From the publisher: After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well. But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence? Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions. He’s not going to like the answers. I love Martha Wells. It is not an exaggeration to say that her Murderbot Diaries series helped me get through the pandemic with my sanity intact. The Murderbot Diaries series is science fiction; Witch King is fantasy. But it is Read more »
From the publisher: Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel. Be careful what you wish for. . . you might just get it.
This lovely little novel will appeal to any reader who wanted to escape into a children’s book. If you wanted to attend Hogwarts, or visit Narnia, or live in a boxcar, or travel space and time with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, you might want to check out The Wishing Game.
At its heart, this book is the story of a foster kid and the teacher’s aide who wants to adopt him. Christopher found his parents dead of an overdose; Lucy doesn’t even qualify to foster him, much less adopt him. As an unhappy child, Lucy ran away to the reclusive island home of Jack Masterson, author of the entrancing Clock Island series. She was not alone in wanting to live on his island; his 60-book series appealed to many children. The books featured unhappy children who wished for something and were willing to do the work to make their wishes come true.
Now an adult, Lucy is one of four lucky contestants invited to Jack’s home. After a long barren stretch, he has written one last novel. The four contestants have a chance to win the sole copy and do whatever they want with it. Each of the four contestants has a wish they hope they can fulfill by winning the contest. Also on the island is Hugo, the handsome artist for the series book covers.
Jack, middle-aged, single, childless, and gay, has his own regrets as he realizes that “the amount of sand in the top of my hourglass is far less than the sand in the bottom” (chapter 15 of the advance reader copy). He is mysterious and a bit mad. He has had tragedies in his life, and he has always felt the deepest connection to the children most in love with his books.
This story moved me, touched me, made me laugh, made me cry. Ultimately it is an uplifting read and a story of found families. It reminded me of the best parts of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. In the right hands it will make a terrific movie. I’m definitely putting it on my list to read with the library’s book club after it comes out.
I read an advance reader copy of The Wishing Game from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on May 30 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.
From the publisher: Stranded on a dead planet with her mortal enemy, a spy must survive and uncover a conspiracy in the first book of an epic space opera trilogy.
The Blighted Stars is an enemies to lovers story, although it takes a bit of patience to get there. It’s the future. Earth and many other habitable planets have been “shrouded” by a lichen that consumes everything in its path, turning green worlds into grey ones. Humans have developed technology that allows them to die and be reprinted (like on a 3D printer – yeah, I found this concept hard to wrap my head around).
Powerful families rule humanity. Family members have guards, called Exemplars, who are printed with extra pathways that give them strength and skills. Humanity needs a rare substance called relkatite to enable the current way of life. A rebel group believes that the search for relkatite is tied into the ruination of the habitable planets.
Tarquin Mercator, the son of one powerful leader, goes on a mission to claim a planet for humanity, but upon arrival he and the other crew members find the planet is already shrouded. Guarding Tarquin is an Exemplar who appears to be a woman named Aera Lockhart but who is in fact Naira Sharp, his father’s former Exemplar. A member of the rebellion, she was caught, tried, and “put on ice” so she can’t be reprinted – but who has been printed in the body of another for reasons unknown even to her. Although she served Tarquin’s father for many years, she now has reason to hate the whole family.
It’s actually hard to summarize the plot of this book. There is a lot going on, and it goes on for too long before the real action begins about halfway through the book. I found the first couple hundred pages very slow moving. The 3D printing thing is weird. Depending on when you were backed up, you may or may not remember what happened lately if you die. So if, for example, you fall in love with your enemy and are killed before you are backed up, you won’t remember that. Also, if you are killed violently, your neural map “cracks” and you lose your mind and cannot be reprinted. Stuff about the reprinting doesn’t make sense to me (like how a violent death can cause you to crack, and how you can be reprinted in someone else’s body).
I found the plot confusing but also intriguing. There’s a lot of vocabulary that helps with the world building but that needs figuring out. Naira Sharp is a very confident woman. Tarquin Mercator is a bit of a naïf, kept in the dark by his family, an academic who blindly has faith in things he shouldn’t have faith in, but he’s attractive and a nice guy. Their relationship is definitely the highlight of the story, and I’ll probably continue the series just to see what happens there.
I read an advance reader copy of The Blighted Stars. It will be published in late May and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and as an ebook.
From the publisher: A young Indigenous woman enters a colonizer-run dragon academy—and quickly finds herself at odds with the “approved” way of doing things.
Harry Potter meets Temeraire in this magical-school-with-dragons series launch.
Anequs lives with her people on a remote island, living a life her people have lived for many generations. They have an uneasy relationship with the Anglish, conquerors who see Anequs and her people as uncivilized barbarians. To have a dragon is a rare thing, and there has been no dragon among her people for many years. She finds a dragon egg, and the hatchling bonds with her. Her brother, who has left the island, tells her, “There’s a ministry for dragons. The Anglish have a ministry for everything. Dragons are supposed to be registered, and dragoneers need to be tested to prove they’re competent, because dragons are dangerous. There’s going to be trouble with the law if you don’t enroll in an academy.” (p. 27 of the advance reader copy)
An Indigenous person with a dragon is not something the Anglish dragoneers approve of, but there are some individuals working to change perceptions of the Indigenous people, and Anequs is reluctantly enrolled in an Anglish dragon school. Only one other girl is enrolled, and only one boy from an Indigenous people.
The world building is slow. You might even say languorous. We see what life is like on the island for Anequs and her kin. We hear about their food and drink. We hear their stories. We watch their dances.
Once Anequs makes it to school, the world building is also slow. She is hot tempered and often says and does things that are not wise. Most of her teachers and fellow students don’t want her there. They invent rules for her and the Indigenous boy. Everyone assumes she knows things about Anglish school that she does not. But she is also smart and clever, and she learns despite the odds against her.
I enjoyed To Shape a Dragon’s Breath very much, while also finding it a bit slow. Its strengths include world building, character development, and diverse representation. But there is also virtually no action until the end of the book, there are a LOT of new words/altered words to figure out, the author is fond of telling instead of showing, and some of the ideas she is trying to get across are repeated over and over. Still, I recommend it and look forward to the sequel.
I read an advance reader copy of To Shape a Dragon’s Breath. It will be published on May 9 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in multiple formats.
From the publisher: Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and an overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family. Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated ruhkers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love.
This is a delightful little morsel of a tale, an entire story arc in less than 200 pages. I love fantasy, but so often a series is such a commitment, hundreds if not thousands of pages to get the whole story. Untethered Sky delighted me because it’s short, immersive, and complete.
This is a woman telling her personal story, not an author laying the foundations for her fantasy world, so everything is not spelled out, every element of the world is not detailed. There is grief, loss, growth, acceptance, friendship, love, all laid out in what feels slower than seems possible in a short novella. The most significant relationship the main character has with another human is not with the handsome and powerful prince but a gruff and awkward fellow ruhker.
I like how the author evokes both dragons and falcons in her depiction of rocs and their handlers:
“A bird as large as a roc is not elegant in takeoff or landing. Minu was a maelstrom of feathers and mad exertion as her massive wings pummeled the air. Darius had chosen this spot for its higher elevation, which made it easier for her to get airborne. Minu spread her wings and rode the downslope of the land, gaining speed, nearly skimming the ground. She pumped hard, once, twice, three times, flattening the grass below with the wind, and caught an air current that lifted her up and away from us in a straight line. When she was far enough to be a small silhouette, she curved in a long arc and circled back toward us. Darius watched her with one hand shielding his eyes. I watched too, my heart in my throat at her beauty.”
I have not read Fonda Lee before, but I will certainly seek out other titles by her based on this novella. If you are looking for a short immersive read that will probably make you wish a whole series will follow, I recommend Untethered Sky. I read an advance reader copy from Netgalley.
Untethered Sky is scheduled to be published on April 11, 2023 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in multiple formats.
From the publisher: A reckless Victorian heiress sets her sights on a dashing ex-naval lieutenant, determined to win his heart as the two of them embark on a quest to solve a decades-old mystery in Mimi Matthews’s sequel to her critically acclaimed novels The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim.
Return to Satterthwaite Court is an unexpected sequel by Mimi Matthews. She wrote two romance novels set in Somerset, England that took place in the same decade. She hadn’t intended to write a series – then she got the idea to write a novel set 20 years later involving the children of the original pairs. For fans of The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim, this is a fun chance to revisit two charming couples with complicated (and even scandalous) courtships.
I got about a quarter of the way into Return to Satterthwaite Court before I decided I needed to set it aside and reread The Work of Art. After I finished that book, I read another quarter of Satterthwaite Court and decided I needed to reread Gentleman Jim. Both were as good as I remembered.
Return to Satterthwaite Court is sweet and satisfying, but considerably less fraught than the first two books. There just really are (spoiler) no obstacles to a happily-ever-after for Kate Beresford and Charles Heywood. She’s a little wild; he’s a little staid, with a touch of trauma from his service in the Navy. The title of the book itself is a spoiler, as the lost family estate of Satterthwaite Court plays a large part in the plot. The book opens with a delightful scene involving a stray dog that is a nod to Georgette Heyer. Dogs and other animals can really brighten up the plots of historical romance, and Matthews does a good job modeling the incomparable Heyer. I also enjoyed her Author’s Note containing additional historical information about some of the things that happen in the book.
The heroine of The Work of Art is known for having one blue eye and one brown eye, and in Return to Satterthwaite Court, her daughter is revealed as having the same. This seemed an unnecessary addition; heterochromia is extremely rare and it’s a condition that is unlikely to be passed down to a child. It certainly didn’t seem necessary for the child to have the same arresting physical characteristic as her parent. But that’s a minor complaint.
Now that one sequel has been written, it’s clear that a number of young people introduced in this novel have romance awaiting them in future books. I’ll read them all.
I was given a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The book is scheduled to be published April 11, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it. The library already owns the first two books.
From the publisher: A cynical tarot card reader seeks to uncover the truth about her friend’s mysterious death in this delightfully clever whodunit.
Play the Fool is a screwball comedy/mystery about a new adult trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life in the Chicago suburbs. Katie True has a mysterious and fascinating friend, a throwaway job at a Russian tchotchke shop at the mall, and a family with normal family issues. When she accidentally sees a photo of her friend, dead, and starts investigating, an attractive cop enters her life as well.
As a suburban Chicagoan myself, I enjoyed the setting. The main character even mentioned one of my favorite places, the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the Illinois/Wisconsin border! The library plays an important part in Katie’s investigation, always happy to see props from authors. The narrator is most definitely too stupid to live at times, as she is careless with her safety as she tries to figure out who killed her friend. Her relationship with her autistic brother is sweet and her rocky relationship with her sister believable.
Katie reads tarot cards, taught by her Aunt Rosie as a child, and is constantly both dealing and consulting her tarot cards and comparing situations to them. I’m not familiar with a tarot deck, so this meant less to me than it might to some readers, but they are a winsome touch that help define Katie. The book cover is very eye-catching.
The mystery is not terribly mysterious, and there is never any real sense of danger, but the cast of characters is fun. I sense a sequel in the future. I read an advance reader copy of Play the Fool from Netgalley.
It is scheduled to be released on March 28 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.
From the publisher: “Wear your heart on your sleeve.” That’s the saying. But in BONDING, people wear their anxiety on their chests – in the form of a parasite that shows everyone just what you’re feeling on the inside …
Spring is just around the corner, which means we’re getting lots of rainy days. What better way to enjoy the showers than curling up next to the window with a good book? This week is mystery week, with five new books that hit the shelves recently, ready for you to check out or put on hold!
Up first, we have Wolf Trap by Connor Sullivan. This thriller/mystery tells the story of over three hundred highly-trained agents who operate in the darkest shadows of the country’s covert wars. Plucked from the highest echelons of America’s special mission units, these individuals go through rigorous training by the Agency to perfect the arts of assassination, sabotage, infiltration, and guerrilla warfare.
Another thriller/mystery also hit the shelves this week: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murders by Jesse Q. Sutano. You see, Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady—or rather, lady of a certain age—who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.
Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing: a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of… swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands.
Traditional mystery is some of the most popular here at GPL, and the 32nd installment of Donna Leon’s bestselling series Commissario Brunetti, So Shall You Reap is sure to delight. On a November evening, Guido Brunetti and Paola are up late when a call from his colleague Ispettore Vianello arrives, alerting the COmmissario that a hand has been seen in one of Venice’s canals. The body is soon found, and Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder of an undocumented Sri Lankan immigrant. Because no official record of the man’s presence in Venice exists, Brunetti is forced to use the city’s far richer sources of information: gossip and the memories of people who knew the victim.
Robert B. Parker’s Revenge Tour by Mike Lupica is another mystery for your reading list. In this entry in the Sunny Randall series, Melanie Joan Hall is back in Boston, riding high, refusing to have Sunny and Rosie move out. She has a Netflix series about to start shooting in Boston, based on her wildly popular new series of books for girls. Then it turns out that most of her fortune is gone. And her manager, who was in charge of the money, turns up dead. He’s been with her a long time. When Sunny begins to investigate, she discovers that a lot of Melanie Joan’s past is a product of her amazing imagination. And then Sunny’s loyalty to her old friend is challenged by her loyalty to finding the truth.
Last but not least, we have Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado. This thriller, which sold 2 million copies when released in Spain, introduces Antonia Scott, the daughter of a British diplomat and a Spanish mother. Antonia is gifted with a forensic mind, whose ability to reconstruct crimes and solves baffling murders is legendary. But after a personal trauma, she’s refused to continue her work or even leave her apartment.
All book descriptions courtesy of the publisher.
From the publisher: Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life. It’s not going to last.
Antimatter Blues is a sequel, and although you probably can read this book without reading the first, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll get a lot more out of Antimatter Blues if you’ve read Mickey7. In the first book, one man (Mickey) is an expendable. This means his consciousness is downloaded so that when he is killed doing something dangerous, a clone can be produced and his consciousness uploaded. This is not a popular job, and by the end of book 1 Mickey has managed to retire from being an expendable. But space is a harsh place. Various people trying to inhabit various planets in both books have learned that the hard way. In Antimatter Blues, new perils and an unsympathetic commander complicate and endanger Mickey’s life.
There is a sentient, intelligent species already living on the planet that Mickey and friends are trying to colonize, and we learn a lot more about them in Antimatter Blues. I personally love meeting intelligent alien species who don’t immediately want to vaporize humans. This book was a lot of fun, and while some things were predictable, it kept me guessing. At one point I surprised myself by putting the book down for a breather when things got a little tense. There’s some humor and some romance, Mickey is a likable narrator, and the dialog is realistic and the banter snappy. Maybe it’s not treading new ground, but I like going over old ground sometimes. (That’s why I enjoy watching all the Star Trek series!)
Is there going to be another book in the series? It seems like there is plenty of room for growth with this cast of characters and their struggle to survive on a hostile planet, but Antimatter Blues also wrapped up very neatly. If there is another book in the series, I will eagerly read it.
I read an advance reader copy from Netgalley.
If you are looking for something to read while waiting for the next book in the Murderbot Diaries, you might enjoy Mickey7 and Antimatter Blues. The Galesburg Public Library owns Mickey7 in print, digital, and audio and will own Antimatter Blues in the same formats when it is published in March.