The City in the Middle of the Night – Blog Tour + Author Q/A!

by Charlie Jane Anders

I’m a massive Charlie Jane Anders fan, from the days where she was running io9.com. I devoured her short fiction and fell in love with her spellbinding novel All the Birds in the Sky. So when I had the opportunity to join the blog tour for her newest book, The City in the Middle of the Night, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

My expectations were set incredibly high, and yet she still blew them all away: I binge read the book in less than two days, and even after finishing the last page I’m still caught there, and can’t get the story out of my head. Not that I want to: as I digest the book, I’m seeing more, understanding more, and loving it more.

Summary

A new book from the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Charlie Jane Anders. On a planet that has never-changing zones of day and night, time means only what the government proclaims, and lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage. One such pariah, sacrificed to the night, forms a bond with an enigmatic beast, and will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

Musings

Set on January, a planet tidally locked with its star, the city of Xiosphant lies in the strip of habitable land along the terminator. To the one side, the heat of a planet baked under a neverending sun. To the other, the frozen desert of a world that has never seen sunlight. In the strip of twilight in between, human colonists have established a great city, self-sufficient, a testament to survival. But in order to thrive, one must live in a dystopian nightmare.

In order for the city to work, people must all sleep at the same time (between shutters up and shutters down, a curfew punishable by violence), eat the right food at the right time, work, live, die, at the same time. Timefulness (mindfulness of the time of day) even saturates their language, as the conjugation you use depends on what time it is. You day to day life is mapped out, as well as the entirety of your life ahead of you.

In the midst of all this, lives Sophie, a quiet girl from the dark side of town, attending university on a scholarship she earned for her distinguished studying, desperate to avoid the life her social class has laid out ahead of her. There she meets Bianca, a beautiful affluent girl who dreams of changing the world. Together, they might make a difference.

Like with All the Birds in the Sky, Anders takes idealistic youth who want to change the world, and bring them face to face with reality. Sophie is dragged through a traumatic experience that almost kills her, and she deals with the aftermath for the rest of the book. Bianca’s own reaction to this violence is with more violence, hoping to make change through revenge. These characters motivations are so real they feel like your own.

There was so much to love about this novel. Not only was the worldbuilding so perfect that I was fully immersed from the first page, but I couldn’t help but be attached to Sophie and the other characters that crossed the page. Especially Mouth, a nomad born on the road between the two major cities on January, is the last of her people, and struggles to fit in anywhere.

But what connected me most with this novel was the theme of culture. As a girl born in one country, raised in another, by parents who come from neither, my own culture comes into question every stinking day. And through City, Anders explores what it means to be uprooted, how cultures are built, or how they are forgotten. As the characters perspectives on their own place in the world shifts, I found myself exploring my own feelings of cultural identity through their different eyes. It felt so deeply personal, like a conversation held between me and the book.

Some fit more in the rigidly defined society of Xiosphant, where their lives are controlled, but they are comfortable. Everyone has food, a home, a future. No one speaks about the past, and it’s disconcerting to bring up your heritage, where your family was from on Earth. And then you have a polar opposite in the other major city, Argelo, which is more like an open-air bazaar, a libertarian paradise only with the real consequences such a free-for-all would create. Time there is impossible to tell, and heritage is embraced, along with new ideas, art, and music. And in the middle, there is only the road, a dangerous place where being alone means certain death.

And in the end, after Anders explores what it means to belong to a society or culture, she goes deeper – and asks you what it means to be human. The so-called ‘crocodiles’ which the humans of January hunt and fear are the native intelligent life of the planet, and they have their own culture and world. Are we visitors on their land? What kind of colonists are we, friendly or cruel? The last part of the novel is beautiful and distinct: it feels like you’re drifting in a dream, going beyond the human experience. And it was so… hopeful. It made me want to be so much more than I am right now.

There is so much more the author explores through this book, I feel as if I need to reread it right away to see what I might have missed. This is a story of control: how our control has ecological consequences and human ones. It’s a story about our need to have someone to believe in, or believe in us. How our idea of the person we love may be quite different from the person they truly are, and how it is so hard to admit when we have been betrayed by a person we thought worthy of our trust.

This book was the perfect read for me: great science fiction with a cool science-based premise (I’m an astrophysics masters student working with a planetary science supervisor. This book is gold.) and complex exploration of humanity and culture, a question that I struggle with myself. It feels as if the author was writing just for me.

A quick question to Charlie Jane herself!

Readcommendations: It’s been three years since the release of All the Birds in the Sky. How has the writing experience been different for you in creating The City in the Middle of the Night compared to AtBitS? Have you found it ‘easier’ in the sense that you have already published, or has it been more complicated because of the critical acclaim your last book received? Were there differences that surprised you?

Charlie Jane Anders: It’s been such a crazy whirlwind! I’ve been just amazed and blown away by the response to All the Birds in the Sky. Makes me really kind of nervous about putting out another book and having to live up to that buzz. On the other hand, after spending years writing novels that never got published, it’s great that I can now come up with a new book, and it actually appears on shelves.

Massive thank you to Titan Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, and providing me with a copy of The City in the Middle of the Night. I also want to thank them for putting me in touch with the author, and thank Charlie Jane Anders for not only answering my question, but also for writing this remarkable book.

Advertisements

Winter of the Witch

Winternight Trilogy, Book 3
by Katherine Arden

BRB, I’m crying because one of my favorite series of all time is over, and despite a perfect finish I know I’m going to miss Vasya so much that it hurts.

I half don’t want to write this review, because I don’t want to admit that this series is actually over. The final book was such a perfect conclusion, so beautiful, so painful in all the best ways, that I feel I want to hug the author and thank her for leading me through such a wild range of emotions. It feels like the perfect fairy tale, only better because this time, the girl wins.

Summary

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Musings

“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”

Just like the books that came before it, this is a novel about religion and horrible things people are willing to do in the name of it. It is a story of old beliefs and new, of courage in standing for what is right. It is a book about family and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. And it’s a story about being a woman in a world where your gender is a prison, taking action, taking control of her life, and saving even those who told her she wasn’t capable of anything. In the final book in this series, Vasya becomes the very thing men fear and despise: a witch. And she saves the world.

This story picks up right after the events of The Girl in the Tower in Moscow, the city has burned but was saved by Vasya’s quick thinking and Morosko’s waning power. But now Konstantin wants Vasya dead more than ever, and a certain bear named Medved is happy to aid with the chaos in any way they possibly can. But with Vasya standing up to both the bear and the king of winter, she’s made herself a third power in this war, and has more to fight for than ever before.

This book is a battle scene. A massive war, between the old beliefs and the new religion, between two brothers caught in an eternal fight for power, between the Russians and the Tartars, between Vasya and herself. The author pulls from a lot of historical events, making the story feel more real than a simple fairy tale. It’s so masterfully crafted that I could almost believe Arden was there herself. And yet, despite all this, it still captures the magic and whimsy of classic storytelling.

While I felt a little like there wasn’t any doubt for Vasya, ever – as hard as they sounded, her victories always seemed so certain – I think it added to the sense of tradition to the story. And I’m a little wary of how Vasya won Morozko back from his captivity, but hey: if this book had been any more perfect, it would have probably punched a hole in the universe.

Do yourself a favor and grab this magical trilogy, your life will be all the more beautiful for it.

Starbound Cover Reveal!

I’ve kept you waiting this long, I won’t test your patience any longer. Without any further ado, allow me to present… Starbound!

Home is where the heart is. Or maybe the pizza.

There’s no better feeling than being back home after a long week exploring the galaxy, though being abandoned by one’s friends and left to fend off a glitching evil robot spoils it. All that’s left is to settle back into life, preparing Marcy’s wedding and job hunting. If only mysterious midnight SWAT teams and crop-circle crafting-sessions weren’t constantly getting in Sally’s way.

When an old foe returns, and Sally is the only person on the planet to recognize it, it’s up to her, her sullen ex, and an overly-excitable FBI agent to save the planet. But first they have to get the president safely out of his favorite sushi bar without starting the war of the worlds.

It’s hard maintaining a long-distance relationship when your crush is light years away and thinks you died of old age, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Sally must save the planet, the universe, and herself – though maybe she’ll take a nap first.

 Book five of the Starstruck Saga releases on August 20th, 2019! 

January In Books

I’m back, dear bookworms!

It has been one wild month of January. Exams, trips, last minute stress from administrative messes – I feel like we’re about to start 2020, not February! Luckily I still had a bit of time to read (mainly on buses, trains, and waiting in offices for paperwork) and made it through a nice stack of books. While I haven’t had time to review every single one, I thought I might walk you through some of them and tell you a bit of what I think.

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. 

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

What a beautiful, bittersweet book. 

Exit West explored our rapidly globalizing world through the lens of a blossoming relationship, with a dash of magical realism. It is at its heart a migrant story, a human story, as migration has been essential to our history just as much as falling in love has been. 

What if, almost overnight, the barriers that kept people in place simply disappeared? If suddenly planes didn’t matter and borders couldn’t keep people out – or in? As the doors linking the world slowly go from rumor to reality, the planet becomes instantly smaller, and migration patterns shift forever. 

And in the middle of it, a couple. Two pot-loving students who were just beginning to fall in love when their city was falling to war. Trying to explore what it means to be linked with someone, all while having to escape the only home they’ve ever known. 

How do relationships change as the world changes? Exit West explores, well, everything. We follow the relationship beginning to end as Nadia and Saeed fall in love, cross the planet, and drift apart. It’s a quiet book, as beautiful and slow moving as a sunset. It’s gentle – but powerful. I loved it.

★★★★★/★★★★★

We Were Liars
by E.Lockart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. 

I think if I had read We Were Liars when it first came out, I would have been at the perfect age to enjoy it. Now that I’ve grown a bit, reading the novel didn’t feel really shocking: it was a sweet story with not much of a plot until it got to the twist, which was a bit predictable? I hate to say it, but the clues were pretty evident from the beginning. If I hadn’t ‘solved’ it I would have probably enjoyed the reveal a lot more. But I didn’t care much for the love story, and while the family drama was really entertaining – and painful, cringe-worthy at times – I couldn’t fully enjoy it. That and the style of writing that kept shifting was… weird.

★★★☆☆/★★★★★

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful
By Arwen Elys Dayton

For fans of television shows Black Mirror and Westworld, this compelling, mind-bending novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.

Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of “human.”

This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.

I literally could not put this book down: I started it at 9 pm and ended up sitting with it until 2 am, just full-on engrossed in each and every story. Even weeks after reading it, it’s still fresh in my mind.

The novel explored what it means to be human, slowly transitioning from stories of healing to stories of extravagance so that the evolution of mankind doesn’t seem abrupt, but almost natural – even when it’s mankind playing with unnatural selection and augmentation. 

I really can’t write a review because I feel like there is no way of telling the story of this book while giving it justice. You just have to read it for yourself.

★★★★★/★★★★★

With a total of 12 books this year so far, I’m right on target to hit my reading goal! I’m really excited to share with you some of the new books coming my way. You’re going to love them.

White Stag

Permafrost, Book 1
by Kara Barbieri

I am so torn about this book. On the one hand, it’s well written: the style is lovely and I slipped into the story well enough. The story about coming to terms with your identity and embracing yourself was powerful. But there was so much that just… bugged me about it. And it was only after I finished the book and took a step back that I realized what it was. 

Summary

The first book in a brutally stunning series where a young girl finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home.

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

Musings

Let’s start with the good. As I said, it’s well written. There’s a massive effort in the worldbuilding and the plot itself is really creative. I liked how it all tied together in the end, and it makes for a strong standalone (even if a series is planned, so this is a good sign since the author isn’t leading us on). There was a lot that came together making it a strong fantasy novel. 

But there were a few things that irked me. For starters, GOBLINS. They’re not goblins. They’re fae or whatever, “unearthly beautiful” and wildly dangerous. They have nothing to do with anything goblin! Where’s the thievery? The enticing food that traps the eater? Not Goblins, and no matter how many times the author insists they are, you can’t just take a mythos and slap another name on them to make it sexy. 

The book is dark, violent, psychological. Which is good. But the rape component is just this character abuse that isn’t necessary for the story. The book would have read the same if she was just tortured without the rape. The disfigurement makes for an interesting character, making her thoroughly more complex, but we didn’t need the extra shock value. It is not handled with the care something so horrible deserves: it’s just there to make us feel worse for her. 

Now for the romance. I really liked Soren and thought he was a really great character, complex and unique. But their relationship is really weak for two people who have fought side by side for the past 100 years! Jenneke sometimes acts like she’s only known him a few weeks, which makes Soren’s “sudden” interest in her really weird. It picked up towards the end, and I was happy to see them together, but for the first few chapters, it was like they barely knew each other at all. 

All in all, I’ll probably read the next book, but I can’t get the image of a three-foot-tall pimply goblin out of my head.

Expected Publication January 8th 2019 by Wednesday Books

The Guilded Wolves

by Roshani Chokshi

What a fun little gem of a book! Having just read Six of Crows for the first time only a week ago, I found the resemblance startling – but in form only. The story is rich and fast-paced, with all the magic Chokshi brings to her books. It was exciting to see her take the magic of her usually Indian inspired novels and bring them to Paris, nothing lost in the transition. Her rich worldbuilding and colorful detail made this book a joy to read.

Summary

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Musings

Chokshi has created an alternate Paris where magic is commonplace and the Order of Babel retains control. Babel pieces hidden from the world allow forgers to create beautiful and dangerous items, which give this alternate world technology similar to ours. It is here, in the lavish hands of the order, that our story takes place.

The crew of this Oceans-Eleven-Meets-Indiana-Jones-with-Magic book is diverse and easy to relate to:

Séverin, the heir to the third house of the French Order of Babel, stripped of his title due to nefarious reasons and politics. He owns a hotel, L’eden, and secretly runs heists to steal the most remarkable forged objects the world has ever seen, along with his team.
Laila from India, with an ability to read people’s history while holding an object of their possession, with an amazing talent for baking and one of the best dancers Paris has ever seen. (Can she be my best friend, please?)
Enrique, the Spanish/Filipino historian with a great sense of sarcasm and who occasionally remembers how to act human.
Zofia the mathematician/engineer of Polish Jewish descent, kicked out of university for her dangerous magical affinity, who only seems to tolerate people and would much rather ber tinkering.
Tristan, the recluse botanist, and who is a very recluse sort of person, with his gigantic pet spider he seems to love more than anyone else.
And unoficially, Hypnos, heir to another French House, a French aristocrat of mixed race, which doesn’t sit well with his peers, making him defy expectation at every turn.

Together, they need to solve the clues to basically save France, using their own set of skills. It involves cunning, deceit, and a fair bit of math, along with amazing forged gadgets a bit à la James Bond with a scoop of magic. You get to know each of the characters just enough to relate to them, though I wish I had more time to know them more. If I had one disappointment to say of the book, it would be that it was too fast: in some places, it got confusing because the action piled up and the points of view were all over the place, and it could have been paced down to show us more about the characters and their past.

All and all, I’m getting the hardcover. This book is sure to be a hit and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Expected publication: January 15th 2019 by Wednesday Books

But I still have no idea why the book was called The Gilded Wolves 😛

Isolation Junction

by Jennifer Gilmour

I knew going into this book that the topic was going to be a difficult one, and I was prepared. Emotional abuse is no joke, affecting thousands of people each day, and I have been lucky enough to have never had to go through the painful life Rose struggles through from page one.

Summary

100 reasons to leave, 1,000 reasons to stay

When Rose married the love of her life she was expecting the perfect family life she’d always dreamed of, but before her first child was born her husband, Darren, changed.

Almost overnight Rose’s life is turned upside down and the life she’d envisioned seemed like an impossible dream.

As Darren’s abuse deepens, Rose has 100 reasons to leave but 1,000s why she can’t. Will she ever escape the hellish life she and her children are trapped in?

Can Rose stop her life spiralling further out of control?
Can she find the life she desperately wants for her children?
Stuck at Isolation Junction, which way will Rose turn?

Musings

When Rose first meets Darren, he’s the perfect gentleman. Handsome and caring, he makes her feel like a princess. Her parents warn her about the age gap, but she doesn’t care: she’s in love with the perfect man and… he won’t let her go.

Very quickly, their relationship dissolves into one abuse. Darren is manipulative and scary, quickly isolating Rose from her family and friends. If she ever notices, he quickly turns the situation around until she’s the bad guy, or claims nothing happened at all – gaslighting her. Every staple of a toxic relationship can be found, and while it’s painfully evident to us readers, Rose falls deeper and deeper into this trap until she feels there’s no escape.

How does one escape when they haven’t spoken to their family and years? When the man who they married is holding their children basically as hostages? When you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of him finding something new to punish you for?

Isolation Junction packs a powerful punch. As I mentioned above, it ticks off every sign of a toxic/abusive relationship. In one emotional moment in the novel, Rose goes through the list of what makes a relationship abusive. The list says “If you have answered YES to any one of these questions, then it is abusive” – and she realizes she has said yes to every one of them. We feel for Rose, we want her to escape, for her children to be safe. We want her to break free.

It was harder to get involved with the character since the book is written in an odd style, partially between fiction and what feels like an autobiography. Emotions are stright on the page and a little jumbled. We feel on the outside looking in, like there’s a window between us and Rose. Because of this, some emotional or painful moments don’t land as hard as they should. When Rose tries to reclaim her children, now that is a moment where I felt involved; when Darren’s family backs him up, now there, I felt involved. But for the rest of the novel, I was an outsider.

Another thing that was a little odd was how some moments were repeated by the author but told differently. For example, her home business is introduced twice, and now I’m not quite sure what she does. Or when she describes what finally broke the relationship between her and Darren, but we read that scene and it wasn’t exactly that? Some details I don’t mention here because they could be Darren’s gaslighting contorting Rose’s memories, but these re-descriptions pulled me further out of the story.

Even so, this book does an amazing job of raising awareness. For many people who don’t see the red flags at first, this book could open their eyes. For friends, this is a good way to spot the warning signs of a loved one being in an abusive relationship. It’s also a reminder of how difficult it still is for people to escape these relationships (if Tim wasn’t there, I don’t know how Rose would have done it, no matter how strong she is) and that we need to be there for our friends in their times of need.

Isolation Junction is an honest and raw look at the torment of domestic abuse, and a reminder for everyone that their voice matters.

Sawkill Girls

by Claire Legrand

I picked up this book after seeing it all over bookstagram, not knowing exactly what to expect. The blurb made me think that it would be a story of cookie-cutter girls and ancient magic, but then I got sucked into the book and realized all my assumptions were dead wrong. 

Summary

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Musings

Each of the girls is incredibly complex: Marion, morning the loss of her father, trying to be a rock for her sister and mother; Zoey, investigating the disappearance of her best friend and dealing with a shaky relationship with her romantic ex but still best friend; and Val, the ever beautiful, popular girl, who we see immediately as being way more than what Zoey thinks of her. 

I was a little let down when the author almost instantly revealed what was taking the girls on Sawkill rock, and thought “wow, there goes that mystery,” but I quickly realized that wasn’t the point of the story. No, figuring out what has been taking the girls isn’t the core of the book: it’s how the Sawkill Girls fight back. And that’s where the true strength of this novel comes from, the women. How Marion, Zoey, and Val, bring friendship, sisterhood, womanhood to the fight. 

I loved how every time I expected the book to go one way, it instead turned the narrative on its head. This book made me angry, in the best way possible. I made me grit my teeth and shout out in anger. When they introduced the ‘secret society’ I thought the author was stepping into trope territory, but no, she was calling them out. Every trope is brought to the light and beaten repeatedly until it promises never to show its ugly head again. Finishing this book – because I had to read it in one go, it was impossible to put down – I felt the same way as I did stepping out of Wonder Woman. I need more books like these, books that make me feel angry, bolstered and empowered. 

The gentler side of the book was also worthy of applause. An unexpected romantic relationship between two of the girls was perfect, hitting every note of what a YA needs. It was sweet, romantic, even sexy, and entirely woven into the plot of the story (so many books just tack f/f relationships on for the extra diversity sticker, without any actual care. This book doesn’t do that.) On top of that, this has to be the BEST representation of Asexuality I have ever read, anywhere. So perfect. 

While I went into this book with mild expectations, it has quickly become one of my favorite reads this year. Bold, unputdownable, and making me crave a re-read right away. Now let’s tear down the monsters of this world. 

November, in Comics

I haven’t done a monthly wrap up for a while. It’s been a hectic few months, what with the masters ramping up and the stress level through the roof. But this past month I’ve turned to one of my favorite novel forms for entertainment: graphic novels, and comics. 

It’s been so absolutely fantastic to read these beauties. Every one of them brought a smile to my face, and I thought, hey – why not tell people about them? Change things up a little bit from my usual type of post?

Without further ado, I give you five great graphic novels/comics that will warm you up as we go into December.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible

On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. 

I honestly can’t say if I like the book or the show better!

While I don’t feel like we really get into Sabrina’s head in the comics, I loved the dark world the book portrays. Showing us something terrible and hinting at something much worse. It’s a great gritty horror comic which has me dying for more.

I wasn’t quite sure how much I liked the art style. At times, it felt rushed, a little hard to determine. The limited palette was an interesting touch, though, and makes this book really stand out. 

On A Sunbeam

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

This was an adorable graphic where all the characters are queer girls/women + one nonbinary person. A far flung future world full of girls, there were no male characters. I ended up impulse buying it because of the stunning cover, and the artwork inside is magical. 

It’s an amazing story about love and growth, exploring the universe in a quiet, beautiful way. Dream-like. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel after this book. It took me on an adventure, a journey, and I found pieces of myself along the way. It was quiet and beautiful and managed to coax some tears from me, too. Stunning!

Plume: The Omnibus

For Vesper Grey, there is the Before and the After. The Before is devastatingly boring; teacups and girdles, and an overbearing Aunt who makes life hell. The After is Corrick and the uncovered truth about a magical necklace. It is the Wild West, and it is an adventure that could very well change everything.

I bought the omnibus on the recommendation of a good friend, not knowing what to expect except his promise I was going to love it. He didn’t let me down: this comic is fun, thrilling, and impossible to put down. I loved every second of it. 

First of all, I have to say I love the artwork. The color palette is beautiful and the gold of Corrick’s eyes really sparkles on the page. It’s such a nice change from these rusty, cowboy comics. 

The story is just superb. Think Indiana Jones meets the Wild West. With MAGIC! I love Vesper’s character, she’s immediately relatable, spunky, and fun. The need for revenge flows through her and drives so many characters in this book, a theme that is explored from every which way. While I would love to see a live action movie, I think the comic is so spot on it can’t get any better than this. 

I don’t even know how to properly review it. I just want to shove it at people and say ‘READ’. Which I guess is how I got here in the first place!

Cthulhu is Hard to Spell: A Lovecraft Anthology

A comic anthology with 35 awesome stories about Lovecraftian gods and monsters, from fans to fans.

If you love Lovecraft, this is our love letter to Lovecraft fans of all kinds, from those that obsess about Cthulhu, to the ones that never want to leave Arkham, to the ones that keep a copy of the Necronomicon under their pillow, and everyone in between. Whether you are a casual fan or a rabid one, we’ve got you covered.

I absolutely love this anthology, chuck full of amazing stories spanning the whole range of genres and emotions! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and all just for the small price of pledging your life to the Dark Lord. Is he not merciful? 

Having written one of these stories, it’s difficult to remain unbiased. I know how much love and work went into each and every story, discovered incredible creators through this collaboration, even made friends. This anthology is a labor of love from everyone involved, and I can feel it in every story I read, which is why I love each and every one.

Shades of Magic #2: The Steel Prince

The Prince of Red London reaches the Blood Coast – and meets its infamous Pirate Queen.

A short review for a short comic, since this story is ongoing and not yet put into volumes. If you’re not following the Shades of Magic comic, hurry up and do, because it’s amazing. It’s got everything we love about V.E. Shwab’s bestselling series, and more, since the artwork is beautiful. In this issue, the story intensified as Maxim learns about the pirate queen and her dangerous bone magic. Cannot wait for the next installment!

Destroyed Blog Tour – Exclusive Excerpt

As you may have seen in my review a few days ago, I’m so insanely thrilled for the release of Madeline Dyer’s last book in the Untamed series, Destroyed! It’s a fantastic ending to this amazing series and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. And being a part of the blog tour is just the cherry on top!

So without further ado, I give you – an exclusive excerpt from Destroyed! Read on through for your chance to enter a giveaway as well!

Destroyed

I jolt awake, heart pounding. Blood thumps in my ears. Soft blankets, over me, tucked under me. The light is bright, and it takes my eyes a moment to adjust.

I am in a hut. Raleigh’s not here. No net.

Just soft blankets. All around me. And—and my clothes, they’re different. I can feel them. I untangle my arms from the blankets. Long sleeves, red, not ripped.

“It’s okay,” a voice says. “You’re safe.”

I turn and stare at the woman in the hut’s entrance: heart-shaped face, pale, with large eyes. Untamed. Blue eyes, like Jana’s. Her hair is a golden sun around her face, with just the smallest hint of red tones.

“You must be hungry,” she says. Behind her, the light is bright, but I see a blue sky.

She steps closer and places a bowl of meat stew in my hands. I find myself salivating at the aromas—don’t know how I didn’t notice before, because the smells are everywhere and they are wonderful. The woman hands me a spoon, and I dig in.

“Where am I? Where are the others?” I ask around a mouthful.

“You are at the hunting residence of the Stone Seers,” the woman says. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zara.” She holds out her hand, and I shake it. “Jana is assisting with the life your other female companion is bringing forth.”

The Stone Seers? But this isn’t a cave—this is a hut. I can see the wooden structure, how hides have been sewn together to make the walls.

Then I realize what she said. “Esther’s giving birth?”

Zara smiles. “Untamed births are always a gift, even more so when they’re blessed.”

I set the bowl and spoon aside. “I need to go to her.”

“No.” The woman pushes gently at my shoulder. “My dear, you were injured and your Seer powers were threatening the stability of your mind when you arrived here. You still need to rest. Your fever may have broken, but you’ve been unconscious for nearly two days.”

A fever? Two days?

I stare at her and blink several times. I feel fine, just tired.

“Our healers have been overseeing you. Do not worry, my dear, you are safe now. We are together. But you must rest. We know how important you are. Jana has told us everything, and you’re with us now. It will be okay. We have a large group of Untamed. There is no need to worry.”

She sounds oddly like my mother, and I feel safe.

“Where’s Corin?” I look around, but it’s just me and her in here. “And Taras? Elf? Are they with Esther?”

“No, my dear. They are visiting the Great Stone River at the moment. The waterfalls are really magnificent at this time of year, and this is one of the last opportunities to see them before the ice comes. They will be back soon though. Corin has been sitting with you a lot. We did not think you would wake so soon for the fever has only just broken.”

He’s been sitting with me? Of course he has. I blink, and I see him in my mind’s eye, and then he’s gone, and all I’m looking at are the walls of the hut: some sort of coarse-looking fabric stretched over a wooden frame.

The hut is big, very big. Bigger than any we had at Nbutai. So big I don’t even know that hut is the right word. What looks like a wooden kayak sits by the opposite wall, and I stare at it.

“Do not use your Seer powers yet,” Zara says. “You must rest, Seventh One, just rest.”

I take another mouthful of food, feel the way its warmth seeps into me, makes my arms and legs feel heavier. Resting does sound like a good idea. I can’t argue with that. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to rest and be safe, with others around—a whole group who can keep watch.

It’s only after Zara’s gone, and I’m not sure how much time has passed, that I realize I forgot to ask about the attack, whether the Enhanced injured any of us.

Whether we lost any people.

Whether any of us were ‘saved’.

Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on this tour for more fun goodies!