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Book Review–The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

Buy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo here

5/5*

Pub Aug 2017

 

I’m very late to the party on this book, and I wish I’d read it before now. I *need* a sequel, STAT.

TLDR–LOVED this book. Full on considering re-reading it right away loved it. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it so I didn’t get much sleep and now have a book hangover loved it. Put down writing my book to finish this one loved it. Like, really, really, really loved it.

Genie Lo is a Chinese American teen in the Bay Area of California (near San Francisco) whose biggest concern is getting into an Ivy League college…until Quentin shows up to tell her he’s the Monkey King and she’s his staff, reincarnated as a human. She thinks he’s out of his mind, and rightfully tells him to go away. Until a demon shows up, and all of this Monkey and Staff thing starts to sound a little more plausible.

The story uses Chinese mythology to fuel the magic, and it’s nice to see a break from Western mythos. To be fair, though, for me Chinese mythology is the next most familiar thing after Western because of living in Singapore for seven years and participating in Chinese culture.

Genie is a great, relateable character. She really just wants to live her life, be a good friend to her bff Yunie, and get into a good college. She’s frustrated by her Chosen One-ness, especially when it starts to interfere with her schooling, her friends, and her family. For adult readers, it will feel familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, down to the snappy dialogue.

Maybe he thought I’d stay quiet in front of my mother for the sake of decorum. That a boy’s good name was more important than a girl’s safety. If so, he was dead effin’ wrong.

and

“My true name,” he said, “…is SUN WUKONG.”

A cold wind passed through the open window, rustling my loose papers like tumbleweed.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said.

Quentin was still trying to cement his “look at me being serious” face. It took him a few seconds to realize I wasn’t flipping out over whoever he was.

“The Sun Wukong,” he said scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”

“I said, I don’t know who that is.”

His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal-size.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing who Batman is!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like–like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I didn’t know why he expected me to recognize him. He couldn’t have been a big-time actor or singer from overseas. I never followed mainland pop culture, but a lot of other people at school did; word would have gotten around if we had a celebrity in our midst.

Plus that was a weird stage name. Monkey King? Was that what passed for sexy among the kids these days?

Quentin, for his part, is a great foil. He imparts knowledge, but not in a boring exposition-y way. But he’s also fallible, and a bit of a douche at times. I like that he’s not perfect, that he sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) complicates Genie’s life like crazy.

There are two gods hanging around as secondary characters. One is Guanyin, who achieved enlightenment, but turned her back on it to help humanity. The other is Erlang Shen, the nephew of the king of the gods, The Jade Emperor. They are often..helpful, but not in the ways that Genie hopes. For one, neither is going to directly interfere to help catch the ~100 or so demons running around the Bay Area.

The non-celestial-being secondary characters are well fleshed out–we understand, more or less, why her parents broke up and what sort of relationship they have now, what Genie’s BFF’s hopes and dreams are and how their friendship works.

The pacing is solid, the setting is well described (I do live in the Bay Area, so take that one with a grain of salt), and I think the book has broad appeal. The prose sparkles.

Seriously. Go read it. You won’t regret it.

Book recommendation

I’ll be posting a review of this soon, but I’m just popping in to say that if you like fantasy or YA, you really need to be reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. The magic system is grounded in Chinese mythology, but because Genie is more or less ignorant of it, we learn what’s important as she learns. Genie’s voice is hilarious–I’ve already sent quotes I highlighted to two different friends and I’m only a third of the way through the book.

“That doesn’t matter,” I hissed. “You are not entitled to my thoughts, emotions, or any other part of my life unless I say so. What you get from me is jack and squat, regardless of whether or not you understand. Ming bai le ma, dickhead?”

and later

“From what I could gather from you friend, however, the two of you are only doing this to gain access to a magical kingdom called Harvard.”

“Pfft. Yale would also suffice.”

 

Strong female protagonist who’s a badass for the win!

Best Books I Read in 2018

According to Goodreads, I’ve read one hundred fifty books this year.

Having read so many books, which were the best ones? The ones that stuck with me, that I want to grab you and tell you to read this book now. Here are ten, in no particular order.

Buy Hamilton’s Battalion here

This is an anthology of three novellas perfect for the Hamilton fan in your family. All the stories touch upon Alexander Hamilton, but they are not about him. Rather he serves to act as the connecting thread through three very different stories.

My favorite is Promised Land by Courtney Milan. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman serving in the continental army as a man and Nathan, who she tackles, thinking him a British spy. Reasonable, given his sympathies when they last spoke. Awkward, given that her husband thought she’d died of yellow fever. Rachel and Nathan are both great characters, and they have issues to work through (even putting aside the failed her own death thing) that make the story compelling.

Buy A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole here

A Princess in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole. I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Prince Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. When an unknown disease hits Thesolo, Thabiso convinces Ledi to go there with him and help find a cure. Oh, and they’ll need to pretend their childhood engagement is back on. (I love the fake relationship trope)

Book 2 in the series was great, and I’ve pre-ordered book 3 (April 2019) and the novella that will act as book 2.5 (Jan 2019).

Buy Rosemary and Rue here

So I’m actually going to use this space to encourage you to read the entire October Daye series–I devoured the first twelve books in only a few weeks. I will say that books 1 and 2 are good but a little shaky, but once they take off in book 3 they only get better and better. October Daye is a half-human half-fae in this urban fantasy series.

It opens with her on a case as a private detective–but instead of recovering the missing people, she is turned into a fish for fourteen years. That loss of time informs the rest of the series because her partner moved on, and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. She turns her back on the world of Fae until she’s dragged back into that life by a binding spell. The secondary characters are compelling, Toby is a flawed but awesome heroine who anchors the series. I love Seanan McGuire’s books almost without exception and I’m already dying for book thirteen.

Buy Puddin here

If you’ve read or seen Dumplin’ (and you SHOULD), you’ll want to read the sequel, Puddin’. If you haven’t, Puddin’ works as a solo book, but Dumplin’ is so good, I encourage you to read both. Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, who has gone to fat camp every year, but is determined to go to a journalism camp this year instead. Callie Reyes is in line to be the next dance captain until she leads an act of vandalism, and Millie identifies her. Callie has to work with Millie at her uncle’s gym as her punishment. An unlikely friendship forms…until Callie finds out that Millie is the one who turned her in. Millie has to battle her mother and the world’s expectations of fat girls to follow her dreams. Julie Murphy is great.

Buy Me Talk Pretty One Day here

This is actually a recommendation for the audiobook rather than the physical book. While reading the essays can give you a giggle, it’s hearing David Sedaris’s voice with all of its inflections as he reads his work that will make you die of laughter. I recommend all of his books, and just finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls on audiobook about a month ago.

Buy Heretics Anonymous here

When an atheist is enrolled at a Catholic school, how will he ever make friends or fit in? How will he survive any day without his eyes rolling out of his head? This is a great YA novel about faith, falling in love, and growing up. Definitely worth a re-read.

Buy Big Fat Bitch here

I gave a rave review to Big Fat Bitch here, but my fast review is that this slow burn romance is a great take on Beauty and the Beast. I love that the “beast” in this book is the woman. But it’s so much more than a romance. If you like deeply complex narratives, love stories, and books making you cry, pick this one up.

Buy Media Darling here

I reviewed Media Darling here, but my fast pitch is that this f/f romance between a movie star and a media writer is possibly my favorite romance of the past year, period. Both Emerson and Haley are well written, three-dimensional characters. They make mistakes, make love, and while it’s hard fought, they get their happy ending.

Buy The Autumn Bride here

I got this book from The Ripped Bodice (indie romance bookstore–buy from them!) as a “blind date with a book.” I haven’t read much Regency era romance, but it was my blind date, so I decided to give it a chance. Abigail and her three closest friends are practically starving. So Abby does something she’d never imagined–she goes over some rooftops and breaks into a house, desperate to find something to buy–or eat. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice, an old woman being abused by her servants. Abigail and her friends save Lady Beatrice from her servants and are promptly adopted as her “nieces”–the Chance sisters.

When her real nephew, Max, returns from abroad, he’s certain that the girls are gold diggers at best. Sparks fly between him and Abigail, and the rest is history. Each of the four books (Autumn Bride, Winter Bride, Spring Bride, and Summer books) works as a stand alone, but they’re better read back to back as a series.

Buy Nate Expectations here

Nate Expectations is actually the third book in Tim Federles’ series about Nate, a small town boy who becomes a Broadway Actor. In this book, Nate’s show closes down and he has to go back to small town life. When he’s assigned a project on the book Great Expectations, he decides to put on a musical. The book centers around this. There’s great secondary characters and Nate continues on his journey to figuring out who he really is.

You don’t need to read the first two books in the series, but if this book appeals to you, read them first.

 

What was/were your favorite book/s of 2018

 

 

 

Review–Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert

Get it here on kindle for $0.99.

5/5*

Pub October 2018

 

This hot Halloween erotic romance can be devoured in one bite (pun intended).

Chastity identifies the hot stranger who keeps coming into her family’s coffee shop as a werewolf right away. But she doesn’t warn her family of huntresses, or even any of the men in her family. When he finally asks her out, she says yes. If she can kill him, she’ll prove to her family that she can be a huntress, too. The problem is that he’s not a mindless beast, like she’d been warned. He seems like a….a guy. An artist, even. Can a monster make art? Worse, can a monster inspire feelings other than hate….like lust?

Luke is a werewolf. But like most weres, he’s a solitary creature who likes his meat raw–and the forest behind his house keeps him perfectly happy via plenty of rabbits and such. But on a full moon, he’s chased by a group of huntresses…only to catch the scent of something primal. His mate. But the woman wearing the sweatshirt isn’t her. Instead she’s this shy, sweet girl who works in a coffee shop. Or so he thinks…until she tries to kill him.

Luke and Chas have chemistry that sparks right off the page. They’re easy to root for because it’s blindingly obvious that they should be together. Their banter is hot, and their fighting even more so. When they finally get together, I was squirming.

I love the idea of huntresses being obsessed with killing mindless monsters versus the very civilized but solitary werewolf who just wants to meet and commit to his mate for life. The dichotomy makes their story sparkle.

Luke is very much an alpha character. He doesn’t hesitate to take control or make a move. But he’s also committed to consent, which is really sexy. There’s an instance where the consent is blurry and he pulls away immediately. This only makes him hotter.

I wish it were longer, but I always wish a Talia Hibbert book were longer–she’s such a talented writer that I am always sorry when the story finishes. There’s such a great glimpse into the world of the huntresses and the world of werewolves. She has a unique take on what can be a really tiresome trope. Kudos, Talia!

It’s October 1, which means it’s on sale TODAY!

Review: Dream Eater by K. Bird Lincoln

Buy Dream Eater here

3*/5

Publication date–April 2017

 

I bought Dream Eater at the Worldcon Convention from the publisher’s table.

The idea is a interesting one. There are beings, called Kind, from every culture with powers and skills unique to them, more than what any mortal would have. Koi is a half Japanese, half Hawaiian college aged woman. She has a phobia about touching people because when she does, she gets a snippet of what they dream. Her mom has died, her father has dementia and her little sister is the one who holds the family together. But at the start of the book, her sister Marlin needs Koi to step up and watch her father. Koi needs to go to class, and ends up leaning on a man named Ken to watch her father. But Ken isn’t all that he seems to be–he’s a Kitsune, sent to bring her father back to Japan to face the Council. There’s a professor with evil intentions who is after Koi, as well. At first he claims it’s just for translating, but it turns out he needs her to help free the water dragon trapped in a stone, and he’s willing to hurt whoever gets in his way. The book fuses mythology from around the world, predominantly Japanese and Pacific Northwest First Peoples.

The book was pretty uneven. At times I was so engaged I devoured a chunk of it. At others, I was bored, or just lost track of the blend of mythologies.

The thing that grabbed me most was the budding sexual tension between Koi and Ken. I wanted to know where it went more than I cared about the battle between the water dragon and Thunderbird. If I read the sequel, Black Pearl Dreaming, it’s because I want to know how Ken and Koi are doing as a couple.

I got lost a number of times because the blended mythology got confusing, or didn’t work as I tried to fit the puzzle pieces of the story together. But I think this would be a selling point to other readers. I don’t think it’s necessarily badly done as much as it was I am busy and just lost the thread, and once lost, it’s impossible to get back without going back and starting over.

So ultimately, I give it a 3/3.5* out of 5 because it was okay–I didn’t dislike it. But I doubt that I’ll read the sequel.

ARC Review–A Dreadful Fairy Book by Jon Etter

Pre-order A Dreadful Fairy Book by Jon Etter

3/5*

Publication–November 6, 2018

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter, Elanor, is in fifth grade and loves fantasy, so I read A Dreadful Fairy Book with her in mind. Is this something she would like? Is this something I would like her to read/would like to read aloud with her? Is it something I would recommend my school library stock? The answer to all of these questions is complex and why I had to drop my rating from a 4/5 to a 3/5.

A Dreadful Fairy Book uses the same sort of overarching theme of ominous narration employed in the Series of Unfortunate Events books, wherein a narrator pops up throughout the story to add commentary and to caution you to turn back because it’s not a happy story. It opens with a forward from Quentin Q. Quacksworth, our narrator, telling you that this will be a dreadful fairy book, and that the reader should turn back just as Lemony Snicket does. This is used throughout the book, and if your child likes that sort of device, they will enjoy that.

Shade, the main character of the book is one most children will relate to–she feels too different from everyone else in her village. In this story it’s because she’s a reader like her parents, and the village looks down on this literacy, even though it’s saved them many times (no you can’t turn the water pink which will kill all the fishes and make the water poison because it would look pretty). In fact, the book opens with Shade in a fury because the village had bought some “harmless” fireworks and accidentally burned down Shade’s house. So Shade tells them she’s leaving, and she takes the only book to survive the conflagration to go seek a new home with as many books as possible.

Along her way, Shade encounters all sorts of fairy creatures–a bridge troll who doesn’t like to get dirty, an Anthony of the Wisp who doesn’t want to lead people to their doom, as well as some with more menacing creatures. Shade acquires some allies–Ginch, a talkative Brownie who cheats at cards, and The Professor, a silent pixie whose pockets carry an improbable number of items. A witch gives them directions to a library on the Marble Cliffs, which becomes a quest for Shade. Ginch and The Professor end up joining her on the quest after some villagers with torches start to chase them.

The issues that parents may have with the book are the faux swearing that happens with high frequency and the verbal dialects given to the characters lean heavily on ethnic stereotypes. I don’t particularly care about the former, but the latter is a big problem for me.

What do I mean by the ethnic stereotype dialects?

“It’s-a the sad story, mine: the woeful tale of the Rigolleto Ginch, the devoted servant in-a the big, big manse of Fuseli Cavatappi, the Basta of Pasta, who was-a brought-a low…” and “Ey, paisan! You know-a the moth girl” among thousands of others from Ginch.

“Vy boss vant kinders?”

“‘Course it’s good youse mooks!” the little man replied in a deep raspy voice.

“‘Course oi can see ye,” she snorted. “Drank a glass o’ milk backwards after refusin’ to do me chore first thing on Sain Bartleby the Unwillin’s Day when oi were ten.”

“Oui, mon petit chou,” the gargoyle said as they entered, pointing at the map with his free hand, “but ze middle of ze land–“

Ginch is the only main character with a dialect (the Professor is either silent or stutters when speaking), but it’s a near constant stream. He doesn’t speak without word-a-ing something. It gets grating fast. As does the fact that Shade is almost the only person who speaks properly–it feels like Etter was throwing pins at a map of Europe and then assigning stereotypes. How will an Italian/Italian American child feel reading a book where their ethnicity is used as a punchline?

This bothered me enough that I took the rating from 4 stars to 3. Dialects aren’t bad (although using ones with blinding red flags are), but they need only be used sparingly because otherwise they become irritating.

So how do I feel about those questions I kept in mind while reading this. I don’t think it’s surprising that “No, I don’t really want my daughter reading this,” and “No, I won’t be recommending this book to my school library,” and “No, I won’t recommend this book to parents of other similarly aged children,” are where I come down.

 

 

Review–When Trump Changed: The Feminist Science Fiction League Quashes the Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber by Marleen S. Barr

Buy When Trump Changed Here

2/5*

Published July 2018

 

This satirical anthology of short stories by Marleen S. Barr attacks Donald Trump’s presidency with any number of variations familiar to science fiction fans.

The stories are short. This makes for a bathroom book where you can read a few stories and put it back down. However, if you read too many at a time, fatigue sets in and the stories blur together.

My favorite story is “Springtime for Trump,” a hilarious take on the already hilarious movie/musical The Producers. Instead of creating the most offensive play ever created, two feminist extraterrestrials decide to create the most offensive male candidate in history and pit him against the most qualified woman in history. Just as in The Producers, the joke is on the aliens when the public embraces Donald Trump.

I am disappointed, however, by the fact that while this purports to be a feminist book there are hostile comments about weight (planet wide obesity problem emerged…subway riders had to eat right and excercise…Weight Watchers membership skyrocketed, his already fat ass instantaneously became huge), and outright attacks on Melania’s history as a model (she had no skills other than posing nude, my brother says you’re nothing but a ho, she continued to speak in a prostitute-like tone). There’s a story when a black girl speaks stereotypical AAVE–ho, skanky-ass. I don’t want to stay here with no trump pigs–and it’s painfully obvious that it was written by someone white. I could go into a long song and dance, but feminism isn’t worth a damn when it’s not intersectional and this isn’t intersectional feminism, it’s a specific type of white feminism and that’s disappointing and caused my rating to drop from a four to a two.

Ultimately, I think the anthology would’ve been stronger both as parody and an anthology had it been multi-authored, or a single narrative with the fictional Dr. Sondra Lear as the heroine. However, it’s much more highly reviewed on Amazon/Goodreads–Your mileage may vary.

Want my copy of the book? Leave a comment and I’ll contact the winner. Contest closes Sept 15, 2018.