Feb 232024

Booklist: In Harrison’s (Demons of Good and Evil, 2023) new urban-fantasy series, Petra Grady is just a sweeper, specializing in collecting the magical waste, or dross, left behind when mages cast light spells. Like many sweepers, she has no talent for magic and is looked down upon by most of the mages as a result. As one of the best sweepers on the mages’ university campus, she’s assigned to help former classmate Benedict Strom’s research project. When the research goes terribly wrong, Benedict and Petra have to find Herm Ivaros, an exile accused of using dross to cast spells during a campus incident that resulted in the death of Petra’s father. Herm reveals that the mages’ legends are filled with lies, deliberately crafted to discourage sweepers from becoming weavers and casting spells with shadows, and that Petra, like her father, is a weaver, and a group of magical-conspiracy theorists intends to stop her. Like Harrison’s Hollows series, this first book in the Shadow Age series is action packed and will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next.

Feb 222024

Publishers Weekly: Three elite tennis players randomly assigned as roommates compete at Bastille, a tournament where they go head-to-head both on and off the court, in this multilayered novel by Gracia (Boys I Know). When 16-year-old Japanese American Violetta Masuda arrives at Bastille’s tennis academy, she’s expecting to have a roommate with whom she’ll share her dorm for the duration of the tournament. What she’s not expecting, however, is that along with Taiwanese American high school sophomore Alice Wu comes 17-year-old Cambodian and Vietnamese American Leylah Lê, Violetta’s former best friend. The stakes are high, as is the pressure to come out on top, and as the teen athletes wrestle with their performance and their families’ expectations, they each struggle with their own challenges—Leylah uses an insulin pump to manage her diabetes and Violetta vapes to mitigate stress—and their desires to live a “normal” life. Via the trio’s alternating first-person POVs, Gracia—a former D1 collegiate player—imbues the narrative with insider knowledge and traces the competition as the girls move through their draws and navigate romance, racism, and friendship. The supporting cast is racially diverse. Ages 14–up.

Feb 212024

Library Journal: Recently dumped by her boyfriend and fired, Anna, a Kurdish refugee, already has enough to deal with before her close encounter with the wounded alien on her kitchen floor. Being that he’s an officer in the Joint Special Operations Command, Erik’s life mission is to bring order to chaos, and he’s sorely tested as he investigates what appears to be an alien starship. Clayton schemes in the background, willing to do anything to protect humanity. Hostile first contact brings these characters together, and then it’s a race against the clock to prevent nuclear Armageddon. Violent, vivid, vicious—this is an innovative military, sci-fi thriller that is equal parts action and introspection. It’s conceptually profound and touches upon many ethical and metaphysical subjects, including a peek into Zoroastrianism and a unique interpretation of souls. This doesn’t necessarily make for easy reading, but there’s no denying the intelligence in the writing.VERDICT This stand-alone story from Dickinson (The Tyrant Baru Cormorant) thrives on the unexpected, and while the characters aren’t necessarily likable, the way they wrestle with doing the right thing versus doing the hard thing is authentic and thought-provoking.

Feb 192024

Kirkus: When three queer best friends in Alabama are inspired by The First Wives Club to exact revenge on their terrible exes, a homophobic school initiative takes their mission in an unexpected direction.

Ezra Hayes, who’s coded white, is accustomed to hiding in plain sight, but he feels that he’s fallen by the wayside once his two best friends, Lucas Rivera, who’s cued Mexican American, and Finley Lewis, who’s Black, get into relationships. Ezra thought his summer romance with Presley, the school’s star football player, would finally give him the chance to feel like the main character. But when Ezra discovers that Presley is cheating on him, Lucas and Finley also open up about the poor treatment they’ve received from their partners. Each teen has his own plan for revenge, and they set up an anonymous TikTok account called “Last Boyfriends.” Ezra decides to run against Presley for Winter Formal Lion King; he also burns Presley’s varsity jacket and posts the video to TikTok, tagging it #breakupchallenge. When their account goes viral, and Ezra’s Lion King campaign comes under fire (from the same leadership that dissolved the gay-straight alliance and is censoring library books), the trio’s priorities change, and they begin fighting for queer students everywhere. The friendships are fun and believable, Ezra’s single father is heartwarmingly supportive, and exciting twists keep the plot moving.

A pride-filled story complete with sass, love, and a timely message. (Fiction. 14-18)

Feb 162024

Library Journal: Magic users may be able to manipulate light energy, but dross—the waste left behind—is something few consider or deal with. This is where sweepers, people who can handle dross without its bad luck effects or development into the more dangerous shadow, come in, and Petra Grady is one of the best sweepers in St. Unoc. Working at the university has its perks, but when Doctor Benedict Sexy—er, Strom—wants Petra to help with a research project to render dross harmless, she knows it is the wrong decision. A horrible accident forces Petra and Benedict to go on the run, and Petra may find that her talent goes much farther than as a cleaner. Plus everything she knows about dross and shadow may be wrong. The story pace speeds along, and the twists of discovering who are friends or foes will keep readers guessing. Note that the novel includes the death of a pet.VERDICT Harrison’s (Demons of Good and Evil) new series has the same delightfully wry heroine her fans expect to see, along with an intriguing new magic system.

Feb 142024

Library Journal: Scales is a mechanic and enforcer in Ashtown, working under the powerful, deadly Emperor to help keep balance in their desert town. When a close friend dies horrifically in front of Scales, she is tasked with finding out the truth about their violent death—especially when there was no murderer in sight. When it is discovered that more deaths have occurred, both in Ash and in the walled and wealthy Wiley City, Scales must work with two frustrating men—her Emperor-compliant partner Cross and annoyingly brilliant scientist Adam—to discover what is killing people. As the truth is uncovered, so is the buried past that Scales has tried to overcome, one of blood and secrets. Yet more secrets and more blood will be spilled, and the answers could destroy their world. This book packs an emotional punch, as brutality lies next to the thin edge of caring, wrapped up in friendship and rage, and love will not stop hearts from shattering.

VERDICT Set 10 years after The Space Between Worlds, this novel provides a new protagonist, returning characters, and a multiverse of paths for all of them. Johnson’s tense sci-fi thriller is exciting and immersive.

Feb 122024

Booklist: Audrey’s mom, Camilla St. Vrain, wrote the self-help book Letters to My Someday Daughter that made her a household name; Audrey only wants to spend time with her boyfriend and work toward her own someday medical career. But Camilla has other plans, bringing Audrey on a tour to discuss the book Camilla wrote years ago. Pushed to answer invasive questions and constantly surrounded by her mother’s interns—including the irresistible Silas—at least Audrey gets a national tour of doctors out of the deal. But will her future even matter if she can’t make peace and connect with her mother? Full of themes around found family and forgiveness, O’Clover (Seven Percent of Ro Devereux, 2023) neatly layers the road-trip narrative over clever family drama and adds a surprise twist. Readers will find discussions of mental health, while immersive romantic relationship drama adds additional substance as Audrey navigates her complicated mother-daughter relationship. A solid addition to any contemporary young adult collection and no doubt resonant for teens growing up in front of their parents’ social media.

Feb 092024

Library Journal: This collection contains Bishop’s (The Queen’s Price) previously published flash fiction and short stories, along with a handful of new tales. Bishop has organized her stories based on theme and provides a short introduction to each section. Her notes about the stories are intimate and often set the scene for the upcoming titles. The stories themselves consist mostly of high fantasy or dystopian science fiction and include much of her early fiction, fairy-tale retellings, and some stand-alone stories. While Bishop includes a few stories set in the worlds of her beloved series (“Black Jewels,” “A Novel of the Others”), readers can also expect a wide variety of new worlds that still contain the familiar themes of feminine power and justice. The book will likely hook her tried-and-true fans with extra stories from her successful series, but this collection’s strength lies in its other tales, with “Friends and Corpses” being the highlight.

VERDICT Recommended for fans who are curious about Bishop’s journey as a writer and are interested in reading about the inspiration and motivation behind her stories.

Feb 082024

Publishers Weekly: Mohamed (the Void trilogy) turns from cosmic horror to dark fantasy in an enchanting, bite-size adventure that will put readers in mind of Robert Holdstock’s classic Mythago Wood. Legend has it that an otherworldly realm full of mysterious humanoid creatures exists deep within Elmever forest, but no one who’s gone into the woods has ever returned to confirm or deny these rumors—save for Veris Thorn, who, before the start of the novel, saved a child from the forest, though it was more a feat of luck than skill. When Eleonor and Aram, the children of a cruel emperor referred to only as the Tyrant, disappear into the woods, the Tyrant gives Vern 24 hours to bring them back. If she fails, the Tyrant will kill her family and raze her village. This tense quest through the eerie and atmospheric forest propels the story forward at a breakneck pace. Though the page count doesn’t leave much room for character development, lending the cast a flat, fairy tale-like quality, it’s easy to buy into the high stakes. Readers will be rapt.

Feb 072024

Kirkus: When Latin music great Ignacio Ramírez dies, his path to a rewarding afterlife is hindered by unfinished business that demands resolution.

Not only is Benny Ramírez the grandson of a famous Cuban American musician, but everyone else in his family has a talent, too: Papi is a well-regarded Hollywood producer, Mami has a gift for languages, older sister Cristina is a star dancer, and younger brother Manny is a promising actor. When the family inherits Benny’s estranged grandfather’s Miami home after his death, they leave Los Angeles, and the Ramírez kids enter the South Miami Performing Arts School, where Benny, who feels like he isn’t special, struggles to fit in. Fortunately, his musician abuelo’s spectral presence is tied to his mansion, unable to move on. Ignacio must figure out what his unfinished business is and resolve it by New Year’s. Only Benny can see Abuelo, who insists that helping Benny follow in his footsteps to become a world-famous trumpet player must be his unresolved task. Unfortunately, Ignacio has a history of egocentric behavior and little respect for boundaries, which leads Benny into many scrapes. The plot is reminiscent of other ghostly redemption tales, reinforcing the moral that family and community are more valuable than riches and fame. Iriarte writes with a lighthearted touch and includes ample physical comedy; the humor and Cuban American cultural touchstones make this work a welcome addition to the genre.
A humorous and haunting riff on a classic storyline. (Paranormal. 8-12)