Seriously there were times reading this when I realized that I have felt like a cuckoo at times. Within my family, I mean. Maybe we are all Cuckoos.
Alex: Seanan has a serious Cuckoo theme going on right now. In the X-Men, in Middlegame, in InCryptid. She does tend to interrogate the same subjects over and over and over for a while.
Marzie: It’s a rich trope to mine!
Janelle: Now I’m picturing Seanan shining a light in some poor trope’s eyes, demanding it tell her EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. “I know you’ve still got more for me. I can do this all night.”
Alex: I mean she kinda did that in Indexing. A few times.
Marzie: Janelle that cracks me up! But yes, Alex, it’s like this is a culmination of a lot of things she’s explored in other books or comics.
Alex: It’s part of what makes Middlegame feel so familiar, and yet be still groundbreaking. If you had handed me this book blind and without context or cover and didn’t tell me who wrote it I still would have been able to tell you it was Seanan. I might have guessed Mira first, but I’d have known it was her. It’s *SO* her.
Janelle: I feel like I would’ve known her as well. The voice is more sophisticated, but it’s still her.
Marzie: Well, I’d have known from that Vixy quote, but yes, it’s unmistakably hers. So any other thoughts than, “please ma’am, some more?”
Alex: I want to shove this book into people’s hands. It’s not like Wayward where I feel that it should be required reading for every human, but it’s very good and I think people will really enjoy it once they pick it up. It’s definitely in my top 5 Seanan/Mira books.
Marzie: It’s very thought-provoking stuff to me. I really hope it’s widely read, too. I honestly think it’s one of the best things she’s written and I hold the Newsflesh books and the Wayward books in pretty darn high regard.
Janelle: There’s just so much in it. From child abuse, to sibling relationships, to love of language and math… there is a lot to process in it, and it’s told so engagingly that I think it really ought to find a wide audience.
Marzie: I have to mention that I have such love for the way she wrote Dodger and her mathematical abilities. That passage where she solves the Monroe problem and then turns around and is later suicidal because she can’t solve herself, her situation, her role. Just wow. We’re seeing so many great stories about women in science and math right now, and Dodger, even though she’s an alchemical construct, is one of these.
Alex: So are we all talked out for right now?
Marzie: Yes, because I’m busy downloading the audiobook. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to listen to it. But Janelle, thanks so much for discussing the book with us!
Janelle: Thank you, Marzie! Any idea if you two want to do another buddy read with me again?
Marzie: I’d love to, Janelle.Alex: I am open to another buddy read, too, depending on what we choose.
The City in the Middle of the Night is an ambitious science fiction novel from All the Birds in the Sky author Charlie Jane Anders.
“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”
Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.
But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.
The City in the Middle of the Night is a deft examination of power, rebellion, love, grief and finding your place in things.
Sophie is quiet, self-sacrificing and hard working. She’s dealt a hard hand of cards and she does her best to make the right plays. She is eternally hopeful, eking out the best life she can in any situation she’s in. The gentlest soul surprises everyone.
Mouth just wants to know how she fits into things, and to keep moving. She’s chasing her past in hopes of giving her future meaning, all the while she’s trying to survive as the last of her kind.
Bianca is a study in power, and all the ways that power is never what it’s expected to be.
The crocodiles are a fascinating element in the story, grotesque, gentle, communal and kind and everything humanity can never hope to be.
The City in the Middle of the Night is not an intense read, moving at a nice jog throughout. Anders has paced the novel impeccably, with no parts dragging unnecessarily. It’s not a fast-paced page-turner either. I found myself putting the book down frequently so I could mull over what had just happened, but then eagerly picking it back up again to keep going.
The City in the Middle of the Night also shows how much Anders has grown as a writer. I hated her earlier novel, All the Birds in the Sky. I found the writing to be almost condescending and couldn’t finish. But The City in the Middle of the Night strikes the right chord, and Anders’ skill as a writer has matured beautifully.
The City in the Middle of theNight is on shelves now!
Now, the giveaway!
I am giving away my ARC copy of The City in the Middle of the Night! To enter, follow this blog and leave a comment on this post by Friday, March 1 at 11:59am, making sure to include your email address in the email field so I can contact the winner. Comments must answer the following question: what book are you most looking forward to in 2019?
This contest is only open to residents of the US or Canada.
Thank you to Tor for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Nnedi Okorafor has spun a fantastical world in her Binti novellas, one that is full of wonder and an incredible desire for peaceful solutions.
In her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.
But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.
There is more to the history of the Medusae–and their war with the Khoush–than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.
The world Okorafor has built is so carefully crafted. I love that space travel is done via giant shrimp ships and that Oomza Uni is a planet sized school that has just about seen it all. I love that rationality and reason have an effect, and that emotions and tradition are still sometimes impervious to the former.
Binti is an interesting character, she’s not violent, more of a pacifist than anything, but absolutely not a coward. Binti is constantly being torn in half. She is constantly stuck in the middle of two sided battles. Between her desires and those of her people, the Himba; between the Koush and Medusae; between violence and peace; between Earth and space; between two tribes; between duty and learning. Binti wants to do what is right, and she is finding that the path is not an easy one. But, Binti is both resourceful and a Master Harmonizer, one who brings harmony. She will have to be prepared to sacrifice everything in the end.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy is on shelves now!
Thank you to DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Kim Wilkins’ Blood and Gold series is the sweeping epic fantasy series that I’ve been looking for. Book two, Sisters of the Fire is packed full of strong, courageous ladies taking control of their futures.
Four years have passed since the five royal sisters—daughters of the king—worked together to restore their father to health and to the throne while fracturing the bonds among themselves almost irreparably. Only Bluebell remains at home, dutifully serving as heir to her father’s kingdom. Rose has been cast aside by her former husband and hides in exile with her aunt, separated forever from her beloved daughter, Rowan. Ash wanders the distant wastes with her teacher, learning magic and hunting dragons, determined that the dread fate she has foreseen for herself and her loved ones never comes to pass. Ivy rules over a prosperous seaport, married to an aged husband she hates yet finding delight in her two young sons and a handsome captain of the guard. And as for Willow, she hides the most dangerous secret of all—one that could destroy all that the sisters once sought to save.
In Sisters of the Fire we follow the daughters of the Storm King Bluebell, Willow, Ash, Rose, Ivy and his granddaughter Rowan as they lead their separate lives woven together by fate, circumstance and political plot. Much like Game of Thrones, there are sections from the point of view of each of the leading ladies, and even a few side characters – all woven together by complex political machinations. Unlike Game of Thrones, it’s not unbearably depressing. Sisters of the Fire certainly has dire situations and epic battles, but has a decidedly more hopeful tone than the bleak GoT.
Plots and conspiracies abound in Sisters of the Fire and the book is an absolute page-turner. Each of the sisters (and Rowan) is very different and have very different motivations and desires for their lives. They’re well fleshed out, and engaging characters, written to frustrate and delight. Bluebell and Ash are my favorite sisters, and it’s difficult not to adore Rowan as well.
This sweeping epic isn’t without its flaws however. With five adult women leading the show, you’d think that at least one of them might be queer, but no. Alas this book is very, very straight. I also found some of the pieces that should have been twists as somewhat predictable. Especially later in the book, it felt like Wilkins was just a little too heavy handed with her hints so by the time some of the twists came about, I had already seen them coming.
Sisters of the Fire is on shelves now.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Here And Now And Then is a sweet story about the lengths a father will go to to save his daughter.
To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in I.T., trying to keep the spark in his marriage, and struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142 where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
The trouble with time-travel books is that they always ask me to suspend some kind of belief, because the story always hinges on some sort of absurd premise that is somehow less believable than fairies. In Here and Now and Then the premise is that a time-traveler’s brain can only handle one era at a time. But that just doesn’t work for me. The human brain is super malleable and has the capacity and flexibility to remember lots of things about lots of time periods and living it makes it even more possible. Because of this, I bounced off of some of what makes up the central premise of the story.
That all being said, I otherwise really enjoyed Here and Now and Then quite a lot. Kin’s struggle to reconnect with his life in the future after living for 18 years in the past and his desire to stay connected to his life in the past felt real. His desperation to stay connected to his daughter and save her from forces beyond her reckoning leaked off the page. My heart broke for him over and over.
Here and Now and Then is very character driven, and the side characters are all engaging and fleshed out, with their own lives, desires and fears.
This book is so full of little twists and is thoughtfully woven together, which makes it a bit of a challenge to review, since even characters are spoilers!
I’ll just say this, if you love stories driven by love for family and are looking for a great new read and want a bit of time traveling chaos added to the mix, Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen is your book.
Also, Mike’s a super nice guy. I met him at a discussion at WorldCon last August and he was awesome. Here and Now and Then is his debut, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.
Thank you to Mira Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Dragon Pearl is an amazing #ownvoices Middle Grade Korean-inspired space opera. I’ve been reading more middle grade novels lately, as adult and YA authors I love branch out into the age range. I am a big fan of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire space opera trilogy for adults. They’re very complex and well-crafted novels so I jumped at the opportunity to read something written for a younger audience.
To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
Dragon Pearl is a fun space opera for the middle-grade audience. Min’s decisions are the decisions of youth and she quickly finds herself in more trouble than she bargained for. But she perseveres and finds her way.
The writing and pacing are a little simpler and slower than in an adult or YA novel, which makes sense for the MG audience, but the book still moves at a pretty quick clip. Min accomplishes a lot in a pretty short span of time. She’s cunning like a fox (hah) and that cleverness and her sheer determination to see everything to the end serve her well.
I really love what the Rick Riordan Presents publishing group has been doing, actively publishing #ownvoices MG stories, exposing kids to a wide range of new stories and cultures.
Thank you to Yoon Ha Lee for providing me with an ARC.