Leslie Moïse

A wealthy American teenager, a Chinese adolescent intent on freeing himself from a lifetime of slave labor, an economic genius, a daring union organizer and a gifted 15-year-old girl from rural India all meet, go to war with, challenge or champion each other in Cory Doctorow’s brilliant new young adult novel, For the Win. Set in a near future dominated by multiplayer online games—and real-life criminals and corporations who use the games to turn a frighteningly real profit—the novel is as fast-moving, intense and thrilling as any struggle between virtual warriors, monsters, elves or trolls. Relationships shift, friendships end, victims become predators and predators prey. Soon all the widely flung characters are drawn into a global conflict that could change the world.

Fifteen-year-old Mala, known as General Robotwallah to her “army” of friends, uses her talent for navigating magical online battlefields to provide her family with decent clothes, food and an apartment. She works in an electronic sweatshop, where she steals virtual gold—gold her boss sells to wealthy Western players for actual money. Mala and her contemporaries in India, China and the U.S. swiftly find themselves at the center of real-life evils darker and more lethal than anything they faced online.

For the Win addresses urgent global issues shaping Earth today. In an international economy, decisions made in one country cause devastation in individual lives and communities elsewhere. Doctorow skillfully uses gaming as a metaphor for suffering, loss and transformation, an emblem of how desire, pleasure, envy and greed can motivate or destroy human beings. The strongly drawn characters remain individual throughout. Even readers who care little for gaming will care deeply for Mala, Big Sister Nor and the rest. Compelling and believable, For the Win deserves to be savored by teens and adults alike.

A wealthy American teenager, a Chinese adolescent intent on freeing himself from a lifetime of slave labor, an economic genius, a daring union organizer and a gifted 15-year-old girl from rural India all meet, go to war with, challenge or champion each other in Cory Doctorow’s brilliant new young adult novel, For the Win. Set […]

Life is not turning out the way college student Brenda Morris expected. Instead of literature and history, she spends much of her time studying self-defense, learning magic and how to infuse mah-jong tiles with her life force, or ch’i, for magical purposes. With her mentor, former child star Pearl Bright, and a band of mortals and ghosts called the Thirteen Orphans, Brenda works to unravel a century-old curse. Insane warrior Thundering Heaven, Pearl’s long-dead father, is only one of the powerful, treacherous enemies the group must face.

Five Odd Honors, the third book in Jane Lindskold’s Breaking the Wall series rooted in Chinese culture and myth, folds backstory and character relationships—familial, romantic and antagonistic—into the ongoing action. This complex novel blends passion, jealousy between beings living and dead, and day-to-day reality with the mysticism of Chinese astrology. The appearance of several unusual, even grotesque members of the Celtic Sidhe—fairies—spices up the adventure.

In addition to Brenda and Pearl, key characters include Loyal Wind, a courageous warrior-ghost, and Flying Claw, an enigmatic, stunning young man with a remarkable personal history. Settings include California, Virginia and South Carolina, though much of the action occurs in non-ordinary locations rooted in Chinese and other indigenous traditions. Humans battle ghosts; ghosts, who can suffer permanent damage even after death, fight each other as well. Virulent attacks and torture also take place in dreams and in many all-too-physical circumstances.

Eventually, the group splits up. Some, like Brenda, apparently return to normal life. Scouts set off through the Lands of Smoke and Sacrifice to discover what has gone amiss there. As the explorers struggle with horribly manipulated landscapes of stone, water, fire, metal and wood, Pearl suffers a magical attack of uncertain origin. Soon Brenda must draw upon her still-incomplete training to aid her friends if they hope to survive to save this and all other worlds from evil and destruction.

Infused with the symbolism and resonance of Chinese astrology, Five Odd Honors offers readers a wide cast of characters and a multilayered drama rich in magic, treachery, raw courage and true friendship.

Leslie Moïse, Ph.D., lives, reads and writes in Louisville, Kentucky.

Life is not turning out the way college student Brenda Morris expected. Instead of literature and history, she spends much of her time studying self-defense, learning magic and how to infuse mah-jong tiles with her life force, or ch’i, for magical purposes. With her mentor, former child star Pearl Bright, and a band of mortals […]

Dragons are creatures of archetypal beauty and ferocity that fill all who meet them with awe. Sintara, the blue dragon in Robin Hobb’s Dragon Haven, second in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, certainly considers herself awe-inspiring. But 16-year-old Thymara, her keeper, finds Sintara difficult, nasty-tempered and deformed, with stunted wings.

Girl and dragon are part of an assortment of humans and ill-formed dragons on a quest to discover Kelsingra. The legendary city once housed a culture of dragons and Elderlings, their bizarrely beautiful companions. Natural disasters, personality clashes, passions, greed, conspiracies, blackmail and murder challenge the members of the assembly on their expedition. Some stretch and grow to meet each trial and catastrophe. Others fail; some die. All are forever changed before they reach journey’s end.

As in each of Hobb’s excellent books, characters are varied, fully realized beings, never simply good or bad. Sintara’s fellow dragons range from lowly creatures barely able to function to the large, aggressive Kalo and Mercor, a wise, golden dragon.

The humans are equally unique. They include Alise, a self-taught dragon scholar fleeing the stifled existence of her loveless marriage, and Sedric, her husband’s secretary, tortured by secrets and longings rooted in the past. Unlike those two city-dwellers, Thymara and all but one of the young people chosen to serve as dragon keepers bear the marks of their strange land, with its acidic river and treetop towns. Some keepers have scales instead of hair; Thymara has claws instead of nails. Her odd traits make her an exceptional hunter and gatherer. She must learn to develop the same self-assurance in her interactions with other group members.

The oldest keeper, Greft, attempts to change society’s rules and create ones more to his power-starved liking. In contrast with him are shy Sylve, only 12 years old, and the ebullient Rapskal. One creature is neither human nor dragon, but a living ship named Tarman, capable of making his own decisions, who plays an active role in the mission. Leftrin, a tough Rain Wilds native with an unexpectedly tender heart, captains the liveship.

The Rain Wilds Chronicles are set in the same world as a number of the noted author’s successful and popular series, though the primary characters and setting are different. Readers will have no trouble keeping up with who’s who or what is going on, since Hobb provides sufficient background on events in the previous book, Dragon Keeper. Like the best fantasy novels—or the best in any genre—Dragon Haven delivers not only page-turning entertainment, but subtle perspectives on prejudice, courage, compassion and love—in all its forms.

Leslie Moïse, biblio-omnivore, novelist and memoirist, lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dragons are creatures of archetypal beauty and ferocity that fill all who meet them with awe. Sintara, the blue dragon in Robin Hobb’s Dragon Haven, second in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, certainly considers herself awe-inspiring. But 16-year-old Thymara, her keeper, finds Sintara difficult, nasty-tempered and deformed, with stunted wings. Girl and dragon are part of […]

Rachel Morgan thinks of herself as a good person, but ever since she quit her job and started a business with two friends, circumstances have nudged her to blur the distinctions between good and evil. When it becomes necessary, she twists a curse, using black magic to help others or save herself. Her friends and enemies include vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, pixies, fairies and elves. Sometimes Rachel has trouble deciding whom she can trust. Sometimes that includes herself.

In Black Magic Sanction, Kim Harrison’s eighth novel featuring Rachel, the sexy witch must confront a charming ex-boyfriend who once again betrays her. This time Nick hands her over to a coven of so-called white witches determined to imprison Rachel forever. The coven considers a lobotomy justifiable punishment for Rachel’s use of black magic, no matter how well-intended her motives. They also have no objection to using white magic in deadly combinations in order to bring Rachel into custody. Trapped between them and her long-time enemy, the rich, powerful elf Trent Kalamack, Rachel needs all her skill and her friends’ support if she hopes to survive. The presence of her long-time crush, Pierce, a black magic witch, complicates things even more.

Written with Harrison’s trademark blend of humor juxtaposed with peril, sensuality and magic, Black Magic Sanction is sure to please both long-term fans and newcomers to the series. Harrison provides enough background to keep new readers from getting lost, without spoiling twists from her earlier books.

The character of Rachel remains one of the series’ many strengths. As she learns to deal with increasing amounts of power, she also develops trust in herself. Rachel remains vulnerable, however, especially in her personal life. She is still tempted by danger, often in the form of treacherous men like Nick, Pierce and Trent. Though sometimes considered an airhead, Rachel uses her wits and fighting skills as well as spells to defend herself and those she loves. No wonder her friends, and Harrison’s growing number of fans, stand by Rachel so faithfully.

Leslie Moïse, biblio-omnivore and novelist, lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rachel Morgan thinks of herself as a good person, but ever since she quit her job and started a business with two friends, circumstances have nudged her to blur the distinctions between good and evil. When it becomes necessary, she twists a curse, using black magic to help others or save herself. Her friends and […]

Sassy New York actress Esther Diamond finds herself unemployed when the mediocre musical she is in closes without warning. Esther hears about a juicy guest role on a popular television series, but needs income to pay her bills in the meantime, so she reluctantly falls back on her job as a singing waitress at popular mob hangout, Bella Stella. etective Connor Lopez adds to Esther’s frustration. Despite some hot, sexy moments, they cannot seem to move their relationship past the lunch date phase. To increase the tension, Lopez thinks Esther’s friend Max Zadok is a dangerous lunatic. Esther knows Max is actually an ancient sorcerer keeping New York safe from evil, but cannot explain that to Lopez since the hunky detective is a non-believer when it comes to magic.

Lopez is equally upset about Esther’s job at Bella Stella, a sentiment Esther can’t argue with when capo Chubby Charlie is murdered right in front of her. With the help of a semi-retired mob hitman named Lucky, Esther realizes that someone is creating perfect doubles of gangsters from different mob families; soon after each wiseguy meets his “doppelgangster,” he dies. While Lopez tries to solve the mystery using police logic, Esther and Lucky enlist Max’s mystical assistance and it soon becomes clear that someone is using magic in order to start a mob war. As the list of victims grows, so does the danger to Esther and her friends.

The newest in Laura Resnick’s series featuring Esther Diamond, Doppelgangster is unexpectedly light-hearted and funny. Max’s formal diction, magical outlook and old-fashioned sensibilities provide hilarious contrast with Lucky’s blunt approach and Esther’s exotic lifestyle. Conflict and humor arise naturally thanks to the differences between the older men, as well as Lopez and Esther herself, while the sexual chemistry between the couple sizzles more strongly every time they meet. The suspense increases steadily as Esther’s search for clues takes her from various crime scenes to Max’s musty antiquarian bookstore with its cellar laboratory and to a neighborhood church badly in need of renovation. This novel is certain to please anyone who enjoys fantasy blended with suspense, and savors romance with a good dash of wit. 

Leslie Moise lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky.

Sassy New York actress Esther Diamond finds herself unemployed when the mediocre musical she is in closes without warning. Esther hears about a juicy guest role on a popular television series, but needs income to pay her bills in the meantime, so she reluctantly falls back on her job as a singing waitress at popular […]

Kage Baker’s The Bird of the River flows as smoothly and powerfully as a river in flood, with secrets, suspense and danger swirling just below the surface. The novel follows the adventures of Eliss, a clever, caring girl on the brink of womanhood. Her sharp eyes and equally sharp brain, combined with a depth of unconscious humility, make Eliss an attractive character for both young and adult readers.

Set in the same reality as Baker’s earlier works The Anvil of the World and The House of the Stag, the novel deals with the universal themes of prejudice, codependence, addiction and autonomy. The world’s two races, the city-dwelling Children of the Sun and the Yendri, a forest-living tribe, are further divided by their religious beliefs. Eliss has a 10-year-old half-brother of mixed race, Alder. Though Eliss does her best to protect him, Alder must choose his own life—with Eliss’ people or those of his father—especially after the death of their drug-addicted mother, Falena.

Most of the action takes place on the enormous river barge Bird of the River, a boat larger than many towns where Eliss has lived. The crew includes Captain Glass, a man who is far more than he appears, the female divers who bring up snags and sunken boats from the river bottom and Eliss, who learns to be the eyes of the vessel, reading the river for signs of hidden danger.

Other characters range from the kindly first mate Mr. Riveter and his family to Krelan, an upper-class boy with a secret Eliss cleverly deduces. A series of demon-robber attacks follow the same route as the barge; as Eliss and Krelan grow closer, they discover the root of the crimes. An independent female cartographer provides Eliss with a healthy role model and mentor, while the Bird of the River itself plays an active part in her development into an independent young woman. Myth and folklore make Eliss’ world seem rich—notably, a ballad about the doomed Falena’s all-too-ordinary life and death.

From its sad and realistic beginning to its startling yet totally believable conclusion, The Bird of the River is an elegantly written, deeply moving tale. Kage Baker’s death from cancer earlier this year makes reading The Bird of the River especially bittersweet. 

 

Kage Baker’s The Bird of the River flows as smoothly and powerfully as a river in flood, with secrets, suspense and danger swirling just below the surface. The novel follows the adventures of Eliss, a clever, caring girl on the brink of womanhood. Her sharp eyes and equally sharp brain, combined with a depth of unconscious humility, […]

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