Love, ghosts, and traitors in WWI London

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Ghost Talkers

Yep. It’s historic fantasy, a genre I don’t often read, but after a couple weeks of agony and watching the publication date of this new release creep up on me (and past), I broke down and went for it.

Man, am I glad I did.

The Plot:

London. World War I. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American heiress and a powerful medium serving in the British Spirit Corps, a secret, spiritualist force in the military tasked with hearing the field reports of dead soldiers and passing along military intelligence. Continue reading

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[Book Review] Urban fantasy, race politics, and werewolves

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Let’s talk urban fantasy.

“Too often in UF we get lip service to the idea of discrimination (or racism or sexism). If you look at the popular series, however, there is no in-depth analysis of it. Anita Blake, Elena, and Kitty are all non-human and are segregated out of the human society because of what they are, yet in their books we mostly see them functioning in a society where they are not the minority. Anita has (or had) one strict human friend, Elena had one human boyfriend, who she dumped, and Kitty has her family, but the werewolves and vampires get more play. The characters who are supposedly outsiders are actually part of the in-group of the novel. In those novels, in terms of characters, strict humans are the minority, and very rarely do central characters behave as if they have been effected by an -ism; they might have to hide, but outright discrimination doesn’t really seem to occur or should it, like in Kitty Takes a Holiday, it lacks depth.” (Chris from Goodreads)

I couldn’t have laid it out better myself, so I didn’t try. Chris was the Goodreads review angel who said Benighted by Kit Whitfield was different in its representation of “otherness.” I was convinced me to give the book a chance – and man, am I glad I did.

Since I finished it, it has skyrocketed to my short list of top reads, and is one of the few books I’ve reread. But before I get more into that, the plot:

In Benighted, being wholly human is a recessive gene. When the full moon rises, ninety-nine percent of the human population humans transform into lunes (werewolves), mindless, ferocious animals, wrecking havoc if left to their own devices. Those few born unable to change are the minority – often viewed with disgust and hostility for their disability.

Lola Galley is a veteran of the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activities, an organization staffed by non-lunes that monitors the city during the full moon and is tasked with keeping order and capturing the lunes who break the law to roam free on full-moon nights. When Lola’s friend is attacked by a lune, and then murdered before the attacker can be brought to justice, Lola finds herself on the trail of a deadly conspiracy. Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: The Dream Protocol: Descent by Adara Quick

The soft, vintage tones. The flowy dress. The dramatic clockwork moth. The lovely font on the cover. I had to read this.

The premise: Diedre is a teen in a futuristic underground city where the caste system is all, sleep and dreams are manufactured by the elites, and anyone who turns 35 is eliminated from the system. In a dystopian world frantically obsessed with youth, Diedre’s best friend, Flynn, was born with a genetic condition that ages him prematurely. If anyone finds out, he’s as good as dead.

Impressions: I was looking for some Lana Del Rey summertime sadness with this – a touch of hipster, a bit of romantic subplot, a dash of dystopia.

Instead, and despite the incredibly clever world concept, the novel reads like a kind of morality tale, in which teen characters speak out against the system in eloquent, full sentences and rhetorical questions. Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: Dogwood Sprocket by Bokerah Brumley

It’s been a while since I’ve read steampunk. The historical aspect of the genre usually keeps me away. But when I saw Dogwood Sprocket’s pretty cover, I couldn’t say no.

The Story I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Just look at the shiny silvery stuff. Just look at that top hat.

The Plot:

It’s the year 2287, and Grace York makes a living hand-crafting clever mechanical collectibles in an age of fast flying cars and soaring skyscrapers. Her life is interrupted when she is sucked through a mysterious portal created by Hugh Hawthorne, a clever inventor from a different time and a different, parallel universe. As Grace tries to adjust to the new, mechanical, steam-powered world, she finds herself falling for Hugh, a man who might be lying about whether he can get Grace home again.

Impressions:

Some stories make me angry. Some make me want to call all my friends to rave in delight. And some – the hardest to talk about – land somewhere in the lukewarm middle. This is that kind of story. Dogwood Sprocket is like curling up with a mug of tea on a comfy. It’s pleasant, cozy and sweet. It doesn’t thrill, but neither does it disappoint. It’s nice.

It’s a neat mix of time travel and romance. The first sparkle of romantic connection is instantaneous when the characters meet, but Grace and Hugh slowly and tentatively build their rapport over the full course of the story.

Luckily for Grace, her futurist career as a toy-maker and artisan is probably the only job whose skills transferred perfectly and immediately to a steampunk world. Grace’s independence is a lovely foil for Hugh’s cautious courtship as they navigate tricky issues like Victorian Era dress codes, a formal outing, how to get Grace home again…and what to do once she gets there.

Oh, and there’s a cute cat.

All and all, the short story is a nicely-crafted ode to the steampunk genre.

Canary verdict:

(A pleasant read.)

I received a free copy of the story for review.

More steampunk? Check out the following:

[Small Chirp] Books I know I’ll end up reading. Cuz cover.

Hey, A Book I Just Know I’ll End Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Servant of a Dark God

The Plot:

“A spirited blacksmith’s daughter accused of using the dark and terrifying sleth magic.

The young man who hunts her.

And the ferocious monster who only wants to be free.

Trapped in a web of lies and ancient secrets, of right becoming wrong, the three must struggle not only against each other, but also a being of irresistible powers, a creature who is gathering her servants to usher in the impending human harvest.

If the three succeed, they will save those they love the most. If they fail, the clans of the land fall with them. Thus begins the towering fantasy series that introduces an elaborate new world, a multifaceted system of magic, and a cast of compelling characters and creatures.”

The Dread: Oh. This is gonna be rough, isn’t it? What are the chances that the book will pull a delightfully fast one and the characters will all fail, the clans of the lands will fall with them, and the spirited blacksmith’s daughter becomes no more?  We should be so lucky.

My other worry: This is billed as the beginning of the series, but it sure looks like there ain’t no sequel anywhere in sight. What if I end up overcoming my yikes-reflex for epic fantasy? I’ll like it, and it’ll end on a cliffhanger, I just know it.

 

Another Book I Just Know I’ll End Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

RangeofGhosts

 

The Plot:

“Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.”

The Dread: 

That entire blurb makes me feel anxious. Too many names. I should read the prequel series. Overwhelmness.

Also: Why are the prettiest covers always on epic fantasy novels? I’ve had miserable luck with that genre lately.

 

One More Book I Just Know I’ll End Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

 

The Plot:

“As far as college freshman Brenda Morris knows, there is only one Earth and magic exists only in fairy tales.

Brenda is wrong. A father-daughter weekend turns into a nightmare when Brenda’s father is magically attacked before her eyes. Brenda soon learns that her ancestors once lived in world of smoke and shadows, of magic and secrets.

When that world’s Emperor was overthrown, the Thirteen Orphans fled to our earth and hid their magic system in the game of mah-jong. Each Orphan represents an animal from the Chinese Zodiac. Brenda’s father is the Rat. And her polished, former child-star aunt, Pearl—that eminent lady is the Tiger.

Only a handful of Orphans remain to stand against their enemies. The Tiger, the Rooster, the Dog, the Rabbit . . . and Brenda Morris. Not quite the Rat, but not quite human either.”

The Dread: 

I hate, hate, hate student main characters. It’s a hatred born of a long list of literary disappointments and artsy, sensitive college-aged heroines who make me want to chew through my reader tablet charging cord. The sight of the word “student” in a blurb almost always means the book is an auto-discard.

I used the word “almost” there because, oh gosh, that cover. Maybe the Chinese culture element will make up for the inevitably insufferable and useless Brenda? The word “orphan” doesn’t fill me with much confidence, either.

Do you have an auto-discard trigger? What is it?

 

The Cover Made Me Read It: Killing Sarai by J.A. Redmerski

This one is a little different. It’s not fantasy. It’s not Science Fiction. It’s not even speculative or young adult. It’s a suspense/thriller/assassin/romance. But just look at those covers. (You get two, because I couldn’t pick editions.)

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Killing Sarai Killing Sarai2
Yeah.

The Plot: “Sarai was only fourteen when her mother uprooted her to live in Mexico with a notorious drug lord. Over time she forgot what it was like to live a normal life, but she never let go of her hope to escape the compound where she has been held for the past nine years.

Victor is a cold-blooded assassin who, like Sarai, has known only death and violence since he was a young boy. When Victor arrives at the compound to collect details and payment for a hit, Sarai sees him as her only opportunity for escape. But things don’t go as planned and instead of finding transport back to Tucson, she finds herself free from one dangerous man and caught in the clutches of another.”

Continue reading

The Cover Made Me Read It: Master of Crows by Grace Draven

Here’s another cover that I couldn’t pass by. Crows and flowy hair. What more can you ask for?

What? Plot? Psh. Who needs plot?

The Book I Ended Up Reading. Cuz Cover.

Yeah.

The Plot:

Welp, on the one hand, you have the renegade sorcerer Silhara, reticent avatar of the evil god, Corruption. On the other, you have Martise a young slavewoman-turned-spy who’s been promised her freedom if she is able to find the proof of Silhara’s crimes that would lead to his execution. She’s set up to be his scribe and apprentice. He is all sorts of suspicious.

Inevitably, romance.

Continue reading