May 2020 TBR

Shelter-in-place continues through May in Illinois. Halfway through this month, I’m going to slowly start making a plan regarding employment and read these fine reads in the mean time. Things with a * are from last month’s TBR.

Hard Copies

  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
  • Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus*
  • The Never-Tilting World by Rin Chupeco*
  • Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford (ARC)
  • Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (ARC)*

Kindle

  • The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (ARC)
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (ARC)
  • Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1) by R.J. Theodore*
  • The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer (ARC)*
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (ARC)*
  • The Fiery Crown by Jeffe Kennedy (ARC)
  • The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (ARC)
  • The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (ARC)
  • Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin*

Audiobooks

  • Blood Countess by Lana Popovic
  • The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
  • Highfire by Eoin Colfer
  • Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

My own novel is still with alpha readers, so I’m returning the favor and also doing some beta reading this month.

April 2020 Reading Recap

April2020RR

Good-bye April, the shortest month this year. I have gone through a lot of sudden changes, but there are always more books to read. I even discovered two new favorites this month, which feels exciting.

This month, I also interviewed Aleksandra Ross to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Don’t Call the Wolf and I had outlined a plan to improve my craft. I will be saving the craft reads for their own post.

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Review: QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR by Tessa Gratton (2018)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2018
Source: My own hard copy

I’m going to start this review by saying that I have never read Shakespeare’s King Lear. That being said, if you want a family drama full of magic and ambitious women vying for the position of king, look no further. This book is magical in a way reminiscent of mythology. There are prophecies and stars and a forest that speaks to its inhabitants.

In terms of the three queens, I loved them all. Gratton takes her time exploring what Innis Lear might be like under each one, from traditional Elia, war-mongering Gaela, and cunning Regan. Their romantic arcs with their husbands felt familiar as well, with having different layers of conflict. There is love and betrayal, and I really enjoyed how the world handled the topics of “king” and “queen” in its own vocabulary.

The prose is absolutely beautiful. The atmosphere of Innis Lear hums with something supernatural and ancient. Though it’s the setting, the island also serves as another protagonist, and depending on whose character arc you’re on, it definitely serves as an antagonist. I think it wins in the end, but that’s for me to read Lady Hotspur to find out (even though that story takes place in the future).

A dark, enchanting fantasy intriguing politics, prophecies, and heaps of ambition.

Author to Author with Aleksandra Ross (#DCTW)

AtoA_Ross

I am beyond excited to celebrate and talk to Aleksandra Ross, debut author of Don’t Call the Wolf. Inspired by the “Glass Mountain,” this young adult fantasy draws on Polish folklore and features dragons, shape-shifting lynx queens, and a soldier wanting to bring his brothers home. In this interview, Ross touches on her favorite scenes, the myths that didn’t make it onto the page, and books she’s looking forward to.
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ARC Review: RACE THE SANDS by Sarah Beth Durst (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

This standalone fantasy has everything: political intrigue,  a death-based magic system, invented religion, and demon racing. In the desert world of Becar, people are reincarnated upon death and the worst of the worst are reincarnated as kehoks, or demons that are the dream spawn of Simic monster hybrids (see examples here). Tamra Velras is a down-on-her-luck trainer of kehoks, and buys one with the intent to fix her reputation after an accident the previous racing season. Raia is a young woman on the run from her controlling family and sees a chance for freedom in becoming a rider. But a conspiracy is brewing and their kehok may have all the answers.

The world of this novel has so many details. It feels lived in, with its own traditions and a tightly wound belief system which ties into the magic. The kehoks are alluring and terrifying, and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the races. In addition, their existence opens up an in-book quandary about whether we live for the today or hope for better lots in the future.

Which leads us to the characters. I loved them all. Everyone had a fully fleshed out backstory, with Tamra fiercely protecting the life she’d built and Raia’s search for the family she never had. Even the politicians and augurs (priests) had such intricately woven machinations, I could not wait to see what happened next in either story line. The way these two different threads came together in the very end is a plotter’s envy. I dropped my jaw on several occasions.

A thrilling and enthralling stand alone which hits the right notes for any fantasy lover with expertly placed plot twists and a heart rooted in destiny vs. choices and in found family.

ARC Review: SHOREFALL (Founders #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 2020
Source: NetGalley ARC

Read an ARC acquired via NetGalley

Content and trigger warnings include: mass suicide, magical surgery, manipulation, body horror

Sometimes there are books I read that I know sticking around for the sequel will be absolutely worth it. Founders is another trilogy I should add to that category. Three years have past since the incident at the Mountain and the first heirophant, Crasedes, is on his way to returning. It is up to Sancia and her crew of Foundrysiders to put a stop to a being who wants to reshape reality in order to fix society. The Maker of that world is on a mission and sacrifices must be made or prevented.

This book had such a focus on the great world-problem: stop Crasedes Magnus. As a result, the characters were allowed to shine in all of their pieces of designing the plan and magic used for traps. Because the first book had spent so much time establishing the world, the plot was allowed to push through in a very character-driven way in this one. There is, however, much time spent on explaining the scrivings and the world’s internal logic, which might not be for everyone.

One of my favorite details, however, has to do with Crasedes. Not only is he a really compelling antagonist, but he is just such a mystery. So mysterious, in fact, that when he undoes his bindings, it causes madness. His design is unfathomable but he has so many dimensions from start to finish.

Fascinating use of coding as a type of magical tech in a story that winds intricate plot twists without ever turning into a knot. This sequel is so intense and I can’t wait for the third book.

ARC Review: DON’T CALL THE WOLF by Aleksandra Ross (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

Content and trigger warnings include: Death of siblings, death of friends, light body horror

With so much secondary-world young adult fantasy taking place in a vaguely-Russian and vaguely-Eastern-European-inspired aesthetic, I was beyond excited for a book that went into specific folktales from my home country of Poland. Largely inspired by “The Glass Mountain,” this dual-POV story tells of a Wolf-lord trying to discover what happened to his brothers as they went back to the Moving Mountains and a forest queen trying to save her kingdom from new devils.

I really enjoyed the world-building in this one. The story takes place in a more technology-advanced world with firearms alongside swords, where magic is something studied in schools, and there’s a whole society of Unnaturalists. In addition to the fantastic mix of monsters, these details made the world feel lived in. My skin crawled at every mention of the strzygi, but even more so at the ways the village people deal with them. It all felt familiar, but awfully specific, which is a great balance when approaching retellings.

Family both found and given presents strongly in this work as well. It features on a variety of levels, but most of those veer into spoiler-territory. I particularly enjoyed Ren’s arc because the pay-off on destiny vs. work is just so good. The pacing is just right from start to finish. The way Ross peppers in details about Lukasz’s brothers also weave so naturally into the narrative, without having to be so explicit about what took place in the past vs. the present.

A whimsical fairy tale from start to finish featuring fearsome dragons, brave hunters, headstrong princesses, and wild magic based on Polish folklore.