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.
It is a new day in futuristic Austin and another day of fun for 8 year old Ezra and his A.I. tiger nanny Pounce. But when a law decries setting the A.I. free and a tragic event takes place, humans and their machine help are suddenly at war. Pounce loves Ezra and is programmed to protect him no matter what against any danger. Ezra feels the same towards Pounce but he will be forced to grow up very quickly if he wants to stay alive. This is a fresh take on the subject of family vs. employee and A.I. vs human love.
This cautionary tale is as violent as it is heartfelt and shows what could happen. Imagine the Terminator as a fully upright tiger and you have a good picture of Pounce. The author does a great job of describing the Texas Hill Country as an apocalyptic war zone. 5 crazy stars
Steampunk and magic in old Cairo where a pair of female agents from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities search for a mysterious imposter suspected of a mass killing. Djinn, ifrits, ghouls, angels and everything in between have them very busy and one step away from danger and this imposter using powerful magic to control the will of djinn and ignite people from the inside out. There is also an added romance between Fatma and Siti an elusive woman of many disguises and great wit.
A fast paced story with the charm of a Victorian mystery in a glamorous setting of old Cairo and unlimited adventure from every magical being found in 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS. 4 stars
Vern has run away from the strict cult she was born into. She gives birth to twins alone in the woods and raises them on the run from unseen demons. Always alert to those who would take her or her children she is trying to get to the only people she knows who have escaped. On the run and free for the first time Vern's body is changing and she is learning firsthand the new power she is being given as a host to a fungus. Vern and her children are both strange and familiar in this deep, dark tale of love, community and good vs. evil. Think Frankenstein tripping on some bad mushrooms after escaping Charles Manson's family. 4 1/2 stars
Only Andy Weir can take us to deep space, immerse us in science but explain it in a way "anyone" can understand and tell it with wicked good humor. We begin with a science teacher turned last minute astronaut who is sent out to deep space with little training to save the Earth when the sun stops giving us heat. Easy right? Dealing with problems and variables he can't control he teams up with an unlikely partner to save the world from extinction. So much fun to read and smart - this is the one space book everyone should read. Weir's "Astrophysics For Dummies" approach that doesn't make you feel like a dummy makes us all want to be armchair astronauts. Can't wait for the tv/movie of this one! 5 deep space stars
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Fantasy / Sci-Fi
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