Keeper of the Dawn by Dianna Gunn. ★★★★
I loved this fantasy novella! I picked it up mainly because I heard the protagonist was asexual (true), and I ended up with a novella that was beautiful in so many ways and really resonated with me.
Lai’s mother and grandmother before her have been priestesses, and Lai can’t imagine any other life for herself. In order to become a priestess, she must win through the trials, for only one girl can be selected by the gods as the next priestess. But what about after the trials? What will happen to the friends she’s in competition with? And what if… she fails?
Final Girls by Mira Grant. ★★★
I’ve read some of this author’s work under the name Seanan McGuire, but I’d never read one of the stories she wrote as Mira Grant. I had very little idea of what to expect going into Final Girls. I knew that it involved a virtual reality program being used for therapy, that it focused on sisterly bond between two women, and that it may involve horror aspects. All of those were true, but it also turned out to be a novella. So I read this one a lot quicker than I expected!
Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented the method and technology for using virtual reality for therapy. To heal her clients of old wounds, she’ll send them through a virtual reality horror simulation, where they’ll feel completely immersed in the narrative. This therapy is usually used to rebuild strained family bonds, but she’s giving journalist Esther Hoffman an exclusive look at her techniques, which include Esther taking a trip via Dr. Webb’s proprietary VR tech. Esther has built her career debunking fraudulent therapy techniques, and she just can’t wait to disprove Dr. Webb. However, as she and Dr. Webb undertake a VR journey, events in the outside world influence them in ways they could never have expected.
The Root by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun. ★★★1/2
The Root is an intriguing blend of urban and portal fantasy with a wonderfully diverse cast.
Erik’s a former teen star living in San Francisco. He thought his life was complicated enough, but now he’s finding out that he’s Blooded – descended from gods and gifted with powers he doesn’t understand. He also finds himself in the middle of a secret battle, between Blooded and a government organization kidnapping them and trading them off to an alternate dimension.
Lil’s an apprentice archivist in said alternate dimension, where humans are subservient to demonic beings. Yet a strange and powerful darkness is taking over her city, and the rulers are turning to the human archivists to look for answers. Lil’s life will soon become a tightrope walk between her demonic rulers and her power hungry fellow archivists.
This Other World by A.C. Buchanan. ★★★★
What a lovely science fiction novella! It’s a quiet story, and a short read (I read it in under an hour). Because of that, this review will be a bit shorter than normal.
Vonika’s an autistic engineer who chose to immigrate to an alien planet. She has built a career and life for herself there, complete with a marriage to an alien woman. In Temia, older citizens go through a process where they transition away from individuality and towards a group consciousness. Vonika is still deciding whether or not she’s willing to go through the process when she begins to get flashes of memories that don’t belong to her… At the same time, Temia is on the brink of war with a neighboring country, so Vonika’s life may be changing in more ways than one.
This Other World is intimately focused on Vonika’s life. While she is effected by larger events and affects them in turn, This Other World is no the sort of story that has a large scope or a heavy focus on action. It’s the sort of book I’d imagine would be perfect for curling up with a cup of tea on a cold day.
Vonika never felt like she fit in on Earth, and she still doesn’t really fit in in Temia. But as one of the only humans in the nation, her differences are presumed to be a feature common to her species and she finds herself more readily accepted. I can’t speak as to how her autism is portrayed, but I’ll note that this is own voices – the author is autistic as well.
I suggest This Other World for anyone looking for charming sci-fi novella with a bit of a mystery element.
Fire Boy by Sami Shah. ★★★
Wahid thinks he’s just a normal teenager growing up in Karachi, Pakistan. He attends school, plays Dungeons and Dragons with his friends, and crushes on a cute girl in his class. He has no idea that he’s the son of a djinn.
Everything changes for Wahid when two djinn attack a car he’s driving. His best friend is killed, and the girl he likes soul is stolen. In his quest to find the djinn who did this, Wahid becomes immersed in the supernatural side of Karachi.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. ★★★★★
Sometimes I read a book that I have no idea how to review. A book that’s so remarkable, so moving and affecting, that anything I have to say will feel hollow by comparison. But I’m going to give this a go anyway.
Most of what I review is either science fiction or fantasy, so The Hate U Give is a rarity for me – a contemporary YA novel! I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve read one of these. Anyway, I kept hearing about how amazing it was, as well as how timely – it was inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement – so I decided to get a hold of a copy. And boy, am I glad I did.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. ★★★1/2
The Girl from Everywhere contains one of the most original time travel methods I’ve ever seen. More than that, it’s simply a beautiful book.
Nix has grown up on her father’s ship, traveling from one place and time to another. Their travel depends on hand drawn maps from the original time period, each of which can only be used once. Her father wants nothing more than to find a map which can take him back to 1868 Honolulu and Nix’s mother before she dies in childbirth. He wants to save her and rewrite history… even if it means rewriting Nix. What will happen to her if her father get’s his heart’s desire?