Book Review: The Diabolic

the diabolicThe Diabolic
by S. J. Kincaid
Young Adult Sci-fi
403 pages
Published 2016

I really enjoyed this book. There were twists I absolutely did not see coming, and Nemesis’s confusion over whether she is truly human or not is an absorbing part of the plotline.

The book opens on Nemesis, an artificially created humanoid, as a child, being bonded to her charge, Sidonia Impyrean. The chemically-induced bonding creates an artificial love from Nemesis towards Sidonia – a love so strong she will kill and die to protect her. Many years later, Diabolics – what Nemesis is – are outlawed. Rather than kill Nemesis, Sidonia’s family fakes her death, and eventually sends Nemesis to court masquerading as Sidonia. No one has seen Sidonia before, so the masquerade is fairly easy, other than hiding Nemesis’ real abilities as one of the last Diabolics. Thrown into a world of conspiracies and courtly intrigue, Nemesis flails a little bit, but eventually finds her footing, and I can’t say anymore than that because that’s when the plot twists start!

This is one of the most surprising YA books I’ve read. I only anticipated one or two of the twists; many of the events revealed themselves to the reader at the same time that Nemesis uncovers them, which makes sense, as the book is told from her point of view.

The bond between Sidonia and Nemesis is strong and intriguing, even across star systems. I wish their relationship had been explored more. Sidonia always believed Nemesis was truly human, even when Nemesis did not. The book did not delve deeply into the actual creation of Diabolics; I’m hoping the sequel does. I’m curious if they are actually created, or if they are genetically modified humans and that’s just a closely guarded secret. (Even if they are created, they’re human in every way except their strength and endurance – I’m sure they’re simply modified in the womb. Or test tube. Whichever. I really hope the sequel gets into that.)

I have the sequel, The Empress, requested from the library, but it’s supposed to be a trilogy. I don’t know when the third is due out.

This is a fantastic, surprising YA book with interesting politics and world building. I really want to learn more about the history of this world, and hopefully the rest of the trilogy will cover that.

From the cover of The Diabolic:

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. 

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

Library Loot Wednesday!

as the crow fliesI only got a few books this week – As The Crow Flies, a graphic novel about a queer black girl at a Christian summer camp that I’ve been dying to read because the art looks amazing, and three books about Asperger’s Syndrome.

Two of the AS books I actually plucked off the Free shelf in the front entryway; I happened to notice them as I walked by to return a few books and pick up holds. They’re both geared towards children and young readers, so I don’t know how applicable they all cats have asperger syndromewill be for my husband and I, but I thought I’d give them a read through, and maybe give them away here in the blog if anyone is interested in them! The third is actually part of a series – all cats have asperger syndrome, all dogs have adhd, and all birds have anxiety. It’s pretty cute, matching single sentences about AS traits with cute pictures of cats. Things like “An Asperger child often has exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare him” and “When people talk to him he may refuse to look at them.” Typical kitty traits! Unfortunately they use male pronouns throughout the book, effectively erasing autistic women and girls, who have a hard enough time getting diagnosed already! The author, as far as I can tell, isn’t on the spectrum herself, which always makes me immediately suspicious. It was published in 2006, so I can forgive the use of Asperger Syndrome instead of Autism Spectrum. It’s still a little disappointing though.

Probably a good thing I didn’t get much this week; I still have a lot to get through from the last few weeks!

Top Ten Tuesday – Bookish Worlds I’d Want To Live In

harry potter sorcerer stoneI struggled to decide whether to do worlds I’d WANT to live in or worlds that I WOULDN’T want to live in – I finally settled on worlds I’d want to live in because honestly, there’s a lot fewer of them! Everyone talks about running away to Narnia or something but – no. I wouldn’t want to live in Narnia.

My first pick IS going to be pretty popular, though. I’d totally live in the world of Harry Potter. In a HEARTBEAT. I’m a Hufflepuff through and through. (So far I have cross-stitched three large house crests – I still need to finish Slytherin and the Hogwarts crest so I can get all five professionally framed.) I have a Hufflepuff scarf, hat, gloves, enamel pin, small leather pouch…yeah. I’m a Hufflepuff and proud of it!

winds of fateMercedes Lackey’s Valdemar. Or The Elemental Masters world. I’d be okay with either of those.

Hmmmm. Alera, the world of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series.

tides of war jaina proudmooreIt might be cheating a little because it’s a video game, but there ARE books about it, so Azeroth! If I could be my Fire Mage, I’d totally live in Azeroth! (Or my hunter. Maybe even my priest or druid. I wouldn’t want to be my warlock or my demon hunter or any of my melee classes though….)

redwallI could probably handle Redwall. I’m not sure what I’d be. Probably a mouse, but I’d rather be a bird.

This is actually really hard. I’m not a big risk-taker, so I’d mostly prefer worlds where I could be a comfortable background character who’s unlikely to be collateral damage. (With the exception of Azeroth, where I’d be a badass Fire Mage.)

burn bright alpha omegaPatricia Briggs’ Mercy series would be acceptable. As long as I steer clear of the vamps, I should be okay.

dealing with dragonsOh! Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons world! I would totally keep house for a dragon!

I guess Tolkien’s Middle Earth would be okay. I’m just not that enthused by it though. So long as it’s after all the events of The Fellowship of the Ring.

libriomancerI just remembered Libriomancer! The Magic Ex Libris world! I’d totally live in a world where I could reach into a book and pull out shit. That’s awesome! I just realized I have access to a different library than I did when I read the first book; this system might have more of the series!

So those are ten bookish worlds I’d like to live in! I’m eager to see where everyone else would like to live – there’s probably far more adventurous souls participating who want to live in much crazier worlds, or who don’t plan to be innocuous background characters!



Book Review: Burn Bright

burn bright alpha omegaBurn Bright
by Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
308 pages
Published March 2018

I absolutely love Patricia Briggs. Mercy Thompson is a great series, but the Alpha and Omega series stole my heart. Anna is one of my favorite characters EVER. (Though this book reminded me that I want to know more about one of the side characters, Asil, because he’s always amused me.)

This is the fifth book in the Alpha and Omega series. It actually started as a short story that  was originally published in an anthology in 2007. I own the anthology – somewhere – but it’s available as a separate ebook on Amazon. If you want to read the series, you really need to start there. It’s where Anna and Charles meet and explains Anna’s backstory. But in Burn Bright, Anna and Charles have been mated for a few years and gone on a number of adventures already. Now Charles’ father, Bran, “the Marrok” is out of town, leaving Charles in charge of the pack, and of course, they’re attacked.

In between pack dominance fights, unraveling curses, and pack bond magic, Anna and Charles track down attackers, heal wounds, and discover people aren’t always who they seem to be.

The Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha and Omega series have both been hinting at a grand, over-arching plotline that gets revealed a little more in this book, so that’s exciting, and I’m eager to see where this goes. I’ve enjoyed how the two series are very much their own series, but still exist in the same world and have events going on that affect both sets of characters. I think we’ll see a crossover book soon.

I feel a little weird calling it urban fantasy- that IS the genre, but the Alpha and Omega series, in particular, usually takes place out in the sticks. Not exactly urban. (You could call the Mercy books the city and Alpha/Omega the country and not be too far off.)

It’s a great addition to the series, if you’ve been reading them. Not good as a standalone if you don’t know the rest of the world already, though!

From the cover of Burn Bright:

In her bestselling Alpha and Omega series, Patricia Briggs “spins tales of werewolves, coyote shifters, and magic and, my, does she do it well” ( Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other – one that lurks too close to home…

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support, far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf – but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills – his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker – to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn . . . 

Sunday Funday

alternative aip cookbookWell. It’s been a week. I haven’t talked about it much, but I’ve been on a very restrictive diet since the beginning of April. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Hydradenitis Suppurativa, two auto-immune diseases, so after reading up on it for several months, I decided to take the plunge and start the AutoImmune Protocol, or AIP. And it’s been amazing! I’ve had so much more energy, and I haven’t been sleeping the days away (or falling asleep face down in my book!) I haven’t had random nausea, or heartburn – so many problems relieved by this diet. Even the brain fog has receded a lot.

I’ve been using these two cookbooks – The AutoImmune Paleo Cookbook and The Alternative AutoImmune Cookbook. They’ve been great, and the recipes are delicious.

But. It’s very restrictive, (no gluten, dairy, nightshades, legumes, eggs, seeds, nuts, grains, soy, and as little sugar as possible) so last weekend I experimented with reintroducing a couple of things. Cheese, mostly. It took a couple of days to react, and when I did, it was with the chronic fatigue. Which, of the symptoms I normally have, is honestly the easiest to deal with. So I’ve spent much of the last week sleeping instead of reading! I’m glad I had spent the last month or so reading faster than I was posting reviews – the backlog I had saw me through this week of inactivity. I’m getting better again, which is good because I have quite the stack of library books to get through!

americanfamilyTomorrow is Memorial Day, and I always have mixed feelings about the holiday. My husband served five years in the Marines, and a lot of people like to thank him or me for his service on this day, and it bothers me because I feel like Memorial Day is the day to remember those who DIED fighting our wars. And my husband is very much alive. (Thank the gods.) Thank him on Veterans Day. Or some other day. It’s also just that I spent five years afraid he wouldn’t come back to me, so whenever the military and its sacrifices are being celebrated in the media, I want to crawl in a hole and hide. That said, if you’re looking for a Memorial Day read, check out An American Family by Khizr Khan. When he talks about his son’s death I had to put the book down and ugly cry for a while because that is every military spouse’s absolute worst fear.

In happier news, I’m going to be attempting a Pride-focused Instagram photo challenge this month! If you don’t already follow my Instagram, you can find me at @goddessinthestacks. This is the challenge I’ll be trying to post along with!
Pride Bookstagram Challenge

Book Review: Mortal Engines

mortal engines

Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk
296 pages
Published 2002

Through this entire book, I kept thinking “this feels like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” It’s a completely different setting, and a different plot, but it had the same atmosphere. Rollicking action, fantastical premise, crazy setting, huge machines with entire worlds within them. I loved Valerian – it may not have been a critically great movie, and I don’t think the leads had much chemistry, but the movie was just FUN. And that’s how Mortal Engines is, too.

It’s a crazy world, where cities have become mobile – think Howl’s Moving Castle – and they chase each other across a barren world, devouring each other for resources in a social order they call Municipal Darwinism. Some cities, like London, are huge, with six main levels, not really counting the Gut, or the center of the machinery. Other towns are small, one or two levels crawling along trying to avoid the notice of the larger, faster cities. The peoples of the Traction Cities think people who live in statics (stationary cities, or, horror of horrors, right on the ground!) or people who are part of the Anti-Traction League, are crazy barbarians. And then there are the airship captains and crews, based out of the one floating city.

It is a crazy steampunk world, and Tom Natsworthy stumbles into a conspiracy plot by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as he travels with Hester across the wasteland, trying to survive their pursuers and avert catastrophe, he learns more about her, and more about how the world actually works.

I absolutely adore the last two sentences of the book, and I’m going to post those here because they aren’t terribly spoilery. And they’re fantastic.

“You aren’t a hero, and I’m not beautiful, and we probably won’t live happily ever after,” she said. “But we’re alive, and together, and we’re going to be all right.”

This book is the first of a quartet, and Reeve also wrote a prequel trilogy, so there’s actually three books before AND after this book. I’ll probably check my library for them, because I REALLY enjoyed this book.

Mortal Engines is also set to come out as a movie this December – I can’t tell from the teaser how closely it’s going to stick to the plot of the book, but the Traction Cities are well done!

This also fills the “Steampunk” prompt for Litsy’s Booked 2018 challenge.

From the cover of Mortal Engines:

Emerging from its hiding place in the hills, the great Traction City of London chases one terrified little town across the wastelands. If it cannot overpower smaller, slower prey, the city will come to a standstill and risk being taken over by another. In the attack, Tom Natsworthy, Apprentice Historian to the London Museum, is flung from its speeding superstructure into the barren wasteland of Out-Country. His only companion is Hester Shaw, a murderous, scar-faced girl who does not particularly want Tom’s company. But if they are to make it back to London, before Stalkers or hungry cities get them first, they will need to help each other, and fast. If Hester is to be believed, London is planning something atrocious, and the future of the world could be at stake. Can they get back to London before it’s too late?