Book Review – Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Wild Seed by Octavia ButlerI’ve put it off long enough. I’ve finally started the last series by Octavia Butler that it’s possible for me to read. I know she died before I ever started reading her work but every time I finish one of her books and remember there are a limited number left that I can read (for the first time), I feel so robbed. Finishing Wild Seed, the first novel (chronologically) in her Patternmaster series has been no different. The imagination that went into the concepts and then execution of this series is extraordinary and evident from the first page. It is so deeply rooted in history, in culture, and in humanity, no matter how many levels you’re comfortable reading it on, I can’t imagine how anyone would leave this novel dissatisfied—unless, maybe they didn’t have the others ready at hand to keep going?

Doro simply is. He’s usually male but is comfortable in female bodies as well. But what he actually is defies definition. His essence must have a human body but whose body he takes is usually up to him, though he must kill the person to inhabit their body. Anyanwu was born in a remote African village sometime in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century and she too changes her form, but her changes are entirely under her control and do not require that she kill. She has complete control over her body down to the cellular level, able to restructure herself after any animal, male or female. What she doesn’t have control over is Doro and he has few qualms threatening her and her children. Initially seduced by the idea of someone who also appears to be immortal and promised the possibility of children she might not need to bury, Anyanwu goes with Doro to one of his settlements where humans with unique abilities can live in a safer harmony away from the world that fears and torments them. But Anyanwu soon becomes disillusioned with Doro and what he tries to accomplish, breeding those people with special abilities. Is it possible for her to defy him and keep her family safe? Continue reading


Book Preview – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenI wish I’d had enough time to go back to the beginning of Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy to reread the first two novels before going into the upcoming final novel, The Winter of the Witch… but I also wouldn’t have been patient enough to do that with my preview copy just waiting to be read. I’ll have to settle for rereading all three in a row with the series’ end in mind. While I’m often left a little disappointed by the end of a series, whether it’s the execution or the simple fact it’s over, The Winter of the Witch is too satisfying to even be too disappointed there won’t be more.

This final installment picks up the action precisely where The Girl in the Tower left off, with the aftermath of the fire in Moscow and Father Konstantin looking to find an outlet for the frustrating contradictions growing in his faith—and he quickly locates a suitable target in Vasya. Riling up the people of Moscow who want vengeance for their own losses and suffering, Father Konstantin turns the mob to the terem where Vasya, her sister, and her sister’s children and ladies are recovering from their own ordeal. Vasya turns herself over to save the others, but there are other forces at work seeking to spare her, leaving her to pursue a greater purpose in the larger battles being fought—between the new religion and the older pagan traditions, between the principalities of Russia and the Tatar threat… Continue reading

Book Preview – The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiAs a fan of Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen books, I was excited to see she had a new series on the way and the description for the first book, The Gilded Wolves had me intrigued. The new series promises to be an ambitious project, less reliant on mythology and folktales for its basis and involving a wide and diverse cast of characters, but it fell a bit flat for me where The Star-Touched Queen stories soared. It’s far too early for a release date for the next book in the series but though this first installment ends with many questions up in the air, I’m not sure this first leg of the journey left me invested enough or intrigued enough to bother with more.

Séverin was supposed to be the heir of one of the four family houses of the Order, bearers of great power and entrusted with using that power to protect several crucial artifacts—supposed to be from God Himself. But Séverin’s illegitimate birth was used as an excuse to exclude him and end his family’s house, leaving only two remaining houses and the larger Order to divvy up his inheritance. Having built a team of fellow misfits with unique gifts of their own, Séverin enjoys a bit of revenge in the form of stealing from the Order. Then Hypnos, the Patriarch of another house, comes to him with a proposition—the Order needs a certain artifact secured and if Séverin and his team help, Hypnos will re-administer the test to have Séverin’s inheritance and house restored. Continue reading

Book Review – A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa TahirHaving finished A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, I am in the all-too-familiar position of needing to wait for the next book in a series to be released. While I encountered some pacing issues in this third book in her An Ember in the Ashes series, I remain as invested as ever and I can’t wait to see what shakes out from the new political alliances that were just beginning to coalesce at its conclusion, to say nothing of its cliffhanger.

At the end of A Torch Against the Night, all three of the series’ main characters were separated. Laia and Elias had succeeded in freeing Darin from Kauf prison but Elias had made a deal with the Soulcatcher in the process and is relegated to the Waiting Place where he must learn to take over as the new Soulcatcher. Laia must help her brother to heal from the trauma of his captivity and deal with her own feelings of loss (Elias) and betrayal (the Nightbringer). Helene saw nearly all her family executed before her eyes for her failure to capture Elias while the fate of the Empire is still threatened by whatever machinations the Commandant has her hands in. As these three continue to move along their individual paths, it becomes clearer that each will have a crucial part to play in the larger conflict of the Nightbringer’s scheme to secure the last piece of the Star, free his fellow jinn from their prison in the Waiting Place, and take his revenge on the Scholars (and perhaps all of humanity). Continue reading

Book Review – Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler - book coverI’m always consciously aware that I really enjoy Octavia Butler’s work, but as soon as I start reading something by her that I haven’t read before, I’m reminded of just how deep that enjoyment actually goes. I’ve reached a point where there are fewer of her books and stories left that haven’t read (though I do have the entirety of her Patternist series saved for an upcoming work trip), so I almost feel like I’m hoarding the remaining stories and essays, pacing myself so I don’t lose the amazement of those first few pages. Bloodchild and Other Stories is the first collection of short stories I’ve read by Butler and, as I expected, each one left me wishing there was more, that it was just the intro to a full-fledged novel. The essays and afterwords included in the collection provided incredible insight into Butler’s process and the experiences that shaped her career and the way she told her stories.

The first story in the collection, “Bloodchild,” and one of the later stories, “Amnesty,” both reminded me strongly of Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy in the approaches they take to exploring what happens when an established community comes into contact with a new community that is Other. Using the freedom of science fiction to put the examples of her imagined alien visitors alongside humankind, some of Butler’s most interesting characters (to me, at least) are those humans who end up serving as ambassadors between the alien beings and their fellow humans. She shows the ways that two seemingly unified communities fracture when they collide. The humans who cooperate with the alien beings are treated as poorly or even worse by their fellow humans—even when those fellow humans can no longer resist or fight back against the alien beings. These stories highlight how much secrecy and the unknown contribute to the fear of each other and how important communication—and developing new systems of communication where existing systems fail—are to the continued survival of all. Continue reading

Book Review – The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

book cover - geurnsey literary and potato peel pie societyWhen there’s a screen adaptation of a novel, I usually try to read the book first. That’s what I tried to do with The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows when I stumbled across the trailer for the adaptation that (at the time) hadn’t yet become available on Netflix… but the waitlist at the library was too long and my will power wore out after it had been teasing me from my Netflix queue for a week. I suppose it’s good news that the adaptation did nothing to dim my interest in reading the book and actually, seeing the adaptation first might have given me a greater appreciation for things like the structure of the novel.

In the wake of World War II, Juliet Ashton finds herself on a book tour for a collection of pieces from the column she wrote during the war. Agreeing to write a new article about the impact of reading, a timely letter arrives from the island of Geurnsey in the British Channel. The sender, a man named Dawsey Adams, found her name and address in a book he read as part of a literary society that formed on the island while it was occupied by the Germans. The correspondence that follows provides material for Juliet’s article and introduces her to many more of the island’s inhabitants as they share their love of books along with their memories of the occupation. Juliet’s new friendships draw her to visit the island and forge a new path for her future. Continue reading

Book Review – A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

book cover - A Torch Against the NightIt’s taken me a lot longer to find the time to write this review than it took me to read A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. Of course, having to wait a bit to write it just means that I have less time left on the library waitlist until I get my hands on the third book in Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series. Picking up right where the first left off, A Torch Against the Night maintains the pace and intensity of the first book while further expanding the scope of the world that’s been created—and that’s always what I look for when it comes to the second book of a series.

Laia and Elias set out to find and free her brother from a distant Martial prison, but during the escape Elias’ confrontation with his mother leaves him with an injury that promises to kill him slowly (a fact he hides from Laia for as long as possible). Helene struggles to decide what it truly means to serve and be loyal to the Empire. Hunting, retrieving, and eventually executing Elias are her duties as the new Blood Shrike but given her friendship with Elias, Marcus uses her family as additional leverage to ensure she does his bidding. But will any of it matter if the Commandant’s plotting and genocidal tendencies go unchecked? Continue reading

Book Review – The Isle of Gold by Seven Jane

The Isle of Gold book coverI have always been fascinated by stories of pirates. I literally took an entire college course on piracy in the Atlantic while completing my undergraduate degree. So, it’s hardly surprising that Seven Jane’s new novel, The Isle of Gold, captured my interest immediately. Relying heavily on sea myths to support the swashbuckling plot, it should have been right up my alley… but despite having so much to recommend it on paper, The Isle of Gold failed to dazzle—more fool’s gold than genuine treasure.

Merrin Smith is determined to pass herself off as a boy and join the crew of the Riptide, captained by the infamous and feared Erik Winters, who is searching for his lost lady love, Evangeline Dahl. Rumored to have been kidnapped a few years before by the sea herself, Evangeline has always held a surprising and inexplicable fascination for Merrin—as has the lure of a life at sea. Though she is successful in her ruse and finds a place among the crew, maintaining her disguise is trickier than Merrin originally anticipated, especially as she begins to develop feelings for one of her fellow crew members. But she’s more terrified of what Captain Winters and his quartermaster, Mister Dunn, will do to her if they discover the truth of her identity. Continue reading

Book Review – An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirSabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is one of the times I gave in to what a computer system’s algorithms suggest I read because of my affinity for young adult science fiction and fantasy. I didn’t have enough faith in those algorithms to shell out money and buy it, but since my library had a copy, I went ahead and borrowed it. In this instance, the algorithm’s calculations were correct. I thoroughly enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes and already have the second book in the series, A Torch Against the Night, checked out and ready to go.

Laia is a Scholar, the peoples who have been oppressed by the might of the Empire for centuries. But when Laia’s grandparents are killed and her brother captured, she finds herself helping the Resistance her parents helped found in exchange for assistance freeing her brother from Martial captivity. Elias is about to become a Mask, one of the deadliest of the Martials who maintain the Emperor’s realm and keep the Scholars in check. But he loathes the Empire he’s been trained from the age of six to defend and police. As the Emperor’s line comes to an end, a new one must be chosen to take his place bringing Laia and Elias’ paths closer and closer together. Continue reading

Book Review – Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie by Clare MackintoshAfter falling in love with Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go a few years ago, some of her other works have been chilling out on my massive To Read list. I tried to get a copy of Let Me Lie when it was first published earlier this year but I’m not the only one enjoying Mackintosh’s brand of psychological thriller. My number finally came up on the library’s wait list and Let Me Lie proved nearly as compelling as I Let You Go, so guess who’s going on the waitlist for her 2016 novel, I See You, right now…

While her remaining family, friends, and neighbors are all convinced that Anna Johnson’s parents’ tragic deaths were suicide, more than a year after her mother reportedly disappeared over a cliff, Anna isn’t so sure. Though she was never convinced that her father would take his own life, she was certain her mother would never follow suit after seeing what that first loss did to her. But the note she receives on the anniversary of her mother’s death pushes her enough to seek police help in reopening the investigation, believing her parents were actually murdered. And lucky for Anna, there’s a semi-retired detective who’s curious enough to start digging a little deeper. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Pretty much any book description that includes history and time travel is going to, at the very least, capture my interest. The description for Nicola Cornick’s upcoming novel, The Phantom Tree, did just that. Once I get past the description and start reading, I need there to be both compelling characters and a compelling story (the characters being just a little more important of the two). Once again, The Phantom Tree delivered and in some pretty big and surprising ways.

At first glance, Alison Bannister seems like many other modern women with careers and commitment issues. But when she stumbles across a Tudor-era portrait in a shop window, her past comes crashing back into her present in more than one way. Originally from the sixteenth century, Alison became trapped but has been searching for clues to a way back to the son she left behind—clues she hopes the portrait’s subject, Mary Seymour, left for her to find. Mary’s face isn’t the only one from her past she sees in the shop that day, however. Her ex, Adam (now a famous historian), is also there having discovered the painting and declared it to be of Anne Boleyn. Alison needs Adam’s help to get the answers she needs, and for her son, she is willing to brave the demons of her past in two centuries. Continue reading

Special Mini Q & A with Roshani Chokshi

I was lucky enough to have a chance to submit a few questions to Roshani Chokshi about her upcoming Star-Touched Stories, available on August 7, 2018.

Q: Perspective and looking at things from different angles play into many of your stories, especially Death and Night in this collection. How does perspective impact your approach to constructing narrative voice and/or narrative structure for your stories?

A: I love this! I am obsessed with the telling of tales. The process that makes things truly immortal. I think that perspective helps my narrative voice because it guides every theme.

Q: Your characters have such rich, emotional depth to them. Can you talk about how you approach character development, especially when the interpersonal relationship dynamics are so vital to the story?

A: Absolutely! And thank you! I think about character development as an exercise in empty spaces. What do they want? That’s their core, right? Their desire. But desire is a gap. It’s the space between absence and fulfillment. I write to that. And fill in the spaces and contours. At least, that’s how I think of it. When writing people in a group, it’s not their rough edges that link them, but their hollows. Like puzzle pieces.

Book Preview – Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Continuing with the characters and mythic, magical realism of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes, Roshani Chokshi’s newest release, Star-Touched Stories provides readers with three new stories exploring the universe and relationships she’s established. While some characters are familiar leads, we also get new depth to some who were more on the sidelines of the two novels. With two set after the conclusion on A Crown of Wishes, these stories also provide a glimpse of the future should the series continue (and I certainly hope it does).

The thematic tension between fear and faith is the thread that runs through all three tales. In Death and Night, the fear of a curse first drives Death to court Night and then threatens the relationship that starts to blossom between them. Poison and Gold follows Aasha’s journey navigating the mortal realm and the court of her close friends, Gauri and Vikram. When her fear puts those she loves in danger, she must master it or risk being banished from their inner circle. But as she masters the balance between being human and being a vishakanya, old fears are replaced with new ones. Lastly, Rose and Sword tells a tale of Gauri’s deepest fears about her relationship with Vikram. Continue reading

Book Review – The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen

Having first come to Laura Andersen’s work through her Boleyn King and sequel Tudor Legacy series, I was intrigued when I learned she had a new novel that broke from the alternative history genre. Add the fact that the description for The Darkling Bride involved both literary and murder mysteries and it promised to check a surprising number of boxes in terms of what I enjoy in a novel. As I found with her other works, The Darkling Bride took me a little while to become invested but Andersen’s skill with weaving a tight plot from threads that appear too loose to hold their structure ensured a satisfying showdown and resolution.

Carragh Ryan needs a break from dealing with her family as she works to renovate her late grandmother’s house in Dublin. Spending a few weeks cataloguing an old, large, and private library at an estate where power is faulty at best and a cell phone signal is non-existent seems like the perfect excuse to continue her avoidance. That the castle of Viscount Gallagher and his family also has ties to one of her favorite nineteenth century writers is the icing on the cake. But a twenty-year-old double murder cold case begins to thaw soon after she arrives and the Gallagher family’s dark past threatens to suck her in too. Continue reading

Book Review – A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

As much as I was looking forward to the release of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Frost and Starlight, I did everything I could to keep my hopes down, and I’m so glad I did. Occupying an odd and understandably uncomfortable space between a true novella and a novel, A Court of Frost and Starlight addresses few of the questions still up in the air at the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin, which is unsatisfying. But it was never the purpose of A Court of Frost and Starlight to answer those questions. What this book needed to accomplish was transitioning the main narrative focus of this series away from Feyre (and Rhysand) directly, to the new focus(es) of the series (or at least of the next full novel)—Nesta and Cassian. I thought it accomplished that emotional and narrative transition fairly well, though the implications for the series’ timeline have me scratching my head a bit.

It’s been several months since the war with Hybern ended and the rebuilding of Prythian is moving along at a seemingly glacial pace. But the approaching winter solstice promises to bring everyone together… along with many of the lingering emotional and practical issues they’ve been avoiding. Elain still avoids Lucien. Lucien still finds himself an uncomfortable fit in the Inner Circle and so splits his time in several different places. Nesta has withdrawn from just about everyone, which seems to be a key factor to Cassian’s own unsettled demeanor—though he won’t exactly speak about it. Feyre is eager to help everyone else heal before tending to her own needs. As she comes to realize how broken everyone and everything in Prythian still are, there are some things about her future she decides she doesn’t want to put off till things are more convenient; circumstances will never be convenient so there is only the now. Continue reading

Book Review – One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Though I wasn’t overly impressed with much of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, the ending had a twist compelling enough for me to want to continue with the series. In the second book, One Dark Throne, I found more of the opposite to be true. Far stronger in narrative, this novel ended with the obvious intent of continuing the series (and I’ve seen that there are more books planned), but it wrapped up the open threads satisfactorily enough that I feel no need to read more.

The three queens, Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine have officially started their battle for the throne. Gentle Mirabella seems to have accepted that she will need to fight and kill her sisters after all but when Arsinoe too seems reluctant to attack, it throws the island’s centuries-old traditions into doubt and the powerful foster families that have upheld those traditions into a scramble. Katharine is altered following her mysterious disappearance and return. She is more reckless and more blood-thirsty than she had been, her determination to best her sisters going beyond a drive to survive. Continue reading

Book Review – Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini

I believe the first I heard of Ada Lovelace was from one of my college roommates taking a Women in Mathematics class. Years later, I learned the full extent of her influence on mathematics and early computer science, as well as the fact that she was Lord Byron’s daughter. When I read the description for Jennifer Chiaverini’s Enchantress of Numbers, I was excited to get a more tangible portrait of such a significant woman in STEM than I’d been able to find from simple, factual research (the humanizing of historic figures one of the reasons I adore historical fiction). However, Chiaverini’s approach to Ada Lovelace and the story of her life wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. It’s not badly written, but it did fail to resonate with me and often left me unexpectedly bored.

Enchantress of Numbers is told by Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace in the first person but is narrated by her as an adult and (unknowingly) near the end of her life. Yet it begins with a lengthy examination of how her parents met, married, and how that marriage fell apart. From there, it progresses chronologically through all but the very end of Ada’s life. It’s written as though it could be a memoir and it often felt more like a memoir than a novel. It also tended to feel more like a book about Lord Byron’s legacy and failed marriage than about his daughter. While I don’t doubt that coming to terms with her absent, famous father and the way it impacted how her mother raised her were crucial in how Ada Lovelace grew up and her personal sense of identity, it made the book (and Ada’s life) feel like it was all about her parents and not really about her at all. Just as she seems to reconcile the two influences in her life, the novel (and shortly thereafter, her life) ends. Continue reading

Book Review – The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Having loved The Bear and the Nightingale, I hoped that Katherine Arden’s sequel, The Girl in the Tower, would be the first book I previewed in 2018 but when the publication date was pushed up to early December instead of its original January release date, I simply didn’t have time to finish it and write a review before published. So instead, it is my first book review of 2018 and hopefully, will get me back onto a weekly (or possibly biweekly) book review schedule. Either way, in terms of material, The Girl in the Tower is a fantastic way to start 2018. Though sequels can be tricky, Arden’s follow up to The Bear and the Nightingale was everything I could have hoped and establishes a firm footing for the rest of this trilogy.

With her father and stepmother dead under mysterious circumstances and her village still reeling from the supernatural battle fought under their unsuspecting noses, Vasya has few options. Unwilling to submit to the choices offered by her family and society, Vasya flees and disguises herself as a boy in order to live the life she yearns to have. As her path takes her back into the lives of her beloved brother, Sasha, serving the Grand Prince, and her married sister, Olga, awaiting the birth of her third child, Vasya’s disguise comes under closer scrutiny with dangerous consequences if the truth of her identity should be discovered. Continue reading

Book Review – King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Unlike the wait I went through between reading Red Queen and Glass Sword, there was less than a week between when I finished Glass Sword and when I started King’s Cage. One of the aspects of the series I’ve been enjoying most so far has been the way each novel ends with a complete change in circumstances from the previous story. The characters are the same in many ways but their relationships with one another and their senses of self shift dramatically. Even when the plot misses, falls into predictability, or struggles against the limitations of first-person narrative perspective, the character studies at the heart of the series carry it forward with tremendous purpose.

Glass Sword ended with Mare agreeing to go with Maven in exchange for him letting Cal and the rest of their team go free. Picking up where the previous novel left off, King’s Cage sees Mare as a veritable slave in Maven’s palace. With constant guards and silent stone suppressing her powers, she struggles to make it through each day. But Maven’s mind and emotions have lingering scars from his mother’s manipulations and he can’t keep away from Mare as he wrestles with his feelings for her. She does what she can to manipulate him right back, hoping for the day he lets something slip and praying for the day the Red Guard and her friends will break her free if she can’t contrive to escape sooner. Continue reading

Book Review – The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

It’s difficult to find a balance between reading only what pleases you and stretching your horizons from time to time. I like to try to be open minded and read a bit of everything but there are definitely certain genres that I avoid because I just don’t find them to my tastes personally. Not one to turn away free books, I accepted an offer to read Amanda Prowse’s recent release, The Art of Hiding, even though it falls into a subgenre of “women’s lit” that I usually avoid. While it is an incredible example of that genre and certainly addresses valuable themes related to personal identity and self-worth, it speaks to those themes with a heavy handedness I personally find annoying and distracting.

Nina and her husband, Finn, are well off and their sons go to a prestigious school, but she has never forgotten what it was like growing up in a very different environment. When her husband dies suddenly in a car accident, Nina’s world is turned upside down, but for more reasons than just losing the man she loved and her children their father. She learns that they were in fact, greatly in debt—bankrupt, actually—and it feels like the blows fall relentlessly in the immediate aftermath of that emotional toll. Nina must confront her relationship with her past while negotiating single-parenthood and the reevaluation of everything she thought she knew about her husband and their marriage. Continue reading

Book Review – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Given how Red Queen ended, I was eager to start the second book in the series, Glass Sword. While there were more rough spots in Book Two, it expanded the fictional universe in interesting ways that continued to feed my enthusiasm for the series (Book Three is ready and waiting for me right now). The character studies that develop in this second book also add to the depth of Aveyard’s world and make up for most of the weaknesses in plot or execution that arise.

Mare Barrow and the fallen Prince Cal survived and escaped what were supposed to be their executions. The Red Guard help them to get further away from the newly crowned king’s clutches but both must deal with the betrayals they have suffered at Maven’s hands—and at each other’s. The plan Mare devises for challenging Maven—and distracting herself from all that she’s done to the people around her—is to find, recruit, and train the other “Newbloods” that were on Julian’s list before Maven can find and kill them—or worse. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

If there’s a subgenre of historic fiction that I find difficult to turn down, it’s historic fiction set during the American Civil War. There were so many factors at play with consequences rippling through so many groups of people in so many places and so many ways that I don’t think we’ll ever run out of stories to tell about that period of American history. The sheer size and scope of it also makes it difficult to tackle in a novel and trying to engage with too many angles of it at once can be a mistake. There is so much in Daren Wang’s The Hidden Light of Northern Fires that is done well, but I found the novel as a whole to be underwhelming and I think that this is the culprit—plots with great promise that went underdeveloped because there were simply too many of them.

The town of Town Line in New York is near Buffalo but along the border with Canada. This means that the town is home to many slave hunters who make a living catching escaped slaves when they’re just steps away from freedom. But not everyone in town looks fondly on the practice, least of all Mary Willis whose father essentially founded the town and whose sawmill built most of it as well. When an escaped man called Joe turns up in their barn half dead, she calls on the doctor and helps to first heal then conceal the man from the men who would capture Joe and return him south. Tensions in the town rise when the war begins as many young men head off to fight for the Union where others have ties to the Confederacy. Continue reading

Book Preview – How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Sometimes the impression you get from a book’s description is the right one and sometimes it’s the wrong one. Sometimes when that impression is wrong, you find you enjoy the book just the same and sometimes you don’t—or at least, you don’t enjoy it as much as you might have if it was closer to what you were expecting. The soon-to-be-released How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas wasn’t as close to the description as I might’ve hoped. There were elements and themes I definitely found relatable, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed the novel as a whole; of course, I can’t say that I hated it either. I just found myself incredibly indifferent over all.

Isidore Mazal is the youngest in his family. With three older sisters and two older brothers, all incredibly intelligent and blindly dedicated to their studies and academic pursuits, Isidore is the only one of his siblings who seems to be able to connect with people outside the family with relative ease. His siblings often baffle him as much as he appears to baffle them. As major changes alter the dynamics of the family, Isidore searches for ways to connect with the members of his family. Continue reading

Book Review – Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

As is often the case—especially with fantasy—it was the premise that caught my attention and made me want to read Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns (okay, the cover too; young adult fiction really has some of the most alluring cover design). Actually reading the novel was an unexpected rollercoaster that definitely requires additional explanation, but I ultimately enjoyed the story and characters enough to be looking forward to the novel’s upcoming sequel… however nervous I am about the way that narrative will be presented.

It is the will of the Goddess that Fennbirn’s queen always gives birth to triplets and that those three girls are then raised by prominent families of the separate magical factions on the island, each according to the talent gifted her by the Goddess at birth. When the young queens reach the age of sixteen they begin a fight to the death with the last one alive claiming Fennbirn’s throne with her queen consort from the mainland at her side until the next trio of queens is born. The beginning of the Ascension year is approaching and the three queens—Katharine, a poisoner, Mirabella, an elemental, and Arsinoe, a naturalist—are preparing to fight for the throne and their lives. Despite the dominance of the poisoner queens over the last century, Katharine’s gift hasn’t strengthened as much as the Arrons would like. Rumor has it Mirabella is more powerful than any queen in recent decades and the Temple’s priestesses are already backing her. Only Arsinoe’s friends hold out any hope that her gift will show itself in time for her to put up any kind of fight against her sisters. Continue reading

Book Review – Lost Boy by Christina Henry

It’s an established fact that I’m a sucker for retellings and re-imaginings of fairy tales and other children’s stories. Peter Pan is among my favorites to see in new ways (which means I really need to get through Barrie’s Peter Pan at some point). There have been quite a few dark interpretations of the Peter character—among my favorite is Brom’s The Child Thief—but many of the re-imaginings I’ve read don’t pay a lot of attention to the character of Captain Hook and how and why the antagonism between he and Peter exists. Christina Henry’s new release Lost Boy is all about the lost boy who became Captain Hook.

There had to be a first and in Henry’s novel, the first boy Peter brought to the island as a playmate was Jamie. It’s been several hundred years since that day and Jamie’s memories of it are fuzzy but he’s one of the few boys on the island that’s lasted. But two of the latest boys Peter brought trigger major changes among the group of lost boys. Charlie is much younger than the others and Jamie feels a desperate need to protect him from the harsh realities of Peter’s sometimes-deadly games. Nip, meanwhile, means to supplant Jamie as Peter’s right hand and favorite. As jealousies grow and become increasingly violent, the bonds between Jamie and Peter slip. Jamie sees more of the truth about Peter and he begins to grow up, the magic of the island keeping the boys’ bodies as young as their hearts and spirits. Continue reading