Alif the Unseen is a hodge-podge of fantasy, science fiction, religion, and politics that defies easy categorization. It follows a Middle-Eastern hacker who goes by the handle Alif and sells his security to anyone with the money to buy it regardless of their affiliations. The story starts off in familiar terrain: Alif's world starts to collapse when the aristocratic girl he was seeing becomes engaged to an equally aristocratic man at her parents' behest. But it quickly leaves the familiar behind and soon Alif discovers a supernatural world within the city he thought he knew while evading government officials and writing code that draws on ancient magic. I particularly enjoyed the conservative neighbor girl that ends up fleeing with Alif, Vikram the Vampire, and of course the talking cat. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson: buy it or check it out today!
Marina's status as the daughter of a famed ballerina means that she's had a privileged life in the Soviet Union. But when her mother discovers something the government wants kept secret, Marina and her father have to flee their cushy life for small flat in Brooklyn. I like a lot of the topics this book touches on: the cold war, ballet, spies, the mafia. Unfortunately the book's strong points were also its weaknesses. The plot was scattered and had so many threads that none were explored in depth and I never became emotionally involved in the characters. There's a bit of ballet at the beginning then it's mostly abandoned, the spy and mafia plots barely get off the ground, and then there's a whole other plot involving Marina and her mother having some sort of supernatural powers that is touched on but never really explored. I wanted to like it, but I wish it was either longer or culled some of the plot threads so that it could better focus on the remaining ones. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem: buy it or check it out today!
This sequel was just as delightful and satisfying as Assassin's Curse. This time there was the additional bonus of a sassy talking cat (a trope I will never tire of), magical islands, more high seas adventure, and the love interests finally getting together. After reading so many series that tease the main couple for three books or more it was satisfying to read one that wraps up the plot neatly in just two. There's only so much tension I can stand! I really like the unusual way their relationship is handled--not your typically happily ever after, but a happy ending nonetheless. If you're looking for a light fantasy adventure with an atypical romance then this series is perfect for you! The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke: buy it or check it out today!
There were many things about this novel that I liked. First of all as someone who sews a lot of her own dresses, I enjoyed the parts that involved descriptions of the dress-making process and the history of the industry (who knew there were riots over buttons?) I loved the rural Australian setting and the character of Edie. But despite all it had going for it, I put down the book disappointed. The interspersed scenes from the aftermath of the crime at the climax of the novel were deliberately vague and felt disingenuous and coy to me. That didn't prevent the ending from being predictable. I really don't mind knowing what's coming--I'm quite used to it in fact. It does annoy me when the author makes such an effort to create a surprise and then doesn't deliver though. Without getting into spoilers I will say that I didn't like the ending and I felt like it left things on a note where none of the characters really grew. I turned the last page thinking "what was the point of all this?" The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee: buy it or check it out today!