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Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent ARC {5 Stars}

Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent  ARC {5 Stars}

Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent (Alfie Bloom #1)
Published by Scholastic on October 25th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Alfie Bloom's life is dull. Dull and lonely, and this summer is set to be the most boring yet. All of that changes when he is summoned to the bizarre offices of mysterious solicitor, Caspian Bone, where he discovers he has inherited a castle full of wonders that has been sealed for centuries. Alfie is astounded to learn he was born in that very castle six hundred years ago during a magical timeslip. There, Orin Hopcraft, the last of the druids hid an ancient magic inside him, which others seek but should never be used. With the help of his cousins Madeleine and Robin, and Artan the flying bearskin rug, Alfie must keep the magic from terrifying adversaries and ensure that the secrets of Hexbridge castle stay secret, forever!

5 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of ALFIE BLOOM AND THE SECRETS OF HEXBRIDGE CASTLE from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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Enter a Glossy Web by McKenna Ruebush {Just Hatched}

Just Hatched Book Feature

Just Hatched is a feature where I share my first impressions of a book after the first chapter … or four. Check out the announcement post for more information.

This whimsical fantasy hits just the right notes as a light-hearted fantasy adventure suitable for middle-graders to read as they curl up with a cup of hot chocolate on some of these dark, winter nights.

Note: I received an advanced copy of ENTER A GLOSSY WEB from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Enter a Glossy Web by McKenna Ruebush {Just Hatched}

Enter a Glossy Web by McKenna Ruebush
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on September 27, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Twelve-year-old George has no idea what to expect when she’s sent to stay with eccentric relatives following the disappearance of her brother. Soon after her arrival, she learns that Uncle Constantine has been kidnapped. George sets off to recover him and is joined by two orphaned boys along the way and Cavendish, a talking map. Together they visit magical worlds full of monsters, witches, and dragons as they attempt to find Constantine--the Timekeeper--a man of great significance. If he’s not rescued, events will cease to happen at their designated times, disrupting the unfolding of the universe. Can this ragtag crew save the future before being outwitted by evil captors?

3 Stars

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Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen Audiobook {4 Stars}

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen Audiobook {4 Stars}

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen
Narrated by Robin Miles
(The Shadow #2)
Published by Orbit on Oct. 11th, 2016
Genres: Weird West, Western Fantasy
Page Length: 359 pages
Audio Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Monsters, magic and the supernatural combine in this sequel to Wake of Vultures, in which a young woman must defeat the evil hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome made a leap -- not knowing what she'd become. But now the destiny of the Shadow is calling.

A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And the Shadow must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life.

When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn't black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?

Conspiracy of Ravens continues the exciting journey begun in Wake of Vultures as Nettie Lonesome discovers that she, and the world, are more than what they seem.

4 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of Conspiracy of Ravens from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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Carrie Vaughn: Writing for My Kid Self {Guest Post}

 

Today I’m excited to welcome Carrie Vaughn to the blog to share why she wrote her new novel Martians Abroad, out today!

            I’ve been telling people my new novel Martians Abroad is old school. I intentionally wrote it to be old school, harkening back to the gee-whiz adventures of the so-called Golden Age of science fiction of the 1940s and 50s, when we hadn’t quite gotten into space yet and we still thought Mars might have water and we were sure we’d be able to visit the Moon on Pan Space Airlines in just a couple of decades. When we really thought colonizing the solar system was going to be a whole lot easier than it turned out to be. (Living and working in space is really hard. One of the things NASA is grappling with right now is how spending a long time in microgravity damages astronauts’ vision when they return to Earth. The orbital environment seems to be physically mooshing their eyeballs and optic nerves. That’s definitely a problem that’s going to have be addressed before we get our asteroid colonies.)

I wanted to write a book that had that same kind of optimism, that imagines what a colonized solar system might be like, with capable characters solving problems and having adventures in a space-faring future. Moreover, I wanted to update the concept with all the scientific and technological discoveries that have been made over the last fifty years about astronomy, space travel, and planetary science. (We have detailed maps of the surface of Pluto now! How cool is that?!) And I wanted to modernize the general sensibilities of such a story. For example: I wanted the main character to be a girl. A teen girl who wants to be a starship pilot, and who has adventures, where such a thing is entirely normal and no one needs to comment on it. You know, the kind of book I really would have loved when I was a teenager.

           One of the most famous science fiction short stories from the 1950s is “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin. It’s a classic hard SF story about real physics and real problem solving: a ship delivering much-needed medicine to a plague-ridden colony carries exactly enough fuel calculated for the weight of that specific cargo. So when a stowaway is discovered on board, all the weight-based fuel calculations are thrown off, and the ship won’t have enough fuel to deliver its desperately needed medicine. The lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few, and the stowaway is jettisoned into the cold darkness of space. That the stowaway is a teenage girl makes the scenario even more tragic, right? Well, no, because there’s a not-so-subtle implication that she got into this mess because she’s a girl and just didn’t know any better. She’s wearing sandals and a dress. She has no concept of things like fuel calculations. This story made me so angry the first time I read it — as a teenager girl — and even more angry on subsequent readings, when I remind myself that yes, it really is as bad as I remembered. It seemed like such a failure of characterization: if she grew up on a space station, or in a space colony, she would know about things like fuel calculations and safety rules of spaceships. I asked myself, what would this story look like if it was a boy who stowed away? And I get the impression the author never considered that a boy might have stowed away because he didn’t know better. For all the brilliant optimistic future many of these golden age SF writers imagined, they couldn’t imagine a place for women outside their traditional roles.

The hero of Martians Abroad, Polly, knows all about space ships. She wants to be a starship pilot. She learns everything she can about traveling in space. She knows all about fuel calculations.

So was it hard, writing an old-school SF adventure starring a teenage girl with poor impulse control? Not at all.

There’s kind of this secret that isn’t really a secret: If you want to write an adventure story with a woman as the main character. . .you just make the main character a woman. Or a teen girl, in the case of Martians Abroad. That’s it. It’s not really any more complicated than that. I’ve been asked by a lot of new writers who want to write good, inclusive fiction: How do I write strong women characters? You write people, I tell them. You write a human being. You ought to be able to list ten traits that character has before you even get to sex or gender. Are they funny, nervous, impulsive, kind, athletic, careful, angry, manipulative, optimistic? And so on. Those are the traits that will drive a story. A kid who grew up in space would know about space.

Polly is ambitious, impulsive, a fighter, and a good friend, and I hope you all like her as much as I do.

 

 

The Found and the Lost by Ursula K. Le Guin {2 Stars}

by Ursula K. Le Guin
Published by Saga Press Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Novella, Sci-fi
How I got my copy: Publisher

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Found and the Lost from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

This is going to be a very different review than I normally post because I want to get down my thoughts, but they are scattered and completely due to where my brain is at currently. This is very much a time when my rating is a reflection on my experience only and not any attempt at an objective evaluation of these stories. Basically, I can’t evaluate these stories in a way that I consider fair because they just aren’t working for my reading mood right now.

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Updates from the Lair 01/14/17

Updates from the Lair

Updates from the Lair is my weekly wrap-up post that includes what happened in my real life, what I’ve been reading and my posts from the week. 

Oh hey look, an Updates post! This is how you can tell that my life is getting somewhat back to normal :D. Now that the contract is signed, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting at Grinnell College in the fall as a Computer Science professor! So if you are a high schooler thinking about colleges or an undergrad thinking about computer science, feel free to email me questions and I’ll give what advice I can, ha.

My Week

Dreadnought

My ebook has been Dreadnought for a bit here. I’ve been very slow in reading in general despite getting a shiny new Kindle for the holidays. I love Dreadnought though and highly recommend it. It has a trans super hero MC!

FallerI just started the audiobook of Faller and I’m not sure what I think so far. I loved McIntosh’s young adult Burning Midnight, so I’m sticking with it for now. I started getting sleepy listening on my drive and had to switch over to music to stay awake, so that always seems a bad sign….

Save the Cat!I’ve also been reading Save the Cat! I saw it on the shelf at work (yeah, we have random books on our shelves for anyone to borrow) and was hooked immediately. Obviously writing books has a bit more flexibility than mainstream screenwriting, but as a big believer in engrossing fantasy, I’m definitely happy to be reading some of these tips. I had been feeling a bit lost in how to improve the structure of my WIP and now feel much much better. Highly recommended if you want to write fiction! [Read more…]

Windwitch by Susan Dennard ARC {3 Stars}

Windwitch by Susan Dennard ARC {3 Stars}

Windwitch by Susan Dennard (The Witchlands #2)
Published by Tor Teen on Jan. 10th, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

3 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of Windwitch from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine ARC {4 Stars}

The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine ARC {4 Stars}

The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine (The Impostor Queen #2)
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on 432
Genres: Fantasy, YA
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Ansa has always been a fighter.

As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her place next to Thyra, the daughter of the Krigere Chieftain. She fought for her status as a warrior in her tribe: blood and victory are her way of life. But the day her Krigere cross the great lake and threaten the witch queen of the Kupari, everything changes.

Cursed by the queen with fire and ice, Ansa is forced to fight against an invisible enemy—the dark magic that has embedded itself deep in her bones. The more she seeks to hide it, the more dangerous it becomes. And with the Krigere numbers decimated and the tribe under threat from the traitorous brother of the dead Chieftain, Ansa is torn between her loyalty to the Krigere, her love for Thyra, and her own survival instincts.

With her world in chaos and each side wanting to claim her for their own, only one thing is certain: unless Ansa can control the terrible magic inside her, everything she’s fought for will be destroyed.

4 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Cursed Queen from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle {4.5 Stars}

Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle {4.5 Stars}

Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #3)
Published by Harper Voyager on Dec. 27th, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Western Fantasy
Page Length: 384 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.

As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.

It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.

4.5 Stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of Nine of Stars from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Strengths:
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Ch-ch-ch-changes: No More SFFFridays

Sorry everyone! Sci-fi and Fantasy Friday was something I had a lot of plans for, but all those plans require a fair amount of my time to really succeed at. It’s been losing interest over the past few months, so I think for now it is time to retire it. The reason I can’t do anything that will be taking a lot of time is: I got a new job! As of August 2017 I’ll be an Assistant Professor of Computer Science. That will obviously take top priority and since I really don’t want to stop reviewing, I’m simply going to cut everything on a schedule so that if I suddenly disappear, no one is disappointed ;-).

I’ve also finished the first draft of my fantasy novel and its working title is The Scent of Rain and Souls, oooooo! I have a bit more editing to do, some scenes to add along with a bit more world-building, but then I’ll be sending it out to alpha readers for feedback :D.

Along with the theme of this year, I will no longer be requesting books for review consideration! *gasp* I have a couple of ARCs that I agreed to review before I made this decision, so I’ll finish those up, but then I’ll be reading and reviewing books from my shelves and the library. My goal last year was to not buy any books and I succeeded at that! Now that I will be starting a new job, I can afford to buy books again and want to start supporting my favorite authors with pre-orders (because it’s funnnnnnn!). I want no guilt of any kind associated with this blog, so even though I’ve adopted a pretty lax approach to review books, I want to relax that even more. I honestly just love the idea of grabbing a random book from my shelf. I even finally put together my TBR jar with books I’ve been meaning to read for a while!

Since I won’t be trying to keep up with all the newest releases, I also have a list of books by marginalized voices coming out in 2017 and older books that I never got to and I’ll be prioritizing those in the coming year. So if you’ve been looking for those kinds of books other than what is super hyped by the big publishers, keep an eye out!

I think that’s it…. How are you doing?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings-Anya