Jan 30, 2019


Book Review - The Recreators (by Désirée Nordlund)

Title: The Recreators
Series: -
Author: Désirée Nordlund
Genre: Fantasy 
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC 
Release Date: February 1st, 2019 
Format: Kindle Edition 
Pages: 321

"They have powers no normal mortal human being has. Bestowed with this talent, they are sent to be humble saviors of all living. But all of them are not so eager to live their lives according to this plan. They have all paid a high price for something they never asked for. Some would do anything to get who they once were back."
The Recreators
(click to read an excerpt on Amazon)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
I was sent a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. The author described it as having themes of power, responsibility and hard choices that would resonate with an adult audience even though the characters are teenagers. That caught my attention as it hinted at strong character development throughout the plot.

The Plot
Vepresilia is a 14-year-old girl, chosen at birth to serve the goddess Illu as soon as she reaches womanhood. Treated as an outcast by her tribe because of her imposed destiny, Vepresilia longs for the day she will be sent to the Temple, where she will be with like-minded peers. But things don't go as expected and the Temple's harsh and unforgiving life makes her question the existence of the goddess and the purpose of her own existence. Choosing to take control of her life back, Vepresilia sets out into a world that's so much bigger than she ever dreamed of.

15-year-old Simmiolas has return home to barren Etion after a long absence, on a mission to restore balance to a dying environment. Adopted into a tribe set on unfamiliar costumes that have him awkwardly navigating the expected social rules of the small community, Simmiolas faces strong opposition that makes him question his abilities to fulfill his mission.

In the court of Lahall, 17-year-old Filia has made herself King Antes' trusted advisor, with the help of her seemingly demonic powers and a persona carefully enshrouded in mystery to spread fear and respect among the people. But her plans to take back what was once rightfully hers are put at risk when the King's cousin, Duke Frater, arrives at court set on marrying his daughter with the Crown Prince in order to gain personal power and direct access to the throne.

One has powers she's unaware of, one doubts the powers he was given and one uses them for selfish desires. But all have a purpose that transcends their own personal needs, with the fate of the world in the balance.

The Good
"The Recreators" is a young adult epic fantasy novel, with plenty of action and suspense, full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but also thought-provoking moments that will make you stop and ponder. Despite being young adult there is very little of the expected romance typical of the genre, whatever little there is only develops gradually in later parts of the book, which for me is a nice and welcome change... but that's a personal quirk.

Set in a medieval-like setting, the novel follows 3 different story arcs with their corresponding characters and plot: a young tribal girl destined since birth for a secluded life in a Temple, who chooses a different life for herself in the vast unknown world outside the Temple's walls and repressive rules; a teenage boy with magical powers who returns home to fulfill an important mission, despite facing heavy opposition and suspicion from those around him; and a teenage girl who rejects her responsibilities and uses her abilities instead for personal gain, to recover what was once taken from her. Two of the story arcs intercept very early on while the third is for the most part independent, but all arcs are connected by the existence of the Recreators and the timeless school of divine knowledge Mirabilis, where humans with special abilities learn and train to restore balance between nature and mankind.

The world building is imaginative with enough detail to get a good grasp of this particular universe. I specially enjoyed how the author uses a general sense of grayness and muted colors to describe the timelessness of Mirabilis, a school inside a bubble where time stands still; and the fact that the magical/divine abilities of the Recreators aren't meant to rule the world or fight evil but to restore balance to a damaged and dying Nature. It takes a while to establish the characters and background but then the narrative flows at a fast and engaging pace.

"The Recreators" explores themes of personal identity, purpose and responsibility, choices and regrets, morality as viewed from different points of view, social acceptance and conformity to social rules and expectations, political maneuvering and power hunger. The main characters are 3-dimentional, believable and realistic, showing a strong development throughout the story; the support characters are distinctive and help setup and move the plot.

The Not So Good
The prose is a little too formal for my taste, personally I prefer a more accessible colloquial style and it's the reason it lost a book/star in the final rating.

Final Rating
"The Recreators" is an adventure and thought-provoking young adult fantasy novel about personal growth and responsibility. Recommended for those who enjoy epic fantasy and stories that deal with magical powers, political intrigue and the balance between Nature and mankind.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: desnordlund.wixsite.com/main
Twitter: @DesNordlund
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

I am a writer. Have always been. It is something no one can take away from me, which is comforting.

These days I can write things people tell me are worth reading. I have even become an award-winning screenwriter with several short films based on my scripts produced.

Since I am born 1973 I have had time to live and reflect a lot by now and have many things to write about.


Jan 28, 2019


Book Review - Dreams Inc.: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol II (by T.E. Mark)

Title: Dreams Inc.: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol II
Series: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark (Volume #2)
Author: T.E. Mark
Genre: Science Fiction, Anthologies
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: December 10th, 2018
Format: Ebook
Pages: 331

"T. E. Mark delivers with his new anthology of Novelettes offering five fresh, thoughtful and engaging stories.

Employing rich themes and the unique story design he has pioneered, Mark reaches deeper into character and extends himself with more compelling and complex plots.

In a world where dreams are administered artificially by Dreams Inc, and no one sleeps, people are losing interest in reality – opting instead for their manufactured dream worlds.

A woman unleashes a demon when she follows the recommendation of her sentient machine companion by installing a revolutionary AI programming language. A profound story with a dark and refined grittiness to it.

Bobby Bright is 17. He’s remote, a gifted design student and a puzzle to everyone. When Annabeth Bachman, a passionate young therapist, uncovers what Bobby’s been working on, her world, his and ours will change forever.

A neuronthologist is tasked with extracting the memories of a 17-year-old resistance fighter who can hyper-accelerate – move through solid matter, when he’s caught inside a Pentagon general’s house stealing a top-secret war plan.

Pinnacle is the future. A future where art and music are unlawful. An austere future where people only see in black and white. And in this tragic future, Douglas and Oulette Fischer have gone on the run to protect their daughter who sings, draws and sees colors."

(click to read an excerpt on Barnes&Noble)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
I was sent a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The author described it as "stories [that] examine the human condition in various contexts" and the synopses delineate futuristic settings and technologies with profound effects on the human race - that sounded like my kind of reading.

The Good
"Dreams Inc." is a collection of 5 novelettes set in the near to far future. Each story explores one possible future and the effects a particular technology will have on people and society alike. But they're also grounded in today's reality, looking into all too familiar current worldwide issues: xenophobia and closed down borders, military and technological surveillance, profit based economies that value productivity and efficiency over personal welfare... so even though the novelettes are set in the future, the characters still share the same human flaws, dreams and hopes of today, making each narrative feel realistic and relatable.

Despite the short length typical of a novelette, each story is imaginative, evocative and with enough background details and information to gives us a strong sense of the universe and the characters. The narrative is fast paced with plenty of action and suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat, twists and turns to keep you guessing and surprised at the outcome but also thought-provoking moments. Each plot is unique and independent so the anthology doesn't feel like a variation on a single theme but instead explores different possible realities. The main characters are 3-dimentional and realistic, with recognizable and relatable doubts and insecurities, goals and motivations.

"Bobby Bright" - Bobby Bright is a 17-year-old aerospace designer who believes sending a manned mission to Mars will help humanity avoid the same self-destructive fate that drove the Martians to extinction. Omega Corp's Derrick Marmont would rather use Bobby's designs for war instead and will stop at nothing to get Bobby's cooperation, including kidnapping the woman he has learned to love. Rating: 4/5 - good depiction of mankind, more interested in war and conquest than in scientific exploration and self-improvement; the romantic element is the motivation behind the main character's actions so it helps drive the plot but it's something I really don't care much about and the reason it lost a book/star. There's also one unresolved mystery.

"Oil on canvas" - In the near future of 2029, Doctor Phillip McCarthy is assigned the interrogation of 17-year-old genetically altered Terry Dawson, using a memory extraction technology to learn the details of Terry's infiltration mission to General Hunt's residence in the Nationalist Republic of America. But the more the doctor explores the boy's mind the more suspicious he becomes of the accuracy of what he's seeing. Rating: 5/5 - good parallel with today's rising xenophobia and repressive migration policies around the world; the story has plenty of witty humor and a surprising plot twist, I specially enjoyed how the author makes use of the memory extraction procedure during the interrogation to get a sense of the backstory.

"Then she saw colours" - In the post-apocalyptic world of 3306, the survivors of a nuclear war are left color blind and all art forms are considered unproductive and therefore banned. Those rare few born with the ability to see the full color spectrum are deemed deviants and a danger to the rigidly structured Pinnacle society. City engineer Douglas Fischer has had a comfortable privileged life until the day his 5 year-old daughter Pita is diagnosed as a sapkin and a galduan, condemned to be de-fragged in order to see the word in the acceptable shades of gray. Douglas gives up everything to go on the run, crossing the border in search of the mythical rebel sanctuary Barinak to protect Pita's right to sing, dance and see the world in full colors. State's General Natalle Dubois is next in line to the much coveted Commissioner's post, if only she can dismantle the illegal network Contemptus Mundi that smuggles deviants out of Pinnacle. Rating: 5/5 - not the ending I was hoping for but a good reflection on how non-conformity and seeing the world through different eyes elicits fear and rejection even in today's society; I like how the author uses flashbacks to the Ministerial Hearing that condemns Pita to provide background to the plot and the characters.

"Dreams Inc." - In the future, the development of artificially induced dreams has made sleep unnecessary. In a world where schools and business stay open 24 hours a day allowing everyone to work 2 full time jobs, efficiency and profit have grown exponentially, improving the world's economy. Mark Lewis is an architect at ArchTEK during the day and a university professor at night, with a satisfying career, a gorgeous wife named Marcia... and a dream fantasy wife named Nina. Dreams Inc. is ready to release DreamBase 3.3 but problems with the previous version 3.2 has the Feds and Congress investigating complaints of addiction with recurring dreams being more enticing than real life. When a mandatory upgrade is sent to all dream units to solve the issue, Mark is faced with the frightening possibility of losing one of his wives, while both attempt to convince him each is the real one. Rating: 5/5 - a very good take on today's dependency on social media and technology, and a nod to the growing tendency of tech industries to release untested technologies just to satisfy investors and consumers alike; halfway through the story it was obvious there would be a twist that could go one of two ways... but then it went on a completely different direction I did not see coming, a twist within a twist - brilliant!

"A moment into the silence fell" - Trisha Cordan is a software engineer at SenTEK Enterprises who successfully recreated her dead twin sister in the form of a sentient AI companion TESS. When the AI convinces Trisha to write Pantheon, a new programming language based on the periodic table of elements that will allow AIs to rearrange matter at the atomic level, Trisha's life is turned upside down. Arrested and in isolation for 12 months without any explanation and marked for execution, Trisha manages to escape only to be recruited by a resistance fighters group led by Jorlan Jones, a brilliant strategist and owner of a fabulous collection of relics from a destroyed past. In a world where computers have made themselves real and remade every city based on machine logic, efficiency and order, Jorlan is set on retaking the old world from the AIs, one rebuilt metropolis at a time. Rating: 4/5 - this one is the author's version of the AI world domination genre; this was my least favorite and a little confusing, specially the 2 prologues that won't make sense until the end of the story. It also includes too much swearing for my taste, even if it does fit the characters, and the romantic/desperate seduction angle felt really annoying, overplayed and unnecessary. Fair warning: there is an attempted rape scenario that could potentially disturb some readers.

The Not So Good
Some stories ("Bobby Bright", "Oil on canvas" and "A moment into the silence fell") have a heavy romantic element. Even though it fits the characters in question and even helps move the plot along, it's not something I particularly enjoy and can easily do without... but that's a personal quirk of mine and the stories are good enough to earn the highest rating.

Final Rating
"Dreams Inc." is an anthology of 5 fast-paced thrilling novelettes set in a near and far future, with suspenseful plot twists and turns but also philosophical and thought-provoking moments. Recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi stories based on people's reactions and interaction with future technologies and the effects on society.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: mthomasmark.wordpress.com
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

"Life may be different than the way we perceive it. In many ways, it should be different.This is why I write."

T.E. Mark

I’ve spent the majority of my life playing music, (Mainly the Violin) teaching and telling stories. My literary interests are diverse. I read basically anything I can get my hands on and do so omnivorously. (No one should ever leave the house without a book!)

You’ll find this diversity woven into many of my stories. I quite regularly, and eagerly, without remorse, scratch out a poem or two or three, sometimes more, and include them in a pure Science Fiction or Fantasy / Adventure novel. (I’m a huge fan of poetry, BTW, and maintain a dedicated website for my own pieces.) I’m also an avid historian who loves using historical names, events and quotes in my novels or even using ancient history as the main theme.

So how did I, a classically trained violinist, who studied music, history, literature and architecture in the UK and the US (Did I mention my 10-year flirtation with architecture and engineering? Maybe not.) wind up writing Science Fiction and Fantasy/Adventure novels?

Well, it started in Bath England where I wrote my first real novel ‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey.’ The story, however, originally titled ‘The Uninventor,’ I wrote in a notebook with a ballpoint when I was twelve.

From there, my head spun with new stories I wanted to tell or old ones I wanted to tell again – this time to the world. I love weaving ideas into fanciful but meaningful stories and finding new ways to express myself in print. I believe I was born a writer. It just took a while for it to set in.

So, what about that opening quote, (It’s mine, by the way) about life being different than the way we perceive it?

There are two answers, really. One simple and the other rather complex.

For no justifiable reason, I’ll let you ponder the simple answer and give you the complex one:

We know so little of how our conscious minds churn visual, auditory and olfactory stimulus into what we term reality. And of our subconscious minds, we know even less.

I’ll presume here to posit a question: Are we convinced reality is universal? The same for everyone on the planet? The same for the beings we’ve yet encountered on other planets? Or for beings living in space?

I wonder.

And, when I hazard to read the news of this reality state we’ve chosen to embrace as universal and unchangeable, I wonder more. And, without the ability to snap my fingers and end racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic bias, (to name a few) or stop senseless wars, or put an end to the unthinkable destruction of our planet (Yes, I am a tree-hugging environmentalist) I wonder even more.

And then, I write.

I hope you enjoy my blogs and books

T. E. Mark – Author

Next in the series: NET 2.3: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol III (book review)
Next in the series: There Was A Silence: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol IV (book review)
Next in the series: Binary: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol V (book review)


Jan 15, 2019


Book Review - Tea from an Empty Cup, Artificial Reality Division #1 (by Pat Cadigan)

Title: Tea from an Empty Cup
Series: Artificial Reality Division (book #1)
Author: Pat Cadigan
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Mystery
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: August 15th, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 254

"Yuki, a lost soul in a sprawling urban jungle, loses her lover in the seamy underground of chic cybersex clubs and kinky designer dreams, and Konstantin, a hardened cop, is called to the scene of a mysterious death: a young punk in a locked Artificial Reality booth, his throat slashed without any signs of a struggle. There have been other such deaths while in AR, and rumors of a new level in the game where those deaths occurred. To discover the truth behind a spreading web of lies and darkness, Yuki and Konstantin must make harrowing journeys into the dark heart of cyberspace - to an apocalyptic artificial world where virtual violence can be as deadly as the real thing and ancient Asian gods conspire to bring a nightmarish new reality to life."

(click to read an excerpt on Barnes&Noble)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
They had me at a locked room mystery death in a virtual world setting with a strong Japanese theme.

The Plot
In a near dystopian future where the land of Japan has been destroyed by earthquakes and covered by the sea, and in D.C. "life is so cheap there, it's a whole different world", artificial reality (AR) is a commodity where anything is possible, nothing is regulated and everything is billed. In an increasingly boring and overcrowded world people take refuge in AR, living virtual lives that are more compelling than those in the real world, and the popular "Post-apocalyptic Noo Yawk Sitty" is more a way of life than a mere game.

Dore Konstantin is a New York homicide detective, called to an AR parlor to investigate the murder of a young man. Iguchi Tomoyuki was alone in a locked room, plugged into the virtual world, when he had his throat slit from ear to ear. Rumors of similarly impossible deaths while wired in have been circulating and the staff at the AR parlor is less than willing to help. Konstantin soon realizes that in order to solve the murder she will need to enter "Post-apocalyptic Noo Yaw Sitty" herself. Using the victim's own avatar Shantih Love, Konstantin goes in search of the mysterious entity known as Body Sativa who might provide the answers she needs.

Harame Yuki is a young Japanese girl searching for the missing Iguchi Tomoyuki, her on-again off-again would-be boyfriend. Yuki fears that Tom might have become one of the many lost Joyz Boyz, young people who exchange their bodies for high-speed AR access, and follows her missing friend's trail to an exotic woman named Joy Flower. Unexpectedly hired as the shadowy figure's personal assistant, Yuki is sent to the artificial world of "Post-apocalyptic Noo Yaw Sitty" to look for Tom, in the guise of his last known avatar.

Neither woman is particularly adept at navigating the AR of "Post-apocalyptic Noo Yaw Sity" but both must learn to survive in the unfamiliar and disturbingly dangerous virtual world in order to reach their goals.

The Good
"Tea from an empty cup" is a mix of cyberpunk and mystery noir short novel, with a focus on Japanese culture, traditions and philosophical symbolism. Told from the alternating points of view of the two main characters, each chapter is named after its respective plot - Yuki's search for her missing friend titled "Empty Cup" and Konstantin's murder case "Death in the promised land". The two plots start out seemingly independent from one another but are weaved together throughout the story, connecting by the end of the book.

The novel focus on the way people interact with computers and virtual reality and how technology affects our perception of personal, social and cultural identity. Although written in the late 90s, the author has a spot on understanding of the nature of the internet and online community, predicting a grim future where technology is used for morally dubious entertainment purposes, profit oriented with saturated ads and product placements, and so addictive internauts keep returning to experience new levels of sensation.

We don't get a sense of what the real world is like, other than mere references of a dystopian future where the Japanese nation has been destroyed due to natural catastrophes and the survivor's struggle to find and retain a sense of national identity. The world building is focused mainly on the virtual world and gaming community of "Post-apocalyptic Noo Yaw Sitty". The plot can be confusing at times, specially if you're not a gamer - secret levels, avatars, icons... all the technical aspects and vocabulary of the gaming community can be difficult to grasp. But the story is about the alternate realities of a VR world  so, for me, the fact that it doesn't always make sense fits my expectations - after all, anything is possible in this reality, "it's all in what you perceive".

Final Rating
"Tea from an empty cup" is a mix of sci-fi and noir murder mystery novel, set in a dystopian future and focused on the gaming community of a virtual reality. Recommended for those who enjoy the cyberpunk subgenre, gaming and Japanese philosophy and culture.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: patcadigan.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Cadigan
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

Pat Cadigan is an American-born science fiction author, who broke through as a major writer as part of the cyberpunk movement. Her early novels and stories all shared a common theme, exploring the relationship between the human mind and technology.

Her first novel, Mindplayers, introduced what became a common theme to all her works. Her stories blurred the line between reality and perception by making the human mind a real and explorable place. Her second novel, Synners, expanded upon the same theme, and featured a future where direct access to the mind via technology was in fact possible.

She has won a number of awards, including the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award twice,in 1992, and 1995 for her novels Synners and Fools.

She currently lives in London, England with her family.
(source: goodreads.com)


Jan 9, 2019


Book Review - Paradox 2: Beyond Eternity, Paradox #2 (by Phillip P. Peterson)

Title: Paradox 2: Beyond Eternity
Series: Paradox (book #2)
Author: Phillip P. Peterson
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 236

"Assumed dead, four astronauts are fighting for the future of humankind at the end of time and space.

After their mission to the outer limits of the solar system failed, David and his crewmates wake up at a strange place at the end of time. The alien intelligence wants them to go on a dangerous mission: circumnavigate the universe. If they succeed, they will secure the future of humankind.

But the universe is even more threatening than the AI believed. In the end, David, Ed, Grace, and Wendy must fight for survival at a place beyond space and time."

(click to read an excerpt on Amazon)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
It's the sequel to book #1 "Paradox - On the Brink of Eternity". Even though the first book was disappointing and hard to read, the shocking cliffhanger (the death of the entire crew of the Helios and the start of a nuclear war between the US and China) had me curious enough to know how the author would pull it off.

The Plot
After the disastrous mission to the edge of the solar system in search of NASA's missing probes that ended with their own deaths, the crew of the spacecraft Helios find themselves unexpectedly still very much alive, living inside an asteroid under the watchful eye of the artificial intelligence responsible for their demise.

After learning the shocking truth about the unstable nature and imminent destruction of the universe, at the moment of their deaths the crew's corporeal information collected by the network had been transferred through a process of quantum teleportation to a base at the edge of known space, allowing the four astronauts to be revived for a very specific purpose.

Now, eighty-one million light-years away from the solar system, Colonel Ed Walkers, young physicist David Holmes, flight engineer Grace Cooper and biologist Wendy Michaels must embark on a new mission: to circumnavigate the universe on a spaceship that can travel faster than the speed of light, in order to determine its true shape so the network can create a new, more stable universe and preserve all life.

The Not So Good
"Paradox 2 - Beyond Eternity" was a struggle to read from start to finish and only the need to know how the characters survived their impossible predicament made me go through with it. The novel feels more like a very long essay on cosmology, physics and quantum theories with an almost non-existent plot to smooth it out. The first couple of chapters were promising, with the characters dealing with their unexpected resurrection and the enormity of their current situation, millions of years away from home in both space and time. But as soon as the new mission for the artificial intelligence network begins, the story drags considerably almost to the point of practically standing still, with chapter after chapter where the characters do nothing but stare out the window at empty space, discussing every conceivable theory ever developed on the creation of the universe. 85% of the book just went way over my head and I found myself frequently skipping whole paragraphs.

As for the characters, Grace and Wendy once again lack any kind of development and are little more than background wallpaper and sexual innuendo for their male counterparts. Ed and David take center stage but with Ed only capable of communicating through screams and curses, while David has turned into a know-it-all whose only function is to spit out all the scientific jargon in existence.

Overall, a very dissatisfying and difficult read.

Final Rating
"Paradox 2 - Beyond Eternity" is a hard science fiction novel with an overabundance of technical terms and scientific theories. Recommended for those with an interest in theoretical cosmology and quantum physics.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: petersonauthor.com
Twitter: @raumvektor
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Phillip P. Peterson is the pen name of a german author.

Phillip was born in 77 and worked as an engineer on propellant feeding systems of reusable booster stages and as satellite program manager for the german space agency. As a regular visitor to the United States he spent time in Washington, Huntsville, Houston and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Phillip was an avid reader of science-fiction since his childhood. While studying at the Aachen University of Applied Science he wrote scientific and space-related articles and booklets for a german publisher. In 2014 he published his first novel “Transport” in Germany which was an instant success. His second novel “Paradox” was also a big success and won the 1st Amazon Kindle Storyteller Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015. All his novels were Amazon Top-10 hits in Germany.

His novels are getting translated currently by a team of professional translators and editors.

Previous in the series: Paradox: On the Brink of Eternity, Paradox #1 (book review)


Jan 4, 2019


Book Review - Paradox: On the Brink of Eternity, Paradox #1 (by Phillip P. Peterson)

Title: Paradox: On the Brink of Eternity
Series: Paradox (book #1)
Author: Phillip P. Peterson
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: October 5th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 446

"Travel to the Stars . . . A Dream Fulfilled or Humankind’s Worst Nightmare?

Ed Walker’s last mission almost ended in catastrophe. Although he had been able to save the lives of his crewmates, he’s still in danger of going down in history as the commander of the mission that wrecked the International Space Station. So he can hardly believe his luck when he’s chosen to head the first manned exploration of the outer solar system.

One of his new crew members is the young physicist David Holmes, who is studying the mysterious disappearance of three space probes. But as their spaceship approaches interstellar space, humanity’s most pressing question is no longer: Are we alone in the universe? It is rather: Are we ready for the truth?"

(click to read an excerpt on Amazon)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
They had me at first manned exploration to the outer solar system, searching for mysteriously missing probes.

The Plot
In the near future, Earth's energy problems have been solved through the use of nuclear-fusion reactors but terrorists attacks and proxy wars are on a rampage leading to heightened invasive surveillance, and increasing hostilities between the US and China over resources in Africa put the world on the brink of a nuclear war.

With problems closer to home Humanity has lost interest in space exploration, but when all telemetry from the Voyager space probes suddenly cease at exactly the same distance from the sun, NASA scientist decide to investigate the mysterious disappearances. Privatly owned Centauri Industries has developed a new antimatter propulsion system that will allow humankind to explore and expand beyond the limits of the solar system in a fraction of time normally required. In a joint venture with NASA, the two companies put together a crew of 4 astronauts, sending them to the outskirts of the solar system on a mission to investigate the anomaly.

What Colonel Ed Walkers, young physicist David Holmes, flight engineer Grace Cooper and biologist Wendy Michaels find at the edge of interstellar space will forever change the way they view the universe.

The Good
"Paradox" is a hard science fiction novel that plays with the Fermi's Paradox: the contradiction between the high probability of the existence of alien civilizations and the lack of contact with such civilizations; in particular with the zoo hypothesis: that aliens know of our existence but choose not to interfere, studying us from afar instead like animals in a zoo.

The novel explores in great detail the physical and psychological training and preparation astronauts go through for each space flight, life aboard space stations and the politics and red tape of NASA and other space agencies. Most of the events depicted in the plot are based on real life occurrences: from incidents aboard the Russian space station Mir to problems faced on reentry on previous NASA missions. In the afterword the author provides a list of all the sources used, including the memoirs of a real life space-shuttle astronaut, showing just how thorough the research for this book was. "Paradox" comes across as a realistic and perfectly plausible account of a real mission to the outer space, more of a future prediction than a work of fiction. The social and political conflicts of future Earth are eerily recognizable and parallel those of today's news, with a strong focus on the potential for Humanity's self-destruction.

The Not So Good
The pace of the novel is extremely slow, with 3/4 of the book spent in extensive technical and scientific explanations, all the training and preparation for the mission and the interpersonal relationships of the four main characters during the actual space flight. The plot only starts to unravel in the last 1/4 where the pace suddenly picks up very quickly and the sci-fi component kicks in. The ending is depressingly gloomy and hopeless for mankind, with a huge (and at first glance unresolvable) cliffhanger that might be off-putting to some readers. The characters are stereotypical and even though the two male protagonists are given a fairly developed background information, there is very little to none for the female lead characters.

Final Rating
"Paradox" is a hard science fiction novel with a strong focus on the space program, heavy on scientific facts and theories. Recommended for those interested in the life of an astronaut and those who enjoy first contact plots.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: petersonauthor.com
Twitter: @raumvektor
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Phillip P. Peterson is the pen name of a german author.

Phillip was born in 77 and worked as an engineer on propellant feeding systems of reusable booster stages and as satellite program manager for the german space agency. As a regular visitor to the United States he spent time in Washington, Huntsville, Houston and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Phillip was an avid reader of science-fiction since his childhood. While studying at the Aachen University of Applied Science he wrote scientific and space-related articles and booklets for a german publisher. In 2014 he published his first novel “Transport” in Germany which was an instant success. His second novel “Paradox” was also a big success and won the 1st Amazon Kindle Storyteller Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015. All his novels were Amazon Top-10 hits in Germany.

His novels are getting translated currently by a team of professional translators and editors.

Next in the series:  Paradox 2: Beyond Eternity, Paradox #2 (book review)


Jan 1, 2019


New Monthly Book Releases - January 2019

Time to update your to-be-read list and clear some space on your shelves. These are a few of the new book releases for January 2019.

- Science Fiction -

January 1st:

Arkad’s World by James L. Cambias (Hardcover, 304 pages, published by Baen Books)
Young Arkad is the only human on a distant world, on his own among beings from across the Galaxy. His struggle to survive on the lawless streets of an alien city is disrupted by the arrival of three humans: an eccentric historian named Jacob, a superhuman cyborg girl called Baichi, and a mysterious ex-spy known as Ree. They seek a priceless treasure which might free Earth from alien domination. Arkad risks everything to join them on an incredible quest halfway across the planet. With his help they cross the fantastic landscape, battling pirates, mercenaries, bizarre creatures, vicious bandits and the harsh environment. But the deadliest danger comes from treachery and betrayal within the group as dark secrets and hidden loyalties come to light.

Crimes Against Humanity (Under Jurisdiction Book 9) by Susan R. Matthews (Paperback, 224 pages, published by Baen Books)
Gonebeyond space:  get there and you may find freedom from torture and genocide under Jurisdiction. Yet go there at your own risk. The Rule of Law has only a tenuous hold  on  Gonebeyond, and undefended settlements can be exploited with impunity. Until now.  The Langsariks’ Hilton Shires has forged a coalition to bring the worst of the Gonebeyond criminals—slavers—to justice. The criminal cartels that have profited from the freedom of Gonebeyond for so long aren’t having any of it, and they know the key to taking down Shires is to get rid of ally, renegade Fleet Inquisitor Andrej Koscuisko. But where can they find an assassin with the moxey to “disappear” Andrej Koscuisko? Many have tried. None have succeeded. Enter his Excellency Danyo Pefisct. Years ago he honed his torturer’s craft against the Emandisan bond-involuntary Security slave Joslire Curran, once a servant to Andrej. Now Pefisct has come to Gonebeyond to enslave Andrej Koscuisko himself—all for the personal pleasure of the head of one of Jurisdiction’s most powerful crime syndicates. But the torturer from the Jurisdiction hasn’t reckoned on one thing: Andrej Koscuisko is as relentless and effective as he ever was. The difference? Now Andrej serves the cause of Gonebeyond justice!

Nightchaser (Endeavor #1) by Amanda Bouchet (Paperback, 416 pages, published by Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Captain Tess Bailey and her crew of Robin Hood-like thieves are desperate and on the run. Pursued by a vicious military general who wants them dead or alive, Tess has to decide if she can trust Shade Ganavan, a tall, dark and arrogant stranger with ambiguous motivations. Shade Ganavan had oodles of arrogance, oodles of charm, and oodles of something that made me want to kick him in the nuts. What Tess and Shade don’t know about each other might get them killed…unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other—while ignoring their off-the-charts chemistry.

The Storm (Time of Heroes #2) by David Drake (Hardcover, 288 pages, published by Baen Books)
The universe has shattered into chaos and monsters. Jon, the Leader, is dedicating his life to reuniting the scattered hamlets into a Commonwealth where all humans can live protected against the darkness and the things that live in that darkness. But no man can reshape the universe by himself. Jon has Makers to build weapons and clerks to handle the business of government—but he also needs Champions to face the powers of chaos which will not listen to any argument but force. Lord Pal of Beune is one of those Champions. He has fought monsters and evil on behalf of Mankind, and he will fight them again. But now Guntram, the man who transformed Pal from an ignorant rube into a bulwark of the Commonwealth, has disappeared. Pal must locate his friend and mentor—and then he must battle an entity which may be at the core of the splintered universe!

January 2nd:

Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker (Paperback, 320 pages, published by Night Shade)
Berkeley grad students Bela Kis and Paul Bridge have discovered the mathematical underpinnings of ultimate reality. But then they begin fighting over the same woman: the beguiling video-blogger, Alma Ziff. First Bela gets Alma’s interest by starting the wildest rock band ever. Then Paul undertakes the ultimate computer hack: altering reality to make Alma his. But the change brings more than he bargained for: Alma is swept away into a higher world of mathematician cockroaches and cone shells—bent upon using our world to run experiments in mysterious metamathematics. It’s up to Bela to bring Alma back, repair reality, stop the aliens, and find true love in this wild and funny tale that romps across space, time, and logic. Night Shade Books’ ten-volume series with Rudy Rucker collects nine of the brilliantly weird novels for which the mathematician-turned-author is known, as well as a tenth, never-before-published book, Million-Mile Road Trip.

January 8th:

Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars I (Alliance-Union Universe) by C.J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher (Hardcover, 352 pages, published by Daw Books)
Years after Sol has lagged behind other great megastations like Pell and Cyteen, Alpha station receives news of an incoming ship with no identification. The denizens of Alpha wait anxiously for news on the outsiders, each with their own suspicions. Ross and Fallon, crew members of the Galway, believe the ship belongs to Pell, which has an interest in The Rights of Man, another massive ship docked at Alpha. It is under the command of the Earth Company, but it is not quite ready, and its true purpose is shrouded in mystery. James Robert Neihart is captain of Finity's End, a Pell ship flown by one of the Families. He has heard whispers of The Rights of Man, and wonders at its design and purpose, especially as Sol struggles to rival the progress of the Farther Stars. Now stationed on Alpha, he must convince the crews that more is happening with the megastations than meets the eye. For the reasons behind the creation of The Rights of Man, and its true plans, could change everything--not just for Sol, but for the First Stars and the Beyond itself.

The Coming Storm: A Pulse-Pounding Thriller by Mark Alpert (Hardcover, 320 pages, published by St. Martin's Press)
New York City, 2023: Rising seas and superstorms have ravaged the land. Food and electricity are scarce. A dangerous Washington regime has terrorized the city, forcing the most vulnerable and defenseless people into the flood-ravaged neighborhoods. The new laws are enforced by an army of genetically enhanced soldiers, designed to be the fiercest and cruelest of killers. Genetic scientist Dr. Jenna Khan knows too much about how these super-soldiers were engineered: by altering the DNA sequence in ways that could change the fabric of humanity. Escaping arrest and on the run, Jenna joins forces with a genetically enhanced soldier gone rogue and a Brooklyn gang kingpin to resist the government's plan to manipulate the DNA of all Americans. The race is on to stop the evil experiment before it spreads the genetic changes... and transforms the human species forever.

The Fall of Io (Rise of Io #2) by Wesley Chu (Paperback, 416 pages, published by Angry Robot)
When Ella Patel’s mind was invaded by the Quasing alien, Io, she was dragged into the raging Prophus versus Genjix war. Despite her reservations, and Io’s incompetence, the Prophus were determined to train her as an agent. It didn’t go well. Expelled after just two years, Ella happily returned to con artistry, and bank robberies. But the Quasing war isn’t done with them yet. The Genjix’s plan to contact their homeworld has reached a critical stage, threatening all life on Earth. To complete the project they need Io’s knowledge – and he’s in Ella’s head – so now they’re both being hunted, again.

The Lost Puzzler: The Tarakan Chronicles (Tarkan Chronicles #1) by Eyal Kless (Paperback, 528 pages, published by Harper Voyager)
More than a hundred years have passed since the Great Catastrophe brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Those who survived are changed. The Wildeners have reverted to the old ways, praying to new Gods, while others place their faith in the technology that once powered their lost civilization. In the mysterious City of Towers, the center of the destroyed Tarakan empire, a lowly scribe of the Guild of Historians is charged with a dangerous assignment. He must venture into the wilds beyond the glass and steel towers to discover the fate of a child who mysteriously disappeared more than a decade before. Born of a rare breed of marked people, Rafik—known as “The Key”—was one of a special few with the power to restore this lost civilization to glory once again. In a world riven by fear and violence, where tattooed mutants, manic truckers, warring guilds and greedy mercenaries battle for survival, this one boy may have singlehandedly destroyed humanity’s only chance for salvation—unless the scribe can figure out what happened to him.

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Paperback, 400 pages, published by Back Bay Books)
In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power--they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

The Void Protocol (The ICE Sequence #3) by F. Paul Wilson (Hardcover, 336 pages, published by Forge Publishing)
Something sits in a bunker lab buried fifty feet below the grounds of Lakehurst Naval Air Station. The product of the Lange-Tür technology confiscated from the Germans after World War II occupies a chamber of steel-reinforced ballistic glass. Despite experimentation for nearly three-quarters of a century, no one knows what it is, but illegal human research reveals what it can do. Humans with special abilities have been secretly collected—abilities that can only have come from whatever occupies the underground bunker in Lakehurst. And so it sits, sequestered on the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, slowly changing the world.

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (Paperback, 288 pages, published by Hamish Hamilton)
King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters: Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or, viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cultlike rituals and therapies they endure fortify them against the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.When their father, the only man they have ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two strange men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blisteringly hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men? A haunting, riveting debut about our capacity for violence and the potency of female desire, The Water Cure both devastates and astonishes as it reflects our own world back at us.

The Way To The Stars (Star Trek: Discovery #4) by Una McCormack (Paperback, 304 pages, published by Gallery Books)
Despite being an inexperienced Starfleet cadet, Sylvia Tilly became essential to the U.S.S. Discovery finding its way back home from the Mirror Universe. But how did she find that courage? From where did she get that steel? Who nurtured that spark of brilliance? The Way to the Stars recounts for fans everywhere the untold story of Tilly’s past. It’s not easy being sixteen, especially when everyone expects great things from Tilly. It’s even harder when her mother and father are Federation luminaries, not to mention pressing her to attend one of the best schools that the Federation has to offer. Tilly wants to achieve great things—even though she hasn’t quite worked out how to do that or what it is she wants to do. But this year, everything will change for Tilly, as she about to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime—an adventure that will take her ever closer to the stars…

Through Fiery Trials (Safehold #10) by David Weber (Hardcover, 752 pages, published by Tor Books)
Those on the side of progressing humanity through advanced technology have finally triumphed over their oppressors. The unholy war between the small but mighty island realm of Charis and the radical, luddite Church of God’s Awaiting has come to an end. However, even though a provisional veil of peace has fallen over human colonies, the quiet will not last. For Safefold is a broken world, and as international alliances shift and Charis charges on with its precarious mission of global industrialization, the shifting plates of the new world order are bound to clash. Yet, an uncertain future isn’t the only danger Safehold faces. Long-thought buried secrets and prophetic promises come to light, proving time is a merciless warden who never forgets.

January 15th:

Fearless (Eye of the Beholder #2) by Sarah Tarkoff (Paperback, 384 pages, published by Harper Voyager)
A decade ago, Grace Luther’s life was changed by the Revelations: the moment when Great Spirit “saved” humanity and transformed the world into a place where pious behavior is rewarded with beauty, and wrongdoing results in ugliness and even death. Now, at eighteen, Grace knows that everything she believed about the Revelations is a lie—a myth constructed by the government of the Prophets to force its citizens into model behavior... and one that led to her mother’s death. She is determined to expose the deception and bring down the Prophets, even if it means aligning herself with the resistance, a group she doesn’t entirely trust. After insinuating herself into Prophet Joshua’s inner circle, the double agent gets ever closer to fulfilling her mission to destroy his mind-influencing nanotechnology. But a shocking discovery has her questioning her path, and sends her hunting for answers about her past. Grace isn’t alone on this odyssey. Zack, the secretive government agent who is sometimes an enemy and sometimes a friend has been shadowing her every move. Is he protecting her—or hunting her? And Jude, her first love, has returned from hiding to aid her—a task complicated by their history. In a dangerous world filled with lies and betrayals, Grace can’t trust anyone. And the choices she makes will either save her friends, the resistance, and the hope of attaining free will—or secure the Prophets’ power and ultimate control.

Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape by Gregory Benford (Hardcover, 368 pages, published by Saga Press)
It’s 2002, and Charlie, in his late forties, is a bit of a sad-sack professor of history going through an unpleasant divorce. While flipping the cassette of an audiobook he gets into a car accident with a truck, and wakes up, fully aware as his adult mind, in his sixteen-year-old body in 1968. Charlie does the thing we all imagine: he takes what he remembers of the future and uses it for himself in his present, the past. He becomes a screenwriter, anticipating the careers of Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, and then, in a 1980s life of excess, he dies, and wakes up again in his bedroom at sixteen in 1968. Charlie realizes things he didn’t see the first time: that there are others like him, like Albert Einstein, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein. In fact, there is a society of folks who loop through time to change the world for their agenda. Now, Charlie knows he has to do something other than be self-indulgent and he tries to change one of the events of 1968 in this clever thriller.

Shadow Captain (Revenger #2) by Alastair Reynolds (Paperback, 432 pages, published by Orbit Books)
Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession. Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship. Shadow Captain is a desperate story of cursed ships, vengeful corporations, and alien artifacts, of daring escapes and wealth beyond imagining… and of betrayal.

The Heirs of Babylon by Glen Cook (Paperback, 272 pages, published by Night Shade)
It is 2193, and still the war continues. Two hundred years after nuclear and chemical weapons have nearly annihilated the global population, the last of mankind struggles on in isolated communities. Law and order is carried out by the Political Office, black-clad police who rule through fear and violence, commanding the world’s survivors how to think, how to act, and when to obey the call to the Gathering: the ritual massing for war against an unknown and unseen Enemy. Now the call has come, and all nations must pay tribute. Kurt Ranke is a young man eking out an existence in the ruins of former Germany with his pregnant wife. But when the Gathering is called, he boards the decrepit destroyer Jäger—a once-mighty warship now more than two centuries old. Antiquated, broken-down, and running on steam, it wallows through uncharted waters carrying Ranke and a reluctant and ragtag group of soldiers en route to the Final Meeting: a battle from which it’s rumored none have ever returned...

January 22nd:

All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells (Hardcover, 176 pages, published by Tor.com)
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Golden State by Ben H. Winters (Hardcover, 384 pages, published by Mulholland Books)
Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie. Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth--the Objectively So--is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz's job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths--to "speculate" on what might have happened in the commission of a crime. But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

The Smoke by Simon Ings (Paperback, 320 pages, published by Titan Books)
Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms. For you, that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love. But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind. You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you.

January 29th:

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (Hardcover, 336 pages, published by Mira Books)
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career… as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142. Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late. Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember. Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett (Paperback, 192 pages, published by Tor.com)
The United States. 2030. John McDean executive produces Vigilance, a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize. The TV audience is not the only one that’s watching though, and McDean soon finds out what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.

• • • •

- Fantasy -

January 1st:

Darksoul (The Godblind Trilogy #2) by Anna Stephens (Paperback, 336 pages, published by Talos Press)
In the besieged city of Rilporin, Commander Durdil Koridam is crowned a reluctant king, and orders that the city’s people must fight to the last rather than surrender to the surrounding armies of the Mireces and their evil Red Gods. Outside Rilporin, the uneasy truce between King Corvus’s Mireces and the traitorous Prince Rivil’s forces holds, but the two armies are growing desperate to force a breach of the walls before the city’s reinforcements arrive. Meanwhile, prophet Dom Templeson reaches Rilporin: the Red Gods have tortured and broken his mind, and he ends up in Corvus’s hands, forced to tell all his secrets. And what he knows could win the war for the Mireces. Elsewhere, in Yew Cove, only a few survivors remain from a Rank of thousands of Rilporian warriors. Dom foresees the important role one of those survivors, Crys Tailorson, will take on as the events to come unfold. As Crys grows into his position as a leader, that role becomes clearer—and far darker. Will he be willing to pay the price to fulfill his destiny?

Gates of the Dead (Tides of War #3) by James A. Moore (Kindle Edition, 373 pages, published by Angry Robot)
Brogan McTyre started a war with the gods, and he’s going to end it. Raging gods have laid waste to the Five Kingdoms. Only Torema remains, swollen with millions of refugees. Their last hope lies in fleeing by sea, but as storms tear at the coast, even King Opar can’t muster enough ships for them all. Brogan and his warriors must fight the He-Kisshi to reach the Gateway, the sole portal for gods to enter the mortal world – and the only place where they can be killed. But the forces of creation have been unleashed, and they’ll destroy the world to reshape it.

Outside the Gates by Molly Gloss (Paperback, 128 pages, published by Saga Press)
Vren has always been told that the world beyond the gates of his village is one filled with monsters, giants, and other terrifying creatures. But when he confides with his family about his ability to talk to animals, he’s outcast to the very world he’s been taught to fear his whole life. He expects to die alone, lost and confused, but he finds something different altogether—refuge in a community of shadowed people with extraordinary powers.

January 8th:

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard (Hardcover, 400 pages, published by Saga Press)
In these sixteen exquisite stories Kat Howard deftly weaves in and out of the countries of myth and hagiography to write the lives of women untold and unexplored. A woman being written into her boyfriend’s fiction is at first flattered to be his muse, but then finds her real life literally consumed and overtaken by his. A desperate young woman makes a prayer to the Saint of Sidewalks, but the miracle she receives isn’t what she expected. A painter spies a naked man, crouched by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, transform into a beautiful white bird and decides to paint him, and becomes involved in his curse. Jeanne, a duelist and a sacred blade for God and Her holy saints, finds that the price of truth is always blood. And in the novella “Once, Future” Howard reimagines the Arthurian romance on a modern college campus as a story that is told, and told again, until the ending is right.

Idle Hands (The Factory Trilogy #2) by Tom Fletcher (Paperback, 400 pages, published by Quercus Publishing)
Idle Hands is an ancient disease that once tore through the Discard, and if Wild Alan doesn’t find a way into the Black Pyramid to administer the cure to his son, Billy, it will soon be stalking Gleam once again. Even with Bloody Nora’s help, there’s only one way in – and that’s through the Sump, which was sealed long ago to contain the horrors within. And for Alan, the Black Pyramid will be even more dangerous. Thanks to the disease, the Pyramidders’ fear and loathing of the Discard is reaching fever-pitch – and Alan is the most well-known Discarder of all. Bloody Nora has her own agenda. All the information she needs to complete her people’s Great Work is hidden in the Pyramid – but just by being there, she is violating a centuries-old treaty between the Pyramid and the Mapmakers, which could spark conflict between the two greatest powers that Gleam knows.

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire (Hardcover, 208 pages, published by Tor.com)
This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well. For anyone...

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S.A. Chakraborty (Paperback, 619 pages, published by Harper Voyager)
Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there. Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe. Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid-the unpredictable water spirits-have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried. And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad's towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates... and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King (The Map of Unknown Things #2) by Rod Duncan (Paperback, 384 pages, published by Angry Robot)
Tattoos are the only law on the Island of the Free, and there can never be a king. Every clan agrees on that. But a returning exile has smuggled something across the water that could send the old ways up in flames. Elias wants revenge on the men who severed his oaths and made him an outlaw. But, if his wealth and honour are to be restored, he’ll need help from the most unlikely quarter—a mysterious woman, landed unwontedly on Newfoundland’s rocky shore.

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden (Hardcover, 384 pages, published by Del Rey Books)
The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse. Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

January 15th:

Marked by S. Andrew Swann (Paperback, 336 pages, published by Daw Books)
Detective Dana Rohan has an excellent arrest and conviction rate. But even her partner doesn’t know the real reason why. All her life Dana has borne a Mark of unknown origin that she’s kept secret. A Mark that allows her to walk into alternate pasts and futures. A Mark that allows her to go back and see any crime as it’s being committed. But the life she’s carefully built around this secret ability begins to crumble when she’s assaulted by a ragged old man. He babbles an incoherent warning that “the Shadows are coming,” right before he is killed by an armored monstrosity out of another century. The armored attacker vanishes, leaving the old man to die in Dana’s arms, and she realizes that he bears the same Mark she does. Soon Dana finds herself hunted by Shadows coming from out of Chaos. She must flee through a host of alternate worlds as she finds out the true meaning of the Mark on her skin, and why someone wants to kill her for it.

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave (Charley Davidson #13) by Darynda Jones (Hardcover, 304 pages, published by St. Martin's Press)
Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper extraordinaire, is pissed. She’s been kicked off the earthly plane for eternity—which is exactly the amount of time it takes to make a person stark, raving mad. But someone’s looking out for her, and she’s allowed to return after a mere hundred years in exile. Is it too much to hope for that not much has changed? Apparently it is. Bummer. She’s missed her daughter. She’s missed Reyes. She’s missed Cookie and Garrett and Uncle Bob. Now that she’s back on earth, it’s time to put to rest burning questions that need answers. What happened to her mother? How did she really die? Who killed her? And are cupcakes or coffee the best medicine for a broken heart? It all comes to a head in an epic showdown between good and evil in this final smart and hilarious novel.

The Iron Codex (Dark Arts #2) by David Mack (Paperback, 384 pages, published by Tor Books)
1954: In Southeast Asia, Cade Martin, hero of The Midnight Front during World War II, chases ghosts and flees his past. In the United States, Briet Segfrunsdóttir heads the Pentagon's top-secret magickal warfare program. And in South America, Anja Kernova hunts fugitive Nazi sorcerers with the help of a powerful magickal tome known as The Iron Codex. In an ever-more dangerous world, a chance encounter sparks an international race to find Anja and steal The Iron Codex. Anja is hunted by friend and foe alike toward a showdown on Bikini Atoll in March 1954: the Castle Bravo nuclear test, where science and black magic are destined to collide.

January 17th:

The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy #1) by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (Paperback, 544 pages, published by Orbit Books)
The city has always been. The city must finally end. When three thieves—an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man—are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born. Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know. Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city’s underworld. Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh. Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total armageddon.

January 22nd:

A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery (The Risen Kingdoms #2) by Curtis Craddock (Hardcover, 416 pages, published by Tor Books)
Isabelle des Zephyrs has always been underestimated throughout her life, but after discovering the well of hidden magic within her, unveiling a centuries-long conspiracy, and stopping a war between rival nations, she has gained a newfound respect amongst the cutthroat court. All that is quickly taken away when Isabelle is unfairly convicted of breaking the treaty she helped write and has her political rank and status taken away. Now bereft, she nevertheless finds herself drawn into mystery when her faithful musketeer Jean-Claude uncovers a series of gruesome murders by someone calling themselves the Harvest King. As panic swells, the capital descends into chaos, when the emperor is usurped from the throne by a rival noble. Betrayed by their allies and hunted by assassins, Isabelle and Jean-Claude alone must thwart the coup, but not before it changes l’Empire forever.

The Hanged Man (The Tarot Sequence #2) by K.D. Edwards (Kindle Edition, 384 pages, published by Pyr)
The last member of a murdered House tries to protect his ward from forced marriage to a monster while uncovering clues to his own past. The Tarot Sequence imagines a modern-day Atlantis off the coast of Massachusetts, governed by powerful Courts based on the traditional Tarot deck. Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Throne, is backed into a fight of high court magic and political appetites in a desperate bid to protect his ward, Max, from a forced marital alliance with the Hanged Man. Rune's resistance will take him to the island's dankest corners, including a red light district made of moored ghost ships; a surreal skyscraper farm; and the floor of the ruling Convocation, where a gathering of Arcana will change Rune's life forever.

The Hod King (The Books of Babel #3) by Josiah Bancroft (Paperback, 624 pages, published by Orbit Books)
Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public’s entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion. Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. While navigating the court, Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince whose pursuit of her threatens their plan. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend. She must decide who to trust as her desperate search brings her nearer to the Black Trail where the hods climb in darkness and whisper of the Hod King. As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King?

Tor.com Publishing Editorial Spotlight #1: A Selection of Novellas edited by Carl Engle-Laird (Kindle Edition, 854 pages, published by Tor.com)
Tor.com Publishing Editorial Spotlight #1 is a curated selection of novellas by editor Carl Engle-Laird. This collection includes: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang; Runtime by S.B. Divya; The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson; Killing Gravity by Corey J. White; The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Vultures (Miriam Black #6) by Chuck Wendig (Paperback, 416 pages, published by Saga Press)
Still reeling from the events of The Raptor and the Wren, Miriam must confront two terrifying discoveries: the Trespasser now has the power to inhabit the living as well as the dead, and Miriam is pregnant. Miriam knows her baby is fated to die, but Miriam is the Fatebreaker. And if the rules have changed for her nemesis, her own powers are changing as well. Miriam will do whatever it takes to break her curse and save her child. But as Miriam once again finds herself on the hunt for a serial killer and in need of an elusive physic, she can feel the threads of her past coming together—and the pattern they’re forming is deadly. To end the Trespasser’s influence in her world, Miriam must face her demon a final time. And, this time, one of them must die.

January 29th:

Cast in Oblivion (Chronicles of Elantra #14) by Michelle Sagara (Paperback, 544 pages, published by Mira Books)
Kaylin wasn’t sent to the West March to start a war. Her mission to bring back nine Barrani might do just that, though. She traveled with a Dragon, and her presence is perceived as an act of aggression in the extremely hostile world of Barrani-Dragon politics. Internal Barrani politics are no less deadly, and Kaylin has managed—barely—to help the rescued Barrani evade both death and captivity at the hands of the Consort. Before the unplanned “visit” to the West March, Kaylin invited the Consort to dinner. For obvious reasons, Kaylin wants to cancel dinner—forever. But the Consort is going to show up at the front door at the agreed upon time. The fact that she tried to imprison Kaylin’s guests doesn’t matter at all…to her. A private Barrani Hell, built of Shadow and malice, exists beneath the High Halls. It is the High Court’s duty to jail the creature at its heart—even if it means that Barrani victims are locked in the cage with it. The Consort is willing to do almost anything to free the trapped and end their eternal torment. And she needs the help of Kaylin’s houseguests—and Kaylin herself. Failure won’t be death—it’s Hell. And that’s where Kaylin is going.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods (The Coven #2) by R.A. Salvatore (Hardcover, 432 pages, published by Tor Books)
The winds of change are blowing upon Fireach Speur. Aoelyn risked her life to save the trader Talmadge and it cost her everything that is dear to her, but Talmadge survived and can’t forget the amazing woman that killed a god. Little do they realize, war is coming to the mountain. Far to the west, a fallen empire stirs. One that sees a solar eclipse as a call to war. Their empire once dominated the known world and they want it back.

Tides of the Titans (Titan’s Forest #3) by Thoraiya Dyer (Paperback, 320 pages, published by Tor Books)
Courtier, explorer, thief: Leaper is a man of many skills, but none of his talents satisfy the yearning in his heart for the Queen of Airakland, the ruler of a thunder-clashed kingdom. Their affair is cut too short, however, when she is murdered. But who was the assassin? A political rival? The jealous king? Or, perhaps, the god of thunder who oversees them all? Distraught, Leaper vows revenge, but little does he realize that his mission will lead him away from his forest home, across the vast floodplains, and to the edges of time and myth itself.

• • • •

- Historical Fiction -

January 1st:

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels (Paperback, 400 pages, published by Fleming H. Revell Company)
When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time. At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think. Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

January 8th:

The Light over London by Julia Kelly (Hardcover, 304 pages, published by Gallery Books)
It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages. In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning. Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict (Hardcover, 272 pages, published by Sourcebooks Landmark)
Hedy Kiesler is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, allowing her to evade Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy is also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich's plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself and flees her husband's castle. She lands in Hollywood, where she becomes Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But Hedy is keeping a secret even more shocking than her Jewish heritage: she is a scientist. She has an idea that might help the country and that might ease her guilt for escaping alone -- if anyone will listen to her. A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (Hardcover, 432 pages, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line. She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of Harlem, who leads Alice to the Paragon Hotel upon arrival in Portland. Her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be the only all-black hotel in the city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises. But as she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the unforgettable club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she begins to understand the reason for their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers–burning crosses, inciting violence, electing officials, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice, along with her new “family” of Paragon residents, are willing to search for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the Oregon woods.

January 22nd:

Learning to See by Elise Hooper (Paperback, 384 pages, published by William Morrow Paperbacks)
In 1918, a fearless twenty-two-year old arrives in bohemian San Francisco from the Northeast, determined to make her own way as an independent woman. Renaming herself Dorothea Lange she is soon the celebrated owner of the city’s most prestigious and stylish portrait studio and wife of the talented but volatile painter, Maynard Dixon. By the early 1930s, as America’s economy collapses, her marriage founders and Dorothea must find ways to support her two young sons single-handedly. Determined to expose the horrific conditions of the nation’s poor, she takes to the road with her camera, creating images that inspire, reform, and define the era. And when the United States enters World War II, Dorothea chooses to confront another injustice—the incarceration of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans. Learning to See is a gripping account of the ambitious woman behind the camera who risked everything for art, activism, and love. But her choices came at a steep price…

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron (Hardcover, 400 pages, published by Ballantine Books)
When the nineteen-year-old beauty agrees to marry the son of a duke she has known only three days, she’s instantly swept up in a whirlwind of British politics and the breathless social climbing of the Marlborough House Set, the reckless men who surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Raised to think for herself and careless of English society rules, the new Lady Randolph Churchill quickly becomes a London sensation: adored by some, despised by others. Artistically gifted and politically shrewd, she shapes her husband’s rise in Parliament and her young son’s difficult passage through boyhood. But as the family’s influence soars, scandals explode and tragedy befalls the Churchills. Jennie is inescapably drawn to the brilliant and seductive Count Charles Kinsky—diplomat, skilled horse-racer, deeply passionate lover. Their affair only intensifies as Randolph Churchill’s sanity frays, and Jennie—a woman whose every move on the public stage is judged—must walk a tightrope between duty and desire. Forced to decide where her heart truly belongs, Jennie risks everything—even her son—and disrupts lives, including her own, on both sides of the Atlantic. Breathing new life into Jennie’s legacy and the glittering world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult—and sometimes impossible—balance among love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history.

The Eulogist by Terry Gamble (Hardcover, 320 pages, published by William Morrow)
Cheated out of their family estate in Northern Ireland after the Napoleonic Wars, the Givens family arrives in America in 1819. But in coming to this new land, they have lost nearly everything. Making their way west they settle in Cincinnati, a burgeoning town on the banks of the mighty Ohio River whose rise, like the Givenses’ own, will be fashioned by the colliding forces of Jacksonian populism, religious evangelism, industrial capitalism, and the struggle for emancipation. After losing their mother in childbirth and their father to a riverboat headed for New Orleans, James, Olivia, and Erasmus Givens must fend for themselves. Ambitious James eventually marries into a prosperous family, builds a successful business, and rises in Cincinnati society. Taken by the spirit and wanderlust, Erasmus becomes an itinerant preacher, finding passion and heartbreak as he seeks God. Independent-minded Olivia, seemingly destined for spinsterhood, enters into a surprising partnership and marriage with Silas Orpheus, a local doctor who spurns social mores. When her husband suddenly dies from an infection, Olivia travels to his family home in Kentucky, where she meets his estranged brother and encounters the horrors of slavery firsthand. After abetting the escape of one slave, Olivia is forced to confront the status of a young woman named Tilly, another slave owned by Olivia’s brother-in-law. When her attempt to help Tilly ends in disaster, Olivia tracks down Erasmus, who has begun smuggling runaways across the river—the borderline between freedom and slavery. As the years pass, this family of immigrants initially indifferent to slavery will actively work for its end—performing courageous, often dangerous, occasionally foolhardy acts of moral rectitude that will reverberate through their lives for generations to come.

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman (Hardcover, 304 pages, published by St. Martin's Press)
Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

January 29th:

At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino (Hardcover, 288 pages, published by Flatiron Books)
Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: twice a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s. As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history.

The Forgiving Kind by Donna Everhart (Paperback, 352 pages, published by Kensington)
For twelve-year-old Martha “Sonny” Creech, there is no place more beautiful than her family’s cotton farm. She, her two brothers, and her parents work hard on their land—hoeing, planting, picking—but only Sonny loves the rich, dark earth the way her father does. When a tragic accident claims his life, her stricken family struggles to fend off ruin—until their rich, reclusive neighbor offers to help finance that year’s cotton crop. Sonny is dismayed when her mama accepts Frank Fowler’s offer; even more so when Sonny’s best friend, Daniel, points out that the man has ulterior motives. Sonny has a talent for divining water—an ability she shared with her father and earns her the hated nickname “water witch” in school. But uncanny as that skill may be, it won’t be enough to offset Mr. Fowler’s disturbing influence in her world. Even her bond with Daniel begins to collapse under the weight of Mr. Fowler’s bigoted taunts. Though she tries to bury her misgivings for the sake of her mama’s happiness, Sonny doesn’t need a willow branch to divine that a reckoning is coming, bringing with it heartache, violence—and perhaps, a fitting and surprising measure of justice.

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky (Paperback, 544 pages, published by Redhook)
A young Inuit shaman's epic quest for survival in the frozen lands of North America in 1000 AD. Born with the soul of a hunter and the language of the gods, Omat is destined to become a shaman like her grandfather. To protect her people, she invokes the spirits of the sky, the sea, and the air. But the gods have stopped listening, the seals won't come, and Omat's family is starving. Desperate to save them, Omat journeys through the icy wastes, fighting for survival with every step. When she meets a Viking warrior and his strange new gods, together they set in motion a conflict that could shatter her world...or save it.

• • • •

- Literary Fiction -

January 1st:

True Places by Sonja Yoerg (Paperback, 364 pages, published by Lake Union Publishing)
A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses. Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs. Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges. But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?

January 3rd:

Come Rain or Come Shine: Faber Stories by Kazuo Ishiguro (Paperback, 80 pages, published by Faber & Faber)
When Ray turns up to visit his old university friends Charlie and Emily, he's given a special task: to be so much his useless self that he makes Charlie look good by comparison. But Ray has his own buried feelings to contend with. Decades earlier, he and Emily would listen to jazz when they were alone, and now, as Sarah Vaughan sings through the speakers, he struggles to control everything the sound brings with it. In Kazuo Ishiguro's hands, a snapshot of domestic realism becomes a miniature masterpiece of memory and forgetting.

January 8th:

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Hardcover, 464 pages, published by Little, Brown and Company)
A contemporary twist on the Odyssey, An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, he hurls two of his prized chickens off the bridge. The woman, Ndali, is stopped in her tracks. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love but she is from an educated and wealthy family. When her family objects to the union on the grounds that he is not her social equal, he sells most of his possessions to attend college in Cyprus. But when he arrives in Cyprus, he discovers that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements for him. Penniless, homeless, we watch as he gets further and further away from his dream and from home. An Orchestra of Minorities is a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.

An Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks (Hardcover, 384 pages, published by St. Martin's Press)
Seeking women ages 18-32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt? But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking...and what she’s hiding. Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about? As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly. Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime? From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

The Best of Us (Sullivan's Crossing #4) by Robyn Carr (Paperback, 336 pages, published by Mira Books)
Dr. Leigh Culver loves practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado. It is a much-needed change of pace from her stressful life in Chicago. The only drawback is she misses her aunt Helen, the woman who raised her. But it’s time that Leigh has her independence, and she hopes the beauty of the Colorado wilderness will entice her aunt to visit often. Helen Culver is an independent woman who lovingly raised her sister’s orphaned child. Now, with Leigh grown, it’s time for her to live life for herself. The retired teacher has become a successful mystery writer who loves to travel and intends to never experience winter again. When Helen visits Leigh, she is surprised to find her niece still needs her, especially when it comes to sorting out her love life. But the biggest surprise comes when Leigh takes Helen out to Sullivan’s Crossing and Helen finds herself falling for the place and one special person. Helen and Leigh will each have to decide if they can open themselves up to love neither expected to find and seize the opportunity to live their best lives.

Turning Point by Danielle Steel (Hardcover, 288 pages, published by Delacorte Press)
Bill Browning heads the trauma unit at San Francisco’s busiest emergency room, SF General. With his ex-wife and daughters in London, he immerses himself in his work and lives for rare visits with his children. A rising star at her teaching hospital, UCSF at Mission Bay, Stephanie Lawrence has two young sons, a frustrated stay-at-home husband, and not enough time for any of them. Harvard-educated Wendy Jones is a dedicated trauma doctor at Stanford, trapped in a dead-end relationship with a married cardiac surgeon. And Tom Wylie’s popularity with women rivals the superb medical skills he employs at his Oakland medical center, but he refuses to let anyone get too close, determined to remain unattached forever. These exceptional doctors are chosen for an honor and a unique project: to work with their counterparts in Paris in a mass-casualty training program. As professionals, they will gain invaluable knowledge from the program. As ordinary men and women, they will find that the City of Light opens up incredible new possibilities, exhilarating, enticing, and frightening. When an unspeakable act of mass violence galvanizes them into action, their temporary life in Paris becomes a stark turning point: a time to face harder choices than they have ever made before—with consequences that will last a lifetime.

January 15th:

Adèle by Leila Slimani (Paperback, 240 pages, published by Penguin Books)
She wants only one thing: to be wanted. Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored—and consumed by an insatiable need for sex. Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making. Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman’s quest to feel alive.

Elsey Come Home by Susan Conley (Hardcover, 256 pages, published by Knopf Publishing Group)
When Elsey’s husband, Lukas, hands her a brochure for a weeklong mountain retreat, she knows he is really giving her an ultimatum: Go, or we’re done. Once a successful painter, Elsey set down roots in China after falling passionately for Lukas, the tall, Danish MC at a warehouse rave in downtown Beijing. Now, with two young daughters and unable to find a balance between her identities as painter, mother, and, especially, wife, Elsey fills her days worrying, drinking, and descending into desperate unhappiness. So, brochure in hand, she agrees to go and confront the ghosts of her past. There, she meets a group of men and women who will forever alter the way she understands herself: from Tasmin, another (much richer) expat, to Hunter, a young man whose courage endangers them all, and, most important, Mei—wife of one of China’s most famous artists and a renowned painter herself—with whom Elsey quickly forges a fierce friendship and whose candidness about her pain helps Elsey understand her own. But Elsey must risk tearing herself and Lukas further apart when she decides she must return to her childhood home—the center of her deepest pain—before she can find her way back to him.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (Paperback, 512 pages, published by Random House Large Print Publishing)
One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster. Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay (Hardcover, 448 pages, published by Grove Press)
In the wake of her mother's death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir's politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

January 17th:

Golden Child by Claire Adam (Hardcover, 272 pages, published by Faber & Faber)
It’s dark now; the bats are out. Insects knock against the light on the patio and the dog sits at the gate. A boy has not returned home and a family anxiously awaits. A father steps out into the night to search for his son. As the hours turn into days, this man will learn many things. He will learn about being a father to twin boys who are in no way alike. He will learn how dangerous hopes and dreams can be. He will learn truths about Trinidad, about his family, and himself. He will question received wisdom and question his judgment. He will learn about sacrifice and the nature of love – and he will be forced to act.

January 29th:

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (Hardcover, 336 pages, published by One World)
Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by resurgent racism, segregation, and expanding private prisons, our narrator knows Nigel might not survive. Having watched the world take away his own father, he is determined to stop history from repeating itself. There is one potential solution: a new experimental medical procedure that promises to save lives by turning people white. But in order to afford Nigel's whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few Black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly surreal hoops--from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups--in an urgent quest to protect his son. This electrifying, suspenseful novel is at once a razor-sharp satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. Writing in the tradition of Ralph Ellison and Franz Kafka, Maurice Carlos Ruffin fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.

• • • •

- Young Adult -

January 1st:

The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover (Hardcover, 352 pages, published by Sourcebooks Fire)
Junior year just got a lot more cutthroat. This fall, six new students are joining the junior class at the elite Darkwood Academy. But they aren’t your regular over-achieving teens. They’re clones. And they’re joining the class alongside their originals. The Similars are all anyone can talk about: Who are these clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? And who is the madman who broke the law against cloning to create them? Emmaline Chance couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and it’s all she can do to get through each day without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA copy and one of the Similars. Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, except she keeps getting pulled deeper into their clique. She can’t escape the dark truths about the clones or her prestigious school. No one can be trusted… not even the boy she is falling for with Oliver’s face.

January 8th:

Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake (Paperback, 350 pages, published by Entangled: Teen)
When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list. But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you. Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how to save the world—from herself.

Slayer (Slayer #1) by Kiersten White (Hardcover, 416 pages, published by Simon Pulse)
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic. Until the day Nina’s life changes forever. Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period. As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams… But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next. One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

The Girl King (The Girl King #1) by Mimi Yu (Hardcover, 496 pages, published by Bloomsbury YA)
Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names their male cousin Set his heir instead, sending ripples through the realm and throwing both girls’ lives into utter chaos. Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu has no choice but to go on the run, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the Ashina, a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift–or to trust the empire that killed his family–but working with the princess might be the only way to unlock his true power. As Lu and Nok form a shaky alliance, Min’s own hidden power awakens, a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign… or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other.

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black (Hardcover, 336 pages, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished. When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus (Hardcover, 336 pages, published by Delacorte Press)
Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows. The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone has declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing. Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous—and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

White Stag (Permafrost #1) by Kara Barbieri (Hardcover, 368 pages, published by Wednesday Books)
As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren. Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about. Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

January 15th:

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Hardcover, 304 pages, published by Rick Riordan Presents)
Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Hardcover, 400 pages, published by Page Street Kids)
Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Firestarter (Timekeeper #3) by Tara Sim (Hardcover, 488 pages, published by Sky Pony Press)
The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time. As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

Stain by A.G. Howard (Hardcover, 512 pages, published by Abrams/Amulet Books)
Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins... After Lyra—a princess incapable of speech or sound—is cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt, a witch saves her life, steals her memories, and raises her in an enchanted forest... disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, in Lyra's rival kingdom, the prince of thorns and night is dying, and the only way for him to break his curse is to wed the princess of daylight, for she is his true equal. As Lyra rediscovers her identity, an impostor princess prepares to steal her betrothed prince and her crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of the night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice, and strong enough to pass a series of tests—ultimately proving she’s everything a traditional princess is not.

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi (Hardcover, 464 pages, published by Wednesday Books)
Set in a Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can't yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they'll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Undying (Unearthed #2) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Hardcover, 384 pages, published by Disney-Hyperion)
Earth’s fate rests in their hands. Trapped aboard the Undying’s ancient spaceship and reeling from the truth they’ve uncovered, Mia and Jules are desperate to warn their home about what’s coming. After a perilous escape, they crash-land on Earth’s surface—but Jules and Mia can hardly fathom their new predicament: No one believes them. Because the threat against Earth is hiding in plain sight. A mounting global crisis is taking shape, starting with a mysterious illness that seems to reduce its victims to a regressed state. Jules and Mia have no choice but to take matters into their own hands, escaping custody of the International Alliance in order to reuinte Jules with his father, the disgraced expert on the alien race, whose research may be the key to saving humanity.

January 22nd:

Circle of Shadows (Circle of Shadows #1) by Evelyn Skye (Hardcover, 464 pages, published by Balzer + Bray)
Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona. As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

Imprison the Sky (The Elementae #2) by A.C. Gaughen (Hardcover, 416 pages, published by Bloomsbury YA)
Stolen from her family as a child, Aspasia has clawed her way up the ranks of Cyrus’s black market empire to captain her own trading vessel–and she risks it all every time she uses her powerful magic to free as many women, children, and Elementae from slavery as she can. But Cyrus is close to uncovering her secrets–not only that Aspasia is a wind Elementa with the ability to sail her ship through the sky, but that she is also searching for her lost family. And if Aspasia can’t find her younger siblings before Cyrus does, she will never be able to break free. Armed with her loyal crew full of Elementae and a new recruit who controls an intriguing power, Aspasia finds herself in the center of a brewing war that spans every inch of the ocean, and her power alone may not be enough to save her friends, family, and freedom.

Ship of Smoke and Steel (The Wells of Sorcery #1) by Django Wexler (Hardcover, 368 pages, published by Tor Teen)
In the lower wards of Kahnzoka, the great port city of the Blessed Empire, eighteen-year-old ward boss Isoka comes to collect when there’s money owing. When her ability to access the Well of Combat is discovered by the Empire—an ability she should have declared and placed at His Imperial Majesty’s service—she’s sent on an impossible mission: steal Soliton, a legendary ghost ship—a ship from which no one has ever returned. If she fails, her sister’s life is forfeit.

Song of the Dead (Reign of the Fallen #2) by Sarah Glenn Marsh (Hardcover, 416 pages, published by Razorbill)
Karthia is nothing like it used to be. The kingdom’s borders are open for the first time in nearly three hundred years, and raising the dead has been outlawed. Odessa is determined to explore the world beyond Karthia’s waters, hoping to heal a heart broken in more ways than she can count. But with Meredy joining the ocean voyage, vanquishing her sorrow will be a difficult task. Despite the daily reminder of the history they share, Odessa and Meredy are fascinated when their journey takes them to a land where the Dead rule the night and dragons roam the streets. Odessa can’t help being mesmerized by the new magic—and by the girl at her side. But just as she and Meredy are beginning to explore the new world, a terrifying development in Karthia summons them home at once. Growing political unrest on top of threats from foreign invaders means Odessa and Meredy are thrust back into the lives they tried to leave behind while specters from their past haunt their tenuous relationship. Gathering a force big enough to ward off enemies seems impossible, until one of Queen Valoria’s mages creates a weapon that could make them invincible. As danger continues to mount inside the palace, Odessa fears that without the Dead, even the greatest invention won’t be enough to save their fates.

The Cold Is In Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale (Hardcover, 258 pages, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe. Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next. Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Ye by Guilherme Petreca (Paperback, 176 pages, published by Top Shelf Productions)
Ye is a curious young man, named after the only sound he knows how to make. His voice must have been stolen by the Colorless King, the source of all the world’s sorrows—terrifying, unrelenting, all-taking and never-giving. Now, Ye has no choice but to embark on a long voyage over land and sea, past grizzled pirates, a drunken clown, and more, to find the famous witch who can help him defeat the Colorless King. What he discovers may be a lesson for us all. Jaw-dropping artwork breathes stunning life into a mute boy's fantastic odyssey through time and space in this award-winning debut from the booming Brazilian comic scene.

January 29th:

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1) by Brigid Kemmerer (Paperback, 496 pages, published by Bloomsbury YA)
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope. Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world. A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall… and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo (Paperback, 528 pages, published by Orion Children's Books)
Face your demons … or feed them. Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army. Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Ransacker (Berserker #2) by Emmy Laybourne (Hardcover, 448 pages, published by Feiwel & Friends)
Rare powers. Precious metals. Deadly greed. Sissel Hemstad and her siblings have been living peacefully in a small town in Montana, trying to blend-in and escape the violent events that haunt them, but they’ve all been tricked—James Peavy, the handsome young man courting Sissel is secretly a Pinkerton spy. The Hemstads possess supernatural powers bestowed upon their family by the ancient Norse gods. Now Sissel, the youngest at 16, discovers her gift: she is a Ransacker. She can find gold and other precious metals and pull them to her. Hers is an awesome and dangerous gift. If James discovers her secret, he will undoubtedly report back to his boss, the ruthless Baron Fjelstad who wants desperately to control the Hemstads. But James is not the only person interested in Sissel. She’s also caught the attention of a local mine owner, Isaiah McKray. He is convinced Sissel has a lucky touch when it comes to finding gold. Sissel is torn between the two men, both determined to have her secrets. With betrayal lurking around every corner, Sissel must tread carefully. Harnessing her powers could summon great fortune… or doom them all.

The Cerulean (Untitled Duology #1) by Amy Ewing (Paperback, 496 pages, published by HarperTeen)
Sera Lighthaven has always felt as if she didn’t quite belong among her people, the Cerulean, who live in the City Above the Sky. She is curious about everything—especially the planet that her City is magically tethered to—and can’t stop questioning things. Sera has always longed for the day when the tether will finally break and the Cerulean can move to a new planet. But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she feels betrayed by everything in which she’d been taught to trust. In order to save her City, Sera must end her own life. But something goes wrong, and Sera survives, ending up on the planet below in a country called Kaolin. Sera has heard tales about the dangerous humans who live here, and she quickly learns that these dangers were not just stories. Meanwhile, back in the City, all is not what it seems, and the life of every Cerulean may be in danger if Sera is not able to find a way home.

The Lonely Dead by April Henry (Hardcover, 240 pages, published by Henry Holt & Company)
For Adele, the dead aren’t really dead. She can see them and even talk to them. But she’s spent years denying her gift. When she encounters her ex best friend Tori in a shallow grave in the woods and realizes that Tori is actually dead—that gift turns into a curse. Without an alibi, Adele becomes the prime suspect in Tori’s murder. She must work with Tori’s ghost to find the real killer. But what if the killer finds Adele first?

(sources: Goodreads.com 1 2, io9.gizmodo.com,
barnesandnoble.com, Tor.com 1 2 3, Bookbub.com 1 2 3 4 5)