the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘secrets

Not sure I’m ready to “come back” to blogging, but I have a lot in my head about this book, and I wanna get all the words outta my head, ok?

I also need Netflix or HBO to make a TV show of The Grace of Sorcerers. Because reasons.

Non-spoilery stuff:

the Hua’s are purveyors of the impossible. No other family of warlocks and sorcerers are willing to take the risks the Hua’s are willing to take. How else to touch the impossible, but by doing that which no one else has every tried? From mother to daughter the arcane knowledge of sorcery is passed down. The Hua children need no outside tutors, who could possibly know more than their mother?

As purveyors of the impossible, it makes sense that the Hua women will be drawn towards that which can destroy them. This event is so common that there is a prophecy that promises it. Children laugh at prophecies, saying “that’s silly. That will never happen to me, I’m smarter than that”. Their mother’s too, once believed the same thing.

The Grace of Sorcerers by Maria Ying is a story about what we do for love. It’s a story about secrets, and promises, and that we can change without dying. Also? Hot as fuck.

Obligatory BLUNT and I AM NOT KIDDING adult content warning: if you don’t enjoy intensely hot lesbian sex scenes that were written by women, for women, thank you for playing please exit stage left, this is not the story for you. For those of you still here, this book gonna spoil you. You a can thank me later. If even one person asks me if this would be a good book for their 14 year old who is an advanced reader, you know what? Yes, I do in fact recommend this book for your teenager.

The secret to making me love your story is to tell me just less than I want to know. As the writer, you of course are welcome to know all that stuff. But don’t tell me all those details, keep me wanting, keep me looking for everything. Make me want it so bad I start making up my own stories. Maria Ying pulls that stunt not with world building, or magic systems, but with characters. These are people I want to follow around, I want to sneak into their houses and see what books they’re reading. I hate people, and I want to actually be social with these people. I want to be Dallas when I grow up.

I was not expecting the back-to-back-to-back kicks in the feels at the end of this book. I can’t wait to read it again and rip my heart into a million pieces all over again. The entire book pushed all my buttons, so I should have seen some of the kicks in the feels coming? You know, I did see one bit of it coming, but I was in denial because I didn’t want that to happen.

Spoilery stuff:

In the spirit of Choose Your Own Adventure and No One Needs a 3500 Word Blog Post, you are invited to read the following word soups in any order you please. This is how my brain works. There are spoilers. Have fun.

Click here to read about my obsession with Dallas.

Click here for a whole buncha obsessive word soup about Yves, true names, secrets, and the nature of time.

Click here to read about me fawning over with Elizaveta and Fahriye. I love them so much!

Click here for all the spoilers about Olesya

Click here to read all about how I got kicked in the feels by Dallas and Viveca, and the power of myth, grief-madness, and our inability to let go.

Who the heck is Maria Ying? Not only is she a character in The Grace of Sorcerers, she is the joint pseudonym of Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Devi Lacroix. This is my first time reading something from Devi. This is not the first time I’ve described Benjanun’s work as decadent, or been spoiled by the sex scenes she writes.

It would be a crime not to mention that last scene. You know the one I mean. How any other sex scene in any other book is supposed to live up to this, I have no idea.

I have high expectations of the fanfics that will be born out of that scene.

Much thanks to Annorlunda Books for providing an ARC of Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest, out March 3, 2021.  You can read my interview with Francesca Forrest here

 

On the surface, Lagoonfire is a mystery starring an investigator whose best friends are retired gods. 

 

And underneath that first mystery was a garden that unfurled into verdant blossoms, as an entire world unfolded in front of me.  One of the many things I loved about Lagoonfire is how it felt like opening my eyes.  You know how you feel when you walk into a bookstore, or a library, or a museum you’ve never been in before and your face just lights up? Yeah, Lagoonfire feels like that.

 

Hmmm . . .  now that I really think about it, Lagoonfire isn’t a mystery. 

 

It’s about how the stories we tell shape us and our world and our beliefs. It’s about how the people we love will lie to us, to protect us. It’s about how love makes us selfish.  It’s about how easily the present can erase the past, if we let it. And we always let it.  It’s about how if we tell ourselves a story enough times, it becomes our truth, and a fact, and how facts are not always the truth, just the version of history we were convinced of, so we live as if the story was real, because that’s easier/safer than the alternative.  I really love stories like this, and I love how Forrest tells this story.

 

The sequel to Forrest’s 2018 novella The Inconvenient God, Lagoonfire works perfectly well as a stand alone. That said, The Inconvenient God (read my review) is an absolute treat, and absolutely worth reading, and worth reading first, because Lagoonfire has so many big reveals.

Lagoonfire was so good, it took me a few hours to come back to myself after I’d finished reading it. It took me a few hours to remember how to form words into sentences.  (Books literally floor me, ok?)

 

Decommissioner Thirty-Seven prefers that people call her by her formal title, not her real name. Her friends know her name of course, but she cringes when they use it.  If she has to, she’ll allow people to call her by her childhood nickname, Sweeting. 

 

She’s worked at The Polity’s Ministry of Divinities most of her adult life, and I should be very clear about what her profession entails. As a decommissioner, her job is is literally decommission, or “retire”, deities.  They become mortal, to then live out a regular mortal lifespan, and then die.  Gods no longer worshipped become truly forgotten. In the name of unity and progress,  the Polity has the ability to give mere mortals power over any god who roams the earth, as prayers to a multitude of local harvest gods and goddesses now become shiny modern devotions to the Abstraction of the Harvest.  The Polity views this as bringing harmony and equality to all. And should you forget that harmony and prioritizing the common good are virtues, the Polity’s job is to ensure that you remember.

 

The story opens with a freak flood at a new shoreline construction project. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven is asked to check in on her friend Laloran-Morna and make sure he wasn’t responsible.  He’s not just a retired guy that she’s friends with, Laloran-Morna was an ocean god that she decommissioned, she botched the job, and they became friends afterwards (long story).  And how could he be responsible?  Laloran-Morna lives in a 4th floor apartment, requires nearly 24 hour home care, and is practically on his death bed.  There’s no possible way he can make it to the seashore, so he asks Sweeting to go to the shore to pray in his place, to his lost lover.

 

Why does Sweeting seem okay working for The Polity? They seem authoritarian and kinda horrible!

 

Why do these retired gods seem okay with being mortal, and no longer having worshippers?

 

Why doesn’t Sweeting want anyone to know her real name?

 

If you’ve ever read a Francesca Forrest, you’ll know that what the story is “about” isn’t what the story is about. 

 

What if you were the god of a particular place, and that place no longer existed?

 

Calling Lagoonfire a mystery is like calling Buckinham Palace a building. Like, yes, it is a building, but it’s so much more than a building! 

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Wisp of a Thing – a Tufa Novel, by Alex Bledsoe

published in 2013

where I got it: gift from a friend

 

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If you enjoyed Alex Bledsoe’s first Tufa novel, The Hum and the Shiver you’ll be happy to hear that, Wisp of a Thing is more of that. Not more of the same (not by a long shot), but more magical realism, more mists in the mountains hiding secrets that aren’t there for you to find – secrets that will reveal themselves in their own sweet time and in turns tease you, ignore you, or use you, along the way. The Tufa know what and who they are, and they know who us mortals are. Masters of staying hidden, the Tufa people usually have no interest in letting strangers in on their secrets.

Rob Quillen is learning about hiding. A finalist on a televised talent show, his girlfriend was killed in a plane crash on her way to see him compete in the finals. Drowning in grief, Rob just wants to hide from the world for a while. And where else to hide than the Great Smoky Mountains? Rob has the Tufa look about him, which may be why another singer told him of the Tufa music of Cloud County, Tennessee, and that if Rob found the right Tufa song, his broken heart would mend. Did this other singer think Rob a lost Tufa?

Upon arriving in the rustic village of Needsville, Rob discovers the most amazing music he’s ever heard. He hears it and enjoys it, but he sure doesn’t understand what’s just below the music, or what just the right circumstances allow him to see. It’s funny, because Rob thinks the universe revolves around him. It’s kinda cute and endearing how he thinks all this is about him. Rob is about to have the most surprising week of his life.

You know how the right piece of music can pull you right in? Maybe you’re having a bad day, maybe you’re restless and distracted, and then you listen to the soaring brassy themes of some John Williams music or the railroad track rumble and sizzle of distorted guitar in a rock song, or whatever kind of music floats your boat, and suddenly you feel centered and grounded? Alex Bledsoe’s writing is a bit like that too. His prose pulls you right in, pulls you right into a forgotten mountain town, pulls you right into secret histories, family feuds, and the forests and mists that hide it all.

Then it makes sense there would be music in this book, right? Oh yes, there is music! Wisp of a Thing is full of songs and verses, and these are words that have power. And people who have power tend to like to keep it, which means words have been hidden and buried. And the best person to find something that’s been buried is someone who is nearly a ghost herself.

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Unbreakable by Will McIntosh

published June 27th, 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the author

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Celia makes it look easy, but she’s been training so long to break records that to her, all the training has begun to feel hum-drum.  She figured out the trick to conditioning her body years ago: all she has to do is suffer, and the hardest part of breaking a record is the unceasing boredom. Most minutes holding your breath under water, longest time being buried alive, most number of hours spent without sleeping, she’s done it all and she knows it’s 99% sitting around waiting.

 

She’s lived in Record City for as long as she can remember, and for nearly as long she’s lived with her adoptive parents and a few house mates. They eat together, train together, cheer each other on, and help each other recover. When the team breaks a challenging record, it’s cash rewards all around and better housing.  Losing out to another team means having to move to a dingier apartment with fewer windows.  It might sound weird to you and I, but to Celia this is what family and love and friendship means.  When you’re surrounded by people who live their lives the same way you do, there isn’t anything to tell you that this is all very weird.

 

Part Hunger Games, part Lost, and part other things I can’t mention because I don’t want to wreck the twist, Will McIntosh’s new novel Unbreakable will grab you by the neck and won’t let go. Longer than a novella, but shorter than a novel, McIntosh self published this very strange, ultra fast-paced, narrowly focused, and addictively readable novel.  It is currently available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon.

 

As a friend lies dying, Celia escapes Record City on a quest to find a life saving medicine she’s heard about on television. And what she finds are . . .  more walled cities full of single minded citizens who shush her every time she tries to ask questions.  Even in Record City, the rule was “follow the rules sand shut up”, and the TV and movie characters who inspire Celia to  be curious about the world were bound to get her into trouble eventually.

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Lost Souls,  by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville series)

published March 31 2017

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher. Thanks Subterranean!!

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These ongoing series are fantastic, aren’t they?  Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  You never run out of books to read!

 

On the downside, a huge series like that can be daunting for someone who hasn’t even started it yet.  You mean I have to read 7 novels before the backstory starts up?  You most certainly do not.  Find yourself a short story or novella that takes place in that world as a “dipping your toes in”, as it were. Will you be reading things out of order? Yeah. Might there be spoilers? Yep!  But, you’ll get a feel for if this is a world you want to invest more time in.

 

Kelley Armstrong’s first novel, Bitten, came out in 2001, and since then she’s written over 25 novels, primarily supernatural urban fantasy, but also mystery and a few books for kids.

 

Her newest novella, Lost Souls, is part of her Cainsville series, in which people are desperately trying to escape their past and live normal lives.  This novella was my first  first Armstrong (I know, right?), and I’m pleased to say I came out of it caring about these characters and wanting to keep their secrets safe. Even better news?  If, like me, you haven’t read any of the Cainsville urban fantasy novels,  this Lost Souls is a good jumping in point.  Spoilers? Oh,sure,  a few.  But knowing the future is kinda fun, because when you go back and read the first two Cainsville novels,  you’ll feel like you’re in on a big secret that no one else knows.

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photo taken somewhere at the Gollancz offices. the "title" says it all.

photo taken somewhere at the Gollancz offices. the “title” says it all.

The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch

Available Oct 8th in the US, Oct 10th in the UK

where I got it: Netgalley

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I assume if you are reading this review that you have read the first two books in this series. You’ll find minor spoilers for the first two books in this review, but this is a spoiler-free review for The Republic of Thieves (plot points mentioned in the review take place in the first 100 pages of the book, or have already been revealed on the authors website). It is very important to me that the surprises not be spoiled, so I’ve changed commenting to full moderation to keep anyone from posting spoilers in the comments. The first rule of the end of The Republic of Thieves is that you do not talk about the end of The Republic of Thieves. catch my drift?

When last we saw Locke Lamora at the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies, he was dying of poison. The Republic of Thieves picks up a few months later, and if Locke was anyone else, he’d be dead by now. He’s just too damn stubborn to die.  Good thing, or this would be a really short, really boring book.   Scott Lynch does a lot of things, and boring will never be among them.  Another thing Lynch doesn’t do is give us more of the same.  When Red Seas under Red Skies came out, there was plenty of “this is nothing like the first book! what the hell!”. You’re right. It was nothing like the first book.  With characters like Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, a rich and complex world, and an author as talented as Scott Lynch, why in the hell would you want more of the same? Aren’t you itching to see what everyone is really capable of?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.