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Zetian has always struggled to be the ideal of Chinese femininity.  She loathes her useless bound feet and how her family values her brother, father, and grandfather over any of the women. When her older sister becomes a concubine to a war lord pilot and ends up dead, Zetian’s rage focuses on the system of using young women to help fuel Chrysalises (giant robots that fight against strange alien creatures outside of human civilizations) and help young men obtain military fame.  Her natural mental strength propels her to the highest concubine ranks, where she successfully overcomes her male partner while mind melded and earns the name Iron Widow, a concubine who kills any Chrysalis partner.  How will the government react to Zetian’s intense abilities, and will she be punished for the crime of murdering a war hero?  Can a young woman from the provinces rise to power in a society that prizes city-bred, educated men over everyone else? Only time will tell.

Ghosts are a peculiar bunch, and even more so for the living who can see them.

Lorena Adler specializes in keeping secrets and using half-truths to keep the world from knowing her true self: an individual possessing the ability to utilize elements of both aspects of the ancient gods [the Vile (destruction) and the Noble (creation)].  Only the Queen of Cynlira is also dually wrought, and it’s a dangerous legacy to share.  Hiding as the undertaker of tiny Felhollow seems safe until extraordinary events bring the Crown Prince, one of the few Vile bound of Cynlira, to her doorstep, threatening Lore’s found family unless she agrees to help in his quest.  But she quickly learns that she’s not the only one who has hidden the truth and that sometimes the best way to save the innocent is by destroying everything.

It seems rare these days, kids and teens who enjoy reading. With the glamor of the Internet and cell phone apps constantly keeping us glued to our devices, there’s not much room in those hands to hold a book. Even rarer still is a child who wants to be a writer. Beyond that is the unicorn: a female pre-teen who wants to write horror.

I love history, so when I was approached to read the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of an anthology of historical fiction about the interaction of Viking voyagers with Islamic emissaries in the 10th century, I had to say yes. I mean, who doesn’t love Vikings mixing it up with the dynamic and powerful Islamic kingdoms of that time period? I do admit that having a Master’s degree in Arabic and the Cultural History of the Arabs did influence me a bit. But then again, it has Vikings.

Yan Ge’s hauntingly surreal novel, Strange Beasts of China, has been slotted under Science Fiction and Fantasy, but it’s a work that doesn’t fully fit into any single genre.  The collection of interconnected stories centered on a failed cryptozoologist turned pulp journalist resonated as modern fairy tales, and I loved how each new section about a beast of Yong’an added to the author’s world building to reveal new facets about the nature of humanity.  

I bet you’ve heard the name of Jack the Ripper, right? But have you ever heard the names of his victims: Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane? I’m sure most would answer no, myself included, until I read The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. As with many crimes against women, the male perpetrator grabs the headlines while the women are lost to obscurity. Ms. Hallie Rubenhold aims to do something about that in this well-researched book.

If Ungent and Shol thought they’d be off the hook after saving the universe from the Quishik threat probability, the multiple threads of time and space have other plans.  The Quishik’s prison is hardly infallible (especially when dealing with psychic beings that can harvest brain power/life), there are others who need Ungent’s sage advice, and Shol is trying to endure adolescence trapped on a space craft with a middle-age crustacean and an AI.  The mysterious Ootray continue to hold the key to . . . well, everything, but they don’t seem eager to be found, even though they’re responsible for the biggest threat to all life as the cast knows it.  All sentient beings need to band together to face the harsh truth that the Quishiks will be back, but can they overcome personal feelings and deep-seated beliefs to make a final decision?

Ghosts, djinns, and other supernatural beings inhabit this charming and fun alternate history/steampunk fantasy set in a Cairo, where the British have been expelled and Egypt has become a world power in their own right.  

"The Impact of Audio" review series will examine the impact that audiobook narration has on our relationship with the stories we love. We will be taking a look back at titles with which we may already be familiar, as well as exploring newly released publications . . . all with the goal of exploring how this vital form of storytelling connects us to the ways #StoriesMatter.

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