The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

Source: Goodreads

January Scaller has spent the majority of her life within the grounds of Locke House, her only glimpses of the outside world contained within cars, trains, and ships at the side of Mr. Locke on a rare field trip. Raised in her father’s absence to be good and obedient, intelligent and quiet, January has tried her best to fit the mold laid out before her. However, even Mr. Locke’s company cannot completely erase her obvious heritage, on full display in the shade of her skin and the unruliness of her hair. Nor can all of Mr. Locke’s nurturing completely block out her inherent nature – to wander, run wild, and dream as if her life depended upon it.

January’s journey is told in alternating chapters between her life and the stories she reads in a mysterious book, The Ten Thousand Doors. While eventually this story-weaving pays off, it does mean that the first 125 pages were all character introduction and world building, which was interesting intellectually, but not gripping. I actually flipped ahead to see if it got more interesting a couple times, despite many friends telling me the book was really great. There is a marked difference between the first 125 pages and the following 235 pages. Once the story gets going it moves well and everything weaves together beautifully. If I hadn’t flipped ahead, I definitely would’ve been at least a little surprised by the twists the story took, and even after I knew they were coming, they still made me tear up. Ultimately, that’s what pushed me to a higher rating. If I hadn’t gotten so bogged down in the beginning of the book, this would easily have been a five star read. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space when I started it – it was the middle of finals, after all – but by the end I was firmly invested in January’s journey and the 10,000 doors.

Shout out to my friend Taylor for lending me her copy, and also for making this her staff pick at our bookstore! I hope many, many readers get the chance to visit January and reignite their imaginations.


HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Notes:
*Off-page animal cruelty, but the animal is ultimately fine*
**This book alludes to physical intimacy, but doesn’t contain any explicit scenes, so it’s a great option for your teen who loves fantasy but isn’t ready for those scenes yet.**

Heart of Iron (Heart of Iron, #1) – Ashley Poston

Source: Goodreads

Ana and Di were found floating in an escape pod seven years ago, with no memories of what came before. They’ve built their own family out of Captain Siege’s misfit pirate crew, beings from all parts of the galaxy, ravaged by plague and run out by oppression. To Ana and Di, they are perfect. They are home. But Di, an illegal robot called a Metal, has started to glitch, and Ana will risk just about anything to avoid losing her best friend in the universe.

Robbert Valerio lost his father in the Metal rebellion that also took away The Iron Kingdom’s royal family. As the celestial convergence approaches, and with it the crowning of a new emperor, Robb finds new information that could be the key to finding his father. The possible proof that he survived the rebellion after all is too much to ignore, and Robb begins the hunt for truth.

As the luck of the goddess would have it, the search for an answer to Di’s glitching leads Ana right to Robb, and the two realize that there could be a lot more aboard the mysterious ship Tsarina than each originally imagined.

This whirlwind adventure takes the old-as-time story of Anastasia and launches it into space, where it takes on a life of its own. Multiple races from across the universe find danger, hope, and love (in many forms), in this interstellar saga. Poston does a fantastic job of world building through her characters’ eyes, showing the reader the world as they see it, rather than info-dumping huge amounts of data abut space colonies and future-world-orders. With plenty of nods to all the Sci-Fi stories of our youth, this book was a delight form start to finish. I, personally, cannot wait for the second and final book in this duology to be published next month.

This is one of those books that is definitely YA – the characters are mostly in their late teens – but also appeals to readers of just about any age. So far, there’s nothing inappropriate for younger readers either, so barring anything happening in the second book, this one would be safe for precocious younger readers who’ve exhausted everything else in the middle grade range.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 2 – Soul of Stars (Book available July 23rd, Review available August 13th)

Other reviews for this author:
Once Upon A Con, Book 1 – Geekerella
Once Upon A Con, Book 2 – The Princess and The Fan Girl (Review Coming Soon!)

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark

Source: Goodreads

In Cairo, 1912, Agent Hamed and his new partner Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, have a case on their hands. The Superintendent of Tram Safety and Maintenance at the largest hub in the city – Ramses station – insists that one of his tram cars is haunted. Ever since the space between the human world and the spirit world of the Djinn was perforated, The Ministry has been in charge of dealing with any uncanny police matters, which also, occasionally, includes hauntings. But Tram Car 015 is no normal haunting, and it will take all of the agents’ faculties to find a way to exorcise this spirit.

The steampunk-like setting for this story is beautifully imagined, and the suffragist movement created added depth to the world and its characters that I didn’t know I needed, but which absolutely made the story what it is. Deeply engrossing and mysterious, I was sorry it ended so quickly, but was 100% satisfied with the story. I think I just really want this to be a series? and maybe eventually a television series? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but this story seems like it would adapt well to the screen and be just as captivating so long as Clark were at the helm. Personally, I can’t wait to go out and read more of Clark’s stuff, like The Black God’s Drums because this was just so, so good.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Supergirl: Being Super (Supergirl: Being Super #1 – 4) – Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Joëlle Jones

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Source: Goodreads

I love Supergirl’s story. It can be told in so many different ways. Kal-El’s elder cousin, stuck in a time warp for half a lifetime, finally arrived. Sometimes Kara and Clark don’t know each other at all, and sometimes she’s been sent to protect him. Kara is warm, loving, curious, and strong as hell.

This version is Kara at her most human. Trying to be herself without exposing her differences. The story hits all the right notes, and the artwork is magnificent (some might even say out of this world, but they are significantly better at wordplay than I). Aside from the obvious, I’d like to take a moment to truly appreciate the diversity in the town of Midvale. Sure, Kara still looks like the quintessential American Cheerleader, but her friends and colleagues have varying appearances. From body type to skin tone to family background, the inhabitants of Midvale flourish, and color the landscape with their personalities and hobbies.

 

I have always enjoyed Supergirl and even attempted to keep up with her story arc when DC launched The New 52 while I was working on my undergraduate degree, despite not being an active graphic novel/comic book consumer. I hadn’t intended to pick up another comic book any time soon, but then I came across this bind-up of four (I honestly can’t even remember where) and suddenly I owned it. I started it and couldn’t put it down. Kara felt real, alive, and ready to make a difference in her world. I sincerely hope Tamaki and Jones continue their collaboration and bring us more stories of Krypton’s last survivor.

 

HHC Rating:  5 Stars.

 

More Books Like This:
Lois Lane – Fallout

The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson

The-Summer-Before-The-War-Helen-Simonson
Source: Goodreads

 

Accepting the position of smalltown Latin teacher was a no-brainer for Beatrice Nash. Finally on her own, she can’t wait to make her own money and get out from under her stifling family’s thumb and her father’s shadow. But war is looming. A great, big, world war, the likes of which have never been seen. With men signing up left and right, it’s only a matter of time before Beatrice’s students and colleagues start to head for the continent, closely followed by the new officers comprised mostly of the lesser gentry. A young surgeon and a poet, a Romani and a scholar, the war keeps its distance from no one. And so beings the summer before the war.

 

Helen Simonson does it again. The author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – one of my favorite reads of 2017 – is back with another well-developed look at England’s less viewed history, and hits her mark. The characters are well developed and engaging, as well as incredibly refreshing. A book about an Edwardian surgeon! The first women authors! Single women living alone and working a respectable job! POETS. and so, so many underlying narratives about race and sexuality. Absolutely wonderful. 10/10 would read again.

I would like a prequel about Beatrice’s life with her father and then with her Aunt. Also, a novel purely about Aunt Agatha and her husband who works for the foreign office and who I am sure does spy things. I think they’re all just so interesting!

The book itself starts out relatively lighthearted, following the main premise of Beatrice settling into the town and her interactions with the townsfolk. About 3/4 of the way through, the war is finally upon us, with dire consequences for many. Simonson wraps everything up neatly, but not before she rips our hearts out and forces us to acknowledge that not everyone can live happily ever after.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews for works by this author:
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

 

Geekerella-Ashley-Poston
Source: Goodreads

 

 

Danielle Wittimer and her parents had a special bond – their undying love for the too-soon gone TV show Starfield. Now that they’re gone, the show and the convention her father started in honor of it are the only things Elle has left of them. They keep her going while her stepmother and twin stepsisters make her life a living hell.

Darien Freeman grew up torn between worlds. Discovering Starfield and Excelsicon in middle school literally saved his life. Now, the chance to play the lead role of Prince Carmindor in the new film adaption of the cult TV show is more than he can pass up, but will the fans accept a new Carmindor?

Terrified to meet his new fans and foes, Darien reaches out to the Excelsicon founders to try to pull out of his meet-and-greet, only to find a friend instead. As Elle and Darien get to know each other through texts, they begin to understand just how not alone they really are. Will it be enough to save Carmindor and the reboot from disaster? Will it be enough to rescue Elle from her own personal hell?

 

 

I heard about this book last year just before it came out, and I had the chance to hear Ashley Poston speak about it at the Boston Teen Author Festival in September. Geekerella‘s charm comes from its roots in the Cinderella fairytale, tied up in its infusion of sci-fi culture – Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and so many more. The melding together of fairytale and space opera with verge-of-adulthood problems and responsibilities makes for a totally new story that will enchant readers for years to come.

Poston’s love for everything space shines through in her writing and in her speech. Her next space-opera-meets-fairytale will hit shelves in the next year or two, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan

In-Other-Lands-Sarah-Rees-Brennan

Source: Goodreads

Elliot Schafer is obnoxious. No one at school can stand him, his father at home ignores him, and his mother left when he was a baby. Then one day his teacher drives him to the middle of nowhere and sells him to an oddly dressed woman because he can see a stone wall where his classmates cannot. What ensues is part adventure, part education, part self-discovery, and all about the love.

 

A review of this book popped up on Goodreads about two months ago, and I requested it from my library immediately. Blurbed by many well-known authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Cassandra Claire, Gregory Maguire, and Holly Black, this book was a definite addition to my TBR. In Other Lands was published just under a month ago, on August 17th, and a copy arrived at my library a day early! I can’t even tell you how exciting that was.

Let me start by saying that there are no chapters. The book is sectioned by year, following Elliot from the ages of 13 to 18. The ‘otherland’ is a fantastic world full of diverse peoples and even more diverse cultures. This book is not only a play on the portal-world trope but also a narrative on how our culture is being constantly blended and added to with new words and beliefs. From sexuality to gender stereotypes to machismo and sexism, this book hits it all right on the head. With a Trigon ball.

Being CisHet and having people close to me who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum made this book all the more dear to me. While I’m sure not everyone will agree, I felt that it did a good job of handling the differences in sexuality and not blowing them out of proportion, as often happens in literature and in other media. It wasn’t anyone’s defining characteristic, and that’s exactly as it should be. That being said, there is quite a bit of discussion throughout of intimacy and menstruation, as well as actual (but not overly detailed) intimacy. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you’re under the age of, say, 14, or if you are uncomfortable at all with that kind of scene, whether CisHet or LGBTQ+. With the addition of a few of the other cultures whose major sexism is the reverse of humans, it can all become just a bit much all at once.

 

Overall I am glad to have read it and will be recommending it to many of my friends, CisHet as well as LGBTQ+, to read.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Ella-Enchanted-Gail-Carson-Levine

Source: Goodreads

Ella is cursed at birth to be obedient: any order given to her must be obeyed. Up until she is fifteen, her mother and Mandy, their cook, have kept her safe from harm. That all changes when Ella is sent away to finishing school, where she must learn to brave the world and all of its occupants. Ella’s life is further complicated by the attentions of Prince Charmont, who’s love and friendship she desires, but whose life would be in constant danger if it were to become wrapped up in hers.

 

This book was my favorite as a child and has always held a special place in my heart. There are few books that are more important to me than the Harry Potter series, and this is one of them. Ella was one of, if not the very first strong female lead character I ever read about, and she has stuck with me through thick and thin. I think I’m on my third or fourth copy of the book because I love it so much that I used to lend it out (which I never do anymore), and people kept losing it for extended periods of time. So now I just buy copies for everyone and give them as gifts.

Re-reading it yesterday on my 25th birthday for what is probably the 30th or 40th time, I noticed a number of things I’ve been overlooking in the story. Growing up I always saw Ella as the epitome of a strong female character. I saw her as selfless, romantic, and kick-butt. Yesterday, I tried to pay attention to the little details, possibly for the first time since my initial reading all those years ago. Mainly what I realized is that there are no 100% good characters in this story. Mandy and Lucinda each have ways in which they can help Ella, but they decline to use their talents. Prince Charmont readily admits that he has anger issues and holds grudges for years – rather like Mr. Darcy’s ‘my good opinion once lost is lost forever’ nonsense. Even Ella is quite selfish. The story is told in the first person, occasionally delving into Ella’s mind and often into her intentions, and typically reveals that she is at her core a human teenage girl, not the kind of hero/heroine to be placed on a pedestal. Ultimately, it is her selfishness and the opposing need to be selfless that results in breaking the curse – in a very odd, somewhat confusing and relatively anticlimactic scene that made perfect sense to my younger self but now seems a little lack luster.

Over the years, I often picked up Ella Enchanted as a comfort read. If I was stressed then I could read about how Ella defeats her demons and gain the courage to fight my own. But this time around it was like looking at one of my heroes through fresh eyes or new spectacles, and realizing they were as much of a selfish brat in their early and mid teens as I was. Up until more recently, I deeply identified with Ella’s character, and growing out of her feels like I’m finally, just maybe, growing up.

This book is not perfect. I can admit that now – maybe for the first time – but it will always be especially dear to me. I may even love it more because of its imperfections. I definitely recommend this book (not the film. PLEASE NOT THE FILM) to LITERALLY EVERYONE, because there are just so many lessons, adventures and discoveries to be found in its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3) – V.E. Schwab

Shades-Of-Magic-A-Conjuring-Of-Light-V-E-Schwab

Source: Goodreads

The third book in the Shades of Magic series picks up where A Gathering of Shadows ends, with a familiar darkness spreading across Londons and our protagonists in peril.

I really wanted to love this book, but when I picked it up soon after finishing the second volume, I found myself burned out by the constant action. Book two was fairly fast paced, and A Conjuring of Light is a continuation of that same situation. I ended up having to put the book down for three months before I could pick it up without feeling completely drained. I don’t see this as a problem for the people who read the series as it came out because the books were released a year apart, but going forward, it’s important to note the potential for burnout if you plan to read the books back-to-back.

I enjoyed all of the characters, but much like the first volume, I found it hard to be invested in them when I couldn’t personally identify with any of them. The storyline was good, the fabric of the plot woven tightly, with nearly all of the ends getting bound up neatly in the conclusion while leaving room for universe expansion both forward and backward. Some bits, such as the history of Kell’s coat, would be entertaining to explore in the future.

While I was taking my reading break from A Conjuring of Light, my sister borrowed and devoured the series in its entirety while studying for finals. I feel that I must add that she loved all of the characters and never experienced the burnout that I did.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it was a fitting end to the trilogy. I would definitely recommend it to fantasy readers of all kinds for its plot, its diverse characters, and its beautiful world building. V.E. Schwab has done great things with this series, and I only wish I hadn’t gotten burned out and had been able to enjoy it to its fullest potential.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Darker Shade of Magic
Book #2 – A Gathering of Shadows

 

 

 

 

The Waterless Sea (The Chanters of Tremaris, #2) – Kate Constable

The-Chanters-Of-Tremaris-The-Waterless-Sea-Kate-Constable

Source: Goodreads

Half a year has passed since the crew of Fledgewing defeated the evil chanter Samis, but trouble still lurks in Tremaris. A man named Heben arrives on the secluded island where Calwyn and her friends have built their home. He is looking for help: chanter children are being kidnapped and only other chanters stand a chance of finding them. The harsh deserts of the war-torn Empire of Merithuros will test everyone’s strength, and the price of peace is higher than anyone could have imagined.

The Waterless Sea is the second novel in Constable’s Chanters of Tremaris series, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. With Darrow absent from much of the action this time around, we see Calwyn stepping up to plate to lead our band of heroes. She becomes much more confident in her decision making, even while she fights her ever-growing skill in learning the nine powers. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from wondering where Darrow is all the time, but hey, no one is perfect (especially Darrow).

The range of characters is much wider in this installment, but the storyline is also more straight forward, which I quite enjoyed. Character development was also on point. Given that this was a re-read for me, I wasn’t sure nearly 25-year-old me was going to love it as much as 12-year-old me did, but I needn’t have worried. IT’S STILL GREAT. I enjoyed this book so much that I’m not even mad anymore that Thriftbooks sent me an ARC copy instead of the actual copy I ordered. And as soon as I finish this review I’m going to start the third book instead of finishing the book I need to read for next week. My plan is to read The Tenth Power in about two days and then take next week’s review book, A Conjuring of Light, with me on my vacation Tuesday.

The Waterless Sea, for being so short, didn’t miss out on anything. It doesn’t suffer second-book-syndrome, which often affects middle books of trilogies and forces them into allowing absolutely nothing to happen. In fact, many things happen. Multiple people die. Calwyn grows up and takes charge. Darrow is still the weirdly jealous dude forcing himself to stand in the corner instead of partaking in everything life has to offer. New characters are painted into the story. It’s all very interesting but I can’t go into anything without spoiling everything, so I’ll have to leave it at that.

You should go read this series. It’s really good. I’m literally only taking points off because of Darrow.

HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Singer of All Songs
Book #3 – The Tenth Power (Review available 6/27)