Mix strange, difficult to control powers in with adolescent angst about fitting in, and an action packed plot and you have the basic recipe for a good novel.  Add in adult bad guys, less than great parents, and a whole lot of bad decisions and you’ve got Zeroes. Westerfeld, Biancotti and Canagan have created an ensemble cast of teenagers that have powers that seem more a burden than a gift.  There is Crash who can destroy modern technology but...

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The Paper Magician Series — Charlie N. Holmberg In The Paper Magician, set in an alternate turn of the 20th Century, Holmberg has created a unique magical world for the series.  Trained and licensed magicians work with only one particular medium among those available — all involving man-made materials. We first meet Ceony at the close of her education when she is to begin her apprenticeship.  Ceony wants to work in metal — to be a smelter. How...

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In An Untamed State Roxanne Gay takes a hard, unsparing look at race, complicity, privilege, violence against women, and how one woman survives the horror of an abduction. Mireille is Haitian-American, a daughter not of poverty but of wealth and a sheltered life. She admits that she has a fairytale life. That is, until visiting Haiti from their home in Miami, when she is abducted by a group of men seeking a ransom from her father. At first, sh...

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In her excellent debut fantasy novel, Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton sets us in a depressed desert village of miners and rough characters.  A wild blend of outlaw western and Middle-eastern based mythos with a dash of political intrigue, Rebel of the Sands engaged from the opening chapter to the closing pages, with a blend of well-drawn characters, magic, adventure, and a fast-paced, twisting plot. Amani, the narrator, is an orphan raised ...

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Neil Gaiman is one of the most reliably entertaining writers today. He creates worlds where the weird and magical coexist with the familiar and mundane world around us. In Neverwhere, originally created as a TV show, Gaiman gives us London, Above and Below.  The former is familiar, particularly in the everyday drudgery of the cubicle work world.  The later is the world where those who are unseen in the world disappear to.  And what a fascinati...

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Colson Whitehead first learned about the Underground Railroad as a schoolboy and visualized it being like the NYC Metro.  That visual is key to his tackling the horrific history of slavery in the US and the attempt of one woman to find freedom in a world that does not see her as human. Whitehead provides the reader with an all-too-real portrayal of slavery — starting with a short history of Ajarry, the main character Cora’s grandmother, from h...

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Any novel written in the first person runs the risk of a common, unremarkable narrator, far more than a third person narration. Part of the joy of reading Gruen’s Water for Elephants is the memorable narrator in Jacob Jankowski, particularly when it is the elderly version of Jacob speaking. He describes himself as “90. Or 93.”  The elder Jacob’s narrative is interwoven with that of a Jacob in his twenties. The elderR...

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Gregory Maguire’s novel transforms the world of Oz, expanding on Baum’s original works and most importantly, telling the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. In Elphaba (later to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West), we have a classic outsider. Her green color and manner set her apart, but so does her upbringing. As she grows up, her political activism again separates her and makes her a target. She is told she is cursed, and despite he...

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Emily St. John Mandel wrote Station Eleven with a more literary slant to her post-apocalyptic world than the bulk of end-of-the-world narratives out there. You won’t find many action-filled scenes of crazed road-warriors or zombies or gun-toting survivalists chasing down the ‘good-guys’.  There are no long explanations of how society collapsed. Instead, the story focuses on a handful of characters, before and after a plague t...

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Alexander Chee’s soaring rags-to-riches tale is set in the world of nineteenth-century opera amidst the decadence of Napoleon III’s reign.  Lilliet goes from farm girl who becomes a circus entertainer to the darling of the opera world, a powerful voice who rarely speaks.  The story starts at the height of her career and a man approaches her wishing to write an original role for her.  He insists that a composer, a protégé of Verdi, will write t...

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Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld et al.

Fiction , Reviews / July 16, 2017
Mix strange, difficult to control powers in with adolescent angst about fitting in, and an action packed plot and you have the basic recipe for a good novel.  Add in adult bad guys, less than great parents, and a whole lot of bad decisions and you’ve got Zeroes. Westerfeld, Biancotti and Canagan have created an ensemble cast of teenagers that have powers that seem more a burden than a gift.  There is Crash who can destroy modern technology but sees no positive purpose to it.  Anonymous is literally forgettable and faces an extreme form of adolescent loneliness because his power is that no one remembers anything about him.  Physically blind, Flicker can jump into others to see, but her parent is concerned because she refuses to learn braille.  The leader of the Zeroes is Bell-weather whose power is charisma, but it causes the others to ...

June Reading Stats

Reading Stats / July 3, 2017

Review: The Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg

The Paper Magician Series — Charlie N. Holmberg In The Paper Magician, set in an alternate turn of the 20th Century, Holmberg has created a unique magical world for the series.  Trained and licensed magicians work with only one particular medium among those available — all involving man-made materials. We first meet Ceony at the close of her education when she is to begin her apprenticeship.  Ceony wants to work in metal — to be a smelter. However, after completing magic school (all theory because students can’t perform magic until they bond with their material) she is instead assigned to apprentice with a folder — a paper magician because there are only eleven left in England. Ceony is not happy about it, but finds that she wants to please her teacher, Magician Thane. The set up is well done, and Holmberg has created a wonderful...

Why I removed thousands of books from my library

Reading Life February 28, 2017

Straight to book hell. On a bus. I am doomed by my actions. Yet, I am unrepentant. We’ve all broken a few of the rules of the bibliophiles, committed a few venial sins such as claimed we read a classic when we didn’t, secretly hated the book everyone loved, spoiled a mystery for someone (or ourselves — but I don’t get that particular kink). Some of us even belong to a more heretical branch of book devotees: e-book lovers, audiobook ‘readers’ o...

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Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld et al.
Fiction , Reviews / July 16, 2017

Title: Zeroes Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, Genre: Young Adult Publisher: Simon and Schuster Release Date: September 27, 2016 Format: Kindle / Audio Pages: 576 Narrator: Amber Benson Read Date: 09 July 2017 Told from separate viewpoints, teens Scam, Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, Bellwether, and Kelsie, all born in the year 2000 and living in Cambria, California, have superhuman abilities that give them inte...