Supernice: Smile. Or Else. by Petra Jacob

Title: Supernice: Smile. Or Else.
Author: Petra Jacob
Date Added: June 11, 2020
Date Started: May 20, 2020
Date Finished: June 22, 2020
Reading Duration: 33 Days
Genre: Science Fiction (Sci-Fi)/Speculative Fiction, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of Supernice by Petra JacobPages: 284
Publication Date: May 30, 2020
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


A funny and gripping story about a tyrannical alien invasion in a sleepy seaside town.

Chirpy YouTuber Nick and his cynical teenage daughter Natasha have their lives thrown into turmoil one afternoon when the walls start swallowing people. Over the next week, more and more are snatched away, until the announcement is made: Earth is under new management. Aliens have taken control and they’re not happy with how humans have been behaving.

The new leaders introduce a series of increasingly oppressive rules. Make a single mistake and you’ll be taken away – to be transformed into an upstanding member of the community.
An upstanding, smiling member of the community with a brain like mashed potato.

As their town, and the world, are thrown into chaos and the streets are filled with grinning automatons, Nick and Natasha each find their own way to deal with the horror. Nick becomes a YouTube celebrity, convincing the public to behave. Natasha joins a makeshift rebellion working out how to dodge the alien demands. Each wants the best for the other, but they end up on opposing sides in humanity’s most vital and bizarre battle.

Will they ever be united against the real enemy? Will the human race become the docile drones that the aliens want? Or is universal niceness an impossible and undesirable dream?


Supernice reveals the disparity between how the younger and older generations view and deal with an alien invasion, and the author showcases this early in Nick and Natasha, the father and daughter MCs whose perspectives the narrative bounces between.  This isn’t to say neither of their viewpoints change/evolve, but it is fascinating to witness how easily some people are taken in for the benefits, while others, while afforded and seemingly offered some of the same, understand the deeper implications sooner and reject them despite the cost.

This is one of those stories where the bad happening seems almost good, similar to the sentiment of “we’re the virus” in response to the current global pandemic.

Remember kids, be fashionable not fashy

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The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (The Paper Magician #1) (DNF)

Title: The Paper Magician
Series: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Date Added: June 17, 2016
Date Started: August 9, 2018
Date DNF: August 9, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of The Paper Magician by Charlie N. HolmbergPages: 222
Publication Date: September 1, 2014
Publisher: 47North
Media: eBook/Kindle


Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.


I wished I’d just passed on this based on sample, but I don’t think I read enough to make the correct call.  The beginning is intriguing enough to draw you in, but as I went along the first chapter, I didn’t get much from the MC Ceony except that she’s a good student who wanted to work with metal instead of the paper craft foisted upon her.  Usually students can choose their material, but because Folding is dying out, she was assigned to that.  It’s a pretty common set up for a narrative, and while I did wonder how Holmberg might bend this ubiquitous motif in a unique way, it just didn’t hold my interest, and after rereading the blurb, I felt less of a draw to find out.

I’m not counting the author out though.  I do like her style, and I have Smoke and Summons from her Numina series on my list.

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)

An Ember in the Ashes

<–A Torch Against the Night

Title: A Reaper at the Gates
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: August 23, 2017
Date Started: July 2, 2018
Date Finished: August 4, 2018
Reading Duration: 33 days
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult (YA), Romance

A Reaper at the Gates coverPages: 464
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback


Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


***Spoilers for all previous books in the series***

Tahir has the gift of making characters on both sides of the conflict sympathetic, even casting some compassion on Keris Veturia.  Though a tortured past doesn’t excuse the horrible things one does, it often provides an explanation.  It is no easy feat to do something like this, and it is one of the better attributes of ASOIAF, as well.  Like Martin, Tahir not only titles her chapters by the character whose viewpoint we follow, but she adds additional ones with each volume.  This is merely logistical, though; what’s more interesting is how Tahir, like GRRM, seems to subscribe (whether consciously or no) to William Faulkner’s philosophy:

The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.

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Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes #1) (DNF)

Title: Beware the Kitten Holy
Series Title: Lumberjanes
Author: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, & Faith Hicks
Artists: Brooke A. Allen, Shannon Waters, Kay Leyh, Carolyn Nowak, & Carey Pietsch
Date Added: January 13, 2017
Date Started: July 19, 2018
Date DNF: July 25, 2018
Reading Duration: 6 days
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult (YA), Fantasy

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten HolyPages: 128
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Media: Paperback (Library)


At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.


I feel like this was definitely geared towards a different demographic than yours truly’s, which is why I ended up DNFing it.  So much wacky stuff was going on that I never got much of a sense of the characters, but to be fair I didn’t get much past Chapter 1.  There was a pattern of the girls finding and/or running from three-eyed creatures .  They start off facing three-eyed foxes, run into a three-eyed river monster, and then Ripley tries to get her candy bar back from a three-eyed eagle (believe it or not).  From what I read, the characters seemed pretty interchangeable, except for the one girl who could recite the Lumberjanes pledge by memory.  I’m hoping they became more distinct as the story went on.  There was decent representation, at least in terms of racial diversity, and I can see the appeal; it just wasn’t appealing to me.  Kinda like Mamma Mia lol.

The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose by Moses Norton – Review & Analysis

Title: The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose
Author: Moses Norton
Date Added: May 28, 2019
Date Started: June 13, 2019
Date Finished: July 5, 2019
Reading Duration: 22 Days
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA), Novella

The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose by Moses NortonPages: 104
Publisher: Self
Publication Date: May 27, 2019
Media: eBook/Kindle & Physical Copy


Who is the Scissor-man? Nobody cares, nobody sees, except for one little boy. This debut literary fantasy novella takes a hard look at society and its outcasts through the eyes of innocent youth. In a world where death is ignored, Orasi becomes fascinated with the Scissor-man, the homeless mortician. After he finds a black thread in the snow, Orasi begins to unravel the legends surrounding this horrifying figure, and his journey of discovery brings him closer than ever to the father he barely knew. But the world is a place that has already decided its rules. His is just one beating heart among millions who are already dead, and Orasi may not like what he finds in the end…The Last Stitch Goes Through The Nose tests its characters to see if they are still breathing, and it might reach out to see if you are, too. The Last Stitch is perfect for the Young Adult reader who isn’t too grown up yet, or the adult reader who suspects they can still see through the eyes of a child.


Note: I’ll be breaking this up into Review and Analysis where the Review section will contain no spoilers, but the Analysis will.


Review


Only this kind of a memory remained: a makeshift history such as pleased those who had yet to suffer their own encounter with the end. The dead man was glorified, made new in memory.

This is not a happy story.  It’s a story that makes an important point that should lead to better outcomes, but it won’t.  It gives us a child protagonist we hope will bolster change in the tradition that children defy adults as well as adult expectations and prejudices.

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The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis (A Dance of Dragons #1) (DNF)

Title: The Shadow Soul
Series Title: A Dance of Dragons
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Date Added: June 15, 2016
Date Started: May 14, 2018
Date DNF: May 15, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA), Paranormal

The Shadow Soul coverPages: 292
Publication Date: January 22, 2014
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Media: eBook/Kindle


When Jinji’s home is destroyed, she is left with nowhere to run and no one to run to–until she meets Rhen, a prince chasing rumors that foreign enemies have landed on his shores. Masquerading as a boy, Jinji joins Rhen with vengeance in her heart. But traveling together doesn’t mean trusting one another, and both are keeping a deep secret–magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Rhen can pull burning flames into his flesh.

But while they struggle to hide the truth, a shadow lurks in the night. An ancient evil has reawakened, and unbeknownst to them, these two unlikely companions hold the key to its defeat. Because their meeting was not coincidence–it was fate. And their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time, an age of myth that is about to be reborn…


This is one of those books that initially seems like I’d tear through with alacrity based on the blurb, but I was extremely meh about the opening.  It’s your typical destroyed people/vengeance fare, but I didn’t garner much deep emotion from it because I didn’t invest much in the characters due to that cataclysm being present in the blurb.  Even so I liked what the author was setting up with Jinji’s story arc, an indigenous young woman whose home and culture is destroyed.  I was here for that revenge story, but then…the male character is introduced.

Rhen is unlikable for a variety of reasons.  He’s arrogant as fuck with an unearned know-it-all attitude.  Davis tells us how smart he is through his own ruminations, which may be her way of disputing it, but it just comes off as pompous.  I could forgive this slight, but I was pretty much done when he revealed he might be an unabashed rapist per the very act that introduces him.

He did however feel slightly uneasy.  It really wasn’t the girl’s fault that he had slipped into her room just before dawn.

I won’t say it’s blatant, but it gave me an icky feeling.  Pairing that with a lukewarm beginning sealed the deal.  If Rhen had been interesting or reputable, I might have continued, but I had no interest in seeing a fairly decent character like Jinji paired with what can’t even be considered a mediocre man.  Maybe he matures; maybe she “fixes” him (ugh), but she deserves better.

Strange Luck by Amie Irene Winters (Strange Luck #1) (DNF)

Title: Strange Luck
Series Title: Strange Luck
Author: Amie Irene Winters
Date Added: February 26, 2016
Date Started: March 13, 2018
Date DNF: March 21, 2018
Reading Duration: 7 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Young Adult (YA), Romance

Strange LuckPages: 296
Publication Date: June 2015
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


A Mysterious Letter.
A Deadly Discovery.
A World Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen.

All Daisy Darling wanted was to be a writer. What she got was more than she bargained for. As it turns out, the quaint little town of Sea Salt, California houses more than adorable cottages and huge redwood trees. Beneath the coastal charm rests a strange world where wizards, fairies, time-altering portals, and dark magic looms.

A world where memories can be your greatest currency–and weapon.

A world where you can never reclaim what’s been taken from you.

After stumbling into the mysterious world, Daisy’s memories begin to rapidly disintegrate, but she doesn’t even know she’s losing them. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Daisy learns she is the only one who can save herself.

Daisy’s very identity is at stake, but the odds aren’t in her favor. Can she discover the secret to win back her freedom before it’s too late?


I added this to my TBR list because the main character’s sole dream was to be a writer, and that was something I could relate to.  I initially liked Daisy, and I think she deserved better supporting characters (I did like her until she shit-talked cats grrrr).  Her father is supposed to be sympathetic, but he comes off as a selfish dick wanting her to take over the shop so that he can hunt for Utopia while she puts her dreams of going to London on a hold.  What kind of parent would do that to their child?  It’s bad enough he tries to guilt her into staying in order to continue the family business when that’s not what she wants, but then he decides he’s going to foist the shop off on her while he goes on an adventure.

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Opal by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #4.5)

The Raven Cycle

<–The Raven King (TRC #4)

Title: Opal
Series Title: The Raven Cycle
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Date Added: February 28, 2018
Date Started: March 13, 2018
Date Finished: March 14, 2018
Reading Duration: 1 day
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Young Adult (YA),  Romance, LGBTQ+

Opal coverPages: 38
Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Media: eBook/Kindle


An enchanting story from Maggie Stiefvater featuring Opal, Ronan, and Adam from her bestselling Raven Cycle, taking place after the events of The Raven King.


Dreamers have to dream just like writers have to write.  Not doing so is killing Ronan inside, putting a strain on the dreaming place he created, where the titular Opal resides, as well as his and Adam’s relationship.  This short showcases Stiefvater’s exquisite and eloquent writing style, which made up for the fact I barely remembered who Opal even was in the larger story.  She wasn’t one of my favorite characters, though her way of thinking and speaking was not only quaint, it forced you to figure out what was going on due to its simplicity and misunderstanding all the details of the “animal world” (the one the human characters reside in).  The story was quick enough that my minor issues with it didn’t have enough time to mature and irritate me.

4 stars.

James & the Dragon by Theresa Snyder (The Farloft Chronicles #1)

Title: James & the Dragon
Series Title: The Farloft Chronicles
Author: Theresa Snyder
Date Added: February 23, 2016
Date Started: February 15, 2018
Date Finished: February 19, 2018
Reading Duration: 4 days
Genre: Fantasy, Mid-Grade/Young Adult (YA), Short Story

James & the Dragon coverPages: 61
Publication Date: June 21, 2013
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


What would you do if you were adopted by a dragon? When ten-year-old orphan James nearly drowns in a bog, he finds himself rescued by Farloft, a centuries old dragon with a glittering collection of treasures and an even richer collection of stories. But, dragons and boys are not meant to live together – or are they? When Laval – a wizard harboring a secret hatred for Farloft finds out about James, he sees his chance for revenge.


Farloft the dragon in instantly likable with his sound arguments and fascinating stories, although it’s unfair to ignore his nemesis, Laval’s, point of view.  The wizard has very sound reasons for hating the dragon, though Farloft’s prior actions were based on even more past experience, nor could he have known the unfortunate outcome.

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The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau (Book of Ember #4)

Book of Ember

<–The Prophet of Yonwood (BOE #3)

Note: Since this is a sequel there are spoilers for the prior book even in the blurb.  Something to keep in mind if you haven’t read the prior books and don’t want to be spoiled.

Second Note:  TSN gets (US) political for comparison.


Title: The Diamond of Darkhold
Series Title: Book of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Date Added: September 17, 2017
Date Started: January 14, 2018
Date Finished: February 19, 2018
Reading Duration: 36 days
Genre: Mid-grade/Young Adult (YA), Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

The Diamond of Darkhold coverPages: 285
Publication Date: August 26, 2008
Publisher: Yearling Adventure
Media: Paperback


It’s been several months since Lina and Doon escaped the dying city of Ember and, along with the rest of their people, joined the town of Sparks. Lina knows they are lucky to be there, but life aboveground is hard. Instead of opening a can for dinner, they must plant and harvest their food. And while there was no sun or moon in Ember’s sky, neither was there rain, sleet, or wind. Now, in the middle of their first winter, Lin finds herself feeling homesick for her old city.

It’s during this dark time that Doon finds an unusual book. Torn up and missing most of its pages, it alludes to a mysterious device, a piece of technology from before the Disaster. Doon becomes convinced that the Builders of Ember meant for them to find the device when they left the city, to help them in their new lives. Together, Lina and Doon must go back underground to retrieve what was lost and bring light to a dark world.

In the fourth Book of Ember, bestselling author Jeanne DuPrau juxtaposes yet another action-packed adventure with powerful themes of hope, learning, and the search for truth. 


The final installment to the series finds Lina, Doon, and the other Emberites fully integrated into Sparks so they all live as one people, but times are hard, and Lina finds herself longing for the warm familiarity of her underground home.  Doon’s discovery of the blurb’s mentioned book gives them a reason to return to the now dark and dying Ember where things don’t go quite according to plan.  There are people living there, but if squatting were still a thing in this post-Disaster world then the Trogg family would be squatters.

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