Debian Perl Digital Detective: The Memory Thief

Megalopolis used to be the city hub for all the makers, doers, and dreamers. It was a better time according to Debian Perl, a technomancer known for her out-of-date computer programming skills. Now the city streets are filled with “Egg-heads,” those in thrall to the ease and simplicity of new technology as opposed to Debian’s way of doing things. Digits is one of those Egg-heads. She is a young social media guru and knows her way around all the newest, latest technology.

Debian and Digits cross paths when they both stumble across a 100-year-old lost robot named Ray-Bot. They soon learn that Ray-Bot’s CPU was suspiciously overclocked, leaving him unable to perform basic functions and commands. To find out where the robot came from, Debian must teach Digits everything she knows about computer coding and programming. Along their journey to bring Ray-Bot home, they begin piecing together the mysterious puzzle about his malfunction and uncover some sinister secrets.

Debian Perl: Digital Detective is a five-book series in which middle-grade readers will join Debian and Digits on mystery adventures all while building practical knowledge of coding, algorithms, algebra, and logical problem-solving.

Goodreads, 2019

OKAY. WOW. HOW CUTE. I LOVE THIS. THERE’S SUBTLE QUEERNESS. THERE’S CODING AND SCIENCE AND THE ART. IS. AMAZING.

*cough* Ahem. Now. Onto the review.

This was seriously one of the cutest graphic novels I’ve read this year. I LOVED the art style–the poppy, bright colors, the funky future-punk designs. It was just a JOY to experience.

The story itself is pretty straightforward: someone’s stole a robot’s memory card, thus hiding a serious crime. What I loved the most was the blending of old and new tech, of the general educational feel of this story, and the subtle (and some not-so-subtle) themes of acceptance, sentience, and the good of all.

This graphic novel is PERFECT for teachers, librarians, and any kid looking to learn a little more about coding. It’s got so many great things to it and I can’t wait for the next in the series!

My rating: ★★★★☆

Freeks

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Magic abilities, a traveling performance troupe and a monstrous secret that could kill everyone sounds like the perfect recipe for a great story. That’s exactly what Amanda Hocking’s Freeks delivers!

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Mara is a no-nonsense type of girl; someone who gets the job done and makes sure everything is running smoothly. Which, when it comes to their magical band of performers, doesn’t always happen. Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow is often the source of ridicule for their strange and often freakish acts, but they always manage to draw a crowd.

Caudry is a small town in Louisiana and when Gideon’s troupe arrives, things seem to start bad and get worse. When members of the troupe start to get attacked by a mysterious creature, it takes everything within Mara and her family to not turn tail and run. Mara struggles with staying to settle down for a normal life with town hottie Gabe and sticking to her family and helping to uncover who–or what–is killing them.

A slow start that goes from 0 to 100 in 3.5 seconds when the first attack happens to one of Mara’s childhood friends, Freeks will consume you and your entire afternoon. Once I got to the meaty bits of the plot, I didn’t want to put the book down at all. Mara’s internal struggle and desire for a normal life was enough to carry me through the first few chapters, because I cared about Mara.

Hocking does a fantastic job about painting these characters and showing you their best and worst parts all at once. I wanted Mara to find her gift and a place within the troupe other than roadie. I wanted her to fall in love and lead a normal life (though, I mainly wanted her to fall in love with Gabe’s sister Selena, and not Gabe himself, but that’s just me).

Freeks had a great voice; Mara’s unique perspective and choice of snappy comebacks left me giggling and really enjoying the story even more. If you’re already a fan of Amanda Hocking’s work, this is a great addition to your library. If you love paranormal oddities and thrilling mysteries with a sprinkle of romance, Freeks ought to find its way onto your TBR list.

Toil & Trouble ★★★★☆

36426163An incredibly beautiful and diverse anthology about witches, women, love and mischief. With stories that ranged from modern-day to historical to magical realism, there’s a little something for everyone in Toil & Trouble.

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

Toil & Trouble had me at queer witches. Honestly. I was in a super witchy mood when I requested this one and I was not disappointed. I was so intrigued by the varying stories and I love so many authors that contributed to this anthology that I knew I had to have it.

Each story was different in its own right, each unique and stellar and magical. I, obviously, loved some more than others. But that’s to be expected. You can’t love everything, after all. And trust me, I’ve tried. I’m a Hufflepuff.

I don’t want to go into details about each story–we’ll just be here for days–but as a collection, Toil & Trouble accomplishes something so rarely seen that it’s magical in its own right.

Each story, individually, has its own merits. Some are lyrical and imaginative, others are deep and personal, dark and wonderful at the same time. It’s hard to review an anthology, to be honest, but it’s an experience worth the admission price.

I’ll be extra honest here–I’ve never been a fan of anthologies in the past. Oh, sure, I’ve tried. But it was so hard for me to get invested in a series of short stories, especially if I didn’t know the authors going into it. But I took a chance on Toil & Trouble and I’m glad I did.

Grab this book, add it to your TBR list, especially now as we slowly enter Halloween season. It’s the perfect book to sip a pumpkin spice latte or apple cider to while sitting all cozied up inside.

Ruin of Stars ★★★★☆

9781492647522-300RGBY’all. I’m still a mess whenever I think about Mask of Shadows. And then along came Ruin of Stars? More like RUINED MY HEART!

The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.

Excuse me while I go mop up the shreds of my broken heart and my tears from the floor!

I championed Mask of Shadows from the get-go. I loved me some genderfluid assassin babies. Sal was the heart of my heart, and then I got my grubby little queer hands on Ruin of Stars and I couldn’t have been happier.

And then I read it.

And then I cried.

A lot.

Like, more than usual.

Y’all know I’m a tender heart, I cry at everything.

But especially this.

Okay, okay, serious reviewer mode!

I won’t lie, the first ~20% were slow to start. It felt like a long uphill battle to get anywhere, but once we crested that hill and things started hitting the fan… well, we really got to rolling and it just wouldn’t stop.

Sal faced more brutality, more emotion, more queerness and I loved it.

We were introduced to so many more queer characters and we got to dive deeper into who Sal is and who they were becoming.

Also, 100% more Maud. Every Maud scene was amazing.

And then there was the epilogue….

When we interviewed Linsey on our podcast, she mentioned something about an extended epilogue and honestly… I need it. I need an entire novella of that epilogue because O. M. G.

I’m just going to go run off and cry some more about this book, y’all. Don’t mind me. There’s extra mops downstairs if my tears start to flood things.

Don’t forget, Booknerds! We’re part of the Ruin of Stars blog tour! Check out the excerpt and don’t forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win two copies of Ruin of Stars!

Reign of Mist ★★★★☆

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Imagine Heart of Mist. Now turn it up to elevenReign of Mist, the high-stakes, daring sequel to Heart of Mist was even more action-packed and intense than its predecessor. While I had trouble holding on to the first one, this one dug its claws into me and wouldn’t let go.

The realm’s darkest secret is out.

The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents.

On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak’s friends are forced to decide where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust.

But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.

Intriguing and action-packed, Reign of Mist is the second instalment in Helen Scheuerer’s epic YA fantasy series, The Oremere Chronicles.

We see a ton of familiar faces in this sequel, and we dig deeper into all the characters we saw in the past. We get some answers to questions from Heart of Mist, and EVEN MORE questions once we hit the end.

LIKE. WHAT. WAS. THAT. ENDING. *dies*

Helen’s writing–while amazing in Heart of Mist–was EVEN BETTER this time around. I simply can’t understand how she’s got such a masterful command over words, every phrase lyrical and powerful. I swear, she’s made some pact with a demon if she’s gotten this good. Her writing style is one of my favorites that I’ve read so far this year–and I’ve read a lot of books. Trust me.

I loved the development we got for some of my faves–especially when we got to see Dash and Olena together again!–and thoroughly enjoyed seeing some characters I didn’t care for come into a new light to the point where I started liking their changes.

There’s a lot to love about Reign of Mist–and I’d be remiss to end this review without mentioning that GORGEOUS cover! Because that beautiful thing drew my eye instantly and made me fall in love.

Don’t forget–we interviewed Helen on our podcast! The patron episode–uncut and full of extra questions and an extended interview–will go live before the public episode on Thursday night! Go subscribe at bookedallnight.podbean.com and don’t miss a minute!

Heart of Mist ★★★★☆

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I was immediately intrigued by Heart of Mist when I saw it online; not only was the cover beautiful but the entire concept grabbed my interest from the get-go. There was a lot to like about Heart of Mist, but a whole lot to get through first…

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.

Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital. But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.

The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.

Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

The idea of a toxic mist engulfing the world, secrets and magic abound secured my need to check this one out. It held an interesting mix of characters and worldbuilding.

But as I mentioned before–there was a lot to get through first. There was a lot of travelling, a lot of training, a lot of waiting around and what felt like set-up for the entire series instead of telling the story on its own. If I had to be frank, Heart of Mist doesn’t survive as a standalone. It’s very obviously a stepping stone for a series, and it leaves more questions than there should be, introduces a huge cast of characters, and leaves my head spinning between the pacing being both too fast and not fast enough at alternating parts.

The entire time I was reading, I also was constantly aware that, despite being promoted as one, Heart of Mist wasn’t a YA book. Our initial main character, Bleak, may be seventeen, but the rest of the POV characters are not. It reads more of a wide-age spanning adult fantasy, rather than a YA. Part of it comes from having two adult voices claiming several of the chapters as well as a very young boy having several of his own chapters.

Despite that, it was an eventful read. Once I accepted Heart of Mist as it was, I breezed through it, enjoying the wide world and the magic presented to us. The representation on the pages were stand-out amazing and the deeper promise of more to come kept me going.

Heart of Mist was a lot of things, and a wild read from start to finish was definitely one of them.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to get a chance to hear us talk to the author, Helen Scheuerer, about Heart of Mist and it’s upcoming sequel, Reign of Mist, releasing September 2018!

Heart of Mist
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The Wicked Deep ★★★★☆

35297394The Wicked Deep was a creepy story with rich world building, beautiful language and amazing imagery. That, and the cover is amazing and so sparkly. I just need it on my shelves at all time, illuminated by a little spot light. But–there were plenty of issues too.

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

I want to say, right off the bat, that The Wicked Deep took me a long time to get through. It was touch-and-go for a little while, and I wasn’t sure if I was really going to be invested enough in it to finish.

I absolutely loved the way that book set up the world and the setting. There were small snippets between chapters that just set the mood and the scene in just perfect, bite-sized ways that made me love the story. Shea Ernshaw is amazing at writing settings. All those little bits were the perfect mix of tense, creepy and beautiful.

But then there was the dialogue.

The dialogue all the characters had felt so… off. It felt stilted and a little bit dated. The voices didn’t feel genuine and every time I had to suffer through a patch of dialogue it was tipping the scales towards the DNF side.

I was intrigued by the story, but I couldn’t make it through big patches of the book at once thanks to the characters. Maybe it was just me. Maybe this book is exactly your cup of tea. For me? Not so much.

The Wicked Deep
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The Belles ★★★★☆

23197837Let me just say, The Belles made me so damn hungry. Hungry for snacks and hungry for more story. It was SO. DAMN. GOOD.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

I was enchanted by The Belles from the moment I heard it’s announcement on Twitter forever ago. I managed to read an excerpt on BookishFirst and I was hooked. I needed this book in my hands ASAP. But I never expected to win their giveaway myself. I don’t win things! But soon, I had a beautiful copy in my hands and I read it immediately.

I couldn’t put it down. I was so entranced by this story and the world building and Dhonielle’s command of language. It was quickly rising to the top of my 2018 Faves list.

Camellia is a powerful Belle and her strength and beauty is revered throughout the story. I loved her and I rooted for her from the beginning.

The only reason I can’t give The Belles five stars was for some pacing issues. The middle slowed me down a lot. I put the book down for a day or two when I got to the middle, because I felt ridiculously slow and I wasn’t even sure how the plot would progress once I got there.

But once I hit the last third of the book, things started popping off like firecrackers one after the other, real fast and real hot that it didn’t even give me the chance to breathe and take what just happened. It was slow and steady in the middle, but the end happened so fast that I blinked and it was over.

But pacing aside, the story was still one I need everyone to read. The Belles is still a wonderful read, a fun, exciting story with horrifying plot twists and a villain that had me shivering. I loved it and wholly recommend it to all y’all booknerds.

And did you know we’re doing a giveaway for The Belles? Until February 14th 2018, enter our rafflecopter to win a copy! 

Conspiracy of Stars ★★★★☆

34848207I only recently came into Sci-fi and I’m glad I did, because it introduced me to Olivia A. Cole’s A Conspiracy of Stars and my emotions are still in tatters.

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

You know the reading went well when you can’t write a review for at least a week after finishing the book because your heart has been stampeded on.

I won’t lie though; A Conspiracy of Stars did take me a hot minute to get into. It was a slow start and there were a lot of info dumps when the main characters were learning something in school, but once the story hit the road, it hit the road running and I just had to keep up.

Octavia is not just smart, she’s tough and curious and determined to do what she thinks she needs to do, even if it gets her in trouble. I loved her for it.

When the story really got started, I honestly couldn’t even put the book down. I just had to finish it, I had to know what was going to happen and when I did, it hurt in the best way possible. I would have given A Conspiracy of Stars five stars, had it not been for the fact that a lot of the problems Octavia ended up facing were fixed by Deus Ex Machina, a.k.a. an adult like a parent or teacher. She was given the answers to a lot of questions instead of figuring it out on her own. I would have liked to see her figure it out herself.

But the writing was solid and amazing, and that plot twist at the end had me literally screaming. The first thing I did was reach out to my good friend and fellow book nerd Jessica Henderson and text her to go and get this book. It was that good.

A Conspiracy of Stars releases on January 2nd, 2018.

Starfish ★★★★☆

29456598It’s always rare for me to pick up a contemporary book and love it. The last one that did that was They Both Die at the End earlier this month and that one made me sob. Starfish was emotional for different reasons.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

A little slow to start, Starfish took my own self-confidence and rattled it around. Kiko has confidence issues and social anxiety that stem from a past trauma and an unloving, racist mother. So when she distances herself from her toxic home, she starts to find parts of herself in California, with the help of her childhood friend Jamie.

The romance subplot didn’t draw me in (though usually I’m a sucker for friends to lovers romances) and any time there was romantic screen time, I felt like I just wanted to get a move on. I was mostly interested in Kiko’s growth into a braver, more confident person.

The portrayal of anxiety was the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t suffer from as intense social anxiety as Kiko, though I do have some milder form of social anxiety, but I know people whose anxiety is as bad as Kiko’s. Bowman knew her stuff when she was portraying Kiko’s anxiety and how people around her reacted to it, especially if those people didn’t have anxiety themselves.

I loved watching Kiko grow as the story went on, and I resonated with a lot of her insecurities about beauty. I may never full understand how societal beauty standards affect girls of color, but as a fat girl myself, I’ve felt that pressure to look a certain way just to be seen as beautiful in a parent’s eye. I’ve felt that hopelessness when I knew it wasn’t something I could control and how my simply existing was a disappointment to some people.

I cried as Kiko made the realizations about herself and beauty and as she became this braver person because of her experiences. I couldn’t put Starfish down and it changed my view on life.

Starfish publishes September 26th, 2017.