Review: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

33155334You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Release date: September 12th, 2017
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, historical fiction
Format: eBook

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Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I can’t believe that I downloaded this book from NetGalley and then completely forgot about it. It was one of those books that I heard so many positive things about and couldn’t wait to read. What happened…I have no idea! I’m just so happy that I rediscovered it on my iPad because this book was absolutely beautiful!

The story focuses on the lives of five women from the Das family. It begins in the 1960s and works its way to the modern day. The book is very character driven and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about each of the characters. They were all so different from each other with their own unique voices, perspectives, dreams and ways of approaching the world around them. They all felt so real and I could help but be drawn into their lives. None of the characters were perfect, instead they were flawed, made mistakes and dealt with the consequences. It truly felt like I knew them and that takes some masterful writing!

Talking about the writing, it was vivid and emotional. I particularly enjoyed how Bengali culture was woven into the story. I am not very familiar with the culture, but that didn’t matter to my understanding or enjoyment. Instead, the author explains key words or concepts without slowing down or taking away from the story. Culture is one of the central themes of the story and I liked how each character approached it in a different way. Basically, there is no right or wrong way to live and embrace your culture. It’s unique to each person and changes based on their beliefs and life experiences.

The only issue I had with the book was its pacing. It took me quite sometime to read through it. This is mostly because there isn’t a whole lot of action. It is very much a book that looks into the inner thoughts of a character. I often read a section, put it down and then came back to it. It’s definitely not a page turner or a book that will keep you up all night, but that by no means took away from how much I liked it. It’s not advertised or meant to be an action adventure novel.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to people looking for an own voices diverse read. I haven’t read any of the author’s other novels, but will for sure check them out in the near future. Her way of writing is magical and if they are anything like this gem I’m in for a real treat!


About the Author

21129Mitali Perkins has written several novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award), Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Tiger Boy, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers. She currently writes and resides in San Francisco.

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Review: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

33509076Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

Release date: September 5th, 2017
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance

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A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel is a perfect example of why I should never judge a book by its synopsis. When this book was first released I was offered a chance to read it and I passed. It really didn’t sound like something that I would want to read. However, when I received a chance to join the blog tour for its companion novel, Keeper of the Bees, I decided to give this novel a chance and I’m so happy that I did! I ended up becoming completely addicted to it…I just couldn’t stop reading! So, if you haven’t given Black Bird of the Gallows a read, I highly recommend that you do as soon as possible!

The story focuses on Angie Dovage, a teenage girl who has had a pretty rough life. Her mother is a drug addict and dragged poor Angie from one drug den or random house to another. Now, she’s living with her father and completely fascinated with the new next door neighbours. She becomes close friends with their son Reece, however, things aren’t as they initially seem. Reece has many secrets which could completely destroy everything Angie loves.

I really enjoyed how the book had a very dark and eerie feel to it. The world created by Kassel was interesting and the mystery established at the beginning of the story continues throughout. You just never really know what will happen next. The mythology was one of those mysterious areas that I though was really well written. It was unique and revealed in a manner that didn’t feel like info dumping. Plus, I finished the book with a sense of really knowing and understanding the world the characters resided in. Sometimes that’s a major issue with fantasy worlds…things are too complicated or rushed and a proper explanation is sacrificed for pushing the plot forward. I’m so glad that that wasn’t the case with this book!

I really appreciated how the book avoided an insta-romance between Angie and Reece. Everything started out slow with the two characters building a believable friendship. I did take issue with how the progression of the relationship was a bit rushed in the middle, but overall I really liked these two characters together. There was a lot of tension between them and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it!

I highly recommend this book to fans of paranormal romance, dark stories and mysteries. I’m very much looking forward to picking up the book’s companion novel very soon!

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About the Author

8353652Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before embracing her true passion, writing. She now lives in a log house in the Maine woods with her family, and is busy at work on her next novel. A fan of ’80s cartoons, original Netflix series, daydreaming, and ancient mythology, Meg has always been fascinated and inspired by the fantastic, the creepy, and the futuristic. When she’s not writing, Meg is reading, hanging out with her husband and daughter, hiding her peanut butter cups, or walking her rescue mutt, Luna. She is a two-time finalist and the 2016 YA winner of the RWA Golden Heart© contest. Her debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows, was released in 2017.

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ARC Review | The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

390787381The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember

Release date: September 13th, 2018
Publisher: Duet Books
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: eBook

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After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Seeing this book posted to NetGalley made me the happiest person ever. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this sequel/companion novel since Julia Ember announced it. I loved The Seafarer’s Kiss…it was absolutely magical with mermaids, Norse gods and a whole range of diverse characters. I’ve stated over and over again that Ember’s writing just gets better and better with each book she releases and this novel was no exception. She’s really outdone herself with The Navigator’s Touch. I simply loved this book and know that I will re-read it again in the near future.

Before I actually start this review, I want to point out that The Navigator’s Touch can be read either as a sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss or a companion novel. You don’t have to read the first book to understand and enjoy the second one. Like, it’s nice to already know the world and the characters, but Ember does an excellent job catching readers up without it feeling like a review or rehash of what has already been read. That said, you really, really should read The Seafarer’s Kiss because it’s a fantastic book that deserves all of the love in the world.

The story in this book is told from Ragna’s perspective, which means it has a completely different feel and tone. The focus here is on revenge and violence. Ragna is a totally badass Viking shield maiden who has magical shape shifting tattoos that act as a guide or compass (hence the title of the book). The plot primarily revolves around her wanting to punish the men that attacked her village and killed her family. However, this need for vengeance often causes her problems and isolates her from the people who support and love her. She’s an extremely flawed character and I love her all the more for it. Throughout her journey she really learns a lot about herself and I love stories like this. I think from time to time we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Ragna and that’s what makes her such an interesting character. What also stood out for me was her background story. We learn a little bit more about the tricker god Loki and Ragna’s family, especially her mother. Connecting the dots between characters, places and stories further added it the book’s worldbuilding. I love the mixture of the Viking world, Norse gods and mythology involving mermaids and monsters.

One thing I missed from the first book was Ersel, a shape shifting mermaid who rescued Ragna and fell in love with her in The Seafarer’s Kiss. She was very much a secondary character and often forgotten about. I would have liked more mermaid scenes but I totally understand that this wasn’t her “time”. She had her own book that told her story. However, I’m pretty sure we will see a lot more of her next time because of the way the book ended. I really hope we will be getting a third book in the series. THAT ENDING FLOORED ME! I need more from these characters and their world!!!!

A nice added touch were the content warnings for each chapter listed at the end of the book and online. There are scenes that could be very difficult for readers to read, especially since so much of Ragna’s story involves violence. There’s a particular chapter near the end of The Navigator’s Touch that was extremely violent. I think more books should have a resource like this as it improves the reading experience for everyone. Well done to the author and the publisher!

I cannot recommend this book enough. Like, I don’t even have the words to write a review that can do it justice. You really need to read it (and its predecessor) as soon as possible! So, if you enjoy books inspired by the Viking world, female/female romances, Norse gods, badass/battle axe-wielding women and lots of action, go pre-order it now!


About the Author

15037326_10157714059105285_2165799410648686596_nOriginally from Chicago, Julia Ember now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. She lives with partner and their city based menagerie of pets with Harry Potter themed names. Luna Lovegood and Sirius Black the cats currently run her life. Julia is a bisexual writer and regularly takes part in events for queer teens.

Julia began writing at the age of nine, when her short story about two princesses and their horses won a contest in Touch magazine. In 2016, she published her first novella, Unicorn Tracks, with Harmony Ink Press. It also focused on two girls and their equines, albeit those with horns. Unicorn Tracks was a finalist in the Florida Authors and Publishers’ Association awards for Young Adult fiction. Her first novel, The Seafarer’s Kiss, was released by Interlude Press in May 2017. It was heavily influenced by her postgraduate work in Medieval literature at the University of St. Andrews. It is now responsible for her total obsession with beluga whales.

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Review: Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

34865933Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
Release date: August 31st, 2017
Publisher: Talem Press
Genres: Young adult, fantasy

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

Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.

But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.

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

I discovered this book through a blog tour on Twitter. I was simply scrolling through my feed and saw the cover for the sequel, Reign of Mist, and was stunned by how beautiful it looked. So, when I was selected to become a tour host for Reign of Mist and received a copy of this book I was beyond excited!

Heart of Mist is a stunning fantasy novel that had me hooked from the very first few pages. As I read through it I kept on wondering why hadn’t I heard of it before?!?! Where had I been?!?! I had certainly been missing out! The book takes place in a world that is under constant threat from a rapidly spreading mysterious toxic mist. Those who enter it, whether on their own or at sword point, never return. On top of that, in this world magic is only reserved for royalty. A horrible death is reserved for anyone else found possessing it, which is why the lead character, Bleak, has to try her hardest to hide her magical powers. She mostly does so through alcohol until she’s turned over to the king’s soldiers and forced to leave her home and all she’s ever known.

This was the first young adult novel that I’ve read that has featured a protagonist with a drinking problem. Alcoholism is not something you see openly discussed in a lot of YA books. Drinking is usually just mentioned as something that happens at parties or part of a normal medieval inspired world. Speaking of the main characters, Bleak really lived up to her name. She really had been through a lot and turned to drinking as a way to shut out her nightmares and the magic that she possessed. At first I was a bit annoyed by Bleak because she was so down on herself. Even when people tried to help her she pushed them away. She most definitely wasn’t a perfect character but I grew to appreciate that as I read on. I especially liked how when her behaviour got her and those around her in trouble, she was more than willing to earn up to it and learn from her mistakes.

While Heart of Mist mostly focuses on Bleak, the chapters were told through multiple points of view. I really enjoyed seeing what each character thought because they were all unique and very different from each other. It was fun making connections between them and weaving their stories together. Each character had a secret and unrevealing their stories kept me turning the pages wanting to know more and more.

Besides addiction, the book also tackles important topics such as feminism, mental and physical disabilities, abuse of power and corruption. While it’s a fantasy novel set in a made up world, I truly believe that we can learn a lot from how the characters act and are portrayed. I especially loved how women took centre stage in this book. On her journey, Bleak meets the Valian kindred, a society of completely fearless warrior women who defy the king in a variety of ways. I want to say more about them but this is a spoiler-free review. You really just have to read this book to learn more!

I, with all of my heart, highly recommend this complex and beautiful book to all fans of YA fantasy. I absolutely adored everything about it: the world building, characters, political intrigue, social commentary. I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel right away but I just can’t leave the world and character just yet. Time to read Reign of Mist!

** Also, as a side note, you can download five free prequels to Heart of Mist on the author’s website.


About the Author:

Author photo (Helen) coloredHelen Scheuerer is a YA fantasy author from Sydney, Australia. Heart of Mist is the first book in her high fantasy trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles. It explores themes of identity, belonging, loyalty, addiction, loss, and responsibility.

Helen is also the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit (www.writersedit.com), an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.

Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong and a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.

Helen is now a full-time author living by the beach.

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ARC Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36396341Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Release date: August 7th, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Young adult, short story, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Roshani Chokshi is such a beautiful writer. Her words are almost lyrical and ebb and flow like they are about to jump off of the page. They are so magical that I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this short story collection.

The stories expand on and are related to Chokshi’s fantastic full-length novels The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. They reveal more about some of the duology’s much loved characters and further immerses the reader into the magical world they live in. I highly recommend this collection for people who have read these two books, but even if you haven’t, it could act as a good taster before jumping into the main stories.

The first story is Death and Night, one that I had read previously and really liked. I could have skipped over it and am glad that I didn’t. It was just as enjoyable the second time around. The story is about how Death fell in love with Night. Their relationship and interactions were wonderfully written with a perfect balance between romance, humor and heartbreak. This particular story is a prequel to The Star-Touched Queen and explores how Amar and Maya first met.

This is followed by Poison and Gold, which focuses on Aasha, a character from A Crown of Wishes. The story is about learning and understanding, basically believing in yourself and opening up to others. It features a beautifully written female/female romance that I cheered on right from the beginning.

The final short story is titled the Rose and Sword. This story took me by surprise! I wasn’t expected such an emotional rollercoaster as it’s a little bit sad with snippets of happiness and humor. You will definitely need a box of kleenex for this one! It features a grandmother telling a story to her granddaughter and explains the inevitability of death. We all die in the end but how far would you go to bring a loved one back and at what price?

All of these stories were so well written and work together perfectly within the collection. I cannot recommend them enough! Never have I read a group of short stories that left me feeling so satisfied and complete. That truly proves just how talented Chokshi is and I cannot wait to see what she will release next.


About the Author

13695109Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. Her middle grade debut, Aru Shah and the End of Time, was released on April 3rd, 2018 with Disney/Rick Riordan Presents. Her next young adult novel, The Gilded Wolves, is slated for Winter 2019. Chokshi’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She was a finalist in the 2016 Andre Norton Award and the Locus Top Ten for Best First Novel. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

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Review: From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36373464From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon
Release date: May 22nd, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Format: eBook

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Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

As soon as I saw From Twinkle, with Love on NetGalley I knew I had to have it. I had just finished reading When Dimple Met Rishi and was completely in love with Sandy Menon’s writing style, descriptions and characters. Writing this review has been so hard for me. Nothing wants to flow and my rating has changed multiple times. Is it a 2, 2.5 or a 3? Ugh! I may not have loved From Twinkle, with Love as much as its predecessor, but I overall it was full of ups and downs. I liked the idea of the book and the beginning…it’s the characters that make it hard for me to decide on a rating.

The story revolves around Twinkle, an aspiring film director who wants more from life. She’s desperately alone and basically an outcast in her school because people think that she’s “weird”. The story follows her time in high school and the challenges she faces such as her first love, losing friends and betrayal. The story is told in diary or letter format which allows the reader to thoroughly immerse themselves in Twinkle’s world.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. The first 15-20% of it was super cute and I smiled a lot while reading it. Then, things took a turn. I think my biggest issue with this book was Twinkle. I appreciated her drive and passion for film making, but that’s about it. Her narration initially didn’t bother me, however, as the book progressed I grew to dislike her. She came off as annoying, self-centred and selfish. It’s so hard to like something when the main character, who is telling the story, is like that. I honestly struggled at times to keep on reading because it’s told through Twinkle’s diary entries. Would I have felt differently if the book used a different format? Perhaps? I don’t know.

I do appreciate how this book features diverse characters and features a woman of colour on the cover. It also has some very important messages that all teens should read about such as equality, peer pressure, cliques and respect. However, it just didn’t end up being for me. I’ve said this in a dozen other reviews, but I need books where I can connect with the lead character, especially if that character is telling the story. I didn’t have that with this book and it made it very difficult to read through. I think I was also expecting something very different…less love squares and more adorable dialogue similar to When Dimple Met Rishi. So, even though this book wasn’t for me, I do think a lot of people, especially teens, will like it and identify with many of Twinkle’s problems.


About the Author

14834224Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of the smash-hit When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, with Love. She was born and raised in India on a steady diet of Bollywood movies and street food, and blames this upbringing for her obsession with happily-ever-afters, bad dance moves, and pani puri. Now she lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to (gently) coerce her husband and children to watch all 3,220 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

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Review | Waiting on a Bright Moon by J.Y. Yang

35395539Waiting on a Bright Moon by J.Y. Yang
Release date: July 12th, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Science fiction
Format: eBook

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Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages.

I’m always in awe at how some authors are able to craft completely original, fully formed characters and engaging stories in less than 100 pages. I read the novella Waiting on a Bright Moon as part of the Bout of Books read-a-thon after it had been sitting on my Goodreads “currently reading” shelf for ages. I’m not sure what took me so long to finally start reading it, but once I finished the first paragraph I knew I had stumbled across something unlike anything that I’ve read before.

The story is about an ansible (a group of magical women forced into service by the government) named Xin who has been forced to use magic in order to benefit the empire. Its main theme is taking back control of your life no matter the consequences, but the novalla also touches on subjects involving same-sex relationships, independence, rebellion and self-determination.

What made this story unique was the author’s blending of languages and worldbuilding abilities. Although primarily written in English, parts in Chinese (poems and songs) are scattered throughout the story. Although I didn’t understand what they said, I liked how these little snippets added to the feel of the story and really impressed the reader in the setting of the novella. As for the worldbuilding, wow…just wow! The idea was extremely creative and ambitious for such a short piece of writing. Usually sci-fi takes time to develop and is written over hundreds of pages in a series. Nope, not here! The reader is automatically dropped into the story in the first paragraph. There aren’t any long explanations of what is going on…the reader does have to make a lot of guesses and conclusions, but that was part of the fun of reading this short story. The mystery kept things interesting and pushed me to read on and on. It was seriously difficult to put down and I would totally like more please!

Since finishing Waiting on a Bright Moon I have added several of the author’s other stories to my TBR. If they are anything like this novella then I’m in for a real treat. If you’d like to read Waiting on a Bright Moon, you can do so here on Tor.com for free.


About the Author

7106859J.Y. Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and two more slated for 2018 and 2019). Their short fiction has been published in over a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons.

In previous incarnations, they have been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; and a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers. Currently they are a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

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