Friday, March 22, 2019

Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (The Sixth World, Book 1)

Synopsis: Maggie Hoskie is a Din├ętah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine. 
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. 
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.

Review: As others have remarked, there is no shortage of Urban Fantasies featuring Native American heroines – but this is the first I know of actually written by a First Nations author.  And it shows. While the other authors treat the subject with respect, Roanhorse creates a tone and world unlike anything I’ve read before.
The main character, Maggie, is a brilliant mix of strength and vulnerability, with a sense of completeness and depth that isn’t normal in UF books. And the secondary characters add more than just pillion for her to interact with, but come complete with their own richness and complexity.
Add in the post-apocalyptic nature and the First Nation mythology, and you have one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I’ve already read it twice (a big deal for me) and it was perfect the second time too.
If you read no other book this year, read this one!

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: TBD

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1350-4
Year Published: 2018
Date Finished: 2-11-19
Pages: 287

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: Eight Times Up by John Corr

Synopsis: Ever since his mom left, Riley has been a mess. He feels nervous all the time. His heart pounds, his neck is tight, and he can't seem to turn off his brain. His dad signs him up for aikido, hoping it will help. In the dojo, Riley meets boys who are much rougher than he is and a girl who is tougher than all the rest of them put together. For Wafaa, aikido is not her first choice. She was disqualified from competing in judo for wearing a hijab. From the first time she steps on the mat, it's clear she is far more skilled than anyone expected. Through the teachings of their sensei, Riley and his classmates come to understand that aikido is not about winning or losing or about being perfect. Sensei shows them how to tap into their inner strength and find their place in the universe. (from the online description)

Review: Centered on Riley, a young man who is struggling with the loss of his Mom and the stabling presence she brought to his life, this story follows him as he finds his footing after such a devastating loss.
Corr’s handling of the subject of the loss of a parent, anxiety in the young, discrimination, and challenge is excellent. None of these issues are “in your face” which prevents the book from becoming preachy. But they are present and part of the story. The language is simple, but not dumbed down, and would be suitable for kids from ages 8+.
I particularly liked the story of those around Riley. The other kids aren’t just cardboard cutouts in his journey, but actual people that he learns from. Each has their own story, their own struggles, and the collisions and joining of those struggling are important to Riley’s journey. Corr also manages to create a diverse cast without it being the focus of the story. The kids being from different races, cultures, and families is simple part of who they are and adds depth to the story, without it ever feeling contrived.
As a practitioner (albeit eons ago) of Aikido, I was pleased with the accuracy of how Corr described the art and practice of the sport. This is naturally expected, given his own experience with the sport. It was also pleasant the sport was part of the story, but not the focus. Corr’s seamlessly woven together a lot of different aspects of the human experience, perfectly balancing each to create a story worth reading. Even though the main character is a child, as an adult, I found this an inspiration read.
Over all, this is an excellent first book. I would recommend it to any parent of middle grade kids, and I will certainly keep an eye out for Corr’s future work. 

Note: I received this book free from LibraryThing as part of their Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 9781459818613
Year Published: 2019
Date Finished: 2-5-2019
Pages: 216

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty (Serafina, Book Three)


Synopsis: The end of the trilogy about Serafina and her adventures at Protector of Biltmore Estate.

Review: As with the others, this is a pleasing mix of adventure, heart, dark-danger, and triumph. Billed as the last in the adventures of Serafina, we see her confront the last of the darkness that haunts Biltmore, and come into her own as the Protector of Biltmore. We also see her confront the internal struggles she has, as she tries to reconcile her place in the world. Slightly darker then the previous two, this is a fine middle grade book, with enough danger, humor, and action to keep both boys and girls interested.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7504-2
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 2-2-19
Pages: 355

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review: Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (A)

Synopsis: An ageless hermit runs a secret way station for alien visitors in the Wisconsin woods in this Hugo Award-winning science fiction classic Enoch Wallace is not like other humans. Living a secluded life in the backwoods of Wisconsin, he carries a nineteenth-century rifle and never seems to age-a fact that has recently caught the attention of prying government eyes. The truth is, Enoch is the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War and, for close to a century, he has operated a secret way station for aliens passing through on journeys to other stars. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch's eyes to humanity's impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race . . . though the cure could ultimately prove more terrible than the disease. (from the online description)

Review:  This is not a space opera. There are no space ships or laser guns or daring space flights. This is a simple, quiet sci-fi novel, with a deep well of thought and meaning. The end question is - do humans deserve the chance to find our own way or are we too dangerous to be left to our own ways? Enoch, with his gentle manner and striking intelligence, seeks to find a way to convince his employers (not humans) that Earth deserves the change to live.
Woven into this is Enoch’s own journey – to let go of the past, to embrace the future, and to accept what may come. In the end, it is the way being a Station Master has changed his own perceptions that allow him to find the answer.  There is a deep philosophical bent to this story.
That isn’t to say there isn’t action. The plot is brisk, with constant changes. Simak prose is heavy with imagery, the kind that makes the story alive in your mind.
It is easy to see why this book won the Hugo. A well-deserved award for a fantastic science fiction story.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (1964)

ISBN: 978-1504013215
Year Published: 1963
Date Finished: 1-31-2019
Pages: N/A (Audiobook, eBook)


Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (The Nameless City, Book 2)

Synopsis: Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself. To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he's stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war? (from the online description)

Review: This book was recommended by an acquaintance on #bookstagram and I found the first and second volumes at my local library.
With bold color and dynamic art, this book creates a fascinating world, quickly drawing the reader into the drama and intrigue of a city, contrastingly changed by the endless war and following conquest by the neighboring nations.
In this chaos, we find two characters, different from each other as possible, yet facing the same thing – being out of place in a city where no one has a place.
The characters are rich and complex, the action brisk and well-defined, and the plot twists and turns. Excellent story, with a dynamic look at how people live in a conquered land, and what it means to Rule. Worth reading – I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: TBD

ISBN: 978-1-62672-159-3
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 1-30-2019
Pages: 243

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review: The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks (The Nameless City, Book 1)

Synopsis: Every nation that invades the City gives it a new name. But before long, new invaders arrive and the City changes hands once again. The natives don't let themselves get caught up in the unending wars. To them, their home is the Nameless City, and those who try to name it are forever outsiders.
Kaidu is one such outsider. He's a Dao born and bred--a member of the latest occupying nation. Rat is a native of the Nameless City. At first, she hates Kai for everything he stands for, but his love of his new home may be the one thing that can bring these two unlikely friends together. Let's hope so, because the fate of the Nameless City rests in their hands. (from the online description)

Review: This book was recommended by an acquaintance on #bookstagram and I found the first and second volumes at my local library.
With bold color and dynamic art, this book creates a fascinating world, quickly drawing the reader into the drama and intrigue of a city, contrastingly changed by the endless war and following conquest by the neighboring nations.
In this chaos, we find two characters, different from each other as possible, yet facing the same thing – being out of place in a city where no one has a place.
The characters are rich and complex, the action brisk and well-defined, and the plot twists and turns. Excellent story, with a dynamic look at how people live in a conquered land, and what it means to Rule. Worth reading – I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: TBD

ISBN:978-1-62672-157-9
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 1-30-2019
Pages: 232

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: The Starmen of Llydris by Leigh Brackett

Synopsis: Outcast in space. Michael Trehearne had always been an outcast among his people on Earth. He knew he was different. He did not know how or why. Then one day, on the wind-swept coast of Brittany, a bewitchingly beautiful girl appeared & told him he had the look of the Vardda--those elite star travelers who alone could withstand the rigors of intergalactic flight.
Michael had to join them, had to find his place in the universe at last. But it would not be easy. For even when they allowed him to risk his life aboard their ship, to seal his fate upon their planet, even then, they viewed him as an outcast, a dangerous changeling who suddenly threatened them. He was a man who sooner or later would have to be destroyed! (from the back of the book)

Review: Classic Pulp Science Fiction. Laser guns, space-travel, new worlds, plots of murder, and galaxy-changing events!
Leigh Brackett writes excellent action-adventure stories. My only qualm with her writing is the women – that tend towards the stereotypical sex-bomb or damsel-in-distress, and seem to be there only to further the plot for the hero. But, she was writing to a particular audience and that is what they wanted!
As for this particular story, it was more well-written then others by her. I say that because I had strong opinions about the choices the characters made and could only have that if I cared about the outcome. To point, I agreed with the “villains” of the story and not the hero. The hero’s fight, I thought, seemed idealistic and based on naive and short-sighted assumptions about a world he had just entered. The villains seems to understand the long-reaching consequences of the hero’s action (that being war, suffering, and death for millions of people) but because the hero’s action lead to the “Free Choice” of others, we’re supposed to agree with it. Maybe if you are an emotion-driven person, yea, but not for a logical person.
But then, it’s that the mark of a good book? It stirs the mind and engages the heart?

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 345-24668-3-150
Year Published: 1952
Date Finished: 1-29-2019
Pages: 164