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We are over at Kirkus today for our regular column! It’s Thea’s turn today, this time with a review of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire.

An alchemical fairy tale, Middlegame is the story of not-quite-human twins–Roger and Dodger–who created in a laboratory and separated at birth. They also embody the power of the universe and who may one day cause the end of the world. Head over to Kirkus to get the full scoop.

The post Over at Kirkus: MIDDLEGAME by Seanan McGuire appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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Non-Binary Authors To Read is a regular column from A.C. Wise highlighting non-binary authors of speculative fiction and recommending a starting place for their work.

Welcome to another Non-Binary Authors to Read! This time around, I have four short stories to recommend by four wonderful authors. By coincidence, all four stories deal with longing, loss, and pain, and the way we find and make meaning in our lives.

Alex Yuschik is an author and a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics. My recommended starting place for their work is “The Girl With All the Ghosts” recently published at Glittership.

Go-Eun works at the Six Resplendent Suns Funeral Palace and House of the Dead, a containment facility designed to ease people’s minds so they can rest assured their beloved family members and friends won’t return as vengeful ghosts. The world Go-Eun inhabits has a post-apocalyptic feel, a world of scarcity plagued by ghosts who are torn apart by giant mechs if they get out of hand. This creates a vicious cycle, as sometimes mech pilots die in the line of duty, ultimately returning as the very thing they fought in life. It’s a bleak life, one that doesn’t seem to offer much hope, but it’s all Go-Eun has ever known.

All that is about to change though. Go-Eun only has a few days left on the job. She’s given her notice, and is prepared to move on, even though she has her doubts. Those doubts only increase when she meets the ghost of a former fox mech pilot. He attacks her, but she senses more in him. Maybe ghosts aren’t the mindless monsters everyone thinks them to be, she just has to find the right means to reach the ghost and form a connection.

The first time she saw a ghost that was not in a training video, pamphlet, or out of control and tall as a building being subdued by a mech, it was in the F2nd bathroom and something kept playing with her hair. A girl dressed in white rose behind her in the mirror like a dark star, cracked lips daring Go-Eun to look at me.

Yuschik’s world-building is fantastic and their language evocative. They paint a picture of a broken world where there are few options and the things that used to matter, like getting a good education, mean nothing. The building Go-Eun works in is described as covetous, hungry, gathering in ghosts and those who are lost but still alive. It is a desperate world, and Go-Eun’s loneliness against this backdrop is palpable. She’s searching for meaning and connection, but at the same time, she pushes away anyone who tries to get close to her.

The one area where she finds connection is through fandom, though even the fics she writes tend toward loss, reflecting her belief that happiness never lasts. Fandom is an important part of the story. It becomes Go-Eun’s key to reaching the mech pilot ghost, underlining the way fiction and storytelling brings people together and the way expanding canon narratives lets people see themselves reflected in what they love where traditional narratives don’t always make space for them. Her experience with fan fiction also gives Go-Eun the ability to see the narrative around ghosts, mechs, and her own life in a different way. There are more possibilities than she’s been led to believe, and she can rewrite her world, make her own meaning, and find what she values rather than what others tell her is important. 

Raymond Miranda is an author and biology teacher. My recommended starting place for their work is “Two Yearnings” published in Vulture Bones, another ghost story, which as the title implies also explores themes of loneliness and longing. The protagonist lives with a ghost, a silent roommate who accepts their offerings of food, but otherwise remains unknowable.

I see its silhouette when I blow smoke towards the laundry room. The figure hunched down between my dryer and the wall, its head to its knees, sobbing without a single sound. Sometimes when I check, it is lying on the dryer, its head and limbs uncomfortably hanging from the sides. Sometimes it’s crawling, like it’s considering whether to get out of the laundry room. Sometimes it’s standing up, balancing itself on the washer for the offering of bread and fruits I’ve left on there.

A girl the protagonist brought home once warned them that the spirit was a hungry ghost and dangerous. She also advised them to move, and left them a number to call someone who might be able to help. But they ignore the girl’s advice, choosing instead to feed the ghost, even though it only grows larger and hungrier as they do.

“Two Yearnings” isn’t a happy or an easy read, but it does serve as a kind of bittersweet metaphor for, and a window into, an experience of depression. Multiple people reach out to the protagonist to try to help them – friends, family, even their boss – but they find themselves unable to accept that help. Sometimes, depression is too overwhelming, and there is no easy cure. Like the ghost, there is nothing in particular the protagonist wants. Depression is a formless haunting, a vague lack, and in that way, the ghost becomes their closest ally, something almost like a friend. They can’t banish their haunting, or leave it behind. As dangerous as it might be, they continue to feed it, because it is a part of them – they don’t know who, or how, to be without their depression, and their ghost.

Even though the story isn’t an easy read, it is well-written, using the idea of the supernatural to tell a profoundly human story. It provides a window into the interior landscape of its main character, and reminds us that not all problems have easy solutions, and even in fiction things don’t always wrap up neatly. Sometimes there are ghosts, and you have to learn to live with them, or not, as the case may be.

Karolina Fedyk is a Polish poet, author, and academic. My recommended starting place for their work is their unsettling story, “Seams”, published in The Dark. Alina steals other people’s skin in order to feel like herself, grafting it onto her body as a kind of disguise or amour that allows her to move about in the world. Their features are part of it – cute ears, smooth shoulders – but mostly it’s confidence that draws her to certain people, their comfort in who they are. She wants that for herself.

All this heat, and I’m shivering. It’s an almost pleasant kind of shiver, and I take my time admiring the goosebumps that run all the way down my arms and legs, uncovered by the tiny sleeveless shirt and knickers. The fever takes some of my soreness away. I glance at the rack again; the skins look so inviting. But today I have to stick to my own.

By day, Alina is a scientist, a specialist in skin grafts. She hopes one day her work might truly help people, that she might find a cure for some fatal disease. However that doesn’t stop her from committing atrocities.

Even though Alina’s acts are monstrous, Fedyk manages to create a measure of sympathy for her. She is a brilliant scientist, but uncomfortable in her own skin. She sees the ease with which others move through the world – whether it’s through the privilege of their sex, by virtue of being conventionally attractive, or that they’ve simply found  confidence Alina herself is unable to tap into. While some people might turn to acting, roleplaying, or a social media persona to hide behind, Alina takes a darker and more literal path to becoming someone else. It’s a motivation that is wholly understandable. Most people want to disappear at one time or another in their lives, become someone else and hiding their true selves behind a mask. Fedyk takes this concept to its extreme, giving readers a tale of horror, but one with a human and relatable core.

Jordan Kurella is an author who has also worked as a DJ, a barista, and a social worker. My recommended starting place for their work is “Jewel of the Vashwa” published in Apex Magazine. While this story isn’t as dark as the other three discussed here, it still deals with violence, and ghosts in the form of memories. The story opens with Awanshe relating the death of her lover at the hands of a Scorpion Man.

I watched my love die in the claw of a Scorpion Man. I watched him sever her in half; watched as her long hair dripped down to the ground; watched as her hand let go of her spear; as her long legs folded under her; as the Scorpion Man’s tail rose in triumph. His chitin carapace shone in the dwindling sunlight. So did my love’s armor. Her armor that had served her so well until the end.

Almost immediately, Awanshe tells us this story is a lie. She proceeds to unfold alternate versions, overlapping and interlinking. Both the queen and the Scorpion Man were her lovers. They worked together to broker peace between their people. They betrayed her. She betrayed them. Somewhere in-between all these versions may lie the truth, but now that Awanshe has established herself as an unreliable narrator, can we really be sure?

Like Yuschik’s “The Girl with All the Ghosts”, in “Jewel of the Vashwa” Kurella gives us a story about the power of stories, how the narratives we weave inform our view of history, and thus the shape of things to come. It’s also about the stories we tell ourselves. The narrative Awanshe crafted about her own life, her role in the events unfolding around her, and her importance in her lovers’ lives may ultimately have led to their downfall, depending on which version of her story you believe.

Kurella’s writing is rich and evocative, and they do an excellent job of building a fully-realized world in just a few thousand words. With the varying versions we get something that feels epic in scope, and has a sense of weight and history. The world itself is fascinating, populated by hard-carapaced Scorpion Men, and armored women, and the children of their unions who are often something in-between. It’s a world where the two sexes live largely separate lives, warring with each other, but coming together in love as well. As a result, Awanshe, much like Go-Eun in Yuschik’s tale, carries a sense of melancholy, loss, and searching for meaning and her place in the world. Like the other stories discussed here, Kurella uses a speculative lens to explore the human condition. When we’re all alone against the weight of history, sometimes all we have is our stories and the meaning we make for ourselves. Our tales are our legacies, and they will carry us forward into the future.

The post Non-Binary Authors to Read May/June 2019 appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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The Book Smugglers by The Book Smugglers - 1w ago

On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!

On Ana’s Radar:

This YA mystery novel sounds good:

With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.

I loved The Night Circus when it first came out years (YEEEEARS) ago and now Erin Morgenstern finally has another novel coming out and I cannot wait:

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I am here for this queer YA romance novel by Phil Stamper:

I couldn’t be any more hyped for this horror novel from Ursula Vernon/
T. Kingfisher :

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

From Hugo Award–winning author Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones is a gripping, terrifying tale bound to keep you up all night—from both fear and anticipation of what happens next.

This next one is described as “feminist YA novel takes on fandom, accountability, and doing the right thing”. GIMME.

Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.

Told through three relatable voices and arriving on the heels of the author’s widely praised debut novel, Kat and Meg Conquer the World, this sophomore novel is a nuanced and timely story about followers, fame, and fighting for what’s right. ween the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash . . .

The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all. . .
Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent. Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

On Thea’s Radar:

Did you know that there is another THREE BODY PROBLEM BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE??!?! ME NEITHER. Apparently it started as fanfic and then was sanctioned and supported by Cixin Liu, and now here we are:

Set in the universe of the New York Times bestselling Three-Body Problem trilogy, The Redemption of Timecontinues Cixin Liu’s multi-award-winning science fiction saga. This original story by Baoshu—published with Liu’s support—envisions the aftermath of the conflict between humanity and the extraterrestrial Trisolarans.

In the midst of an interstellar war, Yun Tianming found himself on the front lines. Riddled with cancer, he chose to end his life, only to find himself flash frozen and launched into space where the Trisolaran First Fleet..

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It’s Friday and we are over at Kirkus with a list of anticipated summer reads. Get your wallet/library cards ready and GO

Go over there for the full scoop

The post Over at Kirkus: Anticipated Summer Reads appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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Title: The Luminous Dead

Author: Caitlin Starling

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: April 2019
Hardcover: 352 Pages

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did we get this book: Review copy from the publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print / Audiobook

REVIEW Ana’s Take:

If you have been following my reviews for any measure of time, you may know I am a sucker for unreliable narratives and The Luminous Dead has that up the wazoo.

Gyre is a caver with limited experience who lies her way into a new expedition that pays really well. A new, unexplored cave in a foreign planet, a mission to map mineral deposits, a super advanced enclosed suit and that’s it – easy gone in and out, with enough money to finally find her mother who one day up and left. But there is nothing at all easy about the expedition. The cave is deeper, there are unforeseen problems and creepy things in the dark. Also, Gyre assumed she would get a team in the surface monitoring all of her steps at all times. Always communicating and keeping her safe – and sane.

But Gyre is wrong. There is only Em. The expedition leader, the creator of Gyre’s suit and the only support Gyre has in the surface. Can Em ever be enough? She will have to be enough: but what if something goes wrong when Em is resting and not paying attention?

And then things get worse: Gyre finds bodies of previous cavers from Em’s other missions. Too many of them. She also realises Em knows about Gyre’s faked credentials and that she has complete power over Gyre’s suit. Power to move it or lock it and power to feed Gyre meds, adrenaline and any number of things to effectively and completely control her. But if Gyre quits and she should quit, it will be the safest, sanest thing to do. But then she gets nothing.

The Luminous Dead is a horror novel, a thriller: a claustrophobic, atmospheric, terrifying novel that explores its enclosed, dark setting – and the fears those things engender – really well. It provides the thrilling read its premise promises, with Gyre tackling her survival at all costs without missing out on the psychological torments said setting offers. It is hard to know if Gyre is hallucinating everything she sees (she thinks she sees?) down there and even harder to know if Em is ever being truthful. Second guessing everything – what a journey.

It is also a novel with two queer women of colour at the centre: both of them flawed, self-destructive, desperate and so, so fucked up. When romantic feelings start to develop it adds one extra unreliable level to the narrative: it’s part Stockholm Syndrome, part survival instinct, part “SHE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN EVER GET ME NOW THAT WE ARE SO BROKEN”.

But it was also a somewhat repetitive read – stuck inside Gyre’s head and her narrative repeats certain beats over and over. In fairness, this is partly due to the confined environment and an intrinsic part of the specific type of horror at play. But I couldn’t help feel the story would have been better served by a shorter word count.

Still, I enjoyed this trippy trip rather a lot.

Thea’s Take:

I really like climbing and I really like caves–both in real life, and also in fiction. Another thing I really like is horror–particularly the claustrophobic, building dread kind of horror that so often comes with exploration of dark, unknown places.

Enter Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead.

Imagine you’re a young woman on a backwater planet that is on the map solely because it has caving systems rich with ore and mineral deposits for exploitation. There isn’t much you can do to rise above your meager station–especially after your mom took off, leaving your dad kind of sad and bitter, and you all by yourself–and so you throw yourself into becoming a caver. It’s not an easy job or a safe one, and most cavers die after their first few climbs due to equipment failure or because of tunnelers (vicious burrowers that cause massive cave ins and are drawn to humans in any number–think Tremors). You’re good at climbing and exploring; you love the thrill of caving, the physical challenge of climbing and setting your own anchors and routes. Most of all, you are hungry for the chance to get out–to take a job as a caver for a mining conglomerate and maximize your chances of making enough money to find your mom and tell her “fuck you” to her face.

So, when the job comes along–highly dangerous (but what caving gig isn’t?) and highly lucrative (same story)–Gyre jumps on it. It’s Gyre’s first job, and one she had to lie her way into, pretending that she is an experienced hire with other missions under her belt. Sure, she doesn’t have the real credentials, but Gyre is a climber and is confident in her hours and years of practice and her own abilities.

But when she gets to the cave, everything is different. Instead of having a team in her ear supporting her mission, there’s just a single cold, taciturn woman named Em. As Gyre gets deeper into the cave, hauling future caches of supplies to preset camps left by climbers before her, she learns more about Em, and with growing dread, more about the mission. Em knows Gyre lied about her background. She can control Gyre’s every move, sedating her with heavy drugs or amping her up with forced injections of adrenaline. She, for all intents and purposes, is Gyre’s god, on her own personal crusade for which she is willing to make any sacrifice.

And all the while, the cave watches.

I loved the simple premise of this book–two women in the literal and figurative dark, each playing games with the other and desperate for their own separate end goals. As our narrator and protagonist, Gyre is naive but tough, pushing herself to every mental and physical limit in order to survive and stop Em from luring any other caver to their death. At the same time, she starts to feel an attraction to Em and understand her, even if she doesn’t agree with her. I absolutely loved the character development and the fucked up relationship between Gyre and Em. (In my opinion it is NOT romantic but a version of super-intense Stockholm Syndrome and these ladies are gonna be real bad for each other.) As the women learn more about each other, they necessarily have to trust each other. And the longer Gyre is in the cave, the more she craves basic human interaction–the touch of someone else, the sound of their voice, especially as the darkness and gaping maw of horror of the cave and her suit presses in on all sides.

Similarly along the brilliant premise lines, I love the cleverness of this contained, cabin fever (space madness) trope plot. Gyre must remain in her spacesuit the entire time, lest she attract tunnelers or become exposed to cave fauna that could kill her. The suit is a brilliant piece of technology, allowing her to eat by inserting a can of food directly into her redirected digestive tract, recycling her waste (important question that is not satisfactorily answered: where does the poop go), regulating her temperature, allowing her to breathe underwater, and, most importantly, interact with her topside guides. The suit is super cool… but it also is a kind of prison, in an already terrible and dangerous situation. Gyre is deep in the bowels of the cave, days, even weeks, away from sunlight and other humans and she can’t even rub her goddamn face. This plays a big, necessary part in Gyre’s psychological deterioration as the book progresses, for good reason, and I appreciated the author’s skill in crafting this underlying baseline of tension and discomfort, ratcheting it up several notches with each passing chapter.

Where The Lumious Dead isn’t as successful, however, is with its overall pacing and with some basic suspension of disbelief questions. Overall the novel is an effective piece of horror, but the story sags a little towards the halfway mark as it is hard to write a high-tension novel set entirely in a cave from one person’s perspective without reader fatigue (though Starling does an admirable job). The bigger offense, in my opinion, is that The Luminous Dead is never really clear what kind of horror it wants to be.
I kept expecting there to be a ghost story a la Event Horizon, or some The Descent-style monster showdown. (It isn’t, and there isn’t.) There are several gestures made towards ghosts, biological agents, malevolent spirits, raggedy Sunshine-style survivors, it’s all in your head My Bloody Valentine… and there isn’t really any clarity until the end of the book and by then it’s kind of too late.

Along the suspension of disbelief vein, while I loved the spacesuit in all of its restrictive but necessary glory, the entire solo-multi-pitch climb day in and day out without a belay partner and without the ability to feel the rock either under her hands or in (what I assume are super clunky, heavy) spacesuit shoes is just a little hard to believe. Gyre runs hours and hours of climbs with no sleep, no belay partner, and makes no mistakes. (It’s kind of like expecting Alex Honnold to free solo El Cap every day for a week.) I call shenanigans, and found it jarring in the extreme.

And yet, for all this? The Luminous Dead is a solid read and one that I still absolutely enjoyed. Recommended, especially for readers of the unreliable narrator persuasion.

Rating:

Ana: 7 – Very Good

Thea: 7 – Very Good



The post Joint Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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The Book Smugglers by The Book Smugglers - 2w ago

On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!

On Ana’s Radar:

Fans of Sarah Gailey’s distinctive work and voice, rejoice! New from Tor.com in February:

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Stealing from Thea’s book of faves, a new book from Juliet Marillier:

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and is faced with a heartbreaking choice….

The Monster of Elendhaven sounds SUPER dark and twisted:

The Monster of Elendhaven is a dark fantasy, a twisted tale of revenge set in an original world as oily and real as Jack the Ripper’s London. After a thing with no name washes up on the docks, empty, alone, and unable to die, he becomes obsessed with a frail young man who can twist minds with magic. Together, they launch a plan so dark and cruel that readers will find themselves cheering for blood, and for these avengers to consummate their horrible passion for each other. But the pair are being hunted by officials from the south, intent on saving the world from the horrors mages can unleash.

Oh my GOD, the newly announced upcoming book by Anna-Marie McLemore SOUNDS AMAZING:

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Humm, hello Trojan War retold exclusively from the women’s perspective:

This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them. . .

In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash . . .

The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all. . .
Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent. Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

On Thea’s Radar:

This week, how about this horror novel? Building a haunted house–I am so intrigued.


A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

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We are over at Kirkus today for our regular column! In celebration of May the Fourth, aka Star Wars day, it is Thea’s turn, with a list.

In celebration of Star Wars, Thea shares a list of three recently devoured and loved books in the expanded universe (all brand new canon entries, all taking place in the prequel era). Head over to Kirkus to get the full scoop.

And May the Fourth be with you all!

We’ll miss you, Peter Mayhew

The post May the Fourth Be With You! (Over at Kirkus) appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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The Book Smugglers by The Book Smugglers - 3w ago

On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!

On Ana’s Radar:

I received a copy of this book in the post and it looks so great:

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

Yesterday, Amanda Back’s life was flawless: the perfect social credit score, the perfect job, the perfect home.

Today, Amanda is a target, an enemy of the system holding information dangerous enough to disrupt the world’s all-consuming tech – a fugitive on the run.

But in a world where an un-hackable blockchain links everyone and everything, there is nowhere to run…

This YA Mystery novel is described as “Jane Austen meets The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” and I am intrigued:

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: with an older sister happily wed and the future of her family estate secure, she has few obligations and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.


But Vicky’s comfortable, idyllic life is overturned, and she must quickly marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, Vicky enters society’s season in a flutter of silks, dances, and pretty words.
Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exactcircumstances: whether the gorgeous and roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend—the much-grown and very handsome Tom Sherborne—is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the bright-orange waistcoat.
Most unfortunate of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her . . . ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.


Clever and charming, studded with intrigue and mystery, this historical romance from debut author Jennieke Cohen is one readers won’t be able to put down!

I am a sucker for pretty covers and this one is *chef’s kiss*

In this mesmerizing YA fantasy mash-up of The Road meets The Amazing Race, one girl chooses to risk her life in a cutthroat race in order to win her freedom.In Lanoria, Outsiders, who don’t have magic, are inferior to Enchanteds, who do. That’s just a fact for Astrid, an Outsider who is indentured to pay off her family’s debts. She serves as the surrogate for the princess—if Renya steps out of line, Astrid is the one who bears the whipping for it.


But there is a way out: the life-or-death Race of Oblivion. First, racers are dosed with the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memories. Then, when they awake in the middle of nowhere, only cryptic clues—and a sheer will to live—will lead them through treacherous terrain full of opponents who wouldn’t think twice about killing each other to get ahead. But what throws Astrid the most is what she never expected to encounter in this race: A familiar face she can’t place. Secret powers she shouldn’t have. And a confusing memory of the past that, if real, could mean the undoing of the entire social structure that has kept her a slave her entire life.

A Horror title for the upcoming fall:

A genre-bending epic horror-fantasy, inspired by the legend of Faust, that spans generations as an ancient evil is uncovered–perfect for fans of Kendare Blake and Ransom Riggs.

Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…

Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?

In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching… 

I came across this title on Goodreads and am interested:

Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the planet.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness—a debilitating malaise that consumes people, often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.
When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. As she discovers a world drowning in lies, how much longer can Leyla hold out hope for the truth? If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture—or worse. And her father might be lost forever.

On Thea’s Radar:

First up on this week’s radar, a P&P retelling that usually doesn’t fall into my reading preferences, but this looks so damn charming:

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It’s Friday and we are over at Kirkus with a review of Atlas Alone by Emma Newman

Go over to Kirkus to hear more about it.

The post Over at Kirkus: ATLAS ALONE by Emma Newman appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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Title: Sherwood

Author: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: March 2019
Hardcover: 480 pages

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

Stand alone or series: Standalone novel

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print

Review

Maid Marian has known a few things for her entire life: that she is too tall, too aggressive, too too for a lady. But she has always taken solace in the fact that she can be herself and find a small measure of freedom with her best friend–who also happens to be her betrothed–Robin of Locksley. Friends and co-conspirators since childhood, Marian has accepted her place in the world as the future Lady Locksley, and is devoted to her people. So, when Robin leaves her to join King Richard on the Crusade, Marian is shaken but takes heart in the fact that their separation is just temporary.

But then Robin dies in battle, and Marian’s world is completely upended.

Her future, her freedom, disappears with the delivery of a single message: Robin of Locksley is dead. And while Marian is heartbroken over the loss of her best and truest friend, she is just as devastated by the loss of her ability to protect the people of Locksley. This becomes painfully apparent to Marian when she learns that her maid’s brother, Will Scarlett, is accused of being an outlaw and she is powerless to save him from imprisonment and certain death.

The story of Robin Hood happens by accident.

Marian puts on Robin’s green cloak, having snuck into his old room to feel close to him one last time, and is wearing it when she sets out to find and save Will before the Sheriff’s men do. Being tall, strong, and a powerful rider–not to mention a better archer than Robin ever was–she is mistaken for a man. Not just any man–but Robin himself, back from the grave.

Marian allows her legend to grow. Rob from the rich, give to the poor–and above all, never, ever let anyone guess the truth of her identity. Not even the new friends and allies–John, Alain, Will–because who would ever follow her?

So, confession time. I apparently have a thing for Robin Hood retellings–who knew?!–because when I saw this book I was immediately drawn into what I thought was the premise: Maid Marian assuming the cowl of Robin Hood after his death.

But friends, it turns out that this is not the actual premise of Sherwood. In fact, this book is an origin story. It is the beginning of Robin o’ the Hood–an origin story that begins with Marian, not with Robin of Locksley. When I realized that, I was instantly hooked. We watch as Marian gathers her merry men–risking everything to save Will and Maria, stumbling into Little John and Alain and earning their respect and trust, all the while masking her own identity and struggling with her own sense of right and wrong, her doubts and fears, her sense of responsibility and righteousness. I loved every moment of it.

Easily, the strongest part of this book and the reason it works is Meagan Spooner’s superb characterization of Marian. As our hero, Marian is introduced to us as physically strong–taller and a better wrestler and archer than Robin ever was–but not implausably powerful. She’s very believable in her doubts and questions of morality, as well as her struggles to find a place in a society that cannot accept her as she is–but unquestionably, Marian is a woman of her time, and Spooner manages to capture this balance of feminist thought, without making the narrative too modern or unbelievable.

Similarly, I love the relationships throughout Sherwood–between Marian and her father (TEARS), her trusted maid (the only other main female character and the first to instinctively know Marian’s secret moonlight job), and her men. There are surprising moments of insight and tenderness as we dive into flashbacks between Marian and Robin as children; particularly of interest are Marian’s own tangled emotions when it comes to her late betrothed and the question of true love. Of course, there’s also a central romance that is restrained and beautifully executed, between Marian and the traditionally villainous Guy of Guisborne (in this version, he is a low-born son of a stable master, raised to nobleman after his fighting in the Crusades and service to the Sheriff of Nottingham–who is also his surrogate brother). The tension between them–as Marian, as Robin Hood–is intense, people. And I ate up every moment of it (and also absolutely LOVE this new interpretation of the Guy-Marian-Robin love triangle).

All things said, this was a delightful gender-flipped origin story, and I loved it very much. (Probably tied with No Good Deed as my favorite modern Robin Hood retelling.) Absolutely recommended.

Rating: 7 – Excellent Fun

Buy the Book:

The post Book Review: SHERWOOD by Meagan Spooner appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

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