Quick Review: Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

landscapePlot in a sentence: On an Earth colonized by an alien species known as the vuvv, Adam tries to use his art to escape a life of poverty and illness in the shadow of the alien structures.

Recommended age: 12 and up

Diversity:

  • Disability: Adam suffers from a chronic illness.

Who will love this book:

  • Readers who like science fiction as thought experiments to examine our own world

What I liked about this book:

  • This is a short, quick to read novel that packs a lot of emotion and questions in a limited number of well chosen words.
  • Anderson centers each of the short chapters on one of Adam’s paintings, each one capturing a different glimpse of his life and feelings. I would love to see a painter’s interpretation of this novel
  • This novel is a apt criticism of colonization, as it exist in our own past and present, and the infantilizing and simplified ways in which the colonizers view the colonized.

If you liked this book, read: Feed by M.T. Anderson for more great speculative fiction by the author.

feed

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Quick Review : Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor

cake and puppetsPlot in a sentence: Zuzana, puppeteer and self-described “rabid fairy”, has a crush beautiful violinist, Mik. She decides to declare her feelings through a magical scavenger hunt.

***STARRED REVIEW***

Recommended age: 13 and up

Who will love this book:

  • Readers with a quirky and magical sense of romance, like myself.
  • Fans of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, though you don’t need to read the series to enjoy this book.

What I liked about this book:

  • Prague. Even in the real world Prague is a beautiful, magical city and Taylor brings it to life and leads it though its streets.
  • I fell in love with Zuzana and Mik even as they fell in love with each other. They are quirky and curious and sweet and absolutely perfect for each other.
  • The scavenger hunt with its (sometimes literally) magical clues and emotional ups and downs was just perfect. I want to fall in love like this.
  • The illustrations are charming and add to the atmosphere of the story.

If you liked this book, read: Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo for another short, magical and beautifully illustrated spin-off of an incredible series.

language of thorns

Quick Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

forestPlot in a sentence: Xifeng is raised in poverty by a brutally strict aunt with the knowledge that her beauty and fate would make her Empress one day.

Recommended age: 13 and up

Diversity:

  • Race: The cast is made up of Asian characters.
  • Disability: One of the main characters is a little person.

Who will love this book:

  • Fans of epic fantasy with morally ambiguous characters.

What I liked about this book:

  • The novel is filled with fairy tale references and Xifeng clearly parallels a fairy tale character that you may not expect at first.
  • The politics! I love fantasy novels based around political strife and this one, with Xifeng’s maneuvering to become Empress, spills me.
  • Xifeng is an interesting heroine: she is ruthless, coldly intelligent and time and time again picks power over love. And yet I understand and like her.
  • Xifeng is also surrounded by a fascinating cast that I grew to love and can’t wait to meet again.

If you liked this book, read: Ash by Malinda Lo for another Asian fantasy based on a fairy tale.

ash

Quick Review: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

libraryPlot in a sentence: When the Emperor Sikander invades princess Amrita’s home, she finds herself on the run with a an oracle and entangled in an ancient world of magic and immortals.

Recommended age: 12 and up

Diversity:

  • Race: This is a fantasy inspired by Indian and Persan history and mythology.

Who will love this book:

  • Fantasy readers who want to explore different mythologies.

What I liked about this book:

  • Amrita is a strong, intelligent woman  with a strong sense of responsibility for her country and her family.
  • Khorana plays with history and mythologies of our world to create a rich and interesting fantasy world.
  • Khorana goes against tropes and gives us a resolution that surprised even a prolific reader like myself and yet suits her characters perfectly.
  • My only disappointment is that this is a standalone book, which makes the ending a bit rushed and cuts short my time with some interesting characters.

If you liked this book, read: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman is also a magical novel about the life Alexander the Great and the cultures his legacy affected.

legacy of kings

Quick Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

bangPlot in a sentence: When Sebastian was 4 years old, he shot and killed his baby sister and ten years later, he still can’t forgive himself.

***STARRED REVIEW***

Recommended age: 13 and up (Disturbing situations, discussions of suicide)

Diversity:

  • Religion: Sebastian’s best friend and love interest is Muslim.

Who will love this book:

  • Readers who like hard topics and harder feelings.

What I liked about this book:

  • It’s a compulsively readable novel about a very difficult topic. I was just turning pages.
  • I loved Sebastian and Aneesa’s friendship and their pizza videos.
  • The complicated family relationship, that mixes love, hate and a lot of pain.

If you liked this book, read: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart for another character with guilt and memory trouble because of terrible events in her past.

we were liars

Quick Review: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

burnPlot in a sentence: In 1977 New York is dealing with a heat wave, arson and a serial killer and through it all Nora is trying to escape a dangerous family situation.

Recommended age: 13 and up

Diversity:

  • Race: The cast is made up of latinx and African American characters.

Who will love this book:

  • Readers who like history and family drama.

What I liked about this book:

  • This novel takes on domestic abuse from an angle rarely addressed in fiction : the abusive child. It is troubling and complicated with no simple solutions.
  • Nora is multidimensional: she is a dancer and a crafts woman, she is strong and afraid, she loves deeply but dares not let people too close lest they learn the violence and poverty of her home.
  • Medina really brings the feel of the 70s to life.
  • Medina taught me so much about a fascinating and deadly summer in New York history. (Though be warned, this is not a thriller about the Son of Sam, he is merely a backdrop to violence with Nora’s home.)

If you liked this book, read: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier for another novel about dealing with a psychopathic younger sibling.

rosa

Quick Review: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

distantPlot in a sentence: Three generations of women grow up between India and the United States, discovering love and their passions.

Recommended age: 13 and up

Diversity:

  • Race: The novel follows Indian and African American families.

Who will love this book:

  • Readers looking for diverse, character driven stories.

What I liked about this book:

  • Though Perkins needs to develop five women over only 300 pages, each of them is fleshed out, different, interesting and real.
  • The glimpses we get into the lives are well chosen to help us understand each of the women and feel invested in them.
  • The novel is very diverse and never stereotypical.
  • It’s a quick, engaging read.

If you liked this book, read: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is an adult book but it is another generational novel about Indian immigrants to the US.

namesake