Apr 112018

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland.Tor.com: In Justina Ireland’s fantastic new young adult novel, Dread Nation, the world is upended when the dead rise from their graves at Gettysburg. In order to salvage what’s left of the US, the Civil War ends in a compromise that frees the enslaved but forces them into combat schools that train them to slay the undead shamblers.

Ireland tapped into our collective knowledge of the past and dreams for the future and poured it into Dread Nation. She revealed the truth of the real America by rewriting the fictional one.

When I think of using young adult fantasy fiction to explore systemic racial oppression, a nineteenth century zombie apocalypse isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Yet in Justina Ireland’s more than capable hands, it works.

Apr 092018

Cover of Always Never Yours by Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley.Publishers Weekly: Megan, who aspires to be a theater director, is focused on finishing her senior year and fulfilling the acting requirement she needs to get into the Southern Oregon Theater Institute. But then she’s cast as Juliet, opposite Tyler’s Romeo. Owen, a new boy with theater aspirations of his own, enters Megan’s life, and as their friendship grows she misses all the signals that Owen might be the love she didn’t know she wanted.

Real-life romantic partners Wibberly (the Last Oracle series) and Siegemund-Broka (making his YA debut) collaborated in this theater-centered novel, with a predictable will-they/won’t-they romance at its core. As Megan spends the bulk of her time with yet another guy who’s wrong for her (Will), Owen is there in the wings. The coauthors wisely balance out the romance with family drama, and Megan’s commitment to a future life in the theater will please readers who share a similar love of Shakespeare and want a little romance to go with their drama.

Apr 022018

Cover of Lake Silence by Anne Bishop.B&N SFF Blog: Anne Bishop blazed onto the genre scene in the late 1990s with the Black Jewels Trilogy, a fantasy epic filled with violence, blood, and revenge that somehow mostly leaves readers with lingering impressions of its beautiful empathy, kindness, and impish sense of humor. This deeply affecting mixture won the hearts of many fans then (including mine), and remains her signature today. In this sense, her new urban fantasy LAKE SILENCE fits perfectly into her bibliography.

Bishop has always been skilled at building playful, enticing worlds, and she’s filled this one with some of her best characters yet… Fantasy trappings aside, there is a deep emotional core to Bishop’s books…

The power of community is important too—if there’s anything LAKE SILENCE tells us, it’s that getting through a tough situation literally takes a village—a village full of people who probably don’t look like you, act like you, or have your same values. You might not like some of them—you might even have to forget that you were taught to look at them as less than human. But you won’t survive without the village, so you may as well get on with figuring out how to deal with it. Because the Lady of the Lake is watching. And she’s pissed.

Mar 292018

Cover of Stone Mad: A Karen Memory Adventure by Elizabeth Bear.Publishers Weekly: Bear’s Karen Memory (2015) introduced her stubborn and spunky heroine, Karen Memery, a teenage sex worker who saved her late 1870s Pacific Northwest town from threats foreign and domestic. Now Karen and her beloved, Priya, are preparing to enjoy their first night in their new home when traveling spiritualists dredge up an old, seemingly supernatural mystery poised to cause mayhem. Naturally, Karen wants to investigate. Though this novel lacks the scope and some of the sheer raucousness of the first, all of the characteristics that make Karen memorable are glowingly apparent on every page.

Elements that would feel clunky from a less talented author—such as Karen’s habit of constantly flinging herself headlong into danger because of deep regrets about her past—all seem natural and inevitable by the finish. Subtle touches guarantee that every character is colorful, no matter how fleetingly introduced.

Bear’s fans will definitely want to catch Karen’s latest adventure.

Mar 232018

Cover of Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.Locus: It’s always a treat to read a Martha Wells story, and it turns out that her Murderbot Diaries are an especial delight… Artificial Condition is a story that balances its disparate elements with exceptional skill. It’s perfectly paced, and Wells brings both a strong sense of humour and deep pathos to Murderbot’s character and to their voice. Murderbot, for all their insistence that they’re not really a person, is a very human sort of bot.

There’s plenty of cool shit in this space operatic future, and Wells makes excellent use of the varied potential of her setting for different sorts of stories. Artificial Condition and Rogue Protocol are tight, tense, entertaining adventure stories that nonetheless have quite a lot to say about ethics, power, and personhood. I recommend them whole-heartedly, and I really hope that Wells chooses to write many more.

Mar 212018

Cover of Witchmark by C.L. Polk.Booklist: Polk has created an amazing new world with hints of Edwardian glamour, sizzling secrets, and forbidden love that crescendos to a cinematic finish. Many disparate elements are expertly woven together to make this debut a crackler, with layers like a nesting doll and just as delightful to discover.

Witchmark is a can’t-miss debut that will enchant readers.

Mar 202018

Cover of Stone Mad: A Karen Memory Adventure by Elizabeth Bear.RT Book Reviews: This second installment in the Karen Memory series is as well paced and well written as the first. Karen Memory and her relationship with Priya take the forefront here, and Bear does some very insightful examinations of the ways we trust each other, how we sometimes fail that trust, and how — when the love is real — we can learn to accept that people and relationships are never perfect.

Mar 152018

Cover of Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby.Publishers Weekly: High-octane action pairs beautifully with an unusual take on the dragon mythos in this futuristic urban fantasy. . . . Grigsby marries his real-world firefighting experience with a depth of emotion that brings with it a strong authenticity.

This is an exciting story that breathes new life into the urban fantasy genre.

Mar 142018

Cover of Stone Mad: A Karen Memory Adventure by Elizabeth Bear.Booklist: Karen and Priya are out for a night on the town when Karen’s irrepressible curiosity gets them entangled with a pair of spiritualists, a stage illusionist, and a riled-up tommy-knocker kidnapped from its mine.

The spiritualist Arcade sisters start it off with a bit of table knocking, but it could be a real “haint”—there’s a story, Karen tells us, about a man returned from Alaska who murdered everyone in the place. Then again, it could just be a grift. Priya, more cautious, is having none of it—which leaves Karen in the hotel with the Arcade sisters and Mrs. Horner, the illusionist, when the hotel starts shaking. The Arcade sisters have gotten the attention of something much more dangerous with their tricks.

Karen is an affable narrator and an enthusiastic investigator, and the story is an excellent adventure as well as a genuinely touching narrative about relationships and compromise; Bear’s (The Stone in the Skull, 2017) narrative skill and flair for both plot and character continue to impress.

Mar 092018

Cover of Lake Silence by Anne Bishop.RT Book Reviews: Although award-winning Bishop’s amazing new UF book is not about beloved characters Meg and Simon, it is thankfully still set in the world of the Others. Bishop moves the action and story to a tiny village adjacent to Lake Silence. The richness of the world that Bishop has created is truly impressive, and the perspectives of the Others, including their view on humanity, makes these stories unique and unforgettable.

While this reviewer is still hoping for additional Meg and Simon books, visiting Sproing and its fascinating inhabitants is also habit-forming! Bishop delivers again!