Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore, a graduate of Williams College and Simmons College, has lived in quite a few of the major cities of the world. Recently she’s settled in Cambridge, MA. She’s apparently been writing for the children’s educational market for a while, and she’s published two YA fantasy novels under her own name: this one and its companion, Fire (review forthcoming). There is a third book, Bitterblue, which is still in the process of being written, also set in the same world, to be published, well, some time after it’s finished, and I have no date on that yet.

In the land of the Seven Kingdoms, some babies are born with eyes that are both the same color, but by the time they are toddlers, their eyes change to be two different colors, such as blue and green or silver and gold. If so, they are said to have a ‘Grace,’ to be possessed of some sort of gift. It may be as innocuous as being able to make the best bread ever–in which case they will probably go work for the kitchens in the royal castle–or it may be like Katsa’s: killing. Katsa is the niece of one of the kings of the Seven Kingdoms, and she has been used as an assassin many times over the years. This is the story of Katsa coming to terms with, well, being gifted at killing. Continue reading Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Counterfeit Magic, by Kelley Armstrong

 

Once upon a time I went through all the Women of the Underworld books that Kelley Armstrong wrote. That was back when there were only eight plus a novella. Um. I think she’s up to eleven novels in that series, with a twelfth to be released later this year. There are also two short-story collections and four novellas, one of which is this one, published by Subterranean Press some time last year. Also another series, the first of which will be reviewed shortly. She’s still Canadian. I checked.

Anyway, Counterfeit Magic is narrated by Paige Winterbourne, the main character of Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic. It features her and Savannah Levine, the daughter of Eve Levine, narrator and star of both Haunted and Angelic (the latter also a Sub Press book). Savannah is also the narrator of books 11-13 of the series, apparently. Paige and her husband run a private investigation business, and Savannah works for them as well. They receive an invitation to investigate a case that involves the existence of underground supernatural fight clubs, and Paige and Savannah have to infiltrate them. Continue reading Counterfeit Magic, by Kelley Armstrong

The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff

Ahh, Tanya Huff. Author of the Blood books, turned into the short-lived Blood Ties series. Author of the Smoke books, starring a character who was from the Blood books but got cut from the TV show. Author of the Valor’s Choice series of novels that I haven’t actually read, but I know they’re SF with a nice strong female lead. She also wrote The Fire’s Stone, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light (one of my favorites), the Keeper books, and the novels of Crystal, together in a volume called Wizard of the Grove. Also a bunch of collections of short stories. Seriously, with this much published, it’s kind of amazing that there are spec-fic fans who haven’t read SOMETHING of hers.

The Enchantment Emporium is set in a new universe, just a bit removed from our own (or maybe it IS our own) where there’s a family of powerful women, surnamed Gale, who nudge the universe around by immense personal ability. Alysha Catherine Gale (Allie), our heroine, is twenty-four, jobless, and single when her grandmother (the family’s black sheep) gives her a store to run — the eponymous Enchantment Emporium. However, that means moving away from the family, out to Calgary. Obviously they can come visit, but apparently everyone is too busy actually to come with her. And then the strange things start happening — a tabloid reporter (very attractive, by the way) comes by, dragons start flying over the store, and faerie beings start showing up. What has Gran gotten Allie into? Continue reading The Enchantment Emporium, by Tanya Huff

Blood Noir (Anita Blake, vol. 15), by Laurell K. Hamilton

Yes, I’m reviewing the 15th (arguably; I don’t count Micah) volume in a series without reviewing the previous volumes. For one thing, everyone else has dealt with the series quite adequately. Second, I can gloss the plot up to this point in about three sentences. Laurell K. Hamilton arguably perfected the genre of the kickass chick with serious emotional issues who sleeps with various supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, oh my) with a gun under her pillow. She started writing these books in the early-to-mid-1990s and while the last, say, five or six volumes have been of varying quality, there’s still a new one every year or so. This year’s release is Skin Trade (vol. 16).

Here’s the general setup of the series: We have Anita Blake, the short, assertive, overly-weaponed necromancer (zombie-raiser)/vampire hunter. More under the cut, actually, in case there’s a person left in the world who hasn’t read these books who wants to. Continue reading Blood Noir (Anita Blake, vol. 15), by Laurell K. Hamilton

The Demon’s Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan

I decided to read this book after I read a companion short story that the author posted on her blog; that story is available here. Reading the story doesn’t require knowledge of the book, and vice versa; however, it will fill in a few bits of backstory that may be interesting to some readers. Sarah Rees Brennan, who is Irish, just turned twenty-six, which makes her a smidge over a year younger than I am, and has an MA in writing. This is her first published novel, and it’s the opening of a trilogy.

Nick and Alan are brothers and have been on the run from a coven of evil magicians (all magicians are evil; they feed people to demons) for a very long time now. When a classmate of Nick’s (named Jamie) gets into some possibly supernatural trouble, his sister Mae asks around and finds out that Nick and Alan are the ones to talk to. Unfortunately, of course, Nick and Alan have problems of their own; the coven is about to find them. Unfortunately, Jamie and Mae end up caught up in their drama. Just why are these magicians after Nick and Alan? And why does it seem like Alan is hiding things from his brother? Continue reading The Demon’s Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan

City of Stars (Stravaganza, book 2), by Mary Hoffman

A few days ago I reviewed the first book in this series and expressed my desire to read more. Fortunately, there are (at this point) four books in the series, and I am currently in possession of all of them. (I am also confused as to why they decided to redesign the series starting with book 4. I like it when all volumes in a series match, but apparently other people don’t care as much.) Ms. Hoffman, a Cambridge and University College London graduate, has been writing for children for nearly forty years now; this series has won awards and other kinds of recognition from various sources, including a 2009 nomination for a Carnegie medal for the fourth volume (City of Secrets).

Georgia O’Grady, a twenty-first-century fifteen-year-old English schoolgirl, is more likely to be mistaken for an English schoolboy, with her short, spiky hair, indifferent manner of dressing, and pre-adolescent figure. She’s also horse-mad, and when she finds a winged horse figurine in an antiques store, she saves up for and buys it. Of course, it turns out to be a Stravagating talisman, and she falls asleep and finds herself in Talia. She ends up in a stable in Remora, an analogue for Siena, and they mistake her for a boy, renaming her Giorgio Gredi. There, she finds herself swept up in the annual horse race, to be held shortly. Of course, though, because she is a Stravagante and this is Talia, there’s more going on than just a simple horse race . . . Continue reading City of Stars (Stravaganza, book 2), by Mary Hoffman

The Dream Thief (The Drakon, book 2), by Shana Abe

Apparently The Dream Thief was Amazon.com’s #1 Romance of the Year, and the first book in this series, The Smoke Thief (review here) was RT (Romantic Times)’s #1 Historical Romance of the Year (presumably in different years). The Drakon series is up to four books now; the third volume is entitled Queen of Dragons and the fourth is The Treasure-Keeper. There’s at least one more planned after that, but I can’t find a title. Yet. I’ll report it when I do. Shana Abe has a Tchouvatch dog which apparently is large and white and sheds a lot, and a house full of rabbits, mostly rescued.

This is a book 2, so I’ll cut here. Continue reading The Dream Thief (The Drakon, book 2), by Shana Abe

The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

About the only thing I know about R. A. MacAvoy is that she’s female. Apparently she was born in my (former) neck of the woods in 1949 and attended Case Western Reserve University. This, apparently, allows her to make Cleveland jokes. (It’s okay. The Browns are enough of a joke for most of us.) She now lives in a horse pasture and writes full-time. This book, if I’m not mistaken, was originally published as an Amazon Short in 2005 and sold only as an ebook, entitled The Go-Between, until Sub Press picked it up for a September release.

Ewen Young is a painter by day and a kung fu master by night. His uncle Jimmy is his teacher, and one night, after an art show, several thugs jump him outside as a ‘message’ to said uncle. Soon thereafter, he goes to the kung fu studio and finds Jimmy shot in the head; the man who did it is still there and shoots Ewen in the heart. The next thing he knows, he’s in the hospital, on morphine. But every so often, he — isn’t there. Or particularly anywhere. The nurses accuse him of pulling out his IV, despite the fact that it’s out cleanly. Where is he going? And what’s going on? Continue reading The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

Impossible, by Nancy Werlin

Apparently Nancy Werlin primarily writes ‘literary suspense’ novels for YA/teen readers. She began publishing in the mid-1990s, and Impossible is her first book that is explicitly on the border of fantasy. She has a B.A. from Yale College, and won an Edgar Award for a novel entitled Locked Inside at some point. She was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, and has worked as a technical writer for various software and internet companies, in addition to her fiction writing.

Lucy Scarborough is a normal twenty-first-century girl, living in Massachusetts. Well, a normal girl with a crazy mother who is a bag lady in town, but she’s got a wonderful set of foster parents, Soledad and Leo Markowitz, some good friends, and a date to the junior/senior prom coming up shortly. Until an unfortunate event occurs at the prom, she turns up pregnant, and she finds her mother’s diary. In the diary, she finds out that all of the women in her family, as far back as anyone can remember, are under a curse; they all become pregnant at seventeen and when they give birth at eighteen, if they haven’t completed three impossible tasks (as detailed in a variant of “Scarborough Faire”), they go crazy. Fortunately, she has help, but not much time. Can she accomplish these things and stay sane? Continue reading Impossible, by Nancy Werlin

City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman is English; she was born in a railroad town, but moved to London when she was quite small. She has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge and a diploma in linguistics from the University College of London. Just after that, in 1970, she started writing children’s books; to date she has published around eighty of them, mostly shorter works. The Stravaganza series contains her longest works to date. She is married; her husband is half-Indian, and of their three daughters, one (Rhiannon Lassiter) is a published author. In her spare time, she takes Italian classes, presumably at least somewhat as research for this series, at Oxford.

Lucien Mulholland is a fifteen-year-old twenty-first-century English boy, who is unfortunately dying from a brain tumor. Arianna is a fifteen-year-old sixteenth-century Talian girl living in an alternate universe where Remus founded Italy instead of Romulus. The connection? A journal, that allows Lucien to travel in his sleep from England, where he is doing poorly, to Talia, specifically Bellezza (an alternate Venice), where he is hale and healthy. Arianna wants nothing so much as to be a mandolier (gondolier), despite her gender, so she sneaks into town for the trials. There, she meets Lucien, recently traveled and confused, and they get caught up in the politics and plotting of the time. The Di Chimici (Medici) family wants nothing so much as to kill Bellezza’s Duchessa — can two teenagers help stop that from happening? Continue reading City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman