A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.
New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.
It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.
It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.
Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”
Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.
All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.
Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a remarkable talent.
I was pulled in by the world building of this book from the first page. The Westside of Manhattan has fallen under some type of spell or curse or something. No one is sure what it is but people are disappearing. A wall is built to keep the darkness out of the east. The west is left to be reclaimed by nature and the darkness.
Gilda is a detective who only works on tiny mysteries. She watched her father get obsessed by the big mystery of what was happening to the Westside and she isn’t going to let that happen to her. She’s on the hunt for a missing glove when her whole world starts to unravel – literally and figuratively. Now she is going to have to figure out what is happening to her city before everything is taken from her.
I loved the city and the factions that run the different parts of the Westside. I would have totally moved to the Upper West. It was much nicer there. I liked the idea of little mysteries that are annoying enough to need solved. I liked the characters who aren’t always what they seemed.
I wasn’t completely enamored of the big mystery though. That was a disappointment for me since I loved all the components. I wish it would have stayed with the small things.
Photo by W. M. Akers
About W.M. Akers
W. M. Akers is an award-winning playwright,†Narratively†editor, and the creator of the bestselling game†Deadball: Baseball With Dice.†Westside†is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about his work at wmakers.net.
Clara Gutierrez is a highly-skilled technician specializing in the popular 'Raise' AI companions. Her childhood in a migrant worker family has left her uncomfortable with lingering in any one place, so she sticks around just long enough to replenish her funds before she moves on, her only constant companion Joanie, a fierce, energetic Raise hummingbird.
Sal is a fully autonomous robot, the creation of which was declared illegal ages earlier due to ethical concerns. She is older than the law, however, at best out of place in society and at worst hated. Her old master is long dead, but she continues to run the tea shop her master had owned, lost in memories of the past, slowly breaking down, and aiming to fulfill her master's dream for the shop.
When Clara stops by Sal's shop for lunch, she doesn't expect to find a real robot there, let alone one who might need her help. But as they begin to spend time together and learn more about each other, they both start to wrestle with the concept of moving on…
This novella tells the story of a humanoid robot who is keeping her former owner’s beloved tea shop running almost 300 years after her death. Robots like her have since been outlawed. Robotics technician Clara is thrilled to meet Sal and offers to help fix up her ailing software. What does she want to have changed though? What makes her HER?
This book features a f/f romantic, asexual relationship.
Batter Upby Robyn Neeley on June 15th 2015 Pages: 172 Setting: New York
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret. A delicious premonition she shares every Monday evening with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls as they gather at the Sugar Spoon bakery for Batter Up night.
Investigative reporter Jason Levine just found himself as the man candy for a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Roped into attending the Vegas nuptials, was he hearing things when the groom shares that the only reason he’s getting married is because a small town baker conjured up the name of his soulmate in her cake batter?
Sparks fly when Jason tries to expose Emma as a fraud, but reality and logic go out the window as he begins to fall under her spell.
This is a fun read that works if you just suspend disbelief and embrace the magical realism of the idea. Emma knows one spell. There really isn't an explanation for that.
I also wondered how they have Batter Up night every week in this very small town and never run out of bachelors who want to commit.
It is a fluffy, light romance with fade to black sex scenes and magical cupcake batter so if you are looking for an escapist quick read this one might be for you.
Dee is a Good Witch but she wonders if she could be a better witch.
She wonders if there’s more to life than Disney movie marathons, eating a whole box of chocolates for dinner and brewing up potions in her bathtub. So when she’s offered a chance to go on a personal development course in the English countryside, she packs her bags, says goodbye to the Shelter for Unloved Animals charity shop and sets a course for self-improvement.
Caroline isn’t just a Good Witch, she’s a fricking awesome witch.
She likes to find the easy path through life: what her good looks can’t get for her, a few magic charms can. But she’s bored of being a waitress and needs something different in her life. So when a one night stand offers her a place on an all-expenses-paid residential course in a big old country house, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.
Jenny is a Wicked Witch. She just wishes she wasn’t.
On her fifteenth birthday, she got her first wart, her own imp and a Celine Dion CD. She still has the imp. She also has a barely controllable urge to eat human children which is socially awkward to say the least and not made any easier when a teenager on the run turns to her for help. With gangsters and bent cops on their trail, Jenny needs to find a place outside the city where they can lay low for a while.
For very different reasons, three very different witches end up on the same training course and land in a whole lot of trouble when they discover that there’s a reason why their free country break sounds too good to be true. Foul-mouthed imps, wererats, naked gardeners, tree monsters, ghosts and stampeding donkeys abound in a tale about discovering your inner witch.
This book was absolutely ridiculous and I loved it. I actually, honestly, literally laughed out loud a few times. From surveys where the only right answer is commenting about the survey taker’s flaming hat to absolutely perverse imps to flying landscaping equipment, it took every stereotype about witches and twisted them delightfully.
This is a book that you don’t try to hard to make perfect sense. It is a madcap romp and you should just go along for the ride. There are witches of all ages and abilities. Some use herbs. Some use whatever is laying around. Others have a complete set of every type of mystical craft available in occult stores.
My only complaint is that with all the action the characterization took a back seat. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of which witch was which. But that is a minor quibble. Pick this one up for a light, silly story.
On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.
Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.
As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
This is historical romance series with a fantasy twist. Once upon a time a fairy was helped by a woman. In exchange, she asked for each of her female descendants to be granted one wish when they are in their early twenties. This series covers a few of the descendants as they choose their gift and then deal with the consequences in their lives. I hadn’t read a series before that combined fantasy and Regency romance.
In the first book Charlotte decides to wish for the ability to shapeshift. She uses this gift to disguise herself as a man to attempt to live an independent life. This is a good opening for some social commentary about the restrictions on women. The book is also funny as Charlotte tries to control a male body with its over large hands and obvious responses to sexual attraction. Her employer (and eventual love interest) thinks he is taking a young, particularly naive man under his wing and teaching what life in London is like. As their friendship and attraction deepen, both need to comes to terms with their own understanding of what it means to be attracted to a personality no matter the shape of the body that it is in.
Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.
He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong…
The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.
Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…
Barnaby Ware was introduced in book 1 as the man who broke up a marriage and a lifelong friendship by having an affair. When the wronged party attempts to reach out to him in forgiveness, he resists because he feels that what he did was unforgivable. When he visits his former friend he meets Miss Merryweather. Unbeknownst to him, she is due to receive her fairy gift in a few days.
This is a novella instead of a full length novel. It is also the most forgettable of these books for me. I was more interested in the friendship that was trying to be repaired instead of the romance that is supposed to be blossoming.
Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.
Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.
Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…
This is one of my favorites of the series. Lydia has been living with her gift – the ability to tell lies from truth – for several years. She has refused all offers of marriage because she knows that the men have only wanted her money and not her. She gets involved with an injured former soldier who hears about her ability (but not the magical reason). He wants her to help him find out what happened in the ambush where he was injured and all his companions were killed.
I liked the fact that this book had an older and wiser heroine. She’s seen it all moving through society with the ability to cut through all the games and polite phrases. The chance to do something new thrills her.
Icarus is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s suicidal and has nightmares every night. It is a good representation of this. As the wife of a veteran with PTSD, I appreciated the thoughtful portrayal.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
I did not like this book. I wanted to. This book focuses on two male characters who were important in the last book. I liked them. I wanted to find out more about their relationship. My problem with this one was the way the sex was handled. I’m not a huge fan of sex in books anyway. I much prefer slow burn romances and fade to black sex scenes. While the other books have had sex scenes there was enough romance and character development to balance them.
In this book, there is just sex. You don’t get the romantic parts that were seen in the other books. I think that the difference was here because it was switched to a m/m story instead of a male/virginal female story. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave out the romance and tenderness though. Relationship development is still important and that didn’t happen here.
Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.
The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.
But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.
Eleanor is searching for her sister, who ran away to marry a soldier. Eleanor’s fiance ran off because of the scandal her sister caused. Her father and aunt kept her sister’s letters from her. Now she has found a several month old letter saying that her sister is in trouble. The only person willing to help her is a relative of the man who jilted her.
This ends up being a road trip story like book 3. I don’t think it is quite as strong as that one but is enjoyable nonetheless.
At the age of four Lord Vickery was stolen by gypsies and sold to a chimney sweep. At the age of five he was reunited with his father. His history is no secret—everyone in the ton knows of his miraculous rescue.
But when Vickery finds his father’s diaries, he discovers that there may be a secret buried in his past…
Georgiana Dalrymple knows all about secrets. She has several herself—and one of those secrets is her ability to find missing people.
When Lord Vickery turns to her for help, Georgiana sets out to discover just who he actually is…
Georgiana can find anything, including the answers to old mysteries if she just asks the right questions. But is uncovering the truth always for the best?
I liked this book a lot. It was nice to see the heroine trying to convince the hero that she would stand by him instead of the other other way around like it is common in a lot of historical romances. There is no meet-cute here. They have known each other all their lives and their relationship is formed out of their friendship. It was a nice end to the series.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this series if you like historical romances. Just skip the third book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Tea, Love ... and Revolution!
The Rebel Mechanics aren’t the only group plotting revolution against the magical British Empire. There are rebel magisters, as well, and Verity Newton and her magister employer, Lord Henry, know that the only way for the revolution to succeed is if both groups work together. A diplomatic mission seems like the perfect opportunity for them to meet with rebels in other colonies and gather support—right under the governor’s nose.
The premise of this series is that the Americans lost the Revolution because upper class British people have magic. Now it is the 1880s and steampunk technology has advanced enough to level the battlefield.
Verity is a governess for a British family in New York. She was recruited to spy for the rebels. It turns out that her employer wants a revolution also. He is working towards it covertly with his British peers. Now it is time to bring both camps together.
I love the multiple levels of espionage in this book. Trying to get various rebel groups to work together without one or the other trying to get all the credit was a bit like herding cats. Some of the children Verity watches are maturing from spoiled brats to budding activists too.
There is a slow romance through this series and a potential new romance in this book. This ends in upheaval so I hope the next book in the series comes out soon.
About Shanna Swendson
Shanna Swendson is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series, the Fairy Tale series, and Rebel Mechanics.
Reese Eddings has enough to do just keeping her rattletrap merchant vessel, the TMS Earthrise, profitable enough to pay food for herself and her micro-crew. So when a mysterious benefactor from her past shows up demanding she rescue a man from slavers, her first reaction is to say "NO!" And then to remember that she sort of promised to repay the loan. But she doesn't remember signing up to tangle with pirates and slavers over a space elf prince...
I love the universe that M.C.A. Hogarth has created for her books. In the future, humans create human/animal hybrids called the Pelted who then leave the galaxy. They spread out onto new worlds and form an Alliance. They totally leave their human creators behind.
Human still live in this galaxy except for a few adventurous ones who venture out into Alliance space. Reese was born on Mars. Now she has fled from the life that was planned for her there and is trying to make a living as a trader. It isn’t going well. She was bailed out once. She’s almost broke again.
Now she has to go rescue an Eldritch who fell into the hands of slavers. The Eldritch are a reclusive race. They don’t leave their planets much because they are highly empathetic. Too many beings makes it hard for them. Everything Reese knows about them comes from the romance novels she gets monthly that feature Eldritch as mysterious heroes. It turns out that Eldritch are much more annoying than in the books.
Reese is prickly. She doesn’t open herself up emotionally easily. This is an area of conflict between her and the feline crew members who respond to everyone emotionally and sexually. As a Mars native who was born under a dome and who now lives on a ship, she gets agoraphobia whenever she has to be on a planet with an endless horizon.
Reese is only just getting used to running the Earthrise in the black—and with an Eldritch in her crew—when a trip to a colony world gives rise to a whole new problem: Hirianthial is showing powers that even the Eldritch rarely have, and that only in legend. He badly needs training, support and advice, and the only place he can find them is... at home.
To see the world of the Eldritch is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a thing of fantasies and rumor. And to finally meet the Eldritch Queen, the author of so many of Reese's windfalls! You'd have to twist her arm to get her to admit it, but Reese can't wait to go. But a court out of fantasy and a breathtaking land aren't enough compensation when they come packaged with a rabidly xenophobic species whose world is falling apart. The last thing they want any part of is some mortal interloper.
Is Reese ready for the Eldritch world? Better to ask: are they ready for her?
Not going to lie. I didn’t expect a space opera series to end up focusing so much on horses. I’m not complaining. I like horses.
After trying to open up a new trade route, Reese and the crew fall into the hands of slavers again. Hirianthial, the Eldritch crew member fights back. He realizes that his psychic powers are getting more powerful. In fact, the only person he’s ever heard of with these powers went insane and killed a lot of people on the Eldritch planet.
The Eldritch have kept the planet closed off forever. Bringing a crew of non-Eldritch in is going to be a problem.
The slow romance between Reese and Hirianthial continues. I enjoyed the idea of Reese trying to build a relationship based on what she read in romance books. She gets a bit annoyed when he doesn’t act like the heroes she reads about.
This is a very different book than the first one. There are a lot more politics than space travel. I love the diverse crew, especially Alacazam. He’s an alien that looks like a fuzzy basketball. He communicates through thoughts and helps cheer everyone else.
The Queen of the Eldritch has offered Reese Eddings a life out of a fairy tale, one beyond the imagination of a poor girl from Mars who’d expected to spend her life eking out a living with a rattletrap merchant vessel. Unfortunately, the day Reese reached out to accept Liolesa’s offer, Hirianthial’s enemies betrayed him--and his entire planet--to a race of sociopathic shapeshifters with dreams of conquest. Now the only thing between Reese and a castle of her very own is a maniacal alien despot, his native quisling and all the Eldritch dead-set on preventing the incursion of aliens at any cost, including the ousting of their current usurper, who happens to be an alien himself...
Reese, Hirianthial and the crew of the Earthrise have been battling these pirates since Hirianthial’s capture inspired their fateful meeting, but to beat them Reese will have to own the power she’s always denied herself, and Hirianthial must make peace with his bloody past and uncertain future.
Right as everything is coming together for Reese and her crew, a coup throws the planet into chaos. Now Reese is hiding refugees and political prisoners. Hirianthial is off planet with the deposed Queen getting medical treatment for his injuries he got during the attack. The only way back together is to get the rightful Queen back on the throne.
This book is about making a new civilization from the remains of an old one. How do they want to live? What does it take to rule? Liolesa, the deposed queen has been shoring up her people with off-World goods for years without their knowledge. What happens when the isolationists who take over have to face the truth?
There is the repeated rape of a female prisoner in this story. It happens off the page but it isn’t graphically described. However, her reactions to this repeated trauma are described.
This is a good ending to the story. There is a short story that takes place between books two and three that I haven’t read yet. This author has other series set in the same universe to that I’m looking forward to reading.
About M.C.A. Hogarth
Daughter of two Cuban political exiles, M.C.A. Hogarth was born a foreigner in the American melting pot and has had a fascination for the gaps in cultures and the bridges that span them ever since. She has been many things—-web database architect, product manager, technical writer and massage therapist—-but is currently a full-time parent, artist, writer and anthropologist to aliens, both human and otherwise.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.
It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.
I loved Zen Cho’s novel Sorcerer to the Crown so I was excited to read some of her shorter fiction.
This story takes place in Hell. In the Chinese version you can advance through levels. If you have descendants who burn paper offerings for you regularly, you can make a pretty nice life for yourself in the Tenth Court of Hell. If you don’t have the money to live well or bribe the officials, you will have to reincarnate and start all over.
In this story a girl is taken as a second wife of a well off man. The first wife is estranged. Everything is going fine until he brings home a third wife. This wife is made of animated terra cotta. These terra cotta people are designed to be perfect servants but it doesn’t go the way he planned.
“Happy birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”
Ever since she was a small girl, she has learned to be careful on the hunt, to recognize the signs that separate regular animals from human-cursed grundwirgen. To harm a grundwirgen is a crime punishable by death by the King's decree - a fatal mistake that her Auntie Rosa and mother have carefully prepared her to avoid.
On her fifteenth birthday, when her mother is arrested and made to stand trial for grundwirgen murder, everything she thought she knew about her family and her past comes crashing down.
Auntie Rosa has always warned her about monsters. Now, she must find and confront them to save her mother, no matter the cost.
I didn’t realize that this was a fairy tale retelling or a short story when I started reading it. A girl has been trained to hunt since she was small. There are people who turn into animals and animals with higher consciousness around so you have to be careful not to hunt them. Her mother is arrested for a long ago murder of someone and all the secrets of her mother and her mother’s lover come out.
I don’t want to say a lot more about it because I think seeing it unfold without preconceived ideas of what would happen was part of the fun. Read this one if you like updated fairy tales with twists.
Both of these are excellent short fiction pieces that can introduce you to these authors. They each feature lesbian characters and Asian or multiracial leads. Pick them up.
About S.L. Huang
SL Huang justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. She is the author of the Amazon-bestselling Russell’s Attic series, and her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016. She is also a Hollywood stuntwoman and firearms expert, where she’s appeared on shows such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Raising Hope” and worked with actors such as Sean Patrick Flanery, Jason Momoa, and Danny Glover. She currently lives in Tokyo. Online, she is cheerfully opinionated at www.slhuang.com and on Twitter as @sl_huang.
About Zen Cho
“I’m a London-based Malaysian author of speculative fiction and romance. My debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first in a historical fantasy trilogy published by Ace/Roc (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth). ” from her website
Seventeen-year-old Ciardis Vane grew up in a small village on the edge of the realm. Beautiful, destitute, and desperate she is looking to get out anyway she can. She has worked her whole live as a laundress with no hope of escaping her fate anytime soon.
But then her life changes when a strange woman appears with the key to Ciardis' escape. With an offer to take her to the capital and a life she'd never dreamed of, it's hard to resist. There's only one catch.
She wants Ciardis to become a companion: she'll be required to wear expensive dresses, learn to conduct suitable magic, educate herself oncourt proclivities, and - in the end - chain herself to the highestbidder. A Patron for life.
This is a book that I loved until I didn’t.
The beginning of the story drew me in quickly. I loved the writing and the story of a girl who is discovered in the laundry and trained to be a courtesan.
She is the last of a family of powerful mages. She has the ability to amplify the magic of anyone else. This is very attractive in a companion. Companions are chosen for life. The Patron may go through multiple marriages but companions stay by their side as business partners and sometimes as romantic partners. Ciardis peaks the interest of both men and women interested in her powers.
Then, about halfway through the story, it started to lag. It started slipping into too many tropes for my liking. The Prince is in disguise! Ciardis doesn’t realize how powerful she is! There are evil people advising the King! Any of these could be worked into a good story but this book didn’t seem to go deep enough. It was like it was hitting the highlights of what should be in a fantasy book.
I did like the fact that there was no romance in this book. That is a nice change of pace. I have a feeling that it will change in future books but it was nice for now.
I am still intrigued enough in the overall story to give the next book a try. The reviews on Goodreads suggest that it is better than the first one. So far there are nine books in this series. I can’t imagine where this could be going that requires that many but I’m willing to be surprised.
About Terah Edun
Terah’s work has taken her from communities in Morocco to refugee centers in South Sudan. She is both an international development worker and a New York Times bestselling author of young adult novels. Hailing from Atlanta, GA and currently living in Washington, D.C. her favorite place to be is in front of the computer communicating the stories of underprivileged individuals around the world – both fictional and representative.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed.
Looking at reviews of this book it seems like this is either a book you adore or one that you don’t understand at all. I’m in the don’t understand category.
The premise seems good. A girl’s family is killed and she goes on the run with the thing that they were guarding – a book. No one reads in this time so she doesn’t know why the book is important.
Ok, that seems like a good start. But it starts to break down quickly.
She vaguely remembers her mother playing with blocks with letters on them with her until her father tells them that it is too dangerous. From that vague memory of a few letters, she somehow teaches herself to read. Not buying it. She starts reading a story in the book about pirates. Then she rescues a boy who is being held to fight other boys to the death. They chase after people who captured him and took her aunt away. Eventually, the pirates from the book show up in real life. Yeah. But then she can’t find the story about the pirates in the book anymore. Is the book gigantic or does it change or what? Suddenly, it supposedly contains the stories of everyone but the only story that we see from it is the pirates. Then there are people chasing the girl because she has magic but it isn’t clear whether they want her or the book or what. Then they get captured but they run away. The end.
What we don’t know:
Why is she magic?
Why do some people have magic of various kinds and others don’t?
Why are books outlawed?
What or who made this book so powerful?
Is Archer (the guy she rescued) the embodiment of a prophecy or just some guy?
I kept reading this book because I was certain it had to go somewhere and have everything tie together eventually. I was wrong. It wasted a great premise. This is supposedly the first book in a series so maybe it will all make sense eventually but I don’t want to slog through more books to find out.
About Traci Chee
“Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“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 Nocturna. He 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.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, 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:
“Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…”
I heard about this book through the #DSFFBookClub (Diverse Sci Fi/Fantasy) on Twitter a few months ago. From the description somehow I got the impression that this took place in Mexico and perhaps was set in the past. That isn’t true at all.
Alex is part of a family of witches in Brooklyn in the present day. Their numbers are dwindling. Alex has been hiding the fact that her powers have appeared because they are very strong and they scare her. She also thinks that magic has been responsible for a lot of the problems in her family. She doesn’t want anything to do with it.
She accidentally reveals her powers at school while defending her friend Rishi from a bully. Now her family is planning her Death Day, a traditional celebration of a young bruja’s power. Alex doesn’t want anything to do with it. She decides to try to relinquish her powers during the ceremony but her attempt to use a canto goes wrong. Her family (living and dead) is banished to another realm and now Alex has to try to get them back.
I liked the depiction of a family for whom magic is a normal and expected part of everyday life. The next book in the series is going to focus on her sister Lula who is a healer.
This book uses a lot of YA Fantasy tropes but twists them in small ways so they weren’t totally annoying.
There was a love triangle in this book which I absolutely hate but instead of a perfect girl trying to decide between two guys who love her here she is deciding between a girl and a guy. (I’m still waiting for my dream book where the two objects of affection decide they don’t need the perfect one and go off together.)
Alex is, of course, the Chosen One who can fix everything. She’s the most powerful witch in generations. Only she can defeat the bad guy. At the end though she had to accept help from others. She does also acknowledge that part of her wants to take all the power and be a despot too.
There is a point where a person who has hurt Alex tries to explain that it was all ok because this person loves Alex so much. She ultimately rejects that but it teetered on the brink. It was a little too close to “stalking is ok because this person loves you SO MUCH” for my liking.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and am interested to read the rest of the series when it comes out.
About Zoraida Córdova
“Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro” – from her website
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
No Guests Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.”
What happens to kids who go on adventures to fantasy lands when they return home? Obviously, they tell people what happened to them and then they are treated as mentally ill or as the survivors of such horrific abuse that they made up stories to get themselves through their kidnappings. When they don’t recant the stories they may end up in a boarding school for their own protection.
Eleanor West takes in these children. She was one of them too. She takes the children who are desperately looking for a way to return to their lands.
I loved this book so much I read it twice. The first time I read it myself and the second time I read it out loud to my husband. I thought he’d enjoy it and so to force the issue I declared that it would be story time on the way to and from my parents’ on Christmas. That’s about 4 hours round trip and we were able to finish it. He did take the long way in order to get more reading time in though. Yes, I could have gotten the audio but he gets distracted and wants to chit chat when listening to audio. He pays attention when I’m reading.
I loved the characters. Each had been to a different land with different rules. They have a whole system for categorizing the world that you visited. It reminds me of this cartoon.
How do you come back from that?
As soon as Nancy arrives and starts to get acclimated to the strange people around her, there is a murder. Since she came from the Halls of the Dead, she’s a suspect. When murders keep happening it is up to the students and staff to find out what is going on before the authorities find out and shut down their school.
Read this one for the wonderful language and characters. The students are diverse racially and in their gender expressions. The only thing they have in common is wanting to go back home to the magical worlds they miss.
This is listed as first in a series. I would love to read more in this world.
About Seanan McGuire
“Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.
Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.” Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
I hadn’t heard of this book until it was selected for the Diverse SciFi and Fantasy book club on Twitter. The author is an Indigenous Australian woman.
Several hundred years ago the Reckoning happened. It isn’t explained exactly what occurred. Now there are humans with special abilities. They are killed or imprisoned when their abilities start to manifest in order to maintain the status quo of the new world. Several of these kids have escaped into the wilderness and are living together. They live close to a compound specially built to jail captured Illegals.
The humans haven’t decided this just because of fear of the Illegals. They decided in response to the Reckoning that they will live in harmony with nature. They will keep their technology simple so as not to cause another ecological disaster. I like that the conflict between the types of Humans isn’t just based in fear. I’d like to see the authorities’ thoughts about how keeping illegals subdued helps lessen human impact on the environment explored more. I hear that these are explored more in the next book.
When Ashala is betrayed and captured, she is terrified that she will lead authorities to the rest of her Tribe. They are probably protected because they have made a deal with a species of large lizards who live in the wilds between the detention center and the Tribe. The Tribe can live in the forest if they promise not to eat any meat. Vegetarians for the win! But if the authorities can get past the Saurs the kids don’t have great defenses.
Something feels off about her capture and interrogation. Ashala isn’t sure what it is. She’s going to have to figure it out quickly because it is distracting her and distraction may make her betray her people. She’s also grieving because of some tough decisions that she had to make for the safety of the Tribe.
I can’t talk much more about the plot without spoilers. Ashala needs to trust herself and her own mind in order to survive her interrogation and possibly find a way to escape.
The abilities of Ashala’s tribe are based in Aboriginal folklore. I haven’t read a book before that uses that as a basis for a magical/supernatural system.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“In New York, eating out can be hell. Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings? Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.”
Darren and Lena are chefs who have been blacklisted from working in New York. The rent is due. They suddenly get a call from a former celebrity chef who they heard was dead (He got better) about needing them to work the line at his catering business for a week. It is step down for them but it is work and the rent is still due.
Sin du Jour is housed in a nondescript building with a high tech interior. Something seems off about the whole set up. Darren and Lena notice that before they find out who the clients for the catering business are and what they are expected to serve for dinner.
It’s a foodie urban fantasy book!
You can probably imagine how excited I was to find this series. There was flailing.
Darren and Lena find out that Sin du Jour is catering a banquet to celebrate the brokering of a peace deal between two clans of demons. Then the representatives arrive with the main course. It is an angel that they expect to be butchered and served. The humans are unnerved by the idea of killing an angel so set about trying to figure out how to fake an angel dinner. But can you really double cross demons and live?
This is a short book. I read it in one sitting. It is totally absurd and that is very high praise. I can’t wait to read more.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
“With great power comes great danger… When a freak accident leaves Katie Chandler with magical powers, it seems like a wish come true for the former magical immune. But it also means she’s vulnerable to magic, just when the dangerous Elf Lord is cooking up another scheme in his bid for power. Anyone who gets in his way disappears–including Katie and her wizard boyfriend, Owen Palmer. Now Katie’s under a spell that obscures her true identity, living a life right out of a romantic comedy movie in a Hollywood set version of New York. Will she be able to find her true Mr. Right in time to break the spell with a kiss and warn everyone, or will she be trapped forever, unaware of the doom facing her world?”
This is the seventh and last book in this series from Shanna Swendson. Katie Chandler is from Texas. She decided to move to New York City even though everyone told her things were weird there. So when she got there and started noticing some very odd people, she wasn’t surprised. It turned out that Katie was immune to magic so she saw through the spells that magical people used in New York to keep themselves hidden. Eventually she got a job at a magical company because she could tell if people were trying to use magic to steal trade secrets.
At the end of book six an accident gave her some magical powers. She loves this but it allows her to get caught up in a magical trap when she is investigating some bad guys. People are disappearing and they are all in a fantasy New York in the elven lands. You know the New York. It is the one from the movies were people dance in the rain on rooftops and meet in perfect coffee shops and book stores. As Katie’s magical powers drain she starts to see through the illusion and recognize people from her real life now living in her fantasy world. It up to her to wake them up and get them back to the real world.
This is a really cute series. The descriptions of how magic works (or fails to work) on people are original. There is a slow burn romance through the series. The characters are fun. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants a magical escape from their non-magical day to day life.
About Shanna Swendson
Shanna Swendson is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series, the Fairy Tale series, and Rebel Mechanics.
“Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening out at the cemetery. “Still Meadows,” as it’s called, is anything but still.”
I love Fannie Flagg’s books. You know what you are going to get with them. They will be funny and heartfelt stories of small towns.
This is the story of the founding of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. It is settled by Swedish farmers who decide that they need to carve out a town to support their farms. The first white settler in the area was named Lordor Nordstrom. Eventually the women of the surrounding farms decide that he needs a wife. He advertises for a bride and finds a nice Swedish woman in Chicago. Their romance is sweet and charming.
The town grows through the years and eventually the founding settlers begin to die. This is where the story takes a turn. In Elmwood Springs the residents of the cemetery are still involved in town life. They keep up on the local gossip from interviewing new arrivals and from listening to what visitors to the cemetery say.
I liked the beginning of the book but most of the cemetery section was less interesting for me. The action skipped over years at a time. It was hard to keep track of the family trees as time passed. The epilogue of the book redeemed it for me though. It ties together what appeared to be major plot holes in the story in a satisfying way.
This was a quick read. I read it in one setting. This is a great book for a cozy night of comfort reading when you don’t want anything too challenging.
Book received from NetGalley in exchange for a review
“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her. Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”
I loved the world building in this story!
A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns? Yes, please!
People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin. She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village. She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.
She has to go back to her village in the story. I thought this was well done. She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.
I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though. It was too insta-love for my tastes. Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari. There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building. They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.
Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making. If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that. You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around. Bossing you is her job. I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids. (Carnivorous mermaids! Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her. I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.
Just so we are clear – Kara is white. Mnemba is black. Let’s revisit that cover.
Yeah. Totally whitewashed. This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.
I loved the world. I loved Mnemba. She could do better than Kara.
In 2030 college student Daniela Delgado decides to kill herself. Instead of dying though, she is dropped through time to 1923 where her pixie cut and boy clothes convince people that she is a young colored boy. Soon she is on the run with an abused farm girl posing as an aristocrat and her male servant.
Back in 2030 Daniela’s mother fears that the only way to find her daughter is to contact her mother. They have been estranged ever since Emma came out as a lesbian. She also didn’t want any part in her mother’s delusions that she was a witch. But what if she wasn’t crazy and she is the only one who can help Daniela?
This is one of the more realistic time travel books that I’ve read. Daniela doesn’t land among rich people who will help her. She isn’t a history scholar who can fix past events. She’s just a girl who knows that the 1920s aren’t a good time to be mistaken for a young colored man and she needs to get out.
Things get weird when her smartphone still works. She is able to message another smartphone user in the area. This turns out to be another time traveler who recognizes the significance of her last name. The Delgados are family of powerful witches. An unprotected Delgado is an opportunity to earn a big ransom.
In the future, Emma is getting a crash course in the magic that she has rejected all her life. Can she embrace her family legacy and not destroy her relationship with her wife?
This is the first book in a series so things aren’t tied up at the end. I like a little more ending than we got here. I am interested to see what comes next in the series.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…
I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements. This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.
This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.
Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps. She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty. Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen. She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death. They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs. No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead. No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?
I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers. No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in. Only a few know who the mediums are. The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works. There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.
I loved the first half of the book. For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4. I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.
It's Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival--until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth--and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life...and set her free.
Toussaint is a world first settled by people from the Caribbean. Everything is controlled and monitored by nanobots. People are provided for and no one needs to do manual labor unless they want to do it. Tan-Tan’s father is the mayor of her town. He and her mother have a tempestuous relationship. Both are immature and self-centered. When her father commits a crime, he knows how he will be punished. He will be sent through a dimensional rift to New Half-Way Tree, another version of Toussaint without the technology. This is a one way journey. No one ever comes back.
I’m been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson for a while. In the beginning this was a very difficult book for me to read because of the Creole that it is written in. She uses pronouns and verb tenses that don’t match. It actually hurt to read. I’m such a grammar snob, that even though I knew it was deliberate, it was so jarring that I didn’t think I could get into the story because of it. Eventually, I was able to let it slide enough to read the story. I think it was the repetitive nature of the wrongness that numbed me to it.
Another thing I wondered while reading this – Are there any novels about Caribbean men that portray them in a positive light? Granted, I’ve only read novels written by Caribbean women so they may be biased but they can’t all be this horrible. Tan-Tan’s father is lazy and arrogant. He takes Tan-Tan to New Half-Way Tree with him without making any preparations for their new life. He is mean to the local population. He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. It is hard to read about Tan-Tan loving him so much when he is so awful.
This is also a story about colonization. There is a native race on New Half-Way Tree. The prisoner-immigrants from Toussaint treat them as inferior. They don’t know that the natives are playing along with their ignorance. Tan-Tan finds herself at the mercy of them after a few years on the planet. Should they help her or will her presence in their community lead to disaster?