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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

 

 

 

ARC–Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Purchase The Kingdom of Needle and Bone

5/5*

Publication date Dec 31, 2018

 

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

I don’t know how Mira Grant does it, but she’s created another horror novella that is just as gripping as her other work. I enjoy her work as Mira Grant, and I enjoy her work as Seanan McGuire. The Mira Grant titles are all horror, and I’m not generally a person who enjoys that genre.

Lisa Morris isn’t feeling so good. But she’s at a Florida theme park, and she wants to enjoy her last day there. So she doesn’t tell her parents, and when they take her, she unintentionally creates a cascading infection of what will eventually be known as Morris disease–a highly contagious virus that mimics measles, but that kills many and leaves those who have survived it as immunocompromised for the rest of their lives. Vaccines will no longer work on them.

The story plays out against the all too real fights over vaccination and herd immunity. It also throws in the question of bodily autonomy–where’s the line between the public good and being forced to do something (abortion being the obvious connection–can and should the state force a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want to term).

It’s a well written story with a complex main character–Isabella, a pediatrician and Lisa’s aunt–who we’re never quite sure of. She’s a gray character. The length of the story means that side characters aren’t super developed, but enough is there that they’re interesting.

I can’t give away too much. It’s a fast read, and if you like horror, or books that just f* with your head, then Mira Grant is always a good choice.

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–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.

Review–Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer

Click here to buy Must Love Black

Rating 4/5*

Published January 2011

Philippa’s father just remarried, years after her mother died in a tragic car wreck. So she’s relieved to have a summer job to escape to. She’s to nanny ten year old twin girls at a mansion (turned spa) on the cliffs of Bar Harbor, Maine. The ad specified must love black, but that’s no problem for Philippa, who lives in black.

The mansion (spa) is not quite what it seems. Philippa is confined to the “domain” of the twins, with a rigorous schedule that includes mandatory “fun” time. However, fun must never bring them into contact with the guests. They almost never see the twins’ father, and when they do, it’s almost never without his business partner, Lady Buena Verde who seems intent on keeping the dad away from his daughter. More, did Philippa really see a ghost? Are the mysterious goings on a ghost or just Philippa’s overactive imagination, spurred on by the gothic novel her mother wrote?

McClymer uses snippets from Manor of Dark Dreams, the book by Philippa’s mother at the start of each chapter to help set the tone and act as meta commentary. It’s a device used to good advantage, and the snippets are tantalizing enough to want to read it (or you can read Jane Eyre, which Manor of Dark Dreams is clearly modeled after).

The characters are mostly well done. The twins are generally treated as a singular unit until the introduction of the pet goat, Misty Gale. I wish we could’ve seen more differentiation between the two. Mr. Pertweath evolves over the course of the book. Philippa’s character arc is more about bringing the girls and their father together than making her more interested in or sympathetic toward her father or interested in giving her stepmother a chance–but I think that’s pretty true to form for a sixteen year old.

The supernatural elements of the book are much more subtle than I had expected, given the flap copy, but are present. But if you are looking for a full blown ghost story, this isn’t it–the supernatural is more of a secondary or tertiary storyline.

It’s a fun, easy read for YA readers.