About me

I am a bookseller-turned-librarian with a deep love for reading fantasy, and all of its sub-genres. I have also been known to dally with a historical or literary novel or two now and then. I review for Library Journal and Netgalley, and have my nose into all manner of books, large press and small. If there is something you would like me to take a look at, please do drop me a line. aprilmsteenburgh @ gmail. com

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The Offering (Sovereign Series) By E.R. Arroyo

Cori is free. She is free of Antius, where she had been raised and keep as a medical oddity and resource. She is free of all the experimentation and oppression. She is free to get to know Dylan. She is free to finally starting sorting out just who she is. If only everything else would stop getting in the way.

The Antius citizens they managed to liberate are suffering from infection and a particular sort of withdrawal, keeping Mercy colony from dispersing before Antius can retaliate. The proposed solution is not something Cori is ready, or willing, to face. So she flees to The City and its efficiently feral inhabitants, seeking her friend Tyce and comfort away from expectation.

Finding out she fits right in, and that The City boys are far from the overall hardened killers everyone assumed might not have been what she expected, but she welcomes it. It is a different sort of freedom in The City, and one she finds herself growing quite comfortable with as she grows a bit more comfortable in her own skin.

But stories rarely end so easily. The threat of Antius and its armies looms large and when Tyce returns to The City he brings with him news of abduction and death. Learning more about herself,her parents and where she came from, and pulling together her City boys and colony allies, Cori will once more shoulder a world’s worth of responsibility and step into the line of fire.

The Offering is the second book in the Sovereign series, and is a book that manages to walk that difficult balance of bleak and wonder with an enviable ease. Settled in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world where those that did not manage to hide were decimated or mutated during the disastrous event, Arroyo finds ways to work in the little things that remind us of what it is to be human, why the struggle is worth it- the smiles and small touches at the end. Little bits of wonder take a bit of the grit away when it is most needed- so while it is never a light book, it is never overwhelmingly oppressive. But most of all the characters will pull you in and keep you reading. Cori goes well beyond being a female protagonist I am proud to cheer for- she is relatable. Every sulk, snarl and snap along with every smile, smirk and sneer is wonderful and they combine into a perfectly imperfect young woman.

I have a personal soft spot for the City Boys. Give The Offering a read and they will rope you in as well.

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So Many Authors so Little Time!

So, having just reviewed a book by Joyce Chng, I am pretty stoked to point out she has agreed to write a story for the anthology Christy and I are putting together. Earlier this year we successfully funded and published Fight Like a Girl (and have gotten some pretty swell reviews!).

Our current project has a slightly different theme.

“How would an immortal deal with the End Times? The world will inevitably come stumbling into apocalypse, and They will be there to witness it. We want to explore how myths, how fae creatures of all cultures, beings generally seen as eternal (or at least very long-lived) would cope with the end of the world around them. Be it through nuclear incident, religious fervor or rampaging zombies, we are going to discover just What Follows…”

If you would like to see who else is writing for the book, read more about what is going on, and help make this happen! Please check us out.

 

Rider by Joyce Chng

I should know better than to start anything Joyce has written before bed. It guarantees I will be up long past my bed time. Happens every time.

But oh, what a problem to have. Joyce has a way with words that makes mundane things like getting to bed early enough to be well rested for work tomorrow seem irrelevant, far away. As soon as I started Rider, I more or less knew I was doomed to be up with the sun, and I was quite alright with that. The desert world she brings us to, with its encroaching sands and talented Agri-seers working with plants to try and keep the dunes at bay and people fed, is so real and dangerous and engrossing and is peopled with characters that breathe and hurt and love. I was content to be held captive.

Lifang has always been able to make plants sing, and so she ends up selected for the Agi-seers. But she dreams of being a Rider, like her sister- one of the humans partnered with the intelligent Quetz that were discovered with the planet. Humans have a partnership with the Quetz, a sort of understanding. But there are the Quetz, and then there are the Hunters, their wild cousins. And before Lifang leaves to join the Agi-seers she encounters a Hunter at a waterfall, and that encounter will change her life.

One of the things that stands out most about Rider is the culture that Joyce has woven so tightly throughout this alien world she has created. The humans are rich with it, but so are the Quetz. One of Joyce’s strengths as a writer has always been her ability to make cultures sing out to her readers. Nothing is ever shallow or simple and it adds just an enjoyable beauty to everything she creates.

Rider is a YA novel, but I would encourage adults to take it for a spin. Allow yourself to be captivated by a coming of age story that is as familiar as it is alien and let yourself grow along with Lifang.

Traitors by Carrie Clevenger

When Xan Marcellus gets an order to take a job, it is from a source he cannot refuse. With Nin in tow, Xan sets out to a town in Texas where he will follow through on the multiple target hit he has been assigned. The problem is, it has been awhile since Xan took a job of this nature, and he has spent a good amount of time around humans. Is it possible he has gone a little soft around the edges? And how will having company along for the ride change the game?

Xan and Nin are vampires I could get addicted to. There is a depth of character and a tense edge of violence that appeal to me- I don’t like my vamps cuddly and sympathetic. I prefer they have teeth- and Carrie fulfills that requirement with panache. Fast-paced writing and an attention to detail make the Crooked Fang books a pleasure to read.

If you are looking for vampires with bite, Carrie Clevenger is the author for you. 

Night Calls by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Night Calls

It started as a normal evening- farm folk defending life and livestock from a predator- but when Alfreda and her father went out the next morning to recover the precious wolf pelt they found horror in its place. It was not a wolf that hung, ready to be skinned, but a man.

Thus starts a grim sort of waiting as families hope that their loved one is not one of the afflicted. And through it all, Alfreda can hear the wolves calling.

It is a rough and sudden jump into an adulthood far different than Alfreda had ever imagined. Her mother’s bloodline is known to throw Practitioners, individuals knowledgeable in folklore and skilled in folk magic, and she has inherited its gifts.

I have not been so enthralled with a novel since Wrede’s ‘Thirteenth Child’. I have a deep fondness for frontier-type fantasy and ‘Night Calls’ is beautifully executed in that regard. The fantasy aspects are worked into the world, are an integral part of it. The little magics, as well as the grand, are a part of day to day life.

It takes talent to build a world so rich and lush that the reader cannot imagine it ever being differently, but that is exactly what Ms. Kimbriel has done. Readers are invited into Alfreda’s world, and will not want to leave. Alfreda herself is a joy to get to know and to follow as she starts along the path of a Practitioner. Her love of her family, her fascination and dedication to her craft, and the adventure she finds herself in the middle of all make her a magnificent protagonist that will appeal to young and old alike.

The eBook can be found at BookView Cafe

The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

How does a jaded swordsman end up partnered with a caustic and lethal assassin? A lot of accidents and behind the scenes manipulation.

Crown Tower serves to introduce readers to Hadrian and Royce, an unlikely pair that are forced to work together and may even learn to actually tolerate, if not like, each other by the end. Crown Tower is book one of the Ririya Chronicles, a prequel series to the Ririya Revelations trilogy published previously. It is an excellent starting point for folks interested in the characters and story who have not read the Revelations yet. I had been waffling over buying the Ririya Revelations for some time now, and when I saw prequels were being published I jumped right in at the very beginning- and am very glad I did so.

Hadrian is a likable character, a wonderful foil to Royce’s impartial take on the human condition at large. Royce grows on you- especially if you have a particularly dark sense of humor as I do.  The other set of characters the book pays attention to, a group of whores, are utterly fascinating as well (and were actually my favorite POV chapters for quite a bit of the book). In the background there are hints of maneuvering and mechinations which I assume come to play throughout the rest of the books. I can say I am looking forward to reading the next installment. Sullivan’s writing is smooth, the characters interesting and engaging, and the world unfurls as pages are turned.

If epic fantasy is your thing, give Crown Tower a read. The slow build is well worth it.

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea by Mira Grant

For everyone who ever wondered how conservation efforts would work post zombie apocalypse, this is the story for you. I will admit, it the thought had never occurred to me, but after reading How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea I cannot get the idea out of my head.

The real hook to the Newsflesh books are that the world did not stop when the zombie apocalypse happened. We worked with it, we adapted. Some places adapted in different ways. Ms. Grant takes this novella to look at Australia and how it would have worked with a driving need to preserve a unique ecosystem with an equally pressing need to survive.

Thus enters the rabbit proof fence- re-purposed as the worlds biggest zombie/livestock corral.

I will now be slipping zombie kangaroos to the top of the list of most terrifying things that could jump me in a dark field. Thanks, Mira. I had never considered a zombie kangaroo before, but now that I have…the power in those legs…I think I find them much more terrifying than human zombies.

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea is the most recent in a series of novellas set in the Newsflesh world, and takes place after the events of Blackout, the third book in the Newsflesh trilogy, and is not new-reader friendly as a result. If you are interested in the series, grab a copy of Feed. Just…don’t read before bed. You will never stop reading long enough to make it to the going to sleep part.

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