Infographic

The Vehicles of Star Wars – Infographic

100 Vehicles and Ships in the Star Wars Universe

In commemoration of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you!), today’s infographic is a simple look at some of the ships and vehicles you can fine in the Star Wars Universe and which films/media  in which they first appeared.  Just remember, for better or worse, the Expanded Universe entries are no longer canon, so sayeth the Mouse.  [VIA]

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Star Wars
Infographic

Infographic — Sci Fi or Fantasy?

Choosing the Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

I love these top number or best of lists for everything, especially books.  Two years ago, NPR came out with the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books as chosen by their listeners.  For most people familiar with these genres, you may have read or at least heard of most of the books and series on this list.  For the uninitiated, or for someone looking for a book that’s a little different off this list, where should they start.  Today’s infographic is a fabulous flowchart and will help you navigate the list and find the perfect Science Fiction or Fantasy book for you.  Why not give it a try and add a few to your summer reading list? [VIA]

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SciFi or Fantasy?
Fiction, March 2020

salt slow by Julia Armfield

salt slow by Julia Armfield. October 8, 2019.Flatiron Books, 195 p. ISBN: 9781250224774.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In her electrifying debut, Julia Armfield explores women’s experiences in contemporary society, mapped through their bodies. As urban dwellers’ sleeps become disassociated from them, like Peter Pan’s shadow, a city turns insomniac. A teenager entering puberty finds her body transforming in ways very different than her classmates’. As a popular band gathers momentum, the fangirls following their tour turn into something monstrous. After their parents remarry, two step-sisters, one a girl and one a wolf, develop a dangerously close bond. And in an apocalyptic landscape, a pregnant woman begins to realize that the creature in her belly is not what she expected.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism, salt slow is an utterly original collection of short stories that are sure to dazzle and shock, heralding the arrival of a daring new voice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Armfield, winner of the White Review Short Story Prize, debuts a short-story collection that is both provocative and thrilling. A city is plagued with insomnia as Sleep disassociates itself and becomes its own ethereal entity. A teenager going through puberty finds her body changing in very unusual ways. A PhD student scavenges beautiful body parts of men to create the perfect male specimen for herself. A teenage girl gains a wolf as her new stepsister, and their bond grows dangerously close after the wolf-sister defends her from a persistent boy. As a woman in her thirties falls in love, her beloved becomes increasingly stiff and statuesque. A pregnant woman living during the time of the apocalypse realizes that the creature in her womb is not the child she expected. Armfield’s collection is exemplary as she pushes the limits of reality into beautifully eerie and unsettling worlds. She blends elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism in a way that is sure to shock and amaze readers of short fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
Between man-eating insects, a fashionably dressed sister-wolf, and a hypnotic feminist girl band, Armfield leaves no supernatural stone unturned in this dazzling debut. Writing with an elegant and often poetic style, British author Armfield conjures nine uncanny worlds in her first short story collection. And while her tales are notable for their concepts, they don’t lack in substance, either. Behind each of her stories lie undercurrents of loss, metamorphosis, and the ever shifting nature of human relationships. The horror of her work comes not only from the eerie occurrences on each page, but also in the relatability of her characters and the connections a reader can draw between their situations and the absurdity of everyday life. In “Formerly Feral,” for example, an adolescent girl copes with her parents’ divorce, her father’s remarriage, and her own shifting identity as she faces school bullies and bonds with the newest member of her family—a wolf. “Smack” also deals with divorce but depicts the breakup of a marriage through the eyes of a wife holding on to her disintegrating relationship by locking herself—sans nutrition or power —in the beach house she and her husband once shared. Perhaps most extraordinary is “The Great Awake,” which captures the sleeplessness of city life and the bitter, competitive spirit that accompanies it. In this strange world, plagued by the “removal of the sleep-state from the body,” shadelike “Sleeps” step out of their human hosts while the tired people left behind reshape society to take advantage of the mass insomnia. The title story, meanwhile, follows a couple navigating both the salt waters that have flooded the Earth and their unspoken feelings about their future. While a story or two ends abruptly or doesn’t delve quite as deeply as the most spectacular in the collection, each piece is filled with magic, insight, and a rare level of creativity that mark Armfield as a fresh new voice of magical realism. Artistic and perceptive, Armfield’s debut explores the ebbs and flows of human connection in lives touched by the bizarre.

About the Author

Julia Armfield is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in The White Review, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and The Stockholm Review. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017 and won the White Review Short Story Prize with two of the stories in this collection. She lives in London, where she is at work on her debut novel.

Her website is https://www.juliaarmfield.co.uk/

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February 2020, Fiction

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah. October 29, 2019. Hyperion, 311 p. ISBN: 9781368036887.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the last days of the twenty-first century, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Trapped in the abyss, humankind wavers between fear and hope–fear of what lurks in the depths around them, and hope that they might one day find a way back to the surface.

When sixteen-year-old submersible racer Leyla McQueen is chosen to participate in the prestigious annual marathon, she sees an opportunity to save her father, who has been arrested on false charges. The Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. But the race takes an unexpected turn, forcing Leyla to make an impossible choice.

Now she must brave unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a guarded, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If Leyla fails to discover the truths at the heart of her world, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–or worse. And her father will be lost to her forever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 2))
Grades 7-11. Sixty-five years ago, Leyla’s world was above the waterline. But in 2099, the earth has drowned and the people with it. Leyla lives alone with her father, an astronomer, and she makes ends meet by competing in sub races around famous London landmarks. Or she did until her papa was arrested for terrible crimes she’s certain he didn’t commit. Running out of time, running out of money, and coming up empty on answers, Leyla determines to find and rescue him herself. When she discovers a whole underwater world, her life gets much more interesting—and dangerous—than she ever imagined it could be. While the book seems to end on a firm note, there could easily be more stories in this undersea dystopian world. Shah’s prose sometimes turns melodramatic (“Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters”), but this is a fine postapocalyptic novel that hits a timely note with its climate-change narrative. A solid purchase for large collections.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
In 2099, London is underwater. Sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen, a Muslim submersible racer, will stop at nothing to find her father, Hashem, who has been arrested and charged with encouraging “seasickness sufferers to take their lives.” When she is picked as an entrant in the London Submersible Marathon, Leyla is determined to win and ask the prime minister for her father’s freedom. But things do not go as planned, and when Leyla learns that her father is not really being detained in London as she’d been told, she leaves, evading the Blackwatch security forces who are kept busy overseeing New Year’s celebrations. Leyla, along with unwanted partner Ari, the son of a family friend, must drive her submersible through waters she has never before navigated. Along the way, she learns that she must question the statements of a corrupt government, as themes in the story echo issues in the present day. Debut novelist Shah vividly describes a world below the ocean’s surface, evoking people’s nostalgia for the Old World, when Great Britain lay aboveground. Leyla’s character grows and changes over the course of her journey, her love and loyalty toward her family only growing stronger. Leyla is Pashtun and of Afghan heritage; diversity in the book reflects that of contemporary London. This thrilling journey packed with unexpected discoveries will leave readers eager for plot resolutions in the next installment. (Science fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Author London Shah is a British-born Muslim of Pashtun ethnicity. She has lived in Britain’s capital city for most of her life via England’s beautiful North. When she’s not busy re-imagining the past, plotting an alternate present or dreaming up a surreal future, then she’s most likely drinking copious amounts of tea, eating all the sweets and cakes, strolling through Richmond Park or along the Thames, getting lost on an evening in the city’s older, darker alleyways—preferably just after it’s rained—listening to punk rock, or losing herself in a fab SFF book or film. If she could have only one super power, it would be to breathe underwater.

Her website is www.londonshah.com.

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Fiction, January 2020

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh. October 8, 2019. Tu Books, 357 p. ISBN: 9781643790374.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

NEO BEIJING, 2201. Two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, eighteen-year-old telepath Ama works by day in a cafe and moonlights as a lounge singer in a smoky bar at night. She’s anonymous, she’s safe from the seemingly never-ending war, and that’s how she’d like to stay. But then PHNX, a resistance group specializing in espionage and covert missions, approaches her with an offer to expose a government experiment exactly like the one she fled. Soon, Ama is traveling with PHNX on a series of dangerous assignments, using her telepathic powers to aid the rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance.

As the war ramps up, PHNX is given its most dangerous mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander, a young man rumored to have no fear of death. But when Ama sees the commander for the first time, she discovers his identity: Alex Kim, the boy she once loved and who betrayed her.

Now, Ama must use her telepathic abilities to pose as an officer in Alex’s elite guard, manipulating Alex’s mind so that he doesn’t recognize her. As the final battle approaches, Ama struggles with her mission and her feelings for Alex. Will she be able to carry out her task? Or will she give up everything for Alex again–only to be betrayed once more?

Part heist novel, part love story, Rogue Heart is perfect for fans of Marie Lu’s Warcross and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series.

Part of Series: Rebel Seoul (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2019 (Online))
Grades 8-12. In 2201, genetically engineered supersoldier Ama is in hiding, believed killed in a transport carrier crash during the battle of Neo Seoul two years ago. She’s tried to put her painful past behind her, but when a resistance group seeks her help exposing a government experiment like the one she was subjected to, she agrees to become a covert operative. With her telepathic (and light telekinetic) powers, she’s an important asset on dangerous assignments, but Ama’s biggest mission comes when she’s sent to spy on the boy, now a respected army commander, who broke her heart and still believes her dead. This companion novel to Oh’s debut Rebel Seoul (2017), pitched as Pacific Rim meets K-drama, follows a new set of characters, with some overlap. The plot is fast (sometimes too fast), and there’s a lot going on (sometimes too much), but Oh delivers in spades on rich East Asian representation and high-stakes forbidden romance in a story brimming with futuristic Asian metropolises, teens piloting mecha robots, and all the espionage your heart can handle.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
A telepathic 18-year-old in Neo Beijing in 2201 is haunted by troubling memories and assaulted by her exquisite sensitivity to others’ thoughts. All Ama has wanted since escaping the Alliance government lab that turned her and two other teen orphans into experimental supersoldiers is to lie low, enjoy her newly found freedom, and forget the boy who betrayed her. All of that changes, though, when, two years after her escape, the Alliance tries to assassinate her while its opposing faction, PHNX, attempts to convince her to join their rebellion. How will Ama sort out her complex feelings for those close to her who remain loyal to the Alliance, those loyal to PHNX, and those loyal only to themselves? The novel is narrated in the first person by Ama, allowing readers to become acquainted with her personal history through her inner monologue. Oh deftly and seamlessly weaves fast-paced action, futuristic technology, the East Asian cultures and languages of the Neo Council, inclusive relationships, and a new spin on K-drama romance into the Blade Runner–esque universe she first shared in her previous, companion novel Rebel Seoul (2017). However, Asian people, as well as their families, lovers, partners, friends, and cultural practices, are the main characters here instead of simply an exotic backdrop. A fantastic, fun, and fast read for fans of Stranger Things, The Hunger Games, Pacific Rim, and romantic Korean dramas. (Science fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Axie Oh is a first-generation Korean American, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her puppy, Toro (named after Totoro).

Her website is www.axieoh.com

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Fiction, January 2020

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi. October 15, 2019. Razorbill, 450 p. ISBN: 9780451481672.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs, and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together. And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Part of Series: War Girls (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. In a futuristic Nigeria torn asunder by civil war, catastrophic battles are fought using soldiers augmented with bionic limbs and artificial organs. Sisters Onyii and Ify find themselves on opposite sides of the war. Eldest sister Onyii is the practical one. She’s a caregiver and leader who will stop at nothing to see Ify have a better life. However, Ify doesn’t necessarily like being coddled. When a years-long civil war rips the sisters apart, they will do anything to fight their way back to each other. Onyebuchi (Beasts Made of Night, 2017) uses a sf setting to explore very heavy, real-world issues, like climate change, nuclear disasters, and child soldiers. Onyii and Ify both face horrors as children of war and live with the traumas induced by being exposed to such violence at a tender age. The story also explores bioaugmentation and what it means to be human while asking whether we should use a technology just because we have it. Onyebuchi makes up for the sluggish narrative start with his staggering, imaginative world, which immediately draws readers in and effortlessly makes them feel and root for its characters. This brilliant novel about sisters, war, and freedom should be in every sf collection.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
In a world ravaged by nuclear war, climate change, and resource conflict, two sisters dare to dream of peace. In his novel based on the Nigerian civil war and wars decades later in other parts of the African continent involving child soldiers, Onyebuchi (Crown of Thunder, 2018, etc.) creates a richly detailed, post-apocalyptic Nigeria. Onyii, who comes to be known as the Demon of Biafra, has been caught in the thick of the war between the Biafrans and Nigerians over mining rights for Chukwu, a precious mineral. She has even become an Augment, one of those who have replaced missing limbs and organs with mechanical ones. Ify, Onyii’s sister, is ingenious and resourceful: Having been bullied for her lighter skin by the other girls in the Biafran war camp, she finds solace in exploring the world via her Accent, technology she created that grants her powers of perception and communication. When the Nigerians attack, Ify is kidnapped and the camp left in ruins. Believing her sister to be dead, Onyii agrees to fight for the Republic of Biafra. Meanwhile, Ify is discovering much about her true lineage. The intense plot is narrated in alternating third-person perspectives, and the author explores themes surrounding colonization, family, and the injustices of war. The story culminates in an unexpected, heart-wrenching end. An exhilarating series opener. (author’s note) (Science fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Tochi Onyebuchi holds a B.A. from Yale, an MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch, a Masters degree in Global Economic Law from L’institut d’études politiques, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Tochi resides in Connecticut where he works in the tech industry.

His website is www.tochionyebuchi.com

Teacher Resources

War Girls on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

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Fiction, November 2019

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton. August 6, 2019. Grand Central Publishing, 320 p. ISBN: 9781538745823.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 19))
When a wise-cracking, curse-spewing narrator identifies himself as a Seattle-born talking crow named S.T. who’s just witnessed an eyeball popping out of his “MoFo” owner’s head, readers willing to get on board this bizarrely captivating debut novel will know they’re in for a bumpy ride, seat belts not included. Unfortunately, the eyeball incident is just the beginning of S.T.’s troubles as Big Jim, his master and trainer, explodes into a zombie-like rage, forcing S.T. to flee the house on the hirsute back of Dennis, the floppy-eared family bloodhound, and into an unexpectedly frightening outside world. It seems every square mile of Seattle’s streets and parks is now teeming with frenzied undead MoFos, Big Jim’s contemptuous label for humankind, all of whom get especially crazed by beeping smartphones. Eager to find one or two disease-free humans to save the day, S.T. narrowly escapes gnashing zombie jaws and inexplicably uncaged zoo animals until he crosses paths with a wise fellow crow named Kraii, and realizes his true mission in life: to free other domesticated animals from their housebound prisons before it’s too late. While S.T.’s floridly descriptive, expletive-laden narration sometimes feels self-indulgent, Buxton’s quirky ideas and compelling nonhuman characters will satisfy literary fiction and zombie genre enthusiasts alike who are looking for something beguilingly different.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2019)
When a deadly virus changes humankind forever, S.T., a domesticated crow with a mouth like a sailor, and his dog, Dennis, teach the animal kingdom how to survive the apocalypse. After their owner becomes a slobbering, zombielike creature with a deadly cellphone obsession, unflappable crow S.T. and loyal canine Dennis venture out into Seattle. They soon realize other domesticated animals aren’t as lucky and are trapped in their locked homes. With his innate knowledge of the MoFo (human) world, S.T. uses his corvid intelligence and Dennis’ high-powered sniffer to come to the rescue. When old and new predators emerge in a city quickly returning to nature, S.T. and Dennis join forces with wild crows and other animals to keep their territory safe. It’s an intriguing and fun premise that starts with a strong and saucy voice, but this debut novel gets very muddled very quickly. In lieu of giving her lively animal characters a rich narrative arc, the author focuses too heavily on not-so-subtle morality tales about every injustice and environmental crisis in the world today. The science is messy, wins feel too easy, and losses don’t cut as deeply as they’re meant to, though it’s possibly saved by witty one-liners and the author’s sharp take on a bird’s eye-view of Seattle. A heavy-handed zombie apocalypse-meets-nature documentary meant to inspire humans to do better, but it loses its way.

About the Author

Kira Jane Buxton’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, NewYorker.com, McSweeney’s, The RumpusHuffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle, Washington, home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Her website is www.kirajanebuxton.com

Around the Web

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Fiction, November 2019

Rated by Melissa Grey

Rated by Melissa Grey. September 3, 2019. Scholastic Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9781338283570.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The ratings are real. One number, 0 to 100, determines your place in society. Earn a high rating, and the world is yours for the taking. But fall to zero, and you may as well cease to exist.

Societies thrive on order, and the Rating System is the ultimate symbol of organized social mobility.

The higher it soars, the more valued you are. The lower it plummets, the harder you must work to improve yourself. For the students at the prestigious Maplethorpe Academy, every single thing they do is reflected in their ratings, updated daily and available for all to see.

But when an act of vandalism sullies the front doors of the school, it sets off a chain reaction that will shake the lives of six special students — and the world beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
Six mismatched students fight against the societal rating system that rules every aspect of their lives. Grey (The Savage Dawn) provides a glimpse into the panoptic future of globalized and wearable technology where teachers, parents, and peers can influence someone’s future by docking points from personal ratings. Access to food, hospitals, and education are all regulated by a person’s rating. A motley crew of students at Maplethorpe Academy are urged into action when someone graffitis, “THE RATINGS ARE NOT REAL,” onto the front door of their school. Bex, the overachieving dark-skinned brain; Javi, the ambiguously Latin and bronze-skinned gay beauty; jocks Chase (coded white) and Hana (Japanese)—dealing with an alcoholic father and an unspecified eating disorder, respectively; Tamsin, the white tarot-reading, rating-defying rebel; and Noah, the photography enthusiast, bi-curious, white recluse are individually targeted as all six receive personal messages. Unsure of who is sending them, the sextet investigates, uniting to fight the tyranny of the school princess and destroy the oppressive rating system. Ever wondered what a dystopian John Hughes young adult novel would be like? Grey closely hits the mark in her departure from fantasy and incursion into science fiction: The novel unfortunately falls into predictability, and the dystopian world is riddled with teen character stereotypes. An unappealing plot peopled with two-dimensional characters. (Science fiction. 13-17)

Publishers Weekly (June 24, 2019)
At elite Maplethorpe Academy, six students receive riddles and clues suggesting that all is not right with their society’s universal rating system, which decides everything from education and healthcare to social standing. Each teen has a reason to challenge or distrust the system, but only by working together can they decipher the messages and discover the truth behind current events. After graffiti warns that “the ratings are not real,” academically struggling jock Chase becomes close to overachieving Bex; professional e-gamer Javi is drawn to photographer Noah; and driven figure skater Hana befriends goth outcast Tamsin, whose rating is plummeting due to a bullying campaign. The six separate narratives don’t intersect until near the end, at which point the teens join forces, leading up to an open-ended conclusion. Grey (the Girl at Midnight books) presents an intriguing premise, but the lack of detail behind the rating system creates uneven worldbuilding, and the story hits perhaps too many buttons, between Chase’s dyslexia and alcoholic father, Hana’s anorexia, Noah’s sister’s leukemia, Javi’s confusion over his attraction to Noah, and Bex’s domineering parents. Still, despite the somewhat cluttered narrative, this is a provocative dystopian offering. Ages 12-up

About the Author

Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. She is the author of The Girl at Midnight, The Shadow Hour, and The Savage Dawn. When she’s not penning novels, she’s writing video games for Voltage Entertainment, most recently Speakeasy Tonight and Starship Promise.

She can also ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, for what it’s worth, which is not much at all. Unless there’s some kind of zombie apocalypse. Then it’ll be worth a whole lot more.

Her website is www.melissa-grey.com.

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