Curie

Curie (Adaline #3)
by Denise Kawaii

In the past few days, I’ve told you about how addicted I’ve become to the Adaline series. Hooked from the first page of book one, it took me all of four days to devour these three books. Curie is the best of the series so far, and boy was I lucky to have an advance copy! Especially after how Biocide ended. If you’re not already into this series, pick it up now. And best buy all three books at once so you’re ready when you hit those cliffhangers!

Summary41590909

When 62 emerges from Adaline, he thinks his troubles are over. But will he be accepted by his rescuers?

The moment Boy 1124562 is rescued from Adaline, he’s thrust into a strange new world. It’s a land of off-grid outlaws, irradiated desert and a new species: Women. As 62 navigates the matriarchal society that’s dying out just beyond Adaline’s borders, he discovers an unsettling truth. The outside world is not the peaceful safe-haven of his dreams. 

There’s a second cloning program, a war-torn town, and a mysterious enemy lurking beyond the horizon. Is it harder to hide within the confines of a mechanized society, or to weather the storms brought by politics, a poisoned environment and Mother Nature? 62 is about to find out.

Musings

Spoilers here on out for the first two books!

At the end of Biocide, 62 and a handful of other abnormals are rescued by Blue and led to the outside world. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, 62 can finally discover the world he had only seen through dreams – but now, he can never go back. Those who leave Adaline can never return, would be shot if ever seen on a patrol. The book picks right up as 62 leaves his old life behind and embraces life on the outside.

Curie answers so many questions we’ve been asking since book one, namely – why? Why does Adaline grow boys? What happened to the outside world? Where are all the women? Why can’t they dream? (I loved the answer to this one. It made so much sense that it turned my suspension of disbelief into pure, grounded contentment. I mean – of course that’s why.)

The outside world isn’t an easy one like Adaline. it involves work, hardship, disagreement. But all the while, 62 is still this eager child we’ve grown to love. He is so thrilled to discover grass – making some pretty silly mistakes in the process. He’s confused by meeting girls or trying to understand how to eat. Discovering snow leads to a hilarious segment which I laughed for ages. Watching him discover what we take for granted had me grinning as I read.

We have new answers, but also new questions. Namely, who are the Yousa? And why are their demands so particular? Through ancient books and new friends, 62 pieces together the world’s past and tries to make sense of his place in it. While dreaming isn’t exactly prohibited, it’s seen as an oddity, like walking around with three arms. It’s not safe to be different, and 62 once again struggles to fit in.

In my mind, Adaline and Biocide could have been a single book. Curie turns the series so on its head that it can be seen as a turning point in Adaline. It’s so different: we can see it as an almost apocalyptic novel, with people struggling to build a culture, to get along, to find out which resources are valued the most. Having a child in such an adult world brought this sharp contrast between innocence and decay.

I need book four RIGHT NOW. The ending left me with so many questions – I shouldn’t have read the preview because there are even more! Whatever am I going to do in the meantime?

Expected publication: September 21st 2018 by Denise Kawaii

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Biocide

Biocide (Adaline #2)
by Denise Kawaii

I probably shouldn’t have waited a week to write this review: I have Curie, book #3, swimming in my head as well and I have so much to say! But Biocide is a turning point in the series and I just have to tell you about it. If this review had a subtitle, it would be “why you should be reading the Adaline series and why I won’t shut up about it.” Here we go for book number two, Biocide!

Summary

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Will 62 use his abilities to protect himself, or save his friends? He can’t do both.

1124562 has found a way to blend in. When he gets an upgraded data chip, giving Adaline the statistics it expects, he’s rewarded with more freedom than he’s ever had before.

But 62 soon discovers he’s not the only one enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Hiding in a secret passageway is a Boy with blue eyes, no number, and the keys to a conspiracy that can never be brought to the surface.

When 62’s life is threatened by his keepers, he’s forced to make a fatal decision. Use his abilities to help Adaline purify its ranks, or sacrifice himself to save his new friend. Just when it seems his choice has been made for him, a secret comes to light that makes him question everything he’s ever known.

Musings

While Adaline, the first book, focused on 62’s awakening (ironically, as his revelations come to him in his sleep), Biocide focuses on his disillusionment. 62 is still the adorable, innocent little kid we know and love: he lives to please, is desperate to fit in. His ability to dream might free him of the boredom of his monotonous life, but it also sets him apart in a way that the very regulated system of Adaline is not equipped to deal with. Well, they do have one final way to deal with anomalies like him: biocide. The act of eliminating that which does not conform. Permanently.

62, however, in his pure innocence, can’t imagine something like that in his world. He’s now moved to the physical training portion of his childhood, where they make sure the boys are physically fit and ready to integrate the workforce. But physical exercise will change the readings on his chip, the ones monitored by the machines: the secret patch he and 42 put in place will no longer hold. 62 is in danger again.

But this time, instead of keeping his head down, 62 is learning a new skill: that of saying no. That of talking back. That of thinking for himself. But this, of course, puts not only him, but his friends in danger as well: his teacher, the doctor, and a new, fresh face with bright blue eyes that shouldn’t exist. 62 is beginning to question his existence. Unlike in the first book where he believed fitting in would solve everything, his beginning to ask why he needs to be the same as everyone else.

Many questions are finally addressed, though the answers are cryptic: is there an outside world still out there? Are other people in Adaline capable of dreaming, and if so, where are they all? Is Adaline really all there is out there?

At times I found this book a little slower than the first, but it was still an incredibly fast read. It took me a day to finish it, the same way I have been devouring this entire series. It’s simply brilliant. What is a familiar scifi trope becomes an exploration of what makes us human, and is relatable on so many levels. The author displays incredible skill in crafting her characters, making Blue lovable from the first time we meet him.

I love these boys. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire last chapter, and I really can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to pick Curie up immediately after finishing Biocide! I don’t think I could have waited with a cliffhanger like that!

Wild Hearts: The Coming Night

by Andrew Wichland

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The blurb was exciting, the cover absolutely gorgeous, making it look out of this world, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Was it going to be an alien story, a human story, or both? Wild Hearts: The Coming Night is a fun, action-packed novel with excitement and friendship to last a lifetime. If you love aliens and teenage heroes, you’re going to love this book!

Summary40740761

Ian Dragan can still remember life before the Wraiths came. Now, the spectral aliens have laid waste to the galaxy, consuming every planet in their path. Next in line is Dragan’s homeworld: Centauries IV.

The remnants of the intergalactic alliance have placed their hope in the latest brainchild of  Shurgal: the Cybersuit, a shifting experimental battlesuit bristling with weaponry. On the front lines of his home, Dragan stands alongside this metal warrior, ready to fight and die. But he did not anticipate Overlord Kizor. A Wraith of terrible power, Kizor turns the Cybersuit upon its allies, and Dragan finds himself leading a handful of survivors off-world, memories of his burning planet fresh in his mind. Things go from bad to worse when the slip gate—their only avenue of escape—sends his ship hurtling into the distant past. 

Now, stranded on a familiar planet known as Earth, Dragan and his warriors wait for revenge. After a long wait to the present Ian can’t contact their or their allies last surviving military fleet when Earth is discovered, or the Wraiths will crash down onto Earth like a Tsunami. But when Shurgal crash-lands, bringing more Cybersuits hurtling to the planet’s surface, five Earth teenagers will stumble upon them and find themselves drawn into the conflict: the Wild Hearts. 

An exciting science fiction adventure about, survival, friendship, and courage.

Musings

I really enjoyed the premise of this novel: the idea that human teenagers can take a strong role in an intergalactic war is one of my favorite tropes out there. I love everything about rag-tag teams learning their skills, bonding together, and saving the universe.

The stand out aspect of this novel is the characters Wichland creates. Blair, a wheelchair-bound orphan struggling with the foster system, is a badass, stubborn fighter and the girl I related to most. Aisha is a blind Muslim girl, and my absolute favorite character: she’s strong, smart, and wicked fast. Before Aisha, Blair, Alec, and Hunter find the Cybersuits, they’re like the characters from the Breakfast club, on their way home from detention; after, they bond and form an incredible team that can take on anything.

I also loved the concept of the Cybersuits. More powerful than an exoskeleton, they now allow Blair to walk and Aisha to see, but can change ‘modes’ based on what DNA they’re given: for example, they can take on the sharp claws and brute strength of a Tiger, if it comes in contact with one. The team must learn to use the suits in order to take on the greatest threat the galaxy has ever seen: the Wraiths. Capable of possessing any living being, they’ve almost decimated the Centauri civilization and are hell-bent on taking over the earth as well. Only the teenagers stand in their way.

A few things irked me in this book, though, and a lot was hard to follow, especially in the beginning. The Centauri might have been sent into the distant past, but the author doesn’t do much with that: all the character growth seemed to have happened in the last quarter century (characters falling in love, loss, etc) so I don’t understand what they were doing with all five thousand years of their hiding on earth. Five thousand years is enough to build a civilization, fall in and out of love with a dozen characters. It’s an insanely long amount of time.

The perspectives switch between Ian (the Centauri leader) and Alec (the leader of the teens), which was a fun way to see the entire action. However, I had a lot of trouble connecting with both POV characters. Ian’s backstory, for example: he marries Terra (in the 1990s) and then she disappears – all within the course of two lines. So when Ian struggles with her loss in the book, we as a reader have a hard time believing it.  He drinks to forget a character we know absolutely nothing about.

The hard time I had connecting with Alec came from how much more interesting the characters around him were. Alec is the leader – but I have a hard time figuring out why. Blair and Aisha have must more backstory and growth than Alec or Hunter, which makes me wish badass Aisha was the leader.

I believe the book could have been fleshed out a whole lot more, answering our questions, developing the human backstory, giving us a reason as a reader to fall in love with these characters: something Wichland does perfectly with Aisha and Blair. I want to know why Terra was the love of Ian’s life to connect with him better.

Even so, I’m excited for the next book. I want to read what happens next! The friendship between the characters was fantastic, the action was fun to read, and the villains despicable. It played out in my head like the Power Rangers! Let’s see what happens next to these Wild Hearts!

Adaline

Adaline (Adaline #1)
by Denise Kawaii

You may have noticed I haven’t written much on this blog lately. Well, with everything going on – new job, a surprise trip to Asia, a book spilling out of me – I’ve also hit a reading slump. Well, that slump came to an end two days ago when I picked up Adaline and couldn’t put it down. I’m hooked on this series and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Summary 33618848.jpg

He may look identical to the hundreds of other Boys that surround him, but there is something different about Boy 1124562. When he closes his eyes in the quiet of his sensor-filled cube his mind doesn’t go blank like the rest of his brothers. Instead, 1124562 dreams.

With the help of a rogue teacher, 1124562 discovers that there is more to Adaline than brushed steel and robotic Nurses. When a Boy suddenly escapes the secure pod, it seems that all of Adaline is on a hunt for anyone with an anomaly. When 1124562 finds himself strapped to a table, the threat of an electric current pressed against his temples to erase his mind, he realizes just how dangerous being different can be.

Musings

Adaline is a society of identical clones, living like bees in a hive. Everyone is numbered according to when they were born. They are birthed, raised, and cared for by machines,  who weed out any ‘anomalies or signs of individuality that would somehow threaten Adaline – which is anything that exists outside their parameters, be it eye color or even the ability to dream.

The plot might sound familiar, as it’s the premise of quite a few scifi series: what happens if the human race was grown and raised in a pristine environment? But there’s something special about Adaline that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that makes it impossible to put down. And while I’m not sure exactly what it was that made this book so addictive, what I do know is that I picked it up while my computer was rebooting and ended up forgetting about my responsibilities entirely for the two hours it took me to read it cover to cover. Yes, it’s that addictive.

Adaline is an incredibly easy read. By that, I don’t mean it’s a simple story, no: it’s just so easy to get sucked into it. It’s a book you can enjoy as a pre-teen as well as an adult, because the fundamental story is something that we all need to read.

Boy 1124562 – 62 to his friends – is a sweetheart and a joy to follow even in his rigid society: him, and the other Boys he befriends, are each so vibrant and loveable. I loved getting to learn about the confines of Adaline through his eyes, and discovering what it is to dream. It’s so interesting to see the power of dreaming in a world as totalitarian as his.

62 is only a nine year old when the story begins. All he wants to be is a Good Boy, like he’s been told for the entirety of his life. Unlike so many books where the character actively rebels against a rigid system, 62 is a child, wanting only to please, terrified when he can’t. When he starts standing out, he’s both excited and terrified. He’s such an innocent and pure child, and like everyone, is afraid of being different – though in his world, he’s not quite sure how dangerous different can be.

So when everyone is born the same, can people still have their own personality? Is everyone identical in every single way? The novel is short, but it covers so much. It explores friendships and mentorships, like the beautiful relationship 62 grows with his teacher, 71, and reminded me how much I owe to the teachers in my life. Or between 62 and 99, two identical children, born so close to each other, struggling with standing out.

All in all, I don’t know why it grabbed me as tightly as it did, but I needed the sequel right away. I flew through Biocide and Curie, and I cannot wait for book 4. What an amazing book! If you liked Logan’s Run, Brave New World, and the Giver, you’re going to love Adaline. Trust me, you’re going to fly through it too.

Note: Reading some reviews of Adaline, people commented on how it needed editing, that the language was too ‘heavy’ and a little stale. Since I’m reading the most recent version, I think the author took all of these comments to heart and fixed all these issues, even going beyond and making it lyrical and fun to read. I didn’t find a single grammatical issue or missing word. 

Star-Touched Stories Blog Tour and author Q&A!

If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen and Crown of Wishes books, then you know why I’m enamored with her writing. Beautiful, lyrical prose and engrossing tales that leave you begging for more: she is a modern master storyteller. So when I heard that she was coming out with a series of short stories, I was ecstatic. And I was blown away.

About the stories

Star Touched Stories_cover image.jpgDeath and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Gauri and Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she will have to battle her insecurities and maybe, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Musings

Each story may be self-contained, but you should read her books in order to fully appreciate them. Death and Night is the prequel for the main characters in The Star-Touched Queen. Poison and Gold is a spin-off at the end of Crown of Wishes, following Aasha. And Rose and Sword is the epilogue of Crown of Wishes, spanning decades in a single story. That last one shattered my heart for all the right reasons, and I feel tears coming on as I think about it again.

I loved the chemistry between Night and Death in the first story. Their courtship was actually really cute, while being worthy of an epic. Seeing how their love blossomed, and how their relationships with their friends affected them even before Star-Touched Queen was a great touch. I think, of the bunch, this is the one story that will fill you with love and hope.

Now that Aasha is living with Guari and Vikram after the events of Crown of Wishes, as they prepare to marry and unite their two kingdoms, she is scared that her powers are out of control. She’s deadly and afraid of her own self. But when she is offered the chance to become their spy mistress, it’s an opportunity to find her place in this human world. I loved her training: it’s my favorite part of fantasy tales, to be honest. Seeing characters faced with seemingly impossible scenarios and then using their skills to get out.

As for the last tales, I won’t spoil a thing. It was the shortest of the lot, but the most passionate. It shows me just how powerful Chokshi’s writing can be, on top of beautiful. I’m in awe!

About the author

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

A Q&A with Roshana Chokshi

Roshani Chokshi CREDIT Aman Sharma.jpg

What was your favorite bed-time story (or tale in general) when you were growing up?

The one that stands out the most that terrified the living daylights out of me was TAILY-PO, an Appalachian horror story that for some reason is told to small children.

Of all the terrifying and bone-chilling characters in your books, which one scares you the most?

Probably the antagonists of A Crown of Wishes because they’re the result of what happens when you cannot let go.

Out of all the characters in your novels, which one did you have the most fun writing about and who do you relate to the most personally? What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

In the world of the Star – Touched Queen, I think the one who I related to the most was also the one that I had the most fun writing: Kamala! There’s just something about the demon horse that resonated a lot with me. I think it’s because she does everything that I would do in a fantasy story, which frantically derails the plot and whine to her friends about how hungry she is all the time.

What inspired you to create this fictional world? Were there anyRomo mythologies that particularly inspired you?

I was really inspired by the childhood stories that my grandmother told me. To me, they were so rich with details and texture that it really shocked me how these worlds and mythologies were never explored in mainstream literature. I was particularly inspired by Greek and Hindu mythology.

Why did you feel it was important to add Star-Touched Stories to this world you’ve created? What do you want readers to gain from the stories? Do you think there are any more stories to tell from the Star-Touched world, and if so, who you most like to write about next?

For me, this collection of stories is my farewell to the world that I created. It was extremely cathartic to write these three stories. I want readers to gain a sense of closure. I want readers to feel as much as I did when I with the stories. Who can say whether or not there are more stories left to tell in this world? 😉

Will you miss writing this world and characters?

Absolutely! They lived in my head for so long that I feel strangely weightless to be without them.

What was your favorite scene to write from Star-Touched Stories, and what was your favorite scene to write from the whole series?

Honestly, my favorite scene that I wrote was the last scene the last story. I think you’ll see why. As for my favorite scene that I wrote from the whole series, I think it would have to be the moment when Maya first enters the Night Bazaar.

Is there a scene or character from one of your stories that you’ve had to cut which you really wish you could share with readers?

There once was a speaking monkey character… But I had to let go of him. Maybe he’ll reappear some other time.

How is writing short stories different than writing a full-length book? How different is it to write YA and MG? How has your writing evolved?

Writing short stories is really different from writing a full-length book because you’re ultimately writing to a punchline in a shorter amount of space. There is less space to explore so the language must be very deliberate. I think my writing has evolved to become a lot more character focused than I once was. I still love gorgeous, decadent prose, but I believe that the best kind of language is that which is emotionally filtered through the feelings of a character.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring writers?

Read often. I realize that sounds trite, but so many people retread the same path with stories out of comfort or nostalgia. I totally understand this and I’m one of those people who loves to reread my favorite books but I never found a sense of my own writing voice or writing style without reading a wide variety of works.

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The Cover for SALT FOR AIR is here – and it’s EVERYTHING

Ok, so I don’t even know how to start this post. I’m just so excited that I keep tripping over my own words! This is probably one of the most hyped for a cover reveal that I’ve ever been. Weeks I’ve been waiting for this day – maybe even months! – and it’s finally here and better than I ever could have expected!

Are you ready?

Three, Two… One….

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Isn’t it absolutely gorgeous? M.C. Frank has done it again! The only thing that can make me more excited is if I could read it right now.

Oh, wait, no she did not –

She did. First chapters are online, RIGHT NOW. Holy cow! This day couldn’t get any better!

So before I go off and swing my arms in a ridiculous happy dance in the corner, let me tell you all the other awesome things the author has revealed today. For starters, the release date is October 23rd. And in the meantime, there’s an awesome giveaway going on, on M.C. Frank’s instagram!

Book info and Blurb:

Salt for Air is a Greek mythology mermaid fantasy about a nerdy girl who falls in love with a merman.

Greek mythology meets The Little Mermaid in this delicious fantasy novel about a quiet, nerdy girl who meets a merman in her bathroom. Perfect for fans of The Heroes of Olympus and the Lux series.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie dreams of mermen. She writes fanfiction about them and spends time in underwater kingdoms in her imagination, trying to escape the sad reality: she is an orphan. And not only that, but she’s bullied every day at school -she’s a nerd, she hates sports, she loves books and she used to be overweight. What’s not to bully?

One day, the bullies go too far. They try to drown her, but at the last minute an otherworldly creature shows up in the water. He keeps her breathing and tells her to live: “How will you be able to save anyone if you can’t even save yourself?”

She thinks it was a dream, but the emerald-eyed merman boy who rescued her appears in her school the next day. Is he really the exiled prince of an ancient kingdom that’s on the brink of utter destruction? And is he asking her to save him? Or is something far more sinister and deadly lurking in the water that surrounds her little Greek town?

M.C. FRANK is a writer, reader and a survivor. Learn more about her and her New Adult, Young Adult, Greek mythology and historical novels at her blog mcfrankauthor.tumblr.com

Find all of M.C. Frank’s books on her website: mcfrankauthor.com

PREORDER now: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07…
Add it on GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4…
Read it for FREE: http://www.mcfrankauthor.com/2016/06/…
Enter the cover reveal GIVEAWAY: https://goo.gl/forms/gvTH57RSCh01fFv43

*Camera pans back to me, who’s still dancing wildly in the corner, so excited she’s practically speaking in tongues*

Make sure you go and check out the giveaway! You know I’ve definitely entered. Can October please get here faster?

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Smoke and Iron – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway!

36595619I’m so excited to announce that I’m the third stop on the Smoke and Iron blog tour! If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m addicted to the Great Library series by Rachel Caine. So I couldn’t believe it when I got picked to be a part of the tour! If you haven’t read my review of Smoke and Iron yet, check it out here.

To celebrate the release, I’ve been given the great honor of showing you an excerpt of a chapter from Wolfe’s point of view! Fans of the series are probably sitting in shock right now – what? We’re not following Jess? Well, in book four we get to explore multiple points of view and it’s amazingly exciting. Check out the other stops on the blog tour to see other chapters from other beloved characters!

And at the end, check out the TWO giveaways for a chance to win a signed copy of Smoke and Iron… and the entire series as a whole!

smoke-text 1


WOLFE

9_wolfeIt was the smell, in the end, that was the worst of it. Not that the Great Library kept a filthy prison, but the stench of terror and de¬spair was harder to wash away than more organic stains. This facility used stones that had been quarried for similar purposes five thousand years ago, long enough that the walls had been well soaked in pain and horror, and exhaled it constantly.

And he knew the miasma of it so intimately, horribly well.

He could ignore the darkness, the bars, the discomfort. But not the smell. And so, after the bars had closed around him, Christopher Wolfe had gone a little mad. A day of shuddering, flinching, imagining that every noise was a torturer coming for him again. A night when he wouldn’t close his eyes, for fear the past would smother him.

The morning of the second day—which he calculated not by sunrise, which was invisible down here, but by the changing of the guard watch—he had grown more accustomed to the stench of the place, and the darkness and the confinement, or at least he’d mastered his dread of those things a bit. He reminded himself that if he was right, his job here was not to wallow in useless self- pity, but to do something more.

If he was right, of course. If this was some plan that Jess and his miserable twin had conjured up. If this was not simply betrayal, but betrayal to a purpose.

The question then was what he was expected to accomplish, locked up here. Morgan, he could understand. But if this was a plan, by rights one of them should have whispered at least a hint to him before it was too late.

Then why would it profit any scheme—and he sensed Dario San¬tiago’s Machiavellian hand behind it—to send him back to a hell he’d never have agreed to return to? Wolfe had worked hard to keep his trauma silent and secret from the younger members of their little band, but Jess, in particular, had been privy to details. The young man knew at least the edges of that particular knife, if not the terrible wounds it had left.

No way to solve this puzzle without information, he told himself, and concentrated on the one he could solve: the security of this prison.

Here in this passage, he saw more of the dull metallic gleam of moving sphinxes than he did human High Garda. An overdependence upon automation, he thought. The sphinxes could be gotten around. Jess had worked out how. Even Dario had managed it.

Human guards were more difficult, if less lethal. They adapted. The sphinxes at least operated upon a set of rigid orders.

But surely his feckless students hadn’t put him here just to escape; no point in that. No, there was a purpose behind it, just as there was behind putting Morgan back in the Iron Tower.

That was when he heard the murmurs from another cell. He rec¬ognized the words, and they were echoed from other locations—one farther to his right, and one almost directly to his left. Prisoners at morning prayers.

And suddenly, Wolfe knew precisely why he’d been placed here. It started with those prayers but would hardly end there.

He sat cross-legged on his narrow bunk and ran through where, precisely, these prisons were located. They’d not taken the precau¬tion this time of moving him to another city. He was in Alexandria, in the cells buried far beneath the Serapeum. Holding pens for those sentenced to death. Ignore that, Wolfe thought, as he felt a small crack run through his resolve. Just another problem to be solved.

He listened. Sat for the better part of an hour and simply listened, pinpointing coughs, shuffles, rustles, the distant sounds of moans and sobs. This place is full of dissidents. Normally, it would not be; the Li¬brary’s opponents ranged from Burners—who normally killed them¬selves rather than end up here—to smugglers, who were usually killed quickly.

This prison, he realized, had been packed with individuals the Archivist thought might go against him. We did this, he thought. Our small act of rebellion, rescuing Thomas from Rome, echoing across the entire Library system . . . it forced him to tighten his grip, eliminate those who could do him harm. He had no doubt that the individuals jailed near him were Library sworn . . . Scholars, librarians, High Garda soldiers.

The core of the Library, now seen as its enemies. Tyrants turned on their own, in the end; it was the only way to keep power.

The prayers ceased, and Wolfe stood up and went to the bars of his cell. They were heavy, cold iron, and he thought of a thousand ways to break them. All required things he didn’t currently possess, but that had never stopped him for long. “My friend next door,” he said. “Are you by any chance a relative of Khalila Seif?”

There was a moment of silence, and then a guarded reply. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I know her well,” Wolfe said. “And a more brilliant, clever student I’ve never taught. She’s that rare combination of a great mind and an even better heart.”

He heart the release of a breath. It sounded shaken. “That’s my sister,” the man said. “My younger sister. I’m Saleh. She’s well?” The young man—he was young, perhaps a few years older than Khalila—sounded shaken. “She’s not here?”

“Safe I can’t guarantee, but last I saw her, she was well, and far away from here.”

“I pray she stays far away, too.” He hesitated a moment, then said, “My apologies. I’ve given you my name and not asked yours.”

“Christopher Wolfe.”

“The rebel Scholar.” Saleh’s voice had turned brittle. “The one who brought all this on us.”

“Blame can wait. Survival first,” Wolfe said. He had no patience for fools, now or ever; the only thing he’d ever done to deserve the blame was to invent a machine the Library didn’t want. Everything, everything, followed from that. His imprisonment. His release, and erasure from Library records. His penance as lowly instructor. His determination to never allow the Archivist to destroy another bright mind. “Tell me who’s here with us.”

“My father, uncle, and older brother are farther down the row,” Saleh said. “Arrested on suspicion of treason against the Great Library. Which is nonsense, of course. We were arrested to force Khalila to come back.”

“Who else is here?”

“A Scholar Artifex, Marcus Johnson. Le Dinh, Scholar Medica. Captain Ahmed Khan, High Garda. Two or three Scholars from the Literature ranks, one a beloed author whose recent works are considered heretical. A host of librarians, for various crimes including concealment of original works, and Burner sympathies.” Saleh paused to think. “There’s one at the end of this corridor I don’t know. He never speaks. My father tried sign, but there was no response. But that only accounts for this one hallway.”

“How many other High Garda confined in here?”

“Six more. Ahmed’s the only one of significant rank, though.”

Wolfe had forgotten about the bars around him now, the chill in the stones, the evil smell of the place. He found a small chip of stone and used it to begin scratching out a list on the wall. “Start method¬ically,” he said. “Are you at the end of the hallway?”

“No.”

“Then tell me who is next to you.”

When he was done with Saleh, he engaged the woman to his right, Ariane, who’d been listening. She was High Garda and deliv¬ered her account in a crisp, calm voice that he quite liked. It re¬minded him for a terrifying second of Nic, and he had to pause and push that need away. Niccolo is safe, he told himself. And on his way. Your job is to be ready when he arrives.

The word spread slowly down the hall, and passed back to him, as he drew a complete map of the prison hall, with names attached. By the time the meager ration of lunch arrived, he’d memorized the placements and rubbed away the map.

“Eat it, don’t throw it,” advised the High Garda soldier who handed him the tray of food. Meat, bread, cheese, figs, a small por¬tion of sour beer and a larger one of water. “Throw it, you get noth¬ing else today or tomorrow. Doesn’t take long for people to learn the lesson.”

Wolfe glanced up at him and had a second of doubt. Did he know this man? Recognize him? It was possible, but he couldn’t be sure, and the soldier gave no indication at all of knowing him.
“I’ll throw it when I’m tired of the food,” he said.

That got him a bare thread of a smile, and the young man—he was young, nearly as young as Wolfe’s students—tapped fingers to his forehead in a mock salute. “That’s why you’re a Scholar,” he said. “You get right to the bottom of things.”

I do know him, Wolfe thought. He couldn’t place the boy in proper context; surely they wouldn’t put one of Santi’s people on duty here? Unless, of course, there was more going on in Alexandria than he’d previously suspected—eminently possible, considering the shocking number of Scholars and librarians imprisoned. Perhaps the strong¬hold of the Great Library was no longer holding quite as strongly. An interesting theory to chase.

Wolfe ate his food slowly, not to savor its taste—it had little—but because he was involved in assessing the residents of this prison for their potential value in any escape attempt. The Artifex Scholar would certainly be useful. The writers could certainly come up with distractions. He was most concerned about Khalila’s father, who suf¬fered from a delicate heart, which these conditions certainly hadn’t improved.

He was still deep in thought when he scraped the last of the wa¬tery meat from the bottom of the bowl.

There was a message written on it, barely visible now and disap¬pearing fast. It said, Lieutenant Zara sent me.

Wolfe paused, closed his eyes a moment, and took in a deep, slow breath. Brightwell had not, after all, abandoned him here without a word, without a plan. Santi’s lieutenant—not a woman he cared for a great deal, but competent nonetheless—had been alerted to his plight. And knowing Zara, she had plans.

Now he had a messenger, and possibly even an extra ally.

Wolfe used his thumb to scrub the rest of the message from the bowl and put the tray through the slot outside the bars after down¬ing the ale and most of the water, which he desperately needed.

When the young man came back to collect the dishes, Wolfe fi¬nally placed him in his proper context. A lieutenant, one who’d been in charge of the Blue Dogs in Santi’s squad. Troll. His nickname was Troll. A competent young man, and fearless, which would be an as¬set here. Wolfe nodded. Troll glanced down in the bowl, gave that thread-thin smile again, and left without a word.

Wolfe sat back on his bunk and began to methodically catalogue every item in this bare, depressing cell for its usefulness.

Because soon, he’d need every possible asset to find a way out of this.


Smoke and Iron blog tour (1)

Signed Set of The Great Library Giveaway

Signed Smoke and Iron Giveaway

Good luck! Massive thank you to Rachel Caine for not only creating such an amazing series, but for sharing the love with her fans.

Great Library Series Banner

Smoke and Iron

The Great Library #4
Rachel Caine

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for the fourth book of the Great Library series! Last year I freaked out when we realized that the series was going to be five books instead of three, and that cliffhanger… gah! But now the wait is over, and we finally get to know what happens next to our favorite book loving rebels. And unlike the other books, Smoke and Iron introduces multiple perspectives so we can follow everyone as they are split around the world. Spoilers for the first three books from here on out!

Summary36595619

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

Musings

Right from page one, we’re thrown back into the action. Jess is in Alexandria, under the guise of his brother Brendan; Khalila is on Anit’s ship, waiting for the sword to drop; Wolfe is in the prisons, alone and losing his mind; and Morgan is back in the tower, trapped, but ready to fight. The Archivist will stop at nothing to kill them: already he doesn’t trust Jess/Brendan, who must play the role perfectly or risk meeting a terrible death. But to save his friends, and the world, Jess will do anything. New alliances need to be forged. Weapons built. Friends betrayed.

Smoke and Iron is incredibly exciting. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, worrying about this crew, hoping they can make it out. At the same time, some of their plans were pretty… bad. That’s something I quite like about this series, as Jess is a YA hero who doesn’t have things miraculously work out for him every time. The stakes are real, and they’re high.

The writing is perfect in that it never impedes the plot. The world has been so strongly established and built now that Caine can take us on an adventure without having to stop and introduce us to new elements. Adding this to the already fast-paced story, I feel like I read this book in a blur: it feels shorter than the other books despite being just as long, if not longer. Everything fits together perfectly to bring us to the grand finale, the epic ending that leaves you breathless. How can I wait another year for book five?

While things went by so fast, a few plot points kinda fell to the side. Morgan’s storyline was fascinating, but I felt like there was quite a lot of deus-ex-machina on her end. She’s just so incredibly powerful. That, and her relationship with Jess seemed added a little like an afterthought? Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, or maybe I just missed them working together. But one thing’s for sure, the Iron tower needs to fall.

Thrilling and fast-paced, this book left me breathless. I cannot wait for the next one!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Berkley Books
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with this ARC!

Heroine’s Journey

Heroine Complex #3

by Sarah Kuhn

It’s so hard to believe this is the end of the series. I’m sitting in a puddle of my own, happy tears. What a fantastic finale! If you don’t yet know about this series,  it follows three Asian-American superheroines as they protect San Fransisco from a plague of mysterious demons (who tend to inhabit things such as cupcakes or porcelain unicorns) and has the best character growth you will ever read. If you want strong women in your books, I don’t think I’ve read anyone stronger or more complex than Evie, Adveda, and Bea.

Summary36606133

If there’s one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it’s normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of “should haves.” Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city’s plethora of demon threats.

But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be–even though she’s now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace’s more difficult customers. Sure, she’s not technically supposed to be playing with people’s mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?

When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that’s about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her “should haves” into the fabulous heroic life she’s always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything–and everyone–she holds dear…

Musings

One of the most remarkable things about Kuhn’s books is that they each have such a unique voice. While we return to San Fransico, to the world of puppy demons and superpowered heroes, we’re now following Bea’s perspective, and it’s completely different from that of her big sister Evie and super-heroine role model Aveda. Bea is spontaneous, stubborn, and rash: her excitement flits from one thing to another like a hummingbird. At only 22, she’s still a child in her sister’s eyes, though she’s trying to build her own life.

It’s been about 4 years since the last book, and Bea now works at It’s Lit, an adorable bookstore I would elect to live in if I ever got the chance. She dropped out of college, worries about her future, struggles with adulting and being taken seriously by her sister. Her dream is to join the superhero team – but Evie will hear nothing of it. When her powers start to change, and she begins to hear a voice in her head, convincing her that her mother might still be alive. Bea must embark on a journey of self-discovery, danger, and demons, in order to save her from the Otherworld.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ve read stronger female characters than in the Heroine Complex series. The girls are front and center to the action: they’re badass, know how to fight, but they also value their emotions. They have an incredible arc of growth through each novel and the series itself. Finally having the girls confront the loss of their mother tied the series together as well as giving them a strong emotional conflict. On top of all that, they’re Asian-Americans, and that fact is not brushed aside or passed over. They openly discuss what it’s like to be a heroine of color and the standard they’re held to. Bea has vividly dyed hair, and there’s a fantastic discussion surrounding that stereotype. She has more personality traits than just her hair: in fact, she’s full of personality.

Heroine’s Journey might be the best in the series. Granted, it’s a little less chaotic than the first book (no cupcake demons here!) and less laugh out loud, but the focus was on Bea and I loved it. I loved seeing the other beloved characters through her eyes. I loved her relationship with Sam (SAM! Mr. Beaucoup Fromage! My new Book Boyfriend, swoon). I loved seeing her grow.

All in all, I don’t want this series to end. I know the Heroic Trio trilogy is now closed, but I’m hoping to see my favorite girls again sometime soon. An outstanding end to a fantastic series.

UPDATE: I learned via twitter that this is definitely not the end to the heroic trio!!! We’re going to get more books!!!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by DAW 

An inside look LitRPG + Interview with R.R. Virdi

The birth of a genre: that’s not something many people get to say they have witnessed, but if you’ve been reading indie fiction lately, you might have been a part of it. In the past few years, LitRPG has exploded: it has even seeped into mainstream publishing and YA novels. But what is this genre, and what makes it different from other books already out there?

In a nutshell, LitRPG follows the video game format. In general, we follow a person from our universe who plays, fully immersed, in a RPG. The characters face threats and challenges that resemble the world of gaming and form the backbone of the plot.  The struggles he faces, despite being virtual, are very real and affect his life. But we must never forget it is a game: at least some of the characters in a LitRPG novel realize this, and are ‘meta-aware’.

I sat down (virtually) with author R.R. Virdi to talk about this emerging genre. I’ve been a massive fan of his since book one: in fact, his novel Grave Beginnings might have been one of the first reviews I ever posted on this site. Having just released a LitRPG of his own, Goblin King, I thought it was a perfect time to talk about what it means to write gaming lit.

51hhy4crdpl-_ux250_R: You’re most known for your works of Urban Fantasy, and have been nominated for many awards in the genre. What made you decide to come to LitRPG?

RRV:  I’ve been a lifelong gamer from SNES to currently on a PC that I spent enough money on that it could’ve bought me a car. It seemed to make sense. I love storytelling, video-games, and this is a natural blend of them. Why not try my hand at a new genre, push my craft, grow, and broaden my backlist?

 

R: What makes LitRPG different from other genres? Why write it?

RRV: So far, the biggest differences are in the narration. A lot of the world-building parallels standard fantasy/sci fi settings. But the biggest standout is the video-game mechanics blended into the story: leveling up, stats, purchasing items/abilities, crafting them, display screens. It’s a mix of cyberpunk tech in some ways within (commonly, though not exclusively) fantasy backdrops. As to why write it? It’s different for each author I guess. For me, it’s a chance to flex new muscles creatively, indulge in a blend of passions for me, grow, and give people entertainment—suspense.

51aptniwwmlR: Tell us about your new novel, Goblin King, and your new series Monster Slayer Online. Where did your inspiration come from?

RRV: That came about from my love of the Monster Hunter and the Dragon’s Dogma franchise as well as my fondness for high-action combat RPGs. Plus, I love the mythology I can bring in.

R: Do you feel like your book fits the description of LitRPG, or does it spill over into other genres as well? Have you brought something new and exciting to the genre?

RRV: I believe mine does. It’s not traditional in the sense I deviated from the famous old tabletop and video game stat allocation systems where you acquire experience and give it to principle stats like strength or wisdom. I went for accumulation of points that can be used to by skills, abilities. The more you do, the more you learn to do. It’s less of progression by stats, more by versatility of what you can perform in any given situation.

R: Are there any other authors who inspired you while writing this book? Who do you look up to as the big names of LitRPG?

RRV: James Hunter of Viridian Gate Online was definitely one of them. Luke Chmilenko of Ascend Online is another.

R: What’s it like to write LitRPG versus your usual genres? What challenges arose? Did you find it more fulfilling, more complicated, more frustrating?

RRV: It’s difficult to remember that progression and stats need to be focused on because that’s a big draw for readers. I’m used to writing tight-knit thrillers in urban fantasy full of clues and plot twists. There’s more slice of life and slower pace moments where progression can permeate the story, but, I’ve seen it run amok in some novels in the genre and kill the narration for me. Keeping the craft balanced with genre expectations is what’s the proper challenge here.

R: You’ve mentioned on your blog already having started on the sequel. Can you tell us what we can expect? And how long do you plan on this series being?

RRV: Yep, book two, Beast Queen is in production at this moment. The series is slated for 6-8 books depending on how the next few go. I have the story for 8, but they could possibly be condensed if the story seems to grow larger per novel.

R: Tell us about the other projects you’re working on right now. Any other LitRPGs, or are you trying other genres too?

RRV: I have tons of ideas for other LitRPGs, but I have other commitments I need to tackle. My urban fantasy stuff, a space western for a publisher, and other Patreon projects. Too much to juggle haha.

R: Other than your own, what LitRPG books would you recommends to readers who are new to the genre and want to try it out?

RRV: Viridian Gate Online and Ascend Online.

R: And finally, if you could play the game Monster Slayer Online – would you?

RRV: Play it in my situation in my current life? Yes. Play it stuck in the world like Devrim? Oh-ho, no! Hahah. I like living too much.


To earn a second chance at life, Devrim Bains must die and enter a virtual world of monsters and mayhem. Let’s just hope one death is all it will take, because he can’t afford another.

When Devrim Bains reaches his twenty–first birthday, he’s finally punished for a crime that was never his fault–being born. In a world of strict population control, his life’s been decided for him, and it’s about to end. But a stroke of luck gives him opportunity to have his consciousness uploaded into a simulated-reality game world with the promise of paradise.

Except paradise always comes with a cost.

Monsters of legend and myths of old come to life in Lorian, needing to be slain or tamed for Devrim to have a shot at enjoying freedom. It’d be easy enough if one of the fiends hadn’t raised an army hellbent on conquering everything. The Goblin King has his sights set taking the lands of Lorian in his iron grasp, and Devrim Bains’ only chance is to quickly learn what it means to be a slayer.

To make sure his new lease on life isn’t cut painfully short, he’s going to have to embody the greatest rule in Monster Slayer Online:

Hunt or be hunted!

Goblin King is the first novel of the Monster Slayer Online LitRPG/Gamelit series. If you loved The 100, the Monster Hunter game franchise, and Dragon’s Dogma, you’ll enjoy this fast paced, hard-action monster-slaying novel.

Author’s note: Goblin King is a LitRPG/GameLit novel featuring game-like progression/skills, and appropriate text/pop-ups in narration. Please keep this in mind whilst reading.

Get yourself a copy now!