Supernatural adventures for girls and women.

[reading] Review of Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby

Book: Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby (Amazon link)
Genre: YA horror/supernatural adventure
Series: Feral Seasons, Book One
USA Release Date: November 21, 2016
Source: Advanced ebook copy from the publisher. No compensation received for this review, and it is my honest opinion.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, absolutely. It is a gorgeous, haunting southern fairytale about hunger and danger and how little we see even when we try to look at the world.
Content note: Non-explicit violence to animals.

Summary: 16-year-old Henrietta Goodness – Hank to all that know her – has heard all the stories about how the Dust made the dead rise. She’s heard about how life changed.

But that was a long time ago, and Hank is ready for another normal dry and dusty Florida summer. She knows the thunder doesn’t really promise rain. Instead, Hank and her brother will do their chores, run into town as much as they can get away with, and lock up tight and safe in their Aunt Marty’s house once the sun goes down. That’s the plan, at least, until an itinerant tent revival rolls onto their land, with a Reborn – one of the risen dead – traveling caged with them.

The arrival of an unknown cousin connected to the revival starts Hank on the road to solving a mystery that even the government might not want unraveled. There’s nowhere to go when the night isn’t safe and there’s no one to trust when everyone might be part of a conspiracy to keep the Reborn walking.

Review:

Dust Bath Revival is a gorgeous, haunting southern fairytale. The story is a slow burn build, and the world opens up for the reader in a slow, sensuous way that meanders and loops, and even the things we see, the things Hank sees as she is shoved out into the world, aren’t what we want them to be, or fear them to be, both and neither at the same time. This is Hank’s story, her creation story, and it is lovely.

Kirby’s writing is gorgeous, and she captures a dark, twisty southern gothic feel. The slow pace of the book feels like a story being told around the campfire, late into the night; there’s an otherworldly quality to the descriptions that holds the reader at a distance and weaves a compelling, complicated world around them.

There was no real sense of fear for me as a reader; the story unspools in a way that feels inevitable and comfortably familiar, a beloved tale that I’ve returned to a hundred times before, though this is my first reading. (It will not be my last.) The ending is less a satisfactory conclusion and more a pause; Dust Bath Revival is clearly the introduction to a much larger world, and though I am eager for the next book, I do wish the end had felt more like a resolution. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t resolve; the story that it sets out to tell is finished, but it so well sets up the next part of the story in such few words at the end that I was left wanting more.

That in itself is a delightful bit of writing. I am left hungry and wanting and frustrated by it, as is Hank. And it is in that hunger, that wanting, that Hank must find her answers, and in her search, exactly what I want more of, too.

Dust Bath Revival is the story of family and need, betrayal and hunger, and it will stick with you long after you finish. It will leave you, always, wanting more.

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[reading] Review of BEAST OF BARCROFT by Bill Schweigart

Book: BEAST OF BARCROFT by Bill Schweigart (Amazon)
Genre: Adult paranormal horror
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Summary: Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.

First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.

Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.

Recommended?: No. I wish I could recommend it, because at times it is a super entertaining story, with a main male character who was a billion times less irritating than when I read and reviewed NORTHWOODS (which is actually the sequel). For a lot of this story, it is creepy and wonderful, and I absolutely adore the main female character, Lindsay Clark, who is an awesome lesbian zoologist.

And then the part of the book came that I was braced for: the introduction of the rich white cryptozoologist and his sidekick Indian. I knew this was coming, because Alex Standingcloud, who is during this book estranged from his Ojibwe family, plays a huge role in the second book, which is set, in part, on his reservation. I really like him in the second book, and the little we get to see of him here in the first, he’s just as great, but his whole purpose in the story is to show up as the Magical Indian: he’s there to bring information about Native American beliefs and lore, get hurt helping the white dude hero, and disappear off screen when his work is done. And that is such a tired old trope. So is the use of Native American beliefs to drive the horror.

JK Rowling was recently deeply criticized for her cultural appropriation of Native American beliefs, and a lot of what was said about that is applicable here, too. Dr. Adrienne Keene talks about this extensively at Native Appropriations: Magic in America Part 1: Ugh and Magic in North America: The Harry Potter Franchise Veers Too Close to Home.

So, this is where I’m going to perform what Audra Simpson calls an “ethnographic refusal,” “a calculus ethnography of what you need to know and what I refuse to write in.” In her work with her own community, she asks herself the questions: “what am I revealing here and why? Where will this get us? Who benefits from this and why?”

I had a long phone call with one of my friends/mentors today, who is Navajo, asking her about the concepts Rowling is drawing upon here, and discussing how to best talk about this in a culturally appropriate way that can help you (the reader, and maybe Rowling) understand the depths to the harm this causes, while not crossing boundaries and taboos of culture. What did I decide? That you don’t need to know. It’s not for you to know. I am performing a refusal.

What you do need to know is that the belief of these things (beings?) has a deep and powerful place in Navajo understandings of the world. It is connected to many other concepts and many other ceremonial understandings and lifeways. It is not just a scary story, or something to tell kids to get them to behave, it’s much deeper than that. My own community also has shape-shifters, but I’m not delving into that either.

What happens when Rowling pulls this in, is we as Native people are now opened up to a barrage of questions about these beliefs and traditions (take a look at my twitter mentions if you don’t believe me)–but these are not things that need or should be discussed by outsiders. At all. I’m sorry if that seems “unfair,” but that’s how our cultures survive.

The other piece here is that Rowling is completely re-writing these traditions. Traditions that come from a particular context, place, understanding, and truth. These things are not “misunderstood wizards”. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

This is applicable beyond just Rowling’s work, and beyond skinwalkers. This is applicable here, to BEAST OF BARCROFT, and that Schweigart chose to take this path ruins an otherwise really fun and interesting book.

Things I loved: Lindsay Clark, bad ass curator at the National Zoo, lesbian, and all-around hero. Officer Stacy Cushing, bad ass officer and all-around hero. Great, tense scenes and a fast, interesting story. Good, engaging storytelling (except for that big giant problem).

Things I loathed: First character we meet is Manny Benavides, who is, I believe, a Hispanic man, an animal control office, kind and good at his job and well loved by his family — and who is immediately killed off so the white characters can take center stage. Obviously, the use of the Native American beliefs is a problem. Lots of low key sexism that is both pushed back against and supported by the text at the same time. And a huge amount of bullshit over the mental health crap and ableism throughout, particularly his belief, fully supported and encouraged by the text, that he needs to come off his depression meds in order to be really present in life and to be the hero. Which is seriously fucked up.

(Also, the damn dog dies in the first chapter. I hate when that happens.)

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[reading] Review of HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you. I’ll mark the source of links.

Book: HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano (Book Depository)
Genre: YA paranormal murder mystery
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5 stars
Summary: John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders-but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves. But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name. Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

Recommended?: Yes. I thought it was a fast, fun read with some really interesting world building, and a main character I cared about, which is rare for me with straight male main characters.

Things I loved: The murder mystery itself, the details of how Smoke travels outside his body, the layers of corruption and intrigue.

Things I loathed: The ending is weak, and more than a little cheesy. While the pacing is good in the second half of the story, it seemed to take a long time to get started. And again, that ending — cheesy and weak. I’m not sure how much I buy that he wasn’t tried as an adult for the two murders he’s in juvie for committing, and that was really distracting at first, but once I was able to suspend my disbelief, the pacing of the story had picked up, and I was along for the ride.

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[reading] Review of THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you. I’ll mark the source of links.

Book: THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository)
Genre: YA murder mystery
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Summary: When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Recommended?: Sort of. It was entertaining enough, but I had serious issues with the way mental illness was treated, both in how fast and often the accusations of someone being “crazy” flew, but also because in the end, the deaths were blamed on mental illness, because crazy people kill, AMIRITE? And that trope is one of my most hated tropes. So while the story as a whole was a fun look at how the stories we tell about murders can be terribly wrong, I had a hard time pushing through the part.

Things I loved: The use of YouTube to access old video of her family’s appearance on America’s Most Wanted, and how technology drove her research a lot. Some of the side characters were really well drawn. It was a fun murder mystery (I mean, if you can call a “murder mystery” fun, which I can and do, but I can see how that’s a little weird, too), and I really liked the way she kept pushing through everything to find the truth.

Things I loathed: The treatment of mental illness. The weirdness about a failed adoption that not only didn’t make a lot of sense in the details, but also didn’t add anything to the story and was pretty much a terrible representation of adoption that felt like it was just there to give her a more painful backstory and to prey on the fears a lot of adopted kids have that their new family will give them up. (And frustrating treatment of single mothers, to boot.)

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[reading] Review of DRAGON’S LUCK by Lauren Esker

Book: DRAGON’S LUCK by Lauren Esker
Genre: paranormal romantic suspense
Series: Shifter Agents #3
USA Release Date: available now
Source: ARC from author
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, so much yes, all the yes! Amazing main character in Jen Cho, fantastic adventure, well-written details, and great worldbuilding mean this is a fast, fun read well worth visiting again and again.

Summary:
Jen Cho is a gecko shifter and infiltration expert for the Shifter Crimes Bureau. But this time she’s in over her head—out of touch with her handler and head over heels for a sexy gambler who mistakenly thinks she’s as much of a bad girl as he’s a bad boy.

Ambrose “Lucky” Lucado has been playing in high-stakes games of chance since he was big enough to see over the table. But the sexy lizard shifter has a secret: he’s not a lizard at all. He’s a dragon, the rarest of all shifters, thought to be nothing more than a legend. And all dragons have special abilities that other shifters don’t. Lucky can “push” his luck just a tiny bit, enough to ensure that he always wins at the gambling tables.

The problem is, the rest of Lucky’s family have powers of their own. His much more powerful cousin Angel can twist people’s minds, making them do whatever he wants, from forgetting they’ve seen him to shooting themselves in the head. And now he’s set his sights on Jen.

Is “Lucky” Lucado lucky enough to protect both of them?

Review:

While I do think you can read this as a standalone novel, one of my favorite parts is the depth it adds to the world already established in the first two Shifter Agents books. What we saw in HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR and GUARD WOLF was an interesting and nuanced shapeshifter world that even though it had its dangers, they were generally from familiar places (at least familiar to the characters): well-known shapeshifter types or humans obsessed with their healing abilities. DRAGON’S LUCK blows that wide open, because it blows open the idea of what kind of shapeshifters exist, what kind of powers they have — adding dragons to the mix is fun and entertaining, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I not read the other books first. Part of the fun is feeling settled in the world, and then having my view of it changed right along with the characters.

Jen Cho is by far the strongest part of the book to me. She is amazing; smart and funny and strong and brave. I love how Esker writes details that drive home how different shifters experience the world in different ways. A gecko, for example, moves through the world in a way a wolf never could, and vice versa. And Jen having to explore a ship in gecko form was an excellent way to highlight the strengths and weakness of her form. Jen is independent to a fault, and one of the reasons I had a hard time putting the book down was because I was so caught up in her story, how she navigated needing help with not trusting Lucky, how when she did start to trust him, she was still torn between how much she wanted to tell him and how much she could actually tell him.

I liked the romance between Jen and Lucky well enough, but I think I didn’t like Lucky as much as I could have because I had just read GUARD WOLF before this, and the hero of that book is the disabled werewolf I’ve always wanted in a story. So for very unfair reasons, Lucky fell a little flat, and even more when I saw a couple of the twists in his story coming.

As with the first two books, DRAGON’S LUCK plays with some delightful tropes, from Undercover Agents to Fake Girlfriend, and Esker approaches them with a deft hand. I can’t really get into the details of the other things I loved without going into major spoilers, so I will end by saying that this book was a joy to read. The pacing was fast and fun, and I never wanted to put it down; I pretty much devoured it in one sitting, and wanted more when I hit the last page. Jen Cho is a joy and a delight forever, and I can’t wait to see more of her back with the rest of the agency. There are some plot points revealed during this book that have opened up a great number of future stories, and I am so excited to see what comes next! I’d be counting the days until the next book, but I’m afraid that will make me sad, because unless I can read it in, oh, the next thirty seconds, it is far too long to wait.

However, that means you have time to go read all three books AND the short story “Chasing Bigfoot,” and I strongly recommend you do so immediately.

Note: DRAGON’S LUCK is the first of the series not to include a BBW female main character. Neither of the women in HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR or GUARD WOLF read as very fat to me, but they at different times do think of themselves as fat and are self-conscious about that. Which is fine, and can be realistic, but is not my favorite part of stories about fat women. It was nice to see Jen be confident about her body, but I do wish we would have seen more of that from the fat characters, too. (And when I double checked at Amazon, only HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR appears to be labeled as BBW now, though I would have sworn GUARD WOLF was too when I grabbed my copy. Ah well.)

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[reading] Wednesday Reading

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.

Wiscon 40 happened over the weekend, and part of it was great, and part of it was terrible, and part of it was heartbreaking, and part of it was exactly what I needed. So there’s that. I actually only came home with two new physical books, which is shocking, and I’ll talk about them once I read them. I came home with a bunch of art, but I can’t show everything just yet, because I huge chunk of that includes gifts. I was able to buy directly from the artist twice, and tell them how much the pieces meant to me, so that was particularly nice.

(I may have to put together some art myself for next year’s Art Show. We’ll see. And yes, I plan to go back next year. I think we’ve talked JBJ into coming, too. He’ll love most of it.)

What I’ve Read

TRUST ME, I’M TROUBLE (sequel to TRUST ME, I’M LYING) by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Book Depository links): This was so good. SO GOOD. It surprised me with a romantic thing, and then broke my heart, but it was wonderful and exactly what I wanted (minus the heartbreak, but it fits), and I laughed, and I couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait for the next book.

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It’s about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer. I liked this a lot, mostly, though his voice didn’t always work for me. I really loved the way Cosimano handles descriptions and details.

What I’m Reading

FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex: No link, because I pretty much hate this book and do not recommend you try it. Someone recced this to me awhile ago, and then someone else more recently when I mentioned I was doing the fat characters in SFF panel at Wiscon, and both of those people were VERY VERY WRONG. It is terrible, and I want my money back and the time I wasted reading it. There’s racism and homophobia and sexism and serious fat hate when it comes to fat female characters, though the dudes don’t get it as bad, and just fuck off into the sea, book. Fuck off into the sea. (Odds are high I will not finish it, obviously.)

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): FINALLY delving into this, and it’s interesting so far, though it’s not holding my attention the way her writing usually does. I have been super distracted, though, between Wiscon over the weekend, and then a grant symposium today that took me out of town for awhile.

What I’ll Read Next

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I’m trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

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[reading] Wednesday Reading

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.

Not sure how the day got away from me yesterday, but here’s this week’s belated Wednesday Reading.

What I’ve Read

TEN MILES PAST NORMAL by Frances O’Roarke Dowell (Book Depository link): Lovely, quiet contemporary about reluctant farm girls, family dynamics, girls playing bass, and Civil Rights activists. I know I’ve read the first half before, but I did not remember the second half at all, so I’m not entirely sure if this was a first time read for me or not. It was a lot of fun, and I’d love to spend more time with these characters.

SLEEPAWAY GIRLS by Jen Calonita (Book Depository link): A cute contemporary about a girl standing up for herself from her best friend for the first time and going away to camp for the summer. There’s a little bit of BUT THIS COULD BE FIXED IF YOU JUST TALKED TO EACH OTHER that annoys me no matter where it shows up, but it’s cute and fun. I just learned there’s a second book, so that’s exciting.

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. A (fairly quiet) murder mystery about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and whose father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she’s nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and the killer is still out there somewhere. It’s a fairly interesting story, but I had a hard time staying engaged with it, even though I liked the grumpy main character a lot. I’m working on a review of this one.

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS by Sarah Jude (Book Depository link): Creepy horror\suspense that is super atmospheric and wonderful. A few decades ago, one of the townsfolk killed their May Queen and disappeared into the woods; they can still hear his screams. Now once again animals are being brutally slaughtered, and then girls start dying. There’s a sweet little romance, the descriptive writing is fantastic, and I ended up loving this book despite the fact that it falls squarely in the Kill Your Queers trope. (TV Tropes calls it Bury Your Gays, but that leaves out a lot of sexualities.) I really like horror set close to home, and this works for me a lot. If I could read it on its own, divorced from a world where there are so many dead queer girls in particular in fiction, I wouldn’t even have minded that the death drives the straight girl’s motivations and emotions, but I can’t. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Still, excellent book.

What I’m Reading

TRUST ME, I’M TROUBLE (sequel to TRUST ME, I’M LYING) by Mary Elizabeth Summer (Book Depository links): I really enjoyed the first book, even though it has some absolutely ridiculous parts, and so far, I’m loving the second one even more. These are fun grifter-gone-good stories with some awesome teen girls, and I am a fan of that combination.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I’m at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don’t know if I’ll continue it after. We’ll see how much annoyance at the main character’s “quirky” traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I’m done with the cliffhanger ending, I’ll like it more.

What I’ll Read Next

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I’m so excited to read it. It’s about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don’t know why I haven’t read this yet, because I normally read McGuire’s work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I’m trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

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[reading] Wednesday Reading

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.

What I’ve Read

CAMP FEAR by Carol Ellis: Out of print, but one of the Point Horror-esque books from the 90s that I love most. Mother’s Day is a difficult time of year for me, so I went back to some easy comfort reading. A bunch of counselors are getting a summer camp ready before the campers show up, but there’s an old secret about a dead boy that haunts them. (Also, I love Point Horror snarky recap sites: CAMP FEAR at The Devil’s Elbow.)

THE INVITATION by Diane Hoh (Amazon link): Another 90s Point Horror book (this time actually a Point Horror), but this one has been reprinted as an ebook. Biggest social party of the year turns into a Most Dangerous Game situation. More comfort reading.

HEIR APPARENT by Vivian Vande Velde (Book Depository link): Another comfort reread for me. Shocking, I know. Total immersion gaming goes wrong, and a teen player must solve the swords and sorcery game before her brain melts. This was my introduction to Velde, and I love it still.

What I’m Reading

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It came out this week, and I’m about halfway through. I like it so far. It’s about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and her father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she’s nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and now no one knows what happened. Of course Olivia sets out to solve the mystery.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I’m at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don’t know if I’ll continue it after. We’ll see how much annoyance at the main character’s “quirky” traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I’m done with the cliffhanger ending, I’ll like it more.

What I’ll Read Next

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS by Sarah Jude: Just arrived in yesterday’s mail. It’s supposed to be a creepy horror-esque book set in small town Missouri, and I can’t wait to read it.

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I’m so excited to read it. It’s about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don’t know why I haven’t read this yet, because I normally read McGuire’s work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I’m trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

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[reading] Wednesday Reading

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.

What I’ve Read

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. You guys, this has become the Seattle werewolf book of my heart, and I can’t wait for the third book, which is supposed to be out this year. I will be doing a review of the first two books later.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): Went ahead and read it to avoid spoilers. (Also, it gave me something to read that wasn’t online, so I could also avoid spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.) I liked it well enough, I guess, but I thought the pacing was off, especially in the ending. And I have some concerns. I will need to think about this further.

EARTHBOUND BONES by ReGina Welling (Amazon link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. I think the bones of the story were good (pun intended), but the pacing was terrible; the beginning, in particular, dragged, and then the ending felt rushed. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, in part because of the random head hopping. And I have a problem with the way angel-magic is presented as this cure for mental illness. I won’t be reviewing this in more depth (…probably), so I don’t want to get into great detail, but I was mostly left frustrated and annoyed. I wish I’d liked it better, though. The bones of the story were wonderful. (Basically, it is about an angel who thinks she has fallen from grace and is now trapped in a human body, the small town that embraces her, and the old mystery she solves.)

What I’m Reading

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It came out this week, and I’m about halfway through. I like it so far. It’s about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and her father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she’s nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and now no one knows what happened. Of course Olivia sets out to solve the mystery.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I’m at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don’t know if I’ll continue it after. We’ll see how much annoyance at the main character’s “quirky” traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I’m done with the cliffhanger ending, I’ll like it more.

What I’ll Read Next

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I’m so excited to read it. It’s about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don’t know why I haven’t read this yet, because I normally read McGuire’s work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I’m trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

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[reading] Wednesday Reading

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I haven’t read a ton of fiction the past couple months, in part because I’ve been writing a lot and focused on that and in part because I’ve been reading a ton of essays and articles instead. Still, here are a few things on my radar.

What I’ve Read

“Chasing Bigfoot” (link to author’s website) and HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: “Chasing Bigfoot” is a free short story set in Esker’s Shifter Agents world. I hadn’t read either of the two novels set in the world, but gave “Chasing Bigfoot” a try, and was so charmed and delighted by the characters and the world I immediately bumped HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR to the top of my reading list. (I’d purchased it awhile ago, but it, with so many other books, lingered on my To Read list.) HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR is a fun, tense, sometimes sad adventure full of tropes and amazing characters, and I read it pretty much in one sitting.

What I’m Reading

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. I started it literally the same minute I finished HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR, and guys, I have fallen in love with Avery. This is not a huge surprise, because he is a werewolf, and my love for werewolves is perhaps a little bit common knowledge, but he is a werewolf who was disabled while serving in the Army, who has PTSD addressed by the text, and who actually thinks he doesn’t know how to werewolf because of his terrible childhood. I love him a ton and I want everyone to give him cuddles until he feels better, which I know doesn’t actually work (and also, he’s a fictional character), but that is what I want. I have also fallen in love with Nicole, who is an Australian-Chinese koala shifter. KOALA SHIFTER. This whole series is tropey and id-tastic and wonderful.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I’m at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don’t know if I’ll continue it after. We’ll see how much annoyance at the main character’s “quirky” traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I’m done with the cliffhanger ending, I’ll like it more.

What I’ll Read Next

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don’t know why I haven’t read this yet, because I normally read McGuire’s work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): My copy showed up yesterday, after about a billion emails from Amazon over the last few months changing the date and then changing it back, over and over again, so I am unfortunately super annoyed with it already, which isn’t fair to the book itself. I am debating whether I should reread the rest of the series real quick before I start this one, but to avoid spoilers, I may go ahead without taking the time to do that.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I’m trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

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