A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Another perfect recommendation from Liz, A Deadly Education is narrated by El, short for Galadriel, a wizard-in-training at the Scholomance. Her world looks much like ours, but you and I would qualify as ‘mundanes’ – people who don’t see or believe in magic. El is in school to learn spells and tricks and control, and as an independent wizard kid, possibly to earn an invitation to join an enclave. Wizards banded together in enclaves are much safer than indies like El, whose mother raised her in a yurt on a (mundane) commune in the Welsh countryside. But her mother Gwen is much beloved, a talented healer and source of all things good, while El’s affinity or tendency is toward large-scale destruction, as in mass murder. She is not a bad person: in fact she has spent her nearly three years in school working hard to keep her affinity in check, hiding the true extent of her powers, and making no friends with her eternally sour attitude. The tension within El between her natural affinity (murderous) and her value system (protective and good) is one of the central conflicts of this story.

Now the school itself: the Scholomance is full of terrors, like mals (short for maleficaria), monsters of all sorts; they live in the in-between spaces so that it’s dangerous to go anywhere alone, even to the bathroom, which is hard on a loner like El. Each year the massive, circular, magical space rotates and ratchets around so that the freshman dorms move down to become sophomore dorms, etc., and everyone gets closer to graduation, which is a euphemism for the seniors being dumped into a space filled with mals where they’ll have to fight their way out to real-world survival. Many of them won’t make it. Thus are your four years at the Scholomance taken up with working to form alliances to help you through graduation, unless you were lucky to come in an enclave kid from the start, with privileges and protections built in.

This accounts for several other intriguing conflicts within the novel: class and classism are up for debate within the enclave system. School in general is filled with petty jealousies and social politics, in ways recognizable to those of us who attended mundane high schools, and with the essential addition of life-or-death machinations re: mals and magic. There are plenty of larger questions about right and wrong and personal agency and what ends justify what means, but none of this is overtly or pedantically the point of the story: this is a page-turning, deliciously readable story of one awkward, socially ill-adjusted, fundamentally sweet but somehow also deadly teenager. El wants to secure her safe place in the world, but she really doesn’t want to hurt anybody. (Well, sometimes. She has a bit of a temper, and she does take a lot of abuse.) She also really wants friends, although she wouldn’t be quick to admit it.

It’s a great story, with some great secondary characters, including those cautiously interested in working with El, and the enigmatic oaf who wants to protect her. By the final chapters (which include some great action/battle sequences to boot) I was hooked and cheering. The last six words of the novel (!) contain a bombshell, and I cannot wait to start book two of this trilogy. Strongly recommend this one for awesome female lead characters, intrigue and world-building, fun magic, and poignant human drama.

Rating: 8 argonet teeth.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Another winner from Liz. It felt for a split second like it was going to be a bit too easy a meet-cute, but things got immediately complicated for the better.

The first thing the reader sees at the start of Part I is a brief annotation to Roald Dahl’s story “Lamb to the Slaughter,” by an A.J.F. (we assume, the title character). These annotations begin each chapter, but it takes a while to discern their intended destination or use.

Next is a chapter starring Amelia Loman, whom we meet painting her nails yellow on a ferry ride from Hyannis to Alice Island. She has a mild hangover but still feels upbeat about the appointment she’s ferrying toward: she’s a new publishing sales rep going to call on A.J. Fikry, proprietor of Island Books. Amelia is a likeable character, but A.J. – first encountered through her eyes – is prickly. I was surprised to learn that he is just thirty-nine years old, because my first impression was of a crusty old curmudgeon of a shopkeeper (a ‘type’ I recognize from bike shops, but bookstores will do just as well). He certainly fits the type, just younger than I’d originally guessed. And after that first chapter, Zevin wisely takes us from Amelia’s focus (in the close third person) to A.J.’s. I love a jerk whose bad behavior is suddenly complicated and made sympathetic by backstory.

A.J. has suffered a major loss, and he is a jerk – or at least he’s coping poorly – but then the unexpected strikes. It’s not Amelia, as I’d originally thought. It’s something a little different, and my synopsis stops here.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is delightful. It has grumpy but endearing book nerdiness; earnest, messy human emotion; the complications of grief and loss and family; whimsy and mishaps; and yes, a little romance. Also, a bookshop in a small town, with all the social drama and love and support that that can entail. It’s definitely on the sweet side, approaching precious, but never saccharine; I’m pretty sure when Liz recommended it she acknowledged that it would be best read in a mood for something sweet and light-ish, but it’s not the least bit fluffy, and even involves a sequence about the line between fiction and memoir and does it even matter? I read it in a single day and wish it had lasted longer. I could sink into the world of A.J. et al much further. I am off to see what else Zevin has written. Do recommend.

Rating: 8 vampires.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Yet another gem from Liz, Truly Devious is a positively delightful piece of fun (that also involves murder). It’s for young adults, but easily well-written enough, and sufficiently funny and clever on a few levels, to please adults (like Liz & me).

There are two timelines, although we spend the bulk of the book in one of them. First, in 1935, a teenaged genius is lucky enough to be plucked out of her New York City public school to attend a special new educational experiment in the mountains of Vermont: Albert Ellingham, major mogul, has established the Ellingham Academy to let kids like Dottie pursue the joys of learning in their own ways. Unluckily, a year later, Dottie is murdered at the idyllic Academy, apparently a bystander in a plot to kidnap for ransom Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter. Readers get a glimpse of Dottie’s final moments, but her assailant is unnamed, undescribed, and genderless.

Much later, more or less in contemporary times (I didn’t notice a year for this timeline?), another teenaged girl is also delighted to be admitted to Ellingham, not despite but because of its murderous history. Stevie Bell, of Pittsburgh, is crime-obsessed: she hopes to become a detective, ideally for the FBI, and the Ellingham Academy murders are her dearest project. The remains of Iris Ellingham (Albert’s wife) were found as well as Dottie’s, but the body of young Alice Ellingham, aged four at the time of her disappearance, has never been found; technically Alice is Stevie’s host and educational benefactor in absentia. Socially awkward Stevie arrives at Ellingham determined to distance herself from her parents (who love her but do come off rather obnoxious, especially with their unfortunate political leanings), begin a new chapter in her life, maybe finally make some friends, and – most importantly – solve the biggest best crime she knows. Each of these goals will turn out to be ambitious, but Stevie is both smart and scrappy. She easily pairs up with Janelle (who hails from Chicago and excels at building machines and gadgets) and establishes a harder-won friendship with even more socially awkward Nate (a published and thoroughly writer’s-blocked novelist). Their dormmate Ellie is a free-wheeling artist who both impresses Stevie and makes her nervous; there is also a famous and spectacularly handsome filmmaker/actor (who however seems not very smart), and a mysterious boy named David who both attracts and repels Stevie.

While we check back in with 1936 (investigation, trial of an apparent straw man, Ellingham’s grief), the modern timeline dominates. Stevie is both a fine amateur detective (in a long literary tradition) and a teenaged girl, grappling with hormones, friendships, school, the sandpaper grip of her parents, and other challenges that will be familiar to all readers, not just those with true crime obsessions and unusual educational settings. By nature of having a female lead, Truly Devious involves some girl-empowerment messaging, but like its handling of nonbinary genders and queer characters, this messaging is simply built into the story, not A Point To Be Made.

Was this was pretty was?
Who knew. This was what a Stevie was, anyway.

Stevie and her friends are lovable above all; also smart, bumbling, funny, painfully awkward, and pleasingly eccentric. There is everything to enjoy.

I finished this book having just ordered book two but it wasn’t here yet and I felt a real sense of loss. I expect to burn right through books two through five, so look out for more Stevie Bell.

Rating: 8 poles.

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Well, this is the most fun thing I’ve read in a while (and that’s saying something). Liz let me know that Martha Wells (of Murderbot) gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. So I bought it.

Tesla Crane is traveling incognito on a space cruise to Mars with her new spouse, Shal. Tesla is an uberfamous and uber-rich inventor-engineer and heiress, and she just wants to enjoy her honeymoon in privacy, but then a woman is murdered on the way back to their luxury cabins after karaoke, and ship security makes the bad mistake of arresting Shal (himself a recently retired detective), so Tesla is on the case. She is also physically limited by some extreme injuries and a touch of PTSD following a lab explosion, for which she uses the assistance of a Deep Brain Pain Suppressor (DBPS, usually turned up a bit higher than is actually safe), occasionally a cane, and most charmingly, a service Westie dog named Gimlet. With Shal locked down, Tesla is a bit hobbled but also highly motivated (not to say pissed). She navigates the ship, high society, and her investigations with cleverness and aplomb and a sometimes imperfect awareness of her privilege, as Shal gently reminds her; she will make a few friends along the way, but everyone’s a suspect, especially as the body count climbs. Tesla herself is very likeable, but Gimlet steals the show (for readers and most of the ship’s passengers and staff).

I love the elements that combine in this story. There is a strong core of sci-fi, which other reviewers assure us is accurate and well-researched (this reviewer is happy to assume this is the case and move along). There are some fun, thought-provoking cultural elements, especially around gender: in the year 2075 we don’t have much patience for gendered language, using Mx. in place of Ms. or Mr. and spouse in place of the gendered versions, and it is extremely rude and outdated to introduce anyone without noting their pronouns. (Tesla’s spouse Shal is a very masculine type and very handsome but also very engaged with textile arts, particularly embroidery.) The protagonist couple takes their cocktails and coffee very seriously, and each chapter opens with a cocktail recipe (some of which are zero-proof); bar culture and bartenders also form a significant framing element. Gimlet the service dog gets full appreciation both for her skills and training and for her dogness (she’s a dog, not a robot). It all forms a really neat combination, although let me also say the plot needed no bolstering: the mystery itself is fully-formed and legit. What’s not to love?

I was completely absorbed and stayed up late into the night finishing this one. Firmly recommend. Thanks for the tip, Liz & Martha.

Rating: 8 ounces.

“Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage” by Alix E. Harrow

Thanks to Liz for making me aware of this ebook-only short story by one of my new favorites, who has not written nearly enough books yet.

Our narrator, Oona, was “born in 1892 on the banks of the Mississippi, in that muddied, mongrel part of the world where East and West are separated only by the coalsmoke-scummed river.” Her mother was an Amerind, of the West; her father an Easterner, “one of those scruffy, perennially drunk men who float down the river like driftwood.” Oona never knew him. She is therefore a mixed child, “half of one thing and half the other,” born to be a mapmaker. “In our language, the word for mapmaker is also the word for traitor.”

Oona is indeed a mapmaker as a young adult when we meet her. Mapmakers in this world do not make maps, but rather hold the world in place, literally, while it bucks and reshapes itself to defy easy travel; she works for the Easterners who hope to conquer the shifting, untamed West for their own profit. She is therefore a traitor to her Western roots. But mapmaking was the only source of reasonable income available to a young orphaned woman with a dependent: her younger brother Ira is ill, and her employers hold him hostage, his care and medication in exchange for her continued service. Until Oona must lead her hated boss to a bone tree – what Easterners would call a graveyard, and Oona’s people might call “the trees that take up the dead to sing for seven generations.” And things change again.

My greatest complaint with this short story is that it is short. Oona is compelling, caught in a moral quandary, bound by her love for her brother whose love for her will have hard consequences… and caught between East and West, two halves of herself. This world is both recognizable (themes of traditional lifestyles versus colonialism; exploitation, self-determination and magic) and foreign (magic). Harrow uses footnotes in this story, an opportunity for a little extra narrative musing, and the tricky use of outside sources that imply authority in a work of (yes) fiction (her sources too are fictional). The whole thing is both fun and moving. I’m just sorry it’s over. Well worth the pennies it cost me. Write more, Alix!

Rating: 8 malevolent stars.

Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller

Another one hit way out of the park by Liz. I no longer remember what she said, but I think it involved some superlatives; I bought the book and finally got around to it and now have some superlatives of my own. It was just early April when I read this book, but I’m confident stating this will be the best book I read all year.

Why Fish Don’t Exist is one sort of book I love, in that it involves several threads woven together. In her prologue, Lulu Miller pits our most precious loves against the force of a capitalized Chaos. “Chaos will crack them from the outside–with a falling branch, a speeding car, a bullet–or unravel them from the inside, with the mutiny of their very own cells. Chaos will rot your plants and kill your dog and rust your bike. It will decay your most precious memories…” Etc. Then we first meet David Starr Jordan, as Miller did. He was a taxonomist specializing in fish. An earthquake destroyed his collection of thousands of specimens, dashing them in their glass jars to the ground, separating them from their identifying tags. To which he responded by hand-stitching tag to fish specimen, and starting over. Miller is entranced by this “attack on Chaos.” She struggles herself with the forces that tend to defeat us, and wonders of Jordan: “Who are you?… A cautionary tale? Or a model of how to be?

From here we accompany Miller on her study of Jordan – his life and his thoughts – in search of a model for how to be, how to live with joy and be indefatigable in the face of all frustrations, all forms of Chaos. Why Fish Don’t Exist is thus partly a biography of Jordan and a layperson’s introduction to fish taxonomy and its principles. (The title is not a joke. There are existential arguments and philosophies to be discovered, too.) It’s also part memoir, as we get to know Miller better, the demons she’s faced and the tools she’s used to try to mend herself. Her father is a delightedly nihilistic scientist, with some parallels to Jordan, which is of course fascinating. The book is perhaps most of all an inquiry into Miller’s original concern: how to live and not despair, not choose to die, in such an overwhelmingly imperfect world as this one.

Miller’s writing style is colorful, phantasmagoric, impassioned, with high highs and low lows. She sees beauty and desolation in the world, and describes them evocatively. Among Jordan’s discoveries are

A small lantern fish with glowing spots, “which had risen from the deeps in a storm.” A tiny, rainbow-scaled fish that was found inside the belly of a hake, which was found inside the belly of an albacore. A crimson fish with yellow stripes that they nicknamed “the Spanish flag.”

The only fish he ever named after himself, “breathtaking, absolutely, but frightening, too, in the way of an M.C. Escher drawing.” “Its fins look like dragon wings, serrated and sharp.”

Without ruining too much of the story, I will say that Jordan, like all our heroes, is not purely heroic. He turns out to be in fact profoundly problematic, as our heroes tend to, and so Miller must wrestle with that, too. Chaos again. His methods are ruthless –

He began inventing more aggressive techniques for capturing fish. Blowing them out of the water with dynamite, hammering them out of coral, and perhaps most ingenious, for the “myriads of little fishes” that hid inside the tiny cracks in tide pools: poison.

and he’s harder on people than he is on fish. In more than a few ways I won’t give away here he will disturb our modern sensibilities. He disappoints us, as he disappoints Miller – horribly – but her own perspective never disappoints.

Illustrations by Kate Samworth open each chapter and advance their contents; these lovely black-and-whites resemble woodcuts (if that’s not in fact what they are) and will be part of what makes this book memorable for me. I think Samworth deserved to have her name on the book’s cover.

Transcendent. Best book of the year. Wrecked me, but in the best way. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time.

Rating: 10 holotypes.

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I am sad to see book 3 of this trilogy go by. Liz, what’s next?

With Aurora Rising, we met our cast of wacky characters, and saw them just begin to fit together. With Aurora Burning, we saw those bonds tighten even as the group began to be split apart by circumstance. Aurora’s End then brings all the dramas and plot conflicts, large and small, to their conclusions. This installment got still more convoluted in its science, and hit that note that sci-fi sometimes does for me, where it made me glaze over a bit: I just let the science go by and trust that it makes sense. It was definitely fun to mix up some timelines, I’ll say that. I am sorry to see it all come to an end, obviously, but I feel really good about where Kaufman and Kristoff left my new friends. There was some trickery right at the very end, but they brought it all around. And they are masterful worldbuilders; I’m going to look into their other work and see if there’s more there for me. This trilogy was such a treat as absorbing escapism, and I really needed that.

Rating: 8 gremps.

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Good thing I got on top of ordering books 2 and 3 in this series; I couldn’t wait long after Aurora Rising, could I! I raced through these 500 pages and I don’t think it’ll be long til I’m in book 3, sadly the last one. Very fine pacing and invisibly-easy-to-read prose make for a lovely indulgent time. I need so much more like this (Liz, keep ’em coming).

Where Aurora Rising offered lots of delightful comedy in between its world-endingly-high stakes, Aurora Burning gets a little more serious. It’s right there in the titles: in book 1, Aurora (and our team, and the plot) were on the upswing, and now we are settling into the action, with increasing temperatures in several senses, and no margin for error. We see the development of one deeply intense romantic relationship, and otherwise a bunch of flirting and sexual tension, because these are just teenagers, folks – something we rarely forget because they behave like teenagers, but also sometimes forget, because they’re carrying the weight of worlds, and it’s really too much for the kids that they are. (Also, I love that everybody just loves [flirts with, has sex with] whomever they please, with little bother over gender. It’s refreshing.) We lose some people (‘people,’ to use the term loosely), and we uncover some damaging secrets. We also gain another sibling: it turns out Kal has a sister, whose personality and values are quite opposed to his own, with several comparisons to the contrasting closeness between twins Ty and Scar. Kal’s sister is the source of pain and anguish, but also some much-needed comic relief.

I don’t want to give too much away, but this middle book of the trilogy ends us in truly dire straits. I’m not sure how long I can hold off on the final installment, Aurora’s End (foreboding, that, although I’ll choose to read it as the end of the series, thank you), although the longer I wait the longer I get to spend in this world before it’s gone…

The Kaufman & Kristoff writing team is outstanding. Pacing and voice are perfect. I disappear into these pages and lose track of the world. I don’t believe I mentioned in my earlier review that there is a fairly sentient, very advanced smartphone-type-devise (a uniglass, here), named Magellan, that has a personality its own and narrates short informational sections as well as speaking to (haranguing) our squad, and this detail is genius. Give me more.

Rating: 8 gifts.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

This delightful little book brought to us once again by Liz. In this, the first in the Fractured Fables series, Alix E. Harrow retells the story of Sleeping Beauty in winning fashion, set in a recognizable modern Ohio but with a portal into magical realms, featuring various strong female and queer characters and general reclamation. It’s dedicated to “everyone who deserves a better story than the one they have,” and feels like a perfect response to the Toni Morrison quotation: “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” A Spindle Splintered is just a novella at a hair over 100 pages, and I’m thoroughly entranced; I’ve already preordered book 2 in the series (A Mirror Mended), which should ship to me in June from Gaslight Books.

Sleeping Beauty is pretty much the worst fairy tale, any way you slice it.

It’s aimless and amoral and chauvinist as shit. It’s the fairy tale that feminist scholars cite when they want to talk about women’s passivity in historical narratives. (“She literally sleeps through her own climax,” as my favorite gender studies professor used to say. “Double entendre fully intended.”)…

Even among the other nerds who majored in folklore, Sleeping Beauty is nobody’s favorite. Romantic girls like Beauty and the Beast; vanilla girls like Cinderella; goth girls like Snow White.

Only dying girls like Sleeping Beauty.

In the first page, we learn these things about our narrator, Zinnia Gray: that she’s a nerd who majored in folklore. That she’s dying – has been dying all her life. That she loves Sleeping Beauty even though she knows it’s problematic as hell. In fact, Sleeping Beauty has been one of her life’s great obsessions. The action begins on Zinnia’s twenty-first birthday, when her best friend Charmaine Baldwin (Charm) throws her a Sleeping-Beauty-themed birthday party, in a tower and with an ancient spinning wheel, no less. Charm is a badass lesbian science major and Zinnia’s absolute champion. This twenty-first birthday is especially heavy, because no sufferer of Zinnia’s very rare disease (caused by environmental pollutants) has ever lived to twenty-two. Zin manages to prick her finger on the spindle of Charm’s birthday party prop – no small thing, as it’s quite dull, but she is a determined dying girl – “and then something happens, after all.”

Zin has an adventure in another world, side-by-side a plucky princess named Primrose. They aim to avoid not only the spindle of a spinning wheel but an unwanted marriage; they travel to take on a wicked fairy who is not who she seems; and they learn that they are but two in a whole galaxy of doomed or cursed or dying princesses or girls or women, who would all like the chance to rewrite their own stories. This is not “one of those soft, G-rated fairy tales, stripped of medieval horrors,” but rather “the kind of tale where prices are paid and blood is spilled.” Except it’s also a tale of empowerment and badass womanhood, of female friendships and love, and it ends in a joyful go-forth sort of moment. And it’s hilarious: Zinnia as narrator is wry, sarcastic, vulnerable, irreverent, just someone I’d love to know. (Dying girls sometimes use humor as a shield. “I personally feel that accepting my own imminent mortality is enough work without also having a healthy attitude about it.” And what of it?)

I am extremely excited about the next installment – I was afraid A Mirror Mended might take on another standalone fairy tale rewrite, but this is indeed the continued adventures of Zinna Gray, “professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty,” and I can’t wait.

Rating: 8 stones slick and dark with blood.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Big winner from Liz again; this was just the absorbing, sci-fi-fantastical otherworld I needed in between heavier reads. Before finishing it I’d sat down and ordered the other two books in the trilogy (from my local online* bookstore, Gaslight), and I wish they were here already.

Aurora Rising is set in 2380, and begins at the Aurora Academy, where students graduate into the Aurora Legion – sort of a United Nations made up of both humans and alien species, to peacekeep throughout space. These teams are made up of teenagers, because the physiological challenges of deep-space Fold travel are only for the very young. (This will add to the drama.) Chapters are told from different points of view, but we begin with Tyler Jones, prettyboy and star student, top of his class in the Alpha track. Alphas will head up their squads; they are strategists and leaders. Tyler was poised to get to cherrypick his ideal squad and likely get the choicest mission assignment, but things went a little sideways, and he found himself saddled with odds and ends instead – happily, including his twin sister Scarlett and their shared best friend since childhood, Cat. (Scarlett is the squad’s Face, or diplomat, multilingual and people-skilled. Cat is their Ace, or pilot, as cocky and short-fused as Aces are stereotyped to be.) They get sent on a terrible mission to start their new careers: boring, distant, low-consequence. Or is it?

Tyler’s accidental misadventure, which cost him his pick-of-the-litter squad, was rescuing “the girl out of time”: Aurora (or Auri) has been in cryo-sleep for two hundred years. She was en route to the colony where her father lived, but the ship never arrived, and she is its sole survivor. Her father’s colony has been erased. And some very dangerous people seem to care very much what happens to Auri. Luckily, she falls in with this ragtag squad of losers: Tyler, Scarlett, Cat, Finian (nonhuman, the group’s differently abled Gearhead), Zila (socially awkward, or possibly sociopathic, Brain – responsible for scientific and medical expertise), and Kal (their Tank, or warrior, of a much-maligned alien species recently considered an enemy of the Terrans, or humans). Together they form “the strangest group of misfits that ever trekked across an abandoned alien planet beset with creeptastic plants and besieged by military forces,” which is a great line. I’m pretty intrigued by the intersection of plant life, beauty, and horror.

Thick greenery blooms from its eyes, its back is covered in a tangle of beautiful flowers, and when it opens its mouth to snarl its defiance at him, I see reddish-green leaves all the way down its throat.

What with sibling antics (Tyler and Scar), bestie vibes and hijinks (Scar and Cat), romantic and sexual tensions (several), awkward geekiness (several), and extreme danger and high stakes, this novel offers a charming blend of pathos, angst, and superlative, laugh-out-loud comedy. I stayed up to unhealthily late hours because I couldn’t put this book down; I was completely absorbed and in love with our dear, silly, impassioned young heroes. Also, check out this Princess Bride reference.

“Anyway, are you sure you’re not making them up? They sound ridiculous. I mean, hairy dirtchildren who fly spaceships and have almost identical DNA to you lot?” I scoff. “I don’t think they exist.”

And that’s when a snarling, furry pitch-black humanoid thing with jagged yellow teeth that would put an ultrasaur to shame comes screaming out of the undergrowth and straight for my face.

(Chimps, if you were wondering.)

There is so much to love here. The worldbuilding is on point (and if I recognize certain elements from The Expanse, what of it?). The characters are darling; who could resist such a motley band of misfits? The action is riveting. I’m hooked; give me more. This first installment ends a little cheesy, but I’m well hooked all the same. Stay tuned for book 2. I don’t think it will take me long. Thanks as ever, Liz!

Rating: 9 costume changes.

*local online? They’re working on a brick-and-mortar, which I badly want, so I buy all my books from them! Cheers, Justin and Ethan!

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