Reader Roadtrip: 2019 National Book Festival

Reader Roadtrip: The 2019 National Book Festival in Washington DC

2019 National Book Festival

We made a Scintilla Road Trip to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 31, 2019. To cover more authors, we split up and attended as many events as we could. Both of us (plus one of our boys) had a wonderful time, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the speakers and spending time with thousands of other bookish peeps!

2019 National Book Festival
View of the Parade of States

There were many authors there we have featured on, more than we could possibly have seen. There were also some who have pending reviews, and a few more that we intend to feature when we can. Dave focused on some of the genre writers, while Maria went to presentations by children’s authors.


37868545 0062391925 0062391917 2019 National Book Festival Panel Western Writers

In the genre writers, a presentation by Western writers included Anne Hillerman (we’ve reviewed Cave of Bones and Song of the Lion. Her latest is The Tale Teller, which we will feature sometime this autumn). Although she had to share the stage, her story of how she started writing fiction and how her characters “spoke” to her fascinated the audience. She may not be Navajo but she clearly loves the people and land of the Dine and her work reflects that affection and care.


The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant Seanan McGuire book signing at 2019 National Book Festival

Seanan McGuire (who also writes as Mira Grant) has been a frequent presence on our blog. We absolutely love her books. Recently, we’ve reviewed Girl in the Green Silk Gown (McGuire) and Into the Drowning Deep (Grant). She spent the entire time in a Q/A with the audience, which everyone seemed to really enjoy. Many of the questions dealt with her work with Marvel, as she writes the SpiderGwen comics, but she also spoke about her different series and shared a funny story about a swan in Ireland. (Probably should not try this at home, kids.)


The Consuming Fire, John Scalzi 2019 National Book Festival Jon Scalzi

John Scalzi spoke about his book The Consuming Fire, and shared a short story he wrote about a customer service “helpline” that might give me nightmares. Scalzi shared that we readers are part of the creative process of any book. The author has his/her/their thoughts about what is being written, but the reader also brings experiences and opinions and the current world into the books and those are also part of the story.  2019 National Book Festival Peter Brannen

Peter Brannen discussed his book The Ends of the World with an interviewer. Considering we may be in the midst of the sixth great extinction, his comments on the perils of anthropogenic extinctions from pollution, deforestation, climate change, hunting, urbanization, etc. were eye-opening. There are some frightening parallels to the changes we are making in the chemical composition and temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans to things that happened before.

  The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

The final presentation we attended was by Charlie Jane Anders, author of The City in the Middle of the Night. She talked about her childhood with a learning disability and her debt to a teacher who saw past that to the talent and heart that was inside. She was very warm and touching, and her tribute to that one teacher was extended to a tribute to so many teachers who make a difference in the lives of children.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer Circe. Madeline Miller The Incendiaries, R. O. Kwon

There were so many other Scintilla authors we wanted to see who were there. We just reviewed The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer. Madeline Miller, author of Circe. R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries. Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (review pending). Richard Powers, The Overstory (review pending). David Quammen, The Tangled Tree (review pending). And so many others that I’ve probably missed some.

2019 National Book Festival Jon Scieszka & Steven Weinberg astronuts

Jon Scieszka (author & father-in-law) and Steven Weinberg (illustrator & son-in-law) described the creation of their new book AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planetthe first in a new series for middle school readers. The focus of their delightful presentation was “How the Book was Made” and how young authors and illustrators could use the same resources they used to make their own artwork.


moonshot 2019 National Book Festival Brian Floca

Brian Floca walked the audience through the process of creating and updating the anniversary edition of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 with 8 extra pages in order to better express the sublime beauty and frightfulness of space.


nyas long walk 2019 National Book Festival Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park launches her new book Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time which confronts the challenge of dirty water and poverty in a third world county. This book is a companion to A Long Walk to Water based on the true story of the need to supply a Sudanese village with clean water. With sensitivity and passion, Park advocates the reading books to children even if the topics are difficult and emotional.


Three Chears for Kid McGear2019 National Book Festival Sherri Duskey

Sherri Duskey Rinker shared her new book Three Cheers for Kid McGear! the latest in The Goodnight Construction Site series. Rinker shared how the idea for the book developed from the love of her youngest son for trucks of all kinds to the exuberant response of the kids in the bean bag gallery in front of the stage.


2019 National Book Festival Cece Bell Chick and Brain Smell my Foot!, Cece Bell

Cece Bell launched her new book Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! the first of a new series for early/beginning readers. Inspired by the Dick and Jane books which helped her learn how to read, Bell wanted to create a fun series to encourage new readers with humor and quirky comic illustrations.


hello lighthouse 2019 National Book Festival Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall discussed her international book tour for Hello Lighthouse which won the 2019 Caldecott Medal as well as the travel and research necessary to create the book. Blackall described the reactions of her international readers to the book and how readers bring their own perspective to a book.


best friends 2019 National Book Festival Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham launched their new book Best Friends for middle school readers. They described how their own growing up experiences helped shape the book and they encouraged young writers and illustrators to be persistent and pursue the challenges to a career in publishing.


If you haven’t been to a National Book Festival, plan to go to Washington DC for this free event. It is an amazing gathering of authors and readers, and you might even run into a pair of book bloggers playing avid fanboy and fangirl while you’re there. 

2019 NBF scintilla 2019 national book festival


Reader Roadtrip: The 2019 National Book Festival


Book Review: The Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

Book Review: The Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane (author) and Jackie Morris (illustrator)

The Lost Words

Poetry: The Lost Words, Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

A hank of rope in the late hot sun; a curl
of bark; a six, an eight:
For adder is as adder basks.

When a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was released, someone noticed that about forty words from nature had been eliminated, replaced with words from technology. The justification was simple: children are no longer using those words because they are no longer spending time outside. So, words like “adder” and “heather” and “dandelion” no longer matter to children, but words like “blog” and “broadband” and “voicemail” are valuable.

Rather than simply complain, writer Robert MacFarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris decided to try some magic. They wrote a “spell book.” MacFarlane wrote twenty poems using words that were “lost” to the dictionary. Morris then illustrated those poems with lovely paintings that bring the words to life. Their hope is to introduce some of the missing words to a new generation, and hopefully to inspire some of them to go out and enjoy those things for themselves.

The poems are anagrams of the words, so they vary in length. The shortest is “ivy,”
I am ivy, a real high flyer
Via bark and stone I scale tree and spire
You call me ground cover; I say sky-wire.

Kids and adults alike will love the beautiful illustrations, and MacFarlane’s poems do work a spell on the reader. He is a lover of words and the poems show his love and appreciation for language and for the outdoors. Whether the book of spells works its magic on the makers of dictionaries remains to be seen, but it definitely captured this reader’s heart.

This book could be a children’s book, though my library has cataloged it in the adult section. They are also not wrong. Both children and adults will enjoy the whimsical and lyrical poems as well as the lush paintings that accompany them. I am glad that I found The Lost Words.

Also see Book Review: Landmarks, Robert MacFarland

The Lost Words

Book Review: The Lost Words, Robert MacFarland & Jackie Morris

Book Review: Night and Silence, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Night and Silence, October Daye Book 12, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Night and Silence, October Daye Series Book 12, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Night and SilenceOctober Daye Series Book 12, Seanan McGuire

October Daye is a knight of the realm, a fae/human changeling, a hero, a private investigator, betrothed to a king of cats, niece to the sea witch, and daughter of one of the Firstborn. So kidnapping her daughter would seem like a bad idea. Yet someone has done just that. Given that she has just returned from rescuing her real sister after she had been missing for 100 years, given that her fiance is still recovering from the trauma incurred during that time, given that she has not had enough sleep after capturing some flying hedgehogs which were wandering through San Francisco, pissing her off is not a good thing. Someone is going to pay. She just needs to find out who.


Night and Silence is the 12th installment in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. If you have followed the series, the characters are familiar: October, her fiance Tybalt, her “sister” May, her squire Quentin, and several other recurring characters unite to find her missing daughter, Gillian. Gillian has rejected the fae, choosing to live as a human. But when she needs help that doesn’t matter. Anyone who knows October realizes that she will do anything for her family–in fact, they are counting on that. Nothing will stop her from coming after her daughter. Not even a Baoban Sith: a vampire.


Fairy tale heroes are supposed to stride through their stories larger than life. They are not troubled by bitter exes. They are not rejected by teenage daughters. They are not hurting from damaged fiances. They are not wounded by enemies to the point where rooms are “painted” by their blood. Those heroes live happy, victorious, untroubled lives, far away from the dangers of Seanan McGuire’s imagination. October Daye does not have that luxury. Her heroics occur in a darker, more difficult world, one where people she loves are hurt and die and disappear and fight and sometimes break their hearts.


McGuire’s fiction may be labelled “fantasy,” but there are horror elements to it. Still, her characters are always complete and pitch perfect. In a world too mature to expect heroes to be without flaws, October Daye wears her flaws proudly, as badges that reveal her journey. They are not weaknesses. They are signs of triumph, wounds that show just how far she has come. They do not disfigure. They add depth, character, signs that this fictional half-fae creature is just as human as her readers.

Book Review: Night and Silence, October Daye Series Book 12, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Night and SilenceOctober Daye Series Book 12, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

Science Fiction: The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

Sophie has worked hard and overcome a lot to get into the university. Her roommate, Bianca, is a child of privilege and aristocracy. Sophie cannot help but be swept into Bianca’s orbit, but when Bianca makes a foolish choice that Sophie is punished for, a series of events is set in motion that will change both their lives forever. The trauma of that event never leaves either woman.


Mouth is part of a team of scavengers, but she cannot help but remember where she came from. She grew up in a family of nomads, a tribe that did not give you your true name until you earned it. In one terrible night the entire tribe was wiped out, with only the young girl Mouth surviving–and no one left to give her a name. That trauma shapes the rest of Mouth’s life.


In The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders gives us a world of perpetual daylight on one side of the tidally locked planet January and a world of perpetual night on the other side of the planet. Clinging to life in the marginal zone between day and night are a few cities of humans. One city is ruled by a slavish conformity to the clock: sleep times and bath times and work times and all other times are controlled by the government. The other is ruled by families whose primary goal is the pursuit of pleasure. In between is a harsh wasteland with violent weather and more violent predators.


Switching back and forth between Sophie and Mouth, the story reveals how the lives of these women become intertwined. Looming throughout are the creatures of the night, called “crocodiles” by most, who revealed a very different side to Sophie in her hour of greatest need. As the needs of the women–and their very society–increase, their relationships with each other, with their cities, and with their world will be tested and shaped. It’s safe to say that each of them is completely remade by the end of the journey.


One question that arises throughout the novel (though usually unspoken) is, “What would you do for love?” Would you take the blame for something another person did? Would you betray others to retrieve something of value to your people? Throughout the book the choices the characters face constantly revolve around how they answer that question. Sometimes the things they do for love are stupid and self-destructive. Sometimes they are noble and bold. It’s naive to say that choices made for love are never wrong–love can mislead and confuse and one person’s love may be another person’s manipulation. But in the complex webs between the different characters in the book, the question of what one would do for love recurs again and again.


Another theme recurring through the book is the treatment of marginalized persons. Sophie is from a poor family. Mouth is from a different (and extinct) tribe of nomads. Humans, other than Sophie, reject the planet’s natives as being mere animals, not even considering that they may be intelligent and sophisticated. Yet as the book progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that the least regarded people are the ones who can lead the way to survival for the entire society. Anders writes these characters with the sensitivity and passion that she brings as a member of a marginalized group herself, and her experience informs her writing.


The City in the Middle of the Night is a powerful work. The world is complex and challenging. The characters are more so. Charlie Jane Anders has written a story that gives and gives until the final page and beyond. We highly recommend it.


The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

Book Review: The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders


Book Review: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

Book Review: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

Nonfiction: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

Admit it: the title caught your attention. It caught mine, too. Fortunately, the contents of the book live up to the boldness of the title. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the story of Abdel Kader Haidara and his team of librarians and community volunteers who literally risked their lives to save precious manuscripts from destruction.

Centuries ago, Timbuktu stood as a beacon of learning in sub-Saharan Africa. Home to scholars and a university, students flocked to the city and studied from masters and from the manuscripts they produced. Many of these were copied lovingly by hand, ornamented with gold and jewels and illustrated lavishly. These manuscripts often were passed from generation to generation. Although termites and other environmental challenges destroyed many of them, others were preserved in the dry Malian air.

In the 1980s, a young man was hired by a government library to begin collecting manuscripts for them. The goal was to preserve and restore the heritage of scholarship that had been lost over the years. Haidara proved to be an outstanding collector, amassing hundreds of thousands of manuscripts and working with a team to save them from what had been their greatest threats: termites and mold.

But a new threat was forming in the region. Al Qaeda of the Maghreb, an offshoot in Africa owing allegiance to Osama Bin Laden, took over much of Mali–including Timbuktu. Any document that challenged their strict interpretation of Islam was in danger, and most of the manuscripts in the collection were either secular works or works from a much less rigid perspective of the religion.

Haidara and his team, especially his nephew and coworker Mohammed Toure, made plans to first hide the manuscripts, then to move them from Timbuktu. People literally risked their lives to save the manuscripts, and Joshua Hammer tells their stories with admiration and respect. Some of them refused to let him use their actual names, as Al Qaeda still has a presence in the area and they did not want to attract their attention even now after the main force was defeated and driven out of the city.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is a story of scholarship and love for heritage. It is also a story of heroism in the face of tyranny. A true-life adventure, it is a thriller with a plot that deserves a Hollywood treatment (and a movie is in the works). I highly recommend it.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

Book Review: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer

Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo

Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky  Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

Poetry: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, Joy Harjo

Poetry: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo


This autumn, Joy Harjo will begin her term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Native American to hold this title. A member of the Muskogee Creek Nation, this Oklahoma poet has been an ambassador for Native Americans and for poetry for more than 40 years.


She is a poet and a musician, and in both of those roles she sees herself as a truth teller. Harjo’s poetry is not bound by form or rhyme. She rather looks to metaphor and analogy to express herself. One example from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings is her poem/song Rabbit Is Up to Tricks. Rabbit was lonely, so he created man and taught him to steal. But the man stole everything: grain, gold, wives, animals. So…


Rabbit tried to call the clay man back,

but when the clay man wouldn’t listen

Rabbit realized he’d made a clay man with no ears.


Perhaps more overtly political is the title poem from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Using statements on conflict resolution juxtaposed with broken promises and treaties between Native Americans and Washington, she condemns the abuses by the majority population using their own words.


The Woman Who Fell from the Sky has prose poems along with commentary by the author. Most of the poems tell stories of Native Americans struggling to hang on to their identity in a hostile world. They are often blunt, or as another reviewer put it, “stark and unadorned.” 


Joy Harjo’s work is direct, honest, and often painful. There is a beauty in the pain, though, that shines through. The truth that she tells is one we need to hear, and hopefully her role as Poet Laureate will amplify her voice.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, Joy Harjo

Author Spotlight: Joy Harjo, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

Book Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire

Fantasy: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire


Unlike the first book of this series, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a complete novel. The first book was a collection of short stories, collected and reworked into the novel Sparrow Hill Road. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown takes the story of ghost Rose Marshall, her boyfriend/ghost-car Gary (we learned in the first book that Rose’s boyfriend arranged to have his ghost inhabit a car so he could accompany her along the ghost roads), her best friend/banshee Emma, and Apple (the Queen of the Road Witches) to a dramatic new place: life.


Bobby Cross has been trying to kill Rose for 60 years. He successfully killed her once, but was unable to claim her spirit before she got away. He has never gotten over losing her, and he is determined to claim her spirit once and for all. Rose is protected by a tattoo that binds her to the goddess Persephone. Bobby has found a way to weaken that protection, and he traps Rose using a spell cast by a foolish rogue road witch. That proves to be only the beginning of his plan, though. Rose learns that the only way she can break this spell and regain Persephone’s protection is to become alive again for a day and then die at the end of that day (die, not get killed). Halloween is a day when this can happen: ghosts can reclaim life for one day, but if they die before midnight their souls are lost forever.


There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to reveal too much of Seanan McGuire’s story. Suffice it to say that surviving to the end of Halloween is by no means a given for these ghosts who have the one-day pass. Something worse, though, is meant for Rose. She survives. As in, not just until midnight. She is still alive on November 1. And Bobby Cross is on his way.


Rose has to call on the only human she knows for help, a woman who believes Rose killed her teenage boyfriend in a car accident decades ago. The two women travel from Colorado to Maine to London to Hades seeking to return Rose to her proper deadness, a trip that is punctuated by a very interesting view of life. Imagine not having peed for 60 years, then trying to remember how to do it while in a truckstop bathroom that might have been cleaned about the same time you originally died. I’ll admit, that never occurred to me before this book! All of the normal concerns of living are new to Rose: hygiene, food, menstruation, sleep, cramps, aches, tingling toes, feet falling asleep. Occasionally her complaints about the struggles of the living are a bit much, but for the most part McGuire handles them with the right amount of humor and pathos.


I love how most of McGuire’s characters are not perfectly good or perfectly evil. Rose is able to admit that given the right motivation she would do horrible things. She does not want to kill anyone in order to die again, but she can’t say that she wouldn’t if she had to. Apple wants to help Rose become a ghost again, but part of that motivation is that a living Rose could be a threat to Apple’s throne, and she will not abide any threats. Lauren hates Rose, but also helps her. She knows that Rose did not really kill her boyfriend, Tommy, but she cannot let go of the hate that shaped her adult life. However, she also is willing to assist Rose because Rose can reunite her with Tommy. Humans, alive and dead, are complicated creatures. We are never perfectly good and we are seldom perfectly evil. Monsters pet their kittens and snuggle their babies. The people who betray Rose and assist in her unwelcomed resurrection do so because their daughter has been kidnapped and they see no other options. Seanan McGuire has sympathy for her villains and caution for her heroines. That is part of why I love her work.


The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a terrific ghost story, even though the ghost is alive for much of the story. It is complex, well crafted, lovingly told, with a twist at the end that, if not completely unexpected, is still rewarding and neatly ties it together. It is funny and poignant and one of McGuire’s best novels in a career that is rapidly adding a number of excellent novels to the fantasy and horror genre. It is not too scary for those fraidy-cats (like me) who get a little nervous at the darker side of the genre, but it has enough eeriness to appeal to most people who want a little haunting in their reading.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire

2019 Hugo Awards on Scintilla

2019 Hugo Awards on Scintilla


‘Twas the year of the lady–Lady Astronaut, that is. Mary Robinette Kowal stole the show with her ethereal dress and her wonderful novel that is sweeping this year’s science fiction awards, adding to her Locus and Nebula wins by taking home the Hugo for best novel. We loved The Calculating Stars at, and apparently the award givers love it, too.

The Calculating Stars

We were also big fans of Tomi Adeyeme’s novel, Children of Blood and Bone, and she also won a Hugo for Best Young Adult Novel. Children of Blood and Bone is part of the Africanfuturism movement, and it is a welcome addition to what has been too long an American and European centered genre. Africa is the cradle of humanity, and her stories are all of our stories, whether they are of a distant past or a fantastic future.

Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi

Becky Chambers is working on an amazing series of books with her Wayfarers novels, and we have reviewed all three of them on Scintilla. Her work was honored with the Hugo for Best Series. Unlike most series, there is  limited connection between the novels with only a character or two in common between any of them. All of them occur in the same well-imagined universe, though, and we hope there are more Wayfarers books to come. The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, and Record of a Spaceborn Few feature spaceships and aliens and lots of creativity and excellent plots and are well worth the time.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers

We also reviewed the entire Murderbot series by Martha Wells, and she won a Hugo for Artificial Condition, following up on her previous Hugo in the series for All Systems Red. If you are looking for some shorter books packed with great stuff, this series of novellas is a great choice. 

All Systems Red, The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells Artificial Condition, The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells Rogue Protocol, The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells Exit Strategy, The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells 

Congratulations to these authors we’ve reviewed, and to all the nominees and winners. You can find five of the best novel nominees reviewed on our site, and we are very pleased to have read all of their outstanding books.

2019 Hugo Awards on Scintilla

Book Review: Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

Book Review: Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

Mystery: Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

When aspiring actress Nikki Gowon takes the stage for her final scene as Lady Macbeth, she has no idea that it will be her final scene. As she had done countless times in rehearsal, she takes the prop knife and thrusts it into her belly. Only, someone has substituted an actual knife for the prop knife. Instead of collapsing harmlessly in her hands, the knife plunges into her body and does enough damage that the wounds eventually end her life. Murder at Macbeth takes the cursed play and ups the drama significantly.


Detectives Finley Robson and Nadia Zahra have no shortage of suspects. Anyone in the play, from the director to the cast, could potentially have done it. And as they investigate, a plethora of motives come out. Nikki was given the role late in rehearsals. Could it be Emma, the actress who lost the role to Nikki? Could it be Nikki’s boyfriend, Jimmy? Her onstage lover, Ben? The director, Neil? Or someone else entirely? Her best friend Megan and Megan’s boyfriend Peter were also in the cast. Even teenager Violet seems to have something to hide. As they proceed with their inquiries, they find that even an amateur play can have a lot of drama backstage.


Fans of Shakespeare will enjoy the constant references to his plays, in the chapter headings and in the body of the book as well. Obviously most of the references come from Macbeth, but other works get a shout out as well. And fans of mysteries will appreciate the multiple threads Goodwin weaves together in her book. She does a good job of revealing information piece by piece, so the reader is discovering information along with the detectives. I liked the way that the murderer was found using a combination of deduction and detection. Good old fashioned police work, questioning suspects, chasing leads, checking CCTV, gets highlighted in this book, and the police who do that labor never seem to get enough credit. Goodwin makes sure to note the hard work involved.


All in all, this was an easy book to get lost in for awhile. I enjoyed the characters and the story, and appreciated the hard work the detectives and uniforms did to find the killer. If you are looking for a solid mystery and for the chance to support a new author, Murder at Macbeth is a book I would recommend.

Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

Book Review: Murder at Macbeth, Samantha Goodwin

Book Review: Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang

Book Review: Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang

Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang

Science Fiction: Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang

Cas Russell is a kickbutt math whiz. Literally. She is able to instantaneously perform the calculations in her mind that let her leverage her body or a projectile in such a way as to perform maximum damage. She can determine where and how to hit someone so that they are injured or killed. She only needs one shot to hit her target. Her body is a weapon, and weapons in her possession are deadly.


Cas is a retrieval specialist. She has been hired to retrieve a girl being held prisoner by a drug cartel. Normally this would be no problem for her, but her long-time ally, Rio, is undercover in the cartel and is not willing to break cover–even for Cas’s sake. He is perhaps the one person good enough to capture her, and he has done just that.


That is the opening of Zero Sum Game, and the thrills and stakes go up from there. Cas is not the only person in the story with extraordinary abilities, abilities that might be regarded as superhuman. Victims become oppressors, allies become enemies, and as the book progresses Cas finds that she must question herself as much as she questions anyone else.


S.L. Huang has a math degree from M.I.T., and math plays a major role in this book. But don’t let that scare you away. You don’t need a math degree to appreciate the breakneck plot. Or the breaking of necks within the plot. Cas Russell is a true thriller heroine, with a moral code (of sorts), brilliant friends and the ability–and willingness–to do whatever needs to be done.


Zero Sum Game is one part science fiction, one part action thriller, and one part geeky fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang

Book Review: Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang