New Releases Wednesday

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water by Zen Cho

Published: June 23, 2020 by Tor.com Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

Why I’m Excited: First off, the cover looks more like a painting than a book cover. I could stare at it all day. I was not familiar with the term “wuxia” when I happened on this book. But I looked it up and it means “martial hero”, so a hero of the martial arts. This just sounds so good! I want to read this so badly.

Sisters of Sword & Song by Rebecca Ross

Published: June 23, 2020 by Harper Teen

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

Why I’m Excited: The synopsis of this one made me want to learn more, so I did a little research. Turns out this book is an alternate history Ancient Greece. All of the gods/goddesses have left behind powerful relics that the Queen is on the hint for. Something goes wrong and Halcyon ends up charged with a murder. That sounds so good. And it sounds like a very good sibling story, where both siblings are good people who want to protect each other from the world. That appeals to me.

Review: The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

Published: October 1, 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Bestselling Divergent and Carve the Mark author Veronica Roth delivers a stunning collection of novella-length stories set in the future, illustrated with startling black-and-white artwork.

No world is like the other. Within this masterful collection, each setting is more strange and wonderful than the last, brimming with new technologies and beings. And yet, for all the advances in these futuristic lands, the people still must confront deeply human problems.

In these six stories, Veronica Roth reaches into the unknown and draws forth something startlingly familiar and profoundly beautiful.

With tales of friendship and revenge, plus two new stories from the Carve the Mark universe, this collection has something for new and old fans alike. Each story begins with a hope for a better end, but always end with a better understanding of the beginning.

With beautifully intricate black-and-white interior illustrations and a uniquely designed package, this is the perfect gift for book lovers. 

Review: Collections of short stories are a bit scary for me, as a reader. They are inevitably a mixed bag. I have never read a single one where I loved every story presented. Ultimately, all I can hope is that I enjoy a majority of them. This collection was so good! I would venture to say it is among the best short story collections I have ever read. Let’s break this down by story:

Inertia: I was thoroughly surprised by this story. I started out not liking it much and by the end I was sobbing. It was told in such a beautiful way and it was emotionally compelling. The basic premise is that in the future there is a technology to allow you to mentally relive memories with someone who is not likely to survive long and individually come to terms with the reality of their impending death. The main character is summoned to a visitation with her former best friend and their journey together is one of the most emotional things I have ever read. The story has stayed with me, even days later.

The Spinners: This story was not quite as good as the first. It was about a set of sisters, shortly after their mother was killed by an alien parasite. They have become distant as one has set upon a quest to exterminate all alien parasites and the other moves on and goes to college. But they are forced back together to take their mother’s ashes to the ocean, as she requested. It was an exciting story in parts and emotional in others.

Hearken: This story is the single best short story I have ever read. In such a short amount of time Roth manages to construct a world with so much beauty and depth. I perfectly understood how this world worked. It was such a great story that it left me breathless and speechless. I am still unable to accurately describe how much I loved this story and how how many emotions it made me feel. This is a world where bio-terror attacks are commonplace, most people don’t live past 50. But there is a music discovered in life and death. Every person has a unique life song and a unique death song. Hearkeners are trained to record and play these songs at someone’s birth and their death to commemorate their life. It was such a fascinating concept. It seems redundant at this point but it broke my heart and made me sob until I couldn’t breathe.

Vim and Vigor: This story was just okay. It had a very different tone from the first three, which is good because I had spent a good three hours sobbing through this book so far. It’s the story of a group of friends who have grown apart and are drawn back together by the love of a comic they all bonded over. It was okay but nothing to write home about. It was about someone writing a fan fiction, but it rather felt like one.

Armored Ones: Maybe it’s because I haven’t read Carve the Mark series (which this story is set in) but I spent a lot of the story confused. When I finally caught up to what was going on it was really interesting but I struggled to keep up.

The Transformationist: Apparently this is also set in the Carve the Mark series but a very different part of the universe. I liked the story. I found Otho compelling and I desperately wanted to see him get himself out of the bind he was in. But I felt the ending was a cop out, and it disappointed me.

Overall, it was truly wonderful, and I think I will go read the Carve the Mark series and then come back to these last two stories. Maybe then I will find them amazing.

Review: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Published: February 4, 2020 by Tor

Buy this novella at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review. Thank you NetGalley and Tor!***

This was a fun little novella and certainly a lot better than the one I reviewed from Sarah Gailey last month, River of Teeth. The biggest issue is that it was just so short. The hardcover is 176 pages and it came out to 99 pages on my Nook. There was almost no world or character building as a result. I liked the characters and I liked the premise but it had zero depth.

This dystopian world is one that is intolerant of lesbian or non-binary women. Some of these women choose to work as “Librarians” and deliver “approved” media materials for the masses. And they occasionally lead insurgencies and smuggle people to safer areas. But because of the lack of world building I have no idea why the world is this way. Is it just non-straight women that society objects to? What about gay men? What about transgender individuals? Are there racial issues there too? Usually intolerance is not limited to just one thing. Because we don’t touch on anything except that one aspect at all and since they haven’t explained the world to me then I can’t even make an educated guess.

Esther was a good character and I found her to be very sympathetic. Though it was a bit undermining to my sympathies that within a few months of watching her first love hang for the crime of having unapproved materials Esther is making starry eyes at the Assistant Librarian Cye. I felt a lot of deep emotion for Esther and her story initially. But then we immediately start mooning over Cye and I felt that sympathy fading because apparently she had gotten over it, so why shouldn’t I?

This was a good little story but I really wish it had been given more time and more pages. It would have been less tropey and been able to explore this world in a lot more depth. That would have only improved it for me.