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Series Saturdays: Dead Djinn Universe

The world that P. Djeli Clark builds is very fantastical. The different steampunk elements with all the gears and whirring of the machines. How the angelsare built. The different illusions that the djinn are able to conjure. He includes African history, older religions, folktales from around the world. he blends aspects of history from different places and times which enables him to address many social issues. In this series Clark tackles slavery, colonialism, gender roles, and racism to name a few.

Book #1: The Dead Djinn of Cairo

A djinn is found exsanquinated. But there is not a drop of blood remaining toserve as evidence in this crime. Could it have been ghouls or some other supernatural being. The only clues that Fatma el-sha’arawi and her partner have are spells left near the body: curved horns, a sickle, an adze and a moon with twisting vines. What do these symbols mean. Can Fatma prevail over the monsters that threaten our world and the fabric of time itself?

Book #2: The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Agent Hamed al-Nasr has been tasked with finding out what type of being is haunting tram car 015 and exorcising it. Set against the backdrop of a woman’s suffrage movement our agents must consult with older religious tradtions in order to solve the case.

Book 3: Master of Djinn

This is the first full length book in the series. Al-Jahiz has been accused of opening up the door between worlds before he disappeared. A cult of his followers is being murdered one by one. When someone steps forward claiming to be al-Jahiz himself and assuming guilt for the deaths, The Ministry of Alchemy, Special Enchantments and Supernatural Entitues is called onto the case. Is it even possible that al-Jahiz is still alive? Why would someone go through the trouble of impersonating him and where are they getting their magic?

I was hoping that Fatma and Agent Hamed would be paired on this latest case. Although he does make an appearance, Fatma’s new partner is a bright young woman who is religiously observant. Where Fatma allows us to embrace that women can walk in whatever shoes they choose, Hadia allows us to see that there is strength in the feminine.

This is how I imagine Siti

P. Djeli Clark does a great job with giving dimension to his characters. They are flawed but grow throut the series. Dead Djinn Universe is genre defying. Part fantasy, the world building is exquisite. Very atmospheric to the point where it has a cinematic feel. Part mystery, he keeps you on the edge of your seat trying to work out the who and why. Part adventure, allo three books are action packed with killer fight scenes that have women at the forefront. And last but not least, all of P. Djeli Clark’s books contain an element of social commentary that have you looking at our world both past and present.

P. Djeli Clark

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy nominated author of the novel A Master of Djinn, and the novellas Ring ShoutThe Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Daily Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Apex, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots, Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is a founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine and an infrequent reviewer at Strange Horizons.

Born in New York and raised mostly in Houston, Texas, he spent the early formative years of his life in the homeland of his parents, Trinidad and Tobago. When not writing speculative fiction, P. Djèlí Clark works as an academic historian whose research spans comparative slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic World. He melds this interest in history and the social world with speculative fiction, and has written articles on issues ranging from racism and H.P. Lovecraft to critiques of George Schuyler’s Black Empire, and has been a panelist and lecturer at conventions, workshops and other genre events.

At current time, he resides in a small Edwardian castle in New England with his wife, daughters, and pet dragon (who suspiciously resembles a Boston Terrier). When so inclined he rambles on issues of speculative fiction, politics, and diversity at his aptly named blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway – The Gilded Ones

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Special thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours for including me on this blog tour! The Gilded Ones is a very special book and to share my love for Deka I will be doing a giveaway of the book. To enter comment below why you are excited to read The Gilded Ones. You must be following my blog and BOTH Namina’s and my Instagram pages. The drawing will be done Tuesday at 7PM (EST) and the lucky winner will be announced on Wednesday. (Sorry – Limited to the United States unless Book Depository ships to you.)


Buy Links


Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.


Review

First of all let me tell you how much I enjoyed this book! The world building was incredible. At first I started highlighting all of the new vocabulary for this world but quickly realized that this was not necessary as Forna lays out descriptions within a few sentences. Unlike other fantasy novels the different people, places and items were clearly defined right off. The world building is matched with action and scenes that grab and pull you in. There is violence but none of it felt over the top to me. I felt that it served a purpose and held meaning in allowing us to know what Deka and her blood sisters had endured.

One scene in particular really struck me. Belcalis discusses how people took advantage of her and persecuted her. They saw no wrong in their actions as she was one of the cursed – the gilded ones. But she reminds Deka that even though she may not bear physical scars, that the memories still weigh heavily on her heart. This sentiment reminds me of the myth of the strong Black woman. People think that because we have been persecuted over and over again and keep standing up that we feel no pain. Even if we have a tough exterior and manage to come through our ordeals smiling, the pain is still there. The scars have been forged inside.

The Gilded Ones talks about racism, xenophobia and fighting against the patriarchy. Although this was a coming of age novel, Deka and her blood sisters were strong female characters and their allegiance to one another was a beautiful thing to see. Overall, this book was empowering and it showed that not everything or everyone is as they appear.

The Gilded Ones is the first book in the Deathless series.


Meet the Author

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.

Where You Can Find Her

Stop By The Gilded Ones Virtual Book Tour

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Teaser Tuesday 2/2

The Teaser

She was watching him still, that prideful shimmer in her eyes, and he felt a sudden horrible weight descend on him. He’d never had the experience of having someone else’s hopes wrapped up in him. Of knowing that he’d come up short of the imagined mark.


Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My Review

Evan Smoak, “The Nowhere Man“, is supposed to be retired. He’s received his pardon and his walking papers with a warning to never pick up his hat again. If he goes back into the business the United States will send the weight of all its power after him and will not relent until he has been neutralized. At the conclusion of Into the Fire we thought he had retired; that he was trying to live a normal life. So what brings him back? Mysterious calls from someone claiming to be his mother. But who is this person really and can he trust them? Will Evan be able to think clearly and make the right decisions or will his emotions get him killed?

Prodigal Son is a fast paced, action thriller with lots of cool weaponry and high tech gadgets. Beyond the suspense though, it humanizes Orphan X and gives you more of his backstory. Newcomers to the series – don’t worry. You will feel as if you were with Evan from Day One. Hurwitz writes a spectacular novel that keeps us on the edge of our seat, then leaves us hanging begging for more.


Do you have Prodigal Son on your TBR? Have you read any of the books from the Orphan X series?

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Throwback Thursday 1/7

Happy New Year!

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.

Synopsis

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

My Thoughts

This book was read as part of my 2020 Pop Sugar Challenge. It qualified for the prompt of “A book with the same name as a movie that it’s not related to.” It was also one of the books I acquired during BookCon 2019 so I also had the pleasure of meeting Jason Reynolds which made me more excited to read this book. I have to say that I enjoyed it enough that I went on to listen to the rest of the series narrated by Guy Lockard and Heather Alicia Simms.

Each of the books in the Track series is named after one of the track members and is told from their perspective. Reynolds uses their life experiences to show how they have overcome. We get to see what the sport means to them and how people like Coach and have positively impacted their lives and helped these kids grow and flourish. The whole concept of “community” is exemplified here and it’s wonderful to see the kids lean on each other as members of their village.

I would whole heartedly recommend this series to middle grade children but found myself entertained as an adult. Other books by Jason Reynolds that are worth reading are Long Way Down*, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You and For Every One.

*1/4/21 – Long Way Down is currently free through Kindle Unlimited.


Throwback Pic

Young boy attending Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 28th Aug 1963. I have not been able to find the name of the photographer to credit.

Blog Tour: Wrong Alibi

Buy Links

Synopsis

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers an all-new thriller, featuring a bold and brash female protagonist.

WRONG JOB
Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

WRONG NAME
Evie’s escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

WRONG ALIBI
At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own fam


My Review

Wrong Alibi is my first Christina Dodd novel and found myself on the edge of my seat. Once I picked up the book I couldn’t put it down.

The book starts out with our main character in a juvenile detention center. She is eager to get a fresh start in life and make amends for the mistakes in her past. She takes a job in the wilds of Alaska with a charming man who seems to say all the right things. Even though Evie gets the sense that something is amiss, she ignores her better senses and finds herself framed for a double murder.

Wrong Alibi is about Evie/Petie’s hunt for retribution. She bides her time, hones her craft and allies herself with one of the world’s most feared women. I have to say that the women in this novel – the good, the bad and the ugly – were all strong characters. To me, Wrong Alibi reads like a superhero origin story. Our protagonist is wronged horribly. Forever scarred, her life is turned upside down, irreparable. Somehow, she finds the strength within and persists. Even though there were moments where I had to suspend my disbelief, I really enjoyed this novel. The descriptive scene setting. The Alaskan backdrop. Quirky characters like Hawley and Jeen Lee. Intriguing backstories. The pacing of the novel. I definitely will be keeping up with this series.


Meet The Author

New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at www.christinadodd.com.

Where You Can Find Her

Blog Tour : Breathe Your Last

Buy Links

Synopsis

Josie presses her hands into the center of the drowned girl’s chest and pumps, counting off compressions. She takes in the girl’s beautiful face, her brown eyes glassy. The memory of a champion swimmer on the podium with her teammates—a red swim cap on, her head thrown back in laughter—a stark contrast to the cold, still body before her. Breathe. Just breathe…

The body of a young girl lying face down in a swimming pool—white tennis shoes still on her feet, chestnut hair fanned out like a halo—is the last thing Detective Josie Quinn expects to find on an early morning visit to see her brother before class at Denton University. But when she recognizes the girl’s face as she drags her limp body from the water, there’s only one question racing through Josie’s mind: how does a champion swimmer accidentally drown?

Nysa Somers’ family are distraught. She was a model student, beloved daughter and everybody’s friend. There’s no way she would do anything reckless enough to put her scholarship at risk, let alone her life. It’s up to Josie and her team to piece together what happened in the hours leading up to Nysa’s death, and that begins with finding her missing backpack.

But the bag, discarded in the woods on the nearby campus, contains nothing more than empty food wrappers, Nysa’s phone and a cryptic calendar entry telling her to be a mermaid.

The next day, a terrible housefire envelops the nearby home of a retired fireman, nearly killing his two granddaughters. The last words the little girls heard him mutter before he set the blaze were, be a match.

As the body count rises, it’s only Josie who can see the deadly pattern forming. Can she convince her team that the wrapper found in Nysa’s bag that everyone overlooked is the crucial link they’re missing? Not while her partner, Noah, is avoiding her calls and acting so coldly towards her. Josie knows she must go it alone if she’s going to stop this silent and calculated serial killer before any more precious lives are taken.

But with the killer finally in her sights, Josie takes a deadly risk and finds herself hanging onto life by her fingernails. Can she trust her team to save her, and before it’s too late?

An unputdownable and totally gripping crime thriller from an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine.


Review

What does a star swimmer a decorated hero and a police officer have in common? That is what Detective Josie Quinn must figure out. And fast before this elusive killer strikes again. In this case the serial killer has a unique modus operandi which gives them the wherewithal to kill from afar and watch the chaos ensue from a safe distance.

Breathe Your Last is the 10th installment in the Josie Quinn mystery series. Being a first time reader of Lisa Regan I did not find that to be a problem. I think the novel stood well enough on its own and I was able to get right into the story. Josie Quinn’s character is smart and clever. She is strong and loving and willing to put her own life at risk to save others, even the bad guys. As a new reader to the series I found that the glimpses into her back story made her all the more more relatable. I also enjoyed having time Josie Quinn’s family even though it took me a minute to figure out who was who.

The plot was fast moving. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. Here we have a mystery where at first it is not clear how the killer picks their targets. We as readers get to hear the killer’s thoughts in short chapters interspersed between the investigation. These chapters add an eerie tone to the undercurrent of the novel and make the mystery even more intriguing. Regan keeps you waiting until the last minute to figure out how and why the killer strikes. I though it was a clever how she developed this story and the reasoning behind the killings. I’ve already looked into where I could get my hands on the earlier books in the series. Although they are not available through my library to borrow or to order, I found a discounted bundle on the first three books in the series on Amazon here.


Meet the Author

Lisa Regan is a USA TodayWall Street Journal bestselling author and Amazon bestselling crime novelist.  She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University.  She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

Where You Can Find Her

Series Saturdays: Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries Blog Tour

Who is Myrtle Hardcastle?

Our Myrtle does not fit into the mold that English society believes is becoming of a little lady. She is precocious and asks a lot of questions. With an interest in both her late mother’s science background and her father’s legal background, Myrtle has what some feel is a morbid curiosity with death and murder. This passion for forensics however makes Myrtle one hell of a sleuth. The problem is that at 12 years old none of the adults in her life, save for her governess Miss Judson, bother to listen to her.


Book 1: Premeditated Myrtle

When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

Book 2: How to Get Away With Myrtle

This second book in the series finds Myrtle Hardcastle and her beloved Miss Judson on a train ride along the English countryside. It’s supposed to be a relaxing holiday. Perhaps one that Myrtle was dreading because she would be under the watchful eye of her stern Aunt Helen. But not before long Myrtle finds herself thrust into another mystery. A priceless tiara is stolen and one of the passengers is murdered — with her Aunt Helen’s sewing shears! Our plucky young protagonist must race against time to prove her aunt is innocent. But can she get the local authorities to listen to her?


My Thoughts on the Series

I was excited to read these books because I grew up reading Nancy Drew. I was hoping that I could find a series featuring a strong female character that my daughter could be inspired by. Like Nancy Drew, Myrtle Hardcastle is quite the detective. But Myrtle has more obstacles to overcome. Her mother is deceased having succumbed to a disease. As the local prosecutor, her father’s job demands much of his time. Living in the late 19th century England she is expected to be a charming little lady honing her domestic skills. Because she is younger any pleas that she may have to discuss a case are often thwarted.

As I read the series I couldn’t help but be reminded of Harper Lee’s Scout. Both of these characters defied convention. Both have special relationships with their fathers where they know and love their daughter’s differences, even if at times their natures get them into trouble.

The Myrtle Hardcastle series is cleverly formatted. Myrtle is not just the narrator, but the writer of the story often taking time to address her dear readers personally. Throughout both books Bunce treats us to footnotes that serve as cute anecdotes and tidbits of trivia. Many of the chapters in this series also begin with blurbs from Myrtle’s books that sets the stage for that chapter. I feel that this format will make the Myrtle Hardcastle series more appealing to its target audience – middle grade readers. But I do feel that this cozy mystery series has something for adults too. Besides good characterization and an engaging style of writing each novel deals with issues of feminism and racial representation. The mysteries in and of themselves are craftily devised and have enough meat to sustain an adult’s attention.


Mom’s Verdict

I enjoyed the Myrtle Hardcastle series a lot but at 8 years old my daughter may not be quite ready for this series. I would say that 12 may be the ideal age to introduce her Myrtle Hardcastle. But I look forward to when that time comes and hope that my daughter is as excited to read about this plucky heroine’s adventures as I was. In the meantime she’ll have to settle on relishing eating the famous Stansberry pie from Premeditated Myrtle.


Meet the Author

From the Elizabeth Bunce’s website: “I am a fan of all things fantastical, mysterious, spooky, and old. I write historical fantasy, mysteries, and ghost stories for young readers, and discerning not-so-young readers. My books are inspired by real places and cultures of the past, often with otherworldly or magical elements.”

“I’m a native Midwesterner, living in the tall grass prairie near Kansas City with my husband and our feline supervisory staff. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me Making something—cosplay, needlework, historical costuming, quilting… but not cooking.”

From Goodreads: “Her first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011. StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner. An accomplished needlewoman and historical costumer, Elizabeth lives in the Midwest with her husband, her cats, and a boggart who steals books.”

Blog Tour: No One Saw

I am so very grateful for Lia Ferrone and her continued support of this blog. Thank you so much for sending me such wonderful reads!

Synopsis

Detective team A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are back on their beat after solving the brutal Baywood serial killings, but crime doesn’t rest for long in their small Wisconsin town. In book two of Beverly Long’s electrifying A.L. McKittridge series, NO ONE SAW (MIRA Mass Market Paperback; June 30, 2020; $7.99), a child seemingly vanishes from a day care into thin air and A.L. and Rena must race to bring her home before time runs out.

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena must untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma… before it’s too late.


Review

No One Saw opens with the disappearance of a young girl from her daycare center. Her grandmother swears she handed her off to the teacher. Her teacher is adamant that young Emma Whitman never arrived at school. No one seems to have seen her. As far as Rena and A.L. can guess everyone is lying about something. Emma’s parents. Her grandmother. Her teacher. The principal. Everyone has something to hide. Are any of these secrets motive enough to kidnap a 5 year old in broad daylight? Will Morgan and McKittridge find Emma in time? The clock is ticking and the odds of finding her safe and alive diminish with each passing second.

My introduction to Beverly Long came with Ten Days Gone, the first book in this series. I was really taken by both Morgan and McKittridge as characters and loved their dynamic. So I was really excited when Lia Ferrone at Mira Books invited me onto this blog tour. Although the camaraderie and rapport between the two detectives is what brings me back to this series, I do not feel that it is necessary to read the books in order. Long gives enough background to convey the detectives’s relationship and personal lives. With her deft hand this information does not come across as redundant for those of us continuing with the series. All in all, both books are great police procedurals and will leave even the discerning reader satisfied.


Meet the Author

Beverly Long’s writing career has spanned more than two decades and twenty novels, including TEN DAYS GONE, the first book of her A.L. McKittridge series. She writes romantic suspense with sexy heroes and smart heroines. She can often be found with her laptop in a coffee shop with a cafe au lait and anything made with dark chocolate by her side. 

Where You Can Find Beverly