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[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman published on No Comments on [Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

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Review

Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei is a tightly-plotted, dramatic-comedic YA superhero tale about a kick-ass bi-racial, teen, lesbian crime fighter named Jamie Hattori, who targets baddies in Cobalt City through her ability to communicate with the spirits of places and inanimate objects in the city. As if dealing with her own family, school, and relationship drama wasn’t enough, she has a massive deity problem to handle. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’s a fun YA title with a nice crossover appeal.

The Kickstarted sequel, The Love of Danger, continues the adventures of Jamie Hattori. And now we’ve got undead, fascist villains and their robots, plenty of relationship (family, professional, and romance) drama, and Jamie’s new set of skills.

I love the backdrop, with Jamie working in a world already populated by well-known Cobalt City superheroes. Her experience is a bit like being a minor superhero in The Incredibles, but with less family togetherness and more getting smacked around by her racist grandfather. The shared world Zimmerman accesses gives him some interesting characters and events pre-fabricated, a history of conflicts and resolutions, of biases and trust issues that already populate the landscape. We also learn a great deal more about the conflicts and motivations of some of the awesome characters from the first go-round.

The first book gripped me more than the second, but The Love of Danger is an excellent follow-up and I am looking forward to where the series goes next.

 

Links:

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About the Author

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older published on No Comments on Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

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About the Book

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

Review

This is a unique, clever, sometimes-scary, always engaging story featuring family, music, art, gentrification, friendship, racism, cultural anthropology, cultural appropriation, community, zombies, spirits, self delusion, and self confidence. Among other things.

This is the most unique YA urban fantasy I’ve read, without qualifications. It has been a while since I read an urban fantasy and didn’t see a lot of stuff I had already read in five other urban fantasy series. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy these, as there’s something comfortable in familiarity. But sometimes you want to feel a little less comfortable.

The book isn’t overly complicated, but there’s a lot going on; the characters are intelligent, passionate, and brave; the teens talk like teens; the motivations (except, in my opinion, of the primary antagonist) are believable, understandable, true. The setting is vivid. I love how the tower is utilized by Older in so many ways. I love the cityscape of Brooklyn, which acts as a powerful place.

Just about everything clicks in this dark tale. Spirits in the city are deeply linked to the cultural heritage of the neighborhoods, and that heritage must be seized by a Shadowshaper in order to keep the magic alive. Nobody can come from outside and own it. Sierra is a powerful character, and she goes through some things that many teens go through–like not liking what she sees in the mirror– and some things most don’t go through–like being pursued by a throng haint, a shadow monster covered in mouths. I got a kick out of the numerous cool old men in the neighborhood, particularly in one scene at the University.

I like Sierra, which is nice, because I don’t always like the heroes and heroines in YA novels. She’s spirited, makes generally good choices, and keeps her head in tough situations. Also, she doesn’t spend a lot of time complaining, which is nice.

There are aspects of this novel that feel like they live in a universe nestled right alongside Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And for me, that’s high praise: American Gods is a favorite of mine.

This book has led me to pick up a copy of Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel. My understanding is that these books are decidedly not YA, which suits me just fine.

About the Author

61ynfd6lqpL._UX250_Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015), which was nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature. His first collection of short stories, Salsa Nocturna and the Locus and World Fantasy nominated anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which he co-edited, are available from Crossed Genres Publications. You can find Daniel’s thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and @djolder on twitter and YouTube.

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Book Tour + Giveaway: The Five Warriors by Angela J. Ford

Book Tour + Giveaway: The Five Warriors by Angela J. Ford published on No Comments on Book Tour + Giveaway: The Five Warriors by Angela J. Ford

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About the Book

Title: The Five Warriors
Author: Angela J. Ford
Genre: YA Fantasy
What if…

  • your best friend started a rebellion in the middle of a war?
  • your lover awakened a deep evil and helped it grow?
  • your people were too cowardly to face a battle?
  • you stole an ancient power source?
  • you gambled with the fate of the world?

Join five powerful warriors each with a unique ability and magical weapons. Their quest is to discover where the transformed creatures are coming from and put a stop to it.

Along the way they run into treacherous immortals, sea monsters, powerful beasts of the air and talking animals.

Each has their own reasoning for joining the quest, but one carries a deadly secret which just might be the destruction of them all.

Interview with a Character

Interview with Marklus

Excerpt

Starman stood at the shore of the great Dejewla Sea and stared at the enormity of the swaying body of liquid. The water shone like sapphires, beckoning him to crawl into its watery graves and swim and dive as if he were a child of aqua. Waves rippled across the surface but any animals that used to dwell near the Sea had long since disappeared. He could smell the richness of the soil as the plants close to the water stretched their roots deep, bloating themselves on saltless seawater.

Alaireia, on the other hand, had already dropped her pack of supplies and was loosening the black belt that carried her long sword. “It’s good we’re camping here for a time,” she was saying, sitting on a fallen log to unstrap her black boots as Starman continued to be captivated by the Sea. “I, for one, would like one last swim before we enter the desert. Swift claims it is a dry, barren place.”

“It smells like dead fish,” Starman said, wrinkling his nose.

“Starman?”Alaireia asked, standing barefoot on the shore. “Are you coming for a swim?”

“Oh.” Starman’s face turned red. “I…I…uh…”

Alaireia laughed as she waded into the water to see how it felt. “The water is fine!”

“Uh…” Starman turned to go, almost tripping over his feet. “I’ll go downstream with the others,” he stammered.

“Wait, Starman,”Alaireia called. He turned around, still blushing, but she stood knee high in the water, staring into it. “What did you say it smelt like?”

Starman opened his mouth to reply when something leaped out of the water, snatchingAlaireia and dragging her under. “Fish! Crinte!” Starman shouted all at once. “Help! The fish have Alaireia!” He drew his sword and ran to the waterside, but all was still again. Eyes like saucers, he ran back to the trees. “Crinte! Marklus! Swift! Hurry!” he yelled.

He ran back to the Sea only to shout and leap back in surprise as a monster surged out of the water, its long, brown-spotted tentacles waving in every direction. Along the length of eachtentacle suction holes moved in and out as if the creature were breathing in air and water at the same time. Its round head had barely emergedbut it was the center of the tentacles with two, horrifyingly large, ink black eyes. Starman could see a mirror black image of himself drowning in the sticky elixir of those eyes and immediately leaned over to vomit in a bush. As he wiped his mouth on the back on his hand he saw Alaireia, wrapped in one of the sucking tentacles. It was one of the most beautiful and terrifying sights he had ever seen as she rose with the creature, streaming with now muddied water. Her black hair hung long and her shoulders were bare as she gripped the tentacle in both arms, her face a mass of concentrated fury as she struggled for release.

“Alaireia!” Starman yelled, dashing into the water with his sword raised. A tentacle reached out for him and he slashed at it, ripping it open and causing black blood to leak out. Starman almost gagged as the stench of decaying fish overwhelmed him in the water. Despite it he moved closer to the great creature. It towered above him, lifting Alaireia higher into the air. Starman slashed at the next tentacle that tried to capture him, but ultimately failed as one wrapped its slimy length around him and hugged his body uncomfortably close. Still waving his sword, he proceeded to chop at the thick length that held him, but the creature was unforgiving. It reared its head even further out of the water, displaying a wide gaping mouth. It opened it and roared.

About the Author

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Angela J. Ford is an imaginative and entertaining writer who creates stories of fanciful worlds that enable young adults to confidently believe in possibilities and overcome differences to be stronger together.

Born in Ann Arbor, MI, and raised in Alabaster, AL, she moved to Nashville, TN, where she currently resides, to pursue a degree in Music Business at Belmont University.

Although her career has not been largely focused on creative writing, it has been an integral part of her lifestyle. Brought up as a bookworm and musician, she began writing The Four Worlds, a fantasy action, adventure series at the age of 12. The storyline of those books was largely based off of creative games she played with her sisters.

Originally finished when she was 16, after college, Angela began to re-write the Four Worlds Series, bringing it from a child’s daydream to an adventure young and old alike can enjoy. Inspired by fairy tales, high magic and epic fantasy, you’ll enjoy your adventures within the Four Worlds.

If you happen to be in Nashville, you’ll mostly likely find her at a local coffee shop, enjoying a white chocolate mocha and furiously working on her next book. Make sure you say hello!

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Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman

Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman published on No Comments on Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman

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About the Book

Jamie Hattori’s alter ego, the masked hero Kensei, has been doing pretty well protecting her neighborhood from petty villains with her martial arts skills, her father’s katana, and a little help from the local spirits. But things get rough when the spirits start flaking out, the Goddess of Discord throws a few cursed apples, and an online gossip site sics an angry football player on her. Then there’s her slipping grades, the vampire owls, and the cute roller derby chick looking for romance. And even worse, Jamie’s hero-hating mom is starting to get suspicious. Can Jamie defeat her mysterious nemesis without tearing her family apart? And more importantly, will she score her first kiss?

Review

I really enjoyed this novel. Zimmerman starts off with an action scene and keeps the energy flowing throughout the book. It clocks in at a seems-slightly-longer-than-advertised, taut 188 pages. I think these pages might be packed with a greater than average number of words. It feels like a 220-250 page book to me.

Jamie Hattori, alter-ego Kensei, is a teen in transition. She is living a secret life, keeping her superpowers and night outings from her mother. Her dad knows all about it. He’s a pretty laid-back, reasonable guy. Mom lost her parents in the middle of a superhero battle, and hasn’t been able to let it go since. She watches one of those channels that rile people up against specific groups, spouting bile and anger, and she lets herself seethe in it. She’s, admittedly, tightly-wound and not willing to see shades of gray when it comes to vigilante activities. Jamie’s extra-curricular activities are hurting her grades and social life. But what can she do? She has the power to help others, and doesn’t take that lightly.

Jamie Hattori resides in the portion of Cobalt City known as Karlsburg, and the supernatural dangers are pretty light there. Usually, it’s just enough to keep her busy at night. She takes on muggers and robbers and physical abusers. But things change suddenly, and she’s in over her inexperienced head. Someone is running a gossip blog called 2thefairest, and it is putting out some ugly envy magic. Golden apples are turning up around town, sowing seeds of discord. And Jamie has been targeted. This might also be connected to Roman vampires, Greek deities, and a bunch of missing students from Jamie’s high school.

Cobalt City exists in a world where superheroes are fairly common. A flaming hero might chase an ice-chucking villain across the street as you’re waiting on a red light. The Traffic Enforcer might fly past, being dragged by the back of a car. Heroes and villains are everywhere, like erectile dysfunction ads, or internet trolls.

The problem is that a group of big-time superheroes, the Protectorate, was infiltrated a few years back, and achieved a lot of destruction and created mistrust among the citizens of Cobalt City. Even the big-time heroes, The A-Listers, like Star Dust, the Worm Queen, Wild Kat, Libertine, Velvet, and the Huntsman, need to remain secretive. Except Star Dust, because he’s one of the richest people in the world, and he isn’t really touchable.

Then there are small-timers, maybe the C-and-D-listers, like Kensei and the Traffic Enforcer, (who spends most of his time beating people up for using their cellphones while driving, or misusing roundabouts). These sorts need to remain cautious. Anybody could be a danger.

Zimmerman captures the teen experience pretty well. We view a lot of Jamie’s firsts: first date, first kiss, first arch-nemesis, first fight with god, first battle with a superhero. Each character comes pre-loaded with motivations and reasons for his/her/their actions. The characters have histories and goals. The characters are dynamic and drive the novel, even if Jamie doesn’t have a license.

I love Jamie’s powers. She can interact with the spirits of places and things. Pretty much every place and every thing has one or more spirits, and being able to see them and talk to them is actually very helpful. Especially when they are feeling cooperative; sometimes they aren’t, which can be quite funny.

I am also a huge fan of the fact that Jamie received martial arts training from the age of three. Her powers aren’t specifically physical, and therefore knowing how to use her body as a weapon is very important.

Among my favorite characters are Jamie’s father, Charles Hattori; Agyo, the Cobalt City Buddhist Church guardian; and the manic-pixie-girl-esque Parker. Jamie is multi-faceted: she’s gay, she’s biracial, she’s a Buddhist, she’s in high school; she is hiding things from her mom, her dad, her classmates, her potential girlfriend; she can talk to the spirits of cars and buildings and light bulbs. She has to deal with how these things affect other parts of her life. Zimmerman navigates these muddy waters expertly.

The second book in the series, Love of Danger, recently went through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and is expected to be released soon. I will certainly be reading and reviewing it here sometimes after that.

About the Author

383281_10150371627504300_851933735_n1-193x300
Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Author’s Links

Website
Mad Scientist Journal
Amazon Author’s Page
Goodreads
Twitter

Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander

Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander published on No Comments on Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander

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My name is Mal Marsh.

I was the oldest unTurned Were of my generation, waiting Turn after Turn for my own time… which never came.

Until the day, driven by desperation and by the guilt I still carried concerning my sister Celia’s tragic death, I decided it was time to stop waiting… and made a dangerous choice in the name of pride and fury. Instead of remaining the Random Were that I was born… I enlisted the help of a friend, a creature beyond the strictly drawn boundaries of Were-kind, and chose to become a Lycan, a true wolf.

I thought it would give me a chance to take my revenge on those I believed to be responsible for what had happened to my sister.

Right until the moment I realized that things were much more complicated that I had ever believed possible… and that my choice might have far more repercussions than I had thought.

One thing was clear.

Everything I thought I knew about my family was wrong.

wolf

This book ignores the path most taken.

Alma Alexander switches her narrator of this next book in her Were Chronicles trilogy, and Mal’s voice is like a rumble of thunder compared to his sister’s. He is a completely different person in every way, and this is a completely different book. Many YA series are constrained to one narrator, and the series overreaches itself. Instead of following this trend, Alexander ignores it and switches things up. The main character, Jazz, in Random is now a tertiary character in Wolf, and it’s fitting.

She also makes the unusual choice to rewrite scenes from Random from Mal’s perspective. I’ve seen this done before, and often it is boring, repetitious, and makes readers think – oh, the author is just trying to increase her word count. This is absolutely not the case in Wolf. Yes, some of the scenes are familiar, but told from Mal’s perspective there is an underlying context to them that we were not privy to in the first book. It also creates incredible tension after the first couple dual scenes – it jogged my memory of the first book, and made me worry over what some of Jazz’s choices had led Mal to do.

The main character is refreshingly full of vigor.

Mal is a take-charge kind of person. He is slightly cautious – he’s a wolf, scouting new territory, and attempting to learn his new surroundings. But he is not fearful. Jazz was very afraid – understandable, since her life was in such turmoil, her body and her life were changing with a rapidity that would leave anyone’s head spinning. But Mal is older, more assured, and more… animalistic in his approach to life philosophy. While it is true that his reasoning for getting the Shifter to turn him into a wolf was to infiltrate the pack and find answers, he displayed wolfy characteristics from the very first pages of the first book. It was not so much that he was stealing someone else’s destiny, or that he was creating a false destiny of his own. He was a wolf, through and through.

There is a little bit of romance in this one, and it moves forward in such a way that will surprise any longtime-reader of YA.

At every turn, this novel does the unexpected.

The scientific explanations have increased in detail.

It was appropriate in the first book for the science of shifting to be limited to what Jazz, a teenager, could understand. In Were, Mal is given a job in a science laboratory, and his love interest is a scientist in her own right. That means we are given the opportunity to learn more about the world Alexander has created – she’s gone into such detail it’s breath-taking.

Wolf is one of the best second novels in a series I have read in a very long time.

Read our wampus review of Random here. Our review of the last book in the series, Shifter, is forthcoming!

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway: The Protector Project by Jenna Lincoln

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway: The Protector Project by Jenna Lincoln published on 3 Comments on Review, Excerpt and Giveaway: The Protector Project by Jenna Lincoln

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About the Book

The Protector Project by Jenna Lincoln
Release Date: 6/15/15
Boroughs Publishing Group
Summary from Goodreads:

w8C16Z7P99y2csV6kZAoOAm5wXSrFWZmzVB0BPGL5FQTeen soldier Mara de la Luz is about to find out what makes her so special that some would kidnap and kill her—and others, willingly die for her.

ENDLESS CARNAGE. ENDLESS QUESTIONS.

Mara is a 17-year-old soldier who’s spent years fighting a war that’s lasted generations. Wide-eyed children, some just turned thirteen, rarely survive their first fights despite her best efforts to train and lead them. What she thinks she wants is to uncover the root causes of the war between the Protectors and the masked Gaishan, maybe find a way to end it. But what she really wants is a future—for herself and the others—beyond the battlefield.

Then she’s injured in combat, and when an enemy fighter not only heals her wounds but reveals his face, she sees the promise of all she desires. This cunning teen Gaishan has answers to her questions, but first she must commit treason and travel beyond the boundaries of her world. She must brave a place where everything rests on the point of a blade: her loyalties, her friends, her heart.

Review

After reading several dystopian novels in quick succession, I started reading this book with the expectation that this was another dystopian novel.

The protagonist, Mara, is a seventeen year-old veteran in the middle of a war. Most of the soldiers are teens. Some were tithed to the government by their families, and some are orphans raised by the government. A lot of pieces here allowed me to, quite lazily, confirm my suspicions.

Until I realized that maybe this wasn’t really a dystopian novel. It is definitely a romance, a military science-fiction, a pseudo-fantasy. But it certainly doesn’t take place on our earth. And while life in the military is difficult, we can’t call every depiction of the military a dystopia. The world is broken into some odd binaries: masks bad, bare-face good, human vs. Gaishan, those in enclosures and those in encampments. There are certainly haves and have nots, but have you looked outside lately? None of this makes a book a dystopia.

No, this is something else. I was pleasantly surprised at that. I needed a break from some (admittedly very good) dystopian books.

Early on, we discover that things aren’t as they seem: the faceless monsters look like the humans when the masks come off; the human leaders are lying about victories and motives. We bring our own assumptions to our reading experiences, and this book plays with those assumptions. That takes some careful and smart writing.

The Protector Project initially feels like a fantasy novel, but there are some science fiction elements, especially as the book moves forward. It is a quest for truth.

I enjoyed the surprises along the way. There is plenty of action, romance, and shocking discoveries. This book is aimed perfectly at the combined YA/Teen group.

Excerpt

Agony disrupted Mara’s ability to maintain her energy shield. Dizzy and nauseated, she pulled off her helmet and tried not to vomit. With one hand she soothed her horse, with her other hand she pressed hard on the gash. Hot blood trickled into her boot.

A Gaishan stepped out from the trees. Its hand came down next to hers, brushing Mara’s fingers and the wound.

“Don’t touch me!” she yelled.

The figure pulled off the Gaishan mask revealing a human face, young and male. His smile was grim, “Mara, you were out of position.”

Mara’s breath stopped. She stared into the Gaishan’s silver gray eyes, felt the tremor of magic cross from his fingers into the torn flesh of her leg. The air shimmered and shrank, enclosing them. He was light haired and tall, not much older than any of the Protectors. The pain eased and the burning tapered to a mild sting.

“Your questions have answers. But you’re asking the wrong people,” he said.

She threw a punch at his mask-less face, but the Gaishan blocked it, trapping her hand.

His smile relaxed into a grin and he leaned closer. “One of the answers is, this isn’t your fight.” He slapped her horse on the rear, propelling them back to the field.

About the Author

i0dCT-7r6ndjS7sm1KPgyqza3YZvcuKBSdzGpqt54PkJenna Lincoln loves to read, write, and talk about reading and writing. She spent many happy years as a language arts teacher doing just those things. After dabbling in Firefly and Supernatural fan fiction, Jenna got serious about building her own imaginary world, big enough to get lost in for a long, long time. When she comes back to reality, Jenna enjoys her home in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two daughters.

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