Publicity Manager, Events Coordinator, and MG co-owner Maryelizabeth (M'e) reads across all of our chosen genres, with an emphasis on sociological fiction. Whether a book involves werewolves, spaceships, faeries, forensics, kissing, or all of the above, her main concern is the impact of their world on the characters in it.
The latest middle grade graphic novel from the incredibly talented Katie O’Neill, creator of The Tea Dragon Society and Princess Princess Ever After is a tale of loss, intergenerational conservation work, and fantasy. Lana and her father pay a visit to her maternal aunt to assist in clean-up after significant storm damage. Lana discovers an injured young aquicorn – a magical seahorse variant – in a tidepool, and becomes its guardian, learning more about its reef home and the protections it provides to both marine and land dwellers in the process.
Molly Brooks launches the delightful adventures of space-faring BFFs Sanity & Tallulah with this vastly entertaining middle grade graphic novel. Resources are limited and valuable on their home space station; therefore, Sanity’s creating an amazingly cute three-headed kitten (Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds) is definitely against the rules, even before Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds escapes, endangering their family, friends, and everyone else on the station. Molly’s illustrations and text have the assurance of an established creator, even though this is her debut. Recommended for fans of Zita the Spacegirl, Phoebe and her Unicorn, and budding scientists!
While I have expanded the ways I consume stories over time, I have yet to read webcomics, so I was delighted to be able to “binge” Tillie Walden’s warm SF adventure of families of choice in its collected form. Set in a universe with mysterious antiquities and fish-shaped spaceships, On a Sunbeam tracks two timelines in the life of Mia – her first job crewing on a restoration ship; and her youth at a boarding school, where she meets the intriguing and enigmatic Grace. Recommended for high school readers (due to language) and fans of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series.
- Compact Disc (September 8th, 2018): $39.99
- Pre-Recorded Audio Player (December 8th, 2018): $97.74
It’s a compliment to Lisa’s craft that Black Swan Rising reads so much like a current affairs book rather than a novel that it probably should come with a trigger warning for anyone distressed by the national political clime in recent years. Protagonists Sarah Price, who runs social media for a San Diego congressman, and local television reporter Casey Cheng, are both operating in the toxic and deadly atmosphere of MRA and white nationalist activists, and multiple active shooter incidents. The sometimes anxiety-inducing thriller components are leavened with Lisa’s loving travelogue of many of San Diego’s local eateries and breweries, both actual and fictional. An important if upsetting read for mystery and suspense readers.
There’s possibly no surer way to get me to pick up a book than draw a comparison to Shirley Jackson, and I am pleased to share that the story of Samuel, an unreliable firstperson narrator because of his youth and strongly held convictions, is a worthy analogous work. In the early 1960’s, Samuel Clay resides in a vast gloomy house in England, looked after by housekeeper Ruth. Samuel is in a sustained state of impatience, awaiting his mother’s return from her business trip to the United States – as her absence continues, Samuel begins to suspect that perhaps there’s a darker truth to be discovered. Chilling.
Writer and creative director Pascoe’s long history with Mysterious Galaxy includes his career as an author and publisher with Ugly Town, writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, and novelisations of Kim Possible episodes – all near and dear to my heart. Jim and Heidi have created a magical world where Bridgebelle is a productive member of her rabbit community, who also creates art from the mysterious cha, when not evading the predatory canines who seek to enslave the rabbits and gain control of their resources. A gorgeous and thrilling animal fable.
This solid debut from Irish author McTiernan provides a compelling story that spans two decades and multiple mysteries, as well as examinations of the ways that public servants can provide resources for those in need, or fail them utterly, or worse. But the core element that won my praise was McTiernan’s constant reminder of the fact that the victims’ deaths leave holes in the other characters’ lives – they are not just plot devices to drive a whodunnit, but individuals who are mourned.
Maryelizabeth’s redundant review of redundancy: “Part of the joy of reading this epistolary series is the pace at which Significant Things Happen! So I don’t want to discuss much of the plot and the further developments…”
Just finished Only Human, and it was a perfect ending to a wonderful story. Count me firmly among the Themisfiles!
— Mark Yturralde
Immersive action scenes and nuanced understandings of persuasion, power, and manipulation inform the second novel featuring kidnap and rescue expert Thea Paris and her allies, adversaries, and family members (some of whom fall into more than one camp). From its nausea-inducing opening scene of a skyjacked plane being forced to land in the Libyan Desert to its explosive dramatic multi-agenda actors finale, Skyjack never loses sight of the very human motivations and foibles of its protagonists and antagonists. My favorite new thriller series.
My Boyfriend is a Bear is the book I can’t stop recommending to everyone who’s ever been in a relationship. Nora, a Los Angeles woman who has been in a series of less-rewarding-than-she-deserves relationships, first encounters an American Black Bear in the hills outside LA. She flees, dropping her magazine in the process. When fire later causes the bear to relocate to the metropolitan areas, he rummages in Nora’s trashcans. Despite the unorthodox “meet cute” and protagonists, this is an amazing story of the accommodations we make, and gifts we receive, when we choose to open our hearts.
What, per chance, will be the outcome of My Lady’s Choosing? The course of one’s life and relationships lies in the hands of the reader, as they determine what activities the unfashionably mature and penniless protagonist will spend her time on and with whom. Not only are the actual story selections a romp, but the footnotes by Zageris and Curran add a soupçon of extra delight. Fun for romance readers of all genres, not just period romances.
Adding my enthusiasm for the top Indies Next Pick for April 2018 – in particular, for its audio incarnation via Libro.fm. Tangier in the mid-1950s is perceived as a “strange, lawless city that belonged to everyone and no one,” according to Alice Shipley, one of the two narrators. Alice and her college roommate, Lucy Mason, once intimates, have been separated for a year before Lucy follows Alice and her new husband, John McAllister, to Morocco. Tangerine deserves its frequent comparison to the suspense works of Patricia Highsmith, and the audio version, read by Barrie Kreinik and Erin Mallon, assists the reader in keeping track of the alternating first-person narration.
Inkmistress is just your standard “demigoddess with the power to alter reality by expressing how she’d like to see the world in her blood accidently catalysts her girlfriend’s transformation into a dragon, setting off deadly consequences for the inhabitants of their country fairy tale.” Asra, who has been raised in very sheltered circumstances by the local healer, must not only deal with trying to rein in Ina’s quest for vengeance, but also question her own mythological heritage, determine whether a group of assassins are allies or adversaries, and muddle through everyday interactions with other beings in a far more concentrated form than she has previously experienced. Recommended for fantasy readers who like their magical creatures interspersed with plenty of kissing.
Children of Blood and Bone, the first book in Tomi’s Legacy of Orisha young adult fantasy trilogy, introduces readers to the West Africa-reminiscent kingdom and its once common, now persecuted minority magic wielders, the divîners. Tomi interweaves the point of view of divîner Zélie Adebola, who is both eager and fearful to embrace her heritage, and fanatically anti-maji King Saran’s offspring, Princess Amari who questions the established narrative, and Crown Prince Inan, torn between fulfilling his father’s expectations and determining his own values. At times as graphically brutal as it is compelling, this stellar new fantasy will have an enduring legacy. Highly recommended.
The tale of the ill-fated Donner Party’s passage through the Sierra Mountains is a staple of American Western mythology. Scholars blame arrogance, a late start, an untested shortcut, and other poor decisions for the party’s being stranded by winter, leading to the deaths of about half the group, and a significant number of the survivors turning to cannibalism. But what if there was a more sinister cause for their behavior? “Turn back, or you will all die.” You’ve been warned! Recommended for fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror and Christopher Golden’s Ararat.
Granted, I was predisposed to like this before I cracked the cover. “An action-packed tale full of romance, royalty, and adventure, inspired by the story of Anastasia” is right up my alley! But Ashley applies the same geeky insights and charm that made Geekerella a fun update to the tale, with plenty of scoundrels, rogues, and charmers to root for … carefully, with an eye on one’s valuables, and a protagonist whose most interesting trait is not that she may be space royalty.
New Mexico has a reputation as the home state to a significant number of human / alien encounters, but none may be as strange or heart-wrenching as the encounter between extraterrestrial Luz and the Vasquez children. Hank, Ana, and Milo and their mother, Maggie, are preparing to navigate the unfamiliar territory of their first summer without the kids’ father as part of the family when Luz enters their lives. Luz interprets the three children as discrete parts of a single entity, and observes the world through their senses – semi-appropriating and enhancing their perceptions through their hands, eyes, and ears, respectively. Leah’s story intertwines multiple perspectives in a moving tale of family, loss, and recovery.
Embracing one’s true self is the all the fashion in Wang’s charming alternate 19th-century Paris tale of underappreciated seamstress Frances and her inspiring mysterious model, Lady Crystallia, who is the secret alter ego of the crown prince. While Prince Sebastian is delighted to find someone who can craft the gorgeous creations for Lady Crystallia, his dedication to keeping his secret from his family and the fashion world inhibits Frances from achieving proper recognition for her designs. This book is both a visual treat, and also a great positive affirmation of acceptance and love.
I was enthralled by Holly Black’s tale of Jude, a mortal teen raised in Faerie and determined to earn a permanent place for herself. Holly not only involves readers with familiar themes of teen alienation from family (including fey and mortal and blended siblings), choosing one’s own path and companions, and conflicts with schoolmates (who just happen to be Faerie royalty), but also builds a Faerie that is wonderfully weird and alien. Recommended for fans of Laini Taylor and Kiersten White.
Cosplaying teen Edan Kupferman has an easier time expressing her anger at chaotic and troubling circumstances in her life when wearing the mask of super-powered Gargantua. An insightful look into what so many of us love about comics – and some of the challenges we have to face in the field. Cecil’s latest pairs well with Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine geeky romance series!
Los Angeles screenwriter Tarkoff’s debut near-future SF novel is set in a world with a near-global acceptance of a single religious being, the Great Spirit, following the apparent manifestation of individual’s morality in their physical appearance. People’s interior values are reflected in their looks, ranging from the healthy clear skin and appealing faces of the “good,” to physical distortions among the Outcast so severe as to result in fatalities. Preacher’s daughter Grace Luther is a believer, but she begins to question the reliability and apparent capriciousness of the judgments. An interesting examination of the values society sets on beautiful people.
"Dwinell’s middle grade graphic novel is a sweet and satisfying read that incorporates female friendship, adventurous gradeschool protagonists with positive familial relationships, the Southern California beach culture, and a touch of the supernatural. Recommended to readers of Raina Telgemeier and Beverly Cleary."
Dr. Greta Helsing’s practice is focused mostly on treatment of the … differently alive. Dr. Helsing inherited her special relationship with a community of beings mundanes might be likely to term “monsters” from her deceased father. Shaw offers a delightful combination of the charming stories of a dedicated British physician, including the occasional medicinal cup of tea, or the applications of 3D printing technology for addressing bone deterioration among those who’ve been walking on their feet for centuries with a deeply ingrained sense of the truly weird, as something sparks a series of attacks on both humans and supernatural residents of London. The cover art, with its combination of woodcut style and the current London skyline visible in the background nicely evokes the series’ contemporary meets classic monster tale sensibility.