Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Queen of the Tearling Trilogy by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn has spent her entire childhood hidden away, in training for the day when she will claim her birthright. The first book in the trilogy, The Queen of the Tearling, describes Kelsea's harrowing journey to claim the throne with her Queen's Guard, evading assassins sent by her uncle, the Regent. But death threats are not Kelsea's only troubles; once she arrives at her kingdom's seat in New London, Kelsea realizes how far her countrymen have fallen, keeping peace with the dangerous neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne by forcibly gathering dozens of citizens each month to be sent as slaves to the Red Queen. As the new Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea ends this practice immediately, but at the cost of war.

The Invasion of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling ratchets up the suspense further, with the Tear army trying to slow the invasion of the Mort forces, and all the while Queen Kelsea tries to organize protection for her citizens and deal with the powerful but corrupt Holy Father of the Arvath. Meanwhile, Kelsea tries to understand the magical powers she is gaining from wearing the Tear sapphires and why she is having visions of the past from the perspective of a mysterious woman. This sequel ends on a cliffhanger, with the Mort army and the Red Queen at the gates of the capital as well as Kelsea's visions of "the crossing" many years before.

The Fate of the Tearling
The final installment in the trilogy, The Fate of the Tearling, comes out the end of this month and is the most climactic with both the Tear and Mort kingdoms teetering on the brink, with Mort citizens and soldiers rebelling, the treacherous Arvath vying for more power, and creepy little beasts running amok everywhere. The shocking end should take readers by surprise.

Despite the medieval feel to the time period, events of the Tearling take place years in the future after the American government deteriorates into an increasingly conservative and surveillance-driven world where everyone and everything is censored and class divides are greater than ever between the rich and the poor. Epic fantasy fans and apocalyptic science fiction fans alike will enjoy this trilogy, as well as any reader interested in frank discussions of humanity and feminism.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ōoku: the Inner Chambers, Vols. 1 & 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Ooku Volume 1
In seventeenth century Japan, a plague called the Red Pox inflicts only men, decimating the male population. With so few men left in the country, women take over the roles of men, becoming farmers, shopkeepers, and heads of households. Healthy men are prized, and only wealthy women are able to take them as husbands. Despite these reversals, women are not to rule, leaving politics to men, but the current shogun is secretly a woman. Rather than the traditional female concubines, her inner chambers are filled with men - men who can never leave, lest they reveal the true gender of their imperial ruler.

Ooku Volume 2
The first two volumes in the "Ōoku" series tell the origins of the first few female shoguns. Issues arise with pride and jealousy between the men and whom the shogun favors at that moment. Love is rare and cherished but cannot always be embraced as the men must be able to produce heirs with the shogun; otherwise, a shogun is forced to move on to a new male partner. The female concubine is frequently portrayed in fiction, while Ōoku is utterly unique for its frank portrayal of male concubines and their lives.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Tresspasser
Detective Antoinette Conway grew up mixed-race and without a father in conservative Dublin, Ireland, so she’s used to not fitting in. She has always worn her differences defiantly and proudly, and styled herself a lone wolf, happy to be an outsider. She didn’t think she would fit right into Dublin’s all-male Murder squad, but she didn’t expect the level of harassment she’s receiving—pee in her locker, spit in her coffee, her paperwork thrown away and her cases jeopardized. It’s clear to Conway that everyone in the squad wants her out except for maybe her rookie partner, Steve Moran.

As the harassment begins to take a toll on Conway’s psyche, she and Moran are handed a seemingly straightforward murder—the victim, Aislinn Murray, led a boring life and there’s only a single suspect, her new boyfriend, Rory. The case should be an open-and-shut domestic, but nothing quite adds up. As their investigation is blocked at every turn by members of their own squad, Conway and Moran begin to suspect that finding Aislinn’s killer may lead them to a dangerous truth.

The Trespasser combines beautiful writing and intense psychological drama to create a literary mystery that draws the reader in completely and doesn’t let go until the final page. Though it is book six in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, this novel is more than capable of standing alone. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman
A horrifying plague is spreading like wildfire all across the country. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it's Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with black and gold marks across their bodies-before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Infected nurse, Harper Grayson, must fight for her life and the life of her unborn child as the country begins to round up those with the 'scale. Helping her hide away from the self-appointed extermination gangs is a mysterious stranger called The Fireman, an infected man dressed in fire gear, who seems to have the ability to control the disease, and even use it to cause fires at will. As the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman's secrets before her life - and that of her unborn child - goes up in smoke.

The Fireman is one of the most thrilling, imaginative takes on an apocalyptic future, and will leave readers infected for more.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host
In this science fiction novel from the author of the Twilight series, parasitic extraterrestrials invade and overtake the bodies and minds of most of the human population. The story is narrated by an alien ‘soul’ named Wanderer. Wanderer is placed in the body of Melanie, who has managed to evade capture for several years. Most souls have no trouble possessing a host, but Melanie is strong. She resists Wanderer, fighting with her only weapons, her own thoughts and memories. Melanie’s presence eventually evokes an empathetic response from Wanderer, who begins to view humans as more compassionate creatures than the barbaric animals she thought them to be. When Wanderer/Melanie joins a pocket of resistors that includes Melanie’s brother and the man she loves, both the alien and the humans find they have much to learn about trust and love and ‘humanity.’ The understanding they finally come to may be the only thing that can provide hope for them all.
Though there is romance in this story, it is less melodramatic than the Twilight books are. It combines the action and suspense of an apocalyptic novel with an unique look at human emotions from an alien perspective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's Exorcism
It’s 1988 in Charleston, South Carolina and sophomores Abby Rivers and Gretchen Lang have it all -- they’re popular, academically successful, and have a tight-knit group of friends. Most of all, they have each other. Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since the fourth grade, when their friendship bloomed against a backdrop of E.T., roller rinks, and Ms. Pac-Man. Now, as high schoolers, they are closer than ever and their friendship feels unshakable. 

Then, one night, Gretchen goes missing during a slumber party. Abby and the other girls find her in the woods hours later, but Abby knows something’s not quite right. Gretchen is withdrawn and acting weird, and Abby can’t seem to get through to her. Soon, everyone believes Gretchen is back to normal, but she’s still not the person Abby once knew. In fact, she’s becoming downright evil. Could she be possessed by the devil? And more importantly, is their friendship strong enough to survive what’s happening?

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a pitch-perfect mix of teen angst, ‘80s pop culture, horror and dark comedy. Best friend drama takes center stage, but there is no shortage of truly scary moments. Hendrix excels at creating an oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere that only gets more spine-tingling as the pages turn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Two for the Show by Jonathan Stone

Two for the Show
The main character, Chas, is a loner with no family or friends to speak of and a relationship to which he give very little of himself. Instead, his main focus in life is his job. It's a job that he has been devoted to for 20 years, but it's also a job that he can tell no one about. His life is one of secrets until one day when his life is thrown a curve ball. You see, Chas works for Archer Wallace, a.k.a. Wallace the Amazing. Wallace is a legendary performer in Las Vegas who can scan his audience, pick a person out at random, and tell him (or her) amazing details about his life. Things that would be impossible for the everyday person to know, but Wallace has the mental abilities to do this, at least that's what he says. In reality, he has an amazing memory, but Chas is the one supplying him with the amazing details. He scours the Internet and logs into private databases to cull as much information he can for his employer. Then, one day, Wallace calls on an audience member who throws the whole charade for a loop. That person isn't who he says he is. He knows it and so does Wallace, but what he wants is to force Wallace to pay him to keep quiet. Thus begins a roller coaster of events. With this interesting setup, the further you get into the story, the more you wonder how it's going to end.