Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson

43a985b2831fe81592b334f6151434f414f4141This was a fun find – I heard about it in an online thread about books not written by white, Western authors. (The author is white, but Muslim.) Alif is a hacker – Alif being his handle, but it’s the name he uses internally, so it’s his name throughout the book. He lives in an unnamed, but repressive, Middle Eastern emirate. His hacking is to help people.

He’s in love with a girl named Inistar, and when she dumps him, in his efforts to avoid her, he creates a computer program that brings him to the attention of the local web police, who want what he’s built. At the same time, he comes into the possession of a book that makes him aware that certain things he’s always thought of as fantasy are very real indeed.

This is a hard book to describe. It’s got a fascinating mix of modern politics and Muslim belief. I enjoyed it – it was nice to get a view into a world that many people in this country view with suspicion, and therefore colors a lot of what we hear about it.

The Queen of Sorrow – Sarah Beth Durst

7bd7e6581fa0d0f596e4d317151434f414f4141This is the last book of the Queens of Renthia, and features three queens- Daleina, Naelin and Merecot. Merecot takes the rather bold step of kidnapping Naelin’s children in order to enlist her help. It turns out there are wild spirits in Merecot’s kingdom of Semo that Merecot can only barely control.

The Sorrow in the title comes from Naelin’s reaction to the taking of the children. That part was a little overblown. It got better once Naelin agrees to go to Semo – it’s interesting to see another land, and you end up getting the back story of why the spirits are the way they are. There’s also a quick interlude that introduces the three queens of the other kingdoms in Renthia, so I suppose the author is leaving the window open to other stories in this world.

The book packed a lot into it – it wasn’t bad, but I almost feel like it could have been better developed, or split into several stories to do justice to everything that she tried to cover.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns – Rae Carson

006202650x.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Elisa is God-Chosen – bearing the gem that marks her as special. But she’s never felt special. She’s a princess, but the second daughter, and her older sister has always been the one that will be a great queen. So when Elisa finds herself very suddenly married off to the king of the neighboring kingdom, she’s at a loss for what she’ll do.

She’s immediately caught up in a war – Joya D’Arena has a seaport, and the neighboring kingdom of Invierne desperately wants it. Intrigues abound, and Elisa also finds that being God-Chosen is seen very differently here than it is in her home.

What I liked about this book is even though there’s a Chosen One, and you know she’s going to pull through and save the day, she’s flawed. She’s been drowning her insecurities in food, so she’s in absolutely no shape for most of the adventures that await her, and she’s desperately insecure. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect characters rendering (reading the reviews of this book online is interesting – I can definitely see where the people that didn’t like it are coming from). But it’s nice to see someone try and play with that trope.

There’s also a pretty heavy religious component, which again, since Elisa is God-Chosen, is actually nice to see. The differences in the theology between Elisa’s home kingdom of Orovalle and the older kingdom of Joya D’Arena are good plot points, if that makes any sense. But I’ll admit, I’ve always been a sucker for good world building.

Soot and Slipper – Kate Stradling

b07q14d878.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is a twist on Cinderella. It starts with the step mother asking Eugenie to stay away from the coming masquerade ball – everyone knows that Eugenie is prettier than her two step sisters, and because she will inherit her father’s estate once she comes of age, it’s vitally important that they find themselves good husbands. So as much as Eugenie would like to go, she lets them go without her, because she’s always been kind like that.

I was already sold with this set up, but the author actually manages to take it further – how this ends was amazing! This is probably my favorite Cinderella adaptation (and I don’t give Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother a run for its money lightly).

The Golden Shears – D.S. Murphy

b01n48rgxz.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Following the action of The Scarlet Thread, Kai has managed to escape from the home of the gods lead by Hades – it would seem that their reasons for helping her might not always be pure, and they’ve neglected to tell her that her friends at the old institute, who are like sisters, are now targets. So she and Puriel, one of the fallen angels, are off to save them.

On their own now, they’re trying to figure out what the Fates might have had in mind by giving Kai the ability to see the threads of life. They manage to make their way to Europe, and end up on a Greek Island. There’s a Temple to the Fates there, and it would appear that Kai will be able to get inside.

This definitely seems like a middle story – there’s movement, and the introduction of a few new characters (Zeus and Athena in the flesh), but this definitely feels like a way station to a greater action – good thing I got a cheap trial of Kindle Unlimited, and the next book is included…

Losing Mars – Cidney Swanson

b00c92zrog.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Jess has returned to Earth, destroying the one ship left that can journey between Earth and Mars in the process. She’s been reunited with her brother Ethan, and Pavel, the boy she’s pretty sure she loves, but who is also the nephew of her (and Mars’) greatest enemy on Earth.

So what’s a girl to do? Reunite the rest of the stranded Mars crew, and get a new ship, and new allies, to try and get them back to Mars.

I need to never again get a six book series on spec through a Kindle deal. For some reason, I’m having a terrible time getting through these books, but because I bought all six, I really feel the need to get through them. I’m not sure what the problem is – the story’s really not bad, and it’s a nice twist on the colonization of Mars and how that impacts things back on Earth. I’m just having the worst time getting into them.

Blue Gentian – Casey E. Hamilton

1980553742.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Salya is a Traveler, and as she’s approaching adulthood, she’s feeling the pressure to devote herself to the healing trade of her grandmother. It’s a very serious thing among her people –a true vocation. But she’s not quite sure she’s ready for it.

One night, an injured man stumbles upon their camp. Bren is a spy for the neighboring kingdom, desperate to get back to his country with news of an attempt on the life of his queen. Salya ends up leaving with him to get him back to his home safely. Along the way, she sees more of the world than she ever thought possible, and learns more about her family than she’d known before.

This book is ok – the world building is decent, but it seems unfinished somehow. Salya does have a complete journey, but I don’t know – I’ve just read better, more well rounded stories like this. It has potential, but I want a little more.