A.C. Wise – The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the Kissing Booth Girl! Lips that beguile. Oh, I promise, the nearest thing to nuzzling an angel can be yours—today!—for a shiny round Seated Liberty I know you carry in your very pockets as I speak.” But to mechanically-inclined Beni, is the ethereal girl who fell from the sky a wish come true or false hope for life beyond the confines of the odd carnival called home. Her story—as well as tales of an order of deep-sea diving nuns caring for a sunken chapel and a high school boy asked to prom by the only dead kid he’s ever met—can be found in A.C. Wise’s newest collection of the fantastical, the weird, the queer and the poignant.

Last year I read and reviewed A.C. Wise’s The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and I loved it. It was fun, camp, and utterly delightful. So when Wise approached me about reviewing her latest collection, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, I agreed with alacrity, as I was keen to read more of her work. And while this collection is perhaps less exuberant than the previous one, it is a deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking set of stories, which while spanning the breadth of the speculative genre in space and time, all deal with identity and agency.  Read More …

Jen Williams – The Ninth Rain

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…

Let’s not beat around the bush. I loved Jen Williams’ debut trilogy, the Copper Cat series, and I expected no less from her new series, The Winnowing Fire. And Williams delivered on that expectation in spades with this first book in the series, The Ninth Rain. I fell head over heels for Jen’s new main characters, especially the intrepid Lady Vincenza de Grazon. I did not know I needed Vintage in my life, but I really and truly did.  Read More …

Guest Post: Jen Williams – How Witches Taught Me to Write

Jen Williams is the author of the Copper Cat trilogy, which I absolutely loved to bits. So I was excited to learn that she had a new trilogy coming out called The Winnowing Fire, starting today with the publication of The Ninth Rain. I’ve already read it — look for a review tomorrow — and it is just as amazing as Williams’ previous novels. One thing all of Jen’s books have in common is the fact they all contain an abundance of fabulous women–from Wydrin,  Ephemeral, and Devinia in the Copper Cat books to Vintage and Noon in The Ninth Rain. I asked Jen about what influenced her writing of her heroines as she does and the following piece is her response. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and do check out The Ninth Rain available from all reputable booksellers as of today!

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Zak Zyz – Xan & Ink

Banished from their homeland, two disgraced brothers, a fanatical priest and an escaped slave who venture into the foreboding Kalparcimex, an uncharted jungle teeming with an incredible variety of wondrous and murderous insects. When the legendary ranger Xan refuses to help the adventurers on their quest for redemption, they enter into an ill-advised pact with Ink, a cursed sorceress who stains everything she touches. Caught in the conflict between the two powerful figures, the four banished heroes must confront their darkest desires to escape the Kalparcimex!

Zak Zyz’s second novel Xan & Ink is a tough one for me to review. While I enjoyed the story and the characters, there were elements that greatly bothered me—and no, it wasn’t the armada of creepy-crawlies that inhabited the Kalparcimex. To be able to discuss these things though, I will by necessity spoil some things, so if you do not want to be spoiled this is your warning. Also, I’ll add in a trigger warning for rape as well, both for the book and my review.  Read More …

Stephanie Burgis – Congress of Secrets

In 1814, the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats battle over a new map of Europe, actors vie for a chance at glory, and aristocrats and royals from across the continent come together to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon…among them Lady Caroline Wyndham, a wealthy English widow. But Caroline has a secret: she was born Karolina Vogl, daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Caroline’s childhood was stolen from her by dark alchemy.

Under a new name and nationality, she returns to Vienna determined to save her father even if she has to resort to the same alchemy that nearly broke her before. But she isn’t expecting to meet her father’s old apprentice, Michael Steinhüller, now a charming con man in the middle of his riskiest scheme ever.

The sinister forces that shattered Caroline’s childhood still rule Vienna behind a glittering façade of balls and salons, Michael’s plan is fraught with danger, and both of their disguises are more fragile than they realize. What price will they pay to the darkness if either of them is to survive?

Last April I read Stephanie Burgis’ Masks and Shadows, her first novel for adults and fell absolutely in love with her writing. So I after I finished the book, I was really happy to discover that she had a book set in the same variant of our world coming out in November of last year. Congress of Secrets was everything I hoped it would be and more, taking what I loved about Masks and Shadows and improving on the things that niggled me. Burgis enchanted me once again with Caroline’s tale and I would have loved to have spend even more time in this world.  Read More …

G X Todd – Defender

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.

G X Todd’s debut novel Defender, the first in a four-part series called The Voices, was an unexpected surprised when it arrived in the mail. The accompanying information was intriguing, but didn’t reveal much, so going in to the book I didn’t really know what to expect. I certainly hadn’t expected to find a gripping, post-apocalyptic adventure that wasn’t just engrossing in its own right, but also made me think a lot about how we regard mental illness, specifically conditions that include auditory hallucinations, such as schizophrenia.  Read More …

Daniel Polansky – A City Dreaming

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and when a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to turn to all out war, M finds himself thrust in thrust in the unfamiliar position of hero. Now, to keep the apocalypse from descending on the Big Apple, he’ll have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steam-punk universes, hipster zombies, and phantom subway lines. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.

It is no secret that Daniel Polansky is one of my favourite writers. I’ve adored all of his work that I’ve read so far—the only novel remaining unread being Those Below, which is waiting on my to be read shelves. As such, I was super excited to receive a review copy for his latest novel A City Dreaming. Reader, there was squeeing when I opened the package. I even read it close to its publication date in order to review it in a timely manner and then I got stuck. Because I had no idea how to even start to review it. Do not get me wrong, I really enjoyed A City Dreaming; it is an intriguing book with a unique style, but one that might not work for everyone.  Read More …

Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle – Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles.

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, written by Tania Del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle was a wonderful surprise. It is the second book in the Warren the 13th series, after Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, which came out last November. The Warren books are illustrated middle grade novels and I’d situate them at the younger end of the age bracket, more 9-10 than 11-12. I haven’t read the first book, but I found that the second book works quite well as a standalone story. I must admit though that I’m curious to read the first book and find out what happened, because it’s bound to be a fantastic story.  Read More …

Nancy K. Wallace – Grim Tidings

As the son of Llisé’s ruler, Devin Roché knows its laws only too well. It’s a land where keeping historical records is forbidden. To do so would mean imprisonment or death.

Only bards may share the histories of their provinces, but Devin’s quest to learn from them ended in tragedy. His best friend Gaspard has been kidnapped, Master Bards are being murdered and whole communities are disappearing. Clearly someone doesn’t want Devin to know the true history of Llisé.

With his guard Marcus and a wolf pack for protection, Devin sets out to discover the truth. But as terrible secrets come to light, Devin realizes that some knowledge can be deadly.

Nancy K. Wallace’s Grim Tidings is the second book of her series The Wolves of Llisé. The first book Among Wolves was one I enjoyed tremendously and it was a pleasure to return to Llisé to see how the story continued. We’re reunited with Devin, Gaspard and Marcus and this time with Armand and Chastel added to their band. The plot thickens and the villains become more clearly identified, even if their motives — apart from a desire for power — remain vague.  Read More …

Tina Connolly – Seriously Shifted

Teenage witch Cam isn’t crazy about the idea of learning magic. She’d rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother’s wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them.

Esmeralda is the mean girl of the witches. Valda likes to drop anvils on people’s heads. And Malkin—well, Malkin is just plain terrifying. Their idea of fun is a little game—they each pick a student from Cam’s high school and compete to see who can make their teen the most miserable. But Cam suspects one of the witches may have an ulterior motive… which means someone at school could be in worse danger yet.

Now Cam’s learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don’t get him first, that is.

Can’t a good witch ever catch a break?

Seriously Shifted is the second book in Tina Connolly’s Seriously Wicked series but it is actually the one I read first. And it was such a fabulous read that immediately took to the internet and ordered the first book, because I had to know how Cam’t story started. However, it is important to note that Seriously Shifted stands on its own very well. I never felt lost or like I’d missed some vital information. As such, if you haven’t read Seriously Wicked yet, you shouldn’t hesitate to start with Seriously Shifted, because it is a complete story on its own.  Read More …