Nona the Ninth

by Tasmyn Muir
First sentence: “In the dream, he told her the words about where he took his degrees his postdoc, his research fellowship.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy snagged from the publisher when it came in.
Others in the series: Gideon the Ninth Harrow the Ninth
Content: It’s violent and sweary. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Things you should know:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you read Gideon and Harrow right before reading this one. Seriously. I spent so much time trying to remember things, I finally gave up, found a Wiki, and spent time looking up things to remind myself. If you remember stuff from the previous two books, you will better understand and grasp what is going on in this one.
  2. It’s the …. cheeriest? possibly.. of the three so far. Nona is an endearing character and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her, Pyrrha, Cam, Palamedes, and all the new characters we met.
  3. I have no idea what the heck happened in the last 1/4 of the book, and I’m not sure I care that I didn’t know. Truthfully: upon reflection, all the pieces were there, I just didn’t catch them. (See, #1.)
  4. Muir blew my mind in the best. way, and I am utterly impressed with her world-building, with her character development, and just the way this story is unfolding.
  5. Bring on Alecto. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.”
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Content: there is some death by murdering and mild swearing. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Mona doesn’t consider herself a wizard. After all, all she does is small magic – like make bread rise or gingerbread men dance. But when a girl turns up dead in her the kitchen of her aunt’s bakery, she soon discovers that someone is out to get her (and all the other people who do magic in her town). And, since now of the adults in Mona’s life seem to be doing anything, she and her friend (the brother of the dead girl) soon decide to challenge the powers that be and make someone listen.

People have been recommending this to me for a while now, and I guess I just felt that Now was the time to read it. I mean, who doesn’t love a possibly sentient sourdough starter named Bob? But it was also more than that: it was about inclusiveness, about finding one’s power, even if you think it’s small, and about making and keeping friends. It’s very sweet I get why Kingfisher self-published it: it’s not really an adult book, but it’s not really a YA one either. it sits in that publishing no person’s land, where if you like the sort of thing – baking, slight mysteries, magic, etc – you’ll probably love this book.

I fell on the love it side, and I don’t regret that at all.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

by Axie Oh
First sentence: “The myths of my people say only a true bride of the Sea God can bring an end to his insatiable wrath.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some violence. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Mina is just a girl in a village, one who was never supposed to be given as the Sea God’s brie But when her brother’s beloved, Cheong, was chosen for the sacrifice, Mina knew she must do something to save her brother’s happiness. So, she jumps into the sea, sacrificing herself in Cheong’s stead. what she finds in the Sea God’s kingdom is a whole world of gods and demons, of betrayal and friendship, and a puzzle as to what will wake the Sea God.

This is not something I would have picked up on my own, but a customer I really like gave it to me, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. It was a bit too formulaic for my tastes (I guessed the twist ending) but Oh’s writing was evocative, and it wasn’t a bad story. There were some genuinely tender moments, and I did like the tales that Oh spun.

Give this one to kids who like fairy tales.

Spear

by Nicola Griffith
First sentence: “In the wild wast, a girl, growing.”
Support your local independent bookstore: by it there!
Content: There’s some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

One of my co-workers sold this to me by saying “It’s Arthurian legends, but gay” and honestly, that’s all it took. Griffith is taking the world of King Artur, planting it in 6th-century Wales, and making one of the knights, Peretur (or Percival) a woman. It’s familiar (to those of us who have gone through Arthurian obsessions), and yet, it’s also new. Making Peretur a woman updates the myth without sacrificing its ancient origins. I adored Peretur, and the journey she went on, from growing up in the wild with her mother to her quest to become a knight of KIng Aruthur. Her kind heart and fierce nature were balanced so well. I felt that Griffiths’ writing gave the book an ethereal quality, making it seem like a story that’s being told around a fire. It’s short, so I felt like Griffiths was able to get to the heart of the matter, without there bieng a lot of extra.

In short, It was exactly everything I wanted from an Arthurian tale.

Forging Silver Into Stars

by Brigid Kemmerer
First sentence: “This was supposed to be a peaceful protest.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series (sort-of; it’s a spinoff, but reading these helps):  A Curse So Dark and LonelyA Heart So Fierce and Broken, A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Content: There is some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Teen section grades 9+) of the bookstore.

So you know: this book picks up four years after the events in “A Vow So Bold and Deadly”. There will probably be spoilers for the first series.

Friends Jax and Callyn live in a small village, a few hours outside of the main city in Syhl Shallow. They’re just a blacksmith and a baker and are a bit wary of the idea of magic being in their country in the form of the king. so, when an opportunity to earn some silver ones their way, they jump at the chance. Little did they know they were getting into an organized insurrection, one that was determined to overthrow the king. There’s more to the story, one that involves Tycho, who is a friend of the king and a courier between Syhl Shallow and the neighboring country of Emberfall. There’s also some romance, betrayal, and a lot of riding horseback through the country.

I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t absolutely love it either. Kemmerer has a good storyteller, but maybe I wasn’t in the mood for this. Even so, i might be interested enough to finish the story when th enext book comes out.

The Honeys

by Ryan La Sala
First sentence: “My sister wakes me with a whisper.”
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Release date: May 3, 2022
Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, and descriptions of sexual assault and rape. It will be in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Mars is a twin, the undesirable twin, the one who lives in the shadow of Caroline, the Chosen One. He/they is gender fluid, doesn’t quite fit the norms of the rich, societied life his parents set out for him. Especially when it comes ot the summer camp, Aspen. Mars had a falling out years ago at the camp, when he pushed back against the gender norms and roles at the camp and hasn’t been back since. So when his sister unexpectedly shows up in the middle of the night, crazy and delious, attempting to kill Mars and then dying herself, he knows something is up. And that something has to tdo with the Honeys.

The Honeys, as he finds out when he goes back to Aspen, are a clique of girls, set apart, yet welcoming to him. At first, seems heavenly, to be accepted and understood by people who also knew and loved Caroline. But the farther he gets in, the more sinister it becomes.

I really had no idea what to expect when starting this. There’s a lot about bees and the way the hive works (most of which I knew from reading The Bees). But it’s also about societal expectations and the ways in which conforming to those hurts individuals. I have a theory that the hive/honey is Capitalism, but it could also be greed and power, both of which teen girls, even white ones from weathly families, have little of. It’s a fascinating study of groupthink and the power of suggestion, and how sometimes good things go bad.

I don’t know if it’s a book for everyone, but it’s a good book, one that will lead to fascinating discussions. I will be thinking about it for a while.

The Ogress and the Orphans

by Kelly Barnhill
First sentence: “Listen.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It is long, and kind of old-timey sounding. It’s probably not for every kid. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the booktore.

Things are amis in the town Stone-in-the-Glen. The neighbors, who used to be neighborly, are now suspicious of each other, and who didn’t really interact as a community. The orphans at the Orphan house are struggling with supplies; the community has gone back on their promise to keep them funded. And the mayor, well, he’s shiny and charismatic, but there’s something Not Right about him. And when an ogress moves in outside of town, everyone (well the mayor) decides that it’s all her fault that things seem to be going wrong.

On the one hand, if you don’t realize that this is a fable, an allegory for the United States in the past few years, you’re probably a clueless reader (or young? Will kids get this?). The fear of the Other, being hoodwinked by the shiny (and corupt), thee reteating into our own holes, and the decline of what it means to be a neighbor. It’s all there. But: Barnhill is a gifted writer, and she has spun this classic fable, this touching story about belonging, about what itmeans to be a nieghbr and a friend, and about community. The ending made me cry, the characters were super charming, and it’s a reminder that we’re not alone in this world.

It may be more for adults, but it’s still a very good book.

Network Effect

by Martha Wells
First sentence: “I’ve had clients who thought they needed an absurd level of security.”
Support your independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a lot of swearing, including multiple f0bobs. It’s in the science fiction section of the bookstore.
Others in the series:  All Systems RedArtificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy

Spoilers for the first four, obviously. Although you don’t have to read those to read this, it really does help.

Murderbot has come to Preservation a non-Corporation planet, to live, to figure out what it wants to do and to be Dr. Mensah’s bodyguard. It’s sent on a mission with several people from Preservation, including Mensah’s daughter and brother-in-law, and that’s when things go sideways. They are attacked by a ship as soon as they leave Preservation space, and Murederbot and another team member are kidnapped. The others manage to come along (unfortunately, it means more humans to protect), and the greater plan is revealed: ART’s (the asshole research transport from book 2) crew has been taken by some people who are on a planet that has been compromised by alien remnants, and he wants it back. So, he sent the kidnappers to get Murderbot, because ART knew Murderbot would be able to find and retrieve them for it. Murderbot is not happy about being taken forcibly, but it cares (that’s a strong word) enough for ART that it’s willing to do what ART wants.

That’s basically what happens – sort of – but the real pleasure was having the ART-Murderbot relationship back. It was hilarious and sweet and delightful, and Murderbot would hate all of those words if it knew. There was one point where one of the other characters decided ART and Muderbot were in a relationship, and Murderbot got incredibly angry about that, mostly because it’s true. but, it’s also still a well-plotted book: a mystery to solve, corporation/non-corporation dynamics to explore, a weird planet (gotta love those), and a lot of fun, cranky inner dialogue on Murderbot’s part. U was a little wary that the longer form would dilute some of the charms of these books, but thankfully, II was wrong. It was still just as fun as a full-length novel.

These are such a delight to read.

Aurora’s End

by aie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
First sentence: “I am rarely surprised.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Aurora Rising, Aurora Burning
Content: There is some mild swearing, illusions to sex, and a lot more f-bombs than in the previous two books. They’re still in the YA section (grades 6-8) though maybe they should get moved?

Things I loved about the book:

The tagline on the cover. It really is about time. And Kaufman and Kristoff play with it so well.

The way all the pieces fit together, and the characters learned and grew and it just worked.

The fact that a bawled for the last s00 pages or so. They made me care about these characters and their fates and man, it was all just so satisfying.

I can’t wait to see what these two do together next They just create pure gold.

Exit Strategy

by Martha Wells
First sentence: “When I got back to HaveRatton Station, a bunch of humans tried to kill me.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series:  All Systems RedArtificial Condition, Rogue Protocol
Content there is some violence and a handful of f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

To be honest, I really don’t have anything new to say about Murderbot. This one wraps up the arc that started with book one, as Murderbot meets back up with Mensah and they all take on GrayChris, the corporation that has been killing people to cover their tracks. It still has everything I have come to love about these books: it’s funny, it’s got action, it’s a bit of a heist book, it’s a quick read, and I love it so much.

Seriously: if you haven’t read these yet, do. They’re great.