Review: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Author: Aliette de Bodard
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: February 9th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

I received a copy of Fireheart Tiger in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Aliette de Bodard’s latest novella, Fireheart Tiger, is a thrilling, moving, and fast-paced read. One that blends politics with duty, love, and the determination to do what is right.

Thanh has always been the quiet and thoughtful sort. A trait that became more pronounced after she was sent away to another kingdom. Now she’s home, and she’s struggling in her new role as a diplomat.

Not because she lacks the skills or intelligence, but because nobody seems willing to listen to her. Least of all her mother. That is, until a series of events changes everything. And it all starts when Thanh’s secret ex-lover, Princess Eldris, arrives.

“Thanh exhales, and leaves the room – though she already knows that the fire will come back.”

I cannot get over how quickly Fireheart Tiger flew through my mind and soul. It was a beautiful and compelling read – one that is certain to touch the hearts of anyone who has ever questioned their place, their loyalty, or their love.

Oh! I didn’t mention the best parts! Fireheart Tiger is pitched as a blend between The Goblin Emperor and Howl’s Moving Castle, but with a sapphic twist. So what more could you possibly ask for? And yes, having read the novella, it lives up to all of those promises. And then some.

Thanh’s narrative is delightfully written. It’s so easy to appreciate who she is, and what she is struggling against. More than that, the words themselves really do seem to flow across the pages.

I think that is the main reason why this read seemed to happen in the blink of an eye for me. One minute I was sitting down to read, the next I was blinking and looking around the room, as I had hit the final page of Fireheart Tiger.

So, was it worth it? Yes, a hundred times over. I truly did enjoy this read, and am looking forward to reading more of Aliette de Bodard’s works in the future.

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Review: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Author: Octavia E. Butler
Released: September 2nd, 2005
Received: NetGalley

3 kitties

Before now, I’ve only read one other novel by Octavia Butler, and that was only recently. Still, I just knew that I had to read her take on vampires. Seriously, I had such high hopes, even before reading the description of this tale.

Fledgling begins with our girl waking up. She has no memories, she’s hurting, and she’s hungry. Slowly, her functions and her memories return. As does her understanding. Of the world, and of herself. She’s a vampire, and she knows what that means. What she has to do to survive.

This is Octavia Butler’s take on vampirism, blending common tropes and elements known to vampire lore together with her own unique take and twists on the matter. Despite the vampire elements, this is wholly a science fiction story, as further reading will reveal.

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing.”

I’ll confess, Fledgling left me stumped. Mostly on how to review and rate it. On the one hand, I love that it surprised me. It has been a hot minute since I read a vampire novel that was more firmly set in science fiction rather than fantasy.

On the other hand, this novel made me fairly uncomfortable at times. And not for the reasons you might be assuming. I know that vampires can come in all ages and sizes – and that the way they look is not automatically representative of how old they actually are.

Still, it was off-putting to read about a young-bodied (read: child) vampire with an old soul and history. It’s a theme I try to avoid when diving into vampire books, so this is not a dig aimed at Octavia Butler. I want to be clear on that count.

“Or it’s happening because Shori is black, and racists—probably Ina racists—don’t like the idea that a good part of the answer to your daytime problems is melanin.”

Thankfully, Butler’s writing is still really amazing and impressive. Once again she managed to raise so many other elements and questions to the surface, and that made this read worth it. Even if I didn’t enjoy the parts I already mentioned above.

Fledgling is probably not a vampire story for everyone. Still, it did make for an interesting and emotional read. Just not for the reasons that I had anticipated.

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Review: Tricks for Free by Seanan McGuire

Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #7
Publisher: DAW
Released: March 6th, 2018
Received: Own

Tricks for Free is the seventh novel in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, and at this point, I’m completely obsessed with the series. This novel continues to follow Annie Price, the youngest of three siblings, and currently on the run.

Antimony Price is a lot of things, and for a moment there, she was an undercover agent. Times two. She managed to save a whole carnival from the Covenant, but at a cost. Now she’s on the run, trying to avoid bringing the Covenant and all its wraith directly to her family.

So naturally, she ends up in Lowryland. An amusement park should be the perfect place to mess up any tracking abilities the Covenant has. Likewise, we all know that her time there is going to be far from incident free. She’s a Price, after all.

It all started with one accident. Followed in short order by a surprise revelation, and even more accidents and chaos. Now Annie must be the one to step up, for whether she wanted it or not, she has been pulled into what is going wrong at Lowryland.

“There’s a place for everything, and everything has its place. It just so happens that this knife belongs in your spleen.”

Tricks for Free is a wonder fueled piece of chaos, one set in an amusement park of all places. While that may sound odd, it’s actually the perfect setting for this adventure. There is so much humor woven into this narrative, thanks to the hints and references strewn about. It made for quite an entertaining read.

Antimony Price is a character that needs time to grow on you, but once she does, it’s basically impossible to avoid rooting for her. She’s such a strong and stubborn character, and clearly she has a talent for finding trouble.

This is the first novel that doesn’t feature chants from the Aeslin mice (there’s a reason for that), and I was surprised by how sad that made me feel. Still, it is interesting to see what a Price can get up to, when they’re completely (well, not quite) on their own.

“Change is good. Change keeps us growing, and growing keeps us living. But don’t ever change so much that you forget who you used to be.”

It feels like with each passing novel there’s a stronger connection between the InCryptid series and Ghost Roads. Aunt Rose has certainly become a bigger thing, as have the references to all things ghostly. Personally, I adore it. So if you read Sparrow Hill Road, loved it, and are desperate to read more about the lovely Rose and all her adventures, definitely consider picking up this series. You won’t regret it, I promise!

“Ain’t no party like a pity party, because a pity party only ends when you bury the bastards who made you feel sorry for yourself.”

I adore that this novel took the time to explore a bit more of Annie’s magic, and everything else that makes her a bit of an oddity, even in her own admittedly very odd family. I know that the next novel (That Ain’t Witchcraft) will be following Annie Price as well, and I’m seriously looking forward to what happens next.

The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork is a short story included at the end of Tricks for Free, though ironically it’s actually set mostly before this book has begun.

It’s set sometime between Magic for Nothing, and Tricks for Free, and follows two series of events. The first one should be fairly obvious: the adventure two Aeslin mice (Mindy and Mork) must go on in order to find their way home.

The other follows the one and only Sam, a carnie brat who is determined to find Annie, even if that means dealing with her dead aunt. Yes, you read that right. If you’re up to date in the series, that sadly will make a lot of sense.

Both perspectives are a lot of fun to read, and the inclusion of this short did help, as the Aeslin mice are otherwise not present in Tricks for Free (I know! My poor heart). I also really enjoyed Sam’s perspective. Then again, I adore his character, so that really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, huh?

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Review: November Vol. 1: The Girl On The Roof

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, Kurt Ankeny
Released: November 5th, 2019
Received: Own
Issues: November 5, 2019

4 kitties

November Vol. 1 is a new series from Image Comics, with Matt Fraction, Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, and Kurt Ankeny all working together to bring the story of three women to life.

Three women, three completely different lives. The only thing that all three have in common? The violence that has found root within their homes, cities, and lives. All of which might just be the cause of one strange man.

First there’s Dee, an addict approached to do something…questionable. She knows the job is too easy, which means there’s something dark going on. She takes the job anyway. Next is the good Samaritan. She found something that didn’t belong on the streets, and tried to do the right thing. Finally, there’s Kowalski, a 911 dispatcher who has seen it all, and it wears on her.

November Vol. 1 is almost a tale that defies explanation and summation. The story that unfolds within these pages is unique and enthralling, and no mere description could ever truly hold a chance of capturing it’s essence.

One of the best features about November is that it is a tale full of noir themes, one that feels very classical in a sense. The story carries that sense of intrigue right from the start, doing it’s best to answer some questions, while leaving twice as many hanging in the air.

It’s more than that though, the slow building story is being told in three parts – thanks to these three women. It’s clear that they’re all connected, but not as clear as to the how and why. Naturally, things feel more than a little bit dark at times, and will likely get darker before the tale is done.

Despite all of that, I can’t seem to bring myself to look away. There’s something so compelling in the way the story is written, in the way it is illustrated. It keeps pulling me back for more.

The artwork in November Vol. 1Is bold and different. It’s a cross between a more comic book style (with noir elements) and a watercolor palette. Frankly put, it’s divine. I love how different it is, and it easily stands out in my memory. Not to mention, it is an excellent support structure for the story itself. The end result is something that feels retro, and while not being spot on for noir, it does work well here.

I’ll confess that I’ve already gone ahead and read all of November Vol. 2 – something I don’t regret in the least. I’ll leave my commentary on that one for a different review, but I will say that the series is worth continuing.

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Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Series: Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Publisher: Berkley
Released: May 4, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)

4 kitties

Before I begin my review, I just want to take a second to thank BOTM for having this as one of their monthly choices. Before it popped up on that selection, I legit had never heard of Arsenic and Adobo (shame, I know). Considering how much I ended up enjoying it, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to read it.

Arsenic and Adobo, written by Mia P. Manansala, is the first novel in the Tita Rose’s Kitchen Mystery. It’s cozy mystery series, which means that there will be a lot of death and light humor involved.

Lila Macapagal was forced to move back home following a pretty rough breakup. In her small town, moving away – and staying away – was about the worst crime Lila could commit. Now that she’s back, she’s facing several difficulties. But she does love helping Tita Rosie’s restaurant right up until a customer drops dead right in front of her.

“So even though I was an only child, I had enough godmothers, cousins, aunties, and uncles to populate a small village. Or at least a relatively small town that began to feel smaller and more suffocating the older I got.”

First, can we just take a minute to talk about that cover? I sincerely think that I would have read this book for the cover alone, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. It’s fun and quirky and tells me a lot about this mystery series.

I am pleased to announce that the content inside lives up to the expectations set by that cover. Arsenic and Adobo is a light, entertaining, and sometimes comical novel following a series of crimes in a very small town. While it did have some darker moments (a guy did die, after all), overall, it really does fit into the ‘cozy mystery’ theme.

I really loved Lila’s perspective and all the struggles she seemed to keep coming up against. However, I’ll confess that I’m more than curious to see what sort of events will happen in the next novel. Is Shady Palms going to be the next Cabot Cove?

Regardless of your feelings for Cabot Cove, if you’re looking for a cozy mystery with endearing characters, go check out Arsenic and Adobo!

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Review: Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson

Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility
Author: Lauren Edmondson
Publisher: Graydon House
Released: February 9th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

I received a copy of Ladies of the House in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Are you a fan of everything Jane Austen? Do you love seeing modern retellings of her works? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, you’re going to want to check out Ladies of the House, by Lauren Edmondson. It’s a modern-day retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and it’s guaranteed to move any Austen fan out there.

Daisy Richardson has had to deal with quite a lot of surprises, as of late. First, the sudden passing of her father. Then, the revelation of all his secrets – which hit the public before her family ever had a chance to cope.

Now she and the rest of the family are struggling to keep themselves together, while avoiding all of the mess and drama that these changes have wrought. In the times of internet and cell phones, that is a feat easier said than done.

“No longer caring about propriety, I held up the phone so they could see the latest Times news alert on my screen. Gasps, perhaps from them or from others, echoed in the room, one after the next.”

Ladies of the House is one of those retellings that will hit you right in the feels. At least, that is certainly what it did for me. It was impossible not to read about the Richardson ladies and not feel for their struggles.

The added context of the modern world both helped and hindered their case, in a delightfully complex turn of events. On the one hand, it’s easy to picture how technology would accelerate the drama and shame of the whole situation.

On the other hand, there’s this darker sense of politics and fortune that can’t be ignored, and it adds a whole new level of subtext to what this one family went through. For good and for ill, it does change the story quite a bit.

All things considered, this has got to be one of the better retellings that I’ve read, especially in regards to Jane Austen’s works. I strongly recommend Ladies of the House to anybody out there that struggled with the original (Sense and Sensibility), as this one should help to connect any of those missing pieces from your previous attempts.

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Review: Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: January 19th, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Death, animal death

I received a copy of Remote Control in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Nnedi Okorafor has done it again. She’s created another thrilling science fiction read, and she’s done so with elegance and intelligence. Remote Control is a dark yet surprisingly brilliant novella, one that I can’t recommend enough.

There was a time when Fatima considered herself a normal girl. Those days are gone. Her name is gone now. It has been ever since Death crossed her path. Now she carries it with her, bringing it to those that ask for it – and sometimes those that deserve it, but won’t ask for it.

When she lost her name, she took up another one. Sankofa. Now she and her best (and only) friend, a little fox, travel the country following a trail that only she can spot. But to what end?

“Sankofa smiled, glad that he had not run like his sister. She hated when that happened. It always made her feel that ache she worked so hard to mute.”

Remote Control was such a compelling and intense read, it’s almost difficult to find words to explain how much I loved it. Needless to say, Nnedi Okorafor has once again succeeded in knocking my socks off.

Sankofa’s story is heartbreaking yet beautiful, in ways that are compelling and so utterly human. All while portraying something that for many, should feel anything but. It’s all the evidence needed to prove Okorafor’s mastery in writing.

This is a novella that will gut you, tear out your heart, and then stomp on it. All before placing it gently back in your chest. After all of that – you will thank it for the experience. It’s that powerful, and that stunning.

I love all the thoughts and feelings that were explored over the course of this story. Her journey is a more literal one than many of us will face, and yet there is something so inescapable about the concept.

All things considered, I find myself desperately hoping that Remote Control is only the start of Sankofa’s adventures. I want to read more. No, I need to read more, about this one girl and her forever companion.

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Review: Rogue: Untouched by Alisa Kwitney

Series: Marvel Aconyte Novel
Author: Alisa Kwitney
Publisher: Aconyte
Released: May 4, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Rogue: Untouched, written by Alisa Kwitney, is the latest Marvel Aconyte novel (be sure to also check out Domino and Elsa Bloodstone’s books!), and it follows one of my favorite heroes from the X-Men franchise.

Rogue is pretty used to having a less-than-ideal life. She lives alone, in a crummy cabin, and makes the best of both it and her job as a waitress. That might have been the only life she ever knew, if not for a few strange appearances in town.

Now, suddenly Rogue is wrapped up in a dangerous world, one that looks to take advantage of and alter mutants. Rogue is going to be forced to come to terms with the truth about herself if she wants to have any chance of surviving what is about to come.

“I’m a ticker off Southern woman, hoss. Cross me and I’ll shruck your rocky mountain oysters and stuff them down your throat.”

Rogue: Untouched was such a blast to read, and I sincerely think that any fan of the character will enjoy this take on her world. To be clear, this is not the same Rogue from the comics or the movies. Yes, the foundational elements are all there, but the experiences are different. So if you’re looking for a comic/movie adaptation, this isn’t it.

There are a lot of fun twists and turns in this novel, many of which cover the basic elements of Rogue’s backstory. The not-so-great childhood, the appearance of her powers (which she didn’t really know or understand, especially at first), and then a trainwreck situation that pulls her into the world of mutants.

There’s a lot to take in here, especially for newer fans. But I think that Alisa Kwitney did an excellent job of making her story approachable here, as well as making a point of having a few different elements thrown into the mix.

It was a fun and quick read, and I’m happy that I took the time to read it. I don’t know if this will be the end of Rogue’s story as far as these novels are concerned, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing where the story goes from here. There’s so much potential (obviously).

Thanks to Aconyte and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #6
Publisher: DAW
Released: March 7th, 2017
Received: Own

Magic for Nothing is the sixth novel in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, an amazing series that I wish I had picked up so much sooner! This time around, we’re switching to another member of the Price family: Antimony, aka Annie, Price.

Annie is the youngest of three in one of the quirkiest families around. While she frequently feels overshadowed by her elder siblings, Annie has found a few loves all on her own. Her love of roller derby, and her love of traps, for example.

Well, once again she’s feeling that sting, as she’s going to be the sibling cleaning up after Verity’s…well her mistake. Verity declared war on the Covenant of St. George, and only Annie has the looks to pass off an undercover operation.

So instead of continuing to find her own path in life, instead Annie is going to get sent to the most dangerous place on the planet for a Price to be. Right at home with all of the xenophobic zealots that want to eliminate her family and everything that isn’t considered to be human. Just great.

“I WAS DONE. No. That wasn’t quite right. I was a hundred miles past done, cresting into the Fjords of Nope, heading for Fuck-That-Ville.”

Magic for Nothing is the first novel from Annie’s perspective, and there’s a bit of a shock that comes with that. And a lot of excitement too – she’s just as talented as her siblings, when it comes to getting into insane situations and somehow surviving them.

Out of all the Price children, Annie seems to be the standout sibling. Her personality is loud, and she’s totally not afraid to speak her mind. Even when that involves talking down about her family. That was a bit of a surprise to read, since we’ve seen so much of Verity and Alex by this point.

Still, I loved the change in both perspective and scenery. Annie’s world brings us closer to the carnival style, as her background leans heavily in that direction. It made for another fun adventure, though this time there’s a lot more at stake.

“The history of the human race has been one long quest to find new, novel things, and then kill, eat, or enslave them. There’s a reason the aliens haven’t made an appearance yet, is what I’m saying.”

So in this book we have Annie and all her sass, check. An infiltration of the Covenant of St. George, check. InCryptids galore, check. A secondary undercover mission, which brings her to a carnival, check. Aeslin mice, check. Oh! And a potential romantic subplot! Apparently that is a surprise for everyone, Annie included. So, in short, this book has everything, and will be perfect for fans of Seanan McGuire, and especially fans of the series.

“When your back’s to the wall, just remember: you’re allowed to take those bastards with you.”

Actually, saying Annie has sass is a bit of an understatement. This girl is perfectly capable of taking on the world, and she’ll tell the world what she thinks of it at the same time. It took a while to get used to that sharper personality, but once I did, I really enjoyed her story. Luckily for me, the next two novels (Tricks for Free and That Ain’t Witchcraft) are also focused on Annie! Time to dive on in.

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Review: Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Pere Perez
Released: July 17th, 2018
Received: Own
Issues: Rogue & Gambit 1-5

4 1/2 kitties

It’s time to talk about one of Marvel’s best (in my opinion) couples: Rogue & Gambit. This entire volume, Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire, celebrates their rich and complex history, not to mention the strong dynamics between the two.

Rogue and Gambit have been assigned to go undercover in order to find out what happened to some missing mutants. Naturally, they’re not too keen in this assignment, or the fact that they have to work together.

Granted, it might be the fact that they have to pretend to be a couple – despite the fact that they are very painfully not a couple any longer. Still, when others are missing, heroes must overlook their personal problems. Mostly.

Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire is a fantastic read, regardless of how much you know about this amazing couple. If you’re new to the ship, jumping on board here is a great call. Likewise, if you’re a longstanding fan of the two…well you’ve probably already read this graphic novel by this point.

Honestly, this read is so much fun. That’s the best way to put it. The drama and tension between these two characters are palpable. That and Kelly Thompson really knows how to portray these two (okay, I might be biased there, since I adore most of her writing).

As a relatively new recruit to this ship, I have to say that this volume is pure gold. It showcases all of the potential and past that they have, while building up for something more. All while dealing with the main plot – of mutants going missing. It’s a lot, and yet it never feels rushed.

If anything, I never wanted it to end. I should probably mention that the idea of these two heading off to a couples/therapy retreat has caused no end of amusement for me. I know that I’m not the only one that feels that way.

The action is fun and dangerous, the comebacks are on-point (I mean, this is Rogue we’re talking about), and the tension is real. Altogether, it makes for a great read – and that’s all before taking the artwork into account.

On that note, Pere Perez clearly had a lot of fun creating this volume, and it shows in the artwork. It’s in the way our leading couple reacts to one another, and thousands of other scenes. That final combat scene in particular will be sticking in my memory for quite some time.

One thing I can tell you about Rogue & Gambit: Ring of Fire is that it made me want to go and read every other piece of Rogue/Gambit literature out there. So if you have any recommendations, feel free to share!

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