San Diego ~ 5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747
Redondo Beach Satellite ~ 2850 Artesia Blvd., Suite #101 Redondo Beach, CA 90278 - 310-542-6000
San Diego ~ 5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747
Redondo Beach Satellite ~ 2850 Artesia Blvd., Suite #101 Redondo Beach, CA 90278 - 310-542-6000
|Publicity Manager, Events Coordinator, and MG co-owner Maryelizabeth (M'e) reads across all of our chosen genres, with an emphasis on sociological fiction. Whether a book involves werewolves, spaceships, faeries, forensics, or all of the above, her main concern is the impact of their world on the characters in it.
The fantasy island of Fennbirn’s sequence of rule is unique and terrible: each generation a set of specially gifted triplets is born – when the sisters become sixteen, it’s the cue for a battle to the death, with the last sister standing crowned Queen. The sisters are separated as toddlers, and are raised by separate factions, each seeking to enhance their gifts : Mirabella to direct the elements; Katharine to consume deadly poisons unscathed; and Arsinoe to exercise power over nature, both flora and fauna. The most amazing aspect of this book is that Kendare had me equally emotionally invested in each of the three to be the surviving ruler. A dark and delightful epic fantasy!
The summer before her senior year of high school, Jules is vacationing with her estranged father and his family from his remarriage when she receives the news that Maggie Kim, her BFF, has been found dead, facedown in the family’s swimming pool, a presumed suicide. Maggie had always been larger than life, dramatic, and the center of her social network’s universe – her death doesn’t make sense to Jules, seeming to lack both presentation and flair, and cause. Jules swelters her way through an informal but determined investigation, exploring the dark shadows that linger among Maggie’s family and friends, and gaining insights into her own relationship with Maggie. A fine contribution to the LA noir subgenre.
When describing this book, my first instinct is to quote the opening to Charlie’s Angels: “Once upon a time, there were three little girls…” Except these three grew up Asian American in an alternate San Francisco where demonic invaders from another dimension periodically wreak havoc, and have invested some people with superpowers. San Francisco’s premier superheroine is Aveda Jupiter. Aveda’s assistant is her childhood BFF, Evie Tanaka, who is also the caretaker for her teenage sister, Bea. Evie’s assistant role includes managing Aveda’s public image, including wardrobe clean-up after battling demonic cupcakes, and offering measured responses to a local columnist’s mean girl comments. But when Aveda is injured, Evie must doff her cartoon duck t-shirt and don the attire of the city’s protector. Can Evie handle the spotlight? A great fun read – and did I mention there’s hot nerd romance?!
This July Indie Next Pick is an Easter egg-filled examination and celebration of popular culture and fandom, and a great story. I confess I was cautious at first, concerned that with its literary imprint and blurbs, the convention circuit setting might be just a device. But Proehl rapidly reassured me with his alternate universe parallels to comics, television shows, and familiar convention inhabitants. Proehl mostly supersedes the tropes of the genre through affectionate and knowing point of view characters, from former-cult-TV-series lead actress and fugitive mother Valerie Torrey, her precocious son Alex, indie comics creators Brett and Fred, and rare-as-a-unicorn female comics writer Gail. Their stories are interwoven with tales of the AHTW universe’s comics characters, and Valerie’s retellings of episodes of her show as bedtime stories for Alex. AHTW didn’t quite push every fannish button for me, but like a really good Joss Whedon show, it succeeded so well I am loath to quibble about the shortcomings.
I am satisfied with the events of Night Shift like Mr. Snuggly is satisfied by a full cupboard of cat food. Witch Fiji Cavanaugh, one of my favorite residents of Midnight, finds herself at the crux of the most recent crisis, with some major life decisions to face to try to avert disaster. But first, she must deal with the unexpected and unwelcome presence of her sister. I am very fond of the community that’s sprung up at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and Davy Highway, complete with all their secrets (and connections to the Charlaineverse), and hope that Charlaine will find other stories to share, if not more novels
A young girl running through the woods falls into a pit. At the bottom of the pit is a giant metal hand. The hand, buried for millennia, defies any explanation involving humans. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin and a team of scientists and military staff work together, under the direction of a mysterious unnamed supervisor, to seek out and assemble other body parts, and try to glean what the significance of the dismantled Titan means, and who left it to be discovered. Neuvel deals with a vast array of issues – personal and political consequences, questions of morality and manipulation – as well as fascinating scientific speculation, in a brilliantly crafted debut. A young girl running through the woods falls into a pit. At the bottom of the pit is a giant metal hand. The hand, buried for millennia, defies any explanation involving humans. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin and a team of scientists and military staff work together, under the direction of a mysterious unnamed supervisor, to seek out and assemble other body parts, and try to glean what the significance of the dismantled Titan means, and who left it to be discovered. Neuvel deals with a vast array of issues – personal and political consequences, questions of morality and manipulation – as well as fascinating scientific speculation, in a brilliantly crafted debut.
Sixth-grader Xander Miyamoto is focused on escaping his boring classroom and spending his spring break playing video games with his best friend, Peyton, as well as limited family time with his single-parent father and his Obachãn. Xander’s dad gave him a comic book about the famous hero, Musashi Miyamoto, but Xander doesn’t have much attention for it – or his teacher’s lecture about climate change, or the art he has been creating without conscious direction, or the mysterious figure observing him through the rain. All of these matters come into sharp focus when he and Peyton are suddenly drawn into a fantastic adventure with high-stakes personal consequences. Margaret’s updated story of Japan’s mythical warrior and the monstrous Oni is a great addition to the middle-grade fantasy genre.
Elena Martinez is a tough young woman living in present-day Los Angeles. She’s been a foster kid for years, is about to turn 18, and is facing limited options for her future, until she is selected to be among an elite group of teens sent into the future via Project Chronos by the mysterious Aether Corporation. One of Elena’s qualifications for the project is her eidetic memory, which has served as more of a hindrance than a help to date. Along with four other teens with special contributions of their own, Elena is sent on a 24-hour trip to the future (with a counting clock for chapter headers) to acquire specific information for Aether, with the strict admonition not to look into their own timelines. But when things go awry, will she become a girl without a future again, literally?
This debut novel of time travel, Tesla, and teenage turmoil was completely engaging, from the fascinating voice of claustrophobic, socially isolated, brilliant protagonist Hope Walton to the depictions both positive (no pollution!) and negative (hygiene, anti-Semitism, sexism) of the 12th Cantury. Admittedly I am predisposed to any book that includes Eleanor of Aquitaine as a character. I was delighted to experience Hope’s discovery of her family secret and quest to save her mother. And, hey, Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) also liked Into the Dim, and she knows whereof she blurbs!
Fans of Gregg’s runs writing the Batman and Punisher comics now have an original semi-vigilante protagonist’s adventures to follow with Evan Smoak, also known as The Nowhere Man, or Orphan X. Evan was recruited in his youth to be trained as part of a blacker than black ops government assassin program; after leaving the secret program, he has committed his lethal skills to helping those in need pro bono. Readers are introduced to Evan as his carefully structured life begins to go haywire, both in his professional life as his current rescue scenario becomes much more fraught than anticipated, and his personal life, as he recognizes the limitations of his ability to interact with others in a normal fashion. Another high-octane high tech ride!
One of the many reasons I appreciate the Miles Vorkosigan saga novels is Lois McMaster Bujold’s ability to write a variety of genres within the overarching structure of her space opera universe. She has written mysteries, romances, and espionage adventures; her latest focuses on Vicereine Cordelia Naismith (of Cordelia’s Honor and more), and Admiral Oliver Jole, longtime companion and romantic interest of Cordelia’s deceased husband, Aral Vorkosigan, both prior to and after Aral and Cordelia fell in love. Granted, I am predisposed to have a positive response to a saga of adults of a certain vintage finding a fresh new love, but even if that weren’t the case, the multi-award-winning Bujold’s charming Austenesque tale of her title characters would still deserve praise.
Local author Kali joins teen horror subgenre authors like Gretchen McNeal, Kendare Blake, and Dan Wells with this strong debut. 17-year-old Breezy discovers a world of monsters when she awakens in her grave a year after her murder, with no clear memories of her own death, but the power to sense darkness in others – specifically those who have killed with intent – and mete out a vigilante justice of her own. Breezy has no interest in existing as a monster; she longs for a return to her time with her parents, sisters, and best girlfriend. Her search for information and assistance takes her down many a dark byway, as she encounters more monsters among both the human and non-human populace. Breezy’s struggle to define the terms of her unlife makes for a rewarding read, and there are some truly scary monsters to boot.
Welcome to the Witchlands, soon to be one of your favorite new fantastic worlds. Conservative commoner Iseult (a Threadwitch who sees the connections between the lives of others) and impulsive titled Safiya (a Truthwitch, a rare and sought-after magical trait) share a strong bond Threadsisters. Their enduring friendship is tested as the small independent nation of Nubrevna, ruled by Prince Merick (a Windwitch), is buffeted by empirical powers, and they and their allies strive to control their own destinies, and protect what matters to them. A wonderful magical land, great villains, including an infamous Bloodwitch, and solid female friendships all contribute to this superior fantasy.
You’ll never watch the Food Network shows the same way after reading Beat, Slay, Love, as the members of the Thalia Press Author Co-Op (Lise McClendon, Katy Munger, Kate Flora, Gary Phillips, and Taffy Cannon) mix together a heady mixture of reality television, misbehaving foodies, murder most-creatively-foul, and determined sleuths. Some of my favorite scenes took place in a fictional La Jolla eatery, but I might be just a bit biased. Delicious over-the-top fun!You’ll never watch the Food Network shows the same way after reading Beat, Slay, Love, as the members of the Thalia Press Author Co-Op (Lise McClendon, Katy Munger, Kate Flora, Gary Phillips, and Taffy Cannon) mix together a heady mixture of reality television, misbehaving foodies, murder most-creatively-foul, and determined sleuths. Some of my favorite scenes took place in a fictional La Jolla eatery, but I might be just a bit biased. Delicious over-the-top fun!
Max’s debut is a near-roman a clef celebration of geekdom. Dahlia Moss is succeeding at life about as well as Scott Pilgrim at the beginning of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series. The struggling young geek is offered a substantial sum of money to track down a “stolen” item from a MMORPG; it seems a perfect match to her assorted skill set, composed largely of a vast knowledge of pop culture. The job gets deeply weird when Dahlia’s client is found murdered with a physical incarnation of the missing item. Dahlia and her friends are welcome new additions to the geek tribe
One of my personal standards for superior storytelling is when the story or characters manifest in my dreams. Margaret Stohl’s tale of Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow of Avengers fame, achieved just that. This would be a great “strong female character” novel even if the character didn’t have a 50-year history in the pop culture consciousness. Natasha and Ava Orlova meet when Natasha rescues Ava from the infamous Red Room – nearly a decade later, they are both drawn to Alex Monclair, a young fencer with no apparent connection to either, who is the target of deadly interest. And yes, this is the origin story for the Red Widow.
Sunfail, Akashic’s venture into speculative fiction, is a highly readable near future thriller in the vein of James Rollins. I very much liked the mix of POV characters, varied conspiracy/world mythos, and compelling storytelling, especially at a time when I am suffering a fair amount of apocalypse fiction fatigue. Savile is widely published in both suspense and SF in the UK, and this is a promising introduction for U.S. readers, even with a few stridency issues.
Former Confederation Marine Torin Kerr and her crew, known to readers of Huff’s Valor deep space series, embark on a completely off-the-books mission in the first in this new series. Tasked with intercepting the grave robbers who are intent on acquiring Elder Race ancient artifacts for aggressive use against the dominant powers in the Confederation, the team of Younger Race sentient beings must not only determine the possible source of the artifacts and confront the criminals, but also work to determine the mastermind behind the scheme. Huff’s aliens are truly alien, and completely empathetic at once, and the interpersonal relationships between characters – both protagonists and antagonizes – would make this a must-read, even if it didn’t have a spiffy adventure plot. Highly recommended.
The first volume in Leigh’s Dregs duology, set in the Grishaverse, is a heart-wrenching combination of caper novel and character studies. Think “Leverage” meets “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but in an alternate magical Russia. Six of Crows has one of the best opening sentences ever, kicking off a grand magical heist adventure with characters readers will be thrilled to cheer for. This book is so much fun!The first volume in Leigh’s Dregs duology, set in the Grishaverse, is a heart-wrenching combination of caper novel and character studies. Think “Leverage” meets “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but in an alternate magical Russia. Six of Crows has one of the best opening sentences ever, kicking off a grand magical heist adventure with characters readers will be thrilled to cheer for. This book is so much fun!
Although The Devil’s West Laura Anne Gilman is writing in stands alone, its literary trail partners include Emma Bull’s Tombstone and Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory. Isobel, aka Izzy, who has been reared in the Devil’s house in the town of Flood, deep in the mystical Territory, makes a pact on her sixteenth birthday to assume a new role as the Devil’s Left Hand. She is sent out on the road to discover the significance of her new identity, and the responsibilities and powers that accompany it, with experienced rider Gabriel, a man with secrets of his own. Izzy confront magicians, bandits, and a host of natural and supernatural threats, as well as bone-grinding exhaustion and other challenges of the trail
Jillian Cade’s father is a charlatan – but one with an international following, so when he goes largely MIA after her mother’s death, leaving the high schooler more or less independent under the loving care of her aunt, uncle, and younger cousin, Jillian decides to capitalize on his reputation and generate an income stream via “Umbra Investigations,” looking into supernatural occurrences for the gullible. The beginning of her junior year of high school is immediately complicated by two issues – a gorgeous new guy who may only be interested in her because of her dad, and a case that may not be as fake as she anticipates. Jillian’s narration is a great combination of sarcastic and pop culture young person, balanced with some real vulnerability. Comparisons to “Veronica Mars” are inevitable, and deserved
Okay, so it’s the obvious metaphor, but it’s true, none-the-less: the new thriller from the best-selling urban fantasy author isn’t so much a departure from her previous story-telling, as a swerve onto a parallel path, just one without supernatural elements. Physician’s assistant Kristine Rush and her fiancé, ER surgeon Daniel Hawthorne, make a routine roadside stop to deal with a spilled beverage en route to his family home. While Kris is in the bathroom stall, she is menaced by an unseen foe – when she emerges, Daniel is gone, taken hostage, and soon Kris starts receiving directions to commit difficult and morally questionable tasks to try to rescue him, with no recourse for outside assistance. This is a breathless, one-sitting, “what would / could I do in this situation?” novel, recommended for readers who aren’t averse to “real world” darkness and violence.
This intense thriller from the Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner pits two escaped convicts on the run against a nuclear family in their wintery Adirondacks cabin. Sociopath Nick Muncey and his giant companion, Harlan, menace Sandy Tremont and her husband, wilderness guide Ben, and teenage daughter, Ivy, in the claustrophobic environs of their isolated home. Emotions run high as Jenny crafts insights not just into the Sandy and her family’s fears, and Nick and Harlan’s desperation, but also into family dynamics, spousal relationships, and more. A great chilling read for a hot summer’s night.
Princess X offers readers the very best kind of “purple prose,” in its tale of BFFs May and Libby, who create the title character on a playground during a quiet moment in grade school. May continues to tell tales of the sword-wielding, sneaker-wearing princess, illustrated by Libby – until Libby’s tragic accidental death. When the lonely teenaged May sees fan art and a webcomic appear with their character, she is surprised … and as she explores the mystery behind the reemergence of her creation, she begins wondering if Libby is dead after all. The story’s prose / sequential art combination, supported by an active website for iamprincessx.com provide a fully immersive experience for true believers in female friendship
The Water Knife takes readers on a grim look at an all too likely future of the American Southwest, concentrated in what remains of Phoenix, AZ, examining water management responsibilities in an effective thriller that will have readers thinking twice before casually refilling their next glass from the faucet. While Paolo clearly feels passionately about the facts of the arid overpopulated landscape and the consequences of a society that is largely disconnected from the infrastructures that support it, his story of running out of water in the West, and the extremes individuals will go to to control the flow of water and power, has enough action and emotional quandaries to satisfy the most demanding reader. – Maryelizabeth
Charlaine’s Midnight, TX, continues to be the crossroads of her fictional universes; in Day Shift, not only do the residents of the anti-Cheers town (where no one knows your name or your business, unless you choose to share…) incur an influx of extraordinary visitors, but several also are required to make excursions outside of Midnight. The lynchpin event is psychic Manfred Bernardo’s difficulties – when a kindly client dies under suspicious circumstances during a meeting with Manfred in a Dallas hotel, Manfred is accused of having a hand in her murder and the disappearance of her valuables. The deadly Olivia and magic-wielding Fiji lend Manfred a hand, both out of varying degrees of affection, and a strong desire to see outof-town law enforcement remove their attention from Midnight and its denizens. Charlaine’s multiple point of view approach gives readers insight into a number of residents, both decreasing and increasing the mysterious atmosphere of the community surrounding Witch Light Road. Great fun – I look forward to my next visit to Midnight!
Magonia is a truly fantastic work in all senses of the word. The novel’s richly imagined world takes readers into a strange and fierce world of airships and cities that reside above the clouds, and the avian metahumans who live there in secrecy — and in competition for resources with homo sapiens. Teenage Ava has struggled for breath on a daily basis; she is less surprised when she believes she asphyxiates and dies, than she is by her transportation to the world of Magonia, where it’s revealed she is inhuman and the changeling daughter of the captain of one of the airships. But will Ava align with her newfound people against the family and BFF / romantic interest who raised, nurtured, and loved her? The gorgeous, messy, and often laugh-out-loud funny narrative is perfectly suited to teen readers, and to those who remember the feelings of alienation during adolescence.
Like Jamie’s stellar debut, Three Graves Full, Monday’s Lie is also a stand-alone thriller. Dee’s mother, Annette, not only was a professional spy, but also passed along her skills of observation and problem-solving to her offspring. Dee has aspired to lead a completely pedestrian, mundane, and conventional life as an adult, including her choice of spouses. When Dee’s husband, Patrick, begins to display some questionable mannerisms, her childhood training serves her well; she also brings her talents to bear to dig deeper into the mystery of her mother’s career. A fun suspense ride.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Chrysler who loved to read and grew up to be a bookseller and an author. Another little girl named Maryelizabeth who loved to read and also grew up to be a bookseller read Chrysler’s debut, The Hawley Book of the Dead, and found it full of the special magic of storytelling. The titular Hawley Book of the Dead is part of magician and widow Revelation Dyer’s matriarchal family heritage of witchcraft, a part that holds both answers to the danger that pursues Reve and her daughters, but simultaneously presents a danger to her and the powerful women in her clan. An intricate and engaging book recommended for fans of thoughtful contemporary fantasy.
One doesn’t need to be particularly invested in the steampunk genre to find a lot to like in this debut fantasy, which offers a fascinating medical / magical system; a world with conflicts between nature and faith and “scientific progress” as well as political alliances; and the mystical Lady, who is the source of healing, but whose powers also can hold a darker intent. When Medician Octavia Leaneder leaves the refuge of her training academy to make her way in the world, she does not realize she will be a focus for divergent forces, and a fulcrum for the fate of her land. Octavia displays admirable resilience and creativity in her encounters with the intriguing apprentice Clockwork Dagger (espionage agent) Alonzo Garret, and various allies and adversaries. I am eager to spend more time in their company.
I should confess up-front that I rarely play video games – while I am intrigued by the story telling possibilities the medium offers, I don’t fare well with the vertigo all but the tamest action games induce. Soda Pop Soldier provided a great way to virtually immerse myself (sometimes to vertigo-inducing degrees) in a gaming universe. Join übergamer PerfectQuestion in Nick’s near future technonoir novel, as he strives to uncover the deeper agenda behind the assignment he and his fellow gamers are given to battle as soldiers for mega corporations competing for the prize of advertising space on a significantly damaged world. I suspect video game aficionados will have an even greater appreciation for Nick’s adventure.
From its magical opening scene in a largely mundane New Jersey bookstore, to its conclusion leaving readers with appropriate-to-the-story if not necessarily happy “good-byes” to Quentin Coldwater, flawed magician, and his compatriots, The Magician’s Land fulfils Lev’s unspoken contract with his readers to both honor and build on the classic tales of adventures at its foundation. After the losses of The Magician King, Quentin gradually develops more self-awareness and grace, while undertaking fabulous magical adventures, of course! Strongly recommended.
Signed copies available, while they last.
Janie Jenkins has a lot going for her, including her fierce dedication to being a self-protective bitch. She also has a lot of challenges, including being released after a decade in prison after being convicted for the murder of her mother; being hounded by celebrity stalkers and the media; and the nagging sensation that perhaps the conviction was valid, as her memories of the night of her mother’s killing are less than clear. The sharp and prickly Jane assumes a low-profile persona to conduct an investigation based on the thinnest of clues from her mother’s past in strange twinned small towns in South Dakota. Jane may not be likable or pleasant, but she is unforgettable.
An August Fantastic Firsts Pick!
Sarah Beth Durst’s first adult novel bears her trademark unique fantastic stamp – in this case, artist Lauren Chase is driving in the desert with no destination in mind, other than the desire to escape the reality of her mother’s terminal illness, when her circumstances draw her to the surreal town of Lost. By incorporating both themes of those who are lost and those who have suffered losses, set among the minutia of the lost — those stray socks, toys, shopping lists, etc. that we are all familiar with — Sarah Beth adds depth and dimension to her “Wizard of Oz”-like story. Recommended to fans of Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road: Lost could be encountered along similar pathways.
Overlapping narrators, a non-linear story line, and a slow reveal all contribute to elevate this debut suspense novel. In her early 20’s, Mia Dennett still strives to rebel against her parents’ affluent Chicago lifestyle, making her perhaps an unlikely target for someone seeking revenge against her father, an influential judge. Colin, more of a criminal by economy than intent, kidnaps Mia, but then diverts for his instructions, hiding both of them in a remote severely underequipped cabin in the Minnesota woods. Mia is returned, to the relief of her mother, Eve, and the Detective on the case, Gabe Hoffman, but her physical presence only serves to deepen the emotional and psychological puzzle behind her abduction.
Comedian and actress Annabelle’s collection of 16 essays on hitting the half-century mark hold humor and resonance whether dealing with the universal concepts of issues like those pillow lines that used to immediately disappear in the morning and now linger into one’s day, or the more specialized issues facing a woman working in Hollywood. Annabelle doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like the increasing number of one’s friends facing serious or terminal health issues, or the struggles of the sandwich generation. Reading I See You Made an Effort is like having a refreshing gab session with one’s girlfriends. Don’t miss Annabelle at the July 20 Smart Summer Reads event in Redondo Beach!
The characters in the new novel from the author of Shine Shine Shine share some of the same unique characteristics – they are unlike characters who populate anyone else’s writing that I can think of, while still being identifiable to the reader – in a story about connections, family, and the forces of fate. George and Irene are destined to be together, according to the stars, aligned from conception by the machinations of their mothers. Can they resist their fate? Should they? Readers may find themselves examining the roles psychology, astronomy, philosophy and family play in their own lives. Recommended for those who thrive on quirky and informed fiction.