Dactyl Hill Squad
19 Dec, 2018

Dactyl Hill Squad

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Dactyl Hill Squad Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
on September 11, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: New York

It's 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community--a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it's too late?

Goodreads

Do I really need to tell you anything else besides THIS IS A CIVIL WAR STORY WITH DINOSAURS?  Because, honestly, that’s all it took for me.  I mean, ok, it is written by Daniel Jose Older whose adult and YA books I’ve loved.  Why wouldn’t I love his new middle grade series?

The dinosaurs are both all important and just part of the background in this world.  They are used as draft animals.  The big ones function as buses and ferries.  Triceratops pull carts.  The bad guys ride carnivorous dinos.  

This fantasy imagery is set along side a plot inspired by real events.  There was a ring of white businessmen in New York who kidnapped and sold free colored people into slavery.  The colored children’s home did burn in the Draft Riots.  This book imagines what would have happened if the survivors of the fire found their way to a resistance cell and learned to fight back — WITH DINOSAURS! 

I’d recommend this book to anyone because of the imaginative world building and a look at a part of Civil War history that isn’t often discussed, even without there being dinosaurs.  The dinosaur angle would work well to pull in readers who may be reluctant to read a book about the past.  

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

25 Jan, 2017

Battle Hill Bolero

/ posted in: Reading Battle Hill Bolero Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older
on January 3, 2017
Series: Bone Street Rumba #3
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Also in this series: Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1), Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2)
Goodreads

“Trouble is brewing between the Council of the Dead and the ghostly, half-dead, spiritual, and supernatural community they claim to represent. One too many shady deals have gone down in New York City’s streets, and those caught in the crossfire have had enough. It’s time for the Council to be brought down—this time for good. Carlos Delacruz is used to being caught in the middle of things: both as an inbetweener, trapped somewhere between life and death, and as a double agent for the Council. But as his friends begin preparing for an unnatural war against the ghouls in charge, he realizes that more is on the line than ever before—not only for the people he cares about, but for every single soul in Brooklyn, alive or otherwise…”


This is the third and final book in the Bone Street Rumba series.

It started with:

 

I love the world that Older created.  This is a diverse and exciting Brooklyn.  There are people of all different races and sexual orientations.  There are American Santeria priests working alongside Haitian doctors.  The women in these books are amazing.  They defy stereotypes and each is a distinct individual.

I’m not a person who tends to drool over book covers but seriously, look at this cover.  That is amazing. I want it on a T shirt.

Unfortunately, Older creates all these wonderful characters and then doesn’t seem to fully know what to do with them.  I’ve had this complaint about a lot of his books.  The plots are forgettable.  He writes a better sense of danger here than in Shadowshaper but it is still ultimately disappointing.  I would be interested to see if that is the case if this were read back to back instead of waiting months in between.

I think this might be a series that is best binge-read.  I found myself losing details of what happened before.  Minor characters that I barely remembered become important as the series progresses.  There is a list of characters in the front of the book but reminders of who they were weren’t worked into the story.  I prefer being reminded in the text instead of having to refer to a glossary of characters.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Urban Fantasy and great characterizations.

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • LBGTQ authors/characters
  • POC authors
26 May, 2016

Midnight Taxi Tango

/ posted in: Reading Midnight Taxi Tango Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2) by Daniel José Older
on January 5th 2016
Pages: 319
Series: Bone Street Rumba #2
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York
Also in this series: Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1), Battle Hill Bolero

The streets of New York are hungry tonight... Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals—and is bound to take more.
The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie's botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that—because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.

Goodreads

In Half-Resurrection Blues we met Carlos, a half-dead agent for the New York Council of the Dead.  He has no memory of the time before he was killed and sort of brought back to life.  He had a short fling with a woman he met who is like him and she left him when she found out that she was pregnant.  It is now several months later.

Kia is 16 and runs a Santeria shop after school.  When she was 7 she went with her beloved older cousin Gio to watch a house of a friend of his.  The friend said that there were strange men outside his house every night and Gio wanted to see what was going on.  That night the men, who appeared to be made out of bugs, attacked his friend Jeremy.  Gio disappeared a few months later.  Kia is still mourning him deeply.  When she is attacked by a ghost in a park, she gains the ability to see the dead and it unnerves her.  She also finds out that the bug men were real and that they are back.


Older writes great characters. In this book I particularly liked Reza.  She is a bodyguard for a prostitution ring.  She likes to dress in menswear and prides herself on being very dapper.  Four months ago her girlfriend went missing while on a job.  No trace of her has been found.  Now another woman from the company was abducted.  Reza and her boss decide to shut down the prostitution business and go after people that they decide are evil.  This brings them into contact with Carlos and Kia when their investigations overlap.

I liked this book in the series better than the first. I’m interested to see how this series develops.

#socksunday with Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel Jose Older

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

05 May, 2016

Half-Resurrection Blues

/ posted in: Reading Half-Resurrection Blues Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba, #1) by Daniel José Older
on January 6th 2015
Pages: 326
Series: Bone Street Rumba #1
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York
Also in this series: Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2), Battle Hill Bolero

“Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”
Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.
One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.
But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death…

Goodreads

After reading Shadowshaper I was interested in reading more from Daniel José Older.  I liked the world building a lot more in this novel.

No one knows quite what Carlos is.  He has no memory of his life before the day he died.  He was picked up by some ghosts and taken to a safe house where he recovered.  He isn’t a ghost but can see and interact with them.  He was thought to be one of a kind until another person like him shows up and starts trying to harm some of the most powerful ghosts in New York.

I love the idea that there is a bureaucracy of the dead in New York.  Carlos works for the afterlife’s law enforcement.  His partners are actual ghosts and this leads to issues like never being able to hand anything directly to him in sight of the living because nothing upsets live people like seeing a coffee cup float through the air.

He also seeks help from a gay Santeria priest and the teenager that runs the priest’s store when he has spiritual and magical issues to resolve.  Add in a paramedic with interest in the occult and a Haitian trauma surgeon for physical help when needed and he is set.

My only quibble with this book is that the female characters aren’t written as strongly as the male ones.  I know that he gets better with this because I read later books first so that’s good, but in this one the love interest Sasha pretty much seems to exist only as an object of Carlos’ desire.  You don’t get a lot of insight into what she is thinking about the situation.  Even when an attempt is made to show her point of view, it is flat compared to the way he writes men.

This is a good start to a series.  I’m interested in seeing where he takes this.

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

14 Apr, 2016

Shadowshaper

/ posted in: Reading Shadowshaper Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
on June 30, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep . . . Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Goodreads

Sierra is an amazing artist.  She has been asked to paint a mural on an abandoned building in her neighborhood.  There is a lot of street art around her but lately she’s been noticing that they are starting to fade.  Then one day she sees a mural change in front of her and start to weep.

Her grandfather had a stroke soon after her grandmother died but now he is agitated and wants Sierra to know that he is sorry for… something.  Her mother seems to know what he means but shuts Sierra down every time she asks.  Some of her grandfather’s friends point her towards another artist at her school for answers before they start to disappear themselves.

The writing in this book was amazing.  Contemporary Brooklyn is a character as much as a setting of this book.  Older shows the joys of living in this neighborhood with dance clubs and vibrant art as well as the problems of street harassment of teenage girls and the specter of police brutality.  I’ve never been impressed by New York City at all but this book almost made me feel like it would be an interesting place to be.  Seriously, salsa thrash metal?  Yes, please.

The cast of characters was inclusive without it coming across as forced for the sake of inclusiveness.  There is a lesbian couple.  Most of the cast are Latina(o).  There are both male and female characters who are important parts of the story and the significant secondary characters range in age from teenagers to elderly.

There are discussions about racism in the community.  Sierra remembers a time when she surprised herself by apologizing for her dark skin.  Her aunt is tells her that she shouldn’t date a Haitian because you don’t want a boyfriend whose skin is darker than the bottom of your foot.

If this was a contemporary novel it would be nearly 5 stars.  But, this is a fantasy story and that aspect was not as strong for me.  The idea of being able to make your art come alive when necessary is good but the stakes of the conflict never felt high.  It felt like something bad was going to happen but it wasn’t clear what that was supposed to be.

If you like the idea of art featuring in urban YA fantasy you can also check out these titles.

The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

“The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)Ink by Amanda Sun

“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.”

Truthfully, this one was a little too “He’s SO DREAMY!!!!!” with no actual explanation of why so I DNFed it.

 

I received this book as a gift from my OTSP Secret Sister as part of my Easter box.  The cover is gorgeous.  I’m going to read more by this author because I love his writing.

My Easter box from my #otspsecretsister. I was just thinking about this book last night.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

UA-56222504-1