Review: Book Love by Debbie Tung

While other books about books may set a preference in their narrative, Book Love by Debbie Tung is a celebration of reading in whatever form it takes. A slice-of-life comic about book lovers and their many, many habits, this was a joy to read and has the distinction of being re-readable several times over.

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Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 1 January 2019

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Category: Sequential Art/Non-fiction/Books about Books

Bookworms rejoice! These charming comics capture exactly what it feels like to be head-over-heels for hardcovers.

Book Love is a gift book of comics tailor-made for tea-sipping, spine-sniffing, book-hoarding bibliophiles. Debbie Tung’s comics are humorous and instantly recognizable—making readers laugh while precisely conveying the thoughts and habits of book nerds. Book Love is the ideal gift to let a book lover know they’re understood and appreciated.

Rating:  5 Stars

Book Love was truly a delight to read. It included not just comics for lovers of physical books, but e-books and audiobooks. As long as it’s reading material, this title was supportive of however you want to get the author’s words into your brain.

The artwork is very attractive. It has a little variation in style and the encapsulates the emotion of the comic at the moment. From starry eyes to a quiet book nook, the black and white drawings were a lovely choice to highlight a bookworm’s life.

There are a lot of scenarios within Book Love that will have a ring of familiarity to readers: bringing books along whenever we leave the house, reading in a quiet nook at a party, not passing up sales that are too good! This will be the perfect gift for any book lover, whether it’s one you’re passing along or treating yourself to.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

 

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Merch I’d Like to Own

When I was a kid I thought books were it in terms of supporting the titles I loved. Sure there are multiple editions, but as I grew up I found a whole new field of interest: bookish merch! Items of varying design that had quotes, artwork, and more that came from the pages of almost any book you could imagine.

Some of these items, though, come in book subscription boxes that I don’t have or boxes I miss. With a sharp eye toward B/S/T groups, I’ve been able to find some, but not all. Today’s TTT topic is all about the bookish merch I still want to obtain someday.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. Upcoming topics and past TTT topics can be found here.

 


 

1. Etheralki Wooden Pin

 

I don’t remember what box these came in, but there was a set of wooden pins celebrating the Grisha trilogy. I’ve gotten the Heartrender and the Materialki pins so far. I just need one more!

 

2. Shelflove Throne of Glass Tote

 

There was a cool tote bag showing up in the Owlcrate B/S/T group on Facebook that I like. I’m not the biggest ToG fan, but this bag looks neat. The quote: “Libraries were full of dangerous ideas, perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.”

 

3. Fairyloot Edition of Mirage w. Sprayed Edges

 

I’m in love with sprayed edges on books as well as most UK covers. The silvery/black edition of Mirage by Somaiya Daud is gorgeous AND it has sprayed edges so, yeah, this is on the list.

 

4. Litjoy Crate Dragon-scale Scarf

 

FairyLoot had a grey dragon-scale scarf in a previous box and it quickly became one of my favorite scarves. Litjoy has a black one?? Yes, please!

 

5. OwlCrate Exclusive Out of Print Pin

 

I missed the box this came in. *weeps* It says: “When in doubt, go to the library.” Enamel pins are in my top five of bookish merch items and this one is so cute.

 

6. Illumicrate edition of Illumicrate

 

This is a gorgeous edition of the book. Very similar to the UK cover, this one is instead read. Very intense. 😀

 

7. Neil Gaiman Stardust Pillowcase

 

I don’t know where this came from, but after enamel pins, pillowcases are among my favorite bookish merch items. This one has a favorite quote of mine from Stardust: “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at the stars because we are human?”

 

8. Vicious Pillowcase

 

Another really cool one, but I’m not sure about this origin point either. Victor Vale’s poignant quote is featured on it: “Plenty of humans were monstrous and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being humans.”

 

9. Girls of Paper and Fire – Fairyloot Edtion

 

Sprayed edges! Bright flipping pink! 😮 I have another box coming with this book, but I don’t think it has sprayed edges, so getting this would be so pretty.

 

10. Cara Kozik Diagon Alley Mug

 

These Harry Potter inspired mugs are extremely coveted. I wish I had gotten the Diagon Alley mug when I could, but alas! I do have the Prisoner of Azkaban one, so a matching Alley mug would Ah-mazing. 😀

 


 

What is some of your favorite bookish merch? Are there any items that you’re especially looking for? Let me know in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: It’s a Book by Lane Smith

I love books. No surprise there, given that I read almost constantly, blog about the things that I read, and talk about the various stories with anyone that will listen. So, a picture book about books? It sounded like just the thing for me. The end result, though, was more patronizing than I would’ve liked and anti-books-in-any-other-format-than-physical.

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Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  Goodreads  |  Indiebound

Published: 10 August 2010

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Category: Childrens (Picture Books)/Humor/Books About Books

Playful and lighthearted with a subversive twist that is signature Lane Smith, It’s a Book is a delightful manifesto on behalf of print in the digital age. This satisfying, perfectly executed picture book has something to say to readers of all stripes and all ages.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

While I can appreciate that some people prefer physical books to other formats, like e-books or audiobooks, that doesn’t mean that it gives them the right to look down upon those that enjoy alternate formats. There was a tone to It’s a Book that made it feel like it was casting a side-eye at anyone, like Jackass, that might prefer to reader using electronic devices.

The humor level/the intended audience seems to be kind of blurry. The description indicates that it’s meant for 6-years-olds which…maybe? The illustrations were simple and attractive enough to be for the age group, but it felt more like the humor level was in line with a book Smith previously illustrated, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. It’s marketed for kids, but upon reading comes across more like for adults than their children. Another book like that would be Go the F*ck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. Looks nice enough for kids but yeah, better not.

There may well be people (kids, adults, etc.) that like this book and don’t see these things, but considering the book was written in 2010, it doesn’t feel like the quasi-elitist attitude toward physical books should still be a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Library Lover’s Book Tag

Mandy and Sha at Book Princess Reviews did a super fun tag about libraries recently and I wanted to join in. Be sure to check out their answers on their blog.

Libraries are a huge part of my life, so how could I pass up the chance to do this tag?

 

QUESTIONS

How often do you visit your local library?

I try to go at least once a week, though sometimes it’s every two weeks. It mostly depends on my work/activity schedule or if I have something checked out that has a shorter loan period.

 

Are you the type of person who checks out more books than you can read or are you someone who checks out the exact amount of books you intend to read before they are due?

 

I almost always end up checking out more than I can read in one go. Oops! It’s typically a result of my requests all coming in at once. ^^;

 

How old were you when you got your first library card?

 

I have no idea. I’d assume fairly young because we can get them as soon as we can sign our name in the provided space on the card, but I can’t remember the first card.

 

Do you go to your library for a particular book or do you check out anything that piques your interest?

 

90% of the time it’s because I have holds, so they’re books I already have in mind. There are times, though, when I’m there to pick up holds that I’ll also wander around the library and pick up something that catches my eye.

 

Do you only check out books or do you also get DVDs, audiobooks, etc.?

 

Usually I stick with physical books and DVDs. On occasion I’ll pick up a video game as well.

 

From what section of the library do you check out most of your books?

 

My most visited sections are either the Teen section or the Juvenile section. There are graphic novels in both that I also read, but they fall under those headings for the most part so they don’t get their own section.

 

What is your favourite part of using your local library?

I’ve been going there for so long that pretty much everyone knows me, so it’s like a home away from home. I also get to help pick young adult titles for my branch to order, which is a lot of fun. 😀

 


 

Do you like your library or just doing tags? I’d like to see what other answers are to these questions. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

A Rockstar Book Tour Cover Reveal: Scales by Nicole Conway – With Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway

Today Nicole Conway, Owl Hollow Press, and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for SCALES, book one of the Spirits of Chaos series. Nicole’s new MG/YA Fantasy Book releases in 2019, so there’s plenty of time to add it to your Goodreads to-be-read shelf and keep an eye out for those preorder links!
For now, there’s the amazing cover and a giveaway for an early copy of SCALES. 
 
 Title: SCALES (Spirits of Chaos, #1)
Author: Nicole Conway
Pub. Date: 2019
Publisher: Owl Hollow Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads
When New York City faces the threat of an ancient evil, a teenage boy must use a magical bracelet to transform into a monster-slaying dragon superhero.
Koji Owens is the new kid … again. As the only son of an Air Force F-16 pilot, he’s learned to adapt and survive every time they move. It’s not easy starting over with new friends and schools every two years, but when the Owens family makes their final move to New York, Koji finally has hope for a normal high school life—that is, until he finds a strange bracelet in his locker.
Transformed into a storm-summoning dragon warrior, Koji finds himself caught up in a world of ancient powers, secret identities, and colossal monsters threatening to destroy his new home. But these awesome powers come with strings attached, and revealing his true identity could mean losing everything he loves. With his family and friends now in mortal danger and New York City in flames, Koji must find the courage to become the hero they need and face down an enemy hiding in plain sight.
A comic-obsessed teenage misfit embraces his inner hero in this action-packed adventure that will leave you ready to get your scales on!

 

Exclusive Excerpt!

 

Piercing light bloomed from the totem scale. It swept over me and took away my pain, molding and stretching me into my full dragon form. The instant the searing energy coursed through my body, I launched myself into the sky.

I didn’t have a single second to waste.

Now that I was a beast of comparable size, I crested the skyscrapers in a few powerful beats of my wings. From a few blocks away, the wyvern spotted me. It let out a howl of fury as it surged straight for me. I answered with a battle cry of my own, driving more and more power into every beat of my mighty black wings.

Two F-22 fighter jets rolled in on either side, joining me in aerial formation. Their engines roared, and both pilots gave me a confirming thumb’s up. They were following me in for the attack.

I’d never felt so cool in my entire life.

I clashed with the wyvern in the air over Central Park, clamping my jaws around his throat. I prepared to give him a taste of my lightning, the same way I had the crocodile monster. One good jolt and maybe I could bring him down.

Before I get a good grip, he swung his spiked tail and whacked me across the eyes. I let go, snatching back with a roar.

He dove at me; his toothy mandible jaws open wide to rip my throat out.

A sudden plume of fire scorched his hide and sent him reeling. I drew back, wary of the blistering flames.

Another giant dragon clashed in battle, had scales as red as fresh blood and a ridge of tall, slender black spines all the way down her back. My breath caught. Madeline? She’d gone full-form, too?

She attacked the wyvern mercilessly, pinning him under another blast of her fiery breath.

Shaking off the blow to my head, I charged headlong back into the fight, lightning sizzling and popping off my open jaws. We had to get him on the ground. If we could pin him there, he’d be within range of ground fire and an easier target for our air support. We could contain the damage to the rest of the city, too.

So I went for one of the wyvern’s wings full-force.

Fyurei had him distracted. He never saw me coming. I swooped in to break one of his wings at the shoulders with a single powerful crunch of my jaws and sharp jerk of my head. The creature screeched and kicked, floundering with his one good wing and swinging his tail like a medieval mace. The bulbous, spiky tip struck one of the F-22 jets and sent the aircraft flipping through the air end over end. Not good. I watched the aircraft fall, waiting for the pilot to eject.

He didn’t.

I didn’t hesitate—I dove straight after the jet, summoning every bit of speed I had. The jet spiraled, smoking and streaking toward the ground. I threw myself the final distance with a desperate cry, jaws open wide.

I caught the tail of the jet in my teeth about a hundred feet shy of the ground. As soon as my jaws clamped onto the metal, I reared back, kicked my legs out, and flared for an emergency landing right in the middle of the park.

It took a second for the dust, snow, and trees to settle.

Picking the jet carefully out of my mouth, I held it up to my huge dragon eyeball like a little kid’s toy. Inside the cockpit, the tiny pilot was giving me a shaky thumb’s up. He was okay.

I gave him my best dragon smile, terrifying as it probably was, and placed his jet, right side up, on a grassy spot in the park. Then I turned around to get back to business. I still had some wyvern rear end to roast and an evil headmaster in dire need of reeducation.

 

About Nicole:

MY NAME IS NICOLE CONWAY and I love to write stories! I’ve been writing books since I was very young, and am blessed beyond measure to be able to do it now as a full time career. Although I sometimes step out into other genres, I primarily write Fantasy for teens and middle graders.
I graduated from Auburn University in 2012, which is also where I met my husband. As a military family, we move frequently and have lived numerous places all around the world. We have one very energetic son, Ethan. We also have two dogs (French Brittanys) named Joey (currently 5 months old) and Phoebe (4 years old) and a ball python named Noodle Nagini.
For inquiries on how to book me for a school visit, presentation, or interest in my future or current projects, please contact my amazing literary agent, FRAN BLACK, of Literary Counsel.

Giveaway Details

 

One lucky winner will win an ARC of SCALES, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Cover Reveal: Vortex Visions (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #1) by Elise Kova

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Elise Kova’s newest title, Vortex Visions (Book One of the Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles), finally has a cover! Revealed 11.8.18, it is eye catching not only by style but by subject. Many congratulations to Livia Prima on brings the new protagonist, daughter of an original Air Awakens character, to life. She’s all ready for her own adventure including fighting a villain, all within a familiar-to-fans universe.

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A desperate princess, a magical traveler, and a watch that binds them together with the fate of a dying world.

Vi Solaris is the heir to an Empire she’s barely seen. Her parents sacrificed a life with her to quell a rebellion and secure peace with a political alliance. Now, three years past when her wardship should’ve ended, Vi will do anything to be reunited with her family.

The Empire is faltering beneath the burden of political infighting and a deadly plague. Yet, Vi can’t help but wonder if her inability to control her magic is the true reason her parents haven’t brought her home. Suspicion becomes reality when she unleashes powers she’s not supposed to have.

Powers that might well cost her the throne.

As Vi fights to get her magic under control, a mysterious stranger appears from across the world. He holds the keys to unlocking her full potential, but the knowledge has an unspeakable price — some truths, once seen, cannot be ignored.

All eyes are on her and Vi must make the hardest choice of her life: Play by the rules and claim her throne. Or, break them and save the world.

Vortex Visions releases February 4, 2019 and is available to preorder now here. Until then, the first book in the Air Awakens series will be on sale from November 11th-26th. From there you’ll be able to get a good idea of the world Vi lives in and the history between her parents, especially her mother Vhalla. It isn’t necessary to read the Air Awakens prior to Vortex Visions, but I think it will help introduce readers to the Empire and the magic of that world.

 

Looking for a new epic fantasy filled with magic and slow-burn romance?

 

There is a pre-order giveaway for those interested. It’s very exiting because the art on Elise’s promo material is always gorgeous. For anyone that pre-orders Vortex Visions, they can forward proof of purchase + their full name + their mailing address to ElisePreOrder[at]Gmail[dot]com to get a free signed postcard (while supplies last) AND be entered to win a special swag box including a signed hardcover. The giveaway is open internationally, yay!

Have you read any of Elise’s books before? Let me know what you think and if you’re excited for Vortex Visions.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Xpresso Book Tours Blitz: The Fever King by Victoria Lee – Excerpt & Giveaway

This week, Xpresso Book Tours is celebrating the upcoming release of The Fever King by Victoria Lee. A young adult fantasy novel that tells the story of Noam Álvaro, the only survivor of a magical plague that killed his family and granted him the ability to control technology, this book will surely fascinate readers of The Darkest Minds and other dystopian visions of a future in an alternate/former U.S.

Today on The Hermit Librarian, I’m pleased to share not only the chapter one excerpt from The Fever King, but also a giveaway that will enable five winners (open US/CAN) to read the book early with their own advance copies! Scroll to the link below to check out the Rafflecopter giveaway.

 

The Fever King by Victoria Lee
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: March 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1:

Outbreaks of magic started all kinds of ways. Maybe a tank coming in from the quarantined zone didn’t get hosed down properly. Maybe, like some people said, the refugees brought it up with them from Atlantia, the virus hiding out in someone’s blood or in a juicy peach pie.

But when magic infected the slums of west Durham, in the proud sovereign nation of Carolinia, it didn’t matter how it got there.

Everybody still died.

Noam was ringing up Mrs. Ellis’s snuff tins when he nearly toppled into the cash register.

He all but had to fight her off as she tried to force him down into a folding chair—swore he’d just got a touch dizzy, but he’d be fine, really. Go on home. She left eventually, and he went to stand in front of the window fan for a while, holding his shirt off his sweat-sticky back and trying not to pass out.

He spent the rest of his shift reading Bulgakov under the counter. He felt just fine.

That evening he locked the doors, pulled chicken wire over the windows, and took a new route to the Migrant Center. In this neighborhood, you had to if you didn’t want to get robbed. Once upon a time, or so Noam had heard, there’d been a textile mill here. The street would’ve been full of workers heading home, empty lunch pails in hand. Then the mill had gone down and apartments went up, and by the 1960s, Ninth Street had been repopulated by rich university students with their leather satchels and clove cigarettes. All that was before the city got bombed halfway to hell in the catastrophe, of course.

Noam’s ex used to call it “the Ninth Circle.” She meant it in Dante’s sense.

The catastrophe was last century, though. Now the university campus blocked the area in from the east, elegant stone walls keeping out the riffraff while Ninth and Broad crumbled under the weight of five-person refugee families crammed into one-room apartments, black markets buried in basements, laundry lines strung between windows like market lights. Sure, maybe you shouldn’t wander around the neighborhood at night draped in diamonds, but Noam liked it anyway.

“Someone’s famous,” Linda said when he reached the back offices of the Migrant Center, a sly smile curving her lips as she passed him the morning’s Herald.

Noam grinned back and looked.

Massive Cyberattack Disables Central News Bureau

Authorities link hack to Atlantian cyberterrorist affiliates.

“Haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Say, have you got any scissors?”

“What for?”

“I’m gonna frame this.”

Linda snorted and swatted him on the arm. “Get on, you. Brennan has some task he wants finished this week, and I don’t think you, him, and your ego can all fit in that office.”

Which, fair: the office was pretty small. Tucked into the back corner of the building, with Brennan’s name and Director printed on the door in copperplate, it was pretty much an unofficial storage closet for all the files and paperwork Linda couldn’t cram anywhere else. Brennan’s desk was dwarfed by boxes stacked precariously around it, the man himself leaning close to his holoreader monitor with reading glasses perched on the end of a long nose and a pen behind one ear.

“Noam,” he said, glancing up when the door opened. “You made it.”

“Sorry I missed yesterday. I had to cover someone’s shift at the computer store after I got off the clock at Larry’s.”

Brennan waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t apologize. If you have to work, you have to work.”

“Still.”

It wasn’t guilt, per se, that coiled up in Noam’s stomach. Or maybe it was. That was his father’s photograph on the wall, after all, though his face was hidden by a bandanna tied over his nose and mouth. His father’s hands holding up that sign—Refugee rights are human rights. That was in June 2118, during the revolt over the new, more stringent citizenship tests. It had been the largest protest in Carolinian history.

“Linda said you had something for me to work on?” Noam said, tilting his head toward the holoreader.

“It’s just database management, I’m afraid, nothing very interesting.”

“I love databases.” Noam smiled, and Brennan smiled back. The expression lifted the exhaustion from Brennan’s face like a curtain rising from a window, sunlight streaming through.

Brennan oriented him to the task, then gave up his desk chair for Noam to get to work. He squeezed Noam’s shoulder before he left to help Linda with dinner, and a warm beat of familiarity took root in the pit of Noam’s stomach. Brennan might try to put up boundaries, clear delineations between professional life and how close Brennan had been to Noam’s family, but the cracks were always visible.

That was pretty much the only reason Noam didn’t tell him up front: database management was mind-numbingly boring. After you figured out how to script your way past the problem, it was just a matter of waiting around. He’d have once maybe emailed Carly or someone while the program executed. But they were all dead now, and between the Migrant Center and two jobs, Noam didn’t have time to meet new people. So he sat and watched text stream down the command console, letters blurring into numbers until the screen was wavering light.

A dull ache bored into Noam’s skull.

Maybe he was more tired than he thought, because he didn’t remember what happened between hitting “Execute” and Brennan shaking him awake. Noam lurched upright.

“You all right?” Brennan asked.

“What? Oh—fine, sorry. I must have . . . dozed off.” Noam seized the holoreader, tapping at the screen until it lit up again. The script was finished, anyway, and no run-time errors. Thankfully. “It’s all done.”

The thin line between Brennan’s brows deepened. “Are you feeling okay? You look . . .”

“Fine. I’m fine. Just tired.” Noam attempted a wan smile. He really hoped he wasn’t coming down with whatever it was Elliott from the computer store had. Only, he and Elliott had kissed in the back room on their lunch break yesterday, so yeah, he probably had exactly what Elliott had.

“Maybe you should go on home,” Brennan said, using that grip on Noam’s shoulder to ease him back from the computer. “I can help Linda finish up dinner.”

“I can—”

“It wasn’t a request.”

Noam made a face, and Brennan sighed.

“For me, Noam. Please. I’ll drop by later on if I have time.”

There was no arguing with Brennan when he got all protective. So Noam just exhaled and said, “Yeah, all right. Fine.”

Brennan’s hand lingered a beat longer than usual on Noam’s shoulder, squeezing slightly, then let go. When Noam looked over, Brennan’s expression gave nothing away as he said, “Tell your dad hi for me.”

Noam had arrived at the Migrant Center in the early evening. Now it was night, the deep-blue world illuminated by pale streetlight pooling on the sidewalk. It was unusually silent. When Noam turned onto Broad, he found out why: a checkpoint was stationed up at the intersection by the railroad tracks—floodlights and vans, police, even a few government witchings in military uniform.

Right. No one without a Carolinian passport would be on the street tonight, not with Immigration on the prowl.

Noam’s papers were tucked into his back pocket, but yeah, he didn’t need to deal with Chancellor Sacha’s anti-Atlantian bullshit right now. Not with this headache. He cut through the alley between the liquor store and the barbecue joint to skirt the police perimeter. It was a longer walk home from there, but Noam didn’t mind.

He liked the way tonight smelled, like smoked ribs and gasoline. Like oncoming snow.

When he got to his building, he managed to get the door open—the front latch was ancient enough it probably counted as precatastrophe. Fucking thing always got stuck, always, and Noam had written to the super fifty times, for what little difference that’d made. It was November, but the back of Noam’s neck was sweat-damp by the time he finally shouldered his way into the building and trudged into his apartment.

Once upon a time, this building was a bookstore. It’d long since been converted to tenements, all plywood walls and hung-up sheets for doors. The books were still there, though, yellowing and mildewed. They made him sneeze, but he read a new one every day all the same, curled up in a corner and out of the way of the other tenants. It was old and worn out, but it was home.

Noam touched the mezuzah on the doorframe as he went in, a habit he hadn’t picked up till after his mother died but felt right somehow. Not that being extra Jewish would bring her back to life.

Noam’s father had been moved from the TV to the window.

“What’s up, Dad?”

No answer. That was nothing new. Noam was pretty sure his father hadn’t said three words in a row since 2120. Still, Noam draped his arms over his father’s lax shoulders and kissed his cheek.

“I hope you want pasta for dinner,” Noam said, “’cause that’s what we’ve got.”

He left his father staring out at the empty street and busied himself with the saucepans. He set up the induction plate and hunched over it, steam wafting toward his face as the water simmered. God, it was unbearably hot, but he didn’t trust himself to let go of the counter edge, not with this dizziness rippling through his mind.

Should’ve had more than an apple for lunch. Should’ve gone to bed early last night, not stayed up reading Paradise Lost for the fiftieth time.

If his mother were here, she’d have dragged him off to bed and stuck him with a mug of aguapanela. It was some sugary tea remedy she’d learned from her Colombian mother-in-law that was supposed to cure everything. Noam had never learned how to make it.

Another regret to add to the list.

He dumped dried noodles into the pot. “There’s a checkpoint at the corner of Broad and Main,” he said, not expecting an answer.

None came. Jaime Álvaro didn’t care about anything anymore, not even Atlantia.

Noam turned down the heat on the stove. “Couldn’t tell if they made any arrests. Nobody’s out, so they might start knocking on doors later.”

He turned around. His father’s expression was the same slack-jawed one he’d been wearing when Noam first came in.

“Brennan asked about you,” Noam said. Surely that deserved a blink, at least.

Nothing.

“I killed him.”

Nothing then either.

Noam spun toward the saucepan again, grabbing a fork and stabbing at the noodles, which slipped through the prongs like so many slimy worms. His gut surged up into his throat, and Noam closed his eyes, free hand gripping the edge of the nearest bookshelf.

“You could at least pretend to give a shit,” he said to the blackness on the other side of his eyelids. The pounding in his head was back. “I’m sad about Mom, too, you know.”

His next breath shuddered all the way down into his chest—painful, like inhaling frost.

His father used to sing show tunes while he did the dinner dishes. Used to check the classifieds every morning for job offers even though having no papers meant he’d never get the good ones—he still never gave up. Never ever.

And Noam . . . Noam had to remember who his father really was, even if that version of him belonged to another life, ephemeral as footprints in the snow. Even if it felt like he’d lost both parents the day his mother died.

Noam switched off the heat, spooning the noodles into two bowls. No sauce, so he drizzled canola oil on top and carried one of the bowls over to his father. Noam edged his way between the chair and the window, crouching down in that narrow space. He spun noodles around the fork. “Open up.”

Usually, the prospect of food managed to garner a reaction. Not this time.

Nausea crawled up and down Noam’s breastbone. Or maybe it was regret. “I’m sorry,” he said after a beat and tried for a self-deprecating grin. “I was . . . it’s been a long day. I was a dick. I’m sorry, Dad.”

His father didn’t speak and didn’t open his mouth.

Noam set the pasta bowl on the floor and wrapped his other hand around his father’s bony wrist. “Please,” Noam said. “Just a few bites. I know it’s not Mom’s cooking, but . . . for me. Okay?”

Noam’s mother had made the most amazing food. Noam tried to live up to her standard, but he never could. He’d given up on cooking anything edible, on keeping a kosher kitchen, on speaking Spanish. On making his father smile.

Noam rubbed his thumb against his father’s forearm.

The skin there was paper thin and far, far too hot.

“Dad?”

His father’s eyes stared past Noam, unseeing and glassy, reflecting the lamplight outside. That wasn’t what made Noam lurch back and collide with window, its latch jabbing his spine.

A drop of blood welled in the corner of his father’s eye and—after a single quivering moment—cut down his cheek like a tear.

“Mrs. Brown!”

Noam shoved the chair back from the window, half stumbling across the narrow room to the curtain separating their space from their neighbor’s. He banged a fist against the nearest bookshelf.

“Mrs. Brown, are you in there? I—I’m coming in.”

He ripped the curtain to one side. Mrs. Brown was there but not in her usual spot. She was curled on the bed instead, shoulders jutting against the ratty blanket like bony wings.

Noam hesitated. Was she . . . no. Was she dead?

She moved, then, a pale hand creeping out to wave vaguely in the air.

“Mrs. Brown, I need help,” Noam said. “It’s my dad—he’s sick. He’s . . . he’s really sick, and I think . . .”

The hand dropped back onto the blanket and went still.

No. No, no—this wasn’t right. This wasn’t happening. He should go downstairs and get another neighbor. He should—no, he should check on his dad. He couldn’t. He . . .

He had to focus.

The blanket covering Mrs. Brown began to ripple like the surface of the sea. Outside, the hazard sirens wailed.

Magic.

Dragging his eyes away from Mrs. Brown, Noam twisted round to face his own apartment and vomited all over the floor.

He stood there for a second, staring woozily at the mess while sirens shrieked in his ears. He was sick. Magic festered in his veins, ready to consume him whole.

An outbreak.

His father, when Noam managed to weave his way back to his side, had fallen unconscious. His head lolled forward, and there was a bloody patch on his lap, yellow electricity flickering over the stain. The world undulated around them both in watery waves.

“It’s okay,” Noam said, knowing his dad couldn’t hear him. He sucked in a sharp breath and hitched his father’s body out of the chair. He shouldn’t—he couldn’t just leave him there like that. Noam had carried him around for three years, but today his father weighed twice as much as before. Noam’s arms quivered. His thoughts were white noise.

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, a voice kept repeating in Noam’s head.

He dumped his father’s body on the bed, skinny limbs sprawling. Noam tried to nudge him into a more comfortable position, but even that took effort. But this . . . it was more than he’d done for his mother. He’d left her corpse swinging on that rope for hours before Brennan had shown up to take her down.

His father still breathed, for now.

How long did it take to die? God, Noam couldn’t remember.

On shaky legs, Noam made his way back to the chair by the window. He couldn’t manage much more. The television kept turning itself on and off again, images blazing across a field of static snow and vanishing just as quickly. Noam saw it out of the corners of his eyes even when he tried not to look, the same way he saw his father’s unconscious body. That would be Noam soon.

Magic crawled like ivy up the sides of the fire escape next door.

Noam imagined his mother waiting for him with a smile and open arms, the past three years just a blink against eternity.

His hands sparked with something silver-blue and bright. Bolts shot between his fingers and flickered up his arms. The effect would have been beautiful were it not so deadly. And yet . . .

A shiver ricocheted up his spine.

Noam held a storm in his hands, and he couldn’t feel a thing.

 

About the Author

 

Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering that spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whiskey. Lee writes early in the morning and then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her partner.

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