Review: A Burning by Megha Majumdar


Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovely–an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor–has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.


RATING: ☆★☆★

At the start of Majumdar’s standout debut novel, Jivan, a young Muslim woman, makes a Facebook post that takes a jab at the government’s handling of a train bombing in Bengal. Someone hastens to whisper of it, and Jivan lands in a prison cell, charged with the attack before night finishes falling. Continue reading “Review: A Burning by Megha Majumdar”


Review: Shorefall (Founders #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett


The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it’s not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won’t tolerate competition, and they’re willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.

But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that’s not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees – especially Sancia.

Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself – before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.

RATING: ☆★☆★

The city of Tevanne seems determined to tear itself in two. In “Shorefall” Bennett lets us back abruptly into his world, with a lot more terror and much less hand-holding. Three years have passed and the Foundrysiders—Sanca, Berenice, Gregor and Orso—keep sidling up to death and dipping their toes in, this time with a Robin-Hood scheme to steal the scrivings the Michiels hoarded like a dragon guarding its treasure, and distribute them back to the people of Tevanne. But you can only sidle up to death so many times before it grabs your ankle and tries to pull you under. And death came to the Foundrysiders in the shape of Crasedes, a powerful hierophant now successfully resurrected by Gregor’s grief-stricken mother.

Scrivings are the coins the city of Tevanne trades in—a practice that divests any object of its intended identity, convincing it to “disobey reality in very unusual ways”—but Crasedes’ will can reshape the very warp and weft of reality itself. Crasedes plans to water the soil of Tevanne with blood, and the Foundrysiders plan to stop him. The first shot was fired three years before, when the mountain of the Candianos collapsed and the Company fell, but it is now that the battle lines are drawn.

This, here, is the beginning of the war.  Continue reading “Review: Shorefall (Founders #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett”


Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

45047384. sy475 SYNOPSIS:

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

RATING: ☆★☆★☆

I think these days more than ever, with a pandemic ravaging every corner of the world, I understand more keenly how absolutely necessary it is to find the escape hatch in reality, to seek out a pleasant corner and while away the hours inside a story. And there is no better one I can think of than this one. Continue reading “Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune”


Review: The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) by Marie Rutkoski


Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

RATING: ☆★☆★

It is what it is.” With such a simple yet foreboding line, Rutkoski paints a vivid portrait of an intriguing, deadly world in the first installment of The Midnight Lie series. A world that lays itself open for only one faction: the High Kith. The High Kith wear their wealth as comfortably as the expensive leather that is forbidden in the Ward. They drip with perfume and are corrupt from soft living, and the best our protagonist, Nirrim, can hope for is a life spent creeping in their generous shadows.

Continue reading “Review: The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie #1) by Marie Rutkoski”

Review: Real Life by Brandon Taylor


Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

RATING: ☆★☆★☆

This review would be a lot easier to write if Brandon Taylor weren’t so good.

Real Life” was like a crush, an obsession. It seemed almost to beckon me like a half-curled hand, and when I finished reading it, Continue reading “Review: Real Life by Brandon Taylor”


Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James


The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

RATING: ☆★☆★

There is a video I came across on Twitter a couple months ago, of a woman giving other women tips on how to protect themselves and stay safe if they have to venture outside at night (complete with where to best hide a pepper spray, how to wield your keys like you would a knife, and how many layers of clothes to wear). There was urgency and fear in the woman’s voice, and a haunted, fatalistic quality in her eyes that struck such a fundamental chord with me. The women in the replies were Continue reading “Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James”