Zhu was once a worthless girl child whose father couldn't even sell her to feed himself and his son. When she is left an orphan she takes on the name and life of her brother whose destiny was for greatness. She lives at a monastery somehow hiding her female past and then begins to form her own destiny as a warrior monk who knows no fear and whose desire for power is only seconded by a desire for the beautiful Ma. This is CROUCHING TIGER meets MULAN and inspired by the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Power, determination and a belief in greatness no matter what sex you are born.
Her beautifully choreographed writing style that is as graceful as watching a martial arts exercise. 4 stars
This is a classic horror tale of why you should never go home again. Nathan, his wife and their teenage son Oliver have just moved back to Nathan's childhood home after his
abusive father dies. Something evil has happened around there and it begins to affect all of them. A serial killer who disappears into thin air, a haunted coal mine, a really creepy kid who befriends Oliver, a strange book that shares visions and ghosts galore. This scary tale is reminiscent of early Stephen King and the HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. 4 stars
What happens when you end up as the final girl of the final girls? Lynnette doesn't want to find out but she is in a race to save the other women in her support group for girls that survived horrific events, serial killers and the worst boogymen you can think of. They are anxious, they are armed and they have been private until now but someone has discovered the group and is picking them off one by one. Lynette and the others are badass but are they tough enough to survive and catch the killer before the killer catches them? A lightning paced thriller tailor-made for all those slasher horror movie and book fiends. Even if you have to read it with the lights all on and through your fingers, it is worth it. 4 stars
This is a destruction story, a creation story and a story of the Earth not as we know it but transformed into something strange. The strong survive and the weak do not but in Matt Bell's strange new world - the strong are regurgitating flesh and DNA to spit out new models of human and animal. Volunteers (who are anything but) arrive out of the destruction to work the fields and fuel the loom. It is where a small army will stage a fight or die trying. The other story is of two brothers, mythical faun creatures in the forest planting apple groves retreating to human form when around others. They are the legend of Johnny Appleseed come to life. Matt Bell's writing gushes forth in a slurry of thoughts and feelings giving the reader a true sense of the confusion and despair that has taken control. Frightening, brutal and freakishly fascinating, this Frankenstein meets climate change is perfect for fans of WestWorld, THE NEW WILDERNESS and the strange stories of Jeff Vandermeer. 4 1/2 stars
New York City in the early 1900's is a melting pot of ethnic groups, religions and language. It is also a
place of mystical beings like Chava a golem woman made of clay and Ahmad a jinni enslaved and driven by fire. The many people who come into contact with these two are changed forever and one of them, Sophia, travels to the Middle East in search of her jinni and a cure. Touched by the human world they find themselves a part of yet unable to truly ever be accepted in, Chava and Ahmad spend their time searching as do the other characters, for intimacy and a sense of belonging. The magic of the Middle East legends blend seamlessly with the old world reality of the tenements and hardships of the crowded streets of New York. Helen Wecker creates such a vivid portrait that you hear the call to worship, smell the challah baking and feel the heat from Ahmad's forge. While you can read this as a standalone you would be denying yourself the full sense of wonder of learning of the golem and the jinni's origin story. Readers who love a bit of history with their magic and fans of THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE or THE CITY OF BRASS will fall for this completely. 5 stars
A quiet but deadly fantasy about generations of gifted women who guard the dead and protect the living from the Furnace and its deadly call. Jean is raised mainly by her Nan because her mother is in her cups more often than not. Nan begins Jean's lessons as a young child limiting her training to creative King and a few trusted friends. With only a dead boy she reads to, a talking bird and adults to talk to Jean seeks warmth and friendship she doesn't find at home and this makes her vulnerable to a strange man that appears whom she calls - the graceful man. As the danger comes closer to the village and her family Jean will be called on to put herself in the fire. Beautifully written this has a fairy tale quality with elements of TALES OF THE HINDERLAND, THE STARLESS SEA and THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of this world. 4 stars
Elite gamers have heard rumors of the secretive game "Rabbits" but few know more than a bit of gossip. K knows enough to give presentations about the game, theories and previous winners but he has not found a way to play it until now. Since childhood K has been sensitive to things, has a razor sharp mind for detail and tends to have blackouts often but it is only after a meeting with an eccentric billionaire (a previous Rabbits winner) that K gets drawn into the rabbit hole. The billionaire is missing, people are dying so K and a friend must now play the game, find the missing, and not die trying to save the world. Elements of READY PLAYER ONE, STRANGER THINGS and the show HOMECOMING are here as well as a ton of 80's -90's gaming trivia making this the obvious choice for gamers both old school and present day.
Fight the urge to keep a notebook handy so you can jot down your own theories, discrepancies and clues. This will be a great crossover for young adult readers and there is a podcast by the same name if you need more. 4 stars
Jo is Girl One, the first child created and birthed without any male DNA. Jo, her mother and a handful of other women were part of a strange experimental cult- like commune where an egomaniac doctor bred his girls until a tragic fire ended it all. Years pass and Jo is alerted that her mother has disappeared after a fire so she heads out on the road in search of her mother's trail by finding the remaining girls and moms. It is a strange road trip staying one step ahead of those who would harm them. The more Jo discovers about their past the more dangerous their future becomes. Great sci-fi with echoes of sisterhood, super powers and the weirdness of ORPHAN BLACK. 4 stars
With a nod to all the magic of J.M Barrie's original story, this is a darker version of what happened after. Wendy, now a mother of her own and still missing her time in Neverland, witnesses her daughter being whisked away by Peter Pan. Instead of feeling helpless, Wendy goes off to Neverland to reclaim Jane. Neverland has changed from the innocent land of wonder she remembered to something much more sinister. Peter is not what he was either as both Wendy and Jane come to realize. The story immerses you in that feeling of innocence and childlike adventure and then reveals the creepy and manipulative danger. We also learn of Wendy's life after she returned home all those years ago and the themes of male dominance of women and the question of a women's place and mental illness are all explored. 4 1/2 stars
Natasha Pulley's books will never be considered a quick read but they are thought provoking and her world building is first rate. This is an alternate history fantasy with themes of slavery, gay romance, adventure on the high seas, and playing with European history around the Napoleonic Wars. Joe has a case of epileptic amnesia and the only clue he has about his life after stepping off the train is a 100 year old postcard of a lighthouse signed M. France won the war making England a colony and slavery is thriving. Joe heads to Scotland (still a country of rebels) to search for clues at the lighthouse in the photo. Once there he will embark on a journey through time in search of his life. The multiple timelines take some getting used to but her books are always so full of interesting tidbits and fascinating worlds.
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