Review: “A Girl’s Guide to Love & Magic” by Debbie Rigaud

Release Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Description

Perfect for fans of The Sun Is Also a Star and Blackout, this YA novel from Debbie Rigaud is a celebration of Haitian and Caribbean culture, and a story of first love, vodou, and finding yourself, all set against the backdrop of the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn.

Cicely Destin lives for the West Indian Day Parade, the joyous celebration of Caribbean culture that takes over the streets of her neighborhood. She loves waving the Haitian flag, sampling delicious foods, and cheering for the floats. And this year? She’ll get to hang with her stylish aunt, an influencer known for dabbling in Haitian Vodou.

And maybe spot her dreamy crush, Kwame, in the crowd.

But fate has other ideas. Before the parade, a rogue, mischievous spirit seems to take possession of Cicely’s aunt during a spiritual reading. Cicely hardly knows anything about Vodou, or how to get someone un-possessed. But it’s up to her to set things right–and the clock is ticking. She’ll have to enlist the help of her quick-thinking best friend, Renee, and, as luck would have it…Kwame.

Cicely, her friends, and the reckless spirit who is now their charge set off on a thrilling scavenger hunt to gather the ceremonial items they need. And along the way, will Cicely discover surprising powers of her on?

Bestselling author Debbie Rigaud infuses this novel with sparkling wit, romance, and nuance that will keep readers riveted and enchanted.

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Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for December 2022

December is a bittersweet month for me. With decorations lighting up the streets yet the days getting shorter and colder, with the avalanche of romantic movies yet family and friends hundreds to thousands of miles away, I always end up feeling a strange mix of both melancholy and cozy. And so, not surprisingly, those were the short speculative fiction stories I was drawn to the most.

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.

Deadly Magic and Intergenerational Trauma: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Release Date: November 8, 2022
Series: Legendborn #2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Description

The shadows have risen, and the line is law.

All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights–only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first–without losing herself in the process.

Continue reading ““Deadly Magic and Intergenerational Trauma: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Review: “How to Succeed in Witchcraft” by Aislinn Brophy

Release Date: September 27, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Description

Magically brilliant, academically perfect, chronically overcommitted–Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. As a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s determined to win the Brockton Scholarship–her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her competition? Ana freaking Álvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.When Mr. B asks Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive musicalshe warily agrees, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But in rehearsals, Shay realizes Ana is . . . not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could be a friend–or more. And Shay could use someone in her corner once she becomes the target of Mr. B’s unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when her future’s on the line?

Continue reading “Review: “How to Succeed in Witchcraft” by Aislinn Brophy”

Charming But Shallow: Darby and the Dead

My Thoughts

Darby and the Dead is full of little moments of joy. I loved how Darby’s version of making herself popular involved a twist out. Often when Black girls are given a TV makeover to look hot (according to Western standards), she ends up with straight hair, but Darby went back to her natural curls. There’s a scene with Nicole Maines hanging out in the girls’ locker room with her Mean Girl friends and everyone is totally cool with it. (If you don’t know Maines’ background, she was at the center of an anti-discrimination case where the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that trans people can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.) It was so nice to have 100 minutes of no racism, sexism, queerphobia, or transphobia. Breaking the fourth wall isn’t easy to pull off, but Riele Downs nails it. Particularly at the end when she has her heart to heart with Alex (played by the delightful Chosen Jacobs) and during the epilogue. If you liked how She-Hulk played with the fourth wall trope, you’ll probably also like how Darby and the Dead does it.

For the rest of my review, head over to Tor.com.

Notable Young Adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror of 2022

Hundreds of young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels make their way through the traditional publishing industry every year. Fantasy, of course, takes the biggest chunk of the market, but we’ve seen an upswing in horror recently. No matter your favorite speculative genre, we’re in an age where choices abound. And I’m here to help you make some decisions.

Here is my list of the 30 most notable YA SFF/H of 2022. Define “notable” as you see fit, but for me I’m thinking in terms of books that stood out, books that made me think, books that played with genre conventions in new or interesting ways, and books that I can’t stop recommending.

Read the rest of this spotlight at Tor.com.

Review: “The Bruising of Qilwa” by Naseem Jamnia

Release Date: August 9, 2022
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Genre: Fantasy

Description

In this intricate debut fantasy introducing a queernormative Persian-inspired world, a nonbinary refugee practitioner of blood magic discovers a strange disease that causes political rifts in their new homeland. Persian-American author Naseem Jamnia has crafted a gripping narrative with a moving, nuanced exploration of immigration, gender, healing, and family. Powerful and fascinating, The Bruising of Qilwa is the newest arrival in the era of fantasy classics such as the Broken Earth Trilogy, The Four Profound Weaves, and Who Fears Death.

Firuz-e Jafari is fortunate enough to have immigrated to the Free Democratic City-State of Qilwa, fleeing the slaughter of other traditional Sassanian blood magic practitioners in their homeland. Despite the status of refugees in their new home, Firuz has a good job at a free healing clinic in Qilwa, working with Kofi, a kindly new employer, and mentoring Afsoneh, a troubled orphan refugee with powerful magic.But Firuz and Kofi have discovered a terrible new disease which leaves mysterious bruises on its victims. The illness is spreading quickly through Qilwa, and there are dangerous accusations of ineptly performed blood magic. In order to survive, Firuz must break a deadly cycle of prejudice, untangle sociopolitical constraints, and find a fresh start for their both their blood and found family.

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