Category Archives: sci-fi/fantasy

The Beautiful [series] by Renée Ahdieh

the beautifulI actually read The Beautiful last year, soon after it first came out, but I didn’t end up reviewing it on here. Why? I’m not quite sure, to tell the truth.  I readily acknowledge that I don’t do a full review for every book I read, but I usually take the time to at least acknowledge that I read a book and to give it a stars rating on my Goodreads account. My best guess is that I was on a tear with my reading, finished it really fast, and it just kinda slipped through the cracks. Trust me — it was definitely not anything to do with the quality of the story!

If you are a fan of vampire books but prefer Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles over Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, this is a series you are going to need to check out.  La Cour des Lions, in late 19th century New Orleans, is such a sumptuous backdrop for this tale of murder, mystery, and romance.  My only complaints are that (1) I can’t fully keep straight what happened in book one and what happened in book two (so I can’t really say much without getting “spoilery”), and (2) I can’t find any indication of when I should expect to get my hands on the third book in the series!!!!!!!!!  Suffice it to say that this would be an excellent book to add to your Halloween and/or #TeenTober book lists.

Happy Reading!

Fable by Adrienne Young

fableNot only did Fable watch her mother drown during a horrible storm, but then her father (a powerful trader named Saint) abandoned her on a desolate island full of thieves.  Using the skills her mother had taught her, Fable survived by diving and mining pyre that she could trade for coppers.  After scrimping and saving for a time, Fable suddenly found herself under attack and in need of a quick escape.  Fortunately, she managed to find passage through the Narrows on a ship with a trader named West.  Something seemed off about this ship, though.  And it wasn’t just the fact that West was so young, or that he had a particularly small crew…  When they stopped in a port to do some trading, Fable couldn’t help but notice some further abnormalities about their business dealings.  When this stop also revealed something peculiar about Fable, though, it became clear that she and the crew would have to learn to trust one another if she was going to stay alive, let alone find her way back to her father.

I loved so many things about this book.  From the strong female characters, to GLBTQ+ representation, to the fact that it was such a well-paced and adventure-packed story, there are doorways to attract all sorts of readers!  I can’t wait to read the sequel, Namesake (due out in 2021).

Happy Reading!

Slay by Brittney Morris

slayKiera Johnson is unique in many ways.  Not only is she one of the very few Black students at her elite private high school, but she is also a female who excels in math and computer programming.  There are a lot of reasons why she doesn’t feel like she belongs when she is at school, but she is grateful to have a place where she feels right at home — in the virtual world of SLAY.  Nobody in her “real life” circle knows that Kiera has created/designed this game.  Heck, they don’t even know that she plays!  She is particularly concerned with how her boyfriend might react because he believes that video games are a tool that contributes to the “downfall of the Black man.”  She isn’t quite sure how she could explain to him (and her other friends and family) quite what it means to have a place where she can simply be herself without worrying if she will seem “too Black” to some people or “not Black enough” to others.  But that is exactly what SLAY provides for her and  all of the other players from around the world.

When a teenager in Kansas City is killed over an altercation related to SLAY, though, Kiera finds herself torn.  Should she reveal her identity and actively defend the game now that people are blaming SLAY for his death?  Could she actually be sued for discrimination over the fact that the game is only intended for Black players, as conservative pundits seem to believe?  Would it put a strain on her relationship with friends and family members?  This story does an excellent job exploring racial dynamics in America, particularly the idea of racism and exclusion as it applies to Black people wanting safe spaces in which to explore and celebrate their collective history.  One of the most important ideas that this book puts forth is that Black experiences are unique and varied, and that idea is summed up very well by one of my favorite quotes from this book: 

I think I love SLAY so much because we’re a mutually empathetic collective. As we duel, as we chat, there’s an understanding that “your Black is not my Black” and “your weird is not my weird” and “your beautiful is not my beautiful,” and that’s okay.

Happy Reading!

Mayhem by Estelle Laure

mayhemMayhem is a Brayburn.  That family name meant a lot to the people of Santa Maria, California, but Mayhem herself didn’t really understand the significance of her lineage until she and her mom finally returned to their hometown.  They had left town more than a decade before when Mayhem’s father died, presumably by suicide, and ended up settling in a small Texas town.  And though Roxy was a victim of both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her new husband, Lyle, that wasn’t the main source of the chronic pain that she always seemed to be trying to escape with booze and pills.  Mayhem had no idea what caused this pain, though, because Roxy refused to talk about it — or, really, about their past at all.

This book is touted by many as a female-led, feminist retelling of The Lost Boys, and that definitely got me interested to check it out in the first place.  As I was reading it, though, I couldn’t help but think of The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones.  Why?  The Brayburn women were very powerful creatures — almost like vampires, but not quite.  They were mysterious and seductive, and absolutely deadly if left unchecked… But they didn’t feed on blood and had an alternative source to their mystical powers.  Does that have you curious?  If so, this is a good book to add to your TBR list.

Happy Reading!

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

burn our bodies downMargot didn’t know really know anything about her mother’s past.  All she knew was that she and her mother have seemingly always been on their own.  Her mom never discussed the past, so Margot knew absolutely nothing about the family and/or town from which her mother came.  Their day-to-day struggle to survive was all Margot truly knew.  She and her mother lived in a rundown apartment and had hardly enough to keep on living, though her mom occasionally pawned some of her posessions to get extra money for food or bills.  The weirdest thing was that her mom has a habit of pawning her things and then buying them back — like she just couldn’t bear to part with the physical reminders of her past, even though she refused to talk about it.  So, one day Margot decided to go to the pawn shop alone.  She knew it was against her mother’s rules, but she just had to see if there was anything that would give her any clues about the past. And that was when she found the Bible.

Inside the Bible, Margot found an inscription from her grandmother and a photograph.  On the back of the photograph was a phone number, so she mustered up all the courage she had and called.  After speaking to her grandmother, she decided she was going to make her way back to her mother’s hometown to finally meet and learn about her family…  But, she had no idea the strange horrors that would await her.  This story had one of the most bizarre twists I’ve ever discovered, and it will surely stick with me for a long time to come.  If you enjoy mysteries, horror, and magical realism, you’ve gotta check this story out.

Happy Reading!

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

the betrothedLady Hollis, like many other girls who grew up in and around the castle, was brought up with the goal of marrying well.  Even if she didn’t win the favor of King Jameson, it was assumed that she would be matched with a high ranking lord of the court. And yet, it still seemed to come as a surprise when she discovered that the king intended to ask for her hand in marriage.  Suddenly, she was not so sure that being a queen was really what she wanted for her life. With money and power, it was assumed that she would want for nothing.  But could she handle raising children who might be used as political pawns?  And wouldn’t she rather have a husband who valued her opinions instead of one who would encourage her to silently fall in line?  Though her parents seemed to think her self-discovery had impossibly terrible timing, she felt it may have been just in the nick of time… Especially since she recently met another young man, Silas, to whom she could easily imagine being wed.

If you enjoyed The Selection, you should probably check this one out too.  Though you may want to wait for the second book in the duology to come out [it’s expected to be out sometime in 2021] if you can’t handle perching on the edge of your seat for quite that long…  The last bit of this book had quite the unexpected twist, and I am dying to know how it will all end!

Happy Reading!

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

the game of love and deathAt first glance, Henry and Flora would not seem extraordinary to most people.  Love and Death, nevertheless, saw great potential within them.  For centuries, Love and Death had been playing a game.  Each would pick a human player, and then they would roll the dice to determine the end date of the game.  There were limitations to how much, and in which ways, they could interfere — but they certainly acted to influence the situation so that they might win the bet.  Regardless of how much love there seemed to be between the people, Death always prevailed. Though previous games have included such famed, star-crossed pairs as Anthony and Cleopatra or Paris and Helen of Troy, Love seems to think that Henry and Flora will finally beat the odds.

There were a few things about this story that made it particularly compelling.  First, that Love and Death were beings who seemed to be almost fighting an attraction between themselves.  They often took human form, and it struck me that this author chose to have Love as a man and Death as a woman.  Since men tend to be associated more with aggression and women tend to be associated more with nurturing, it was very interesting to see this dynamic reversed.  It was also rather amazing to see how well the author managed to weave together themes of socioeconomic discrepencies, race relations, gender norms, and GLBTQ struggles as they related to Americans in the 1930s.  If you enjoy historical fiction with a touch of magical realism and a healthy heaping of romance, look no further.

Happy Reading!

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, illustrated by Manuel Preitano

the oracle codeCan you guess why Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite people in the DC Comics universe?  Aside from the fact that I relate to her as a headstrong, curious, and nerdy girl/woman, I love the fact that Batgirl’s alter ego is a librarian!  In addition to being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is also known as Oracle — and this graphic novel is an Oracle origin story.

In this story, readers are introduced to a teenaged Barbara Gordon (aka Babs) who becomes paralyzed in an accident.  The accident happens in the very beginning of the story, though, so the majority of the action takes place while Babs is working to recover from the accident at the Arkham Center for Independence.  I appreciated how there was a lot of focus placed on the specific limitations that a person would suddenly experience as a result of a major injury like this and how grueling the physical and occupational therapy regimen would be.  I also appreciated that this information was worked into the story seemlessly instead of appearing as clunky asides.  I’d like to wish a happy book birthday to this awesome story, and also wish for some further Oracle adventures from Nijkamp and Preitano in the near future…

Happy Reading!

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

curses-and-kissesI know I just posted the other day that I would be doing fewer book reviews than normal, but I had to push myself to get this one done for #ValentinesDay!  I don’t know if I have outright said this before, but Sandhya Menon is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors.  Between her strong female characters, witty dialogue, character development, and diverse casts of characters, there is just so much to love in Menon’s books!  As soon as I heard that she would be writing a modernized retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which just so happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, I was sold!  I am so grateful that my request for access to an ARC was granted by NetGalley, because I am not sure how I would have contained myself until this book was officially published.  And how was it?!?  Freaking. Awesome!

Jaya Rao is a princess. Well, kinda.  Hers is one of the “royal” families that still exist even though India is now technically a democratic republic.  To Jaya, nothing is more important than family.  And, ever since the centuries-old feud between the Raos and the Emersons caused her sister to be targeted and slandered, Jaya has been looking for a way to exact revenge on the Emerson clan.  How utterly perfect, then, that she and her sister should be transferred to the same international boarding school as Grey Emerson as they wait for things to blow over. Once there, Jaya expected that she would have plenty of opportunity to get close enough to Grey that she could hurt him as much as his family has hurt her little sister…  But, will even her love for her sister be enough to keep her going with such a nefarious plan?  I won’t tell you how it all ends, but I will gleefully report that it is the first book in a series that, according to Goodreads, is a planned trilogy!  #squeeeeeeee

Happy Reading!

Rogue Princess by B.R. Myers

rogue princessPrincess Delia was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of choosing a husband, but she knew better than to expect an opportunity to marry for love (even if she wished, deep down, that she could). Her mother, the Queen, invited a bunch of princes from neighboring kingdoms/planets for a visit in an attempt to arrange a marriage that would be beneficial for their kingdom/planet, since they were experiencing a devastating energy shortage.  When Delia tried to run from the palace on a “borrowed” royal ship, she ended up meeting Aidan — a thief who thought his most recent acquisition might help him to get enough money to get off the planet and escape his own dreary life. While they were not exactly the dynamic duo you would put together if you had a chance to plan a match, something clicked quite nicely between them.  They were both just so clever and determined that it came as no surprise when they quickly uncovered a rebel conspiracy that threatened the planet… but would they be able to continue working together if Delia discovered that Aiden wasn’t who he claimed to be (a bodyguard for one of the visiting princes) when they first met?

If you enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, I highly recommend you check this out.  While the story is definitely very different (i.e. not at all a rip-off), they share a similar vibe and I can’t imagine anyone who liked the Lunar Chronicles not enjoying this gender-swapped, sci-fi retelling of Cinderella.

Happy Reading!