Jul 272018
 

The Agony House by Cherie Priest.Kirkus: A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts.

The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue.

Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting.

Jul 232018
 

Cover of Temper by Nicky Drayden.Publishers Weekly: Drayden (The Prey of Gods) crafts a tangled, fantastical African society as the setting for her spellbinding sophomore novel. With immersive worldbuilding, Drayden showcases a culture where science and religion exist at odds, and the balance of virtue and vice in one’s nature controls one’s social identity.

Humble Kasim is assured a prosperous future, as he has only a single vice. His charismatic twin brother, Auben, is forever hindered by the six vices branded down his arm. Auben envies Kasim as much as he loves him, and their twin bond threatens to snap under the strain of their swiftly diverging paths. Complicating their fate, Kasim and Auben become enthralled by violent mystical forces. Their entire society’s survival soon hinges on each defeating his demons and discovering his true nature.

Drayden takes speculative fiction in an exciting direction with a harrowing and impressive tale of twisted prophecy, identity, and cataclysmic change.

Jul 202018
 

New York Times Bestseller Martha Wells returns to the universe of the critically acclaimed Nebula Award winning Murderbot Diaries series,  which debuted in 2017 with the break-out novella ALL SYSTEMS RED, with Murderbot’s first full-length novel, acquired by Lee Harris at Tor.com. The deal, for World English rights, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson.

Jul 182018
 

Cover of Brief Cases by Jim Butcher.The audio edition of BRIEF CASES by Jim Butcher is #5 on the New York Times Bestseller list!

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

Jul 172018
 

Cover of Witchmark by C.L. Polk.Shelf Awareness: Witchmark, C.L. Polk’s debut, introduces a magically infused world reminiscent of early 20th-century England, with gas-lit rooms, cloaks and carriages.

Dr. Miles Singer has created a life for himself mostly devoid of magic. Having fled his powerful family as a young man, he joined the Aeland army, went to war against the Laneeri, and now works in a veterans’ hospital. But in a world where most witches are sent to asylums, supposedly for their own safety, Miles must be careful about how–and where–he uses his magical gifts. When a handsome gentleman brings a poisoned journalist into the hospital for treatment, this careful balancing act becomes increasingly hard to maintain–especially as his feelings for the gentleman evolve. And when his sister, a member of the elite magical class, shows up on his doorstep, he is drawn right back into the world he fled so long ago.

Polk’s worldbuilding is done with finesse; information on the magical systems at play in Aeland are revealed smoothly and as appropriate to the story. But the magic is only the smallest part of what makes Witchmark the impressive novel that it is. The subtle ways Polk builds her characters, reveals the systems under which they live and unwinds a complicated, twisting plot with both personal and political implications are testaments to her skill as a storyteller. She builds toward a satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, but with just enough wiggle room that these beloved characters may make appearances in future installments–which would be a welcome treat. –Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A debut fantasy novel introduces a gas-lit world where most witches are banished to asylums–unless they are of the wealthy ruling class.

Jul 162018
 

Cover of Temper by Nicky Drayden.Library Journal: Auben Mutze is an intelligent, extroverted youth with a bit of a wild side. This makes him one of the more popular kids at his impoverished high school, even as he knows that he has few chances to escape the world in which he lives. He is a twin, with vices – six, to be exact – branded on his arm. This also marks him as a lesser twin to his brother Kasim, whose quieter nature and single vice brand means he has a shot of escaping to the other side of the wall and a better life. Already at odds with his brother, Auben begins to hear voices that tell him to follow his vices as far as possible. If he can’t ignore the voices, he will be caught in the hands of a demon.

VERDICT: With its South African setting and supernatural action, Drayden’s twisty, fast paced sophomore effort (after The Prey of Gods) keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

Jul 132018
 

Cover of The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal.Booklist: The first half of Kowal’s two-book tale—The Fated Sky will follow—begins in 1952 when a meteorite strikes Earth, causing a global cataclysm.

The eastern coast of the U.S. crumbles, and the rest of the world faces a climate shift. A former WASP pilot and a brilliant mathematician, Elma York works for the International Aerospace Coalition, along with her engineer husband, expediting efforts to colonize other planets. Recognizing that she and her female colleagues are just as qualified as the men, Elma fights for their right to become astronauts. She builds momentum for their cause by hosting a women-only air demonstration, speaking on a Bill Nye–type kids show, and passing tests with ridiculous rules her male counterparts would never be asked to endure.

Although Kowal’s latest is a definite deviation from her popular Glamour Histories series, she once again strikes a fine balance of integrating historical accuracy—including mid-twentieth-century sexism, racism, and technology—with speculative storytelling. Readers will root for Elma as she breaks barriers and calculates lifesaving equations, all while dealing with sometimes-crippling anxiety. Recommend to fans of realistic sf.

Jul 112018
 

Author photo of Agnes Gomillion.Agnes Gomillion’s Afrofuturistic debut novel THE RECORD KEEPER plus a sequel sold to Gary Budden at Titan Books in a World English deal by Paul Stevens.

When a model student discovers that the laws she has dedicated herself to upholding are the very laws responsible for the enslavement and extermination of her people, she leads an uprising to topple the government.

Jul 102018
 

Cover of The Great Bastards by Jonathan French.Daily Mail (UK): Saddle up the war boar and set off on a wild, gory thrill-ride that ends in an awesome climax and begs for a sequel.