I 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 →
Sabaa 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 →
After 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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
While I don’t quite remember what it was about the description of Siobhan Fallon’s upcoming The Confusion of Languages that caught my attention, I do know that my initial impressions while reading it were that this wasn’t the story I’d been expecting. In the case of The Confusion of Languages, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all (especially since I can’t remember what it was I was expecting). On the contrary, I found the novel to be a fascinating character study of two American women living abroad and the unusual nature of their friendship.
Cassie is an experienced embassy wife. She and her husband, Dan, have been living in Jordan, the site of his latest posting, for a while and decide it’s about time they sponsor a few newcomers to the extended embassy family. Margaret and Cassie’s friendship appears to be on solid ground when a small fender-bender requires Margaret go to the police station to deal with the authorities. Cassie is left to babysit Margaret’s toddler son, Mather but as the day wears on, Cassie can’t get in touch with Margaret and the recent cracks in their friendship begin to come to light as Cassie passes the time reading Margaret’s diary and recalling her own impression of those early days. Continue reading →
I moved immediately into A Court of Wings and Ruin on the heels of finishing A Court of Mist and Fury; the ending of the second book in Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series demanded it. And while the characters, their relationships, the themes, and the content are all as compelling as the first two novels in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin suffers tremendously in pacing and organization, leaving this initial trilogy arc with a satisfying if roughly executed conclusion.
Feyre begins the novel back at Tamlin’s Spring Court pretending that her relationship with Rhys was all a delusion he’d forced on her and that she had really been in love with Tamlin all along. Not everyone buys Feyre’s cover though. When Feyre’s sisters were forced into the Cauldron and turned fae, Lucien felt the deep pull of a mating bond with Elain. Unable to escape his concern and curiosity for her, he keeps a close eye of Feyre, which feeds into her own plans for undermining Tamlin’s hold over his Court and accumulating knowledge about the Hybern forces. From the crumbling Spring Court, Feyre eventually rejoins her mate and family at the Night Court where their preparations for the coming war with Hybern are well under way. Her sisters are adjusting to fae life with varying degrees of success; allies are few and far between; and any possible alliance between the Courts of Prythian will be fragile and tenuous at best. But war is coming and they must do what they can in the face of annihilation. Continue reading →
In the current political climate, I’ve been drawn to novels tied to relevant subjects, no matter how loosely tied. Because of this, the description for Lisa Ko’s The Leaversdrew my attention and interest. Though the core of the novel revolves around the personal natures and relationships of the main characters, the circumstances that serve as a backdrop for these characters do a fantastic job of subtly highlighting the intricacies of the United States’ immigration system and many injustices that stem from it.
For more than a decade Daniel Wilkinson knew nothing about his birth mother’s disappearance. One day she had been with him, talking about possibly moving to Florida, and another she never came home from work. But then an old friend from his childhood contacts him out of the blue with a clue to start him on the path towards finding her again and learning the truth about why she’d left him. Continue reading →
After finishing A Court of Thorns and Roses, I immediately put myself on the waitlist for the second novel in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury. But waiting for a copy through the library became too tedious so I caved and bought a copy instead and have rarely been happier with the decision (I went ahead and bought the third novel, A Court of Wings and Ruin before finishing the second so the review for that book won’t be too far behind this one). Though A Court of Thorns and Roses is a wonderful well-contained novel in its own right, A Court of Mist and Fury expands on Sarah J. Maas’ universe beautifully, taking the foundational elements of the first novel and building the characters, their back stories, and their relationships with incredible skill and detail. The trauma of the first novel’s final act is central to where the characters find themselves at the start of this second book and its harsh realities force a new perspective onto everything and everyone.
Though months have passed since Feyre’s trials Under the Mountain and having been remade as High Fae, Feyre still has stomach churning nightmares and her life at the Spring Court hasn’t been as restorative as she might have hoped. So far the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, hasn’t bothered her or Tamlin regarding the bargain she made with him during her trials, but with her wedding to Tamlin approaching and Tamlin clearly worried with diplomatic matters he’s not telling her about, Feyre continues to stall in moving past her trauma. When Rhysand finally calls in his half of the bargain she struck, Feyre’s time away from Tamlin and the Spring Court help to open her eyes to how much she has changed since her human days Under the Mountain. Perhaps the love she gave her human life for isn’t enough for her fae life. Continue reading →
I like to think I’m a big science fiction fan but I tend to favor what’s probably better considered to be light science fiction. The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett is precisely the kind of light science fiction that I love. While it delves into the science and philosophy of a potential future for human kind—and how we might easily become almost entirely wiped out as a species—the real focus of the novel is the emotional side, the personal side, the human side that remains and endeavors to survive against all odds.
Jamie, like the entire human population scattered across the inhabited planets, has been at the mercy of a devastating virus that spreads quickly and leaves nothing but dust in its wake… except for those zero point zero zero zero zero one percent who somehow manage to survive and recover. The planet where she’s been living and working for a few months to hide from some personal (relationship) troubles is on the outskirts though and didn’t have a large population to begin with. Jamie’s panic lasts a few days as she makes her way to a port town and tries to send a signal to see if there are any other survivors out there. She doesn’t have to wait long and soon she has joined several others on their way to the capital planets and eventually back to Earth itself. But as survivors gather in larger and larger numbers, the underlying issues of the society that’s been wiped out prove to have survived the virus along with them. Continue reading →
Usually when I find new books to read it’s through recommendations or hearing something about them first. In this case, I moved by complete and total impulse. I saw the cover while I was shopping and it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Night Circus, so I copied down the title and looked it up when I got home. The premise sounded intriguing enough and I’ve been on a streak of young adult aimed novels that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed so I went ahead and read it. While it has its moments, Caraval doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of its premise and leans too heavily into melodrama for my personal tastes.
For years, Scarlett had hoped that she and her sister might be invited to the magical Caraval game her grandmother had told them stories about that is held every year. But as she got older, Scarlett realized it was far more important to get married so she could leave her abusive father behind and take her sister, Donatella, to safety with her. Shortly before her nuptials (to a man of her father’s choosing and whom she has never met) she receives the long desired invitation to Caraval. It’s dangerous to go but Donatella won’t let Scarlett say ‘no’ and once they arrive on the island where Caraval takes place (with a little help) it turns out that the game the Caraval Master, Legend, has in mind is a more personal one for Scarlett. Donatella is kidnapped before they’ve even been there a full day and clues have been left behind for Scarlett and the other Caraval players to puzzle out in order to find Donatella and win Legend’s prize of a wish. But not everyone involved in Caraval is who they seem; magic and lies bend expectations and mislead and it’s up to the players not to get carried away by the game they’re playing. Continue reading →
Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series is one I’ve had recommended to me several times but having read some young adult targeted series that were only okay or completely disappointing, I had put it off. Having crawled out of that disappointing streak, I finally put the first book on my library request list and then had to wait forever for it to become available but I’m happy to find that my search for compelling young adult fantasy-ish series is over for a while as I have a few books to catch up on in this series (and from everything I’ve heard, the second and third novels are just as engaging as the first but I’m looking forward to finding out first hand). Aveyard’s fantasy world wherein social and political strata have long been established and maintained based on blood and ability as well as the best means for bringing about change to such a system all speak to the political and social turmoil in the world today—in some chilling ways.
Mare Barrow is a Red pickpocket doing everything she can to help her family get by while her conscripted brothers are away fighting their Silver king’s war but her days are numbered as she reaches the age of conscription herself and her prospects for exemption remain nonexistent. When an unusual encounter lands Mare with a job at the palace and exemption from conscription, she thinks she might finally have found a way to protect at least some of her family. But an accident on her first day reveals Mare to be something neither Reds nor Silvers knew existed—a Red with the abilities of a Silver. Eager to protect the established hierarchy and perhaps appease disgruntled Reds and the growing threat posed by the radical Scarlet Guard, the royal family covers up the truth and presents Mare as a lost Silver restored to her kind and keeps her close. But Mare still bleeds Red and she doesn’t plan to let the royal family rewrite her truth so easily. Continue reading →
For all the atrocities of foreign wars that take place on the front lines and in the nations where the battles are being fought, there are often atrocities that happen back home; atrocities that get swept under the rug of history or dismissed as unimportant in the larger scheme of things. One such atrocity that is coming to light more in recent years—thanks in part to recent political moves that echo the problematic themes of this atrocity—is the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. Until reading Leslie Shimotakahara’s recent novel, After the Bloom which is in part inspired by her own family’s history in the American internment camps, I had no idea that camps like that were established in parts of Canada too. What her novel brings to life so importantly is that these camps had lasting effects at all levels—the individual, the family, and the community.
Rita knew her mother, Lily, had spent time during the war in an internment camp in California but since her mother never really spoke about it, Rita knows very little about that period of her mother’s life. It’s clear that it might be linked to the ways her mother can become ‘confused’ but Rita has more pressing things to worry about in the wake of her recent divorce and subsequent move. That is, until her mother goes missing. The police investigate but with no evidence of foul play, there isn’t much they can do. Rita takes it upon herself to look into why her mother might have left and where she might have gone. The more questions she asks, the more the answers seem to center around an incident that happened at the internment camp. Continue reading →