Blind the Eyes, a YA dystopian paranormal fantasy by K.A. Wiggins, coming to bookstores near you and online Christmas 2017

YA Fantasy - K.A. Wiggins

Reviews, writing and publishing news and more from YA fantasy author K.A. Wiggins.

 

K.A. Wiggins is a Vancouverite who doesn't know how to live in the same place for long, a bookstagrammer and a fan of Islay Scotch and craft gin. She writes stories about being on the edges of things.

 

Her first published novel is BLIND THE EYES, a YA dark fantasy in which a not-quite alive girl and her not-quite dead ghost discover trusted authorities lie, allies have their own agendas and even the monsters wear masks in a story that evokes STRANGE THE DREAMER and THIS SAVAGE SONG with the flawed, challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS. A free 5 chapter preview ebook and audiobook is now available for newsletter subscribers (along with other exclusive content) at https://kaie.space

 

Find her YA portal fantasy/post-apocalyptic survival thriller FLAME OF THE CONNARII, inspired by Disney's TARZAN-meets-Celtic-warrior-princess, and her NA horror rom-com THINGS GOT OUT OF HAND serialized on Wattpad under the pen name KAIE.

 

Funny, sciency adventure for middle school readers

Tesla's Attic (The Accelerati Trilogy, Book One) - Neal Shusterman, Eric Elfman

Hilarious middle school adventure. This is billed as YA, but I've rarely come across titles targeted toward that younger demographic. Reads more like Middle Grade, plus a bit of kissing. Which is a great thing - it's fun, pacy, and confronts some challenging stuff without turning too dark.

 

Clever sciency mystery, shady cultish shadow organizations, a bunch of kids trying to figure out if they're going to be friends, enemies, or date. Great for boy readers as well, which is a good balance against all the uber-romancy paranormal and fantasy releases every year. Fits well alongside DJ MacHale's Pendragon series, but more of a light comedy feel, less tense thriller action. Some deeper stuff thematically, and meaningful statements and characterizations are applied in a way that doesn't interrupt the flow of story.

Murder witches, ghosts, and existential angst

The Wicked Deep - Shea Ernshaw

Disclaimer: reviewing unedited digital proof via NetGalley.

 

Sometime in the 1800s or so in Sparrow, OR, three sisters were drowned for being witches (& seducing all the guys). Two centuries later, they still return every summer to possess three girls in town and drown boys in revenge.

 

The lighthouse keeper's daughter is still reeling after the disappearance (and presumed death) of her father. When a strange boy comes to town the day before the drowning season, she offers him a place to stay. That night, she dreams of the sea.

 

This is kind of a hard one to review without spoilers. It does some fascinating things with identity and perspective, and the twists are the kind you anticipate and dread as they creep up on you with slow inevitability. Rich worldbuilding conveys a sense of a smalltown/vacation town on the coast, the uneasy sea, and the tension of belonging and acceptance that becomes especially critical in such a close-knit community. Interesting things happening with sexuality/identity, though this comfortably enjoyable read tends to avoid looking at the ick factor of girls being possessed by the dead and sleeping with the boys in town while under the spell too closely. The story feels fresh, and the style or voice is immediate and engaging. Around midway through, it seemed like it was shaping up to be a romance. Keep in mind that tragedy, horror, and suspense are core to the story and settle in for the ride. As a whole, it feels like a quiet read with strong interiority, rather than a pacy thriller - but on the other hand, I inhaled it in like a day, so it definitely doesn't drag.

 

Spectacularly atmospheric and creeptastic new read that walks the line between dark fantasy and paranormal. It's a really great tone, more quiet and pensive, with a good helping of horror and historic fic snuck in there. You may or may not see the twists coming, but they carry weight regardless. Feels fresh and familiar at the same time. Definitely an author to watch.

8 fantasy books to look out for in 2018

Reblogged from BookLikes:

 

No matter whether you like history, mysteries or romances, the following new fantasy books have them all. To add the books to your bookshelf, click +Shelf, or the book cover. Let us know what are your fantasy picks in 2018 and we'll add them to the 2018 New Fantasy Books reading list

 

 

The Cruel Prince - Holly BlackThe Cruel Prince - Holly Black  

Out: Jan. 2, 2018

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed.

 

 

Circe - Madeline MillerCirce - Madeline Miller  

Out: Apr. 10, 2018

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft. When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe's place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

 

 

Children of Blood and Bone: The OrÏsha Legacy (Children of OrÏsha) - Tomi AdeyemiChildren of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi  

Out: Mar. 06, 2018

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

 

 

Lake Silence - Anne BishopLake Silence - Anne Bishop  

Out: Mar. 06. 2018

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget...
After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

 

 

Iron Gold - Pierce BrownIron Gold - Pierce Brown  

Out: Jan. 16, 2018

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself? And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:  A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined. An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

 

 

Grey Sister - Mark LawrenceGrey Sister - Mark Lawrence  

Out: Apr. 19, 2018

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service. All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord. As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.

 

 

Blackfish City: A Novel - Sam J. MillerBlackfish City: A Novel - Sam J. Miller  

Out: Apr. 17, 2018

After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.

When a strange new visitor arrives—a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side—the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people—each living on the periphery—to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves. 

 

 

Starless - Jacqueline CareyStarless - Jacqueline Carey  

Out: June 12, 2018

Jacqueline Carey is back with an amazing adventure not seen since her New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series. Lush and sensual, Starless introduces us to an epic world where exiled gods live among us, and a hero whose journey will resonate long after the last page is turned. Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

 

 

To add the books to your bookshelf, click +Shelf, or the book cover. Let us know what are your fantasy picks in 2018 and we'll add them to the 2018 New Fantasy Books reading list

 

Deep dive into cult life

The Boundless Sublime - Lili Wilkinson

 Disclaimer: reviewing a pre-publication digital proof via NetGalley.

 

Ruby's mother is no longer functioning. Her dad's in prison. For killing her baby brother in a drunk driving accident. She's holding it together on the outside, not so much on the inside. When she makes a connection with innocent, sheltered, cult-raised Fox, she gets drawn into the supportive, seemingly open-minded and health-conscious public branch of a local cult. When she follows Fox into the inner enclave, things take a turn for the weird.

 

Extremely well-written story by a new-to-me author. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, and mostly requested the galley based on that awesome cover (isn't it cool? so atmospheric!) But there's a lot to like in the storytelling as well. Ruby's in a bad place, and the way the author explores her thinking and how she moves step-by-step deeper into the land of crazy is really illuminating.

 

While I think most of us would agree on how insane the choices Ruby and others in the book make, the reality is that people around us are pulled into real-world versions of this, and get drawn into radical thinking and extremist behaviours every day. I have friends who've gotten really into things like Landmark (a leadership program with cult-like practices), CrossFit (an example of extreme fitness trends that can inspire cultlike devotion, also see: SoulCycle) and even things like detox cleanses or mindfulness programs that ride the line of eating disorders and abuse. The relatability and plausibility of the characters that Wilkinson draws out is impressive. Many people - maybe everyone - are looking for answers, for meaning, for a way to gain control over their lives. This story explores how someone could, out of a place of brokenness and searching, go down a route they never would have imagined for themselves.

 

I love how this story conveys a sense of empathy. You learn about others, and maybe yourself, in a way that's engaging, fast-paced (it's not a preachy dissertation on the evils of cults or anything), solidly in-character (Ruby's perspective feels natural, age-appropriate, and allows for some great reveals and twists at the end), and balanced. You come away with a clear understanding of why people behaved as they did, even if that behaviour was absolutely insane. Potential trigger warnings for various things like debilitating depression/suicidal thoughts, abuse and eating disorders. There is some sexuality and language that might make this better suited for older teens and adults - parental guidance recommended - but it's not pronounced or explicit (e.g. there is weird sex stuff in the cult, but it's not salacious or described in detail).

 

Highly recommended read that bridges entertainment and discussion-group-worthy literature.

Bruiser - Neal Shusterman

I inhaled this book. I recently finished Scythe and Thunderhead, and decided it was about time I caught up on Shusterman backlist titles, and it was definitely the right choice.

Not sure how to review this without spoilers, though. There's a great SF/magic conceit at the heart of this story, and it's beautiful and painful and somehow he manages to tell a fast-paced, accessible story around it. It starts with twins - a girl going out with a bit of a sad rescue-case, and her brother, indignant and ready to do something about it. But the new boyfriend has more going on behind the scenes than anyone could have realized, and when they do, it's going to change everyone's lives.

 

Format in this is brilliant. Short, tense chapters alternate voice between the twins, the love interest, and his younger brother. Each has a distinctive voice, and Brewster/Bruiser's is conveyed in symmetrical verse. Recommended as a rare YA that should work for hestitant, as well as confident readers, and both male and female readers. I inhaled this in a day. Excellent storytelling.

Futuristic version of Luxe with crazy teen drama

The Thousandth Floor - Katharine McGee

Take Luxe and push it a century or so forward instead of back, and you'll have a bit of a taste of this. Social drama in a futuristic setting that tends toward the teen drama/soap opera side of the equation.

 

It follows nearly a dozen teens, with more perspectives represented from the glamorous and wealthy upper tower area than the impoverished lower tower. A few romances, lots of family drama, some drug and hacking subplots . . . it should be a mess, but the storytelling craftsmanship on this thing is out of the world. It moves well and maintains tension, even while flipping from one pair of characters to another, building drama and tension along individual subplots, and bringing it all together for an almost painful ending and setup for the next book.

 

Lots of people behaving badly. Lots of empathy for experiences - it's amazing what a gentle touch McGee has with her cast of unruly teens, and that relatability and sympathy for their misery is part of what makes this readable. Some dramas in media step over into soapy melodrama or just become too unpleasant to bear, but this walks that line of overblown, incredibly tense conflict, and just enough human kindness to make it bearable.

A big potential sticking point for many readers, as per other reviews, is that yes, a main romance is between adoptive siblings. Other romances are Cinderella style (maid and playboy), hacker and princess, and lesbian/bi. Sexuality is frankly addressed, but not explicit, and language and violence are within fairly mild ranges. Worldbuilding is solid and detailed; the futuristic super-tower setting is appealing, plausible, and consistent.

 

Overall, an enjoyable read. I'm debating continuing on with the series. On the one hand, good book, good writing, good storytelling, and I'd be happy to spend more time in this story world. On the other hand, the drama's already ratcheted up to the point of borderline anxiety, and I'm not sure how much more I can take!

Creepy premise that pushes the edge of kid-appropriate horror

Shadow Weaver - MarcyKate Connolly

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley

 

This story had some really interesting ideas but didn't hold my attention as well as I'd have liked. The relationship between the main character and her shadow (invisible friend?) is interesting, unique, and offers some unusual opportunities to show a story from a very interior perspective. I really liked the setup and premise. Adult readers will very quickly pick up on the fact that the shadow is a rather suspicious character, but if kids take a little longer to clue in, it still shapes up a nicely creepy, ominous and dark fantasy/horror-lite atmosphere. The setting is that vaguely Medieval Europe-ish world of stone manors/castles and rural cottages, which is a draw for some readers, but tends to be a little light on worldbuilding because it relies on familiar tropes.

 

The threats that launch the adventure felt unlikely; I just didn't buy into the parents' nastiness or the risk of kidnapping by enemy agents. Other child characters were handled well (kids with powers/light-magic boy & power-radar girl) but adults faded into the background. Which, to a certain degree, is fine in kidlit, because the story has to be driven by the child characters, but I felt like it stole some of the intensity, depth, and motivation from the story. As the first book in a series, it seems to be setting things up, without high enough stakes or a shocking enough reveal for my taste. However, an age-appropriate reader might not have the same reaction, and would probably experience the atmosphere and threats as more creepy. 

Unutterably brilliant dystopian SF

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe) - Neal Shusterman

Disclaimer: review based on an uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley.

 

Guys. Guys, listen. This was ridiculously good. I feel like the first time I picked up a Scott Westerfeld book (it was Uglies, btw). One for the record books.

 

Ok, yes, Scythe was brilliant and I loved it and it got one of my very rare 5 star reviews last year, but it just KEEPS GETTING BETTER. This is dystopian SF at its best; insightful, natural, emotional, relatable, engaging, stress-inducingly tense, original, shocking . . . how many more adjectives can I cram in here?

 

The technology and vision of a utopian AI-controlled future feels like a plausible extension of our current moment. And how many authors can make an entire series about death and still make it readable? The way the Thunderhead explores a Judeo-Christian vision of a personal god is also fascinating.

 

Book 1 scythe apprentices Citra and Rowan have graduated to next-generation leader and antihero respectively. I can't get over how great newcomer Greyson's progression is, too. And the way the Thunderhead AI has a character arc? What? The twists and reveals in this are gonna kill you. And if they don't, that ending just might. I CAN'T wait a year for more!! TToTT

 

Ok, so Citra is now Scythe Anastasia, and is rocking the boat by giving her (victims? gleanees? um.) time to come to terms with and define the method of their deaths. Rowan's gone rogue as an underground vigilante scythe murdering all the corrupt scythes. Greyson's an isolated loner that the Thunderhead brought up when his parents abandoned him. His dream is to become a civil servant out of appreciation for it. The Thunderhead's just trying to help everyone and keep them from destroying themselves and their world, dammit. Everyone's hopes and dreams get twisted around and undermined and melted and there's betrayal and shock and horror and lots of murder and also grand conspiracies and sacrifice and emo teen rebels and some mostly offscreen romance and the ending is brutal and I can't wait for more.

 

So pardon me while I go and binge-read everything Shusterman's ever written. BRB.

Great Nisei/Canadian-Dream historical novel

Floating City - Kerri Sakamoto

Really enjoyed the historical detail in this; the Nisei experience on Canada's west coast is fascinating, and I've only read a few perspectives on it. Authentic-feeling story of a Canadian-born son of Japanese parents from the 1930s-1980s. Starts with childhood experiences living on a floating house on the BC coast and follows through the internment and mountain camps of WWII, setting out to Toronto in the postwar period to build a life, dreaming and working toward success, and dealing with the fallout of letting ambition lead to selfishness. There's a strong fantastic/spiritual/magical realist element throughout, based on legends, dreams and altered perceptions. Very firmly in the literary fiction tradition, with some themes that don't entirely link up. I read a lot of genre fiction and YA, so I wasn't really up for the dark period in the last third, but I liked the earlier bits and the resolution. On the whole, less dark and depraved than a lot of adult literary fiction; it manages to convey a sense of hope, optimism and potential throughout. Very cool Canadian perspective, and it feels authentic enough that I was sad there aren't floating cities in Toronto's harbour yet.

I loathed this. You need to read it.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner - Lianne Oelke

 Disclaimer: reviewing digital proof via NetGalley; final version may differ.

 

This is one of those hard-to-pin-down reviews. I almost put down the book in the first pages, and dragged myself through the first half, and finally adjusted by the second. The voice and format are distinctive, so if you like them in the first place, it'll help. Basically, it's one of those so-real-it-hurts contemporary fiction pieces that capture all the things about teens that makes people avoid them. Snark and superiority, carelessness and endless appetite for causing misery and pushing other people's buttons, willful destruction etc.

 

High school dropout Jane Sinner is depressed, bored, and checked out of life when she comes across a flyer for a student production; a reality TV roommate show at the local community college. It's a chance to move out of the family home and cut down on conflict with her parents, so she jumps at the chance. Cue snarky thoughts and meaningful silences, passive-aggressive housekeeping battles and pranks, and low-key hijinks, all chronicled in a distinctive journal-and-interior-thoughts format that often reads like a script.

 

It's painful - and all too familiar. Oelke captures an authentically nihilistic voice, unironic Canadian culture (note the outward politeness, while massively pranking and internally back-talking others). Bizarrely, one of the most unique elements is Jane's background as a church kid, and her experience of questioning and discarding her parent's religion once she realizes she doesn't know God or believe in any of it. Lots of Canadians, and even more Americans, have at least some exposure to North American Christian culture/religion, and yet it never makes it into books outside of the Christian Lit aisle. The way aimlessness and lack of goals/direction, dismal future outlook and relational/romantic ineptness are handled are likewise on point.

 

At the risk of spoilers, this isn't a heartwarming teen special about overcoming depression/finding a dream/fitting in/adjusting etc. The plot picks up as the tension rises in the reality show Jane participates in, and there are some good twists as it nears the finish line that keep tension high and provide a moderate level of catharsis. The next chapter of Jane's life struck me as unrealistic and too convenient, but maybe it fits well in the world of reality TV/pop entertainment anyways.

 

I wouldn't call this an enjoyable book (and definitely not a clean one - older teens and adults only for foul language, substance abuse, and some sexual situations), but it does an excellent job at capturing a certain experience of our time. It's the sort of book you may or may not want to read, but you absolutely should spend some time with.

Vivid worldbuilding with vintage vibes like a Wes Anderson film in book form.

The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

Disclaimer: reviewing a pre-publication digital proof via Netgalley, so not all images were available, some formatting and text may have changed,etc.

 

Reading like a classic children's novel, The Wonderling takes you on an illustrated, Dickensian journey of adventure, discovery, and identity.

 

The character who eventually becomes known as Arthur is a nameless groundling (a talking, humanoid fox child) in a nightmarish prison of an orphan's home. He's essentially good and proceeds through his adventures by being so pure, goodhearted, kind etc. etc. etc. that he wins out over the fiendishly unpleasant and evil cartoonish villains. So, like I said, classic kids lit. Think anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but with animal hybrids. Arthur is a bumbling but well-intentioned naif who goes about making friends and allies and more or less sailing through some admittedly hairy situations without much real danger or tension. Creepy settings, but not terrifying. Shoutout to his best friend, a tiny flightless bird-creature - she's an engineer-inventor and consistently saves the day and moves the story along.

 

The art is pretty, delicate, pencil-shaded drawings (though, as noted, not all of it was present in the proof copy). The story is slow, meandering and dreamy in a probably-intentional way. It's long (again, kids lit of the past-style), with masses of description, and will get varying mileage depending on the reader. If you adore illustrated classics, fantastical worldbuilding and simple, traditional stories, or your kid prefers dreamy fantasies of the past over fast-paced modern thrills, it'll be right up your alley. If you're an impatient reader, or giving it to a kid who's a reluctant reader or has trouble focusing, I doubt it'll hold your attention. Some good ideas around art, music, and hope expressed in a very simple style that either lacks in sophistication and depth, or is child-appropriate, depending on your perspective/age. I didn't adore it, but ten-year-old me probably would have happily spent the time to push through.

Cute? animal sidekicks, magic & mountaineering

Even the Darkest Stars - Heather Fawcett

Loved this. From the first page, it's clearly something special. Flawless, effortless worldbuilding with unique-yet-relatable characters in high-stakes adventures with a serious twist. In Fantasy!Historic Tibet, the second daughter of a village chief in the mountain is flunking magic lessons and totally failing to hatch dragon eggs. Good thing her best friend is a genius and can cover for her. Big sister also perfect, so when the empire's most accomplished explorer (who just happens to ALSO be a hot teen) shows up in town, of course it's sis that gets invited on his next, most important-yet mission. Then sis runs off with the explorer's chronicler and things get interesting. Our magicless flunkout is about to prove her serious climbing and mountaineering skills as she saves big sis AND the empire (because evil witches are out to get them, btw) and steals the lead explorer title for herself. Until demons start hounding the camp and the party members' secrets start undermining the mission. Exciting story, fresh setting, relatable, compelling and endlessly cool characters with appealing but understated romance and serious twists. Good for mid teens and up; no language, minimal sex references, PG for the under 14s, but it's pretty clean, especially for YA these days. Some great lines and timely ideas and themes explored. Cinematic; could see this being a great film/TV series too. Can't wait for the sequel!

Historical fiction with dark thriller underpinnings

Yesternight - Cat Winters

Winters continues to amaze with detailed historical fiction that delves into the creepy, the paranormal, the supernatural, and the crappy bits of being human.

 

Alice Lind is a psychologist fresh off of a masters degree and traveling rural Oregon conducting child intelligence assessments for the school system (bc a mere woman can't get into doctoral programs in 1925, natch) when she comes across a child who claims to remember a past life as a drowning victim. Alice wants to help, and not just because it's a fascinating case; she was a difficult child herself, with unexplained, extreme behavior buried in a half-remembered past. But when there's no psychological explanation for the child's supposed delusion - no trauma, no abuse - Alice's journey to solve the mystery may cause more harm than good.

 

Good period-appropriate worldbuilding, a clear, modern but not overly anachronistic voice, feminist characters and story development, and a taut thriller-esque mystery with supernatural-leaning elements that may or may not be more than human. The ending was a twist and a half, and unfortunately not one I really appreciated, taking the tone of the book to the horror end of the thriller genre. Very well written, though. Heads up on some adult content; a dash of language and sex scenes may offend some readers, but is on the milder side of adult fiction content.

A tale of two sisters. And monsters.

Odd & True - Cat Winters

Odette is the storyteller and warrior. Trudchen is the psychic, finding portents of monsters in the tea leaves. Or, Od is the wild, ruined runaway, and Tru is the frail cripple. There's more than one way to tell a story, and the lens you look through can make sense of an impossible world. Winters succeeds in a masterpiece of a historical fiction adventure told in two alternating timelines and perspectives. Great historical detail, with care taken to avoid anachronism and the perspectives of the time informing the plot and character development. Feminism and freedom play into the plot. I would have liked more monster hunting, but it's a bit more origin story-oriented. 

Generally well-written historical fiction with a supernatural twist.

The Steep and Thorny Way - Cat Winters

Winters continues her run of excellent historical fiction with slight paranormal/supernatural elements. Great historical detail with care taken to avoid anachronisms, and a relatable, strong heroine. The Oregon settings are also interesting, as most Prohibition-era stories seem to take place in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In this edition, an era of social upheaval and the power of small men is explored as the biracial main character and a homosexual boy in her town both experience the effects of hate. The local KKK are seen as a fairly friendly, inactive group. Three guesses what's really going on...

 

I've appreciated how Winters' books so far don't overly rely on central romances, so I was kind of disappointed how much emphasis this book put on romantic relationships being so central to identity, acceptance and future success. But on the other hand, she doesn't necessarily pursue that within the main plot, which is in line with her other stories so far. Some attention given to exploring the motivations of people on different sides of an issue (nice to have the parents' story), but less so than other books so far. There's only so much you can cover within a tightly-paced book and the main POV, but it might have been too much to cover (racism + sexual identities with two different representative characters).

Saucy, twisty fairytale retellings

Grimms Manga Tales (English) - Kei Ishiyama

Disclaimer: Reviewing the digital proofs on NetGalley

 

The digital galleys make it a bit hard to see what's happening sometimes, and so I'd give a qualified thumbs up on that angle; the art seems generally attractive in a sharp, saucy manga style where the girls are cute, the women are foxy, and the boys are improbably hot and know it full well. I did find it hard to figure out what was going on in terms of movement, but the final versions may be easier to keep up with. On the plus side, art and even backgrounds are detailed and lush, to suit the fairytale surroundings.

 

On the story side, the first few stories in particular feel a little too abbreviated to me, but the latter, multi-part stories were more satisfying. Greater emphasis on character motivation and emotional responses than in the fairytales you may have heard in the past makes them more engaging and sometimes adds a fun twist. Little bit spicier or romance-y in some cases, while in others, a gender-swapped cast adds some freshness. Generally enjoyable and nice to look at.

Currently reading

Edison's Alley by Neal Shusterman, Eric Elfman
Brothers of Fang: The New Alpha by Iris Sweetwater
Blind the Eyes by K.A. Wiggins
Blind the Eyes Special Preview Edition: 5 Chapter Preview by K.A. Wiggins

@kaie.space