If you’re looking for a cozy thriller that has a team of young women with Charlie’s Angels vibes, tech that even James Bond would be jealous of, and with just a sprinkling of sweet romance, then “Spies Never Quit” may just be for you. In the first book of the series (each book following a different woman in the group) follows Mari, a brand-new college freshman, as she attempts to rescue her mother. Mari’s mother is a brilliant scientist working on nano-bot technology who has been kidnapped in order to force her to give up her specialized codes for evil gains. Mari would do anything to save her mother, and, lucky for her, retrieving her mother’s work just so happens to be the Banana Girls mission, too. Normally, I am all for a spy thriller with a predominately female cast of characters, but something always felt just a tad off to me throughout the story.
Hazel in “The Final Rider” is a kind of protagonist I haven’t encountered before, but hope we get to have more of in the future. Forced to leave her little village, Hazel toils away in a mine, not wanting to be noticed by anyone, when she uncovers a dragon egg. When it hatches for her, she becomes the first, and last, dragon rider since dragons and the majority of magic left their world centuries ago. In a land with tense alliances and creepy, mysterious witches, Hazel is thrust out of her simple life into one of violence and adventure—both of which she doesn’t want anything to do with being so introverted, and easily overwhelmed with people and the luxury suddenly a part of her daily life. Hazel is not the confident YA fantasy heroine that has become so common today, which makes her incredibly relatable and likeable, even if at times I wanted to shake her.
“Knight in Paper Armor” is a dark dystopian novel set in the near future, where corporate greed and racism have completely taken over and divided up America (and I assume other countries but they’re never really talked about). We follow Billy, a young Jewish boy with incredible physic powers; able to take away the physical and emotional pain of those he touches, as well as mind controlling them if his darker tendencies get pushed too far. When Billy is finally allowed to leave the facility where he’s being tested on to attend school like a “normal” teen, he meets our female main character, Natalia. Natalia is an immigrant from Guatemala, a fact she has to hide, pretending to be from Mexico instead—though she faces a lot of bigotry for that, too. Billy and Natalia deal with extreme racism from practically the start, their world is brutal in every sense of the word, and the author is not shy about sharing their experiences in great detail. The topics covered in this sci-fi fantasy dystopian are important and very much apply to the world we live in today, but I do not think this book is appropriate for the audience it’s intended for….
“Temple of Ice” follows Tama, a winter mage on the cusp of becoming an elite warrior alongside her two best friends. In Cura’s world, the land has been punished by their goddess to be forever encased in ice, with an evil goddess threatening to emerge and plunge their world into darkness; and no, the bad goddess is not the same as the one who put this land in a deep freeze. Tama learns to appreciate her friends’ differing talents with ice magic, and also finds love in the arms of a beautiful woman who loves Tama’s wild spirit. But Tama, her friends, and her land are suddenly thrust into violence when a betrayal from within threatens to unleash the dark goddess once and for all. The world concept is very cool (heh) and while I liked the sapphic representation in this book, the story as a whole felt like I was reading a companion novella to an already established world/story.
First of all, I cannot recommend the audiobook narrated by the full cast nearly enough. It’s like one of those classic radio dramas and I am here for it! And now, for the book itself. “The Graveyard Book” is, I think, a book meant for children. But it starts with the murder of the main characters entire family when he’s just an infant, but he’s too excited by an open door and an awaiting adventure to notice. He ends up in the local graveyard where the resident ghosts and vampire (though I think it’s wonderful that Gaiman never uses that word, but we all know what he is) decide to protect and raise the child as their own. Each chapter is a little window into a year of Nobody Owens life as he grows and is taught by the different ghosts and the lessons he learns along the way. Because of this format, the adventure eventually ends before everything is wrapped up. Which is by design as we get the story mainly from a child, after all, but it could be a little frustrating at times.
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