“Ring Shout” Review

The cover of the book is read with a hooded KKK member in in the center the eye holes are ruined with teeth at the top and bottom. Black hands are held up in front of the figure. The authors name is near the top of the hood while the title is under the eye holes. Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Published by Tordotcom, October 2020
185 pages
Completed February 20, 2024

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

This was a very cool short story. I really enjoyed the characters and the way everything played out. Maryse is a great character and I liked the development of her character as she learned more about what was going on and the resolution of everything. I liked that the story has a good resolution while still living things open for more. The fight isn’t over – because things never really end that way but this story has an ending that serves the purpose of the story.

2023 in Review

Reading Stats

61 Books

20,992 Pages Read

Average length 346 pages

Average reading time 4 days

50 Fiction / 11 Non-Fiction

18 Fiction Anthologies

41 Novels

2 Non-Fiction Anthologies

5 Memoirs

4 Essay Collections

Top Ten Books in No Particular Order with links to my reviews

“Being Ace: An Anthology of Queer, Trans, Femme, and Disabled Stories of Asexual Love and Connection”
Edited by Madeline Dyer
Type: Fiction Anthology
“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir”
Written by Samra Habib
Type: Memoir
“The Thirty Names of Night”
Written by Zeyn Joukhadar
Type: Novel
“A Master of Djinn”
Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Type: Novel
“The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred”
Written by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Type: Essay Collection
“We Don’t Swim Here”
Written by Vincent Tirado
Type: Novel
“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain
Type: Non-Fiction Anthology
“Invisible Son”
Written by Kim Johnson
Type: Novel
“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath”
Written by Moniquill Blackgoose
Type: Novel
“The Free People’s Village”
Written by Sim Kern
Type: Novel

“The Free People’s Village” Review

The cover is dark pink with the title written sideways on the top right corner. On the left corner there is a drawing of an individual swinging a bat at machine dog at the bottom of the book cover. The author's name is on the bottom of the book. Written by Sim Kern
Published by Levine Querido, September 2023
388 pages
Completed December 18, 2023

In an alternate 2020 timeline, Al Gore won the 2000 election and declared a War on Climate Change rather than a War on Terror. For twenty years, Democrats have controlled all three branches of government, enacting carbon-cutting schemes that never made it to a vote in our world. Green infrastructure projects have transformed U.S. cities into lush paradises (for the wealthy, white neighborhoods, at least), and the Bureau of Carbon Regulation levies carbon taxes on every financial transaction.

English teacher by day, Maddie Ryan spends her nights and weekends as the rhythm guitarist of Bunny Bloodlust, a queer punk band living in a warehouse-turned-venue called “The Lab” in Houston’s Eighth Ward. When Maddie learns that the Eighth Ward is to be sacrificed for a new electromagnetic hyperway out to the wealthy, white suburbs, she joins “Save the Eighth,” a Black-led organizing movement fighting for the neighborhood. At first, she’s only focused on keeping her band together and getting closer to Red, their reckless and enigmatic lead guitarist. But working with Save the Eighth forces Maddie to reckon with the harm she has already done to the neighborhood—both as a resident of the gentrifying Lab and as a white teacher in a predominantly Black school.

When police respond to Save the Eighth protests with violence, the Lab becomes the epicenter of “The Free People’s Village”—an occupation that promises to be the birthplace of an anti-capitalist revolution. As the movement spreads across the U.S., Maddie dreams of a queer, liberated future with Red. But the Village is beset on all sides—by infighting, police brutality, corporate-owned media, and rising ecofascism. Maddie’s found family is increasingly at risk from state violence, and she must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of justice.

This was such a great and important book to read. It really does a good job of showing how bad things can still be under different political situations. Democrats aren’t always any better than Republicans when it comes to how minorities are treated. In the book only the rich are able to live in paradise under the rules created in the war against climate change which isn’t all that differen than our current reality. I really liked the story of the main character realizing her own privileges and the ways she had caused harm. There are many different types of people in the book and they are all well written and developed characters. I really enjoyed the entire story and while the ending isn’t a happy one the fight goes on for a better future.

“The Haunting of Tram Car 015” Review

View of a city square with multiple buildings and people in view and a green tram car moving overhead Written By P. Djèlí Clark
Published by Tor Books, February 2019
96 pages
Completed September 7, 2023

Cairo, 1912: The case started as a simple one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities — handling a possessed tram car.

Soon, however, Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner Agent Onsi Youssef are exposed to a new side of Cairo stirring with suffragettes, secret societies, and sentient automatons in a race against time to protect the city from an encroaching danger that crosses the line between the magical and the mundane.

This is one of the books in P. Djèlí Clark’s “The Dead Djinn Universe” and takes place prior to “A Master of Djinn”. I really enjoyed it – it’s a short story but one that felt complete as the agents were dealing with a someone easier case than the larger story. I like the way it worked out and the addition of the suffragettes sub-plot ended up feeling like it fit in. I liked seeing a couple of the side characters from the later story in here as main characters. Overall it’s a fun read.

“Elatsoe” Review

The cover is covered with white cloudy shapes of dogs with a young girl standing on the right side of the cover near the top. She is wearing a red coat and black pants and has long hair. The title is written out across one of the dogs. Written by Darcie Little Badger
Published by Levine Querido, August 2020
362 pages
Completed August 4, 2023

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

Darcie Little Badger is an extraordinary debut talent in the world of speculative fiction. We have paired her with her artistic match, illustrator Rovina Cai. This is a book singular in feeling and beauty.

I enjoyed this book, but I had some trouble following it at times. Something about the writing style didn’t work for me. I felt like important information got lost within paragraphs describing various things. I also felt like the world could have been explained more – why were there randomly vampires and feiry rings for traveling? I know it’s meant to be urban fantasy and it should have have worked, but something felt off about it. All that said I enjoyed reading about Elatsoe and her friend figuring out what had happened to her cousin. I also liked that her parents were supportive as well in helping her figure out what had happened. It is essentially another story where kids/teenagers save the day but in this case the parents are helpful instead of useless.

“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath” Review

The cover is dark red with the face of a dragon in the middle with spikes of hair on top and along its nose. There are red flowers on either side of the dragon's head. The title is written out down the cover one word on each line with the author's name at the bottom.Written by Moniquill Blackgoose
Published by Del Rey, May 2023
528 pages
Completed August 1, 2023

The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.

Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea on how a dragon should be raised—and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, then her dragon will be killed.

For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart and determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.

Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.

This was a great book and I’m looking forward to the next one as this is meant to be the first book in a series. The ending of the book works so that it could be a stand alone, but there’s definitely more of the story to be told. The setting is an alternate history version of Earth but still with colonizers and indigenous populations that are dealing with the aftermath of being colonized, and dragons! The characters were great to read about – the central conflict between Anegus and the teachers was well done. I also enjoyed seeing the difference between Anequs who knows exactly who she is and where she belongs and another indigenous character who grew up among the colonizers never knowing the truth about his people. There is a third character in the book who is meant to be autistic, though never outright stated given the time and place, who is awesome. He ends up being friends with Anequs and makes for a very interesting character with his own conflicts to deal with. There are some parts that got a little slow to get and perhaps some other things could have been explained better but I enjoyed it regardless.

I would highly recommend reading this interview with Moniquill Blackgoose for more context to the setting for the story and the characters. There are no spoilers for the book in this interview besides setting and information about Anequs and the dragons:

An Indies Introduce Q&A with Moniquill Blackgoose

“A Master of Djinn” Review

A person stands at the bottom of a set of stairs in a palace of gold. At the top of the cover are the inner workings of a machine with gears and pipes and other bits of technology.  Written by P. Djèlí Clark
Publisheed by Tordotcom Publishing, May 2021
400 pages
Completed: May 14, 2023

“Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.”

“So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world forty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.”

“Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city—or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…”

This was such a great read. The characters are fun to read about and the world building was fantastic. I had a lot of fun reading this book. It’s set in 1912 so there’s a bit of history to think about with the time period but it’s also a rather different world because of the changes that have happened. The world building explains enough to keep the story going but doesn’t answer everything. Which I actually appreciated. Since the story is set over 40 years after the changes it would have required a lot of information dumping which the story never did. Some things are explained others are left for the reader to figure out. I really enjoyed how everything worked out and the crisis was solved. If P. Djèlí Clark writes another novel in this series I will definitely read it. There are several short stories also set in the same universe that I’m going to see if I can find and read as well.